I don’t know many people who strive to be unaccepted. Most of us want to be welcomed and valued. It can be tempting to become a different version of yourself when facing criticism. But the only acceptance that truly feels good is being embraced for who you actually are. It’s something that Seattle sports radio host Stacy Rost knows all too well. That’s why she isn’t trying to repackage herself in order to fit into a box that others want; Stacy is here to be herself.
One of the biggest challenges Stacy faces is maintaining unwavering confidence in spite of negativity. Criticism is the archenemy of confidence. It’s like Giannis Antetokounmpo stepping to the free throw line as the opposing crowd collectively chants in an effort to throw him off. It isn’t easy to stay mentally focused, but it’s necessary. Stacy knows that in order to be at her best, she has to be carefree. She can’t be thrown off by trolls; dance as if no one is watching so to speak.
Stacy is very insightful. In our conversation the SeaTac, Washington native pinpoints an area in which many men in sports radio need to grow. It’s eye-opening to hear her description of how harmful a lack of interaction can be. Stacy also touches on how her nerves developed over time, and how her biggest strength and biggest weakness are tied together. (Oh, and props to her for being so patient with me. I’m much better at joining Zoom meetings than I am at starting them.) Enjoy.
Brian Noe: What teams did you grow up rooting for?
Stacy Rost: Being local, obviously the Seahawks. This is going to sound horrible being in sports radio; I wasn’t the biggest sports fan. I liked football, but it was never really explained to me. The extent to which it was explained to me was like “root for the blue guys”. Just basic, basic sports fandom, like obviously football being something that I think even casual sports fans are a fan of first. So that was me.
BN: How much catching up did you have to do to get to the level you’re at now in knowing the sport?
SR: Oh, a lot. A lot. I think it’s a somewhat non-traditional path, but I don’t think one that puts you at too much of a disadvantage. When I was about 17 or 18, I really got into sports, particularly college football and pro football but later obviously other sports as a way to kind of adjust to college. I would literally just sit and watch games and Google how many downs are in a football game? What’s offsides? What are all the teams? What are all of the positions on an offensive line? I would spend hours and hours and hours a week doing stuff like this. I think that even though sometimes I get a little self-conscious knowing that I was late to sports, for the last 10+ years I feel like I’ve thrown myself into feverishly learning everything I can about it.
BN: It’s funny because you might know more. Someone that grew up understanding the basics might not have researched the intricacies the way you have.
SR: I’m sure this is a feeling familiar especially with many women; it’s a little bit of an imposter syndrome where I never assume that I know anything. Sometimes that’s a hindrance because it hinders sometimes where confidence would be a great tool to have. Other times though it lets you kind of double check every single thing. Do I really know this rule, or do I want to make sure I look this rule up? I think it just makes you more prepared and more aware of how everything is because you never, ever, ever assume that you know.
BN: What are the expectations in Seattle in terms of a female host knowing her stuff? How does the market treat someone like you as far as that goes?
SR: I’ve never been a host in another city but I don’t think I would have become a host in another city, which probably answers that question. I think like in Boston I never would’ve been given a shot on radio. Whether it’s my tone or whether it’s being inexperienced, I think Seattle is a little more tolerant.
That said it’s still, like many other sports radio markets, not a very diverse market. If we’re diving into a bigger conversation about this, you’re going to get trolls in every single market no matter what. There’s always going to be random losers that text in things that are meant to hurt you because they have issues and insecurities.
When I first started that really hurt me because it’s socially weird. That is not a social norm. At no point in our lives are we told like, hey it’s okay to go up to this stranger and say something horrible. That’s socially deviant behavior. So you never know how to respond, but I’ve slowly started learning how to ignore that. The harder stuff is people — and when I say people I mean mostly men — who really do mean well, but who sometimes still struggle to include female counterparts whether it be in conversations or sharing work. You still struggle to assimilate completely. That’s what gets in your head a little bit more; when normal people that you think of as being normal people don’t always I guess, this sounds horrible, but make you feel validated.
BN: What would be an example of something that a quote-unquote normal person might say that you dislike?
