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chess

Chess Grandmaster Quits Abruptly During Game, Fueling Cheating Scandal

Chess World Champion Magnus Carlsen abruptly quit an online chess match against Grandmaster Hans Niemann Monday, sending shockwaves throughout the chess community. Commentators are speculating that Carlsen believes Niemann cheated during their previous match.

ncaa

More Plaintiffs Join Lawsuit v. NCAA Claiming Student Athletes Deserve Pay

Former Villanova University football player Ralph “Trey” Johnson sued the N.C.A.A. in November 2019, claiming that college athletes should be considered employees at the schools they play for under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The case has grown since then, with several former athletes joining as plaintiffs and seeking to form a class-action lawsuit.

This case is one of many blows the N.C.A.A. has taken to its current model of the relationship between athletes, their schools and the N.C.A.A.

In a statement, Johnson said that the lawsuit was “not about being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars.” The case was also not restricted to a few select athletes with endorsement deals.

“We are simply asking the N.C.A.A. to pay its student-athletes the basic minimum wage as required by federal law. They pay the students who tear the tickets and sell popcorn at our games. The least that the N.C.A.A. can do for those who bring so much money to the N.C.A.A. and its schools would be to pay them the minimum wage.”

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In June 2021, the Supreme Court passed a unanimous decision in the case N.C.A.A. v. Alston to uphold a lower court’s ruling that the N.C.A.A. restrictions on “education-related benefits” for college athletes violated antitrust laws. These benefits included scholarships for graduate school, payment for academic tutoring and paid post-eligibility internships.

Though the Supreme Court case did not debate the issue of compensation, it was one of the first major blows to the N.C.A.A.’s status quo. Over the last two years, several states have passed legislation that challenged the N.C.A.A.’s rules prohibiting athletes from profiting off their NIL—name, image and likeness. Congress in both parties have proposed new legislation that would grant student athletes long-term medical care and a portion of the revenue they generate.

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The National Labor Relations Board’s General Counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, released a memo stating that she considered college athletes employees under federal law. The memo states that Abruzzo would consider referring to the “employees as mere student-athletes,” violating the Fair Labor Standards Act. It was a sign that the N.L.R.B. would be willing to pursue claims against colleges, conferences and the N.C.A.A. on behalf of the students.

“The broad language of Section 2(3) of the Act, the policies underlying the N.L.R.A., Board law, and the common lawfully support the conclusion that certain Players at Academic Institutions are statutory employees, who have the right to act collectively to improve their terms and conditions of employment.”

The case is currently in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. If the case is ruled in favor of the athletes, it will counter the Seventh and Ninth circuit’s rulings. The conflicting rulings would increase the likelihood that the Supreme Court would step in to make a final decision.

In 2021, the N.C.A.A. made $1.15 billion in revenue and distributed the bulk of it to its 1,200 member schools.

49ers

Jimmy Garoppolo’s Return To The 49ers Could Mean Bad News For Trey Lance

The 49ers recently signed a new one-year contract over the course of the 2022 NFL season with Jimmy Garoppolo.

“The 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo agree to a restructured contract worth $6.5 million guaranteed,” the NFL tweeted recently. 

This could act as a benefit for the veteran quarterback, but it could have a different effect on Trey Lance.

Even though Garoppolo had already previously said his goodbyes to the team and fans in San Francisco, the team decided that it would be in the best interest of the team to create a new contract in order to keep him on the team. 

However for Lance, the addition of keeping Garoppolo on the team adds extra pressure due to him starting as Quarterback 1. 

Throughout the offseason, Lance has been struggling as he is heading into his first year on the 49ers as a lead offense player. 

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During training camp, Lance’s completion rate has been under 30% and during his preseason appearances, he completed a total of 11 out of 16 attempts for 141 yards and only scored one touchdown.

There is a lot of pressure when someone young takes over a starting position on a team. Luckily, there is a small chance that their coach will immediately pull Lance if he makes a bad decision on a play. 

Over the course of the 2021 season, both Lance and Garoppolo spoke out about lack of awkwardness between the both of them even though there is a natural hierarchy between the two. 

