I typically leave myself out of these Q&A interviews for Barrett Sports Media. It’s not about me; it’s about the people I’m interviewing. Well, I need to violate my own rule to make a point. I grew up in South Bend, Indiana. Because the signal was strong enough to reach my hometown, it allowed me to hear a lot of Chicago sports radio over the years.
One of the hosts I always enjoyed (and still enjoy) listening to is Laurence Holmes. I appreciate his approach and conversational style. He doesn’t sound like your parent giving you “the talk.” He sounds like your cool uncle telling you about sex in a way that never makes you uncomfortable.
Laurence has been at The Score for 23 years now. That’s right; the year he started in Chicago began with a 19, not a 20. When a smart dude — which Laurence certainly is — has that much experience, best believe he’s acquired plenty of knowledge along the way. Come to think of it, one of the smartest things Laurence does is avoid sounding like he believes he’s the smartest person in the room. In our interview below, Laurence explains how his strategic approach to podcasting can differ from sports radio. He talks about teaching young broadcasters while learning from them as well. Laurence also touches on a lesson he teaches students at DePaul that he had to learn on his own. Enjoy.
Brian Noe: I’ll start a little broad; what do you enjoy most about being a sports talk host?
Laurence Holmes: It’s funny, I was having a conversation with someone last week where I was talking about how I still, as much as I love podcasting, and I do, there’s still something to the live aspect of it. There’s nothing like a Monday after a Bears game, or going on the air after Giolito’s no-hitter. Being there for the listener in that moment, there’s a real juice to it. It’s so much fun. The interaction and the connectivity of it is pretty terrific.
BN: On the flip side, what annoys you or is the biggest drawback of being a sports radio host?
LH: I still think that the amount of time that we have to break — and I get it, I understand it because I worked in sales, it’s important to make sure that we have advertisers — but sometimes it breaks up conversation. That’s why I think you’re seeing a lot of hosts being drawn to the world of podcasting because it’s uninterrupted. You could have the best intentions sometimes of trying to carve out a topic for your listener, and then it gets interrupted. You’re like I’m going to do this great tease, and people are going to listen to it, and then you come back and you’ve lost your place. I still think that’s one of the challenges is the balance between making sure that the station is paid for, which is super important, and the content not being interrupted as frequently.
BN: The approach to podcasting and sports radio is interesting to me. For example, sometimes I’ll record a game that I mean to watch later, and normally I’m like, ehh it’s old, and I won’t feel like watching it. Some podcasts can burn quickly. Do you approach podcasting strategically where your pod is still going to appeal to people even though it might be old?
LH: Yeah, I’ve been debating how much of the daily stuff that I do on the radio, would I, or should I do as a podcaster? I tend to lean towards trying to do more evergreen topics on the podcast because you lose something as you get farther away from it. The listening is different. I’ll tell you right now, I’m three weeks behind on Le Batard’s show. If they were doing well let’s react to the biggest games of the week, if they were doing that type of content, I would just delete that episode and move on to the next one. Luckily for me they don’t really do that. It’s their own type of thing that they’re doing, so I’m cognizant of it when I’m doing podcasting.
That’s why I prefer to do a longer-form interview with someone when I’m doing podcasts because it can live longer and people can come back to it. I have episodes of the podcast from almost three years ago that people are still downloading because that type of content is evergreen. I also know there’s going to be a difference in the amount of downloads that happen and when they happen.
If I break down the Bears-Saints playoff game, yeah 4,000 people are going to listen to that in 72 hours, but then they’re never going to listen to it again. But if I sit down and do an interview with Mina Kimes — I had Mina Kimes on my podcast — people will go back and listen to that episode to hear us interact, to hear us not talking about a breakdown of a particular game.
Yeah, I think you have to be very cognizant of how you’re programming your podcast and what your listeners respond to. I don’t regret doing a podcast after the Bears-Saints playoff game, that’s great and people want that content, but you have to know that you can’t do that unless that’s your goal.
