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As Humans Fight To Survive, Baseball Fights Over … Money?

“Jay Mariotti writes that baseball isn’t as essential to our lives as we thought.”

Jay Mariotti

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If not for years of plummeting TV ratings, 3 1/2-hour games that defy 21st-century life, an electronic sign-stealing scandal that didn’t punish guilty players, a juicing/dejuicing of balls that smacks of institutional cheating akin to PED use, marketing failures that reduce Mike Trout to a niche endorser and a sleepy reality that few people under 50 give a damn, then, sure, we could accept a syrupy premise: Resuming baseball would provide a spiritual and symbolic lift to a country still largely trapped in isolated misery.

But, to be blunt as a beanball, this is a sport in slow, clumsy decline, incapable of engendering the hope so potent when it served as a soothing pastime amid previous crises. And as Covid-19 continues to take lives and scramble coronavirus hotspots like a game of whack-a-mole, baseball isn’t endearing itself to the masses anyway. Yep, owners and players actually are engaging in the same labor warfare that repulses fans in normal times, much less during the medical catastrophe of our time. Given the existential option of billionaires vs. millionaires — pandemic version — or being droplet-assaulted in a grocery store by a maskless serial sneezer, you know what?

I just might choose Aisle 9.

The Doors and R.E.M. are warming up, ready to ponder the apocalypse. Here we have Dr. Donald J. Trump, ignoring warnings from Dr. Anthony Fauci and the World Health Organization that deadly consequences await if the American economy reopens too quickly. Here we have the predictable emerging whistleblower, the former chief of a federal agency responsible for developing a coronavirus vaccine, warning of “the darkest winter in modern history.’’ Here we have one nation, under God, quite divisible by those who care about precaution and staying safe and those who want to throw Spread The Virus parties with no regard for human life. Yet like some reality-deaf hybrid of cats, dogs, Hatfields, McCoys, Scorpions, Sub Zeroes, Krees, Skrulls, Trumpers and anti-Trumpers, the basebrawlers prefer to resume their age-old duel over revenues at the worst imaginable moment.

MLB Owners Approve 2020 Season Proposal - Betting News

The owners want players to accept a 50/50 split in an 82-game season, beginning in early July, that would feature geographical pods and expanded playoffs … the players say they’ve already agreed to prorated salaries based on the number of 2020 games played … the owners say an absence of paying customers will cost them 40 percent of total revenues … the players don’t want a salary cap and don’t trust the owners, never have, and want to them to open the financial books to see how much teams make from lucrative media deals … the owners order a purpose pitch thrown at union leader Tony Clark.…and one of the game’s prominent pitchers, Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell, becomes the first of no doubt many players to say he’ll sit out this season under the revised financial terms.     

“Just not worth it,’’ Snell told followers while answering questions on his Twitch channel. “Y’all gotta understand, man, for me to go — for me to take a pay cut is not happening, because the risk is through the roof. It’s a shorter season, less pay. No, I gotta get my money. I’m not playing unless I get mine, OK? And that’s just the way it is for me. Like, I’m sorry you guys think differently, but the risk is way the hell higher and the amount of money I’m making is way lower. Why would I think about doing that?”

And all the while, there’s a sense the owners aren’t as headstrong about the most critical issue of any resumption-of-sports discussion: preventing virus outbreaks and keeping all players and employees safe. Major League Baseball is preparing a document addressing safety and health protocols, reports USA Today, and players and team personnel will be required to take regular tests for the virus — and also will be asked not to spit, extend high-fives, sign autographs, take photos with fans or use ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft. But with hospitals, laboratories and nursing homes in hard-hit areas still plagued by test shortages, how can MLB and other leagues, in good conscience, hoard kits and deplete public supplies just to salvage some of their lost billions?

Do the painful math: Dozens of players, managers, coaches, doctors, trainers, groundskeepers, security officers, clubhouse attendants, cooks and other support members — in a league of 30 teams — would need to be routinely tested during a season that could last five months. I don’t care if teams purchase kits from private vendors; those tests should be prioritized for patients and doctors who need them. This also applies to the NBA, which weighs whether to resume its season within an isolated “campus’’ in Las Vegas and/or Orlando, and entities that either are returning or leaning that way: NASCAR, the PGA Tour and Major League Soccer.