SR: [Laughs] Sometimes it’s what they don’t say. It could be something like being at a training camp for a couple of years and you notice that you are never involved in football conversations. Or it could be something where you notice that male peers, meaning guys with different outlets, they never ask you questions or they never have conversations about sports with you. In a certain way that’s fine because they talk to each other about like concerts they went to. [Laughs] I do think I noticed particularly early in my career that in my opinion in trying to be really welcoming, sometimes people don’t know how to interact with someone they might think is different, so they just don’t. That can be accidentally harmful and alienating.
BN: It’s interesting to me because I’m just thinking of companies that have training where it’s like don’t do this, and don’t say that, right? But you’re talking about the opposite; do this, make someone feel included. It’s funny that you can follow a company’s training yet still make someone feel weird if you don’t interact with them.
SR: And that’s the stuff that hurts you more, particularly when you’re first starting out because you think is it me? Is there something with me why I’m left out? And it keeps you from growing.
I remember one person, his name is Steve Cohen, he’s with The Athletic now. He was such a huge mentor and a great friend when I first started because we had a mutual friend in common. I specifically remember there was a player that had come in for the Seahawks who had a heated moment in a training camp. Steve was told by someone else, oh yeah I talked to this guy’s OC and he would do this all the time in college, or something like that, just little nuggets of information. You miss out on so many of those when people don’t talk to you and when you don’t form those relationships. Again, I think that in my experience there has been a good faith effort by many of the men in my market to be welcoming. But I think as a whole because sports media isn’t exceptionally diverse particularly in radio, there’s still some learning to be done.
BN: Did you have more nerves when first were on the air, or when you got the lead hosting opportunity and a much bigger stage?
SR: I was never nervous when I started, ever. I don’t know what it was; I didn’t think twice about it. I don’t remember feeling nervous when I started doing radio at all. I became more nervous as a result of feeling less confident because I started seeing so much negative feedback. If we’re being open, the last year and a half of being more forward-facing as a lead host as opposed to starting out as a third chair, I think that is when for the first time in radio at all I started wondering do I sound stupid? Am I saying the right thing? Does this sound bad?
I was doublethinking every show because you’re dealing with people reacting to you negatively for the first time. In my personal experience, the feedback I was getting was so negative. You struggle internally with thinking I want to be able to get back to when I felt I was naturally good at it, but now I don’t feel like I can naturally be myself because people just don’t like it.
That’s a very vulnerable statement. But again I never thought twice when I started. It was only later that I started to think wait, do people like me? It was certainly the first time that I was questioning hang on, am I an unlikable person? [Laughs] I didn’t realize this was my brand. Am I like a villain? I never thought about that before.
BN: What helped you get out of your own head so you could stay focused on what you need to do?
SR: When I initially started specifically on air, we had a lot of women behind the scenes here. A lot of them had either been in radio for a while or had been hosts for a while. It was easy to talk to them and have them be like hey, I dealt with this too, let’s go get a coffee and get over it. It was a very healthy support system at work. There were men that I worked with too who were also incredibly supportive. So that’s the first part is just a really good support system.
I think the second one is Jake Heaps and Curtis Rogers, my co-host and producer. We’re all friends outside of this; it’s a familial kind of feeling. They joke around, gang up, make fun of me sometimes. We all tease each other, but other times they give you that tough love of don’t care about this person, that doesn’t matter. They know me well enough to tell when a comment on a text line or a tweet into our show has bothered me. They know well enough to nip it in the bud and be like hey let’s get excited about this next segment. Forget that guy, we’ve got 30 minutes left in the show, let’s really go all-in.
The three of us are able to very quickly pick up on how each other is feeling in the moment. When you have a show to do and someone hurts your feelings, yeah I might feel sad after the show, but you can’t just go through the rest of the show feeling down. That in a weird way has also helped train myself to get over that quickly.
BN: What is it that you love about what you do?
SR: Oh my God, everything. I love having fun every day. I feel like when I started going on air it was the very, very first time in my life when I thought, oh my God, I love what I’m doing. I feel like I found — not what I’m supposed to do, that sounds horribly narcissistic — but I found something that I love doing that encapsulated so much of how I love interacting with people. I love asking questions and laughing and having fun and telling stories and getting mad and getting fired up. You can do so much of that every single day. And you get paid to do it; that’s amazing.
I love watching sports for a living. I’m sure you love that.
On Sundays you’ll never catch me complaining ever in my life about overtime for a game. The fact that we get paid to sit and watch a football game is unbelievable. I love that it is literally our job to leave a game and think what did I love? What did I hate? How did they get better? Now I get to think about this for hours and not feel like I’m dwelling. We’re paid to think about this game. Everything — the analysis, the conversation; I love almost everything about it.
