If you follow hoops, especially the NBA, you’re most likely familiar with Chris Haynes. He has worked for ESPN in the past and currently holds high profile roles as Senior NBA Insider for Yahoo Sports and a sideline reporter for TNT. He breaks some of the biggest stories and interviews the NBA’s brightest stars on a regular basis. His attention to detail and ability to connect with people is apparent in the words he speaks and writes.
What makes Chris’ journey so interesting is that he didn’t experience good fortune initially after graduating from Fresno State. He worked as an NBA writer for SLAMonline without getting paid for a year. To make ends meet, he also worked as a security guard at a high school and an apartment complex during the day. Chris didn’t have an easy path. He grinded. That’s what makes his success so rewarding; not just for himself, but also for the people who love and support him like his wife and four daughters.
As a guy who makes his living finding stories and pointing out things that are interesting, the interview below is no exception. Chris mentions many compelling details about the NBA bubble in Orlando. One of Chris’ best observations is how success has a price.
We didn’t have time to trade stories about our radio days in Fresno — like the time we made an on-air bet while calling a high school football game together — but there is enough space for Chris to describe how he wants to be unique.
Mission accomplished, bud.
Brian Noe: How’s bubble life treating you?
Chris Haynes: Obviously this is a unique experience, something unprecedented. When you’ve got 22 teams all housed in one area, three different locations — the place that I’m staying at is the Coronado Springs Resorts. I’m staying at the same resort that the Lakers, Clippers, Nuggets, Raptors, Jazz, Miami Heat, I’m missing a few other teams, there are eight teams here, so I’m staying at the resort that houses them. It’s a pretty cool experience, man. It’s tough for us, the media. We won’t be allowed to bring family members at all, so you have to endure that. But aside from that, man, it’s okay. It seems like things are getting a little better here. I’ve been here since June 29th. I was one of the first ones that got here before the players and before the rest of the media contingent and I’ll be here till the end.
BN: Are you missing your family?
CH: Aww yeah, I miss them like crazy. FaceTime helps a lot. It doesn’t seem like I haven’t seen them in that long, but obviously just the physical presence of them you miss. FaceTime has helped a ton, man. I’ve been able to have dinner with them via FaceTime. I’ve actually gone to sleep with them. My daughters, they want to fall asleep with me on FaceTime. That’s kind of hard because it’s a three-hour gap. They’re in the Bay Area. They’re going to sleep around 9, so it’s 12 o’clock over here. But it’s been cool, man. But I miss them like hell.
BN: Do you expect the feel of the bubble to be a lot different once guests are allowed to be there after the first round?
CH: I think players will be a lot more relaxed. [Laughs] You know what I mean, Noe? There’s going to be a little less tension.
BN: [Laughs] How much tension would you say there is right now?
CH: Hey man, look, it’s been a long time. It’s been a long time for a lot of people. They want their families. They want their wives. They want their girlfriends. That’s human nature. I don’t think I’m saying anything inappropriate. I think that’ll help just to have some sense of norm around the facility and have a familiar face. That’s going to help the situation for sure.
BN: I don’t know if you caught the story; there was a Seahawks rookie who was trying to sneak in a girl.
CH: Yeah, he got cut.
BN: Yeah, has there been anything along those lines in the bubble?
CH: Nah, man. I think that would have gotten out by now. Didn’t she try to dress up like a player or something like that?
BN: Yeah, I guess she was wearing shoulder pads and a helmet.
CH: [Laughs!] See the difference is it would be hard for someone to infiltrate this bubble. They’ve got security right up front. There’s a wristband that you have to scan in order to get to certain spots. She was trying to get into the team hotel. That place is not as secure as it is over here. She didn’t have to get by a search screen like somebody would here. I wouldn’t say it’s impossible to get in, but you have to go through so many hurdles just to move around here. I would be shocked if somebody was able to do it and be successful.
BN: Are Disney employees restricted too?
CH: Yeah, even Disney employees, they don’t have access. There are certain wristbands that we have where they can’t come over here. Those Disney workers can’t come on this side. They’re not getting tested over there, so they can’t come over here. Even though we’re in Disney World, we are miles apart and a whole bunch of security checkpoints in between each other.
