The people of Buffalo are tired of losing. The Music City Miracle, 47 Wide Right, No Goal, those are just a few of the agonizing moments that have kept the Bills from winning a Super Bowl and the Sabres from a Stanley Cup. But there’s a belief in sports radio that the teams you cover need to be either really good or really bad, since both create storylines. It’s the mediocre seasons that causes the fans and listeners to lose interest.
But not every show host believes in that theory. Howard Simon, co-host of Howard and Jeremy on WGR 550 in Buffalo is one of those that doesn’t. Much like his listeners, he’s tired of losing. Though the rest of the country might look at Buffalo affectionately with all the sports misery they’ve suffered, a 17-year playoff drought for the Bills doesn’t equal a giant payoff for local sports radio.
“I really don’t know who says that,” said Simon. “If it’s a sports talk show host I’d love to meet them because I can’t stand losing. I’m tired of it. I kind of kid here, but maybe Boston sports talk show hosts are bored? I have no idea. I would much rather talk about winning teams. The early 90s around here with the Bills were fantastic.
“Nobody wanted to talk about a playoff drought from 2000 to 2017. We got tired of it and we got tired of being reminded about it. We got tired of bringing it up every year at training camp. Coaches and GM’s getting fired every three years, quarterbacks changing, that sucks. Sure it gives us great shows and quarterback discussions are always fascinating when there’s a controversy, but no, I don’t think it bonded anyone together. If anything we get tweets every now and then from people who feel sorry for us because we have to talk about the Bills and Sabres. I kind of look at us as therapeutic, like a communal psychiatrist. We’re just like a bartender. You go to the bar, you get a drink and you spell your woes to them about how bad your teams are. We allow people to vent and cheer. If you need someone to be with you in your time of need as a sports fan, we’re there. Because we’re going through all the sports stuff with them.”
Simon has been with WGR since 2004, which serves as the flagship for both the Bills and Sabres. In this Q&A we cover if Bills fans are as crazy on the radio as they seem on the internet, how the station handles training camp and a whole lot more.
TM: So you’re the flagship of the Bills. Obviously, the recent past hasn’t been easy for this team. Are you able to accurately describe the pain that fans are feeling and be critical about decisions made by ownership on the air?
HS: If you’re wondering if we’re given a directive to go easy because were the flagship, no. In fact, quite honestly, there’s been more bad than good here. During the Bills’ drought, if we thought a coach was bad, we said they should fire him. If we thought a GM was bad, we said they should fire him. If they had a draft pick we didn’t like, we’d be outspoken about it. We just always speak our opinion.
That’s the nice thing about our bosses, they’ve never once said to us that we can’t say things because were the flagship and our contract is almost up. Last year‘s hockey season was one of the worst in franchise history, so we’re not going on the air to sugarcoat that. We said the coach should be fired and he was. If the team is really bad, we’ll say they’re bad. Fans are smart and they see through that stuff. It comes down to credibility and you have to have it at the end of the day.
TM: So when the Sabres are bad, I’m going to guess you find yourself going deeper on the Bills earlier than normal. When that’s the case, is it tougher to keep it fresh since you don’t have a hockey team to steal the big stories of the day during the winter?
HS: Well, yes, but the good news is we’ve had a lot of practice. There’s been plenty of hockey seasons that crapped out January 1st or February 1st. The thing I think around here, and this is getting back to how passionate people are around here about football, it’s become a 12 month a year thing. More than any other sport, as soon as you get done with the season you start talking about the combine in February. Right after that, you talk about the free agency period. Right after that, you dive into a month and a half of NFL Draft. After that, you dive into rookie minicamp, OTA‘s and mandatory camps. So usually there’s always something to talk about with football. It’s not really hard for us, if the Sabres are playing well, that’s great. But if not we have to get a little creative.
TM: Is there a third-biggest team in town?
HS: Honestly there’s no clear-cut answer. It really is a Bills and Sabres town. We don’t consider ourselves a satellite Toronto market. I guess if you want to pick baseball there’s more Yankees fans in Buffalo than any other Major League Baseball team. From a basketball standpoint it’s a mixed bag. This would not be considered a secondary Raptors market. It’s very Bills NFL and Sabres NHL centric.
