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Why ‘Around The Horn’ Lost Its Mojo

“Rather than invest in a regular lineup of freewheeling panelists, a once-popular debate show now has a cattle call of contributors who’ve frittered away most of the show’s original audience.”

Jay Mariotti

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I’ve been writing about sports media since I was 21, when the Detroit News assigned me the beat because the bowling reporter didn’t want it. Meaning, I’ve been commenting on ESPN for ages, initially wondering why a network excavated a hole in obscure Connecticut soil to air racquetball, Irish hurling, tractor pulls and Australian Rules football.

So I don’t want to hear that I’m holding some TV-diva grudge against the place, like Rosie O’Donnell, based on a daily debate program I did there for eight years. In truth, I’m guessing ESPN folks are holding a grudge that I’m still writing about them — in their most turbulent and dysfunctional year to date — without having any idea how to contain me, much less stop me.

Which brings me to my former show, “Around The Horn,’’ and why it has gone into the crapper.

TBT: As Around the Horn turns 15, a look back at the very first show - ESPN  Front Row

From the first inquiry phone call of executive Jim Cohen in 2002 to our peak period at decade’s turn, when we routinely attracted 750,000 daily viewers and approached a million, I was front and center as a regular panelist. I was there when they gathered us for our inaugural meeting at the Carnegie Deli in Manhattan — Woody Paige, Bob Ryan, Tim Cowlishaw and T.J. Simers, along with producer Bill Wolff and host Max Kellerman — and the roof suddenly caught fire during lunch. Was it an omen? Of course, it was. Not two weeks into rehearsals, as I was jetting back and forth from Chicago to World Series games in California on no sleep, ESPN bossman Mark Shapiro decided we weren’t remotely ready to be unleashed upon the world, scrapping heavy-rotation promos that had us debuting in a few days. Simers destroyed the show in print and was booted. Paige didn’t study or prepare, as usual. Kellerman loathed the format of silencing panelists with a mute button when he didn’t like what we said, which was pretty much always. I was speaking in tongues, not sure which city I was in.

What do they say about spinoffs, that most last 13 weeks? As the follow-up to the celebrated “Pardon The Interruption,’’ featuring Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser, “Around The Horn’’ looked like it wouldn’t last 13 minutes. At some point, Kellerman and Wolff left for a show at Fox Sports, “I, Max,’’ that muted people with lasers … and lasted about 13 weeks. We held tryouts for a new host, including someone we knew as “Stat Boy.’’

His name was Tony Reali, though he looked more like a Jonas brother. Near the end of each “PTI’’ episode, he corrected the hosts’ factual errors. But he knew his sports. He was blessed with an optimistic attitude and patient equilibrium, rare in the media business. And after he was installed as permanent host, “ATH’’ settled into a steady rhythm, largely because he let panelists talk long enough to make a point and also let us debate issues, with me as the resident smartass who loved to antagonize Paige and strike smart, robust arguments. I’d make fun of his homespun mannerisms. He’d call me “Gibroni,’’ which didn’t bug me nearly as much as it upset Italian-American anti-defamation league members who complained to the Bristol honchos. Between periodic flare-ups and a racy New York Post headline — “Around The Horny’’ — that mocked him about a legal case that eventually was dismissed, Paige was a cartoon character. Yet that natural tension was the driving force of what made the show work. A day wouldn’t pass without a fan asking me, “Do you really hate Woody?’’ No, I didn’t hate Woody. I just didn’t like him that half-hour.     

Are you with me so far, as Don Henley would say?

Around the Horn Photos and Pictures | TV Guide

Every few months, the “ATH’’ producers would bring great news: Our ratings had soared yet again. The quarterly progress continued for years, with important, credible panelists such as Kevin Blackistone and Jackie MacMullan joining a tight lineup. The cheap shots taken by squirrelly media colleagues — I recall critic Richard Deitsch ridiculing our appearance, thinking he might want to look in the mirror — were disappearing into grudging acceptance that the show was a success at 5 p.m. Eastern, Monday through Friday. And I’d start to ask myself: Gee, if we’re the vital lead-in to “PTI,’’ and our ratings are getting up toward theirs, why aren’t we being paid the sizable sums that the “PTI’’ guys are paid?     