BN: What’s the testing like now? Is it non-invasive?
CH: Yeah, if it was that one test that everybody was getting done initially where that needle just goes up your nose and goes into your brain, if that was it, I wouldn’t have signed up for this because I’m not getting that done every single day. It’s just a mouth swab and a nasal swab. That’s it. Every day. You get your results within 10 hours. They send you an e-mail. Then before you leave the room you have to take your temperature and an oximeter read. That’s what you have to do every single day. You have to do your temperature and your oximeter read before you leave the room. If you don’t do those and you try to leave and go to another facility, when they scan your wristband, it’ll come up blue. It’ll say you haven’t done your temperature and you have to go back to your room to do that.
BN: As far as your resume goes, if you give your 60-second rundown, how did you get to where you are right now?
CH: You know what, man, you have a big influence on me. I can’t do 60 seconds. I’m sorry, Brian. You probably won’t remember this. When I was working for you as your producer at the Fresno radio station, first of all I didn’t know how to write. I didn’t know anything about writing. I couldn’t write the different there’s, your, you are, you’re, none of that.
Deep into my working tenure, you called me Straw — you said, “Straw, I need you to take over the blog.” I was like “all right.” You told me just update the online blog, the guests we have, and blah blah blah. I’m like all right. How hard can that be?
I did it and the grammar was bad — misspellings, using the wrong word. You know how you are. You let it be known. You were like, “Dude, what are you doing? Are you proofreading this?” [Laughs] I’m getting offended. I’m like “What are you talkin’ about, man? I’m trying my best.” You were like, “Dude, this cannot fly.”
You are one of the biggest inspirations and why I did start to try to take writing more seriously. I felt like if I was going to move up in this field of journalism — even at that time I didn’t plan on being a writer — but I knew in journalism, I have to at least know how to spell correctly. You were one of the big inspirations of having me try to hone in on that.
About a couple of years later, I started taking writing seriously. I ended up writing for free at SLAMonline in Portland. I did some great work for a year. They couldn’t pay me so I was a security guard during the day. I didn’t want to be a security guard, but I couldn’t find a job. I had just graduated at Fresno State and had a degree in kinesiology. I was trying to get a PE teacher job and I couldn’t get a job. The security job was the only thing I could find at that time.
Thankfully I broke a lot of stories in that year and got some significant interviews. Then after that I got offered the beat job for the Portland Trail Blazers at Comcast SportsNet Northwest. I did that for four years. Then I went to cover LeBron when he moved back to Cleveland. I did that for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Then I went to ESPN from there. I’m at Yahoo Sports now and a TNT sideline reporter as well.
BN: What’s your favorite and your least favorite thing about sideline reporting?
CH: My favorite thing is feeling like I’m adding something to the broadcast. I have to be honest with you, when the job was offered, I was a little bit concerned because I didn’t really think much of the role, if that makes any sense. When they offered it to me I was concerned because I’m a real journalist. I’m a real reporter. I didn’t want my work to be diluted. I want to add value. I want to give you behind-the-scenes nuggets. I want to break news on the broadcast. I want to act like I’m actually contributing to this broadcast. I don’t want to say something that everybody has heard the coach say already. I want to be unique. That’s what I like on the broadcast.
Let me say this too, Brian, the job is much harder than what I would have imagined. People will not fully understand, being in an arena packed with fans screaming, and you’re trying to get your report out succinctly with somebody in your ear communicating with you, while fans are just going crazy.
Just trying to keep the flow of the commentary going, while somebody is giving you directions in your ear, while fans are going crazy, as the game is going on in the back, and you have to hurry up and get off the court. There’s a lot that goes on. I have so much respect for the profession and for the role and the value that it brings to a broadcast now. What I said before was just my thoughts initially on what I thought about the sideline role. Looking at it now I see the value in it. I see what people do and I get more fulfillment now knowing a lot more goes into the role.
I can’t say there’s something that I don’t like about it. I’ll say this; a sideline reporter is like Twitter. That’s what it’s like. As a writer, we have a blank canvas. We can make our point with as many words as we want and get it across. On Twitter, you’ve got 140 characters. If you’ve got one tweet and you’re trying to put everything in, well you’ve got to delete some words, and you’ve got to make sure everything is condensed. But at the same time being that it’s condensed, make sure you’re making your point in that tweet. That’s what sideline reporting is like. It’s like Twitter. You’ve got 25-30 seconds to make your point. It seems easy, but it’s a lot easier said than done.
