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Does Playing The Game Prepare You For Sports Radio?

“I think it’s a lot easier being a pro athlete receiving constructive criticism than maybe somebody who’s never gone through that before.”

Derek Futterman

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Put yourself in the shoes of a professional athlete. You have just retired from playing the game that you love, a craft you have been perfecting from the moment you stepped onto the field, and are wondering what comes next. These thoughts are quite common among retiring athletes. For many of them, stepping away from the sport as a player does not mean they step away from it completely.

After 15 years in the NBA, JJ Redick retired from playing but still remains involved in the landscape of the game as an analyst for ESPN. Similarly, former National Football League defensive end Chris Canty, following 11 years in the NFL, joined 98.7 FM ESPN Radio New York as an on-air host, and has seen his role evolve into working as a national host for ESPN Radio.

Many former athletes have or are in the process of establishing themselves as integral parts of the world of sports media, whether it be as an on-air host, analyst, contributor, executive, etc. Former athletes bring a perspective other commentators lack; that is, the ability to place themselves in the mindset of those on the field or court or ice, and discuss things from that angle.

Lou Merloni played Major League Baseball for nine seasons, the first five of which with his hometown Boston Red Sox. Merloni finished his career with a .271 batting average, and a .716 OPS as a second baseman in stints with the Red Sox, San Diego Padres, Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Angels. After retiring in 2007, Merloni worked to find his niche in sports media, starting at WEEI as a co-host on The Big Show. Additionally, Merloni began his foray on the television side as an analyst on NESN’s Boston Red Sox pregame and postgame shows during the 2008 season. Today, Merloni continues to work at WEEI with Fauria as a co-host of Merloni and Fauria on weekdays from 2-6 p.m.

Tom Waddle played six seasons in the NFL as a wide receiver for the Chicago Bears. In 60 games, Waddle had 183 receptions and 2,109 yards, and retired from the game prior to the start of the 1995 season. Waddle has had roles on radio and television since his retirement Waddle currently serves as a football analyst for WLS-TV, and a co-host of Waddle and Silvy with longtime radio personality Marc Silverman on ESPN 1000 Chicago on weekdays from 2-6 p.m.

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Derek Futterman: How would you describe your relationship with the media during your playing days?

Lou Merloni (Host, WEEI): I think I had a pretty friendly relationship with all of those guys. I was a utility guy in Boston, but I think I made friends with a lot of the media members.

Tom Waddle (Host, ESPN 1000 Chicago): It was very friendly. I played from ‘89 to ‘95 and thought the relationship between all the players and the media – for the most part – was pretty good. I would definitely say that I had a good relationship with a lot of the guys covering the team. I actually was also doing some media work towards the tail end of my career, so I kind of looked at some of those guys as a good resource to guide me to do what I was going to do.

Futterman: What similarities exist, if any, between playing and talking about the game?

Lou Merloni: [As an athlete,] the test… is the game itself. And the test for us is the actual show itself. You really can’t accomplish either one if you don’t put the work in beforehand. If you’re playing — if you’re not doing the right things — taking your ground balls; taking batting practice; going over scouting reports, you’re not going to be prepared for the game. I feel like it’s the same thing with radio and the show. All the real work is done the night before in watching a game and writing down notes and waking up the next day and reading and thinking about what you want to do and putting a show together. And the test is the actual show, and at that point you have everything in front of you and you just perform.

Tom Waddle: [It is] very competitive. There are very few jobs and an immense number of people that want those jobs. There is a certain level of competition. It’s a challenge for sure; you’re in an arena that you might not be as comfortable in. You have to perform; when the light goes on in television, or when the music stops and it’s your turn to talk on the radio, you’ve got to have something to say.

Futterman: What do you say to those who might say you are unable to understand a fan’s point of view due to not experiencing the highs and lows in the same way they have?

Merloni: For me, it’s being in Boston where I grew up. I was a fan of the teams — following them as a fan, thinking as a fan, before I was a member of the Red Sox. When we were in the ALCS, you’re thinking as a professional athlete in the moment, but there are times you sit back, and say ‘Man, we win this game, we go to the World Series.’ And thinking as a fan: ‘[If we win,] we are going to the World Series.’ Sometimes the job takes you in different areas where you have to be more critical than you would be if you were just a fan, but I was a fan first before I was a professional athlete.