And therein lies the reason “Around The Horn’’ is in the crapper today: In Bristol, the show always was viewed as a junior-varsity warmup game. Eventually, a reliable, flourishing rotation of 4-to-8 voices swelled into a village of seeming dozens from all corners and crannies of ESPN. Ratings plummeted through the years, lucky to be above 220,000 now and dropping into the 100s some days, according to showbuzzdaily.com. In fairness, some decay should be attributed to cord-cutting/fragmentation, along with the ongoing pandemic, factors that have diminished ratings on many ESPN shows. Yet “PTI’’ has managed to keep a healthy chunk of its audience — before the pandemic and to this day. Why did one show maintain and the other free-fall?     

Because ESPN decided long ago that human parts were replaceable on “ATH.’’ If this cut against the sacred rule of daytime television — maintain familiarity, so viewers at home gradually perceive characters as family — the network preferred to reward Wilbon and Kornheiser with the bulk of compensation and pomp for back-to-back shows marketed to advertisers as “Happy Hour,’’ from 5 to 6 p.m., leading into the “SportsCenter’’ franchise. “ATH’’ was one-half of the late-afternoon pie, but the commitment never came close to matching the show’s impact in the peak years. I remember Cohen — who was let go by post-Shapiro management, though “ATH’’ was his brainchild — telling me, “No one in Bristol watches the show.’’     

Oh, so we make lots of money for ESPN but the big bosses don’t care to grasp why we click? I felt like a piece of burger blend. Welcome to TV.

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With the Daily Reali as the constant, “ATH’’ became a way station for personalities, many on a fast track to network stardom: Adam Schefter, Bomani Jones, Jemele Hill, Michael Smith among them. Each day brought new faces that might be completely different from yesterday’s faces, and at times, the same panelist on “ATH’’ might appear the same day on another ESPN program — or, in the case of Sarah Spain, her ESPN radio show. The consistency of a panel became less important than negotiating (X) number of “ATH’’ appearances into a personality’s multi-platform contract, many from Dan Le Batard’s stable of sycophants. A small number of panelists swelled to a cattle call of here-today, gone-tomorrow contributors. Hence, the ratings plunge, which forces a show such as “First Take’’ — starring Stephen A. Smith and Kellerman EVERY DAY — to carry the numbers and attention load for a network that needs all such programming to succeed.

Continuity feeds the essence of any debate show. When panelists are familiar with each other, there is a natural willingness to spar for a livelier and better presentation. Lineups that are tossed together on “ATH,’’ like lettuce and croutons at a salad bar, tend to make shows boring and stiff and too convivial, without the energy and purpose of the past. Recently, I saw Mina Kimes and Elle Duncan chuckle through much of a show, without the gravitas of appearances they make elsewhere at ESPN. If a sports team tried to win this way, it would finish in last place, and while “ATH’’ hasn’t tumbled that far — it can’t as long as FS1 has debate debacles that draw minuscule ratings — it certainly has lost its might and its mojo.     

As a show original, I hate seeing it.     

This month, I noticed panelist Pablo Torre — who has appeared on so many ESPN programs I’ve lost track, including his own canceled show — immersed in deep thoughts about China. As I’ve written repeatedly, ESPN should remove itself immediately from political discussions before it again alienates its core, sports-oriented audience, especially now that live games have resumed. The only reason the network would be discussing China, as observed in the infamous Woj Bomb dropped recently by NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski, is related to its $24-billion business partnership with the NBA. ESPN obviously wants to help the league rebuild relations with China’s Communist government after losing a possible $400 million in the fallout over Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s pro-Hong Kong tweet. But just as Wojnarowski was wrong to reply “F— you’’ to a Missouri senator with anti-China views, I’m not sure what a traditional “Around The Horn’’ viewer is getting out of China dialogue.     

The 7 Best Shows Of ESPN's Embrace Debate Era | Barrett Sports Media

Unless my old show, out of utter desperation, is trying to be as “woke’’ as other ESPN shows and segments.     

In which case, a zero might drop from its viewership number in no time.

BSM Writers

In Defense Of Colin Cowherd

“How did we get to this place where there are sites and Twitter accounts going through The Herd with a fine-toothed comb to create content out of ‘oh my god, look at this!’?”

Demetri Ravanos

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I don’t understand what it is about Colin Cowherd that gets under some people’s skin to the point that they feel everything the guy says is worth being mocked. I don’t always agree with a lot of his opinions myself, but rarely do I hear one of his takes and think I need to build content around how stupid the guy is.

