Connect with us
BSM Summit
blank

BSM Writers

Aaron Always Will Be The King — And *Bonds The Bum

Baseball has fallen down a scandalous cliff since The Hammer’s glorious 1974 milestone, and if MLB’s leadership has any brains, it will continue celebrating his legacy amid Bonds’ dirty Hall of Fame bid.

Jay Mariotti

Published

on

blank

Henry Aaron is gone, but his image can’t be allowed to die with him. It’s all baseball has left, really, memories of the sport’s most prosperous times back when a home run meant something and a slugger didn’t need a syringe to be king. He fought the most despicable attacks of racism with grace, embracing defiance more than bitterness, and if the so-called current commissioner had any nerve, he’d officially declare Aaron’s 755 homers as the all-time record.

Vin Scully's greatest calls: Hank Aaron's historic 715th home run

But Rob Manfred, who only has exacerbated an ongoing crisis of cultural irrelevance and labor warfare, wouldn’t dare do the right thing and affix a big, bloated asterisk to Barry Bonds’ steroids-enhanced 762. Instead, he will allow a swell of Aaron tributes to be swallowed by a repulsive possibility Tuesday: Bonds receiving just enough votes for Hall of Fame induction.

Upon which, as always, the real king will be slighted again.

Which would be a sin, because if baseball had an iconic logo, The Hammer would be the one swinging the bat in the likeness. He represented integrity, dignity and all-around mastery in a sport that since has degenerated into scandal and deceit, from steroids and recreational drug use to gambling and electronic sign-stealing. It’s not a stretch to say baseball began its slow, agonizing plunge in American life on April 8, 1974, the night Aaron blasted No. 715 in Atlanta and passed Babe Ruth. That should be remembered forever as one of the top-five glorious moments in sports history. As Vin Scully waxed on the broadcast, “What a marvelous moment for baseball. What a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. What a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A Black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol.”

Yet almost five decades later, the evening is more symbolic of how this country refused to learn from the hatred that accompanied his chase. “If I was white, all America would be proud of me. But I am Black,” Aaron said then. “They call me `nigger’ and every other bad word you can come up with. You can’t ignore them. They are here. But this is just the way things are for Black people in America. It’s something you battle all of your life.”

He realized the bigger hero in White America was Mickey Mantle, beloved as a folk hero despite human failings. Aaron was the far more exemplary figure, surviving poverty in the Jim Crow South to achieve stardom, with Willie Mays, in the years after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier. But as he approached the hallowed record of Ruth, another man far from perfect, Aaron was subjected to racist letters that threatened his life and soured him on his accomplishments. To his dying day, the wounds remained. “It really made me see for the first time a clear picture of what this country is about,” Aaron told the New York Times. “My kids had to live like they were in prison because of kidnap threats, and I had to live like a pig in a slaughter camp. I had to duck. I had to go out the back door of ballparks. I had to have a police escort with me all the time. I was getting threatening letters every single day. All of these things put a bad taste in my mouth, and it won’t go away. They carved a piece of my heart away.”

He refused to let them have the entire heart. Only weeks before he died in his sleep at age 86, he was setting an example of how to persevere and stand tall. Who was among the first in line for the COVID-19 vaccine? Henry Aaron, who knew the greater African-American community is reluctant to be vaccinated and wanted to make a statement about the benefits of inoculation. “I feel quite proud of myself for doing something like this,” he said. “It’s just a small thing that can help zillions of people in this country.”

Home Run King Hank Aaron Dies of 'Undisclosed Cause' 18 Days After  Receiving Moderna Vaccine • Children's Health Defense

Just as America continues to be torn by racism, baseball has been crippled by relentless cheating and self-destruction. The ‘80s were disgraced by Pete Rose’s gambling habits and the Pittsburgh drug trials. The ’90’s brought a labor impasse that wiped out a World Series and allowed football and Michael Jordan to usurp Major League Baseball in mass popularity. A new century cast light on rampant PED usage that made a mockery of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, who had returned the sport to the mainstream, and the unrepentant likes of Bonds. Of late, the Houston Astros stole signs and banged on trash cans to alert hitters of oncoming pitches, part of a wide-ranging scheme that should have nailed more teams. Perhaps the best proof of Aaron’s regal status is how media outlets approached him for comments.

