What’s Next for Chris Cote, ESPN?

Fans of the show and podcast refreshed their feed over and over again Friday afternoon. They quickly flipped to Twitter and “the Reddit” to find out that Hurricane Eta had nixed the LeBatard Show with Stugotz for the time being. While it was the safe option, fans across the country lamented that they’d go a whole weekend without any new content from the number one downloaded sports podcast. But, the real shock to LeBatard fans’ systems came Sunday night when Chris Cote announced he was a part of the massive ESPN layoff the same Friday the hurricane hit south Florida. The marching band to no where lost its guard. ESPN was making their cuts, and Chris Cote struck out. 

Killer strike three

Fittingly, the show also did not run on Monday or Tuesday. Reports were it was due to the same storm as Friday, though which Friday storm was unspecified. 

The time since has felt like mourning for LeBatard fans everywhere because of the impact Chris Cote has on the show. Sure, he’s the embodiment of nepotism. His father was a mentor of Dan LeBatard’s at the Miami Herald. Yes, he’s an ancillary character on the show. He sits in the back and usually shares a microphone. Indeed, he asks the childish questions. Chris is usually quiet on the serious topics and plays out the funny bits… but if you don’t see the point of that, then you don’t get the show. 

Don’t get the show?

The not-so-secret sauce to the show is that they seamlessly wander from the serious to the silly. As a listener, you come for one and – no matter which you came for- you stay for the other. In one moment, Dan LeBatard and a guest co-host will be discussing an intersection of race, politics, or some other social justice issue and sports… And Chris will break the ice with a silly question about condiments, sandwiches, or cereal. 

That doesn’t mean he hesitated to ask the hard hitting questions, either. 

Seriously, what is the rule here?

Chris Cote always brought the energy to the show. He’d crack open any “Local Hour” (“Lour”) by letting you know he was “rockin’ with you on a Wednesday!” or “freakin’ with you on a Friday!” Not only was it informative in a “Hey, this episode is from this day of the week” kind of way for the podcast audience, but it set the standard for the energy in that day’s show. Rockin’ energy? Ok, we can push through with an extra cafecito on this humpday. Freakin’ energy? Let’s start happy hour right now! Cote always gave the barometer for the day. And when the show needed a little extra charge during Super Bowl week in Miami? Who else could you have called?

Stepping up to the tire pressure

We could go down memory lane and stop at every single laugh inspired by Chris Cote. Whether it was chugging a cottage cheese, Gatorade, and peanut butter concoction, getting pelted with tomatoes outside of The Clevelander, giving DJ Khaled impressions, getting roasted by Tom Brady, or just being naked:

(14:26 – 29:06) Naked Chris, unclothed and unhinged
So, what’s next?

But what’s important today is: what is after ESPN for Chris Cote? If he needed to talk to a psychologist, he could put on an accent and talk to a mirror. Chris is undeniably funny. His comedic timing is only bested by his intentional stoogery. He is a sports can and an entertainer, and the order feels irrelevant. Spirited bits that dove deep into nonsense balanced out the homer Miami Dolphin / Marlin / Heat takes. Who else could talk for twenty straight minutes about tuna salad and follow it with twenty minutes about tanking for Tua? 

Chris’s niche is clearly somewhere between taking food very seriously and talking sports very earnestly. What could he curate that somehow combines both? Could Chris get his own Food Network show touring stadium food much like he did the ESPN cafeteria? Chris wandered the dining halls of Bristol like a kid in a candy store, but could he be a red-headed Guy Fieri? 

You couldn’t build someone better for this job in a lab

Picture it with me: Cote’s Corner. What’s the best food at a sports stadium in your city? What about food at the facility that is only for the athletes? Who better to excitedly take you behind the scenes and enthusiastically debate the snacks, both greasy and sugary, across the country? Sure, Chris famously has a child… but could he take the show on the road a few days while still home basing in Miami? 

(Yes, I know… “Parker, you want everyone to work for the Food Network when they leave ESPN.  But guess what? I like food. I like guys on ESPN that like food. Chris is an ESPN guy who likes food. And I want to see him get a chance to shine, ok?)

Regardless of what comes next for Chris, the LeBatard and Friends fans will miss him. His humor and wit carried many of us throughout a pandemic, a summer of unrest, and a pause on the sports world. Much of the discussion on the LeBatard Show with Stugotz was about how they were a show built to go on when sports did not… but much of that silliness stemmed from Chris. LeBatard told us about the serious stuff happening in the world, Stugotz told us his top ten lists, but the fun? The fun stemmed from Chris and the shipping container. Within the shipping container, Chris had the wacky questions. He came up with the contests. He made himself the butt of all jokes. Chris was the glue guy for the show and, for many fans, for our wretched 2020’s. 

Chris Cote brought energy to the time without sports that was infectious (c’mon Ainsworth, word choice?). But when sports came back? Chris rode the highs of the Miami Marlins into the playoffs. He jumped on the Jimmy Butler and Bam Outta-de-Bayou train to the NBA Finals. He sang Tua’s praises, sometimes literally. And his joyous nature took us all with him. Simply, 2020 sucked for all of us in some way. And Chris Cote worked hard to distract us from it, and help us think it didn’t. 

Chris,

If this feels personal, it may be because it is. As another large ginger that can surprise people athletically, as someone who thinks and talks way too much about the intricacies of food, and as someone who unabashedly roots for my home teams… You’ve been a relatable and reliable friendly voice to hear on a daily basis for a long time. You will be missed.

As you walk into the ocean, please know that we needed the laughs. Thank you for the combined words of wisdom (wosdom?), the athletic feats, and talking to us for a few hours a day for the last five years. We’re all excited for whatever’s next, and we hope you don’t leave our Spotify, Apple podcasts, or car radios for good. We’re going to miss you in the interim, but we’re all excited to see you continue to be a part of our lives in a new way.

Thanks, Chris


Follow me on Twitter @painsworth512 for more, and give our podcast“F” In Sports a listen wherever you listen to podcasts!

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