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ESPN’s Monday Night Madness

Jason Barrett




Promotion and vanity have long been first cousins at ESPN, and one of the annual family outings occurs during the first week of the Monday Night Football schedule. For the past seven years with little exception, ESPN management has assigned broadcasters to the second game of its opening week MNF doubleheader—the so-called “B” game that kicks off at 10 p.m. ET—with little regard for the announcers’ NFL game-calling experience. Obviously, that is the network’s right. When you pay $1.9 billion a year for a television property, as ESPN is currently doing for the rights to MNF, you get a few perks, and one of those perks is picking the announcers.

Some history: Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, the ESPN Radio morning show personalities, were assigned the game from 2007 to ’10. That was clearly done as a promotional vehicle for the Mike and Mike brand, though both broadcasters prepared and took the assignment seriously. During the Mike and Mike Era of Monday Night Football, NFL analyst Mike Ditka was also brought in as part of a “Three Mikes” promotion. That’s the kind of marketing idea that sounds good at the ESPN cafeteria but loses steam once it crosses the Bristol, Conn. line.

Longtime NFL voice Brad Nessler restored some broadcaster sanity to the game in 2010 and ’11 (with the always-excellent Trent Dilfer) before ESPN management foisted the Late Night with Chris Berman concept despite Berman having never called college or pro football play-by-play.

Despite a lack of play-by-play experience, ESPN veteran Berman has called the late Monday Night opener each of the past two seasons. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)Despite a lack of football play-by-play experience, ESPN veteran Berman has called the late Monday Night opener each of the past two seasons.

Naturally, that announcement came with all the PR trimmings, including a podcast with Berman conducted by ESPN Pravda. If you want to call Berman’s assignment rewarding a longtime employee for years of NFL service, that’s totally fair, perhaps even heartwarming. If you want to call it a vanity play for an announcer who is as much a part of an NFL apparatus as The Duke football, that would be accurate too.

Because I’m a charitable guy, I’m going to give ESPN an idea that offers the dream tonic of promotion and boldness. Plus, there’s the bonus of having the game called by a professional football announcer:

ESPN should assign Beth Mowins to call the Chargers at Cardinals game (10:20 ET kickoff) on Sept. 8, and pair her with a quality NFL game analyst such as Dilfer or Steve Young.

Whether it’s college football, women’s basketball, softball, volleyball or anything else she’s assigned, Mowins is a no-shtick broadcaster who is always prepared and professional. She began calling college football nine years ago. In 2011 the network wisely promoted her to a full-time slate of college football on ESPN2’s Saturday noon telecast. Every Saturday, she chips away at the antiquated notion that football play-by-play must be delivered by a man. (Note to the inevitable mouth-breathers calling me a sports feminist: Blast away, but make sure you spell it correctly. It’s D-E-I-T-S-C-H.) If you want to compare her reps calling football to Berman’s, it’s the difference between LeBron James and Austin Croshere.

A woman calling the NFL on a regular basis is an idea whose time really should have come long ago. In 1987, Mike Weisman, then the executive producer of NBC Sports and one of the most innovative producers in sports broadcasting history, assigned then-newscaster Gayle Sierens to call the Seahawks-Chiefs game on the final Sunday of the regular season. Weisman offered Sierens six more game opportunities for the following year but she opted to focus on her news career. The headline on this Richard Sandomir profile of Sierens remains unchanged six years later: “First Women To Call NFL Play By Play, and The Last.”

Mowins has been one of ESPN’s top play-by-play announcers on sports ranging from volleyball and softball to college basketball and college football. She should get a shot at the late Monday Night opener. (Porter Binks for Sports Illustrated)Mowins has been one of ESPN’s top play-by-play announcers on sports ranging from volleyball and softball to college basketball and college football. (Porter Binks for Sports Illustrated)

Assigning Mowins the late MNF game would follow news that the CBS Sports Network will air a once-a-week, nightly opinion-based sports show with an all-female cast. That’s a smart play for CBS Sports, which needs different concepts (and more viewers). As long as the show avoids First Take buffoonery or pink ghettoizing every sports issue, the effort alone will have meaning. One of the women who will appear on the show is Amy Trask, the former CEO of the Oakland Raiders who now works as an NFL analyst for CBS. I asked Trask how NFL brass would view Mowins doing a one-off or multiple NFL games.

