Connect with us
Jim Cutler Demos

BSM Writers

A Day Spent With The Mets Broadcast Booth

“If they’re losing and McNeil or Rosario are up to bat, you’re talking about projecting the future, but when the team is in the playoff race, you’re talking about what’s happening right now and how important each game is.”

Brandon Contes

Published

on

Between TV and radio, the New York Mets have two of the best local broadcast teams in sports.  On Friday, September 6th, I spent time with Mets radio announcers, Howie Rose and Wayne Randazzo to watch them call a game.  Over the air, the broadcast sounds effortless, but behind the scenes there are plenty of moving parts, with Rose and Randazzo arriving more than four hours before first pitch.

Image result for randazzo and rose

By 3pm the Mets radio duo, is already in the stadium for a 7:10pm start, individually filling out their scorebooks before heading to the manager’s press conference.  Rose and Randazzo separately arrive in the press room where Mets manager Mickey Callaway responds to his first question promptly at 4pm. Howie and Wayne are mostly quiet, taking a few notes as beat reporters search for a tweet-worthy quote during the 10-minute presser. 

Right outside the room, General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen sits like the Godfather in a large armchair, welcoming reporters to approach him for one-on-one questions.  Today, rain leads to the sound of indoor batting practice as players shuffle from the clubhouse to the cage. While players are readily available for questions, Rose and Randazzo aren’t searching for an inside scoop or anyone to chat with, instead leaving that up to the beat reporters.

“If I need to” Rose said when I asked if he ever looks to talk with players prior to the game.  “They have enough reporters hanging out around them, they don’t need me to clog it up anymore. Seriously, I don’t need to be hanging around there unless I have something to say to somebody.  There’s probably 15 people for three players in there. When I have a question for a player, I’ll find them.”

At 4:20, Callaway heads into the interview room to speak exclusively with Mets broadcast partners SNY and Entercom’s WCBS 880.  Rose, Randazzo and SNY’s announceing crew are behind closed doors with Callaway for five-minutes. While exiting the interview room, Callaway notices a new face and politely walks over to introduce himself to me.

“Mickey’s been great, easy to deal with,” said Randazzo, who hosted the Mets radio pregame show for four years before being named Howie’s full-time broadcast partner this season.  “[Terry Collins] before Mickey was a guy that would light up the pregame show, he was always so colorful, but Mickey still has been good, he’s always open and accessible.”

By 5 o’clock Howie and Wayne are back in the booth organizing their pregame notes.  Howie sits on the left and both announcers have the lineup taped to a nearby wall with one TV monitor available to Wayne’s right.  After their prep, Howie and Wayne head to record videos for the in-stadium scoreboard. Rose can later be seen on the big screen offering fans a “Game Notes” segment, with Wayne providing the “Randazzo Report.”

At 6:30, Brad Heller begins the WCBS Mets Radio Network pregame show.  September 6th is one of 40 games that Heller worked this season, the rest are conducted by longtime Mets reporter Ed Coleman.  The 30-minute pregame show features Heller’s exclusive chat with the Mets manager and almost takes the broadcast up to first pitch.

Image result for brad heller mets

At 7:01, Rose welcomes listeners and provides the setting for tonight’s game against the Phillies as the Mets play meaningful baseball in September for the first time since 2016.  Randazzo gives his detailed description of both teams’ uniforms, painting a picture for the listener before sending the call back to Howie for first pitch. After starting the game with a 1-0 count, Mets lefty Steven Matz retires the leadoff hitter with a strikeout as both announcers simultaneously mark a straight “K” in their scorebook. 

Howie has a highlighter, black and red ink to fill out his scorebook, Wayne adds extra color with blue, pink, green and purple fine point markers.  Randazzo also keeps his laptop in front of him, showing Twitter, MLB Gameday and Baseball Reference on the screen, noting that he doesn’t mind looking up information while calling a game.  Randazzo even starts mapping out the postgame show before the game is over.

On a cool and rainy night that has the feel of October, Howie and Wayne keep the windows open allowing the opportunity to hear the crowd.  The fans filed in slowly, but by the 3rd inning more than half the seats were full, garnering more than expected on a night that many thought would be a rain out. 

A good crowd can absolutely enhance a broadcast, as the energy from a raucous fan base is felt through the radio.  Both Howie and Wayne expressed how much fun games in August and September are with the Mets making a playoff push that seemed impossible a few weeks earlier. 

