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Through Political and Cultural Wars, Whither Sports?

“A grand jury’s decision not to charge officers in Breonna Taylor’s death made sports superfluous again, with the NBA reeling and leagues such as MLB — remember baseball? — fighting for any attention.”

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It’s useless looking beyond tomorrow in sports, much less next week or next month or next year. For all we know, more game boycotts await after officers in Kentucky weren’t charged in the death of Breonna Taylor, who has been the focus of outcry in the NBA Bubble and throughout a racially torn America. All it takes is one LeBron James rage tweet, followed by a storm of protests in his league and others, for activism to shut down the games that ring hollow and trivial.

This is America in late September 2020. Forty days and nights before a hostile presidential election nothing short of unreal, sports is superfluous except when it is political. When the news arrived that only officer Brett Hankison would be charged by a grand jury — on three counts of wanton endangerment after shooting into the homes of Taylor’s neighbors — the NBA’s conference finals shrunk to an afterthought.

Black Lives Matter.

Until they don’t, at least in Louisville.

The verdict led to violence, with two Louisville police officers shot during demonstrations and hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. The reaction is what James didn’t want, but he’ll be blamed anyway as his influence in the ongoing conflict grows more significant. Nearing his fourth NBA title, surely the most bizarre and challenging championship any sports legend has won, James sent the Taylor news to his Lakers teammates via a group text. Then he tweeted from his hotel on a campus he can’t leave, which has limited his platform for social change to Zoom interviews and social media posts. He first needed only four words — “JUST SAY HER NAME’’ — along with a video of Aja Monet reciting the original poem of the same title. Then he unleashed a torrent: “I’ve been lost for words today! I’m devastated, hurt, sad, mad! We want Justice for Breonna yet justice was met for her neighbors apartment walls and not her beautiful life. Was I surprised at the verdict. Absolutely not but damnit I was & still am hurt and heavy hearted! I send my love to Breonna mother, family and friends! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!!’’

This came hours after James, who had called for the officers “who committed that crime’’ to be arrested, said he condemns all violence, including retaliatory attacks against police. “I’ve never in my 35 years ever condoned violence. I do not condone violence towards anyone,’’ he said. “That’s not gonna make this world or America where we want it to be.”

Said teammate Danny Green: “We feel like we’ve taken a step back, that we haven’t made the progress we were seeking. Our voices aren’t being heard loud enough. But we’re not going to stop.’’

It wasn’t what NBA players had in mind when they agreed to play at Disney World. They thought social messages, painted on courts and worn on jerseys and shoes, could help lead to systemic change. But only a trip to Louisville, en masse, would work at this point. And restrictive confinement doesn’t allow for day passes, not when NBA commissioner Adam Silver is hellbent to complete his postseason without a coronavirus outbreak.

“Sadly, there was no justice today for Breonna Taylor,” said Michele Roberts, executive director of the Players Association. “Her killing was the result of a string of callous and careless decisions made with a lack of regard for humanity, ultimately resulting in the death of an innocent and beautiful woman with her entire life ahead of her.’’

Said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, a frequent critic of President Trump and modern-day American life: “It’s just so demoralizing. It’s so discouraging. I just keep thinking about the generation of American kids, of any color, is this the way we want to raise them? Is this the country we want to live in?”

For now, the various quests for championships chug along, financial formalities more than joyful pursuits. The NBA and NHL have remarkably avoided virus disruptions in their respective Bubbles and are trying to award trophies and sneak out before Covid notices. In the NFL, mindless bravado continues to be revealed as naked stupidity, starting with head coaches who don’t wear masks on the sidelines, thinking play calls are more important than the wellness of other human beings. College football keeps force-feeding a disjointed season, oblivious to campuses rocked by Covid. Then we have Major League Baseball. Remember baseball?