BN: Do you think that’s the main reason podcasts lend themselves to interviews so much?
LH: Yeah, I do. I went back, I love [Marc] Maron’s podcast because of some of the people that he’s able to get on and interview. He interviewed Rhea Seehorn from Better Call Saul. I’m a huge fan of that show and it just was like one of those things where it got by me.
I think this interview was in November. I listened to it last weekend. I found out all sorts of great stuff about her and about the show and about Bob Odenkirk. If I’m behind, and I’m really behind on Maron, I will scroll through. But what happened was I ended up listening to two more episodes because they were evergreen. Maron reacts to what’s going on in his life and the world, but the interviews themselves will hold up no matter how long they’re available.
BN: How about as a listener, not so much as a performer, but listening to either sports radio or podcasts, what do you find yourself doing more?
LH: I don’t sample live shows around the country as much as I used to. I do if they are people that I like. I will check out what they’re doing from a podcast standpoint. What I’m looking for as a consumer, for the teams that I talk about and I cover, I’m looking for people who know something that I don’t know. I’m a big fan in Chicago of the Bulls Talk Podcast. I’ve never really covered the Bulls even though I’m around it. They have a really smart crew.
Jason Goff, I think is one of the most talented people in America. He’s my favorite host. Having him along with K.C. Johnson, who’s been covering the NBA for 30 years, and hearing who they’re talking to, and what they think about what happens, that’s more valuable to me. Big picture stuff that can then be broken down granularly is more important to me than, alright guys let’s talk about what happened with the Bulls in the third quarter. Like that’s my job as a host to do some of that from day to day.
Haberstroh’s podcast is dope. He goes in all sorts of different directions. He did an episode that got me to get him on the radio show. He was breaking down the GameStop thing. He did this incredibly layered, nuanced breakdown that could not have been done on radio. He ended up doing it for me on radio, but that was after he had done 50 minutes on the subject and I knew what kind of questions to ask him to get a 10-minute version of that conversation.
To have the space to spread out and really dissect something sports wise, those are the type of sports podcasts that I find myself drawn to. Tell me something that I don’t know. Take me inside of it. Those are the things that’ll get me more so than just react pods.
BN: I saw some of your comments following George Floyd’s death. I’m just curious what your thoughts and feelings are as that police officer is preparing to go to trial.
LH: I don’t want to talk about it as far as my own personal feelings on the subject. I’ll talk about it from an industry standpoint. I was happy that we saw a loosening of some of the restrictive nature of sports radio over that stretch of time last summer. Whether we’re talking about ESPN on a national stage or locally what we were doing, I was happy to see that program directors around the country — and there were a couple who pushed back. I know there were some people in Cleveland, actually I think it’s one of my old associate program directors Matt Fishman, it was one of his places where they had gotten to a point where they said okay we’re only going to focus in on sports.
What I’ve always thought about radio and sports radio is look, we know that the marquis is the teams that we cover. That’s the star of what it is we do. But the connection that people have with the hosts of their station is significant. Strangely enough, they do care about what you think on some of these subjects.
What’s bothered me is that a lot of programmers across the country have reacted to a vocal minority that have decided that they’re going to determine whether or not I can talk about subjects that matter to me, that are sometimes a bit uncomfortable. In situations where it might not make someone uncomfortable, like if I’m talking about Avengers: Endgame, it’s totally fine for me to go off script and do some of that stuff, or to talk about donuts because I love talking about donuts. I can do some of that stuff.
I’m glad that we were in a space for the summer that allowed us — and I think that a big part of it was there wasn’t a lot of sports that was going on — I thought that as an industry I was very proud of what we were accomplishing, that we were doing that as well as any talk show hosts in any other genre. We were talking about it from the perspective of athletes in the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, NASCAR, we were talking about it in those ways. But we were also given some license to talk about how we were affected. I don’t know how anyone — and I’m pretty good at compartmentalizing, leave your own problems at the door when the light comes on — I don’t know how anyone during that time, how you weren’t affected. It’s disingenuous to act like you’re not. It’s disingenuous to treat the audience like they’re stupid and that they don’t know all of the stuff is going on.
