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Nothing Else Matters: In 2020, Sports Crushed Racism

“What was thought to be a lost year in American sports has transformed into a sweeping revolution — the shakedown of racial inequality — that trivializes the now-tenuous resumption of games.”

Jay Mariotti

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This will sound strangely counterintuitive without games to watch, trophies to award and over-unders to wager, but sports already has won the year. The ref can stop the fight, in fact, because racism is getting its ass kicked. If the apocalyptic haze of 2020 couldn’t have been foreseen even with 20-20 vision, sports still has conquered all with its extraordinary embrace of a movement — Black Lives Matter — that never has mattered much beyond lip service and business necessity in an industry lorded by white billionaires.

Suddenly, shockingly, nothing else matters. Nor should it when this country, suffering from a collective guilty conscience, is awash in soul searching that should have happened centuries ago.

“Ask the questions, ask the uncomfortable questions, and you will come to the conclusion, I hope, that I have,’’ said Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, one such white billionaire. “You don’t feel it enough and you don’t live it enough if you’re not willing to say it: Black lives matter.’’

The raw significance: Bisciotti considered signing Colin Kaepernick in 2017 and declined, concerned that segments of his team’s fan base would rebel. Now, he says he’d be “the worst kind of hypocrite’’ if he didn’t speak out about race. Did you just feel the earth move? We’re still waiting for Jerry Jones and other prominent NFL owners to stand up and say something, anything, but if they don’t, they’ll now be perceived as bigots who ignored the social justice crusade. That’s how three weeks have changed America, hopefully forever.

Progress? No, this is a cultural avalanche — a reckoning, I reckon, that reduces everything else in sports to gravel dust.

2020 MLB SEASON IS CANCELLED?? - YouTube

Let Major League Baseball implode in greed and delusion, its shrunken manhood naked to a mocking world. The owners and players continue to insult the national intellect, if not commit institutional suicide, by flailing like two punchdrunk bums and failing to reach common ground to resume the season. At this point, we’d be happy if they fade away like floppy disks, Hummers, David Lee Roth and other ‘90s bygones. Shame on the owners for crying poor after generating $10 billion in revenues last season, then refusing comment after cutting a $3.3 billion TV deal with Turner Sports, which either likes wasting money or had Charles Barkley brokering the talks in a bar. And shame on the players for not immediately going on strike, having heard St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. say, “The industry isn’t very profitable, to be honest.’’

Tweeted pitching smart-ass Trevor Bauer: “Oh good so … we can play now, right? Seems there is plenty to go around here. Seems there is plenty of money being made by the league and the teams. Given tha(t) players are the product, I’m sure some of this can be distributed to them, right? Yay for baseball.”

A commissioner-mandated, 48-game season would be a bastardized farce amid racial unrest and a pandemic, typical of a sham sport where the Yankees have joined the Astros and Red Sox in the electronic sign-stealing sinbin. Is anyone to be trusted in this godforsaken racket? Why would any established, wealthy-for-life star agree to play and take health risks — MLB has yet to establish an official COVID-19 testing protocol — when a better idea is to stay home until next year. And If Mike Trout and other superstars don’t suit up, what is the point of playing an illegitimate season? Just declare a work stoppage and leave us alone. If you miss baseball, you must be 85, playing John Fogerty’s “Centerfield’’ on cassette and still calling it the national pastime. Which makes you Bud Selig, who somehow wrecked the game AND made the Hall of Fame while still believing Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were heroes.

Why Kyrie Irving is Overrated - Last Word on Pro Basketball

Let a coronavirus bubble chase off some NBA players and confound others, such as Kyrie Irving, who think resuming a season would diminish Black Lives Matter momentum and overshadow protests when, of course, it also would draw attention to the league’s social conscience. As Austin Rivers said, echoing LeBron James and those who do want to play in the Disney World biodome: “Us coming back would put money in all of our pockets. With this money, you could help out even more people and continue to give, more importantly, your time and energy toward the BLM movement.’’ The league boss, Adam Silver, should have known some would balk at virus risks in Florida, where infections are surging in the Orlando area, and lockdown rules that won’t let players leave the bubble for restaurants, golf courses or strip clubs. But when Irving, who isn’t healthy enough to play, suggests the league is racist for trying to resume a season, that’s an outgrowth of the bigger cause.