Waddle: I think I got a head start on that because I was a blue collar player who was probably less athletic than most of the fans who were listening to us. I think I had a great relationship to begin with because there was an identity that existed from my playing days. I came into the industry, and my thought was: ‘I’m going to be honest. I’m going to give you the perspective I have. I’m going to be professional and tell you how I feel.’ I respect the players; the audience; and the fans, and in some ways, you have to walk a fine line by giving them what they deserve and respect, but not becoming personal. I came into the industry with the benefit of kind-of knowing how it stings when people are critical in a personal manner, and kind of felt that would be something that was going to be a focal point of my next career.

Futterman: How has being part of a team as an athlete differed from being part of a team as a broadcaster?

Merloni: It’s interesting. As much as baseball is a team sport, it’s probably the most individual sport of them all because my teammates, even though there’s things we can see and help with one another, whether it be scouting reports, when I’m in the box it’s up to me. When a guy hits me a ground ball, it’s up to me. There are ways where teammates definitely help you, but for the most part, it’s up to you to get the job done. I actually think in the media when you are doing a show with somebody, you rely on them more than you rely on a teammate to help you do your job in baseball. When it comes to baseball, I rely on my teammate for that show to click more.

Waddle: There’s some similarities, obviously. I don’t know that it is significantly different. Maybe smaller teams — on the air, it’s myself and Marc Silverman, and we have two producers. I live by the same concepts that everyone’s contributing and that no one is more important than anyone else. I was one of 11 in an offensive huddle; now I’m one of four doing a show from 2-6. I think there are more similarities than differences to be honest with you.

Futterman: Having been coached as a player, what similarities and differences have you noticed in handling feedback from media bosses?

Merloni: I think it’s a lot easier being a pro athlete receiving constructive criticism than maybe somebody who’s never gone through that before. As an athlete, if I’m not hitting well, I’m searching for answers and relying on resources and coaches to try to get me to where I want to be. And I don’t care what kind of criticism I hear from them; as long as it gets it to where I want to be — that’s all that matters. When you’re in the radio business, that doesn’t bother me — I just want to know what I need to do to be better. I think hearing that as a pro athlete; you are able to take those criticisms in this profession a little bit better than maybe some.

Waddle: You’ve got to be receptive to it. Just because I played in the NFL doesn’t mean I deserve any special type of treatment or recognition as a broadcaster. I want to be treated the same way by my bosses as I was by Mike Ditka – minus some yelling – as a player. I don’t have any problem with somebody coming in and saying, ‘Hey, guess what? I think you should have gone this direction with the interview.’ I am not above being coached, that’s for damn sure.

Futterman: How do you manage criticizing former teammates or friends on the air?

Merloni: That was the hardest part — the first few years of doing radio. When some of my former teammates and friends were still on the team. It made it a lot easier when some of those guys left, and I was able to look at it critically. I’ve always kind-of felt like the athlete will always be able to look himself in the mirror. Initially, they might not like what they hear, but at the same point, if it’s wrong that’s one thing. But if you are talking about ex-teammates or friends, you know them well, and you kind of know the reasons why things are going south. It’s not that they want to hear those things, but deep down, they might know that that’s the reason. That was probably the toughest thing to do for those first few years.

Waddle: It’s part of your job. I think you can be critical without being an asshole. As long as you don’t cross the line, or start making comments that are personally offensive, I don’t think that you’re crossing the line. I think the job is to give the opinions and analysis they brought you in to give; you have to have strong thoughts. I don’t have any inclination to want to take cheap shots at anybody; I don’t think it’s necessary, and I don’t think you’re doing anyone any favors.

Futterman: Who was the first player, coach or executive who you ticked off with something you said?