The guinea pig sees daylight. It has been a grim and brutal experiment, muddled by dozens of game postponements and many more positive Covid tests than the powers-that-be dare to disclose. But in a few days, somehow, MLB will start its postseason and collect nearly $1 billion from broadcast partners in a distasteful money grab that prioritized — all together now — industry wealth over the health of those in uniform.

It’s no reach to say this is the most important October in the sport’s history. Even before the pandemic, MLB was plunging toward a crippling labor impasse next year, with the warring owners and players doomed to rub each other out. Now, there’s no assurance fans will return to ballparks anytime soon, which will paralyze free agency this winter and create more ill will. The games never been been slower, all foul balls and strikeouts with a home run mixed in to curb yawning, and the human element that made the game real has been algorithmed-out by tech nerds. A shotgun regular season has been a cluster of chaos and attrition, with the abnormal and creepy leading to uncertainty and fatigue, to the point Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash made a startling confession to ESPN.

“This isn’t fun,’’ said Cash, whose team only has the American League’s best record.

Meaning, the postseason had better be spectacular. Because baseball, largely ignored in autumn as it is, faces competition like never before: renewed tensions over racial injustice and police brutality, news shows focused on a hostile presidential election, an NBA Finals likely to include James and, of course, Covid.

You’d be a fool to assume MLB, or sports in general, has conquered the coronavirus. This remains a silent, stealth antagonist that could strike at any time, in as many waves as it wants, and shut down every pro league and college conference in the land. In a story Trump must love, Jon Gruden and Sean Payton were among five more head coaches fined for violating the league’s policy — and please don’t argue that both men have had Corona and, thus, are immune for the long term. You don’t know that. They don’t know that. Tony Fauci doesn’t know that.

“I’ve had the virus. I’m doing my best. I’m very sensitive about it,’’ Gruden said. “I’m calling plays. I just want to communicate in these situations, and if I get fined, I’ll have to pay the fine.’’

In that his 2-0 Raiders are based in Las Vegas, anyone want to bet Gruden doesn’t wear the mask in Week 3? Being fined $100,000 won’t stop these tunnel-visioned loons in the heat of the moment. Being fined an added $250,000 won’t make their owners blink. Just expectorate, baby. Never mind the message it sends to millions. And never mind that the team doctor issuing Covid advice might be a quack, such as the Chargers’ physician who accidentally punctured Tyrod Taylor’s lung while giving the quarterback a pain-killer injection for cracked ribs.

Then there’s college football. If Touchdown Jesus, the Four Horsemen and the Gipper can’t stop a breakout, I’m not sure why four of the Power Five conferences — please don’t join them, Pac-12 — persist in staging a disjointed season when campuses are bombarded by Covid cases. At least Notre Dame is being responsible in postponing a game until December after 13 players were isolated; if only ruthless factories such as Clemson and LSU were as accountable, with Dabo Swinney and Ed Orgeron remaining oblivious to anything but TV riches and their competitive egos.

But when Silver said he’s “clearly learning a lot from other sports’’ when pondering his league’s uncertain future, which likely won’t involve a Bubble that remarkably has remained Covid-proof, he’s primarily referring to MLB. The chaos of the summer months — outbreaks that sidelined the Marlins and Cardinals, positive tests seemingly every day — has given way to hope that a World Series actually can be completed in late October. Of course, as long as Rob Manfred is commissioner, any plan could go sideways or ass-backwards. But the playoff Bubble once thought beyond Manfred’s acumen is about to happen. Teams that have qualified or remain in contention are in quarantine this week, restricted to an indefinite hotel life until they are eliminated or reach the Series, which starts Oct. 20 in that hallowed baseball hotbed of Arlington, Texas. Even when teams play at home ballparks in the first round, they can’t return to their actual places of residence or wander the streets.