“I don’t support going into Orlando. I’m not with the systematic racism and the bullshit,’’ Irving said on a conference call with fellow players, per The Athletic. “Smells a little fishy. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are targeted as black men every day we wake up.’’

Let the football season never start because a line of scrimmage is a petri dish for the coronavirus. Let the inevitable positive tests thwart preposterous attempts to resume seasons and recoup lost fortunes. Let the concept of spectator-free events turn freaky in golf, where a hole-in-one happened without applause and a CBS boom mike picked up Jon Rahm’s F-bomb. Let there be no titles, no MVPs, no parades.

Who really cares when we’ve seen sports finally examine itself in the looking glass, see a self-image it has grown to despise and realize it too has failed massively — even after Jackie Robinson, even after John Carlos and Tommie Smith, even after Muhammad Ali — in a twisted culture that allows a white Minneapolis policeman to knee-choke-murder an unarmed black man two decades into the 21st century. It took those eight minutes and 46 seconds, the killing of George Floyd, for the athletic world to at last acknowledge what so many resident activists have said for eons about racial injustice and police brutality in America.

The hatred must end.

The world must change.

UEFA confident Euro 2020 will be free of racism

And so it has, with sports figures of all races and ages joining America in a swirl of protests, statements and pro-inclusion advocacy, to the point sports might play a prominent role in a substitution a bit larger than Tom Brady for Drew Bledsoe and Lou Gehrig for Wally Pipp — say, Joe Biden for Donald Trump. The country’s abrupt revolution, inspired by the pulsating protests after Floyd’s death, has jolted sports leaders who have no choice but to speak out and change policies … or risk being linked to complicity in racism. For the first time, the politically connected magnates of sports — why does Jones’ grin always pop up first? — appear helpless in stopping the Kaepernick-led peaceful kneeling protests that surfaced in 2016 but faded two years later. That’s because seemingly everyone in sports — commissioners, executives, coaches, athletes — is committed to Black Lives Matter. If only sports would have acted so responsibly when health experts, in early March, were advising shutdowns of arenas and ballparks because of a novel virus.

COVID-19 kills people. But racism, in a progressive America, might kill entire leagues. That’s what grabs the establishment’s attention. We’ve seen the NFL, which normally genuflects to no one, dramatically change course and urge players to protest. We’ve seen NASCAR, reluctant through time to break from racist roots, ban the confederate flag — lower-case c, please — after its only full-time black driver, Bubba Wallace, said, “It starts with confederate flags. Get them out of here.’’ The Boston Red Sox decried cases, including seven last year, in which racist fans poisoned the Fenway Park experience. During MLB’s amateur draft, the predominantly white heads of franchise front offices displayed placards: “Black Lives Matter. United for Change.’’ The U.S. Olympic Committee, known to punish athletes for protests during medals ceremonies, is forming an athletes-led panel to “challenge the rules and systems in our own organization that create barriers to progress, including your right to protest.’’ Collegiate sports factories such as Clemson, Iowa and Texas have been reminded we’re in a new millennium. So has the U.S. Soccer Federation, which will let players protest after requiring Megan Rapinoe to stand when she was kneeling in solidarity.

Tweeted Trump: “I’d rather the US not have a soccer team than have a soccer team that won’t stand for the National Anthem. I won’t be watching much anymore.’’

And Drew Brees? Anyone heard from him lately? His dated views about anthem protests have been modernized by a younger white quarterback, Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill, who said, “When the kneeling first started to happen, it was a bit of a shock, I guess, because it hadn’t been done before. I think I had to get past the fact that it wasn’t about the flag. It wasn’t about the anthem. It wasn’t about our country. It was about the injustice and raising awareness and getting people’s attention. I think once I got past that fact, I could really support it.”

Baker Mayfield Says He Will 'Absolutely' Kneel During National ...

Another white quarterback, Baker Mayfield, scolded a fan who wrote on Instagram, “Please tell Browns fans you’re not going to be kneeling this season.’’ Replied Mayfield, not always the most savvy bro-dude: “(P)ull your head out. I absolutely am.’’

