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Pump The Brakes: Tony Romo Will Be Just Fine On CBS

Jason Barrett

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The media can be a tough crowd. Never was that more clear than when the news broke that Tony Romo was retiring and heading straight to the broadcast booth to become the lead analyst for The NFL on CBS.

Given the immediate overreactions, you’d think the former Cowboys quarterback committed grand theft or physical assault. But before you write Romo off and cry foul on CBS for undercutting Simms, pump the brakes.

I recognize that Romo hasn’t worked one television broadcast. It’s true he’ll have all eyes watching him like a hawk and waiting for him to stumble. And yes there will be immediate comparisons made to Simms, who was a staple of the CBS broadcast for nearly twenty years. But despite those less than convenient circumstances, I have confidence that Romo will settle into his new role just fine.

Why am I optimistic?

Have we forgotten that NFL television booths are made up of former players who at one point didn’t know the first thing about the broadcasting business? I realize some of us in the media want to make this job sound harder than it is but it is possible for a former player to learn how to adjust to different cameras, change his facial expressions, and insert comedic lines and timely analysis and opinion during a three hour broadcast. The last time I checked, Jon Gruden didn’t venture into a small market to learn the ropes of the television business. Instead he was thrust quickly into ESPN’s Monday Night Football programming, and judging from the results, ‘Chucky’ has done just fine.

The same can be said of Simms, Troy Aikman, and most of the remaining NFL analysts who work on network broadcasts. Maybe they weren’t thrust immediately onto the #1 broadcast team but if someone is good enough to be on the 2nd or 3rd team handling an analyst role, then let’s not act like this is the equivalent of advancing from cashier to Chief Financial Officer.

As I read numerous articles, tweets and Facebook posts about how poorly Romo would do, how unqualified he was, and why CBS was on the verge of going down like a plane without two wings, I couldn’t help but chuckle. Broadcasting a football game on television can be taught. This isn’t brain surgery or being tasked with creating algorithms. I’m not suggesting that anyone on the planet can enter a booth and be successful, but if an athlete knows the game, has an ability to speak well, looks good on camera, is familiar to the audience, and is willing to work on his craft seven days per week to be great on game day, just as they did during their playing career, they’ll be fine.

In mentioning those qualities, let’s analyze how they apply to Romo.

First, an analyst must have an ability to speak well. Judging from Tony’s interviews over the years, the way he conducts himself before and after games during press conferences, not to mention his numerous appearances in commercials and other unrelated media roles, he undoubtedly possesses that skill.

Next, they must look good on camera. In case you forgot, Romo has dated Carrie Underwood and Jessica Simpson, and is married now to Candice Crawford. Although I’m sure they enjoyed the bragging rights of being involved with the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, there had to be some visual attraction involved too to gain the attention of some of those beautiful women. Romo flashes a great smile on camera, presents himself in a classy and charming manner, and has shown that he has a good sense of humor. His ability to pass the eye test shouldn’t be a problem.

That then brings us to the understanding of the game. Romo enjoyed a successful NFL career playing the position of quarterback which requires knowing what is happening on the field on both offense and defense at all times. If Tony was able to be the leader everyone took their cue from, then I’m sure he’ll settle in when presenting information to the audience that they find valuable. This is a guy who’s very bright and entering the booth directly from the field, which gives him an advantage when talking about subjects that will come into focus next season.

The last piece of the puzzle involves the three P’s – preparation, pressure, and passion.

Starting with prep, for the past 13 seasons (and even before that when he played college ball) Romo has spent 6-7 days per week studying game film and playbooks. He’s dedicated countless hours to his craft to become highly productive, and after going undrafted and lingering for a few seasons on the practice squad, he was given a chance to start for the Cowboys. That doesn’t happen if his coaches and teammates sense that he’s not a hard worker. Heck, he’s even maintained that approach with his golf game. People who possess a strong work ethic don’t just flip a switch and turn it off. Which is why I’m confident he’ll invest himself 150% into his new line of work.

Regarding pressure, is there any NFL team under the microscope more than the Dallas Cowboys? Romo has had every single throw, turnover, game result and off the field personal decision of his analyzed, scrutinized and debated for over a decade. He’s been the face of a franchise led by high profile owner Jerry Jones and it’s never caused him to break. Sure he’s had bad games and been involved in a few losing seasons, but you don’t play the position of quarterback for America’s team as long as Romo did if you can’t handle the heat.

