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Here’s To The Fans, Who Are Dearly Missed

“Sports is back, with virus-related concerns and bizarre circumstances, and the eerie absence of spectators reminds us how vital they are to the energy of live event experiences.”

Jay Mariotti

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They never ask the fans, do they? Sports wants your life, your eyeballs, your disposable income, your first born and your unconditional loyalty through scandals and labor standoffs, but when an existential crossroads arrived in the devilish summer of 2020 — how, when and why sports should resume — did anyone ask you?

Say, how you might feel if mere days into the Major League Baseball restart, there already were fears of various COVID-19 outbreaks.

The games are back. The broadcasts are back. The commercials are back. The malcontents are back, including Lou Williams, who bolted the Disney World Bubble for a “family matter’’ that involved a rapper, a photo, an Atlanta gentlemen’s club and the risk of contracting and spreading the coronavirus and sabotaging the NBA season. The referee-baiting is back. The juiced-up home runs are back. Alex Rodriguez is back, tragically. Even the frat-boy code is back, with the Cubs and Brewers engaging in dugout-emptying trash talk oblivious to a virus that still rages across America and will continue to impact Bubble-less MLB — including the Miami Marlins, who delayed a trip home from Philadelphia after four players tested positive, and the Cincinnati Reds, who sent two regulars home after a teammate tested positive.

Yet, through the early blur of sport’s doubtful resumption, let’s pause, take a breath and ponder this: Can we honestly declare that “Sports Are Finally Back’’ — as rhapsodized in a Bud Light ad that runs as often as A-Rod flubs a fact — when the spectators aren’t back? As an entertainment function, is this not closer to “The Walking Dead’’ than an exercise gauged by daily standings? Are these stadiums and arenas … or sensory deprivation tanks?

Whether it’s baseball opening in spookily desolate parks or NBA players swallowed by court-length neon LED boards inside a video chamber, the absence of energy is numbing. This is the point in time when everyone should acknowledge that fans, always the bastard children of the industry, are vital to the live event experience and never should be taken for granted again. For as long as I’ve been writing and commenting on sports, they’ve been perceived as necessary evils — tolerated by athletes and coaches, trivialized by media and patronized by owners who periodically toss the stock go-to bouquet, “Our fans are the best in the world.’’

A's: Matt Olson hits walk-off grand slam in Opening Day win over Angels –  The Reporter

But after taking in underwhelming, low-buzz scenes in what should have been electric moments — faint echoes of “Celebration’’ after Matt Olson ripped a walk-off grand slam in Oakland, or a Wrigley Field slumber as Kyle Hendricks finished a complete-game shutout — it’s obvious no amount of piped-in crowd noise or life-sized cardboard cutouts can put lipstick on the pandemic pig. We don’t want to hear balls banging off the Green Monster; we want to hear Red Sox fans thrilled that balls are banging off the Green Monster. We don’t want to hear Max Scherzer grunting “goddammit’’ as Giancarlo Stanton launches a mistake pitch almost 460 feet; we’d rather hear the groans of Nationals fans and roars of Yankees fans.

“When Stanton hit the ball out of the stadium, you kind of miss hearing those oohs and aahs,’’ said Aaron Judge, Stanton’s fellow Bronx Bomber.

And if Kike Hernandez delivered a memorable quip about kid Dodgers pitcher Dustin May — “He wasn’t nervous or intimidated by the amount of cardboard we had in the stands tonight,’’ he said — come on, I want real butts in those seats, not cartoonish mannequins that mock what the men in uniforms are taking seriously.

Admit it, sports: The fans not only are missed dearly, their involuntary sabbatical has undeniably diluted the return of games in America. The sounds, the smells, the buzz, the beer, the concourses, the cityscapes — without the surrounding vitality, what is this, exactly? The pandemic has robbed sports of its spark, its essence, and if you don’t believe it, consider the weirdness at Wrigley.