That’s where I go back to the idea of programmers are always trying to sell the personality of the people that are doing their shows. Like hey you should listen to this guy or this woman because they do this, this, this, and this, and they’re your friend in the afternoon. Well, now your friend needs to talk to you about some real shit. Now your friend needs to tell you why they’re bothered.
I thought that we, as an industry, did a good job of really allowing people to be themselves on the air. I know I’m grateful to my PD. There was never once, not once, that he told me to pull back, that he told me that what I wasn’t doing was compelling. He went out of his way to say we support you talking about these things. We know that you know how to program your show and it’s okay for you to open a vein for your listener.
I think my favorite thing that happened this summer outside of us talking about some of these really big picture issues, is more of my listeners learning what Juneteenth was. I had a bunch of them that said to me, why do I have this day off? They had never had this day off and I did a whole segment on the history of Juneteenth, on The Score, in Chicago. I got text messages from listeners saying thank you, I didn’t know that that’s what this was. I was explaining how I think it should be an American holiday. The support that I got behind it was really awesome. It was cool that in a moment where you don’t think you can go outside of the regular sports radio discussions, it was cool to have that moment and then have the validation of people saying, oh cool, Laurence taught me something today, and it wasn’t about playing Cover 2 defense.
BN: In terms of teaching, why is it important to you to teach young broadcasters about the business?
LH: I’ve been teaching media at DePaul since 2012. I love it. I love it because one, I’m probably a better talk show host in the quarters when I teach because I’m going over some of the fundamental stuff with my students. The other part that’s great for me is I’m seeing how younger people approach media. What is their consumption like? How does it differ from what I watch? How are they looking at baseball? They think it’s boring but they’re still consuming at least from a digital standpoint and I’m seeing that. I’m seeing what they think is important in reporting, and where their ears and eyes gravitate towards. I think that there’s value in that, in trying to understand younger people and their habits. It’s something that our industry is desperate to figure out; how to grab those listeners and never let them go. That’s a big part of this. Being able to sit in a room with them — when you could sit in a room — and discuss some of these things with them, I find it fascinating.
BN: Is there anything that you teach the young broadcasters that you had to learn on your own?
LH: Wow, that’s a really wonderful question. I guess I had to learn this on my own, but it’s more of an observational thing. With social media being what it is now and the emphasis on social media, teaching them about the First Amendment is really important. To me the part that I enjoy teaching them is that it’s not a catch-all. It doesn’t protect you from consequences; it protects you from the government. It’s interesting to see the light come on for students when you explain that to them; that the First Amendment doesn’t necessarily protect your right to keep a job.
If you say something that’s out of pocket, your employer has the right to pull your contract, to take you off the air, to fire you. That is an important moment for them, because I think there are so many people that take the First Amendment and misuse it horribly as a way to, “Well I can say what I want, I have First Amendment rights.”
You’re damn right. You can say whatever you want, but as far as the private sector goes, you are not protected from the consequences. I try to explain to them — I’ve allowed them to see portions of my contract. Make sure that you read your contract thoroughly so that you understand where your employer, what rights they have to terminate your employment.
It can definitely be a difficult thing to understand. It’s a target that keeps moving on some of these subjects, but students need to understand that they can’t hold the First Amendment up as a shield against their employer. They can try to do it against the government, but they can’t do it against a private employer. I think that’s probably the most important thing where you have to learn about that from watching the way that your entity where you work, how they handle some of these things, and knowing your rights. I think that that’s a really important aspect of the job.
BN: As far as goals go; you’ve got the Chicago gig, the podcast, you’re now doing Sunday mornings on CBS. Is there anything you want to accomplish down the road that you haven’t yet?”
