Work hard, play hard. That’s the basic approach Rich Ohrnberger brings to sports talk radio. He spent six years in the NFL as an offensive lineman, including two years with the New England Patriots. When you think of head coach Bill Belichick, I doubt you immediately think rockin’ good time and belly laughs. Belichick is detail-oriented, serious and dedicated. That’s part of what Ohrnberger brings as a host. He’s a grinder who’s meticulous when it comes to being prepared and getting better.
The other half of Ohrnberger’s approach is lighthearted storytelling and finding the funny in everything. He’s doing a great job of blending two different worlds — serious yet fun. “It’s time to work,” versus, “It’s happy hour, baby!” When a host can find the balance of being fully dedicated while maintaining the fun factor, that mixture is ideal.
Ohrnberger hosts a weekday morning show for San Diego Sports 760, and also weekend national shows for Fox Sports Radio. This would be his sports radio scouting report: Adaptable — an East Meadow, NY native now living in San Diego. Perceptive — quickly recognizes what appeals to his audience and delivers more of what they want. Most important attribute — funny and entertaining. Areas to improve — could lose a few pounds. (Just kidding, just kidding.)
There are several great viewpoints and stories from Ohrnberger in the conversation below. He shares an awesome story about a conversation he had with Hall of Famer Russ Grimm. He talks about what it was like to entertain the entire Patriots team from time to time. Ohrnberger also talks about not being a sports junkie as a kid and how his perception of the media has changed. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: You’re a seven-day-a-week show host. How’s everything going with your schedule in general?
Rich Ohrnberger: It’s awesome to be perfectly honest with you. I love the idea of immersing yourself in work that you love to do. I remember feeling that way about football because the football season my entire life has been that. It’s always been a seven-day-a-week job. Now in broadcasting, it’s no different. Part of the reason why I wanted to get into sports broadcasting is to stay close to the game of football. Part of that is living the grind a little bit. I’m not nearly as sore on Mondays, I definitely enjoy that aspect of it. But I appreciate feeling purposeful and having something to do every single day of the week. And because we’re not launching rockets, and we’re not doing brain surgery, there’s still plenty of time for family outside of travel for game broadcasts and things like that.
BN: There are a lot of people in sports radio that have been sports junkies their whole life, and that wasn’t the case with you. What were you into during your childhood and how big or little of a part did sports play in your upbringing?
RO: Yeah, I grew up in a household of musicians. My dad is a really talented and proficient guitar player. My younger brother, he ended up picking up the guitar and teaching himself how to play and then eventually became an even better guitarist than my dad. He played in bands. My dad, when he was a kid, played in bands. My sister was an operatic singer. She had an opera trained voice and she went to college as a vocal performance major. My mom even was a clarinetist in high school and ranked in the state. I don’t really know exactly how that works with bands, but she was pretty good at it.
I didn’t have a musical bone in my body. I was a little bit of the oddball in my family, but I was always a really physical kid with a huge amount of energy. I needed an outlet and sports seemed like the best outlet for all that. But it wasn’t something I was passionate about watching. I didn’t really love sitting down and turning on a football game as entertainment, or watching baseball. I got involved in a sport that isn’t as popular nationally as say, football, baseball or basketball. I got involved in lacrosse.
I loved lacrosse, and I played lacrosse my whole young life. Then I started playing some basketball as well. I would say my earliest memories of even watching sports was just really falling in love with how great Michael Jordan was and thinking like, oh my gosh, he’s doing things that you just don’t think are possible and he’s making it look easy. I would be in my driveway bouncing the basketball and thinking to myself, maybe I could do that one day. I was convinced that one day I would be Michael Jordan. [Laughs] It was just ridiculous, but in my mind, I was like, well, he can do it so clearly it’s possible.
My love for sports really was fostered by playing it. I didn’t enjoy watching it as much as playing it. I fell in love with superlative athletes and I really tried to mimic what they did at first, and that was my education. I didn’t live in a house of huge sports fans. I had to rely on my peers to teach me about sports, sort of fill in the blanks that I was unaware of.
BN: What area do you think you’ve grown the most as a sports radio host?
RO: My awareness of the host I want to be. What I want to be — and what is paramount I think to all broadcasts — is just be entertaining. There were times where I would turn on the microphone and really think like, oh my God, okay, I’m a former player, I need to inform everybody about all the things I know about football from a former player standpoint. Yeah, that’s definitely a part of it. That’s important.
Then there were times where I would turn on the microphone and be like, okay, I need to make sure that I argue against a take that I disagree with and make sure that I can very clearly take down and make counter-arguments to this ridiculous, outlandish take that I just don’t seem to agree with. Yeah, sure, that can be a part of a show too. But the most important thing is to be entertaining.