“The league is a business and to the extent it believes it beneficial—economically or from a public perception standpoint—to include a woman on a broadcast team, I believe that it would do so,” Trask said. “I don’t believe that players or coaches would be the slightest bit concerned about this. Stated differently, I believe that players and coaches are concerned with whether someone can get the job done and that it wouldn’t matter to them whether that person was a man or a woman.”

No broadcaster has worked more closely with Mowins than Debbie Antonelli. The two have partnered on more than 1,000 college basketball broadcasts or podcasts since they first began calling ACC games as a pair for Fox Sports South in the early 1990s.

“Beth is aware her margin for error is slim and it serves as motivation for her unique opportunity,” Antonelli said. “She is concerned with what’s in her control: her work ethic, her motivation, and her love for her job. No one dictates those things for Beth. She protects and respects the game she is broadcasting.”

I intentionally did not contact Mowins for this piece. She did not plant this idea for the column, nor did anyone on her behalf. In previous interviews with, she has said the NFL would be the highest honor for a football broadcaster but did not express calling NFL games as her ultimate broadcasting goal.

Antonelli believes Mowins would accept the assignment immediately if offered.

“As her friend, I would be thrilled for her to challenge herself at the highest level in football,” Antonelli said. “Detractors of having a woman call football say the same clichés—she didn’t play, she doesn’t know the game. Beth didn’t play football but she knows the game, the rules and it would be awesome for her to lead women into a different role in the NFL, a challenge that I’m positive she would navigate and handle.”

ESPN has been the most forward-thinking sports broadcaster when it comes to giving on-air female staffers opportunities, and assigning Mowins would be received with great pride from its employees (as well as women throughout the sports media.). As of now, alas, the late-game MNF assignment has been made:

The network told The MMQB earlier this week that Berman and Dilfer will call the game for a third consecutive year.

Credit to Sports Illustrated who originally published this article

Sports Radio News

Doug Gottlieb Details Interviewing For College Basketball Head Coaching Vacancy

“I’ve told people that for the radio element to — for the right thing — I’d give it up. The (podcast), I’m not giving it up.”





Fox Sports Radio host Doug Gottlieb recently interviewed for the vacant head coaching job at Wisconsin-Green Bay and detailed the experience on his podcast.

“I got a chance to talk to (Wisconsin-Green Bay AD) Josh Moon several times during the year after they had made their coaching job available and my approach to how I’ve done these things — and this is not the first time I’ve gone down this path, but this was a different path,” Gottlieb said on his All Ball podcast.

“This is a low-major, mid-major job, and there’s no connection there. I’ve told people that for the radio element to — for the right thing — I’d give it up. The (podcast), I’m not giving it up. I love doing it and I think there’s a very smart world where if I’m coaching I can still do this podcast and still do it with basketball people all over the country and the world, and it’s kind of like a cheat code.”

He continued by saying that seeing Shaka Smart be successful at Marquette has motivated him to continue to search for the right fit as a college basketball coach.

“That’s what I want to do. And last year when I was coaching in Israel, that also continued to invigorate me…this is something that I would really like to do. It has to be the right thing. It has to be the right AD who hits the right message.”

He continued by saying that a sticking point of negotiations was he wasn’t willing to give up his nationally syndicated radio program for the job. He was willing to take less money for his assistants pool, but also to continue doing his radio show.

Gottlieb did not get the position with the Phoenix, noting that he was a finalist but was never offered the job. The position ultimately went to Wyoming assistant coach Sundance Wicks. Wicks had previous head coaching experience and had worked with Green Bay athletic director Josh Moon at Division II Northern State. He admitted he wasn’t necessarily “all-in” on the job due to the current ages of his children and whether the timing was right to uproot his family to move to Northeastern Wisconsin.

