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What Do You Learn From A Long Stretch On The Sidelines?

“We work so hard to land these positions and when they are gone, it can take time to get the train back on the track. Weeks turn into months, months turn into a year, then two years, then three.”

Demetri Ravanos




The thing about sports radio that can be so frustrating is that there are only so many on air jobs to go around. That means that some good people will be left on the sidelines, sometimes for considerably longer than they ever anticipated.

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I wanted to talk to some of those guys today. I reached out to two buddies, Nick Kayal in Nashville and Jeff Pantridge in Raleigh. Neither has been totally on the sidelines. Nick has part-time gigs in both Atlanta and Nashville. Jeff has moved from the programming side into sales. Still, I don’t think either thought they would be where they are right now when they started their last full-time on air job.

So with all of this time on the sidelines and plenty of time re-evaluate what does and doesn’t matter to them, how have they changed? How has the way they think about radio changed?

Pantridge says he hasn’t changed much about how he applies. He still tries to learn all he can about a station and a market before sending off a demo or resume. What has changed is if he applies at all. After three years away from the microphone, he has learned to value himself a little more than he did before.

“For a while, I was applying for anything and everything,” he told me. “When radio is all that you know and you are forced out of the industry, you must piece together odd jobs until your next radio opportunity arrives. Leaving an odd job is easy. I was selling people insulation for a little bit. I don’t know anything about insulation. And let me tell you, selling insulation sucks. If I got an offer in 2019 to wash vans for a sports station in rural North Dakota, I probably would have considered it. Now that I have a more stable career in radio and digital sales with a great company, I can pick and choose where I want to apply. Plus, if I get an offer, I have the power to walk away if the offer isn’t worth changing my life, which I have done.”

Kayal has also reassessed what matters to him. He has a wife and two kids and realizes that any job he is offered doesn’t work for him if it doesn’t work for them.

“My wife and daughters are very happy in the south and they love living in Nashville,” Kayal said in an email. “Sure, if FOX Sports Radio was interested in me filling Clay Travis’s vacancy, I’d absolutely listen. If ESPN Radio wanted to hire me, I’d jump on it. If the chance to go back to Philadelphia was realistic, I’d be all ears. But largely, I am very happy with the 2 great stations I get routine work on and am focused on moving up the ladder at one or both of those places. I’ve also had steady work for both of them during the pandemic, so I am very blessed in that regard because I know a lot of talented people in the industry can’t find any fill-in work, much less full-time gigs.”

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I asked both guys how they see themselves in the business now. Are they hosts and only hosts? Could they see themselves being happy in another side of the building?

Kayal started in the sales side of the business. It is how he first got his foot in the door in radio, hosting a morning show from 6 until 8 am in Allentown, PA and then selling spots for the rest of the workday. It taught him the value of building relationships with a sales staff, but it isn’t something he wants to do again.

“At 37 years old, there’s no way I would do sales full-time. I still have too much of an itch to host. I have too much of an ego to being sitting in a cubicle or on the road listening to the show/host that I’m selling if I know I am more talented than that person. I just couldn’t do it,” he says with a laugh.

You have to give Kayal credit for knowing who he is. Whether or not people are lining up to hire him for a prime, weekday shift is irrelevant. He knows what makes him happy and intends to pursue it.

Jeff Pantridge is different. Maybe that is because he is older than Kayal. Maybe he just has a different set of priorities. Neither is wrong. Jeff just knows that sales provides some things for him that chasing low-paying on-air gigs cannot.

“It took me a while to realize this, but believe it or not, there is more to life than hosting a sports radio show. Is hosting a show more fun than sales? No question. Does it pay as much? Nope. I’m in my mid-40’s now, and I have come to a point in my life where I need to start thinking about retirement. I also love to travel, and when you are in radio and you are on vacation, there is always a piece of you that is worried that your station might replace you with your fill-in because they may come cheaper or may even be (gasp) better than you. Being in media sales, I can also have a direct impact on my community by helping these local businesses that support our products grow. That matters to me.”

