Jason Ross Wants To Be Everywhere & Do Everything
“Generally I really love it in October and November. The Kings are going. I’m consumed with college football on the weekend and the prep that takes all week. Then a show and being the program director.”
Personal happiness is mostly tied to your mindset — whether you have a positive or negative outlook on the things you experience in life. In spite of having numerous responsibilities and a very hectic schedule, Jason Ross actually prefers his job to be challenging. It’s a good thing he views things favorably. Jason could become a crazy person if not.
His sports radio journey began at Sports 1140 KHTK back in 1994. Jason has remained in Sacramento ever since. Jason’s list of duties include talk show host, program director, pre/half/postgame host for Sacramento Kings basketball, and the radio voice of Sacramento State football since 1997. This definitely qualifies as challenging to say the least.
They say timing is everything. Whoever “they” happens to be has it right. Jason had to choose between two opportunites; he chose a fill-in shift for two weeks that turned into a 25-year career at the same station.
He shares great insight below in a very conversational tone. Jason also shares his thoughts about the role he covets most going forward. Enjoy.
Brian Noe: When did you figure out that you wanted to pursue sports radio as a career?
Jason Ross: It was pretty easy for me. I can pinpoint it exactly. I was a junior at UC Davis and I went to school to play sports and to possibly be a veterinarian. I was trying out for the basketball team. I made it all the way to the end and was one of the last cuts. That very weekend the men’s team was going to have their first game. One of my friends was working at the campus radio station and he said, “Hey, you know the team. You’ve been around the guys. I need someone to do color commentary with me. Would you like to sit in with me?
I thought, “Well I love sports. I’ve watched sports all my life. I want to stay involved in some way. Sure.” The second I did the first game, I knew that’s exactly what I wanted to do. Then I got an opportunity to do the women’s games. Everybody that was at the campus station at the time was a senior or moving on, or graduating and going to grad school.
That very next year I was a senior and I was the program director at the campus station. Then I got a chance to create my own show, do football, basketball, baseball, get commercials, sell, just all of it, everything all-encompassing. Right then and there I said, “Yeah, this is exactly what I want to do.”
Noe: You almost were a veterinarian?
Ross: (laughs) That was one of my goals. I wanted to play sports as long as I possibly could. I was actually on the baseball team my first year. I was a redshirt. It was a loose program that way where you could be a redshirt and be around. I really was just there for that, for the beginning of that first year. But then I was always playing basketball, basketball, basketball. That’s where in my third year; I tried out for that team.
I went to school thinking that would probably be my long-term goal. I think it was my sophomore summer in college; I worked at a veterinarian’s office. I liked it, but I kind of realized then that I don’t think that was the career path I wanted to go down. Shortly thereafter was when the opportunity to do some radio work happened and that’s when I fell in love with it.
Noe: What was the first station that you worked at?
Ross: I’m also unique in that regard. The second my college time ran up, I started putting out all of the flyers and feelers to see what can be next for me. I had an opportunity to go back home to Orange County and work at the Orange County Newschannel, which was a 24-hour news station at the time that was relatively new and have an internship. Or at Sports 1140, which was at the time Hot Talk 1140, in Sacramento as a part-time, fill-in board op for two weeks.
There was going to be a guy that was going to be on vacation for two weeks and the station needed a board op. I was really torn on which one to do, but I went for — as sad as it was — the money. It turned out the guy never came back. I got a job at the station and I’ve been there for 25 years. People move all over the place. I just stayed in one spot. Everybody’s got a different path, but that’s been mine.
Eventually that same summer, the station got the Sacramento Kings. We turned into a sports station. It was just incredible timing. My boss at the time said, “Hey, we’re going to need a locker room reporter. I said, “I’ll do it.” You just start saying you’ll do weekend shifts and work holidays and all of the things you have to do to move up. I’ve been at the same place longer than anyone at that station for 25 years.
Noe: The only reason you chose Sacramento was because the fill-in gig was paid?
Ross: Probably, and maybe being comfortable. I was still living in Davis. School had just ended. All of my friends were still here. I could have gone home. It seemed to make sense to at least try that to me. I had a girlfriend at the time. Friends, girlfriend, it was all still happening up here. Could I have gone home? Sure, but I took my chances on that and little did I know it would be just the greatest decision I could have made.