BN: Who are some of the female broadcasters or broadcasters in general that you look up to?
SR: I used to love watching The Dan Patrick Show in the morning. I love his interview style, how casual he sounds. What’s funny is I don’t sound anything like him or have the same style at all. Personally I feel I’m horrible at interviews and so I still watch a lot of his.
Same with Rich Eisen, who has a different style, but I feel both are just wonderful interviewers. That is something I do love about our job; the opportunity to talk to people. I love the two of them. I find myself loving more analysts.
I’m sure any woman that you interview would say Mina Kimes. Women like Doris Burke and Maria Taylor, Jemele Hill, who has also written wonderful stuff. She’s so clear about her opinions in a way that I still struggle to be. She’s someone I also love following. There are so many.
I loved Katie Nolan with whatever outlet she was with even back when she was just first starting with YouTube videos to now. She has a podcast I just listened to, which was just this candid, free-thought monologue about mental health struggles she had. I thought oh my God, I’ve never heard anything this candid in my life. Wow, that’s such a cool way to do a podcast. I’m sure it wasn’t something she intended.
I think there are so many great examples of women and men, but especially women, pushing the boundaries of what sports radio and sports coverage sounds like in a way that I love.
BN: When you mentioned Dan Patrick’s style it got me thinking of this; what style works in Seattle and what style doesn’t play there?
SR: Oh man, that’s a great question. I’m still figuring it out myself. My own experience with figuring out what works and doesn’t is also going to be gender. There might be a facetious tone that works with some men that sometimes isn’t going to work with me because people think I’m being serious. That’s part of a problem.
I do think a facetious tone, being sarcastic, being analytical can work well here. I think there are really smart fan bases that really embrace that. I think that being hot take experts can be trickier. It depends what your hot take is going to be. I think the sports media culture is just a little different so that sometimes doesn’t land in the way it might in a place like Boston or New York. I think that’s to be expected. If you were to think to yourself what would work in New York that wouldn’t in Seattle, maybe some abrasiveness. That would probably be something.
BN: What would you say right now is your biggest strength as a host and your biggest weakness?
SR: I would say they’re tied together. My biggest weakness is sometimes just not being confident, which is the most important thing you need as a radio host. Talk about an Achilles heel. The most important thing you can do as a radio host is be confident and think your opinion matters and people should hear it. It’s this weird kind of thing that might not always play in real life if you were with your friends, and it makes for a fantastic radio host.
Someone who’s confident, thinks he or she has something to say, and everyone needs to hear it right away. But that’s the stuff that draws people to you. It’s like a magnet. I think that when I’m at my best, I have it. When I’m at my best it’s not trying to be someone else or trying to tone myself down to try to preemptively combat stereotypes I think people have of me. For instance, if I want to make a joke about a reality TV show, when I first started I just would’ve done it. I would’ve said forget that, I’m going to make this joke, it’s funny. Or I would’ve been more facetious or more carefree. That’s when I’m at my best. I’m not trying to sound more palatable to someone who doesn’t think women should be completely themselves in sports radio. That’s really a universal skill that makes everyone at their best.
The biggest weakness is sometimes not having that, and biggest strength is I think when I have it — and I sound narcissistic saying it — I think when I’m confident, I’m great. I feel like I’m exactly where I should be.
BN: What do you see in the future for yourself? Is there any specific goal that you would like to accomplish?
SR: I don’t know. I’d love to veer into podcasts said everyone ever in radio. Whether it’s my own interview style or content that I personally like that isn’t always suited to purely sports radio, I think there are some types I’d love to be able to explore. I think trying newer audio mediums, podcasting, things like that; I’d love to continue to explore that and branch off into that. As far as where it goes after that, I don’t know. I just hope that my love for what I do is able to translate to just give me opportunities, to keep finding new things.
BN: How about if you were in another market? Have you basically been in the same area throughout your life?
SR: I have. Yeah, if I was in another market, oh man, I’m not convinced again like I said I’d be given a shot in another market.
BN: Why not, right? You’re personable and you know your stuff. Why wouldn’t it work in another market?