The incremental reopening of America likely will lead to a new wave of the virus — “needless suffering and death,’’ says Fauci — that makes the resumption of sports even more delusional and ill-advised. But baseball commissioner Rob Manfred and the owners, contrary to the measured and health-first mandate of NBA commissioner Adam Silver, refuse to hear anything except the eerie silence of locked ballpark turnstiles. This has led to unfortunate back-and-forth crossfire this week, with the players who are taking the health risks — jeopardizing themselves and family members upon returning from home ballparks each night — being attacked by critics with obvious connections to management agendas.

Skipping over Illinois schools, J.B. Pritzker takes aim at budget ...

Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker has the owners of Chicago’s two MLB franchises, Jerry Reinsdorf and Tom Ricketts, on speed dial. Think it was simply coincidence when he launched this bomb: “I realize that the players have the right to haggle over their salaries, but we do live in a moment where the people of Illinois and the people of the United States deserve to get their pastime back — to watch, anyway, on television. If they’re able to come up with safety precautions, as has been suggested by Major League Baseball, that works, I hope the players will understand that the people of our United States need them to recognize this is an important part of leisure time that all of us want to have in the summer: to watch them play baseball, to root for our favorite teams. We need that back. We need that normalcy. I must say I’m disappointed in many ways that players are holding out for these very, very high salaries and payments during a time when I think everybody is sacrificing.’’

Next time, the governor might try doing homework. The players are not “holding out for these very, very high salaries.’’ The owners, in fact, are attempting to extract more from the Players Association after the union already agreed in March to reduced compensation for a coronavirus-limited season. Sadly, we are subjected to this distasteful rhetoric anyway, amid what might be our most daunting life challenge as a collective society. The world might cease to exist tomorrow, but, hey, at least the owners will have made the players look like bad guys again.

“It feels like the conversation about an MLB restart has shifted to the economic issues and that’s really frustrating,” tweeted Nationals closer Sean Doolittle, among the most vocal of players firing back. “Until there’s a vaccine, let’s focus on keeping everyone as safe as possible & minimizing the risks so we can play baseball again.”

Which followed this tweet from a Doolittle feed worth following: “Bear with me, but it feels like we’ve zoomed past the most important aspect of any MLB restart plan: health protections for players, families, staff, stadium workers and the workforce it would require to resume a season. We need to consider what level of risk we’re willing to assume.”

The outspoken Reds pitcher, Trevor Bauer, was bound to weigh in, calling the owners’ stance “laughable” in a video. “The ask is basically: Take more risk by getting back sooner and take less pay. We’ve already agreed to take … a 50 percent pay cut, and now they’re asking us to take another pay cut,” he said, adding in a tweet, “Same song and dance from @mlb. Leak a story. Negotiate through the media. Make players out to be the bad guys.’’

He ended with gusto: “GTFO.” Feel free to translate.

World Series Champion & Three-Time All-Star Mark Teixeira Joins ...

You might know my feelings on this topic: It’s unconscionable to resume sports in a pandemic until the people in uniform know they’re safe beyond doubt — and with no vaccine or cure in sight, they will not be safe. I just expected civil discourse under unprecedented circumstances, not Tonya Harding’s goon whacking Nancy Kerrigan. The hypocrite award goes to ESPN analyst Mark Teixeira, who made more than $200 million during his big-league career yet thinks the players should agree to another financial haircut. Manfred himself couldn’t have made a better argument.

“Players need to understand that if they turn this deal down and shut the sport down, they’re not making a cent,” Teixeira said. “I would rather make pennies on the dollar and give hope to people and play baseball than not make anything and lose an entire year off their career.

