Connect with us
Jim Cutler Demos

BSM Writers

College Football Crashes, Just As Sports Was Fun Again

“Without the game that serves as our national lifeblood from autumn into winter, it’s time to concede, even after a memorable golf major and various Bubble triumphs, that the COVID-19 minefield is destroying the American soul.”

Jay Mariotti

Published

on

God still might be bigger than the coronavirus, but college football and the American South are not. The sport that has been most delusional about the global pandemic, channeling President Trump’s continuing view that it’s merely a bug, finally is prioritizing the health of vulnerable young men over the wealth of TV billions. This is the week when a country grasps what I told Paul Finebaum a month ago on his program, a comment that subjected my otherwise tame Twitter feed to cultural warfare.

Football is the last game that should be played amid a COVID-19 storm, the sporting equivalent of 100 maskless morons dog-piling at a rave. ESPN tried its damndest to brainwash the masses and rescue the sport it literally owns and operates (and the billions it’s about to lose), but commissioners and school presidents from Power 5 conferences are forced to concede that liabilities are trumping the lie. Dabo is devastated, Saban is gobsmacked, Harbaugh is being sized up for a straitjacket and boosters will have to find other people to pay off, but who really cares?

I’m concerned about our national condition.

Without the lifeblood of football — and the NFL can protect a $15-billion season only so long before pulling the same plug — is this where America’s collective psyche turns to mush? Will the legions of COVID-iots who’ve tried to ignore the death toll and ongoing ravages now realize what an autumn without football represents? It means the carnage is staying for a while, with no departure date, leaving the economy in a shambles, our sense of freedom violated and our mental health like so much road barf as we await an absurdist election that will make us a bigger international mockery. With football in Tuscaloosa and Columbus, Happy Valley and Death Valley, and an accompanying pro season, there was a chance to maintain an equilibrium.

Now what?

There is pushback from Gen-Z types who don’t know better, such as the current face of college football, Trevor Lawrence. Stunningly, with his sport teetering, the Clemson quarterback tweeted, “People are at just as much, if not more risk, if we don’t play. Players will all be sent home to their own communities, where social distancing is highly unlikely and medical care and expenses will be placed on the families if they were to contract covid19. Not to mention the players coming from situations that are not good for them/their future and having to go back to that. Football is a safe haven for so many people. We are more likely to get the virus in everyday life than playing football.’’ He makes fine points. What he doesn’t mention is the lack of social distancing on a college campus.

Can I at least enjoy Collin Morikawa’s exhilarating victory at the PGA Championship for a nanosecond or two?

Apparently not. College football’s shutdown only reminds us that Major League Baseball is a sickening minefield, dangerously continuing a foolish season as the virus sidelines the Cardinals for a third week. Manager Mike Shildt said some of the infected nine players and seven staff members were hospitalized for brief periods, which should be the breaking point for so-called MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, who might want to look at college football and follow suit. Instead, he proceeds with this shameful stagger toward potential tragedy. At least MLB players are paid as they dodge virus droplets — including their own. Protocols still are being flouted even after the outbreaks of the Cardinals and Marlins, with the A’s and cheatin’ Astros engaging in just the kind of wild, dugouts-clearing brawl that spreads the virus. Oakland’s Ramon Laureano, a former Astro, reportedly responded to a mother-related slur from Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron and attacked the Houston dugout.

“Get back to the dugout!’’ umpires shouted, their cries echoing through the empty Coliseum.

They were ignored, just as the players ignore Manfred. He should have foreseen this might happen, considering A’s pitcher Mike Fiers snitched on the Astros, his former team, in what launched the electronic sign-stealing scandal that tarnished Houston’s 2017 World Series title. Look, I realize everyone is bitter about the Asterisks and wants payback. Joe Kelly already exacted it for the Dodgers. Enough. Finish the game before a brawl becomes a superspreader. What exactly does Manfred do again, anyway?

Then there was Cleveland pitcher Zach Plesac, who left the team hotel and went out in Chicago after beating the White Sox. The Indians made him drive back to Ohio in a rental car, this after Plesac said recently, “Any time you can maintain social distancing, it’s going to be what we focus on. There are common sense situations, where you see things are packed, or going out to the bars and drinking — doing stuff that shouldn’t be important to us right now.’’

