If Elijah Moore doesn’t pee like a dog in the endzone during the 2019 Egg Bowl and get a personal foul penalty, Ben Mintz and Playboy Marty aren’t at Barstool Sports.
If Ole Miss doesn’t fire Matt Luke after the game and then hire Lane Kiffin, Ben Mintz and Playboy Marty aren’t at Barstool Sports.
If Kentucky kicker Matt Ruffalo makes a PAT in overtime, Ben Mintz and Playboy Marty aren’t at Barstool Sports.
If Ole Miss wide receiver Elijah Moore doesn’t score on the next drive or kicker Luke Logan misses the PAT, Ben Mintz and Playboy Marty aren’t at Barstool Sports.
But all of that happened. So, since Matt Luke was fired, Lane Kiffin was hired, which led to an Ole Miss win in overtime over Kentucky, which led to two guys, who lost their radio jobs that year due to Covid, to make an epic celebration video that caught the eye of Dave Portnoy, which ultimtealy landed them at Barstool Sports in New York City.
Got all of that? If you didn’t it’s understandable. Both Mintz and Playboy Marty still have to convince themselves from time to time this is real.
“I’m almost to the point where I think Elijah Moore is a prophet,” said Mintz. “And I have to send that Kentucky kicker a Christmas card.”
In the craziest year any of us have seen, Mintz and Playboy Marty’s 2020 might take the cake in sports media. First, after doing a drive time afternoon show in Shreveport, Louisiana for over four years, Mintz was let go in mid-March when the station decided to flip formats to soft rock. Coincidentally, Playboy Marty had just accepted a job as Mintz’ full-time producer but was let go on the same day he was supposed to start. Both were out of radio jobs.
The next day, ESPN Baton Rouge offered Mintz a job as a producer and No. 3 voice on Off the Bench with Jordy Culotta and T-Bob Hebert. He accepted over the phone, but then, the very next day, the whole country started to shut down due to Covid.
“After that I went back to Oxford,Mississippi because Covid was getting really bad in Louisiana,” said Mintz. “I just chilled in Oxford and played online poker for three months. I’m an old poker pro and did that for 10 years. It’s funny because I was sitting there in Oxford and it felt like 2006 when I just sat around and played online poker all summer.”
“I went down to Oxford with him and we decided to start a YouTube channel,” said Playboy Marty. “That’s kind of what we did all summer. It got the attention of ESPN Baton Rouge. Ben went on Off the Bench with Jordy and T-Bob for several years as their gambling picks guy. He had a relationship with them but the YouTube channel impressed them and we got brought in. I started producing for Jimmy Ott’s GameTime, as well as Hanging with Hester.”
After a few months in Mississippi, the two were headed to ESPN Baton Rouge to work at one of the best sports radio stations in the South. Things were going extremely well for both Mintz and Playboy Marty, as they were both content with their new roles and thankful to be hired during a pandemic.. But then, during Week 2 of the SEC schedule, fate happened.
As Ole Miss kicked the game-winning extra point in overtime over Kentucky, instinct took over for Playboy Marty. In front of him, Mintz jumped up and started screaming the Hotty Toddy chant in his gravelly, southern drawl that makes him so lovable and endearing. Initially, Playboy Marty filmed the reaction in hopes of drawing up attention for the radio show. Soon it was being retweeted by Dave Portnoy and a social media viral storm soon followed.
“The way things were going I knew Ole Miss was about to score, kick the extra point and win the game,” said Playboy Marty. “Once they scored I pulled my phone out to video Ben and get his reaction for our radio show. Ben is a very heavy reactor and I realized that, but I never understood why nobody had ever put a camera on this guy before so I immediately started taking advantage of that.”
“Everything was going great,” said Mintz. “I was at one of the best stations in the South and it was the job I wanted. Then the Barstool thing just popped up out of the sky. Dave Portnoy called me on the phone, I answered, and he said your voice sounds exactly how I hoped it would. He then said he was going to give me an offer to come to New York. I did some research on the company and realized it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I would’ve been a fool to not come up here and try this.”