Video: Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo gives Orlando Arcia hand sanitizer

Know how cool it was to see Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo offer a splash of hand sanitizer to Milwaukee’s Orlando Arcia, who accepted? Well, the mood quickly grew feisty, as Rizzo was plunked in his next at-bat in what became a succession of purpose-pitch tit-for-tats over two games, leading Cubs star Javy Baez, who had been hit on the arm, to jump over the dugout railing. Next thing you knew, Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain was saying he doesn’t care about MLB protocol prohibiting fighting, that he’ll be ready to rumble regardless of social-distancing violations. “I think this is going to be part of this season. I mean, the dugouts can hear each other and umpires can hear everything,’’ Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “There’s talking that goes on in a game that you never hear with fans here.’’

A part of me wants to hear that talking. But in this case, I miss the fans much more. I’ve been at Wrigley during on-field fracases, and without fury in the stands — fueled by differences between large-market Chicago and an inferiority-ridden town 90 miles to the north — this felt like a bar argument across the street at the Cubby Bear.

No doubt the visuals are uplifting, if not historical and miraculous. We are watching the world’s greatest athletes competing again in famed stadia and dazzled-up gyms in Orlando. We are mesmerized once more by Mike Trout, LeBron James and — would you believe, Yoenis Cespedes? NFL camps are opening this week, somehow, though the league remains a longshot to survive COVID-19. The NBA Bubble really starts to blow up Thursday, without Williams. The NHL Igloos launch in Canada a few days later. Golf, soccer, NASCAR and the lunacy spun by Dana White have been online for weeks. And didn’t we all laugh and crack wise when Dr. Anthony Fauci nearly hit the Washington Monument with his ceremonial first pitch, which he could have attributed to an act of physical distancing if he wasn’t busy explaining why he wasn’t wearing a mask while watching the game in the barren stands. “I had my mask around my chin. I had taken it down. I was totally dehydrated and I was drinking water, trying to rehydrate myself,’’ said Fauci, who is starting to make me nervous.

In so many unimaginable ways, there is a renewed and refreshing sense of familiarity, if not normalcy, and even if the virus sabotages leagues and shuts down seasons before they end, at least we were privy to glimpses. Still, this isn’t sports as we know it, nowhere near it. A game cannot be played in a studio, like the taping of a TV sitcom. What makes it explode is the convergence of humanity — lavishly compensated athletes and the fans who cheer/boo them — within an emotionally charged pit. Some teams are going big on booming music and effects, such as the La La Land Dodgers, who had organist Dieter Ruehle blast out “Welcome Back’’ and let him rev up fitting tunes during lulls: “Zombie’’ and “Enjoy The Silence.’’ Tropicana Field actually sounded louder with no fans, thanks to revved-up gimmicks, than it does amid the smattering of people who show up for Tampa Bay Rays games. Other teams have opted for the sounds of silence, with the Nationals choosing not to use organist Matthew Van Hoose, who moved his Viscount organ to a nearby Buffalo Wild Wings — where only a couple of voices in a sparsely populated bar sang along to “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.’’ In Houston, the organist foolishly played the opening beats of an age-old rally starter — Dun-dun-dun-DUN-dun-DUN! — when no one was in the stands to yell, “CHARGE!’’

Turns out the resumption of sports isn’t a diversion from the virus.

It’s a creepy, incessant reminder of life as we’ve never known it.

Dodgers beat Giants in delayed opener to a unique season – San Bernardino  Sun

“There’s a lot of strange going on right now,” said Justin Turner, the Dodgers third baseman. “This is a day that if I’m being completely honest, I wasn’t 100 percent certain we were going to see happen this year. The fact that we are here, the sacrifices and choices and responsibility that players across the league have taken to ensure we’re getting to this opening day, it’s unbelievable.”

Said Oakland pitcher Chris Bassitt: “I think we as athletes kind of took the fans somewhat for granted before all this. I think the majority of us have realized the true value of a fan, especially at the game. The energy that every game has is just drastically different. It’s just, it’s very awkward. It really is.”

