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MLS Turns To ESPN, Disney To Oversee Return Plan

“The plan calls for sending all 26 soccer clubs to Walt Disney World for a proposed tournament played at the resort’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. Teams would also be housed at the Coronado Springs Resort.”

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Relationships with your broadcast partners are important for any sports league. When you don’t have the reach of the NFL or the NBA, those relationships take on added significance. That is why the MLS has turned to ESPN to help facilitate its return to action.

According to a report from The Athletic’s Stan Stejskal, the league is going to rely on the full might of the Walt Disney company to get back to work.

The plan calls for sending all 26 soccer clubs to Walt Disney World for a proposed tournament played at the resort’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. Teams would also be housed at the Coronado Springs Resort.

“Sources said that the league views working with Disney and ESPN as the easiest way to return to play,” Stejskal writes. “If it goes to Orlando, MLS would essentially be operating under Disney’s roof. The company owns the resort that would house the league, the facility where teams would play and the network that would broadcast many of the matches.”

If everything goes according to plan, the clubs would use the month of June to train. That would be followed by a tournament that would run through the end of July and guarantee each club plays at least five matches. Four matches would be played per day with no fans would be in the stands.

With Disney having so much control, it stands to reason most of the matches would be broadcast by ESPN. That could cause conflicts with the club’s individual local broadcast deals. Stejskal writes that multiple clubs have “mentioned possible extended pre- and post-game shows and other ancillary programming on local networks as a way to begin to make good on their contracts.”

A tournament like this would be a major investment for Major League Soccer, but while the short-term goal is to get back to work in 2020, the long-term goal has to do with TV rights negotiations in 2022, when the league’s current deals expire. Clubs have been told not to sign local rights deals that run beyond 2022. That likely signals an intention to package MLS rights in national packages, similar to England’s Premier League or the NFL, and having ESPN and Disney as partners in that effort could turn intentions into reality.

Currently, the MLS has national deals with ESPN, FOX, and Univision that were signed in 2015. Over the course of those eight year deals, the 26 MLS clubs will split $720 million. The goal of centralized national TV rights deals would be to grow revenue as the league expands to 30 clubs by 2022 and to strengthen the position of the MLS as the United States, Canada, and Mexico prepare for share hosting responsibilities of FIFA’s World Cup in 2026.

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Lauren Shehadi: Ernie Johnson Is The Model For Studio Hosts

“To me, he’s the greatest in-studio host. What he does best is facilitate greatness.”

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In addition to her job at MLB Network being a host on MLB Central, Lauren Shehadi is hosting TBS’s Tuesday night baseball coverage each week with Jimmy Rollins, Curtis Granderson, and Pedro Martinez. The Tuesday night games are new for Turner Sports this year after doing only Sunday games during the regular season in addition to the network’s postseason coverage. 

Shehadi was a guest on The Kyle Koster Show this week and she was asked what the goal was for her with the MLB on TBS Tuesday broadcasts. She takes a lot of inspiration from what she sees on Inside The NBA on TNT.

“I always think about Ernie Johnson in the same building. To me, he’s the greatest in-studio host. What he does best is facilitate greatness. He gets the most out of Shaq and Kenny [Smith] and Charles [Barkley]. If there’s no ego involved, it’s all about how the show can be so great.

“You look at him and you think how can I be like that? You want to be authentic and be yourself, but in the sense of getting the best out of your guys and girls that you talk to every day. That was my goal going in, Be authentic.”

Shehadi said she gets to spend a lot of time with Johnson and the rest of the Turner Sports crew. Tuesday nights tend to be something of a corporate family reunion. 

“On Tuesday nights, we all sit in a room and we all watch NBA, MLB, and NHL when it’s on. We get Shaq’s reaction to Sandy Alcantara’s slider in real-time. What we see from Inside The NBA is when they do demos. When they get up and walk and they are casual and they do little bits, that’s what we try to take to our show, but we want it to feel authentic.” 

When Shehadi isn’t hosting Turner Sports’ baseball coverage, she is a part of MLB Central every weekday on MLB Network with Robert Flores and Mark DeRosa. On that show, the goal for her is how to make baseball relatable to everyone: 

“That’s the sweet spot of MLB Central. No question is silly. Nobody is smarter than the other. We laugh at ourselves. We laugh at each other. It is just a fun 4 hours, grab your coffee, let’s talk the game, let’s laugh because life is short and baseball is fun.” 

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AT&T Sportsnet’s Kelsey Wingert Shows Off Stitches After Being Drilled Line Drive

“The veteran reporter is expected to get married in June. Doctors are “hoping” the scar doesn’t effect her big day.”

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Baseball reporters at the regional level have some of the toughest jobs in all of sports. Not only do they cover each for all 162 games, but there’s always the potential for getting drilled by a foul ball.

While all MLB ball clubs have expanded their netting this season to protect fans sitting close to the field, Rockies sideline reporter Kelsey Wingert suffered a nasty injury via a foul ball earlier this week.

A scary incident took place on Monday’s outing against the Rockies and San Francisco Giants at Coors Field in Denver. In the ninth inning, Giants outfielder Austin Slater hit a foul ball off Daniel Bard, with the ball heading straight to the dugout, right where Wingert was standing while reporting for AT&T Sportsnet.

After getting attended to by the Rockies medical staff and walking it off, giving fans a “thumbs up,” Wingert ended up having to go to the hospital where she received multiple stitches to her forehead.

The 29-year-old reporter took to Twitter on Wednesday to express her gratitude towards the Rockies organization and AT&T Sportsnet general manager David Woodman, who along with his wife Paula, stayed by her side at the hospital.

“I had a CT scan to make sure there was no internal bleeding or fractures and all came back clear. Thank God,” Wingert said on Twitter Wednesday. “The stitches will have to come out in a week. I’m very lucky it wasn’t worse. It was just really scary and bummed me out given the circumstances.”

You would think this was the first time Wingert got hit by a ball but back in 2018 while working for Fox Sports and the Atlanta Braves she was struck by a foul ball while standing near a camera past the Braves dugout, resulting in a fractured eye socket. 

Wingert retweeted a photo taken of her black eye after returning home where she made light of what could’ve been an awful occurrence.

While recovering from her wound, Wingert will be taking a few games off. The veteran reporter is expected to get married in June. Doctors are “hoping” the scar doesn’t effect her big day.

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Greg Olsen To Partner With Kevin Burkhardt For Super Bowl LVII

“Last season was the first Burkhardt and Olsen worked together. They largely won rave reviews.”

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The deal isn’t done yet, but Andrew Marchand of The New York Post reports that Greg Olsen is on his way to joining Kevin Burkhardt in the top NFL booth at FOX. Although Tom Brady will take over that role after he retires and leaves the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Olsen will spend at least this season on FOX’s A-Team.

Last season was the first Burkhardt and Olsen worked together. They largely won rave reviews.

Earlier this year, the former Panther told The Mac Attack on WFNZ in Charlotte that he was disappointed he didn’t get to call a postseason game. He will more than make up for that in 2023. As Burkhardt’s partner, Olsen is in line to be the analyst for Super Bowl LVII.

Marchand writes that we could get a taste of what is to come in February. He speculates that if the Buccaneers are not in the Super Bowl, it is possible Tom Brady could make his FOX debut, either in the booth alongside Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen or as part of the network’s studio show.

Now, FOX has to make a decision about it’s number 2 NFL booth. According to Marchand, Drew Brees is a candidate to be the analyst. Adam Amin and Joe Davis have emerged as candidates for the play-by-play role.

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