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ESPN Partners With FXFL

Jason Barrett

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The National Basketball Association has the NBA Developmental League (D-League). Major League Baseball has Minor League Baseball. The National Football League has no true “minor league” system where players not fortunate enough to find themselves on a 53-man roster or team’s practice squad can continue to perform in conditions similar to NFL-style game play. The Fall Experimental Football League (FXFL) hopes to become that “minor league” for the NFL and a broadcasting agreement with ESPN will help the FXFL achieve its goals.

The FXFL and ESPN have signed an agreement that will obligate ESPN to broadcast the FXFL’s inaugural season on the ESPN3 network. The deal will provide the FXFL national coverage on ESPN, which serves as ESPN’s live multi-screen sports network on the Internet.

FXFL Commissioner Brian Woods says that the arrangement with ESPN is a welcome addition to the existing relationships that the FXFL has cultivated with regional networks. He says that the FXFL’s current distribution with regional networks will put the FXFL in front of 80-90 million cable subscribers, including SportsNet New York (SNY), New England Sports Network (NESN) and Comcast CMCSA -1.43% Chicago. Woods adds that the FXFL seems to pick up another regional partner every three or four days and remains optimistic that the FXFL will land a few more partners before the inaugural season kicks off on October 8 at 8:00 p.m. EST when Boston plays at Omaha.

The FXFL wishes to become a true developmental platform for players, coaches and prospective NFL referees. Opportunities are few and far between for NFL franchises to develop young players that cannot make the cut onto a 53-man roster or practice squad. The NFL knows it needs a developmental league for those players as well as to test out proposed rules changes and additionally prepare prospective referees before throwing them into regular or preseason NFL match-ups.

“We have kept an open line of communications with the NFL and I definitely think there are interests on their end,” Woods said who has spoken to NFL executives throughout the formative process of the FXFL. ”The long-term goal of this league is to establish an official relationship or be recognized by the NFL as its official developmental league. ESPN has a very close tie-in with the NFL and I think many people including John Clayton, Mike Golic and others have really shown me their support on this. Having an affiliation with ESPN is something that is going to enhance us with our efforts to build that bridge into the NFL.”

Woods also referenced a recent segment on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike” show when Golic said, “There needs to be a minor league in football. Not a competing league, not one that plays a different kind of football, one that essentially is a feeder league to the NFL.”

Many start-up football leagues have been created and disbanded in the recent past. NFL Europe no longer exists. The All American Football League (AAFL), with prospective teams based on various college campuses was scrapped before a single game was played. The United Football League (UFL) was a failure, and many former players are still seeking pay for their performance on the field. Arena Football and the Canadian Football League remain as options for players who cannot make the cut in the NFL, but spots in Canada are sparse and talent in the Arena Football League has deteriorated over time. Woods says that FXFL teams will not even consider signing players from the Arena Football League. Instead, the FXFL is focusing on players who are no more than three years removed from college, many of whom have had short stints in the NFL.

“Most of the other leagues came into the existence with the mindset that they believed another league could exist and compete with the NFL,” Woods said. ”I believe the only league that can co-exist with the NFL is a league that has our developmental format. Importantly, it’s not the Spring. It should be the Fall.”

Whether the FXFL fills a major market void or follows in the footsteps of other floundering start-up football leagues remains to be seen. However, there is a true need for a platform to develop future NFL talent, and a broadcasting deal with ESPN is a good way to start enhancing the FXFL’s chances of survival. Taking a position that his league is not competing with, but instead complimenting, the NFL is a wise move by Woods. He has stated that his goal is to push 25-30% of the FXFL players back to the NFL by the end of the FXFL season. As always, timing may be a strong influencing factor as well.

This year, ninety-eight underclassmen declared for the NFL Draft (102 if those who were technically early-entrants who declared for the NFL Draft, but already graduated, are included in the equation). Thirty-six of the ninety-eight underclassmen (almost 40%) who declared were not selected in any of the seven rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft. Add the fact that the 2011-20 Collective Bargaining Agreement reduced the amount of practice time that teams have to work with young players in the off-season and today’s football player needs a developmental league more than ever.

The current FXFL membership is comprised of four teams playing a six-week schedule during the months of October and November. ESPN3 has agreed to carry six regular season games as well as the November 26 championship match-up.

Credit to Forbes.com who originally published this article

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Brendan Tobin: I Love Mark Jackson Admitting Heat Gave Him Goosebumps

“I always like it when a person admits goosies.”

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Who could have guessed that the moment that made the hair on the back of Heat fans’ arms stand up would be a pass that was never made? Maybe that isn’t true for everyone, but Mark Jackson said that the way Kevin Love reacted to realizing he missed the chance to hit Gabe Vincent in the corner for a wide open three pointer gave him goosebumps.

“I always like it when a person admits goosies and Mark Jackson yesterday, in front of millions on national television, admitted that when Kevin Love went over to hug Gabe Vincent for missing him wide open in the corner, he got the goosies,” Brendan Tobin said Monday afternoon on WQAM.

