Morning debate shows are nearly as popular among sports fans for their melodrama and hysterics as the analysis and information. But Cris Carter crossed a line when he let his fiery on-air persona for “First Things First ” extend to the real world last month, reportedly berating FOX executives for his lack of a role on the network’s Thursday NFL pre-game show.
The Hall-of-Fame receiver was dismissed by FS1 last week, days after recording what turned out to be his final appearance on “First Things First.”
Chris Canty has appeared opposite Jenna Wolfe and Nick Wright in the interim, bringing a more measured vibe to the show while providing viewers with unique knowledge gleaned from an 11-year NFL career on the defensive line.
But FOX Sports has yet to hire him on a permanent basis, leaving the door open for another former athlete to fill Carter’s shoes full-time.
Here are three candidates for the job who could help “First Things First” ascend to heights currently reserved for ESPN’s “First Take.”
It should come as no surprise that Reggie Bush, a megastar during his scintillating college career at USC who once dated Kim Kardashian, is a natural on camera. The ease and calm with which he’s comported himself during his first full season in the sports entertainment world puts him on the fast track to industry stardom.
Bush isn’t as bombastic as most debate personalities, and would probably need to brush up on his knowledge of non-football sports before being put on the air every weekday morning. But if FS1 wants to make a splash and is comfortable taking a bit of a risk, they’d be hard-pressed to do better than Bush as a replacement for Cris Carter on “First Things First.”
Plus, anything to further rankle the feathers of the NCAA, which retroactively ruled Bush ineligible during his USC days, is sure to draw FS1 plaudits.
Rob Gronkowski continues to tease the possibility of an NFL comeback, whether later this season or in the future. But whether he ultimately returns to the gridiron or not, it would be prudent of FS1 to further capitalize on his enormous popularity by affording the former New England Patriots superstar the chair across from Wright.
Gronkowski has mellowed out a bit in his post-playing days, but remains one of the most amusing and relatable athletes in all of professional sports. He would need some time to round out the rough edges of his on-camera performance, but Gronkowski’s persona is the type that could thrive in on-the-job training.
He’s done well on FOX’s NFL pregame show, but Gronkowski, frankly, deserves a bigger spotlight.
Bostonians seem especially attuned to the morning debate shows, and not even Gronkowski has a higher favorability rating in Beantown than David Ortiz. His popularity transcends both New England and baseball at large, too, as Ortiz’s megawatt smile and sense of affability made him one of sports’ most recognizable athletes in the 2000s.
Ortiz has been contributing to FOX’s baseball coverage since 2014, taking on a bigger role in the studio of late. It’s unclear how much Ortiz knows about other major sports, and he lacks Cris Carter’s experience in the debate setting.
There’s also doubt as to whether the manufactured, argumentative nature of a show like “First Things First” meshes with his steadfastly positive persona.
But Ortiz is beloved, and charismatic enough to charm his way through any possible acclimation process. The people always want more Big Papi, and FS1 would be smart to oblige.