Now, after eight crazy months and several different stops, the two are the newest employees at Barstool Sports. What’s ironic is the first time the two ever hung out, Playboy Marty told Mintz his lifelong dream was to work for Barstool. Funny how things work.
The two have pretty simple roles with the company. Mintz just needs to naturally react to sports and gambling like he always does and Playboy Marty needs to film it. That’s the exact formula that got the two to Barstool in the first place. But now it’s a job with the pressure to always be funny. It’s different when you’re just naturally reacting, but now there’s always going to be a camera around Mintz. Will that always be in the back of his head?
“He rolls with things,” said Playboy Marty. “He never feels like he has to be on or anything like that. He’s better in those roles though, those instances where he’s not trying to be funny and he knows that. That’s what we’ve been doing we’re just kind of keeping it going at Barstool. A lot of people here are just on, on, on, that’s great. I’m a huge Stoolie. Ben is just kind of bringing a different angle and way to it. And he’s an incredibly nice dude. You don’t really see, like, outward generosity that much here, so I think he fills a much needed lane over here.”
With Mintz being a diehard Ole Miss fan, the natural rivalry between him and Brandon Walker, who’s a diehard Mississippi State fan will create incredible content at Barstool. Oddly enough, The Egg Bowl just happens to be this weekend. If Mintz hasn’t already gotten his baptism in the building, this week will be a helluva baptism.
“They actually get along pretty well,” laughed Playboy Marty. “But there definitely is going to be some Ole Miss and State stuff. They’ve handled it pretty well but there’s definitely going to be some fun stuff this year no doubt.”
“When I got brought in Dave mentioned over the phone Brandon Walker and how much he hated Ole Miss,” said Mintz. “I think this is a huge opportunity and we even have a bet on the Egg Bowl. The winner gets to throw eggs outside in New York at the loser. The winner also gets to crack an egg over the loser’s head anytime they want. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. Walker has been coming at our fan base for a year and a half with nobody to fight back.”
The freedom to be creative and do their own thing has been a welcome sign for both Mintz and Playboy Marty. Already a part of Picks Central on Barstool Radio from noon to 1:00 EST, it won’t be a surprise to see Mintz become more heavily involved in the radio side of the company in the near future, seeing as he has experience as a host. The same will probably be true for Playboy Marty. Until then, the two have their eyes set on new and exciting content that’s been untapped at Barstool.
“During football season I’m going to be all football,” said Mintz. “Ole Miss, SEC, Saints and I’m a big football gambler, too. But I have a lot of plans that exist outside football. I’ve got some New Orleans content. I got 75th in the World Series of Poker in 2011. I had a really good poker career so I’m gonna take it on the road and play in the World Series of Poker, all sorts of things like that. I’m also a humongous live music fan so I will be doing some cool stuff with that all over the country. I have a lot of cool ideas that i think will fit with Barstool.”.
It’s maybe the most unlikely of sports media stories in 2020. But Mintz and Playboy Marty don’t care. They’re here. And they’re going to do their damndest to make it.
“I’ll live my whole life and never understand the story,” said Mintz. “But I’m damn sure going to rock it.”
Tyler McComas is a columnist for BSM and a sports radio talk show host in Norman, OK where he hosts afternoon drive for SportsTalk 1400. You can find him on Twitter @Tyler_McComas or you can email him at [email protected].
104.5 The Zone Keeps Rising Under Paul Mason as Nashville Continues to Grow
“It starts with the people that you have on your staff but it starts above that. It’s having great people that trust you to build your vision.”
When Paul Mason arrived at 104.5 FM “The Zone” in Nashville to take over as Program Director in April of 2020, he was hoping to made an immediate impact at the radio station. The growth was helped by a Tennessee Titans run to the AFC Championship Game during the COVID year of 2020 and four years later, the station is doing very well.