Will the Indians be the next team shelved by a virus outbreak? It’s daffy to think a hollow crackdown — Manfred claims he’ll ban offenders from the postseason — will compel all players to wear masks in dugouts and stop fighting, high-fiving, spitting, hugging, remaining in seats on planes and going out at night. Earlier in the Astros series, the A’s mobbed hero Marcus Semien, with Austin Allen leaping high to join the scrum. If MLB somehow outlasts a shotgun regular season, there’s no chance, without a Bubble, that an expanded postseason will survive when an infected team simply can’t be shut down for a week.

“I don’t know what our future looks like at this point,’’ said Cardinals president John Mozeliak.“For all of the optimism we had a couple days ago, it’s frustrating for everyone involved.I haven’t slept in days.’’     Any wishful thinkers still left in sports? Still want to accuse me of negativity when realism is the word? It’s a shame, because before Sunday’s barrage of news, I felt something comforting, almost assuring, about having the remote control in my hand again all weekend. Sports wasn’t “back.’’ But it was there, after a long absence, as I remember it well.

Push a button and there’s Big Boy Golf in San Francisco, where Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka should have been striking bodybuilding poses while Bryson DeChambeau was channeling his inner Mark McGwire. Weird as it was watching Hans and Franz on the links, it was weirder amid the unearthly silence of a municipal course, where leaders kept track of rivals’ scores not by crowd roars but phone apps and video boards. Still, it was a major sports event, at long last.

And we were talking about it, especially the part about Koepka telling the world how his supposed friend, Johnson, gags with 54-hole leads in majors. Of course, Johnson did just that in a mad scramble that had seven players tied for the lead at one late point. But Koepka imploded himself. So, who broke out of the pack? Not Hans, not Franz, but 5-foot-9 Morikawa, more poised than all of the aforementioned, maybe because he has been working with a sports psychologist since he was eight. Abusive, perhaps?Not when you saw him chip in from 40 feet to take the lead on No. 14, then rip a monster drive to set up an eagle at No. 16. Behold the lowest final round by a PGA champion in 25 years, the youngest player to break 65 in the final round of a major victory — ever. Was a legend born at Harding Park, not far from where Morikawa starred at Cal? The last three players to win the PGA at age 23: Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.

Too bad there was no gallery to salute him. He was left to sit with his girlfriend, beside a lonely parking lot, waiting for the victory ceremony — where he dropped the lid off the trophy. What a shame that his glorious drive, which might become the launching point of a legacy, was greeted by just a few claps instead of a monstrous noise blast. “This is the one time I really wish there were crowds right there,” Morikawa said. “I heard some claps but not a ton.’’

Let’s hope he’ll hear many roars in the future.     

And that fans can deliver them.

Even if seasons are fleeting and the coronavirus ultimately shuts down ballparks and Bubbles throughout North America, sports had managed to keep us talking about … sports! Flip the channel to see Mike Trout hammer another home run, change another diaper and suffer another loss with a scandalous franchise that doesn’t deserve him. Flip again to watch the transcendent Luka Doncic one-upping Giannis Antetokounmpo, prompting his lucky Mavericks coach, Rick Carlisle, to literally applaud, compare him to Larry Bird and say this after his 36-point, 19-assist, 14-rebound freak show: “Luka is not only a great basketball player, he’s a great performer. I’d pay money to watch him play.’’ He meant inside the NBA Bubble, where there is no paid admission, but you do have the Clippers trolling Damian Lillard, the Raptors thinking repeat and the greatness of T.J. Warren — T.J. Warren? — in tech-enhanced, pixelated visuals that look crystalline.

Oh, and are Western Conference teams actually plotting against the Lakers, trying to finagle the scary Trail Blazers into the No. 8 seed and put LeBron James out of his sequestered misery with a first-round postseason ouster. “I miss the hell out of my family,’’ said James, whose team clearly has Bubble issues beyond homesickness. “My wife, my kids, my mother. And so on and so on. So, it’s a huge challenge. You can’t replicate actual presence when you’re waking up and you’re in the living room or you’re in the kitchen or you’re outside playing with your kids or playing with your daughter, playing video games with your boys or working out with your boys. I’m not there.’’

On one end of the cable programming block, Tiger couldn’t putt, which is tough when he’s nearing 45 and still four major titles shy of Nicklaus. “It’s getting tighter and getting harder to win events,’’ said Woods, 21 years older than Morikawa. On the other end, Connor McDavid was losing in his home arena to the mediocre Blackhawks and costing the NHL a chance to market him. Cars and horses were racing elsewhere, commingling with UFC fighters. And is that a live shot of a 43-year-old wellness entrepreneur throwing a football in Tampa?

