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I Attended Two Ballgames … And Felt What, Exactly?

Rather than suffer Ugly American guilt about sitting in stadiums as a pandemic crushes the world, maybe we should stay home and watch sports on TV, which is an easier experience anyway.

Jay Mariotti

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Because I am American, I am inherently selfish and arrogant. And because I’m inherently selfish and arrogant, I’ve sat in the stands for two Major League Baseball games in recent days, counterintuitive to the headlines. Should I care that India and South America continue to be crushed by the coronavirus, that the number of new cases worldwide is surging toward one million a day?

Should I care that Oregon is restoring restrictions, concerned that variants are causing outbreaks among violently ill young people? Should I care that herd immunity isn’t happening in America, that vaccine resistance remains a crisis in rural areas and among Blacks and Latinos in urban areas? What about the millions who don’t want second doses?

“What I can’t do is bring back someone’s life lost to this virus,’’ Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said. “That’s why, hard as this is, we must act immediately. This is truly a race between the variants and the vaccines.’’

As a human being, yes, I should care deeply … and do care deeply. But as a sports aficionado in the U.S. — where Mike Greenberg shrieked like a carnival barker during the NFL Draft, Clay Travis denounces mask-wearers as “pathetic sheep’’ and broadcast executives blindly push gambling to keep their kids in the best private schools — I’m supposed to convene gleefully among 9,207 at Angel Stadium and bask in so-called renewed normalcy, especially when Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani drill home runs past my first-base seat.

A week later, I am supposed to gallop into Dodger Stadium and marvel at the new center-field plaza, including a “Blue Heaven on Earth’’ welcome sign straight out of Disneyland. Then I’m supposed to chomp into a Dodger Dog no longer manufactured by Farmer John — a civic calamity in southern California — but still blessed with char marks from the grill, which is all that counts no matter who makes the sausage. When Clayton Kershaw shuts down the Reds, I am expected to stand with 15,051 others and spray saliva particles into the air, just across the parking lot from one of the nation’s largest vaccination sites.

Because I am American and my arm has been jabbed twice, I am required to be thrilled by it all, shouting, “Sports is back!’’ while engaged in group hugs with strangers. I should be dressed in my frilliest Gucci at the Kentucky Derby, with malcontent Aaron Rodgers and top-hatted Tom Brady and 45,000 others, watching Essential Quality finish fourth to Bob Baffert’s Medina Sprint despite the human rights abuses of owner Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum — who, per a judge’s ruling in England, plotted the abduction of two of his adult daughters. I should be partying with Bernie Kosar and the Draft mobs in Cleveland, 100,000-plus strong. I should be preparing to join 135,000 race fans at the Indianapolis 500. I should be watching with the boys at the sports bar in Santa Monica as the Lakers attempt to repeat. I should be Sports Jay, as always.

Instead, I’m looking around at thousands of empty seats in both ballparks, wondering why I’m here amid faint cheers and disproportionately loud music.

I’m also wondering why it’s business as usual when the fine print of my e-ticket suggests otherwise: “WARNING — ASSUMPTION OF RISK. COVID-19 IS AN EXTREMELY CONTAGIOUS DISEASE THAT CAN LEAD TO SEVERE ILLNESS AND DEATH. AN INHERENT RISK OF EXPOSURE TO COVID-19 EXISTS IN ANY PUBLIC PLACE REGARDLESS OF PRECAUTIONS THAT MAY BE TAKEN. THE HOLDER AGREES TO (1) ASSUME ALL RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH COVID-19 AND OTHER COMMUNICABLE DISEASES, AND (2) COMPLY WITH ALL RELATED HEALTH & SAFETY POLICIES OF THE DODGERS AND DODGER STADIUM.’’

Health Officials Split on Rapid COVID Tests as Admission Tickets | The Pew  Charitable Trusts

Meaning: If you get sick, or die, you can’t sue the Dodgers or MLB. But, hey, have you checked out the new legends exhibit and Shake Shack stand?

