As the Los Angeles Rams came back to defeat the San Francisco 49ers in the 2022 NFC Championship Game, a conversation was being had behind closed doors in The City of Angels. The NFC Championship Game could very well have been the final time Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, an iconic duo spanning two decades in the booth together, would broadcast a game on Fox Sports. Aikman’s contract with Fox Sports expired at the conclusion of this past season, and after negotiations, he inked a five-year deal to call Monday Night Football on ESPN. Buck followed soon after. That opened up two jobs to a pool of candidates – the network’s lead football and baseball announcer.
Fox Sports announced the promotion of Kevin Burkhardt as its lead football play-by-play announcer in late March, making him the voice of the Super Bowl for two of the next three seasons. Now it was up to the network to tab its new lead play-by-play announcer for its coverage of Major League Baseball.
Taking the seat of a legend is nothing new for Joe Davis. As the television play-by-play voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Davis replaced Vin Scully at 28 years old and has been a distinctive part of the soundtrack of signature moments for baseball’s most consistent contender over the last five years.
Davis’ interest in broadcasting began at a young age, growing up as a sports fan in Potterville, Michigan. His father was a football coach and sports were a consistent part of everyday life, making it easy for Davis to envision himself working in sports in the future.
While majoring in communications and journalism at Beloit College, Davis honed his skills both on the field as a quarterback and in the booth as a broadcaster. As an undergraduate student, Davis was the voice of Beloit Buccaneers baseball and basketball during the winter and spring, and played quarterback for the school’s division-three football team in the fall. Having an understanding of the perspective of an athlete as a broadcaster is something that has served to benefit Davis throughout his career thus far, especially in realizing his place in certain settings.
“It gave me a sense for my place in the clubhouse or in the locker room having been on the other side [and] knowing what exactly goes into being a player and where I stood once I became a broadcaster,” said Davis. “Not being a nuisance [and] kind of being seen but not heard, especially at first.”
As a result of his work ethic and desire to improve his skills, his rise in the industry was expeditious, to say the least, upon his college graduation in 2010. In the span of seven years, Davis served as the play-by-play announcer for the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits, called college sports for ESPN and Comcast Southeast and worked as a studio host for the Baylor Bears. In 2014, Davis was hired by Fox Sports to call both college football and basketball games, along with appearing on select Major League Baseball broadcasts.
Throughout his time in college and early days in the industry, Davis developed somewhat of an announcing style, or as he refers to it, discovering just who he was on the air and allowing for him to show his personality. Calling multiple sports and maintaining that identity, as daunting as it may sound, is something Davis has embraced, allowing him to move far into the industry at a rapid pace.
“From sport to sport, I love that I get to do multiple sports,” said Davis. “They’re all so different in the prep and then in the act of actually calling the games. I think that it’s nothing but a good thing.”
Davis has worked with the Dodgers since the 2016 season, albeit his beginning in a limited role as an alternate play-by-play announcer. During Vin Scully’s final season, he and Dodgers radio play-by-play announcer Charley Steiner filled in for Scully on games he was unable to call. Upon Scully’s final game of his legendary career, the Dodgers announced their new broadcast booth for the 2017 season, featuring 1988 World Series Champion and all-star pitcher Orel Hershiser as the color commentator with Davis as the primary play-by-play announcer on Spectrum SportsNet LA
Every day he enters the Dodgers’ television booth, Joe Davis recognizes the magnitude of the role and the weight Scully’s legacy garners, keeping him inspired and motivated to perform the role to the best of his ability.
“Knowing that when I sit in that Dodger chair everyday, I think about the fact that for 67 years, the best ever to do this job was in that chair, and the responsibility that comes with being the person to follow Vin is a big part of what makes the Dodger job special,” said Davis.
Throughout his time with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team has finished with a winning record; in fact, the team has not finished with a losing record since the 2010 season. Davis realizes that he has been and remains fortunate to call games for a franchise in a large media market with a steadfast commitment to winning and the resources to do it on a year-by-year basis.
