As a tennis player, Andy Roddick was rarely a member of a team. Sure, there were doubles competitions and Davis Cup appearances, but for the most part Roddick lived the secular life of a professional tennis player.
There is no "all for one and one for all" in tennis. It's all for me and the rest be damned. Even Roddick's decision to walk away from the sport after the 2012 U.S. Open was ripe with independent spirit. He had just turned 30 years old, which is elderly enough for him to be post-prime, but he was still younger than then-top-ranked Roger Federer.
And with Roddick still being the most famous American men's tennis player in the world despite his downtick in play, no one could have blamed him for continuing well into his 30s. The limelight isn't easy to give up, especially when endorsement deals are banging down your door.
Yet, Roddick moved on. He saw his commitment wavering and his body breaking down and decided it was time for a new challenge.
We officially found out Wednesday what that challenge will be. For the first time, Roddick will be joining a team—a broadcast team. The former top-ranked player will be joining the new Fox Sports 1 network, as announced in a press release on Fox Sports' official website.
Scott Ackerson, who oversees Fox Sports' news coverage, released a glowing statement about Roddick in his release:
It is very rare that you find an exceptional athlete who can step off the field or in this case the court, who has the potential to be as equally talented in an on-air role. Andy is not only an expert tennis analyst, but his knowledge, candor and opinions on all sports are equally as impressive, and that makes him a unique fit for what we have in mind for FOX SPORTS LIVE.
Roddick be on-board with the network starting on August 17, which is when Fox Sports 1 will launch. He will be joining the cast of Fox Sports Live, which is the network's answer to SportsCenter.
According to Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch, Roddick's role will be that of co-host with Charissa Thompson, who is leaving ESPN at the end of her contract. Fox Sports Live will air in a three-hour block from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. ET and will contain a multitude of programming.
Roddick's role will reportedly focus on analysis of the day's news as part of a panel discussion.
Landing Roddick is just the latest coup for Fox Sports 1. Meant to be a direct competitor to ESPN, the 24-hour sports network has spent the past few months accumulating a gaggle of high-profile talent. Outside of landing Thompson, who was a rising star in the Disney family, Fox Sports 1 will also be the home of Regis Philbin's return to television in Rush Hour, a daily panel talk show with a yet-to-be announced cast.
Roddick, though, is Fox Sports 1's first critical blow in an area where Bristol has always thrived—hiring former athletes as television analysts. The Worldwide Leader has become something of a refuge for retired players and fired/retired coaches, offering secondary careers for those looking for a career in broadcasting.
Roddick was arguably the top free-agent on the market in that limited pool of talent. Known for his quick wit and at times unnecessarily strong opinions, Roddick has long seemed like a natural fit for television. He's one of the most openly opinionated players in tennis' history, and many of his heart-on-sleeve moments came at the expense of the media.
Speaking with Deitsch, Roddick noted that Fox allowing him to express strong opinions played a large role in him taking the gig.
"Throughout the interview process I was very honest," Roddick said. "I was the way I have always been: pretty direct and pretty opinionated. I think that's what they were looking for. I don't know if they were looking for a typical, run-of-the-mill type of show or someone with fabricated opinions."
The question, of course, is whether any of this will work. Sports broadcasting is a tricky business, filled with athletes whose wittiness and openness as pro athletes seemingly tailor made them for a post-playing days career on television.
Sometimes those analysts become Charles Barkley, whose irreverence carried over perfectly to the small screen. Other times they become Tiki Barber, who would have been NBC's biggest bust of 2007 if it weren't for Cavemen.
And on the business side of things, launching a 24-hour sports network isn't what one would call a pre-paved road. CBS Sports Network and NBC Sports Network both rebranded existing networks (CBS College Sports Network for CBS and Versus for NBC) in recent years hoping to compete with ESPN, but we're still far too early in the process to see how that's going.
All superficial signs point toward Roddick being an excellent television analyst and Fox Sports 1's launch to go off well. But Roddick's tennis career was filled with unfulfilled promise, as his early flashes of greatness never quite became the world-beating dominance most American tennis fans expected a decade ago.
That's the problem with judging these hires, you just never know. But for now, Fox has landed the biggest free agent in the sports broadcasting game. We'll just have to wait until August to see how it all plays out.
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