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Future Broadcasters in the NFL: Part 2

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With a new NFL season just around the corner, Barrett Sports Media decided to take on a big project. We reached out to hosts, PDs, and reporters in every NFL city in the country. The question we wanted answered was simple: Who on your team’s roster has the brightest future in the sports media?

We spent the better part of a month sending emails and texts asking folks to participate. Some gave us an answer right away. Some required a little poking and prodding. Some didn’t respond at all. What are you going to do, right? It’s a busy time of year for all of us in sports radio.

We will reveal a new batch of answers everyday from now until Friday. If you missed Part 1, you can find it here.

Here’s Part 2:

BALTIMORE RAVENS

Jerry Coleman  – 105.7 the Fan

Well, Terrell Suggs is going to be a guy that will aim to be in the media. He has participated on a few of the studio shows in the past. He continues to appear on shows like Ballers. I don’t think he has a lot to offer though, as someone that has interviewed him for the last 15 years. He’s mostly full of platitudes and cliches.

Justin Tucker is the kicker. Do they qualify for this? He would be a terrific candidate. Besides being a terrific kicker and singer, he is very well spoken. He may be really great. I just wonder how much a kicker can add to a broadcast in a game. How much are they really in those meetings and able to add perspective to situations involving quarterbacks, linebackers, or receivers?

CHICAGO BEARS

Laurence Holmes – 670 the Score

When he’s done playing football, Bears Guard #75, Kyle Long, will make one of the easiest transitions from playing to broadcasting that we’ve seen in a while. From the time that he was a rookie, Long has shown incredible personality in dealing with the media. He’s honest, loquacious, and charismatic. In some respects, Long has already been doing a form of broadcasting. He has thousands of followers already, on the gaming platform Twitch, where he does live videos while playing games. Honestly, that association will give him a leg up in growing the younger demo for a potential employer. He has credibility in a growing and desirable audience share.

In between the time of the Lovie Smith Bears and the team drafting Mitch Trubisky, Long has been the face of the franchise. That’s a weird thing to say about a Guard, but it’s true. On top of everything else, the Long family has shown that their personal charisma translates to the camera. It’s not a far leap to say that Kyle’s brother, Chris could run for political office someday and their dad, Howie is pretty much the standard for a national analyst. Kyle has many interests, but if he chooses to work in television or radio, he will have a ton of options, both locally and nationally.

HOUSTON TEXANS

Sean Pendergast – Sports Radio 610

If the question were “Which Houston Texan employee has the brightest future in media?”, my answer would be head coach Bill O’Brien, hands down, whenever that day may come. However, if we are keeping it focused strictly on players, my choice would be one of the newest Houston Texans, safety Tyrann Mathieu. In his short time with the team, the “Honey Badger” has impressed me with his thoughtful, intelligent answers to questions about both his background and the game itself.

When I am looking for content from former football players, I generally want the player to have good energy, a solid delivery, and most importantly, teach me something I don’t know. Mathieu’s energy is infectious, but more importantly, he has one of the highest football IQ’s in the league. Mathieu plays a position where the knowledge necessary to perform at a high level is the defensive equivalent of the quarterback’s necessary knowledge on the offensive side of the football. I feel like Mathieu would be incredibly versatile as a radio or TV personality, with the ability to convey an entertaining story in one segment, and then one segment later, give an X’s and O’s “chalk talk”.

Above all else, Mathieu has massive respect from his peers, fans, and media alike, so I think people would be preconditioned to like and enjoy him. Earning the respect of a TV or radio audience would have fewer barriers for Mathieu.

NEW YORK GIANTS

Chris Carlin – WFAN

Landon Collins has got a future in the media, if he wants it. The network executives are always looking for the same thing: someone who isn’t afraid to tell the truth. Though he’s been in the NFL a short time, Collins hasn’t been afraid to ruffle some feathers.

