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From Dating In Bristol To The Berman Rule: Everything You Need To Know About Michelle Beadle’s ESPN Free Agency

  • Dan Fogarty

If you’re Michelle Beadle, why would you want to stay at ESPN?

There are several reasons, actually. As a co-host of SportsNation, she has a gig that allows her to interact with athletes and non-athletes, and not take things too seriously while she’s doing it. The show meshes with her personality, she’s gotten very good at it, and when you become very good at something that meshes with your personality, it’s natural to want to keep doing it.

Then, there are the non-sports opportunities, which could theoretically be provided by her current employer. ESPN is owned by Disney, and she could get more gigs within The Mouse’s multi-whiskered empire. Like when she filled in for Kelly Ripa and co-hosted an episode of Live with Regis and Kelly on ABC.

That allowed her to be in front of a more mainstream audience in a format that was comfortable to her and led to one particularly memorable moment involving Regis Philbin shouting at her about porn. As rough as getting shouted at about porn that early in the morning is, she handled it well. Overall, her personality lends itself well to talk shows.

(When I asked her to name current media personalities whose careers she admires, she named Regis, David Letterman, Chelsea Handler, and Matt Lauer. There’s a reason for that.)

Also, if you’re Michelle Beadle, you’re a former rising star at the network that has become the risen star at the network. That professional rivalry you supposedly have with Andrews? You might be in the lead right now. You hosted the upfronts last year, and even though you reportedly caught some heat for being really bad at hiding the fact that said rivalry exists, you have more of a runway than most at the Worldwide Leader. You might even be approaching Bill Simmons territory. With the ESPN machine behind you, you’d only get bigger. Who would want to give that up?

If you’re Michelle Beadle, why would you want to leave ESPN?

But anyone from the outside can tell you she has reasons to explore other options, too. NBC is rumored to have the most interest, as Beadle would give them a much-needed infusion of personality and youth. And if the price to keep her gets too steep, ESPN is likely to avoid a bidding war… because of The Chris Berman Rule.

Yes, there is a Chris Berman Rule. On April 5th, when Miller hosted a panel with former SportsCenter hosts Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick, Patrick talked about about how his and Olbermann’s growing popularity had worked against them during their ESPN contract talks.

“Management said, ‘We don’t want another Berman,’” Patrick said, referencing Chris Berman. “They didn’t want stars and egos. They wanted information.”

As people get more popular, they become harder to control. ESPN has a proven track record of trying to control their talent. Would they be worried about any of their big three free agents becoming some sort of Berman-like monster due to a sizable pay increase?

“I think the smartest thing you do is take it on a case-by-case basis,” said Miller. “I do think if there’s any kind of rule, it’s that maybe they’re not going to throw really crazy money after one particular person because they don’t want to be dependent on a single star. The system is not designed that way.”

Instead, the system is designed to infuse new talent when the current talent becomes too expensive. There are rumors that ESPN already has their eyes on Charissa Thompson as a replacement if Beadle walks.

And if ESPN is to make a non-sports side gig part of their offer to Beadle, Miller noted that it has to be something tangible. Much was made about Erin Andrews’ special correspondent gig on Good Morning America, but it never really materialized. Whether that was Andrews’ choice or not, if something similar is offered to Beadle, one would assume it would have to have clearer guidelines.

Next: how ESPN’s campus — and its desolate social scene — will play into the decision.

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