Racists always will lurk. But in sports, they’ve climbed into the closet and turned out the light, drowned out by legitimate hope in numbers. We expect James, a tenured veteran of social activism, to be front and center. “Because of everything that’s going on, people are finally starting to listen to us — we feel like we’re finally getting a foot in the door,’’ he said. “How long is up to us. We don’t know. We do feel like we’re getting some ears and attention, and this is the time for us to finally make a difference.” But why does 2020 feel like a landmark and not another half-hearted charade of opportunism? Through technology, billions of eyeballs have seen Floyd, unable to breathe, a visual that makes us tremble and cry while shining a light on police brutality that cannot be minimized by the coldest of hearts.

“In the time since I’ve been alive, I don’t remember it being this strong of an impact and reaching this many people and this many people being upset and emotional about it,’’ said the vocal NFL social observer, Richard Sherman. “The way the world has been, when those guys (Kaepernick and other kneelers) were making it about police brutality, (skeptics) found a way to dull down that message and divert it and make it about something else, as a way to avoid the conversation. I think this time, it’s too full-fledged. Most people are actually getting the messaging and seeing it first-hand. Any human with any true empathy in them for their fellow human being would feel that strong. Nobody can turn their eyes away.’’

From George Floyd. From Ahmaud Arbery. From Breonna Taylor. And, this past weekend, from Rayshard Brooks, who was fatally shot by police in a struggle over a Taser outside an Atlanta fast-food restaurant.

Is Patrick Mahomes Married? The QB Met His Sweetheart In High School

Also consider that Black Lives Matter has an unexpected wild card: Patrick Mahomes, face of the most prominent league in American sports, who has emerged from the Gen Z shadows to condemn systemic racism and stir the waters of social change. Best known for his otherworldly quarterbacking skills and beach photos with his girlfriend, Mahomes was the biggest star in the epic players’ video that forced NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to admit the league was “wrong’’ and immediately change policy on activism, now encouraging players to “speak out and peacefully protest.’’ Mahomes represents young people in their mid-20s — a voting demographic that potentially could reshape the White House.

“Enough is enough,” Mahomes said. “ We’ve got to do something about this. I’m blessed to have this platform. Why not use it? We (need) to come together as players and show that we believe black lives matter. We need to be the role models to go out there and take that step.’’

It’s working. In 2016, when anthem displays were most demonstrative, polls showed that only 25-30 percent of Americans appoved of kneeling. Today, a Yahoo News/YouGuv poll of 1,564 Americans has 52 percent indicating approval for “NFL players to kneel during the national anthem to protest police killings of African-Americans.’’ This time, Goodell and Jones cannot curtail the sideline protests if TV ratings are adversely impacted and advertisers are concerned. Kneeling will proceed en masse, likely involving every team and every game until further notice, despite indications by some franchises that protest decisions will be made as organizations. Once Goodell said in his video, “I personally protest with you,’’ it will be hard to walk back from his declaration without creating chaos. Among those suspicious of Goodell’s motives is the noted anti-Trumper, Gregg Popovich, who told the New York Times: “He got intimidated when Trump jumped on the kneeling (and) he folded.’’ This time, Goodell will stay true.

It’s Jones who might be foolish enough to resist as the bad cop. Three years ago, remember, he said any Dallas Cowboys player who “disrespects the flag’’ wouldn’t play. Sherman is among those asking why Jones has been silent recently. “Jerry Jones, especially, has no problem speaking up any other time about anything else,” he said. “But when it’s such a serious issue, and he could really make a huge impact on it with a few words, his silence speaks volumes.”

Carolina Panthers removing Jerry Richardson statue

They may be white, male and privileged, but most of the owners aren’t stupid. They saw the protests, filled with young people who will decide if the NFL and other sports leagues are relevant in the future. They saw how the statue of Jerry Richardson, once revered in Charlotte for bringing the Panthers to town, was carted away from the stadium to an undisclosed storage facility, two years after racial and sexual misconduct allegations forced him to sell the team. No doubt they’ve been weakened, as well, by an ongoing health catastrophe that has left them vulnerable.

So they are opening the doors they’ve kept shut. And more are speaking out, regardless of harsh consequences during cocktail hour at the owners’ meetings. The more they speak out, the more confident Black America becomes that this is not the usual lip service. “Back when Kaepernick took a knee, it was almost kind of scary,” Los Angeles Rams receiver Robert Woods said. “You could lose your job, you could be on the bench. I think now being able to have a voice, knowing that your political views shouldn’t (be punishable) … I think you’ll see players speak up on what they believe in and have confidence that their team is able to back them.”

