It was a delicacy of every Summer Olympics, from Barcelona to Atlanta to Beijing, sitting inside a packed arena and covering women’s gymnastics. The performances were inspiring. The atmosphere was magical. The TV coverage was mesmerizing, they’d say back home.
There even was some post-Cold War conflict to it all — our way versus their way, our hugs against their snarls. Me? Weary of the bats-and-balls routine in testosterone-drowned Chicago sports, I was only happy to write columns in these far-flung places, even as male colleagues chided the sport at the late-night hospitality bar.
Now, looking back, how could something so fun and uniquely American turn out so sick?
If the trial and conviction of Dr. Larry Nassar brought unspeakable stories of predatory behavior, no one could be ready for what came next. The coach of the 2012 U.S. Olympic women’s team, John Geddert, was hit Thursday morning with 24 felony charges — including sexual assault and human trafficking — all associated with his hellhole of a training gym outside Lansing, Mich., where Nassar would stand at a table and sexually abuse young female athletes while believing in his warped mind that he was medically examining them.
By mid-afternoon, Geddert had killed himself, his body found in a rest area along Interstate 96, not far from the Twistars USA Gymnastics complex in Dimondale. “This is a tragic end to a tragic story for everyone involved,” said Dana Nessel, the Michigan attorney general.
If Geddert had chosen to live and fight the charges, his attorneys probably would have defended him as a 63-year-old man from the old school of coaching. It is the very world, twisted and savage, that the 21st century is dedicated to purging forever, thank God. What he viewed as authoritarian instruction and tough love actually was human abuse of the worst kind, recruiting female aspirants to his building and charging high prices to make them suffer. He was partners in slime with Nassar, loyal to a fault for more than a quarter-century, lying that he had no knowledge of Nassar’s crimes when police say otherwise.
In 2017, Geddert went on the record with that claim, telling the Wall Street Journal, “I would have immediately acted on any suggestion that any of our gymnasts were being — or had been — abused by anyone.” But in Thursday’s court documents, Geddert was accused of digitally penetrating a girl between ages 13 and 16 in January 2012, during his time as the Olympic coach. Guilt by association sometimes isn’t fair or accurate, but in this case, prosecutors had no choice but to pursue Geddert. The entire culture of USA Gymnastics was corrupt, including the cover-up attempts of former CEO Steve Penny, and the illness wasn’t restricted to Nassar.
Human trafficking might sound overly prosecutorial and out of place. In the context of Geddert operating his horrid business for decades, then cashing in with a prestigious Olympic assignment in London that led to gold medals for the legendary Fierce Five, it’s a proper definition by today’s sensibilities. “We think of it predominantly as affecting people of color or those without means to protect themselves … but honestly it can happen to anyone, anywhere,” Nessel said in court hours before Geddert’s suicide. “Young, impressionable women may at times be vulnerable and open to trafficking crimes, regardless of their stature in the community or the financial well-being of their families.
“It is alleged that John Geddert used force, fraud and coercion against the young athletes that came to him for gymnastics training, for financial benefit for him. The victims suffer from disordered eating, including bulimia and anorexia, suicide attempts and attempts at self harm, excessive physical conditioning, repeatedly being forced to perform even when injured, extreme emotional abuse and physical abuse, including sexual assault. Many of these victims still carry these scars from this behavior to this day.”
That, we know. It was apparent during an unforgettable courtroom scene in 2018, when Nassar’s victims addressed him, one by one, before he was locked away for life in a Florida federal prison. Geddert, too, thought he was doing nothing wrong, telling the Journal then, “I am known and respected for my high expectations and high standards. I am a passionate coach who wants our gymnasts to realize their potential. There are times, in any competitive sport, when the intensity proves challenging — sometimes for the gymnasts, sometimes for the adults, and sometimes for both.”
One man’s intensity is a victim’s terror. Suicide only rips open the wounds.
What’s heartening is that already, after all the tears and nightmares, there is light. The American dreamers have carried on. The Final Five, led by superstar Simone Biles, successfully defended the team title at the 2016 Games in Brazil. Just before the pandemic, Biles made headlines after USA Gymnastics celebrated her 23rd birthday, tweeting, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the most decorated gymnast of all time, @simonebiles! We know you will only continue to amaze us and make history!” Her response was a perfect 10.