“I could not be happier with what we’ve seen here at The Zone with just the growth of this group as a whole,” said Mason who took on the added title of Operations Manager of Titans Radio in April 2021.
“It’s come together as a team and everybody roots for everybody and pulls for everybody to win. I think you’re seeing all tides rise because as a PD I cannot be anymore pleased with what I’ve seen unfold the last several years.”
There’s no question that the Nashville sports market is booming and that’s just a part of the rapid growth that the city has experienced in recent years. Major pro sports arrived in town when the Houston Oilers relocated to Nashville in 1997 and two seasons later they were renamed the Titans. In 1998, the Nashville Predators joined the National Hockey League as an expansion team and went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017. And now, there’s a Major League Soccer club in town after Nashville SC was born in 2020.
Throw in the fact that it’s always been a huge SEC market and the sports scene is exploding in Nashville.
“It’s growing and it’s growing very quickly,” said Mason. “There are new people moving here every day and getting exposed to not only different teams but also to us. It’s important to us and we’re always marketing what this brand is and who we are to not just the people who have been here and have been loyal to us over the years but the new people coming in.”
Building a radio station and the brand that comes along with it is not an easy thing to do. A lot has to go your way and now there are digital considerations that play into a radio station’s revenue stream.
In the case of The Zone, business has been good for the brand.
“If the brand is right, everything else is going to follow so if we’re talking about or targeting the things on air that our audience comes to us with an expectation, that’s going to grow,” said Mason. “We are delivering on those expectations. We’re obviously very football-centric and very Titan-centric but the key is balancing that with everything else in the town as well.”
There’s no question that the sports radio industry has changed over the years and continues to evolve, especially when it comes to technology. These days, it’s not just about the terrestrial aspect of a radio station but other ways that content is distributed whether it’s video, podcast or streaming. Those other components are extremely important to a radio station’s success.
It’s something that Mason and his team have taken to very well.
“You have to embrace technology and you have to embrace things evolving and if you resist, you’re going to get left behind,” said Mason. “What we’ve done well here is we’re on every social media platform and we do it well. We’ve embraced video by creating Zone TV a few years back. In the world that we live in now, you need to be in all the places that your audience wants to consume you.”
While Mason has been very successful in the role of Program Director, it does take a village for a sports radio station to be successful. At The Zone, Mason has been getting a lot of help from his friends. Whether it’s Cumulus Nashville Market Manager Allison Warren or Operations Manager Charlie Cook, Mason has and continues to receive a great deal of support from up above.
“It’s all about the people,” said Mason. “It starts with the people that you have on your staff but it starts above that. It’s having great people that trust you to build your vision.”
And the vision has led to a terrific lineup at The Zone including Ramon, Kayla and Will from 6am to 10am, Buck Reising 10am to 1pm, Blaine and Mickey from 1pm to 3pm and 3HL from 3pm to 7pm.
“Just beyond our air staff, it’s having a good sales staff, a good promotions staff and good producers,” said Mason. “My job is to be the resource for them to put them in the best position possible to do what they do best.”
Speaking of those shows, the lineup at The Zone did very well in the 2023 Barrett Sports Media Top 20 list.
*Paul Mason finished 5th in the voting among Mid-Market Program Directors.
*The Zone finished 5th among Mid-Market sports radio stations.
*Ramon, Kayla and Will finished 4th among Mid-Market sports morning shows.
*Buck Reising finished 2nd and Blaine and Mickey finished 5th among Mid-Market sports midday shows.
*3HL finished 2nd among Mid-Market sports afternoon shows.
“I was thrilled to have every one of our shows place in the top five,” said Mason. “I think that just shows the growth of what we’ve done here at The Zone. I couldn’t be anymore happy for our staff. I love the results but we want all of our shows to be number one so that’s going to be our next goal.”