Garoppolo is familiar with leading a team in the NFL whereas Lance is still learning. 

“I think we could probably all agree last year that the best quarterback to lead the 49ers was Jimmy Garoppolo. Now, they made the no-questions-asked Trey Lance is the starter, ‘We’re moving on.’ Now it’s not so clear cut that the number one quarterback is the number one quarterback, and the onus is certainly on Trey Lance to prove it every week,” said NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco.

Even before the 49ers have found some controversy within the quarterback. 

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Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch (players in the NFL) have noticed that Lance is going to have some challenges in the upcoming season, but the 49ers have done all they can to make sure there is a replacement waiting in case he makes a mistake. 

In the end, if Lance ends up not being able to meet the expectations that is expected of him, Garoppolo will be called on to take over the position as quarterback. 

 

cowboys

Dallas Cowboys’ Tyron Smith Out Of Season Until At Least December Due To Knee Injury

Right before the opening of the season, the Dallas Cowboys will be starting without their Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith. 

In Wednesday’s practice, Smith suffered an avulsion fracture to his knee and tore his left hamstring which will require surgery. Recent reports say that Smith won’t return to the field until the earliest possibly December, if he returns at all this season.

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Smith was on a running play during practice and fell to the ground as he went to make a block against the Cowboys’s linebacker Leighton Vander Esch.

“The 31-year-old went down in practice with a non-contact injury but was able to walk off under his own power,” reported the NFL.

After the injury, Smith was found leaving the locker room after practice and to others, he didn’t appear to be limping from the recent injury that was sustained. The initial tests came back and indicated that the ACL in his knee was still intact. 

 

“He gave me a nice reassuring grunt like he usually does. That’s the one thing playing next to him for so long, I can decipher his grunts. I think he’s all right,” said Left guard Connor McGovern.

 

This isn’t the first time that the Cowboys have had to play without Smith’s presence on the field. 

Smith also missed 20 games over the past two seasons and hasn’t played in an entire season since 2015. 

Over the last couple of seasons, he has suffered from other knee, ankle, neck and elbow injuries. He missed 14 games over the 2020 season due to his neck injury and 6 games in the 2021 season due to an ankle injury and having some time on the COVID list. 

The Cowboys are now trying to evaluate potential free agents for the offensive tackle spot but are having trouble finding help within the position. Any and all efforts to find assistance has now intensified. 

The options that are available with the team’s current roster doesn’t come with much experience.

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Back in April, the Cowboys drafted left tackle Tyler Smith from Tulsa within the first round and rotated him between the left guard and left tackle position. Their intent was to have Smith start at left guard but have him prepared to slide into left tackle in case Tyron Smith suffered an injury at any point of the season.

Tyler Smith was originally planned to play left guard for this season but still hasn’t taken the job from McGovern. In the most recent training camps, he did some left tackle reps but still played mostly guard positions.

Tyler Smith is still the Cowboy’s plan for the long run in the position at left tackle. 

baseball

MLB Trade Deadline: Which Pitchers Or Hitters Could Be On The Move?

With the MLB trade deadline only a week away, contenders will be looking to cash in players that can help to push them over the line. There are a number of notable names this year, and even one generational superstar, that are seeing their names frequently mentioned throughout the rumor mill.

Luis Castillo, Frankie Montas Headline The Pitching Market

For pitching needy teams, this is an extremely solid market. One of the biggest reasons why is because of controllability: both Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo and Oakland’s Frankie Montas will be eligible for arbitration in 2023 before hitting free agency in 2024, giving teams an extra year of control.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, both will “almost certainly move in the next week.” Passan also notes the St. Louis Cardinals, Seattle Mariners, and New York Yankees have been the teams in the hottest pursuit.

Both Castillo and Montas have impressed despite the below-average teams around them. Castillo carries a 2.77 ERA and 3.04 FIP in 78.0 innings, while Montas comes in with a 3.18 ERA and 3.36 FIP across 104.2 innings.