During the drama surrounding Eli Apple last season, it was Collins who was both critical of, and later supportive of Apple. He told the truth about what was going on, and in this rare instance, it was something his teammate needed to hear publicly. He is not only a terrific player and leader of the defense, Collins also has a terrific feel for the inner workings and politics of a locker room.
Landon’s also got a sense of humor, which goes a long way. In an appearance earlier in 2018 on “Boomer & Gio” on WFAN, Collins was relaxed and willing to “go there” when Gio brought up topics outside football. To put it simply, Collins “gets it.”

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

John Mamola – 620 WDAE

When posed the question to identify a single individual player on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that has the chops to one day have a future in sports media, you need to look at the results of the past. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber (now a top analyst for FOX Sports) inherits the intelligence of reading routes and schemes while delivering his analysis as smooth as he was when he stepped in front of wide receivers for one of his 47 career interceptions. You look at the leadership of former Buccaneers safety John Lynch, straight to the point with no filter attached which led him to being one of the most respected analysts in football paving his path in the front office for San Francisco.

Other notable former Tampa Bay Buccaneers have also graced the sports media landscape each with their own unique attributes that they carried with them from the field of play and into the media landscape. Keyshawn Johnson and Anthony McFarland with ESPN, Tony Dungy and Chris Simms at NBC Sports, and minus his off the screen transgressions, you can’t deny the energy and passion for the game of football Warren Sapp displayed when he was on the NFL Network.

In an age of on demand and short attention spans, you need to identify someone who can get right to the point of what they’re trying to say. Someone who identifies with the trends in social media and respects the benefits of it on all platforms, but also recognizes the pitfalls it could also lead to. You need someone with energy, passion for the sport, and someone who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. A broadcaster that makes you think, points out the hidden, and is always trying to get better at whatever position they may play on the field (or in sports media). For me without question, that’s Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans.

Evans is entering his fifth season in Tampa Bay and already ranks among the great wide outs in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history with 32 touchdowns (2nd in franchise history) and over 1,000 yards receiving in each of his first four seasons in Tampa Bay. Off the field he’s a celebrated family man, husband and father.

But what would make Evans a great member of the sports media once his long career is over? His discipline to continue working at his craft, passion for the game of football and knowledge of the game are apparent each and every day in practice and during games. He is not afraid to express his views (see his comment on Twitter RT’ing Donald Trump with a dig at his USFL ownership), plus has great energy and is always direct with the media getting right to his point. With time, practice and the right coaching Evans could be the next in a line of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers that you see on the television screen every Sunday, or on the radio every afternoon on your drive home.

 

BSM Writers

Nothing Is Easy In the Cold, Not Even Broadcasting

The elements can wreak havoc with the way you call a game. Your mouth isn’t in sync with your brain and you wonder if the torture will ever end!

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No matter what you may think, doing play-by-play for any sport is a difficult thing. The great ones make it look easy, but it’s not. Prep work dominates things leading up to the broadcast, getting notes, nuggets and entertaining tidbits take up time. Then once you’re prepped, some stadiums are better than others to broadcast. Some booths are easier to work than others.

Then there’s the forgotten element, the weather.

How will you handle inclement weather of any kind? Warmth, rain, snow and oh yeah, the dreaded freezing temperature. Before we get into it, here are a few of the less-than-ideal conditions my fellow broadcasters have had to deal with over the years. 

THE FOG BOWL

During the 1988 playoffs between the Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles, a dense fog rolled onto the field during the game, making it nearly impossible to play or see. Numerous players complained they couldn’t see 10 yards in front of them. Both teams were forced to use their running game because receivers couldn’t see long passes. The broadcast was called by Verne Lundquist and Terry Bradshaw on CBS. 

“We couldn’t see anything—absolutely nothing,” CBS-TV play-by-play broadcaster Verne Lundquist told the Associated Press. “We had to look at the TV just like everyone else.” Lundquist’s color man, Terry Bradshaw, told viewers the game should have been suspended.