Finally, baseball has figured out what the NBA, NHL, WNBA and Major League Soccer knew long ago: The Bubble life is the only safe and effective sports life during a pandemic, regardless of what the NFL is claiming after just two weeks of a season vulnerable to Covid until February. It doesn’t mean the postseason will finish, especially as Manfred insists on having fans in the stands in Arlington for the National League championship series — yes, an American League ballpark is hosting the NLCS — and at the World Series. Isn’t the commish defeating the purpose of the Bubble by inviting fans into a Texas Bubble? Manfred doesn’t care. He’s an army general now, thinking he has won the battle.

“We are pressing ahead to have fans in Texas,” he told USA Today. “One of the most important things to our game is the presence of fans. Starting down the path of having fans in stadiums, and in a safe and risk-free environment, is very, very important to our game.”

Again, he is prioritizing money over safety. Isn’t there also a competitive issue if, say, many more Dodgers fans travel to Globe Life Field for a World Series than Rays fans? Or many more Dodgers fans than Braves fans in a hypothetical NLCS? The AL playoffs will have no such issues because of California’s restrictions banning large gatherings, assuring more fan-less scenes for the divisional series in San Diego and Los Angeles and the ALCS in San Diego. Isn’t this all a bit, um, uneven? Manfred still doesn’t care. He’s a rebel without a clue, talking like a conquering hero. “The best way to say it is that 2020 presented some really, really difficult challenges for the sport, and I never worked harder to try to meet those challenges,’’ he said. “I do take pride that we’re just a few days away from finishing the (regular) season, an important milestone for the industry.’’

As in, cha-ching!

Not that anyone is concerned about the players who have had Covid or the various spreads to family members and others they’ve infected. We’ve heard nothing about spread data because, hey, the owners are recouping some of their TV money. That has been the only end-game. But first, there is a postseason to get through and protocols to heed in a season with too much evidence of irresponsible behavior by several teams. “It’s 2020. I think the sacrifices will have to continue, and this is a big part of it,’’ said Cardinals reliever and Players Association committee member Andrew Miller, referring to the Bubble. “Players certainly have an appreciation for making sure we do everything we can to have a successful playoff run. That is a big part of what we’re doing this year — get to the playoffs and call it what it is: Get that TV money. Hope that money gets into the game, and we find a way to survive this year that is obviously tough financially.”

If a new playoff system has too many qualifiers — 16, also part of the money grab — at least we have refreshing stories for a change. With the Yankees trying to legally fend off the public release of a 2017 document that allegedly confirms them as electronic sign-stealing cheaters (and why isn’t anyone talking about it?), I’m imagining Fernando Tatis Jr. in the World Series. Or the White Sox, with Jose Abreu and Tim Anderson, winning only their second Fall Classic since throwing one in 1919. You tired of the Yankees, Dodgers, Astros, Cubs and Indians? Me, too.

We’re in the weirdest year of our lives. Why not think weird? I actually might watch weird, such as a World Series between … the Marlins and Rays? After 18 Miami players were infected by a July outbreak, there was thought of sending the Marlins home until next year. After all, weren’t they a minor-league operation anyway? The outbreak led to a shocking breakout and a likely playoff berth. They aren’t getting past the NL’s first round, of course, and they aren’t America’s Team. But they are Pandemic’s Team.

More than ever, it’s important to have fun with sports, or at least try. When we’re actually counting down the days to Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, the air might be too heavy to keep enjoying ballgames. But barring boycotts, the games are going on whether we care or not, background noise for an American maelstrom.

BSM Writers

Jimmy Pitaro Deserves Some Credit For Monday Night

“Pitaro and ESPN’s executive team had to sign off on a broadcast in which Peyton and Eli were in separate remote locations, without a host to play traffic cop and guide continuity between plays. This all could have blown up in ESPN’s face.”

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Over the last several months, Jimmy Pitaro and ESPN got raked over the coals after the New York Times story on Rachel Nichols and Maria Taylor and the subsequent fallout that was effectively a mushroom cloud and the talk of the industry. Ultimately, the buck stops with the leader, but fairness should dictate that leaders also receive accolades for great accomplishments. After just one episode, we can confidently say that landing Peyton and Eli Manning for Monday Night Football qualifies in that regard.

