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Kordell Stewart Believes In Bleav

Now there’s a human element in this space because there’s more athletes getting involved with television, radio and podcasting. If [they] can believe in what they know and know what they believe in and give it to the audience, [fans] are going to love that player that they once loved.”

Derek Futterman




On the football field and in the sports media landscape, changes have occurred since Kordell Stewart roamed the sidelines. A new archetype – the mobile quarterback – has been created, showcasing the style of many young stars in the league today, such as Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes, and Josh Allen.

The mobile quarterback, however, was not readily accepted in the mid-90s when Stewart entered the league. Stewart was drafted in the second round by the Pittsburgh Steelers as the 60th-overall pick after a successful college career at the University of Colorado. Stewart always wanted to be a full-time quarterback in the NFL but had plenty of people and entities doubting him, making it difficult for him to win the starting job.

Entering the 1997 season though, the Steelers moved on from Mike Tomczak as the starting quarterback and gave the role to Stewart, allowing him to fully display his talents on the field regularly for the first time.

“The media has their way of creating narratives – ones that fit their narrative,” Stewart said. “It’s not the narrative, but it’s their narrative and causes the followers to buy into that narrative.”

Stewart was quickly referred to as “Slash,” a nickname given to him by the team’s color commentator Myron Cope. The name referred to the slash punctuation mark (“/”) placed between the different positions he could play (quarterback/wide receiver/running back) and highlighted his unique and extraordinary versatility on the gridiron.

His talent on the field helped the Steelers reach both the AFC Championship Game in 1997 and allowed them to return to it in 2001. Stewart was a Pro Bowl selection in that 2001 season, posting 3,109 passing yards and 14 passing touchdowns along with 537 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns en route to a 13-3 overall record.

“I like to look at [it] as saying that I’ve been blessed with a tremendous amount of talent,” Stewart explained. “I don’t want to be, if you will, suppressed in how I move [or] think because of someone else’s inability to identify all in which I can do on the field and even in the media. You have to have that someone who has confidence in you to give you that chance on their platform or [have] it in yourself.”

Stewart put that versatility on display in the world of sports media when he began appearing across ESPN programming in 2009 on shows such as First Take, NFL Live, College Football Live and Mike and Mike in the Morning. Additionally, Stewart worked as a sideline reporter for the network’s coverage of the United Football League airing on the then-Versus Network, interviewing athletes, coaches and other personnel throughout the game and working alongside Doug Flutie, Anita Marks and Dave Sims.

By October 2012 though, Stewart made the move to 92.9 The Game in Atlanta to host GameTime, an afternoon drive show with Carl Dukes. He remained with the station for 19 months, amicably leaving in May 2014, but learned a considerable amount of what it took to be a radio host during that time.

Working for Terry Foxx, the station’s program director, who is now the director of program and audience at 90.9 KUT in Austin, a considerable differentiator of the program was in Stewart’s perspectives and opinions as a former professional football player, and the ethos it garnered.

“Transparency was always my thing and still is,” Stewart said. “You give [the listeners] the inside scoop – your experience – which I think they have a tendency to like a lot. It’s not like you’re just talking; it’s connecting them to a moment that maybe they can remember [or] they can research.”

Being succinct in the points you make as a host was another aspect of the job that Stewart learned from Foxx, largely due to the preponderance of listeners tuning in from behind the wheel of their cars. Obviously since Stewart’s move out of radio, the landscape of audio consumption has considerably shifted towards digitally-based platforms, including on-demand listening and podcasting; however, the same principles apply when trying to keep listeners engaged, especially with the amount of choices readily available to them.

Nonetheless, the concept of utilizing resets, albeit trite in essence, remains a fundamental part of attracting and retaining listeners when imbued with cognizant and concise dialogue.

“It’s kind of like rebooting the system when having the conversation within 30 seconds on speaking about something,” Stewart said. “It’s a technique. It’s not easy, but you have to put yourself in the listener’s position. If you can do that, then you can do some good radio and good podcasting without having to look at the replay of the show.”