This would seem to be a sports fan’s pleasure beach, a cornucopia of events power-blasted your way at all hours of the day and night, even if it requires an extra $5 for a “Spectrum TV Sports Pack’’ in Los Angeles when zero refunds were issued during months of two-decades-old game reruns. Some of what we’ve seen is damned impressive, such as the quality and intensity of competition. I saw Devin Booker, on a weekday afternoon, drain a spinning, turnaround jumper while smothered by Paul George as the buzzer sounded and his rear end dusted the floor. He has been so good that Draymond Green, moonlighting for TNT, was fined $50,000 for tampering when he said, “Get my man out of Phoenix. It’s not good for him. It’s not good for his career.’’ The NBA and NHL — along with golf, the ultimate in sports social distancing — are giving us content that sometimes seems as good as the norm. Is it because athletes have nothing else to do, no longer dealing with previous everyday demands? Is it because 20,000 people aren’t booing and cursing their moms that NBA players are hitting higher percentages of free throws and corner three-pointers inside the Bubble?

“Seriously, it’s a great stage to play,’’ Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni marveled. “There’s not a lot of distractions. It’s the same court every night. You get your shooting, depth perception and all that. It’s pure basketball. You see some of the talents these guys have, are coming out. I think it’s only going to get better. The playoffs are going to be terrific.’’

As for Trout, again the talk of baseball? “I was hoping now that Trout was a dad, the dad bod might have snuck up on him, but that isn’t the case,” Mariners manager Scott Servais cracked.

A jerking knee wants to ask, then: Is sports, miraculously, adapting to the coronavirus and positioned for a long haul of completing seasons and crowning champions?

Your conscience, balanced by a daily life fortunately not governed by that remote and the screen it controls, is quick to interrupt and beg the usual restraint. College football and baseball interrupted, too. It reminds the jerking knee: The resumption of games is still very funky and fraught, with TV ratings ebbing and flowing, and if you think otherwise, continue to imagine hundreds of 3 1/2-hour scrums where sweating, panting, spitting, bleeding and colliding football players are practicing the very antithesis of distancing.

The lords of college football are concluding the season is unplayable, with the Mid-American Conference becoming the first FBS league to postpone an entire season and Colorado State suspending the sport indefinitely amid reports of racism and verbal abuse. The NFL should be next, especially when Aaron Donald, among the league’s most feared defenders, reveals himself as a raging COVID-iot so unfazed by the virus that he refuses to wear a league-recommended face shield. “Once you are out there grinding with the guys, you kind of block all that out and it’s just football again,’’ Donald said. “I need air when I’m out there running around and breathing with them, long drives and stuff. I feel like, we’re out there, we’re playing up close. There is nothing you can really do. If a guy got it and I tackle the guy, then I probably got it because he is going to be sweating and spitting and slobbering all in my face.’’

photo credit - PGA Championship

If you don’t believe me about the lunacy of it all, ask Tiger. Captured by a boom mike on the course, Woods and McIlroy sounded like talk hosts while discussing sports and the Big Corona. “Once one person has it in in (an NFL) locker room, they’re all going to get it,” Woods said.

“MLB is doing well,’’ said McIlroy, who must be living in a cave.

“If they have one more outbreak, they’re done,” Woods shot back.

So, um, yeah, the biggest error one can make is getting used to Sports In A Pandemic. Enjoy and savor it, while you have it, but also know it’s the very definition of temporary and makeshift, uneven and volatile, and that any of it could end at any time for any reason — even chicken wings at a strip club — in a catastrophic year on Planet Earth when the worst still could be ahead. I’m not even referring to the direct spread of COVID-19 possible in all corners and nooks of sports leagues. The danger is the accompanying weariness that comes with the oppressive, stifling, 24-7 challenge of playing hide-and-seek with an invisible monster that doesn’t care about sports.

Fatigue is the lurking saboteur. The mental health of thousands of athletes and support personnel is at risk, which increases the chance of a protocol violation, intended or not, that could cause the one outbreak that bursts the NBA Bubble or melts an NHL Igloo or ends a baseball or football season. We’re actually expecting athletes to remain isolated, some for months, with little more than wine shipments, video games, ESPN/TSN and league-organized activities for entertainment? Hasn’t the chirping of a proximity sensor — when venturing within six feet of another human being for 10 seconds, the pandemic version of traveling — already gotten old?