“This is unprecedented in the history of the Players Association. And every other year, I would stand together and say, `The owners aren’t going to do this to us and we’re going to get paid our full fare. If I’m going to put myself out there, I’m going to get paid a full day’s wage.’ The problem is you have people all over the world taking pay cuts, losing their jobs, losing their lives. Front-line workers putting their lives at risk. These are unprecedented times, and this is the one time I would advocate for the players accepting a deal like this. A 50-50 split of revenues is not that crazy. If I’m a player, I don’t like it, but I’m going to do whatever I have to do to play and that means taking this deal.”

So, if I’m hearing correctly, the players should bear the entire financial burden of bolstering the American psyche AND take all the health risks? And if they don’t, they’re the dirty rats? We’re actually doing this dance during a pandemic? Teixeira, it should be noted, works for a bleeding sports network that is all but performing mass prayer sessions every night for the return of sports. Think he didn’t hear “Attaboy’’ a few times this week in Bristol? He also heard from the other side. “I refuse to judge someone I don’t really know off of one comment, but damn this statement is just so stupid lol,” Dodgers pitcher Alex Wood tweeted about Teixeira.

The owners and their management underlings, of course, wouldn’t be going anywhere near a ballpark this season. They’ll be ensconced in virus-proof vaults, chatting with relieved accountants. Never mind the numerous MLB players more vulnerable to the virus because of preexisting health conditions, including cancer survivors and heart patients. “There’s no way I want to get sick and bring it home to our 18-month-old girl and possibly get her sick,’’ A’s pitcher Jake Diekman, who has autoimmune deficiencies related to colitis, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Jessica Cox Wiki (Mike Trout's Wife)

We haven’t even considered Trout, whose wife, Jessica, is due to give birth to their first child in August. He already is on record as telling NBC Sports: “What am I going to do when she goes into labor? Am I going to have to quarantine for two weeks after I come back? Obviously, I can’t miss the birth of our first child.’’ MLB can’t conduct a realistic season if Trout is away for an extended period, or if he chooses not to play at all.

And what happens when inevitably, as seen in Dana White’s hellbent push to stage UFC 249, an athlete tests positive? White didn’t blink after Ronaldo “Jacare’’ Souza and two of his cornermen had to be sent home, proceeding with spectator-less shows on Saturday and Wednesday and not seeming to care about a virus outbreak in his Florida quarantine bubble. Remember, this is the man-child who said, “I don’t give a sh-t about the coronavirus.’’ Would White even come clean if there were multiple positive tests? Wouldn’t he cover it up to protect his business?

MLB and the NBA, neither a rogue operation such as UFC, have to be transparent to maintain the public trust. But MLB has had trouble with the truth in various scandals, and it scares me when Manfred and the owners shamelessly drag money into the bigger equation. If they are capable of this much, will they be completely honest about testing protocols and results? When players test positive — and they will — will MLB insist on continuing the season and risking virus breakouts? If so, money would be the driving force, not safety, and that is abhorrent.

Take me out to the ballgame, where it’s OK to spare lives if owners and TV networks can squeeze in their abbreviated season.

Coronavirus: South Korea declares highest alert as infections ...

All anyone needs to know about the coronavirus is South Korea. And I don’t mean those wee-hours KBO games aired by ESPN, where cardboard cutouts serve as fans and the first ball arrived from a kid inside a rolling bubble. The world had praised that country for beating back the virus, to the point of reopening schools, returning to offices and resuming sports. But bars and nightclubs also were reopened, foolishly, and a 29-year-old man who went clubbing came down with Covid-19. That quickly, more than 100 others tested positive, prompting another mass shutdown as Seoul awaits the dreaded second wave.

As the good doctors say, it takes only one positive test to unleash the pandemic monster. Somehow, that harrowing truth has eluded billionaire owners who’d rather talk money than medical sense. Thus, with twisted priorities that don’t reflect the mood of a national emergency, baseball isn’t as essential to our lives as we thought.

Actually, we’re better off without it. As if a Mariners-Padres game in an empty ballpark really could improve your life.

Jay Mariotti, called “the most impacting Chicago sportswriter of the past quarter-century,’’ is the host of “Unmuted,’’ a frequent podcast about sports and life (Apple, Podbean, etc.). He is an accomplished columnist, TV panelist and radio host. As a Los Angeles resident, he gravitated by osmosis to movie projects. He appears Wednesday nights on The Dino Costa Show, a segment billed as “The Rawest Hour in Sports Broadcasting.’’