BN: Do you ever — even right now, this would be a great moment — do you reflect back on your start and think, wow man, it’s crazy that this is what’s going on right now?
CH: At times I do, Noe. [What’s up, D? That was Donovan Mitchell.]
BN: [Laughs] See, good example right there.
CH: At times I do, Brian. You knew me when I was on welfare. You’ve seen me at one of the lowest points as a man just trying to come up and raise a family. At that time I was like 24, 25 when I first met you, when I was a producer for you. I still didn’t know my way in life. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. You gave me a start and put me in this field. I remember, that’s funny; you probably don’t remember — I’m just showing you how out of touch I was with the business side of anything — I sent you a résumé. I remember you promoted the producer job on air. I sent you a resume and I believe the background of the resume was like Dwyane Wade.
CH: It just showed you how out of touch I was. To me it made all the sense in the world. I’m applying for a sports job; let me put this little photo of Dwyane Wade in the background. I didn’t know. I was just trying to find my way. I was in Fresno my whole life and most of the people around me were either in jail, they were dead, or they were selling drugs with gangs.
I didn’t have many — outside of my pops — I didn’t have a lot of male figures that I saw prosper in life. I felt like I made it in life if I had an apartment, a job, and a car. I felt like I made it. That was the extent of survival. I felt like that was the extent for me. I didn’t really have ambition beyond that. There were jobs that I didn’t know about that even existed because I was in Fresno my whole life.
Do I reflect? Yeah, at times I reflect, but in this business it’s on to the next. If I break a big story, I get a high off of it, but tomorrow it’s on to the next. Like what’s the next story? I get a big interview. Okay, tomorrow it’s the next thing. And Brian I’ll tell you this, man, this is my 10th year covering the NBA, which is crazy because it doesn’t seem that long at all, but I’ve been working and grinding so hard, and traveling and doing all these things, that my kids have just grown up. I’m like “Damn. What was I doing?” I look at it from that standpoint as well. It’s like f**k, man.
I was so on a mission to prove myself in this industry, to get my family out of poverty, which I did and I’m thankful for that, but I missed a lot too. I’m still missing a lot. Even right now I’m here for three and a half months. I would have missed my oldest daughter going off to college if classes weren’t suspended. That’s kind of the give and take of it.
I can definitely do a lot better spending time with them with the time that I do get. That’s just part of it, man. You would know, Brian, a lot of people in this business — Hold on, B. [What’s up, Rudy? I’m doing all right, man.] Rudy Gobert. I’m just giving you play-by-play, Brian.
CH: Unfortunately for people in these jobs who are in these positions for a long time whether it’s radio, print, TV or whatever, as you know a lot of them, they’re either single or divorced because it’s hard to hold a relationship down. You’ve got to have somebody that’s just understanding, and that’s just going to let you do what you do, and just be satisfied when you bring a paycheck home, or you must have a good work/life balance. Most people aren’t able to balance that out. I’m not saying I can. It’s a struggle.
BN: How much talk was there about the snitch hotline when that was first a thing?
CH: It was just a funny thing. It was the talk for a little bit. Like who’s going to be snitching? Are guys going to be snitching on LeBron? If they see him jumping the fence trying to leave for a little bit? Are they going to snitch on Bron during the playoffs? It was a little things like that.
It’s really died down. Nobody is really telling on each other for the most part. I did report that some of the guys were calling Adam Silver directly at one point and giving him some incidents and violations that were going on. But for the most part, no, most people aren’t worried about it or concerned about it. It definitely was a funny topic among the players when it first came out.
BN: What would happen to you if players found out you called that number?
CH: [Laughs] It’d be a while before I get my next interview. It would be a while. They have the hotline number placed around the campus. It’s just posted on the wall. They have signs all around. So that number is for anybody. I don’t view it as my place to do that. Even though it’s a safety hazard for everybody that’s on campus if there is a violation, but I just don’t view it as my place.