“It makes it!” Howie said of calling meaningful baseball with an energetic crowd in the building.  “Go back to when Washington was here in early August, things were pretty quiet most of the season until then and now all of a sudden they were relevant and this place was ELECTRIC for that three game series, it felt like 2015 again.”

“There’s a different tone based on what’s happening in August and September,” Randazzo added.  “If they’re losing and McNeil or Rosario are up to bat, you’re talking about projecting the future, but when the team is in the playoff race, you’re talking about what’s happening right now and how important each game is.”

Wayne takes over the play-by-play to start the third inning as Robbie Cano’s friend and former teammate, Jean Segura leads off for the Phillies.  The next inning, Wayne gets to call the first homerun of the game, a 425-foot blast off the bat of Michael Conforto setting a new career high for the Mets outfielder.  

Had this WCBS 880 Mets radio broadcast occurred on a weeknight, Randazzo’s call may have been used by the morning show on their sister station WFAN.  Earlier in the summer, Gregg Giannotti of Boomer and Gio came to the realization that Randazzo’s voice takes on a 1940’s tone when the broadcaster is behind the mic for an exciting call.  Gio’s characterization of Randazzo became a regular bit on WFAN’s morning radio show throughout the season and Wayne has no problem with that.

“No, I don’t mind it,” Randazzo said with a chuckle.  “I can actually do a really good impression of that if Gio wants to hear it, I’d be happy to do it.”

“I just think it’s cool that Boomer Esiason knows who I am,” Randazzo added.

Image result for citi field sold out

At the start of the 5th inning, Randazzo gets set to throw the play-by-play back over to Rose, but not before he calls one more pitch from Steven Matz.  Matz’s pitch sailed to the backstop, reminding Randazzo of the lefty’s first Major League pitch in June, 2015. Rose jumps right in, adding that Brandon Phillips hit a homerun after that 2015 wild pitch.  It’s a simple exchange between Randazzo and Rose, but the type of back and forth that comes natural for two radio partners working their first season together. Rose spent the last seven years with Josh Lewin in the booth, but the adjustment of sitting next to Wayne Randazzo has been an easy one.

“It’s been wonderful, there’s been no learning curve,” Rose said of his new broadcast partner.  “I was just part of the process of sifting through tapes, when we hired Wayne going back five or six years, I wasn’t making the decision.  I could give advice or opinion, but I wasn’t doing the hiring. When you hire somebody in this role (pre and postgame host), you know you might be hiring your future partner and that’s one of the things I looked for when we were canvassing the applicants, ‘is this a person who can do this job on a regular basis versus just 10 or 12 times as a fill-in?’ Howie asked. 

“The thing that impressed me most about the tape Wayne submitted was his work in a no-hit bid by Jake Arrieta when he was with the Cubs.  It didn’t even dawn on me until much later, that Pat Hughes (Chicago Cubs radio voice) does every inning of every game!” Rose added. “That was just a practice tape from Wayne, he went into a booth and recorded that on his own, it wasn’t an audition and that blew me away!  I knew right there we had a real serious and aspiring broadcaster, not someone just going through the motions. Also, the fact that Josh would miss between six, eight or ten games during the season in recent years – Wayne would fill in, so it was sort of an icebreaker that helped give us the ability to hit the ground running this year.”

“I get to sit here with someone who’s seen every game this team has ever played and is truly one of the best baseball announcers in the business,” Randazzo said of his iconic radio partner, Howie Rose.  “As someone that’s trying to one day be that, it’s like a masters’ or doctorate level course in how to do this that not everyone is allowed to have. Even in our meetings with the manager, just watching how Howie and [Gary Cohen] approach the daily questions to see what’s on their mind and what they’re seeing has always been something I’ve learned a lot from, not to mention how they are on-air.  Howie has brought out the best in me as a broadcaster and play-by-play person and whether he wants to admit it or not, I’ve learned six million things from him this season and over the last few years when I was doing the pregame show that will stay with me forever.”

Rose’s Mets coverage dates back to the 1980s, when from 1987 – 1995, the broadcaster hosted Mets Extra on WFAN.  Since 2004, Rose has been a full-time radio play-by-play voice for the New York Mets, following a tenure calling their games on TV for Fox Sports New York and MSG.  Randazzo, a Chicago native is finishing up his first year as Rose’s full-time play-by-play partner, following four seasons as the Mets pregame show host.