Mason will get a chance to revel in the success of The Zone when he rubs elbows with the entire sports radio industry at the upcoming 2024 Barrett Sports Media Summit in New York City on March 13th and 14th. Mason attended the 2023 Barrett News Media Summit in Nashville in September but this will be his first visit to the BSM Summit.
“I can’t wait to go to the summit,” said Mason. “If I can go up there and learn one or two things that I can take back here to Nashville and try to figure out how it works within my structure, that’s great but I think I’m going to learn a lot more than that. It’s meeting different people in the industry with a lot of minds coming together and you just never know what you’re going to learn or who you’re going to run into and how it’s going to turn out. I can’t wait to get boots on the ground in New York to check it out.”
While Paul Mason hopes to learn a few things at the BSM Summit, there’s no doubt that other Program Directors and media professionals from around the country will want to pick his brain as well. That’s because Mason has guided The Zone in Nashville to incredible success and there’s no telling what lies ahead.
Peter Schwartz has been involved in New York sports media for over three decades. Along the way he has worked for notable brands such as WFAN, CBS Sports Radio, WCBS 880, ESPN New York, and FOX News Radio. He has also worked as a play by play announcer for the New Yok Riptide, New York Dragons, New York Hitmen, Varsity Media and the Long Island Sports Network. You can find him on Twitter @SchwartzSports or email him at [email protected].
Reimagining the Relationship Between ESPN and Major League Baseball
So, how can ESPN and MLB’s relationship evolve in their next contract?
Last week I wrote about the three media storylines heading into Spring Training with Major League Baseball. One of them was ESPN possibly opting out of their MLB contract after the 2025 season, letting the league know after this season.
MLB’s relationship with ESPN began in January, 1989 when MLB Commissioner Peter Ueberroth agreed to 4-year $400 million agreement with the 10-year-old cable network to begin televising 175 games per season starting in 1990. ESPN was not considered “The Worldwide Leader” yet, they were owned by Capital Cities, not Disney, and ESPN was just one network. It had the rights to the NFL, but split Sunday Night Games with TNT. They had no NHL or NBA rights, so ESPN’s baseball coverage was paramount. It included a nightly highlight show called “Baseball Tonight,” with all the highlights and coverage on each edition of SportsCenter.
Now in 2024, ESPN has 30 exclusive regular season telecasts, and also has coverage of all Wild Card Series games. “Baseball Tonight” is now limited to just a pre-game show before the Sunday Night game. The sport is rarely talked about on ESPN’s marquee shows “Get Up” and “First Take.” Another major difference is ESPN now has the rights to almost everything. The now Disney-owned network airs 23 regular season NFL games and two playoff games. Add in the fact they now have a plethora of NBA and NHL games and MLB went from a priority to an afterthought at ESPN.
|ESPN MLB Coverage
|175 (25 exclusive)
|30 (all exclusive)
|Cost Per Year
|Sunday (exclusive), Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday
|Sunday and Other Weeknights TBA for 3 games (all exclusive)
|Opening Day, Holidays
|Opening Night, International Game, Little League Classic (counts with SNB)
|7-Days A Week during Season
|Sundays prior to Sunday Night Baseball
|Other Notable Events
|Equitable Old Timers Game at All-Star Game
|Home Run Derby, Every Wild Card Series Game
|Major Sports on ESPN
|NFL, NHL, NBA
That deal agreed upon in 1989 was also the last television contract negotiated by Peter Ueberroth, as A. Bartlett Giamatti would take over as baseball’s head man on April 1, 1989. Fast forward 35 years and during Spring Training media day in Florida this past week, current MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said the 2029 season would be his last as commissioner, thus he will have a similar task as Ueberroth did.