“I think whoever did that, they should be out of baseball for the rest of their lives,” he said of the Astros while appearing on NBC’s “Today.”

And Rose? “I just think it’s hogwash to say that he should be put back into the game just because the public wants it,” Aaron told ESPN. “A rule is a rule, and the rule is on every clubhouse door that you can’t bet on baseball. It doesn’t say that you’re excluded if you have 4,000 hits or 700 home runs.”

All you need to know about baseball and its recklessly lost trust is this: The all-time hits leader, Rose, is banned from the sport; and the all-time home run leader, Bonds, remains a borderline Hall candidate much like Roger Clemens, arguably the greatest starting pitcher ever. Each made dubious history after Aaron’s No. 715, and other than Cal Ripken Jr.’s consecutive game streak, no baseball moment since 1974 has made legitimate transcendent impact.

So baseball had better try its damndest to clutch Aaron’s legacy and not let go. “With courage and dignity, he eclipsed the most hallowed record in sports while absorbing vengeance that would have broken most people,” President Joe Biden said. “But he was unbreakable.”

Said former President Barack Obama: “Humble and hardworking, Hank was often overlooked until he started chasing Babe Ruth’s home run record, at which point he began receiving death threats and racist letters — letters he would reread decades later to remind himself `not to be surprised or hurt.’ Those letters changed Hank, but they didn’t stop him.”

Another former President, Donald Trump, has yet to comment. But Bonds did — when saying nothing would have been the more respectful play. “I was lucky enough to spend time with Hank on several occasions during my career and have always had the deepest respect and admiration for all that he did both on and off the field. He is an icon, a legend and a true hero to so many, who will forever be missed,” Bonds wrote on Instagram. “Hank Aaron — thank you for everything you ever taught us, for being a trailblazer through adversity and setting an example for all of us African American ball players who came after you. Being able to grow up and have the idols and role models I did, helped shape me for a future I could have never dreamed of. Hank’s passing will be felt by all of us who love the game and his impact will forever be cemented in my heart.”

In the cruelest twist, it was the man who admired Aaron most who enabled Bonds to supplant him atop the career home-run chart. As a fan in Milwaukee, Bud Selig was in awe of The Hammer when he played for the Braves and, after buying the Brewers, brought Aaron back to town for his final two seasons. But when he ascended to the baseball commissionership in the ‘90s, Selig was complicit in not cleaning up the steroids scandals that ultimately allowed Bonds to one-up Aaron.

Bud Selig talks about the impact Hank Aaron had on him - Los Angeles Times

“Not long ago, he and I were walking the streets of Washington, D.C, together and talking about how we’ve been the best of friends for more than 60 years,” Selig told the Associated Press. “Then Hank said, `Who would have ever thought all those years ago that a Black kid from Mobile, Alabama, would break Babe Ruth’s home run record and a Jewish kid from Milwaukee would become the commissioner of baseball?’”

If the kid from Milwaukee had done his job responsibly, he would have banned Bonds long enough that he couldn’t have broken the real home run record. But that’s the story of Henry Aaron’s life: When so much was right, even a friend did him wrong. MLB can rectify the error by celebrating The Hammer as a regular rite, beginning Tuesday, on what could be one of the sport’s darkest days.

BSM Writers

NBC Must Develop a Real No. 2 NFL Crew for Playoffs

Is the network’s only other option Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett?

Avatar photo

Published

on

blank

Several years ago, the NFL objected to NBC wanting to employ Mike Tirico as the lead play-by-play voice for its Thursday Night Football broadcasts. The league preferred Al Michaels because he was NBC’s No. 1 NFL play-by-play announcer and wanted the TNF telecasts to carry the same prestige as Sunday Night Football.

Following the network’s heavily-criticized broadcast of Saturday’s Wild Card playoff game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL may want to impose its authority again and insist that a top-tier broadcast team call the action of an important postseason game.