May be an image of Jeff Pantridge and smiling

I wanted to wrap up giving both guys a chance to speak directly to programmers and GMs that do the hiring in radio. I don’t want them to pitch themselves or their ability. That is what the BSM Member Directory is for. I asked them what they would want hiring managers to know. What has a longer-than-anticipated stint on the beach taught them about the industry.

Pantridge says that he hopes companies and stations understand where value comes from in your audience. Spending time on the sales side of the business has taught him that quality is always more important and more valuable than quantity. He encourages hiring managers to think about what makes an audience loyal to a talent.

“I believe that a lot of sports radio ends up sounding the same, because there seems to be a universal formula that many management types follow. I understand that this is a business, and the endgame is to make money. With that said, there are many ways to do that. Now that I am in sales, I have come to realize that numbers are not everything. You also must create a passionate audience. If I am a radio station, I would rather have 200,000 passionate listeners than 500,000 passive ones. Local businesses have a much greater chance of connecting with them versus somebody that is just listening to the same old sports radio show because they like sports.”

He uses Dan Le Batard’s deal with DraftKings as an example. Pantridge says that a lot of local sports radio stations didn’t know how to make sense of Le Batard. All some managers saw was that fewer people listened to Le Batard in the station’s 10 am to 1 pm slot than listened to Colin Cowherd when he was there and decided it wasn’t working. DraftKings, on the other hand, saw an audience that didn’t listen passively and wanted to support their favorite show.

Nick Kayal just wants PDs and GMs to see the people applying for their openings as more than resumes and mp3s. He wants them to know just how much a little common courtesy means to people trying to find a new job.

“When a talent reaches out to you and pours his soul into impressing a decision maker you shouldn’t ghost them. The whole world is on a smartphone and has a dozne means of communication. You owe that talent a reply and a genuine one at that. This is a very small industry. Don’t be the guy who says “I’ll circle back to you”, or “I’ve got a lot on my plate.” I swear theres a PD verbage/clich playbook that was published in 1998 and it’s quite annoying. We are all busy. I get that. But you’re programming a sports talk radio station, not creating the next vaccine for the next global pandemic. You have time. You work in communications. Be better than that.”

Losing a gig sucks. There’s no need to sugarcoat it. We work so hard to land these positions and when they are gone, it can take time to get the train back on the track. Weeks turn into months, months turn into a year, then two years, then three.

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The best anyone can do with their time is learn. Learn about the industry and more importantly, learn about yourself. Learn not just about the weaknesses that lead to the exit from your previous job. Learn about the strengths and goals that maybe could not be served working in and thinking about radio like you did before.

BSM Writers

NBC Must Develop a Real No. 2 NFL Crew for Playoffs

Is the network’s only other option Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett?

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Several years ago, the NFL objected to NBC wanting to employ Mike Tirico as the lead play-by-play voice for its Thursday Night Football broadcasts. The league preferred Al Michaels because he was NBC’s No. 1 NFL play-by-play announcer and wanted the TNF telecasts to carry the same prestige as Sunday Night Football.

Following the network’s heavily-criticized broadcast of Saturday’s Wild Card playoff game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL may want to impose its authority again and insist that a top-tier broadcast team call the action of an important postseason game.

The consensus among fans and media watching Saturday’s broadcast was that Michaels and analyst Tony Dungy were surprisingly low-energy for an NFL playoff game, let alone one that became so exciting with Jacksonville rallying from a 27-0 deficit for a 31-30 victory on a last-second field goal.

Such a lackluster broadcast led to questions of whether or not Michaels was now past his prime after a season of calling subpar TNF games for Amazon and what initially appeared to be another snoozer when the Jaguars fell behind by 27 points. Pairing him with Dungy, who was a studio analyst all season, certainly didn’t help.

Dungy was as basic as a game analyst could be, typically narrating replays viewers could see for themselves while adding little insight. Worst of all, he demonstrated no enthusiasm for the action, leaving Michaels to fill most of the airtime. The veteran broadcaster showed that he can no longer carry a broadcast by himself. He needs the energy and back-and-forth that Cris Collinsworth or Kirk Herbstreit provide.

So how did NBC get here?