Last but not least is the one word that we know Romo possesses on the field, but have no way of knowing if it will transfer into the broadcast booth, and that’s passion. When Tony played on Sunday, you knew he loved the game, and left it all out on  the field. As a New York Giants fan, I especially enjoyed when he offered up those timely interceptions and fumbles, but all joking aside, he played with passion, and that was captured on video and in audio anytime he spoke before or after a game. Whether he’ll bring that same burning desire to this business is anyone’s guess, but we could say that about any player making the jump from the field to the booth. If being able to guarantee that a player would maintain passion for a role in television was a prerequisite for landing a high profile opportunity, we’d have a lot of booths operating without the presence and credibility of NFL players.

In making his transition into broadcasting, Romo is going to discover quickly that every sentence he utters, every opinion he delivers, and every prediction he misses, becomes headline news and the subject of conversation on Monday’s and sometimes for the remainder of an entire week. It’s what the sports media does. We grab the hot topic, regurgitate it until we get bored or the audience gets frustrated, and then move on. With red meat available, critics will be looking harder and listening closer to see if he has what it takes to get the job done. The second he misfires, the media vultures will be swooping down to feast on him as if he were mouthwatering roadkill.

But as media pundits standby waiting for their opportunity to pounce on him for mistakes and use it as a springboard to question his credentials and experience, let’s also not be hypocritical. If Peyton Manning or Brett Favre were being given this opportunity would the same media outrage exist? Neither Brett or Peyton have booth experience, yet when stories have been written in the past about their future possibilities in sports television, the narrative was certainly a lot more positive. I’d expect Tom Brady to receive similar treatment when his playing days are done if he wishes to pursue a move into sports television.

Something else which has not been mentioned much but deserves being brought to light is the track record of CBS Chairman Sean McManus. Without question, he’s done an excellent job over the years of identifying and hiring great analysts. While I haven’t been part of the CBS circle of trust, I have to believe that McManus wouldn’t have removed Simms from the lead analyst spot if he didn’t have a great feel for Romo and a belief in his ability to transition smoothly into this new role. I also don’t buy the stories that have been floated about Tony being receptive to leaving the booth next season to return to the field. This isn’t a stopgap job. It’s one you retain for a decade or longer, especially if you do it well.

Is McManus’ perfect? Of course not (Mike Carey? Really?). Even the greats swing and miss from time to time. That said, his batting average would be good enough to place him in the hall of fame. Call me naive or too optimistic, but I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt to an executive who nails the majority of his decisions before I assume that he’s lost his fastball.

And if you’re going to scream bloody murder over Simms being given a raw deal let me remind you of something – this is the media business. Things like this happen all the time. It’s very similar to the way business is conducted in professional sports. We don’t work for the government where 15-20 years of employment is given as long as we keep our noses clean. This industry is extremely competitive, and networks are going to constantly overturn every rock they can to find an edge to increase their ratings and revenues. Sometimes that requires demoting or parting ways with classy, talented, and loyal people, and even though it sucks and isn’t fair, it’s a reality of the business we’re in.

I’m not saying that what happened to Simms was right. Far from it. But Phil owned a seat for a very long time that many others have salivated over sitting in, and at some point, it’s going to be occupied by someone else. Although I’m sure it wasn’t his preference, he can take solace in the fact that he’ll still be well compensated, while performing in a new role that allows him to continue being seen by a large nationwide audience, and having now gone thru this experience, he’ll be further appreciated and respected by his peers.

Just because Joe Montana and Emmitt Smith sucked on television doesn’t mean Romo will. If Tony is willing to walk away from the NFL and pass up an opportunity to extend his career in order to start the next chapter of his professional life, while absorbing the extra pressure of being the guy who was added to the broadcast at the expense of Simms, then we should at least let him get inside the booth and perform before we order his tombstone and read him his last rites.

That doesn’t mean it’ll be easy. Romo is going to have to practice speaking in soundbytes and work on developing on-air chemistry with Jim Nantz. Audiences are going to expect him to be critical and speak on their behalf, which means that he’s going to have to cut the cord on his past and embrace his future. One advantage he has is that CBS’ NFL games package involves the AFC, which means he likely won’t be working a high number of Cowboys games. That would put him in an awkward position during his rookie broadcasting season.

Although it may be fun to debate if Romo will be a great game analyst on Sunday’s and whether or not he deserves to be in this position, the truth is none of us really know if he’ll excel in this line of work. Until he’s standing next to Nantz and opening his mouth for the first time, only then will we have something to measure him by. Maybe he’ll freeze when the lights go on just as he did during a few critical games during his playing days, but maybe this becomes the role for which he’s best remembered.