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With those performances and financial factors comes a much-higher cost. A package centering around a top-100 prospect or two would almost certainly be needed. For teams attempting to boost their talent while keeping the farm system intact, a number of pitchers could be of interest.

Among the potential targets listed by Passan include Nathan Eovaldi, Noah Syndergaard, and Jose Quintana. All have ERAs in the high 3.00s, solidify back-of-the-rotation depth, and wouldn’t cost as much in terms of prospects due to their rental status.

Will Juan Soto Be On The Move? Probably Not

By far the biggest name on the hot stove is Washington Nationals’ star outfield Juan Soto. After rejecting a $440 million dollar contract, it’s clear Washington and Soto have no future together, and recouping as much value for the 23-year-old right now would seem to be a wise, though hard to swallow, decision.

The only problem? It remains to be seen if a team will actually pay.

This year, he’s in the 98th percentile in xwOBA, 91st in max exit velocity, and 100th in BB%. Soto’s stats, age, and career trajectory suggest he’ll be a Hall of Fame player. Naturally, Washington is seeking a package of at least several valued prospects or young, MLB-ready talent.

Only two teams — the Cardinals and San Diego Padres — are seen by league insiders who could be a match with that criteria. While Washington could perhaps let up its value asking price, the reality will likely be the team feels out the market and does the deed in the offseason.

Cubs Looking To Sell Ian Happ, Willson Contreras

The Chicago Cubs are once again in sell-mode. After a solid trade deadline last year — acquiring a bevy of prospects for names like Kris Bryant and Javier Baez — they’ll try to replicate the result with catcher Willson Contreras and outfielder Ian Happ.

Contreras, a three-time All-Star, is having a solid hitting year (14 home runs, .373 slugging percentage) but Passan notes some teams are wary. “Multiple teams, sources said, worry about Contreras — who is not known for his game-calling acumen — meshing with a new pitching staff on the fly,” he said.

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Of course, this is a new-look MLB, which helps Contreras’ case. With DH now in the NL, teams could acquire Contreras for his bat and give him occasional starts at catcher.

Meanwhile, Ian Happ has had a revival, batting .282/.366/.446 with nine home runs and 46 RBIs. Happ is controllable for 2023, is young (he turns just 28 next month), has solid defensive skills, and is a switch-hitter (he’s hitting .346 against left-hand pitching as a right-handed batter).

Among the other batters who could be moved include Kansas City’s Andrew Benintendi and Mike Moustakas (though with the latter likely as a salary dump), Washington’s Josh Bell, and Baltimore’s Trey Mancini.

baseball

Grading MLB’s Biggest Offseason Moves At The Season’s Midway Point

With the MLB season reaching the All-Star break, it presents a time to look back and grade how game-changing deals made in the offseason have turned out so far.

Some look to be steals, while others long to perhaps cripple a franchise more than aid them over the next several years. Which players live up to the hype? Let’s find out.

Mets sign Max Scherzer to three years, $130 million

New York made waves by nabbing Scherzer to a $130 million deal while adding to an extremely impressive rotation that also features Cy Young winner Jacob DeGrom.

So far, that contract has shown two extremes. The first is Scherzer’s potential. He’s gone 6-1 with a 2.22 ERA and 2.6 WAR in 11 games, being the ace expected of him.

The second is the potential risks. Scherzer missed nearly seven weeks with an oblique strain, and at 37, injuries could only become more frequent. As long as he can stay healthy, however, this is a win for the Mets.

Grade: B+

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Phillies sign Kyle Schwarber to four years, $79 million

Kyle Schwarber wasn’t even the Phillies’ biggest offseason signing (that honor belongs to Nick Castellanos). However, the move has paid huge dividends, and might even be what saves Philadelphia’s season. Thus far into 2022, Schwarber is first in the National League (and second in MLB) in home runs with 29.

Obviously, there are some areas of concern with Schwarber. He’s hitting .208 and has 120 strikeouts, putting him on pace for a career season-high. Production in scoring opportunities is also alarming: Schwarber’s hitting .215 with RISP, and .198 with men on base.