We’re barely a week into August. The NBA season ends in mid-October. And who’s grumbling all the time? The one icon the league is depending on most in the Bubble. “It’s a very weird dynamic. I haven’t played in an empty gym in a very, very long time,” James said. “I’m just trying to find that rhythm and lock in. It’s very dark, extremely dark. You can literally hear a feather hit the ground.’’

Funny how Doncic doesn’t care about such issues.

It’s the mental exhaustion, the limitations of humanity, that could bring down the grand sports plan. This is a marathon, and the participants are just passing the 3-mile mark of a 26.2-mile race. If I’m Manfred, I’m heeding every word uttered by Trout, who didn’t have to return to the Angels after his wife delivered their first child but did anyway. Trout, who has wanted daily COVID-19 testing from the beginning, reiterated his thoughts that MLB could doom itself with every-other-day swabbing.

“I’ve said this from Day 1: If you don’t have testing every day, it’s going to be tough,’’ he said. “You’re always trying to catch up and trying to catch it. You know, if we get tested Friday, we have to wait two days to get the results back and you don’t know what’s going to happen in between. You’ve seen it with the Marlins. You’ve seen it with the Cardinals. It’s definitely scary for baseball. I’ve been saying this the whole time, it only takes one person to screw this up.’’

Say, Zach Plesac.

The racial injustice scenes have been proud and emotional throughout sports, even in unusual places such as hockey rinks and NASCAR tracks — and loaded with expected vitriol from the White House. Pulling out his playbook from the Colin Kaepernick years, President Trump used “Fox and Friends’’ to rip the NBA for its emphasis on Black Lives Matter and sideline kneeling protests after he helped open doors for the league’s restart.

“I think it’s disgraceful,’’ Trump said. “We work with (the NBA). We work very hard trying to get them open. I was pushing them to get open. And then I see everyone kneeling during the anthem. It’s not acceptable to me. When I see them kneeling, I just turn off the game. I have no interest in the game. And the ratings for the basketball are way down, if you know. And I hear some others are way down, including baseball. Because all of a sudden, now baseball’s is in the act (of kneeling). We have to stand up for our flag. We have to stand up for our country. We have to stand up for our anthem. And a lot of people agree with me. Hey, if I’m wrong, I’m going to lose an election. OK. And that’s OK with me. But I will always stand for our country and for our flag.”

You knew what was coming next. “The game will go on without his eyes on it,” James said of Trump. “I can sit here and speak for all of us that love the game of basketball: We could care less.” When told of Trump’s remark that he has done more for Black people than any U.S. President “with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln,’’ James said, “You trying to make me laugh right now?’’ Clippers coach Doc Rivers, too, responded in kind, referring to Trump’s stance as “disgraceful.’’

photo credit - Fox News

For the record, ratings for basketball aren’t “way down,’’ but they aren’t what they were before the pandemic. Baseball ratings were in the crapper to begin with. That said, it’s important that sports understands this about 2020: Now more than ever, people need games to escape the strife, not exacerbate it. That’s what we’ve discovered this sinister summer. As the world burns, we still care about Collin Morikawa, the over-under on Aaron Judge’s home runs and why an NBA Finals featuring Giannis and Luka — the world’s two best players? — might be the most fun. The coronavirus can’t bury sports conversations.

But it can bury sports.

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

Nobody Looks Good in 670 The Score vs John Schriffen Feud

Nothing makes you look like an insecure bully quite like not being able to take it when you’ve already dished it out.

Avatar photo

Published

on

A photo of the 670 The Score and John Schriffen

John Schriffen had the unenviable task of replacing Jason Bennetti as the TV voice of the Chicago White Sox. And the reaction from 670 The Score hosts — namely Danny Parkins, Matt Spiegel, and their producer Shane Riordan — hasn’t helped matters.

To call Schriffen’s first six or seven weeks on the job a rough stretch would be an understatement. Not a baseball play-by-play savant, Schriffen has struggled to get into the groove of working an everyday broadcast and has made mistakes that aren’t unexpected.

However, the 670 The Score afternoon show of Parkins & Spiegel was quick to jump on Schriffen’s miscues. In some instances, the criticism was warranted. For instance, Schriffen called former White Sox owner Bill Veeck (pronounced VECK), Bill “Veek.” In a rather innocuous comment, Schriffen showcased his inexperience and lack of knowledge.