It’s not that I don’t enjoy and savor sports. If anything, a pandemic whetted my appetite for the grist and inspired me to resume writing columns four times a week. The problem is this brainwashing syndrome. You know: Being told by the sports industry — leagues and media alike — that I’m a (pick one) coward, liberal, sheep or pussy if I think it’s narrow-minded and insensitive to re-hurl ourselves into the swirl without feeling anxious about the planet. Such greedy demands not only lack perspective and savvy, they prioritize the ongoing sports money-grab and remind me of what I always pillory about the clamor surrounding our fun and games — the idiots who don’t grasp the bigger world beyond ballparks, arenas, social media, ESPN, WFAN and DraftKings.

Now hear this: The pandemic is not over and might not be over for years. Yet King Sports acts as if it has won the Infectious Disease Super Bowl, carrying on under the guise of entertainment-as-healing when the sole, unabashed purpose is to drive revenues. The NFL, feeling heady after filling the pockets of team owners with $113 billion in new broadcast money, plans on opening all stadiums at full capacity in a few months. “All of us in the NFL want to see every one of our fans back,’’ said commissioner Roger Goodell. The Atlanta Braves are untying all 41,084 seats at Truist Park this week, as MLB pushes for a summer of large crowds throughout both leagues — though who wants to watch a sport where batters hit a record-low .232 in April and teams averaged only 7.63 hits ? “I have great concern that our sport has turned into a lack of offense — and that the strikeout-homer-walk `Three True Outcomes’ is not our best entertainment product,” said Detroit manager AJ Hinch, who always could have his hitters electronically steal signs and bang on drums in the tunnel, as he did in Houston.

And on our college campuses, where COVID-19 remains a firestorm? LSU, possibly the most corrupt of football programs, says spectators won’t need masks inside the stadium or beforehand in the all-important tailgate culture. “This,’’ said athletic director Scott Woodward, “is another positive step for us as a campus and community.’’

The coronavirus is just the flu, after all. Clay Travis said so. Geaux Tigers!

At least America is comforted by a progressive inoculation pace. Imagine living in Japan — where just 1.4 percent of the population is fully vaccinated in a health care emergency — and knowing the International Olympic Committee carries more political weight than the government with the Summer Games in full-go mode. Every poll favors cancellation, as the Japanese people worry that their health — and that of participating athletes, most not vaccinated — will be jeopardized as COVID-19 cases spike. But prime minister Yoshihide Suga has no interest in halting the Games when $25 billion is on the line, NBC is airing Olympics promos in heavy rotation and IOC president Thomas Bach is running the country.

“The IOC has the authority to decide, and the IOC has already decided to hold the Tokyo Olympics,’’ Suga said.

To which Bach added, “Look at the Augusta Masters,” trying to assuage the nervous masses by name-dropping their national hero, 2021 champion Hideki Matsuyama. Never mind that a major golf tournament involves fewer than 100 players in an outdoor, socially distanced event, while these Olympics would host 11,000 athletes from 200-plus countries in 42 venues. Bach prefers to ignore the dangers and lather the natives, praising the “great resilience and spirit of the Japanese people’’ before adding, “(They) have demonstrated perseverance throughout their history, and it’s only because of this ability of the Japanese people to overcome adversity that these Olympic Games under these very difficult circumstances are possible.’’ He was appropriately pummeled on social media, having mixed World War II and last decade’s tsunami with his desire to cash in.

Keep calling me a Chicken Little, as you have. But as Goodell hailed his 2020 season as a rousing success, a scientific journal known as The Lancet was publishing data that blamed pockets of virus outbreaks in NFL cities on large stadium throngs, even as the NFL insists it hosted 1.2 million fans safely last season. Funny how the league only releases upbeat findings when trying to propagandize us. As epidemiologists howled in mortified protest, the NFL marched on with its usual, three-day Draft extravaganza over the weekend, as if all is well in the world.