Baseball’s 60-game regular season and the NBA’s seeding-games-plus-postseason sprints both have shotgun feels. But the novelty of Sports In a Pandemic, which could be a sequel to “Snakes On a Plane,’’ will give way at some point to a slog. How will the players find motivation? How many will want to bolt the Bubble like Williams, who not only must serve a 10-day quarantine — and miss three regular-season games for a messy Clippers team — but now has hundreds of players worried that he caught the virus in a strip joint, even if he claims he was just eating dinner there. And how will the poor fans, confined to their homes, remain engaged enough to keep watching on TV? Just because games are back doesn’t mean they’re all going to be well-played, right? And won’t baseball get boring in a hurry because, um, the players still aren’t in a hurry? Now more than ever, MLB should be quickening the pace of play so players have minimal time at the ballpark to reduce health risks. So why were players in damp uniforms cramming together in clubhouses during a two-hour rain delay in D.C.? Why not examine the radar and quickly declare Gerrit Cole and the Yankees as winners, which eventually happened? Why did we see a Summer Camp exhibition game last almost four hours?

Oh, for the same reason MLB suddenly thinks it has solved the COVID-19 crisis: by simply downplaying it and pretending a positive test is an ankle sprain. Yep, Juan Soto, only the best player in the lineup of the defending champion Nationals, tested positive for the virus last Tuesday, meaning he was exposed to teammates during an exhibition game that evening, then worked out with the same teammates Wednesday before learning of his positive sample the next day. Only two weeks earlier, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo had ripped MLB for lengthy delays in test results. Now, he was uttering cringeworthy sports jargon.

“Next man up, let’s go,’’ RIzzo said. “You feel bad for him. He’s a great player. The fans want to see him. And it affects our lineup. But what can you do about it? You’ve got to play ball.’’

Watch: Freddie Freeman already in Gold Glove form with stunning double play  | Yardbarker

Actually, you didn’t have to play ball. MLB could have postponed the game and avoided another potential crisis: Nationals personnel that had been exposed to Soto were exposed to Yankees personnel. All Nationals players tested negative following Soto’s positive, the team said, but should we believe that? Why would MLB, which lies about everything, be truthful about an outbreak that instantly would trigger cries to shut down a team or a season? Nationals, Braves, Reds, Marlins — each day brings a new team with a COVID-19 problem, causing players to miss valuable time in a short season, if not eventual widespread panic in the sport. “There’s no such thing as a common cold anymore,’’ said Braves star Freddie Freeman, just back from an evil bout with the Corona. “If you have symptoms, this is what’s going to happen. You’re going to miss three to four days. Not just to us — it’s going to happen to probably every single team.”

Said Marlins manager Don Mattingly, explaining the travel delay “We’re talking about these guys traveling back home to their families and their kids, and it’s the reason we wanted to be safe.’’

But hey, ESPN is desperate for programming, knowing the Opening Night telecast would average a big number (four million viewers) and deflect headlines from the daily Bristol soap operas. And MLB was back-burnering the virus to push its business envelope, daring to announce an expanded postseason. The so-called commissioner, Rob Manfred, didn’t want the positive test of a star player reopening the central questions: Why are you playing baseball during a pandemic? And why are you playing at five parks in California, where testing sites — such as one at Dodger Stadium — are dealing with crippling supply shortages? And while on the subject, why is Manfred letting players break protocol with post-victory hugs, close dugout proximity and arguments between managers and umps?

Does Manfred realize many of America’s four million COVID-19 patients are bothered by serious symptoms for months, if not years? That includes people in their 20s and 30s, the age groups of almost all MLB players. Or is he too busy accepting congratulatory phone calls from the networks?