LH: Yeah, getting a chance to do a national show is a big deal for me because I always wanted to be able to talk about a bunch of different topics. I still love doing the local show, but doing it nationally has been a real blast. It’s been so much fun and I’ve gotten to interact with listeners from around the country, which is cool. I find that I’m really starting to love content creation podcast wise, building my podcast, House of L, and working with people.
I actually am digging the consulting aspect of my job now where people will come to me and say, hey I’m thinking about doing the podcast, what do you think I should do? Sitting down and helping — I’ve helped launch four or five podcasts this year. To know that I have peers that respect me in that way is really gratifying. I guess it’s an offshoot of teaching, where I’m taking my experience and I’m lending it to someone else, and they’re adding their unique abilities to the advice and coming up with something incredible.
BN: Do you see a future in the teaching/consulting area?
LH: I think there’s a chance that could happen. I still love performing. I still get something out of performing, but as I age out of the demo — I’m 45 now, so I’ve got some time — I do think that that’s probably where I end up. Kind of creating a business on content creation where I’m helping people do their thing instead of me doing mine. I’ve been working at The Score since 1998. I’m 23 years into the game at this point. I still have a lot that I want to do on air, but I’m fascinated with people who are coming up now and how they can creatively tell stories. I want to be able to help them do it.
Tricia Whitaker Will Find The Story That Matters
“My role is to really bring the viewers down to that level of the dugout and into the clubhouse.”
When St. Louis Cardinals designated hitter Albert Pujols hit his 700th career home run in his final season in the majors last September, the baseball world erupted in mass jubilation. Although the milestone achievement occurred during a road game, the fans still showered one of the sport’s quintessential athletes with praise as they witnessed the fourth player enter this exclusive pinnacle of power hitters. For fans watching from afar, they were treated with crisp, vivid footage of the moment since the matchup was exclusive to Apple TV+ as a part of its Friday Night Baseball slate of games.
The game broadcast featured field reporter Tricia Whitaker, who had just joined the Apple TV+ presentations to begin the second half of the season. Being there as one of the voices tasked with keeping viewers informed and captivated by the action was a special experience that she will never forget.
“You’re talking about the best cameras in the entire world capturing one of the most iconic players ever,” Whitaker said. “I thought the call was amazing; I thought the quality of the shots was amazing [and] I’l never forget that broadcast, ever, because it was so cool.”
Whitaker grew up in Bloomington, Ind. and would journey to Wrigley Field with her father once per summer to watch the Chicago Cubs. Through those games, she realized that a ballpark was her ideal future workplace.
“We just didn’t have a ton of money, [so] I would sit in the nosebleeds with him once a summer and that was the biggest treat in the world,” Whitaker said. “I just realized that I loved telling stories and I loved sports, so I decided to do that.”
Whitaker’s journey in the industry genuinely began as an undergraduate student at Indiana University Bloomington where she adopted a mindset to seize any opportunities offered to her. Despite having no knowledge or previous reporting experience, she accepted a role to cover a tennis match and quickly started preparing. After one of her professors saw her nascent media acumen, they recommended she audition for the university’s student television station to hone her skills. Whitaker earned a spot and began covering Indiana Hoosiers basketball and football for the show Hoosier Sports Night. From there, she simply kept on accepting anything in her purview.
“Your best asset is your availability, so I basically just said ‘Yes’ to everything,” Whitaker articulated.
Once it became time to search for a full-time position, her experience and tenacity helped her land a role at WBAY-TV in Green Bay as a sports reporter and anchor. After two football seasons working there, Whitaker relocated closer to home to report for WTTV-TV Channel 4 in Indianapolis. The time was valuable for her to cultivate new relationships with those around the industry while strengthening existing ones, serving as a foundational aspect of her reporting.
“If they don’t trust you to tell their stories, they’re not going to talk to you,” Whitaker said. “You have to be able to have a good relationship with the players; with the coaches and everybody involved.”