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“We have to do this,” said Jon Barker, who oversees the league’s live event productions. “We need to get people out and back to live events and to experience things like this. The draft is one of those great events that can bring everybody together and do that.”

As I watched my two ballgames and ate my hot dogs (there also is an Angel Dog), I realized what I’d learned the last 14 months: People don’t have to be at the scene anymore. Great seats and all, I still couldn’t enjoy a game in person the way I can at home, where admission and parking are free, a tidy bathroom is just down the hall, and I can eat and drink inexpensively without waiting in line. There is no reason to attend another football game when it’s the ultimate TV sport. Baseball remains a convivial event in person, but any focus on the game itself is best achieved at home. The NBA is fun at home or in the lower bowl, the latter only for a king’s ransom. From a few hundred feet away, would you have enjoyed the Masters or the Derby as much on site as you did in your personal viewing room?

For this shift inward, give the broadcast networks props. Challenged by a pandemic, they’ve succeeded in maximizing the at-home live experience, to the point fans will think twice about spending money and attending games. Having consumed sports on TV since last summer, I’ve been able to block out COVID considerations in the new calendar year. Only when I venture to ballparks, for the first time as a non-working spectator, do I feel guilty about the continuing global massacre.

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It sounds blasphemous, I know, but I’ll ask again: Why go? If sports is best enjoyed on a big screen, and not among the masses in a confined setting, then why waste time, money and energy? Let the leagues figure out how to keep the turnstiles spinning and the Dodger Dogs devoured.

Just stay home.

Nike can use it as a new slogan.

BSM Writers

In Defense Of Colin Cowherd

“How did we get to this place where there are sites and Twitter accounts going through The Herd with a fine-toothed comb to create content out of ‘oh my god, look at this!’?”

Demetri Ravanos

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I don’t understand what it is about Colin Cowherd that gets under some people’s skin to the point that they feel everything the guy says is worth being mocked. I don’t always agree with a lot of his opinions myself, but rarely do I hear one of his takes and think I need to build content around how stupid the guy is.

Cowherd has certainly had his share of misses. There were some highlights to his constant harping on Baker Mayfield but personally, I thought the bit got boring quickly and that the host was only shooting about 25% on those segments.

Cowherd has said some objectionable things. I thought Danny O’Neil was dead on in pointing out that the FOX Sports Radio host sounded like LIV Golf’s PR department last month. It doesn’t matter if he claims he used the wrong words or if his language was clunky, he deserved all of the criticism he got in 2015 when he said that baseball couldn’t be that hard of a sport to understand because a third of the league is from the Dominican Republic.

Those missteps and eyebrow-raising moments have never been the majority of his content though. How did we get to this place where there are sites and Twitter accounts going through The Herd with a fine-toothed comb to create content out of “oh my god, look at this!”?

A few years ago, Dan Le Batard said something to the effect of the best thing he can say about Colin Cowherd is that he is never boring and if you are not in this business, you do not get what a compliment that is.

That’s the truth, man. It is so hard to talk into the ether for three hours and keep people engaged, but Cowherd finds a way to do it with consistency.

The creativity that requires is what has created a really strange environment where you have sites trying to pass off pointing and laughing at Cowherd as content. This jumped out to me with a piece that Awful Announcing published on Thursday about Cowherd’s take that Aaron Rodgers needs a wife.

Look, I don’t think every single one of Cowherd’s analogies or societal observations is dead on, but to point this one out as absurd is, frankly, absurd!

This isn’t Cowherd saying that John Wall coming out and doing the Dougie is proof that he is a loser. This isn’t him saying that adults in backward hats look like doofuses (although, to be fair to Colin, where is the lie in that one?).

“Behind every successful man is a strong woman” is a take as old as success itself. It may not be a particularly original observation, but it hardly deserves the scrutiny of a 450-word think piece.

On top of that, he is right about Aaron Rodgers. The guy has zero personality and is merely trying on quirks to hold our attention. Saying that the league MVP would benefit from someone in his life holding a mirror up to him and pointing that out is hardly controversial.

