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Already, Brady One-Upping Mahomes In Mind Game

By declaring he might play past 45, Brady has taken control of the Super Bowl media narrative and, combined with spicy comments from Tony Romo, placed the onus on Mahomes not to lose Sunday.

Jay Mariotti

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Well, that didn’t take long, just a matter of firing up the Zoom machine and asking Tom Brady a question. Now that he has established he can obliterate the laws of time and reach a Super Bowl at age 43, might he play beyond 45?

“Definitely,” he said Monday. “I’d definitely consider that.”

Tom Brady snaps picture and jokes about how "different" virtual media day  is - YouTube

Hell, why not 50? Sixty? One hundred, even? Isn’t this the first athlete we’ve ever encountered who makes us wonder, “Hmmm, might he live forever? Will he never have to worry about obesity, memory loss, colonoscopies, diabetes and erectile dysfunction? Will he never slurp soup or need an adult diaper?”

As we chuckle in awe of the man, having left our doubts and insults far behind, Brady immediately was seizing early control of the most monumental quarterbacking matchup in Super Bowl history. Rather than cede ground in the inescapable reality that he is 18 years older than his similarly transcendent counterpart, Patrick Mahomes, Brady doubled down on a once-preposterous notion: that he can play at a high level, alter a franchise culture and compete for a championship at an age when most quarterbacks are retirees who limp around the backyard, attend autograph shows or, like Tony Romo and Drew Brees, settle for the catbird seat of the broadcast booth.

He isn’t viewing Sunday as his final game. He sees it as his seventh stop in the Vince Lombardi Trophy receiving line, with two or three more ahead. At this point, is anyone foolish enough to doubt him?

“The perspective I have on that is, you never know when that moment is. Just because it’s a contact sport,” explained Brady, who had a stylin’ thirtyish pompadour going as he spoke to the national media. “There’s a lot of training that goes into it. And it has to be 100 percent commitment from myself to keep doing it. I think I’ll know when it’s time. I don’t know when that time will come. But I think I’ll know. And I’ll understand that I gave everything I could to give to this game. You put a lot into it. I don’t think I could ever go at this game half-ass. I’ve gotta put everything into it. When I put it all out there and feel like I can’t do it anymore — I don’t feel like I can commit to the team in the way that the team needs me — then I think that’s when it’s probably time to walk away.”

It was his way of saying, politely, that he has checked every box. With those observations, Brady has deftly one-upped Mahomes in a competition he is well-suited to winning as a veteran of 10 such media weeks — the Super Bowl mind game. He has flipped the narrative to where the pressure isn’t on him to win; it’s on Mahomes not to lose. Here we thought St. Patrick was just boarding the legacy speedtrain as he and the Chiefs attempt the NFL’s first repeat since Brady and the Patriots in 2005. At 25, doesn’t he have 15 more years to mesmerize us with eyeball-glazing dazzle, playground-dirt fun, Super Bowls, MVPs, a boyishly humble sensibility and a strong social presence that helped Roger Goodell finally acknowledge that Black Lives Matter? My God, isn’t he just getting started on one of the notable sports careers ever?

Apparently not. If you listen to Romo, who might have downed one too many espressos and read too many Wikipedia chess stories before a CBS media call, Mahomes must win Sunday … or else.

“This is the biggest game Patrick Mahomes will ever play in for the rest of his career,” Romo said. “It’s the only way he can catch Tom Brady. He has to win this game. If he loses this game, he cannot catch Tom Brady, in my opinion, because Tom Brady (is) Bobby Fischer, and you got a chance to play Bobby Fischer for the world championships.

“It’s LeBron versus Jordan. You know how hard it’s going to be for Patrick to play in 10 Super Bowls and win seven? I mean, with a perfect career, Patrick is the rare guy who might. But as long as he lost to Tom when Tom was older, he’d have to go to 12 Super Bowls and win nine. So I think this is the biggest game of Patrick Mahomes’ career. … Brady, I promise you, shuts the door if he wins this game. There’s almost no way you could ever argue if Tom Brady at 43 years old, turning back Father Time, beats Patrick Mahomes, who is the face of the NFL — and rightfully so — and who’s the only guy who could possibly climb the ladder. If Tom Brady closes that in this game, I just don’t see some other human being ever competing in 10 Super Bowls, winning seven and being able to say you’re better than Tom Brady.”

