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High Stakes

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Grease those light poles! For the second time in two months the city of Philadelphia has a championship to celebrate and utility poles to grease up to discourage fans from climbing them. It started with the Eagles winning Super Bowl LII in early February. Up next were the Villanova Wildcats who smacked around Michigan 79-62 to win a national title on Monday night. Maybe the Philadelphia 76ers can convince Crisco to sponsor those 2.5-inch jersey ads to bring them championship luck too.

Donte DiVincenzo was magnificent against Michigan. “The Michael Jordan of Delaware” became the new-school version of Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson. His 31 points marked the highest total scored by a bench player in National Championship Game history. DiVincenzo was also named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.

Charles Barkley made an interesting point after the game that Villanova’s defense is often undersold because they’re such an offensive juggernaut. It really is true. There is a Warriors quality to Villanova — they both play excellent defense, but that isn’t the primary strength either team is known for. They’re known for their offensive dominance before anything else. It got me thinking about sports radio hosts — what they’re primarily known for, and what control they have over those perceptions.

I believe that a strength often makes a weakness appear even weaker. Take Carmelo Anthony for instance. Melo was a great offensive player in his prime. He was never close to a great defender, but his great scoring ability made his defensive skills appear even worse than they actually were. It works the same way with radio hosts. A host that is a deep thinker might appear to be stiff. A host that is hilarious might appear to lack the ability of saying anything thought-provoking.

It’s a shame that a host’s secondary strength might appear weaker than it actually is. That’s the way the sports talk cookie crumbles though. There is only so much that can be done about certain perceptions lining up with reality. However, hosts are far from powerless. A host has absolute control over a much more important category — avoiding a bad reputation.

San Diego host Kevin Klein was set to launch a new show on “97.3 The Machine.” Klein tweeted a picture of the Coronado Bridge that included the words, “JUMP to a new morning show.” Sadly that’s the same bridge where hundreds of people have “jumped” to their death while committing suicide. The tweet ticked off the San Diego Padres while several San Diegans voiced their displeasure as well.

Kevin Klein’s show was supposed to debut last Thursday (3/29). His status remains uncertain as the new show still hasn’t hit the airwaves. Look, I don’t know this guy. I would hate for his career to go sideways because of one tweet, but it shows how easily a reputation can be impacted. It’s scary to think that one mistake can undo all of the hard work that goes into building a solid reputation. A host can battle everyday — put in the hard work and generate great content only to wipe it all away with one dumb move.

Klein isn’t the first host to fail at thinking things through and he won’t be the last. The question in my mind becomes — what’s an easy way to think things through so mistakes are avoided before they even happen? Where is the line between coming up with edgy content that’s permissible and risky content that’ll either get you fired or completely jack up your reputation?

Anything related to death and disease are very sensitive subjects. Thin ice, baby. You should hear alarms in your head and see danger signs while thinking about making fun of either. Of course that hasn’t stopped everybody from doing so. There’s the infamous Atlanta bit gone horribly wrong when local hosts made fun of the battle former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason has with ALS.

Think of it this way — imagine if someone you love dearly was in the same position as the person you’re about to make light of. If your parents, wife, siblings, kids, nieces or nephews had a disease or died in a tragic way, would you make fun of it? If the answer is no, or an even more forceful hell no, then it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever to make light of somebody else’s horrible situation. It’s much easier to talk trash or make light of someone you don’t really know. The game changes if you substitute your loved ones and imagine them being in the same terrible position.

I bought a new car yesterday. After my previous car got totaled following a bad wreck, I finally have some new wheels — a Nissan Altima Midnight Edition. I don’t know what my deal is with black cars and clothing, but that’s how I roll. I told my wife that it sure is easier to spend money quickly than it is to earn money fast. She laughed as if to playfully say, “In other news, water is wet.” Although this isn’t a great discovery either, it definitely is worth emphasizing — it’s way easier to ruin a reputation quicker than it is to build one quickly.

The movie Rounders is one of my favorites. Matt Damon’s character Mike McDermott faces off against Teddy KGB in high-stakes games of poker. The stakes for a sports talk host are actually even higher. It isn’t just thousands of dollars that are on the line — it’s also a career. Make the wrong move and you’ll “end up humping crappy jobs on graveyard shifts, trying to figure out how [you] came up short.”

I’m not trying to make a host shake like the principle on Beavis & Butthead in fear of saying or doing something wrong. Just use a little common sense relating to the misfortune of others and things should be perfectly fine. My dad used to tell me when I was younger, “Just keep your wits about you.” That meant to be aware of everything that’s going on. Sometimes the thing you need to be looking out for the most, is actually yourself.