The nature of that dialogue for radio programs, according to Stewart, cannot be too recondite in scope, for it is imperative that you tailor the extent in which you discuss something to the general acuity and intellect of the audience. Being aware of his audience as early as his days on the gridiron, Stewart has found ways to both connect and relate to them from the perspective of a former starting NFL quarterback, and it has led him towards opportunities and success across multiple broadcast platforms.

“To be able to not just play the game but to articulate it and give it to a fan base that’s willing and eager to get the inside scoop about the game and just [what] sports in general is about and what it takes per se to be a professional… was what I liked and loved to do,” Stewart said. “It became really easy to transition from playing the game to actually doing commentary.”

Stewart made the transition towards digital when he departed 92.9 The Game to join TuneIn, an internet radio platform accessible to listeners on mobile devices, computers, and on other technologies. Joined by Brian Webber, Stewart co-hosted the weekday program NFL No Huddle from 4 to 7 p.m. to discuss sports and entertainment. Just over a year after the show’s 2015 debut, the show added a podcast to its weekly content, allowing it to reach a broader audience and adapt to the digital age.

It was also during this time when Stewart took two summer classes at the University of Colorado to finish earning his communications degree, which he had started in the ‘90s before joining the NFL but came up three credits short. He was motivated to complete his degree to set an example for his son and also make his late-father proud. While returning to study at the university, he was able to broadcast his show remotely from the college campus.

With his communications degree in hand and experience working in both terrestrial and internet radio, Stewart was approached by the Bleav content network to take his talents to the podcasting space. The network, which was founded by Bron Heussenstamm, has sought to produce premium content for all types of sports fans. It has shows for each NFL and college football team with a host and at least one former player, along with those that cover the game at large including Stewart’s podcast titled On The Edge with Slash.

The platform also has shows pertaining to Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League among other sports entities and produces over 1,000 hours of new content per month. This content is distributed both on Bleav’s platforms, along with SiriusXM, SportsMap Radio, and TuneIn, giving it the potential to find large groups of listeners and a chance to continue to expand.

“All of the parties that are connected in some capacity have a chance to be a part of it,” expressed Stewart. “You end up finding yourself being able to have some fun with it and know that you just want to be mindful that everyone’s listening.”

Stewart officially joined Bleav last month and described his podcast as one that will be “tough but fair” keeping with his belief in transparency. Being “on the edge” describes the trajectory of his career, according to Stewart, largely due to his desire to become a quarterback after initially joining the Steelers out of the draft and playing largely as a wide receiver. Now, he hopes to apply that same mindset in order to craft a podcast sound that stands out among the multitude of others available to consumers today.

“When I say ‘tough but fair,’ I’m going to apply it in a way that’s not going to be so diplomatic and politically-correct if you will in following the narrative of what everyone is talking about,” Stewart said. “I’m going to talk about the truth of what it is I see; what I think is fair or not fair; good or not good, and I don’t care who it is.”

Stewart hosts the podcast with Joe Ceraulo and together, the duo seeks to improve the show with each new episode. Moving from working in radio to podcasting, many of the same principles apply and Stewart does not recognize there to be too many differences between either medium.

Yet podcasts are continuing to gain more popularity in terms of aural content and can reach more people than terrestrial radio, even though many stations are now producing original podcasts and/or putting full-length shows or smaller segments on-demand as podcasts.

“Radio was the wave at one time [but you had to] make sure you have enough towers in the air so you get enough reception so it can go as far as it can go with enough satellites,” Stewart said. “[With] podcasting, I can reach anywhere…. Podcasting is the new wave now – it’s the hot ticket today – but radio will always exist; I don’t think it will ever leave.”

In addition to his regular podcast, Stewart recently joined a new sports betting podcast with Ceraulo and sports handicapper Brandon Lang titled Bleav Me. The movement of sports betting into sports media has been quite pronounced in the last year, not only because of the legalization of sports betting in certain states around the country, but also because of genuine fan interest in it and the new revenue streams created from various sportsbooks.

Now, the implementation of sports betting into all types of programming, whether it be studio shows or live game broadcasts, and also the creation of new programming with it as the central topic, is becoming something more commonplace by the day.