“We talk all the time about how lucky we are to be doing Dodgers games. I say [that] half-jokingly – but really it is only half-jokingly; I’m somewhat serious,” said Davis. “I think part of the reason I’m still here [and] people haven’t run me out of town is because I’m delivering good news. People like to hear good news and people like to watch a winner, and thankfully this team since I’ve gotten here has been so, so good.”
In covering a talented team with bona fide superstars including Mookie Betts, Clayton Kershaw, Freddie Freeman and Walker Buehler, along with a surplus of quality depth at both the major league and minor league levels, high-pressure situations yielding dramatic “Hollywood-esque” finishes are abundant. An aspect of Davis’ announcing style is his ability to thrive in these situations, something his predecessor Scully did exceptionally well. Part of the reason Davis has made iconic calls early in his career highlighted by exclamations including “Absolute madness” and “You are ridiculous” comes from advice Scully gave him, along with his own background as an athlete.
“You almost have to think like a player and take a deep breath and really relax and not put pressure on yourself,” said Davis. “I don’t think you script big moments, but I do think it’s important to anticipate the big moments coming and then think to yourself, ‘If this big moment that I’m anticipating coming happens, what is the bigger context around that?’”
By recognizing the context surrounding big moments – such as win streaks, changes in the standings, career milestones, etc. – Davis has been able to succeed behind the mic no matter the scenario. Whether it be a spring training game, the regular season or the postseason, he knows how to appropriately articulate a moment for his viewing audience; however, it requires being prudent and giving each moment of the game some forethought.
“I’m not smart enough to have that moment happen and do it justice – to put a proper caption on it,” said Davis. “I think that it requires doing a little thinking [in] anticipating the moment coming.”
Recognizing his audience is indeed consuming the game both visually and aurally, Davis has been able to differentiate between calling a game on television despite getting his start in radio. Throughout his career, Vin Scully called Dodgers games on television while the team simulcast the first three innings of every matchup on the radio during his final season. A salient point Davis underscores though, especially when talking to younger broadcasters making a transition from one medium to the other, is not to overthink their multitude of differences, but rather to embrace their similarities.
“There are obvious differences [and] there are subtle differences, but… I don’t think it’s good to overthink the difference. I hear a lot of times when people are making that transition from radio to TV and [when] I listen to the TV tape, I can hear them thinking: ‘Okay, I need to talk less. I need to call it this way because it’s TV, not radio.’ I don’t think it’s healthy to overthink it.”
Another point of differentiation between the two mediums comes in the implementation of the analyst into the broadcast. The Dodgers television booth had not had an analyst in recent memory prior to Herscheiser, as Scully called the games solo over much of his career.
Davis’ most memorable moment as a broadcaster came while filling in for Joe Buck on Fox Sports’ broadcast of Game 7 of the 2020 National League Championship Series. Ironically enough, Davis’ local team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, faced the Atlanta Braves with a World Series-berth on the line. After Enrique Hernández hit a home run to tie the game 3-3 in the sixth inning, Dodgers slugger Cody Bellinger crushed a towering home run to right field to put the team on top 4-3, sending the franchise to its first World Series since 1988 – one they would eventually win in six games.
“It was a special thing… because I was sitting in Joe’s chair and I got to send a team to the World Series,” recalled Davis. “The icing on the cake was that it was the team I cover on a daily basis.”
The exhilaration of that moment on a national broadcast was something Davis hoped to be able to experience again in his career. High-pressure situations are where Davis has historically thrived in the booth, and he recently stepped into another one with his ultimate career goal in the balance.
Once it had been reported that Fox had given Joe Buck permission to pursue other jobs after it had lost Troy Aikman to ESPN, Joe Davis knew he had a legitimate shot to take over lead play-by-play duties, but was unsure whether he would be granted the monumental opportunity. The anticipation of this moment, potentially being afforded the chance to call baseball’s marquee matchups including the World Series, was something Davis had been dreaming about since he was in his youth.
“I started to read all the same stuff that all of us were reading as far as ESPN being interested in Joe Buck,” said Davis. “It was one of those things that was like, ‘Okay, I’ll believe this when I see it.’ I imagined Joe Buck would be at Fox calling the World Series and the Super Bowl forever.”