Still, Schwarber pulling the weight after 2021 NL MVP Bryce Harper went down with a thumb injury has been critical to the Phillies’ playoff push, and any hope of securing a division title or wildcard no doubt rests with him.

Grade: B

Astros sign Justin Verlander to two years, $50 million

After missing all but one game in 2020 and all of 2021, no one exactly knew what to expect of the 39-year-old Verlander. It showed with the New York Yankees, who offered Verlander $25 million but on a one-year deal.

The Astros were smart enough to offer Verlander the same deal, but with a 2023 player option at $25 million. What a decision that’s turned out to be. Verlander currently leads the American League in wins with 12, which goes nicely with a dazzling 1.89 ERA, 0.878 WHIP, and 108 strikeouts over 109.1 innings.

Verlander’s deal was certainly a high-risk, high-reward situation for Houston, and they put their faith in the nine-time All-Star to reward them for it. He delivered, making this probably the best signing of the offseason.

Grade: A+

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Rockies sign Kris Bryant to seven years, $182 million

Colorado shocked the baseball world by signing Kris Bryant to a seven-year deal at a value of $26 million per year. When he’s played, Bryant’s produced like many thought he would. Through 33 games, he’s batting .302/.366/.460 with four home runs and 12 RBIs.

Unfortunately, everything that made the signing originally bizarre still remains. Why didn’t the Rockies just keep Nolan Arenado, which actually would have been cheaper in the long run? Why didn’t they use that money to try and fill in multiple holes? Why even spend if you’re trying to save?

Due to Bryant’s unlucky back injury, the Rockies’ big splash has equaled a 43-50 record, good for fourth in the NL West. Unless Colorado’s pitching staff or protection around Bryant suddenly shapes up, that’s perhaps all they’ll ever see during the former MVP’s tenure there.

Grade: D

Rangers sign Corey Seager to 10 years, $325 million

Seager’s first season of his mega-contract has been a mixed bag. His slugging numbers are great: he’s at 22 home runs and 52 RBIs through 88 games. That would be him on pace for around 40 home runs and 100 RBIs, both would-be career-highs.

But his batting average is lacking. .251 for a career .291 hitter is unacceptable given the circumstances. Defense is also a negative, with Seager putting up 11 errors and a -7 Rtot through 746.1 innings fielded.

Still, given Seager’s resume, expect him to bring his batting totals back up to speed sooner than later.

Grade: C+

Commanders

Commanders Owner Dan Snyder Declines To Appear Before Congress

In a four-page letter obtained by Axios, Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder has informed the House Oversight and Reform Committee that he will not be attending the June 22 hearing on workplace misconduct in the NFL due to him being out of the country.

Celtics

Boston Celtics Complete Comeback As They Steal Game 1 Of NBA Finals Away From Golden State Warriors

After a 38 point third quarter performance by the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals at Chase Center Thursday night, it looked like the Boston Celtics were all but finished. Of course, it’s not truly the Finals without some dramatics.

Facing a 12 point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter, the Celtics put up 40 points — while holding the Warriors to just 16 — en route to a 120-108 victory. Helping Boston was their deadly accuracy beyond the three-point line: they made 21 three’s (21-for-41, 51.2%), with seven coming in the fourth.

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Boston became the first team in NBA Finals history to win by double-digits after entering the fourth quarter trailing by double-digits. In the playoffs, teams have been 1-31 when trailing by 12 or more entering the fourth.

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Al Horford led the way for the Celtics, scoring 26 points on 9-for-12 shooting with six rebounds. Horford also led the team with six three-pointers. Despite a pitiful 3-for-17 (17.6%), Jayson Tatum contributed 13 assists and a +16 +/-, while Jaylen Brown scored 24 points and six rebounds.

Off the bench, Derrick White had a +25 +/- while shooting 6-for-11 with 21 points. White went 5-for-8 (62.5%) from the three point line. On the opposite side, the Golden State Warriors — who have appeared in six of the last eight Finals — wasted a 34 point performance (along with seven three’s) from two-time MVP Seth Curry. Andrew Wiggins contributed 20 points.