At the same time, Whitaker felt compelled to make a lasting contribution to Indiana University through teaching and inspiring the next generation of journalists. She is now an adjunct professor for the IU Media School and wants her students to know how integral it is to make themselves available while being open and willing to try new things to make inroads into the profession.
“There’s always a story to be told, so even if it’s a random event that you don’t think anyone’s paying attention to, there’s people there; there’s human stories and their stories matter,” Whitaker said. “That’s what I always try to tell my students is [to] just find that story that makes people interested in it and find that story that matters.”
Over the years working in these dual roles, Whitaker became more skilled in her position and proceeded to audition to join the Tampa Bay Rays’ broadcast crew on Bally Sports Sun as a field reporter. When she received news that she had landed the coveted job, she remembers starting to cry in her closet while trying to organize her clothes. After all, Whitaker had just learned that she would get to perform the role she idolized when she was young. The access her role gives her to the players and coaches on the field is not taken for granted.
“I’ll interview hitting coaches about a guy’s hands and where they’ve moved and about his stance,” Whitaker said. “….In the next hit, I’ll tell a story about a guy who drinks a smoothie every day before the game and he feels [that] putting spinach in it has really made a difference or something like that. My reporting style is pretty much all of it, but I do like to do the human interest stories more than I like to do anything else because I think that’s unique.”
After each Rays win, Whitaker takes the field and interviews one of the players on the team. Earlier in the season, she remembers speaking with Rays outfielder Jose Siri after he drove in three runs against the Detroit Tigers; however, the broadcast was not on Bally Sports Sun. Instead, she was doing the interview for Friday Night Baseball on Apple TV+, a national broadcast property the company pays MLB an estimated $85 million annually to carry. Going into the interview, Whitaker knew that she would need to appeal to more than just Rays fans and appropriately started the conversation by asking about the game.
Yet she also knew that it was “Salsa Night” at Comerica Park in Detroit and thanks to her work with the regional network, was cognizant of the fact that Siri likes to dance in the dugout. As a result, she concluded the interview with a request for Siri to demonstrate his salsa dancing skills, something that made an ordinary conversation stand out.
“I tried to personalize it a little bit to help people get to know Jose Siri a little bit better because I think that’s important,” Whitaker said. “….You make sure you talk about baseball, but then you add a little flair to it; add a little personality to it. Everybody loves salsa, right?”
The Apple broadcasts require Whitaker to prepare as she executes her role with the Rays, keeping her wholly invested and consumed by baseball. There are occasions where she is afforded the luxury of reporting on Rays games for her Friday night assignment, but they are rare. Therefore, she needs to become familiar with two teams by reviewing statistics, reading local reporting and conversing with those involved. She keeps her notes on her cell phone and makes lists of what she is going to do during the day to keep herself organized and focused.
Throughout the week, Whitaker actively prepares for the Friday night matchup and meets with her producer to contribute her ideas and learn about the macro vision of the broadcast. The Apple broadcast, aside from using high-caliber technology, also regularly equips microphones to place on players that allow viewers to hear what is transpiring on the field. Whitaker, along with play-by-play announcer Alex Faust and color commentator Ryan Spilborghs, coordinate with the production team throughout the game to present an insightful and compelling final product.
There was criticism of the Apple TV+ live game baseball broadcasts during its inaugural season, but the noise continues to diminish in its sophomore campaign. Whitaker views her role as accruing a confluence of stories about the game and more insightful looks at the personalities on the field. Before each contest, she interviews a player in the dugout and asks questions that put the season in context, granting a comprehensive understanding about a subset of their journey.
“We try to get their thoughts on the season so far at the plate, but also try to get to know them on a personal level,” Whitaker said. “My role is to really bring the viewers down to that level of the dugout and into the clubhouse.”
It is considerably more facile to execute such a task before the game than it is during gameplay because of the introduction of the pitch clock. While it has undoubtedly sped up the game and made the product more appealing for fans of all ages, its actualization threatened the viability of unique aspects of baseball broadcasts. The Apple TV+ crew may work together once per week, but over a 162-game season spanning parts of seven months, there is a perdurable bond and unyielding chemistry evident therein.
