04/26/17: Jr. hits the brakes; Tirico takes the saddle; Twitter’s next play

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Good morning. It’s Wednesday April 26, 2017 and this is your your first early morning Sports briefing!

14-time most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is turning in his keys, announcing his retirement from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series following the conclusion of the 2017 season. Announcing his plans, Earnhardt will continue to race two Xfinity Series races in 2018 with the team he owns and remain with the sport. “To my father, Dale Earnhardt, I would not have been a racecar driver if not for him believing in me,” he said. “It might have taken a bit of encouragement from Tony Eury Sr. but eventually dad came around. I appreciate my father, everything he put into my career and all the guys on the old AC Delco team that gave me a shot.”
Reactions were supportive of his decision as well as his legacy:
“Dale Earnhardt Jr. is among the most recognizable athletes in the world, unequivocally serving as the sport’s most popular driver for more than a decade,” said Brian France, NASCAR Chairman and CEO. “His passion for the sport will leave an impact on NASCAR that will be felt over its entire history. Over his 20-plus year career, Dale has proven himself a leader with a deep commitment to so many areas of the sport – all the way to its roots.  We’re excited about the next chapter of his NASCAR career and wish him success for the remainder of 2017.”
“Dale Jr. has had a huge impact on our sport – and you can see that every week with his legion of fans and Junior Nation,” said former teammate and current FOX NASCAR analyst Jeff Gordon. “He has a tremendous sense of the history of NASCAR and, while he shares his father’s name, Dale has made a name for himself with his accomplishments in racing. While we will miss Dale on the track next year, he loves this sport, those working in the industry and the fans too much to ever be too far away.”
“Dale Jr. has been a tremendous partner and friend to Nationwide,” said primary sponsor Nationwide in a statement. “We look forward to continuing our relationship with him after the conclusion of what’s sure to be a memorable 2017 season.”

Mike Tirico
is jumping in the saddle as the new host of NBC’s coverage of the
Triple Crown
He will replace Tom Hammond,
beginning with the 2017 Kentucky Derby on May 6 on NBC, and will work the Preakness Stakes on May 20, and the Belmont Stakes on June 10. Meanwhile, Hammond, who has covered a dozen Olympics, will return to NBC Olympics’ coverage at the 2018 PyeongChang Games next February and his 30-minute My Kentucky Home special will debut on NBCSN on May 3 at 12:30a. 
Speaking of NBC Sports, the company reports that – o
n the strength of a record 18 overtime games – that company’s Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of the first round of the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs averaged 742,000 viewers, up 4% over 2016 numbers, and marks the most-watched first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2014, despite no Game 7 matchups for the first time since the 2001 postseason. In addition, the 2017 first round featured five Canadian teams – compared to no Canadian teams last season. Sunday’s Game 6 of the Toronto/Washington series on NBCSN produced a TAD of 1.162 million viewers to rank as NBCSN’s most-watched first-round game ever featuring a Canadian team;
The NBA on TNT has now laid claim to winning the night on cable for all seven nights of playoff action, as the network’s coverage of the postseason averages 3.6 million viewers, up 13% over 2016.
Golden State’s clinching win over Portland handed the channel with 3.9 million viewers, up 32% over ’16, while Monday’s Hawks/Wizards telecast averaged 3.1 million viewers, up 19% vs. last year’s comparable coverage. Meanwhile, NBA TV’s first full week of NBA Playoffs coverage delivered viewership gains across total day,  up 16%, and Prime,  up 9%, vs. 2016’s comparable coverage as the channel’s  three originally-produced live game telecasts are averaging 420,000 viewers, up  3% vs. 2016.
Speaking of which, Turner and the NBA announced that Drake will host of the first-ever NBA Awards on TNT, running June 26 at 9p on the network. Awards presented during the show will include: Kia NBA Most Valuable Player, Kia NBA Rookie of the Year and more. Additional award categories will include fan-voted awards with categories and finalists announced this Thursday, April 27, during TNT’s Inside the NBA.
TV golf viewers will no longer have the same power to influence with the implementation of Decision 34-3/10 by the USGA and R&A. Effective immediately, a player will no longer be penalized when video evidence reveals things that could not reasonably be seen with the naked eye and/or when a player has made a reasonable judgment based on their knowledge at the time. The decision would prevent the same occurrence that affected Lexi Thompson earlier this year at the ANA Inspiration, when she was penalized four strokes during her final round because a viewer at home emailed in about Thompson incorrectly replacing her ball on the green in the third round, costing her two penalty strokes for the incident and two more for signing an incorrect card.
Derek Jeter
and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush have reportedly emerged victorious in their group’s bid to purchase the Marlins from longtime owner Jeffrey Loria. The Miami Herald reports that the purchase price for the club will be $1.3 billion, and that Bush will be the “control person,” for the five-person group.
Sporting News writes that upcoming layoffs at ESPN might be worse than predicted, with sources telling the publication that the company could now cut around 70 TV/radio anchors, reporters, analysts and online writers in the coming days. The boosted numbers could reflect the inclusion of online writers such as Titans beat reporter Paul Kuharsky who tweeted Monday his contract is not being renewed.
MMA promotion ONE Championship reports that – in the past three years – the largest sports property has seen social media impressions jump from 352 million to 4-billion, marking an increase of over 11 times the previous tally. In digital and online video, ONE has seen numbers rise from 312,000 to a 314 million. Meanwhile, the annual TV broadcast per country and the peak TV ratings share numbers have grown from 12-18 hours of TV broadcast in 2014 to as many as 1800 hours with TV ratings share spiking to 11-20% in its territories.
The NFL announced that Day 3 selections for Rounds 4 to 6 of the NFL Draft will be made from a slew of locations, including military bases, state landmarks and outer space. Beginning on Saturday at noon, announcements will feature current NFL players and legends, military personnel, actors, singers, and other special guests as well as youth football-themed, and youth football players from Pop Warner, NFL FLAG, and local teams will represent various NFL clubs in their individual markets during pick selections.  Among the sites will be the Grand Canyon for the Cardinals, the International Space Station for the Texans, the Indianapolis Zoo for the Colts, and Whiteman Air Force Base for the Chiefs, among others.
Speaking of the draft, CBS Sports Radio will air its annual NFL Draft Show hosted by the morning duo of Gregg “Gio” Giannotti and Brian Jones on Thursday starting at 8p. The duo will offer their take on the NFL event as they analyze every pick, trade and draft day surprise.