Cowherd has certainly had his share of misses. There were some highlights to his constant harping on Baker Mayfield but personally, I thought the bit got boring quickly and that the host was only shooting about 25% on those segments.

Cowherd has said some objectionable things. I thought Danny O’Neil was dead on in pointing out that the FOX Sports Radio host sounded like LIV Golf’s PR department last month. It doesn’t matter if he claims he used the wrong words or if his language was clunky, he deserved all of the criticism he got in 2015 when he said that baseball couldn’t be that hard of a sport to understand because a third of the league is from the Dominican Republic.

Those missteps and eyebrow-raising moments have never been the majority of his content though. How did we get to this place where there are sites and Twitter accounts going through The Herd with a fine-toothed comb to create content out of “oh my god, look at this!”?

A few years ago, Dan Le Batard said something to the effect of the best thing he can say about Colin Cowherd is that he is never boring and if you are not in this business, you do not get what a compliment that is.

That’s the truth, man. It is so hard to talk into the ether for three hours and keep people engaged, but Cowherd finds a way to do it with consistency.

The creativity that requires is what has created a really strange environment where you have sites trying to pass off pointing and laughing at Cowherd as content. This jumped out to me with a piece that Awful Announcing published on Thursday about Cowherd’s take that Aaron Rodgers needs a wife.

Look, I don’t think every single one of Cowherd’s analogies or societal observations is dead on, but to point this one out as absurd is, frankly, absurd!

This isn’t Cowherd saying that John Wall coming out and doing the Dougie is proof that he is a loser. This isn’t him saying that adults in backward hats look like doofuses (although, to be fair to Colin, where is the lie in that one?).

“Behind every successful man is a strong woman” is a take as old as success itself. It may not be a particularly original observation, but it hardly deserves the scrutiny of a 450-word think piece.

On top of that, he is right about Aaron Rodgers. The guy has zero personality and is merely trying on quirks to hold our attention. Saying that the league MVP would benefit from someone in his life holding a mirror up to him and pointing that out is hardly controversial.

Colin Cowherd is brash. He has strong opinions. He will acknowledge when there is a scoreboard or a record to show that he got a game or record pick wrong, but he will rarely say his opinion about a person or situation is wrong. That can piss people off. I get it.

You know that Twitter account Funhouse? The handle is @BackAftaThis?

It was created to spotlight the truly insane moments Mike Francesa delivered on air. There was a time when the standard was ‘The Sports Pop’e giving the proverbial finger to a recently deceased Stan Lee, falling asleep on air, or vehemently denying that a microphone captured his fart.

Now the feed is turning to “Hey Colin Cowherd doesn’t take phone calls!”. Whatever the motivation is for turning on Cowherd like that, it really shows a dip in the ability to entertain. How is it even content to point out that Colin Cowherd doesn’t indulge in the single most boring part of sports radio?

I will be the first to admit that I am not the world’s biggest fan of The Herd. Solo hosts will almost never be my thing. No matter their energy level, a single person talking for a 10-12 minute stretch feels more like a lecture than entertainment to me. I got scolded enough as a kid by parents and teachers.

School is a good analogy here because that is sort of what this feels like. The self-appointed cool kids identified their target long ago and are going to mock him for anything he does. It doesn’t matter if they carry lunch boxes too, Colin looks like a baby because he has a lunch box.

Colin Cowherd doesn’t need me to defend him. He can point to his FOX paycheck, his followers, or the backing for The Volume as evidence that he is doing something right. I am merely doing what these sites think they are doing when Colin is in their crosshairs – pointing out a lame excuse for content that has no real value.

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BSM Writers

Even After Radio Hall of Fame Honor, Suzyn Waldman Looks Forward

WFAN recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, but that’s not something that Waldman spends too much time reflecting on.

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Yankees radio broadcaster Suzyn Waldman was at Citi Field on July 26th getting ready to broadcast a Subway Series game between the Yankees and Mets. A day earlier, Waldman was elected to the Radio Hall of Fame and sometimes that type of attention can, admittedly, make her feel a bit uncomfortable.

“At first, I was really embarrassed because I’m not good at this,” said Waldman. “I don’t take compliments well and I don’t take awards well. I just don’t. The first time it got to me…that I actually thought it was pretty cool, there were two little boys at Citi Field…

Those two little boys, with photos of Waldman in hand, saw her on the field and asked her a question.