Monday Night Football With Peyton and Eli Manning on ESPN 2, reviewed.
Courtesy: ESPN2

Every TV network executive would have walked from Alaska to Omaha to land Peyton Manning. Andrew Marchand has accurately referred to him as the “white whale of sports TV”; he was so sought after that CBS, who has arguably the best color commentator in all of sports in Tony Romo, tried to lure Manning to the booth before ultimately reaching a new deal with Romo. Any way you slice it, getting the Manning brothers for 10 episodes of Monday Night Football on ESPN2 was a major coup for Pitaro, ESPN, and Disney. 

Nonetheless, it was not without risk. Pitaro and ESPN’s executive team had to sign off on a broadcast in which Peyton and Eli were in separate remote locations, without a host to play traffic cop and guide continuity between plays. This all could have blown up in ESPN’s face. Imagine the chatter if the Manning broadcast was a dud, which it easily could have been given their format is unlike anything that has ever been tried before.

Instead, Peyton and Eli were a revelation. Peyton, with his combination of star-power, personality, and brain processing, is remarkably unique. During the fourth quarter of a close game between the Raiders and Ravens, he was somehow able to simultaneously interview Russell Wilson while immediately breaking down the film of all 22 players from key plays of a game he wasn’t even there for. Eli didn’t get as many words in, but when he did speak he had funny deadpan humor.

Full disclosure: I was traveling during the first half, which by many accounts was not as well executed as the second half, after they settled in.

There will undoubtedly be a number of attempts to replicate this announcing format, but it’s unlikely that any of them will work as well as this one, because none of them will have Peyton Manning. Remember how excruciating it was when TNT tried to do Players Only broadcasts for the NBA? Kevin Clark, speaking on The Ringer’s Press Box podcast with Bryan Curtis, called this a “Black Swan” event — it’ll never happen again because Peyton is one of one. 

Anyways, back to Pitaro and ESPN: They’ve certainly taken their lumps and that’s life when you lead an organization that is the bellwether of the industry, facing myriad challenges, some of which are structural (cord-cutting eating into hefty subscriber fees) and some of which are self-inflicted (if you’ve read this far you already know what many of those are and there’s no need to re-hash). 

Ryan Shirts

However, it bears mentioning that in addition to making the content compromises — and opening up the checkbook for millions of dollars — to land Peyton Manning, Pitaro and ESPN have had a lot of big wins over the last several years. They locked up a monopoly on SEC football rights (in a deal so substantial the conference lured Oklahoma and Texas to join), expanded their NFL deal to get into the Super Bowl rotation, bought up all the UFC rights (which, more than anything else, has propelled the growth of ESPN+ to 15 million subscribers), and brought back the NHL. Sure, all of these wins probably came as a result of bidding the most money, but I’m old enough to remember when ESPN was supposed to be on a death spiral. Reports of ESPN’s demise — at least in live rights; talk programming and journalism have not remained the priorities they once were — were premature. 

ESPN has been described as an ocean tanker, which turns very slowly. Jimmy Pitaro deserves some credit for his steering, in the macro, through some turbulent waters.

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BSM Writers

Did The Manningcast Work?

“The first show was great, but as is the case most of the time, there is room to grow.”

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Is it a variety show? Is it a podcast?  The first of 10 scheduled Manning MegaCasts, hosted by Peyton and Eli Manning, on ESPN2 proved it was a little bit all of the above. It was almost like Beavis and Butthead meets Statler and Waldorf. It was fun to watch the Manning brothers poke fun at each other and at the same time, criticize some of the action they saw on the field. 

The show debuted as an alternative to the regular Monday Night Football broadcast and was met with rave reviews. To me, there was some great, some not so great, and definitely some room to grow. 

