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Will Cain Blasts NASCAR, Media In Final First Take Appearance

“As the conversation ended, First Take made it a point to wish Cain well as he heads to FOX News after the end of this month.”

Ricky Keeler

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For the past five years, Will Cain has made regular appearances on ESPN’s First Take. His debates with Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman have brought entertainment and laughs on non-serious issues as well as important conversations from two different viewpoints on the intersections of various sports and social issues. 

Cain was back on First Take Wednesday morning in response to his tweet Tuesday about the FBI’s finding that there was no hate crime that took place at Talladega Superspeedway Sunday. It was reported that a noose was found in Bubba Wallace’s garage. An investigation later determined that it was a knotted rope used as a garage door pull. This was the statement given by NASCAR: 

About 30 minutes after the NASCAR statement, Cain sent this chain of tweets on the situation: 

That chain of tweets received plenty of reaction from Cain’s colleagues and soon to be former colleagues at ESPN, including Jason Fitz and Mike Golic Jr. Fitz brought up the role of the media is to report as the story changes and Golic Jr. addressed the point of where the line of fairness should be: 

Here is some of what Cain said in his opening statement Wednesday after Molly Qerim Rose asked him if this will bring further backlash to Bubba Wallace and NASCAR: 

“Unfortunately, I do,” said Cain. “I think that’s a real cost to this. We in the media and I think NASCAR really were ignorant as to the cost of when you do not pursue the truth. In the media at large, We are not prioritizing our simple job to absolutely seek and hopefully successfully find the truth. NASCAR immediately rushed to judgement and the beautiful moments that came out of unity with the NASCAR drivers are true, but unfortunately they were built upon a falsehood.

“I believe we undercut improvement in racial relations. We are going to take a step back because we have sowed distrust, sowed division, and it will come back as a backlash on NASCAR and unfortunately on Bubba Wallace as well.”

Smith added his thoughts to the conversation and how the incident still helped NASCAR as it tries to push racism out of the sport.

“When you look at what transpired under the stewardship of Steve Phelps overseeing NASCAR, we’ve seen guys like Marty Smith and others who are covering the sport, this is the direction they want to go in. This is a new day…Whatever culture that has existed surrounding this sport that condones that, we are no longer accepting it.”

Kellerman brought up an old saying that caused Smith to make a face on camera that involved two different types of animals:  

“The old saying is if you hear hoofbeats in North America, don’t rule out zebras, but think horses first. It turns out this time it was zebras. The fact that many people assumed horses based on the history of this country and that region and that sport is reasonable. It is a happy day that it turned out not to be true.

Cain added to that old saying by this:  

“The fact that it turned out to be zebras is going to make it hard to convince people it was horses next time.” 

As the conversation ended, First Take made it a point to wish Cain well as he heads to FOX News after the end of this month.

When these three men got together to talk about any given topic, it’s clear they embraced the motto of the show, which is to embrace debate, and tried to see both sides despite the conflicting viewpoints at times. 

Sports TV News

Al Michaels: Condensed Prep Time For Thursday Night Football ‘A Downside’

“It’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us.”

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There were bound to be unexpected hiccups and unintended consequences as Al Michaels moved to Thursday Night Football with Amazon Prime Video.

He told The Boston Globe Thursday that one of the downsides of the week’s schedule is less prep time with the teams playing in the game.

“When we go to see the teams, it’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us,” Michaels said. “And all the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve built some great relationships with coaches and players and GMs and owners and you name it, and I don’t get that much time to spend with them anymore. That’s a downside part of it for me. Some of the best stories you get come from those relationships.”

Michaels has raised eyebrows this season while not being shy about his disdain for some poor matchups early in the schedule. However, he now understands that there are quality games as the season approaches its close.

“The schedule was a little leaky with the Carolina-Atlanta game and a couple of other games that we’ve had, but now we’re positioned for a nice run down the stretch,” said Michaels.

The 78-year-old was also asked how he remains energetic and passionate for the job he’s held for so long.

The games are exciting. I love sports. You don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s no script. And unscripted television is the greatest.”

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Sports TV News

Jimmy Pitaro: Reaching Younger Audience A Priority for ESPN

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience. As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

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Many in the media industry have voice concern that millennials and Gen Z aren’t consuming traditional media outlets like previous generations. ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said it’s a priority for the network.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience,” Pitaro said, quoted by Morning Consult sports business reporter Mark J. Burns. “As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

Pitaro made the comments at Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators conference Wednesday. It is a continuation of comments he has made in recent years.

In 2018, Pitaro said at ESPN’s upfront “I think we are doing a fantastic job serving the sports fanatic,” said Pitaro. “What about the casual sports customer? Are we doing all we can to serve him or her?”.

In 2019, Pitaro said it was “all hands on deck” to reach a younger audience and women. “We have to be open and go to where our customers are,” he said in regards to reaching younger viewers on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Earlier this year, Pitaro added that ESPN won’t be leaving linear television anytime soon.

“What I will tell you is that as I sit here right now, that business is still incredible,” Pitaro said. “We serve the sports fan anyway and at any time. I know there are a lot of people that still want ESPN in that traditional ecosystem.”

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Sports TV News

Don Mattingly Joining Blue Jays Staff After YES Network Courtship

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

Jordan Bondurant

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The New York Yankees regional sports network can take Don Mattingly off its talent wish list. Mattingly was announced Wednesday as a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays starting in 2023.

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

But Mattingly told Andrew Marchand of The New York Post this week that he had another opportunity in the works but wouldn’t elaborate.

YES also has been considering luring Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter into broadcasting. But no formal talks have taken place.

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