The Score is celebrating its 30-year anniversary this month. The iconic Chicago sports radio brand was launched on January 2, 1992. Initially, it was a daytime signal, meaning the power actually had to be shut off when the sun went down. I absolutely love this detail. Imagine if that were the case today. Think of hearing a station in Atlanta saying, “Georgia fans, what a win for the Dawgs. The 41-year championship drought is over. Well, it’s 5:28 so we’ll talk more about it at sunrise tomorrow.”
The Score has grown tremendously from those early years. It’s similar to the NFL; it’s hard to imagine when the Green Bay Packers were thumping the Kansas City Chiefs in what would eventually be called Super Bowl I, that the game would advance so much and become the spectacle it is today. There is also no way the person in charge of shutting off the power at sundown in ’92 could foresee the internet and apps and Twitch and streaming. The Score is in a much different place today.
Mitch Rosen is the operations director at 670 The Score and has been with the station for nearly 17 years. His vision and leadership have played a huge role in the overall success of the station. In addition to his duties at The Score, Mitch also oversees 1250 The Fan in Milwaukee, and Audacy’s BetQL network. We chat about all of the programming hats he wears, the it-factor when making a hire, and the evolution of the sports radio industry over the past 30 years. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: Now that we’ve arrived at the 30-year anniversary of The Score, from where it was to where it is right now, how would you describe the evolution of the station?
Mitch Rosen: It’s really incredible. I’ll be here 17 years in February. This is truly, I believe, an iconic Chicago sports brand. When The Score signed on in January of 1992, it was a day-timer. Literally, the station would sign on each day at sunrise and sign off at sundown. Could you imagine a Bears-Packers Sunday, great game, you’re on the air all day Monday, then the sun goes down at 4:50 on a fall afternoon and you have to stop talking? At that time the internet wasn’t really happening and no way to interact with your audience.
The evolution of this brand — and it’s been on three frequencies. It started off at 820 AM, 1160 AM, and now for many years we’ve been on 670 AM, a 50,000-watt blowtorch. The evolution of this brand has just been incredible. All the producers and on-air personalities and sales and marketing people, just to be part of it and to see it develop over all of these years is just incredible.
Add to that the sports franchises that we’ve been partners with. We were partners with the Blackhawks, partners with the White Sox. Then one of the most iconic franchises in all of sports, the Chicago Cubs had not won a World Series since 1908. Our first year of partnering with the Cubs was 2016, and for the Cubs to win a World Series their first year on The Score, a lot of people say we’d rather be lucky than good. How about that? It was just an incredible year. To hear Pat Hughes, the voice of the Cubs, literally say on The Score, the Cubs have won the World Series, you can’t describe the feeling.
BN: When you think about some of the names throughout the years that have helped build the station to what it is today, what comes to mind?
MR: One of the most valuable people that I can think of, Russ Mitera, has literally been here minus three months of existence at the station. Russ is our creative production director. He images the station I think better than anybody else in the country. Obviously, he and I have worked together every day that I’ve been here for 17 years. He makes this station sound great from an imaging standpoint. The sound, the music beds, the imaging voice, his voice. Besides being a great human being, he’s so talented at what he does.
The founding fathers of this radio station, Mike North, Dan Jiggetts, Terry Boers, Dan McNeil, Brian Hanley, and so many others. Doug Buffone, who passed away a number of years ago. The station hiring Mike Ditka when he was still coach of the Bears. Those are things that people still remember to this day. Modern-day Score, Leila Rahimi, a great asset who co-hosts our midday show with Dan Bernstein. Danny Parkins who joined us about five years ago from outside the market and has done a fantastic job in afternoon drive. Staples like Les Grobstein who hosts our overnight show. We’re fortunate to have a live overnight show. So many great things.
BN: What’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced over the years?
MR: There have been a lot of challenges and good challenges along the way. For me, it’s continuing to follow new technology, new ways to interact with our audience, and finding a new audience for our station. Being a standalone AM frequency where sometimes new cars that are manufactured don’t even offer an AM band, so it’s the power of our audio stream, our video stream on Twitch. Our company does a great job from a technological aspect of finding new ways to communicate with our audience on all different platforms. It’s just great. Being a standalone AM, people find great content and they find it throughout all different platforms.
BN: Over the last 30 years of sports radio in general, what do you think has been the biggest positive evolution in the industry?