Shaw Sports Turf | LinkedIn

The players say they’re up to the monumental challenge of dodging the virus and trying to win games in quietude. But no matter how young, strong and resilient they are, they’re human beings. They thrive on fan noise and interaction. What if they wilt, burn out? “It’s going to take a lot of focus,’’ said Marlins CEO Derek Jeter, who, as a New York icon, was saluted by regular fan chants in the first inning. “The team that is focused the most and shows the most discipline ultimately is going to be the team that’s standing at the end of the season. It is going to take you back to playing summer ball when you were in grade school and high school. It’s going to take you back to your true love of the game. It will be a challenge to focus.”

“I think it’ll be more of a challenge once we settle into the regular season,” Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle said. “What happens when you get into the rest of August and you start to fall into that routine? There’s so many times you get into those dog days of summer and there’s a monotony, it starts to get really monotonous. And there are nights where the fans really carry you through the game. They help you through an outing. They help you snatch a come-from-behind victory.”

One gimmick that won’t help — any of us — is Fox’s computer-generated virtual crowd. Animation-based tech allows the network to control how fans react (500 possibilities from a high-five to the dreaded Wave), how they’re divided in percentages of team allegiance and even how they’re dressed according to the weather. I’d be more impressed if Cleatus The Robot joined A-Rod and Terry Bradshaw in a mascot race (I should be careful what I wish for). When Fox isn’t airing NFL content, it’s a non-player in sports TV, forcing bosses to rely on attention-grabbing stunts. What’s peculiar is that the first several rows behind home plate and most other sections are empty, giving a true impression of an empty ballpark — until we see these virtual imposters squeezing together in certain sections.

Of course, none are wearing masks or socially distancing.

“It’s not like we are trying to make people feel like there is a crowd there,” Fox executive Brad Zager told the New York Post.

Then what exactly is the purpose?

Chris Broussard: Joakim Noah was a pro in Clippers scrimmage win over Magic  | FOX Sports

As usual, the NBA has a better chance of getting it right, turning three Disney facilities into TV experiences. Still, despite music, a barking p.a. announcer and “DEE-FENSE,’’ chants, along with creative camera angles and practical innovation for home viewers, the Bubble dearly misses the energy that defines any game night. Hopefully, commissioner Adam Silver scraps the idea of 300 virtual fans watching games on 17-foot video boards, even if they include players’ family members. See: dumb Fox idea. The NBA might yet create a miracle in Orlando, but it can’t recapture its common arena experience. “There’s no crowd energy, so the energy is going to have to come from the players,” said the Clippers’ Joakim Noah.

Look, I get it. Leagues and broadcast networks are trying to survive a horrific, unprecedented catastrophe. If they manage to complete half the games the rest of this year, I’ll be amazed. I just want everyone to know — executives, athletes, TV people, everyone — that it wasn’t only about you all these decades.

It was about the paying customers, the ones that keep you in business and support your wealthy lifestyles. And you might want to thank them for continuing to pay attention, amid a pandemic, instead of trotting out virtual crowds and cardboard cutouts that only seem to insult them.

BSM Writers

Colorado Hiring Deion Sanders Will Be Constant Gift for College Football Media

“If Coach Prime achieves the same sort of success that he did with the Tigers, he will be far more than a curiosity. Sanders will be a disruptor.”

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Deion Sanders quickly made it clear why the University of Colorado chose him to be its next head football coach.

Coming off a weekend in which the four College Football Playoff teams were announced and all of the other bowl-eligible teams accepted their invitations, Colorado — which went 1-11 this past season — made news for hiring Sanders, the former NFL star who was phenomenally successful at Jackson State.

The media that covers college football and sports as a whole should be thrilled that the Buffaloes program decided to take a big leap for attention and notoriety. Sanders is a bold, risky hire. But he’s also been successful in virtually every venture he’s taken. “Primetime” had a Hall of Fame NFL career and also played Major League Baseball. And he’s a master at drawing attention to himself.

