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How Do You Handle The City’s Savior Suddenly Being Done?

“The show on Monday after Lamelo’s injury was announced was a somber one.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Gut wrenching is a phrase we use around injuries in sports. It is an apt description for the broken bones suffered by Paul George in 2014 at Team USA trials and Louisville’s Kevin Ware a year earlier during the NCAA Tournament. Those kind of injuries are gut wrenching for obvious reasons. Thinking about them or looking at them is physically hard.

Kevin Ware's Awful Break: How Could It Happen? | TIME.com

Then there are the injuries that are gut wrenching because of the implications for you as a host. Two markets have experienced a very particular subset of these injuries within the last 12 months.

It is the injury to a rookie player deemed the future of the franchise, the savior for fans of the home team. During football season, Cincinnati lost Joe Burrow and just recently, Charlotte has lost LaMelo Ball. Their careers aren’t over, but promising rookie seasons are and that can be painful for hosts in a market.

Mo Egger hosts the afternoon drive show on ESPN 1530 in Cincinnati. He says that to understand the disappointment around Burrow’s rookie season being cut short, you first have to understand what having the first pick in the draft, with the opportunity to select a local kid with that kind of resume did for Bengals fans.

“The Bengals were not only getting the best player in college football, but the most famous, and after years of wrestling with whether or not Andy Dalton could ever take his game to another level, fans got a chance to imagine limitless possibilities for their quarterback,” Egger says. “It also helped immensely that Burrow is a guy who drips confidence, something that isn’t insignificant for beaten-down Bengals fans used to expecting the worst.”

He says that the national narrative about Burrow being compared to the national narrative about the Bengals helped rally fans too. Before national writers started writing about how unfortunate it was that Burrow would have to play for the sad sack Cincinnati franchise, Egger says he had forgotten what passion for the team looked like.

“Given that it was obvious since before the 2019 season ended that the Bengals were taking Burrow with the top pick in the draft, I wasn’t entirely sure what topics were going to present themselves, but it was refreshing to hear fans come to the defense of the Bengals and aim their ire at commentators who, in their eyes, seemed to almost be rooting for Burrow to end up somewhere else.”

LaMelo Ball was received a little differently by fans of the Charlotte Hornets. Chris McClain hosts the morning show at WFNZ in the city. He says that the idea of Mello as a franchise savior didn’t click right away with fans. That’s fine by him though, because it meant more callers to his show.

What makes The Mac Attack unique in Charlotte morning radio? | Charlotte  Observer

“The early season buzz on LaMelo was good for talk radio because he was so polarizing.  Many fans thought it was a great pick but tons were real skeptical because of his dad and his brothers and because of the talk about his struggles as a shooter.  But it didnt take LaMelo long to win the whole city of Charlotte over.”

Sure, it didn’t take long. Handling and distributing the ball at age 19 like a perennial all-star has a way of getting people on your side. Averaging nearly 16 and 6 per night while watching your minutes per game slowly tick up has a way of turning doubters into fans.

Charlotte basketball fans have suffered. Throughout history, there have been a number of times commentators and analysts have pointed to the Hornets as “a team with a lot of promise”. Very rarely were they a real contender though. Melo changed that attitude. McClain says that he had people believing that the franchise had stumbled upon its first true superstar since the days of Grandmama. That is why the Monday morning after Ball and the Hornets announced his rookie season was over felt like a funeral.

“The show on Monday after Lamelo’s injury was announced was a somber one,” McClain said. “He has filled Queen City sports fans with so much hope that it really stunk to feel some of that hope, at least for this year, leaving the fanbase.  Plus, many fans have purchased tickets to games later this year and were excited to see him play and now realize they wont get that chance until next season.  Real bummer.”

For Charlotte fans, it was a fractured wrist that stole their superstar. In the other Queen City, when Joe Burrow was carted off the field with a torn ACL in Week 11, despair was mixed with anger. Egger says fans were pretty clear that this was their primary concern when the team drafted Burrow without upgrading the offensive line.

“They blamed the Bengals for cycling through offensive line coaches, for giving a pay raise to a shoddy right tackle, and for whiffing on some many draft picks on the offensive line. These were all reasonable criticisms, but when you add to it the seemingly cursed history of not only the Bengals, but of pretty much every Cincinnati sports entity, there was anger meshed with a ‘here we go again’ sense that Burrow’s injury was proof that we simply cannot and will not ever have nice things. When an unfortunate moment in the present ignites a flood of very bad memories, the reaction is not good, and it sure wasn’t that day.”

That can be the danger in losing a rookie season to injury. Fans can have newfound vigor squelched. Conversations hosts haven’t been able to have in years can so quickly turn into the familiar drumbeat of the universe being lined up against your team.