And think about the irony in that. Tony Romo could soon make the biggest impact of his career on Sunday’s, except this time from the inside of a broadcasting booth. Sometimes these stories just write themselves.

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Jeff Catlin, John Mamola, Gordy Rush & Maggie Clifton Join The 2023 BSM Summit Lineup

Jason Barrett

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We’re less than two months away from the 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles. This year’s conference takes place on March 21-22, 2023 at the Founders Room inside of the Galen Center at USC. Many industry professionals are set to attend but sports media folks tend to be a last minute crowd whether it’s buying a ticket, reserving a room or committing to be a sponsor. Yes, tickets, rooms, and a select few sponsorships are still available, but the longer you wait, the more you risk not being in the room, featured as a partner, and paying higher prices for travel. To make sure you have a seat and a place to stay, log on to BSMSummit.com. For sponsorship inquiries, email Stephanie at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

I am really excited about this year’s Summit. The venue is tremendous, the agenda is coming together nicely, and there’s no doubt we’ll have great weather when we gather in LA. Some have asked me why I don’t reveal the full schedule of sessions months in advance, and it’s because I believe in swinging for the fences and trying to do big things. To do that, you’ve got to be willing to invest time and explore every opportunity that can be impactful. It’d be much easier to fill the schedule and be done with everything but if it’s going to take a little longer to deliver the best speakers, discussions and experiences for all in the room, then that’s what I’m going to do.

Those involved in the creation of this conference know that I set a very high standard for it. We’ve run some great events over the years, and it’s because we put everything we have into making sure each session is valuable to a different segment of the industry. My goal each year is to present an action packed agenda that helps people learn, gain access to information to improve themselves and/or their brands, and create a few connections and memorable moments to justify it being worth a few days away out of the office or studio. If we can do that, it makes the sacrifices worthwhile. If we can’t execute at a high level, then I’d probably pass on doing it.

Before I tell you about the four people we’re adding to our speaker lineup, I do want to remind you that we recently announced a contest for California college students. We’re giving away ten (10) FREE tickets to the show courtesy of Steve Kamer Voiceovers. If you know a student in California please let them know about this. If they’re not in California but want to attend the event, we’ve created a special college rate to make it affordable for young people. Everything is listed on BSMSummit.com.

Now, for the new additions to the lineup.

I’m excited to welcome Jeff Catlin of The Ticket in Dallas to the Summit. This will be Jeff’s first Summit visit, and I appreciate him making time to share his programming wisdom with the rest of the room. Jeff will be part of a programming panel that kicks off day #2. That panel will include Jimmy Powers of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, Raj Sharan of Denver’s Sports Station 104.3 The Fan, and our next addition, John Mamola of WDAE. John has been at all of our events dating back to our first test event in Chicago. I’m looking forward to giving him an opportunity to offer his programming insights alongside this talented group.

Also joining the Summit lineup is Maggie Clifton, Blue Wire’s Senior Vice President of Business Development. Maggie has played a vital role in growing Blue Wire’s revenue, and I’m looking forward to having her join Barstool Sports’ SVP, Head of Sales Matt Berger, and Magellan AI’s Chief Revenue Officer John Goforth on a panel that focuses on digital monetization.

Guiding that conversation will be Guaranty Media’s Gordy Rush. The Baton Rouge Vice President and General Manager who doubles as LSU’s sideline reporter on football broadcasts is well versed in monetizing content, and understanding the opportunities and challenges broadcasters face. I’m confident those in the room charged with maximizing digital revenue for their brands will gain great value from these four professionals.

There’s much more in the works that I’m looking forward to announcing in the coming weeks. Whether you own a company, manage a cluster as a GM, lead a sales team, host or produce a podcast or radio/TV show, buy advertising, oversee a brand’s social media strategy or program a network or local outlet, there’s something for every sports media professional at the BSM Summit. I invite you to come see for yourself. To do so, visit BSMSummit.com.

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Jimmy Powers to Receive The Mark Chernoff Award at the 2023 BSM Summit

“Jimmy received the most votes from our industry panel to become our third recipient of the Mark Chernoff Award.”

Jason Barrett

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As a former programmer turned consultant, I pay more attention than most to those who lead brands, manage talent, and create consistent success. When you look across the country at the hundreds of stations delivering sports radio content, and analyze who operates at a high level, there’s maybe ten to twenty who are changing the game, and others who are rising and hoping to become a bigger part of the conversation.