TM: Bills Mafia videos during tailgates have really taken a life of their own. Does that craziness shine through on the call line?
HS: I grew up in New York so I listened to New York talk radio when I was growing up. I worked in Toledo and listened to Detroit talk radio when I was there, so in terms of craziness, I don’t think anybody would top New York or even Philadelphia. I think the fans here are mostly like other fans, they are very passionate. Maybe it’s a little bit different here because we’re talking about a city that has two major professional teams as opposed to New York City having eight, Philadelphia having at least one in every single pro league, Boston has a bunch, but there’s no MLB or NBA team here. So maybe the fever is a little higher.
Maybe the intensity and pressure is a little greater on the Bills and Sabres because you don’t have a third and fourth professional team to help you out if you’re struggling. In terms of the people that are calling our station, you get your occasional crazy caller but I think that happens in every talk market in the country. People aren’t calling us as they’re jumping into a table. They’re passionate fans and I think they enjoy the crazy fans label they get but it’s not like crackpot is calling all the time.
TM: With Bills training camp being in Pittsford, New York (A little over an hour from Buffalo) how are your shows covering training camp?
HS: We have a Bills beat reporter and he’s also the sideline reporter on the broadcast, so he’s out here. When the Bills are there, he’s out there. As far as the shows, it depends what their practice schedule is. If they’re practicing in the afternoon, the afternoon show will do their show live from camp. We have seven shows here from camp. Seven morning practices during the week so we’re here for those seven shows.
TM: Though it may cost money and a few more resources, how important is it for your station to be on-site during those opportunities?
HS: Yeah I like it, I really do. I can only speak for me but I like seeing practice. Our beat reporter is great and now with Twitter and the Internet you can read reports from every single media person or blog member who’s out here. But I just think it sounds really good. If a fan is listening and the morning show comes on and they say, “hey, good morning we’re at Bills Training Camp,” it just sounds good. I think that always sounds appealing to the fan. We’re out where the stories are.
When we’re out here, we get players on as well as national media guests that are here. It’s very active and I feel more connected when we’re out at training camp. It’s just cool and beneficial to say, hey, here’s what the offensive line looks like today, or here’s what Josh Allen look like today. Things like that, Cole Beasley look very good today. Ed Oliver is knocking offensive lineman over. It just sounds good.
TM: Being in western New York and on the border in Canada, is Buffalo a really unique place to do sports radio, in terms of, yeah, you’re in New York but the teams in NYC are six hours away?
HS: Yeah we’re around 400 miles away from New York City. It’s funny, I think sometimes when players get drafted by Buffalo teams they think they’re in a suburb of New York City. Then they get here and realize it’s this far away and don’t realize it. In terms of location, I like it and think it’s a good location.
You have the teams here, but in terms of what’s around us, Cleveland is three hours away, Pittsburgh is 3 1/2 hours away, Toronto is two hours, we’re in an area where there’s a lot of other professional teams and cities around us. That might also be a reason why we have a mishmash in the fan base, because there are so many cities within reach that you can be attached to their teams.
TM: Speaking of players being mistaken where Buffalo is, has there been anyone more famous than Marshawn Lynch for doing that? What was the fan reaction to that?
HS: He’s not the only one. I can’t give you any names off the top of my head but it seems like it’s happened to more football players than hockey players. There have been plenty of rookies that come here, and when you talk to them, they were planning on going to see a Broadway Show or even to hangout in Manhattan. You then have to explain to them that they can, but it’s an hour plane flight. Marshawn is probably the highest profile guy to do it, but he’s far from the only one that’s made that mistake.
TM: The Bills are No. 1 and rest of the NFL storylines are No. 2 at this point in the year for you. So does that leave any room to talk college football? Does there need to be a guy like Khalil Mack playing for the University of Buffalo for you to even mention them?