Colin Cowherd is brash. He has strong opinions. He will acknowledge when there is a scoreboard or a record to show that he got a game or record pick wrong, but he will rarely say his opinion about a person or situation is wrong. That can piss people off. I get it.

You know that Twitter account Funhouse? The handle is @BackAftaThis?

It was created to spotlight the truly insane moments Mike Francesa delivered on air. There was a time when the standard was ‘The Sports Pop’e giving the proverbial finger to a recently deceased Stan Lee, falling asleep on air, or vehemently denying that a microphone captured his fart.

Now the feed is turning to “Hey Colin Cowherd doesn’t take phone calls!”. Whatever the motivation is for turning on Cowherd like that, it really shows a dip in the ability to entertain. How is it even content to point out that Colin Cowherd doesn’t indulge in the single most boring part of sports radio?

I will be the first to admit that I am not the world’s biggest fan of The Herd. Solo hosts will almost never be my thing. No matter their energy level, a single person talking for a 10-12 minute stretch feels more like a lecture than entertainment to me. I got scolded enough as a kid by parents and teachers.

School is a good analogy here because that is sort of what this feels like. The self-appointed cool kids identified their target long ago and are going to mock him for anything he does. It doesn’t matter if they carry lunch boxes too, Colin looks like a baby because he has a lunch box.

Colin Cowherd doesn’t need me to defend him. He can point to his FOX paycheck, his followers, or the backing for The Volume as evidence that he is doing something right. I am merely doing what these sites think they are doing when Colin is in their crosshairs – pointing out a lame excuse for content that has no real value.

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BSM Writers

Even After Radio Hall of Fame Honor, Suzyn Waldman Looks Forward

WFAN recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, but that’s not something that Waldman spends too much time reflecting on.

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Yankees radio broadcaster Suzyn Waldman was at Citi Field on July 26th getting ready to broadcast a Subway Series game between the Yankees and Mets. A day earlier, Waldman was elected to the Radio Hall of Fame and sometimes that type of attention can, admittedly, make her feel a bit uncomfortable.

“At first, I was really embarrassed because I’m not good at this,” said Waldman. “I don’t take compliments well and I don’t take awards well. I just don’t. The first time it got to me…that I actually thought it was pretty cool, there were two little boys at Citi Field…

Those two little boys, with photos of Waldman in hand, saw her on the field and asked her a question.

“They asked me to sign “Suzyn Waldman Radio Hall of Fame 2022” and I did,” said Waldman.  “I just smiled and then more little boys asked me to do that.”  

Waldman, along with “Broadway” Bill Lee, Carol Miller, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, Ellen K, Jeff Smulyan, Lon Helton, Marv Dyson, and Walt “Baby” Love, make up the Class of 2022 for the Radio Hall of Fame and will be inducted at a ceremony on November 1st at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago.

Waldman, born in the Boston suburb of Newton, Massachusetts, was the first voice heard on WFAN in New York when the station launched on July 1st, 1987. She started as an update anchor before becoming a beat reporter for the Yankees and Knicks and the co-host of WFAN’s
mid-day talk show. In the mid 1990s, Waldman did some television play-by-play for Yankees games on WPIX and in 2002 she became the clubhouse reporter for Yankees telecasts when the YES Network launched.

This is Waldman’s 36th season covering the Yankees and her 18th in the radio booth, a run that started in 2005 when she became the first female full-time Major League Baseball broadcaster.

She decided to take a look at the names that are currently in the Hall of Fame, specifically individuals that she will forever be listed next to.

“Some of the W’s are Orson Wells and Walter Winchell…people that changed the industry,” said Waldman. “I get a little embarrassed…I’m not good at this but I’m really happy.”

Waldman has also changed the industry.