There are plenty of defining statistics that help to show why the Celtics were able to turn the tide in the final quarter. Along with their three-pointers, Boston put up a 88.6% effective field-goal percentage, the highest mark any team has put up against Golden State in any quarter this season.

Boston also topped Golden State in overall offensive rating (129.0 to 114.9), net rating (14.1 to -14.1), and assist ratio (23.7 to 17.6). Of course, grit was needed to pull off such an impressive rally. Tatum, who acknowledged his less-than-stellar performance, explained the team knew what was required of them.

“The message at the start of the fourth was, ‘We’ve been here before. We know what it takes to overcome a deficit like that. Obviously that’s a great team. It’s not going to be easy. But just knowing we’ve been in that situation before and we’ve gotten our self out of it.”

With no players on the roster having been to the Finals before, Boston experienced slip-ups, as evident by their defense crumbling in the third. Still, the team knows pushing forward is the answer. “Just continue to play. That was our message throughout the whole game,” Horford said. “They’re such a good team. And for us, it was just, you know, continue to play no matter what.”

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Clearly, Boston’s combination of Brown and Tatum left Golden State struggling on the defensive side. “When [Brown’s] making shots like that and you’re slow to rotate, it’s just another threat that you got to worry about,” Curry said. He credited White’s clutch shooting as well. “Those two guys are key. You hope they don’t stay that hot, but you also have to do something about it.”

History suggests that Golden State letting the win slip through their fingers doesn’t bode well for the Finals outcome. The winner of Game 1 of the NBA Finals wins the series 70.7% (53-22) of the time, while the Celtics are 13-1 in the Finals after winning game 1.

“They played well. We know they’re a good team, so we got to respond on Sunday,” Curry said. The Warriors will look to get back on track in Game 2, which is set for June 5 at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Football

Jimbo Fisher Fires Back At Nick Saban: ‘Some People Think They’re God’

Even in the offseason, college football rivalries never disappoint. Jimbo Fisher shot some fiery comments back at Nick Saban after the Alabama coach stated that Texas A&M “bought every player” in its top-ranked 2022 recruiting class.

“We never bought anybody,” Fisher angrily said in a press conference Wednesday night. “No rules are broken. Nothing was done wrong. It’s a shame that you’ve got to sit here and defend 17-year-old kids and families and Texas A&M. Because we do things right. We’re always going to do things right. We’re always going to be here. We’re doing a heck of a job.”

Among Texas A&M’s class of 30 commitments and two transfers includes eight five-star prospects — including defensive linemen Walter Nolen, the second-ranked player nationally — and 20 four-star prospects. As ESPN notes, the class is regarded as the top class in the era of recruiting rankings.

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The 56-year-old head coach didn’t name the seven-time National Champion Saban personally, but wasn’t coy about who he was referring to either. “It’s despicable that a reputable head coach can come out and say this when he doesn’t get his way,” Fisher said.

“The narcissist in him doesn’t allow those things to happen. It’s ridiculous when he’s not on top.” Fisher also signaled that Saban — whose own 2022 recruiting class is ranked second by 247Sports with three five-star players — has his own skeletons in the closet.

“Some people think they’re God. Go dig into how God did his deal. You may find out a lot of things you don’t want to know. We build him up to be the czar of football. Go dig into his past, or anybody’s that’s ever coached with him. You can find out anything you want to find out, what he does and how he does it. It’s despicable.”

Fisher, who was the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach on Saban’s staff at LSU from 2000 to 2004, negatively compared that time to his time spent learning under Florida State’s Bobby Bowden. “There’s a reason people I ain’t back and worked for [Saban]. Don’t wanna be associated with him.”

Saban’s comments first arose during a meeting with business leaders Wednesday night. “I mean, we were second in recruiting last year. A&M was first,” Saban said. “A&M bought every player on their team — made a deal for name, image, likeness. We didn’t buy one player, all right? But I don’t know if we’re gonna be able to sustain that in the future because more and more people are doing it. It’s tough.”