But the reaction from 670 The Score hosts quickly went from “criticism” to being borderline ridiculous. They continually ridiculed the relatively green but promising play-by-player, taking any chance they could to take potshots.

While I’m certain the hosts and producer found the quips amusing, they quickly became meanspirited. This is surprising, because Matt Spiegel is a baseball play-by-play voice in his own right, filling in at times on Chicago Cubs broadcasts. There’s an almost unspoken agreement between play-by-play broadcasters that you really don’t critique someone else’s broadcast without that person asking for your input. Everyone is different, and everyone has their own style, but what 670 The Score did went past criticism and turned into questioning the resume and reasoning for why Schriffen was hired in the first place.

Which isn’t their place. I imagine if I were to question why Parkins, Spiegel, or Riordan were hired for the roles they currently hold, they’d have a conniption. And rightfully so, because who the hell am I to say who does and doesn’t deserve this job or that job. But that’s the point.

John Schriffen, however, isn’t innocent in this ordeal. After analyst Gordon Beckham flubbed an ad read during a broadcast last week, instead of just letting sleeping dogs lie, he commented “If any of those radio losers clip it and try to make fun of you, nobody cares about them anyway.”

Before that moment, Schriffen had the upper hand in the feud, because at that point it wasn’t a feud. It was a one-sided, often times mean-spirited approach from 670 The Score. But he needlessly added fuel to the fire.

When somebody wants to pick a fight — and make no bones about it, a fight only benefitted Parkins, Spiegel, and Riordan — you have to avoid the fight, hold in your anger, and walk away/ignore it. And ignoring criticism, even when high-profile people are questioning your credentials, is just something that has to come with being the TV play-by-play voice of a Major League franchise.

Schriffen, no matter how difficult it is, has to take the high road when it comes to media criticism. Nothing, absolutely nothing, good comes from engaging. And frankly, those tearing him down were hoping to do just that, bring them down to their level, where they’d beat him with experience. Part of being a great sports radio host — and despite criticizing them in this story, I think Parkins & Spiegel is the best local show in America — is defending your opinions, and coming out on top no matter what. It’s an avenue Schriffen was never going to win.

I’ve been hesitant to use the word “bully” or “bullying” in this case because I think the word is thrown out all too often in 2024. It’s as if there is no middle ground between “everybody love everybody” and “bullying.” But, after Schriffen’s comments, Shane Riordan went into textbook bully mode. His “If you mess with the bull, you’ll get the horns” response, couldn’t be more bully-esque. Nothing makes you look like an insecure bully quite like not being able to take it when you’ve already dished it out.

Riordan was suspended in 2023 after claiming he’d “bone” the mom of a conservative Chicago talk radio host after speaking poorly of the Windy City. Instead of being somewhat remorseful over the situation, Riordan wore it like a badge of honor in a tweetstorm after Schriffen’s comments, claiming that his response to the White Sox TV voice would lead to another suspension. He later said Schriffen “just opened the f—ing floodgates” and had “no f—ing clue what he has done” by criticizing the station and the afternoon show.

After weeks of criticism, going as far as to say Schriffen “didn’t know baseball”, he called the folks making fun of him “losers”, and that’s the response? After making attacks that could absolutely be viewed as personal, to take being called a “loser” by someone you’ve denigrated for weeks so personally is bizarre. The idea that you’d even care about someone you’ve already un-invited from the cool kids club is truly asinine. Again, if you can’t take it, don’t dish it out.

I’m sure they would deny this, claiming a role as an “equal opportunity offender”, but I can’t help but think that if 670 The Score was the radio flagship of the White Sox, or if Schriffen was the Cubs TV voice, this would have never happened. Boog Sciambi is often lambasted by Cubs fans for his work (and I’ll never understand why), but I can’t remember a time when a Score host took time to criticize his performance.

For what it’s worth, Parkins & Spiegel aren’t the only Chicago media members talking about Schriffen. Jonathan Hood, morning co-host at ESPN 1000 (the flagship of the White Sox) said he didn’t “understand the chip on the shoulder” of Schriffen, adding that “no one is out to get” the new White Sox TV voice. I think it’s pretty clear, however, to see why Schriffen would feel differently.

Nobody wins here. Everyone looks like a loser. Each side is at fault. And instead of being able to take the high road, both sides look like petulant children. It’s a pissing match that no one can win, and no one included in the beef has taken the slightest moment to be introspective, nor retrospective, and think “Maybe I should just be an adult — and a professional — and grow up.”