Noe: What do you remember most about those two weeks of fill-in work?
Ross: It was a nationally syndicated non-sports talk show. It was just learning the business, running the board, playing carts, cutting tape, just literally the old-school radio that’s not even a thing anymore. Just trying to figure that out. It just all seemed like it moved so fast — making my mistakes and figuring out the business. Not that you figure it all out certainly in two weeks, but just starting to dip your toe into it and figuring out what I didn’t know.
Noe: When you’re wearing so many hats — on-air guy, PD, doing the Kings stuff, play-by-play — what part of your job do you enjoy the most?
Ross: I would say my number one thing that I love more than anything is play-by-play. I just love the art of that. The preparation. No game is the same. The people you meet. You could have two terrible teams and you see the greatest individual performance or team performance that day. You could also see the worst thing. You see someone score seven touchdowns, someone score 60 points, someone go 0-for-25. The greatest dunk, the worst pass. I love that.
I just love all of those things about play-by-play and the art of calling it. Did I describe it perfectly there? What could I have done better? Then I try to take that same approach to the other elements too — creating a show, trying to do the best that I can for the station. I think overall my favorite thing by far is play-by-play.
Noe: Do you find yourself listening closer to play-by-play guys or sports radio hosts?
Ross: That’s a great question. Probably both because I think you can identify where someone is missing something, or what someone is good at based on your own experiences. For an example, in play-by-play — I know this has happened to me before — I take pride in knowing who everyone is out on the field and having as much prep on the court.
Football is the trickiest one. There are 11 offensive guys and 11 defensive guys. Maybe a ball is tipped and it’s a backup linebacker. In that moment you may not know who picked it off. Then you recover and you look at your chart and you find out who it is.
I can listen to a game especially on radio and hear someone that gets caught up in that same thing and describes a pass, “It’s picked off and they’re going the other way.” I say, “Oh, they don’t know who it is,” because I’ve been there. I know that they don’t know who it is and then they catch up and they go, “Oh, that was John Smith with the pick, his third of the season.” I say, “Okay, they got it. They recovered and handled it well.”
It’s the same idea on a talk show when someone asks a question, or they’re trying to go somewhere. I go, “Oh, they’re trapped. They’ve got a crutch.” Probably from what my own mistakes have been I can hear where people maybe get stuck in play-by-play or on talk shows.
Noe: What was your crutch word that was pointed out to you?
Ross: (laughs) I had a football game. Sacramento State was playing Cal State Northridge and they ran what would be like a run-and-gun offense. Their football program doesn’t even exist anymore, but they said, “Hey, I heard the game. You know how many times you said quick hitter?” I said, “Quick hitter?” Really?” They said, “You said it all the time.”
I went back and listened to the tape and it was disgusting. I literally said it for almost every pass. I couldn’t believe it. I wouldn’t have guessed I ever said it. I’d say, “Quick hitter over the middle. Quick hitter.” I mean it was disgusting. I said it way too much, but it was great that someone told me that. You need someone policing you out there, if it’s not yourself, because it’s hard sometimes to go back and listen to your work consistently.
That was constructive. It wasn’t meant to be mean. If someone can be honest with you like that, it’s really helpful. I think we can all get caught up in saying some of the same things. That’s the art of play-by-play too is describing something similar with different words and different sayings and being creative. That was frustrating, but a good lesson.
Noe: Play-by-play is so fluid and constantly moving forward based on how the game unfolds. Do you think that impacts you as a sports radio host where maybe you tend to move through topics more fluidly than other hosts?
Ross: I’m not sure because I only know this way of doing play-by-play and doing a talk show. I think the art of doing a talk show has been extremely helpful the other way around with play-by-play. I know a couple of years ago, the Kings had a game in Philadelphia. I was back in the studio doing the pre, half, and post — threw it out to Gary Gerould to basically start the coverage and there was condensation still on the hardwood from the ice underneath.
We had a delay, and then another delay. It was filling time, and now back in the studio. I’ve done talk shows so I know how to fill time, but that was a little unique because are we filling five minutes? Is this going to be 10? Is this going to be 30? The art of being able to talk and find different storylines and find things to talk about, but also being able to cut it off if you have to go right back out to the venue. It ended up that the game was postponed and made up on another day. It was a unique night. I felt that if I was at the game by myself doing play-by-play, I would have been able to fill too, but I was back at the studio and you just kind of have to adjust.
