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If You Want People to Like You Don’t be a Jerk



Alabama crushed Louisville 51-14 on Saturday night. Head coach Nick Saban didn’t crush the postgame interview though. He went all Nick Saban on ESPN reporter Maria Taylor who asked a completely reasonable and necessary question. Taylor wanted to know if Saban got any answers after his two quarterbacks — Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts — split time during the game.

Shorts-in-a-bunch Saban responded in aggressive fashion. “I think both guys can help our team, all right? So why do you continually try to get me to say something that doesn’t respect one of them? I’m not going to. So quit asking.” The drill sergeant response was only missing a final mic drop demand — “Now drop and give me 50, Taylor!”

The unnecessary outburst got me thinking about sports radio, which has been known to have an over-the-top explosion or two along the way. The end result can also be much more damaging in our business as opposed to college football.

I made a few critical comments on the air a few weeks ago about some Philadelphia Eagles fans. One person made a billboard near Gillette Stadium that was gloating about the Eagles win over the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Another fan flew a plane over Gillette Stadium that said, “41-33 Philly Philly Super Bowl LII,” just before a preseason game between the Eagles and Patriots.

The actions were petty. Yeah, Philly won it all. Great. Have fun, but don’t be classless. Instead, a handful of fans were clearly acting as if they were so brand new to this whole winning-a-championship thing that they didn’t know how to behave. Act like you’ve been there before. You wouldn’t see Patriots fans pulling the same silly stunts because they’ve actually won Super Bowls in the past and don’t resort to flying planes with messages attached.

Mike in Portland called in. He’s an Eagles fan. Mike in Portland didn’t like my comments because Mike in Portland wasn’t listening to my comments very well. He thought I was saying that all Eagles fans were behaving badly. I started out patiently re-explaining my stance. The longer he failed to listen and had his mind made up that I was saying every Eagles fan was a classless lowlife, the more frustrated I got. I didn’t reach Saban-esque levels, but it’s difficult to remain completely calm when a conversation basically plays out like this:

Mike – “It sounds like you’re saying 2 + 2 = 5.”
Brian – “I’m not. No. I’m saying it equals four.”
Mike – “Nope. You’re clearly saying it equals five.”

Nothing drives me crazier in sports radio than listeners who misinterpret my comments because they aren’t listening. It’s the worst. That’s not a good enough reason to get bent out of shape though. Although Mike clearly would be designated for assignment when it comes to paying attention, it bugs me that I wasn’t calmer and more patient with him.

Another situation occurred just the other day that I actually handled well. I’m making strides, BSM community. The lovely Christina had a family reunion every Labor Day weekend in Kentucky. We hopped on a red-eye flight on Friday and had a connection in Dallas. When I exited the bathroom, my wife was talking to a delightful guy named Calvin who worked for the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. 

We struck up a conversation about football after he asked what I did for a living. Calvin told me that he believes the Seahawks won’t trade safety Earl Thomas to Dallas because of something that happened way back in 1977. This, of course, is a terrible opinion. A three-week-old burrito is better, but I didn’t focus on how the regimes of both teams are totally different now compared to over 40 years ago. Neither franchise would let potential bad blood get in the way of a great deal either. I just glossed over it.

It’s interesting why Calvin’s theory didn’t throw me off — it’s because I didn’t lose sight of what I wanted to accomplish. I wanted Calvin to enjoy our conversation. If I picked apart his bad theory, it could have easily been the part that he remembered most. In discussions and debates, the #1 rule is to not forget what you’re trying to accomplish.

If you want your audience to enjoy listening to you, don’t call them idiots or bozos. Don’t aggressively pick apart their weak theories or inaccurate comments. Ask yourself if your words get you closer to achieving your goal or further away? If the comments you make get you further away from the goal, you’re simply venting. You’ve lost the initiative while working against yourself. Don’t let that happen.

Calvin and I were also were speaking to each other in person. It’s very easy to speak to a caller as if they’re just a thing. As sad and ridiculous as it sounds, it’s simple to forget that the person you disagree with on the phone actually has friends and loved ones. He has interests and emotions. It’s much easier to be aware of these facts in person than during a phone call.