The Fox Sports Radio host does have coaching experience. He has worked as a coach for the U.S. men’s basketball team at the Maccabiah Games, sometimes referred to as the Jewish Olympics.

Gottlieb’s father — Bob — was the head men’s basketball coach at Wisconsin-Milwaukee from 1975-1980, compiling a 97-91 record.

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Sports Radio News

Waddle & Silvy: Scott Hanson Told Us to Lose His Number

“We didn’t call him back, so he set out what he wanted to do.”





Aaron Rodgers took immense pride in the fact that he told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter to “lose his number” while discussing his future earlier this week on The Pat McAfee Show. ESPN 1000’s Waddle & Silvy said they’ve experienced similar treatment from guests on their radio show.

While discussing the Rodgers interview with McAfee, the pair admitted that NFL RedZone host Scott Hanson once told their producer to stop trying to book him for interviews on the program.

“I believe the presentation was ‘Do me a favor: lose my number after this interview’,” Tom Waddle said. “So he tried to do it politely. Scott Hanson did. Get out of here. That concept is foreign to me. How about ‘Hey, next time you text me, my schedule is full. I can’t do it, but thanks for thinking of me’. ‘Lose my number?’ You ain’t the President, for Christ’s sake. I’m saying that to anyone who would say that. ‘Lose my number?’ We’re all in the communication business. I just don’t know — why be rude like that to people? What does that accomplish? You know what it accomplished? We didn’t call him back, so he set out what he wanted to do.”

Co-host Mark Silverman then mentioned that the show once tried to book Hansen and NFL Red Zone host Andrew Siciliano together in the same block, with the idea of doing a trivia game to see who the supreme Red Zone host was. Siciliano agreed, but Hansen declined.

The pair also confirmed that an NFL Network personality had told them to lose their number, but couldn’t remember if it was Rich Eisen or not.

Silverman later joked that maybe Hanson was getting a new phone with a new number, and was politely sharing with the producer that he could lose the current phone number because he would share his new number in short order.

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Sports Radio News

Seth Payne: Aaron Rodgers ‘Makes Gross Inaccuracies’ When Calling Out Media

“This is where Rodgers does this thing where he, in calling out reporters for their inaccuracies, makes gross inaccuracies in his accusations.”




Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers is always mad at the media for the inaccurate things he says they report, but according to Sports Radio 610 morning man Seth Payne, no one is more inaccurate than the quarterback himself.

Friday morning, Payne and his partner Sean Pendergast played audio of Aaron Rodgers responding to a question about a list of players he provided to the Jets demanding they sign. Rodgers called the idea that he would make demands “so stupid” and chastised ESPN reporter Dianna Russini, who was the first to report it.

“Now to be clear, Dianna Russini didn’t say demands in her tweet. She said wishlist,” Pendergast clarified.

They also played a clip of Russini responding to Rodgers on NFL Live saying that she stands by her reporting and it is her job to reach out to confirm that it is true.

“This is where Rodgers does this thing where he, in calling out reporters for their inaccuracies, makes gross inaccuracies in his accusations,” Seth Payne said.

He added that if Rodgers is being serious, he is doing some serious nitpicking. He claims that he didn’t give the Jets a list, but that he spoke glowingly about former teammates and told the Jets executives that he met with who he enjoyed playing with during his career.

Payne joked that maybe he wrote down the names in a circle pattern so that it was not a list. Pendergast added that he could have had Fat Head stickers on his wall that he pointed to instead of writing anything at all.

In Payne’s mind, this is a case of Russini catching stray frustration. Neither in her initial tweet nor in any subsequent media appearance did she use the phrase “demands”.

“What he’s actually responding to in that instance is Pat McAfee is the one that described it as a list of demands,” Seth Payne said.

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