The consensus among fans and media watching Saturday’s broadcast was that Michaels and analyst Tony Dungy were surprisingly low-energy for an NFL playoff game, let alone one that became so exciting with Jacksonville rallying from a 27-0 deficit for a 31-30 victory on a last-second field goal.

Such a lackluster broadcast led to questions of whether or not Michaels was now past his prime after a season of calling subpar TNF games for Amazon and what initially appeared to be another snoozer when the Jaguars fell behind by 27 points. Pairing him with Dungy, who was a studio analyst all season, certainly didn’t help.

Dungy was as basic as a game analyst could be, typically narrating replays viewers could see for themselves while adding little insight. Worst of all, he demonstrated no enthusiasm for the action, leaving Michaels to fill most of the airtime. The veteran broadcaster showed that he can no longer carry a broadcast by himself. He needs the energy and back-and-forth that Cris Collinsworth or Kirk Herbstreit provide.

So how did NBC get here?

Most football fans know that the network’s top broadcast team is Tirico on play-by-play alongside analyst Cris Collinsworth. But they had their own assignment during Super Wild Card Weekend, calling Sunday night’s Ravens-Bengals match-up. With the postseason field expanding from 12 to 14 teams, resulting in six games being played on Wild Card weekend, NBC was awarded one of the additional playoff broadcasts.

Thus, another broadcast team was needed for that second Wild Card game. Fortunately, NBC had a renowned play-by-play man already in place. Michaels finished out his final season as SNF‘s lead voice by calling Super Bowl LVI, part of a powerful one-two combination for NBC Sports coming toward the end of its 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics coverage.

Ending his legendary career with a Super Bowl broadcast would’ve been a wonderful final note for Michaels. That appeared to be a natural path when Tirico moved from ESPN to NBC in 2016. Network executives admitted that a succession plan was in mind for Tirico to take over SNF eventually. At the time, Michaels also likely thought he would retire by then.

But when confronted with the possibility of retirement, Michaels realized he wasn’t interested. He was still enjoying broadcasting the NFL. His skills were still sharp. And perhaps most importantly, he was in demand. Amazon wanted Michaels as the lead voice for its Thursday Night Football broadcasts, bringing instant credibility to a streaming venture that drew some skepticism. ESPN considered him as its Monday Night Football play-by-play man.

As it turned out, ESPN made a bold move for MNF, swiping Fox’s No. 1 NFL crew of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. That left Amazon for Michaels, and the streaming giant paid him a commensurate salary with the top broadcasters in the industry as part of his three-year contract.

Yet Michaels wasn’t done with NBC either. After his agreement with Amazon became official, NBC announced that its relationship with Michaels would continue in an “emeritus” role allowing him to broadcast the network’s Olympics coverage and that additional Wild Card playoff telecast.

NBC can’t have been happy that most of the social media chatter afterward focused on the broadcast, rather than the game result. Especially when the discussion centered on how poorly Michaels and Dungy performed in what turned out to be a thrilling playoff game. That’s a pairing that the NFL probably doesn’t want to see again.

Michaels will likely call at least one more Wild Card playoff game for NBC since he intends to work on the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics. He’s also under contract with Amazon for another two seasons unless he decides to retire before that deal expires. So perhaps the simple solution is keeping Dungy out of the broadcast booth and giving Michaels a better partner.

But can NBC drop in another analyst who hasn’t worked with Michaels all season? Anyone would arguably be an improvement over Dungy. Is it at all possible for Herbstreit to be hired on for a one-off playoff broadcast, thus ensuring that the broadcast team will have some on-air familiarity and chemistry?

Otherwise, NBC’s only other option may be its Notre Dame broadcast team of Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett. (The network tried that last season with Tirico and Drew Brees, only for Brees to wilt under the harsher NFL playoff spotlight.)

The pair also called USFL broadcasts for the network, so at least there would be familiarity rather than trying to figure each other out during a telecast. Yet Collinsworth and Garrett aren’t terribly popular with viewers. And as with Brees, that crew will face intense scrutiny with a larger playoff audience.