Raiders – Ravens: Peyton, Eli Manning on 'MNF' best moments
Courtesy: ESPN2

I love the concept, providing an alternative for those that would rather be entertained than tune into a traditional broadcast. Now, as a play-by-play broadcaster, it makes me pause to think about what the future may hold. There will always be a spot for a traditional broadcast, especially with viewers that have a rooting interest in the game. I’m not sure that hardcore fans of the Ravens and Raiders were tuned in for more than a passing glance. Those folks want to see the game, not the fluff or interviews and the like, offered on the alternative broadcast. That fluff though is what will earn ESPN those fringe viewers that are curious and intrigued by what a “ManningCast” might have to offer them. 

Sitting down to watch the game, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I know that Peyton has a personality that in some cases is larger than life. I was pleasantly surprised to see what Eli brought to the table as well.  The guys played off each other well, each taking a turn to take a shot at the other. I’ll get into some of the best of those barbs a little later. 

Peyton is comfortable in front of the camera and has no trouble talking. That was the issue I had early in the game. The elder Manning really dominated the conversation. There were no times in the first few minutes of the first quarter that I felt I could take a breath because so much was coming at me. They really didn’t allow the game to breathe at all. The constant conversation while entertaining at times just kept on coming. Peyton was talking fast and once in a while he was talking over Eli. 

It didn’t help that the Manning’s were in different studios. I wondered if there was a “delay” in their feeds and if that was the reason for talking over one another at times. The delay was quite evident when Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson joined the brothers for the later stages of the game. Wilson seemingly couldn’t get a word in, because Peyton and Eli were talking over him. 

Peyton has that quality to be able to teach the game in a way that it’s understandable. Some of his commentary was a look behind the curtain at how he played and viewed the game. Knowing what to expect when coming to the line of scrimmage, understanding the coverages and realizing what teams are trying to do to disguise things. It was fascinating to hear the brothers go through play calls and how it is relayed from the coordinator to the quarterback and finally to the team. You aren’t going to get that on a traditional game broadcast. 

It was also impressive to hear the guys interview both former players, current players and Charles Barkley. It so often is the case that the current athletes are very guarded in what they say to a regular ole member of the media. That was not the case in the Manning Cast. From Travis Kelce not knowing who the Chiefs were playing next, to Russell Wilson calling out the NFL overtime rule.  Ray Lewis was a fascinating guest, providing some great stories and terrific insight into the game he once played at such a high level. Charles Barkley, well, he’s Charles Barkley. In other words, he was as fantastic as you’d expect. 

The guests added to the broadcast and made me realize that if this Manningcast actually had a host, it wouldn’t have worked as well. A broadcaster would have gotten in the way to me. Yeah, they could have used a professional at times. Maybe someone to get them into and out of the commercial breaks, because that was a little rough early in the game. But that’s the only a host could have fit in. 

The first show was great, but as is the case most of the time, there is room to grow. I really think the Manning Cast would be so much better if the guys were actually in the same room. The dynamic between them, which was already great, would be that much better. Imagine them demonstrating plays on each other. Both putting on helmets and doing what they probably did as kids in their basement, roughing each other up.

Ok, so they’re a little older now, but I seriously think having them in the same place would make things much smoother. With all the technology out there, eliminating that dreaded delay between the Manning’s and their guests would improve the telecast as well. 

Monday Night Football With Peyton and Eli Manning on ESPN 2, reviewed.
Courtesy: ESPN2

This alternative broadcast would be a great place to teach some casual fans all about the great game of football. Not sure why this came to my mind, but like the old days of the NHL, when “Peter Puck” an animated hockey puck would teach you the game. “Peter” was part of the NBC game of the week broadcast. An animated Peyton and Eli teaching those that need to know the finer points of the game, would be spectacular. 

I can’t wait to see how they improve from last week to this week and who the guests will be this time around. Hopefully, they iron out some of the small issues that plagued them in the first telecast and continue to improve. I realize that this show is unscripted and it’s supposed to be a little looser than a normal show might be, but there are some slight fixes as I’ve pointed out that will make it even better.