“Everybody on that crew – and I seriously mean this – is so supportive no matter who you are as long as you do your job well,” Whitaker said. “They don’t even think about the fact that I’m a female in sports [and] they just support me. They help me take constructive criticism because they care and because they truly see me as an equal.”
Whitaker has had the chance to report from Wrigley Field with Apple TV+ and vividly remembers her experience of stepping inside as a media member for the first time. It was a surreal full-circle moment that has been the result of years of determination and persistence to make it to the major leagues.
“I walked into Wrigley and I started to tear up because I remember when my dad and I used to go there and I was 12 years old,” Whitaker stated. “If you would have told me at 12 years old [that] I would be doing a national game at Wrigley, I would have told you [that] you were lying because I just wouldn’t have thought that was a possibility.”
Although Whitaker is receptive to potentially hosting regular sports programming in the future, she has found the joy in her roles with both the Tampa Bay Rays and Apple TV+. Being able to experience historic moments, including Pujols’ milestone home run, and then diving deeper into the situation makes the countless flights, hotel stays and lack of a genuine respite worthwhile. She hopes to continue seamlessly fulfilling her responsibility this Friday night when the New York Mets face the Philadelphia Phillies at 6:30 p.m. EST/3:30 p.m. PST, exclusively on Apple TV+.
“There’s always a story to be told, and if you’re good at your job, you’re going to find that story even on a day where you’re like, ‘Oh gosh, there’s nothing going on,’” Whitaker said. “I take that pretty seriously.”
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.
Radio Advertising Can be the Secret Weapon For In-House Digital Marketers
“The trend of businesses gaining digital marketing proficiency presents a unique opportunity for YOU.”
Remember when in-house marketers were primarily focused on traditional media and needed help navigating the digital and social media landscape? Well, the tables are turning!
The rise of digital-savvy in-house marketers is opening up exciting opportunities for radio ad salespeople. As local businesses increasingly invest in digital marketing, some are finding they need your expertise in radio advertising.
Borrell Associates has released their latest Business Barometer, and included in the findings was a slight but noticeable shift favoring traditional forms of broadcast media. Let’s dive into how sports and news radio ad salespeople can leverage this shift to target businesses with proficient digital marketing people on board who may need to know more about the potential of radio advertising.
1. Digital-Marketing Trending UP!
Borrell Associates’ recent findings indicate that businesses are increasingly proficient in digital marketing. They are adeptly managing their websites and social media channels, driving results through online campaigns. However, this digital surge doesn’t necessarily translate to expertise in traditional media, such as radio. Hey, do you know a business like that? And make sure you know of an outsourced digital agency you can refer who can handle your clients’ digital and social media for very few dollars. You can help manage the rest of the budget!
2. Target In-House Buyers
Make a list of businesses you know that have in-house people who are digital-oriented or younger owners who handle mostly digital advertising independently. Or, how about the in-house marketing person who only takes on marketing initiatives like events or sales promotion and knows nothing about advertising? Get ’em!
3. We create demand
One of the unique selling points of radio is its ability to generate demand and send more customers to Google or your client’s website. Digital marketing can often direct buyers seeking a specific purchase but can’t create lasting impressions and build demand and loyalty like your station. Use this advantage to demonstrate how radio can reinforce the brand story and enhance the effectiveness of digital campaigns.
4. Surround the listener
Recognize that businesses with digital marketing expertise may want holistic solutions. Sell packages that combine digital and radio advertising. Include your streaming endorsements with social media and geo-fencing. They get it and will be impressed with reaching their target audience across multiple touchpoints.
5. Be the Teacher
Your prospects may be experts in digital marketing, but they might not fully understand the potential of radio advertising. Take on the role of an educator. Provide resources, case studies, and success stories that showcase how your station and radio have boosted digital-savvy businesses’ results.