BN: As far as your future goes, is there any particular goal that you have or anything that you would like to experience or accomplish?
CH: That’s a good question, Brian. I should have an answer to that. I should. My wife gets on me about that; thinking about the next step. I’ve been so blessed to do a lot of things that just came to me; opportunities just came to me. I didn’t dream of being a sideline reporter. That was never my goal or my vision. I’m doing it and I like it. I don’t know — hosting a show. I want to start my own media company.
That’s what I want to do; I want to work on doing documentaries. I want to work on doing some films, being part of a production crew, a director or whatever. I want to tell stories in that way. Those are some of the projects that I want to get off the ground and get a production company started. But as far as other roles, I don’t know. I get intrigued with different opportunities that come around that I might not have even thought of. I’m just open to new things.
Keith Moreland’s Broadcasting Fills Void Left by MLB Career
“When I got through… I wanted to do something with my life and I get that same feeling with broadcasting.”
Sports color analysts are more often than not former players. This has been a consistent norm across sports broadcasting at all levels. The analyst is there to add “color” to the play-by-play broadcaster’s metaphorical and verbal “drawing” of the game. For former MLB slugger and catcher, Keith Moreland, this was the surprise post-playing retirement career that has boosted him to a key figure in Austin media and national media alike.
Moreland played football and baseball at the University of Texas before making his way to the MLB for 12 years with key contributions to the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs in the 1980s.
Moreland reminisced on his decision to play baseball full time: “I thought I was going to be in the NFL, but Earl Campbell changed that. I had just played summer ball. We had won a championship and I missed the first few days of two-a-days. I hadn’t even had a physical yet and I’m in a scrimmage. I stepped up to this freshman running back and as he ducked his shoulder, one of his feet hit my chest and the other hit my face mask and he kept on truckin’. I got up and I thought ‘I could be a pretty good baseball player.’
So I told Coach Royal after practice I was going to focus on baseball and he asked ‘what took you so long? We were surprised you came back because we think you have a really good shot at playing professional baseball.'”
It was a good choice for Moreland. He was part of the 1973 College World Series winning Texas Longhorns baseball team. While at Texas Moreland hit .388 and became the all-time leader in hits for the College World Series. After being drafted by the Phillies in the 7th round of the 1975 draft, Moreland would go-on to play in the majors from 1978 to 1989.
“You go your whole life trying to get to play professionally. When I got through my opportunity to play in the big leagues, I wanted to do something with my life and I get that same feeling with broadcasting.”
Broadcasting was not the original retirement plan for Moreland. He first tried his luck at coaching with his first stop being his alma mater as an assistant for the Longhorns. At the time, Bill Schoening (a Philadelphia native and Phillies fan), was the radio play-by-play broadcaster. Schoening made Moreland a go-to for a pre-game interview and convinced him to come on talk shows. Schoening even convinced Moreland to practice live broadcasting skills by taking a recorder to games and listening back to them to learn.
“Bill was the guy who brought me onboard and I still have those tapes and I really learned from them, but I don’t want anyone else to ever hear them!” Moreland adds with a chuckle on how far he has come in over 25 years of broadcasting.
Moreland has been a key part of University of Texas radio broadcasts for baseball since the 1990s and has catapulted that broadcast experience to Texas high school football, Longhorn football radio and television broadcasts, ESPN, the Little League World Series, the Chicago Cubs and more since hanging up his cleats and picking up a microphone.
While his playing days are well behind him, Moreland still takes the spirit of his professional athlete background to his broadcasting:
“If you don’t bring energy to your broadcast, somebody’s gonna turn the game on and wonder ‘what’s wrong? Are they losing the game?’”, Moreland remarks, “So you have to come prepared and with energy for the broadcasts.”
Radio Partnerships With Offshore Sportsbooks Are Tempting
The rush to get sports betting advertising revenue offers an interesting risk to stations in states where the activity is illegal.
As the wave of sports gambling continues to wash over the United States, marketing budgets soar and advertisements flood radio and television airwaves. Offers of huge sign-on bonuses, “risk-free” wagers, and enhanced parlay odds seem to come from every direction as books like DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM fight over market share and battle one another for every new user they can possibly attract.