Just as he does in high-intensity moments within the scope of a game, Davis tried not to get too ahead of himself as the process of finding Buck’s successor was underway. But with the possibility of a promotion he so genuinely desired looming in the background, Davis admitted that he struggled to remain calm throughout the process.
“[I] was checking my phone all the time; waiting for updates; waiting for calls; and hoping that something would break. It seemed like forever before anything happened.”
As his apprehension grew and a resolution neared, Davis remembered how as a child, he would watch the World Series and listen to Buck call the games, aspiring to one day follow in his footsteps.
“One of the coolest things for me has been to go from looking up to him [and] not knowing him – just admiring him and wanting to be a little like him – [to] getting to meet him as I came to Fox, and now being able to call him a friend and a mentor,” said Davis.
The time had finally come. While Davis was in Las Vegas calling the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament, Fox Sports President of Production/Operations and Executive Producer Brad Zager flew in from Los Angeles to deliver him a message – one that he had been waiting to receive since he was 10 years old.
“‘I’m here to offer you a chance to be the voice of baseball,’” Davis recalled Zager telling him in their meeting.
Earlier this month, Fox officially named Joe Davis as its lead play-by-play announcer, a role in which he will join National Baseball Hall of Fame member and 1995 World Series champion John Smoltz in the booth. In his new role, Davis will be the voice of the World Series each year, along with announcing other premier matchups and special events, including the 2022 MLB All-Star Game and MLB at Field of Dreams Game. Additionally, he will remain the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers on Spectrum SportsNet LA.
“If you had asked me when I was 10 what do you want to do, I would have told you: ‘I want to call the World Series,’” said Davis. “A World Series Game 7 would be just incredible, but… looking at my regular season schedule, it’s awesome. It’s all the marquee teams and the marquee games…. I’m not going to stop pinching myself – that’s for sure.”
Davis will make his debut as Fox’s lead MLB play-by-play announcer on May 28 when the Philadelphia Phillies take on the New York Mets. The game will be played at Citi Field, which is modeled after Ebbets Field – the former home of the Brooklyn Dodgers – the place where Vin Scully got his start on the airwaves.
“I have fun covering these games,” said Davis. “Letting that love and joy for the game come through on the air; presenting the current game as one that is special; and these people and these players within the game – presenting their stories as special. I think the foundation to it all is genuinely loving the game as it is right now.”
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, Derek serves as a production manager, broadcaster, voiceover artist, technical director, audiovisual editor, and media engineer for Hofstra University’s WRHU. He has also worked on New York Islanders radio broadcasts. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @DerekFutterman.
790 The Ticket Was Something Special And Stugotz Knows It
“I had programmers calling me saying this is the best local lineup that they’ve ever seen, that they’ve ever heard.”
When I was making the transition from the rock world to talk radio, there was one show I looked at as a guide. I got laid off from 96 Rock in Raleigh, NC in the summer of 2011. That was the beginning of my flirtations with streaming and podcasts, which is how I stumbled onto The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on 790 The Ticket out of Miami.
Coming from a format that I felt out of place in at times, I instantly latched onto a show that reveled in pointing out how out of place it was in its own format. It became a daily listen for me, which opened me up to hearing other voices on the station like Jonathan Zaslow, Joy Taylor, Brian London, Brendan Tobin, Brett Romberg and others.
There were unique thinkers and passionate sports fans in every day part on 790 The Ticket. What set the station apart though is that I never heard anyone that sounded uncomfortable when the conversation turned to something that wasn’t a Dolphins’ loss or LeBron’s stat line. They talked sports the way normal human beings talk about sports. It was part of their lives, not the only thing they paid attention to.
Look at the outpouring of love for the station on Thursday. Hosts, producers and programmers from across the country took to social media to eulogize the station when the news broke that it would cease to exist the following week.
I can’t say for sure that all of those people felt the same way I did about the station and I cannot say whether or not it was for the same reasons. What I can say is 790 The Ticket had an influence that stretched far beyond South Florida.