The practice of being in a talk show format where you might have a 12, 15, 20-minute segment, hopefully with someone else, but if you’re by yourself, you’ve got to be able to fill that airspace. It’s not always easy, but hopefully you’ve got enough reps that — alright you’ve got to go for 25 minutes straight and we’re in a crisis. Alright let’s go — and just figure out how to fill the space.
Noe: When you mention how sports radio has changed over the years with smartphones and smart speakers and all these different choices that people have, what do you think is the most important aspect to keep in mind as a sports radio host as you structure your show?
Ross: I still think if it’s a topic that’s interesting to me, I hopefully then can relate that as something that’s interesting to someone else. If you’re digging for topics just to bring it up and I’m not buying it, I don’t know that the consumer there is going to go, “I’m all in on this.” Not everybody is going to love every segment of everything that you do. That’s impossible to please everybody.
I think if you find stuff that’s interesting to you for an angle, or a storyline, or a human-interest element that you feel that you can convey, then I think you’re going to do your best job at least at that, and in the end, feel good about the content you’re delivering. Again that’s not going to be for everybody, but at least then you know you were doing your best job. I think you just have to continue. I try to find the things that interest me and then that way hopefully I’m telling the best stories or relaying the best angles of those stories.
Noe: During an Army-Navy football game, they’ll take a player’s schedule and say at 0600 this guy wakes up and does this, and at 0700 he does that. That thought came to mind as it relates to your schedule. When you have so much on your plate, how does your day generally set up?
Ross: (laughs) It’s different based on the different times of the year. It’s funny that you say that because maybe when the Kings season ends, there’ll be a couple of days where it’s just not as much on my plate. But then I also find myself — it’s not bored — but it’s not as hectic. I think I prefer a lot of plates spinning. I love all of this.
Generally I really love it in October and November. The Kings are going. I’m consumed with college football on the weekend and the prep that takes all week. Then a show and being the program director. It’s completely hectic, but I love that. Different times of the year it varies, but generally I’m at the radio station by about 8:30 and trying to do program director type things for a couple of hours.
I try to transition into the radio show mode at some time during that, at least a half hour or so before the show. It’s the show from noon to 3. Then it just depends on if it’s a Kings night or not, but get back in the program director type mode. If it’s a game, you could be at the arena until 10:30 or 11 or at the station until 10:30 or 11 — it just depends on whether the game is East Coast or West Coast.
I don’t ever look at it like, “Aww man, I got to be at the station for 12 to 14 hours.” Maybe the next day there is no game and I’m at the station until 5:30 or so. It evens out and there’s less weekend work in the non-basketball and football season, but there’s always something going on and I actually prefer it that way.
Noe: Is it ever hard to avoid thinking negatively about your different roles meaning, “Hey, if I didn’t have this PD meeting, I could put a little bit more into the prep for my show,” or vice versa. Is there ever that mindset that you have to guard against?
Ross: Probably, yes, because I feel guilty at times. I’ve got a great partner now in Damien Barling who I do the midday show with. He is amazing. He is a preparer. He gets the show put together.
I try to do as much as I can, but sometimes I feel like I cheated him because, “Oh man, this day I had a meeting at 9 and a follow up at 10. A crisis happened and I’m rolling in at 11:50 and we’re 10 minutes from showtime. I have an idea of what we’re doing, but I don’t feel like I contributed enough at least on that day.
Other days I do more. It’s just kind of a day-by-day basis. If it was a perfect world, I’d have time to do all of that, but sometimes I don’t. That part has been a challenge for me for sure.
Noe: Was there ever a realization you came to that helped you approach each day the way you have?
Ross: I still have the guilt. I don’t know that I’ve ever resolved myself from that. I think I’m better than ever with time management, but again it’s never perfect. I could come to work on a day and go, “I kind of have everything lined up. I’m in good shape. I can spend some real good time on the show.” Then a phone call, an email, a text, three things happen and all of a sudden I’m in crisis mode on something that I had no plan for.
You have to be ready to handle those things even when you think, “Alright, I’m going to have a good hour and a half, two hours here, where we can really lay out a great show.” Then it falls back to me rolling in near the end and Damien doing all of the heavy lifting.
