Waking up at a normal time the day after the Super Bowl was another pleasant reminder to Adam Hawk that his life wasn’t consumed by the grind of radio. For the previous 15 years, watching the Super Bowl meant the stress of constantly taking notes, and trying to create content for everything that was happening, all while facing the inevitability of waking up at 4 a.m. the next day to prep for the biggest The Jim Rome Show of the year.
But not this year. Instead, Hawk spent the night with family and friends and even indulged in a few drinks, all while watching a classic finish between the Rams and Bengals. It was his first Super Bowl in several years where he wasn’t an executive producer of a nationally syndicated radio show. And he loved the change of pace.
However, that feeling is in no way indicative of what his time on The Jim Rome Show was like. It’s just the opposite. Hawk left the show in late July of 2021 because he wanted a different lifestyle than what radio could offer. He was always passionate about creating the best show possible daily and doing it with a group of coworkers he calls close friends, but he wanted a less demanding lifestyle.
“I feel like I’ve lived a couple of lifetimes since leaving The Jim Rome Show and radio in general,” said Hawk. “It’s just been a completely different lifestyle. I’ve been super busy with my own business, working another job for a golf association, and then two kids. I filled up my schedule and I felt a sense of freedom that I hadn’t felt in a long time before. That’s not necessarily indicative of The Jim Rome Show, that’s just radio. You’re always chasing content and glued to your phone and TV. Just to have that away from me, it’s felt like five years, in a good way, not a bad way.”
The funny thing about radio is you may leave it but it takes time for it to leave you. Your daily routines in the business don’t just go away the day after you walk out of the studio for the final time. If you’re used to waking up at 4 a.m. like Hawk was every weekday, you’re bound to find yourself waking up at the same time for several days after.
“The two things I couldn’t shake right away were, my body clock was still waking me up at 4 in the morning,” laughed Hawk. “The show started at 9 a.m. but we were showing up at 5 a.m. I also couldn’t shake the feeling of whenever I would see sports on television, the idea that I needed to form an opinion about what I’m seeing and then turn it into content. When it sunk in that I didn’t have to do that anymore, it was a massive relief.”
Deleting Twitter has also been a massive relief for Hawk. Like so many others in radio, it used to consume his everyday life. It never allowed him to leave work at his actual workplace. Work was always on the screen of his iPhone even at home. So when he decided to leave radio, he couldn’t wait to delete Twitter. Sure, it was odd at first, but he swears by a lifestyle that isn’t controlled by an app.
July 25th marked one year since leaving the radio business. On that day, some reflection likely happened with Hawk on his decision. Though he’s still happy with the way he decided to take his professional career, you can bet there was a moment when he looked back at the great times he had on The Jim Rome Show. Those good memories that popped into his mind were the camaraderie he had with the rest of the staff. The days were everyone pulled together to accomplish something great. That happened a lot as an executive producer and those are the days he looks most fondly at over his 15-year career.
“I’ve also missed the invitation to be creative every day,” Hawk said. “Radio affords you the opportunity to be creative because every day you have to build a sandcastle, a wave is going to knock it down and you start all over again. The content changes and you have to start over every single day. There aren’t a lot of jobs where you start from zero every day.”
Hawk will always have a special legacy with The Jim Rome Show, seeing as he was the executive producer at the time Rome was elected to the Radio Hall of Fame in 2019. Not only was he there at the time of the highest honor in show history, but he pushed to make it happen. Hawk was even mentioned in Rome’s speech, which was one of the most surreal moments of his entire career.
“Jim had to stump for votes, which was kind of demeaning for a guy of his skill set, talent, and importance to the industry,” said Hawk. “But I can see how the Hall of Fame, in order to get some buzz going, would want to have these hosts ask their listeners to vote for them because at the very least it gets the hosts talking about it. We had to ask our listeners to vote and find a way to entice them to do so. We created this thing called The Box of Chaos, where we threw a bunch of things into this box, like, we’re going to do these things if we beat the hosts we were up against.”
“We were up against some conservative talk radio guys, where we had no shot, because they had this built-in fan base that’s so much bigger than even Jim Rome’s, but we ended up thanking the listeners and pulling some of that stuff out because they went so hard for us. The box of chaos was super, super fun and it ended with my good friend James Kelly, who works on the show, reading mean tweets about the size of his forehead and it was one of the funniest payoffs and one of the most fun couple of weeks. I got to work really hard on something I really believed in, which was Jim getting into The Hall of Fame. Ultimately it didn’t work, but he got in the next year on his own merit. I got name-checked by Jim Rome in his hall of fame speech which, as a kid, that’s something I would have never imagined. Radio was some of the best times of my life.”
