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Cooley’s Work Ethic Makes All The Difference at Team 980

Barrett Sports Media

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At the epicenter of the sports media industry lies an ever-growing, trendy concept that is the professional athlete making a transition to broadcasting upon retirement.

In recent years, ex-players who have next to nothing in broadcast knowledge have found themselves in the booth with a microphone and a hungry, vast audience at their fingertips. Regardless of how short or long of a period it is between retirement and throwing on the headset, former athletes will always be under great scrutiny and criticism during their transition periods. Sometimes it even follows them throughout their entire career. It all seems to revolve around the built up stereotype which constantly questions the effort and intentions of former players in the booth.

Former Redskins Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley has been an exception to this stigma since joining the Team 980 family in Washington, D.C. Over the last five years, the 35-year-old has served as color commentator on the Redskins Radio Network, while also co-hosting “Cooley and Kevin” with Kevin Sheehan from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday-Friday.

Fellow 980 on-air personality Steve Czaban jokingly told Cooley, “I give you eight months,” at the start of his broadcasting career. Like any transitioning athlete, the Redskins’ all-time receptions leader at the tight end position needed to make adjustments accordingly.

“He’s willing to do the extra work that other ex-athletes won’t,” said Czaban.

Coming from a veteran radio broadcaster like Czaban, that’s a strong compliment.

As a viewer or listener, the average sports fan can usually gauge the quality of content being produced from a former professional athlete. Think back to Tony Romo’s first season in the booth for CBS. One of the central reasons people are so high on him is because of his ability to illustrate the logistics behind football scenarios using a jargon even non-football fans can relate to.

Cooley has a very similar approach on the radio. He mixes his football IQ and general knowledge with a slight sense of humor when on the air with his broadcast team.

Voice of the Redskins Larry Michael began calling games for the Redskins Radio Network the same year Cooley wore the burgundy and gold for the very first time, 2004. The two have been close ever since and Michael was quick to sing his color commentator’s praises.

“Chris is an extremely intelligent person and when it comes to football he’s beyond intelligent. It was a natural step for him to take what he knew about the game of football and describe what he’s seeing to listeners in real time,” said Michael.

Another quality of Cooley’s Michael hit on is his humility and humble nature inside and outside the broadcast booth. When he joined the broadcasting team, he understood he was replacing the great Sam Huff and how respected Sonny Jurgensen was among the Redskins fan base and within the organization.

“He (Cooley) was very aware of the protocol with Sonny being the longer tenured member of the broadcast group. That piece of chemistry could have needed a lot of work but it didn’t turn out to be that way. Sonny has always loved him,” said Michael.

The man who was coined “Captain Chaos” during his football years has been anything but that in the booth alongside Michael, Jurgensen and Doc Walker on the sidelines. 980 Program Director Chris Johnson, who serves as Cooley’s boss, also had glowing words to share about his host.

When asked about Cooley’s transition to the broadcast booth, Johnson added, “I don’t really consider Chris to be an athlete turned broadcaster. Chris is a broadcaster that happened to play football as a professional.”

One thing Johnson went into great depth on is Cooley’s unique ability to break down film the week after Redskins games.

“Chris goes through and dissects the game from all angles. It’s not just the x’s and o’s. These segments have led to new revenue and listenership. People come up to me and say they won’t get out of their cars while Chris is breaking down film,” said Johnson.

Yet again, here is another instance of Cooley’s ability to explain the game without going above people’s heads. Fans enjoy this type of listen and more importantly, appreciate it. These segments aren’t just thrown together on a whim, either. Cooley told me he dedicates “four or five hours to each side of the ball” following Redskins games.

Director of Sports Programming at 105.7 The Fan and Redskins Radio Network Executive Producer Chuck Sapienza, formerly of Team 980, saw Cooley up close in both his roles as co-host and color commentator.

“I can’t imagine listening to Chris without learning something. He’s the guy you want to have a beer with,” said Sapienza.

As far as what Cooley’s future holds, Sapienza suggested, “In a perfect world, I bet you he ends up coaching high school ball somewhere and doing the Redskins games.”

Cooley did have a brief stint on FOX NFL broadcasts as a color analyst in 2015. Led by play-by-play announcer Sam Rosen, Cooley was a member of FOX’s analyst rotation, along with Matt Millen, Brady Quinn and Kirk Morrison.