I like to make people laugh. It’s something that I’ve always enjoyed doing and has come naturally. I just want to do that. How can I incorporate it? I think what I’ve gotten the best at is finding the funny in everything. Even sometimes when you’re talking about tough stuff or boring stuff. Where’s the angle that’s going to make somebody smile or feel like, oh wow, he said something a little clever there. Those are the things I search for as I’m waiting to speak or listening to somebody and try to catch something that they said that we can move the conversation in an entertaining direction. Those are the shows I like to listen to. That’s the broadcaster I want to be.
BN: I’m a perfectionist. I’ve grown in not letting that be a bad thing. You can’t be a perfectionist and have a good state of mind in sports radio; you’re gonna drive yourself crazy. Just do the best you can, celebrate the wins, work on the losses, but don’t be handicapped by them, because you easily can be.
RO: I’m so glad you shared that because I was very much so a perfectionist for a long time. To the point where there were times where I’d be so ashamed to hand in something that I worked on that sometimes I just wouldn’t even hand it in. Or I’d feel like even if it’s a good grade, it’s a passing grade, I’d be like, well, I think it sucks so what use is that?
I had an offensive line coach named Russ Grimm in Arizona. Just an old, grizzled former player, Hall of Famer, big mustache, chewed tobacco. One time I remember he was critiquing my technique. He gave me a compliment. He paused the tape and he was like, now that’s exactly how it’s done. I’m like yeah, but I kind of stepped behind myself and I probably need to widen my base a little bit if he bull rushes me. He goes, dude, fuck all that. It’s never gonna be perfect. He was like, Rich, sometimes good enough is good enough, and that was good enough.
Then he hit play and the film continued. I was like holy shit. I mean, this is coming from somebody, obviously, who is definitely far more talented than I was when he was playing. And he had this belief that the job just needs to get done, so good enough is good enough sometimes.
BN: Your NFL days obviously help with knowing the X’s and O’s and all of that. But as a sports radio host, it might be even more valuable being surrounded by so many characters. If you’re trying to be an entertaining host, having teammates that say hilarious things in a locker room setting, does that help you more when you’re trying to pick out what’s funny or entertaining about any topic?
RO: Yeah, and also if you speak to enough of your teammates, you get a really good look at what America looks like. When you’re in a locker room with a bunch of different guys from a bunch of different areas of the country, a bunch of different races and cultures, different families and different backgrounds, well you have to find a way to communicate with all of them. That, in sort of a microcosm way, is connecting with an audience the same way it is on a mass level. Can you do that? Can you be appealing broadly?
A locker room environment, especially when you can get a bunch of guys in a locker room laughing, or listening intently, and there have been many times where I’ve been called in front of teams that I played on and I had to perform, not just as a rookie. I remember in New England there were a couple of different times where Bill Belichick would just call me out. He would just call me out because he knew that I would have a story from my life that would make the team laugh a little bit, or just get guys rolling, or add a little levity to a serious-natured work environment.
He would have me go in front of the room and I would just tell the guys a story. It was fun. It was a great experience because you realize the power of your words. If you can carefully choose them, and if you can deliver them with a certain level of enthusiasm, you can make everybody’s day a little bit easier, a little bit better. That has really carried over into what I do today.
BN: When Belichick said something like, ‘Hey, Ohrnberger, tell the team a story,’ what was that experience like for you?
RO: It made me feel like I was a part of the team. A lot of people would probably get real nervous, but I was like, oh yeah, he sees value in me. I felt like, yeah, this is something that I can offer that nobody else in this room can. Tom Brady can’t do this. He can’t get in front of the room and captivate a roomful of players telling a story about his life, not the way that I can.
Look, I can’t throw a football like him. I don’t have the brain he has. I certainly did not play as long as he has. My durability pales in comparison, but I could get in front of a room of my peers and just introduce them to a story they’ve never heard before about my life, and just have them eating out of my hand, laughing and sometimes crying laughing. It was the best. It was a great feeling because it felt like I belonged, like there was a reason that I was there outside of just being a football player, that there was value beyond just what I was doing on the field that I brought to the team.
BN: If you could give me the CliffsNotes version of one of the stories you told that had people belly laughing, what’s something that comes to mind?
RO: Oh, my gosh, I would tell them the most personal horrifying stories that have ever occurred to me.
Without going into too great detail, imagine the most embarrassing moments of your life. You may have been walked in on doing something, you may have had an accident of some kind or another, and you felt like a complete fool in the moment, but you know it would make a great story if you were just brave enough to tell it. Well, that’s what I was doing in front of the team and it was killing.
BN: [Laughs] Man, that’s awesome. I think you sidestepped the landmines on that one very nicely.
RO: [Laughs] I was trying not to give too much away. Also, look, that could definitely be something that comes up on a slow day on our show.