Saban stated that Alabama players made $3 million doing it the “right way” and that only 25 players were able to leverage NIL (“name, image, and likeness”) deals. Saban also claimed the problem with the NIL deals — which were established in 2021 after a long fight over college players’ entitlements to financial compensation — is that coaches are “trying to create an advantage for themselves.”

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Saban isn’t a stranger to controversy. He previously rebutted claims that Alabama used NIL deals to entice prospects to the school. “We never cheated to get a player. We never paid players to come to our school,” he said.

It’s not the first time Fisher has blasted NIL claims, either. In February, he defended the school after Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin took a dig at them, saying Texas A&M would incur a luxury tax on the 2022 class. Nick Saban made comments similar to the ones said Wednesday at that time as well, though he later said he “wasn’t accusing anybody.”

Suffice to say, the off-field drama will certainly contribute to the SEC schools’ bitterness against each other. While Alabama holds an 11-3 all-time record versus Texas A&M, the Aggies broke an eight-year losing streak in 2021, winning 41-38. The teams will face off this year in Tuscaloosa on Oct. 8.

Tom Brady

Tom Brady To Join Fox Sports As Lead NFL Analyst Following Career

Following his playing career, quarterback Tom Brady will be joining Fox Sports as their lead NFL analyst. While the terms of Brady’s contract were not disclosed, the New York Post reported it to be a 10-year, $375 million deal.

It’s quite a historic contract on multiple levels if the report is accurate. Over his career, Brady earned over $302 million. He’s set to earn $15 million in 2022, meaning he’ll make $58 million more while sitting in a booth. Brady will also earn $7 million more annually than broadcaster Jim Rome, who makes $30 million a year.

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However, Fox corporate spokesman Brian Nick has disputed the report of Brady’s deal and value. “What has been reported isn’t an accurate description of the deal and we have not released details beyond what was disclosed on our quarterly earnings call,” Nick said.

The signing of Brady was first announced Tuesday by Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch during a corporate investors call. Brady will call games alongside play-by-play announcer Kevin Burkhardt, and work as an “ambassador” with respect to “client and promotional initiatives.”

The real question now is when Brady will finally quit. The 44-year-old announced his retirement in January, only to return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers two months later for his 23rd season. Given his competitive nature, one could assume Brady wasn’t happy with last season’s divisional round loss.

For Fox Sports, meanwhile, the coup of Brady is a huge — and necessary — one. The company lost announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to ESPN’s Monday Night Football broadcast this offseason, with Burkhardt replacing Buck.

The New York Post added that ESPN also showed interest in adding Brady to its broadcasting group, though given its star-studded cast of announcers, there wouldn’t have been much room for Brady, a seven-time Super Bowl champion. While Brady continues to play, former All-Pro tight end Greg Olson will work alongside Burkhardt as an analyst.

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That shift in announcers was just one of many happening this offseason. Elsewhere, Al Michaels left NBC and Sunday Night Football to join Kirk Herbstreit on Amazon Prime’s new exclusive coverage of Thursday Night Football. Of course, given Tom Brady’s name recognition, his announcement certainly the biggest splash of them all and could help Fox to bring in more viewers down the line.

Brady also represents just the latest quarterback to step into the broadcasting world. Former Dallas Cowboy Tony Romo joined CBS Sports back in 2017. He turned into a masterful game-caller, and is now earning $18 million per year, the third-highest mark among sports broadcasters. On opposing channels, brothers Peyton and Eli Manning teamed up on ESPN’s well-received “Manningcast” broadcast for Monday Night Football, while Drew Brees joined NBC for Sunday Night football.

Certainly, the NFL — and those calling it — reign supreme on television. The league made up 75 of the 100 most-watched broadcasts in 2021, with the Super Bowl (91.63 million viewers) sitting in the top spot. Fox is set to broadcast two of the next three Super Bowls.

Over his career, Brady has thrown for 624 touchdowns and 84,520 passing year (both NFL records) and shows no signs of slowing down. Last year, the three-time MVP threw for 43 touchdowns and a league-leading 5,316 yards against just 12 interceptions, registering a 102.1 quarterback rating.