Jon Weiner, better known as “Stugotz” to fans of the The Dan Le Batard Show, helped start the station in 2004. He told me that it didn’t take long for him to learn just how much The Ticket’s approach was making an impression on everyone in sports radio.
“I had programmers calling me saying this is the best local lineup that they’ve ever seen or heard,” he said in a phone call on Sunday. “I had people from out of market who had secure jobs at places that weren’t startups sending resumes and tapes because they wanted to be part of it. So yeah, we were aware and it is what we were going for. We got there pretty quickly and we were aware of the impact, not just in South Florida, but throughout the country.”
Last week, Brian “The Beast” London said his internal alarm bells first went off when he heard the Miami Heat were giving up their relationship with 790 the Ticket. The station and the team had been partners since 2008. He said in a YouTube video that it was hard to imagine the team’s games being heard anywhere else.
I asked Stugotz if he had the same feeling when he heard that news. He said in hindsight, he realized it was the beginning of the end, but he didn’t really get a sense something was up until Jonathan Zaslow was let go.
“[Zaslow] had been there since basically day one with us. And so I just kind of figured, yeah, between the Heat and then that I felt, okay, you don’t make a move like that unless there’s going to be some sort of seismic change. Otherwise, there’d be no reason to let him go. That was the moment I was like ‘okay, 790 is likely going away.'”
His feelings are no secret. He took to social media immediately on Thursday and said that the news that 790 The Ticket would soon be going away filled him with both sadness and pride. What Stugotz told me in our phone call was that he realizes that the station lasted about 15 years longer than it should have.
When the station was sold to Lincoln Financial Media, he was not expecting that company to want to keep a sports station. Senior Vice President Dennis Collins surprised him.
“The company saw so much potential in what we had built, both from a lineup and a sales perspective that they kept it going and that’s why it lasted all the way to 2022. We got it up and going and were responsible for the first three or four years, but Dennis saw the growth potential with the lineup we put together. That made me feel great because I had a pit in my stomach like ‘Oh, man, this thing we started is going to go away. It’s going to be three, four years and gone.’ And he said, ‘No, we love it. We want to keep it going’. So that was a huge compliment to everyone.”
Stugotz described the original owner of 790 The Ticket as a “young, good looking real estate mogul driving around in Lamborghinis.” That certainly helped the image of the station when it launched, but it is also a phenomenon that was very of the moment. It’s not 2004 anymore. Lamborghini-owning real estate moguls aren’t chomping at the bit to pour money into radio stations.
The conditions may be similar to what Stugotz and his partners saw in 2004. You could look at the radio landscape in Miami and see a way that a new challenger could fit in the sports radio scene. But what are the chances it actually happens?
“It’s a great question,” Stugotz said. “So just to go back to that time, two sports radio stations were popping up in every market. I’m not certain if that’s still the case anymore just because of podcasting and the way the way younger people are consuming media through Tik Tok, Snapchat, and other things that aren’t AM radio.”
He is quick to commend Audacy, the current owners of the 790 AM frequency. Dan Le Batard and Jorge Sedano were part of his early lineups at 790 The Ticket because Stugotz recognized the Cuban-American community in Miami was not being served in the sports space in 2004, just like it isn’t being properly served in the news/talk space right now. That’s why there’s room for the conservative-leaning brand Radio Libre in Miami and other markets are likely paying attention.
“It seems like a good plan, and I know it’s something that the Spanish population should have and deserves to have and probably was not being catered to correctly. So, yeah, I could see there’s a warning sign to some other sports radio stations or news stations in other markets where the Hispanic population is great. Absolutely!”
It is a shame that 790 The Ticket is no more and it is concerning that a station with its legacy and influence can simply disappear. But if we are being real, it isn’t the first station of its kind to suffer that fate and it won’t be the last.
As the media business changes and leaves sports stations vulnerable to something cheaper and with broader appeal, 790 The Ticket and stations like it should be touted as examples of how to rise above the noise and make an impact. Stugotz and his partners looked around in 2004 and said “we can be different and we can do this better” and that’s exactly what they did.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.
