Pat McAfee has been a rising star in sports media since retiring from the NFL in 2016. The former Indianapolis Colt has grown his brand, along with his talk show, in the mold of the ‘guy talk’ genre. He’s endeared himself to ‘joe sports fan’ by basically being just like him, and it’s won him a dedicated following.
Now McAfee, 36, has announced that his “Pat McAfee Show” is joining ESPN. After speculation about a major move for the popular program, the news came down on Tuesday that the precocious punter and his crew will be moving to The Worldwide Leader.
Starting this fall, the show will air at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN, ESPN+, and on the network’s YouTube page.
Last month, McAfee tweeted a picture of himself and Disney CEO Bob Iger, teasing the move. However, McAfee went on the air later and posted a video that assured his fans that no matter where their ultimate destination was, things would remain the same.
“We ain’t changing,” he said in the video posted on social media.
McAfee was responding to unrest among his most loyal followers that the politically correct network would force him to change the show’s format. Since its inception, the cast of characters – which also includes former Packers linebacker AJ Hawke – has been known to use colorful language, wild antics, and (sometimes) ruthless aggression to entertain their audience.
That may be why fans of the show are concerned. The belief among a large percentage of the sports population is that ESPN has grown increasingly woke in the modern era. That’s not really the kind of an environment that a no-hold-barred presentation like ‘The Pat McAfee Show’ seems to be a good fit for.
Several longtime listeners of the show voiced their opinions on social media, saying that the move could potentially “ruin the show”.
However, Pat McAfee asserts that he’ll maintain control of the content, with plenty of on-air freedom despite airing on Disney-owned ESPN. He returned from a leave of absence (he and his wife welcomed their first baby at the same time as this news), and addressed the audience’s concerns.
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) May 17, 2023
“Sports media has really been one particular thing for a very long time,” McAfee said. “And I know there’s people that do different things other than debate, but the debate era certainly became a thing in sports media. And debates naturally lead to division and nitpicking and tearing people down because that is what debates do. So I think a lot of sports media was trying to mimic what Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless created.”
“As somebody that was on a team, that got a chance to see a lot of players get ridiculed in the media and the reaction of it, I always assumed, ‘Hey, can we not be a little more positive?’ I think a lot of people thought that way,” McAfee continued. “We always wanted to celebrate sport.”
For now all fans of Pat McAfee’s program can do is wait and see how this cliffhanger plays out over the next few months. Will it maintain its edge and gusto? Or will it get the Mickey Mouse, G-Rated treatment? We’ll have to wait and see.