“How about you amaze me and do the right thing… have an independent investigation,” Biles clapped back.
Instead, there were 24 felony charges. And one dead man at a rest stop. “His suicide is an admission of guilt that the entire world can see,” said Sarah Klein, a longtime student of Geddert who was assaulted by Nassar, in an Associated Press interview.
We only can hope for the sport’s sake that Biles, pandemic permitting, will compete with her teammates this summer in Tokyo. Without Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps, she is the face of the Games with four Olympic gold. “She’s just above anything else that we have seen in the sport,” the legendary Nadia Comaneci said.
“Gymnastics,” IOC president Thomas Bach said, “has all the ingredients to be … a top Olympic event in Tokyo.”
Yet, nearing her 24th birthday, she likely won’t have another Olympic shot if the 2020/2021 Games are canceled. Said Biles, in a recent NBC interview: “Hopefully the Olympics can still be put on, even if it means we’re in a bubble. I’ll basically do anything at this moment. It just is a matter of time until we hear what the Olympic Committee has to say and what their precautions are going to be going forward. But whatever they say they want us to do, I’m in 100 percent.”
At least there is hope that closure is near. For now, many published stories about John Geddert’s death are accompanied by a cautionary note. This piece will end with the same note.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or is in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Jay Mariotti, called “the most impacting Chicago sportswriter of the past quarter-century,’’ writes a weekly media column for Barrett Sports Media and regular sports columns for Substack while appearing on some of the 1,678,498 podcasts in production today. He’s an accomplished columnist, TV panelist and radio talk host. Living in Los Angeles, he gravitated by osmosis to film projects. Compensation for this column is donated to the Chicago Sun-Times Charity Trust.
The 2024 BSM Summit Welcomes Stephen A. Smith, Andrew Marchand and 7 More Speakers!
“I am both personally and professionally excited to announce that Stephen A. Smith will join us at the 2024 BSM Summit.”
This week’s column is going to focus a lot on the upcoming 2024 BSM Summit. We released the full schedule today on BSMSummit.com. This is also the final day for event sponsorships to be secured. If interested, email Stephanie at [email protected]. We only have a few remaining opportunities.
If you’re participating at the show, be advised that emails will go out today to all speaker groups with details on date/time of session, content focus, the address of the venue, and who to contact on the day of the event. I have a few names I still have to add to our advertising panel. Getting CMO’s and/or media buyers involved isn’t always easy but I think it’s important. More on that soon.
But let me not bury the lead. We have a major addition to announce. I am both personally and professionally excited to share that Stephen A. Smith will join us at the 2024 BSM Summit.
A month ago I wasn’t sure if this was going to work out. As a longtime fan of Stephen A.’s, this has been a session I’ve wanted to do for six years. Sometimes schedules don’t line up though. But when things do fall into place, it’s pretty cool. This is one of those times.
Stephen A. Smith is a man who needs no introduction or hype. He’s one of the most successful on-air talents in the industry today, helping First Take enjoy nearly 15 years of unmatched success. Aside from his on-air excellence and the impact he’s created at ESPN and during the course of a three decade career, Stephen A. also serves as co-executive producer of First Take, and operates his own production company, Mr. SAS Productions. His book, Straight Shooter; A Memoir of Second Chances and First Takes is a New York Times best seller. He’s also created a hit podcast The Stephen A. Smith Show, which continues to attract a wide range of notable guests and thought leaders, and large audience.
On March 13th, Stephen A. and I will close out day 1 with a wide-ranging, in-depth conversation on the state of the sports media business. It’s a discussion that I know our professional audience will want to be present for. Given his rise to stardom, and ability to maintain a high standard while expanding into other areas of business, there’s a ton to tackle. We’ve got thirty five minutes to do it, and I’ll make sure we make the most of it. My thanks to Stephen A. and his team for moving a few things around to be able to join us.
8 More BSM Summit Speakers:
Stephen A. is going to attract a lot of attention, rightfully so but I don’t want to ignore how valuable these next eight speakers are to the Summit too. I am thrilled to welcome sports media’s top news breaker and a man whose recent arrival at The Athletic instantly elevated the brand’s media coverage, Andrew Marchand.
