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1. When it was announced in late 2020 that popular radio host Dan Le Batard and ESPN were parting ways, it was not a total shock, yet still shocking.

There had been controversies along the way, with ESPN getting mad at Le Batard for talking politics, and Le Batard getting mad at ESPN for firing show producer Chris Cote (who Le Batard brought back and paid out of his own pocket).

But Le Batard’s show was extremely popular and in a day and age where sports media is all about personalities, it was still surprising ESPN would just cut ties with a star.

Le Batard ended up partnering with DraftKings for his new YouTube shows/podcasts and is enjoying another very successful run in the sports media landscape.

He talked about his tenure at ESPN and his current show on the latest episode of the SI Media Podcast.

On how freeing it is to be on his own:

“It is nice not to have corporate overlords. I’ve never wanted to have corporate overlords. I’ve always aspired to be my own boss, so now we can say and do what we want. It’s one of the primary reasons I went with DraftKings and not behind a paywall and not one of these many companies that has a ton of money, but has league partnerships with the NFL or anybody else that wouldn’t allow me to speak freely.

You know now that almost every decision you make any day can have its compromises or conflict of interests from the car you drive to whether you recycle to who it is your partners are. I’m sure there are many people out there who would say, Look at this guy, former journalist gasbagging from high on his sanctimonious platform while working for a gambling company. There are all sorts of moralities that can apply or be applied, and anybody out there can look at what I’m doing and cast their own judgments. But the reason we did it was to get maximum freedom, because I didn’t want to be governed by anyone else’s sensibilities and renting my father’s accent was not buying my voice.”

On the business side of his departure from ESPN:

“A lot of people don’t understand the deal that we made. We got our intellectual property; we got our [podcast] feeds. ESPN could’ve done a great deal of damage to my career and my business in the early stages of buyout negotiations when the Disney lawyers suggested, ‘Just pay him all the money and sit him.’ But that’s not the way they wanted to do it. They were willing to do it in a way that was closer to amicable and they just gave us all our stuff, all our feeds. I don’t know whether this has a lot of precedent, but it’s a pretty usual thing to go from, you just broadcasted on somebody else’s network the day before and the next day all your stuff is yours and you can just keep bringing it to the audience. That’s specific to this time and this place.”

On whether he’d still be at ESPN if the network didn’t fire Chris Cote:

“No, there would’ve been something else. My contract was about to run out. I think it would’ve been up this past August. There were things shrinking there, and we were being confined there in ways that were not comfortable to me. There wasn’t enough freedom there. I’ve never negotiated money, I’ve never negotiated power. I’ve negotiated the freedom to do whatever I want, and so, by the end there, there wasn’t enough freedom. But right before that, there was something involving moderation of a Joe Biden [event] in Miami with Florida Cubans that I wanted to do as a journalist, just as a moderator. There were any number of things that were gonna pop up politically that was gonna make it in some way or another probably if not untenable to me, then untenable to them because I wasn’t going to stay quiet over the last two years of what has happened in America just because for some reason somebody wanted me to talk about Francisco Lindor.”

Did he have regular battles with ESPN over content? Was it always about politics or other topics as well?

“I generally would say that I come from privilege in this regard. I have a different relationship with this than perhaps even Stephen A. Smith did. I had a lot of conversations with Stephen A., who played the game better with executives than I did and did a better job of navigating the corporate labyrinth, because when you say how often was it happening, once is too much for me.

Now that doesn’t mean it’s that way for everyone, and you gotta eat some s--- when you have bosses, but no I don’t and now I won’t. So any amount is too much and it happened on politics, but it also happened because they’ve got corporate agreements with Dana White and Rob Manfred. And I’m running on the wrong side of those as well and I don’t care that I’m running on the wrong side of those, and other people get in trouble when I run on the wrong side of those. Any amount would’ve been too much, and it happened more often than I would’ve liked, but I don’t know that anyone listening to this or working in this field wouldn’t say, Well, quit being a baby. You gotta eat a certain amount of s--- from your boss. That’s how it works, otherwise you’d be your own boss. Which is why I’m now my own boss.”

Other topics covered with Le Batard during the podcast include:

• His reaction to his controversial interviews with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Michele Tafoya

• Stephen A. Smith’s power at ESPN

• His worst interviews

• The format of his show

• The importance of his cast

• Sports fans being “off”

• The time he gave his MLB Hall of Fame ballot to Deadspin

• Executives being afraid of social media blowback

You can listen to the podcast below or download it on Apple, Spotify and Google.

2. Al Michaels, fresh off his hilarious call of the horrific Colts-Broncos game last week on Thursday Night Football, gets to call the riveting Commanders-Bears matchup tonight. Michaels had this to say on the Waddle and Silvy radio show Wednesday

“If we don’t have a better game than we had last Thursday, then I may retire,” Michaels said. “I’ve done pretty close to 800 NFL games, and with all due respect, guys are trying. I understand and we all know that, but that was grim.”

Al also discussed his hatred of vegetables.

3. When I read this tweet and watched the video, I did a real-life LOL, not just an internet LOL.

4. "Now I eat just meat at night. I don’t eat vegetables no more. Because it’s not right.” Raiders wide receiver Mack Hollins is a unique dude, and he showed why during a fun interview on Wednesday’s Good Morning Football.

5. We told you in Tuesday’s Traina Thoughts that Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce was all pumped up to be compared to Al Bundy after his four-touchdown performance Monday night.

And now Al Bundy has responded to Kelce.

6. Unbelievable stuff from Wednesday’s Phillies-Braves game. Atlanta shortstop Dansby Swanson made one of the best postseason catches you’ll ever see.

And then later in the game, Braves third baseman Austin Riley made a better catch than Swanson.

7. RANDOM VIDEO OF THE DAY: One of the most underrated Uncle Junior scenes aired 20 years ago today. The way he puts the clues together to solve the lasagna mystery is perfection.

Be sure to catch up on past editions of Traina Thoughts and check out the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast hosted by Jimmy Traina on AppleSpotify or Google. You can also follow Jimmy on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.