Noe: I remember times when I’d get a phone call from a salesperson two minutes before I was about to do a show. I’d think, “They have no idea what it’s like to do a show.” Do you have that thought go through your head more, or the thought of, “You have no idea what it’s like to be a program director”?
Ross: The only thought I ever get sometimes on that is when someone will say, “Hey, can we meet tomorrow at 2?” I’ll say, “I’m on the air.” Sometimes it’s a concept of, “You’re selling the show. You know I’m on 12 to 3.” That one will get me every once in a while.
If it gets too close to that window, unless it’s the biggest of bosses or a true, true crisis, sometimes I’m just not answering that phone or that email. I’ll go, “Okay, well I’ll have to get to that after the show.” Or if it seems a little more important, “Alright I’ve got a four-minute break here, I can knock out a quick email.” But I try not to lose focus on the show at least in that three-hour window. Sometimes that’s hard to avoid.
Noe: What aspect of your many roles comes the easiest to you and which aspect do you think is the most challenging?
Ross: I guess just the love of sports I hope transfers over to all of them. I don’t know how much it does to being a program director, but to the play-by-play, to the talk show it does. I like people. I think I’m good with people so that helps. The most challenging thing I think is the program director for sure. I’ve worked under so many different ones and they have their style. I can only do it my way.
I don’t know if I’m doing it the right way, but I’m trying and I try to be there for people. I try to listen. I don’t think I have it all figured out so I try to be a good listener. I try to communicate what I think is best. If someone has an idea I’m all for it. I think that one is the one that takes the most work for me. It’s my newest of the jobs.
Noe: When you’re a fellow sports radio host, do you find it challenging to critique another talent when it might be something that you’re violating yourself?
Ross: (laughs) Yes, I try to use myself as an example. I’m not perfect and it’s very subjective. There are people that like my show, there are people that don’t. There are people that love our other shows, there are people that don’t. There’s not one way that’s considered right.
I try to point out something that’s a little bit more constructive like you’ve got to hit breaks on time. Stuff like that as opposed to — I try to stay away from content. If someone’s got and idea and it seems like a reach to me, I don’t know that I would talk about that, but in the end if you can pull it off and tell a great story, or get some emotion out of that, or say something funny, well that worked.
I try to do it more in the realm of something that’s truly constructive and may be beneficial overall for the concept of the show as opposed to, “Hey, I wouldn’t talk about this,” because who follows that? You know? I try to stay away from that.
Noe: You’ve been in Sacramento for so long. Do you see yourself remaining there always, or do you think the future will play out differently?
Ross: I’ve almost been here 25 years. I’ve only been here and it’s tough to see me anywhere else. I’ve applied sporadically to other things over the 25 years, but really wondered, “Man, if I did get that job, would I really leave? I’ve been in California my whole life. My family is out here. Would I do that?”
So at this moment I can’t picture myself anywhere else. I love Sacramento. It’s been great. The station’s been great to me. The Kings. Sacramento State. The community. There’s no reason for me to leave unless there was some offer out there that I was like, “Man, I can’t turn that down.” I’m really happy where I am.
Noe: That’s cool, man. You can’t mess with happy. What do you do outside of sports — I don’t want to say as a release because this is what you love to do, but in terms of something that’s non sports-related that adds some balance to your life — what do you like doing the most?
Ross: The reality is the time I get, I try to spend as much with my family. They’re so supportive, my wife and my son. We’ve got such a great family. My brother is in town. My in-laws. There’s always people at our house. It’s just a great time to come home. It’s rarely just my wife and son. We have friends over all the time.
It’s like when you were a kid and there was always one house we’d always go to. Well, we’re the house. I think that’s really fun. We’ll have barbecues. We just like to entertain and have people over. That’s probably it. I just love to be around people that I care about and have a good time. That’s my main thing when I’m not working, which seems like I’m working all the time.
Noe: How long have you and your wife been together?
Ross: We met at the radio station, which is another reason I’m thankful for all of the things that transpired. Staying at the station that long, I met her several years into being at the station. She was an account executive so we met there and struck up a friendship. It grew from that.
She since is no longer in radio, but she did it for a long, long time. She was really good at sales. So many friends, so many memories, my wife came from radio. It all feels like it was just meant to be.
Noe: Have there been other offers that you simply turned down for all the reasons you just mentioned?