And while it’s great for content, when it gets personal, it becomes — at least in my opinion– no fun. If there were a clear-cut winner, or someone that deserved to be defended, that would be a different story and a different column. But in this case, it doesn’t feel like either side deserves to be praised for their conduct.

As observers, we often forget the people we see on TV or hear on the radio are real people, with real thoughts, real feelings, and real ambitions. It’s just unfortunate that the people who are often subjected to it the most lost sight of that in this situation, too.

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

Netflix Knows Dallas Cowboys and Jerry Jones Bring Eyeballs

The team still draws a crowd.

Published

on

A photo of Jerry Jones and a logo for Netflix
Photo: Sports Illustrated

A 10-part series on Jerry Jones here in 2024 feels like roughly eight parts too many. But that is not the Netflix calculation.

No, the math is far simpler: Dallas Cowboys = eyeballs.

It’s been true for as long as most of us can remember – and that particular part about the Cowboys franchise isn’t hype. The team still draws a crowd.

The news in the recent announcement of the 10-parter on Jones, the Cowboys’ owner and general overlord, isn’t that it is being produced. That was known last year. But Netflix’s involvement answers the question about on which platform the project might land.

So get ready for plenty of Jerry Jones, but also Cowboys, Cowboys, Cowboys. And make note of the timeline, because this multi-parter is going to be almost exclusively rooted in a brief, glorious and now quite distant past.

You’ll need to put your 1990s goggles on to recognize the triumphs documented here. It was then that Jones, as a still-young owner by NFL standards, having bought the team in 1989, was the man of record as the Cowboys reeled off three Super Bowl victories in a four-season period.

That is a tremendous accomplishment in any era, and those Cowboys teams were a blast to watch: talented, cocky, demonstrative, controversial. They made news on and off the field, not all to the good. For those of us who wrote about the league in those years, they were a gold mine of source material. And, of course, winning in the NFL is the cologne that masks any little odor that might arise.

Those Dallas teams knew how to win games. How much of that actually had to do with Jerry Jones is a fair question, especially judging by what’s happened since, and I guess we’ll have to wait for Episode 5 or 7 or 9 to find out how this series answers that. But given the fact that the NFL itself insists that the series is “the definitive story of Jerry Jones and his unique journey in transforming the Dallas Cowboys franchise,” we’re already a good ways there.

“For several years, Forbes has ranked the Dallas Cowboys as not only the most valuable team in the NFL, but the most valuable sports team in the world,” the Netflix news release intones. “In 2023, the Cowboys were worth $9 billion and rising — the result of decades of exceptional athletic talent, coaching, and management that took shape during the ’90s, when the once-struggling team transformed into three-time Super Bowl champions.”

As Preston Jones put it in the Dallas Observer, “There are a lot of words doing a lot of heavy lifting in there.”

Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson were certainly the architects of the roster that Johnson coached, but in that time – during those precise years of the Cowboys winning and winning – I can tell you that most of the NFL cognoscente understood Johnson as the driving force and creative genius.

Jones was well aware of that; it was the source of much of the well-publicized friction between those two. They were high-level, high-ego competitors even as they were part of the same multi-championship run – so much so, in fact, that by the time those Cowboys won ring No. 3 in the 1995 season, Jimmy Johnson had already been replaced, with Jones bringing in longtime friend Barry Switzer after functionally running Johnson off the job.

The decision to part with Johnson was more than three decades ago. Coincidentally, the Cowboys’ drought of winning a Super Bowl – or appearing in a Super Bowl, or appearing in an NFC conference championship, for that matter – is now roughly three decades old.

It’s silly to pre-judge the entire series, which includes interviews with many of the leading lights of those ‘90s successes. The list includes Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith, and it also includes Johnson. That alone sounds worth watching.

Of course, you could cover that in an episode or two. But the producers of the series, and now Netflix as distributor, understand the greater value lies in promoting a Cowboys-branded product. Jerry Jones might not like hearing it (or he might not care), but it is a brand whose popularity far, far predates his appearance on the scene.

Brands equal viewers. You watch network baseball, you’re going to get a lot of Yankees and Dodgers. The NBA? Prepare for Celtics, Knicks, Lakers. These are the ratings anchors of large-scale broadcast deals, and in the NFL, the Cowboys are firmly part of the mix.