The Cynopsis Kids! Imagination Awards
is almost here and entries are now open!
Enter NOW and you’ll be in good company – Last year’s finalists included:
7ate9 Entertainment, Cartoon Network, Disney, DreamWorksTV, Food Network, FOX, Hasbro, Litton Entertainment, National Geographic, Netflix, Nickelodeon, PBS KIDS, Saban Brands, Sesame Workshop, Steve Rotfeld Productions, The Jim Henson Company, WNET, YouTube and more!

The NHL detailed activation plans for its corporate partners during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, with activation highlights that include (but are not limited to): the launch of Enterprise’s “All the Places Life Takes Martin Brodeur” campaign; GEICO’s campaign featuring Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron; PPG Paints initial foray into the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the “Character of Champion” spot featuring the Keeper of the Cup, Phil Pritchard as well as the Reese “Without the Pros” commercial in Canada. Other initiatives include Discover’s The Day With The Cup series; Pepsi and Lay’s giving fans the chance to host the ultimate Stanley Cup house party; Reese’s For The Love of The Cup promotion, dangling a trip for the fan who finds a Stanley Cup-wrapped Reese Peanut Butter Cup.
THE PLAYERS Championship
locked in a deal with ride-sharing service Uber for the 2017 event that will see the company receive a designated pick-up and drop-off area at the Sawgrass Marriott,  “With the increasing popularity of THE PLAYERS both in Northeast Florida and nationally, efficiently getting fans into and out of the tournament in a timely and safe manner is one of our key goals,” said Jared Rice, executive director of THE PLAYERS Championship. “We are thrilled to be working with the most well-known ride-sharing service, and we encourage all our fans to use Uber throughout the week.”
Competitor Group, operators of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, announced that Synchrony Financial will become the new title partner for the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon & ½ Marathon. The event returns June 3-4.