If you’re in a place like Cincinnati, dealing with a fan base like the Bengals’, Egger says it can be easy to wonder if that passion will ever bounce back to where it was the moment before it became clear that Joe Burrow wasn’t getting up.

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“With Bengals fans, there’s always trepidation,” he says. “The franchise’s history is not a winning one, there have no playoff wins since January of 1991, and while I think the team’s ownership does at times take some unfair shots from people who are a little too quick to blame the family that runs the team for every single thing that goes wrong, there is a massive amount of mistrust when it comes to how fans view the way the team is run.”

He says that there is something different about Joe Burrow though. Fans seem a little more willing to believe that this is the only guy that can change a pattern that has become far too familiar in the fall. That is probably good for Mo’s ratings and the team’s ticket sales, but he says it comes with a sense of dread.

“Burrow’s arrival has created a ‘if not now, then when’ vibe among most fans I hear from. If they can’t win with a really promising quarterback working under a rookie contract, then when will this franchise every breakthrough and win something meaningful? Add to all of that the fact that the team’s lease in its current stadium is up in 2026, and there is a very real sense that Burrow is quite literally here to save the Cincinnati Bengals, but along with that comes uncomfortable speculation about what will happen to the franchise if Burrow is either incapable of rescuing the team from the depths of the NFL, or more likely, never fully equipped to do so by the people running the franchise he was brought here to save.”

That can be an interesting topic that keeps people tuned in for sure, but can Mo Egger really find a way to keep people interested in a conversation so filled with doom and gloom for what? Five years? Especially if listeners are dealing with anger for letting another talented prospect flop?

McClain has a different outlook. He wants his listeners to know that even without LaMelo Ball, there are reasons to pay attention to and talk about the Hornets.

“I do worry a bit that the Hornets excitement wont be the same this year without LaMelo, but they did win their first game without him and that seemed to remind us that this team is more than just one uber talented 19 year old,” he told me. “If they find a way to make a playoff push without him, I do think fans will stay engaged.  And, I know this, the long term hope in this fanbase is the most substantial I have seen in this town and I have been here since the Bobcats arrived in 2004.  LaMelo and the personnel moves of Mitch Kupchak have us believing.”

Obviously, it sucks to see a guy’s first professional season come to such an unceremonious end. When you’re on air, there is a fine line to walk. How do you reflect the fans’ frustrations while also convincing them that there are still reasons to pay attention and keep tuning into your show?

Selling optimism can get you part of the way there. Mac is right. If the Hornets do make the playoffs this year, that is reason for Charlotte fans to say that things are improving and being interested to hear what WFNZ has to say about the team.

Do The Charlotte Hornets Have A Surprisingly Bright Future?

You also need to be real and vulnerable and let the fans know you feel the same way they do. You also wonder what the hell this means for the next how ever many years. Remember, misery loves company. But also remember that company can get bored quick if misery is all you have to offer.

BSM Writers

Who Handled the Tua Concussion Discussion Best?

Rex Ryan, Rodney Harrison, and Boomer Esiason stood out with their commentary on the Tagovailoa story.

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The major story going into the bulk of Week 4’s NFL action on Sunday was the concussion suffered by Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in Thursday’s game versus the Cincinnati Bengals.

Amazon’s Thursday Night Football telecast, particularly its halftime show, faced heavy criticism for neglecting to mention that Tagovailoa had been tested for a concussion in his previous game just four days earlier. Additionally, the NFL Players Association called for an investigation into whether or not the league’s concussion protocols were followed properly in evaluating Tagovailoa.

In light of that, how would the Sunday NFL pregame shows address the Tagovailoa concussion situation? Would they better inform viewers by covering the full story, including the Week 3 controversy over whether or not proper protocols were followed?

We watched each of the four prominent pregame shows — ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown, Fox NFL Sunday, CBS’s The NFL Today, and NBC’s Football Night in America — to compare how the Tagovailoa story was covered. With the benefit of two extra days to research and report, did the Sunday shows do a better job of informing and engaging viewers?

Here’s how the pregame studio crews performed with what could be the most important NFL story of the year:

Sunday NFL Countdown – ESPN

ESPN’s pregame show is the first to hit the air each Sunday, broadcasting at 10 a.m. ET. So the Sunday NFL Countdown crew had the opportunity to lead the conversation for the day. With a longer, three-hour show and more resources to utilize in covering a story like this, ESPN took full advantage of its position.

The show did not lead off with the Tagovailoa story, opting to lay out Sunday’s schedule, which included an early game in London between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints. But the Countdown crew eventually got to issue on everyone’s minds approximately 28 minutes into the program.

Insider Adam Schefter provided the latest on the NFL and NFLPA’s investigation into the matter, particularly the “gross motor instability” Tagovailoa displayed in stumbling on the field and how the Dolphins initially announced that the quarterback had suffered a head injury, but later changed his condition to a back injury.