“It’s truly a joy to have a chance to be in this space because… this is the lay of the land now when it comes down to how this thing is created and made,” Stewart said of his move into podcasting. “….It’s fun. It gets you back out there in a different way and more of a modern way because not everyone can catch you on television but a lot of people can actually catch you through the media outlets to give you an opportunity to be heard.”

Bleav describes itself as an omnichannel content network for professionals and produces sports and entertainment content in the form of podcasts and other original programming. Stewart believes the platform is set up well for sustained success because of the talent it has brought on to produce compelling and appealing multiplatform content distributed to various outlets.

“If you give [the audience] good quality content that they can utilize in this space of podcasting and television if you will or live streaming, then the Bleav network is believable,” Stewart affirmed. “….I believe in the opportunity that they’ve given me and the platform that they’ve given me, and it’s my opportunity to show my style, who I am on the networks and give them as much as I can so those who are listening can believe me and believe in what I’m doing.”

Many athletes have moved into the sports media space over the years, and there are plenty of recent examples of athletes who have started in the industry while still remaining active players. According to Stewart, it takes believing in oneself to enter into the space and remaining true to your own experiences and opinions within the various mediated communication platforms.

Yet it is essential to remember that many fans want to continue to hear from their favorite players, especially when they retire, and working in media is one way for athletes to do that and preserve the connection to those fans.

“Back in the day it used to be about the helmet and not who the person was,” Stewart said. “….Now there’s a human element in this space because there’s more athletes getting involved with television, radio and podcasting. If [they] can believe in what they know and know what they believe in and give it to the audience, [fans] are going to love that player that they once loved.”

For Kordell Stewart, his journey in sports media is far from over as he seeks to grow his new podcasts with Bleav. Being able to genuinely be himself by discussing his career and displaying his versatility in media is his way of continuing to live up to his nickname “Slash,” as he uses his past experiences and exudes his passion for football to position himself to become a compelling listen to new consumers and expand his reach.

At the same time, he serves as a source of inspiration to the next generation of athletes and media professionals finding ways to amalgamate their talents in whatever endeavors they seek out – even if they are told by others to just stick to what they are best at.

“Sometimes when I’m out here working, those who are the bosses sometimes like for people to do what it is that they’re good at to allow that void or that space to be solidified so they can create more spaces,” Stewart said. “In my mind when I really think of it, it’s almost like they say ‘A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.’ If you can do more – the more, the merrier…. You don’t want to minimize yourself.”

BSM Writers

Is There Still a Place for Baseball Talk on National Sports Shows?

“Its struggle has been the same since the beginning of television. There is too much baseball for any regular season baseball game or story to have national significance.”

Demetri Ravanos




Last week at the BSM Summit, I hosted a panel focused on air checks. I wish I could say we covered the topic thoroughly, but we got derailed a lot, and you know what? That is okay. It felt like real air checks that I have been on both sides of in my career. 

Rob Parker of The Odd Couple on FOX Sports Radio was the talent. He heard thoughts on his show from his boss, Scott Shapiro, and from his former boss, legendary WFAN programmer Mark Chernoff. 

Baseball was the topic that caused one of our derailments on the panel. If you know Rob, you know he is passionate about Major League Baseball. He cited download numbers that show The Odd Couple’s time-shifted audience responds to baseball talk. To him, that proves there is not just room for it on nationally syndicated shows, but that there is a sizable audience that wants it.

Chernoff disagrees. He says baseball is a regional sport. Sure, there are regions that love it and local sports talk stations will dedicate full hours to discussing their home team’s games and roster. National shows need to cast a wide net though, and baseball doesn’t do that.

Personally, I agree with Chernoff. I told Parker on stage that “I hear baseball talk and I am f***ing gone.” The reason for that, I think, is exactly what Chernoff said. I grew up in Alabama (no baseball team). I live in North Carolina (no baseball team). Where baseball is big, it is huge, but it isn’t big in most of the country. 

Now, I will add this. I used to LOVE baseball. It is the sport I played in high school. The Yankees’ logo was on the groom’s cake at my wedding. Then I had kids.