BSM Writers

Beyond The Mask: Henrik Lundqvist Embraced 2nd Career in Sports Media

“It’s not a coincidence you see a lot of goalies working [on] panels and analyzing the game because that’s a huge part of playing in goal.”

Derek Futterman

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Plucking the strings of an acoustic guitar, Henrik Lundqvist found himself beneath the bright lights once again, poised to put on a worthy performance. Just as he aimed to stop pucks from going in the net as the star goaltender of the New York Rangers for 15 seasons, Lundqvist sought to captivate viewers as half of a musical duo featuring former NHL forward Paul Bissonnette.

Their performance of “Good Riddance” by Green Day was in tribute to Rick Tocchet, a former NHL on TNT studio analyst who recently departed the network to serve as interim head coach of the Vancouver Canucks.

Lundqvist serves as a studio analyst for TNT’s coverage of the NHL, breaking down players and teams throughout the broadcast and bringing his own unique style to the set. His pursuit of a post-playing career in sports media was no guarantee from the moment he retired in August 2021; in fact, he never intended to stop playing the game and competing for a Stanley Cup championship at that time.

During the 2019-20 season, Lundqvist had lost playing time to young goaltenders Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev, and by the year’s end, his deal was bought out by the team. In an effort to continue playing, Lundqvist signed a contract with the Washington Capitals – marking the first time in his NHL career that he would not step between the pipes for the Rangers.

Lundqvist never played a game for the team though, as it was discovered in a medical exam that he would need open-heart surgery to replace his aortic valve while also having an aortic root and ascending aortic replacement. One month after the successful five-hour operation, he was back on the ice rehabbing and attempting to make a full recovery – but a few months in, he began to feel unexpected chest pain. Following a medical checkup, Lundqvist was told he had inflammation around his heart caused by exertion. It was a significant setback that required him to step off the ice, take off his goaltender equipment and rest for several months.

After discussions with his family and friends, Lundqvist determined that the risk of taking the ice outweighed the rewards and officially stepped away from the game. Rather than conjuring hypothetical scenarios wherein he did not experience the misfortune and played for the Capitals, Lundqvist looked to the future amid the ongoing global pandemic and thought about how he could best enjoy his retirement.

“I was just mentally in a very good place,” Lundqvist said. “I didn’t have a choice; I guess that makes it easier sometimes when the decision is made because you can’t go back-and-forth – ‘Should I?’ ‘Should I not?’ Yeah, I wanted to play but it was just not meant to be for me.”

Before any definitive resolution on his future endeavors was made though, the Rangers announced that the team would retire Lundqvist’s No. 30 in a pregame ceremony during the 2021-22 season, making him just the 11th player bestowed that honor in franchise history. As a five-time NHL All-Star selection, 2011 Vezina Trophy winner, and holder of numerous franchise records, Lundqvist had the accolades to merit this profound distinction.

Moreover, he was an important component in growing the game of hockey and contributing to the greater community, serving as the official spokesperson for the Garden of Dreams Foundation and founder of the Henrik Lundqvist Foundation. He also was a two-time recipient of the organization’s prestigious Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, honoring the player “who goes above and beyond the call of duty.”

Throughout the night, attendees regaled Lundqvist with chants of “Hen-rik!” and were treated to flashbacks of some of his memorable career moments. The night was of monumental importance for Lundqvist, during which he expressed his gratitude to the Rangers’ organization, former teammates and fans. Then, Lundqvist — referred to as “The King” — promptly took his place among team legends beneath the concave ceiling of “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”

“When I look back at my career, I know, to me, it was all about preparation; how I practiced and how I prepared for each game at practice,” Lundqvist said. “There’s no regrets, and I hope people, when they think about how I played, [know] that it was 100% heart and commitment to the game.”