Joining Stephen A. and Andrew as additions to the Summit are Omaha Productions host Kevin Clark, Outkick’s SVP and Managing Editor Gary Schreier, Audacy Chief Digital Officer J.D. Crowley, Executive Editor and SVP of the Cumulus Podcast Network John Wordock, Matthew Berry’s Fantasy Life CEO Eliot Crist, 98.5 The Sports Hub program director Rick Radzik, and KOA 94.1/850 program director Dave Tepper.
I also want to thank SiriusXM, Quu and Bonneville International for signing on as Summit partners. We operate our shows independently and can’t pull them off without industry support. I’m grateful to every group that has pledged support for our 2024 show, and each individual who’s making time to join us in the big apple next month.
One-Day Only Sale:
To celebrate today’s schedule release and the addition of nine speakers, I’ve rolled out a one-day only sale on Summit tickets. We’re taking $50 off of individual tickets. To take advantage of the sale, click here. Prices return to normal on Tuesday February 27th. Ticket prices increase on March 4th to $324.99 so act now to avoid paying more.
Complete The Phrase:
Last week we tried something new in our 8@8. We introduced a full week phrase, which gave our newsletter subscribers a chance to win tickets to the BSM Summit. Congratulations to Heath Cline, Nick Cattles, Karlos Ortiz, Logan Ward and Michelle Rabinovich on being selected as our winners. Thanks to all who participated in the contest.
96.7/1310 The Ticket: What The Ticket has created in Dallas with Ticketstock is pretty damn cool. The free event is well supported with sponsorships, giveaways, merchandise, contests, and live content from the entire on-air staff. In a time where sports radio isn’t active as it should be producing big money making live events, it’s good to see one of sports radio’s originals out there creating an impact.
Rob Parker: In May of 2016 I wrote a column and asked why no station in America featured an all-black sports radio lineup. Corporate groups didn’t rush in but someone finally took the leap eight years later. Congratulations to Rob Parker and his investors on the upcoming arrival of Sports Rap Radio in Detroit.
Battling 97.1 The Ticket for sports radio dominance isn’t going to be the focus for the new local sports radio brand. Creating an alternative for the black community and launching new stars is. Will it work? Only time will tell. But I appreciate folks who take risks to innovate. That’s something sports radio needs more, not less of.
670 The Score: I absolutely loved what The Score did to turn debate and discussion around Caleb Williams and Justin Fields into an event involving their audience. Having the access to an in-house room to invite fans in is a great asset Audacy Chicago has. Mitch Rosen, Ryan Porth and the Parkins and Spiegel team made good use of it with their QB1 Town Hall. The content was crisp, the room was full, and 670 took a normal day of Bears talk and turned it into an opportunity to create a stronger bond with its audience. Nice job by all.
Jonathan Zaslow and Q Myers: I’ll eavesdrop on a show every now and then and if I know the host(s), I’ll send a text to let them know I was listening. Especially if I like what I hear. That was the case last Thursday night. I’m not usually out at 10pm on a weeknight but while I was in the car, I scanned the dial and landed on Q and Zaslow. Their energy and chemistry was great, and the NBA topics and discussions were relatable and easy to process.
Having worked the night schedule before, you sometimes wonder ‘is anyone listening?’ The good ones focus and perform whether they have an audience of one or one million. Twenty to thirty minutes may not be a ton of listening time, but capturing even five minutes at night is difficult. Nice job by Q and Jonathan. They were on target and kept me interested.
JJ Redick: Since bursting on to the scene, I’ve enjoyed JJ’s opinions and willingness to mix it up. It’s clearly worked because ESPN recently added him to their top NBA broadcast team alongside Mike Breen and Doris Burke. What I don’t understand though is his constant complaining about what people enjoy. Insulting the audience and their preferences is a sure fire way to lose fans. Kudos to Nick Wright for calling it out.
Drama and opinion will always outsell education. Nobody is suggesting that JJ shouldn’t try to make fans smarter. I myself appreciate that. But if you expect people to prefer analysis over entertainment, prepare to be disappointed. Furthermore, despising the audience and what they value leads to more people tuning you out instead of in.
ESPN 97.5: Six months ago the station lost a promising afternoon show with Jake Asman, Brad Kellner and Cody Stoots. Fortunately, they had a strong midday show with Jeremy Branham and Joel Blank that was ready for the afternoon slot. They then added a new midday show with Joshua Beard and Michael Connor, and all seemed to be moving in the right direction.
Until this week.