THE FREEZER BOWL

At -9 degrees Fahrenheit, the 1982 AFC Championship Game between the Cincinnati Bengals and San Diego Chargers proved to be the second-coldest game in NFL history. It was so cold that Bengals QB Ken Anderson suffered frost bite on his right ear. The temperature was not only -9 degrees, but the wind chill was measured at -58 degrees, by far the worst in league history.

THE ICE BOWL

The 1967 NFL Championship between the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys became known as the “Ice Bowl.” It remains the coldest game ever played in the NFL, at -15 degrees with a wind chill of -48 degrees. Lambeau Field’s turf-heating system actually malfunctioned before the game, leaving the turf rock-hard. Officials actually had to resort to calling out plays and penalties because when referee Norm Schachter blew his metal whistle, it actually froze to his lips.

The last two are examples of something topical since last week’s “Super Wild Card” game in Buffalo was played in extreme temperatures. At kickoff, it was 7 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind chill made the temperature feel like minus-5. A far cry from the above games, but come on, it was freezing cold out there. 

The CBS Sports NFL announcing team of Ian Eagle and Charles Davis said Saturday’s game between Buffalo and New England was the coldest work environment they’ve experienced during their broadcasting careers. 

“We kept the windows closed in the booth until one hour before kickoff,” Eagle told The Athletic. “When we finally opened them, I had a sense that it would be manageable. I was wrong. CBS rented some industrial heaters for the night, but unfortunately, they were no match for the Western New York frigid air. It really hit me in the third quarter. I started shivering and actually had a few moments where my jaw got locked up mid-sentence. It was by far the coldest I’ve ever been calling a game.”

Davis recalled two games he called at Lambeau Field that were similar, but not as bad as it was in Buffalo.

“It helped that the evening was relatively clear, and the winds minimal, but make no mistake about it, ‘the Almighty Hawk (wind)’ made its presence felt and I kept drawing on one thought — everyone involved was cold, and they were persevering,” Davis explained to Richard Deitsch.

“In addition, we were watching history be made in front of us by the Bills offense — seven drives, seven touchdowns, something that had never been done in the NFL playoffs. Beyond impressive, and it definitely helped us maintain focus. I’m not sure anyone would choose to do a game under those conditions, but there was definitely a sense of pride among our team that we all worked to the best of our abilities on a night that would test all of us.”

Davis said that there was no way not to think about his discomfort. He gave credit to the stage crew in the booth that helped to keep him and Ian Eagle warm. There was also a jacket involved, a familiar one given to Eagle during the game, leading to an excellent exchange between he and Davis just before the third quarter started. 

Charles Davis: Where did you get the jacket?

Ian Eagle: What jacket?

Davis: That!

Eagle: Oh, this? Yes, Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, you might have noticed, wore this a few weeks ago and it hit the internet by storm. Kurt saw that we had this assignment. Kurt now runs a program “Warner’s Warmers,” he just sends the jacket out to whoever needs it. I feel like, I want Jiffy Pop Popcorn. This thing is very warm. This is the same jacket. Kurt sent this to me. Let me tell you, not all heroes wear capes, they wear “Silver Bullet Puffers.”

Davis: Let’s talk about the game for a minute. Kurt, a brother would like a jacket too…

I’ve never really experienced calling a game in that extreme weather, especially after all the years I’ve called baseball games. But being in the Midwest, even those early days in April and sometimes into May, cold temps are a factor.

I think the coldest game I ever called was a game with the Cubs where the temperature at the start was about 31 degrees with a wind coming off the lake. We debated on whether or not to open the windows in the booth. One voted no, one voted yes, so the compromise was the window near the play-by-play guy was cracked open just a bit. Games just sound different with the windows closed. It’s not as clean. It sounds like you’re doing a game in a closet. But sometimes self-preservation comes first. The same goes for extremely warm weather too. 

The elements can wreak havoc with the way you call a game. Your pen isn’t working all that well, and how do you score a game without taking your gloves off?  In those conditions, as Eagle was saying, your mouth isn’t in sync with your brain and you wonder if the torture will ever end! I know it sounds exaggerated but in the moment, its not. 