6. 1+1=3 for Creativity
Collaboration is key when working with clients with a digital marketing team. Involve them in the creative process of writing and producing radio ads. Creativity could be their strength, and they will bring fresh perspectives to your production.
The trend of businesses gaining digital marketing proficiency presents a unique opportunity for YOU. Maybe your client is struggling with their digital strategy. Imagine that now they may be seeking you out to help them understand what they have already read about buying radio advertising. It’s time to adapt your approach and position radio as a complementary and powerful tool in the digital marketing person toolkit.
Jeff Caves is a sales columnist for BSM working in radio, digital, hyper-local magazine, and sports sponsorship sales in DFW. He is credited with helping launch, build, and develop SPORTS RADIO The Ticket in Boise, Idaho, into the market’s top sports radio station. During his 26 year stay at KTIK, Caves hosted drive time, programmed the station, and excelled as a top seller. You can reach him by email at [email protected] or find him on Twitter @jeffcaves.
Bill Parcells Shaped The Media By Giving Them Hell
“Parcells doesn’t belong in a studio chatting with a quarterback. He belongs in a temper tantrum screaming at a sportswriter.”
Two of the most talked about media stories of the past couple of weeks intersect in the form of one legendary NFL head coach – Bill Parcells.
In the wake of Aaron Rodgers’ potentially season-ending Achilles injury in Week 1 of the NFL season, many media pundits harkened back to 1999 when then-Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde suffered a similar injury in the first game of the season. Like Rodgers, Testaverde was a veteran signal-caller looking to bring the long-suffering Jets to a Super Bowl.
One week after Rodgers’ injury, Los Angeles Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley was in the media mechanism for an exchange with a reporter after his club fell to 0-2. Staley took issue with a query about whether the team’s monumental playoff collapse last season versus Jacksonville has carried over to their slow start this season.
ESPN’s First Take included video of Staley’s comment on their September 19 show building it up as some rash, heated interaction between coach and press. It was not. In fact, Staley merely directly answered the question asserting this season has nothing to do with last season.
Both of these headlines find common ground in the person of Bill Parcells. Parcells was the head coach of the Jets in 1999 when Testaverde’s season ended in that fateful game vs. New England. In addition, he was notorious for some truly vitriolic run-ins with post-game reporters.
Forget about Staley or even the infamous press conference rants of Jim Mora (“Playoffs!?”), Herm Edwards (“You play to win the game!”), and Dennis Green (“Crown ‘em!”). To the media, Parcells was Armageddon, Three Mile Island, and Hurricane Katrina rolled into one. Never has there been a football character so inexplicably loved and despised.
In New England, Parcells’s arrival as head coach of the Patriots in 1993 signaled the turnaround of the franchise, but fans refuse to vote him into the team’s Hall of Fame because of his unceremonious jump from to the Jets after the 1996 season.
When that happened, Parcells again grasped the media spotlight stating, “If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.” He was referring to new owner Bob Kraft taking final say personnel decisions away from Parcells.
Like him or not, Parcells, known as The Tuna, rejuvenated five NFL franchises. The New York Giants were a mishmash of Joe Pisarciks and Earnest Grays before Parcells turned them into two-time champions.
Patriot fans actually cheered for the likes of Hugh Millen and Eugene Chung until Parcells came to town and brought in players like Drew Bledsoe, Ty Law, Willie McGinest, Adam Vinatieri, and Tedy Bruschi, laying the foundation for a dynasty.
And the Jets? They were living off the fumes of Joe Namath’s Brut 33 until Bill Parcells constructed a team that went from 1-15 in 1996 under Rich Kotite to 9-7 and 12-4 in 1997 and 1998 respectively with Parcells.
The Cowboys were 5-11 under Dave Campo in 2002. The next year, they went 10-6 with Parcells. Miami was 1-15 in 2007. The next year, with Parcells as executive VP of Football ops, they won the AFC East with an 11-5 record.