Forget 162 games. Even five games didn’t fit into my lifestyle. Maybe somewhere deep down, I still have feelings for the sport, but they are buried by years of neglect and active shunning.

Its struggle has been the same since the beginning of television. There is too much baseball for any regular season baseball game or story to have national significance. 

Me, and millions of sports talk listeners like me, look at baseball like a toddler looks at broccoli. You probably aren’t lying when you tell us how much you love it, but damn it! WE WANT CHICKEN FINGERS!

A new Major League Baseball season starts Thursday and I thought this topic was worth exploring. I asked three nationally syndicated hosts to weigh in. When is baseball right for their show and how do they use those conversations? Here is what they had to say.

FREDDIE COLEMAN (Freddie & Fitzsimmons on ESPN Radio) – “MLB can still be talked nationally IF there’s that one player like Aaron Judge or Shohei Ohtani can attract the casual fan.  MLB has definitely become more local because of the absence of that SUPER player and/or villainous team.  I wonder if the pace of play will help bring in the younger fans that they need, but the sport NEEDS that defining star that is must-see TV.”

JONAS KNOX (2 Pros & a Cup of Joe on FOX Sports Radio) – “While football is king for me in sports radio, I look at baseball like most other sports. I’m not opposed to talking about it, as long as I have an angle or opinion that I am confident I can deliver in an entertaining manner. A couple of times of any given year, there are stories in baseball that are big picture topics that are obvious national discussions. 

“I think it’s my job to never close the door on any topic/discussion (except politics because I don’t know anything about it).

“But also, if I’m going to discuss a localized story in baseball or any other sport for that matter – I better have an entertaining/informed angle on it. Otherwise, I’ve let down the listener and that is unacceptable. If they give you their time, you better not waste it.”

MAGGIE GRAY (Maggie & Perloff on CBS Sports Radio) – “While I was on WFAN there was almost no amount of minutia that was too small when it came to the Mets and Yankees. On Maggie and Perloff, our baseball topics have to be more centered around issues that can be universal. For example, ’Is Shohei Ohtani the face of the sport? Is Ohtani pitching and hitting more impressive than two sport athletes like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders? Do you consider Aaron Judge the single-season homerun king or Barry Bonds?’ Any baseball fan or sports fan can have an opinion about those topics, so we find they get great engagement from our audience.”

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BSM Writers

Who Can Sports Fans Trust Once Twitter Ditches Legacy Verified Blue Checks?

The potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.

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As of April 1, Twitter will finally make a dreaded change that many will view as an April Fools’ prank. Unfortunately, it won’t be a joke to any user who cares about legitimacy and truth.

Last week, Twitter officially announced that verified blue checkmarks will be removed from accounts that have not signed up for a Twitter Blue subscription. Previously, accounts whose identity had been verified were allowed to keep their blue checks when Twitter Blue was implemented.

But shortly after Elon Musk purchased Twitter and became the social media company’s CEO, he stated his intention to use verification as a revenue source. Users would have to pay $8 per month (or $84 annually) for a Twitter Blue subscription and blue checkmark verification. Paying for blue checks immediately set off red flags among users who learned to depend on verified accounts for accredited identities and trusted information.

The entire concept of verification and blue checks was simple and effective. Users and accounts bearing the blue checkmark were legitimate. These people and organizations were who they said they were.

As an example, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has faced criticism for how he framed domestic violence and sexual misconduct involving star NFL players, and deservedly so. But fans and media know Schefter’s tweets are really coming from him because his account is verified.

Furthermore, Twitter took the additional step of clarifying that accounts such as Schefter’s were verified before Twitter Blue was implemented. He didn’t pay eight dollars for that blue checkmark.


The need for verification is never more vital than when fake accounts are created to deceive users. Such accounts will put “Adam Schefter” as their Twitter name, even if their handle is something like “@TuaNeedsHelp.” Or worse, some fake accounts will create a handle with letters that look similar. So “@AdarnSchefter” with an “rn” in place of the “m,” fools some people, especially at a quick glance when people are trying to push news out as fast as possible.