Ross: No, nothing officially. There have been a couple of NBA things that I’ve applied for. I literally remember talking to my wife thinking, “Man, if I get offered this, I think I would say no. But how could I say no to one of 30?”
Now, it didn’t happen. I’ll give you an example; Cleveland was open years ago. I think it was Joe Tait who was their longtime broadcaster. I saw that was an opening and I said, “I don’t know if I want to go to Cleveland, but I have to apply. It’s one of 30 jobs.”
I applied and nothing came of it, but I remember thinking, “Well, I feel like I’m qualified. I’ve done NBA games. What would I say if it really came down to we want to hire you?” I was really thinking, “Am I going to say no?”.
It didn’t get that far because again I’m happy here. I like it here. Maybe sometime that position will open up for me in Sacramento officially. It would have been hard to leave and it would have been hard to say no. I guess the short answer is I’m glad I wasn’t officially put in that spot to have to decide.
Noe: If you could essentially write out how you’d like the rest of your career to unfold, what would that look like for you?
Ross: I would like to do as much play-by-play as I can. I get that opportunity now, but I thirst for more of it. I’ve been lucky to be behind — and I know you know Grant Napear, Gerry Gerould is the radio guy, Grant is the TV guy — I don’t know if I’m technically behind Grant. Gary, I’ve worked so hand in hand with him for so many years. I’ve had the privilege to fill in for him. He is just a legend. He’s amazing. He is still killing it out there and he’s 78.
Whenever his time is done — he needs to write his own script — but whenever he decides he’s finished, I would love, love, love that opportunity to be the radio voice of the Kings. To go with that, to keep doing Sac State football because I’ve done that for 20+ years. If that opened up even more opportunities to do some national play-by-play, I really love radio. If TV came up I wouldn’t say no as far as play-by-play. Everything seems to be leaning towards that.
I enjoy doing the talk shows, but it’s almost like the thing I’m chasing has been play-by-play. If more things open talk show wise, certainly I would do it. I have a show now. I’m thrilled with it.
The PD job was something that became available and I thought, I’m going to grow from this. I wanted to take on that opportunity. I really have learned a lot more about myself and just managing people, and making mistakes, and making right calls, all those kind of things. I’ve enjoyed that, but I guess the thing I’m in a constant chase for is finding more play-by-play.
Noe: I hope that works out for you.
Ross: I hope so too. It’s really tricky because Gary is a friend. He’s awesome, but I know if it was my job, I’d be like, “I’m going until I’m done.” He should. He’s done it for 30-something years and he’s still great. He’s amazing.
Noe: If he was like, “What do you think, man? Do you think I should keep going?” It’d be hard to avoid saying, “No man, you should totally retire.”
Ross: (laughs) Yeah, because my friends always ask me when’s he going to stop? I’m like, “You know, I don’t know.” That’s his call. I root for him. Again, he’s a friend. He’s a mentor. He’s just awesome. I’ve been patient and I hope it would be my position after that, but nothing is ever guaranteed. I would feel really good about my chances though.
Brian Noe is a columnist for BSM and an on-air host heard nationwide on FOX Sports Radio’s Countdown To Kickoff. Previous roles include stops in Portland, OR, Albany, NY and Fresno, CA. You can follow him on Twitter @TheNoeShow or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is There Still a Place for Baseball Talk on National Sports Shows?
“Its struggle has been the same since the beginning of television. There is too much baseball for any regular season baseball game or story to have national significance.”
Last week at the BSM Summit, I hosted a panel focused on air checks. I wish I could say we covered the topic thoroughly, but we got derailed a lot, and you know what? That is okay. It felt like real air checks that I have been on both sides of in my career.
Rob Parker of The Odd Couple on FOX Sports Radio was the talent. He heard thoughts on his show from his boss, Scott Shapiro, and from his former boss, legendary WFAN programmer Mark Chernoff.
Baseball was the topic that caused one of our derailments on the panel. If you know Rob, you know he is passionate about Major League Baseball. He cited download numbers that show The Odd Couple’s time-shifted audience responds to baseball talk. To him, that proves there is not just room for it on nationally syndicated shows, but that there is a sizable audience that wants it.
Chernoff disagrees. He says baseball is a regional sport. Sure, there are regions that love it and local sports talk stations will dedicate full hours to discussing their home team’s games and roster. National shows need to cast a wide net though, and baseball doesn’t do that.