For those in states where sports betting is not yet legalized–or may never be–it is frustrating to see these advertisements and know that you cannot get in the action. However, as with any vice, anybody determined to partake will find ways to do so. Offshore sports books are one of the biggest ways. Companies such as Bovada and BetOnline continue to thrive even as more state-based online wagering options become available to Americans.
While five states–Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, and New York–have passed laws making it illegal for offshore books to take action from their residents, using an offshore book is perfectly legal for the rest of the country. While there are hurdles involved with funding for some institutions, there is no law that prevents someone in one of those other 45 states from opening an account with Bovada and wagering on whatever sporting events they offer. The United States government has tried multiple times to go after them, citing the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006, and have failed at every step, with the World Trade Organization citing that doing so would violate international trade agreements.
While gambling is becoming more and more accepted every day, and more states look to reap the financial windfall that comes with it, the ethical decisions made take on even more importance. One of the tougher questions involved with the gambling arms race is how to handle offers from offshore books to advertise with radio stations in a state where sports betting is not legalized.
Multiple stations in states without legalized gambling, such as Texas and Florida, have partnerships with BetOnline to advertise their services. Radio stations can take advantage of these relationships in three main ways: commercials, on-air reads, and the station’s websites. For example, Bovada’s affiliate program allows for revenue sharing based on people clicking advertisements on a partner’s website and signing up with a new deposit. This is also the case for podcasts, such as one in Kansas that advertises with Bovada despite sports gambling not being legal there until later in 2022.
People are going to gamble, and it’s legal to do so. In full disclosure, I myself have utilized Bovada’s services for a number of years, even after online sports wagering became legal in my state of Indiana. As such, advertising a service that is legal within the state seems perfectly fine in the business sense, and I totally understand why a media entity would choose to accept an offer from an offshore book. However, there are two major factors that make it an ethical dilemma, neither of which can be ignored.
First, Americans may find it easy to deposit money with a book such as Bovada or BetOnline, but much more difficult to get their money back. While the UIGEA hasn’t been successful in stopping these books from accepting money, it has made it difficult–near impossible, in fact–for American financial institutions to accept funds directly from these companies. Therefore, most payouts have to take place either via a courier service, with a check that can take weeks to arrive, or via a cryptocurrency payout. For those who are either unwilling or not tech-savvy enough to go this route, it means waiting sometimes up to a month to receive that money versus a couple days with a state-licensed service.
The other major concern is the lack of protections involved with gambling in a state where legislation has been passed. For example, the state of Indiana drew up laws and regulations for companies licensed to operate within its borders that included protections for how bets are graded, what changes can be made to lines and when they can take place, and how a “bad line” is handled. They also require a portion of the revenues be put towards resources for those dealing with gambling addiction or compulsion issues.
None of those safeguards exist with an offshore book. While the books have to adhere to certain regulations, it’s much more loosely enforced. I’ve lost track of the number of times a book like Bovada has made somewhat shady decisions on what bets to honor as “wins”, and how they handle wagers on what they deem to be “bad lines” where they posted a mistake and users capitalized on it. Furthermore, not a single dime of the monies received go towards helping those dealing with addiction, and there are few steps taken by the offshore books to look for compulsive or addictive behaviors.
As states look to move sports betting out of the shadows, the decision whether to take advertising dollars from offshore books seems to be an even larger gray area than ever before. Although it is perfectly legal to accept these funds when offered, it feels unethical to do so. There are moral obligations tied to accepting the money involved, especially given the lack of regulations and safeguards for players in addition to the limited resources for those who find themselves stuck in a situation they may struggle to escape. While it’s possible to take steps to educate listeners on these pitfalls, it simply feels irresponsible to encourage people to utilize these services given the risks involved, and the lack of protections in place.
Saban v. Jimbo Is WrestleMania for College Football Fans
Ryan Brown says the Nick Saban versus Jimbo Fisher feud is one made for pay-per-view and we have nearly five months to hype the match.
It was the day after I turned eleven that Hulk Hogan body slammed Andre ‘The Giant’. WrestleMania III filled 90,000 seats at the Pontiac Silverdome and the living room of one of the houses in my neighborhood. Real or fake, we didn’t care. Three decades later, Nick Saban versus Jimbo Fisher is 100% real and it is coming to a living room near you.
