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A first for ESPN as Beth Mowins calls Sixers-Hawks, while Fox has some issues on ‘Thursday Night Football’

“For years, I was by myself out there in terms of the women’s club calling play-by-play, so it’s nice to have some company," Mowins said of fellow female announcers.

ESPN announcer Beth Mowins will call Sixers-Hawks on Friday, becoming the first woman to handle NBA play-by-play duties in the network's history.
ESPN announcer Beth Mowins will call Sixers-Hawks on Friday, becoming the first woman to handle NBA play-by-play duties in the network's history.Read moreESPN Images

Add another first to the trailblazing career of ESPN announcer Beth Mowins.

Mowins, a versatile broadcaster who has called games for just about every major sport, will now add the NBA to her long television resume by handling play-by-play duties during Friday’s Sixers-Hawks game in Atlanta on ESPN. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m., and Mowins will be joined on the broadcast by ESPN analyst and former NBA head coach Jeff Van Gundy.

It’s the first time in ESPN history that a woman will handle play-by-play duties for a regular season NBA game. Mowins called a handful of Summer League games this year, as well as a preseason game in October, but tonight’s game will be a first for her, too.

“I’m excited, I’m thrilled,” Mowins told the Inquirer. “I’ve been fortunate to get some really good assignments over the years … It’s always fun to start a new adventure, so we’ll see what happens.”

» READ MORE: The Sixers need the real Joel Embiid to return in a hurry

In 2017, Mowins became the first woman to call a nationally televised NFL game, and the second to handle play-by-play in the history of the league. In May, she was the first female broadcaster to call a regular-season Chicago Cubs game for Marquee Sports. And over her career, Mowins has found herself in the booth for just about every sport, from college football to women’s soccer, and is the preseason announcer for the Las Vegas Raiders.

But she grew up around the game of basketball, thanks in part to her father, who was a high school basketball coach. Mowins was a standout player at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., where she remains the school’s all-time assists leader. It’s fitting her first NBA assignment is a Sixers game, because she grew up a fan of former Sixers point guard and head coach Mo Cheeks.

“In my case, basketball has always been kind of like running back to dad. It’s the literal sport I grew up with and played the longest, until I had to hand the sneakers up,” Mowins said.

In recent years, more female broadcasters have been calling professional sports games. That includes here in Philadelphia, where NBC Sports Philadelphia made Kate Scott the new television voice of the Sixers after longtime announcer Marc Zumoff retired at the end of last season. In fact, Scott will also be calling tonight’s Sixers-Hawks game alongside Alaa Abdelnaby.

“For years, I was by myself out there in terms of the women’s club calling play-by-play, so it’s nice to have some company and some friends to throw back a bourbon with a time or two,” Mowins said.

» READ MORE: NBC looks to keep Cris Collinsworth, ESPN’s Jay Williams is upset by his own quote

Fox’s Thursday Night Football had some issues

You weren’t alone last night if you were wondering if Joe Buck and Troy Aikman suddenly learned Spanish.

Many Xfinity and DirecTV Stream customers watching the Dallas Cowboys defeat the New Orleans Saints on Fox’s Thursday Night Football complained that the game’s audio inexplicably switched from English to Spanish. Jorge Pérez Navarro and former NFL offensive lineman Rolando Cantu are talented broadcasters, but it’s difficult to appreciate their skill calling a game if you can’t understand what they’re saying.

Among those forced to watch the game in Spanish was Philadelphia Inquirer photographer Yong Kim, though he said the commercials remained in English:

Looking back on social media, this seems to be a reoccurring problem for Fox over at least the past couple of weeks. A Fox spokesperson said they were looking into the issue, but hadn’t yet determined what was causing the problem.

One thing viewers stuck in Spanish language mode missed was Aikman harshly criticizing the referees, who made a key holding call against the Saints in the third quarter that wiped out a pivotal first down gain. It’s uncommon for NFL announcers on any of the networks to be so blunt with their criticism of the officiating.

“That’s a terrible call,” Aikman said. “That’s awful.”

Quick hits

  1. On WIP Thursday, midday host Joe DeCamara abruptly ended a call with longtime Philadelphia sports talker Howard Eskin, who mocked Sixers star Joel Embiid’s serious bout with COVID-19. “I hung up on him,” DeCamara said, in audio shared by Crossing Broad’s Kevin Kinkead. “COVID is too serious for people like Howard, who wasn’t in the room with Joel Embiid, to assume what was going on as he was struggling with it.”

  2. On Thursday, the NFL announced that Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown was suspended three games for violating the league’s COVID-19 rules. Credit should go to Tampa Bay Times reporter Rick Stroud, who reported last month that Brown obtained a fake COVID-19 vaccine card to avoid the NFL’s strict protocols for unvaccinated players.

  3. Happy trails to Sixers reporter Derek Bodner, who announced that today is his last day at The Athletic. Bodner was a bit of a media pioneer in the city by launching a successful subscription website after Philadelphia Magazine nixed its Sixers coverage in 2017.