and Twitter are partnering to live stream the final match of the 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, which will be played between Mexican sides Tigres UANL and C.F. Pachuca on tonight at 10p,  as well as the knock-out rounds and final match of the Men’s Under-17 Championship, currently underway in Panama. The matches will be available in English for free to logged-in and logged-out Twitter users via @CONCACAF on Twitter and connected devices in the United States and Canada, as well as all other countries and territories outside Latin America. The finals of the CONCACAF Champions League will be the first global live football championship ever streamed on the platform.
The Olympic Channel and the International Surfing Association locked in a content cooperation agreement that will see the network live stream coverage from the upcoming 2017 ISA World Surfing Games, running May 20-28 Ma, in Biarritz, France, in addition to other ISA events. The organization now becomes the 52nd federation partner of the multi-platform media destination. “We look forward to working with the International Surfing Association to introduce their sport and athletes to a broader audience,” said Mark Parkman, general manager of the Olympic Channel. “As we look ahead to Tokyo 2020, viewers are sure to be fascinated by the stories of these athletes who push their limits against one of nature’s most powerful elements.”
Digital games publisher and developer 704Games announced the worldwide release of NASCAR Heat Mobile, the “first authentic NASCAR racing game on mobile to feature 40 stock cars racing simultaneously.” 704Games tapped veteran developer Firebrand Games, creators of NASCAR Unleashed, to build the title, which will serve as a free-to-play game.

Brendan Donohue, NBA Senior Vice President, Team Marketing and Business Operations has been named Managing Director of the new NBA 2K esports league, where he will be charged with overseeing the league. NBA teams participating in the inaugural season will be announced in the coming weeks, with the new league set to launch in 2018 and more than half of all NBA teams now expected to participate in the debut season. “We’re thrilled that we already have in place a seasoned sports executive to lead this new league,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.  “The fact that Brendan knows the NBA inside and out is a huge bonus and will enable us to ramp up this venture in record time.”
Blizzard laid out the 32 teams that will be competing for the Overwatch World Cup. The selections were made based on the skill ratings of the top 100 players from every country to determine each country’s average rating. China finished the survey as the top country in the ranking, with South Korea, United States, Sweden and Finland rounding out the top five.
ASUS Republic of Gamers
announced its sponsorship of NRG eSports. As part of the partnership, NRG will now receive exclusive premium PC hardware from ASUS ROG, including desktops, laptops and monitors. As a part of the sponsorship, NRG esports players will share their own experiences using ROG hardware with the eSports community, including player streams, behind-the-scenes content from the leading eSports events and more. In addition to supporting the team with its award-winning technology, ASUS ROG will appear on the official NRG eSports jerseys for the teams in “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive,” “Gears of War,” “Hearthstone,” “Overwatch,” “Rocket League,” “Super Smash Bros.” and “SMITE.” “eSports tournaments are drawing audiences that rival the biggest sporting events I’ve experienced,” said NRG eSports Co-Owner and Advisor Shaquille O’Neal. “We need the most hardcore technology for that intensity of competition and ASUS meets those demands.”
While esports may medal in territorial games, don’t expect the industry to grab Olympic gold anytime soon. IOC president Thomas Bach told insidethegames that “We are not yet 100 percent clear whether esports is really sport, with regard to physical activity and what it needs to be considered sport. We do not see an organization or a structure that will give us confidence, or guarantee, that in this area the Olympic rules and values of sport are respected and in place, and that the implementation of these rules are monitored and secured.”

Round two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs opens with Predators/Blues at 8p on NBCSN.


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ON THIS DAY in 1912: The first HR hit in Fenway Park (by Hugh Bradley).
In The Know
: NFL Draft Week: In 1999, Saints coach Mike Ditka traded his entire draft to which team for the right to pick Ricky Williams? (Email
[email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)
Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question:
NFL Draft Week – In 2005, the University of Utah produced the top overall pick for both the NFL and NBA drafts (selected by the 49ers and Bucks respectively). Who were those players?
Answer: Alex Smith and Andrew Bogut. Kudos: John Ferlazzo-Media Consultant/London; Kyle Helm-CBS Sports/NY; Mike Polvere-Optimum Sports/NY; Denis Barry-CBS/NY; Frank Costa-CBS Sports/NY; Rob Keith-Partnership Sports Marketing Group/Davidson; John Langermann-WINK-TV/WXCW-TV/Fort Myers; Jamie Palatini-NBC Sports Group/Stamford; Synda Kollman-Charter Marketing Group/Deerfield Beach; Robert Teinowitz-Live Action Media/Chicago; Dennis Silva-KSTC-TV/Saint Paul;  Tom Doherty-Starcom Media/Chicago; Darron Mcknight-cj Advertising/Nashville; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank.

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