Said Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks: “Finally having Goodell say those things and having our back, I feel like we can all move forward now.”

Texans' Bill O'Brien: "I'll Kneel With Players" | News Radio 1200 WOAI

Hell, at least one white NFL coach says he’ll kneel with his players. “Yeah, I’ll take a knee — I’m all for it,’’ said Bill O’Brien, who represents the Texans in Houston, George Floyd’s hometown. “The players have a right to protest, a right to be heard and a right to be who they are. They’re not taking a knee because they’re against our flag. They’re taking a knee because they haven’t been treated equally in this country for over 400 years.’’

Face it. Sports needed a comprehensive deep cleanse, a massive reboot, a push of the reset button. I’ve been saying and writing since March 11, the night Rudy Gobert’s positive test halted the NBA, that the industry should shut down until 2021 to reassess its place in a new world. Now, I believe it even more.

It might be too much to rid the industry of cheating and avarice, but sports must try. We’ve seen the unshakeable monster, racial inequality, sacked and smothered into the earth. Finally, anything seems possible.

BSM Writers

Beyond The Mask: Henrik Lundqvist Embraced 2nd Career in Sports Media

“It’s not a coincidence you see a lot of goalies working [on] panels and analyzing the game because that’s a huge part of playing in goal.”

Derek Futterman

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Plucking the strings of an acoustic guitar, Henrik Lundqvist found himself beneath the bright lights once again, poised to put on a worthy performance. Just as he aimed to stop pucks from going in the net as the star goaltender of the New York Rangers for 15 seasons, Lundqvist sought to captivate viewers as half of a musical duo featuring former NHL forward Paul Bissonnette.

Their performance of “Good Riddance” by Green Day was in tribute to Rick Tocchet, a former NHL on TNT studio analyst who recently departed the network to serve as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks.

Lundqvist serves as a studio analyst for TNT’s coverage of the NHL, breaking down players and teams throughout the broadcast and bringing his own unique style to the set. His pursuit of a post-playing career in sports media was no guarantee from the moment he retired in August 2021; in fact, he never intended to stop playing the game and competing for a Stanley Cup championship at that time.

During the 2019-20 season, Lundqvist had lost playing time to young goaltenders Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev, and by the year’s end, his deal was bought out by the team. In an effort to continue playing, Lundqvist signed a contract with the Washington Capitals – marking the first time in his NHL career that he would not step between the pipes for the Rangers.

Lundqvist never played a game for the team though, as it was discovered in a medical exam that he would need open-heart surgery to replace his aortic valve while also having an aortic root and ascending aortic replacement. Less than two months after the successful five-hour operation, he was back on the ice rehabbing and attempting to make a full recovery – but a few months in, he began to feel unexpected chest pain. Following a medical checkup, Lundqvist was told he had inflammation around his heart. It was a significant setback that required him to step off the ice, take off his goaltender equipment and rest for several months.

After discussions with his family and friends, Lundqvist determined that the risk of taking the ice outweighed the rewards and officially stepped away from the game. Rather than conjuring hypothetical scenarios wherein he did not experience the misfortune and played for the Capitals, Lundqvist looked to the future amid the ongoing global pandemic and thought about how he could best enjoy his retirement.

“I was just mentally in a very good place,” Lundqvist said. “I didn’t have a choice; I guess that makes it easier sometimes when the decision is made because you can’t go back-and-forth – ‘Should I?’ ‘Should I not?’ Yeah, I wanted to play but it was just not meant to be for me.”

Before any definitive resolution on his future endeavors was made though, the Rangers announced that the team would retire Lundqvist’s No. 30 in a pregame ceremony during the 2021-22 season, making him just the 11th player bestowed that honor in franchise history. As a five-time NHL All-Star selection, 2011 Vezina Trophy winner, and holder of numerous franchise records, Lundqvist had the accolades to merit this profound distinction.

Moreover, he was an important component in growing the game of hockey and contributing to the greater community, serving as the official spokesperson for the Garden of Dreams Foundation and founder of the Henrik Lundqvist Foundation. He also was a two-time recipient of the organization’s prestigious Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, honoring the player “who goes above and beyond the call of duty.”