“It’s awesome. I loved it but I don’t need that. A lot of people have that competitive drive, but I just love being part of the Redskins,” said Cooley when asked about his experience calling games at the network level.

While the business of broadcasting remains competitive and at times treacherous for former athletes, Chris Cooley’s steady and consistent work ethic has solidified his voice in the D.C. sports media market for years to come.

Bob Trosset is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BobTrossetNBCS. To reach him by email click here.

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Meet The Bettors: Todd Fuhrman, CBS Sports HQ and Bet the Board

“To say that every sports bettor, even inside the audience that we’ve cultivated over the years, is looking for the exact same thing, I think would be a little bit foolish from my perspective.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Even before sports gambling was everywhere, the people that watched FOX and ESPN and listened to their local sports radio station probably had heard the name Todd Fuhrman. He has been one of the constants in the gaming space, making time for anyone that wanted to talk about it with him.

You can find his content all over the place. His podcast has been going strong for a decade, he’s on CBS Sports HQ, previously worked on Fox Sports 1, and is a prolific user of X. That availability is valuable, because Todd has a perspective and an expertise not many can offer.

In our conversation for the Meet the Bettors series presented by Point to Point Marketing, we touch on what that experience can mean for the people trying to protect their sport, how the digital video audience compares to the digital audio audience, and the growing value of soccer. Enjoy!

Demetri Ravanos: How have you seen your audience change since PASPA? Do you have to do a little more educating now? I mean, there was a time when you were talking to just the hard cores, and now the practice of sports gambling is way more accessible. 

Todd Fuhrman: I think our audience has kind of grown with us. I mean, we’ve been doing Bet The Board since around 2014, and we kind of dipped our toes into the water, not sure what the appetite was going to be for that particular audience. The biggest thing for us is we kind of treat it like a field position game. We may have started in the shadow of our own end zone and gradually had to move the ball down the field. Not to the point that we wanted to intimidate our listeners or make them feel uncomfortable, but as our handicapping has become a little bit more transparent in some of our methodologies, it’s passing some of those things along to a listenership group and an audience in general. I’m not overly religious, but we just don’t want to feed. We want to teach them to fish more than what you’re seeing and a lot of the content space.           

I think that’s where the biggest challenge has come in. What can we do differently from our side? As an individual that has been in and around this space for a lot longer, how do I kind of differentiate the perspective that I bring to sports gambling content than an Instagram influencer who is just making picks, spending thirty seconds trying to offer up a seven-team single game parlay on a Tuesday in the middle of July for Getaway Day in Major League Baseball?

DR: So, I’m glad you brought up Bet the Board, because one of the things that I think is interesting about sports gambling content in the podcast space is your listeners have chosen to seek this out and make the effort to come back over and over again. I wonder if that is the same as your audience at CBS Sports HQ, because it’s not a traditional TV network where people are going to just stumble on it. Do you find the audience is people that are choosing and seeking out Todd Fuhrman’s content on there? 

TR: That’s a great question. I think you’re exactly right that you get gamblers coming in with different aptitude and appetites for what they’re looking to accomplish in this space. You know, on some platforms, whether it’s CBS or some of the radio shows that I’ll do across the country, it’s more “okay, you know, we kind of had a lead on this particular game. Let’s hear what Todd’s perspective is,” and “Can you push us right or left in terms of how we want to try and go about investing in a particular game?” Whereas Bet the Board in the podcast space is a little bit more longform. It’s more about trying to teach our listenership there the perspective on it, kind of peel back the curtain on some of those underlying analytics and insinuate, “Hey, here’s where we think this game is going to go from projecting the betting market. Here’s where we’ve actually bet some of these games, and here’s what we’re looking for.”           

So for me, selfishly, as a content creator, it’s given me an opportunity and an avenue to try and have a voice to get to a variety of different sports bettors that are looking for very different things, whether it’s picks on one end of the spectrum, or it’s learning how to handicap and trying to get an eagle-eye view on the perspective that it takes for folks that may want to get into this in a little bit more serious capacity. 

DR: You mentioned those influencers that are just posting their thirty-second “here is every pick in my parlay today” for your audience. Do you think there’s any value in that? I mean, are there people that just want the picks, or do you find your audience really want to understand why it is you’re on the side that you are? 