While the LeBron James-Michael Jordan analogy is apt — I can’t speak to Bobby Fischer and Magnus Carlsen, also name-dropped by Romo — it’s a little loony to declare Mahomes must win or bury his head in the sand of St. Pete Beach. Is it his fault that Brady is nuts and wants to play pro football 20 or 25 years to win six or seven titles? And why would Mahomes share the desire to play into his mid-to-late 40s, having just signed a $500 million deal and maybe preferring more years with his family in midlife? Say Brady and the Buccaneers do win, giving him seven championships to Mahomes’ one. There are no definitives in the vague, subjective handbook of determining the greatest quarterback of all time. In my estimation, Mahomes could win, oh, four Super Bowls and still eclipse Brady as the G.O.A.T. if he: (1) keeps revolutionizing the position as a dual-threat magician who throws from all angles and escapes all predicaments; and (2) remains the all-time regular-season and postseason leader in passer rating, the NFL’s defining QB metric.

WATCH: Best angle of Patrick Mahomes' most recent no-look pass

Romo’s comments smack of Dana White promoting a UFC event. In truth, a variety of elements are involved. Brady, as a pocket passer, was protected by offensive lines in New England and this season in Tampa Bay and gets rid of the ball quickly, thus reducing wear and tear. Mahomes, as an improvisational whirlwind, is vulnerable to injury, as seen this postseason with a concussion that knocked him out of the Cleveland game and an ongoing turf toe issue. If he continues to be injury-prone, will it diminish his legacy? Absolutely. And he’ll need the help of coach Andy Reid and owner Clark Hunt, late arrivals to the Super Bowl victory circle, to keep the Chiefs championship-competitive for the long term.

But can we please let this doubled-edged drama play out on Sunday, if not into the future, before declaring absolutes? Because if Mahomes and the Chiefs win — as I suspect they will, even as injuries deplete Kansas City’s starting tackles against Shaq Barrett and a fearsome pass rush — the Super Bowl scoreboard suddenly is 6-2. Mahomes would be 2 for 2, Brady 6 for 10. Which brings us to Jordan vs. James. Among the reasons Jordan always will remain the NBA’s G.O.A.T., even if James wins again this year with the Lakers and narrows the race to 6-5, is that he played in six Finals, won six Finals and won six Finals MVPs, for a 1.000 batting average. James has lost six times in the Finals. Such a matchup can happen only on video games, of course. Which is the beauty of Brady vs. Mahomes — a whopping age discrepancy suddenly doesn’t matter, the ultimate rarity in sports. We can compare eras, right there on a field. This is what Romo definitely gets as he blathers on.

“This is going to be one of the great matchups in sports history because it doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “This matchup is what you talk about with your friends when you talk about as if. Could you imagine if Michael Jordan got his team to the NBA Finals … when he was older against a young LeBron James, who’s the face of the league? It would be the greatest thing in the history of sports. I think we might actually have that Super Bowl. We might have that game. It just has never happened.

“You want to see this guy in his prime and this guy in his prime. It’s like Jack Nicklaus against Tiger Woods. There’s no comparison I could find in any sport, and I would love it if somebody could. The only thing I can think of is LeBron James chasing Michael Jordan. He’s spent his entire career chasing. Jordan set the bar so high, so LeBron has to be so amazing to get in the discussion — and he is. Somehow he’s put himself in the discussion. The fact that Patrick Mahomes is somehow even remotely in this discussion shows you how amazing this guy is. We all see it. When it’s all said and done, there’s a chance for Patrick Mahomes. If you’re playing in this game, this could be the thing if you get close to climbing that ladder; this game could push you over the top when it’s all said and done. To say you beat Brady in the Super Bowl head to head.”

Fair or far-fetched, the seed has been planted. Mahomes, still a kid who puts ketchup on most food items and demands the “Patrick Price” in State Farm ads, suddenly has to ponder legacy. The challenges are piling up — the Chiefs are the first road team in Super Bowl history, arriving in Tampa on Saturday — and Mahomes is facing crazy questions this week about trying to keep up with Brady’s longevity. Would he play until he’s 43 or older? You know, to try and surpass Brady’s Super Bowl ring total? This is Nicklaus vs. Woods stuff, but unlike the golfing majors count, football is a team sport that also depends on how a quarterback’s defense and front office perform. It’s shallow to equate this as simply Brady vs. Mahomes, like a heavyweight fight in the day. But Mahomes is dealing with history nonetheless.

Reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs dump Buffalo Bills, 38-24, in AFC title  game to advance to Super Bowl | KTLA

“I want to play as long as they let me,” he said Monday. “In order to do that, I have to take care of my body as much as I take care of everything else on the field. If you want to play this sport for a long time, how physical as it is, you have to invest as much time into your body as you do anything else. I’ve learned more and more in my young career so far about what I can do to keep myself available and healthy and try to be in the best nutritional state I can be in. I feel like I can be better.”

Such are the pressures created by Brady’s unprecedented career. Now that he’s taken down his forerunners and contemporaries — from Joe Montana to Peyton Manning to Aaron Rodgers in the NFC title game — he eyes the new kid. Having attained all the fame, wealth and all-time status he could want, you’d think Brady would stop exacting revenge against career slights. He has won all of those wars, hasn’t he? But he still thinks he’s the 199th pick in the draft. Or the guy accused of deflating balls. Or a lucky beneficiary of the Bill Belichick system. Thus, though he understands his place in the sporting pantheon, he refuses to settle.

“I could never have imagined it would be like this. I don’t think anybody could have,” Brady said. “(I’ve) tried to go play my ass off every week. I’m still trying to do it. This work for me has never been about — I would have thought that success is passing yards or touchdowns or Super Bowls — it was always maximizing my potential, being the best I could be. When I showed up as a freshman in high school, I didn’t know how to put pads in my pants. I was just hoping to play high school football because I wanted to be like Joe Montana and Steve Young. And then when I got a chance in college, I just wanted to play at Michigan. When I got drafted by the Patriots, I just wanted to play, I just wanted to start. It’s just been a series of steps like that of trying to be a little better every year, trying to learn a little more every year, trying to grow and evolve in different areas.

“My life has taken certainly a lot of different directions. I’m obviously older now. I’ve got a family. A lot of incredible blessings in my life. Fast-forward 21 years — sitting in Tampa and trying to win a Super Bowl in our own home stadium would be pretty sweet.”

Though Brady’s career has been marred by clouds, including Deflategate and the suspicious presence of personal trainer Alex Guerrero, the media are bowled over by the implausibility of it all — at 43, playing for the running-joke Buccaneers in a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Rather than starring in the league’s 55th movie, and one of its most captivating, Mahomes is treated like a supporting actor. He was asked, on Zoom, not about his massive achievements so far but about a loss to Brady in the 2018 AFC championship game … and how Brady stopped by the Kansas City locker room to offer encouragement.

“It was important because it showed I was doing things the right way,” Mahomes said. “As a young quarterback in this league, you show up early and you try to put in the time and put in the work. Him saying that he respected what I was doing and how I was playing on the field and the type of person I was, it kind of put a stamp on me that I needed to go in and be even better in order to get to the Super Bowl.

“He’s the same way I am. He’s going to leave everything he has on the field every single time he’s out there. He doesn’t care what it takes. He doesn’t care if he has to throw for 400 yards or if he has to throw for 100 yards. He wants to win. I feel like I have the same mentality. I just want to win no matter what happens or how it happens.”

Of course, the questions inevitably returned to Brady … and what Mahomes needs to borrow from him. At this point, I’d have excused myself, but this was not a UFC match. He had to be polite. “The way he’s able to dissect defenses before the snap is something I truly admire. I’m trying to get to that level,” Mahomes said. “The way he’s able to move within the pocket and be able to reset his feet and be completely calm and still make the throw right on the money no matter who’s around him — it’s something I can continue to work on. As I continue in my career, I’m just going to try to do whatever I can to watch the tape on him because he’s doing it the right way. You can tell by how many Super Bowl championships he has and the rings on his fingers.”

Watch: Patriots players react to receiving biggest Super Bowl rings ever -  Pats Pulpit

There is only one way, it seems, for Mahomes to flip a script that already is written. As the challenger, he must shock the world and beat the champ.

Except it wouldn’t be a shock. I’m expecting it.

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Eavesdropping: Busted Open on SiriusXM

“If Cody would have won at WrestleMania 39 there would have been cheers. But what you got because of Cody’s victory last night was tears.”

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Graphic for Eavesdropping: Busted Open Radio

The day after the Super Bowl, it’s always fun to hear sports radio in the two towns which had teams in the game. In that same vein, I tuned into Busted Open on SiriusXM the day after WrestleMania weekend.