“I’ve always wanted to be doing what I’m doing now.  Everything I’ve done in my career was done with this in mind,” Randazzo said.  “I’ve done updates on 670 The Score, I filled in on White Sox pre and post, did pre and post [on the Mets Radio Network], went to the minor leagues for seven seasons.  All of that was to hone my skills, all I’ve ever wanted to be was a baseball announcer so it was building to get to this point and I’m lucky to be here.”

In the sixth inning, Rose openly questions a decision by Mickey Callaway to make a pitching change and remove the left-handed Matz against Phillies pinch-hitter Phil Gosselin, triggering a chess match of decisions.  Mets broadcasters are never short on honesty even if it means being critical, something ownership deserves credit for allowing. 

Growing up a Mets fan, I was trained by their broadcasters to think critically.  Team announcers could take the approach of finding reasons to defend every managerial decision, but instead, they never hold back on presenting an opposing view.  As a fan and a listener, I enjoy playing devil’s advocate to see if there is a better in-game decision to be made and Mets broadcasters promote that way of thinking. 

Critique and honesty from the Mets radio crew was never more exemplified than in a game against the Phillies on June 26th earlier this year. 

“The shortstop is behind second base, he’s got it and he throws to first, you know why? Because Robinson Cano was jogging – he was jogging,” Rose said after a lethargic Cano was thrown out by Phillies infielder Jean Segura during the June 26th broadcast.

“Segura treated him like Wilson Ramos.  A lot of times infielders pick the ball up and take that second step because they realize they don’t need to hurry, well in that instance, that’s what Segura did,” Randazzo explained. 

“I say unbelievable, but it’s something we’ve talked about all year, if he thinks he’s protecting his quad at this point – oh who cares anymore, what’s the sense of getting on a soap box, it is what it is,” a frustrated Rose continued.  “You have to figure he’s going to rest tomorrow right? A day game after night game?”

“I don’t know – maybe McNeil’s the one that’s going to rest tomorrow,” Wayne said sarcastically, noting the Mets tendency to rest one of their young All-Stars.

Even after getting back to the play-by-play, the Cano critique still filtered in, with Rose saying the Mets high-priced second baseman “…chose to jog – fill in whatever blanks you want, we’ve already used them.”

“Segura, who I mentioned before is very good friends with Robinson Cano, it took him by surprise,” Randazzo said.

“It shouldn’t,” Rose added defiantly. 

“If the quad continues to be an issue, let’s give Cano the benefit of the doubt for the sake of this point, if that’s going to continue to be an issue, then why is he still hitting third?” Rose asked regarding the Mets decision to place Cano in a premium batting order spot.

I revisited this specific exchange between Rose and Randazzo from June 26th, noting that they didn’t hold back in their criticisms of both Cano and the team. 

“That’s my job,” Rose told me.

Every Mets fan listening to the broadcast has similar conversations regarding questionable on-field play or in-game decisions.  It can be refreshing to hear professional announcers share the sentiment and not be afraid to broadcast their frustrations publicly.  When I asked if management ever told them to be less critical, the Mets longtime broadcaster responded, “not a word.”

Related image

“Our owners have never been given the proper credit for allowing the broadcasters to do their job and that goes for TV and radio.  You won’t find a more opinionated television crew than we have and that’s pretty well established. They’re given the latitude to call it as they see it,” Rose said regarding the Mets broadcast booth on SNY. 

“You’re working with a hall-of-fame caliber play-by-play guy (Gary Cohen) who’s been here 30 years so he’s built up some points on his resume and you’ve got two world champion players (Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez) sitting next to him.  They have credibility and nobody is going out of their way to take hot shots, all we do is like they say in football, read and react. We read the game and react to it.”

“To criticize somebody is not personal,” Rose Continued.  “If I had an issue with a player years ago when I was doing pre and postgame shows in a more opinion driven role than I am now, even though we give opinions now, it seemed like I had someone pissed off at me every other day.  But most of that didn’t last long because I would make it a point to be right in the middle of the clubhouse the next day and if a player wanted to find me, they could and once in a while they did. We would talk, and once or twice what they were being told was said, wasn’t actually said and I even gave them tapes just so they can understand.  It’s never personal and 99.9% of the players don’t take it personal. The only obligation you have is to be fair. If you make it personal or it becomes personal, you’re not doing your job.”