TR: No. I think there’s always people that want to have their fast-food drive thru experience. When it comes to sports betting, they don’t want to necessarily know how the meal is made. They just hope that it tastes good. It’s, “You know, if I can get a quick pick in and three hours later, I can have more money in my account than I started with, that’s a successful endeavor.”

The challenge, continuing along that fast food parallel, is that over time, that’s not going to be a meal that sustains you or keeps you in a good spot from a nutrition standpoint. You have to be able to kind of see through the trees and get a better perspective on the forest in terms of what you’re learning.            

To say that every sports bettor, even inside the audience that we’ve cultivated over the years, is looking for the exact same thing, I think would be a little bit foolish. It’s always about trying to find that balancing act, to be able to not intimidate some of the newer bettors that are there, but at the same time provide a conduit for folks that have a passing interest in sports betting that may want to take it a little bit more seriously. Who can they lean from in a space where, unfortunately, there are a lot of voices that are given a lot bigger platforms that I wouldn’t necessarily say should be trusted voices in the space? 

DR: Let’s talk about the traditional broadcaster’s relationship with gambling. You were part of FOX Bet Live. Not only is the show gone now, FOX Bet is gone. ESPN shuttered its studio on the Las Vegas Strip. Barstool sort of rethought its relationship with a gambling partner. Do you think some media companies may have bet too big or bet too foolishly on gambling content initially? 

TR: I wouldn’t say foolishly. Credit to ESPN. When they started working with Caesars and had an opportunity to build the set on Las Vegas Boulevard, they had a vision for what their brand was going to become. I’m not sure that they anticipated there’d be an opportunity years down the road to partner with Penn and be able to skin their own sportsbook. That’s forged some opportunities. As we’ve seen, they’re having their own challenges from a branding standpoint, playing catch up with the DraftKings and FanDuel’s of the world. At the same time, it made a lot more sense to bring their production in-house to Bristol, more so than keeping something out here on an island, especially with a competing property, rather than moving to potentially what would have been the M Resort as the Penn stronghold out here in Las Vegas.

It’s the same thing for FOX. I gave my bosses there, Charlie Dixon, Eric Shanks and everybody else, a ton of credit. They believed in this space. They were probably ahead of its time trying to be able to get sports betting in the national discourse, being able to take advantage on FOX Sports Live, even with the launch of FS1. We did our College Football Friday segments, Clay Travis, myself, Andy Roddick, and Charissa Thompson. I think given everything that’s going on at FOX, it lost its way in their ecosystem.

Who knows? If they didn’t have the major litigation with the Flutter Group, there’s a very good chance that our daily TV show would have still been doing extremely well and thriving.

DR: When that show launched, Clay was beginning his, hard lean into politics, and Cousin Sal was better known as a comedian. Both of those guys were well-educated gamblers, but I wonder what sort of responsibility you had or was conveyed to you in terms of being the gambling gravitas on the show. 

TR: You know, that was the big thing. And I think that was a major selling point for me when they pitched me the concept. It was described from Charlie Dixon’s standpoint, that he more or less wanted to create a panel on that show that felt like a blackjack table. He could bring people in with very different perspectives. They could have a healthy dialogue, and everybody was more or less typecast in a particular role.

So you had me on one end of the spectrum, who had come up through the ranks as an oddsmaker, and learned how things work in a casino with a professional perspective on things. You had Clay on the opposite end of the spectrum. We used to joke with him all the time. “Clay, did you even look at the rundown more than three minutes before you came on air or spend more than 37 seconds making your picks?” And he was able to fill that kind of heel role. Then in the middle, you had Sal that was kind of a combination of both, that took the perspective of a more recreational better, but was still someone who was in this space day in and day out. Then it was throwing us all, more or less, in a blender.

I couldn’t have been more excited to continue working with Clay, who I’d known for years before, and to create chemistry not just with Sal, but also Rachel [Bonetta] as a tremendous host. She could take it, dish it out, and wear it as well as anybody that I could have imagined in that particular role, trying to corral two rather large personalities. 

DR: As younger generations reshape the way we consume content, could you see those bigger networks in the sports space, FS1, the ESPN channels, lean more into gambling and carrying international games in the middle of the day, as opposed to studio shows? 