The station has once again cut staff, killing the new midday show just six months into its run, and parting ways with the only program director in the building. It’s hard to say you want to compete when your decisions suggest otherwise. Frequent change also gives local clients less incentive to stick with you. Here’s to hoping it works out for John, Lance, Joel, Jeremy, Paul and Joe. Good, talented guys who deserve more help and stability.
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at [email protected].
Peter Rosenberg Has Become a Dual Threat Across the New York City Airwaves
“I refuse to be the guy who’s like, ‘Let me just repeat kind of the same point so you hear my voice and I sound like a sports talk host.’”
Michael Kay and Don La Greca have been working together since 2002. The duo was able to accumulate success together for over a decade, but in September 2015, management chose to add a third host. Kay and La Greca did not desire the change, nonetheless, they welcomed Peter Rosenberg and were receptive to his ideas and perspectives. As a result, they’ve ascended to a higher level, creating exceptional chemistry while leaving an indelible mark on the sports talk format.
Before Rosenberg joined The Michael Kay Show, he frequently listened to it. He detected an overall warmth from the show and felt included as a listener. Combined with the confidence and track record he had procured in media, Rosenberg was able to assimilate into 98.7 ESPN New York and the sports talk format while continuing his music radio duties. He was certain he would be able to find his way and make meaningful contributions and believes the program found its groove in the new structure quickly thereafter.
“I knew that I would bring goods to the table, and once we did a few shows together and we got along, it was pretty easy to see how it was going to work,” Rosenberg said. “Probably easier for me to see than for Michael and Don, but I could tell how this thing was going to work.”
Prior to each show, Rosenberg and his colleagues consider what people are discussing and what they feel passionate about. There are times when his views diverge from that of the group, but he is given the latitude to express himself and offer his viewpoint. In the end, he feels that the show oftentimes gets it correct and finds a way to resonate with the audience. A common remark directed towards Rosenberg, however, is his tendency to not speak all the time. The practice comes from discipline he has accrued over the years, along with a cognizance of the three-person format and ability to suppress hubris.
“If I don’t have a lot to say on a subject, we have three people,” Rosenberg explained. “I refuse to be the guy who’s like, ‘Let me just repeat the same point so you hear my voice and I sound like a sports talk host.’ I would rather wait for the spot and be impactful or make that little quip.”
Rosenberg will be on hand at the 2024 BSM Summit along with ESPN New York co-host Michael Kay, taking part in a Day 1 discussion. Having previously attended the industry conference several years ago, he remembers interacting with industry professionals and learning more about the industry as well. The conference will highlight many aspects of the sports business while examining current challenges, changes, and opportunities.
“There are a lot of jokes about sports talk radio – it’s very easy to make fun of – but it really is an art form to do it well,” Rosenberg said. “I’m not putting every show we do in the Louvre. We do three-and-a-half-hours a day, five days a week, but there are days that belong in the Louvre.”
Outside of his job with ESPN New York, Rosenberg works as a commentator for World Wrestling Entertainment, appearing on television one to two times per month for events. The mode of entertainment blends athleticism with storytelling and is something he considers to be an art form. Additionally, Rosenberg hosts a variety of digital programs and podcasts surrounding the sport, including Cheap Heat with The Ringer and independent YouTube endeavors such as Wrestling with Rosenberg and Real Late with Rosenberg.
“There’s a phrase in wrestling called, ‘Getting your shit in,’” Rosenberg said. “Wrestlers will joke about having a match where it’s like, ‘Well, I want to get my shit in; I want to get my moves in.’ I don’t need to get my shit in every day.”
Despite Rosenberg co-hosting the show with La Greca and Kay, the program is titled The Michael Kay Show, something that people could assume may cause derision or divisiveness. On the contrary, he does not regularly think about the subject and instead focuses on how he can help the program thrive on a daily basis.
Throughout the show, Rosenberg delivers his opinions and insights when appropriate and most salient to the overall discussion. Even so, he is able to talk at length and lead segments if necessary, equipped with a skillset fostered through countless repetitions behind the microphone. The balance between speaking and listening took time for him to implement, and through years of practice, he has become more adept at choosing his spots.
“I take a lot of pride in the sort of humor that I bring to the show, and a lot of that comes in when Michael and Don are being very serious,” Rosenberg said. “You may not hear me very much and it may just be an ad-lib that if you’re a real fan of the show and you listen, it cracks you up because you know sort of what my angle is.”