Before this ceremony though, Lundqvist and Rangers owner James Dolan had held several meetings with one another. The purpose of these conversations was to determine the best way for Lundqvist to remain involved with the team, its fans, and the community. In the end, he was named as a lead studio analyst on MSG Networks’ broadcasts of New York Rangers hockey before the start of the 2021-22 season: the start of his foray in sports media.

This past summer, Lundqvist negotiated a new deal with Madison Square Garden Sports and Madison Square Garden Entertainment in which he maintained his in-studio responsibilities while increasing involvement in other areas of its sports and entertainment ventures. In this new role, Lundqvist supports the business operations for both companies, assisting in digital content development, alumni relations, and partner and sponsor activities.

When Lundqvist is not in the studio or the office, he can often be found at Madison Square Garden taking in New York Rangers hockey, New York Knicks basketball, or one of the arena’s renowned musical performances. Usually, when he is in attendance, he is shown on the arena’s center-hung video board as an “NYC Celebrity” and receives a thunderous ovation from the crowd.

“The network is just part of it, but it feels great to come there,” Lundqvist said of Madison Square Garden. “Every time I go there – to see the people that I’ve known for so long – but also I love that place; I love The Garden. I think the energy [and] the variety of things that happen there is something I really appreciate. It feels really good to be a part of that.”

Sitting alongside former teammate and studio analyst Steve Valiqutte and sportscaster John Giannone, Lundqvist appears in the MSG Networks studios, located across the street from the arena, for select New York Rangers games. From the onset, he brought his allure and expertise to the set and appealed to viewers – so much so that national networks quickly began to take notice.

“I enjoy watching hockey [and] talking hockey, but the main thing to me is the team; the people that you work with,” Lundqvist said. “The guys on the panel [and the] crew behind. I really enjoy that part of it and having a lot of fun off-camera.”

One month later, Lundqvist was on his first national broadcast for the NHL on TNT where he and Bissonnette famously performed a cover of “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica that went viral on social media. It had been known that Lundqvist was a musician, famously performing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in his Rangers uniform to celebrate the end of the 2012-13 NHL lockout.

In fact, during his retirement ceremony, the Rangers gifted him with a custom-made guitar painted by David Gunnarsson, the same artist who used to paint Lundqvist’s goalie masks.

Aside from occasional music performances, Lundqvist brings an esoteric base of knowledge to the NHL on TNT panel as its only goaltender. Whether it be through player breakdowns, interviews, or dialogue with other analysts, Lundqvist has a perspective to which few professional hockey players can relate. There are various goaltenders among local studio panels surrounding live hockey game broadcasts, and Lundqvist is in a unique situation with MSG Networks in that he and Valiquette are both former goaltenders. Yet on Turner Sports’ national coverage, he is the only voice speaking to this different part of the game.

“It’s not a coincidence you see a lot of goalies working [on] panels and analyzing the game because that’s a huge part of playing in goal,” Lundqvist explained. “Yes, you need to stop the puck, but a huge part of being a goalie is analyzing what’s going on. We can never really dictate the play so you need to analyze what’s happening right in front of you.”

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NHL ON TNT STUDIO

In broadcasting at both the local and national level, Lundqvist is cognizant of the differences in each network’s studio programs. Lundqvist says appearing on the MSG Networks studio panel is more about being direct with the viewer, whereas the NHL on TNT views its panel as being conversational in nature. With Turner Sports, Lundqvist also asks his colleagues about the different teams around the league since he is most familiar with the Rangers both as a former player and studio analyst.

“I’m closer to the Rangers; I see more of what’s going on,” Lundqvist stated. “When you work [national] games, maybe you focus in on teams on the West Coast or [part] of the league you don’t see as often. You try to talk to the other guys on the panel and the crew and figure out things that are interesting about those teams.”

Hockey is a team sport, and Lundqvist felt grateful to play with his teammates and face his competitors over the years. Now as an analyst though, it is his job to analyze their games and critique them when necessary; however, he does not try to be excessively critical.

Lundqvist knows the trials and tribulations associated with the sport and can relate to scenarios many players face on a nightly basis. Therefore, he thinks about his own experience before giving an opinion, especially a critique, instantiating it with comprehensible, recondite knowledge and/or by recounting a similar situation.

