12.23.15 Good morning. It’s Wednesday December 23, 2015, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.
Fox Sports surprised the sports media world by breaking up its three-person Major League Baseball broadcast booth and naming John Smoltz lead game analyst for the 2016 season. The former World Series champion and Cy Young winner will team with lead play-by-play announcer Joe Buck, according to John Entz, President of Production and Executive Producer of Fox Sports. Smoltz, who first joined Fox in 2014, will serve as lead analyst for regular season and post-season game telecasts on Fox and FS1 as well as the All-Star Game. The move breaks up Fox’s three-person booth of ex-ESPNer Harold Reynolds, Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated and Buck. Two-person booths are becoming the norm in sports. Fox tried the three-person setup when longtime lead analyst Tim McCarver retired after the 2013 post-season. But the Reynolds-Verducci-Buck trio drew mixed reviews. Their bad luck continued during Game 1 of the 2015 World Series when their microphones went dead for several minutes forcing them take over the international feed from none other than Smoltz and Matt Vasgersian. The NY Daily News first reported Fox’s broadcast shake-up.
Christmas Day has become the equivalent of Super Bowl Sunday for the NBA. ESPN and ABC will televise five NBA Christmas Day games, including a rematch of the 2015 NBA Finals between Steph Curry’s champion Golden State Warriors and LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers (ABC, 5 p.m. ET). ESPN will throw more than 30 commentators at over 14 continuous hours of coverage.
Despite early start times, NBC Sports’ Premier League coverage has become a solid hit. This holiday season, NBC will telecast 30 matches in nine days, including its first-ever Premier League doubleheader on Saturday, Dec. 26. On tap: Newcastle vs. Everton (12:30 p.m. ET) followed by Arsenal vs. Southhampton (2:45 p.m. ET).
On Monday, meanwhile, NBCSN will debut a behind-the-scenes documentary about Wayne Rooney of Manchester United. The doc about the England National team captain, called Premier League Download: Rooney – The Man Behind The Goals, will chronicle the English footballer’s rise to the top of world soccer. The doc will also show Rooney’s return to the Liverpool housing estates where he grew up as an Everton fan (NBCSN, 3:30 p.m. ET).
Besides Odell Beckham, Jr. and the New York Giants, the biggest loser from Beckham’s one-game suspension by the NFL is NBC. The league “flexed” the Giants against the Minnesota Vikings into NBC’s Sunday Night Football on Dec. 27 (8:30 p.m. ET), dropping the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens back to daytime (1 p.m. ET). But Beckham will be benched by the league after his helmet-to-helmet hit on Josh Norman of the Carolina Panthers this past Sunday.
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Madison Square Garden has signed Dunkin’ Donuts as the official Coffee, Baked Goods and Breakfast Sandwich of the NBA’s New York Knicks, the NHL’s New York Rangers, the WNBA’s New York Liberty and MSG. The partnership was christened Tuesday as Dunkin’ Donuts stands opened through the World’s Most Famous Arena. “Dunkin’ Donuts is an iconic brand and we are thrilled to be able to bring fans at Madison Square Garden America’s favorite coffee,” said Ron Skotarczak, Executive Vice President, Marketing Partnerships for MSG.
Major League Soccer will start its 2016 season on Sunday, March 6, with all 20 clubs in action. Five of the day’s ten matches will be broadcast on national TV. Among them: the Portland Timbers vs. Columbus Crew SC, a rematch of the MLS Cup Final (ESPN, ESPN Deportes at 4:30 p.m. ET).
Big Ten Network has locked in a new deal with U.S. Cellular to serve as presenting sponsor of #BingeonBTN, a 10-hour college basketball marathon on Jan. 2 featuring five Big Ten Conference games. The deal gives U.S. Cellular branded promotional spots, social mentions and other marketing goodies.
The $400 million Daytona Rising Project is bringing a lot of improvements to Daytona International Speedway. To create a more fan-friendly digital experience, Daytona has launched a new web site at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com. The site is fully optimized for tablets and mobile devices as well as desktop computers. New tools in the “Visitors Center” are designed to help fans better plan trips to the home of the Daytona 500.
GoDaddy Bowl: Georgia Southern vs. Bowling Green on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET.
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ON THIS DAY in 1972: Terry Bradshaw completes “Immaculate Reception” to Franco Harris.
In The Know: Speaking of Bradshaw, what was his won-loss record in the Super Bowl? (Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)
Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: How many points did Isiah Thomas of the Detroit Pistons score in one quarter of the 1988 NBA Finals that set a league record? Answer: 25 points. Kudos: Kyle Helm-CBS Sports Network/NY; Synda Kollman-Charter Marketing Group/Boca Raton; Lance Phegley-Texas Runner and Triathlete Magazine/Houston; Andy Pittman-Texas A&M University/College Station, TX; David Westberg-Sag*AFTRA Credit Union/Burbank, CA..
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