TR: 100%. And I think you’ve seen a number of companies, whether it’s FOX, when we did way back when I want to say it was the Florida State/Auburn national championship, more on a second screen viewing. It was a lot more of the college football personalities they had there. I tried to add a little bit of gambling perspective, but it was in and out. You look at ESPN and the way they’ve gone into betcasts, even Turner, right now, is trying to foray into that. And I think everybody is trying to find that perfect sauce and recipe to be able to maximize some of those live events, like you mentioned, and take advantage of an audience that you know may want to watch as a casual fan or may want to watch with an investment interest. How can you kind of weave those experiences together seamlessly?           

In my opinion, I think it’s easier said than done, because you don’t want to try and be too pedantic and talk down to the audience, but at the same time, you want people to feel like they’re getting a different perspective and value added than they’d be getting from a more traditional viewing of whatever the sporting event may be, should it be international soccer, tennis, or anything else taking place on foreign shores, especially during the day. 

DR: What sport do the ratings or other metrics not do a great job of reflecting how popular it is with gamblers? 

TR: That’s a great question. When you look at the way things have gone, we know that age old thought processes, the church is more or less built for Easter Sunday, which is the NFL. It will always be the primary driver.

I’ve sat in meetings countless times with executives that wanted to try and take away some of our sportsbook space. And I guess they’ve done that at Caesars over the years saying, “look, you guys only fill this thing up for 20 Sundays a year” and we go, “yeah, that’s exactly where the energy comes from.” So those 20 Sundays a year, no one is surrounding a blackjack table.     

When you look at what’s growing, to your point, hitting on international sports has been huge because of those opportunities and the void that international soccer can fill, throughout the course of a sporting day. It doesn’t just start at 7 ET like the more traditional stick and ball sports here. So having access to watch La Liga Serie A, and the English Premier League on various streaming platforms, I think soccer continues to be that rising star.

It’s just a question of which books will feel more comfortable, and how they’ll gradually ramp up and increase those betting venues? I don’t want to speak for every book, and I don’t have numbers in front of me, but a lot of the operators from the more traditional side have said that typically you’ll get more of a parlay driven audience that wants to bet the biggest brands in that sport more so than some of the single game betting. I think on that level, anytime you can create those household names, international superstars that are playing at 11:55 in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon in November, it’s going to always be an attractive proposition for network partners and for the sports books as well.

DR: I think you have a really interesting perspective. You’ve been a college athlete. Now that you’re in the gambling space, I wonder if anyone has asked for your guidance or your thoughts on how you handle Charlie Baker talking about wanting to limit props on NCAA athletes

TR: You know, they haven’t, and it’s an opportunity, quite honestly, that I would be more than happy to embrace and talk to the powers that be if they wanted someone that they could lean on. You know, I have a particular perspective, having been an athlete and knowing some of the trials and tribulations that an athlete can go through if they’re not properly educated on exactly what can transpire in the sports betting space, but to try and figure out the perfect solution for all parties involved from these sportsbook operators to protect their assets, to protect the students, and to protect the universities.           

I think oftentimes when we look at the NCAA, they kind of want to say that everything is done in black and white. There are so many shades of gray that pertain to this particular aspect. When you see more and more players, not just at the collegiate level, but also at the professional level, that are engaging in sports betting in various capacity, the biggest question that I have is are the players associations or university educating the teams accordingly?

I can tell you flat out, when I was a college athlete, Division III and there were never numbers set on our games, one of the first team meetings we had, you had to sign a waiver that said you weren’t going to bet. As a Division III athlete, you look at it and go, no one’s coming to us. I mean, they’re not setting the lines on NESCAC football or hockey games where people want information from me, but it’s a very different discussion to be having with these power conferences, especially on the football side.

If you happen to be in and around a college campus and you’re getting information, there are things that are a bit different. It’s one of the areas that I’ve pushed for, at least in my circles. I think you need a much more uniform injury report across collegiate sports and for the institutions and coaches that are hiding behind HIPAA. It’s great in theory to sit in your ivory tower and talk about athlete privacy, but in reality, if you make that information transparent, like it is in the NFL, it keeps the wrong people from nosing around campuses, and spending time on social media feeds of 17 and 18 year old’s trying to glean an edge.           

Sports bettors are going to do everything they possibly can to get an edge. More often than not, there’s nothing wrong with it. But if you make that information readily available, it can take one potential element out of the equation entirely. 

DR I don’t know that I agree with you that people are not waiting with bated breath to find out the lines on Trinity Bantams hockey games, but I understand where you’re going. 

