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First Take Debates The Fairness Of NBA’s Return

“During his initial argument, Smith made the point to emphasize that this isn’t just a game when referring to the NBA returning in terms of the jobs that are on the line for those who aren’t players.”

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This week, NBA teams will be heading into the bubble down in Walt Disney World outside of Orlando, Florida to prepare for the resumption of the season. Players have to be feeling the concern of heading into an unknown that has never been done before. And on top of that stress, this is all being done in one of the USA’s COVID-19 hot spots.

New Orleans’ Pelicans guard J.J. Redick addressed those concerns to the media last week in terms of the comfort level or lack thereof that players feel. 

On Monday’s episode of First Take, Stephen A. Smith, Jay Williams, and Dominique Foxworth debated Redick’s concerns and this question was asked: Is it fair to ask players to return under current circumstances?

“That would depend on whether or not it’s fair to ask anybody to go to work in this day and age. If it is unfair to ask anyone to work in this day and age, then of course it is unfair for the players,” Smith answered. “But, if other people are asked to go to work, then it is not unfair for them…We have an economy.”

During his initial argument, Smith made the point to emphasize that this isn’t just a game when referring to the NBA returning in terms of the jobs that are on the line for those who aren’t players.

“It’s not just about games and that’s the thing that drives me crazy and I am not talking about players. I’m not pointing my finger at the players at all. I’m just addressing those who have this mentality: the health of players are at risk just to play a game. It’s not just a game to thousands upon thousands if not millions of people that the games affect economically and monetarily…It’s a reality that isn’t going anywhere. It’s not a popular thing to say, but I am not trying to be popular. I’m trying to be real.”

Foxworth, a former NFL defensive back and later COO of the NBA Players union, agreed with the premise of dealing with unfairness, but told Smith it was wrong that players have to go to work because others have to go to work since he brought up his friends who are lawyers or have office jobs do not have to go to work. However, he did bring up the point about the NBA not being more than just a game:

“The fact of the matter is this isn’t essential,” Foxworth said. “It helps us all, we love it, we like entertainment. I agree there are people around these teams that don’t make a lot of money and need this opportunity. This ain’t essential. You have the opportunity to say I don’t want to go…It’s not fair to ask them to expose themselves.”

This is another conversation that is tough to have, as Williams suggested, because of the unfairness that exists not only for the NBA players, but people working in essential businesses.

“When you compare health to the economy, protecting health is not getting in the way of economic recovery. Protecting health is the route to economic recovery.  There are levels of unfairness and I don’t like this whole conversation all the way around.”

Smith brought up the key word in the question: ask instead of force “because it is a request.” So, the wording of the question can sometimes be a key factor. He added that the unfairness for the players was the lack of a backup plan by the NBA.

“If we want to talk about the unfairness of what the NBA proposed, it’s the fact that they don’t appear to have a backup plan. Had he mentioned that, that would have resonated even more so.” 

The games are still going to go on later this month as Kendrick Perkins brought up on Twitter on Monday, but the unfairness topic is something that has to have been brought up amongst sports fans with their friends and families and it’s a debate that won’t stop anytime soon as we learn more and more about the bubble. 

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Joe Buck, Troy Aikman Visit Bristol For First Time Since Signing With ESPN

“My anticipation for the start of this season is literally off the charts; I’ve never been this excited.”

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Monday Night Football on ESPN is going to have a new sound this year with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in the broadcast booth. The deal is reportedly worth a combined $165 million, and will officially begin on September 12 when the Denver Broncos visit the Seattle Seahawks at 8:15 p.m. EST on ESPN.

“I’m thrilled to officially welcome Joe and Troy to ESPN and Monday Night Football,” said ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro. “They are elite broadcasters who have been at the forefront of our industry for more than two decades [and] are universally respected, and fans truly appreciate their candor and expertise.”

Buck and Aikman visited ESPN headquarters in Bristol for the first time today. The broadcast duo, now entering their 21st season in the booth together, are switching networks for the first time, a move that was initiated because of Aikman’s expiring contract. Throughout the season, Aikman had an inclination that it would be his last at Fox; however, he would have stayed at the network. The original thought, according to Aikman, was that he would call Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime while continuing his role in doubleheader games with Fox – but it was quickly realized that it would not be feasible.

“ESPN began conversations with me, and it was an opportunity that was just the best fit for me,” said Aikman. “I didn’t think that was going to happen until a little bit after the Super Bowl.”

Buck’s contract was not set to expire until the end of this season, but after watching his veteran partner change networks, the possibility existed that he too would depart.

“When I knew Troy was gone, I think there was a little bit more intensity in my talks with Fox about ‘Was I going to stay there?,’ or ‘Was I going to try to continue my relationship on-air with Troy?’,” Buck reflected.

After approximately a month of negotiations between Buck and Fox, the broadcaster was off to ESPN. While the negotiations moved quickly, Buck never felt like he was taken for granted by Fox after working there for 28 years.

“They tell you how much you’re worth to them every time a check arrives,” said Buck. “They prove all that stuff by letting you continue to do it, and the relationships that we had. It was very collegial and very friendship-driven, much more so than employer-employee at Fox, and I expect the same will continue here at ESPN.”