Throughout the night, attendees regaled Lundqvist with chants of “Hen-rik!” and were treated to flashbacks of some of his memorable career moments. The night was of monumental importance for Lundqvist, during which he expressed his gratitude to the Rangers’ organization, former teammates and fans. Then, Lundqvist — referred to as “The King” — promptly took his place among team legends beneath the concave ceiling of “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”

“When I look back at my career, I know, to me, it was all about preparation; how I practiced and how I prepared for each game at practice,” Lundqvist said. “There’s no regrets, and I hope people, when they think about how I played, [know] that it was 100% heart and commitment to the game.”

Before this ceremony though, Lundqvist and Rangers owner James Dolan had held several meetings with one another. The purpose of these conversations was to determine the best way for Lundqvist to remain involved with the team, its fans, and the community. In the end, he was named as a lead studio analyst on MSG Networks’ broadcasts of New York Rangers hockey before the start of the 2021-22 season: the start of his foray in sports media.

This past summer, Lundqvist negotiated a new deal with Madison Square Garden Sports and Madison Square Garden Entertainment in which he maintained his in-studio responsibilities while increasing involvement in other areas of its sports and entertainment ventures. In this new role, Lundqvist supports the business operations for both companies, assisting in digital content development, alumni relations, and partner and sponsor activities.

When Lundqvist is not in the studio or the office, he can often be found at Madison Square Garden taking in New York Rangers hockey, New York Knicks basketball, or one of the arena’s renowned musical performances. Usually, when he is in attendance, he is shown on the arena’s center-hung video board as an “NYC Celebrity” and receives a thunderous ovation from the crowd.

“The network is just part of it, but it feels great to come there,” Lundqvist said of Madison Square Garden. “Every time I go there – to see the people that I’ve known for so long – but also I love that place; I love The Garden. I think the energy [and] the variety of things that happen there is something I really appreciate. It feels really good to be a part of that.”

Sitting alongside former teammate and studio analyst Steve Valiqutte and sportscaster John Giannone, Lundqvist appears in the MSG Networks studios, located across the street from the arena, for select New York Rangers games. From the onset, he brought his allure and expertise to the set and appealed to viewers – so much so that national networks quickly began to take notice.

“I enjoy watching hockey [and] talking hockey, but the main thing to me is the team; the people that you work with,” Lundqvist said. “The guys on the panel [and the] crew behind. I really enjoy that part of it and having a lot of fun off-camera.”

One month later, Lundqvist was on his first national broadcast for the NHL on TNT where he and Bissonnette famously performed a cover of “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica that went viral on social media. It had been known that Lundqvist was a musician, famously performing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in his Rangers uniform to celebrate the end of the 2012-13 NHL lockout.

In fact, during his retirement ceremony, the Rangers gifted him with a custom-made guitar painted by David Gunnarsson, the same artist who used to paint Lundqvist’s goalie masks.

Aside from occasional music performances, Lundqvist brings an esoteric base of knowledge to the NHL on TNT panel as its only goaltender. Whether it be through player breakdowns, interviews, or dialogue with other analysts, Lundqvist has a perspective to which few professional hockey players can relate. There are various goaltenders among local studio panels surrounding live hockey game broadcasts, and Lundqvist is in a unique situation with MSG Networks in that he and Valiquette are both former goaltenders. Yet on Turner Sports’ national coverage, he is the only voice speaking to this different part of the game.

“It’s not a coincidence you see a lot of goalies working [on] panels and analyzing the game because that’s a huge part of playing in goal,” Lundqvist explained. “Yes, you need to stop the puck, but a huge part of being a goalie is analyzing what’s going on. We can never really dictate the play so you need to analyze what’s happening right in front of you.”

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In broadcasting at both the local and national level, Lundqvist is cognizant of the differences in each network’s studio programs. Lundqvist says appearing on the MSG Networks studio panel is more about being direct with the viewer, whereas the NHL on TNT views its panel as being conversational in nature. With Turner Sports, Lundqvist also asks his colleagues about the different teams around the league since he is most familiar with the Rangers both as a former player and studio analyst.