HS: We have not talked a lot of college football, because, quite honestly, for most of UB’s 20-ish years at the FBS level they’ve struggled. As it turns out, yeah, Khalil Mack made people more aware of UB but they need to win more games. Our college football talk is more geared towards watching guys who we think we’re going to be talking about come NFL Draft talk. Like, when we knew the Bills were going to draft a quarterback two years ago, we went all in every weekend watching Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen. I’ll watch college football because I’m a big fan, but our conversations tend to sway more to “hey, the Bills need a wide receiver and you’ll never guess which one I watched this weekend.” We still incorporate college football talk into Bills talk.
TM: You’ve been around the market for several years so you must like the area and your gig. But what do you like most about doing sports radio in Buffalo?
HS: (Laughs) It’s a bad time to ask that question, we’ve been in a real bad stretch. I’ve been a sports fan for over 40 years so I like talking about sports and watching the games, as well as talking other people about it too. It’s really cool to connect with the fans. Having been here for 30 years it’s a great place to live and it’s a great fan base. The sports fans are really good, they’re knowledgeable and passionate. They can be critical when they need to be, but they’re not over the edge crazy. It’s a fan base that I think really appreciates the work we put in and the product we put out.
Honestly I think we enjoy doing the show because we realize how much people enjoy listening to the station. The one thing I would say, I would just love to see someone win around here because the fans have put up with a lot of really rough years of football and hockey. No Stanley Cup. No Lombardi Trophy. They really do deserve it here and I hope to live to see the day when someone wins a championship. If that happens the city would go absolutely crazy.
Tyler McComas is a columnist for BSM and a sports radio talk show host in Norman, OK where he hosts afternoon drive for SportsTalk 1400. You can find him on Twitter @Tyler_McComas or you can email him at TylerMcComas08@yahoo.com.
In Defense Of Colin Cowherd
“How did we get to this place where there are sites and Twitter accounts going through The Herd with a fine-toothed comb to create content out of ‘oh my god, look at this!’?”
I don’t understand what it is about Colin Cowherd that gets under some people’s skin to the point that they feel everything the guy says is worth being mocked. I don’t always agree with a lot of his opinions myself, but rarely do I hear one of his takes and think I need to build content around how stupid the guy is.
Cowherd has certainly had his share of misses. There were some highlights to his constant harping on Baker Mayfield but personally, I thought the bit got boring quickly and that the host was only shooting about 25% on those segments.
Cowherd has said some objectionable things. I thought Danny O’Neil was dead on in pointing out that the FOX Sports Radio host sounded like LIV Golf’s PR department last month. It doesn’t matter if he claims he used the wrong words or if his language was clunky, he deserved all of the criticism he got in 2015 when he said that baseball couldn’t be that hard of a sport to understand because a third of the league is from the Dominican Republic.
Those missteps and eyebrow-raising moments have never been the majority of his content though. How did we get to this place where there are sites and Twitter accounts going through The Herd with a fine-toothed comb to create content out of “oh my god, look at this!”?
A few years ago, Dan Le Batard said something to the effect of the best thing he can say about Colin Cowherd is that he is never boring and if you are not in this business, you do not get what a compliment that is.
That’s the truth, man. It is so hard to talk into the ether for three hours and keep people engaged, but Cowherd finds a way to do it with consistency.
The creativity that requires is what has created a really strange environment where you have sites trying to pass off pointing and laughing at Cowherd as content. This jumped out to me with a piece that Awful Announcing published on Thursday about Cowherd’s take that Aaron Rodgers needs a wife.
Look, I don’t think every single one of Cowherd’s analogies or societal observations is dead on, but to point this one out as absurd is, frankly, absurd!
This isn’t Cowherd saying that John Wall coming out and doing the Dougie is proof that he is a loser. This isn’t him saying that adults in backward hats look like doofuses (although, to be fair to Colin, where is the lie in that one?).
“Behind every successful man is a strong woman” is a take as old as success itself. It may not be a particularly original observation, but it hardly deserves the scrutiny of a 450-word think piece.
On top of that, he is right about Aaron Rodgers. The guy has zero personality and is merely trying on quirks to hold our attention. Saying that the league MVP would benefit from someone in his life holding a mirror up to him and pointing that out is hardly controversial.