As I said last week, consider ESPN opting out of the MLB as a reallocation of their payroll. Disney is in the process of negotiating rights deals with the NBA and have reportedly agreed to a 6-year $7.8 billion deal for the College Football Playoff. So, how can ESPN and MLB’s relationship evolve in their next contract? Here are some options:
Regular Season Games & Coverage
The number of regular season games on ESPN is the amount they want and that’s probably not going to change. Anything more could affect the other entities they have to cover.
However, MLB has a regional sports network (RSN) issue, everyone is aware of this. Even teams that own their own network are worried. Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said on Monday, “TV is a challenge for everybody right now…we’re going to have to adapt.”
ESPN could use ESPN+ for more MLB games to help the RSN problem. If MLB gets to 15 teams where they takeover production, ESPN+ could be the one-stop-shop for those teams, in-market, while MLB.tv could serve as the out of market option for all teams. ESPN+ could also simulcast “MLB’s Big Inning” which already airs on MLB.tv and Apple TV+ on weekdays. It could bring value to the streamer and more money to the owner’s pockets.
The only league that might see the new streaming platform established by Warner Bros. Discovery, FOX Sports and ESPN as a positive is Major League Baseball. They are the only major sports league that airs regular season and postseason games on all three entities. While we mentioned ESPN’s opt-out, WBD and FOX Sports have their deals through 2028. Could the last rights Commissioner Manfred negotiates be to open up WBD and FOX’s deals, and re-negotiate with an extension to 2031.
Why would it benefit WBD and FOX to open up their deals? Right now the Tuesday night baseball games on TBS are non-exclusive, making their contract the only linear TV contract, that is not league owned, to have a non-exclusive package. Also with their new streaming platform, there is more room to carve out digital rights, and alternate broadcasts, which has become the wave in sports.
Could you imagine FOX with an alt-cast with Jeter, A-Rod, and Big Papi on their FOX Saturday Night games. It could be another version of the “ManningCast.” The big key in this is to establish more postseason rights, and bigger games for ESPN. Here is the current structure.
|Current MLB Postseason Coverage
|Wild Card Series
|Yes (alternating league)
|Yes (alternating league)
|League Championship Series
|Yes (alternating league)
|Yes (alternating league)
Here is my proposed idea
|Proposed MLB Postseason Coverage
|Wild Card Series
|2 Series (league TBS is not doing)
|2 Series (same league as LCS)
|1 Series (same league as LCS)
|1 Series (same league as LCS)
|League Championship Series
|Yes (alternate leagues each year)
|Yes (alternate leagues each year)
|Yes on ABC (even years starting with 2026)
|Yes (odd years starting with 2027)
With this proposed idea, the network that loses is FOX, they lose a division series, which means they lose October programming on FS1, and they go from having a World Series every year, to just every other year starting in 2026, That would probably be the biggest hurdle for Commissioner Manfred to clear.
Also the World Series is on a Monday Night, so would ESPN be willing to have competition air on their sister network for a night. Or would they make that the game you possibly bring back an afternoon World Series game – something the sport has not seen since 1987.
This plan gives ESPN more of a reason to be invested in Major League Baseball. Even with the new hockey deal, there’s no more talk about Connor McDavid on the network’s morning shows than there was before. But more exclusivity on the network, and carving more marquee events for ESPN, could give them more reason not only to extend the deal, but still give MLB the money it wants.
Moses Massena is a Sports Television veteran, working for Regional and National Networks. Most recently the Seton Hall University Graduate spent 14 years at MLB Network, working in roles from researcher to segment producer to Producer at the league-owned network, winning 7 Sports Emmys for his contributions to “MLB Tonight”. The New York native has also worked a producer at MSG Network, and served as a researcher for FOX & ESPN. Moses started his professional television career working at SNY from 2007-2009. To connect with Moses, find him on Twitter @MosesMassena16.
Can FOX Sports Solve its Greg Olsen Problem with College Football?
“FOX can keep Olsen and Olsen can stay the network’s top analyst. All that has to happen is the network has to move Greg Olsen from its NFL coverage to its college football coverage.”