“They asked me to sign “Suzyn Waldman Radio Hall of Fame 2022” and I did,” said Waldman.  “I just smiled and then more little boys asked me to do that.”  

Waldman, along with “Broadway” Bill Lee, Carol Miller, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, Ellen K, Jeff Smulyan, Lon Helton, Marv Dyson, and Walt “Baby” Love, make up the Class of 2022 for the Radio Hall of Fame and will be inducted at a ceremony on November 1st at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago.

Waldman, born in the Boston suburb of Newton, Massachusetts, was the first voice heard on WFAN in New York when the station launched on July 1st, 1987. She started as an update anchor before becoming a beat reporter for the Yankees and Knicks and the co-host of WFAN’s
mid-day talk show. In the mid 1990s, Waldman did some television play-by-play for Yankees games on WPIX and in 2002 she became the clubhouse reporter for Yankees telecasts when the YES Network launched.

This is Waldman’s 36th season covering the Yankees and her 18th in the radio booth, a run that started in 2005 when she became the first female full-time Major League Baseball broadcaster.

She decided to take a look at the names that are currently in the Hall of Fame, specifically individuals that she will forever be listed next to.

“Some of the W’s are Orson Wells and Walter Winchell…people that changed the industry,” said Waldman. “I get a little embarrassed…I’m not good at this but I’m really happy.”

Waldman has also changed the industry.

She may have smiled when those two little boys asked her to sign those photos, but Waldman can also take a lot of pride in the fact that she has been a trailblazer in the broadcasting business and an inspiration to a lot of young girls who aspire, not only to be sportscasters but those who want to have a career in broadcasting.

Like the young woman who just started working at a New York television station who approached Waldman at the Subway Series and just wanted to meet her.

“She stopped me and was shaking,” said Waldman. “The greatest thing is that all of these young women that are out there.”

Waldman pointed out that there are seven women that she can think of off the top of her head that are currently doing minor league baseball play-by-play and that there have been young female sports writers that have come up to her to share their stories about how she inspired them.

For many years, young boys were inspired to be sportscasters by watching and listening to the likes of Marv Albert, Al Michaels, Vin Scully, Bob Costas, and Joe Buck but now there are female sportscasters, like Waldman, who have broken down barriers and are giving young girls a good reason to follow their dreams.

“When I’ve met them, they’ve said to me I was in my car with my Mom and Dad when I was a very little girl and they were listening to Yankee games and there you were,” said Waldman. “These young women never knew this was something that they couldn’t do because I was there and we’re in the third generation of that now. It’s taken longer than I thought.”

There have certainly been some challenges along the way in terms of women getting opportunities in sports broadcasting.

Waldman thinks back to 1994 when she became the first woman to do a national television baseball broadcast when she did a game for The Baseball Network. With that milestone came a ton of interviews that she had to do with media outlets around the country including Philadelphia.

It was during an interview with a former Philadelphia Eagle on a radio talk show when Waldman received a unique backhanded compliment that she will always remember.

“I’ve listened to you a lot and I don’t like you,” Waldman recalls the former Eagle said. “I don’t like women in sports…I don’t like to listen to you but I was watching the game with my 8-year-old daughter and she was watching and I looked at her and thought this is something she’s never going to know that she cannot do because there you are.”

Throughout her career, Waldman has experienced the highest of highs in broadcasting but has also been on the receiving end of insults and cruel intentions from people who then tend to have a short memory.

And many of these people were co-workers.

“First people laugh at you, then they make your life miserable and then they go ‘oh yeah that’s the way it is’ like it’s always been like that but it’s not always been like this,” said Waldman. 

It hasn’t always been easy for women in broadcasting and as Waldman — along with many others — can attest to nothing is perfect today. But it’s mind-boggling to think about what Waldman had to endure when WFAN went on the air in 1987.

She remembers how badly she was treated by some of her colleagues.

“I think about those first terrible days at ‘FAN,” said Waldman. “I had been in theatre all my life and it was either you get the part or you don’t. They either like you or they don’t.  You don’t have people at your own station backstabbing you and people at your own station changing your tapes to make you look like an idiot.”

There was also this feeling that some players were not all that comfortable with Waldman being in the clubhouse and locker room. That was nothing compared to some of the other nonsense that Waldman had to endure.

“The stuff with players is very overblown,” said Waldman. “It’s much worse when you know that somebody out there is trying to kill you because you have a Boston accent and you’re trying to talk about the New York Yankees. That’s worse and it’s also worse when the people
that you work with don’t talk to you and think that you’re a joke and the people at your own station put you down for years and years and years.”

