The phone rang at 5 p.m. ET last Tuesday and since the number had no caller ID, Joe Davis decided to let it pass onto voicemail.
But no voicemail ever arrived.
No big deal, Davis thought. Wrong number.
A couple of hours later, Davis’s phone rang again. Once again, Davis looked down, saw no caller ID and let the call go to voice mail. But this time, a voicemail did indeed pop up. So Davis, who prior to last week was best known as a Fox Sports college basketball and football broadcaster, checked his voicemail. And the voice coming from his phone left him speechless.
“Hi, Joe. This is Vin Scully,” said the voice recognizable as an American institution.
“Joe, I’ve tried twice and have not been able to get a hold of you so I believe I have started our relationship 0-for-2.”
It’s a call Davis won’t soon forget from a man Davis will be working with next year. Last week the Dodgers announced they had hired the 27-year-old Davis to call 50 road television games on SportsNet LA in 2016 with analysts Orel Hershiser and Nomar Garciaparra. In the televised games that Scully and Davis don’t work, Charley Steiner will do play-by-play. Steiner will also do play-by-play on radio with Rick Monday.
The Dodgers are understandably protective of Scully, the singular greatest living sports broadcaster. The 87-year-old announced last August that next year will be his final one in the booth. Prior to speaking with Davis, I received a call from Dodgers management with the explicit design of dissuading me from writing any narrative that Davis was replacing Scully. There was no need to call. Scully is impossible to replace but the Dodgers brass clearly see great potential in Davis, who has already worked for ESPN and Fox Sports (calling regional MLB games) just six years after graduating from Beloit College in Wisconsin.
Davis eventually tracked down Scully with the help of Dodgers executive vice president and chief marketing officer Lon Rosen. The two spent five minutes talking by phone, where Scully welcomed Davis to the Dodger family and told the young broadcaster that he remembered what it was like to be a 20-something being called up to the “big club.”
“When you start a new job there is always nerves about it so it’s always nice to have someone reassure you that you will be welcome,” Davis said. “When it is the guy who is the greatest person whoever lived in the profession you dreamed of getting into, it was one of the coolest things to ever happen to me. When I finally got hold of him I said, ‘Vin, you are 1-for-3 now, which I’m pretty sure is a Hall of Fame average.’ He said he looked forward to meeting me on the road, or if I was at a home game, he said he’d hope to steal some of my time. I said, ‘Yeah, I think I can carve out a few minutes.’”
The morning after he spoke with Scully, Steiner called him from Bradley University, where Steiner went to school as an undergrad and was doing some symposiums at the school. They spoke for 15 minutes or so, the first time he had interacted with Steiner. “He welcomed me the same way Vin did for him when he joined 10–12 years ago,” Davis said. “He delivered a lot of same sentiments Vin did. So before the news was even released, I had a couple of guys I admired reach out to me.”
Davis he does not have a specific schedule yet for his 50 games but he believes he will do the majority of the weekday road games and a good number of weekend games prior to September. He will also spend 10 spring training games in March, juggling between his Fox Sports college basketball schedule.
He currently lives in Grand Rapids, Mich., and he and his wife plan to relocate to Southern California prior to the 2017 season. He signed a multi-year deal with the Dodgers.
“Clearly there is a lot more context with this position than any other 50-game package I might take with a team because of how spectacular Vin Scully is,” said Davis. “He is the greatest there ever was and the greatest there ever will be and comparisons are going to be natural in a spot the year before he does what he said he will do. So I realized coming into this that those comparisons will be made and, sure, there is some intimidation to that. But I have one shot a living this life and going through this career, and I’m not going to make decisions based on fear and fear of failure and fear of criticism. I don’t think that’s the way to live. I looked at this as a remarkable opportunity to have a chance, whatever that chance or opportunity may be or manifest itself over the coming years, to be with an organization that is one of the best in all of sports. That outweighed the fear of taking a job where you would inevitably be compared to Vin.”
Rosen said the Dodgers embarked on a two-year process to add another broadcaster and were excited with the addition of Davis. “I just think he has mature delivery, a unique delivery and he wants to learn,” Rosen said.
At 22, Davis was the youngest Double-A broadcaster in the country when he landed a job with the Rays’ affiliate in Montgomery, Ala. That led to regional work calling college basketball for ESPN. In 2012 he joined that network full-time and called a variety of sports including college baseball, basketball, football, hockey and softball as well as spot duty for Major League Baseball games on ESPN Radio. On Dec. 26, 2013, Davis called the network’s broadcast of the Poinsettia Bowl between Utah State and Northern Illinois, becoming the youngest person, at 25, to ever announce a bowl game for ESPN. The following year he moved to Fox, where his assignments have included college football, college basketball and regional MLB games on FS1. Davis said he called about 20 MLB games for Fox over the last two years.