Chris Simms And His Self-Professed ‘Big Mouth’ Enjoying Life At NBC
“One of the things that I worried about was that I came from Bleacher Report and is NBC going to try to curtail my personality a little bit…sometimes I like to swear on my podcast and do stuff like that and they’ve really allowed me to be me which I really appreciate.”
To be a good football analyst, one certainly has to know and love the sport but you also can’t be afraid to use the most important tool that you have to do the job. Chris Simms has all of those attributes and NBC lets him use them to the best of his abilities.
“I love football and I love X’s and O’s and I got a big mouth so it’s a great combination,” said Simms. “Between my podcast, Pro Football Talk with Mike Florio, and Sunday Night Football, I get plenty of time to talk and get my studies out there.”
There’s no doubt that Chris inherited that self-professed big mouth from his father, former NFL quarterback and longtime NFL on CBS analyst, Phil Simms.
So, the question had to be asked…does Chris have a bigger mouth than his father?
“Yeah, I probably do,” admitted the younger Simms. “That’s a big mouth to overcome, but I think I probably got him beat in that department.”
Chris Simms set out to follow in his father’s footsteps on the field and played quarterback for Ramapo High School in New Jersey where he earned a pair of All-State honors. After graduating high school in 1999, Simms moved on to play quarterback at the University of Texas where he posted a 26-6 career record as a starter and was the team MVP during his senior season in 2002.
Simms was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the third round of the 2002 NFL Draft and he would guide the Bucs to a playoff berth in 2005. He would also go on to play for the Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos completing a seven-year NFL playing career. He spent one season as an assistant coach with the New England Patriots before taking his talents to the world of broadcasting.
He started with FOX Sports as a college football announcer in 2013 and then joined Bleacher Report in 2014 while also serving as a color commentator for the NFL on CBS.
And then in 2017, Simms joined NBC Sports where he has certainly found a home.
“I couldn’t be happier,” said Simms. “It’s a great company to work for. Just good people all around. They’ve given me the platform to be me. One of the things that I worried about was that I came from Bleacher Report and is NBC going to try to curtail my personality a little bit…sometimes I like to swear on my podcast and do stuff like that and they’ve really allowed me to be me which I really appreciate.”
Simms wears many different suits at NBC Sports, most notably his role as a studio analyst on Football Night in America leading into Sunday Night Football. He’s also a part of the SNF post-game show Sunday Night Football Final on Peacock, Pro Football Talk with Mike Florio, and Chris Simms Unbuttoned, a streaming/digital show that is also a podcast multiple days a week.
But the most eyeballs are on him during Football Night in America, the most watched studio show in sports.
“I grew up wanting to play in these games more than be the guy in the studio but this is like the second-best thing,” said Simms. “I was kind of that kid at 4 or 5 (years old) who could tell you every player in the NFL, their number and all that type of stuff. It’s the NFL on the biggest stage. It’s such a well-done show. I get to be there with Maria Taylor along with Tony Dungy, and Jason Garrett, and Mike Florio, and Matthew Berry. We got a great team and it makes Sunday fun.”
From the “it takes one to know one” category, Simms has also made a name for himself with his ranking of NFL quarterbacks. He’s very diligent when it comes to watching the live action and also in his film study and his top-40 rankings have become a hot topic within the business and around the office coolers.
Simms is well aware that his rankings have become a lightning rod of discussion.
“It all kind of started organically just because I would make statements,” said Simms. “People were like ‘Why don’t you start making a list?’ It’s a really hard thing to do. It offends a lot of people and I hate that. I root for all of these guys and I say on my podcast all the time I hope this guy proves me wrong. I hope he shits on me and shows me that I was wrong. It’s certainly not personal. One of the things I pride myself on is studying and immersing myself in the game all of the time.”
Simms became a full-time employee of NBC Sports in 2019, but his first role with the network came in 2017 when he became a studio analyst for Notre Dame Football.
