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Rosen Recounts The Highlights of His Career

Jason Barrett

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Although he’s never played a down of competitive football in his life, you wouldn’t know it by the way Mark Rosen is revered on the Vikings sidelines.

“Rosieeee!” screams a voice from the TCF Bank Stadium stands, 35 minutes before kickoff on a recent Sunday. “How you doin’?”

Hall of Famer Jim Marshall teases him about the early ’70s, when the once full-haired sportscaster had to lug around his own camera. Comedian Nick Swardson wraps him in a hug. A woman in San Diego Chargers colors asks for a photo while pledging her allegiance, if not to the purple, then at least to the Twin Cities’ most enduring TV personality.

Upstairs in the press box, he’s approached by former Vikings coach Jerry Burns. “Mark,” says the legendary grouch, flashing a rare grin. “I want to be like you someday.”

For young sportscasters clawing their way up the ranks, making that dream a reality has become increasingly hard. With as-it-happens coverage available on your smartphone, local TV sports anchors seem as antiquated as the town crier.

“There was a time the sports guy was bigger than life. That’s no longer the case,” said Don Shafer, news director at San Diego’s XETV, which eliminated its sports department six years ago. Nationwide, most stations have whittled the time for sports updates in half.

And yet, Rosen remains.

Only a slight hobble in his left leg — the result of a recent knee surgery — and his encyclopedic knowledge of Minnesota sports give away the fact that, at 63, he’s been a member of the WCCO family for 46 years, making him the longest-tenured TV sports personality in any U.S. market.

“I’ve been in the right place at the right time,” said Rosen in his unthreatening baritone, which sounds like a game-show host who can’t wait to tell you what’s behind Door No. 1.

While his stiffest competition has retired or moved on, Rosen is still embedded in the wild world of sports, whether deflecting jabs from the jocular morning crew at KFAN Radio (1130 AM) or breaking down the Wild’s playoff chances on “Rosen’s Sports Sunday,” a late-night staple since 1981.

He’s Gary Cooper in “High Noon,” standing up alone to the gunslinger who insists his kind should catch the next stagecoach out of town — a lonely image, yet one that plays perfectly to Rosen’s lesser known persona: the movie buff.

The great escape

The young Mark Rosen may have awakened every morning to a Harmon Killebrew poster and Hank Aaron bobblehead, but his nights belonged to Steve McQueen, Lee Marvin and Burt Lancaster — tough guys who shot first and did multiplication tables later.

Rosen’s father, Joe, worked as a distributor for Paramount Pictures. While Mark’s classmates in St. Louis Park were engrossed in “101 Dalmatians,” he was front and center for “The Longest Day” and “Spartacus.”

Fans he encounters on a coffee run are more likely to get a DVD recommendation than a prediction on the next Gophers game.

Mom also helped plant the seed. Doris Rosen was a natural ham — she wound up winning a regional Emmy for her sidesplitting ’CCO commentaries with anchorman Frank Vascellaro’s mother, Rosalie. Rosen may have followed through on Mom’s dream of an acting career if a different kind of tough guy hadn’t moved in across the street.

Phil Jones is best known for covering the Gerald Ford administration for CBS News, but in the ’60s he was at WCCO, Channel 4.

“I was fascinated by watching Phil be this reporter on TV and then come home and cut his lawn,” Rosen said.

Rosen bugged his neighbor for the chance to meet WCCO sports anchor Hal Scott, maybe pick up some odd jobs at the station.

Jones finally relented. The 17-year-old had his foot in the door.

Broadcast News:

By 1972, Rosen was all-in at WCCO and had dropped out of the University of Minnesota.

From the get-go, his signature style was on display. Folksy, but never overbearing. Confident, not cocky. A firm handshake, not a slap on the back. The Minnesota way.

“His knowledge exceeded anyone he ever competed with, but he never flaunted it,” said former Vikings coach Bud Grant. “He likes scoops, but he never betrayed a confidence.”

Former WCCO anchor Don Shelby remembers how the two of them loosened up the newsroom, sweating through their white shirts while tossing footballs over news directors’ heads.

“Part of it was boyish fun,” Shelby said. “Part of it was building camaraderie.”

Rosen’s desk, which pedestrians can peek at through WCCO’s windows on Nicollet Mall, still looks like it was taken over by a kid. It’s littered with a Wheaties box from the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team; coasters promoting his 2012 autobiography, “Best Seat in the House,” and three remote controls so he can keep up with a myriad of games.

One of his favorite punching bags, Shelby, is no longer around, but he makes do with political whiz Pat Kessler, who’s gotten used to Rosen’s gentle ribbing.

Rosen’s soft sarcasm served him well when he got the biggest — and most unexpected — break of his career.