Howie’s credit of the Mets television booth speaks to the respect both crews have for each other.  Prior to the game, SNY’s Gary, Keith and Ron can be seen in the media lounge sharing a table with Howie and Wayne.  The two groups of broadcasters huddle to discuss the game and almost certainly a multitude of other topics considering their dynamic personalities.

“At that point with Cano, we were also aware that he was trying to save himself for the season,” Randazzo said.  “He lost a month for a hamstring injury and was dealing with quad problems, so it’s fair to say that Robbie’s trying to conserve himself, but at that time it was getting kind of egregious.  I get that Cano is trying to save himself, but on the other hand you have to show more effort than he had been at that time.”

In the seventh inning, Rose and Randazzo both share a laugh at their producer, Chris Majkowski for the sponsored in-game trivia question he selected.  “Maj” hands Howie and Wayne a trivia question that begins with, “which nine Mets…” but neither broadcaster had time to come up with nine answers. 

Image result for Chris Majkowski

As a producer for more than a quarter-century, Maj has played a vital role in helping the Mets radio broadcast become one the best in the country.  During the game, Maj fact checks as needed, noting there are specific words Howie uses when he wants the longtime producer to find or confirm a statistic. 

Maj offers an additional set of eyes for the broadcast, letting Howie and Wayne know if there’s movement in the bullpen, or catches something that was shown on TV.  As someone who’s seen nearly every inning of every Mets game in franchise history, Rose is already a team encyclopedia, so Maj doesn’t need to be in the announcer’s ear continuously. 

Being at the stadium every day for six months, local baseball broadcasters know the pulse of the team as well as anyone, so producers may not need to offer as much information as with national announcers that don’t see the team daily.  Maj’s job is less about offering statistical help and more about being able to offer feedback, while also making sure the technical side runs smoothly and the very long list of sponsorships are satisfied. 

“I don’t know much about other booths, but whatever we are, good, bad or otherwise, we would be way less without him,” Rose said about Majkowski.  “An extra set of eyes. Someone to bounce things off of.”

In the eighth inning of a close game, Mets pinch hitter, Luis Guillorme drops a hard bunt and hustles down the line, leading Randazzo to jump up hoping for a safe call.  While radio listeners don’t hear Wayne signaling safe, the announcers’ enthusiasm in rooting for the Mets to win bleeds through a broadcast, especially from Howie, a life-long New Yorker and fan of the team.

“When you have a lifetime invested in being around a team, it’s pure and organic,” Rose said regarding openly rooting for the Mets.  “The enthusiasm comes naturally, it’s hard to fake it on the air. When the team is doing well, especially at home and you have more people here than you might otherwise, you don’t think about this pumping you up, but it naturally happens.  One of the games against Washington, Marcus Stroman was great, he struck out six or seven in a row, he’s very emotional and animated. The crowd was just eating out of the hand. You ride that wave because it reminds you how different it is to call meaningful games as opposed to not being in the race in August and September.  You live for this.”

On this night the wave of Mets fans’ emotions were in full swing.  With a two-run lead in the ninth-inning, the Mets highly touted closer, Edwin Diaz entered the game in the midst of a disastrous season.  Diaz blew the save. 

“It is almost incomprehensible that Edwin Diaz has given up yet another huge homerun,” Rose said as the Phillies tied the game with a two-run blast by JT Realmuto. 

Image result for JT Realmuto mets home run

Even with a defeating top of the ninth, this story will end exactly how I hoped.  In the bottom of the inning, the Mets young slugging superstar, Pete Alonso draws a bases-loaded walk to break the tie and allow Howie Rose to close the broadcast with the phrase that signals victory, “Put it in the books!”  

Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.

Sign up for the BSM 8@8

The Top 8 Sports Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox, every morning at 8am ET.

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.

BSM Writers

Sports Radio Advertising is a Great Alternative to Expensive Team Sponsorships

There are plenty of creative ways to tie into sports radio stations, where the fans listen daily, and the investment is often much less than team sponsorships.