What makes this annual award special in addition to having Mark Chernoff’s name on it, is that it’s voted on by eighteen industry heavyweights. These are folks tasked with overseeing radio companies, major networks, and having exceptional track records of broadcasting success. So when they vote and an individual earns an honor, it means a little more.

If you’re in the business and follow sports radio, then you’re aware of Mark Chernoff’s accomplishments as a program director. He was one of the true architects and consistent winners, and his ability to excel as a sports radio manager has influenced and shaped many careers. Mark graciously agreed to be part of our awards ceremony a few years ago when I approached him with the idea in New York City. I’m thrilled to share that although he doesn’t attend many industry conferences on the west coast, he will be with us at the 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles for the ceremony.

Which brings me to this year’s winner.

It is my honor to congratulate the leader of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, Jimmy Powers. Jimmy received the most votes from our industry panel to become our third recipient of the Mark Chernoff Award. He follows Rick Radzik of 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, and Mitch Rosen of 670 The Score in Chicago. Jimmy will be in attendance at the Summit to pick up the award, and will take part in a program director panel at the show. Further details on that to be shared next week.

“It’s such a great honor not only to be mentioned in the same breath with Mark Chernoff, but to receive the ‘Mark Chernoff Award’ is really, really cool” shared 97.1 The Ticket Program Director Jimmy Powers. “With so many great program directors across the country who are deserving of this award, I truly appreciate the recognition.”

Since late 2009, Powers has led the Detroit sports radio station to unmatched local success. Brought in to build upon what was created by the late great Tom Bigby, he’s helped The Ticket become one of the format’s best examples of success. The station has consistently dominated the Male 25-54 demo, while also becoming a ratings force with Persons 12+ and Adults 25-54.

“Jimmy has done an amazing job over the years running 97.1 the Ticket,” said legendary sports radio programmer Mark Chernoff. “He knows how to work with talent, and maintain balance while managing relationships with the Lions, Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons, which is not an easy job. The ratings remain high, and the Ticket continues to be one of America’s top sports stations, which reflects the great work Jimmy has done as the station’s program director.”

In addition to delivering double digit shares, quarterly ratings wins, and presenting a star studded lineup and Michigan’s top sports franchises, The Ticket has taken home plenty of hardware too. The station has won the Marconi award for best sports station in 2016 and 2022. And now, they can add the 2023 Mark Chernoff Award to their trophy case.

“2022 was another big year for The Ticket, and many in Detroit deserve credit for the brand’s consistent success, but none more so than their exceptional brand leader, Jimmy Powers,” added BSM President Jason Barrett. “Jimmy has been a staple of consistency, guiding one of the crown jewels of sports radio, managing top personalities, important play by play partnerships, and helping the brand generate large revenues. I’m thrilled that our industry voters took notice of the fantastic work Jimmy has done and look forward to celebrating his career and accomplishments in Los Angeles this March.”

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California College Students Earn Chance to Win 10 Free Tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit Thanks to Steve Kamer Voiceovers

“In order to win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event.”

Jason Barrett

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With a new year comes renewed energy and optimism for the sports media business. Yours truly is looking forward to showcasing the best our business has to offer when we gather the industry in Los Angeles, CA at the 2023 BSM Summit at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California on March 21-22, 2023. Our conference is returning to the west coast for the first time since 2019. We’ve announced some super talented speakers. We’ve got additional things in the works and I plan to make additional announcements in the next few weeks.

People often ask me what the biggest challenge is putting this event together. My answer is always the same, it’s getting people to leave the comfort of their office and spend two days in a room together learning and discussing ways to grow the business. We have great sponsorship support and exceptional people on stage and are fortunate to have a lot of folks already set to attend. Our venue this year has extra space though, so I’m hoping a few more of you make time to join us. If you haven’t bought a ticket or reserved your hotel room, visit BSMSummit.com to make sure you’re all set.

If there’s one thing our industry could get better at it’s opening our minds to new ideas and information. There’s more than one path to success. Just because you’re in good shape today doesn’t mean you will be tomorrow. Building brands, growing audiences, increasing revenue, and examining new opportunities is an ongoing process. There are many shifts along the way. We may not solve every business challenge during our two-days together but you’ll leave the room more connected and informed than when you entered it.

Each year I’ll get two or three emails from folks sharing that they learned more about the industry in two-days at the Summit than they have in ___ years inside of their building. That’s truly gratifying and what I strive to achieve when I put this event together. I remember when conferences like this didn’t exist for format folks and I take the risk and invest the time and resources to create it because I love the sports media industry and believe I can help it thrive. I see great value in gathering professionals to share ideas, information, and meet others who can help them grow their business, and if we do our part, I’m confident some will want to work with us too. That’s how we benefit over the long haul.