Schefter added that the NFL and NFLPA were expected to interview Tagovailoa and pass new guidelines for concussion protocols, including that no player displaying “gross motor instability” will be allowed to play. Those new rules could go into effect as early as Week 5.

“This is an epic fail by the NFL,” said Matt Hasselbeck to begin the commentary. “This is an epic fail by the medical staff, epic fail by everybody! Let’s learn from it!”

Perhaps the strongest remarks came from Rex Ryan, who said coaches sometimes need to protect players from themselves.

“I had a simple philosophy as a coach: I treated every player like my son,” Ryan said. “Would you put your son back in that game after you saw that?

“Forget this ‘back and ankle’ BS that we heard about! This is clearly from head trauma! That’s it. I know what it looks like. We all know what it looks like.”

Where Sunday NFL Countdown‘s coverage may have stood out the most was by bringing injury analyst Stephania Bell into the discussion. Bell took a wider view of the story, explaining that concussions had to be treated in the long-term and short-term. Science needs to advance; a definitive diagnostic tool for brain injury doesn’t currently exist. Until then, a more conservative approach has to be taken, holding players out of action more often.

Grade: A. Countdown covered the story thoroughly. But to be fair, it had the most time.

The NFL Today – CBS

CBS’s pregame show led off with the Tagovailoa story, going right to insider Jonathan Jones to report. He cited the key phrase “gross motor instability” as a significant indication of a concussion.

Jones also clarified that the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant who helped evaluate Tagovailoa made “several mistakes” in consulting with the Dolphins’ team doctor, leading to his dismissal by the NFL and NFLPA.

The most pointed remarks came from Boomer Esiason, who said any insinuation that the Dolphins, head coach Mike McDaniel, or the team medical staff put Tagovailoa back in the game in order to win was “off-base.” Phil Simms added that the concussion experts he spoke with indicated that Tagovailoa could miss four to six weeks with this injury.

Grade: B-. The opinions from the analysts were largely bland. Jones’s reporting stood out.

Fox NFL Sunday

The Fox NFL pregame show also led off with the Tagovailoa story, reviewing the questions surrounding how the quarterback was treated in Week 3 before recapping his injury during Week 4’s game.

Jay Glazer reported on the NFL’s investigation, focusing on whether or not Tagovailoa suffered a concussion in Week 3. And if he did, why was he allowed to play in Week 4? Glazer noted that Tagovailoa could seek a second, maybe a third medical opinion on his injury.

Jimmy Johnson provided the most compelling commentary, sharing his perspective from the coaching side of the situation. He pointed out that when an injured player comes off the field, the coach has no contact with him. The medical team provides an update on whether or not the player can return. In Johnson’s view, Mike McDaniel did nothing wrong in his handling of the matter. He has to trust his medical staff.

Grade: B. Each of the analysts shared stronger opinions, particularly in saying a player failing “the eyeball test” with concussion symptoms should be treated seriously.

Football Night in America – NBC

Sunday Night Football was in a different setting than the other pregame shows, with Maria Taylor, Tony Dungy, and Rodney Harrison broadcasting on-site from Tampa Bay. With that, the show led off by covering the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, its effects on the Tampa area, and how the Buccaneers dealt with the situation during the week.

But after 20 minutes, the show got into the Tagovailoa story with Mike Florio reporting what his peers told viewers earlier in the day regarding pending changes to the NFL’s concussion protocol and “gross motor instability” being used as a major indicator.

Florio emphasized that the NFLPA would ask how Tagovailoa was examined and treated. Was he actually examined for a back injury in Week 3? And if he indeed suffered a back injury, why was he still allowed to play?

When the conversation went back to the on-site crew, Dungy admitted that playing Thursday night games always concerned him when he was a coach. He disclosed that teams playing a Thursday game needed to have a bye the previous week so they didn’t have to deal with a quick, four-day turnaround. That scheduling needs to be addressed for player safety.

But Harrison had the most engaging reaction to the story, coming from his experience as a player. He admitted telling doctors that he was fine when suffering concussion symptoms because he wanted to get back in the game. Knowing that was wrong, Harrison pleaded with current players to stay on the sidelines when hurt because “CTE takes you to a dark place.”

“It’s not worth it. Please take care of yourself,” said Harrison. “Don’t depend on the NFL. Don’t depend on anybody. If something’s wrong with your head, report it.”

Grade: B+. Dungy and Harrison’s views of the matter from their perspective as a coach and player were very compelling.

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BSM Writers

Jason Barrett Podcast – Terry Dugan & Adam Delevitt, BetRivers

Jason Barrett

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Sportsbooks are creating their own media now, and no company is doing that using more guys that have made their names on sports radio than BetRivers. Terry Dugan & Adam Delevitt talk about the strategy behind that decision for today and for the future.

