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Chris Russo On Debating Stephen A. Smith Weekly: ‘I’ll See If I Can Hang In With Him’

“It’s Stephen’s show and he invited me on. I may not come out guns a-blazin’ right away, I have to get my feet wet, but I will get into it as I go along.”

Ricky Keeler

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Chris Russo First Take

Starting Wednesday, Feb. 16, there should be plenty of eventful debates on First Take when Chris “Mad Dog” Russo joins Stephen A. Smith during the show each Wednesday.

On Friday’s edition of The Michael Kay Show, Russo joined Kay, Don LaGreca, and Peter Rosenberg on the program and Kay asked him about the process of agreeing to do some appearances on First Take after he was a guest on ESPN last month.

“I went down to do the Bonds and Clemens and the Hall of Fame stuff. He [Stephen A.] texted me a day or so prior asking if I wanted to come in,” Russo explained. “I came in two Wednesdays ago. I did the two segments. I think we did one on Rodgers and Brady and the Hall of Fame prior. I ran to do the High Heat… went home to do radio. The next day, Stephen A. called me and said are you interested? I said, you want to put something together, I’m all for it.

“ESPN gave me a deal to do these Wednesday shows. Steve picked the day. I will do 40 for the year. Got to be excited by that. Stephen A. is a great guy and he knows how to get his points across. I’ll see if I can hang in with him.”

La Greca asked Russo what he thinks makes a good debater, to which he brought up three characteristics. But besides being a good debater, Russo said he has to be cognizant of the fact that First Take is Smith’s show and not to take away the focus from there.

“You got to be a good salesman. You’ve got to be able to sell your point even if it’s out there in left field, you still got to be able to sell it,” said Russo.

“If you can sell your point with confidence and with some personality, that goes a long way. The second thing is you have to be loud… I learned this because at times I was too noisy and too much of a bully. I think to be fair about it, you have to give the other guy a chance to talk. I have to keep that in mind when I do this. It’s his show. Stephen’s show and he invited me on. I may not come out guns a-blazin’ right away, I have to get my feet wet, but I will get into it as I go along.”

As Russo prepares to debate Smith on a weekly basis, he told Rosenberg that the NBA and a big boxing match are two sports that he will have to dive into a little bit more to put up a good debate:

NBA regular season. I follow the NBA regular season and I know what’s going on… I have a good feel of it, but I’m not sitting there watching necessarily in January and February non-stop NBA regular season games,” Russo said.

“I think that’s one thing I’m going to have to be a little more adept at. I think the second thing probably is when we get a big boxing event, I’m going to have to be into that because I know Stephen A. loves boxing. Those two would be the things I will have to be on top of.”

These debates between Russo and Smith should be must-see TV on a weekly basis and provide a lot of noise, energy, and information to the debate desk. 

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NBC Officially Unveils Noah Eagle, Todd Blackledge as New Big Ten Booth

“With their collective college football experience and great enthusiasm for the game, Todd, Noah and Kathryn join a production team that can’t wait to kick off the Big Ten season.”

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It’s officially official: Noah Eagle, Todd Blackledge, and Kathryn Tappen will join the Big Ten on NBC booth when the network begins airing the conference’s football package in 2023.

NBC made the announcement Thursday, after weeks of speculation about the moves.

“We are excited to showcase Big Ten Saturday Night on the NBC Sports’ primetime marquee,” said NBC Sports Executive Producer Sam Flood. “When you hear Todd’s voice, you know it’s a big college football game. It has been that way for decades.

“Noah is one of the industry’s rising young play-by-play commentators, who has excelled calling numerous sports across multiple platforms for a wide range of audiences. We are thrilled to pair him in the booth with Todd.

“Kathryn has told the stories of so many memorable Notre Dame Football moments over the last decade in her on-field reporting and interviews,” Flood continued. “With their collective college football experience and great enthusiasm for the game, Todd, Noah and Kathryn join a production team that can’t wait to kick off the Big Ten season.”