Host Dave LaGreca, who plays the role of the fan on the show, was joined live from WWE World by co-hosts Tommy Dreamer, Mark Henry and Bully Ray. The fan exhibit was not open to the public at the start of the show, but fans entered the picture after the first hour.

The first hour of this particular show went about as fast as a radio show can possibly move. As soon as the show started the hosts immediately got into making fun of Bully Ray, who had been a surprise guest-referee in a match during WrestleMania night two, for how he looked in the referee uniform.

“Allow me to be the very first to admit those stripes don’t look the best on me,” the WWE Hall of Famer replied to the jokes.

Mark Henry jumped in to say, “It was kind of just what WrestleMania needed. To have the ECW influence on the show, great representation for the brand and showing respect to Paul Heyman as well.” Heyman had been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame during the weekend and was celebrated not only for his WWE contributions but as the creator of ECW, which was based in Philadelphia, where he first worked with Bully Ray who was then known as Bubba Ray Dudley.

“I had people backstage in WWE telling me ‘We have never seen you smile that much in life ever,’ said Bully Ray “…I jumped at the opportunity. Too much fun.  Last night was the first WrestleMania that I got to appreciate…the level of stress that came with [when you are performing in the matches] you’re not able to take it all in…it’s really not fun because it’s so stressful.”

Bully Ray said he could feel the pop as he was introduced and really enjoyed getting to “smell the roses for the first time.”

LaGreca could no longer hold it in. He cut off the talk about his co-host participating in WrestleMania and moved on to the heart of the matter. In the main event the night before, Cody Rhodes had ended the run of Roman Reigns as the Undisputed Universal Champion after more than three and a half years. More importantly to the hosts and fans alike, the story of Cody Rhodes building to this moment was one they all agreed was one of the great moments in WrestleMania history.

Of course, WWE loves surprises and on the second night of this year’s WrestleMania, they had plenty in store. The Rock had already come back to be a part of the WrestleMania 40 storyline and then during the Sunday main event, John Cena and The Undertaker came out as surprises.

Bully Ray gave a great description of what he was doing as the main event was happening. He said he was with Damian Priest, who had earlier in the evening won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, and while they didn’t plan to watch the main event live, when it started, they thought they needed to see it. “We ran through the halls and go out into the arena,” he said. “Guys, when the gong hit for The Undertaker, the both of us turned into 12-year-olds…we were jumping up and down…lost it, loved it.”

Mark Henry said, “We reacted the same way. I cannot imagine what that must’ve felt like in person.” Bully Ray replied, “When you can hear the pop in a stadium, you know the pop is big.”

LaGreca said, “There wasn’t a lot to get excited about with night number one, but night two was just hit, after hit, after hit. And that main event, with all the stories that played out and had a conclusion during that match…You couldn’t have played that out to a better conclusion than what we saw last night.”

The hosts then listened to an audio clip from the previous year, where the day after WrestleMania some fans, including LaGreca, were extremely disappointed that Cody Rhodes did not beat Roman Reigns and “finish his story” then. At the time, Bully Ray had said there was a bigger picture story WWE would build that would show Cody fighting hard times much like his father, ‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes had gone through. Mark Henry agreed.

LaGreca said he was “eating some crow” but then admitted it’s all part of it where the emotion gets so high, and he pointed out that people were actually crying when the main event ended.  “If Cody would have won at WrestleMania 39 there would have been cheers.  But what you got because of Codys victory last night was tears,” LaGreca said. “This is an end of one story, but more importantly the beginning of a new story.”

LaGreca came back from a break and reverted immediately back to what the difference was in Rhodes winning the title in 2024 versus having done it in 2023. “It went from a great moment…to maybe one of the greatest WrestleMania moments of all time last night,” he said.

There was strong insight given out by all of the former wrestlers at different times during the show, and they also pointed to things a casual fan may not have picked up on. One of those happened when you heard ring announcer Samantha Irvin get genuinely emotional in announcing Rhodes as the new champion.

“We’re not used to hearing emotion in a ring announcer’s voice, so Samantha Irvin brought something special and extra to the table in that announcement,” said Bully Ray.

Tommy Dreamer added, “It was the most perfect imperfection ever and it made that moment even more real…it was something that will be remembered through the annals of time.”