The Catholic church has its Apostle’s Creed. Those who follow the gospel of The Tuna have A Parcells Creed, and it goes as follows: I believe if a reporter asks Parcells if he outcoached a colleague, that reporter will be called a “dumb ass.” I believe that the media are “commies” and “subversive from within” as Parcells once labeled them.
I believe in using the media to denigrate young players to keep their egos in check. After Jets QB Glenn Foley had a solid preseason performance a few years back, the New York media surrounded the redheaded QB as if he had won the Super Bowl.
Parcells walked right in front of Foley and sarcastically asked, “Do you mind if I get past Sonny Jurgensen over here,” referring to the similarly redheaded Redskin quarterbacking legend.
In 1995, when all of New England was agog over a rookie running back named Curtis Martin, Parcells slyly commented to the press, “Well, we’re not carving his bust for Canton just yet.” And of course, there was the late Terry Glenn. When asked how the former Patriot wideout was recovering from an injury, the Tuna spouted, “She’s doing just fine.”
Parcells’ stints as a studio analyst on ESPN, although insightful, seemed out of place. He would sit there, dressed in a dark blue suit talking strategy with fellow ESPN gabber Steve Young. Honestly, he looked like a rotund funeral director searching for someone to embalm.
Parcells doesn’t belong in a studio chatting with a quarterback. He belongs in a temper tantrum screaming at a sportswriter.
I interviewed Boston media personality Steve DeOssie about Parcells. DeOssie was the defensive signal caller for the New York Giants (1989-93) when Parcells was the team’s head coach. He again played for Parcells in New England in 1994.
He told me, “Parcells realizes that the media is the enemy. Let’s face it, the media cannot do anything positive for a team, but they can put stuff out there that could lose a game. The bottom line with Parcells is whether it helps his team win.”
“He loves the camera and the camera loves him. He enjoys that part of the business. The media can spin it any way they want. Parcells does not suffer fools gladly and a lot of media types don’t like being called out in press conferences.”
Another Boston media legend also gave me his reflections of Parcells. Bob Lobel is the most revered sports anchor of all-time in New England. He stated, “I did a one-on-one interview with Parcells awhile back. He is so down to earth yet has this aura. It’s easy to be in awe of him.”
The national perspective is similar. When Troy Aikman was an analyst for FOX Sports, the current Monday Night Football color commentator credited Parcells with restacking the Cowboys’ roster and bringing winning back to Dallas.
When asked about playing for Parcells with the Jets, FS1’s Keyshawn Johnson offered, “He taught me how to do things, how to pay attention.”
Even people whom Parcells fired maintain a respect for him. Sirius NFL Radio’s Pat Kirwan was the director of player administration for the Jets when Parcells arrived in 1997.
Kirwan told me, “Parcells rebuilds a franchise from top to bottom. He evaluates everyone from the trainers to the doctors to the equipment guys. In 1997 when Bill came to the Jets, I knew I was qualified, but I also knew that Bill would let me go.”
In a September 12, 2023 story, New York Post reporter Brian Costello interviewed Parcells about the Rodgers injury.
This master of media mind games famous for the quote, “You don’t get any medal for trying,” revealed his visceral core telling Costello, “You are charged with winning games under any circumstances … They’re not canceling the games. They’re not canceling them. You’re coaching them. It’s your job to get your team ready to play to the best of their ability.”
John Molori is a weekly columnist for Barrett Sports Media. He has previously contributed to ESPNW, Patriots Football Weekly, Golf Content Network, Methuen Life Magazine, and wrote a syndicated Media Blitz column in the New England region, which was published by numerous outlets including The Boston Metro, Providence Journal, Lowell Sun, and the Eagle-Tribune. His career also includes fourteen years in television as a News and Sports Reporter, Host, Producer working for Continental Cablevision, MediaOne, and AT&T. He can be reached on Twitter @MoloriMedia.