Smacker Wants To Be The Next Miles On The Sideline
“If you can’t get better from talking to someone, then it’s just a conversation. It’s not a step in the right direction.”
Interviewing a high-profile head coach after a game is nothing new to Smacker Miles. She’s done it for many years. Ever since she was a kid, she’s always had her own one-on-one time to ask the head coach at Oklahoma State, LSU and now, Kansas, anything she’s ever wanted to know about the game. Graciously, even though the questions were, at times, as basic as possible, the head coach has always treated each one with respect and given a thorough answer.
Les Miles is that head coach and Smacker is his daughter.
At the age of 10, Smacker Miles dressed up as a sports reporter for Halloween. Wearing her mom’s blazer and some random pants while holding a microphone, it was clear from an early age what her dream job was. Though she grew up with her father being in a high-pressure career field that often saw criticism from the media, Smacker Miles has never let negative attention deter her desire to pursue sports reporting as a career. For as long as she can remember, she’s always wanted to be where she grew up – standing on a football field.
But even when you grow up with certain aspirations in life, there’s always a moment where you find your reasoning as to why you truly want to do something. Smacker Miles had that exact experience during the 2016 football season. It just so happens it came from someone who’s now a role model.
“I’ll never forget what Maria Taylor did in 2016,” said Smacker Miles. ”She came to cover the LSU vs. Texas A&M game and it was when people were talking about my dad’s job. It was a very tough week for us. Maria came to town and on the sideline before the game, she said she really wanted to be here because she wanted to make sure that things were done right and that this story was told the right way. I remember that moment very clearly and being like, I know this is what I want to do and that’s why I want to do it.”
Though her full-time job is with a digital content company, Smacker Miles’ sports media career is quickly gaining steam. Since her dad took the head coaching job at Kansas last November, she followed him and the rest of the family to Lawrence where she now does freelance work for Jayhawk Insider through IMG. Smacker Miles can routinely be seen hosting videos through the official Kansas Football Twitter account with a Smack Talk feature that takes fans inside the football program with breakdowns and special access. It’s not standing on the sidelines as a reporter for the ABC Saturday Night Game of the Week but it’s still a good start for the 25-year-old.
But as great as it is for Smacker Miles to be able to do what she loves around her dad’s football team, there’s the obvious question of dealing with KU’s losses as a media professional. She’s not doing a postgame radio show or writing a column for the newspaper that has to be unbiased, but it’s still an interesting line to walk.
Sure, she’s seen her dad lose football games before but never as a member of the media covering the team he coaches. When Coastal Carolina left Lawrence last Saturday with a 12-7 win over the Jayhawks, it was the first instance of that exact scenario. So, with the unique situation, was it one of the tougher losses she’s had to endure?
“Honestly, no,” Smacker Miles said. “I’ve always been pretty involved with the teams, because when we were little, we would be forced to go to recruiting events even if we didn’t want to. So I’ve always seen the guys all the way from Junior Day to when they graduate or go to the NFL. The level of investment that you have in the game is obviously going to reflect your joy or disappointment from that game. I would say I’ve always been very bonded with the teams, so this one hurts but I think they all hurt very similarly.”
It’s situations such as these that make having a front row seat to your father’s job tough to deal with. But though there can be a small amount of bad, Smacker Miles has seen the good make up for it tremendously. It’s no surprise that it helps to be Les Miles’ daughter, especially when you have dreams and aspirations of being in sports media. Since her dad has coached in several high-profile games, it’s meant an opportunity to meet and interact with the best sideline reporters in the industry.
“I’ve come across so many inspiring women in that role and I don’t have a negative thing to say about a single one of them,” said Smacker Miles. “I’ve met Erin Andrews and she was strong, bold, inspiring and quick witted. She stood up for my little brother one time because he ran on the field when they were painting it. Someone yelled at him and she said, ‘stop yelling at him, he’s a little kid.’ She was awesome.
“Then there’s Holly Rowe, with the way she just lives her life. She’s just unbelievable. Every interaction with her, you have a story about, wow, she said this, or, she did that. She’s so humble.
“Recently I’ve made a connection with Lauren Sisler, who’s now with ESPN. I met her two years ago and she asked me for my number and then texted me. I just remember thinking, wow, I looked up to you so much and you want nothing from me and there’s only stuff that I can gain from you and you’re still looking out for me.
“And Sam Ponder. She had little Scout with her and I just remember looking at my mom and telling her this is what I want.”
The sideline reporter position has changed so much, in a positive way, over the past decade. What was once another male dominated position on the broadcast team, talented women such as Erin Andrews have helped pave the way in the sports media industry. Currently, the sideline reporter position is filled with more talented women than it’s ever seen.
Smacker Miles is just one of the many names that represents the next generation of talented women in sports media. To her, it’s not about the fame or the money. It never has been. It’s the challenge and the dream that keeps her pushing.
“I like the idea of preparing all week,” Smacker Miles said. “You’re not performing like I did athletically but still it’s the challenge and the motivation of knowing your stuff to be able to do well during the game. I did high school football last fall and that was the first time I actually got to try to do what I thought I wanted to do. You can’t say you want to do it until you’ve actually really done it, you don’t know. But I loved it and it was a great experience. It was a great level to start at because there’s a lot less ego involved in high school sports. Plus, the critics aren’t out too harshly when it’s local and its high school. To take in a game and be in a stadium and be paid to do it, that’s a dream.”
With media experience at The Longhorn Network during her college days at Texas and an internship with the Dallas Cowboys as a production assistant, for now, it’s about Smacker Miles waiting her turn and improving as a talent. Going back to having the advantage of being Les Miles’ daughter, her growth could be sped up due to the talented names in the industry she’s already formed a connection with.
“I like when people are very direct with me,” said Smacker Miles. “Tim Brando gave me a great reel critique in the sense that he was very direct, uplifting and kind, but also helped me make changes to it. If you can’t get better from talking to someone, then it’s just a conversation. It’s not a step in the right direction.”
From the outside, it seems Les and Smacker Miles have a unique father-daughter relationship. This was really evident when the two hosted the Les is More podcast with The Players Tribune during last football season. You usually don’t see a father and daughter hosting a college football podcast together, but the admiration and respect they have for one another really flowed and made for a great listen.
Though one is trying to resurrect a football program and the other is trying to reach the sidelines with a microphone in hand, it seems the two are working together to help achieve both of their goals. Smacker is not afraid to ask Les in-depth football questions and Les is not afraid to tell Smacker how to better use Twitter or get the media perspective on things.
Growing up in a house with a dad that’s won a national championship and two brothers who have played college football at Power 5 schools is only a blessing for Smacker Miles. That life experience has put her well-ahead of the curve in terms of knowledge of the game and will only help when her opportunity arises. Many have paved the way before her, but don’t be surprised to see another Miles in the spotlight of college football in the not-so-distant future.
“People would think, that, as a female, I would be competitive with the other females,” said Smacker Miles. “But I find myself literally cheering for the girls. If there’s an all-male crew I’ll be like, mom, they have three guys in the booth and one on the sideline (Laughs). I wouldn’t even say that I’m like really mad about it, but it’s just like, I find myself cheering for any female, even if it’s one that I’ve never seen before, because I know how nervous you are to be down there. But when there’s an all-male crew, I’m like, c’mon, I know there’s a girl somewhere that knows football.”
Tyler McComas is a columnist for BSM and a sports radio talk show host in Norman, OK where he hosts afternoon drive for SportsTalk 1400. You can find him on Twitter @Tyler_McComas or you can email him at TylerMcComas08@yahoo.com.
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.