As the hosts continued to talk about the emotion of the night, Henry said, “It felt like WE won.” This gave Bully Ray the chance to sum it all up as he said, “The key word that you just said, WE. Cody made you feel like you were a part of his struggle. You were a part of his story.”

Henry went on to say, “I felt like last night, for the first time, that I could almost cry for Cody. I honestly felt emotional seeing him become the face of this new era, the ‘Triple H’ era….Wrestling is a feel business and if you don’t feel it then it’s not worth really putting on television. I felt that [last night] and I know every fan felt that.”

The hosts continued to give insight as they discussed a gift given to Cody Rhodes by WWE executives backstage and a spot where a table broke before it was supposed to and how smoothly the performers pivoted. Having Henry, Dreamer and Bully Ray on the show allows for a lot of this type of discussion where they can give perspective from having been in the ring.

Later LeGreca is asked if he would rank this WrestleMania up there with WrestleMania 17, widely considered the best of all time. LeGreca said if night number two stood on its own he would say it was better, but perhaps not if you consider both nights. The panel as a whole agreed it was definitely up there as one of the best and Henry noted it will be the highest grossing, so that is one way to judge which was the best.

“There were very few holes in that show,” Dreamer said.

While the first hour was rapid fire and had a ton of great reaction to all of the highlights of the night before, the show took a bit of a turn in the second hour. As the crowd became a part of the show it seemed to change the demeanor of the hosts a bit, especially LaGreca who seemed to be playing to the crowd rather than the listening audience. He yelled out “We did it!” talking about Cody Rhodes winning and then led a “Cody! Cody! Cody!” chant that didn’t go over well to those not on site.

Then there was a very strange guest appearance by WWE superstar Liv Morgan which seemed to bring the show to a halt. Later, Kevin Owens was live on the show and his appearance made a lot more sense as he participated in WrestleMania and had thoughts to share about others who performed and the storylines which were created. Owens helped bring the energy of the show back up and you could tell as a listener how passionate he is about wrestling and what took place during WrestleMania 40.

The programmer in me would remind the hosts not to do the show for their hardcore fans only, as they have to assume people are coming in and out of the show. They had incredible content in the first hour with really strong opinions from their experts, but there was never any resetting or going back to what was talked about, which I thought was a bit of a miss.

With that said, if you are a wrestling fan and you didn’t feed off the energy and excitement the hosts had for what they had witnessed the night before, something is wrong with you. Busted Open Radio was an excellent listen as a follow up to what was a memorable WresleMania weekend.

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Andrew Catalon is Prepared to Meet the Moment

“You get excited like a fan would – you inform – but ultimately the game is the show, and you’re just kind of there to supplement what we’re watching.”

Derek Futterman

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Andrew Catalon
Courtesy: John Paul Filo, CBS

The city of Pittsburgh is known for its propensity to build, serving as the point of widespread adoption of steel-making that revolutionized the construction industry for perpetuity. Situated at the conjunction of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers, the locale is fixed at the pathway of innovation and splendor where what may seem impossible can expeditiously render itself into reality. Even though Andrew Catalon did not forecast it beforehand, he found himself at the intersection of fantasy and reality at PPG Paints Arena during a game within the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. The No. 14 Oakland Golden Grizzlies were closing in on an all-time upset of the No. 3 Kentucky Wildcats, and time was waning on the clock.

Catalon has called many upset victories behind the microphone across a variety of sports since starting his work as a play-by-play announcer. Just one year ago, he delivered an enduring call of No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson defeating No. 1 Purdue in the first round of the tournament. Fans can purchase T-shirts with Catalon’s verbiage of “FDU Believe It?!,” commemorating what is regarded as one of the greatest upsets in the history of the sport and demonstrating the impact of his words. The key to it all is to remain focused on the action taking place on the court in order to deliver an accurate and apropos soundtrack to the moment.

“I’d say the biggest lesson I’ve learned with some of the upsets over the years is not to get ahead of yourself,” Catalon said. “It’s a long game, and there will be time at the end to explain the significance of it, but before that, you’ve got to call the game and stay within that moment.”

Throughout his broadcast career, Catalon has broadcast 300 college basketball games and usually does not think about hypotheticals; however, the FDU-Purdue matchup happened to represent a rare exception in that paradigm. After all, a FDU victory would represent just the second time in tournament history that a No. 16 seed defeated a No. 1 seed in the bracket. The only other time it had happened was in 2018 when No. 16 UMBC beat No. 1 Virginia, and the moment as delivered by play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz continues to stand the test of time.