“I’m closer to the Rangers; I see more of what’s going on,” Lundqvist stated. “When you work [national] games, maybe you focus in on teams on the West Coast or [part] of the league you don’t see as often. You try to talk to the other guys on the panel and the crew and figure out things that are interesting about those teams.”

Hockey is a team sport, and Lundqvist felt grateful to play with his teammates and face his competitors over the years. Now as an analyst though, it is his job to analyze their games and critique them when necessary; however, he does not try to be excessively critical.

Lundqvist knows the trials and tribulations associated with the sport and can relate to scenarios many players face on a nightly basis. Therefore, he thinks about his own experience before giving an opinion, especially a critique, instantiating it with comprehensible, recondite knowledge and/or by recounting a similar situation.

“I’d much rather give them positive feedback obviously because I know it is a tough game,” Lundqvist said, “and sometimes it might look like an easy mistake, but if you can give the viewer a better explanation of why he did that, they might have a different view of that mistake.”

Now metaphorically being beyond the goalie mask, Lundqvist’s vision of the game has evidently shifted. He discerns just how intense the schedule is and the rapid pace of the game, axioms he was aware of while playing but inherently avoided thinking about. He has implemented his refined viewpoint of the game accordingly into his analysis, simultaneously utilizing the mindset and savvy he cultivated on the ice. It is, quite simply, a balancing act.

“I think people can be pretty quick to jump on guys and critique them,” Lundqvist said. “That’s where maybe you take an extra look and try to understand why it happened and give those reasons. I think that’s where it helps if you played the game [for] a long time and just love the game [because] you have a pretty good understanding of why guys react a certain way.”

The challenge tacitly embedded in the jobs of most studio analysts – Lundqvist’s included – is in presenting the information to the audience in a manner through which it learns without being confused. It is a delicate craft that takes time and genuine understanding to master, especially related to promulgating hockey analytics as Valiquette does on MSG Networks and within his company, Clear Sight Analytics.

“There’s a lot of educated viewers out there, but there’s also a lot of people that maybe don’t watch as much hockey,” Lundqvist said, “so you want to find that middle ground where you kind of educate both sides.”

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By broadcasting both locally and nationally in addition to working in a specially-designed business operations role, Lundqvist is staying around the rink in his retirement while facilitating the growth of hockey. Despite the profusion of young talent, dynamic action and jaw-dropping plays, viewership of the sport on ESPN and TNT’s linear channels has dropped 22% from last season, according to a report by Sports Business Journal.

For Lundqvist though, he does not feel much has changed from playing regarding his responsibility to advance the reach and appeal of the sport. He played professionally for 20 years, beginning his career in his home country of Sweden, primarily in the Swedish Elite League (SEL). In the 2004-05 season, his final campaign before arriving in New York City, Lundqvist had won the award for most valuable player. Furthermore, he was recognized as the best goalie and best player, leading Frölunda HC to its second Elitserien championship in three seasons.

His NHL debut came five years after he was selected in the seventh round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Rangers but unlike many rookies over the years, he came polished and prepared to embrace the lights of Broadway. Following an injury to starting goaltender Kevin Weekes, Lundqvist was inserted into the starting lineup and, from that moment on, virtually never came out.

By the end of his first year, he had been named to the NHL All-Rookie Team and was a Vezina Trophy finalist for best goaltender. Additionally, he remains the only goaltender to begin his NHL career with seven consecutive 30-plus win seasons.

“I think the league is doing a great job of growing the game,” Lundqvist said. “In the end, it comes down to the product and right now, it’s a great product. I feel really good about, the best way I can, to promote the game [by] talking about it, but… it feels like I’ve been doing that for 20 years.”

One means through which Lundqvist attempts to grow the game is within the studio demos he performs with the NHL on TNT, displaying different facets of the game in a technical manner. The show also embraces the characteristics of their analysts and implements them in lighthearted segments, such as zamboni races, putting competitions, Swedish lessons and, of course, musical performances.

“I’m huge on mindset and the pressure,” Lundqvist said. “I love to talk about that type of stuff and give the viewer a better understanding of what goes through their heads. In terms of personality, I don’t know if I can say [that] I’m a serious guy because I love to have fun and laugh and do fun things.”