People sitting at home still want you to call the game. They are looking for the same information you would have given if it were 40 degrees instead of 40 below with the wind chill. It’s a big ask, but the broadcast crew has to find a way to adjust to the conditions and do what they are there to do. It helps when everyone understands that. It’s not to say that you can’t talk about the way things are in the booth or on the field from time to time. But don’t let it dominated the airtime, as tempting as it might be to do so. 

Just think, if you’re cold in the booth, what’s life like for the sideline reporter?

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BSM Writers

Ben And Woods Aren’t Doing a Show For One Person

“I guarantee you I’m the only sports talk radio show host in America that gets made fun of regularly for talking Sports on the show.”

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There’s no confusion about where their allegiances lie. And when it comes to being relatable to the audience, there’s few things Ben and Woods do better than buying season tickets at Petco Park, wearing Padres hats and cheering for the lone professional team in San Diego. 

Some hosts choose to never openly root for the teams they talk about on an everyday basis. Steven Woods and Ben Higgins strive to never hide who they are on the air. They’re Padres fans and they’re not afraid to show it. 

“I was in music radio before and sometimes it was hard to hide my disdain for some of the music that I played, so I just decided not to,” said Woods. “I just let it out there. People I think appreciate authenticity and if I didn’t like a song I’d tell you. But I still had to play it, right? With the Padres, it’s why I never sit in the press box, because I can’t cheer in there. I bought season tickets so that I can go and scream at the players like I want to. I think it resonates, because there’s fans listening in the car that want to see them do well too.”

“I do believe in journalistic integrity,” said Ben. “But to me that means you have to be honest. You have to be honest in your opinions and you can’t be afraid to be critical. No one is more critical of a team than their own fans. They are the most critical people of all. I don’t wanna be the fan that constantly criticizes, but at the same time, why would you listen to a show that is just relentlessly positive and gives you a white wash version of what’s not really reality? Every team has problems and it’s our job to point them out or nobody’s going to take you seriously.”

When you think of baseball towns, New York, Chicago and St. Louis are probably the three cities that immediately come to mind. But in a football world, San Diego has emerged as a new baseball town with the Chargers recently leaving for Los Angeles.

If you have any doubt that San Diego is now a baseball city, just listen to Ben and Woods on 97.3 The Fan from 5-9 am every weekday morning. The duo has no issues with doing three-plus hours of Padres talk, even during the offseason.

That’s not a new thing. Ben and Woods have always conducted the show the way it is now. They want to talk baseball, but they also want to hit off-topic content that will give the listener a chance to laugh on their way to work. 

That’s been the case since the show was at Mighty 1090. Ben and Woods were at the station as the morning show when it folded in 2019. That was an incredibly trying time for both talents. 

“It was pretty heartbreaking to be honest with you,” Woods said. “I had a brand new baby and the show was going great. We were on the rise and then it went away. It was shocking. It was also scary.  I think uncertain is the best word. We believed in our product and we knew there was a market for it and there was a station that just so happened to need a morning show. The timing was pretty serendipitous.”

“I had been a listener for 15 years before I ever worked at that station for the first time,” Ben said. “And then you get there and you feel like, wow, we’re here and then all the sudden it’s gone. It wasn’t overnight, at some point we lost the signal transmission then we went streaming and it was kind of a slow death over the last few weeks. Ultimately it just ended one day. It was a very strange thing. The fact we got picked up at 97.3 The Fan, got back on the air so quickly was really great.”

Sports radio show 'Ben and Woods' heads to 97.3 The Fan

Things are going extremely well for Ben and Woods at 97.3 The Fan. They’re thriving in morning drive with a unique show that’s different from any other in the market. Sure, they’ll talk about sports, but their focus is more on the overall entertainment of the show. 