Much of the media landscape across the National Football League has been significantly altered going into next season. Whether it is Buck and Aikman going from Fox to ESPN; the new Fox booth of Kevin Burkhardt and, upon his retirement, Tom Brady; the addition of Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime with Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit; and Mike Tirico being moved into the lead Sunday Night Football role with Cris Collinsworth, the game will adopt a new sound upon the season’s opening kickoff.

ESPN Head of Event and Studio Production Stephanie Druley commented that amid the new broadcast landscape, the network believes it now has the number one football broadcast booth in the country. Additionally, she revealed the addition of a second Monday Night Football booth to be announced in the coming weeks as part of the network’s new broadcast rights deal with the NFL. The secondary booth will be calling three games this year and five games next year, and an announcement with more details is forthcoming.

For Buck, being welcomed to ESPN was representative of a full-circle moment, as his father Jack called Monday Night Football on the CBS Radio Network with Hank Stram. While Buck idolized his father and strived to one day be like him, he was always attentive as to what was going on in one of the other booths in the stadium.

“I knew as a little kid something special was going on two doors down, and that was when Howard Cosell was there; Don Meredith was there; Frank Gifford was there – and it was, ‘Man, that is the peak of sports and media,’” said Buck. “My anticipation for the start of this season is literally off the charts; I’ve never been this excited.”

“This is an opportunity with ESPN that I’m really excited about,” added Aikman. “We’ve been doing it so long in one way [and] it feels like it’s 2001 again…. I have nothing but respect for the people I worked [for] at Fox, and appreciate the way I was treated for the 21 years I was there, but am excited for the next chapter.”

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NFL Explains How World Cup Effected 2022 Schedule

“We didn’t strategically deploy any of our games to either go really strong or go a little less strong, because we knew there was going to be soccer that day.”

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This will be the first year that the World Cup will be contested during the NFL season. It isn’t a challenge professional football is used to in America. That is why Mike North, the NFL’s vice president of broadcast scheduling, told Richard Deitsch that it was important to do some homework.

“Very early in the process we got with our broadcast partner at Fox and we knew that there weren’t going to be any windows where Fox was not going to be able to broadcast an NFL game,” he said.

The real effect had to do with the NFL’s international schedule. Five games will be played outside of the United States borders this season. North said he wanted to understand the potential schedule for the World Cup so he could create the best atmosphere for the international contests.

“I’m not sure we’re doing the right thing for the fan in Germany if we’re playing in Bayern Munich’s stadium while the German national team is playing a World Cup game; I’m not sure we are doing the right thing for our fans in Mexico if we were playing a game in Mexico on a day when the Mexican national team was playing. So we were certainly aware of the World Cup schedule and worked very closely with our friends at Fox to make sure we were aligned on how we were going to approach it.”

North said that he wasn’t worried about football beating fútbol. He just wanted to understand what he was putting his teams up against.

“We didn’t back out of any of our windows. We didn’t strategically deploy any of our games to either go really strong or go a little less strong, because we knew there was going to be soccer that day.”

FIFA moved the World Cup to the final two months of the year in 2022. To play the games any earlier would have meant players would have been dealing with extreme heat in Qatar.

The first match will be played on November 21. The final is scheduled for December 18. That overlaps with weeks 11 through 16 of the NFL season.

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Peter King: ‘Tom Brady Needs To Study Cris Collinsworth’

“He’ll know that to be good, he has to get out of his comfort zone of all niceties and tell it like it is.”

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Peter King dedicated a not-insignificant portion of his “Football Morning in America” column this week to advice for Tom Brady. FOX announced last week that the Buccaneers’ quarterback will become the network’s lead NFL analyst upon his retirement.

Brady’s decision and his reported salary have been the source of much speculation and prediction amongst his soon-to-be colleagues.

King is optimistic that Tom Brady will be entertaining and informative when he makes his FOX debut. He did offer the GOAT a little bit of advice about what he should be doing in the months leading up to calling it quits on his playing days and starting his new career.

“I think what I’d do if I were Brady is study Cris Collinsworth—and honest to goodness, I don’t say that because I work for NBC,” he wrote. “I say it because Collinsworth knows how to talk X’s-and-O’s conversationally, he’s an easy listen, and he can criticize when the time comes.”

Interestingly, last week, Collinsworth says he hears from most former players that are getting ready to make the jump to broadcasting. He was surprised he never heard from Tom Brady before FOX announced their deal.

King had two other suggestions. The first was that Brady watch multiple games from start to finish so that he can hear what the give-and-take between a broadcaster and analyst sounds like. The other is that he has to commit to being interesting and not censoring himself. King has faith that Brady will be able to do that.

“He’ll know that to be good, he has to get out of his comfort zone of all niceties and tell it like it is. On that LeBron James show last year, Brady said, ‘Ninety percent of what I say is not what I’m thinking. There’s a part of me that doesn’t like conflict, so in the end I always just try to play it super-flat.’ That has to end once he’s on TV if he wants to be any good.”

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