Personally, I agree with Chernoff. I told Parker on stage that “I hear baseball talk and I am f***ing gone.” The reason for that, I think, is exactly what Chernoff said. I grew up in Alabama (no baseball team). I live in North Carolina (no baseball team). Where baseball is big, it is huge, but it isn’t big in most of the country.
Now, I will add this. I used to LOVE baseball. It is the sport I played in high school. The Yankees’ logo was on the groom’s cake at my wedding. Then I had kids.
Forget 162 games. Even five games didn’t fit into my lifestyle. Maybe somewhere deep down, I still have feelings for the sport, but they are buried by years of neglect and active shunning.
Its struggle has been the same since the beginning of television. There is too much baseball for any regular season baseball game or story to have national significance.
Me, and millions of sports talk listeners like me, look at baseball like a toddler looks at broccoli. You probably aren’t lying when you tell us how much you love it, but damn it! WE WANT CHICKEN FINGERS!
A new Major League Baseball season starts Thursday and I thought this topic was worth exploring. I asked three nationally syndicated hosts to weigh in. When is baseball right for their show and how do they use those conversations? Here is what they had to say.
FREDDIE COLEMAN (Freddie & Fitzsimmons on ESPN Radio) – “MLB can still be talked nationally IF there’s that one player like Aaron Judge or Shohei Ohtani can attract the casual fan. MLB has definitely become more local because of the absence of that SUPER player and/or villainous team. I wonder if the pace of play will help bring in the younger fans that they need, but the sport NEEDS that defining star that is must-see TV.”
JONAS KNOX (2 Pros & a Cup of Joe on FOX Sports Radio) – “While football is king for me in sports radio, I look at baseball like most other sports. I’m not opposed to talking about it, as long as I have an angle or opinion that I am confident I can deliver in an entertaining manner. A couple of times of any given year, there are stories in baseball that are big picture topics that are obvious national discussions.
“I think it’s my job to never close the door on any topic/discussion (except politics because I don’t know anything about it).
“But also, if I’m going to discuss a localized story in baseball or any other sport for that matter – I better have an entertaining/informed angle on it. Otherwise, I’ve let down the listener and that is unacceptable. If they give you their time, you better not waste it.”
MAGGIE GRAY (Maggie & Perloff on CBS Sports Radio) – “While I was on WFAN there was almost no amount of minutia that was too small when it came to the Mets and Yankees. On Maggie and Perloff, our baseball topics have to be more centered around issues that can be universal. For example, ’Is Shohei Ohtani the face of the sport? Is Ohtani pitching and hitting more impressive than two sport athletes like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders? Do you consider Aaron Judge the single-season homerun king or Barry Bonds?’ Any baseball fan or sports fan can have an opinion about those topics, so we find they get great engagement from our audience.”
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.
Who Can Sports Fans Trust Once Twitter Ditches Legacy Verified Blue Checks?
The potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.
As of April 1, Twitter will finally make a dreaded change that many will view as an April Fools’ prank. Unfortunately, it won’t be a joke to any user who cares about legitimacy and truth.
Last week, Twitter officially announced that verified blue checkmarks will be removed from accounts that have not signed up for a Twitter Blue subscription. Previously, accounts whose identity had been verified were allowed to keep their blue checks when Twitter Blue was implemented.
But shortly after Elon Musk purchased Twitter and became the social media company’s CEO, he stated his intention to use verification as a revenue source. Users would have to pay $8 per month (or $84 annually) for a Twitter Blue subscription and blue checkmark verification. Paying for blue checks immediately set off red flags among users who learned to depend on verified accounts for accredited identities and trusted information.
The entire concept of verification and blue checks was simple and effective. Users and accounts bearing the blue checkmark were legitimate. These people and organizations were who they said they were.
As an example, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has faced criticism for how he framed domestic violence and sexual misconduct involving star NFL players, and deservedly so. But fans and media know Schefter’s tweets are really coming from him because his account is verified.
Furthermore, Twitter took the additional step of clarifying that accounts such as Schefter’s were verified before Twitter Blue was implemented. He didn’t pay eight dollars for that blue checkmark.