Davis said the first time he heard anything from the Dodgers was when Rosen contacted his agent, Josh Santry of IF Management, last fall. “We shot them a [broadcast] reel over and did not hear much after that,” Davis said. But the Dodgers were impressed, and Davis met with briefly with Rosen in early 2015. Things then picked up significant steam midway through this summer. By the fall, both sides knew it would happen. When asked which broadcasters have served as sounding boards over the years, Davis cited Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper, Brewers announcer Brian Anderson, ESPN’s Mike Tirico and Fox’s Joe Buck among the broadcasters. He also cited Santry for believing in him at a young age.
“The best piece of advice Vin would tell you Red Barber ever gave him was you bring something to this booth that nobody else does and that is you,” Davis said. “Don’t water your wine by listening to so many other people and taking so much from those other people that you dilute who you are. Baseball is a long season and you are going to expose yourself if you are being someone that you are not. I am hopeful that my style is one that people will get used to. I don’t make it about me. It’s about the game. Then it’s about the analysts, especially in television. That’s the analysts medium.”
Davis played quarterback and wide receiver at Division III Beloit College and said one of the sales pitches made by the coaches was that he could call the team’s basketball games as a freshman.
“I didn’t have a lot of competition to get those reps,” he said, laughing, “so that turned out very well.”
Read more in Richard Deitsch’s column at Sports Illustrated which is where this story was originally published
Poll Data Shows Tepid Response To Tom Brady Joining FOX
“A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.”
FOX Sports reportedly signed Tom Brady to a 10-year deal worth $375 million to make the seven-time Super Bowl champion the new lead analyst for its top NFL broadcast once his playing career is over.
A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.
The poll said 2 in 5 NFL fans have a better opinion of FOX Sports following the deal, with 41% of NFL fans being at least somewhat more likely to watch a game with Brady as an analyst.
Data shows one-third of NFL fans think the deal Brady reportedly agreed to is worth about the same as its reported value.
That reaction could probably be described as “tepid”. That may be exactly what FOX expects and maybe all it wants.
Last week, Domonique Foxworth of ESPN suggested that the paycheck is less about what the network thinks Tom Brady means to viewers and more about showing the NFL that the network values its product.
FOX Not Interested In Joining Streaming Sports Wars
“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take?”
The CEO of FOX doesn’t plan on forking over billions of dollars to be people’s last choice for paid streaming services.
Lachlan Murdoch said at a time when more than 80% of American homes already have some kind of paid streaming service, it’s not worthwhile to jump on that train.
Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ typically account for the average streaming presence in a household.
“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take,” Murdoch said at a tech conference earlier this year. “And so the billions of dollars that’s being spent by multiple aspirants is all for that last position. And so we are extraordinarily — I want to say that — we’re happy to be sort of sitting on the sidelines.”
Murdoch told Benjamin Swinburne that when it comes to the NFL, FOX’s media rights are the same as CBS, NBC and ESPN. The main focus for the company remains on keeping games on TV.
“We don’t believe it helps us to put those rights under a streaming service or free on over-the-air. We think it’s very important that those rights remain exclusive to the broadcast environment,” Murdoch said.
FOX does stream games through its app, but it is only the games it is also carrying on its broadcast network or FS1.
NBA Draft To Get Simulcast From ESPN & ABC
“This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.”
ESPN is set for the 2022 NBA Draft coming up on June 23 at 8 p.m. from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The network announced Wednesday the crews that will handle coverage on both ESPN and ABC.
ABC will broadcast the first round in primetime. Kevin Negandhi will host and will be joined by Stephen A. Smith, Chiney Ogwumike and Jalen Rose. Monica McNutt will be reporting and interviewing draftees.
This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.
Malika Andrews will host both rounds for ESPN. Jay Bilas, Kendrick Perkins and Adrian Wojnarowski will share the set. Analysts Bobby Marks and Mike Schmitz will contribute.
“We’re thrilled that Malika Andrews will host this year’s ESPN presentation as she brings her well-documented, widespread skillset to our main set,” said David Roberts, head of NBA and Studio Production for ESPN. “The event will showcase the scope and depth of our NBA and college basketball talent roster with accomplished journalists and high-profile personalities across ESPN, ABC and ESPN Radio.”
ESPN will air a pre-draft red carpet show hosted by Cassidy Hubbarth from 5-6 p.m. Perkins and Richard Jefferson will also make appearances.