“It’s morning drive, you’re there to entertain,” said Woods. “You do have to get really creative. We get very creative, because we have to. We take a lot of risks, more so than people would like. The way I look at it as no one remembers us talking about the NFL Playoffs. But they do remember the time we played a 17-minute Bob Dylan song in its entirety on the radio and sat through it. I remember that and always will. Nobody is ever going to say, ‘man, nobody breaks down the Tampa Bay Buccaneers like you guys’. But they’ll remember, ‘holy crap, you guys literally played a 17 minute Bob Dylan song it’s entirety’.”

“When we started it was 95 percent sports and I was afraid to do anything else,” Ben said. ”We started doing segments like Ben reads raps, there was a really good response and I started to warm up on OK we can branch out a little bit. Now, if there was a day we didn’t have a non-sports topic I would say that was a weird show.”

“Rest assured, Opening Day comes, we’re blowing out every bit we have, period,” Woods said ”We’re one of the few shows in town that has no problem doing 3 1/2 hours of just Padres talk. You have to be willing to make a fool of yourself a little bit. I always call it punting. It’s an easy thing to say, hey, the playoffs are this week let’s get the local beat writer on from every single team and we’ll interview them. Like anyone here gives a rats ass what the Packers beat writer has to say. There may be one guy, but I’m not doing a show for one guy.”

“I guarantee you I’m the only sports talk radio show host in America that gets made fun of regularly for talking Sports on the show,” laughed Ben. 

One of the reasons the show has the identity that it does, is because of Woods’ background in multiple formats of radio. No, he’s not a sports radio lifer, and in a way, it’s probably greatly benefitted the show. He’s taken his creativity from the music side and perfectly blended it with his love for sports. 

“I like sports radio more because there’s a lot more creativity,“ said Woods. “ I didn’t get to pick the music I got to play at all. Not even a little bit. I didn’t have a lot of chances to talk so for me, as a creative person, this is tremendous. We can do whatever we want and our bosses are pretty cool about giving us a lot of leeway. I’ve learned how audiences react. I’ve learned how to keep an audience. It’s energy, it’s being compelling, breaking balls, having fun. Guy’s driving to work in the mornings, he wants to get a snicker or a laugh, he’s not looking for breakdowns of defenses and things like that.”

Ben and Woods is much more than just the two hosts in the chair every weekday. The cool thing is that anyone that listens to the show knows that. Paul Reindl is the executive producer of the show and has a talent and relationship with the hosts that anyone would dream of. 

“He’s the worst,” laughed both Ben and Woods. “Paulie is great. We were able to get away this weekend and after we drank like 40 beers and whiskeys, I was like bro, I’m so proud of you and you’re so valuable to the show. But he’s an unsung hero behind the scenes. He has an uncanny ability to bring sound drops almost intuitively. He’s got pages and pages of drops we’ve collected over the years. He’s just an awesome producer.”

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BSM Writers

Sports Are Learning To Meet Gen Z Where They Are

“The crux of the issue is that Gen Z is the first generation of kids who are truly free to find their “thing” in a way previous generations never could thanks to modern connectivity.”

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Should sports radio be concerned about where audiences will come from in the future? It is an interesting question that we talk about here a lot. It is also something that the New York Times tackled indirectly last week.

A column from Joe Drape and Ken Belson declared this generation of kids “The eSports Generation” and went on to explain just how disconnected from traditional sports they really are.

An alarmist might ask if this is the beginning of the end of traditional sports leagues. Someone a little more level-headed, like Joe Ovies, may want to dive a little deeper to see what leagues are learning and how they are adapting.

Joe hosts The OG in afternoon drive at 99.9 The Fan in Raleigh. He is always interested in how changes in technology and consumption patterns effect sports and his audience. I saw him tweeting about the New York Times piece last week and asked if he would want to write a little something for us.

Enjoy!

Demetri Ravanos


“Meet your audience where they are.”

How many times have you heard that phrase in the last 5 years from a consultant, manager, or any number of Barrett Media posts as content consumption trends continue to spread out over a variety of platforms? Turns out the same applies for pro sports leagues, who are fearful that an entire generation of fans will be lost and their traditional business model will crater as a result.