SR: Seattle’s funny, man. I think I would be challenged to be a little more forward in other markets. I think it would put me in a spot. To be frank, that would probably be good for me to practice being like, hey do you want this coach fired or not? That’s not quite the conversation we’re having here. But yeah, I love what I do and I know that radio in so many ways whether it’s through podcasts, digital, whether it’s video properties, whatever it is will continue to evolve. So I want to explore all of those things and all of those opportunities.
Jamie Erdahl Reflects On First Season of Good Morning Football
“I learned a lot [and] I got the nuances of the show down. Next year, I hope to elevate even more [and] just push the box a little bit more in.”
Jamie Erdahl, who was named in July 2022 as a new host of Good Morning Football on NFL Network following Kay Adams’ departure from the show, has looked to redefine the role of studio host and shatter the boundaries of being simply a moderator passing the baton to analysts throughout her career in sports media.
“I don’t personally feel that it’s my job to include them,” Erdahl said of her colleagues. “I like to think that this show is the four of us including each other in the conversation, and I happen to be the one that gets us on the air [and] gets us off the air, but everywhere in-between that it’s very much an equal lift if you will.”
Since its inception in August 2016, Good Morning Football has provided football fans unparalleled coverage of their favorite sport through recurring segments, interviews with active players and alumni, live demonstrations and insightful analysis. Aside from Erdahl, the show cast consists of Kyle Brandt, who was the former executive producer of The Jim Rome Show, along with NFL analyst Peter Schrager, former NFL cornerback and Super Bowl champion Jason McCourty.
Erdahl never thought hosting a national morning football show produced by a league-owned media outlet was realistic nor possible in the first place, wherefore she focused her early career endeavors towards covering local teams. In fact, her first exposure to sports media was as a 16-year-old shadowing broadcasters and answering the phones at KFAN Sports Radio in Minneapolis, screening callers who wanted to discuss the Minnesota Vikings among other topics.
After transferring from St. Olaf College to American University, Erdahl was placed into a production internship with ESPN through the Association for Women in Sports Media in a role she refers to as one of her “most formative professional experiences off-camera.” Her principal responsibility was cutting highlights for Baseball Tonight and SportsCenter, along with writing scripts for the anchors to recite over the highlights during the broadcast.
“To this day, I don’t think I would be as great or as strong at reading highlights if I had never had that opportunity at ESPN,” Erdahl said. “….I don’t think you can be really good on the air if you don’t have a full understanding of what it takes to get there from a production standpoint.”
Out of college, Erdahl returned to Minneapolis, where she worked as a freelance reporter at Fox Sports North, a regional sports network. In that role, she was a sideline reporter for various high school basketball games and Minnesota Lynx WNBA contests. One year later, she made the move to Boston to join NESN as an on-air anchor and reporter, contributing both to studio coverage and in-person event coverage ranging from the Boston Marathon to Boston College hockey.
Through several years of persistence and determination, Erdahl was afforded more opportunities and chances to continue elevating her skills. During her first year at NESN, she was working on NESN Sports Today as an anchor and reporter while also filling in for Jenny Dell as a field reporter for Boston Red Sox games. By September 2013, she was named the new rinkside reporter for Boston Bruins live game broadcasts where she succeeded Naoko Funayama, an established broadcaster who held the role for nearly six years.
“[Boston], more than any [market] I’ve ever been around, expects the world of you,” Erdahl said. “They expect the world of their athletes; of their coaches; of their organizations; and then of the media that covers the team. They’ll sus you out right away if they have a sense that you don’t know what you’re talking about or if you don’t know their team like the back of your hand like they do.”
Over her season as the rinkside reporter for Boston Bruins games on NESN, Erdahl performed her job well but internally struggled to report solely on the team. In being immersed in the dynamic atmosphere of a professional team, it is entirely plausible that while the storylines may change, much of the quotidian routine is mundane in nature.
Akin to a beat reporter, Erdahl’s job was to focus her work on the Bruins and NHL at large while remaining cognizant of Boston sports. Through it all, she inherently desired something more – a role in which she could cover several teams within a sport rather than just one.
“I am amazed at the people who can do 162-plus baseball games a year,” Erdahl said. “I just applaud them so much. I think your wealth of knowledge is admirable, but I found it so challenging to, let’s say, do 82-plus [games] of hockey because I felt like I wanted more sport variety.”