MR: I think the audience has become smarter. I think when sports radio in Chicago first started, it was caller after caller. Now people interact and communicate whether it’s via text or social platforms. I think the audience and the hosts have become smarter over the years, more intelligent. I think data shows that. I think it’s a more educated audience and we reach out to an audience that interacts in different ways. I think that’s how it’s changed.
I think people want to be educated. There’s an X’s and O’s factor to it, but they also want to be entertained. I think that’s what our brand does. On a Bears Monday, we’re going to talk some X’s and O’s, but I also think we’re going to entertain our audience. I think we provide great experts to analyze games, but our hosts are entertaining, they’re informative. Whether the audience loves or doesn’t always love our hosts, they respect them and they respect our brand. At the end of the day, The Score brand is a powerful brand that our audience continues to come back to.
BN: When you’re operating three different brands, in what ways does your message differ to each of your staffs?
MR: I think you react to different markets. Chicago is different than Milwaukee, but at the end of the day, I really think we’re in the opinion business. Hosts have to be opinionated and you have to interact. People here in Chicago, they have fun with it. I like to say we play the hits. What are people talking about today? If we were at a bar today in Chicago, it’d be about the Bears. The changes they are making with the head coach and the general manager. Those are the hits today. And the Bulls. The Bulls are in first place in the East.
We play the hits, have energy, have opinions, that’s the business we’re in. I think that’s vital. That’s really in any market. Whether it’s Milwaukee or BetQL, which I’m involved with in operations, it’s wager-tainment. We entertain people and we give them data to make them better bettors. Same type of thing; we’re talking NFL, we’re talking NBA. Those are the hits in that format too.
BN: Why was Ryan Porth the right candidate for the APD position at The Score?
MR: In my 17 years it was the most dedicated time I put into that hire. It was the most important hire I’ve made. I took my time. It’s the most people I interviewed for that position ever. I wanted to find the right person. The right person that had experience, that understood the medium, that quite frankly I could learn from and that I could teach some things to. This person will help me bring our brand forward to the future. Ryan really checked all those boxes.
I had great candidates both internally and externally. After really doing a lot of research on Ryan and the success that he’s had in Nashville, I felt that he’s the right person. Like anybody, time will tell. We’ll see how things go. He is a terrific person. I love having great people that I work with, and he’s a smart person in radio and in the audio business. I think he’ll fit right into our clubhouse.
BN: When you have so many good candidates for the APD position and on-air positions, what is that it-factor where you say I think this is the person for the gig?
MR: It’s hard to describe. Sometimes you pick the right person and sometimes I’ve made mistakes along the way. You point a thumb and not a finger. It’s someone that lives and breathes, someone that’s organized, someone that’s a great communicator, and someone that works well with people.
We have a lot of people that are fairly fresh in the business, some people that have been around the business for a while. But looking for someone with fresh ideas that can help bring our brand to the next generation. Thirty years is a long time. We look to gain and bring new listeners into our brand. How do we do that? What are some ideas from a digital perspective, from a station sound perspective, from a branding perspective? Those are all things that we’re striving to take The Score to the next level.
BN: With the industry always evolving, is there a particular area where you strive to be ahead of the curve?
MR: I think every day my goal is how do we sound better? How can our shows improve? It’s not always can we get the better guests. Is there a better topic? Is everybody prepared? Are the producers, who are a vital part of our success, are they prepping our hosts in the right way? Producers are really some of the most valuable people at the station. We have tremendous producers. All do a great job.
Are our hosts prepping for their shows? I think it’s everybody working together, that’s vital to what we do. Are we giving everybody the right tools from a digital perspective? From an equipment standpoint? Is everybody working together taking our brand to the next level from a competition standpoint and from our own brand standpoint?
BN: It’s interesting, man, because it’s a lot like coaching. I think of Matt Rhule with the Carolina Panthers. Right now there are a lot of people saying he’s a micromanager. For you, if something with your staff isn’t quite as good as it could or should be, what’s your approach to handle it where you’re tightening the screws but you’re not micromanaging every little thing?
MR: I tend to pride myself to be a good communicator. A lot of my staff likes to poke fun that I over-communicate with emails and talking. But if there’s an issue, we address it, we talk about it, we fix it together and we move on. We sit down and talk. If we feel that we could do something better whether it’s ratings improvement or working the clock better, we sit down and discuss and we work together on it. That’s my way of managing.
I want people to be happy. I think when people are happy they work harder and that’s what I strive to do.