Merloni: Probably the first one was Terry Francona. I remember it was NESN right after a game, and there was a situation. I think I said after a game that I felt like [a player] should have bunted [in a situation]. That was the first time I had a conversation with a manager [as a member of the] media. It was one of those — you don’t have all the information; you don’t this, you don’t that. And I was like, ’No, I don’t. Unless you want to call and discuss it. All I can base it off of is what I see and what I know.’ We know in the media that we don’t know. There’s a lot of things that happen in the dugout and clubhouse that we don’t know about, but when we’re asked to react about it immediately, we can only base it off of our experiences and opinions. I always respected the fact that Terry wanted to talk to me about it, and we sort of moved on.

Waddle: There’s no question about that. I was working with David Kaplan on WGN Radio, and we were in a broadcast trailer outside of Wrigley Field. I think it was a weekend game, and we were doing postgame coverage of the Cubs, and our show branched out into all sports arenas. We had Jerry Krause on, and we were previewing a draft prospect or something of that nature and I asked a question about a particular player in college, and the college season was over at the time, so it wasn’t an inappropriate question. Jerry bit my head off, and became very unprofessional with me. I remember taking my headset off, and looking at David Kaplan, and going ‘Well, you can take this the rest of the way — I’m done.’ That just didn’t sit well with me, and maybe I was being a dumbass or a hothead about it, but even someone as accomplished as Jerry Krause, I just thought it was an unnecessary approach he took to my question. I think that was the first time I was exposed to somebody giving me hell about something, and I didn’t handle it with the maturity I would handle it with 25 years later.

Futterman: If there is one piece of advice you can share with athletes who might be considering moving into this business, what would it be?

Lou Merloni: Don’t hold back. Be fair, but give a strong opinion, and remember that this is your job. Your job is to be truthful and analyze what you see. I think some guys that come in the media that aren’t all in the media kind of soft pedal a little bit. Their friendships are more important than their next career, and I’m not saying you should just destroy your friendships, but your friends should realize that you’ve moved on and this is now your job if they are really your friends.

Tom Waddle: Be prepared. No different than when you were playing against the Lions, or you lined up against the Packers. If you weren’t prepared, you’d be exposed quickly, and your job security would be challenged and you wouldn’t last long. The same goes for the broadcast industry. There are guys who go out and work just as hard covering teams or the different things who are talking about as former players because of the work ethic that got them to where they got to. I would always tell anyone — be willing to do the hard work; don’t think you are going to get by just because of your accomplishments on the field. You are in a different arena, and will be exposed quickly. I think the same lessons you learned on the playing field will serve you well and the television and radio booth. What you did as an NFL player — there’s a shelf-life to that if you don’t hone your craft and work at it.”

Futterman: What remaining goals do you hope to accomplish in the media industry?

Merloni: I think it’s funny because when you’re done with baseball — whether you are a Hall of Famer or not — I think a lot of athletes would tell you that an important thing is how a lot of your former teammates talk about you. You can be a Hall of Famer [with] nobody [liking] you. It’s how they talk about you afterwards. When the career is over, or whatever my goal is, people can look back and say ‘He said what’s on his mind. It wasn’t just cheering for the home team all the time.’ I hope people look back and say I gave an honest opinion. My goal isn’t any more than that — to do my job and to do it the best I can.

Waddle: I’ve been so blessed at this point. I never would have thought that I would work at the NFL Network or ESPN in Bristol; that I would do national work, or have my own radio show with anybody. I feel so blessed that I’ve been given so many of the opportunities I’ve been given. I don’t have these lofty goals — I feel like I’ve been able to accomplish and experience a lot. I just want to continue to be better every day, and continue to work hard at it and hopefully entertain people. Maybe that sounds like I don’t have a lot of goals — I do — I’ll be 55 in February. I want to do this for the foreseeable future, and get better at it every day.

BSM Writers

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

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

Derek Futterman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BSM Writers

Should the NBA Nationalize Local TV Rights Like MLS?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BSM Writers

Do You Have Affirmations Of Gratitude?

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

Jeff Caves

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

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

“I HAVE A JOB.”

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

I AM A PROBLEM SOLVER.”

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

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

I WORK IN THE PEOPLE BUSINESS.”

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

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

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

I HAVE COMPETITION!”

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

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Barrett Media Writers

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