Lundqvist thoroughly enjoys what he is doing both locally and nationally, and he ensures he surrounds himself with people he wants to be around. There are plenty of other broadcast opportunities for former hockey players, such as moving into the booth as a color commentator or between the benches as a rinkside reporter. At this moment though, he is more focused on being immersed in his current roles, performing them to the best of his ability while ensuring he allocates time to spend with friends and family.

“I see myself more as an analyst in the studio more than traveling around and being in the rink,” he said. “I think that’s another thing with the schedule; it works really well with my schedule to have one or two commitments with the networks, but then I have other things going on in my life that I commit to.”

Plenty of comparisons can be drawn between playing professional hockey and covering the sport from the studio in terms of preparation and synergy. Yet the end result is not as clearly defined since “winning” in television is quantifiably defined as generating ratings and revenue. Undoubtedly, Lundqvist is focused on doing what he can to bolster hockey’s popularity; however, he also wants to enjoy this new phase of his career being around the game he loves.

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“In sports, you win or you lose,” Lundqvist explained. “With TV, you want to be yourself [and] you want to get your point out – but at the same time, if you do it at the same time you’re having a good time, I feel like that’s good TV.”

Once their careers conclude, many athletes think about pursuing a post-playing career and oftentimes end up taking on a role in sports broadcasting. On MSG Networks alone, there are plenty of former players who take part in studio coverage on live game broadcasts, such as Martin Biron of the Buffalo Sabres, Bryce Salvador of the New Jersey Devils, and Matt Martin of the New York Islanders. At the national level, Turner Sports employs Paul Bissonnette, Anson Carter, and Wayne Gretzky for its studio broadcasts, while ESPN’s top studio crew includes Mark Messier and Chris Chelios.

All of these former professional hockey players had an obligation to regularly speak with media members, answering questions about games and the season at large. Lundqvist maintained a professional relationship with journalists and beat reporters, and he most enjoyed taking questions when the team was doing well. Regardless of what the end result of a game was though, he had a responsibility to divulge his thoughts and, in turn, be subject to criticism and/or negative feedback.

His stellar career and persona all came from emanating a passion for the game – and it continues to manifest itself beyond the television screen. Listening to those passionate about the game discuss it usually engenders euphony and lucidity to viewers, analogous to the sound of the puck hitting the pads or entering the glove. It is a timbre Lundqvist created 27,076 times throughout his NHL career (regular season and playoffs) in preventing goals, and one he now aims to explain en masse.

“The reason why I kept going to the rink and put all the hours in was because I really enjoyed it,” Lundqvist said. “If you decide to go into media or whatever it might be, I think the bottom line is [that] you have to enjoy it and make sure you have good people around you.”

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Should the NBA Nationalize Local TV Rights Like MLS?

The NBA’s upcoming rights negotiations will be this transformational idea’s first testing grounds.

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Diamond Sports has been anything but a diamond in the sports world. As subscribers leave cable and satellite for streaming services, companies are dropping RSNs nationwide because they are too expensive to carry. This has caused an impending bankruptcy for the company, which owns the local rights to dozens of sports teams nationwide. It is also putting the NBA, NHL, and MLB at major financial risk. 

In the short term, it is known that teams will still broadcast on their RSNs even if they aren’t getting the paychecks they were promised in previous rights deals. This will affect teams’ ability to pay players and could even create an unfair advantage among the haves of the sports world like the Yankees and Lakers and the have-nots. The NFL doesn’t face the same problems that the other leagues are facing because its rights have been nationalized.

With the NFL’s continued television dominance, college conferences also bundling up games together for more money, and the MLS guaranteeing themselves television revenue after packaging local and national rights together, could we see the other leagues follow suit? It is an option that is much easier said than done but it seems like we are moving closer to it becoming reality. 

The NBA’s upcoming rights negotiations will be this transformational idea’s first testing grounds.

The biggest problem the NBA and other leagues would face are that the local rights to all of its teams don’t expire at the same time. If the league were to sign a deal that included giving all local rights to a streamer, the amount which the league was getting paid would be very unique year after year. It would be crazy for a streamer to pay a huge chunk of money to the NBA all at once if the number of teams they have local rights to changes every year.

It would also be insane to pay an astronomical amount if the streamer is only getting the local rights to small-market teams like the Cavs and the Pistons. A major market team like the Lakers doesn’t renew their local rights until 2032. We’re still in 2023. How does that affect the league’s operating costs? 