“I knew it’d be replayed [and] I wanted to be prepared in that moment, but I also think that being spontaneous and just kind of going with the flow also makes for a good final call,” Catalon said. “Last year I did have that ‘FDU Believe It?!’ kind of in the back of my mind as the game went on, but for Oakland this year, it just kind of came out.”

Once Kentucky guard Antonio Reeves clanked a desperation three-point attempt long off the rim, Catalon exclaimed that Oakland had completed “a March memory of a lifetime.” From there, he let the crowd and marching band tell the story accompanied by a dichotomy of jubilation and despair. Part of what makes that possible is the understanding from color commentator Steve Lappas of how to approach the moment, something that has been built through the countless repetitions he and Catalon have had broadcasting games together. In fact, Catalon estimates he can count the number of college basketball games he has announced without Lappas on his hands.

“I know what he wants to say or when he wants to get in, and he knows when I want to get in and what I want to say, and that just makes it so much better,” Catalon said. “So look, there’s nothing better than having a consistent partner, and I credit CBS for that; they have kept us together.”

Reaching these types of moments requires comprehensive preparation, research and informed observation to understand the teams and accurately report and expound on the surrounding storylines. For a typical March Madness game, Catalon watches the previous matchups for the teams he has coming up on his schedule and reviews his boards from years prior.

“I don’t want to be the guy that just parachutes in having never seen a team before, and I think fans can detect that, so my prep is always to get up to speed so that a viewer of a team doesn’t think that, ‘This guy hasn’t watched us play,’ or, ‘This guy doesn’t know what we’re all about.’ That would be a huge disservice to the viewer and to the fan, and that’s always what I try to accomplish in my prep.”

Catalon has sought to prove that he can come through in the clutch during his time working in sports media, bringing a consistent approach to his craft no matter if it is among the strident crowd at a college basketball arena or the subdued greens of Augusta National. Over the course of the week, he has been on-site to call the 88th edition of The Masters golf tournament from Augusta, Ga., a revered tradition that takes place annually with its coveted green jacket and several other lucrative prizes hanging in the balance. With the inherent spirit of congenial competition subdued yet effervescent, storytelling takes center stage with a keen foresight and cognizance of the moment.

“There’s a lot more teamwork involved,” Catalon said. “You think about a broadcast – we have 7-8 announcers as opposed to two or three for a football or basketball game – and that’s another big part of camaraderie and partnership is spending time with that golf crew so that when I pinch hit for Jim Nantz, it’s seamless. I don’t want them to think that, ‘Okay, we’re in a different broadcast because Jim’s not here.’”

Nantz has been hosting coverage of The Masters since 1989 and has become synonymous with the tournament itself, authoring its slogan, “A tradition unlike any other.” Catalon understands the responsibility he incurs when taking the air from Augusta and is living out a longtime career aspiration of calling golf. Leading up to a pivotal shot or tournament-winning putt, he works to effectively contextualize the situation and let it play out in the environment.

“No one can fill Jim’s shoes and I’m not trying to,” Catalon said, “but I want to make sure that that team knows that I’m doing my homework and that they can count on me to deliver in the big moment.”

From the time he was an undergraduate student at Syracuse University, Catalon knew that he had a penchant for sports media and began gaining repetitions at WAER, the student-run radio station. Calling football, basketball and lacrosse games, he developed professional friendships and gained a broader understanding of the industry itself. Being situated in the broadcast booth, he developed ideas of how to approach a game and an ability to translate the feats of athleticism and achievement into succinct, nuanced phraseology.

“There’s no doubt that all the reps that I got in college at WAER have certainly helped me not only get a job, but also for a lot of the stuff that I do now,” Catalon said. “I still make my boards the same exact way I did in college. I handwrite everything with different colored markers and pens, and I just retain the information better.”

Before Catalon was calling sporting events though, he had not settled on play-by-play announcing as his primary career path. Instead, he applied to work at WVNY, a local news television station in Burlington, Vt. and was later hired over the phone as its sports director. As a result, Catalon moved to the city without ever seeing the station and remembers immediately being part of the regular workflow.

“It was a whole new world of learning how to run a department and kind of how to be mature,” Catalon said. “When you’re that young, you learn a lot of lessons, and it was an unbelievable experience. I couldn’t have asked for a better first job out of college.”