TR: [laughing] Hey, look, it was funny. I talked to one of the broadcasting crews back then, and one of the guys kind of joking, not knowing my background at all, asked “what would you think that a number would be on this kind of game?” And I go, “Look, you can’t figure out what’s going on with some of these games.” But yeah, that Trinity Bantams at Wesleyan as a travel partner game on a Tuesday night in Hartford, was not drawing a ton of money on the side or total at any particular juncture, other than, us betting a couple of beers on Wesleyan.           

It’s definitely wild, honestly, to see the evolution of the sports betting space over the years and how much has changed. We’d just like to see some of the decision makers be more open to comprehensive dialog and discussion to bring on independent parties and to get some perspective on how some of these things work, rather than pretending that they have all the answers when it’s still very much in the infancy of its development. 

To learn more about Point-To-Point Marketing’s Podcast and Broadcast Audience Development Marketing strategies, contact Tim Bronsil at [email protected] or 513-702-5072.

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Would You Recommend Someone Pursue a Career in Radio Right Now?

If you are reading this and are thinking about a career in this business, don’t limit yourself.

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Photo of students in a broadcasting class

Before the school year let out, I had the opportunity to speak to a journalism class at a local high school about my career in radio. I did my usual spiel about how I got started in the business (interning my rear end off!), how I grew into management and eventually became part of an ownership group. I talked about working for independent stations and working for larger media companies and some of the differences between the two.

I also spent time on the new world where you are not just radio, you also have a bunch of digital products that a handful of people actually understand how to sell (I left that part out), and that today, the media business as a whole has completely changed and we are all learning a bit as we go.

Now, the funny part of this is that after I introduced myself and told a bit of my story, I asked the class of 20 or so students, ‘How many of you listened to radio on your way to school today?’ My expectation was that half the class would say yes. Two people raised their hands. Two.

Turns out they all listened either to a podcast or had their music playing from their own device through Apple or Spotify or something similar.

That caught me off guard a little bit, I’ll admit. I knew it would be low, but as I said, my expectation was 50%, not 10%.

One student, however, seemed to really like radio and the media business and asked a few questions. He said that he listened mostly to sports on national radio and local play-by-play when he wasn’t in front of his television. He also inquired about the various roles at a radio station, saying he wasn’t sure he was cut out to be on the air.

That student followed up with me recently and posed the question which titles this article. “Would you recommend pursuing a career in radio?” he asked in an email.

I hesitated. This is a business I have known for most of my life and has played such a huge role in who I am, it’s how I have provided for my family and the thing that I know most about. Well, I also have considerable knowledge about 80’s and 90’s rap music and the history of the St. Louis Steamers indoor soccer team, but professionally, I know the most about radio.

I was genuinely shocked by my hesitation. I have always been one of radio’s biggest supporters, so why was this answer so difficult for me?

Well, turns out after thinking about it for a day or two, I realized that it was just the way he phrased it. And like most things, it really requires breaking down exactly what he means by the question. Should he pursue a career as a radio DJ? No. Should he pursue a career as a radio salesperson? Maybe. Should he pursue a career in sports content? YES.

As I ended up telling him, our business from a content standpoint has become like the line from Field of Dreams, ‘if you build it, they will come.” Except in our case, it’s ‘if you create great content, it will be found.’ As several people have shown, it could be a few viral social posts and boom, your content career is born. You no longer have to take any sort of traditional path.

Now, it isn’t likely to hit it big on your own, but the point is, you can create content and get it out there by yourself. It is easier than ever to create videos, to create a podcast and all of the other ways you can get your message or thoughts out there. The question is, does anyone care? If they do, you might have something. In which case, you may have your own media company if you are also willing to go out there and sell your own product, promote it like crazy and eventually grow it.

The advice I gave was ultimately about versatility. It is what got me through my career. I tried to learn everything. And others that did found different things they might want to do in order to be in the business but not necessarily be a content creator. Learn to shoot video. Learn to edit. Learn as much about audio as you can. Learn social media and stay up on it. Be a master at YouTube and figure out all of the monetization strategies. That is what I would recommend. Be someone who can help a content creator with all of the things the content creator doesn’t want or doesn’t have time to do.