During his first meeting with his new team, Sanders made sure to mention that he has Louis Vuitton luggage to make the point that some of his Jackson State players are coming with him to Boulder — including his son, quarterback Shadeur Sanders. Nick Saban and Kirby Smart probably don’t cite luxury fashion when explaining to their players that they’ll have to compete for starting positions.

Coach Prime will not be boring to cover. (That self-appointed “Coach Prime” title, which was on his name plate at his introductory press conference, is a big clue there.) He never has been. This is a man who said during the 1989 NFL Draft, after being selected No. 5 overall by the Atlanta Falcons, that if the Detroit Lions had selected him at No. 3, he “would’ve asked for so much money, they’d have had to put me on layaway.”

Even if he doesn’t win as much as Colorado hopes, Sanders will pursue top talent — players who want to perform on a larger stage than the FCS-level Jackson State allows — and impact athletes will be attracted to him. He got the No. 1 recruit in the nation, cornerback and wide receiver Travis Hunter, to play for him. (Hunter is following his coach to Boulder.) Now that Sanders is at an FBS school in a Power 5 conference, more stars will surely come.

But if Coach Prime achieves the same sort of success that he did with the Tigers — going 27-5 in three seasons, including a 12-0 campaign in 2022 — he will be far more than a curiosity. Sanders will be a disruptor. And he’ll get the attention that such figures typically draw from media and fans. According to the Denver Post‘s Sean Keeler, at least 400 people attended what felt more like a celebration than a press conference.

Coach Prime wasn’t going to just win the press conference, which is what any school and fanbase want when a new coach is introduced.

If Colorado wanted someone to sit at a podium, and give platitudes like “We want to win the Pac-12 and get to the College Football Playoff,” “We’re going to build a program with young men you’ll be proud of,” or “It’s time to restore Colorado to the football glory we remember,” Sanders isn’t the guy for that.

“Do I look like a man that worries about anything? Did you see the way I walked in here? Did you see the swagger that was with me?” Sanders said during his introductory presser. “Worry? Baby, I am too blessed to be stressed. I have never been one for peer pressure. I put pressure on peers. I never wanted to worry, I make people worry. I don’t get down like that. I am too darn confident. That is my natural odor.”

To no surprise, Sanders announced his presence in Boulder with authority. He had cameras following him as he met with Colorado players for the first time. How many other coaches would have recorded what many would see as a private moment for posterity and post it online?

Sanders caused a stir by putting his players on notice. He warned them he was coming, telling them they’ll be pushed so hard they might quit. He told them to enter the transfer portal and go someplace else if they don’t like what he and his staff are going to do.

That candor, that brutal honesty surprised many fans and media when they saw it Monday morning. For some, that message might have felt too familiar. How many in media — or many other industries — have worried about their job status when a new boss takes over? What may have seemed secure days earlier is now uncertain.

But how do we know other coaches haven’t said something similar when taking over at a new job and addressing their team? We just hadn’t seen it before. But Sanders has been in the media. He knows social media. He understands controlling his own message and telling his story.

Sanders also knows what kind of value he brings to any venture he takes on. How many people would have left an NFL Network gig for Barstool Sports? But Sanders went to where his star would shine, where he was the main show, where he could be Deion Sanders. Maybe he’ll have to turn that down just a bit at Colorado. But athletic director Rick George knows who he hired.

Colorado could have made a safer choice, including previous head coaches Tom Herman, Bronco Mendenhall, or Gary Patterson. A top assistant from one of this year’s Playoff contenders — such as Georgia’s Todd Monken, USC’s Alex Grinch, Alabama’s Bill O’Brien, or Michigan’s Sherrone Moore — could also have been an option.

But what fun would that have been? What kind of tremor would Colorado have created in the college football news cycle? How much attention would a more conventional hire have received? Yes, Sanders has to recruit and win. However, if the objective was to make Colorado football a talking point again, that’s been accomplished.