They may be 5-13 in the playoffs since their last Super Bowl victory back in the ‘90s, but the Dallas Cowboys draw. A 10-part series about Jerry Jones is really just another way of saying, ‘Here’s some more Cowboys material.’ It’ll be consumed.

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

Allie LaForce Honored to Have the Best Seat in the House for TNT Sports

“I’m not in the business to break news or to become famous or gain followers – I’m here to cover live sports.”

Derek Futterman

Published

on

Allie LaForce
Courtesy: Warner Bros. Discovery

During an NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament game on TBS, the broadcast read a promo for upcoming coverage of The Masters on CBS Sports and Paramount+. Rather than keeping the camera on the court though, they panned to sideline reporter Allie LaForce, who was sitting courtside unaware of what was going on and suddenly saw herself on the broadcast monitor. Once she realized that her green jacket tied into the promo, she stood up and portrayed a golf swing for the camera, adding to the overall programmatic value of the promotional read.

For LaForce, it served as an example of reacting to spontaneity and showcasing personality without it coming across as forced or contrived. As a multifaceted reporter in a variety of different roles throughout her sports media career, she has adapted to changing times and handled the dynamic game atmosphere with ingenuity and confidence.

While LaForce is the lead sideline reporter for the NBA on TNT and set to cover the Western Conference Finals, she recently completed another run within March Madness. Assimilating into the grind of this role since joining then-named Turner Sports in 2018, she needed to pace herself and ensure she was aptly prepared. Eight practices in one day followed by a four-game First Four slate in Dayton, Ohio and subsequent drive to the first region is a taxing assignment but one she has mastered through her professionalism and college basketball experience at Ohio University. Although her team fell just short of a tournament berth, the exhilaration and adrenaline therein continues to endure, nonetheless.

“I could sit and watch those college kids get one last shot at the tournament all day long, so it gave me energy more than me having to find the energy,” LaForce said. “It gave me so much natural energy.”

Once her stretch of March Madness games ended, LaForce immediately went back on the road to cover the NBA, commuting to various cities every week and contributing within the broadcasts through live reports, interviews and observation. In her reporting role, LaForce scrupulously watches the action and takes in the environment in an effort to identify and convey key storylines to the viewing audience. Executing the job requires synergy and stamina, perseverance and poise while respecting the game and understanding the inherent commitment to fair and accurate reporting disseminated to viewers.

“I think portraying to the audience the closest reality of being in a moment live and recognizing that it’s an honor and a privilege to be sitting courtside,” LaForce said. “How can we portray that same energy, newsworthiness and accuracy to the viewers through television that I get to witness in person?”

The NBA Playoffs have been accompanied by the backdrop of ongoing media rights negotiations as the league looks to solidify its partners for the 2025-26 season and beyond. The Walt Disney Company and Amazon Prime Video have both reportedly reached the framework of a deal with the league, presumably leaving one remaining rights package being pursued by both Comcast’s NBCUniversal and Warner Bros. Discovery. Within the latter, TNT Sports, formerly known as Turner Sports, has been broadcasting NBA games since the 1984-85 season and hopes to extend its multiplatform relationship through a deal that makes sense for all parties involved.

“I think there is a direct correlation and association with TNT and our personalities,” LaForce explained, “and how much fun we have while also calling the moment and the game in a newsworthy fashion that the viewers are comfortable with and look forward to that gets to take their mind off of their everyday grind and just live in a moment of freedom and fun and excitement.”

As a national reporter, LaForce is assigned to a variety of games throughout the season containing different teams, thus requiring a broad knowledge of the league. With the strenuous schedule plus trying to raise a family and run a growing charitable endeavor, it can be difficult to balance everything effectively.

When LaForce was growing up, she watched her mother run a modeling agency in Atlanta, Ga. and fly back home to Ohio every week to spend time with family. Her mother happened to be a previous winner of the Miss Ohio pageant, something she had not told her daughter until she received a letter to participate in the Miss Ohio Teen USA pageant. LaForce initially did not want to compete, but her two victories ended up paying dividends through broadening her worldview and gaining creative inspiration.

“I am on a plane every two days, and I’m trying to be a great wife and a great mom and work full time and present myself in a confident way that people that are viewing me believe in me, and storytell in a way that’s honest and compassionate,” LaForce said. “I think when I was 15 years old, I was trying to take high school classes, play three high school sports, travel the country and present myself and make other young men and women believe in me in a genuine manner.”

