The most popular guy in town is often the backup quarterback, but Scott Zolak managed to build on that fame and reputation during his second career in Boston.
Hosting middays with Marc Bertrand as part of the ratings powerhouse that is 98.5 The Sports Hub, and working Patriots games as their lead radio analyst, Zolak is more entrenched in Boston sports now than he was as a player.
“Just a couple of guys hanging out at the bar,” it’s a tired description of sports radio, but for Zo, it’s authentic and that’s what makes him so relatable. Whether you’re listening on the radio or catching him outside the office, Zo talks to Boston sports fans the same way you hear him at work.
Brandon Contes: Did you always have an interest in media when you were done playing?
Scott Zolak: No, never. In fact Bill Parcells was one of my first coaches and he would say ‘technically the media is your enemy, they’ll try to drive a stake between you and me.’
That was ingrained in the back of your head. But there were guys I liked in the media and guys I didn’t. The open locker room period would let you develop some media relationships, one of my favorites was Will McDonough because he was close with Parcells and could give us information. I thought about communications when I was at the University of Maryland, but my mom said there aren’t many great jobs in it. I wanted to be an architect, but spring ball got in the way of studio, so I ended up studying agricultural physics and now I’m doing sports radio.
BC: Did you listen to sports radio when you were playing?
SZ: Oh yea, I listened to Boston radio, absolutely. There was one station, and it was WEEI. Glenn Ordway and those guys. You always listened to The Big Show and that’s where I got my start.
Glenn brought me on his show, I’m very grateful for him. Dale Arnold, Bob Newmyer and Eddie Andelman, I worked with those guys in the midday. I always knew John and Gerry from the morning show. There was one station to listen to and you always wanted to know what people were saying.
BC: When you and Andy Gresh had your show in Providence, before The Sports Hub was even a thought, were you hoping to get to WEEI? Or were you satisfied with staying in Rhode Island?
SZ: I didn’t know what to think at the time, and I’m grateful for Gresh because he got me in the door down there. But they just threw me on-air by telling me the seven words I couldn’t say and what nationalities I couldn’t offend. I pretty much knocked them all out of the park with apologetic letters and emails the first week I was on-air.
There wasn’t a goal to get to EEI because when I get a job, I like the job I get. But when they blew us up, yea, you’re looking to get anywhere. Thankfully, my old boss Mark Hannon had the vision for 98.5 The Sports Hub to compete with WEEI and the rest is history. Now Hannon is working over there at Entercom and we’re doing our own thing with Beasley.
BC: Were you surprised how quickly The Sports Hub not only made a dent in WEEI as Boston’s heritage sports station, but surpassed them and now just flat out dominates the ratings?
SZ: At first, yes, and then a couple months into it, no – because of the sound. We had that booming FM signal, great production quality, our behind-the-scenes people that were able to create bits, our morning guys who were rock DJs turned into a morning sports show. Toucher and Rich got great ratings, set us up in middays to then throw it over to Felger and Mazz and the rest is history. EEI eventually went to an FM signal in Providence, but by that point it was too late.
BC: Do you still consider WEEI formidable competition?
SZ: Yea man, I have a lot of friends over there. When we first started you would peak into what they’re doing daily to counterprogram. But you get to the point where you don’t pay attention, and that’s not being rude. We’re just so preoccupied with what we’re trying to do to get our shows going and make sure we’re entertaining four hours a day that you can’t worry about what other people are doing.
BC: You mentioned the friends you have at EEI. When Gerry Callahan was let go about a year and a half ago, you tweeted that his departure was handled as an embarrassment.
SZ: I don’t remember the details at the time, but I thought Gerry deserved a lot more. That morning show with him and John set the tone for the whole day in Boston sports. Gerry had that raspy delivery and then Minihane came in. Just the way it was handled, you saw it coming with the Red Sox getting involved and sort of attempting to help program that station, which eventually led to the ratings demise for them.
BC: How was Mike Thomas as a PD and leader, helping to build The Sports Hub into a ratings monster?
SZ: He never let anybody get too big. Mike was good at knocking people down and doing it in a good way. Anytime we got lazy, he was in the room. Mike knew ratings and he knew how to get ratings, his clock management was phenomenal. And he did it going from a rock format to sports. He also built our weekend programming which is something a lot of guys didn’t care about, but Mike did.
BC: How was the adjustment to a new co-host when Gresh left and you were paired with Marc Bertrand?
SZ: I can work with anybody. Stick me in a room, I just like to go. Andy was great, I also enjoyed working with Gary Tanguay. But with Bertrand and also Hardy as that third person gives an extra kick. We never have a boring show. Four hours a day, it’s hard to do the same thing and beat a dead topic, but Hardy’s production ability, Bertrand’s ability to move topics, and I think I inject some fun into it. You can’t do analytics everyday and talk numbers. We don’t do a boring show, we entertain and have fun.