I live in the capital city of SEC Country – Birmingham, Alabama. SEC football needs no additional drama here. You get a complete college football obsession at birth. That said, the October 8th Texas A&M visit to Alabama will be among the most anticipated regular season college football games both regionally and nationally.
One would think CBS will use their annual prime time date for that Saturday just as they did for last season’s Alabama at Texas A&M game, you know, when Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher were on speaking terms. Not knowing how the season will play out, it would be no surprise if ESPN’s College Gameday is in Tuscaloosa as well. While we are at it, let’s just cut to the 2024 chase and schedule a Presidential debate in Tuscaloosa that weekend, as well.
Not one person will be surprised if Alabama is undefeated and the top ranked team in the nation that week. The surprise, based on the rest of the Jimbo Fisher era, will be the Aggies being unbeaten. Their trip to Alabama comes at the end of a five game stretch that includes Appalachian State at home, Miami at home, Arkansas in Dallas and a road game at Mississippi State. Incidentally, the same Texas A&M team that was able to upset Alabama last season also managed to lose to Arkansas and Mississippi State.
Just the prospect of the two teams being unbeaten and highly ranked causes some to say this game would need no extra storylines. Shouldn’t that, and being on CBS in prime time, be enough? The Saban-Fisher Feud already has people discussing this game nationally and Lee Corso hasn’t even donned a body odor-filled mascot head yet.
I would like to project this game to deliver the largest TV audience of the regular season but I can’t, for one reason: I’m not certain it will be close. I think Alabama is that much better than Texas A&M. That’s why the build up will deliver a huge first half audience.
For perspective, in the 2021 regular season, the Alabama at Texas A&M game had the fifth largest TV audience, in a game that went down to the final play. The Ohio State at Michigan game had 15.8 million viewers on as part of FOX’s Big Noon Kickoff, almost double that of Alabama at Texas A&M on CBS in prime time.
That brings me to another misconception: big games have to be in prime time to get a big audience. Of the top ten largest college football audiences in the regular season and conference championship weekend, only half were prime time games. College football fans, and NFL fans for that matter, will find the best games no matter where they are placed.
So, back to Saban v. Fisher; why is it a bad thing? Would SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey prefer it not happen? Of course. Will it bring more attention to a game in the conference he oversees? I say, absolutely. Heck, my daily show is already selling t-shirts for the game. You may say “shameless plug”, I say paying for my kid’s college. Tomato, tomahto.
This is what made “Mean” Gene Okerlund a household name in the 1980’s. He was the far too serious host that interviewed the wrestlers who challenged other wrestlers to a grudge match in exotic places like the Macon Coliseum and the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum and the Dallas Sportatorium. Why did they do that? First, it was entertaining but, primarily, it sucked the viewer into making plans to view those matches.
I mean, if Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat said he was going to rip the head off “Big” John Studd, was I going to miss that?
That was why a bunch of kids crowded into a living room in Anniston, Alabama in 1987 to watch WrestleMania III, The Main Event. I can’t tell you who was on the undercard that night. The only wrestlers we cared about were Hulk Hogan and Andre “The Giant”.
Actually, my friend’s mom thought the Ultimate Warrior was “cute and had a great body”. He wasn’t on the card and I thought it was odd she told us that but she was footing the bill for the pay-per-view and had mixed the fruit punch Kool-Aid, so who am I to judge one’s wanton desires?
Texas A&M at Alabama will be the SEC’s main event this season and, if the cards fall right, it may be college football’s main event. What happened between the two head coaches might not be the proudest moment in SEC history but it will bring more attention to that game. And, my word, we finally have a nano-second in which two prominent coaches weren’t pre-programmed robots refusing to deviate from the script.
As amazing as WrestleMania III was for my childhood, it was scripted. The Tide and the Aggies will not be. College football remains one of the greatest values in sports. I pay very little to watch unscripted game after unscripted game. Truth is, you couldn’t even script most of what we see on a college football Saturday.
Texas A&M at Alabama is already beyond what the most creative writers could imagine and that is why this fuel to the already smoldering fire adds to this game. Now, if Nick Saban will just try to bodyslam Jimbo Fisher, we’ll have something.