While all of this was happening, Waldman had one very important person in her corner: Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who passed away in 2010.

The two had a special relationship and he certainly would have relished the moment when Suzyn was elected to the Hall of Fame.

“I think about George Steinbrenner a lot,” said Waldman. “This is something that when I heard that…I remember thinking George would be so proud because he wanted this since ’88.  I just wish he were here.” 

Waldman certainly endeared herself to “The Boss” with her reporting but she also was the driving force behind the reconciliation of Steinbrenner and Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra. George had fired Yogi as Yankees manager 16 games into the 1985 season and the news was delivered to Berra, not by George, but by Steinbrenner advisor Clyde King.

Yogi vowed never to step foot into Yankee Stadium again, but a grudge that lasted almost 14 years ended in 1999 when Waldman facilitated a reunion between the two at the Yogi Berra Museum in New Jersey.

“I’m hoping that my thank you to him was the George and Yogi thing because I know he wanted that very badly,” said Waldman.

“Whatever I did to prove to him that I was serious about this…this is in ’87 and ’88…In 1988, I remember him saying to me ‘Waldman, one of these days I’m going to make a statement about women in sports.  You’re it and I hope you can take it’ (the criticism). He knew what was coming.  I didn’t know. But there was always George who said ‘if you can take it, you’re going to make it’.”

And made it she did.

And she has outlasted every single person on the original WFAN roster.

“I’m keenly aware that I was the first person they tried to fire and I’m the only one left which I think is hysterical actually that I outlived everybody,” said Waldman.

WFAN recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, but that’s not something that Waldman spends too much time reflecting on.

“I don’t think about it at all because once you start looking back, you’re not going forward,” said Waldman. 

Waldman does think about covering the 1989 World Series between the A’s and Giants and her reporting on the earthquake that was a defining moment in her career. She has always been a great reporter and a storyteller, but that’s not how her WFAN career began. She started as an update anchor and she knew that if she was going to have an impact on how WFAN was going to evolve, it was not going to be reading the news…it was going to be going out in the field and reporting the news.

“I was doing updates which I despised and wasn’t very good at,” said Waldman.

She went to the program director at the time and talked about how WFAN had newspaper writers covering the local teams for the station and that it would be a better idea for her to go out and cover games and press conferences.

“Give me a tape recorder and let me go,” is what Waldman told the program director. “I was the first electronic beat writer.  That’s how that started and they said ‘oh, this works’. The writers knew all of a sudden ‘uh oh she can put something on the air at 2 o’clock in the morning and I can’t’.”  

And the rest is history. Radio Hall of Fame history.

But along the way, there was never that moment where she felt that everything was going to be okay.

Because it can all disappear in a New York minute.

“I’ve never had that moment,” said Waldman. “I see things going backward in a lot of ways for women.  I’m very driven and I’m very aware that it can all be taken away in two seconds if some guy says that’s enough.” 

During her storied career, Waldman has covered five Yankees World Series championships and there’s certainly the hope that they can contend for another title this year. She loves her job and the impact that she continues to make on young girls who now have that dream to be the next Suzyn Waldman.

But, is there something in the business that she still hopes to accomplish?

“This is a big world,” said Waldman. “There’s always something to do. Right now I like this a lot and there’s still more to do. There are more little girls…somewhere there’s a little girl out there who is talking into a tape recorder or whatever they use now and her father is telling her or someone is telling her you can’t do that you’re a little girl. That hasn’t stopped. Somewhere out there there’s somebody that needs to hear a female voice on Yankees radio.”

To steal the spirit of a line from Yankees play-by-play voice John Sterling, Suzyn Waldman’s longtime friend, and broadcast partner…“that’s a Radio Hall of Fame career, Suzyn!”

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BSM Writers

No Winners in Pittsburgh vs Cleveland Radio War of Words

“As talk radio hosts, we often try to hold the moral high ground and if you’re going to hold that position, I can’t help but feel integrity has to outweigh popularity. “

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For nearly 18 months, we’ve known the NFL would eventually have to confront the Deshaun Watson saga in an on-the-field manner, and that day came Monday. After his March trade to the Browns, we also could more than likely deduce another item: Cleveland radio hosts would feel one way, and Pittsburgh hosts would feel another.