Colin Cowherd is brash. He has strong opinions. He will acknowledge when there is a scoreboard or a record to show that he got a game or record pick wrong, but he will rarely say his opinion about a person or situation is wrong. That can piss people off. I get it.
You know that Twitter account Funhouse? The handle is @BackAftaThis?
It was created to spotlight the truly insane moments Mike Francesa delivered on air. There was a time when the standard was ‘The Sports Pop’e giving the proverbial finger to a recently deceased Stan Lee, falling asleep on air, or vehemently denying that a microphone captured his fart.
Now the feed is turning to “Hey Colin Cowherd doesn’t take phone calls!”. Whatever the motivation is for turning on Cowherd like that, it really shows a dip in the ability to entertain. How is it even content to point out that Colin Cowherd doesn’t indulge in the single most boring part of sports radio?
I will be the first to admit that I am not the world’s biggest fan of The Herd. Solo hosts will almost never be my thing. No matter their energy level, a single person talking for a 10-12 minute stretch feels more like a lecture than entertainment to me. I got scolded enough as a kid by parents and teachers.
School is a good analogy here because that is sort of what this feels like. The self-appointed cool kids identified their target long ago and are going to mock him for anything he does. It doesn’t matter if they carry lunch boxes too, Colin looks like a baby because he has a lunch box.
Colin Cowherd doesn’t need me to defend him. He can point to his FOX paycheck, his followers, or the backing for The Volume as evidence that he is doing something right. I am merely doing what these sites think they are doing when Colin is in their crosshairs – pointing out a lame excuse for content that has no real value.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.
Even After Radio Hall of Fame Honor, Suzyn Waldman Looks Forward
WFAN recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, but that’s not something that Waldman spends too much time reflecting on.
Yankees radio broadcaster Suzyn Waldman was at Citi Field on July 26th getting ready to broadcast a Subway Series game between the Yankees and Mets. A day earlier, Waldman was elected to the Radio Hall of Fame and sometimes that type of attention can, admittedly, make her feel a bit uncomfortable.
“At first, I was really embarrassed because I’m not good at this,” said Waldman. “I don’t take compliments well and I don’t take awards well. I just don’t. The first time it got to me…that I actually thought it was pretty cool, there were two little boys at Citi Field…
Those two little boys, with photos of Waldman in hand, saw her on the field and asked her a question.
“They asked me to sign “Suzyn Waldman Radio Hall of Fame 2022” and I did,” said Waldman. “I just smiled and then more little boys asked me to do that.”
Waldman, along with “Broadway” Bill Lee, Carol Miller, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, Ellen K, Jeff Smulyan, Lon Helton, Marv Dyson, and Walt “Baby” Love, make up the Class of 2022 for the Radio Hall of Fame and will be inducted at a ceremony on November 1st at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago.
Waldman, born in the Boston suburb of Newton, Massachusetts, was the first voice heard on WFAN in New York when the station launched on July 1st, 1987. She started as an update anchor before becoming a beat reporter for the Yankees and Knicks and the co-host of WFAN’s
mid-day talk show. In the mid 1990s, Waldman did some television play-by-play for Yankees games on WPIX and in 2002 she became the clubhouse reporter for Yankees telecasts when the YES Network launched.
This is Waldman’s 36th season covering the Yankees and her 18th in the radio booth, a run that started in 2005 when she became the first female full-time Major League Baseball broadcaster.
She decided to take a look at the names that are currently in the Hall of Fame, specifically individuals that she will forever be listed next to.
“Some of the W’s are Orson Wells and Walter Winchell…people that changed the industry,” said Waldman. “I get a little embarrassed…I’m not good at this but I’m really happy.”
Waldman has also changed the industry.
She may have smiled when those two little boys asked her to sign those photos, but Waldman can also take a lot of pride in the fact that she has been a trailblazer in the broadcasting business and an inspiration to a lot of young girls who aspire, not only to be sportscasters but those who want to have a career in broadcasting.
Like the young woman who just started working at a New York television station who approached Waldman at the Subway Series and just wanted to meet her.