BSM Writers

5 Names ESPN Can Turn To When It’s Time to Replace Lee Corso

“Corso is 86 years old and as much as I don’t want to see him leave the show, it’s going to happen sooner rather than later.”

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Between Amazon getting in the mix for NFL games, Tom Brady signing with Fox, and Troy Aikman and Joe Buck moving to Monday Night Football, we’ve seen a lot of movement recently in the football broadcasting industry. Networks are putting more and more emphasis on the personalities and voices surrounding the game than ever before and football’s biggest/best pregame show is going to need a major replacement soon as well. 

In 1987 Lee Corso was hired by ESPN to be an analyst on their college football pregame show known as College Gameday. In 1996 the product hit a whole new level of popularity with one simple addition to the close of each show: headgear. October 5, 1996 was the very first time Lee Corso would famously don the headgear of the team he thought would win at whichever location ESPN was broadcasting from that day. The game was Ohio State vs Penn State in case you find yourself answering some trivia in the near future. Brutus Buckeye got the nod. 

Lee Corso has been wonderful for ESPN and college football fans everywhere love him unconditionally. But, all good things must come to an end at some point, and ESPN needs to find a seamless replacement for the lovable character we welcome into our homes every Saturday during the college football season.

Corso is 86 years old and as much as I don’t want to see him leave the show, it’s going to happen sooner rather than later. Lee has been propped up for the last couple of years by ESPN producers limiting his exposure on TV, Kirk Herbstreit acting as an on-air caretaker, and we let the mistakes slide because frankly, we all love him so damn much. But, again, his time left on the show has to be limited, unfortunately. 

With that, I’m sure ESPN has been scrambling to figure out who is going to be the “next” Lee Corso. It felt like they were grooming Pat McAffee to be that at one point, but I don’t think the audience took to him the way ESPN was hoping. Pat is no longer a part of the show. Since then, it doesn’t seem like they’ve figured out an answer for this very difficult conundrum. 

That’s where this article comes in, I’ve got some ideas. First and foremost, the replacement for Corso can’t feel like a replacement. It can’t and won’t work.

Whoever the network chooses will have to be universally beloved, they have to be willing and able to provide some comic relief, and they have to have a history in the game of college football at the highest level.

This won’t be easy, but I think I’ve got a list ESPN can work with.

  1. Peyton Manning– This might be a little pie in the sky, I mean, who doesn’t want Manning on their broadcast? But I figure he’s already got a working relationship with ESPN doing the ManningCast, so he’s shown a willingness to stay involved in the game, but in an unconventional way. This would be perfect and he’d be great at it. 
  2. Lane Kiffin- If they could ever pull him away from coaching, you know Lane would be A+ on television. He’s charismatic, opinionated, funny, and he knows the game having coached alongside Nick Saban for all those “ass-chewings” as he called them. 
  3. Ed Orgeron– This is my favorite option. Ed is currently out of coaching, so the timing couldn’t be better. Ed is a national champion and has a dynamic personality. I can just picture his grovel-voiced Cajun draw firing away on why he thinks Bama will beat Auburn. He’s the guy they should target when it’s time to replace Lee. Ed Orgeron is college football.  
  4. Jimmy Johnson– Since we’re in the age of pilfering broadcasting talent, why not Jimmie? Jimmie’s worked on the Fox NFL Sunday pregame for years, but he’s got a rich history in the sport of college football from his days at Miami. Jimmy has the personality for it, he’s likable, and he’s aging well. 
  5. Ricky Williams– This one may seem more out of leftfield, but Ricky’s actually done a lot of work on the Longhorn Network over the years and he’s long past his days of dealing with a crippling level of social anxiety. Since his playing days, Ricky has become a companionable personality, very thoughtful and entertaining, and he’s of course got that Heisman Trophy in his past to anchor the credibility needed for that role. 

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BSM Writers

Marc Malusis Has No Complaints At WPIX

“I’m in New York.  I’m on TV five days a week.  I’m still talking about New York sports.  I couldn’t have asked for a better experience so far.”

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In life, things happen for a reason.

As another saying goes, timing is everything.

And for Marc Malusis, both of those sayings certainly apply when you think about what he’s gone through over the last five or six months.

