Connect with us

BSM Writers

There’s Not One Answer Out There For Spencer Hall

“I feel like if you talk about what LSU has meant to people that follow LSU or if you follow the history of USC football in LA, you get some interesting stories that haven’t necessarily been covered as well or as closely””

Demetri Ravanos




Spencer Hall is currently unemployed.

Maybe the average sports fan doesn’t get how strange that is, but to Scott Van Pelt, it’s a truth he finds hard to accept.

“He’s completely unique,” SVP told me in an email. “Brilliant. Uproariously funny. Nobody sees things like he does.”

I grew up in Alabama. I went to the University of Alabama. Until 2016, I was very much one of those Bama fans – the type that couldn’t let any opposing fanbase feel joy or express team pride without feeling the need to remind them how superior my team was. That changed when I discovered Everyday Should be Saturday, the site that hosted Hall’s columns and his podcast, The Shutdown Fullcast.

“I had none,” Hall says when I asked him if he had any goals of changing the way fans thought about college football when he launched Everyday Should be Saturday fifteen years ago. “I just enjoyed writing. That was it. I finally found a way of saying what I wanted to say and a community all at the same time. That’s pretty great if you get that once or twice in your life, and I did!”

Hall and his community taught me to embrace the fact that college football is the dumbest sport on the planet. The culture surrounding it is unfathomable to those that didn’t grow up with it. That is what makes it so much damn fun to watch and talk about.

The real testament to Hall’s writing talent is when he throws a curve ball and blows your mind with the perfect, poignant metaphor. The perfect breakdown of the Tuscaloosa crowd’s response to Tennessee Vols defensive back Rashaan Gaulden giving them the middle finger was written by the same guy that intertwined Tom Waits’s “God’s Away on Business,” life in the Florida suburbs, and an iconic play from the 1993 Sugar Bowl to illustrate the moral compromise you have to accept in order to be a college football fan.

That play was Alabama safety George Teague running down Miami’s Lamar Thomas and stripping the ball away, when it appeared the Canes receiver was going to sprint into the end zone untouched. The play is iconic amongst the Bama fanbase, and the reality is that it didn’t count. A linebacker had lined up offsides, so while all of us that were in the Louisiana Superdome that night had just witnessed something amazing, while that highlight is shown over and over again in Bryant-Denny Stadium before every game, according to the record books, it never happened.

I told Hall that I have always thought that column was his masterpiece. He thanked me and then launched into an explanation of why that non-play resonates with fans that reminds why Bomani Jones said Spencer Hall’s voice is “all at once highly educated and rural Southern.”


“I think the reason people are so passionate in the sport is that it is anchored in a lot more than the sport itself. I think those moments themselves are often free floating in people’s memories and don’t really budge when in fact they are tied to very specific things and very specific people in your life,” Hall says. “College football isn’t the only place that happens, but it happens particularly in college sports because the communities are closer, the locales are often smaller and/or less well-defined. They’re less covered territory than what capital-letter mass media tended to write about, you know?

“We all know how New York felt about Joe DiMaggio in the 1940s and 50s because there was an entire apparatus pointed at it. I feel like if you talk about what LSU has meant to people that follow LSU or if you follow the history of USC football in LA, you get some interesting stories that haven’t necessarily been covered as well or as closely”

He has a different favorite column though. Hall points to a piece he co-authored alongside Holly Anderson that featured the duo sending up a past ESPN trope of debating “what is most now”.

Hall called those kinds of debates “the foundation for the rotten, confrontational talking head type vibe that dominates how we talk about sports now.” Not only did it feel good to goof on them, but it felt good to notice others enjoying those tropes being goofed on.

“It’s just a dialog with some kind of oddball photoshop thrown in. It was the first time when I thought ‘Oh goodness, this is extremely fun, and other folks seem to think so too.’”

If the Covid-19 pandemic has given us anything, it is time. In Hall’s case, it is what led to the furlough from Vox Media and SB Nation that then turned into him taking a buyout. He says that has given him a chance to think. Like anyone else, he is eagerly awaiting the return of sports, but it’s not the action on the field he misses most.

“The value in it for me is talking about them in the community and the connection. I think that’s the thing that gets really addictive. It’s the connection with readers or listeners, or the people that follow you for the exact cash value of zero dollars on Twitter.”