“She stopped me and was shaking,” said Waldman. “The greatest thing is that all of these young women that are out there.”
Waldman pointed out that there are seven women that she can think of off the top of her head that are currently doing minor league baseball play-by-play and that there have been young female sports writers that have come up to her to share their stories about how she inspired them.
For many years, young boys were inspired to be sportscasters by watching and listening to the likes of Marv Albert, Al Michaels, Vin Scully, Bob Costas, and Joe Buck but now there are female sportscasters, like Waldman, who have broken down barriers and are giving young girls a good reason to follow their dreams.
“When I’ve met them, they’ve said to me I was in my car with my Mom and Dad when I was a very little girl and they were listening to Yankee games and there you were,” said Waldman. “These young women never knew this was something that they couldn’t do because I was there and we’re in the third generation of that now. It’s taken longer than I thought.”
There have certainly been some challenges along the way in terms of women getting opportunities in sports broadcasting.
Waldman thinks back to 1994 when she became the first woman to do a national television baseball broadcast when she did a game for The Baseball Network. With that milestone came a ton of interviews that she had to do with media outlets around the country including Philadelphia.
It was during an interview with a former Philadelphia Eagle on a radio talk show when Waldman received a unique backhanded compliment that she will always remember.
“I’ve listened to you a lot and I don’t like you,” Waldman recalls the former Eagle said. “I don’t like women in sports…I don’t like to listen to you but I was watching the game with my 8-year-old daughter and she was watching and I looked at her and thought this is something she’s never going to know that she cannot do because there you are.”
Throughout her career, Waldman has experienced the highest of highs in broadcasting but has also been on the receiving end of insults and cruel intentions from people who then tend to have a short memory.
And many of these people were co-workers.
“First people laugh at you, then they make your life miserable and then they go ‘oh yeah that’s the way it is’ like it’s always been like that but it’s not always been like this,” said Waldman.
It hasn’t always been easy for women in broadcasting and as Waldman — along with many others — can attest to nothing is perfect today. But it’s mind-boggling to think about what Waldman had to endure when WFAN went on the air in 1987.
She remembers how badly she was treated by some of her colleagues.
“I think about those first terrible days at ‘FAN,” said Waldman. “I had been in theatre all my life and it was either you get the part or you don’t. They either like you or they don’t. You don’t have people at your own station backstabbing you and people at your own station changing your tapes to make you look like an idiot.”
There was also this feeling that some players were not all that comfortable with Waldman being in the clubhouse and locker room. That was nothing compared to some of the other nonsense that Waldman had to endure.
“The stuff with players is very overblown,” said Waldman. “It’s much worse when you know that somebody out there is trying to kill you because you have a Boston accent and you’re trying to talk about the New York Yankees. That’s worse and it’s also worse when the people
that you work with don’t talk to you and think that you’re a joke and the people at your own station put you down for years and years and years.”
While all of this was happening, Waldman had one very important person in her corner: Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who passed away in 2010.
The two had a special relationship and he certainly would have relished the moment when Suzyn was elected to the Hall of Fame.
“I think about George Steinbrenner a lot,” said Waldman. “This is something that when I heard that…I remember thinking George would be so proud because he wanted this since ’88. I just wish he were here.”
Waldman certainly endeared herself to “The Boss” with her reporting but she also was the driving force behind the reconciliation of Steinbrenner and Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra. George had fired Yogi as Yankees manager 16 games into the 1985 season and the news was delivered to Berra, not by George, but by Steinbrenner advisor Clyde King.
Yogi vowed never to step foot into Yankee Stadium again, but a grudge that lasted almost 14 years ended in 1999 when Waldman facilitated a reunion between the two at the Yogi Berra Museum in New Jersey.
“I’m hoping that my thank you to him was the George and Yogi thing because I know he wanted that very badly,” said Waldman.
“Whatever I did to prove to him that I was serious about this…this is in ’87 and ’88…In 1988, I remember him saying to me ‘Waldman, one of these days I’m going to make a statement about women in sports. You’re it and I hope you can take it’ (the criticism). He knew what was coming. I didn’t know. But there was always George who said ‘if you can take it, you’re going to make it’.”