Jackson said that it stood out that Vincent didn’t pout and that Love did not get defensive. The pair hugged after the play. Jackson called it an example of the Miami Heat’s “winning mentality and outstanding culture”.

Jeff Van Gundy asked Jackson if he thought the Heat were overdoing it with the hug and if Jackson may have been being a little hyperbolic in his praise.

“No, it gave me goosebumps,” Jackson answered. “What is wrong with you?”

Brendan Tobin enjoyed seeing a member of the national media recognize that Heat Culture is about more than just winning games and series the team isn’t supposed to. It is built on recognizing how players up and down the roster can contribute all over the floor.

“You know what? I love it!” He said. “Gave me the goosies is too. Kevin Love – great locker room guy. Always there for support. I love Love.”

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Sean Baligian Gets New Night Show at WJR

“The new show will be a revival of Sportswrap. It is one of many changes coming to the WJR lineup.”

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Changes at WJR means good news for sports fans in Detroit. Sean Baligian is back on the air in the Motor City. He will be hosting a one hour show weekday evenings at 6pm.

Baligian most recently was part of the station’s morning show with Paul W. Smith. He is a staple of Detroit sports talk though. He was heard on WDFN multiple times in his career. He also hosted the afternoon show at the short-lived Detroit Sports 105.1 and a digital show for the Woodward Sports Network

The new show will be a revival of Sportswrap. It is one of many changes coming to the WJR lineup.

On Facebook, Baligian expressed his excitement. He also revealed that the start date for the new show is June 20.

In addition to hosting shows, Sean Baligian can also regularly be heard calling college football games. He has been the play-by-play voice of the Wayne State for more than a decade.

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Ken Carman: You Don’t Have to Watch NBA Finals if You Aren’t Doing National Show

“I can go to bed; no big deal.”

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The NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets were not expected to attract particularly high ratings. According to preliminary overnight figures from Nielsen Media Research, Game 1 of the NBA Finals averaged 7.62 million viewers and had a 2.21 rating in the age 18-49 demographic. This number is significantly down from the 11.4 million viewers in the Celtics’ matchup against the Golden State Warriors last year.

Sunday night’s Game 2 ratings have yet to be released, but based on the conversation between Ken Carman and Anthony Lima on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland, basketball fans and media pundits should expect another report of low numbers.

“We all knew that there weren’t going to be as good ratings,” show co-host Ken Carman said. “The Heat do not generate the sense of outrage, [and] Denver does not generate the same type of passion as what LA and Boston do, clearly.”

Carman watched parts of the first two NBA Finals games, but opted to watch the morning recaps on YouTube instead of the game in its entirety. He surmises many basketball fans from around the country are doing similarly because of the ostensible lack of appeal – despite superstars Jimmy Butler and Nikola Jokić participating in the action.

If the Cleveland Cavaliers were in the NBA Finals, Carman acknowledged that he would be watching; however, his wife gave him a reason to turn it off when she asked him to watch an episode of Succession. Neglecting to watch the entirety of a professional sports league’s final championship round is a practice show co-host Anthony Lima regarded as something new to modern media consumption.

“There used to be a time where you couldn’t even really do a show if you didn’t watch the NBA Finals or the World Series,” Lima told Carman. “That was not an indictment of you because there have been World Series games I haven’t watched…The ratings of the NBA had all been up until we got to the NBA Finals and they have crashed.”

The Walt Disney Company recently reported its most-watched playoffs on ESPN platforms in the last 11 years, averaging nearly 5.8 million viewers on broadcasts. Year-over-year, viewership of the Western Conference Finals was up 17% from last year’s presentation, which was on TNT, and 44% higher than the last time ESPN televised the proceedings in 2021.

Despite the intriguing NBA Finals matchup and storylines associated with the action, the ratings indicate that many basketball fans are choosing not to watch the action because of the lack of tradition involved in the matchup. The Denver Nuggets have never won a championship in franchise history, let alone qualify for the NBA Finals, while the Miami Heat have not taken home the Larry O’Brien Trophy since 2013. The team, at that time, was led by the ‘Big Three’ of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, all of whom are expected to be named members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

“You’re basically saying there’s nothing that game could have done that would have made you stick with it?,” Lima asked Carman. “Jokić had a run in the third quarter where he made every play on offense and then was coming up with fast breaks, dribbling coast to coast; then he made a couple of defensive plays. You look up at the box score [and it is], ‘Holy crap, he’s going to score 40 easily.’”

Nonetheless, Carman recognized that his radio show is a local program, and in turn needs to appeal to its audience. As a result, he felt like it was safe to watch Succession and then fall asleep, recognizing just how fundamental topic selection is in terms of captivating and retaining listeners.

“If it’s not one of the three teams in Cleveland – if the Cavs were still there, fine, that’s the job,” Carman expressed. “If it’s this, even though it’s the Finals and I have no national show to do tomorrow, I can go to bed, no big deal.”

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