During the next debate with a caller, pretend that same person is standing in front of you. Better yet, pretend it’s a friend, family member, or your boss that’s sharing a crazy theory in person. You’d be far less likely to speak aggressively. Your words and tone would also change. Don’t treat strangers on the phone like they’re actual strangers. Talk to them like the other people you value most in life.

I bumped into another person named Adam before a flight out of Portland. Adam said that he and his 10-year-old daughter, Lily, enjoy listening to me. I thought it was awesome. Later I thought that if I ever had a phone conversation with Adam the same way I had with Mike in Portland, Adam would’ve have come up to introduce himself to me. He wouldn’t have felt very positive about the show. He might not have even listened to the show anymore.

It isn’t just the host and the listener having a private conversation. That same conversation plays out in front of hundreds and thousands of people, including the caller’s family and friends. Embarrassing a caller and then expecting that same listener to still support the show is illogical. Listeners are the bread and butter of the industry. Without them, we don’t have jobs. It sort of makes sense to treat those people with respect.

Nick Saban actually called Maria Taylor to apologize for his pointed response. It’s very unlikely that a host will have the same luxury after blasting an anonymous caller. Think about that — our margin for error is actually smaller than a head coach that has won six championships in college football. In sports radio, we really need to get it right the first time because we might not get a second chance.

BSM Writers

Grant Cohn’s Trolling of Players is Unacceptable

After an altercation between Javon Kinlaw of the San Francisco 49ers and Grant Cohn, it became clear that Kinlaw was being trolled by a member of the media.



grant cohn

Grant Cohn is a media member who writes for the FanNation 49ers blog on He also talks about the team on his YouTube channel, which has over 48,000 subscribers as of noon Thursday. His father, Lowell, was a longtime columnist in the Bay Area.

Javon Kinlaw is a defensive lineman, whom the San Francisco 49ers drafted in the first round despite concerns about the durability of his knee. He played four games last season, his second in the league.

The two were involved in two confrontations this week. The first one occurred off to the side of the 49ers’ practice field. Kinlaw apparently cursed at Cohn and knocked his hat from atop his head. Later in the day, Kinlaw again swore at Cohn, this time after joining a live stream on Cohn’s YouTube channel. (Side note: I have never felt so freaking old as I did while typing that previous sentence.)

OK. That’s my attempt at an absolutely straightforward and objective summary of a situation that scares the hell out of me. Not because a player was mad at a member of the media. I’ve had it happen to me and I’ve seen it happen to others. It’s my opinion that this has been happening for as long as human beings have scrutinized the athletic efforts of other human beings.

What scared me was that I was seeing some version of the future of sports media. A future in which media members behaved like YouTube trolls, acting purposely ridiculous or antagonistic to initiate conflicts that could be turned into more conflicts that would could be gleefully recounted as content for the audience. I thought that because that’s pretty much what Cohn did:

Cohn essentially bragged about the number of different things he said that may have prompted Kinlaw’s reaction, and you know what? It worked. Kinlaw got mad. He confronted Cohn. Twice. TMZ published a story about it. So did

This is troll behavior. You know, the online pests who say or do something intended to provoke a reaction, and once they get that reaction, they recount and scrutinize that reaction with an eye toward triggering another reaction. Lather, rinse repeat. Increasingly, entire online media ecosystems consist of nothing more than people who don’t like each other talking about how much they don’t like one another.

I’m not going to pretend this is entirely new in sports media. Sports columnists have been known to make reputations with their willingness to be critical of the home team. A huge part of Skip Bayless’ brand is his unwavering insistence on highlighting Lebron James’ perceived flaws. Stephen A. Smith has engaged in public feuds with players, namely Kevin Durant.

I do see a difference between this and what Cohn did, though. The reaction Bayless and Smith are primarily concerned with is from their audience, not their subjects. The subjects may get mad, but that’s not the primary goal. At least I hope it’s not.

What happens if that is the primary goal? What if someone is offering opinions not because it’s what they really think, but because they want to provoke a response from the subject? Media careers have been built on less.