It was back in December when WFAN Radio in New York announced a new lineup that would start right after New Year’s.  Malusis was co-hosting Moose and Maggie middays on the station with Maggie Gray, but he was informed that the show would not be part of the new schedule.  Gray transitioned to a full-time hosting gig on CBS Sports Radio while Tiki and Tierney became the new midday show on WFAN.  

Malusis wondered where his next opportunity would be.

“When the decision was made, yeah you think to yourself alright what’s next?” said Malusis.  “For sure there’s a little bit of a mourning process.”

That mourning process didn’t last very long as Malusis was named in February to be the new lead sports anchor at WPIX Channel 11 in New York.  In addition to his anchor duties, Malusis has also hosted a Sunday night show called New York Sports Nation along with Yankees Nation and a basketball show during the NBA season.  

He’s also doing an opinion piece called “Moose on the Loose” every weeknight during the 6:30 news show.

“It’s been great,” said Malusis.  “It’s been unbelievable.  They’re expanding and doing a lot more sports.  It’s been an absolute blast.”

Malusis, who continues to have a presence at WFAN doing weekend shows and will also continue in his role as pregame, halftime and post-game host for Rutgers University football radio broadcasts, has been able to make a seamless transition from full-time radio host to full-time television personality.  

It’s certainly a different type of sportscasting that he’s used to, but 14 years of experience working for regional sports network SNY in New York, including fill-in anchor opportunities, certainly helped him for this opportunity.

“Moose” has gone from the land of long-form discussions of sports to a whole new world on television.

“It’s completely different,” said Malusis.  “Going from doing radio, where you have so much time to kind of pontificate and talk and hammer home your point and now you don’t so you have to be a lot more condensed.  I’m having a blast.  I’m in New York.  I’m on TV five days a week.  I’m still talking about New York sports.  I couldn’t have asked for a better experience so far.”

How Malusis landed at WPIX is proof of how important networking is, especially in broadcasting.

A number of years ago, Malusis was doing some digital television work for CBS Local where he worked for Todd Ehrlich, now the Sports Director at WPIX.  Over the years, Malusis stayed in touch with him and with the combination of departing WFAN on a full-time basis and WPIX looking for a new full-time lead sports anchor, Ehrlich reached out to him.

“He was looking for someone who had a New York name, that had established a rapport with the New York sports fan, and had built a pretty good following in the city,” said Malusis.  “He connected the dots and said I’d love for you to apply for this job.”

And, as the line from Seinfeld goes, yada, yada, yada Malusis landed the job at WPIX.

Another difference from working as a sports-talk radio host to being a television sports anchor is the increased opportunity to do some reporting out in the field.  TV sports anchors are often at big events and in his brief time so far at WPIX, Malusis has taken advantage of that opportunity covering events like the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and New York Giants OTAs.

It’s one thing to have fun working in a studio, but sometimes it’s literally a “breath of fresh air” to get out in the field covering events and games. 

“It’s not work,” said Malusis.  “It’s awesome.  It’s an amazing experience.  It’s something that I’ve not done on the radio.  I’ve never really gone out in the field on a regular basis.  It’s so much fun.  It’s really great it’s an experience that I never did on the radio that I get to do now.”

It was not exactly a “Happy New Year” for Marc Malusis after his full-time departure from WFAN, but a short time later he landed on his feet with a great opportunity at WPIX.  Now, he has the best of both worlds working full-time in television while also keeping his toes in the radio waters with WFAN and Rutgers.

Life is certainly good these days for the “Moose”.

“I’ve got no complaints,” said Malusis.  “I’m enjoying what I’m doing right now.  I’m enjoying the experience and everything that comes along with it at PIX 11.  To think about all of the men and women sportscasters in New York and now to throw my name in the mix, it’s really great.  I’m as happy as the day is long.”

And in New York, the sports days are more than long enough to keep Malusis busy with his new gig.

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Why Do We Let College Football Coaches Get Away With Absurdity & Dishonesty?

“We all kind of think the stock answer reactions are silly. Why won’t anyone say it out loud?”

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College football is in a state of flux. Players have more freedom and control than ever. They can move around with ease to find a roster and playbook that is right for them thanks to the transfer portal. They can make money off of their name, image and likeness. There really has never been a time like this in the sport before.

Last week, we saw two millionaire coaches show their whole asses in a pissing contest to prove who is more out of touch with the realities of college football in 2022. It started with Alabama’s Nick Saban hurling wild accusations at Texas A&M and Jackson State as he bemoaned the state of college football in the NIL era. That was followed by A&M’s Jimbo Fisher calling a press conference in full dad rage threatening to turn this god damn car around!

