It’s supposed to be one of the best weeks in sports. You know, basketball on all day while you’re doing the show, getting hyped over a 12 seed leading a 5 seed by two with 20 seconds to go, heck, even throwing out some gambling content since you know it resonates with the audience during the NCAA Tournament. That’s my idea of sports radio heaven.
But hey, let’s not dwell on what we already know isn’t happening. On Monday, you probably still got some college hoops content in, such as Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm’s final Bracketology’s or even an argument as to why there still should have been a Selection Show on Sunday. But moving forward, college basketball news, even in areas that crave it, will start to quickly dry up. So what now? How can we effectively talk about an NCAA Tournament that isn’t even being played this week?
If you follow college basketball at all, then you know Gary Parrish. Not only is he an analyst and columnist for CBS Sports, but he’s the host of The Gary Parrish Show on 929ESPN in Memphis. He, like everyone else, was stunned when the college hoops season came to an abrupt halt last week.
I didn’t ask Parrish who he thought would’ve won the national title, but if he thought like the majority of the public, his pick would have been Kansas. Granted, it seemed like a lock that Kansas was going to be the No. 1 overall seed and the favorite to cut down the nets, but does that mean we should consider them the champs of this season?
“There’s no consideration to naming a champion,” said Parrish. “And frankly, we shouldn’t. That would be a step too far. We can all identify what most people believe is the best team and that’s Kansas. Sure, they’d be the No. 1 overall seed, but Duke was the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament last year and lost in the Elite 8. The great thing about the NCAA tournament, and in some cases, the bad thing about the NCAA tournament, is that everything is settled on the court in a single elimination tournament. If you’re not going to have a single elimination tournament, then you’re not going to have a champion.”
In 40 years, Parrish has already decided that “who won the college basketball national title in 2020?” will be one of the most popular sports trivia questions around. He’s not wrong. He’s also not wrong when he singles out one school in particular that was hit extremely hard by the decision to not play the NCAA Tournament: Dayton
“Not only were they going to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and a real candidate to win the national championship, they were going to do it under a unique set of circumstances,” said Parrish. “They were going to do it in a season where they weren’t going to run into some juggernaut blueblood loaded with first round NBA draft picks, because that team simply did not exist this season. It’s why Baylor, San Diego State, Dayton, teams like that had a real chance to win it all.
“Duke was talented, but not talented to a normal Duke level. Kentucky is talented, but not at their normal level. If you’re a Dayton fan, or certainly a Dayton coach or player, you really are heartbroken right now.”
I can’t imagine the missed opportunity that Dayton sports radio feels right now, seeing as the Flyers will never get its best chance in school history to win a national championship. On the other hand, it could also mean the small, but mighty fan base is flooding the phone lines and demanding to give their thoughts on the air. Regardless, it still hurts. Especially when it was revealed that SportsLine simulated the entire tournament and had Dayton winning it all. The Flyers will probably never again have the chance it had this year. Imagine the local impact it would have had for that community and the sports talk stations in it.
It’s in college basketball crazy towns like Dayton where the loss of the NCAA Tournament is felt the most. That’s not some revealing statement, but Parrish can relate because he hosts a show in Memphis, a town that’s crazy about its hoops.
The Tigers’ season was one that was filled with more disappointment than hope after sky-high preseason expectations, but in a city that loves basketball, how does losing both the college and pro game hurt local sports radio?
“I don’t think it hurts nearly as much as it could’ve hurt under different circumstances,” said Parrish. “The college season is over but the Tigers were on the wrong side of the bubble, anyway. They weren’t likely to make the NCAA Tournament and if you’re not making the tournament, nobody really cares all that much.
“With the Grizzlies, the thought is that we’re going to pick that up at some point. It’s not clear, as Adam Silver said on Thursday night, but the thought right now is that we’ll play NBA basketball again and eventually the Grizzlies are going to play the Lakers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.”
One angle my show has taken with college basketball content, is to relate the current situation to coaches who were already on the hot seat. For instance, Texas was squarely on the bubble and had the imminent decision of firing Shaka Smart and paying him 10.5 million in buyout money. Seeing as the final result of the season will never be known, will Smart get another year based solely on the unique circumstances that have hit the sport?
That type of content can work on the air.
“Everything is on the table,” said Parrish. “It is an interesting time, though, from the coaching carousel perspective, because, obviously, that’s always good for talk radio. And yet, this is so unusual that I don’t know if university administrators know how to handle what’s happening right now. Do you really want to be the university that’s trying to hire a coach during a national emergency?
“Our country is operating in ways that are totally abnormal. Do I think some people, or at least somebody, may keep his job based on what’s happening in this country right now, who otherwise wouldn’t? Sure, I do believe that.”
Parrish added that it’s crazy for an athletic director to not know, even without postseason results, whether they should keep their coach or not. The idea that you would let a big picture decision be made on one 40-minute basketball game seems a little silly to him. But again, this is content that could work well over the air.
There’s probably a depressed feeling in the air this week in places such as Dayton, Spokane and Lawrence, to just name a few. Although it’s not the most preferred, depressed is still a reaction that hosts in college hoops markets can take advantage of.
The next several week is something we’ll never forget. How do we put a bow on this college hoops season? Well, maybe you can’t. That could also be the beauty of it. Kansas, Dayton, Gonzaga, and likely a few other fan bases, will go on for the next several years on various sports radio stations claiming their team would have won the title in 2020 if the tournament had been played.
Since it was never closed, the book will always be open for this year in college basketball. The mystery of it is a story today and likely will be 20 years from now.
“It’s been such a wild season,” Parrish said. “And yet, nobody could’ve anticipated where we’re at right now. The idea that we’re not playing the NCAA Tournament, was not something any serious person was discussing before Monday or Tuesday of this week. If you remember, how much has changed over the past few days. On Tuesday, the Ivy League announced they weren’t playing their tournament and there was a massive backlash. People were questioning that. You fast forward to Friday afternoon and we’re not playing any sports in America or in Europe. It’s a wild, surreal turn of events.”
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.
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.
Media Noise – Episode 75
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.
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.
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.
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.