BC: There are two things that you’re probably most well-known for outside of Boston, and the first is “unicorns, show ponies, where’s the beef.” Where did that call come from, was that preplanned, was it a raw reaction?
SZ: All organic. It came out naturally. I don’t preplan anything. Brady’s that mythical unicorn, you’re never going to see that type of guy again. Our morning show had this show pony thing going so it came to mind and I don’t know, I’m a big Wendy’s burger type of guy, it just came together terrifically and beautifully at the same time that night.
BC: You were already a longtime radio host when you joined the Patriots booth, but did you do any color commentary before Patriots radio?
SZ: Yea, I worked for CBS doing college, I did Navy football for six years and that’s a neutral call, you can’t inject the same kind of enthusiasm into it.
BC: Are you interested in national work or is Boston your sweet spot?
SZ: I really enjoy this area, I’m passionate about the Patriots, if I did national work you have to be different. It’s more of a neutral call, there’s less energy, you have to be down the middle for both sides. But I would be interested in any opportunity because I think I’m pretty darn good at what I do.
BC: You’re known as an unfiltered personality, how does that play in today’s media world where there’s a group of people looking to jump on someone that makes a mistake or says something offensive. Does the concept of cancel culture intimidate you at all?
SZ: It doesn’t, but I have to be careful. There are social media punks out there. Everybody’s looking at your Facebook, Instagram, your Twitter. I have a pretty good support group around me with family members that keep an eye on things and good producers that know me and might remind me when I get heated. I’ve made a mistake or two, I’ve learned from them and I won’t do it again.
BC: The second thing you’re well-known for is Deflategate and specifically the rant on NFL Network about it, are you still embarrassed to be part of the NFL over their handling of that issue?
SZ: Yea, it’s ridiculous. I played quarterback in this league for ten years. I doctored footballs to get them ready for Drew Bledsoe, Tom Tupa, myself, and Vinatieri. We never stuck gauges in them, nobody was ever concerned about air pressure in a football.
My dad was my high school coach, I played at Maryland for five years, we never stuck a gauge in a football! You squeeze the football, if you like it, it’s a good ball, if not you let more air out. The Colts started all this crap and the league runs with it. Look at how Tom Brady’s doing now with properly inflated footballs, it shows you what a hoax that was.
BC: Were you surprised to see the NFL could operate a sham big enough to indict one of its most important figures in Tom Brady?
SZ: Absolutely. During my twenty years doing this, it’s Tom Brady and Peyton Manning at the top, why would you want to take that type of guy down? They’ve done and said everything the right way and here’s Tom at 43, continuing to do the same thing he did 21 years ago.
BC: Is New England rooting for Brady right now? Or would that be like rooting for your ex-girlfriend to bounce right back and get married?
SZ: But the ex-girlfriend has to piss you off or do something to scorn you. Tom made it evident, he wants to play into his mid 40’s and the Patriots really didn’t want to back him on that. So he found another place to go. Tom won here, how do you not root for him? Initially, everybody was rooting for Brady, then when they added Gronkowski and Antonio Brown it soured some fans, but I think they’ve swung back to root for Tom and it should get the Patriots off the mat and going in the offseason.
BC: Does Brady winning in Tampa create any animosity towards Belichick from the fans?
SZ: Yea, because you want him winning here. But there’s no animosity from me, I love working with Bill. Bill’s the best and he’s going to fix this problem, they’ve just really had issues mismanaging this position and preparing for it.
BC: Belichick is often known for his curt interview responses and press conference answers. Is there a secret to interviewing Bill? Because you’re someone who is actually able to engage in a conversation with him.
SZ: I get to deal with him on different platforms, we do the Belichick Breakdown weekly and I had Bill as a coach. When you have a history with a guy, it helps. You need to know how to break into the interview by asking him football questions. Ask him about special teams, ask about the return game, left-footed punters, the decision to defer. Don’t ask him ‘who are you starting next week?’ Don’t ask him the question you know he’s not going to answer, that’s the key.
BC: How was it navigating the bombshell story of Robert Kraft and the massage parlor a couple years ago, especially considering your relationship with the Patriots and the radio station’s relationship with them.
SZ: I think we did fairly. When you have an issue like that, it needs to be talked about. But you still want to get the story straight. Was it a setup? Who drove him there? Was it handled properly? Robert has handled it phenomenally since then by not actually talking about it, but having the right people to talk to it. It’s pretty much a dead story at this point and only gets brought up here and there if litigation pops up.
BC: Have you ever been asked to tone down your opinion of something?
SZ: Not from radio, but maybe from a team or two. You get the ‘be careful’ email or text. It’s a tough thing because they also need to realize I have a job to do. This pays my benefits, these four hours a day are my livelihood. And then when I come into your building, I do another job. It’s a delicate balance to call games for the team and also to go out and do a radio show and be critical when they’re bad.
BC: Do you have a preference of working in the booth on gameday, vs doing talk radio Monday through Friday?