And made it she did.
And she has outlasted every single person on the original WFAN roster.
“I’m keenly aware that I was the first person they tried to fire and I’m the only one left which I think is hysterical actually that I outlived everybody,” said Waldman.
WFAN recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, but that’s not something that Waldman spends too much time reflecting on.
“I don’t think about it at all because once you start looking back, you’re not going forward,” said Waldman.
Waldman does think about covering the 1989 World Series between the A’s and Giants and her reporting on the earthquake that was a defining moment in her career. She has always been a great reporter and a storyteller, but that’s not how her WFAN career began. She started as an update anchor and she knew that if she was going to have an impact on how WFAN was going to evolve, it was not going to be reading the news…it was going to be going out in the field and reporting the news.
“I was doing updates which I despised and wasn’t very good at,” said Waldman.
She went to the program director at the time and talked about how WFAN had newspaper writers covering the local teams for the station and that it would be a better idea for her to go out and cover games and press conferences.
“Give me a tape recorder and let me go,” is what Waldman told the program director. “I was the first electronic beat writer. That’s how that started and they said ‘oh, this works’. The writers knew all of a sudden ‘uh oh she can put something on the air at 2 o’clock in the morning and I can’t’.”
And the rest is history. Radio Hall of Fame history.
But along the way, there was never that moment where she felt that everything was going to be okay.
Because it can all disappear in a New York minute.
“I’ve never had that moment,” said Waldman. “I see things going backward in a lot of ways for women. I’m very driven and I’m very aware that it can all be taken away in two seconds if some guy says that’s enough.”
During her storied career, Waldman has covered five Yankees World Series championships and there’s certainly the hope that they can contend for another title this year. She loves her job and the impact that she continues to make on young girls who now have that dream to be the next Suzyn Waldman.
But, is there something in the business that she still hopes to accomplish?
“This is a big world,” said Waldman. “There’s always something to do. Right now I like this a lot and there’s still more to do. There are more little girls…somewhere there’s a little girl out there who is talking into a tape recorder or whatever they use now and her father is telling her or someone is telling her you can’t do that you’re a little girl. That hasn’t stopped. Somewhere out there there’s somebody that needs to hear a female voice on Yankees radio.”
To steal the spirit of a line from Yankees play-by-play voice John Sterling, Suzyn Waldman’s longtime friend, and broadcast partner…“that’s a Radio Hall of Fame career, Suzyn!”
Peter Schwartz has been involved in New York sports media for over three decades. Along the way he has worked for notable brands such as WFAN, CBS Sports Radio, WCBS 880, ESPN New York, and FOX News Radio. He has also worked as a play by play announcer for the New Yok Riptide, New York Dragons, New York Hitmen, Varsity Media and the Long Island Sports Network. You can find him on Twitter @SchwartzSports or email him at DragonsRadio@aol.com.
No Winners in Pittsburgh vs Cleveland Radio War of Words
“As talk radio hosts, we often try to hold the moral high ground and if you’re going to hold that position, I can’t help but feel integrity has to outweigh popularity. “
For nearly 18 months, we’ve known the NFL would eventually have to confront the Deshaun Watson saga in an on-the-field manner, and that day came Monday. After his March trade to the Browns, we also could more than likely deduce another item: Cleveland radio hosts would feel one way, and Pittsburgh hosts would feel another.
If you’re not in tune to the “rivalry” between the two cities, that’s understandable. Both are former industrial cities looking for an identity in a post-industrial Midwest. Each thinks the other is a horrible place to live, with no real reasoning other than “at least we’re not them”. Of course, the folks in Pittsburgh point to six Super Bowl victories as reason for superiority.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when news started to leak that a Watson decision would come down Monday. I was sure, however, that anyone who decided to focus on what the NFL’s decision would mean for Watson and the Browns on the field was in a no-win situation. As a former host on a Cleveland Browns radio affiliate, I always found the situation difficult to talk about. Balancing the very serious allegations with what it means for Watson, the Browns, and the NFL always felt like a tight-rope walk destined for failure.