“I’d much rather give them positive feedback obviously because I know it is a tough game,” Lundqvist said, “and sometimes it might look like an easy mistake, but if you can give the viewer a better explanation of why he did that, they might have a different view of that mistake.”

Now metaphorically being beyond the goalie mask, Lundqvist’s vision of the game has evidently shifted. He discerns just how intense the schedule is and the rapid pace of the game, axioms he was aware of while playing but inherently avoided thinking about. He has implemented his refined viewpoint of the game accordingly into his analysis, simultaneously utilizing the mindset and savvy he cultivated on the ice. It is, quite simply, a balancing act.

“I think people can be pretty quick to jump on guys and critique them,” Lundqvist said. “That’s where maybe you take an extra look and try to understand why it happened and give those reasons. I think that’s where it helps if you played the game [for] a long time and just love the game [because] you have a pretty good understanding of why guys react a certain way.”

The challenge tacitly embedded in the jobs of most studio analysts – Lundqvist’s included – is in presenting the information to the audience in a manner through which it learns without being confused. It is a delicate craft that takes time and genuine understanding to master, especially related to promulgating hockey analytics as Valiquette does on MSG Networks and within his company, Clear Sight Analytics.

“There’s a lot of educated viewers out there, but there’s also a lot of people that maybe don’t watch as much hockey,” Lundqvist said, “so you want to find that middle ground where you kind of educate both sides.”

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LUNDQVIST 4

By broadcasting both locally and nationally in addition to working in a specially-designed business operations role, Lundqvist is staying around the rink in his retirement while facilitating the growth of hockey. Despite the profusion of young talent, dynamic action and jaw-dropping plays, viewership of the sport on ESPN and TNT’s linear channels has dropped 22% from last season, according to a report by Sports Business Journal.

For Lundqvist though, he does not feel much has changed from playing regarding his responsibility to advance the reach and appeal of the sport. He played professionally for 20 years, beginning his career in his home country of Sweden, primarily in the Swedish Elite League (SEL). In the 2004-05 season, his final campaign before arriving in New York City, Lundqvist had won the award for most valuable player. Furthermore, he was recognized as the best goalie and best player, leading Frölunda HC to its second Elitserien championship in three seasons.

His NHL debut came five years after he was selected in the seventh round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Rangers but unlike many rookies over the years, he came polished and prepared to embrace the lights of Broadway. Following an injury to starting goaltender Kevin Weekes, Lundqvist was inserted into the starting lineup and, from that moment on, virtually never came out.

By the end of his first year, he had been named to the NHL All-Rookie Team and was a Vezina Trophy finalist for best goaltender. Additionally, he remains the only goaltender to begin his NHL career with seven consecutive 30-plus win seasons.

“I think the league is doing a great job of growing the game,” Lundqvist said. “In the end, it comes down to the product and right now, it’s a great product. I feel really good about, the best way I can, to promote the game [by] talking about it, but… it feels like I’ve been doing that for 20 years.”

One means through which Lundqvist attempts to grow the game is within the studio demos he performs with the NHL on TNT, displaying different facets of the game in a technical manner. The show also embraces the characteristics of their analysts and implements them in lighthearted segments, such as zamboni races, putting competitions, Swedish lessons and, of course, musical performances.

“I’m huge on mindset and the pressure,” Lundqvist said. “I love to talk about that type of stuff and give the viewer a better understanding of what goes through their heads. In terms of personality, I don’t know if I can say [that] I’m a serious guy because I love to have fun and laugh and do fun things.”

Lundqvist thoroughly enjoys what he is doing both locally and nationally, and he ensures he surrounds himself with people he wants to be around. There are plenty of other broadcast opportunities for former hockey players, such as moving into the booth as a color commentator or between the benches as a rinkside reporter. At this moment though, he is more focused on being immersed in his current roles, performing them to the best of his ability while ensuring he allocates time to spend with friends and family.

“I see myself more as an analyst in the studio more than traveling around and being in the rink,” he said. “I think that’s another thing with the schedule; it works really well with my schedule to have one or two commitments with the networks, but then I have other things going on in my life that I commit to.”