Here’s a kid that grew up in North Jersey where there’s a ton of Notre Dame alumni and he’s standing on the sidelines at South Bend as part of Fighting Irish telecasts.
“Another special entity,” said Simms. “I used to get chills being out on the field every Saturday there. It gave me great experience in a different way with the halftime show and the pre-game show. One of the years I was kind of the third man in the booth but I was on the sideline. It gave me some reps on in-game stuff as well. I think most importantly what that did for me more than anything is that it opened up more eyes at NBC about me.”
And now Simms’ work has him in the discussion for a new potential opportunity down the road.
NBC, alongside FOX and CBS, has secured a seven-year media rights deal with the Big Ten Conference that will commence next season. NBC will air Big Ten Saturday Night, the first time that Big Ten Football will have a dedicated primetime broadcast on a national broadcast network. Peacock will stream an additional eight Big Ten games each season and NBC/Peacock will air the 2026 Big Ten Championship Game.
There have been rumblings that Simms could be involved in the coverage. Is he interested?
“I’m intrigued by it,” admitted Simms. “I’m very all NFL right now but broadcasting game is fun. It’s definitely something on my radar for sure. I do have some producers here in the building that are like ‘I’m going to tell the boss I want you to do some of the Big 10 games this year and what do you think about announcing?’ I’ve already had some people in my ear talking about it. It’s awesome for the company regardless. It just expands our football world. As far as me being involved, we’ll see.”
In a relatively short amount of time, Chris Simms has built up quite the broadcasting portfolio. From FOX to Bleacher Report and CBS to his current expanded role with NBC, Simms has established himself as one of the premier NFL analysts in the business and his podcast has given him the freedom to do something that he loves to do. Including putting his money where his mouth is.
Peter Schwartz has been involved in New York sports media for over three decades. Along the way he has worked for notable brands such as WFAN, CBS Sports Radio, WCBS 880, ESPN New York, and FOX News Radio. He has also worked as a play by play announcer for the New Yok Riptide, New York Dragons, New York Hitmen, Varsity Media and the Long Island Sports Network. You can find him on Twitter @SchwartzSports or email him at DragonsRadio@aol.com.
The Pat McAfee Alternate Broadcast Presents Unique Challenges
Alternate broadcasts are all the rage these days, and ESPN, in conjunction with Omaha Productions, debuted a new one this weekend as The Pat McAfee Show aired an alternate broadcast of the Clemson and North Carolina State game Saturday evening.
A few weeks ago, I wrote that Manningcast copy-cats were destined for failure. And while I don’t believe McAfee’s debut was a failure by any stretch of the imagination, I couldn’t help but notice it brings its own set of challenges.
First and foremost, College Football Primetime with The Pat McAfee Show — the world’s most convoluted way to say “The McAfeecast” — doesn’t really resemble the Manningcast. And rightfully so. I’m not sure there are two more polar opposite sports media brands than the Mannings and McAfee. The Mannings are funny, but not too funny and never “blue”, while often concerned about how finely quaffed their hair looks and whether the button-down shirt color matches with the Nordstrom quarter-zip they’ve donned. Meanwhile, McAfee wears his black tank-top, like usual, and put his best Pittsburgh-ese foot forward.
Even though the Mannings and McAfee are opposites doesn’t mean they can’t work together, however. The alternate broadcast was a win for Manning, a win for McAfee, a win for ESPN, and a win for viewers.
People love Pat McAfee. Plain and simple. For a multitude of reasons that we can get into in a later story, but let’s focus on that for a moment. It was a big portion of my column a few weeks ago. The Manningcast works because people like Peyton and Eli. The KayRodcast doesn’t work because people hate Michael Kay and Alex Rodriguez. It’s honestly, truly, that simple.
I think it benefitted the McAfeecast to debut with a smaller game, which seems counterintuitive because it was a matchup of top ten teams in primetime. But let’s be realistic, a number five versus number ten ACC game doesn’t hold the same weight as a number five versus number ten Big Ten or SEC game. And it helped McAfee and crew, because there are obvious kinks to work out.
