Pam Oliver returning to Fox for 29th NFL season: ‘Longevity is beautiful’

When Pam Oliver first took the NFL sidelines for Fox Sports 28 years ago, Tom Brady had just completed his run as a three-sport senior (baseball, basketball and football) at Junípero Serra High School in San Mateo, Calif., Michael Jordan was preparing for his comeback season with the Bulls after leaving the NBA, and “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio featuring LV was on its way to the top of the Billboard Year-End Hot 100. No NFL fan under 30 can remember a time Pam Oliver was not on an NFL sideline. It has been a remarkable run — and it will continue.

On Tuesday night, Oliver confirmed that The Athletic she’ll be back for another season on Fox’s NFL coverage. Her current contract runs through 2023. Oliver worked for years on Fox’s top NFL team with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman before switching to other crews in 2014, including the Kevin Burkhardt-Greg Olsen team in 2021. This year she teamed with Joe Davis and Daryl Johnston. Her final broadcast of this season came Saturday for the Eagles’ 38-7 rout of the Giants.

“I’m committed for another year,” Oliver said. “Beyond that, it’s a process where you sit down and think about it. It’s a two-way street, of course. I’ve kind of been assured for as long as I want to do this job, I can, and they’ve been really good about figuring out where I am and what I’d like to do. I’m sure they’ve got plans of their own, but when you tell me that I can do this for as long as I want to, I expect that to be the case. But I know nothing is guaranteed. I’ll be 62 in March. I was thinking about Jalen Hurts the other day and how he could be my grandson basically (laughter). But that’s just where we are. I appreciate the longevity and I think about it. I think longevity is a beautiful thing.”

Oliver has been open about the excruciating pain she has endured over the years, from chronic migraines to fibroids. (I highly recommend this 2019 Yahoo Sports profile on her health issues by Kimberley A. Martin, who’s now with ESPN.) Oliver said the migraines still come frequently but were lessened a bit this year.

“I still struggle, but I didn’t get a migraine every game, so I felt I did get a bit of a break from that standpoint,” Oliver said. “It wasn’t like six days’ worth of migraines like before. It was down to two or three days, so I felt better most weeks. But it was still pretty prevalent. I don’t think I’ll ever figure out why I got them. … It’s a part of my life, my health, and I just have to manage the best that I possibly can.”

With her Fox year ending until the summer, Oliver said she will focus on some passion projects. She and her husband, Alvin Whitney, have formed a production company, Tomboy Productions, and they plan to produce documentaries. She has also been working on and off on a memoir for the last five years.

“You know I had the coolest experience this year,” Oliver said. “Right after warmups of the (Seahawks-49ers wild-card) game, Azeez Al-Shaaira linebacker with the 49ers, was walking by me to join his teammates but he stopped and said, ‘You’ve meant a lot, and it’s a pleasure watching you. You help in our community and you make us all look good.’ I was just like, wow. It was a really emotional moment. To hear something like that makes you think you have done some things right. This is just a damn good job and I still love it.”

The Ink Report

• Rick Tocchet being hired as the new coach of the Canucks opens up an analyst seat on the NHL on TNT studio show. Or does it? TNT is not expected to name a full-time replacement, The Athletic has learned. There are a couple of reasons why: The show already has fill-in analysts such as Henrik Lundqvist and Keith Yandle, so they have depth in terms of staffing. We’ve also passed the halfway point of the season, so the appearance schedule is more manageable than if you were short-staffed from opening night.

• Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim wrote an excellent and lengthy piece on the Power Slap league, which he correctly described as an indefensible product. The reason the piece is particularly good is that Wertheim was an early supporter of the UFC and remains so. He points out the differences in the piece. Warner Bros. Discovery executives indeed should be ashamed to put this slop on, though clearly, they are not. The show debuted to 295,000 viewers last Wednesday and did a 0.10 in the 18- to 49-year-old demo. That’s low. It’s been heartening to see some prominent combat sports voices and concussion experts speak out on it.

• New York Times reporter Ken Bensinger has been doing terrific work on the federal court trial in Brooklyn regarding the Justice Department’s long-running investigation of corruption in international soccer. Last week, per Bensinger, a government witness testified that inside information obtained from a FIFA official whom he was secretly bribing for years gave Fox a decided edge over ESPN and NBC in what was thought to be a blind auction.

Fox landing the World Cup rights in 2011 has had huge ramifications for US soccer given that in 2015 FIFA announced it had extended US media rights agreements (again, with no open bids) with Fox and NBC Universal’s Telemundo through the 2026 World Cup. A Fox Corp spokesman told Bensinger that the case involves “a legacy business that has no connection to the new Fox Corporation.” It’s a trial to watch, particularly if you are a viewer not pleased with Fox’s coverage of this year’s World Cup in Qatar.

• Vox Media announced it was cutting seven percent of its staff, including a heavy hit to SB Nation. It’s a particular awful blow to coverage of hockey and US-based soccer and a number of other sports. I thought this Twitter thread on workers in the media economy from Kelsey McKinney was worth reading. I hope those who want to remain in sports find new opportunities.