Jeff Caves

Published

on

Photo of Citi Field in New York
Photo Credit: Stadium Sponsorship

Not everyone can afford to sponsor a local NFL or college football team. However, there are plenty of creative ways to tie into sports radio stations, where the fans listen daily, and the investment is often much less than team sponsorships. Here are some ideas:

Pitchmen for Hire: Leverage Local Personalities

Thousands of listeners tune in to hear local sports personalities discuss their favorite teams. Hiring these “football expert” personalities to represent your business can significantly boost your ad response. Their endorsement can help you rise above the fray and double your ad response.

Get More Bang for Your Buck: Stand Out

Tie into station activities that make your brand stand out. Sponsor the local team poll on the station’s website, host a remote broadcast the day before a big game, or sponsor a charity promotion and donate to the cause. Breaking through the clutter of commercial breaks requires creativity and involvement in station activities.

Tie into Local Teams Without Sponsoring Them

You don’t have to sponsor the local team to run a promotion about them. Consider running ads offering discounts if the team wins and even more significant discounts if they lose. Your ad rep can help you phrase these promotions to avoid legal issues. True fans listen to sports radio weekly for team-related content, so tap into that passion.

Become a Title Sponsor

Be the title sponsor for interview segments with local players. If the station is conducting regular player interviews, sponsor these segments. If shows don’t run many interviews, consider sponsoring newscasts that feature excerpts from these interviews.

Hire Retired Fan Favorites

Retired players beloved by fans can be an excellent asset for your business. They are often less expensive than current stars but still hold significant appeal. Think of players like Mike Alstott, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, or Nate Newton. These personalities can do spots or appear at your location, adding a memorable touch to your advertising efforts.

Adopt a ‘Mattress Mack’ Strategy

Make an offer based on the local team’s success, like Gallery Furniture in Houston‘s Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale. In 2022, he offered customers double their money back if the Astros won the World Series. Such promotions generate significant publicity and engage the local community, even if the offer is temporary.

Sponsoring a local NFL or major college football team may be out of reach for many clients. Still, numerous creative strategies exist to maximize a sports radio advertising investment. By leveraging local personalities, participating in station activities, and creatively tying your promotions to local sports teams, you can effectively break through the clutter and make a lasting impression on listeners. Engaging fans with innovative offers and memorable endorsements enhances your brand’s visibility and builds a loyal customer base.

Sign up for the BSM 8@8

The Top 8 Sports Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox, every morning at 8am ET.

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading

BSM Writers

Caitlin Clark Media Coverage is Good for Everybody in the WNBA

By tuning in to see what Clark does, viewers are also noticing the many other great WNBA players.

John Molori

Published

on

Screengrab from ESPN's Get Up covering Caitlin Clark
Screengrab: ESPN Get Up

It’s time to talk about Caitlin Clark. The rookie guard for the WNBA’s Indiana Fever has become a legit phenomenon in the media. She has singlehandedly, and I repeat, singlehandedly put the focus on a league that has been largely ignored by mainstream sports talk shows for a quarter century.

Nobody wants to admit that one person can change a sport or a league. It is viewed as a slight to people who came before that special athlete and that special athlete’s contemporaries, but it has happened on numerous occasions, and we’ll get to that.

From a marketing and media standpoint, Caitlin Clark is a human tidal wave of interest, excitement, and anticipation. She quite literally brought tens of millions of eyes to the 2024 Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, and deservedly so, she will most likely earn tens of millions of endorsement dollars from a variety of corporations and their products. She has inspired congratulations and controversy, especially with her recent exclusion from the USA Basketball Women’s National team.

The reaction to Clark’s success and attention from some members of the media and WNBA players has been shocking. Tremendous commentators such as Andraya Carter, Chiney Ogwumike, and Rebecca Lobo have, at times, come off as apologists for WNBA players who are just plain jealous of Clark’s unprecedented popularity.

As ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith has explained eloquently, these critics are missing the point from a marketing and economic perspective. Clark has not only helped herself with her play, but has also brought attention and focus to women’s hoops as a whole.

By tuning in to see what Clark does, viewers are also noticing the many other great WNBA players. Clark is that rare breed of athlete who is truly changing the game, making it better and more profitable not only for herself, but for everyone involved at all levels.

On recent editions of ESPN’s First Take, Smith has gone toe to toe with Carter, Ogwumike, and Monica McNutt on the Caitlin Clark issue. The fascinating exchange between Smith and McNutt on the June 3 edition was a watershed moment in recent sports television.