Although sports media was Rosenberg’s primary interest in his youth, he transitioned to the music format while studying at the University of Maryland. Considering his skills and passions, he determined that the hip-hop genre would be conducive to success and had dreams of hosting on venerated radio station HOT 97 in New York, N.Y. Rosenberg positioned himself for growth in these years, starting his own radio program on the student-run radio station in the summer ahead of his freshman year.
By the time he was a sophomore, he was interning with Darian “Big Tigger” Morgan and Keith “DJ Flexx” Clagon where he learned about formatics and how to run the board. Upon graduation, Rosenberg had stints working at WPGC and WHFS before landing his own talk radio show on WJFK.
Eponymously titled The Peter Rosenberg Show, the program featured Rosenberg and co-host Daryl “Quartermaine” Francis and fused hip-hop with sports and other topics. Even though many perceived the program to be primed for growth, Rosenberg was fired after one year at the station following an on-air feud with colleague Don Geronimo. During the ensuing week, he was broadcasting online from his bedroom while thinking about the future.
Ebro Darden, the program director and morning show host of HOT 97, decided to hire Rosenberg to work at the station in 2007. Since then, Rosenberg has co-hosted Ebro in the Morning alongside Darden and Laura Stylez. The cast provides listeners with honest, candid discussions, exclusive interviews, and plenty of hip-hop. Together the group has thrived within the sprawling media marketplace, building a unique camaraderie across the airwaves.
“Not a lot of teams at this level get along this well, as evidenced by what happened to our competition in the market,” Rosenberg said. “It is not easy for people’s ego to be in check and also for people just frankly to have good relationships – even beyond the ego, actually enjoying each other’s company.”
By hosting in a marketplace considered a consensus birthplace of hip-hop with extensive platinum artists along with many accomplished professional sports teams, topic selection in New York City can seem like a daunting task. Despite not being from New York, Rosenberg tries to captivate and enthrall listeners on two very different programs. The dichotomy between the two formats is something he believes has allowed him to appeal to different segments of the audience.
“When you do music radio, a lot of young women listen to you,” Rosenberg said. “It puts you in a different space – the way that you entertain; the way that you talk – what’s interesting [and] what’s cool is different. When you get on sports talk radio, you’re mostly talking to 50-year-old men, so I think every once in a while it’s useful to be able to inject some of the things that make it work for you with that different audience.”
In August, Good Karma Brands will leave the 98.7 WEPN-FM signal, shifting its focus to its app and the 1050 WPEN-AM signal. Despite enjoying a steady presence on the FM band since 2012, the local marketing agreement (LMA) established between ESPN and Emmis Communications will expire, and Good Karma Brands has elected not to pursue purchasing the signal. With roughly 60% of its listenership taking place outside of radio, ESPN New York will move forward with its focus on digital distribution, relying on 1050 AM for over the air availability.
“I think it’ll force us to be creative in terms of how we market and things like that, and I’m excited to see what everyone does, but I don’t spend a ton of time concerned about it,” Rosenberg said. “I think if handled the right way, you can really make it a positive with how you push the listening online and maybe find a way to surprisingly expand the show into reaching a bit more of a broad audience.”
The head-to-head competition between ESPN New York and WFAN is frequently scrutinized in each quarterly ratings book and has been addressed on various programs between the two entities. Although The Michael Kay Show has finished behind WFAN in the daypart, Rosenberg measures the success of the program through a variety of factors. For example, the program sold out its 20th anniversary show in New York City and has loyal callers who frequently chime into the discussion.
“We just get up every day and act like good people and talk about things that we’re passionate about. I wouldn’t trade it to be one of these screaming lunatics who talks about subjects they don’t actually care about just to get people to bite,” Rosenberg said. “It’s not what we do. To me, I think being yourself is what it’s all about because then if you’re never lying, you don’t have to keep track of what you said in the past.”
While they all have deft knowledge of various sports, Rosenberg tries to stay away from breakdowns that could either be difficult to ascertain and actualize or are too obscure to render enticing. In fact, his least favorite editions of the show are those that closely examine techniques and schemes associated with the games themselves. There are times when it is necessary, but he feels that it evokes previous theories on how to engender interest in the format and a motif of the transformation of consumer options.