Three years later, WVNY announced that it was closing its news department and was consequently laying off several of its employees. Catalon was among the job cuts, a devastating outcome that prepared him to move back home. Yet he received assistance from his colleagues, specifically WVNY news director Peter Speciale, and helped him land a new job as a weekend anchor on WNYT in Albany, N.Y. two months later. While he was in the capital city of New York, the outlet allowed him to seize other industry opportunities to augment his versatility, including freelance play-by-play announcing for SportsNet New York (SNY) and CBS Sports Network.

“They were incredible to allow me to do all these opportunities,” Catalon said. “Very rarely did I have to say ‘No.’ They were very accommodating with my schedule, and I owe them a huge debt of gratitude because they allowed me to do all those things while I was still a full-time employee.”

Carr-Hughes Productions in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. gave Catalon the chance to voice over a curling show in their studios, and he eventually expanded his portfolio to include luge and equestrian. In 2007, NBC was looking for new curling announcers, leading Catalon to be recommended and calling a curling exhibition in Rockefeller Center. The next year, he contributed to Olympics coverage for the first time, calling handball games remotely from the network’s New York studios.

When the games were in Vancouver, B.C. in 2010, Catalon traveled to the city to call curling matches. It was there where he met award-winning sports anchor Fred Roggin, who was hosting coverage of the sport for NBC. During a dinner they had over the three weeks they were working together, Roggin shared an observation he had made about Catalon with him that fundamentally altered the trajectory of his career.

“He’s like, ‘Hey, I know you love doing the local news,’ and that’s what he did; he said, ‘but I really think that you’ve got what it takes to be a play-by-play guy, and I think that you should focus on that,’” Catalon remembered Roggin telling him. “Hearing that from him – who had been in the business for so long and who was doing what I wanted to do – I really valued his opinion, and I would say after that Olympics, I really turned my attention to focus on play-by-play.”

Catalon officially joined CBS Sports full time as a play-by-play announcer in 2013, but he had been steadily assimilated into the role with several opportunities years earlier. The first National Football League game he broadcast came in 2011 in an AFC matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals when he was asked to fill in for Bill Macatee. As has turned out to be happenstance for Catalon, the game ended in the final seconds when Bengals kicker Mike Nugent struck a 43-yard field goal for the win.

“When you’re in a close game and there’s strategy talk and you have those opportunities, you’ve got to step up and nail it,” Catalon said. “I think that I showed them in that game that I could handle a close game, NFL big stage. And after that, more and more opportunities came, but every one I treated like it was my last, and I knew that I had to do a good job to prove it to them that I could do this on a full-time basis.”

As the years went on, Catalon continued to garner more opportunities and worked to further refine his commentary to appeal to a national audience. While there are differences in the profile of a football game and golf tournament, he understands that it is his job to accentuate and describe the moments over the course of action. Through it all, he seeks to be relatable, informative and entertaining to his audience in disseminating an accurate account to pair with the video.

“I try to be the guy that you’d want to have a beer with if you’re at a restaurant watching the game,” Catalon said. “You want to come across where you’re not overbearing. You get excited like a fan would – you inform – but ultimately the game is the show, and you’re just kind of there to supplement what we’re watching.”

Catalon had been working with James Lofton on NFL games for several seasons, but CBS Sports revealed various changes across its announcing teams ahead of the 2023 regular season. As the play-by-play announcer on a new broadcast team featuring two analysts – former running back and WFAN afternoon host Tiki Barber; and former quarterback Matt Ryan – and reporter AJ Ross, Catalon spent time familiarizing himself with his new colleagues and building rapport applicable to the broadcast. Weekly dinners and several rounds of golf was part of this assimilation process and led to an enjoyable season with the broadcast team.

“I think because of that, we bonded as a group a lot faster than maybe I have with other partners in the past just because we had no choice but to kind of get up to speed quickly,” Catalon said. “Matt did a tremendous job in his first year, and Tiki is phenomenal as well and AJ is one of the best out there, so I feel lucky that I was with this group, and it was definitely one of the more fun seasons I’ve had on CBS.”

In calling three different sports throughout the year that require different preparation and travel, Catalon frequently has a packed schedule. With this heavy workload, he has a vocal coach to ensure he is doing what is necessary to keep his voice strong. Catalon is proactive to safeguard against losing his voice, something that can occur more readily during March Madness because of the volume of games he is calling in short proximity.