She may have smiled when those two little boys asked her to sign those photos, but Waldman can also take a lot of pride in the fact that she has been a trailblazer in the broadcasting business and an inspiration to a lot of young girls who aspire, not only to be sportscasters but those who want to have a career in broadcasting.

Like the young woman who just started working at a New York television station who approached Waldman at the Subway Series and just wanted to meet her.

“She stopped me and was shaking,” said Waldman. “The greatest thing is that all of these young women that are out there.”

Waldman pointed out that there are seven women that she can think of off the top of her head that are currently doing minor league baseball play-by-play and that there have been young female sports writers that have come up to her to share their stories about how she inspired them.

For many years, young boys were inspired to be sportscasters by watching and listening to the likes of Marv Albert, Al Michaels, Vin Scully, Bob Costas, and Joe Buck but now there are female sportscasters, like Waldman, who have broken down barriers and are giving young girls a good reason to follow their dreams.

“When I’ve met them, they’ve said to me I was in my car with my Mom and Dad when I was a very little girl and they were listening to Yankee games and there you were,” said Waldman. “These young women never knew this was something that they couldn’t do because I was there and we’re in the third generation of that now. It’s taken longer than I thought.”

There have certainly been some challenges along the way in terms of women getting opportunities in sports broadcasting.

Waldman thinks back to 1994 when she became the first woman to do a national television baseball broadcast when she did a game for The Baseball Network. With that milestone came a ton of interviews that she had to do with media outlets around the country including Philadelphia.

It was during an interview with a former Philadelphia Eagle on a radio talk show when Waldman received a unique backhanded compliment that she will always remember.

“I’ve listened to you a lot and I don’t like you,” Waldman recalls the former Eagle said. “I don’t like women in sports…I don’t like to listen to you but I was watching the game with my 8-year-old daughter and she was watching and I looked at her and thought this is something she’s never going to know that she cannot do because there you are.”

Throughout her career, Waldman has experienced the highest of highs in broadcasting but has also been on the receiving end of insults and cruel intentions from people who then tend to have a short memory.

And many of these people were co-workers.

“First people laugh at you, then they make your life miserable and then they go ‘oh yeah that’s the way it is’ like it’s always been like that but it’s not always been like this,” said Waldman. 

It hasn’t always been easy for women in broadcasting and as Waldman — along with many others — can attest to nothing is perfect today. But it’s mind-boggling to think about what Waldman had to endure when WFAN went on the air in 1987.

She remembers how badly she was treated by some of her colleagues.

“I think about those first terrible days at ‘FAN,” said Waldman. “I had been in theatre all my life and it was either you get the part or you don’t. They either like you or they don’t.  You don’t have people at your own station backstabbing you and people at your own station changing your tapes to make you look like an idiot.”

There was also this feeling that some players were not all that comfortable with Waldman being in the clubhouse and locker room. That was nothing compared to some of the other nonsense that Waldman had to endure.

“The stuff with players is very overblown,” said Waldman. “It’s much worse when you know that somebody out there is trying to kill you because you have a Boston accent and you’re trying to talk about the New York Yankees. That’s worse and it’s also worse when the people
that you work with don’t talk to you and think that you’re a joke and the people at your own station put you down for years and years and years.”

While all of this was happening, Waldman had one very important person in her corner: Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who passed away in 2010.

The two had a special relationship and he certainly would have relished the moment when Suzyn was elected to the Hall of Fame.

“I think about George Steinbrenner a lot,” said Waldman. “This is something that when I heard that…I remember thinking George would be so proud because he wanted this since ’88.  I just wish he were here.” 

Waldman certainly endeared herself to “The Boss” with her reporting but she also was the driving force behind the reconciliation of Steinbrenner and Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra. George had fired Yogi as Yankees manager 16 games into the 1985 season and the news was delivered to Berra, not by George, but by Steinbrenner advisor Clyde King.

Yogi vowed never to step foot into Yankee Stadium again, but a grudge that lasted almost 14 years ended in 1999 when Waldman facilitated a reunion between the two at the Yogi Berra Museum in New Jersey.