“I think that the future of sports talk, to me, is going to be audiences who really want granular sports talk seeking out specific podcasts around the teams and sports that they’re obsessed with,” Rosenberg said. “I think the role of mainstream sports talk radio as we know it will be people who love sports and want to talk about it in a very entertaining way while being themselves and doing other things as well.”
While he still enjoys hosting in the format, he also understands that technological advances, paradigmatic shifts in consumption patterns and proprietary, athlete-driven content has obliged traditional outlets to adapt and exercise prudence. Avoiding misfortune is sometimes out of one’s control, but it is something that Rosenberg attempts to prevent by always staying at the top of his game.
“You’ve got to be talented and innovative because there are going to be less jobs. That is for sure,” said Rosenberg. “In terms of what the jobs are that are offered by big companies and where you can get yourself a nice little salary and insurance, those will be limited if you’re not a former athlete. I think it’s super important that we’re ready to pivot and do different things because otherwise, there’s just going to be so much competition among people.”
Throughout his media career, Rosenberg has amassed many accomplishments while cementing his position with ESPN New York, HOT 97, World Wrestling Entertainment and several independent undertakings. Despite generating consistent success in the country’s number one market in multiple formats, he does not consider himself to have reached his pinnacle as a broadcaster. Rosenberg undoubtedly cherishes his past and present work, but he exhibits tireless determination to augment his standing by aiming to perform at a level commensurate to and exceeding the ingrained standard.
“I know we live in a world where if you get a lot of viewers on Twitch and you’re 19 and funny, you’re hot, but I view what we do a little differently,” Rosenberg said. “I’m probably finishing up my 10,000 hours or just did in the last couple of years, so I’m really trying to master this craft and get to another level that I haven’t gotten to yet. I’m still working on it.”
Derek Futterman is a contributing editor and sports media reporter for Barrett Sports Media. Additionally, he has worked in a broad array of roles in multimedia production – including on live game broadcasts and audiovisual platforms – and in digital content development and management. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks, wrote for the Long Island Herald and served as lead sports producer at NY2C. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
‘Load Management’ is Ridiculous in Sports and Even More Dumb in Broadcasting
I think it is a bad decision by any content creator to not have consistency.
If you are a fan of the NBA, you are familiar with the term ‘load management’ which has become popular in the last couple of seasons. I should say, if you are a fan of today’s NBA, because the NBA I fell in love with in the 80’s and 90’s had players who played unless they were hurt. Somehow I don’t think the thought of just sitting out a game here and there because it is a long season ever occured to the ‘Showtime’ Lakers or ‘Bad Boy’ Pistons.
Look, if the season is too long for today’s pampered players, we need to figure out how to shorten them. If not, maybe the players can sit out any game they want, they just don’t get paid for it (bet we see a change in behavior then).
I would love to spend this whole column writing about ‘load management’ from the player and fan side. Since I don’t have an NBA team in my city, I have to travel to see a game or two each year. I don’t even want to think about spending the kind of money it takes for me to get to an NBA game and then add in having to wonder if the player or players I am really wanting to see sit the game out for ‘load management’ purposes.
But, I digress. We cover sports media, not sports, so why am I bringing up the topic of ‘load management?’ Well, if you are a fan of The Pat McAfee Show on ESPN, you know that the show is taking a two-week break until March 4. The whole show. Just not happening. For two weeks. Instead, those that tune in to ESPN looking for McAfee, are getting SportsCenter. So, now, we have ‘load management’ going on with talk shows? I’ll come back to this.
Over the last decade or so, it has also been happening in the play-by-play booths of our favorite teams, especially in baseball. Recently here at BSM we have covered some stories of play-by-play talent being hired by baseball teams as Spring Training broadcasts get set to begin. If you are paying attention you are starting to see more announcers referred to as the “primary” play-by-play voice and then there is someone who serves as the backup. In some cases, there’s more than one backup.
What in the name of Vin Scully is going on?
Now, not only are our athletes managing their loads, but our broadcasters are, too?
What happened to the days when you would tune in to a team’s broadcast and you knew unless someone was sick or had a major life event, they would be the voices you would hear? In most cases you had one play-by-play announcer and a color analyst and they stayed in their lanes. After all, the two jobs are very different.
