One of the largest personalities in sports broadcasting is about to get just a little bit larger. Tennis analyst John McEnroe has signed a new contract with ESPN that expands his role in Bristol beyond the confines of that sport. ESPN has announced that McEnroe will now do interviews with athletes from around sports and also serve as a SportsCenter analyst on major sports topics.
"ESPN tennis analyst and Hall of Famer John McEnroe will expand his role beyond tennis to include year-round, non-tennis appearances on television and radio. The 17-time Major winner (seven in singles, nine in doubles, one in mixed doubles) has worked the US Open for ESPN since 2009 and Wimbledon since 2012.
In addition to his work on tennis, McEnroe will serve as an analyst on SportsCenter discussing major topics of all sorts and handling sit-down interviews with top sports stars. He also will make regular appearances on ESPN2’s Olbermann and on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike, also seen weekday mornings on ESPN2. In addition, he also will also be heard on ESPN Radio New York (98.7 FM)."
Clearly, Fox Sports 1 has inspired ESPN to promote John McEnroe to this expanded role and be the network's answer to Andy Roddick. Seriously though, it is an interesting balance for former athletes to go outside the bounds of the boundaries of their sport of expertise. Some athletes can do it well and competently and there are times when it can be beneficial for fans to get a different perspective. As long as it doesn't devolve into Donovan McNabb ranting on NASCAR drivers not being athletes, of course. It's one of those things where it can work very well (think Mary Carillo and her various roles across sports) and there are times when it certainly does not.
This decision by ESPN follows a recent trend of investing more resources in powerful personalities like Keith Olbermann, Jason Whitlock, Michelle Beadle, etc. If there's any athlete that can take on a legitimate cross-sporting role, it's John McEnroe. His growing presence at the network should provide more insight and more entertainment for ESPN viewers.