In 2014, Erdahl signed with CBS Sports as a sideline reporter for the NFL on CBS, traveling every week around the country to uncover stories and perspectives enhancing the game broadcast. She primarily worked with the No. 3 broadcast team of Greg Gumbel and Trent Green, along with director Suzanne Smith, who has served as one of Erdahl’s mentors. The move from reporting in one city to adopting a peripatetic lifestyle helped her with professional development and allowed her to cultivate relationships around the country.
“When you are at the regional [sports network], you’re just answering to that one team,” Erdahl said. “I loved reporting but what I loved about when I got to CBS was [that] you are answering to the broadcast; you are answering to players from both sides. You had to work to make sure that your coverage was fully equal.”
After several seasons covering the NFL, Erdahl was named the lead reporter for college football on CBS Sports, including within its SEC broadcast package. Despite the game being similar in many ways, college football presented challenges to Erdahl, largely due to the size of the rosters and the fact that many SEC on CBS Game of the Week broadcasts regularly included the Alabama Crimson Tide, Georgia Bulldogs and Louisiana State University Tigers.
Next season will be the final year CBS will broadcast SEC games before the conference’s media rights agreement with The Walt Disney Company (ABC/ESPN) takes effect: a 10-year deal worth a reported $300 million annually. CBS will broadcast the Big Ten Conference instead, inking a 7-year deal for the second-best rights package worth a reported $350 million annually.
“Here I was back again [asking], ‘Okay, how do I make things new and fresh?,’” Erdahl said. “You can’t talk to Tua Tagovailoa every time on the phone. You’ve got to branch out; you’ve got to tell other guys’ stories.”
In addition to reporting on college football and NFL games, Erdahl was one of the first anchors on CBS Sports HQ, a free 24/7 sports news network available to stream on multiple platforms. She also reconnected with her athletic roots when she provided sideline reporting for CBS Sports’ coverage of March Madness. Her alacrity for the game and proficiency in its vernacular gave her an advantage as a media member reporting on one of the year’s premier events.
“My translation speed, let’s say, of what I hear in a basketball huddle is so much faster to laymen’s terms in basketball than it is for football,” Erdahl said. “That’s just a matter of I played basketball; it is a part of my lifeblood; it is part of my body and soul and upbringing.”
Erdahl eventually moved back into sideline reporting for the NFL on CBS; however it differed the second time around because she had two young children at home and had to leave them from Thursday to Sunday each week. Although she was content with her role at CBS and had the support system in place to make it possible, she wanted to be able to see her children grow up and spend time with them.
At the same time, continuing to cover football was important to her and a reason why she considered a studio-based hosting role. In the end, she was ultimately named the new co-host of Good Morning Football on NFL Network.
“Professionally, I think I was very much honing my skill set to become a really great, strong sideline reporter at CBS,” Erdahl said. “I grasped at the opportunity to become a really great, strong studio host. I’m not there yet – it’s only been six or seven months – but I really wanted this job in particular to get me to a place within the NFL [and] within the industry to be a really good host.”
For 15 hours per week, Erdahl is on television discussing the game of football with Brandt, Schrager, McCourty and Selva, along with a plethora of other guests and industry experts. Entering the role from the perspective of a sideline reporter, she has found many aspects of her previous role permeate into this job, most notably those pertaining to listening to others.
“As a sideline reporter, all you can do is be eyes and ears and you’re just hoping that if you’re not the one saying it on the broadcast, you’re relaying information back to the truck or to the play-by-play guy to make sure that what you’re seeing or hearing on the field is getting on to the broadcast…. I like to take that back into a studio setting. Very easily we could sit around the table and we could each talk for a minute and give our takes, but then you’re not really listening to each other.”
Before landing the job, Erdahl had conversations with Kay Adams where they discussed the role and just what makes it unique. Their discussions left Erdahl energized and eager to get started and disseminate her opinions and points of view to consumers on weekday mornings.
“You get to have your own arc of creativity, no matter what chair you’re sitting in,” Erdahl expressed. “I think Kay did that incredibly well for six years. People loved Kay for all the things that she did – but the job isn’t, ‘Here’s how Kay did it; do it the way Kay did.’ That’s not how it was presented [to] me [and] I don’t think Kay would have wanted it that way.”