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BSM Writers

Joe Rogan Betting Admission Reveals Gray Area

Rogan’s admission raises a question as to just how ethical it is to place bets with insider information, and whether it should be legal or not.

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Joe Rogan

For nearly a decade, I’ve been fortunate enough to cover the football and basketball programs for the University of Kentucky in some form or fashion. Whether writing for blogs or working with ESPN Louisville as co-host of the post-game show, I’ve gotten to know people around the program I grew up supporting, and other individuals in the media doing the same. I’ve made some terrific friendships and cultivated quite a few relationships that provide me with “inside information” about the teams.

As an avid sports bettor, that information has sometimes put me into some difficult personal situations. There have been times when I’ve been alerted to player news that wasn’t public, such as a player dealing with an injury or suspension. It’s often been told to me off-the-record, and I’ve never put that information out publicly or given it to others.

I wish I could also say I’ve never placed a wager based on that information, but that would be a lie. While it’s been a long time since I’ve done so, I’ve ventured into that ethical gray area of betting on a team that I’m covering. I’ve long felt uncomfortable doing so, and I’d say it’s been a few years since I last did it.

At least I know I’m not alone. On his latest episode of The Joe Rogan Experience, Rogan told guest Bert Kreischer that earlier in his UFC broadcasting career he regularly bet on fights. He claims to have won nearly 85% of the time (which I highly doubt but that’s another discussion for another time), either via bets he made or ones he gave to a business partner to place on his behalf.

From his comments, Rogan doesn’t seem to have been using sensitive information to gain an edge with the books, but he also didn’t state that he didn’t. He indicates that much of his success stemmed from knowing quite a bit more about fighters coming from overseas, and he said he “knew who they were and I would gamble on them.”

But Rogan undoubtedly has long been in a position where he knows which fighters might be dealing with a slight injury, or who are struggling in camp with a specific fighting style. It’s unavoidable for someone whose job puts him into contact with individuals who tell him things off-the-record and divulge details without perhaps even realizing it.

But let’s say Rogan did get that information, and did use it, and was still doing so today. The fact is…there’s nothing illegal about it, not in the United States at least. While it’s against the rules of some entities — the NFL, for example, has stated they could suspend or ban for life individuals who use inside information or provide it to others — it’s not against any established legal doctrine. Unlike playing the stock market, insider betting is not regulated by any central body or by the government.

However, Rogan’s admission raises a question as to just how ethical it is to place bets with insider information, and whether it should be legal or not. Many of the after-the-fact actions that have been taken in the realm of legalized sports betting in this country, or those being discussed currently (such as advertising limitations), fall in line with changes made in Great Britain following their legalization.

One of their big changes was making it illegal to utilize insider information, with very specific definitions about the “misuse of information” and what steps the Gambling Commission may take. It lays out what information can be used, the punishments that may be levied, and at what point it might venture into criminality.

Sportsbooks do have recourse in some instances to recoup money on insider betting, but not many. If they can prove that a wage was influenced, they can cancel the bet or sue for the money. The most well-known instance is the individual who bet $50,000 at +750 odds that someone would streak on the field during Super Bowl LV –which he did– and then was denied the payout when he bragged about his exploits. But unless someone foolishly tells the books that they’ve taken them with information that the public wasn’t privy to, they have little to no chance of doing anything about it.

There are ramifications to insider betting that raise truly ethical dilemmas. Just like stock trading, information can be immeasurably valuable to those with stakes large enough to change prices. If I’m placing a $20 prop bet with the knowledge that a team’s starting running back might be out for a game, or dealing with an ankle injury, I’m not going to harm anybody else playing that line. But if I give that information to a shark, who places a $20,000 wager on that same line, I’ve now enabled someone to move a line and impact other bettors.

Online sports betting in this country continues to grow, and every day we are reminded that there are still aspects of the space that can feel like the wild west. As individuals in the media, we have to decide personally what our ethical stances are in situations like this. We also have to keep in mind the impact that betting can have on our biases–especially if we’ve bet using inside information. A prime example is Kirk Herbstreit, who won’t even make a pick on College Gameday for games he is going to be doing color commentary for lest he possibly appears biased on the call.

At one end of the spectrum, you have someone like Herbstreit, and on the other end, you have folks like Rogan who, while he no longer does so, was more than happy to not only wager on fights himself but gave the information to others. And in the middle, you have hundreds of people in similar situations, who might lean one way or another or who, like me, may have found themselves on either side of that ethical line.

There is no black or white answer here, nor am I saying there’s necessarily a right or wrong stance for anybody in the sports media industry to take. I would say that each person has to take stock of what they’re comfortable doing, and how they feel about insider information being used. Rogan didn’t break any rules or laws by gambling on the UFC, but his admission to doing so might be the catalyst towards it no longer being accepted.

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