So I felt for 92.3 The Fan’s Ken Carman and Anthony Lima Monday morning, knowing they were in a delicate spot. They seemed to allude to similar feelings. “You’re putting me in an awkward situation here,” Carman told a caller after that caller chanted “Super Bowl! Super Browns!” moments after the suspension length was announced.
Naturally, 93.7 The Fan’s Andrew Fillipponi happened to turn on the radio just as that call happened. A nearly week-long war of words ensued between the two Audacy-owned stations.
Fillipponi used the opportunity to slam Cleveland callers and used it as justification to say the NFL was clearly in the wrong. Carman and Lima pointed out Fillipponi had tweeted three days earlier about how much love the city of Pittsburgh had for Ben Roethlisberger, a player with past sexual assault allegations in his own right.
Later in the week, the Cleveland duo defended fans from criticism they viewed as unfair from the national media. In response, Dorin Dickerson and Adam Crowley of the Pittsburgh morning show criticized Carman and Lima for taking that stance.
As an impartial observer, there’s one main takeaway I couldn’t shake. Both sides are wrong. Both sides are right. No one left the week looking good.
Let’s pretend the Pittsburgh Steelers had traded for Deshaun Watson on March 19th, and not the Browns. Can you envision a scenario where Cleveland radio hosts would defend the NFL for the “fairness” of the investigation and disciplinary process if he was only suspended for six games? Of course, you can’t, because that would be preposterous. At the same time, would Fillipponi, Dickerson, and other Pittsburgh hosts be criticizing their fans for wanting Watson’s autograph? Of course, you can’t, because that would be preposterous.
When you’re discussing “my team versus your team” or “my coach versus your coach” etc…, it’s ok to throw ration and logic to the side for the sake of entertaining radio. But when you’re dealing with an incredibly serious matter, in this case, an investigation into whether an NFL quarterback is a serial sexual predator, I don’t believe there’s room to throw ration and logic to the wind. The criticism of Carman and Lima from the Pittsburgh station is fair and frankly warranted. They tried their best, in my opinion, to be sensitive to a topic that warranted it, but fell short.
On the flip side, Carman and Lima are correct. Ben Roethlisberger was credibly accused of sexual assault. Twice. And their criticism of Fillipponi and Steelers fans is valid and frankly warranted.
You will often hear me say “it can be both” because so often today people try to make every situation black and white. In reality, there’s an awful lot of gray in our world. But, in this case, it can’t be both. It can’t be Deshaun Watson, and Browns fans by proxy, are horrible, awful, no good, downright rotten people, and Ben Roethlisberger is a beloved figure.
Pot, meet kettle.
I don’t know what Andrew Fillipponi said about Ben Roethlisberger’s sexual assault allegations in 2010. And if I’m wrong, I’ll be the first to admit it, but I’m guessing he sounded much more like Carman and Lima did this week, rather than the person criticizing hosts in another market for their lack of moral fiber. Judging by the tweet Carman and Lima used to point out Fillipponi’s hypocrisy, I have a hard time believing the Pittsburgh host had strong outrage about the Steelers bringing back the franchise QB.
Real courage comes from saying things your listeners might find unpopular. It’s also where real connections with your listeners are built. At the current time in our hyper-polarized climate, having the ability to say something someone might disagree with is a lost art. But it’s also the key to keeping credibility and building a reputation that you’ll say whatever you truly believe that endears you to your audience.
And in this case, on a day the NFL announced they now employ a player who — in the league’s view — is a serial sexual assaulter, to hear hosts describe a six-game suspension as “reasonable” felt unreasonable. As talk radio hosts, we often try to hold the moral high ground and if you’re going to hold that position, I can’t help but feel integrity has to outweigh popularity.
Garrett Searight is the Editor of Barrett Sports Media and Barrett News Media. He previously was the Program Director and Afternoon Co-Host on 93.1 The Fan in Lima, OH. He is also a play-by-play announcer for TV and Radio broadcasts in Western Ohio.