There could be some friction too. Sanders has already been criticized for being a champion of HBCUs, only to bolt for a mainstream Power 5 program when the opportunity opened. (To be fair, other columnists have defended the move.)

At Jackson State, Sanders tried to control local media when he didn’t like how reporters were addressing him or covering a story. Last year during Southwestern Athletic Conference Media Day, he balked at a Clarion-Ledger reporter addressing him as “Deion,” not “Coach,” insisting that Nick Saban would’ve been shown that respect. Earlier this season, Sanders admonished a school broadcaster (and assistant athletic director) for speaking to him more formally on camera than he did off-camera.

Will that fly among Boulder and Denver media, or the national college football press? It’s difficult to imagine. Maybe Sanders will ease back on his efforts to control reporters within a larger university environment, metropolitan area, and media market. But we’re also talking about Deion Sanders here. He doesn’t bend to outside forces. He makes them bend to him.

Sanders’ stint in Boulder — whether it lasts the five years of his contract and beyond, or less than that — will not be dull. There could be no better gift for the media covering Colorado football. Or college football, a sport already full of bold personalities, eccentric to unhinged fanbases, and outsized expectations. Coach Prime will fit right in.

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BSM Writers

The Media Is Finally Strong Enough To Take On The Rose Bowl

“The whole Rose Bowl organization is stuck in a black and white TV world. The future playoff is Marty McFly stepping out of a Delorean and the Rose Bowl is the Enchantment Under the Seas Dance.”

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I am a sucker for packaging. Take me to a grocery store and show me a uniquely packaged sauce or condiment or waffle syrup and I’ll give it a try just based on bottle size or design. The one packaging ploy that has vexed me is the “biggie size” at the local drive through. I’m always interested in the largest drink possible but don’t necessarily want a grain silo full of fries passed through my window. The College Football Playoff is going “biggie sized” in 2024 and I’ll take all of that I can get.

The College Football Playoff Committee made official last week what had long been speculated, that the four-team playoff field would increase to 12 teams starting with the 2024 season. This was an inevitable move for money and access reasons. The power conferences and Notre Dame stand to gain significantly in TV revenue and the “non-power” conferences finally get the consistent access they have long craved.

What may have finally pushed the new playoff over the finish line was the end of an ultimate game of chicken between college football powers and the Rose Bowl.

There is a scene from the movie The Hunt for Red October when the rogue Russian nuclear submarine is trying to avoid a torpedo from another Russian submarine. The American captain, aptly played by Scott Glenn, tells Jack Ryan; “The hard part about playing chicken is knowing when to flinch.”

The Rose Bowl finally flinched.

The only thing that delayed an earlier move to this new world was the insistence of the Rose Bowl Game to cling to the bygone era of the antiquated bowl system. Only in college football could an organization that runs a parade hold such outsized influence but, until recently, the Big Ten and PAC 12 gladly enabled their addiction to a specific television time slot.

Dan Wetzel is a Yahoo! Sports National Columnist, he also wrote the book Death to the BCS which laid out a very early argument for dumping the bowl system for a Playoff.

“The single hardest thing to explain to people is that the Rose Bowl and its obsession of having the sunset in the third quarter of its game was a serious impediment to a billion dollar playoff,” Wetzel wrote. 

Wetzel makes the point that simply moving the game up one hour would’ve helped the playoff TV schedule immensely, “They were adamant that they get to have an exclusive window on New Year’s Day, the best time of all, not only would they not give that up but they wouldn’t even move it an hour earlier (to help Playoff television scheduling) because then the sun would set at halftime.  It was so absurd but for a lot of years they got so much protection.”

We may never know what it was that finally forced the Rose Bowl to play ball with the rest of the college football world. There are many possibilities, not the least of which was the presence of SoFi Stadium just down the road. The College Football Playoff committee could have always taken the bold step of scheduling games at SoFi, in the Los Angeles market, opposite the Rose Bowl TV window to try to squeeze them out.

