The Detroit Pistons will finish their 2021-22 season without the longtime voice of the franchise calling their games.
George Blaha will miss the team’s remaining 14 games due to a heart bypass procedure that he’ll undergo on Tuesday (March 15). (With a record of 18-50, third-worst in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, the Pistons will not be making the playoffs.) The issue requiring treatment was discovered during a routine check-up last week.
“I am disappointed to miss the remainder of the season, but my health is the number one priority right now and I have a great team of doctors guiding my short-term and long-term health,” Blaha said in a statement (via the Detroit Free Press).
“I’m grateful that they caught my issue early and they expect a full recovery. I look forward to getting back to full speed with rest and rehabilitation during the offseason and returning next year for my 47th season calling games for the Pistons.”
Blaha, soon to turn 77, has broadcast Pistons games since 1976 on both radio and TV. He has called over 3,200 regular-season and 260 playoff games for the franchise, chronicling three NBA championship teams (in 1989, 1990, and 2004), and the Hall of Fame careers of Bob Lanier, Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Dennis Rodman, Adrian Dantley, Grant Hill, Ben Wallace, and coach Chuck Daly.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to George. He’s one of the best in the business and he’s seen almost everything in the business, both college and the pros,” said Pistons coach Dwane Casey before Sunday’s home game versus the Los Angeles Clippers. “We’re going to miss him the rest of the season, and my thoughts go out to him and his family.”
For generations of Detroit sports fans, Blaha is an iconic figure. It’s difficult to imagine watching or listening to a game without him welcoming fans to “another exciting night of NBA basketball” and one of his catchphrases including “Count that baby and a foul,” “Fires, fills it,” “Off the high glass,” “Throws up a rainbow gun, it goes,” and “Sweet string music.”
Also the play-by-play voice for Michigan State football on radio, Blaha was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.
“George is part of our family and he and his wife, Mary, have our full support every step of the way,” said Pistons owner Tom Gores in a release. “George is in the best of care and in great spirits. We join his many fans, friends and colleagues in wishing him a full and speedy recovery.”
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at email@example.com.
FOX Will Use Chris Fallica On Belmont Stakes Coverage
“While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.”
The Bear will be more than just a college football presence when he moves to FOX. Chris Fallica wrapped his final duties for ESPN last week and is now headed to a new network and will tackle some new responsibilities.
Fallica’s new role at FOX will involve plenty of sports gambling content. Richard Deitsch of The Athletic reports that content will include horse racing.
“One Fox Sports source said look for him to appear on the Belmont Stakes coverage,” Deitsch wrote in his weekly media column.
Starting in 2023, horse racing’s Triple Crown will not be seen all in one place. While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.
How the network intends to use Chris Fallica on the broadcast is not clear. Given that he is coming to the network to contribute to gambling conversations, it is likely he would either be making picks or at least reviewing odds right up to the start of the race.
NBCUniversal CEO Expects Disney To Buy Company’s Hulu Stake
“Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal.”
The Walt Disney Company owns 67% of Hulu. The other 33% is owned by NBCUniversal. The latter company doesn’t expect that to be the case forever.
“It’s worth a lot of money,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said at an investor conference earlier this week, “and I think there’s no indication that anything else is going to happen than Disney writing us a big check.”
Hulu is primarily a platform for movies and television shows. It is a major part of Disney’s deal with the NHL though. The streaming giant is part of the package of 103 games that are exclusive to ESPN and ABC. Hulu is also a live TV provider for many. The company’s Hulu Plus Live TV package had over 4 million subscribers as of the summer of 2022.
Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal. He credits sports and content migrated from Hulu as the reason Peacock has grown to 18 million paid subscriptions since September.
Deadline reports that if Disney does want to acquire NBCUniversal’s stake in Hulu, “the price could fluctuate but will be in the tens of billions of dollars.”
Greg Olsen Believes He and Kevin Burkhardt Can Handle Games ‘On Any Stage’
“Obviously, the bosses get paid a lot to make hard decisions. You have to obviously do what your bosses decide. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
“If you’re asking me, I think Kevin and I have shown that we can handle a game on any stage – on any day. We just did it on Thanksgiving. We’ll do it again around Christmas. And obviously throughout the [NFL] Playoffs,” said Olsen. “So whatever decision they make. Obviously, the bosses get paid a lot to make hard decisions. You have to obviously do what your bosses decide. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
“But as of now, I anticipate Kevin and I, the two of us, with Erin and Tom down on the sidelines, the four of us, broadcasting the Super Bowl in February in Arizona. Until I’m told otherwise, that’s how we’re proceeding.”
Olsen also told FOS he has negotiated a new contract with FOX Sports, but declined to share details. He is slated to be replaced on the top broadcast crew once Tom Brady ends his playing career. Brady will then begin a 10-year, $375 million contract to serve as the network’s top NFL game analyst and brand ambassador.