I’ve been doing this for a long time. You want people to strive to come in and enjoy their work. It’s not every day people are going to be skipping down the hallway whistling and being extremely happy, but if you give them everything they need to succeed, that’s my goal every day. I love making people happy and when you’re happy you work harder. That’s been my philosophy and I love the team that we have here. I really do.
BN: The BSM Summit is in New York City in March. Why do you think it’s important to get out and be a part of events like that?
MR: I think for our industry it continues to change and evolve. Five, 10 years ago, sports radio was callers over the air. It continues to change. You see with podcasts and different forms of media, it’s not just over the air, there are so many different forms. We see what sports wagering has done and it’s part of that DNA of our over-the-air stations. We see what it’s done from a streaming perspective. I think it’s vitally important. I think what Jason and the team has done is just incredible. I think if you can afford it, if your company supports it, I think it’s vitally important.
BN: What’s something valuable that you’ve picked up at the conference from other radio people, or from monitoring other radio stations?
MR: It’s interesting. It’s good talking to people. It’s funny, the last conference that was in person in New York, Mike Thomas was just hired as a direct competitor across the street at WMVP. We were just talking and we were competitors. Prior to that we were friendly business associates. He was running the Sports Hub in Boston and I was here at the Score, and prior to the conference he was just named station manager at WMVP. It wasn’t awkward, it was just kind of weird that all of a sudden we were competing. Most recently he came to work for Audacy and we’re on the same team now.
Just talking shop with people like him and Bruce Gilbert who’s a terrific programming genius. That’s just terrific and seeing people like that is incredible. Then monitoring when I have time, I love to listen to stations from out of town or podcasts. It’s a great way to scout talent and listen to other people. Years ago when Danny Parkins was in Kansas City and people were telling me about this guy in Kansas City, someone from Chicago, and listening to what he did, it helped get him here to Chicago.
BN: Do you have any radio pet peeves?
MR: Not really. I’m trying to think, Brian. I like honesty on the air. I love truthfulness. Once in a while tension is good in sports radio. I love for teammates to get along. That’s important to me. I love people to have fun.
We’re in radio. Sometimes it’s going to be serious. We’re going to talk about serious topics and content, but content is king. Great content wins and that’s very important.
BN: How do you manage your time between three brands to make sure everything is taken care of and operates the way that it should?
MR: I love what I do. I’m passionate. I’ve been doing this a long time. By choice, I get up crazy early in the morning. I go through emails. I live my life by lists. I cross things off as the day goes. I get a lot of satisfaction out of that. I’m pretty regimented. I’m at Starbucks at the same time every day. I work out at the same time every day. I’m just very regimented. I try to do what I can every day. Bringing in someone like Ryan will really help me obviously grow our brand at The Score.
I have a great right hand person in Milwaukee, Steve “Sparky” Fifer, who is probably one of the most dedicated people I’ve ever worked with. He does five hours a day on the air. He’s the assistant brand manager. He’s incredibly helpful. Then on BetQL I work with a great team, Matt Volk and Jesse Linhares. It’s just terrific. I still love coming into work every day. I love thinking about work every day and it’s just been an incredible journey for me.
BN: By the way, what’s your favorite and your least favorite part about working out?
MR: It’s more mental for me. During the week, I try to do 30 minutes on the treadmill and then on weekends an hour. It’s a good time to listen to some podcasts or clear my head. It’s my favorite part. I don’t know, I don’t dread it. I don’t wake up and go ahh shit I’ve got to work out today. Nothing really negative.
BN: [Laughs] Got it. What ideally would you want your future to look like when it comes to your role in the sports radio industry?
MR: I don’t know. I’ve done this a long time. I think eventually an ultimate goal of mine would be to run a market, to be a market manager. I’m not sure if that window has closed for me. That would be an eventual goal of mine. Then if I ever step away from media, I’m on a couple of charity boards. To go run a charity one day would probably be the ultimate goal.
BN: Is there a certain area you’d like your charity work to be in?
MR: I’m involved with Special Olympics Chicago. I’m involved with the American Diabetes Association. I’d be open to that. Either of those, or open to others. I’m also extremely proud of our charitable efforts at The Score. It’s a big initiative for the brand. For example, in 24 hours this past July we raised over $700,000 to build a grocery store in a food desert in a challenging neighborhood in Chicago. Danny Parkins led the way for our “What About Chicago” radiothon. It really demonstrated the power of The Score.
BN: Last thing, what is it that keeps you so motivated? I know that you’re a grinder and love what you do, but is there something that you’re striving toward that gets you out of bed each day?