It is also possible the Rose Bowl scanned the landscape and realized that, if a 12-team playoff already existed, their 2023 game would’ve been Washington (10-2) versus Purdue (8-5). That shock of reality came with the understanding Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Utah and USC would enthusiastically choose a 12 team playoff bid over a Rose Bowl invite. That was the future the Rose Bowl faced with the departure of USC and UCLA to the Big Ten and the 12 team playoff gobbling up the top remaining PAC 12 teams.

I have proposed that theory to many people in the college football world and have received some version of this response from many of them: “They really wouldn’t care who is playing as long as they can still have their parade.”

That is one of the issues at play here; in many ways, the whole Rose Bowl organization is stuck in a black and white TV world. The future playoff is Marty McFly stepping out of a Delorean and the Rose Bowl is the Enchantment Under the Seas Dance.

One other possibility is that the television executives of the major networks, primarily FOX, may have put the pressure on the Big Ten and Pac 12 to have a little less interest in keeping college football stuck in the late 1970’s. It makes sense, FOX has nothing to gain by the Rose Bowl keeping influence. Fox may have everything to gain by getting a media rights cut of the future playoff. Many believe FOX was a driving force behind USC and UCLA bolting to the Big Ten. If that much is true, pressing for less Rose Bowl influence is child’s play.

No matter what was the catalyst to the expanded playoff, it worked and the fans benefited. College football is moving into a brave new world all because the college football powers finally stood up to the old man yelling at the clouds.

Turns out, it was all a game of chicken. And the Rose Bowl flinched.

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BSM Writers

Andrew Perloff Learned From The Master of Sports Radio on Television

“I think I’m really lucky because I went from a really fun and supportive place in the Dan Patrick Show and have now transitioned into what I would also call a very fun and supportive place at CBS Sports Radio/Audacy.”

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It’s a fact of life that not everybody loves their job. To have a job that you love and have fun at is pretty special. For Andrew Perloff, life is good.

“I’m just watching so much sports during the week,” said Perloff. “I don’t come up for air watching sports and I love that.  And the fact that we get paid to sit on the couch for 72 hours…oh my God…it really is the best job in the world.”

That job is being the co-host of Maggie & Perloff weekdays from 3pm to 6pm eastern time on CBS Sports Radio and simulcast on CBS Sports Network. Perloff was an on-air personality on The Dan Patrick Show beginning in 2009 before making the switch to CBS Sports Radio for the new show with Maggie Gray that launched this past January.

And so far, the move has worked out.

“I’m really happy,” said Perloff. “I think I’m really lucky because I went from a really fun and supportive place in the Dan Patrick Show and have now transitioned into what I would also call a very fun and supportive place at CBS Sports Radio/Audacy. I miss the DP Show but I love my new co-workers. (Vice President of Programming) Spike Eskin and (New York Market President) Chris Oliviero have been great. We get a lot of support and a lot of help from those guys and they’ve made the transition so much easier.”

When a new radio program begins, chemistry between the hosts is vital to the success of the growth and success of the show. In the case of Maggie & Perloff, they had an existing friendship from their time working together at Sports Illustrated. 

And that relationship is certainly evident to the listeners.

“I’m having a great time with Maggie,” said Perloff who was an editor and contributing writer at Sports Illustrated and SI.com. “We knew each other pretty well at Sports Illustrated. We’ve been friends for a while now. I have gotten to know her a lot better through the show. It took a couple of months to really find our rhythm and get the show to where we wanted to get it.”

There has been a fun and evolving dynamic to the on and off-air chemistry between the hosts.  Perloff is from Philadelphia and a die-hard Eagles fan while Gray is a fan of the Buffalo Bills.  The Eagles have the best record in the NFC at 11-1 while the Bills are among the best teams in the AFC at 9-3.

Perloff has come to understand just how much Gray loves the Bills and there is a chance that their two teams could meet come February 12th in Arizona for Super Bowl LVII.