Plenty of comparisons can be drawn between playing professional hockey and covering the sport from the studio in terms of preparation and synergy. Yet the end result is not as clearly defined since “winning” in television is quantifiably defined as generating ratings and revenue. Undoubtedly, Lundqvist is focused on doing what he can to bolster hockey’s popularity; however, he also wants to enjoy this new phase of his career being around the game he loves.

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“In sports, you win or you lose,” Lundqvist explained. “With TV, you want to be yourself [and] you want to get your point out – but at the same time, if you do it at the same time you’re having a good time, I feel like that’s good TV.”

Once their careers conclude, many athletes think about pursuing a post-playing career and oftentimes end up taking on a role in sports broadcasting. On MSG Networks alone, there are plenty of former players who take part in studio coverage on live game broadcasts, such as Martin Biron of the Buffalo Sabres, Bryce Salvador of the New Jersey Devils, and Matt Martin of the New York Islanders. At the national level, Turner Sports employs Paul Bissonnette, Anson Carter, and Wayne Gretzky for its studio broadcasts, while ESPN’s top studio crew includes Mark Messier and Chris Chelios.

All of these former professional hockey players had an obligation to regularly speak with media members, answering questions about games and the season at large. Lundqvist maintained a professional relationship with journalists and beat reporters, and he most enjoyed taking questions when the team was doing well. Regardless of what the end result of a game was though, he had a responsibility to divulge his thoughts and, in turn, be subject to criticism and/or negative feedback.

His stellar career and persona all came from emanating a passion for the game – and it continues to manifest itself beyond the television screen. Listening to those passionate about the game discuss it usually engenders euphony and lucidity to viewers, analogous to the sound of the puck hitting the pads or entering the glove. It is a timbre Lundqvist created 27,076 times throughout his NHL career (regular season and playoffs) in preventing goals, and one he now aims to explain en masse.

“The reason why I kept going to the rink and put all the hours in was because I really enjoyed it,” Lundqvist said. “If you decide to go into media or whatever it might be, I think the bottom line is [that] you have to enjoy it and make sure you have good people around you.”

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BSM Writers

Should the NBA Nationalize Local TV Rights Like MLS?

The NBA’s upcoming rights negotiations will be this transformational idea’s first testing grounds.

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Diamond Sports has been anything but a diamond in the sports world. As subscribers leave cable and satellite for streaming services, companies are dropping RSNs nationwide because they are too expensive to carry. This has caused an impending bankruptcy for the company, which owns the local rights to dozens of sports teams nationwide. It is also putting the NBA, NHL, and MLB at major financial risk. 

In the short term, it is known that teams will still broadcast on their RSNs even if they aren’t getting the paychecks they were promised in previous rights deals. This will affect teams’ ability to pay players and could even create an unfair advantage among the haves of the sports world like the Yankees and Lakers and the have-nots. The NFL doesn’t face the same problems that the other leagues are facing because its rights have been nationalized.

With the NFL’s continued television dominance, college conferences also bundling up games together for more money, and the MLS guaranteeing themselves television revenue after packaging local and national rights together, could we see the other leagues follow suit? It is an option that is much easier said than done but it seems like we are moving closer to it becoming reality. 

The NBA’s upcoming rights negotiations will be this transformational idea’s first testing grounds.

The biggest problem the NBA and other leagues would face are that the local rights to all of its teams don’t expire at the same time. If the league were to sign a deal that included giving all local rights to a streamer, the amount which the league was getting paid would be very unique year after year. It would be crazy for a streamer to pay a huge chunk of money to the NBA all at once if the number of teams they have local rights to changes every year.

It would also be insane to pay an astronomical amount if the streamer is only getting the local rights to small-market teams like the Cavs and the Pistons. A major market team like the Lakers doesn’t renew their local rights until 2032. We’re still in 2023. How does that affect the league’s operating costs? 

The NBA would also have to figure out whether teams whose rights don’t expire yet deserve to be included in the pot of money garnered from selling local rights to a streamer. Whether they are or they aren’t, does it put each team at different competitive advantages and/or disadvantages when trying to acquire free agents or front-office personnel?