There are occurrences where it takes some time for his voice to bounce back, and he remains prudent, so he is able to perform his job. Aside from his role to the fans, Catalon is working hard for his family and wants to make them proud.

“It’s not easy for any announcer who travels like we do to be away from their family and to miss weddings or kids’ soccer games,” Catalon said. “You have to understand when you get into this business that there’s a lot of things that you’re going to miss, and you have to have an understanding family along the way, and I’m lucky that I have one.”

Although there is no guarantee Catalon will be present for another stunning upset or overtime winner, he looks at his assignments and breadth of work with gratitude and awareness of his career windfalls. If such instances do happen in the forthcoming assignments though, viewers can rest assured that they are hearing a veteran who knows how to punctuate the climax and conclude the story unfolding in real time.

Even though he is not the author of the event itself, he is among its documentarians who writes the manuscript within a library that aims to stand the test of time. The final buzzer represents a deadline of sorts as he crafts the parlance in real time, embedded with the vernacular of the moment. 

“NFL, college basketball and golf – three of my favorite things – and CBS has all three,” Catalon said. “So I’m so lucky in this job, and I can’t tell you that there’s something I haven’t done that I want to do. I just want to keep doing what I’m doing now.”

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The ’70-20-10 Rule’ for Advertising Budgets

No one wants to be the business that holds onto the past and gradually declines.

Jeff Caves

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Graphic for 70-20-10 Rule
Credit: PennyCallingPenny.com

The ’70-20-10 rule’ is a widely accepted concept in business. Google, Coca-Cola, and other big brands manage their resources in a specific ratio to stay cutting-edge and grow. The idea is that 70% of a company’s investment should go to the core business, 20% to new developments, and 10% to new and untested ideas. If you are trying to maximize your ad budget and don’t know how to fit in all the opportunities, try this method. Here is a look at an annual advertising budget of $120,000. The clients’ best months of the year are November and December. Here is how the 70-20-10 rule could be applied to maximize returns while minimizing risks.

70%: Proven Strategies – $84K

The foundation of your advertising budget should be built on proven strategies that consistently deliver results. Allocate 70% of your budget to these safe bets. These are proven campaigns that you know will work from history or borrowing tactics from industry-trusted sources. In general, these are ad campaigns on proven platforms, such as radio, TV, Google and Facebook. Advertisers should use these tactics 12 months a year to provide a consistent return. This will establish a solid foundation for your advertising strategy while minimizing risk. Spend $7,000 each month on proven winners.

20%: Competitor Tactics – $24K

To unlock higher returns and explore new opportunities, allocate 20% of your budget to advertising initiatives that you have never tried before, but maybe your competitors are using successfully. These activities could include OTT commercials, TikTok or email marketing. You could handle these chores yourself or ask a trusted media partner, like your TV or radio rep, to assist you with their locally based digital department. It is sometimes easier to rely on trusted partners when exploring new spending in areas you are unfamiliar with. Since the best time of year for this business is November and December, this $24,000 should be spent in these two months to maximize results. Attacking the busiest time of the year with an extra $24,000 in advertising can yield the best outcome. Testing new initiatives when business is slow is like trying to sell parkas in July. Good luck. 

10%: Out-of-the-Box Ideas – $12K

Trying new concepts is critical to long-term success in advertising. Allocating 10% of your budget to experimental tactics that encourage outside-the-box thinking may lead to results you can’t quickly gauge or have a long-term benefit. Support a local cause or sports team. Generate buzz by handing out mini fans at the local summer fair. Put your ads on car dashboard monitors with QUU from your local radio rep. Spend the money wherever it makes sense for the tactic you are buying; fall, summer, or morning and afternoon drive times. Go with the flow and see if it pays back. These tactics can set you apart from your competition and endear you to audiences. Here is the latest on QUU.

Read and React

Try adapting the ’70-20-10 rule’ to your specific business and goals. Regularly evaluate the performance of your advertising efforts, measure ROI, and be open to adjusting your allocations based on sales AND metrics. Every business wants to be an early adopter of money-making new ideas. No one wants to be the business that holds onto the past and gradually declines. The road is littered with brands that didn’t evolve: Blackberry, Blockbuster, MySpace, etc. Mix up your ad spend with the proven, borrowed, and new to achieve sustainable growth in the long run.

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