The NBA would also have to figure out whether teams whose rights don’t expire yet deserve to be included in the pot of money garnered from selling local rights to a streamer. Whether they are or they aren’t, does it put each team at different competitive advantages and/or disadvantages when trying to acquire free agents or front-office personnel?

One of the most interesting puzzles to figure out is what influence a league owner like Washington’s Ted Leonsis has in this potential measure when all is said and done. Leonsis just acquired complete control of the regional sports network — currently named NBC Sports Washington — that broadcasts Wizards and Capitals games for millions of dollars, although the exact amount remains undisclosed.

What does Leonsis do with his network if his team’s games can no longer air there? Can his team opt out of participating in a potential league offering? Or if the games continue to air on his network but are simulcasted locally on the streamer that wins local rights on a national scale, does the streamer have the ability to pay less money for rights?

If so, does that make the deal as lucrative for the NBA? And what does that mean for retransmission fees that cable companies like Comcast pay to Leonsis and other RSNs they’re still carrying?

The league will face a similar problem with the Lakers, Bulls, Knicks and other franchises that either wholly own or partially own a part of the RSNs where they broadcast their games. 

I don’t have the answers to any of these questions which is why they are written here in this column. Unfortunately for the leagues, they don’t have the answers either. But if the NBA figures out a way to nationalize their product even more and make streaming games more appealing by ending local blackouts, it’ll benefit the game more than it hurts the game. 

NBA, NHL, and MLB games are still some of the highest-rated programs locally in many markets when you look at how they rate vs. other cable and broadcast offerings. But at this point, the ability to charge everyone for a program that only ten percent of subscribers are watching is a losing business proponent.

The leagues should start from scratch and sell a mass package of games for maximum profit. It gives fans a more centralized location to watch their favorite teams and puts the leagues on a much more steady path than where they could be headed sooner rather than later.

Diamond in the rough to sparkling jewel of light? Only time will tell.

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BSM Writers

Do You Have Affirmations Of Gratitude?

“We are told to be grateful for what we have and remember it could be worse. That feels like a really low bar, right?”

Jeff Caves

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Having gratitude for your life is all the rage. If you, like me, have trouble starting your day with positive affirmations and maintaining a positive outlook about your job, read on! 

We are told to be grateful for what we have and remember it could be worse. That feels like a really low bar, right? Here is another version. Try a few affirmations of gratitude instead.

“I HAVE A JOB.”

With interest rates rising, inflation increasing, and spending down; corporations are laying people off. PayPal laid off 7% of its entire workforce. Amazon let 18,000 go. Alphabet (Google) said goodbye to 12,000 jobs. Radio sales managers need to hire people like you – experienced sellers with a track record of bringing home the bacon. 

I AM A PROBLEM SOLVER.”

You solve a problem for your company when it comes to revenue. You know people, and you sell advertising better than anything they can come up with…so far. 

Yes, they are trying to replace you, but Zoom Info reports iHeart’s self-serve spot buying service,  AdBuilder, is doing under 5 million in business. You have time to solidify your value. Be happy you are the rainmaker. 

I WORK IN THE PEOPLE BUSINESS.”

Sports talk radio is the ultimate companion to millions of listeners. They aren’t robots, and your stations improve their lives by talking about what they care about 24/7. Celebrate selling access to callers, Twitter followers and FANS who go to games. You also get to work with local celebrities that everybody knows but you know best. We all need a connection to other people and want to be seen and heard. 

“I GET TO CHANGE HOW I FEEL ABOUT MYSELF.”

In this job, you determine your value, feelings about your work, and who you work with. You get to set a strategy and talk to the businesspeople you want to help and do business with. It’s like running your own business with a tremendous support staff. Try to do it independently, and you will appreciate accounting, traffic, production, and sales assistance. Those wins produce deposits in your bank account.  

I HAVE COMPETITION!”

That format competitor across the street does things differently and sometimes better than you or tries to imitate you and looks terrible. They motivate you to beat them to a new account or put a moat around your best clients so they can’t be touched. They keep you sharp and willing to try new things. Good competition schemes to take money from your station, and your management needs you to protect them. And they also provide a place for you to work one day. The FTC wants to eliminate non-competes so you can walk across the street this year.  

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Barrett Media Writers

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