Like my sports media colleagues, I was plenty entertained by it, but at the same time, I couldn’t help but wonder how we got here. Why do we cover this sport in a way that lets these coaches play dumb without anyone calling them out? I know that doesn’t describe every media member covering college football, but there are plenty that do and fit perfectly into the lane I have just described.

I wanted to get some opinions on my opinion. I am open to hearing that there are things I do not understand. So, I reached out to three friends that cover college football on different levels in different parts of the country.

Chuck Oliver of 680 The Fan in Atlanta and the syndicated, college football-centric Chuck Oliver Show told me that he actually remembers the first time he heard a coach complain about the new realities of college football and how that made him feel.

“The tone most of us have when commenting about NIL in regards to improving a program’s recruiting class is way off,” he told me. “[Stanford Head Coach] David Shaw was the first I remember seeing comment on the record and thinking, ‘You’re too smart for that.’ He had gone to the press with ‘Before the Bama quarterback’s even taken a snap’ and how much money the kid had gotten.”

Chuck and I think a lot alike in this realm. Using NIL deals to get paid now is totally above board, right? So why would a coach waste time complaining about it? Why would he not embrace the practice and what it can do for their roster?

Oliver pointed out that framing NIL money as this evil thing other programs are doing doesn’t sound very evil to the kids that stand to make a financial gain.

“Talking about how much money recruits at another program are getting through NIL is the same as going public with, ‘The only reason those recruits signed at Michigan is because it’s an elite education and they have world-class facilities and great fans and it will likely give them an edge at playing professionally.’ NIL is just another category you’re competing in. The smart move would be to hush up about how awesome your competition is doing.”

Paul Finebaum has seen a lot of changes during the decades he has covered college football. The SEC Network and ESPN host told me that a lot of coaches want the media to amplify their complaints about the changing landscape of college football as a therapeutic device.

“In Saban’s case, it’s a combination of his age – 70 – and being an old school coach who hates losing control. That’s really what is going on here. I had a coach tell me recently, ‘if have to pay a large sum of money, I lose all control. They own me then.’ These are highly disciplined people who like to be authoritarian. They lose the leverage when players make money.”

That isn’t what Nate Kreckman has seen. He hosts the syndicated This Week in the Mountain West. The Mountain West Conference isn’t like the SEC. The SEC is what is designated a “Power 5” conference. The Mountain West is in the less powerful “Group of 5”.

The athletic departments at MWC schools aren’t as well funded. The schools themselves are usually pretty far away from where high school football talent lives, and they are all in states where there is more to do on a Saturday than live and die with college football.

Nate told me the conversations he has with coaches about NIL money tend to reflect that reality. I asked him why so many college football reporters don’t feel like they can challenge a coach that is spouting outlandish nonsense about kids getting money. He told me that he wasn’t the right guy to answer that.

“A lot of the coaches in this league, believe it or not, kind of get it. We have coaches like Andy Avalos, Marcus Arroyo, and Brent Brennan that are young and that are players’ coaches. You won’t make it at the G5 level being an out-of-touch hardass (see Addazio, Steve). Even older guys like Craig Bohl, I’ve had great conversations with him about the changing landscape. He coached Josh Allen, who was as big a G5 star as we’ve had in the last decade. These guys mostly get it. They have to make their programs desirable, and griping about players getting theirs is not a way to do it.”

So what is the path forward? It seems like any time I bring my frustrations up with someone that is covering the sport and the coaches involved every day, I hear agreement. We all kind of think the stock answer reactions are silly. Why won’t anyone say it out loud?

When Nick Saban says that Texas A&M “bought” its entire recruiting class with NIL deals, why does no one say “you know that is okay now, right coach”? Is it a level of laziness or complacency that comes with needing to create content even when we are more than 90 days away from the first kickoff of the season?

Not enough people are pointing out how dumb and strange this back and forth between Saban and Fisher is. Does that mean there will be a cycle to it? Without anyone willing to point out how irrelevant the two coaches’ complaints about one another are, do even the most respected voices in college football find a way to drag this out all summer and into October 8 when the Aggies visit Tuscaloosa?

“It’s a story now because it’s late May and there are no other college football stories,” Paul Finebaum said. “Also, it’s one of the craziest stories in recent history. This is something Nick Khan and Vince McMahon couldn’t have come up for the WWE. It won’t last though. It will be big at SEC spring meetings after Memorial Day and then Media Days in July. Then, it won’t matter until the week of the game.”

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