On Friday, it was Tom Rinaldi. On Saturday, it was Mike Golic. And on Monday, Dan Le Batard became the third big name in four days to sign off from ESPN. This was not a surprise. We have known this date was coming for Le Batard for over a month, and we suspected it was coming for far longer.
Here was his send-off from his television show, Highly Questionable, which included his father, Papi Le Batard, during the bulk of its stretch:
— Highly Questionable (@HQonESPN) January 4, 2021
On his radio show and Big Suey podcast accompanying the show (embedded above), Le Batard, his co-host Jon ‘Stugotz’ Weiner, and producers Mike Ryan, Chris Cote, Roy Bellamy, and Billy Gil expressed gratitude for their time at ESPN and especially for the die-hard listeners who have followed them on a journey from their local radio show in Miami. The show evolved into a national show. However, it was always a peculiar fit in the meat-and-potatoes of the ESPN Radio lineup. That inherent conflict bubbled as ESPN’s power structure changed from John Skipper’s leadership to Jimmy Pitaro’s.
Le Batard did not hint at what is next for his team, but he did say that they will be doing a kind of pirate radio show during their free agency (if they get the tech right). An interesting element of their amicable exit package from ESPN is that they get to keep their podcast feeds on Apple and Spotify. While the show is big enough on social media that they could have rebuilt it from scratch, it is a considerable advantage for them not to have to start over there. For podcast subscribers, the show will go on as early as tomorrow. They also get to use their show archives. I’m not sure that anyone else leaving ESPN has negotiated to keep control of their IP like that.
One of the elements of the ESPN good-bye in the Big Suey podcast was a roast of sorts from SportsCenter anchor Randy Scott, who has been a contributor to the show. He brought up how Le Batard told Colin Cowherd he would become lost and irrelevant if he ever left the Worldwide Leader in sports. Le Batard had similar thoughts about Skip Bayless and Bill Simmons when they left the network.
As I have written previously, Le Batard is lucky to be wrong. Colin Cowherd, Skip Bayless, and Bill Simmons did not get lost. Neither did Dan Patrick, Rich Eisen, Erin Andrews, Jemele Hill, Will Cain, or Jason Whitlock. The list of people who remain relevant outside ESPN will only grow from here.
You can say a lot about tech platforms and how the companies carry themselves. We have certainly been critical of them on this web site. However, their advantage is that big talents have much more portable audiences. I’m not going to say that tech platforms have democratized content, because that’s not true. However, they have empowered individual creators with big brands to have more leverage over the institutions that employ them.
“Part of being from Miami, of course, is so many of our parents fled Communist shackles to get us to the kind of freedom we will have by the end of today’s show,” Le Batard said. “My father, a Cuban exile, has grown old at my side on television for damn near a decade. In retirement on Miami Beach doing a daytime TV show in his second language, in the middle of the lineup for the Worldwide Leader in Sports. The American Dream fairytale funded by Disney. Imagine that. This little Miami story and family getting so goddamn big that it can leave no less an authority than the Worldwide Leader in Sports without doubt, or fear or hesitation because we know the person listening to this right now — you — don’t need to hear any of this history or nostalgia in your head, because it’s something you feel a little bit deeper down, a little closer to your heart.”