Plenty of baseball fans have been duped over the years by fake accounts using a zero instead of an “o” or a capital “I” instead of a lowercase “l” to resemble Fox Sports and The Athletic reporter Ken Rosenthal. That trick didn’t get me. But when I covered Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report 10 years ago, I did fall for a fake Jim Salisbury account that reported the Philadelphia Phillies traded Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants. Capital “I,” not lowercase “l” in “Salisbury.” Pence was, in fact, traded to the Giants two days later, but that didn’t make my goof any less embarrassing. I should’ve looked for the blue checkmark!

But after April 1, that signifier won’t matter. Legacy blue checkmarks will be removed from accounts that haven’t paid for Twitter Blue. Some accounts that were previously verified might purchase a subscription to maintain that blue check. But those that were deemed legitimate prior to Musk taking over Twitter likely won’t. (There are also rumors that Twitter is considering a feature that would allow Twitter Blue subscribers to hide their blue check and avoid revealing that purchase.)

That could be even more true for media organizations, which are being told to pay $1000 per month for verification. Do you think ESPN, the New York Times, or the Washington Post will pay $12,000 for a blue check?

We’ve already seen the problems that paying for verification can cause. Shortly after Twitter Blue launched, accounts pretending to be legacy verified users could be created. A fake Adam Schefter account tweeted that the Las Vegas Raiders had fired head coach Josh McDaniels. Users who saw the “Adam Schefter” Twitter name went with the news without looking more closely at the “@AdamSchefterNOT” handle. But there was a blue checkmark next to the name this time!

The same thing occurred with a fake LeBron James account tweeting that the NBA superstar had requested a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers. There was a “@KINGJamez” handle, but a “LeBron James” Twitter name with a blue check next to it.

Whether it’s because fans and media have become more discerning or Twitter has done good work cracking down on such fake accounts, there haven’t been many outrageous examples of deliberate deception since last November. But the potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.

If that seems like an overstatement, it’s a very real possibility that there will be an erosion of trust among Twitter users. Media and fans may have to take a breath before quickly tweeting and retweeting news from accounts that may or may not be credible. False news and phony statements could spread quickly and go viral across social media.

Even worse, Musk has announced that only verified Twitter Blue accounts will be seen in your “For You” timeline as of April 15. (He can’t claim it’s an April Fools’ Day joke on that date.)

Obviously, that carries far more serious real-world implications beyond sports. Forget about a fake Shams Charania account tweeting that Luka Dončić wants to be traded to the Lakers. It’s not difficult to imagine a fake Joe Biden account declaring war on Russia and some people believing it’s true because of the blue checkmark.

We may be nearing the end of Twitter being a reliable news-gathering tool. If the accounts tweeting out news can’t be trusted, where’s the value? Reporters and newsmakers may end up going to other social media platforms to break stories and carry the viability of verification.

When Fox Sports’ website infamously pivoted to video in 2017, Ken Rosenthal posted his MLB reporting on Facebook prior to joining The Athletic. Hello, Instagram. Will someone take their following and reputation to a fledgling platform like Mastodon, Post, Spoutible, or BlueSky, even if it means a lesser outlet?

If and when that happens, Twitter could still be a community but not nearly as much fun. Not when it becomes a matter of trust that breaks up the party.

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BSM Writers

There’s a Lesson For Us All in Florida Atlantic’s Elite 8 Broadcast Struggle

“It is a ton of faith our industry has been forced to place in a single mode of delivery.”

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Ken LaVicka and Kevin Harlan probably don’t have a ton in common. Both of them were announcing an Elite Eight game over the weekend, that is one thing tying them together, but their experiences were wildly different. Harlan is on CBS with a production crew numbering in the dozens making certain all goes smoothly. LaVicka, the voice of the Florida Atlantic Owls, is a production crew himself, making certain those listening in South Florida heard the Owls punch their Final Four ticket. At least, that was LaVicka’s plan.