Smith, McNutt, and host Molly Qerim were discussing the hard foul/shove that Chicago’s Chennedy Carter laid on Clark in a WNBA game. The course of the discussion moved toward the rise in WNBA ratings mainly because of Clark’s presence in the league.

The debate eventually came down to a back-and-forth between Smith and McNutt. Smith reiterated his longtime dedication to the WNBA and women’s sports in general. In response, McNutt said that with Smith’s platform, he could’ve been talking as much about the WNBA three years ago, long before Clark’s debut.

Smith was visibly angered and disappointed by McNutt’s comments. On The Stephen A. Smith Show podcast that same day, he defended himself and his show, saying that First Take has been at the forefront of promoting gender, race, age, and all forms of equality and respect.

Smith is 100% correct. This chap has been a champion of women, minorities, and even older media personalities, such as Christopher Russo, whom he has brought to a whole new audience on First Take. Stephen A. Smith is the Arsenio Hall and David Letterman of sports talk. When the syndicated Arsenio Hall Show hit the airwaves in 1989, he was the first late night host to bring hip-hop artists to center stage on a regular basis.

Similarly, Letterman’s “Late Night” on NBC showcased new talent in comedy and music, while bringing irreverence and originality to the tired old talk show format. Smith has done the same. He has made stars out of Ryan Clark, Mina Kimes, Marcus Spears, Kimberley Martin, and many others. He has also raised the profile of already renowned commentators such as Shannon Sharpe, Qerim, and the aforementioned Russo.

Smith has been a stalwart of equity, but that’s not what McNutt was saying. She was saying that with his audience, Smith could’ve talked about the WNBA thereby creating popularity and exposure for the league long before now.

McNutt’s jarring comment put Smith in a humbled position and really hit at his very core, but he took his game to a whole new level the very next day. McNutt was back on First Take, which right there shows the utter gumption that Smith possesses. He could’ve easily let things settle down a bit before he brought McNutt back on the show, but he didn’t. That’s classic Smith – encouraging discourse and disagreement.

When you get to the level of a Stephen A. Smith, you welcome a debating challenge. The last guests you want are sycophantic suck-ups who cowardly agree, no matter what the subject. Smith’s high point on the June 4 episode was when he said in a loud voice, “Caitlin Clark is white.”

He acknowledged the fact that it makes a difference. He also stated that black players who have been just as talented as Clark have not been given their rightful attention – also true. Regarding the perceived negative treatment of Clark by some WNBA players, Smith made it clear that they should not go easy on Clark on the court, but their mindsets need to recognize that Clark is benefitting the WNBA and putting dollars in their collective pockets.

Whether you agree with Smith or not, the fact is that this is what special players like Caitlin Clark do. They raise the level of discussion and simultaneously raise the profile of their respective sports. The WNBA is now in the A-block on highly rated shows like First Take and ESPN’s Get Up.

The league and its players are on the front burner of discussion for Smith, Nick Wright, Colin Cowherd and many other top-tier, multimedia sports debaters. This fact was straight up impossible one year ago. This is what Caitlin Clark has done.

Clark’s impact and stamp on women’s basketball is not unique. There are precedents where one person has made such a difference.

Larry Bird looked different, played different, restored a dead Celtics franchise, and made his mark in a sport that was on life support in terms of media coverage and fan interest. Bird and Magic Johnson rescued the league – a black man on the west coast and a white man on the east coast, two wunderkinds who changed the NBA forever. Caitlin Clark is Larry Bird.

Tiger Woods burst onto the PGA TOUR and won the Masters in 1997, embarking on a run that would see him change the game of golf from a competitive, performance, historic standpoint, and social standpoint. He was charismatic, focused, and yes, an African American phenom smashing records in a white-dominated sport. Caitlin Clark is Tiger Woods.

In 1965, Alabama quarterback Joe Namath eschewed the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals and signed with the AFL’s New York Jets. He raised the profile of the league and garnered more attention and dollars than established AFL stars which made him a target. As the league’s popularity grew however, opposing players recognized his significance beyond the field. They did not go easy on him during games, just ask his knees, but they knew that his success was theirs as well. Namath was the key figure in the eventual AFL/NFL merger. Caitlin Clark is Joe Namath.

Serena Williams was smart, savvy, athletic, fashion conscious, and just plain great. Williams shattered the traditional mold and became an iconoclastic figure in women’s tennis with both her play and personae. The lineage with her sister Venus ushered in a new era in the sport. Serena attacked the game in a unique way. She was exciting and original, and lifted her sport and fellow athletes. Caitlin Clark is Serena Williams.