The need for verification is never more vital than when fake accounts are created to deceive users. Such accounts will put “Adam Schefter” as their Twitter name, even if their handle is something like “@TuaNeedsHelp.” Or worse, some fake accounts will create a handle with letters that look similar. So “@AdarnSchefter” with an “rn” in place of the “m,” fools some people, especially at a quick glance when people are trying to push news out as fast as possible.
Plenty of baseball fans have been duped over the years by fake accounts using a zero instead of an “o” or a capital “I” instead of a lowercase “l” to resemble Fox Sports and The Athletic reporter Ken Rosenthal. That trick didn’t get me. But when I covered Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report 10 years ago, I did fall for a fake Jim Salisbury account that reported the Philadelphia Phillies traded Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants. Capital “I,” not lowercase “l” in “Salisbury.” Pence was, in fact, traded to the Giants two days later, but that didn’t make my goof any less embarrassing. I should’ve looked for the blue checkmark!
But after April 1, that signifier won’t matter. Legacy blue checkmarks will be removed from accounts that haven’t paid for Twitter Blue. Some accounts that were previously verified might purchase a subscription to maintain that blue check. But those that were deemed legitimate prior to Musk taking over Twitter likely won’t. (There are also rumors that Twitter is considering a feature that would allow Twitter Blue subscribers to hide their blue check and avoid revealing that purchase.)
That could be even more true for media organizations, which are being told to pay $1000 per month for verification. Do you think ESPN, the New York Times, or the Washington Post will pay $12,000 for a blue check?
We’ve already seen the problems that paying for verification can cause. Shortly after Twitter Blue launched, accounts pretending to be legacy verified users could be created. A fake Adam Schefter account tweeted that the Las Vegas Raiders had fired head coach Josh McDaniels. Users who saw the “Adam Schefter” Twitter name went with the news without looking more closely at the “@AdamSchefterNOT” handle. But there was a blue checkmark next to the name this time!
The same thing occurred with a fake LeBron James account tweeting that the NBA superstar had requested a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers. There was a “@KINGJamez” handle, but a “LeBron James” Twitter name with a blue check next to it.
Whether it’s because fans and media have become more discerning or Twitter has done good work cracking down on such fake accounts, there haven’t been many outrageous examples of deliberate deception since last November. But the potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.
If that seems like an overstatement, it’s a very real possibility that there will be an erosion of trust among Twitter users. Media and fans may have to take a breath before quickly tweeting and retweeting news from accounts that may or may not be credible. False news and phony statements could spread quickly and go viral across social media.
Even worse, Musk has announced that only verified Twitter Blue accounts will be seen in your “For You” timeline as of April 15. (He can’t claim it’s an April Fools’ Day joke on that date.)
Obviously, that carries far more serious real-world implications beyond sports. Forget about a fake Shams Charania account tweeting that Luka Dončić wants to be traded to the Lakers. It’s not difficult to imagine a fake Joe Biden account declaring war on Russia and some people believing it’s true because of the blue checkmark.
We may be nearing the end of Twitter being a reliable news-gathering tool. If the accounts tweeting out news can’t be trusted, where’s the value? Reporters and newsmakers may end up going to other social media platforms to break stories and carry the viability of verification.
When Fox Sports’ website infamously pivoted to video in 2017, Ken Rosenthal posted his MLB reporting on Facebook prior to joining The Athletic. Hello, Instagram. Will someone take their following and reputation to a fledgling platform like Mastodon, Post, Spoutible, or BlueSky, even if it means a lesser outlet?
If and when that happens, Twitter could still be a community but not nearly as much fun. Not when it becomes a matter of trust that breaks up the party.
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at email@example.com.
There’s a Lesson For Us All in Florida Atlantic’s Elite 8 Broadcast Struggle
“It is a ton of faith our industry has been forced to place in a single mode of delivery.”
Ken LaVicka and Kevin Harlan probably don’t have a ton in common. Both of them were announcing an Elite Eight game over the weekend, that is one thing tying them together, but their experiences were wildly different. Harlan is on CBS with a production crew numbering in the dozens making certain all goes smoothly. LaVicka, the voice of the Florida Atlantic Owls, is a production crew himself, making certain those listening in South Florida heard the Owls punch their Final Four ticket. At least, that was LaVicka’s plan.