Blackledge joins NBC after working as a college football analyst for the network for the past 17 seasons. Previously, he was the an analyst for CBS and ABC, making 2023 his 30th consecutive season covering college football as an analyst.

Eagle is the son of broadcasting legend Ian Eagle, and currently serves as the radio voice of the Los Angeles Clippers. He comes to NBC after calling college football games for FOX Sports in 2022.

Tappen has spent the past nine seasons working NBC’s college football coverage with Notre Dame. Eight of those nine seasons were spent as the network’s sideline reporter before anchoring the studio coverage from South Bend in 2022.

2023 will mark the beginning of a seven-year contract for NBC to air Big Ten football games in primetime. The move is one of the biggest notable expansions in the college football arena for the network since its partnership with Notre Dame began in 1991.

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CBS Tried ‘Intervention’ With Tony Romo

“They knew, they anticipated this. That’s a credit to them, the people in charge there. But it has not gotten better.”

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After his performance during the 2022 season, many have questioned why CBS Sports NFL analyst Tony Romo has seemed off his game after seeing high praise during the early stages of his broadcasting career.

A recent nugget from Andrew Marchand of The New York Post claims CBS executives attempted an “intervention” with Romo before the season.

“Tony Romo needs to study more,” Marchand said during The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast. “He needs to be better prepared. As you move away from the sidelines, you need to do more work. I know CBS is aware of this. They tried an intervention last offseason. They knew, they anticipated this. That’s a credit to them, the people in charge there. But it has not gotten better.”

Marchand also argued that it appears as if Romo’s partner — Jim Nantz — is content to let the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback struggle.

“This was the narrative out of CBS when Romo was getting all of the publicity: you heard from Nantz’ side and people from CBS that Nantz was the one creating Romo,” quipped Marchand. “The issue now is, why isn’t Nantz helping Romo get to this next level?”

Romo — who signed a 10-year, $180 million contract with CBS in 2020 — addressed his critics in an interview with Jenna Lemoncelli of The New York Post, saying he’s simply trying new things.

“I mean, some changes are good, some you’re like, ‘Ah, I shouldn’t do that’. But I always trial and error a bunch and sometimes it works.”

The 42-year-old Romo appeared to push back on the insinuation that he doesn’t prepare for broadcasts like he used to during the interview.

“You’re going to fail all the time, but at the same time, you succeed because of that, as long as you think about it and try to understand how to improve and then go about the process to make that happen, which is work ethic and commitment. But you got to have a plan for it before.”

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Jason Benetti: Negotiations With Chicago White Sox ‘Kind of A Pain’

“I just thought it would be easier. But just because it wasn’t easier doesn’t mean it didn’t get done.”

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Jason Benetti

Jason Benetti and Steve Stone recently saw their contracts renewed by NBC Sports Chicago to team once more as the television voices of the Chicago White Sox. Benetti says the talks about a renewal weren’t without their hiccups.

In a profile with Chicago Sun-Times writer Jeff Agrest, Benetti said the talks about the situation weren’t exactly what he envisioned.

“The really good news is we got somewhere good,” Benetti said. “It was kind of a pain, really. There were some things that we had to get through that I thought were silly, and I’m sure they thought some of the stuff that I was talking about might’ve been silly. But we got there in the end.”

Agrest reported the Atlanta Braves were watching the situation with bated breath. Their television play-by-play announcer, Chip Caray, recently departed for the same position with the St. Louis Cardinals.

One of the sticking points in the negotiations between the White Sox and Benetti was how many regular season contests he would miss due to his work with FOX Sports. Benetti is announcing MLB and college football games for the network in 2023 and did his first NFL work for FOX Sports this season. Benetti admitted that were points of frustration along the way.

“I think the work has been strong and I appreciate the heck out of the fans and I have loved the Sox for all my life. I just thought it would be easier. But just because it wasn’t easier doesn’t mean it didn’t get done. Where I have put myself, totally honestly, the place I am is we got it done, and that means something. It means both sides wanted it to happen.”

Chicago White Sox Senior Vice President of Revenue and Marketing Brooks Boyer told Agrest he didn’t see any complications in the negotiations.

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