BN: Yeah, and that’s the other thing too, that stuff not only kills in a locker room, it kills on whatever show you bring it to. Have you brought similar things to San Diego?
RO: Oh, yeah. Anybody who’s ever listened to a radio show I’m on, I think one of the things I try to do is talk about me. We’re definitely covering sports because it’s sports radio, but I think part of the partnership that the listener has with the host is trust, and how the heck do you develop trust with anybody other than getting to know them?
The first thing you’ll do when you’re starting to get to know somebody is find out about their background. Where are you from? What did your parents do for a living? Are you married? Are your kids? What are their names? How old are they? Those sorts of things are so important to sort of build out a whole character. Otherwise, you’re just this surface-level update guy.
Trust me, that serves a role too because again, you need to have information intertwined into your show, and there’s nothing wrong with that profession if that’s what you want to do, but when you’re hosting a show, in my opinion you gotta go deep. You have to dig in and show people who you are. I think the shows that most entertained me growing up were the shows where I felt a connection with the host who was on the mic.
BN: I never really made the connection, but something that Belichick has done a great job of, I think would be a great approach for any sports radio show. You lived through this, he’ll sit there and quiz his players about their teammates and be like, hey, what’s this guy’s wife’s name? What are his kids’ names? Where’d he go to college? All this stuff. It’s like, know your teammates. It’s not just employee 26917. Like, it’s a guy. He’s got a family. He’s got a story. He’s got loved ones. I think that sports radio misses the mark all the time when it comes to that because it’s just human nature to not dig into the details of getting to know someone. If we did, I think shows would be a lot stronger.
RO: Yeah, I completely agree with everything you said. Another really good comparison back to the days in New England, because I remember that was one of the more nerve-racking experiences was when Bill would go around the squad meeting and would point to guys. You could be quizzed on anything. You could be quizzed on the game. You could be quizzed on your teammates. He kept everybody on their toes.
He really wanted people to have a deep level of appreciation for each other on the team, their story, how they got to where they are, and what they’ve done since they’ve been in the league. In terms of the opponent, almost the same thing. Like, tell me about this player. Don’t just tell me that he plays safety. Tell me the routes that he struggles defending. Tell me if he’s aggressive on play action, and he’s going to have backfield eyes when there’s a good, hard play fake from the quarterback to the running back. Tell me those things. That’s how you know if somebody’s really paying attention. That’s one of the things that Belichick required in those rooms was having everybody paying close attention to the details.
BN: I think Belichick should go into sports betting when his career is over.
RO: [Laughs] He probably would be like one of those 75% hitters, like one of those unicorns out there.
BN: Right? I swear he’d have something for in-game betting, prop bets, he’d be all over it. How has your perception of the media changed since being a player, especially under Belichick?
RO: [Laughs] Boy, my perception has changed immensely. My original thought process was that the media — and that’s such an interesting word because that’s a term that’s couched with so much negativity, like the media. The media, all that means is the various different ways that people can reach information — whether it be audio, radio, podcasting, written media, magazine writers, online writers, newspaper writers, or television — whatever medium that you’re taking in your information, that makes up the media.
It’s like this boogeyman, right? That’s the way I used to look at it like, oh, the media. But that’s not what it is. What I’ve learned now leaving football and joining the media is we’re just serving as a conduit to the information that people don’t have the time to pay attention to because they have jobs, and they have families, and they have other important things that they need to do.
They’re just trying to grab a little bit of something that they can carry with them into the office to talk to their buddy about by the water cooler, or on the Zoom call, or when he hops on the phone with his dad, like, hey, you see how Geno Smith is playing? Yeah, I was just listening to the radio, this guy is leading the league in blah, blah, blah. You’re just serving as a conduit to the information that people really don’t have the time to go and look up themselves. My opinion of the media has changed greatly. I think it serves as a great asset for people. It’s not this enemy that a lot of coaches build it up to be.
BN: As far as your future goes, what do you want to accomplish and what do you think would make you the happiest?
RO: The things that make me happiest are just advancing, whether that means entertaining a wider audience, doing a better job. That’s really important to me. Every single day committing myself to doing a better job. I’m not afraid to say it; I’m going to be a stronger broadcaster next year because I know I’m going to work at it. I’m going to learn things. I don’t claim to know more than I do. I know there’s plenty that I haven’t unearthed in this career that I can’t wait to. I know I’m going to put in the work to figure out what those things are.
My main goal is to just keep advancing as I learn more about technique and learn more about connecting with an audience and just keep doing more of that. I don’t want to set any goals in terms of career or where or when. I just know that if I get better every single day, if I make that very simple commitment, opportunities always seem to come. That’s really been how I’ve lived my life. That’s how I lived my life as an athlete and that’s how I’m living my life as a broadcaster.
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.