If you are reading this and are thinking about a career in this business, don’t limit yourself. Don’t say you want to do radio or television or just digital content. Learn about all of it, see what you like and figure out where you do your best work. Look at the business from the standpoint of what you and your friends like and how that content is being delivered to you.

You certainly do not want to limit yourself to just doing something that only 2 out of 20 of your classmates are even interested in.

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The Best Thing I Heard/Watched Recently

I really enjoyed listening to Sean McDonough talk to Adam Schein on SiriusXM about what he has been going through during the NHL Finals. If you don’t know, McDonough has been sick and has not sounded himself on a few of the broadcasts.

McDonough was a bit bothered by some of the online chatter about a perceived lack of energy he had during the games. He told Schein he was powering through and had been working with some of the Edmonton Oilers’ medical staff to be ready for the games.

McDonough is one of the top play-by-play broadcasters in the business and it was obvious he was disappointed to not be at his best, but he clearly wanted to explain the situation and talk about it rather than not addressing it.

If you are a SiriusXM subscriber, you can search for Schein on Sports on their app to hear the whole interview.

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In Case You Missed It

Earlier this week, Peter Schwartz caught up with former longtime New York Daily News NFL columnist Gary Myers. Football fans will remember Myers from his role on HBO’s Inside the NFL, which he was a part of from 1989 to 2001. As a young radio producer back in the mid-90’s I remember Myers as a great radio guest.

Myers is till covering the NFL but doing it in a very different way. He is writing books and consulting on a documentary about Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

“I still have way too much energy to retire,” Myers told Schwartz.  “I’m taking advantage of what I call my institutional knowledge and put it to another way of using it.  If I knew I was going to be this happy writing books and working as a consultant on other projects, I would have gotten out of the newspaper business a long time before then.”

You can read the full story by clicking here.

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Charles Barkley Is Simply Irreplaceable

Needed: One former NBA Hall of Fame player. Need to have a personality that is larger than life. Can’t be afraid to laugh at himself or have fun with his fellow panelists.

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Screengrab of Charles Barkley on Inside the NBA
Screengrab: Inside the NBA/TNT

Hopefully we find out it’s not true. Maybe it’s a business decision or an attempt to get a better deal elsewhere. Let’s hope that’s the case, because there will be an emptiness on my television screen if there’s no Charles Barkley to entertain. The “Round Mound of Rebound” shocked us all last week by saying after next season, “No matter what happens, next year is going to be my last year on television.” It can’t be real.

Barkley hinted at this a couple of years ago at the All-Star Game, when he spoke on a conference call. Via the Dallas Morning News’ Brad Townsend, Barkley said he has 2 years left on his contract “and that’s probably going to be it for me.” Barkley continued, “It’s been a great, great thing. I love Ernie, Kenny, Shaq and everybody we work with. But I just don’t feel the need to work until the day I die. I don’t, man. I’ll be 61 years old if I finish out my contract. And I don’t want to die on TV. I want to die on the golf course or somewhere fishing. I don’t want to be sitting inside over [by] fat-ass Shaq [waiting] to drop dead.”

After signing a 10-year contract extension, that included an opt-out if TV lost the NBA, Barkley seemed ready to continue to work. He told SiriusXM NBA Radio last month, “I don’t know what’s going to happen with Amazon, ESPN or if we lose it to NBC, so I’m not sure how to answer that question,” Barley said. “I just don’t know. Ernie would not go to another network – I’m damn sure about that. But I would listen; I would listen before I made any decisions.”

Could it be that the other networks involved in NBA coverage made their offers and Barkley wasn’t pleased with any of them? Or as I mentioned at the beginning, is he looking to cash in on ‘low’ offers from the others that may or may not want his services? It’s depressing to think that the boisterous Barkley won’t be part of it all going forward.

We, however, should be prepared if this is the truth and a decision that’s already been made by “Sir Charles”. So let me begin the process of properly saluting Barkley for nearly three decades of a job well done. Let’s coronate the King of the NBA studio shows and give him his due.

Barkley was one hell of a basketball player, he’s a Hall of Famer after all. He won the MVP in 1993. He went to the All-Star Game 11 times and had his #34 retired by the 76’ers and Suns. My point? As good as he was on the court, he’s even better off it. There aren’t many athletes of his caliber that fared as well if not better as an analyst than as a player. I’m sure there’s a young generation of fans who had to be told by a dad, older brother or uncle that Barkley was a great player in his day. It’s actually a compliment, because it means he’s transcending generations with his basketball knowledge and personality.