Today, you listen to a baseball game on the radio and you have play-by-play announcers switching off, you have color analysts doing a few innings of play-by-play, you have some innings where people disappear altogether. It’s like one of those lightbulb jokes, “How many broadcasters does it take to call one Major League Baseball game?”
Look, I get that people need breaks. I understand the grind of these seasons, especially baseball. So, perhaps you miss a game here and there during the 162 game (at minimum) season and the fill-in person sits in for you. Every once in a while, that’s understandable.
However, the nonsense that goes on now with people needing multiple innings off every game is a joke. Let’s put some consistency back in to our broadcasting.
The same can be said about your favorite sports television show, radio broadcast or podcast. Pat McAfee works his tail off. He is more than entitled to take some time off. What I don’t understand is why does the whole show need to shut down? Why does ESPN allow their programming lineup to be completely disrupted?
I think it is a bad decision by any content creator to not have consistency. It is so tough these days to pull audience away from their other habits. Letting them look for other programming for a couple of weeks while you take time off is a terrible idea and, in my opinion, shows little care for the people writing the checks.
Fans tune in to The Pat McAfee Show because they like the mix of sports talk, humor, bravado and all that comes with the show. I doubt many of them flip on the station, see SportsCenter running in place of the show they tuned in to see and leave it on. What percentage go somewhere else to find what they get from PMS in another show? What percentage of those discover something new they like? What percentage doesn’t tune back in because the habit was broken?
You can’t tell me The Pat McAfee Show couldn’t put together some great ‘Best Of’ shows or find a suitable fill-in host. Taking time off to refresh, spend some quality time with your family, take a vacation or just sit around and do nothing is great and needed. I just don’t get why the whole show has to do it at once. Give your audience something in place of your normal show that gives them a reason to stick around.
In my radio station management days, I always required programming to have a plan for vacations and if there was more than one host on a show, they couldn’t take the same time off unless it was a holiday. It never even occured to me we would ever allow a show to just take a few weeks off, throw the network on and just hope everyone came back when vacation time was over.
Consistency is huge in this business. Whether you are tuning in a game broadcast or turning on your favorite radio or television show, podcast or other digital content, you should expect to be delivered what you are there for, at least in some way, shape or form.
The Best Thing I Heard This Week
This past Thursday Kevin Clancy, better known as KFC from Barstool Sports, was a guest co-host with Gregg Giannotti on WAFN, filling in for Boomer Esiason (who notably took some time off without shutting down the whole show!). One of the conversations Gio and KFC had was about the behind-the-scenes nature of Barstool Sports. Clancy used the term “reality TV” to describe what viewers feel like they are watching whenever Barstool teammates start arguing with one another. It is like a family and it all plays out for the audience to see. This is great content for any talk show host to hear. Your audience wants to know what is happening behind the curtain.
You can hear the full conversation by clicking here.
In Case You Missed It
On Thursday, Barrett Sports Media founder Jason Barrett announced the addition of Paul Heyman from the WWE as one of the speakers at the 2024 BSM Summit. If you follow wrestling at all, you know how big this is already. However, I know many of you have an aversion to sculpted men rolling around in their underwear in matches that are predetermined, so for those you that don’t know Paul Heyman from Paul Molitor, let me play Jason’s hype man and tell you, this is BIG.
Paul Heyman may be the best on-screen character in the history of pro wresting, he is certainly in the conversation. He is also one of the most gifted speakers on the planet and he flat out knows how to get a reaction from an audience and create great content. He has done it all, in front of the camera and behind the scenes. Bottom line, don’t miss this year’s Summit. Paul Heyman is worth the price of admission alone, and oh by the way, you also get insights from some of the brightest minds in broadcasting and content creation. Hope to see you in New York!
You can read Jason’s full announcement by clicking here.
You can also get just a taste of what Paul Heyman is all about by watching this preview of his WWE Network biography:
Dave Greene is the Chief Media Officer for Barrett Media. His background includes over 25 years in media and content creation. A former sports talk host and play-by-play broadcaster, Dave transitioned to station and sales management, co-founded and created a monthly sports publication and led an ownership group as the operating partner. He has managed stations and sales teams for Townsquare Media, Cumulus Media and Audacy. Upon leaving broadcast media he co-founded Podcast Heat, a sports and entertainment podcasting network specializing in pro wrestling nostalgia. To interact, find him on Twitter @mr_podcasting.