I am not saying that Clark will have a legendary or Hall of Fame career akin to these illustrious athletes, but the immediate impact she has had on her sport and the media coverage of her sport is similar.

As Smith so often states, Clark is “box office.” You can debate the reasons why, but you cannot debate the fact that she has supremely raised the profile and the financial prospects of women’s basketball and its players.

I understand that other WNBA players want their share of the credit for improving the league. I also understand that WNBA commentators want fairness and equity in terms of attention and the spotlight. However, both groups need to realize that Clark is the main reason that they are getting this increased exposure. On the court, be competitive against Clark and try to beat her and her team. On the air, be critical of Clark and analyze her game, but on a larger scale, understand, accept, and embrace that Caitlin Clark’s most important assist might just be to you.

Sign up for the BSM 8@8

The Top 8 Sports Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox, every morning at 8am ET.

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading

BSM Writers

Joe Tipton Turned Sports Graphics Into a National Reporting Role With On3

“There’s definitely a competitive aspect of it, which I really enjoy actually because it just kind of keeps you on your toes.”

Derek Futterman

Published

on

(Illustration) | Courtesy: On3

In the moments when athletes make a monumental decision about their playing careers, news outlets frequently try to cover the story in a timely and accurate manner. Whether it is signing with a new team in free agency, inking a new endorsement deal or retiring, basketball has plenty of these occurrences annually. These announcements are sometimes accompanied by graphics, adding visual elements of branding and allure to the development. Joe Tipton learned the nuances of photo editing and graphic design at a young age, leading him to create images of NBA players and share them on social media. Observing a lack of interest within the space, he considered doing the same for high school players nearing college commitments.

Tipton Edits, an independent business venture that he began shortly after starting in sports graphic design, provides athletes with a free edit in which their new uniform is superimposed onto an image divulging their new team. These recruits then share the photos on social media and tag Tipton. Especially at the start of the entrepreneurial property, he viewed gaining followers as remuneration, an invaluable currency as digital media continues its swift proliferation.

“I didn’t start making the graphics at 17 to have a job in it – I was just kind of doing it on the side for fun and then just kind of [seeing] where it would go,” Tipton said. “Since I was one of the first people to make graphics for these high school players in their recruiting decisions and now transfers, and now that I’ve built up the presence online and the credibility and the reputation, a lot of them will flock to me, and I think that’s what’s so sustainable about it now.”

The transfer portal keeps Tipton busy in creating and delivering graphics to collegiate athletes moving to a new school. Remaining prepared to create an enticing visual featuring the player in their new uniform and distributing it on social media requires a commitment to the craft. Even though he was a marketing student at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, he was still trying to determine the best path forward and ended up transforming his hobby into a sustainable career.

“I was able to communicate with high-level basketball players and create something for them – and all of it free of charge – in exchange just for a tag on Instagram and Twitter, which helped propel me and grow my brand and following online,” Tipton said, “and over the years, [it] got me to where I am now.”

By designing these graphics in advance, Tipton was privy to coveted information and recognized that he could effectively reveal where players were signing. His work has been featured on various sports outlets such as ESPN and Bleacher Report and shared by NBA legends including Shaquille O’Neal and Scottie Pippen.

On3, a digital sports media brand that delivers news, analysis and insights to consumers regarding college sports, recruiting and NIL, added Tipton as a national basketball reporter after he graduated from college. Since that time, he has established himself as a distinguished journalist covering high school and college basketball.

“[I] had an opportunity to join On3 because basically what I was doing when supplying the graphic to a high school recruit and even transfers now in the portal, I am being gifted the knowledge of where a player is going,” Tipton said, “so I’m able to report that information, and that’s basically what I serve as now for On3.”

Joining On3 provided him with another platform to disseminate this information and expand his audience while assisting the company in its own growth. Shannon Terry founded On3 in 2021, and the platform has continued to expand with dedicated coverage of NIL, the transfer portal and the NFL Draft, along with adding subsidiary verticals such as On3 Elite and On3 HER.

“When it comes to the transfers and their decision making, it’s so rapid fire, and there’s so many players that enter the transfer portal because of NIL, because of instant opportunities and also the ability to play right away and not have to sit out like the previous rules stated,” Tipton articulated, “so it increased the need for what I do and just the coverage of the transfer portal in general has taken a significant leap, which is great for those who cover the portal and recruiting in general.”