Most football fans know that the network’s top broadcast team is Tirico on play-by-play alongside analyst Cris Collinsworth. But they had their own assignment during Super Wild Card Weekend, calling Sunday night’s Ravens-Bengals match-up. With the postseason field expanding from 12 to 14 teams, resulting in six games being played on Wild Card weekend, NBC was awarded one of the additional playoff broadcasts.

Thus, another broadcast team was needed for that second Wild Card game. Fortunately, NBC had a renowned play-by-play man already in place. Michaels finished out his final season as SNF‘s lead voice by calling Super Bowl LVI, part of a powerful one-two combination for NBC Sports coming toward the end of its 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics coverage.

Ending his legendary career with a Super Bowl broadcast would’ve been a wonderful final note for Michaels. That appeared to be a natural path when Tirico moved from ESPN to NBC in 2016. Network executives admitted that a succession plan was in mind for Tirico to take over SNF eventually. At the time, Michaels also likely thought he would retire by then.

But when confronted with the possibility of retirement, Michaels realized he wasn’t interested. He was still enjoying broadcasting the NFL. His skills were still sharp. And perhaps most importantly, he was in demand. Amazon wanted Michaels as the lead voice for its Thursday Night Football broadcasts, bringing instant credibility to a streaming venture that drew some skepticism. ESPN considered him as its Monday Night Football play-by-play man.

As it turned out, ESPN made a bold move for MNF, swiping Fox’s No. 1 NFL crew of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. That left Amazon for Michaels, and the streaming giant paid him a commensurate salary with the top broadcasters in the industry as part of his three-year contract.

Yet Michaels wasn’t done with NBC either. After his agreement with Amazon became official, NBC announced that its relationship with Michaels would continue in an “emeritus” role allowing him to broadcast the network’s Olympics coverage and that additional Wild Card playoff telecast.

NBC can’t have been happy that most of the social media chatter afterward focused on the broadcast, rather than the game result. Especially when the discussion centered on how poorly Michaels and Dungy performed in what turned out to be a thrilling playoff game. That’s a pairing that the NFL probably doesn’t want to see again.

Michaels will likely call at least one more Wild Card playoff game for NBC since he intends to work on the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics. He’s also under contract with Amazon for another two seasons unless he decides to retire before that deal expires. So perhaps the simple solution is keeping Dungy out of the broadcast booth and giving Michaels a better partner.

But can NBC drop in another analyst who hasn’t worked with Michaels all season? Anyone would arguably be an improvement over Dungy. Is it at all possible for Herbstreit to be hired on for a one-off playoff broadcast, thus ensuring that the broadcast team will have some on-air familiarity and chemistry?

Otherwise, NBC’s only other option may be its Notre Dame broadcast team of Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett. (The network tried that last season with Tirico and Drew Brees, only for Brees to wilt under the harsher NFL playoff spotlight.)

The pair also called USFL broadcasts for the network, so at least there would be familiarity rather than trying to figure each other out during a telecast. Yet Collinsworth and Garrett aren’t terribly popular with viewers. And as with Brees, that crew will face intense scrutiny with a larger playoff audience.

Unfortunately, NBC appears to be stuck here. Unless the new Big Ten broadcast team of Noah Eagle and Todd Blackledge gets a shot. That might be the best option! Other than Notre Dame or USFL games, where are the other opportunities for NBC to develop a No. 2 NFL broadcast team? No one wants to put Al Michaels through Chris Simms in the broadcast booth, right?

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BSM Writers

Al Michaels Has Options But He Has To Make a Choice

“It does all of us in the sports industry well to remember 99% of our audience would gladly trade places with us.”

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I don’t ask much out of game announcers; get excited when appropriate, get the simple information correct, don’t get so caught up in your shtick you put yourself above the game. Al Michaels has been doing all those things well for the better part of half a century and few would argue that he’s not one of the best to ever do it. That doesn’t mean he can’t lose his fastball.

Before you read any longer, I am not here to say Al Michaels has lost his fastball. What I am here to say is Michaels has all too often this season seemed upset with and disinterested in the game he is calling. That isn’t entirely surprising when you consider some of the Thursday night action he called on Amazon Prime where the average margin of victory was almost nine points per game.