If you’re not in tune to the “rivalry” between the two cities, that’s understandable. Both are former industrial cities looking for an identity in a post-industrial Midwest. Each thinks the other is a horrible place to live, with no real reasoning other than “at least we’re not them”. Of course, the folks in Pittsburgh point to six Super Bowl victories as reason for superiority.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when news started to leak that a Watson decision would come down Monday. I was sure, however, that anyone who decided to focus on what the NFL’s decision would mean for Watson and the Browns on the field was in a no-win situation. As a former host on a Cleveland Browns radio affiliate, I always found the situation difficult to talk about. Balancing the very serious allegations with what it means for Watson, the Browns, and the NFL always felt like a tight-rope walk destined for failure.

So I felt for 92.3 The Fan’s Ken Carman and Anthony Lima Monday morning, knowing they were in a delicate spot. They seemed to allude to similar feelings. “You’re putting me in an awkward situation here,” Carman told a caller after that caller chanted “Super Bowl! Super Browns!” moments after the suspension length was announced.

Naturally, 93.7 The Fan’s Andrew Fillipponi happened to turn on the radio just as that call happened. A nearly week-long war of words ensued between the two Audacy-owned stations.

Fillipponi used the opportunity to slam Cleveland callers and used it as justification to say the NFL was clearly in the wrong. Carman and Lima pointed out Fillipponi had tweeted three days earlier about how much love the city of Pittsburgh had for Ben Roethlisberger, a player with past sexual assault allegations in his own right.

Later in the week, the Cleveland duo defended fans from criticism they viewed as unfair from the national media. In response, Dorin Dickerson and Adam Crowley of the Pittsburgh morning show criticized Carman and Lima for taking that stance.

Keeping up?

As an impartial observer, there’s one main takeaway I couldn’t shake. Both sides are wrong. Both sides are right. No one left the week looking good.

Let’s pretend the Pittsburgh Steelers had traded for Deshaun Watson on March 19th, and not the Browns. Can you envision a scenario where Cleveland radio hosts would defend the NFL for the “fairness” of the investigation and disciplinary process if he was only suspended for six games? Of course, you can’t, because that would be preposterous. At the same time, would Fillipponi, Dickerson, and other Pittsburgh hosts be criticizing their fans for wanting Watson’s autograph? Of course, you can’t, because that would be preposterous.

When you’re discussing “my team versus your team” or “my coach versus your coach” etc…, it’s ok to throw ration and logic to the side for the sake of entertaining radio. But when you’re dealing with an incredibly serious matter, in this case, an investigation into whether an NFL quarterback is a serial sexual predator, I don’t believe there’s room to throw ration and logic to the wind. The criticism of Carman and Lima from the Pittsburgh station is fair and frankly warranted. They tried their best, in my opinion, to be sensitive to a topic that warranted it, but fell short.

On the flip side, Carman and Lima are correct. Ben Roethlisberger was credibly accused of sexual assault. Twice. And their criticism of Fillipponi and Steelers fans is valid and frankly warranted.

You will often hear me say “it can be both” because so often today people try to make every situation black and white. In reality, there’s an awful lot of gray in our world. But, in this case, it can’t be both. It can’t be Deshaun Watson, and Browns fans by proxy, are horrible, awful, no good, downright rotten people, and Ben Roethlisberger is a beloved figure.

Pot, meet kettle.

I don’t know what Andrew Fillipponi said about Ben Roethlisberger’s sexual assault allegations in 2010. And if I’m wrong, I’ll be the first to admit it, but I’m guessing he sounded much more like Carman and Lima did this week, rather than the person criticizing hosts in another market for their lack of moral fiber. Judging by the tweet Carman and Lima used to point out Fillipponi’s hypocrisy, I have a hard time believing the Pittsburgh host had strong outrage about the Steelers bringing back the franchise QB.

Real courage comes from saying things your listeners might find unpopular. It’s also where real connections with your listeners are built. At the current time in our hyper-polarized climate, having the ability to say something someone might disagree with is a lost art. But it’s also the key to keeping credibility and building a reputation that you’ll say whatever you truly believe that endears you to your audience.

And in this case, on a day the NFL announced they now employ a player who — in the league’s view — is a serial sexual assaulter, to hear hosts describe a six-game suspension as “reasonable” felt unreasonable. As talk radio hosts, we often try to hold the moral high ground and if you’re going to hold that position, I can’t help but feel integrity has to outweigh popularity.

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