Over the years, Erdahl has established relationships with colleagues and competitors alike in sports media, staying in touch and reaching out for advice. She was friendly with many of her colleagues at the NFL on CBS, including Tracy Wolfson, Amanda Balionis and Melanie Collins, along with ESPN/Amazon Prime Video’s Charissa Thompson and NFL Network host Sara Walsh. She also estimates speaking to SEC on CBS analyst Gary Danielson weekly, someone who was instrumental in her development as a broadcaster and learning more about the game of football.
Erdahl and the rest of the Good Morning Football on-air personalities do not simply show up to the studios to broadcast each morning; rather, there is an immense amount of preparation that goes into each and every show beginning the night before.
On a shared document, show producers compile a layout for the next day’s program and Erdahl and the other personalities write notes and perspectives to better inform the rest of the crew as to their individual thought processes. There is a production crew that works overnight to monitor the news cycle and prepare production elements for the next day’s program so by the time 7:00 AM ET comes around, the team is ready to produce three hours of insightful football coverage.
“The information wheel in the NFL is just constantly turning so it’s easier for me just to kind of, throughout the day, remain aware of it so then at night, I can answer all my stuff and then tomorrow, I feel a little bit more prepared,” Erdahl said. “I’m not cramming for an hour before the show…. It’s easy to kind of stay swimming in it.”
As Erdahl reflects on the impending completion of her first full season on the show, she intends to learn from her mistakes, such as relying on certain statistics or storylines as a crutch for extended periods of time, to improve as a studio host. She also aims to augment her creativity, learn more about the history of the game and demonstrate energy for the game – all qualities imbued within Brandt, Schrager and McCourty, respectively – to become a “master of the NFL.”
“I was lucky I got through the season,” Erdahl said. “I learned a lot [and] I got the nuances of the show down. Next year, I hope to elevate even more [and] just push the box a little bit more in terms of making sure I don’t have those crutches.”
Viewers of Good Morning Football or other NFL Network programming might be skeptical towards the legitimacy of some opinions because of the oversight the league has on the broadcast outlet. Yet over her time with NFL Network, Erhardt does not feel as if she has been suppressed in editorializing her views.
Moreover, it is the responsibility of the show to balance subjectivity and the maintenance of professional relationships in football with the display of objectivity and proffering of genuine analysis. After all, she believes the league trusts that she is on the air for a reason, and works to ensure the league communicates its storylines in a way discernible to a variety of demographics.
“I haven’t felt the hindrance whatsoever in terms of editorial direction that would make me feel like I shouldn’t do something,” Erdahl said. “I would say mostly on the daily, I get the green light from the things that we try to accomplish as a show.”
There are many football fans across the United States, and it can be safely assumed that many of them have at least thought about potentially covering the game as a media member. Yet very few aspiring media professionals reach the point Erdahl has; in fact, some of her most memorable moments over the years are when she was told she had received certain jobs. Although her skills on the air are evident, her demeanor and team-oriented mindset has separated herself from other candidates and led to sustained success and growth amid a competitive marketplace.
“Sixty percent of being good at this job has nothing to do with being on television, in my opinion,” Erdahl articulated. “I think it’s about a good, honest, ethical person that is nice to people; that is easy to be around; that coaches and athletes in particular want to be around and want to talk to [and] tell their story to. The other stuff will come because you are speaking to something that you went about the right way.”
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, he serves as the production manager for the New York Islanders Radio Network and lead sports producer at NY2C. He has also worked on live game broadcasts for the Long Island Nets and New York Riptide. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks and wrote for The Long Island Herald. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
Why Do NFL Fans Want More Greg Olsen and Less Tony Romo?
Olsen creates the perception that he studies each team, breaking down film of offenses and defenses, in preparation for the telecast.
Five years ago, Tony Romo retired as an active NFL player, jumped into the CBS broadcast booth, and immediately became the darling of fans and media for the excitement he brought to his telecasts. Romo’s enthusiasm for the game and understanding of modern offense allowed him to predict plays successfully, making him an instant sensation.
Greg Olsen will finish his second season as a full-time broadcaster on Feb. 12 from the NFL’s biggest stage, calling Super Bowl LVI for Fox with play-by-play partner Kevin Burkhardt. Olsen hasn’t drawn the must-see buzz that Romo did early in his TV career. No fan likely tuned into Fox’s top NFL telecast, “America’s Game of the Week,” to listen to Olsen’s analysis. His work doesn’t draw nearly the same amount of acclaim.