Unfortunately, NBC appears to be stuck here. Unless the new Big Ten broadcast team of Noah Eagle and Todd Blackledge gets a shot. That might be the best option! Other than Notre Dame or USFL games, where are the other opportunities for NBC to develop a No. 2 NFL broadcast team? No one wants to put Al Michaels through Chris Simms in the broadcast booth, right?

Continue Reading

BSM Writers

Al Michaels Has Options But He Has To Make a Choice

“It does all of us in the sports industry well to remember 99% of our audience would gladly trade places with us.”

Avatar photo

Published

on

blank

I don’t ask much out of game announcers; get excited when appropriate, get the simple information correct, don’t get so caught up in your shtick you put yourself above the game. Al Michaels has been doing all those things well for the better part of half a century and few would argue that he’s not one of the best to ever do it. That doesn’t mean he can’t lose his fastball.

Before you read any longer, I am not here to say Al Michaels has lost his fastball. What I am here to say is Michaels has all too often this season seemed upset with and disinterested in the game he is calling. That isn’t entirely surprising when you consider some of the Thursday night action he called on Amazon Prime where the average margin of victory was almost nine points per game.

On top of that, the Amazon schedule had a dreadful two week stretch with Colts 12-9 win over the Broncos in Week Five and the Commanders 12-7 win over the Bears the next Thursday. It was in that Broncos-Colts game Michaels asked Herbstreit if a game “can be so bad it is good?” Herbstreit’s answer was “No”, by the way. It was the full 15 game schedule that Michaels told The Athletic’s media critic Richard Deitsch was like trying to sell a used car.

All of that is fine, the inaugural Amazon Prime season was not a smashing success. The streaming giant missed audience projections and will lose advertising revenue because of it. The lackluster schedule did not help that. But Michaels was given a second life; he was the NBC play-by-play announcer for the Saturday Night Wildcard Playoff game between the Chargers and Jaguars. It initially looked like Michaels might be the problem as five first half Jags turnovers had them in a 27-0 hole. But the home team staged a nearly unprecedented comeback for the win.

It was the performance by Michaels and, to a lesser degree, his analyst Tony Dungy that has led to criticism. Criticism might be too soft of a word, Michaels was roundly dragged for his lack of enthusiasm during the comeback and specifically on his call of the Jacksonville game winning field goal. The enthusiasm of the call of the game winner had a mid-3rd quarter of week four feel to it.

Me telling Al Michaels how to do play-by-play of an NFL game would be the equivalent of me telling a physicist how to split an atom. So, this isn’t just a Michaels criticism, few things bother me more than hearing a game announcer complain about the length or quality of a game as if he’d rather be anywhere else. It does all of us in the sports industry well to remember 99% of our audience would gladly trade places with us.

How many NFL viewers would sit in the seat Michaels, or any NFL announcer occupies, for free? They’d feel like they won the lottery if they also were getting the money those announcers are getting paid to be there. The guy that works a 12-hour Thursday construction shift just to get home and crack a beer for the NFL game probably doesn’t want to hear how tough that game is to announce.

On top of all of that, Michaels was given the gift of one of the wildest NFL Playoff comebacks you’ll ever see and, at times, sounded as if he was completely disinterested in being there. Pro tip: the best NFL announcer in those moments is Kevin Harlan (see: Miami at Baltimore from earlier this season. That has nothing to do with my lifelong Dolphins fandom). Michaels’ lack of enthusiasm was compounded by the exact opposite from Mike Tirico on the very same network for the Bengals-Ravens Wildcard game Sunday night. 

Tirico, like Michaels, has a sterling resume of play-by-play accomplishments. The difference is Tirico sounded like he was having the time of his life on Sunday night. 

To be fair, their two styles are different. Michaels has a very old school, Pat Summerall approach. Summerall, Vin Scully and Dick Enberg came along at a time when announcers were far more likely to let the pictures tell the story. More new school guys like Harlan and Tirico approach it differently.

Look, Al Michaels helped us believe in miracles. His place in the Sports Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame has long since been cemented. Being a hall of fame inductee doesn’t mean your style will forever be accepted by the masses. That leaves you with a few options; you can continue your style and accept or ignore the criticism or you can ride off into the sunset and enjoy the fruits of your decades of labor.

