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Correcting The Mistakes All Broadcasters Make

“Most of the MP3’s I hear have similar issues that plague some of those that are just starting out or are relatively new to a baseball job. Trust me, I suffered from most, if not all of the things I will point out, so I speak from experience.”

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Every young broadcaster worth his/her salt wants to improve daily. That even goes for the veterans in the audience. I know that I always want my play-by-play to get better every time I crack the mic. 

I know that a lot of us get requests over the course of the year to listen to a young broadcaster’s work. Some of these guys/girls are very good, some are about to break through, and some through no fault of their own, need a little help along the way. Those that need a little assistance should not think less of themselves. You should take the criticism constructively and not as a personal attack on your work or your being. This is how to improve, listen to those that have come before you and be receptive to their advice. Give it a try at least. 

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Most of the MP3’s I hear have similar issues that plague some of those that are just starting out or are relatively new to a baseball job. Trust me, I suffered from most, if not all of the things I will point out, so I speak from experience, that it can and will get better if you work at it and take some of these suggestions to heart.

There are basic principles to a play-by-play call. Most importantly keeping the listener informed on game information, like the score, situation, inning and outs. Follow the ball, let the listener know where it is, because you are their eyes and ears. Be as descriptive as you can with direction, left side, fair territory, foul territory and high fly ball among the many things that happen in a game.

Boil it down to its simplest form. Describe what you’re seeing. Don’t worry so much at first about fancy descriptions, or big words to impress people. Just tell me what you are seeing.

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Usually there are a few parts to the basic call. Something starts the action. Usually it’s a pitcher throwing the ball toward the plate. “Here’s the 1-0 pitch to Johnson”, right? Then what happens? Johnson may swing, “he swings”, ok. Now what happened as a result? Did he connect? Did he miss? Did he get hit by the pitch? Was it a strike or a ball? Tell me!  Follow me so far?

Now something else happens, where did the ball go? Tell me and so on. Don’t try to over complicate things. As you proceed in your career, you start to feel comfortable enough with the basics that you can add better descriptors and other fancier things. Get the basics down first. Follow the ball and tell the listener where it’s going. 

Your highlight calls are too long. Think of run scoring plays, defensive gems, or big strikeouts as a highlight. Generally speaking a good highlight is anywhere from 10-30 seconds in my opinion. Obviously there are some extenuating circumstances. I was once witness to a 1 minute 27 second highlight of a crazy rundown play that wound up scoring a run! All of that time was necessary, trust me! 

Mainly the ones I’ve heard are 50 seconds or longer for a basic home run call. To me, it doesn’t need to be that long.  A good home run can consist of “here’s the 2-1 pitch…Player A hits it in the air, deep center field, back at the track, wall GONE! (Leaving a little time for crowd noise – let it breathe!), it’s now 2-0 Team X, that’s Player A’s 14th of the season and it was crushed.”. Time it, I come up with about 21 seconds, accounting for some ambient sound and maybe a few more words. But its all you really need. Now, if you’re working alone, yeah go ahead after that initial call and give me the details on the pitch, reaction in the dugout, the route the fielder took, etc. Keep the second part of that for after your “highlight”. If you have a partner, let he or she make those points after your initial call. Make sense?

Another thing I hear a lot is a broadcaster trying to force a lot of information down my throat because he or she did the research/homework and want to get it all in. Stop!

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Don’t be in a rush to tell me everything you’ve prepared on a subject. Have a feel for it, save some of it for later in the game, or even tomorrow. You are not only bombarding the listener with too much to process, you are compromising your own calls. Think about how it sounds when you are rushing to tell me everything you know about your first baseman. You speed up your pace, run out of breath and have a hard time telling me what he’s done at the plate. Save some of it for his next at bat. Remember that in baseball “pacing is paramount”, really it is. Your voice tells the listener a lot about what is going on and if you’re struggling to present the information, the listener is lost. 

One of the things I usually note and ask those that send me some of their work, where were you looking when you missed the first part of that call?  I already know the answer, but want to hear it from them. Most often its because they are looking down at notes in their scorebook and not paying attention to the action. There is a lot of time (too much actually) in between pitches in baseball, for a glance at the book, or your notes, don’t take away from the call.

I got some great advice a long time ago, it was basically in the form of a question. I was staring at my scorebook as a pitch was coming in. The veteran broadcaster looked at me during the half inning break and said, “Andy, where is the game going on? I’ll bet its not in your scorebook, am I right?”. Yes he was right, so understand that it’s extremely important to pay attention to the game, get the notes later! 

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Remember, don’t get discouraged if some of these descriptions apply to you. Work hard to get better. Keep at it, most things that challenge you now will eventually become routine if you stay with it. Listen to the advice others give you, but apply it to your case, don’t try to copy them. It’s tough enough to be the first you, let alone the second them. 

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 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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