One of the most interesting puzzles to figure out is what influence a league owner like Washington’s Ted Leonsis has in this potential measure when all is said and done. Leonsis just acquired complete control of the regional sports network — currently named NBC Sports Washington — that broadcasts Wizards and Capitals games for millions of dollars, although the exact amount remains undisclosed.

What does Leonsis do with his network if his team’s games can no longer air there? Can his team opt out of participating in a potential league offering? Or if the games continue to air on his network but are simulcasted locally on the streamer that wins local rights on a national scale, does the streamer have the ability to pay less money for rights?

If so, does that make the deal as lucrative for the NBA? And what does that mean for retransmission fees that cable companies like Comcast pay to Leonsis and other RSNs they’re still carrying?

The league will face a similar problem with the Lakers, Bulls, Knicks and other franchises that either wholly own or partially own a part of the RSNs where they broadcast their games. 

I don’t have the answers to any of these questions which is why they are written here in this column. Unfortunately for the leagues, they don’t have the answers either. But if the NBA figures out a way to nationalize their product even more and make streaming games more appealing by ending local blackouts, it’ll benefit the game more than it hurts the game. 

NBA, NHL, and MLB games are still some of the highest-rated programs locally in many markets when you look at how they rate vs. other cable and broadcast offerings. But at this point, the ability to charge everyone for a program that only ten percent of subscribers are watching is a losing business proponent.

The leagues should start from scratch and sell a mass package of games for maximum profit. It gives fans a more centralized location to watch their favorite teams and puts the leagues on a much more steady path than where they could be headed sooner rather than later.

Diamond in the rough to sparkling jewel of light? Only time will tell.

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BSM Writers

Do You Have Affirmations Of Gratitude?

“We are told to be grateful for what we have and remember it could be worse. That feels like a really low bar, right?”

Jeff Caves

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Having gratitude for your life is all the rage. If you, like me, have trouble starting your day with positive affirmations and maintaining a positive outlook about your job, read on! 

We are told to be grateful for what we have and remember it could be worse. That feels like a really low bar, right? Here is another version. Try a few affirmations of gratitude instead.

“I HAVE A JOB.”

With interest rates rising, inflation increasing, and spending down; corporations are laying people off. PayPal laid off 7% of its entire workforce. Amazon let 18,000 go. Alphabet (Google) said goodbye to 12,000 jobs. Radio sales managers need to hire people like you – experienced sellers with a track record of bringing home the bacon. 

I AM A PROBLEM SOLVER.”

You solve a problem for your company when it comes to revenue. You know people, and you sell advertising better than anything they can come up with…so far. 

Yes, they are trying to replace you, but Zoom Info reports iHeart’s self-serve spot buying service,  AdBuilder, is doing under 5 million in business. You have time to solidify your value. Be happy you are the rainmaker. 

I WORK IN THE PEOPLE BUSINESS.”

Sports talk radio is the ultimate companion to millions of listeners. They aren’t robots, and your stations improve their lives by talking about what they care about 24/7. Celebrate selling access to callers, Twitter followers and FANS who go to games. You also get to work with local celebrities that everybody knows but you know best. We all need a connection to other people and want to be seen and heard. 

“I GET TO CHANGE HOW I FEEL ABOUT MYSELF.”

In this job, you determine your value, feelings about your work, and who you work with. You get to set a strategy and talk to the businesspeople you want to help and do business with. It’s like running your own business with a tremendous support staff. Try to do it independently, and you will appreciate accounting, traffic, production, and sales assistance. Those wins produce deposits in your bank account.  

I HAVE COMPETITION!”

That format competitor across the street does things differently and sometimes better than you or tries to imitate you and looks terrible. They motivate you to beat them to a new account or put a moat around your best clients so they can’t be touched. They keep you sharp and willing to try new things. Good competition schemes to take money from your station, and your management needs you to protect them. And they also provide a place for you to work one day. The FTC wants to eliminate non-competes so you can walk across the street this year.  

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Barrett Media Writers

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