I don’t know if that’s the case with Cohn. I’ve never talked to him in my life, and even if I had, it’s impossible to know someone’s true intent. But in listening to everything he said AFTER the initial confrontation with Kinlaw, I’m not willing to assume that Cohn was operating in good faith. Here’s how Cohn described the initial confrontation with Kinlaw, which occurred as practice was beginning.

“In the training room, I saw Javon Kinlaw, who is the king of the training room,” Cohn said. “He’s usually in the training room.”

Cohn said the two locked eyes, but were separated by about 70 yards at the time. Kinlaw then walked across the field to where the reporters were gathered. He stood directly behind Cohn.

“So I turn, and I say, ‘Wassup, Mook Dawg?’ “ Cohn said, referencing the nickname on Kinlaw’s Instagram account. “And he doesn’t say anything. And I say, ‘Why are you looking at me like that, Javon?’ “

“And then he said, ‘What are you going to do about it you bitch-ass,’ and then he said one more word that I can’t say,” Cohn said. “And then I turned to face him, and I said, ‘Oh, it’s like that?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, it’s like that.’ And then he knocked the hat off my head.”

OK. Pause. In my experience, when your job is to publicly describe and critique the performance and attitudes of professional athletes, there will be times in which the athletes do not care for your description or your critique. Some of those who are displeased will make their objections known to you.

However, there are two things that are unusual here: First, the fact Kinlaw knocked the hat off Cohn’s head, which is unacceptable. Second, Cohn then posted a video on  YouTube to not only talk about what had happened, but state he had been so critical of Kinlaw for so long he wasn’t sure what specifically sparked Kinlaw’s anger.

“Javon, what are you upset about?” Cohn asked toward the end of  his video. “Is it the fact that I said you have an 80-year-old knee? Is it the fact that I said that you’re a terrible pass rusher and you’re just a two-down player? Is it the fact that I said the Niners shouldn’t have drafted you and should have taken Tristan Wirfs instead. Is it the fact that I said that you’re unprofessional and immature.

“It escapes me, which of the hundred negative things I’ve said about Javon Kinlaw the last couple of years, moved him to approach me in such a way, but you know what, I applaud Javon Kinlaw for coming to speak to me directly, and I ask you, what do you think Javon Kinlaw is mad about.”

Cohn was trolling Kinlaw. No other word for it.

That night, Cohn was conducting a live stream on YouTube, which Kinlaw joined, while apparently eating dinner, to make declarative statements about the size of Cohn’s genitalia — among other things.

Neither one looked particularly impressive. Not Kinlaw, who was profane and combative with a member of the media, at one point making a not-so-subtle threat. Not Cohn, who asked Kinlaw, “Do you think I’m scared of you, Javon?” He also said, “I don’t even know why you’re mad, Javon.”

I think Kinlaw would have been better off ignoring Cohn. If I was Kinlaw’s employer, I would probably prefer he not log into video livestreams to make testicular comparisons. But honestly, I don’t care about what Kinlaw did. At all. He’s not on a team I root for. He didn’t physically harm anyone. He used some bad words in public.

I am bothered not just by Cohn’s actions, but by some of the reactions to them because of what I think this type of behavior will do to an industry I have worked in for 25 years. Credentialed media members who behave like Cohn did this week make it harder for other media members who are acting in good faith. Preserving access for people like him diminishes what that access will provide for those who aren’t trying to use criticism to create conflict that will become content.

I think Cohn knew what he was doing. In his livestream, before Kinlaw joined, Cohn stated he was not scared because he knew — by virtue of his father’s history in the business — that if Kinlaw had touched him he would potentially be entitled monetary compensation.

By now, it should be pretty apparent how problematic this whole thing is and yet on Thursday, a number of 49ers fans online were sticking up for Cohn as just doing his job. Dieter Kurtenbach, a Bay Area columnist, Tweeted: “Javon Kinlaw does not know that @GrantCohn was built for this.” Built for what? Winning Internet fights? Kurtenbach also deleted a Tweet in which he called Kinlaw “soft.”