“I’m hoping that my thank you to him was the George and Yogi thing because I know he wanted that very badly,” said Waldman.

“Whatever I did to prove to him that I was serious about this…this is in ’87 and ’88…In 1988, I remember him saying to me ‘Waldman, one of these days I’m going to make a statement about women in sports.  You’re it and I hope you can take it’ (the criticism). He knew what was coming.  I didn’t know. But there was always George who said ‘if you can take it, you’re going to make it’.”

And made it she did.

And she has outlasted every single person on the original WFAN roster.

“I’m keenly aware that I was the first person they tried to fire and I’m the only one left which I think is hysterical actually that I outlived everybody,” said Waldman.

WFAN recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, but that’s not something that Waldman spends too much time reflecting on.

“I don’t think about it at all because once you start looking back, you’re not going forward,” said Waldman. 

Waldman does think about covering the 1989 World Series between the A’s and Giants and her reporting on the earthquake that was a defining moment in her career. She has always been a great reporter and a storyteller, but that’s not how her WFAN career began. She started as an update anchor and she knew that if she was going to have an impact on how WFAN was going to evolve, it was not going to be reading the news…it was going to be going out in the field and reporting the news.

“I was doing updates which I despised and wasn’t very good at,” said Waldman.

She went to the program director at the time and talked about how WFAN had newspaper writers covering the local teams for the station and that it would be a better idea for her to go out and cover games and press conferences.

“Give me a tape recorder and let me go,” is what Waldman told the program director. “I was the first electronic beat writer.  That’s how that started and they said ‘oh, this works’. The writers knew all of a sudden ‘uh oh she can put something on the air at 2 o’clock in the morning and I can’t’.”  

And the rest is history. Radio Hall of Fame history.

But along the way, there was never that moment where she felt that everything was going to be okay.

Because it can all disappear in a New York minute.

“I’ve never had that moment,” said Waldman. “I see things going backward in a lot of ways for women.  I’m very driven and I’m very aware that it can all be taken away in two seconds if some guy says that’s enough.” 

During her storied career, Waldman has covered five Yankees World Series championships and there’s certainly the hope that they can contend for another title this year. She loves her job and the impact that she continues to make on young girls who now have that dream to be the next Suzyn Waldman.

But, is there something in the business that she still hopes to accomplish?

“This is a big world,” said Waldman. “There’s always something to do. Right now I like this a lot and there’s still more to do. There are more little girls…somewhere there’s a little girl out there who is talking into a tape recorder or whatever they use now and her father is telling her or someone is telling her you can’t do that you’re a little girl. That hasn’t stopped. Somewhere out there there’s somebody that needs to hear a female voice on Yankees radio.”

To steal the spirit of a line from Yankees play-by-play voice John Sterling, Suzyn Waldman’s longtime friend, and broadcast partner…“that’s a Radio Hall of Fame career, Suzyn!”

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BSM Writers

No Winners in Pittsburgh vs Cleveland Radio War of Words

“As talk radio hosts, we often try to hold the moral high ground and if you’re going to hold that position, I can’t help but feel integrity has to outweigh popularity. “

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For nearly 18 months, we’ve known the NFL would eventually have to confront the Deshaun Watson saga in an on-the-field manner, and that day came Monday. After his March trade to the Browns, we also could more than likely deduce another item: Cleveland radio hosts would feel one way, and Pittsburgh hosts would feel another.

If you’re not in tune to the “rivalry” between the two cities, that’s understandable. Both are former industrial cities looking for an identity in a post-industrial Midwest. Each thinks the other is a horrible place to live, with no real reasoning other than “at least we’re not them”. Of course, the folks in Pittsburgh point to six Super Bowl victories as reason for superiority.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when news started to leak that a Watson decision would come down Monday. I was sure, however, that anyone who decided to focus on what the NFL’s decision would mean for Watson and the Browns on the field was in a no-win situation. As a former host on a Cleveland Browns radio affiliate, I always found the situation difficult to talk about. Balancing the very serious allegations with what it means for Watson, the Browns, and the NFL always felt like a tight-rope walk destined for failure.