Let’s pick up on the personality that makes him one of the best to ever analyze. He’s ready, willing and able to be silly, outlandish and outside the box. The man is so confident in all that he does, he doesn’t care what it looks like, he goes with the flow. He can take it but can also dish it out with the best of them.  He has personality and its genuine. That makes him likable whether you agree with him or not. His humor is some of my favorite kind. Unintentional.

Barkley is probably the most honest analyst to ever analyze. He makes a point without tip toeing around things. If a play was bad, he tells you about it. If Charles disagrees with one of his fellow panelists on Inside the NBA, he lets them know about it. Not in the way someone like Stephen A. Smith would, because instead of screaming and carrying on, Barkley just makes his point. He may add some humor to the cause, to lighten the mood, but you know where he’s coming from. His credibility affords him the opportunity to drive something home, in a less combative way than most of the screaming heads on television these days.  

He’s probably one of the best teammates on a television show in history as well. Barkley is likely the most popular and well known of the group, yet he continues to ‘get along’ with everyone. As much as he ‘roasts’ his fellow panelists, you get the sense that there’s a great respect among the former players, who all played different positions in the pros. It’s a rare quality. I think Barkley realizes that the show is greater than the sum of its parts. That’s what makes the show so great. The consistency and respect make it work. 

The problem now is if in fact Barkley follows through on his retirement, his replacements are in a daunting position. It’s hard to be the guy to replace ‘the man’. They can’t be Barkley and if they try, it won’t work out all that well for them. I really haven’t seen anyone out there that can match what Barkley brings to a show or broadcast. Don’t get me wrong there are some very capable former NBA players that show some promise, but not to the extent of replacing Sir Charles. Jamaal Crawford, Vince Carter, Dennis Scott and Richard Jefferson are among the ‘next’ wave of quality analysts, but none are Barkley. JJ Redick is more suited to the game analyst chair than the studio analyst role in my opinion. Basically, what I’m saying here is, Barkley is not replaceable. He brings so much to the table and if anyone tried to copy or tried to be like him, they’d fail. Badly.

What would it take to actually replace him if you don’t believe he’s irreplaceable? Oh, not much. I can just see the ‘want ad’ now:

Needed: One former NBA Hall of Fame player. Need to have a personality that is larger than life. Can’t be afraid to laugh at himself or have fun with his fellow panelists. Must offer ‘takes’ that make people think and have opinions that you will stick with no matter what. Need to have a warm, inviting, non-broadcaster style that will sit well with all audiences, whether they agree with you or not.

Still don’t believe that he’s not replaceable? If you won’t take my word for it, how about that of a well-known and respected broadcaster? In a recent interview on Nothing Personal with David Samson, released earlier in the week, Bob Costas explained why he believes Barkley has the upper hand with TNT management in their ongoing dispute, which was punctuated by Barkley announcing his pending retirement over last weekend.

“Barkley, on a national basis, is as close to indispensable as anyone I can think of. And he knows that if he wants to, wherever basketball ends up, he can go,” Costas said. “Everyone will want him. It might not be the same as Inside the NBA … but he can go wherever he wants to go, and he will be welcome. And if somehow TNT retains the NBA, no one there is going to say, ‘screw him, we don’t like what he said, screw him.’”

I’m going to take it a step further. If they built the Mt. Rushmore of sports analysts, Barkley’s face would be in the George Washington spot. He’s that good. That means he’s a top four guy, keeping some good company. Also on that famous mountain in South Dakota would be Howard Cosell, John Madden and Dick Vitale. All were crucial in growing the sports they covered and becoming more famous in their ‘second’ lives than the first.

Cosell was a lawyer, journalist and radio show host before becoming extremely well known for his ‘hot takes’ on Monday Night Football. Madden of course was an NFL coach for the Raiders, and won a Superbowl title, before becoming an analyst on CBS, NBC and later Fox. He was best known as part of the duo of “Summerall and Madden”, along with Pat Summerall they called national games on CBS and Fox. Vitale was a former NCAA Basketball coach at Detroit-Mercy before hitting it big with his catchphrases and up beat analysis on ESPN.

I’m hoping that Barkley was only speaking out of frustration and that he will not follow through with his threat to retire after next season.  That would be terrible.

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