The Florida Atlantic Owls are going to the Men’s Final Four. Even while typing that sentence, it still seems odd to say. Do you know how many college basketball teams are thinking “how can Florida Atlantic make the Final Four and we can’t?” These are the types of stories that make the NCAA Tournament what it is. There is, literally, no barrier stopping any team from this tournament going on the run of their life and making it all the way.
Everyone listening in South Florida almost missed the moment it all became real for the Owls. With :18.6 to go in Florida Atlantic’s Elite Eight game against Kansas State, the Madison Square Garden Ethernet service to the front row of media seating went completely dark.
It was on that row that Ken LaVicka was painting the picture back to South Florida. Well, he was until the internet died on him.
Nobody does a single show away from their home studio anymore without trying to avoid the nightmare of Ethernet failure. Gone are the days of phone lines and ISDN connections, all the audio and video is now sent back to the studio over the technological miracle that is the internet. It is a ton of faith our industry has been forced to place in a single mode of delivery.
Take that anxiety and multiply it by 1,000 when that Ethernet line is connected to a Comrex unit for the most important moment of your career. LaVicka had the great fortune of a Kansas State timeout to try something, anything, to save the day. In his quick thinking, he spun around and grabbed an ethernet cable from row two which, as it turns out, still had internet access flowing through it’s cables. That cable, though, was the equivalent of an iPhone charging cord; never as long as you need it to be.
One of LaVicka’s co-workers from ESPN West Palm held the Comrex unit close enough to the second row for the cable to make a connection and the day was saved. LaVicka was able to call the last :15 of the Florida Atlantic win and, presumably, get in all the necessary sponsorship mentions.
It was an exciting end to the FAU v. Kansas State game, a great defensive stop by the Owls to seal the victory. LaVicka told the NCAA’s Andy Katz he tried to channel his inner Jim Nantz to relay that excitement. The NCAA Tournament excitement started early this year. In the very first TV window 13 Seed Furman upset 4 Seed Virginia with a late three pointer by JP Pegues, who had been 0-for-15 from beyond the arc leading up to that shot. It is the type of play the NCAA Tournament is built upon.
It was called in the manner Kevin Harlan’s career was built upon. Harlan, alongside Stan Van Gundy and Dan Bonner, called the Virginia turnover leading to the made Furman basket with his trademark excitement before laying out for the crowd reaction. After a few seconds of crowd excitement he asked his analysts, and the world, “Did we just see what I think we saw? Wow!” Vintage Kevin Harlan.
One reason we are so aware of what Harlan said, and that he signaled his analysts to lay out for the crowd reaction, was a CBS Sports tweet with video of Harlan, Van Gundy and Bonner in a split screen over the play. It gave us a rare look at a pro in the middle of his craft. We got to see that Harlan reacts just like he sounds. The video has more than six million views and has been retweeted more than 6,000 times, a lot of people seem to like it.
Kevin Harlan is not in that group. Harlan appeared on Richard Deitsch’s Sports Media podcast after the video went public and said he was embarrassed by it. Harlan added he “begged” CBS not send the tweet out but to no avail. Harlan told Deitsch “I don’t know that I’m glad that they caught our expression, but I’m glad the game was on the air. I think I join a chorus of other announcers who do not like the camera.”
There’s a valuable announcer lesson from Harlan there; the audience is almost always there for the game, not you. Harlan went on to describe the broadcast booth to Deitsch as somewhat of a sacred place. He would prefer to let his words accompany the video of the action to tell the story. Kevin Harlan is as good as they come at his craft, if he thinks that way, there’s probably great value in that line of thought.
We can learn from LaVicka, as well. You work in this business long enough and you come to accept technical difficulties are as much a part of it as anything. They always seem to strike at the worst times, it is just in their nature. Those who can find a way to deal with them without everything melting down are those who can give their audience what they showed up for. Those who lose their mind and spend time complaining about them during the production simply give the audience information they don’t really care about.
The Final Four is an unlikely collection of teams; Miami, San Diego State, Connecticut and Florida Atlantic. You all had that in your brackets, right? Yep, the Florida Atlantic Owls are going to the Final Four and Ken LaVicka will be there for it. Now, if the internet will just hold out.
Ryan Brown is a columnist for Barrett Sports Media, and a co-host of the popular sports audio/video show ‘The Next Round’ formerly known as JOX Roundtable, which previously aired on WJOX in Birmingham. You can find him on Twitter @RyanBrownLive and follow his show @NextRoundLive.