But the shine has worn off Romo with viewers during the past couple of NFL seasons. Watching a game with Romo in the booth previously felt like sitting alongside a fellow fan, jubilant at fantastic plays or clever strategy, and disappointed at performances that fell short. His energy also elevated Jim Nantz as a play-by-play announcer, bringing him back to life after 13 seasons alongside Phil Simms.
Now, however, Romo’s outbursts — noises in place of words, or outright yelling — seem like a crutch when coherent thoughts can’t be articulated. Where there was once fascinating insight from the analyst position, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback often resorts to clichés and platitudes that don’t add to a fan’s understanding of what’s happening on the field.
Worst of all, Romo sometimes talks merely to talk, filling a quiet space when a broadcast needs to breathe or the images are saying enough on their own. That’s especially awkward when paired with a veteran like Nantz, who’s a master at letting the moment speak for itself rather than trying to punctuate it with unnecessary narration.
On Fox’s telecast of the 49ers-Eagles NFC Championship Game, Olsen explained how play-calling changes when an offense intends to go for it on fourth down. He showed an awareness of the strategies that each coach employed to gain an advantage or neutralize what the opponent was doing well.
Early on, he highlighted San Francisco defensive end Joey Bosa holding back on his natural impulse to pursue the quarterback at all costs. Instead, he maintained a position that prevented Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts from running to gain yardage when pass plays weren’t available.
With analysis like this, Olsen creates the perception that he studies each team, breaking down the film of their respective offenses and defenses, in preparation for the telecast. He doesn’t appear to be surprised by what he sees because that prep work — watching film, talking to coaches and players — informs him of the eventualities and possibilities that could arise during a game.
The hardcore football fan, those who repeatedly watch highlights and replays, loves that kind of analysis. Such attention to detail feels gratifying because it demonstrates that the person calling the broadcast is as serious about this stuff as the viewer who’s waited all week for the big game.
Yet a more casual fan is also drawn in because of Olsen’s amiable personality and ability to explain things simply and clearly. It’s similar to what viewers enjoy about ESPN’s “ManningCast” for Monday Night Football. Yes, there are jokes and funny moments. But Peyton and Eli Manning both explain strategy and preparation very well.
By comparison, Romo comes off like a broadcaster who’s winging it, letting his personality and enthusiasm fill gaps created by a lack of preparation. That might be a completely unfair criticism. We don’t know what kind of work Romo puts in leading up to a telecast. Maybe he watches as much film as Olsen. Perhaps he talks to everyone available to the broadcast crew in production meetings.
If so, however, that doesn’t show itself on the CBS telecast. Romo’s work on Sunday’s Bengals-Chiefs AFC Championship Game telecast was an improvement over his call of the Bengals-Bills divisional playoff clash. During the previous week, Romo acted as if he didn’t have to provide any insight because this was the match-up fans had anticipated all season and already knew everything about the two teams.
Perhaps in response to that criticism, Romo made a point of highlighting the importance of each team’s defensive coordinator — Cincinnati’s Lou Anarumo and Kansas City’s Steve Spagnuolo, respectively — in disrupting the performance of quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow. But rather than demonstrate an actual strategy during a replay, he stated that each defense would come after the opposing QB and create pressure.
Ultimately, the difference between Romo and Olsen seems to be schtick versus knowledge. But it’s also a product of how each analyst reached their position. Romo joined CBS’s No. 1 NFL broadcast team without previously calling any games. (As BSM’s Garrett Searight points out, that immediacy and recent connection to the game fueled what felt like fresh analysis.)
Meanwhile, Olsen called games during bye weeks while he was still an active player and was on Fox’s No. 2 crew with Burkhardt before being elevated to top status following the departure of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to ESPN. He’s had to get better out of necessity. Even now, as Olsen establishes himself as his network’s top analyst, he faces the possibility of being bumped from that position when Tom Brady retires and cashes in on the massive contract Fox offered him.
Compare that to Romo, who’s the highest-paid NFL analyst on television. His $18 million annual salary set the bar other top broadcasters are trying to reach. And he has seven years remaining on the 10-year contract he signed with CBS. That is significant job security. Even if network executives (or Nantz) lean on Romo to improve his flaws, how much motivation is there when he’s already been anointed a broadcasting king?