With all the success the Manningcast had, I can’t help but wonder how all of these accolades are being taken by the regular MNF booth. ESPN in effect has promoted and created competition for its own product. Perhaps the novelty will wear off? Maybe, but it almost seems like the Manning’s are being groomed for a possible move to the main booth. I’m not sure what the feeling is amongst all the parties, but it’s certainly a dynamic worth watching. 

Here are some of my favorite moments from Manningcast show number one, in no particular order:

  • Derek Carr with an overthrow on the Raiders first play from scrimmage, leading Peyton to say about the Raiders season, “Lookin’ at ah 6-11, 6-11 right now.”
  • Raiders’ fans were loud during an offensive series leading to a bad snap and a few false start penalties, leading to this exchange: 

“They aren’t used to it”, said Eli Manning. Then Peyton responded, “Drink your beer, quiet down and let [Derek] Carr play quarterback.” 

  • Peyton putting on a football helmet to demonstrate the calls at the line for the Ravens. The helmet was way too small. “Helmet doesn’t fit”, Peyton said. “Shocking that a helmet doesn’t fit you”, Eli commented. “They didn’t have a XXL helmet for that forehead.”  
  • With Charles Barkley as a guest, Peyton asked him what position Michael Jordan would play if he were in the NFL, “Tight End”. Then Barkley was asked about Larry Bird playing a position, “there’s no place for no slow 6’10” guys in the NFL”, said Barkley.  

Eli: “Punter”

Charles: “that’s about it…”

  • Also, with Barkley on the show…

Peyton: “Hey Charles, you ever get booed at home? Never happened to you, right?” 

Barkley: “I played in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That was a regularity.” “You were lucky, Peyton. Everybody liked you. Eli knows what it’s like to get booed at home.”

Eli: “He had that stadium trained. The fans would get fined if they talked when the Colts were on offense. If a guy was trying to order a beer, everyone would tell him to quiet down until the defense was on the field.”

Eli’s fire alarm goes off in the middle of the show. 

Peyton: “Eli what’d you do?”

  • With Ray Lewis on the show, the trio recalled a game where the Giants played the Ravens in Eli’s rookie season as the starting QB. The younger Manning leading the team to the line of scrimmage, calling out the defense…

Eli: “Hey #52 (Lewis) is the Mike (linebacker)”

Lewis: “No, I’m not the mike. He’s the Mike!”

Eli: “Yeah Ray’s right, the other guy’s the Mike”

It was also revealed in that game in 2004, Eli had a quarterback rating of 0.0 and of course Peyton pointed out, “the same GPA Belushi had in ‘Animal House.’”

  • Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce on the Manningcast

Kelce: “[Watching this game] I’m not trying to get too technical because I think we’re playing the Chargers this week. Oh wait, maybe we’re playing Baltimore. I don’t even know — I’m getting lost in the season already.” 

  • Peyton about 5 minutes later: “Hey, Travis, just so you know, you do play the Ravens next week, so make sure you don’t fly to Los Angeles to play the Chargers.”

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BSM Writers

What Is The Next Advertising Money Cannon?

“In states where betting is legal, stations are having to squeeze live reads and segment sponsorships in wherever they can. Everyone is trying to make sure they aren’t leaving money on the table.”

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If I could tell you that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I know there is another advertising revenue stream out there that can repeat what sportsbooks did for sports radio AND that I know exactly what it is, I could handpick my next employer and name my price.

A Supreme Court decision to make sports gambling a state issue and not a federal one completely changed the advertising landscape. In states where betting is legal, stations are having to squeeze live reads and segment sponsorships in wherever they can. Everyone is trying to make sure they aren’t leaving money on the table.

“There is no question about the significant impact sports betting has had on revenue, both from the station side as well as for our on-air personalities who have become brand ambassadors,” Dennis Gwiazdon, VP and Market Manager of Cromwell Broadcasting’s Nashville cluster told me.