The New York Times recently highlighted what sports marketers are doing to win over Generation Z, which typically applies to kids born from 1997 to 2012. The Times hits the usual beats.

There’s a reference to Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, an esports star who is also a traditional sports fan, who the NFL hoped would be a Pied Piper for youth fandom. There are examples of MLB, famously stingy when it came to fans using their content on social media, now working with TikTok influencers. And of course, highlighting the NBA’s wide ranging approach to online engagement and their franchise run NBA 2K esports league. Most of the article was based on a recent SSRS/Luker on Trends report, which conducts regular surveys about sports and society.

The issue for pro sports leagues isn’t that Gen Z kids aren’t “passionate” enough about sports. It’s that Gen Z is more likely to admit they simply don’t like sports.

“Only 23 percent of Generation Z said they were passionate sports fans, compared with the 42 percent of millennials (defined as 26 to 41), 33 percent of Generation X (42 to 57) and 31 percent of baby boomers (57 to 76) who identified themselves as passionate. More striking was that 27 percent of Gen Zers said they disliked sports altogether, compared with just 7 percent of millennials, 5 percent of Gen Xers and 6 percent of boomers.”

The new york times, Jan. 12, 2022

Also factoring into the waning interest in sports from Gen Z is the dramatic decline of youth sports participation. There is a larger discussion to be had about the role of parents and specialization in this decline, but we can address that topic another day. As it relates to pro sports leagues today, the drop in youth participation absolutely impacts the level of interest in kids who might want to watch the best in the world of sports do their thing.

“Participation in youth sports was declining even before Covid-19: In 2018, only 38 percent of children ages 6 to 12 played team sports on a regular basis, down from 45 percent in 2008, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

In June 2020, the pandemic’s early days, 19 percent of parents with kids in youth sports said their child was not interested in playing sports, according to a survey conducted by The Aspen Institute’s Sports and Society Program. By September 2021, that figure was 28 percent.

On average, children play less than three years in a sport and quit by age 11, according to the survey. Why? Mostly, because it is not fun anymore.”

the New york times, Dec. 19th 2021

The crux of the issue is that Gen Z is the first generation of kids who are truly free to find their “thing” in a way previous generations never could thanks to modern connectivity. Meeting up on the playground or at a friend’s backyard for a pickup game has been replaced with meeting your friends on a Discord server and deciding if you’re going to play Halo or Call or Duty after school.

If you have kids in the age range that I do, none of this should be a surprise. You see it every day and don’t even think twice about it. But if you do stop and think about how frictionless it has become to be online all day with your friends, you start to realize the impact of never being bored or getting dragged to things by your parent because there were no other options.

Watching sports and going to sporting events isn’t frictionless. It’s a pain in the ass. Older generations deal with it because we don’t know any better, it’s just what we do. But Gen Z isn’t about to stop what they’re doing just to watch a game. Why would they? They can get the highlights later.

Gen Z is about dropping in and out of entertainment options whenever they feel like it. In other words, why would they sit around waiting for their favorite song to be played on the radio when they can easily pull it up on YouTube or Spotify.

Pro sports leagues can create all the social content and tout billions of views. They can tout engagement with Gen Z because a bunch of kids bought NFL related skins in Fortnite.

Awareness of their leagues isn’t the problem. It’s getting Gen Z to care enough to watch the game. Take my kids, who are fully aware of what’s going on in the world of sports, but getting them to sit down and actually watch the game is torture. Throw in the increasing cost to attend sporting events, I’ve started leaving them at home because it’s a waste of money given my 13-year-old is just gonna play Clash Royale in that $75 seat.

To be clear — I’m OK with my kids just not being into sports. It’s not like I didn’t try. It’s simply understanding we’ve transitioned to a world of niche communities. You can still thrive within those niche communities. Just look at sports talk radio as an example, where you’re not winning with cume, but with passion around sports. That’s what great sports talk radio stations sell. Pro sports leagues will be fine doing the same.

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