Cohn’s father, Lowell, is a former columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle and Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. He promoted the first video his son made on Tuesday:

Sorry, I don’t find it funny because it’s another step down a path in which media members seek reactions at the expense of information. Where they look to make fun of players instead of learning about them. They’ll stop acting like journalists and start acting like the trolls who make their money by instigating a conflict, which they then film: “Jake Paul, reporting live from 49ers practice …”

If that’s the case, thank God I’m about to age out of this business, entirely. I’m 47 years old and I can’t believe there’s anyone in our industry who thinks what Cohn did this week is acceptable.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 75



A new episode of Media Noise is all about reaction. Demetri reacts to the ManningCast’s big win at the Sports Emmys. Danny O’Neil reacts to people reacting to Colin Kaepernick’s workout in Las Vegas and Andy Masur reacts to John Skipper’s comments about Charles Barkley.

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BSM Writers

Bron Heussenstamm Blends Bleav Podcasts Advertising with SiriusXM

Bron Heussenstamm, the CEO of the Bleav Podcast Network says blending podcasting advertising with satellite radio’s reach is a victory for both sides.



Last week, the Bleav (pronounced believe) Podcast Network announced a deal with SiriusXM to make all 32 NFL team-specific Bleav pods available on the SXM app. SXM can also air Bleav content on any of its sports channels. Each NFL Bleav show pairs a former player with a host to discuss team issues. Eric Davis, Lorenzo Neal, and Pac-Man Jones are amongst the former players Bleav has signed as talent.

I have hosted a Bleav podcast about Boise State football -the Kingdom of POD. I am usually provided 1-3 advertisers per episode by the network and get paid by the download. My subject matter is regional, so my take-home pay is usually under four figures. I have enjoyed the technical assistance and cross-promotion I receive and I enjoyed meeting Bleav CEO Bron Heussenstamm. Bron is Los Angeles-based, a USC graduate, and founded Bleav in 2018. We discussed the SXM deal, podcast advertising, and the future. 

Will the podcast advertisers be carried on the SXM distribution platform?

Yes, Bleav baked-in advertisements and hosts read ads are distributed across all platforms. This enables the host to do their show once through, making it as easy as possible for the hosts and consistent for the advertisers.

Bron Heussenstamm, CEO Bleav Podcast Network

How is advertising on Bleav different? 

We want to be more than a ‘host read ad’ or a ‘digital insert’ with our advertising partners. When companies work with Bleav shows and talent, those companies can receive our omnichannel of distribution points—podcast platforms, YouTube, socials, streamers, TV, radio, and more. This allows for consistent branding across all platforms: great talent presenting great companies to fans and consumers no matter where they consume content. 

What is the growth pattern for podcasts that you see? 

The industry trades have presented 400%-800% percent growth over the next ten years. Once the COVID fog lifted, we really saw these gains. Sports are always going to be at the forefront of culture. The increases in all sports sectors have certainly carried into the digital space. 

SXM has started with NFL shows but can also air more Bleav content – what does that look like? 

We’ve started with our NFL network of 32 team shows hosted by a former player. We’ve kept the door open for our NCAAB, NCAAF, MLB, NHL, Basketball, and Soccer networks. We’re happy for our hosts to be part of such a tremendous company and platform. SiriusXM can continue to amplify its voice and give fans the access and insight only a player can provide. 

The Interactive Advertising Bureau-IAB- says podcast revenue grew 72% last year to $1.4B and is expected to grow to $2B this year and double to $4B by 2024. Have you seen similar growth? What is driving the industry now, and what will be the primary cause of growth by 2024?  

There is a myriad of reasons for the growth. I‘ll lean into a couple. 

At Bleav, we launch and maximize the digital arm of industry leaders. The technology upgrades to allow hosts to have a world-class show — simulcast in both audio and video – from their home has led to an explosion of content. With this, the level of content creators has risen. Having a YouTube, RSS feed, podcast, and more is now part of the brand, right alongside Twitter and Instagram. 

If a company wants to advertise on Bleav in Chargers, we know exactly how many people heard Lorenzo Neal endorse their product. We can also safely assume they like the Chargers. The tracking of demo specifics for companies is huge. It’s a fantastic medium to present products to the right fans and consumers.

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