Firstly, there are entirely too many people on the screen. I’m going to have nice words to say about BostonConnr than the eight-and-a-half-year-old that went viral earlier this summer, but god love ya, your time to shine likely isn’t on primetime on ESPN. In my opinion, for the McAfeecast to really work in the future, a similar setup to the Manningcast with McAfee and A.J. Hawk being the prominent figures on screen is the best solution to the problem. I know McAfee believes in his boys. It’s one of his more endearing qualities, and is frankly part of the reason his show is so successful. But you’re reaching a different audience on ESPN2 on Saturday nights, and the reason the either tuned in or will stay is because of McAfee’s presence.
I didn’t get a great feel for McAfee’s thoughts or reactions on the game simply because you didn’t get a closeup of his face. The best moments of the Manningcast, outside of Eli flipping the double birds or Peyton saying “I can’t hear shit”, have been when the pair have been absolutely disgusted by a decision made by a coach or player and their face shows it without any words following up their reactions. And McAfee definitely holds that ability, and I wish I would have gotten a better sense of his facial reactions on-screen.
Also, and I know this is something McAfee can’t actually control, he had to be a bit more reserved on cable television. Part of the allure of The Pat McAfee Show is the — let’s call it extreme candor — with which he speaks. I believe that’s the scholarly way to write “he says f*** frequently”. And believe me, I subscribe to the theory that the FCC should allow hosts the ability to say obscenities 15 times per week, so I’m down for McAfee’s swearing. But you’re just simply never going to get that on ESPN2. You’re likely never going to get that if the broadcast aired on ESPN+, either. For a “family friendly” company Disney, those cards are just flat out never going to be on the table for McAfee.
One of the things McAfee is known for is his boundless energy, which felt lacking at times on Saturday, but it’s understandable. The man was on College GameDay earlier in the day, flew back to the studio to do the alternate broadcast after travelling the day before to get to Clemson to be on GameDay. I’m sure that takes a toll. On top of that, you’re doing something new for the first time, while trying to, essentially, heard cats on the screen, and you can be a little wiped out by the end of the night.
However, the goodwill McAfee has bought with fans over his extreme generosity was on display as the alternate broadcast donated more than $100,000 to Dabo Swinney’s charity, The Jimmy V Foundation, and the American Red Cross. It was a brilliant move for a debut broadcast, because it acts as a slight shield for criticism. How can you complain about something that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity?
The alternate broadcast, for the most part, avoided the biggest problem I have with the Manningcast. The interviews. I’ve never been watching Monday Night Football, or the Manningcast for that matter, and thought “Man, I wish they were talking to Tracy Morgan right now!” McAfee brought on Peyton Manning, for obvious reasons, and former NC State quarterback Phillip Rivers. That’s it. They didn’t rely on guests to carry them through down periods. The eight folks on screen did most of the heavy lifting, and for that, I thank them.
The McAfeecast was certainly different than any other alternate broadcast I’ve consumed. The crew shooting hoops for extra donations to charity during stoppages of play definitely kept things light and interesting. I couldn’t help but be invested in whether or not someone would bury three out of five threes during an injury timeout for more money for charity.
Speaking of injury timeouts, McAfee planned a giveaway and told fans to use a certain hashtag and when to screenshot or take a picture of their TV. Immediately following him saying “now!”, an injured player appeared on the screen, and he instantly shouted “No! Not now! No! We don’t want that, and we hope he’s ok”. It was a light-hearted, nearly hilarious moment that brought levity to the situation.
The highlight of the cast, however, was — in true McAfee style — picking up on things other broadcasters wouldn’t, like an angry fan. The entire crew shouting at the same time in this specific moment was spectacular television.
Overall, I thought the McAfeecast got off on the right foot. There is undeniably a market for an alternate broadcast based around the former NFL punter’s personality, and I look forward to seeing where the show goes from here.
Garrett Searight is the Editor of Barrett Sports Media and Barrett News Media. He previously was the Program Director and Afternoon Co-Host on 93.1 The Fan in Lima, OH. He is also a play-by-play announcer for TV and Radio broadcasts in Western Ohio.