For Hall, sports and college football in particular, will always be a vessel. He describes it as using the sport “as a side door” to the story he really wants to tell or the point he really wants to make. College football seems to be the sport perfectly built for that style of writing.

“What he gets so well about [college football] is that it is a decidedly human thing. What is interesting about it is all the weirdos that are surrounding this thing,” ESPN’s Bomani Jones says of Spencer Hall. “This is an industry that is fueled by regular people that take their hard-earned money and give it to the football team, not necessarily for tickets. Like, they tithe to it!”

The next story Spencer Hall wants to tell is about college football. The vessel will be the Old West. He and three other writers that recently took buyouts from Vox Media have teamed up with artist Tyson Whiting to create The Sinful Seven: Sci-Fi Western Legends of the NCAA.

The Sinful Seven: Sci-fi Western Legends of the NCAA

It is an illustrated e-book that will use a Western motif to tell the story of the founding of the NCAA. The five are selling it using a pay-what-you-want model, which so far has been pretty successful.

“What makes this a lot of fun is the ties are already there,” Hall says of the project. “Calling something like the early days of college athletics and the foundation of the NCAA, something like the fall of the Old West, that’s not a stretch. That’s how frontiers usually go.  It starts with people doing whatever they want, then someone tries to establish an order and not necessarily doing that out of altruism.”

Hall is quick to give Whiting credit for where the book stands right now. He says that it is the illustrations that will make The Sinful Seven memorable.

“Tyson’s work is going to be the only one anybody remembers. People might as well know his name.”

Pre-orders for The Sinful Seven are just the latest piece of evidence of the devotion of Hall’s audience. When it was announced that he, Richard Johnson, Jason Kirk, and Alex Kirshner would be furloughed by Vox, advertisers Homefield Apparel and Cowbucker released special products to raise money for them. Hundreds of fans took to Twitter to directly call out Vox for not understanding what they had in Hall and his cohorts at the recently launched college football boutique site Banner Society.

That devotion, in addition to his talent, would make Spencer Hall an attractive addition for any sports media brand. It could also make it possible for him to find success on his own if he wanted to launch something on his own. He certainly has the talent to generate enough written and podcasting content to make whatever subscription price tag he settles on worth it to his fans.

Hall knows that the debate between starting his own platform versus sending out résumés is one he’ll have to have with himself eventually. Sure, The Athletic just laid off a number of writers and ESPN talent have been asked to take pay cuts, but at some point those brands and others like them will be ready to hire again. When they are, Hall is likely going to be very high on everyone’s wishlist.

It’s rare to find a sports writer that turns to the wisdom of French Enlightenment era philosophers when thinking about their next move. Jason Whitlock didn’t mention relying on the wisdom of Descartes when he was asked about starting his own media brand. Clay Travis didn’t talk about Immanuel Kant when stories were written about the expansion of Outkick the Coverage. That’s where Hall is different.

“There’s an old story, often attributed to Voltaire, but that attribution isn’t exactly solid historically speaking,” he says. The story involves the night of the man’s death. A priest comes to his bedside and asks if he renounces Satan.

10 Things You Should Know About Voltaire - HISTORY

“In the story, the character, Voltaire or whoever it is, says ‘Now now now, this isn’t the time to be making enemies,'” Hall says and we share a laugh. “In terms of what’s next, whether you could do it independently or with a group of people or corporate partners, I don’t think there is one answer out there. That’s not just for me. That’s for everyone. It’s not an industry strong on stability right now, so keeping every imaginable platform or option imaginable that you can do is a real strong play across the board.”

What Hall has created in the past would be impossible to duplicate, even for him. His reputation both amongst his audience and his peers is such though that anyone interested in working with Hall knows that he is the type of talent that keeps you looking forward instead of back.

BSM Writers

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.”

Demetri Ravanos




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.”

Continue Reading

BSM Writers

Who Can Sports Fans Trust Once Twitter Ditches Legacy Verified Blue Checks?

The potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.

Avatar photo




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.

Continue Reading

BSM Writers

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.”

Avatar photo




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.

Continue Reading


Barrett Media Writers

Copyright © 2023 Barrett Media.