Fox seemingly has a problem. It was talked about throughout the playoffs. Tom Brady is really coming aboard next season to join Kevin Burkhardt in FOX’s top NFL booth, which will unseat Greg Olsen, widely considered the best game analyst on TV.
There have been plenty of theories about what to do. Everyone has a thought about which network should cut ties with its top NFL analyst to make room for Olsen. The most obvious answer though is that Olsen gets bumped down a peg to FOX’s number two booth. Currently, that’s Joe Davis and Moose Johnston. What other changes would that necessitate?
Maybe Amazon moves on from Kirk Herbstreit. Maybe Cris Collinsworth decides to retire, opening up a spot on NBC. Those are the best case scenarios for Olsen, but my guess is FOX does not want to lose him to a competitor. In 2022, I wrote that FOX may not realize what it has in Olsen. I received an email the next day from a FOX executive that said he definitely knows what the network has and thinks Olsen deserves to be in the spotlight in his booth, not playing second fiddle to Tom Brady.
So with that in mind, I have a suggestion. FOX can keep Olsen and Olsen can stay the network’s top analyst. All that has to happen is the network has to move Greg Olsen from its NFL coverage to its college football coverage. It’s a radical idea, but I think it’s a good one.
Don’t get me wrong. There is no reason FOX has to think about replacing Joel Klatt. He also regularly receives high praise for his work. But if the network sees Olsen as a higher priority, this is a chance to keep him in the fold without diminishing his role.
Greg Olsen’s future at FOX probably does not include another Super Bowl. It sucks. I thought he did a great job with Super Bowl LVII. But if the reality is he won’t get to do that again, wouldn’t you rather still be on a top broadcast each week? The College Football Playoff Committee has denied earlier reports that a deal on a new TV contract with ESPN is done. We know FOX really wants a piece of the event. If you’re Greg Olsen and you are open to moving to Big Noon Saturday, there is still a chance that comes along with the chance to call the National Championship Game in the future.
Right now, FOX Sports boss Eric Shanks has to solve the Olsen problem. He can cross the Klatt bridge if it gets to that point, but there are options. Even if his playing days didn’t have the star power of the rest of the Big Noon Kickoff cast, he has established himself as an elite analytical mind. He could move into a featured role on the pregame show.
Olsen would bring not just star power, but authority. He was a standout tight end for The University of Miami in the early 2000s. It’s undeniably a marquee brand. He was an all-conference performer. He experienced the beginnings of realignment first hand. As a member of the notorious 7th Floor Crew, his college career even has that little bit of infamy and controversy that FOX loves.
Pairing him with Gus Johnson could be a home run. The energy would be the complete opposite of ESPN, CBS and NBC. Imagine Johnson and Olsen going off the air and then flipping over to whatever game Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson are covering. It would sound like a funeral by comparison.
College football is not the NFL. I get that. But if the last handful of years have proven anything in the sports broadcasting business, it’s that star power matters most of all. Olsen may have proven himself more than capable, but he just can’t compete with Tom Brady in the area that has the most influence on who gets the top job.
Plenty of football fans and media members view college football as a step down from the NFL. I get why, the NFL dwarfs everything else on television. But the college football audience is still trending upward. Nowhere has that been more evident in recent years than at FOX.
FOX doesn’t want to lose Olsen, and I don’t think it will. He may have an opt out clause but I am not sure a job that is worthy of exercising it will be available to him.
So if you’re in charge of FOX and you have an asset like Olsen, you have to ask yourself what the best way to use him is. If Brady is there, there is a ceiling on how high Olsen can go, so do you stick him at the number 2 spot and risk losing him every season, or do you try to sell him on being the number one guy in a new booth – one that already has shown its growth potential?
Maybe there is no obvious answer, but if FOX wants to pitch Olsen on making the move to college football, it can play to his ego and competitive instincts. That should make it an easy sell.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at [email protected].