MR: I like competition. I love winning. I love a breaking news day. I love hearing great imaging on the air. I love seeing other people succeed. I love seeing a young producer get promoted to executive producer roles. Sometimes I love seeing people move on to other opportunities. As tough as it is, if someone has an opportunity outside of our market or into a different role, it makes me feel good. I love making people happy.
Recently we had an executive producer, Jay Zawaski, who was here for 17, 18 years. An opportunity opened up at our news station. It turned into a great opportunity. He oversees their podcast content. It was sad to see him leave The Score, but deep inside I was so happy for him that it was a great opportunity for him. That’s what really motivates me. When people can better themselves and if they can be happy, that’s really what matters to me.
NBC Must Develop a Real No. 2 NFL Crew for Playoffs
Is the network’s only other option Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett?
Several years ago, the NFL objected to NBC wanting to employ Mike Tirico as the lead play-by-play voice for its Thursday Night Football broadcasts. The league preferred Al Michaels because he was NBC’s No. 1 NFL play-by-play announcer and wanted the TNF telecasts to carry the same prestige as Sunday Night Football.
Following the network’s heavily-criticized broadcast of Saturday’s Wild Card playoff game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL may want to impose its authority again and insist that a top-tier broadcast team call the action of an important postseason game.
The consensus among fans and media watching Saturday’s broadcast was that Michaels and analyst Tony Dungy were surprisingly low-energy for an NFL playoff game, let alone one that became so exciting with Jacksonville rallying from a 27-0 deficit for a 31-30 victory on a last-second field goal.
Such a lackluster broadcast led to questions of whether or not Michaels was now past his prime after a season of calling subpar TNF games for Amazon and what initially appeared to be another snoozer when the Jaguars fell behind by 27 points. Pairing him with Dungy, who was a studio analyst all season, certainly didn’t help.
Dungy was as basic as a game analyst could be, typically narrating replays viewers could see for themselves while adding little insight. Worst of all, he demonstrated no enthusiasm for the action, leaving Michaels to fill most of the airtime. The veteran broadcaster showed that he can no longer carry a broadcast by himself. He needs the energy and back-and-forth that Cris Collinsworth or Kirk Herbstreit provide.
So how did NBC get here?
Most football fans know that the network’s top broadcast team is Tirico on play-by-play alongside analyst Cris Collinsworth. But they had their own assignment during Super Wild Card Weekend, calling Sunday night’s Ravens-Bengals match-up. With the postseason field expanding from 12 to 14 teams, resulting in six games being played on Wild Card weekend, NBC was awarded one of the additional playoff broadcasts.
Thus, another broadcast team was needed for that second Wild Card game. Fortunately, NBC had a renowned play-by-play man already in place. Michaels finished out his final season as SNF‘s lead voice by calling Super Bowl LVI, part of a powerful one-two combination for NBC Sports coming toward the end of its 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics coverage.
Ending his legendary career with a Super Bowl broadcast would’ve been a wonderful final note for Michaels. That appeared to be a natural path when Tirico moved from ESPN to NBC in 2016. Network executives admitted that a succession plan was in mind for Tirico to take over SNF eventually. At the time, Michaels also likely thought he would retire by then.
But when confronted with the possibility of retirement, Michaels realized he wasn’t interested. He was still enjoying broadcasting the NFL. His skills were still sharp. And perhaps most importantly, he was in demand. Amazon wanted Michaels as the lead voice for its Thursday Night Football broadcasts, bringing instant credibility to a streaming venture that drew some skepticism. ESPN considered him as its Monday Night Football play-by-play man.
As it turned out, ESPN made a bold move for MNF, swiping Fox’s No. 1 NFL crew of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. That left Amazon for Michaels, and the streaming giant paid him a commensurate salary with the top broadcasters in the industry as part of his three-year contract.
Yet Michaels wasn’t done with NBC either. After his agreement with Amazon became official, NBC announced that its relationship with Michaels would continue in an “emeritus” role allowing him to broadcast the network’s Olympics coverage and that additional Wild Card playoff telecast.
NBC can’t have been happy that most of the social media chatter afterward focused on the broadcast, rather than the game result. Especially when the discussion centered on how poorly Michaels and Dungy performed in what turned out to be a thrilling playoff game. That’s a pairing that the NFL probably doesn’t want to see again.
Michaels will likely call at least one more Wild Card playoff game for NBC since he intends to work on the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics. He’s also under contract with Amazon for another two seasons unless he decides to retire before that deal expires. So perhaps the simple solution is keeping Dungy out of the broadcast booth and giving Michaels a better partner.