SZ: I love them both. I have fun during the week, but the game stuff brings my juices as a former player back up. It keeps you around the sport of football and there’s nothing better than the NFL. Nothing.
BC: Would you encourage other analysts to try and do what you do on gameday? Because I think it goes against most of what gets taught in broadcasting schools.
SZ: I’d tell them, just be your own personality. Don’t try to be someone specific because you end up being a robot and there’s nothing worse than listening to a dry broadcast. Bob Socci does a fantastic job, Gil Santos was legendary before him, but most play-by-play voices are a little dry. They need to set the scene, it’s up to you to bring the personality of the day, what do you feel like, what do the fans feel like and provide that. Being a fan of the team, when it’s great, I’m over the top. When it’s bad, I tend to hammer them. There’s a delicate balance.
BC: You can be funny and brash, but still provide real solid analysis. Is finding that balance between goofy and schooling difficult?
SZ: When you have big leads or dead time, you can have those fun moments where I’ll joke about something that’s happening with the fans or some beer that I just saw a guy grab and chug. But I’m pretty damn good when talking about coverage and seeing plays happening, you get a feel for what the coordinator is calling, and I think that’s when I’m at my best.
BC: The backup quarterback is often considered the most popular guy in town, but you’ve become like a local folk-hero with Boston fans and I think part of it is your relatability.
SZ: When I go out, if you see me at a gas station, store, or a game, I’m the guy you can come up and talk to. I like people, I love the fact that fans are passionate, I’m a guy you can talk to and I pride myself on that. I want people to like me and I want to like people.
BC: Because you sound like a fan, the audience can relate to you. I love Boomer Esiason, he’s great on radio and TV, but I don’t find him to be relatable.
SZ: [Laughs] Boomer’s the big CBS guy. Boomer grabbed me and said, ‘man you gotta calm down, you’re never gonna get the national gig.’ And I’d have to say, ‘Boomer I don’t think I’m gonna be a national guy, you’re the national guy, you and Phil Simms.’ Or Tony Romo, $17 million a year, and Drew Brees is the next one. I don’t want to be Rich Gannon, Trent Green or Dan Fouts. Dan Fouts is awful. Dan Fouts was the number two guy on CBS and he’s terrible, it’s like he did no homework.
BC: After the Patriots, what’s the next most popular team in Boston right now?
SZ: Celtics. The Red Sox, and I’m not the biggest baseball guy, but it’s a boring sport. You look at the way it’s played, the issues they’ve had trying to ramp it up, it’s a sport that has to fix some things. Hockey might even be third, I think baseball might be fourth here right now.
BC: Is that very recent? The Red Sox dropping to fourth?
SZ: The sad part for them is when they’re good and winning championships they’re great and ratings are strong. They were down about 58% this year because the team was an unwatchable product. Fans in Boston aren’t stupid and that’s part of why I love doing radio here because you can’t fool them. You can’t fool a fanbase by trying to bring an ESPN radio product to Boston. ESPN Radio will never work in Boston. You’ll see some stations try to dabble with bringing in guys from outside the market, but it never works. You can’t fool people here.
BC: This was the first time you were doing radio while the Patriots were having a bad season, are you surprised it didn’t take away from your audience or ratings at all?
SZ: Not to say negativity drives sports radio, but when people are sitting on their laurels and everything’s kosher and happy – when you’re 14-2, there’s not a lot to talk about. There’s a lot to talk about when you’re approaching 6-10. It gets the fanbase riled up and our ratings even went up since the team’s down.
BC: Are the Patriots heading for a lengthy lull?
SZ: No, even at 7-9, they had Buffalo on the ropes, Kansas City on the ropes. Both those teams were in the AFC title game. That’s two more wins if you figure those games out and now you’re 9-7. You have $65 million to spend, go get Jimmy Garoppolo and let’s fix this sucker.
BC: Does Brady winning a seventh Super Bowl even matter? At some point he has to reach a point where no matter what happens, it’s already been cemented, he’s the best.
SZ: But if he wins it this year it might be his greatest. You couldn’t gel with the team, he’s implementing things through Zoom, you can’t come together as a team, no fans, it’s a weird year. To be able to have success, win three road playoff games and beat Brees, Rodgers and Mahomes and you didn’t do it as a Patriot? This might be his most important championship ever.
Brandon Contes is a former reporter for BSM, now working for Awful Announcing. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonContes or reach him by email at Brandon.Contes@gmail.com.
NBC Must Develop a Real No. 2 NFL Crew for Playoffs
Is the network’s only other option Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett?
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?
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at email@example.com.
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.”
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.
Ryan Brown is a columnist for Barrett Sports Media, and a co-host of the popular sports audio/video show ‘The Next Round’ formerly known as JOX Roundtable, which previously aired on WJOX in Birmingham. You can find him on Twitter @RyanBrownLive and follow his show @NextRoundLive.
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.”
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.
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 DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.