Stations in states that are yet to legalize gambling can see the boom and know it is coming eventually. What about states where gambling is already legal? What about states like Alabama or Utah, which are routinely viewed as two that could realistically never legalize sports betting? Is there a boom on the horizon for them?

I spoke with managers in three different markets. I wanted to know where they saw reason for optimism. The answers were interesting.

Earlier this month, John Ourand of Sports Business Journal took a look at the deal FOX signed with crypto.com. The site is the title sponsor of the network’s College Football Extra. Ourand theorizes that could open the door for crypto companies eventually spending money on sports television the way sportsbooks do.

What is the outlook for radio? Jeff Tyler, iHeartMedia’s area president in Wisconsin, is intrigued by the idea, but he isn’t telling his sellers to go rushing out to make deals.

“There are a lot of variables around crypto,” he told me via email. “So as a company we have a plan to work within this category but not put the company at risk or do anything that could negatively affect our listeners and partners.”

Jeff Tyler (@JeffTyler) | Twitter

Ken Brady, the sales manager at 1010XL in Jacksonville, knows that cryptocurrency has a buzz around it right now. He is not sure what the appetite for it is in terms of an ad market or what the industry’s appetite is for radio advertising.

“There is little chatter about cryptocurrency in our market or with partners,” he says. “This is something we need to understand and explore better.”

I asked all three men if there was a sector where they saw potential. Tyler had an interesting answer. He sees potential in eSports. He thinks teams and companies could benefit from connecting with stations with a dedicated listener base.

“Our brands could help them grow their fan base and activate them to attend more events in person and online.”

Gwiazdon has his eye on another vice. Just like gambling came out of the shadows and now functions under government regulation, it is only a matter of time he thinks before marijuana does the same.

“What immediately comes to mind is the legalization of marijuana at the state and, eventually, federal level,” he says. “There’s so much money in that industry – as evidenced where it has already become legal – that it could easily equal or surpass what’s happening with sports betting right now.”

What is interesting is that amongst this trio, Gwiazdon is the only one that lives in a state where there is absolutely no legal marijuana. What he sees as a potential boom for Tennessee is already legal in both Wisconsin and Florida, albeit exclusively for medical purposes.

A lot of sellers have big plans for pot and cannabis products where they are legal. Very few of them know all the answers though. That is why the RAB has a marijuana FAQ section on its website and advertising agencies specializing in marijuana have sprung up.

For 1010XL, the boom never really materialized according to Ken Brady.

100+ "Ken Brady" profiles | LinkedIn

“We have had little success with this category, the players who have come in seem to be interested in demos outside our strengths or have been flakey with no real appetite for a solid campaign that will work.”

Businesses built by someone following their passion for marijuana are flaky? Well, color me shocked!

Jeff Tyler told me iHeart is looking at this on a market by market basis. Wisconsin has made medical marijuana legal. Tyler can’t have his sellers approaching businesses the way sellers in neighboring states like Illinois or Michigan, where it has fully been decriminalized can.

“Until it’s fully legalized the advertiser revenue is very limited,” he said. “We have a team that leads this vertical for iHeartMedia and have states like Colorado that already have fully legalized marijuana so we have a solid plan and guidelines to follow with these advertisers. CBD is a small category with some hit spots in some markets.”

There may never be another category like sports betting. The money cannon that industry was ready to fire was unpresedented. You can’t bank on it happening again.

I asked Dennis Gwiazdon if it was possible that the radio industry will have to play a very proactive role in creating the next boom. He told me that may be the best way to think about it. What he is sure of is that no idea can be dismissed as the industry looks to find another stream of revenue that has the potential of the sportsbooks.

“We definitely have to get smarter at how we generate revenue. Relying on the old, tried and true ways won’t hold up forever. The good news is our business model is already undergoing a sea of change in terms of how we scale our radio/digital/entertainment assets for wider distribution and access. But some of us are further down the road than others. The audio industry is still the ultimate personal experience. How we continue to maximize – and monetize – our relationships with fans is the key to our survival.”

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