But can NBC drop in another analyst who hasn’t worked with Michaels all season? Anyone would arguably be an improvement over Dungy. Is it at all possible for Herbstreit to be hired on for a one-off playoff broadcast, thus ensuring that the broadcast team will have some on-air familiarity and chemistry?
Otherwise, NBC’s only other option may be its Notre Dame broadcast team of Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett. (The network tried that last season with Tirico and Drew Brees, only for Brees to wilt under the harsher NFL playoff spotlight.)
The pair also called USFL broadcasts for the network, so at least there would be familiarity rather than trying to figure each other out during a telecast. Yet Collinsworth and Garrett aren’t terribly popular with viewers. And as with Brees, that crew will face intense scrutiny with a larger playoff audience.
Unfortunately, NBC appears to be stuck here. Unless the new Big Ten broadcast team of Noah Eagle and Todd Blackledge gets a shot. That might be the best option! Other than Notre Dame or USFL games, where are the other opportunities for NBC to develop a No. 2 NFL broadcast team? No one wants to put Al Michaels through Chris Simms in the broadcast booth, right?
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.
Al Michaels Has Options But He Has To Make a Choice
“It does all of us in the sports industry well to remember 99% of our audience would gladly trade places with us.”
I don’t ask much out of game announcers; get excited when appropriate, get the simple information correct, don’t get so caught up in your shtick you put yourself above the game. Al Michaels has been doing all those things well for the better part of half a century and few would argue that he’s not one of the best to ever do it. That doesn’t mean he can’t lose his fastball.
Before you read any longer, I am not here to say Al Michaels has lost his fastball. What I am here to say is Michaels has all too often this season seemed upset with and disinterested in the game he is calling. That isn’t entirely surprising when you consider some of the Thursday night action he called on Amazon Prime where the average margin of victory was almost nine points per game.
On top of that, the Amazon schedule had a dreadful two week stretch with Colts 12-9 win over the Broncos in Week Five and the Commanders 12-7 win over the Bears the next Thursday. It was in that Broncos-Colts game Michaels asked Herbstreit if a game “can be so bad it is good?” Herbstreit’s answer was “No”, by the way. It was the full 15 game schedule that Michaels told The Athletic’s media critic Richard Deitsch was like trying to sell a used car.
All of that is fine, the inaugural Amazon Prime season was not a smashing success. The streaming giant missed audience projections and will lose advertising revenue because of it. The lackluster schedule did not help that. But Michaels was given a second life; he was the NBC play-by-play announcer for the Saturday Night Wildcard Playoff game between the Chargers and Jaguars. It initially looked like Michaels might be the problem as five first half Jags turnovers had them in a 27-0 hole. But the home team staged a nearly unprecedented comeback for the win.
It was the performance by Michaels and, to a lesser degree, his analyst Tony Dungy that has led to criticism. Criticism might be too soft of a word, Michaels was roundly dragged for his lack of enthusiasm during the comeback and specifically on his call of the Jacksonville game winning field goal. The enthusiasm of the call of the game winner had a mid-3rd quarter of week four feel to it.
Me telling Al Michaels how to do play-by-play of an NFL game would be the equivalent of me telling a physicist how to split an atom. So, this isn’t just a Michaels criticism, few things bother me more than hearing a game announcer complain about the length or quality of a game as if he’d rather be anywhere else. It does all of us in the sports industry well to remember 99% of our audience would gladly trade places with us.
How many NFL viewers would sit in the seat Michaels, or any NFL announcer occupies, for free? They’d feel like they won the lottery if they also were getting the money those announcers are getting paid to be there. The guy that works a 12-hour Thursday construction shift just to get home and crack a beer for the NFL game probably doesn’t want to hear how tough that game is to announce.
On top of all of that, Michaels was given the gift of one of the wildest NFL Playoff comebacks you’ll ever see and, at times, sounded as if he was completely disinterested in being there. Pro tip: the best NFL announcer in those moments is Kevin Harlan (see: Miami at Baltimore from earlier this season. That has nothing to do with my lifelong Dolphins fandom). Michaels’ lack of enthusiasm was compounded by the exact opposite from Mike Tirico on the very same network for the Bengals-Ravens Wildcard game Sunday night.
Tirico, like Michaels, has a sterling resume of play-by-play accomplishments. The difference is Tirico sounded like he was having the time of his life on Sunday night.
