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Future Broadcasters in the NFL: Part 2

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With a new NFL season just around the corner, Barrett Sports Media decided to take on a big project. We reached out to hosts, PDs, and reporters in every NFL city in the country. The question we wanted answered was simple: Who on your team’s roster has the brightest future in the sports media?

We spent the better part of a month sending emails and texts asking folks to participate. Some gave us an answer right away. Some required a little poking and prodding. Some didn’t respond at all. What are you going to do, right? It’s a busy time of year for all of us in sports radio.

We will reveal a new batch of answers everyday from now until Friday. If you missed Part 1, you can find it here.

Here’s Part 2:

BALTIMORE RAVENS

Jerry Coleman  – 105.7 the Fan

Well, Terrell Suggs is going to be a guy that will aim to be in the media. He has participated on a few of the studio shows in the past. He continues to appear on shows like Ballers. I don’t think he has a lot to offer though, as someone that has interviewed him for the last 15 years. He’s mostly full of platitudes and cliches.

Justin Tucker is the kicker. Do they qualify for this? He would be a terrific candidate. Besides being a terrific kicker and singer, he is very well spoken. He may be really great. I just wonder how much a kicker can add to a broadcast in a game. How much are they really in those meetings and able to add perspective to situations involving quarterbacks, linebackers, or receivers?

CHICAGO BEARS

Laurence Holmes – 670 the Score

When he’s done playing football, Bears Guard #75, Kyle Long, will make one of the easiest transitions from playing to broadcasting that we’ve seen in a while. From the time that he was a rookie, Long has shown incredible personality in dealing with the media. He’s honest, loquacious, and charismatic. In some respects, Long has already been doing a form of broadcasting. He has thousands of followers already, on the gaming platform Twitch, where he does live videos while playing games. Honestly, that association will give him a leg up in growing the younger demo for a potential employer. He has credibility in a growing and desirable audience share.

In between the time of the Lovie Smith Bears and the team drafting Mitch Trubisky, Long has been the face of the franchise. That’s a weird thing to say about a Guard, but it’s true. On top of everything else, the Long family has shown that their personal charisma translates to the camera. It’s not a far leap to say that Kyle’s brother, Chris could run for political office someday and their dad, Howie is pretty much the standard for a national analyst. Kyle has many interests, but if he chooses to work in television or radio, he will have a ton of options, both locally and nationally.

HOUSTON TEXANS

Sean Pendergast – Sports Radio 610

If the question were “Which Houston Texan employee has the brightest future in media?”, my answer would be head coach Bill O’Brien, hands down, whenever that day may come. However, if we are keeping it focused strictly on players, my choice would be one of the newest Houston Texans, safety Tyrann Mathieu. In his short time with the team, the “Honey Badger” has impressed me with his thoughtful, intelligent answers to questions about both his background and the game itself.

When I am looking for content from former football players, I generally want the player to have good energy, a solid delivery, and most importantly, teach me something I don’t know. Mathieu’s energy is infectious, but more importantly, he has one of the highest football IQ’s in the league. Mathieu plays a position where the knowledge necessary to perform at a high level is the defensive equivalent of the quarterback’s necessary knowledge on the offensive side of the football. I feel like Mathieu would be incredibly versatile as a radio or TV personality, with the ability to convey an entertaining story in one segment, and then one segment later, give an X’s and O’s “chalk talk”.

Above all else, Mathieu has massive respect from his peers, fans, and media alike, so I think people would be preconditioned to like and enjoy him. Earning the respect of a TV or radio audience would have fewer barriers for Mathieu.

NEW YORK GIANTS

Chris Carlin – WFAN

Landon Collins has got a future in the media, if he wants it. The network executives are always looking for the same thing: someone who isn’t afraid to tell the truth. Though he’s been in the NFL a short time, Collins hasn’t been afraid to ruffle some feathers.

During the drama surrounding Eli Apple last season, it was Collins who was both critical of, and later supportive of Apple. He told the truth about what was going on, and in this rare instance, it was something his teammate needed to hear publicly. He is not only a terrific player and leader of the defense, Collins also has a terrific feel for the inner workings and politics of a locker room.
Landon’s also got a sense of humor, which goes a long way. In an appearance earlier in 2018 on “Boomer & Gio” on WFAN, Collins was relaxed and willing to “go there” when Gio brought up topics outside football. To put it simply, Collins “gets it.”

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

John Mamola – 620 WDAE

When posed the question to identify a single individual player on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that has the chops to one day have a future in sports media, you need to look at the results of the past. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber (now a top analyst for FOX Sports) inherits the intelligence of reading routes and schemes while delivering his analysis as smooth as he was when he stepped in front of wide receivers for one of his 47 career interceptions. You look at the leadership of former Buccaneers safety John Lynch, straight to the point with no filter attached which led him to being one of the most respected analysts in football paving his path in the front office for San Francisco.

Other notable former Tampa Bay Buccaneers have also graced the sports media landscape each with their own unique attributes that they carried with them from the field of play and into the media landscape. Keyshawn Johnson and Anthony McFarland with ESPN, Tony Dungy and Chris Simms at NBC Sports, and minus his off the screen transgressions, you can’t deny the energy and passion for the game of football Warren Sapp displayed when he was on the NFL Network.

In an age of on demand and short attention spans, you need to identify someone who can get right to the point of what they’re trying to say. Someone who identifies with the trends in social media and respects the benefits of it on all platforms, but also recognizes the pitfalls it could also lead to. You need someone with energy, passion for the sport, and someone who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. A broadcaster that makes you think, points out the hidden, and is always trying to get better at whatever position they may play on the field (or in sports media). For me without question, that’s Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans.

Evans is entering his fifth season in Tampa Bay and already ranks among the great wide outs in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history with 32 touchdowns (2nd in franchise history) and over 1,000 yards receiving in each of his first four seasons in Tampa Bay. Off the field he’s a celebrated family man, husband and father.

But what would make Evans a great member of the sports media once his long career is over? His discipline to continue working at his craft, passion for the game of football and knowledge of the game are apparent each and every day in practice and during games. He is not afraid to express his views (see his comment on Twitter RT’ing Donald Trump with a dig at his USFL ownership), plus has great energy and is always direct with the media getting right to his point. With time, practice and the right coaching Evans could be the next in a line of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers that you see on the television screen every Sunday, or on the radio every afternoon on your drive home.

 

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.

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grant cohn

Grant Cohn is a media member who writes for the FanNation 49ers blog on SI.com. 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:https://youtu.be/4Hf9sjBttFY

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 SFGate.com.

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

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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.

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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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