Analytics and sabermetrics have taken a lot of the Neanderthal narratives out of college and professional sports. Still, those who rely on them as their bible, rather than simply to apply context, can oftentimes miss a bigger picture. Just ask Tim Kurkjian who was once told analytics were not kind to Tony Gwynn what he thinks about it all. Count Pat McAfee in among those who believe some broadcasts of numbers have gone too far.
McAfee called into question a graphic on ESPN detailing the completion percentage above or below expectation for the five first round rookie NFL quarterbacks. The host of the eponymous Pat McAfee Show said there are always numbers that can prove any narrative in sports you want. He made that point by recalling a time when ESPN content producer Paul Hembekides was providing stats to both McAfee and analyst Dan Orlovsky during a debate.
“I learned that whenever I was around like the best numbers guy around, Hembo, because I would say something and he would give me a stat and I would be battling Orlovsky and he would give Orlovsky a stat.”
There’s a phrase, “numbers never lie,” and ESPN famously had a show under that exact moniker. McAfee said when you introduce human elements into numbers and try to pass them off as 100 percent reliable, errors can run abound.
“If that numbers person is also sophisticated enough to dissect the play and say ‘hey, that should’ve been a completion or not,’ I respect that a lot,” McAfee said. “But anytime you have human judgement in something and then you say ‘no it’s analytics and numbers saying this,’ automatically you’re full of shit. You’re automatically full of shit and I don’t know how to break it to you.”
Michael Quirk is a news writer for Barrett Sports Media. Additionally, he is a co-host of the Spgahetti Junction Boys and a contributor to 5 Reasons Sports in Miami. His prior experiences include writing for 247Sports, Bleacher Report, FanSided, and The Key West Citizen. To connect, find him on Twitter @SJBMichael.
Nick Wright: The Best Version of First Things First is What We’re Doing Now
“I used to approach the TV show with the perspective of I have to prove how smart I am to the audience every single day.”
Nick Wright has been a co-host on First Things First on FS1 for the last five-and-a-half years. The show has evolved over the years and according to Wright, he has evolved as a broadcaster from the time he got cut from doing play-by-play at WAER in Syracuse to now.
Wright was a guest on The Colin Cowherd Podcast this week and he said that when he first appeared on television, he wanted the audience to think he had all the answers, but the mindset has changed for him and he said the new version of the show that he does with Kevin Wildes and Chris Broussard every weekday is the most successful version of the show.
“When I got on TV, I think the first year maybe, I thought the job was to always have all the answers. To have the facts exactly right, to never be wrong. I’ve now done the show for five-and-a-half years. By a country mile, the most successful version of the show is the one I’m doing right now — this moment — with Wildes and Broussard. It’s the funniest and that’s why.
“I used to approach the TV show with the perspective of I have to prove how smart I am to the audience every single day. Now I approach it as our entire goal is to put on a show that people smile while they are watching and have a good time and that has enough meat to it where it is not all empty calories. There’s got to be the information, there’s got to be the analysis, but there’s also got to be a lot of bells and whistles and funny stuff and guys messing with each other and that’s what works. That took me a while to figure out.”
The only time when Wright didn’t think he had to prove how smart he was when he first appeared on TV was when he would appear on The Herd as Cowherd’s guest and he had a goal in mind whenever he would appear on the show.
“Early in our relationship, I was really, really trying to impress you and I wanted to make you laugh. Every time I came on, I was like ‘It’s successful if I made Colin laugh’. I was too stupid to realize I should just be trying to make the audience laugh, too… That was the best version of me at the time. I felt like you knew I was smart, so I wasn’t trying to prove it to you. I could be the best version of myself.”
While Wright knows he is not a traditional broadcaster, he mentioned to Cowherd that there is one skill set he definitely knows he has.
“The point is I’m not a great broadcaster, like a traditional broadcaster. I can’t read off a teleprompter, but there is a specific thing I can do, which is confidently argue, whether it’s 1-on-1 with my wife or in front of a million people.”
Even though Wright got cut from doing play-by-play at Syracuse, he told Cowherd he was doing talk shows at the station still and it led him to where he is today.
“I was fortunate that I was already working on the talk-show staff. Growing up, I thought I wanted to do play-by-play, but what I wanted to do was color commentary. I would watch the NBA on NBC with Bob Costas, Bill Walton, and Steve ‘Snapper’ Jones and what I wanted to do was the color, but I didn’t realize you can’t do that unless you are a former player or a former coach. They aren’t hiring me to do commentary
“I was crushed, but it made me fully pivot to talk shows. Now at WAER, the talk show studio is named after me and my picture is on the wall. I am a Hall of Famer there. Bob Costas, Marv Albert, Nick Wright, those are the three studios there.”
Ricky Keeler is a reporter for BSM with a primary focus on sports media podcasts and national personalities. He is also an active podcaster with an interest in pursuing a career in sports media. You can find him on Twitter @Rickinator555 or reach him by email at RickJKeeler@gmail.com.
Outside the Lines Won’t Return to ESPN Weekend Schedule
The show, which debuted in 1990, aired as a daily show from 2003 to 2019 and aired a Sunday-edition from 2000 to 2017.
ESPN has decided to not return Outside the Lines to its weekend lineup, ending the show’s linear television run.
A report from John Ourand of Sports Business Journal claims ESPN told OTL staffers that the show wouldn’t return to the network after the Super Bowl.
The show, which debuted in 1990, aired as a daily show from 2003 to 2019 and aired a Sunday-edition from 2000 to 2017. Outside the Lines was often regarded as the “moral compass” of ESPN, and was often the source of some of the more investigative reporting employed by the network.
Outside the Lines — which was airing at 9:00 AM on Saturday mornings — averaged 303,000 viewers in the timeslot. Meanwhile, SportsCenter: AM has seen an average audience of 572,000 in the same window.
The Outside the Lines brand will continue being utilized during the Noon ET SportsCenter, as well as ESPN digital platforms, including the network’s YouTube page.
Jeremy Schaap will continue to host the Outside the Lines segments during SportsCenter, but will also be the host of a new iteration of The Sports Reporters that will air on ESPN’s YouTube channel. Schaap’s father, Dick, was the host of the ESPN Sunday morning program from 1988 until his death in 2001. The show aired on ESPN from 1988 to 2017.
CBS: Calling Meeting With Tony Romo ‘Intervention’ is ‘Complete Mischaracterization’
“We meet regularly with our on-air talent.”
An opening question in broadcasting circles is ‘What happened to Tony Romo?’, with even CBS reportedly pondering the issue.
During The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast earlier this week, The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand claimed CBS attempted “an intervention” with its lead NFL analyst.
The intended mission of several alleged meetings with CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus and CBS NFL producer Jim Rikhoff was to return Romo to his previous heights, which were widely regarded as the best NFL analyst in the business.
CBS Sports has responded to the insinuation that the meetings would be classified as an “intervention” with a strong denial.
“To call this an intervention is a complete mischaracterization, we meet regularly with our on-air talent,” CBS Sports spokeswoman Jen Sabatelle told Marchand.
Marchand added that CBS Sports officials plan to attempt to rectify the issues it sees with Romo again this offseason. Romo — who signed a 10-year, $180 million contract with CBS Sports in 2020 — is slated to call Super Bowl LVIII in 2024 with Jim Nantz.