1. I’m torn.
There is a part of me that feels bad ESPN gets labeled (unfairly) as being “too political” because that narrative is nonsense.
SportsCenter anchors aren’t covering the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Stephen A. Smith isn’t talking about people not taking jobs because they are getting unemployment money. College GameDay isn’t explaining Joe Biden’s infrastructure deal.
So to say ESPN covers politics is disingenuous.
Now, do ESPN personalities tweet about politics? Sure. I think they tweet more about social justice issues than politics, but I know people don’t appreciate nuance these days.
It doesn’t appear ESPN’s executive senior vice president Norby Williamson appreciates any of it, though.
In a new (and excellent) interview with The Ringer, former SportsCenter stalwart, Kenny Mayne discussed his departure from the network and shared some hard-to-believe stories about just how paranoid and sensitive ESPN is about the whole politics thing.
“They were clearly threatening some of us, me particularly,” said Mayne.
Mayne also told The Ringer he was “definitely on the watch list. They told me so: ‘There’s a group of people that watch your Twitter.’ ”
Really, ESPN? How embarrassing to have grown people spend their time monitoring someone’s Twitter feed to see whether they dip into the world of politics.
Mayne also recalled Williamson asking him one time, “Why do you have to do the politics?” And he replied, “Because I have four daughters and a wife and I want to look at myself in the mirror.”
It’s just amazing to see how terrified ESPN is of on-air talent tweeting about politics when there is an established narrative that ESPN is too political. How does ESPN not see that they’ve already lost that portion of the audience that thinks they cover politics? The ship has sailed. Kenny Mayne’s tweets weren’t going to change a thing.
It also makes no sense whatsoever that ESPN is so consumed with Twitter, which makes up a teeny, tiny portion of its TV audience.
Mayne also recalled making a joke one night that didn’t go over well with Williamson.
“Like when Trump’s stupid physical came out,” Mayne says. “Remember? ‘He’s going to be in great health for 30 more years.’ That’s not what a doctor says. So I made a joke, something like, ‘The president’s doctor just timed me at 4.1 in the 40 wearing Snoop Dogg slippers.’ I think that’s a good joke. It’s making fun of the doctor, not making fun of the president—directly.’ ”
The Ringer asked how that went over.
“Not well,” he says. “I got a Norby call on that one.”
Again, how embarrassing that the executive senior vice president of ESPN is scolding an on-air personality over a completely harmless and benign tweet.
So to sum up, ESPN is completely over the top in making sure its people don’t tweet about politics and yet a significant amount of people think ESPN is too political.
This would be a lose-lose for the World Wide Network.
2. A brand new SI Media Podcast dropped today and this week's guest is Tony Romo.
CBS's lead NFL analyst talks about when he knew he wanted to get into broadcasting, being terrible on practice games and sounding like the teacher from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, whether he considers Troy Aikman and Cris Collinsworth competition and how long he wants to call NFL games.
Romo also shares a Bill Parcells story, weighs in on the new 17-game regular season and more.
Following Romo is the weekly "Traina Thoughts" segment. This week, me and Sal Licata, from WFAN and SNY, read the latest SI Media Podcast reviews on Apple before getting into a big NFL picks segment. They each give their best over/under team win total bets for the 2021 season, their AFC and NFC title game predictions, Super Bowl winner and reveal their three best bets for Week 1 of the season.
3. While Sal and I covered a lot of NFL gambling ground on the SI Media Podcast this week, we did not handicap this bet:
4. This is one hell of a quote from Bengals rookie receiver Ja'Marr Chase, who had a tough time catching the ball during the preseason.
“The ball is different because it is bigger. "It doesn’t have the white stripes on the side so you can’t see the ball coming from the tip point so you actually have to look for the strings on the ball at the top, which is hard to see because [the] whole ball is brown and you have the six strings that are white. But for the most part, just have to get used to it and find out what I am comfortable with catching.”
5. Here's a great story about Padres pitcher Yu Darvish.
6. Tom Brady's social media team is so damn good.
7. RANDOM VIDEO OF THE DAY: In yesterday's Traina Thoughts, I posted an old-school CBS NFL Today opening. Today, we give you Fox's first pregame show opening from 1994.
Be sure to catch up on past editions of Traina Thoughts and check out the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast hosted by Jimmy Traina on Apple, Spotify or Stitcher. You can also follow Jimmy on Twitter and Instagram.