To be fair, their two styles are different. Michaels has a very old school, Pat Summerall approach. Summerall, Vin Scully and Dick Enberg came along at a time when announcers were far more likely to let the pictures tell the story. More new school guys like Harlan and Tirico approach it differently.
Look, Al Michaels helped us believe in miracles. His place in the Sports Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame has long since been cemented. Being a hall of fame inductee doesn’t mean your style will forever be accepted by the masses. That leaves you with a few options; you can continue your style and accept or ignore the criticism or you can ride off into the sunset and enjoy the fruits of your decades of labor.
Al Michaels has what we all want; great options. He can choose any of them and be a winner in the game of life. It doesn’t matter if he enthusiastically embraces them, or not.
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.
Bernie Kosar Was the Victim of a Policy That Doesn’t Work Anymore
“The NFL has bigger fish to fry than Bernie Kosar. Hell, it has more pressing issues in Cleveland alone.”
One week ago, Bernie Kosar lost his job on the Browns Radio Network for placing the first legal sports bet in the state of Ohio. Kosar, just like Jets coach Miles Austin weeks earlier and Calvin Ridley last year, violated a league policy that forbids team employees from placing a bet on any NFL game.
The integrity of the games still matters. The belief that what we are all seeing is being fairly contested is what gives those of us that like to have a little vested interest in the outcome the desire to lay our money down in the first place. I get the league’s discomfort with a coach on the staff of a team in the middle of the playoff hunt making bets. I get its fear of the message it sends to have players making bets.
Roger Goodell and the 32 team owners are well within their rights to object to men that can potentially control the outcome of a game or postseason seeding doing anything that even appears to jeopardize its fairness. Even perceived impropriety can compromise the league’s tremendous value.
But Bernie Kosar doesn’t have that kind of influence on the outcome of a game. He is just a broadcaster and not even a game analyst. He is part of studio coverage.
I am far from the first to point this out, but in 2023, the NFL has three official sports betting partners. Just last week, it approved the first ever in-stadium sportsbook, which Fanatics is set to open inside of FedEx Field. If the NFL is comfortable enough with the reality that its fans like to bet to make those things a reality, then Kosar losing his gig is absurd. It is the result of nothing other than “well, that’s the way we’ve always done it” thinking.
Maybe Kosar was terrible on the radio and the team was looking for a reason to move on. I don’t live in Cleveland and I am not a Browns fan, so I have no idea.
How many times have we heard that NFL owners hired Goodell to “protect the shield”? I’m not even really sure what it means or when it applies anymore. If I had a vested interest in the public perception of the league, I know that I would want someone to do the PR math on this situation.
Bernie Kosar isn’t an addict that can’t watch a game without the high of winning or the emotional distress of losing everything at stake, at least not as far as we know. This was a bet made through an advertising partner, to benefit charity. He even said on his podcast this week that the purpose of making the bet was to generate some money for former players in need of help.
This is like Disney threatening daycare centers with lawsuits for painting Mickey Mouse on a classroom wall. The NFL has bigger fish to fry than Bernie Kosar. Hell, it has more pressing issues in Cleveland alone.
Surely you have seen Garrett Bush’s impassioned rant on the Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show about the obstacles facing Damar Hamlin because of how many hoops the NFL makes former players jump through in order to get some kind of pension.
On January 2, we were all united in our concern for a guy that hadn’t even completed his second full NFL season. We didn’t know if he was going to live, but if he did, we all knew that the NFL had done everything it needed to in order to protect itself from ever having to pay a dime for his medical care. Less than a week later, Bernie Kosar was fired for what amounted to a charity stunt that was meant to raise money and attention to very similar issues.
At both the league level and the team level, there was incompetence that lead to a man unnecessarily losing a gig and to the Browns and the NFL looking horribly out of touch with reality.
Are we acknowledging that people gamble or not? Are we acknowledging there are responsible ways to bet on football and are interested in generating revenue off of it or not? Because it doesn’t seem to me that the same league that just gave the thumbs up to open a sportsbook inside of a stadium is really that concerned with people that cannot affect the outcome of games betting on those games.
Has the NFL come out and said that it is going to cover every medical bill for everyone that has ever played the game? We know that this is a brutal game that leaves a physical and physiological impact on the men that played it. Why would we make it harder for someone that knows that pain to help others do something about it?
I feel awful for Bernie Kosar. Whether he needs the money or not, it is embarassing to be at the center of a controversy like this, particularly because in the NFL in 2023, there is no reason for a controversy like this to exist.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.