There’s also the thrill and excitement of producing Smack-Off which is one of the most well-known sports radio features the business has ever seen. It’s a huge time for the show and likely a stressful time, as well.
“Every Smack-Off was a proud moment because there’s a lot of things going on behind the scenes in terms of producing that show,” said Hawk. “That show, in my opinion, is still the most important radio show of the year for our genre, because it’s been around for 30 years and it trends on Twitter and people take it very seriously. It was always a proud moment to produce those.”
Those memories were undoubtedly on Hawk’s mind when he started to consider leaving radio in 2020. He didn’t leave the business until 2021, but the pandemic contributed heavily to his decision. Hawk watched as so many people around him transitioned into a work life from home, where they could set their hours. He was envious of their ability to work remotely and reconnect with family and friends on a different level.
“I know people have Comrex setups and things like that, but you can’t do The Jim Rome Show from home,” Hawk said. “That’s not possible. I realized that I was in this business where it’s incredibly hard to get time off because content never stops. I think anyone in radio can attest to this. It’s stressful around Thanksgiving and Christmas to think about taking time off because everyone wants it but someone has to be on the air. There’s a lot of games during the holidays. It’s not a normal life. After 15 years of this, I finally thought, I want to trade this in for a normal life. Everyone is thinking, with us, this is the greatest gig in the world. And in some respects it is, but it’s not what the general public thinks. It’s not sitting courtside at Laker games. It’s not flying on private jets to the Super Bowl or being best friends with Odell Beckham Jr. it’s a lot of work and that content doesn’t produce itself.”
If Hawk was going to leave sports radio, he wanted to chase something he was passionate about. He found that in 2020 with a company that specializes in preserving the swanky style of a well-dressed golfer. Nation Golf is a clothing brand for golfers and a style that Hawk believes in wholeheartedly. He was immediately drawn to the business and knew it was a venture he wanted to chase.
“I’ve always been drawn to the timeless, aesthetic of yesteryear,” said Hawk. “You look at these old timers that are wearing these clean pressed shirts and slacks, you’re just like wow, they look as good today, as they did 50 or 60 years ago. It’s the pure definition of timeless. You turn on TV and watch the PGA Tour, nobody is dressing like that, they’re like NASCAR drivers covered in logos or clowns like Ricky Fowler in his bright Orange. There’s no style, charisma, or charm and I think when those guys see photos of themselves in 10 years they’re going to be embarrassed.
“I started looking immediately for vintage golf clothes and Zuckerberg is listening to everything you’re thinking so he put Nation Golf in front of me. I was like, holy s***, I can’t believe someone is doing this and I can buy it new, I don’t have to go to a thrift store. I can buy it new. I just got immediately sucked into it.”
Hawk noticed the Instagram following for Nation Golf was much lower than he thought it should be for a brand so cool. Something clicked for him at that moment. As the executive producer of a Hall of Fame radio show, he had confidence in his abilities to operate promotions and social media on a big-time level. He was curious if he could apply those skills and apply it to the business. He was out to see if he could do just that with Nation Golf so he reached out to founder and CEO Ryan Engle.
“I loved the logo, I loved the name, I loved the clothes and I ended up loving the guy,” Hawk said. “He told me he had taken it as far as it could possibly go on his own and it was the perfect time for me to come down and pitch him. He said, hey, Let’s play 18 holes together, if you’re not a serial killer, we can do this. And we did.”
Business for Nation Golf has gotten progressively better to the point it’s grown exponentially. But he never wanted to rely on The Jim Rome Show to help with the growth of the company, even when he was balancing both jobs daily. Rome was fully supportive of Hawk’s side hustle and only reminded him to ‘keep the main thing, the main thing.’
“I take a lot of pride in the fact I never used Jim’s platform to sell the company,” said Hawk. “I didn’t feed callers to him that were going to talk about it. I didn’t put emails in front of him that were going to talk about it. I tried to keep it as separate as possible. Even on my last day when Jim asked me on the air what was next, I did say ‘Hey, I don’t want to turn this into a commercial for what I’m doing next, but I am going to run my own business’. Didn’t even mention Nation Golf by name, because I felt like he had been sailing that giant yacht of a radio show for 30 years and I didn’t want to be the clown who’s about to jump off and pulling the parachute that has a giant logo of the company on it. That just wasn’t my thing.”
Tyler McComas is a columnist for BSM and a sports radio talk show host in Norman, OK where he hosts afternoon drive for SportsTalk 1400. You can find him on Twitter @Tyler_McComas or you can email him at TylerMcComas08@yahoo.com.
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 email@example.com.
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.