Tipton earned a contract extension at On3 earlier in the year, but he has always operated with a chip on his shoulder to prove that he is more than just a graphic designer. While he is a recent graduate and continuing to shape his identity and forge relationships, he believes the process has been considerably slow to this point. Nonetheless, he remains optimistic that working with On3 will be able to propel him to the next level.

“They didn’t view me as a reporter even though I was breaking news, so especially in the earlier stages, I wasn’t getting credit for breaking the news just because I guess they didn’t view me as a reporter [or] traditional media outlet,” Tipton said. “But ever since joining On3, that’s kind of painted me in a new light, and people will look at me a little bit differently, especially with the coverage that I’m able to provide for On3 and then just the overall stories broken.”

There is an aspect of fluctuation that has become more embedded in college basketball, rendering it fundamental to verify information ahead of its circulation. For example, if a player informs Tipton that they are committing to a certain school, he will oftentimes call the coaches or athletics department to safeguard against complicating miscommunication between the two entities. In the end, he is never releasing graphics or reports without extreme confidence in its veracity.

“There’s definitely a competitive aspect of it, which I really enjoy actually because it just kind of keeps you on your toes,” Tipton said. “It’s kind of a rush as well to be able to get it out first, but the first year on the job with On3, there was an incredible amount of pressure that I put on myself to just achieve this at a high level, but there’s also a great deal of stress that comes with it because a lot of what I do is time sensitive.”

Although he has a stellar reporting record dating back to his days solely creating graphics, there are moments when other reporters or outlets beat him to the story. In these situations, the power of his brand and its identity assists in overcoming these impediments, indicative of his broad appeal and widespread reach. Establishing himself as a brand rather than being a graphic designer or reporter within a larger entity has been a key differentiator within his formative years in the business.

“I think it’s the key to sustainability and a way to separate yourself from other people, so I’m incredibly fortunate that the players believe in me, trust in me and then On3 does the same because I’m a source for the player that they can come to and trust, and we all grow together,” Tipton said. “I help grow the player, [and] I help grow On3. On3 helps grow me [and] the player helps grow me because they’re all posting my stuff, we’re posting them, so we’re all on this together, so it’s really nice.”

Tipton never envisioned himself appearing in front of the camera, but he is now doing so regularly for On3. As part of its content, he frequently discusses the latest news regarding recruitment, the transfer portal and NIL in addition to synthesizing player rankings.

“[I am] obviously only just scratching the surface of the on-camera stuff, but I think that is a strong potential avenue for me moving forward in my career,” Tipton said, “but then also my ability to break news at a high level and also the relationships that I have just when it comes to the recruiting insider portion of my job as well.”

Later this month, Tipton will see some of the players for whom he has created graphics soon enter the NBA when the NBA Draft takes place from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Although he has not assimilated into reporting on the NBA, he is competitive and has thought about his future work. Yet he understands that a majority of his verve is in college basketball and is focused on breaking news beyond recruiting.

“The good thing about me and kind of how I was brought up was I wasn’t raised in a family that was a fan of a specific team; in fact, my parents aren’t even sports fans at all,” Tipton said. “Sports was just not on at all growing up, so I never grew up a specific fan or a diehard of any specific program.”

Reflecting back on his journey thus far, Tipton feels that he stumbled into his career with fortuitous timing. The versatility he has developed, along with his persistence, networking and inexorable work ethic, has contributed to the growth of Tipton Edits and his role with On3.

Tipton found a way to cut through the media ecosystem, investing his time and effort into a niche that did not exist with the level of cache and emphasis that it currently possesses. The industry moves with unrelenting momentum and can seem imposing to shrewdly understand and cover, but Tipton aims to masterfully keep up while enjoying his journey to an unknown destination.

“We live in a world where, especially younger people, they’re keen on growing their social media presence,” Tipton said, “so On3, Tipton Edits and others alike are able to grow their channels, so they’re encouraged to utilize services like mine to help kind of propel their following and for it to reach a large number of people.”

Sign up for the BSM 8@8

The Top 8 Sports Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox, every morning at 8am ET.

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Advertisement

Upcoming Events

Barrett Media Writers

Copyright © 2024 Barrett Media.