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THE BSM 64: 16 Great Sports Radio Guests

“hese are my 16. Depending on your market and what sports are hot there, the list will definitely change.”

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This is nearly an impossible list to compile as there are so many variables that go into a good guest spot. Do the hosts and the guests connect or have a previous connection? Is the guest entertaining and interesting on that day with that host or hosts? Is the guest topical for that market on that day and time slot. So with apologies, I’m listing my 16 favorite guests to listen to in sports radio:

#16: Steve Lavin, Fox Sports. The former UCLA and St. John’s basketball coach brings the personality and energy. He has the recent coaching experience that gives him added insight into today’s coaches and players as well as today’s college game. Smart, funny, entertaining, and tapped in. 

#15: John Smoltz, Baseball Analyst. The former pitcher is pretty brilliant when it comes to baseball. Frankly, he notices a lot of the nuances in the game that other analysts either miss or aren’t looking for. I always feel smarter after hearing him on the radio.

Image result for john smoltz

#14: Tony Dungy, HOF Football Coach. I have a special place for Coach Dungy on my list. He would always take my calls from his time as Defensive Coordinator at Minnesota to his years as a head coach. Even in retirement he’s smart, insightful and doesn’t take himself too seriously. 

#13 Bob Huggins, West Virginia Basketball Coach. Coach Huggins or “Huggy Bear” as he’s often known, can come off sounding like a total curmudgeon if you don’t get his dry, acerbic sense of humor. Once you do, he’s a laugh riot. Very self-deprecating and hilarious in replies to most questions. Knows his basketball too. 

#12 Jeff Van Gundy, ESPN. It was a toss up here between Jeff and Stan Van Gundy. You can’t go wrong with either, I just find Jeff a tad more polished after more years in broadcasting. Jeff has a great knowledge of basketball and connects well with hosts. 

#11 Cal Ripken, MLB Hall of Famer. Cal to me is like the conscience of baseball. He’s not preachy but in addition to his HOF Playing career, he and his brother Bill have built a veritable baseball empire with Ripken Baseball. When Cal says something about the game or a certain player it carries great weight. In addition, he’s an avid basketball fan so try to sneak in a question about the NCAA tournament or something happening in the NBA.  

#10 Bill Walton, The legendary UCLA Center and Hippie is very opinionated and always entertaining. He has A LOT to say so make sure you give him time to say it. 

#9 Jay Bilas, College Basketball Analyst. For much the same reason I like Smoltz, I enjoy hearing Bilas on the radio. Such great insight. He’s not afraid to challenge the consensus and have facts to back it up (He is a lawyer!). Like Smoltz, I feel smarter after a Jay Bilas interview.

Image result for jay bilas

#8 Ian Rapoport, NFL Network. The busiest man in the really busy business of being an NFL Insider. He is super connected. In a world that used to be owned by Mort, Schefter, and Jay Glazer, Rapoport is the king. Even after getting torched by 106.7 The Fan in DC’s Chad Dukes for dumping out of an interview to take a call from an NFL GM, he had the stones to come on the next day and take a beating. 

#7 Mel Kiper, NFL Draft Guru. There tends to be a love/hate relationship out there with Mel Kiper, but understand this, he helped changed the game when it comes to the NFL Draft. Remember when it used to be a sleepy event in NYC with Commissioner Pete Rozelle writing the picks on a chalkboard? Now it’s such a giant event and his strong opinions on players helped build that. Today he still has strong opinion and you want him saying good things about the players your team picks. 

#6 Kirk Herbstreit, ESPN College Football. Herbstreit is the star of ESPN’s iconic College Gameday Show and their lead analyst when news breaks. Oh and he’s a lead analyst on ESPN/ABC’s Saturday Night Football. He speaks with great authority and is not afraid to be critical of any team or coach-Even his alma mater, Ohio State. If you want to talk College Football, “Herbie” is your guy. 

#5  Michael Wilbon, ESPN/PTI. Michael is an icon of the media world. ESPN has been using him a lot on the NBA but he knows everything and has a strong, well thought out opinion. I’ll never forget sitting next to him for the Cubs one game playoff in 1998, with the slow moving Steve Trachsel on the mound for the Cubs. Wilbon said, “He’s everything that’s wrong with baseball.” Smart, funny, opinionated, and prepared. Pretty good combination for a guest.

#4 Charles Barkley, Basketball Analyst. Once the “round mound of rebound,” Charles has made a career of being fun and entertaining. He knows the NBA game better than the college game, but he’s there to entertain us. He’s really, really funny as a guest and definitely doesn’t take himself too seriously. 

#3 Jim Nantz, CBS Sports. The lead voice for CBS of the NFL, The Masters, and The NCAA Tournament is not a frequent sports radio guest. So when he is on, it’s normally with a host or hosts he has a great relationship with. First off, he has that incredible, recognizable voice, but as a guest he doesn’t take himself too seriously and can be playful. You’ll likely hear “Hello Friends” as he joins the show. Catch him with Mark Packer on SiriusXM and it’s a Home Run! 

#2 Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs Head Coach. Much like the Coach I have for the top seed of this group, Pop can talk about anything. Basketball-certainly. What’s happening in the US with pop culture, politics, education, anything. He went out of his way to support Turner’s Craig Sager in his battle with cancer. Opinionated, unpredictable, and incredibly well read for an NBA coach. 

#1 Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors Head Coach. Steve Kerr was a great guest as a player, especially on the Bulls championship teams. He’s funny, self-deprecating, smart and like Popovich he’s up on what’s going on in the world and willing to use his position to take a stand. Oh and he’s had the best team in basketball since he joined the Warriors, too!   

Like I said, this was a nearly impossible list to make because so many good guests are left off. These are my 16. Depending on your market and what sports are hot there, the list will definitely change. Overall, you can’t go wrong with the list I have here. Thanks for reading! 

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 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 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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