The multi-year deal with CW was about as good as LIV Golf could get in 2023. This is about reach in the US market, and you can’t get that in 2023 without a linear partner. None of the major sports players were going to partner with LIV, especially those with a relationship with the PGA Tourso they were always going to have to get a partner without a major sports footprint.

SBJ’s John Ourand reported the deal is for two years, with a one-year option based on viewership. The CW is not paying a rights fee. The on-air production will remain under LIV’s control. The strategy seems pretty clear: Take what you can get, play the long game, and hope to ride out negative press on sportswashing, and then get a media rights deal down the road that brings in serious money. One important note pointed out by the always-excellent Anthony Crupi of Sportico: Because the CW is not officially measured by Nielsen outside of its two hours of weekday prime-time programming (8-10 pm ET), advertising inventory will be sold based on internal estimates. There’s also the very real possibility of CW affiliates around the US not picking up the product.

• I covered tennis for Sports Illustrated for many years and was always impressed by the amount of staff ESPN would send to the US Open. The company took over the cable rights from USA Network in 2009, then the full US Open boat from CBS in 2015, and have been serious stewards of the game when it comes to production. Some of you in the comments section (and certainly on social media) have expressed unhappiness about ESPN not sending a full armada of staff — including match broadcasters — to the Australian Open. I’ve seen complaints on the programming schedule as well. All justified.

This isn’t the Libema Open from ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands. The Australian Open is one of four jewels of the sport, and if you are committed to the tennis business, as a million press releases from ESPN PR have told us they arethen you are essentially telling your tennis audience that they don’t matter. The lead item here from Andrew Marchand of the New York Post is worth reading. (Imagine ESPN not sending Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy to an NBA conference finals for non-safety reasons.) Yes, remote broadcasts cost money, and, yes, the trip to Melbourne is a costly bear, and yes, the Australian Open is a terrible viewership game for the company given the time difference. But if you have read this column or followed me on social mediayou know the golden rule of ESPN: If they want something, there is always money. Always.

• The latest episode of “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” features reporter David Scott and producer Max Gershberg traveling to Mississippi to examine the role Brett Favre is alleged to have played in redirecting millions of dollars away from the poorest residents in the country’s poorest state to his own projects. Unconscionable. Kudos to Anna Wolfe of Mississippi Today and Ashton Pittman of the Mississippi Free Press for all of their reporting on this.

• Episode 270 of the Sports Media Podcast features an NFL conversation with Nicki Jhabvala of The Washington Post and Lindsay Jones of The Ringer. They are followed by Susan Slusser of The San Francisco Chronicle, who remembers her friend and the writer and editor, Gwen Knapp, who passed away last week at age 61. You can subscribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher and more .

Some things I read over the last few days that were interesting to me:

• The Fierce Life and Sudden Death of America’s Strongest Woman. By John Leland of The New York Times.

• Joey Votto is taking his MVP-level focus to the local chess club. By Gilbert Ngabo of The Toronto Star.

• How These Dog Walkers Make Over $100,000 a Year. By Alyson Krueger of The New York Times.

• WWE’s Vince McMahon Settles With Ex-Wrestling Referee Who Accused Him of Rape. By Joe Palazzolo and Ted Mann of The Wall Street Journal.

• Blazers’ Justise Winslow’s ‘giant, little steps’ out of the darkness. By Jason Quick of The Athletic.

Via Bruce Feldman of The Athletic: Why is there a disparity in the CFB recruiting stars of NFL offensive and defensive studs?

Via Roberto Jose Andrade Franco of ESPN: The Cowboys conflict: The cost of rooting for America’s Team.

• A remarkable thread of advice on grief.

• What really happens during NHL intermissions? The naked truth. By Michael Russo of The Athletic.

• Lisa Guerrero details ‘Monday Night Football’ debacle, chasing ‘bad guys’ in new book. By Daniel Brown of The Athletic.

The National Review’s Douglas Murray on the politics of Ukraine.

Cyd Zeigler of Outsports, Nancy Armor of USA Todayand Sports Spectrum’s Jason Romano on Tony Dungy and his tweeting of debunked conspiracies. (As of this writing, NBC Sports has not offered public comment on Dungy’s tweet; Dungy did apologize.)

• The Montreal Mafia Murders: Blood, Gore, Cannolis, and Hockey Bags. By Adam Leith Golner of GQ.

• How Charlie Javice Got JPMorgan to Pay $175 Million for … What Exactly? By Ron Lieber of The New York Times.

• The Last Days of Sting. By Mike Piellucci of D Magazine.

• The Getty Family’s Trust Issues. By Evan Osnos of the New Yorker.

• My name became public 25 years ago this week. What have I observed and learned in the quarter century since? Oh, plenty. By Monica Lewinsky for GQ.

• Throw Up Your Hands and Raise Your Voice! Monorail! Monorail! Monorail! By Alan Siegel of The Ringer.

Ray Ratto and Michael Bamberger on the life and editorial magic of sportswriter Gwen Knapp, who passed away last week at age 61.

(Photo: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

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