Radio Days:

Rosen was supposed to provide sports updates when Tom Barnard launched a show in the mid-’80s on then-low-flying KQRS (92.5 FM). Barnard had just come from New York and loved bad-mouthing our local teams.

“No one around here had heard anything like that, but instead of recoiling in horror, Mark went along with it,” he said.

The show leapfrogged to the top of the ratings in 1986, and an ad-libbed joke about the lack of enthusiasm over that year’s gubernatorial candidates led to a write-in campaign for “Little Marky.” In a matter of weeks, lawn signs supporting Rosen popped up and listeners sent in jingles.

Rosen got 8,000 votes.

His popularity didn’t go unnoticed by the brass at CBS, which owned WCCO Radio (830 AM) and TV. They wanted Rosen playing for both of their teams, an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“I had them over a barrel, PR-wise, but was I willing to jeopardize my TV career for KQ? Ultimately, no,” said Rosen, who called the decision the most painful of his career. He burst into tears after his final signoff with Barnard.

To continue reading this article, visit the Minneapolis Star-Tribune where it was originally published

Sports TV News

The NFL Still Considering Multiple Offers For Sunday Ticket

The NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has not bid for the package but has stated it is willing to partner with the new rightsholder for a potential deal.

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Sunday Ticket Negotiations

DirecTV currently has the rights to Sunday Ticket. That deal expires at the end of this upcoming football season. The NFL is expected to make a boatload of cash when they decide which media organization gets the next rights to the package. The only question is… who will that be?

Alex Sherman of CNBC reports that the NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has decided not bid for the package. However, they are interested in partnering with the new rightsholder for a potential deal. DirecTV knows that Sunday Ticket is a staple in bars and restaurants and is interested in maintaining those relationships.

Outside of the bar/restaurant industry, success has been limited for the satellite provider with the football package. Fewer than two million subscribers signed up for Sunday Ticket each year which made the package a money-loser for the satellite TV provider.

According to the report, the NFL wants more than $2 billion for the rights and a stake in NFL Media, which is being packaged with Sunday Ticket. Also on the table is the NFL’s mobile rights. The league’s previous mobile agreement with Verizon has ended.

An interesting piece of the negotiations is Sunday Ticket price. According to the report, a buyer would have limited flexibility on pricing. The NFL signed contracts with CBS and Fox and within the framework of those deals, language mandates Sunday Ticket have a premium price. That’s to prevent loss of viewers from the networks that feature local market Sunday afternoon games. So essentially, the price is the price for the consumer.

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Sports TV News

F1 Renews With ESPN For U.S. Media Rights

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

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F1 ESPN

The racing series F1 has decided to stick with ESPN through 2025.

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

The reported value of the three-year contract is set to pay F1 $75-90M per year for the U.S. media rights. Amazon had offered to pay roughly $100M per year, with the right to sublicense to a linear broadcast network. Comcast’s offer was similar to ESPN’s in terms of value and the structure. They also wanted to put select races on it’s streaming service, Peacock.

Netflix was in on the negotiations, as well. The makers of Drive to Survive, the streaming series that many credit with the sport’s explosion in popularity in recent years, wasn’t close on on their financial offer. Also, it seems F1 executives were not ready to put all of its races on a streaming service just yet.

Currently, F1 receives $5M per year for ESPN to broadcast it’s races. ESPN has grabbed about 1.0 million viewers per race. That makes F1 a more than viable option for the network to invest into again. ESPN will be able to put a small number of races on its ESPN+ streaming service exclusively. The vast majority being on ABC or ESPN.

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Sports TV News

Skip Bayless Says He And Stephen A. Smith ‘Sorted Out’ Their Disagreement

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

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Skip Bayless

Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless were locked in a war of words last week following the First Take host’s appearance on JJ Redick’s Old Man and the Three podcast.

The origins of their partnership were discussed and Bayless admitted he did not like the way Smith characterized the state of First Take before he arrived on set. Smith insisted that Bayless simply misunderstood what he meant by saying that he was told the show needed him.

Over the weekend, Skip Bayless says he and Stephen A. Smith got together at the Bayless home in California to talk things out in private.

“He was in LA, he came over, we sat by the pool,” he said on the latest episode of The Skip Bayless Show. “It wasn’t the easiest conversation for a while, but we slowly but surely sorted it out. We got through it, and we have been through so much together.”

Bayless reiterated that he considers Smith a brother. They love each other. That doesn’t mean they are always going to remember events the same way or see eye-to-eye all the time.

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

Fighting doesn’t mean the relationship is fractured. In fact, Skip Bayless was adamant that he remains closer to Smith than he is to most people in his life.

“I don’t trust easily because of the way I was raised, but I do trust Stephen Anthony Smith. Trust him with my life. Always have and always will. I trust he will always be there for me, and you better believe I will always be there for him.”

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