“She’s a very passionate Buffalo Bills fan,” said Perloff.  “I always knew that, but to actually sit there on a daily basis and see her sweat out every detail about the Buffalo Bills has been a lot of fun.  We’re keeping our fingers crossed that we’re on a collision course for the Super Bowl and we’re already trying to figure out a Super Bowl bet.”

The easy wager to set up would involve food.

If the Bills win, Perloff would have to give Gray some Philly cheesesteaks.

If the Eagles win, Gray would have to furnish Perloff with some Buffalo Wings.

But it appears as if management wants there to be more at stake for the potential bet.

“Our boss wants us to do something more severe,” said Perloff. “The truth is I’m an Eagles fan so I’ve already won my Super Bowl. Maggie, on the other hand, has no idea what that feels like. I almost feel sorry for her because it’s tough being a Bills fan.

“We have a pretty big rivalry with our team because she’s a Mets fan and I’m a Phillies fan. We get along great expect for those areas.”

The Maggie & Perloff chemistry extends throughout the show and that includes producer Michael Samtur who has his own rooting interests.

Samtur is a fan of the New York Jets who are having a better-than-expected season.

“When the Jets win, I don’t want to see Mike on Monday mornings because he’s smiling so much,” said Perloff. “He’s an unbelievably cynical Jets fan…it’s hysterically funny.

“Mike is doing a great job. It’s really an all-hands-on deck show. I think we all sort of kind of wear each other’s hats at certain times.”

An added element to the show is that it is also simulcast on CBS Sports Network. If there’s one thing that Perloff learned from working with Dan Patrick — who also has a simulcast on television — is that the program is a radio show that just happens to have cameras in the studio. At the end of the day, it’s a radio show on television and not a television show on the radio.

“That’s also my philosophy,” said Perloff. “From a logistical standpoint, to do a good radio show you can’t really focus on the TV side of it. For us, the foundation of the base is to really focus on the radio show and the TV and video comes naturally after that.”

Perloff’s resume also includes writing and co-writing an assortment of magazine stories, books, and television shows while also hosting his own weekend show on NBC Sports Radio from 2016 to 2019. But it was working on The Dan Patrick Show where he learned an important aspect of being a talk show host that he continues to live by at CBS Sports Radio.

What he learned was that you just have to be yourself.

“Dan always wanted us to be authentic in the sense that don’t try to be someone you’re not,” said Perloff. “Don’t try to come up with hot takes just for the sake of hot takes. When you listen to Dan Patrick on the radio, you’re really hearing Dan. He’s not a radically different person off air.”

This is a huge time of the year for sports radio. 

The NFL’s regular season is winding down and college football is heading towards bowl season and the College Football Playoff. Throw in the NBA, college basketball, NHL, and the World Cup and there’s so much going on in the sports world to talk about. 

Perloff can’t get enough of it.

“I love it so much,” said Perloff. “College football is just huge right now. When we bring up a college football story, the phone lines just light up which I think is a reflection of the growing interest in that sport. This is the best time of the year. It’s incredible.”

As Maggie & Perloff head towards their first anniversary on the air, there are goals and expectations heading into 2023. The show has grown tremendously over the course of the first year and while that may have occurred faster than expected, the hope is that the trend continues.

“I’ve been a little surprised by how fast the audience has grown and our connection with the audience,” said Perloff. “One of the great things about The Dan Patrick Show was the community feel with the show and all of the listeners. That’s definitely growing with us and I’d like to see that really take off next year. It makes it so much more fun when you’re doing the show and everybody is along for the ride.”

It’s been a great ride so far and it should be interesting to see what happens if that ride includes an Andrew Perloff vs Maggie Gray Super Bowl matchup in February. It’s not even because the breakdown of Eagles vs Bills would be fascinating but the audience wants more.

That Super Bowl bet would certainly be intriguing.   

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