So I felt for 92.3 The Fan’s Ken Carman and Anthony Lima Monday morning, knowing they were in a delicate spot. They seemed to allude to similar feelings. “You’re putting me in an awkward situation here,” Carman told a caller after that caller chanted “Super Bowl! Super Browns!” moments after the suspension length was announced.

Naturally, 93.7 The Fan’s Andrew Fillipponi happened to turn on the radio just as that call happened. A nearly week-long war of words ensued between the two Audacy-owned stations.

Fillipponi used the opportunity to slam Cleveland callers and used it as justification to say the NFL was clearly in the wrong. Carman and Lima pointed out Fillipponi had tweeted three days earlier about how much love the city of Pittsburgh had for Ben Roethlisberger, a player with past sexual assault allegations in his own right.

Later in the week, the Cleveland duo defended fans from criticism they viewed as unfair from the national media. In response, Dorin Dickerson and Adam Crowley of the Pittsburgh morning show criticized Carman and Lima for taking that stance.

Keeping up?

As an impartial observer, there’s one main takeaway I couldn’t shake. Both sides are wrong. Both sides are right. No one left the week looking good.

Let’s pretend the Pittsburgh Steelers had traded for Deshaun Watson on March 19th, and not the Browns. Can you envision a scenario where Cleveland radio hosts would defend the NFL for the “fairness” of the investigation and disciplinary process if he was only suspended for six games? Of course, you can’t, because that would be preposterous. At the same time, would Fillipponi, Dickerson, and other Pittsburgh hosts be criticizing their fans for wanting Watson’s autograph? Of course, you can’t, because that would be preposterous.

When you’re discussing “my team versus your team” or “my coach versus your coach” etc…, it’s ok to throw ration and logic to the side for the sake of entertaining radio. But when you’re dealing with an incredibly serious matter, in this case, an investigation into whether an NFL quarterback is a serial sexual predator, I don’t believe there’s room to throw ration and logic to the wind. The criticism of Carman and Lima from the Pittsburgh station is fair and frankly warranted. They tried their best, in my opinion, to be sensitive to a topic that warranted it, but fell short.

On the flip side, Carman and Lima are correct. Ben Roethlisberger was credibly accused of sexual assault. Twice. And their criticism of Fillipponi and Steelers fans is valid and frankly warranted.

You will often hear me say “it can be both” because so often today people try to make every situation black and white. In reality, there’s an awful lot of gray in our world. But, in this case, it can’t be both. It can’t be Deshaun Watson, and Browns fans by proxy, are horrible, awful, no good, downright rotten people, and Ben Roethlisberger is a beloved figure.

Pot, meet kettle.

I don’t know what Andrew Fillipponi said about Ben Roethlisberger’s sexual assault allegations in 2010. And if I’m wrong, I’ll be the first to admit it, but I’m guessing he sounded much more like Carman and Lima did this week, rather than the person criticizing hosts in another market for their lack of moral fiber. Judging by the tweet Carman and Lima used to point out Fillipponi’s hypocrisy, I have a hard time believing the Pittsburgh host had strong outrage about the Steelers bringing back the franchise QB.

Real courage comes from saying things your listeners might find unpopular. It’s also where real connections with your listeners are built. At the current time in our hyper-polarized climate, having the ability to say something someone might disagree with is a lost art. But it’s also the key to keeping credibility and building a reputation that you’ll say whatever you truly believe that endears you to your audience.

And in this case, on a day the NFL announced they now employ a player who — in the league’s view — is a serial sexual assaulter, to hear hosts describe a six-game suspension as “reasonable” felt unreasonable. As talk radio hosts, we often try to hold the moral high ground and if you’re going to hold that position, I can’t help but feel integrity has to outweigh popularity.

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