The Florida Atlantic Owls are going to the Men’s Final Four. Even while typing that sentence, it still seems odd to say. Do you know how many college basketball teams are thinking “how can Florida Atlantic make the Final Four and we can’t?” These are the types of stories that make the NCAA Tournament what it is. There is, literally, no barrier stopping any team from this tournament going on the run of their life and making it all the way.

Everyone listening in South Florida almost missed the moment it all became real for the Owls. With :18.6 to go in Florida Atlantic’s Elite Eight game against Kansas State, the Madison Square Garden Ethernet service to the front row of media seating went completely dark. 

It was on that row that Ken LaVicka was painting the picture back to South Florida. Well, he was until the internet died on him.

Nobody does a single show away from their home studio anymore without trying to avoid the nightmare of Ethernet failure. Gone are the days of phone lines and ISDN connections, all the audio and video is now sent back to the studio over the technological miracle that is the internet. It is a ton of faith our industry has been forced to place in a single mode of delivery.

Take that anxiety and multiply it by 1,000 when that Ethernet line is connected to a Comrex unit for the most important moment of your career. LaVicka had the great fortune of a Kansas State timeout to try something, anything, to save the day. In his quick thinking, he spun around and grabbed an ethernet cable from row two which, as it turns out, still had internet access flowing through it’s cables. That cable, though, was the equivalent of an iPhone charging cord; never as long as you need it to be.

One of LaVicka’s co-workers from ESPN West Palm held the Comrex unit close enough to the second row for the cable to make a connection and the day was saved. LaVicka was able to call the last :15 of the Florida Atlantic win and, presumably, get in all the necessary sponsorship mentions.

It was an exciting end to the FAU v. Kansas State game, a great defensive stop by the Owls to seal the victory. LaVicka told the NCAA’s Andy Katz he tried to channel his inner Jim Nantz to relay that excitement. The NCAA Tournament excitement started early this year. In the very first TV window 13 Seed Furman upset 4 Seed Virginia with a late three pointer by JP Pegues, who had been 0-for-15 from beyond the arc leading up to that shot. It is the type of play the NCAA Tournament is built upon.

It was called in the manner Kevin Harlan’s career was built upon. Harlan, alongside Stan Van Gundy and Dan Bonner, called the Virginia turnover leading to the made Furman basket with his trademark excitement before laying out for the crowd reaction. After a few seconds of crowd excitement he asked his analysts, and the world, “Did we just see what I think we saw? Wow!” Vintage Kevin Harlan.

One reason we are so aware of what Harlan said, and that he signaled his analysts to lay out for the crowd reaction, was a CBS Sports tweet with video of Harlan, Van Gundy and Bonner in a split screen over the play. It gave us a rare look at a pro in the middle of his craft. We got to see that Harlan reacts just like he sounds. The video has more than six million views and has been retweeted more than 6,000 times, a lot of people seem to like it.

Kevin Harlan is not in that group. Harlan appeared on Richard Deitsch’s Sports Media podcast after the video went public and said he was embarrassed by it. Harlan added he “begged” CBS not send the tweet out but to no avail. Harlan told Deitsch “I don’t know that I’m glad that they caught our expression, but I’m glad the game was on the air. I think I join a chorus of other announcers who do not like the camera.”

There’s a valuable announcer lesson from Harlan there; the audience is almost always there for the game, not you. Harlan went on to describe the broadcast booth to Deitsch as somewhat of a sacred place. He would prefer to let his words accompany the video of the action to tell the story. Kevin Harlan is as good as they come at his craft, if he thinks that way, there’s probably great value in that line of thought.

We can learn from LaVicka, as well. You work in this business long enough and you come to accept technical difficulties are as much a part of it as anything. They always seem to strike at the worst times, it is just in their nature. Those who can find a way to deal with them without everything melting down are those who can give their audience what they showed up for. Those who lose their mind and spend time complaining about them during the production simply give the audience information they don’t really care about.

The Final Four is an unlikely collection of teams; Miami, San Diego State, Connecticut and Florida Atlantic. You all had that in your brackets, right? Yep, the Florida Atlantic Owls are going to the Final Four and Ken LaVicka will be there for it. Now, if the internet will just hold out.

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