Al Michaels has what we all want; great options. He can choose any of them and be a winner in the game of life. It doesn’t matter if he enthusiastically embraces them, or not. 

Continue Reading

BSM Writers

Bernie Kosar Was the Victim of a Policy That Doesn’t Work Anymore

“The NFL has bigger fish to fry than Bernie Kosar. Hell, it has more pressing issues in Cleveland alone.”

Demetri Ravanos

Published

on

blank

One week ago, Bernie Kosar lost his job on the Browns Radio Network for placing the first legal sports bet in the state of Ohio. Kosar, just like Jets coach Miles Austin weeks earlier and Calvin Ridley last year, violated a league policy that forbids team employees from placing a bet on any NFL game.

The integrity of the games still matters. The belief that what we are all seeing is being fairly contested is what gives those of us that like to have a little vested interest in the outcome the desire to lay our money down in the first place. I get the league’s discomfort with a coach on the staff of a team in the middle of the playoff hunt making bets. I get its fear of the message it sends to have players making bets.

Roger Goodell and the 32 team owners are well within their rights to object to men that can potentially control the outcome of a game or postseason seeding doing anything that even appears to jeopardize its fairness. Even perceived impropriety can compromise the league’s tremendous value.

But Bernie Kosar doesn’t have that kind of influence on the outcome of a game. He is just a broadcaster and not even a game analyst. He is part of studio coverage.

I am far from the first to point this out, but in 2023, the NFL has three official sports betting partners. Just last week, it approved the first ever in-stadium sportsbook, which Fanatics is set to open inside of FedEx Field. If the NFL is comfortable enough with the reality that its fans like to bet to make those things a reality, then Kosar losing his gig is absurd. It is the result of nothing other than “well, that’s the way we’ve always done it” thinking.

Maybe Kosar was terrible on the radio and the team was looking for a reason to move on. I don’t live in Cleveland and I am not a Browns fan, so I have no idea.

How many times have we heard that NFL owners hired Goodell to “protect the shield”? I’m not even really sure what it means or when it applies anymore. If I had a vested interest in the public perception of the league, I know that I would want someone to do the PR math on this situation.

Bernie Kosar isn’t an addict that can’t watch a game without the high of winning or the emotional distress of losing everything at stake, at least not as far as we know. This was a bet made through an advertising partner, to benefit charity. He even said on his podcast this week that the purpose of making the bet was to generate some money for former players in need of help.

This is like Disney threatening daycare centers with lawsuits for painting Mickey Mouse on a classroom wall. The NFL has bigger fish to fry than Bernie Kosar. Hell, it has more pressing issues in Cleveland alone.

Surely you have seen Garrett Bush’s impassioned rant on the Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show about the obstacles facing Damar Hamlin because of how many hoops the NFL makes former players jump through in order to get some kind of pension.

On January 2, we were all united in our concern for a guy that hadn’t even completed his second full NFL season. We didn’t know if he was going to live, but if he did, we all knew that the NFL had done everything it needed to in order to protect itself from ever having to pay a dime for his medical care. Less than a week later, Bernie Kosar was fired for what amounted to a charity stunt that was meant to raise money and attention to very similar issues.

At both the league level and the team level, there was incompetence that lead to a man unnecessarily losing a gig and to the Browns and the NFL looking horribly out of touch with reality.

Are we acknowledging that people gamble or not? Are we acknowledging there are responsible ways to bet on football and are interested in generating revenue off of it or not? Because it doesn’t seem to me that the same league that just gave the thumbs up to open a sportsbook inside of a stadium is really that concerned with people that cannot affect the outcome of games betting on those games.

Has the NFL come out and said that it is going to cover every medical bill for everyone that has ever played the game? We know that this is a brutal game that leaves a physical and physiological impact on the men that played it. Why would we make it harder for someone that knows that pain to help others do something about it?

I feel awful for Bernie Kosar. Whether he needs the money or not, it is embarassing to be at the center of a controversy like this, particularly because in the NFL in 2023, there is no reason for a controversy like this to exist.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

blank

Barrett Media Writers

Copyright © 2023 Barrett Media.