While LaForce was in college playing on the basketball team as a walk-on member, she remembers realizing that she would need to eventually give up the sport. Her mother had previously commented on her resonant baritone voice and recommended that she be a broadcaster. LaForce was granted an opportunity to work as an analyst on the radio for her team and took part in a variety of other ventures at the school with WOUB Public Media and volunteering for the Mid-American Conference.

LaForce perceived herself as being restricted because of her role as a sideline reporter, something that changed upon her joining CBS Sports as lead sideline reporter for its broadcasts of SEC football. The endeavor marked the first time she recognized the strategy behind when and how to deliver a live game report, something taught to her by producer Craig Silver.

“There’s a sense of urgency to this game that the audience needs to feel because we’re feeling it here on the field, right?,” LaForce said. “The roar and the clock and the band and the pageantry of the game. It has to be short because there’s a pace and a momentum and a newsworthiness to this game that’s warranted, and your reporting needs to match that.”

Through a cognizance and acceptance of her role as an element of a larger component, LaForce began to find her niche in reporting. On top of that, her background as an athlete allowed her to easily decipher plays, mannerisms and proclivities. The challenge exists in delivering observations and updates precisely and at the correct time. In covering NBA games at the national level since 2018, LaForce has worked to hone her craft and embrace the setting without being buried in patterns of overthinking and inflexibility.

“I used to over plan and take a trillion notes throughout the course of the game, and now I just let myself live in the game,” LaForce said. “And when we get down to the last minute or two, I start jotting down notes about, ‘This guy whispered something to this guy here,’ or, ‘During this free throw, I noticed this,’ or, ‘During a timeout, I felt tension.’”

Although LaForce has refined her in-game process, she still tries to prepare before each contest. Part of that comes in re-reading conversation transcripts with the top eight players on every team and grasping the necessary context. Moreover, she reviews lineups, rotations and other facets of the game she would want to know as a basketball fan.

“I like to take my job seriously but not too seriously,” LaForce said. “I want the viewer to think that I’m hanging out with them watching sports, but also I want to be professional enough to be able to distinguish between just having fun and actually being a reporter.”

Over the course of a typical game, LaForce is doing more than appearing on camera and conveying the latest information. In part because of her vantage point and expertise, she is consistently communicating with those in the broadcast truck and helping to guide the composition of the broadcast. LaForce takes part in production meetings every morning and ultimately has an implicit yet tangible presence on the end product throughout the show.

When LaForce conducts interviews, she tries to begin with a sense of levity to foster a sense of comfort and amicability. Commencing a casual dialogue before these conversations also helps break down a barrier that can sometimes exist because of the nature of the schedule. This is not always possible though, as was evidenced when LaForce was forsaken by the Oklahoma City Thunder after a playoff win to speak with Bally Sports Oklahoma.

“You have to realize that as the national broadcaster, you come in out of nowhere and get the first interview and are asking questions that they perhaps have been being asked for the last week to 10 days from their local broadcast crews,” LaForce said. “They’re there daily and really know them, so you have to remember that the people interviewing them daily understand their career and their team in the moment.”

Working as a reporter requires LaForce to have relationships around the league that are built on trust and respect. No matter the circumstance, she adheres to rules of attribution and does not divulge details that have been classified as being off the record. At the same time, if she develops friendships with team or league entities, she expects them to understand that she needs to do her job professionally and may not always be able to portray them in an auspicious light.

“I’m not in the business to break news or to become famous or gain followers – I’m here to cover live sports,” LaForce said. “And then if there’s something that they don’t say is off the record, but I feel should be, I will figure out a way to tell that story without using that piece of information but use that information to shape the way in which I tell the story.”

LaForce cherishes the balance of professional and personal ventures in her life and aspires to continue covering marquee events, such as the National Championship, Super Bowl and Olympics. Having the chance to experience a wide array of moments in sports is something she knows would be a dream come true, but she is focused on the present moment in closing out the season strong for the NBA on TNT. After all, an essential value proposition of the broadcast is predicated on disseminating insights and developments in real time, part of which is actualized by the work of LaForce and her unrelenting commitment to the grind.

“Be prepared in the beginning to work for free, and always surround yourself [with] people that are helping you become a better version of yourself as a professional and as an individual, even if they tell you things you don’t want to hear,” LaForce said. “But avoid the people that are trying to have influence on you because it makes them feel important or powerful.”

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.