However, NFL fans and sports media are making it clear what they prefer from their football broadcasters. They want insight and substance. They want to learn something from the commentary, rather than just be told what they can see for themselves.
Olsen is providing that and is being rightly lauded as a broadcaster living up to his status. Romo is suffering a fall from acclaim and has become a weekly punching bag. If he and CBS want to change that, he’ll have to bring more to the booth each week. In the meantime, Fox should consider appreciating what it already has, rather than welcome a glitzy name.
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chris Fowler Knows You Know He Isn’t In Australia
“I applaud Fowler for not playing the game and allowing even a hint of the illusion he was in Australia. I think the viewer deserves to know.”
I can tell you my exact whereabouts when 2015 became 2016 in the Central Time Zone. I was in a media shuttle outside of AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas awaiting my transport to the Omni Hotel in Dallas. It was kind of a sad scene, not just because Alabama had picked Michigan State’s bones 36-0. Nope, it was sad when the clock struck midnight and a tired, cracking voice from the back of the bus said, “Happy New Year” with all the excitement of a man facing execution.
I, too, was tired. I had just spent a week doing shows in Dallas and was headed back to Birmingham for a pit stop before flying to Phoenix for what would be an epic Alabama v. Clemson National Championship Game. I am not complaining, mind you, but the thought of the end of the football season being near was very comforting. It’s a bittersweet thought, I love college football, but I also love being home with my family.
ESPN’s Chris Fowler was at Jerry World that night, as well. He had been on my show earlier in the week and we had joked with him about how good he had it; two College Football Playoff games then a flight halfway around the world for the Australian Open. I had bumped into him leaving the stadium that night and we laughed, again, at his good fortune.
As I sat on the bus for the saddest of New Year’s celebrations, I reflected on the conversation with Fowler and thought about how overwhelming that travel seemed. I could never have imagined then that type of travel assignment would one day become a luxury rather than a necessity.
There are numerous things COVID ended. Many of them were more important than announcing crews actually at the events, but that was one casualty. It has even continued to impact the top level crews like Fowler and John McEnroe who did their 2023 Australian Open work a world away in Bristol, Connecticut.
The fact that the majority of ESPN talent was actually stateside had already been painfully obvious to anyone watching. The studio show had made no effort to hide that fact but the actual match announcers were part of a little more of an attempt to appear they were Down Under. It was abundantly clear, though, that the match announcers were simply standing in front of images of the Melbourne stadiums superimposed behind them.
It was Chris Fowler who finally revealed the man behind the curtain when he removed the mystery and made it clear they were not in Australia. After Darren Cahill, who was actually on site, relayed the weather conditions to Fowler and McEnroe, Fowler commented that the Bristol weather was in the 30’s.
I applaud Fowler for not playing the game and allowing even a hint of the illusion he was in Australia. I think the viewer deserves to know. I also think most viewers have seen enough of the low-energy, disjointed remote announcing that they can spot it without being informed. Thankfully, Fowler and McEnroe are pros enough (and in the same room) that they can still do their job well from 10,000 miles away.
I just can’t believe we are still playing this game in 2023. I think history will show that, in many cases, remote broadcasts were unnecessary in 2020 but that was a complete unknown at the time. One has to assume the desire to save on travel expenses is a large motivation in 2023. I can only imagine how much is saved by ESPN in airfare and lodging by keeping announcers in Bristol rather than sending them to Melbourne. Tennis is also one of the sports in which the difference isn’t as noticeable.
The feedback I get from the fans in other sports, where remote announcers are far more noticeable, is that the network clearly doesn’t value my team or me as a fan. While that may not be true, if that perception is held by a large enough group of fans, it becomes true. What the networks know is this: we are addicted to our teams. They can have bad announcers from their living rooms but what am I going to do about it? I get a limited number of times to watch my team each season. I’m not missing that chance because a network wants to squeeze dimes.
As most people have learned more about COVID, most unnecessary precautions have faded away. Remote announcers have been tougher to extinguish and may never go away entirely.
In the meantime, I’m rested now and I’ll take that trip to Australia anytime someone is ready to send me.
Ryan Brown is a columnist for Barrett Sports Media, and a co-host of the popular sports audio/video show ‘The Next Round’ formerly known as JOX Roundtable, which previously aired on WJOX in Birmingham. You can find him on Twitter @RyanBrownLive and follow his show @NextRoundLive.