But as much as I focus on serving the professional crowd, I also think we have a responsibility to educate young people who are interested, passionate, and taking steps to be a part of our business in the future. The BSM website is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each month and it’s become a valuable resource for folks who enjoy sports radio and television. I think it’s vital to use our platform, influence and two-day event to connect generations and I’m happy to announce that we will once again welcome college students at this year’s Summit.

Most of us who’ve been in this line of work for two or three decades learned the business without podcasts, YouTube, social media, the web or conferences delivering two full days of sessions that taught you more about the business than what’s available inside of a class room. We learned by doing, and hoping we were right. Then we copied others who had success. Some of that still exists, and that’s not a bad thing. But where our business goes in the future is going to be drastically different.

I’d like to see the difference makers in our format remembered for years to come, and practices that have stood the test of time remain valued down the line. Change is inevitable in every business and I’m excited about the road that lies ahead especially some of the technological advancements that are now available or will soon become a bigger part of our industry. I think we can embrace the future while enjoying the present and celebrating the past. The best way to do that is by bringing together everyone who is and is hoping to be a part of the sports media universe.

So here’s two things we’re doing to make sure future broadcasters have an opportunity to learn with us.

First, I want to send a HUGE thank you to Steve Kamer Voiceovers. Thanks to Steve’s generosity, TEN (10) college students will be given FREE tickets to attend the 2023 BSM Summit in March. Steve is a USC graduate (Class of 1985) and he bought the ten tickets to help young people learn about the industry, save money and make valuable connections. When I first received his order, I thought he hit the wrong button. I reached out to tell him a mistake was made and I needed to refund him. That’s when he told me what he wanted to do for students who were pursuing their broadcasting dreams just as we both did years ago. A very classy gesture on his part.

As it pertains to the contest, here’s how it’s going to work.

To win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email to JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event. Included in your email should be a list of steps that you’ve taken or are pursuing to explore opportunities in the media industry. If you want to pass along a resume and audio or video clips too to showcase your work and experience, that’s fine as well. BSM will accept submissions until February 17th. The winners will be announced on Friday February 24th.

Helping me select the winners will be an exceptional panel of media executives. Each of these folks below will choose one person to attend our L.A. event. The final two will be picked by Steve Kamer and myself.

  • Scott Shapiro – Senior Vice President, FOX Sports Radio
  • Justin Craig – Senior Program Director, ESPN Radio
  • Jeff Sottolano – Executive Vice President, Programming, Audacy
  • Bruce Gilbert – Senior Vice President of Sports, Cumulus Media & Westwood One
  • Amanda Gifford – Vice President, Content Strategy & Audio, ESPN
  • Jacob Ullman – Senior Vice President, Production and Talent Development, FOX Sports
  • Greg Strassell – Senior Vice President, Programming, Hubbard Radio
  • Scott Sutherland – Executive Vice President, Bonneville International

To qualify for the BSM Summit College Contest, students must be enrolled in college in the state of California, pursuing a degree that involves course work either in radio, television, print or the digital business. Those attending local trade schools with a focus on broadcasting are also welcome to participate. You must be able to take care of your own transportation and/or lodging.

This is a contest I enjoy running. We’ve had great participation during our prior two shows in New York City but haven’t done it before on the west coast. I’m hoping it’s helpful to California students and look forward to hearing from many of them during the next month.

For students who live out of state and wish to attend or those enrolled at local universities who enter the contest but aren’t lucky enough to win one of the ten free tickets from Steve Kamer Voiceovers, we are introducing a special two-day college ticket for just $124.99. You must provide proof that you’re currently in school to take advantage of the offer. This ticket gives you access to all of our sessions inside the Founders Club. College tickets will be limited to forty (40) seats so take advantage of the opportunity before it expires.

The 2023 BSM Summit will feature award ceremonies with Emmis Communication CEO Jeff Smulyan and legendary WFAN program director Mark Chernoff, sessions with influential on-air talent such as Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome, Joy Taylor, and Mina Kimes, big picture business conversations with executives from groups such as Audacy, iHeart, Bonneville, Good Karma Brands, Barstool, The Volume, Omaha Productions and more. For details on tickets and hotel rooms visit BSMsummit.com.

I look forward to seeing you in March in Los Angeles!

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