On top of that, the Amazon schedule had a dreadful two week stretch with Colts 12-9 win over the Broncos in Week Five and the Commanders 12-7 win over the Bears the next Thursday. It was in that Broncos-Colts game Michaels asked Herbstreit if a game “can be so bad it is good?” Herbstreit’s answer was “No”, by the way. It was the full 15 game schedule that Michaels told The Athletic’s media critic Richard Deitsch was like trying to sell a used car.

All of that is fine, the inaugural Amazon Prime season was not a smashing success. The streaming giant missed audience projections and will lose advertising revenue because of it. The lackluster schedule did not help that. But Michaels was given a second life; he was the NBC play-by-play announcer for the Saturday Night Wildcard Playoff game between the Chargers and Jaguars. It initially looked like Michaels might be the problem as five first half Jags turnovers had them in a 27-0 hole. But the home team staged a nearly unprecedented comeback for the win.

It was the performance by Michaels and, to a lesser degree, his analyst Tony Dungy that has led to criticism. Criticism might be too soft of a word, Michaels was roundly dragged for his lack of enthusiasm during the comeback and specifically on his call of the Jacksonville game winning field goal. The enthusiasm of the call of the game winner had a mid-3rd quarter of week four feel to it.

Me telling Al Michaels how to do play-by-play of an NFL game would be the equivalent of me telling a physicist how to split an atom. So, this isn’t just a Michaels criticism, few things bother me more than hearing a game announcer complain about the length or quality of a game as if he’d rather be anywhere else. It does all of us in the sports industry well to remember 99% of our audience would gladly trade places with us.

How many NFL viewers would sit in the seat Michaels, or any NFL announcer occupies, for free? They’d feel like they won the lottery if they also were getting the money those announcers are getting paid to be there. The guy that works a 12-hour Thursday construction shift just to get home and crack a beer for the NFL game probably doesn’t want to hear how tough that game is to announce.

On top of all of that, Michaels was given the gift of one of the wildest NFL Playoff comebacks you’ll ever see and, at times, sounded as if he was completely disinterested in being there. Pro tip: the best NFL announcer in those moments is Kevin Harlan (see: Miami at Baltimore from earlier this season. That has nothing to do with my lifelong Dolphins fandom). Michaels’ lack of enthusiasm was compounded by the exact opposite from Mike Tirico on the very same network for the Bengals-Ravens Wildcard game Sunday night. 

Tirico, like Michaels, has a sterling resume of play-by-play accomplishments. The difference is Tirico sounded like he was having the time of his life on Sunday night. 

To be fair, their two styles are different. Michaels has a very old school, Pat Summerall approach. Summerall, Vin Scully and Dick Enberg came along at a time when announcers were far more likely to let the pictures tell the story. More new school guys like Harlan and Tirico approach it differently.

Look, Al Michaels helped us believe in miracles. His place in the Sports Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame has long since been cemented. Being a hall of fame inductee doesn’t mean your style will forever be accepted by the masses. That leaves you with a few options; you can continue your style and accept or ignore the criticism or you can ride off into the sunset and enjoy the fruits of your decades of labor.

Al Michaels has what we all want; great options. He can choose any of them and be a winner in the game of life. It doesn’t matter if he enthusiastically embraces them, or not. 

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BSM Writers

Bernie Kosar Was the Victim of a Policy That Doesn’t Work Anymore

“The NFL has bigger fish to fry than Bernie Kosar. Hell, it has more pressing issues in Cleveland alone.”

Demetri Ravanos




One week ago, Bernie Kosar lost his job on the Browns Radio Network for placing the first legal sports bet in the state of Ohio. Kosar, just like Jets coach Miles Austin weeks earlier and Calvin Ridley last year, violated a league policy that forbids team employees from placing a bet on any NFL game.

The integrity of the games still matters. The belief that what we are all seeing is being fairly contested is what gives those of us that like to have a little vested interest in the outcome the desire to lay our money down in the first place. I get the league’s discomfort with a coach on the staff of a team in the middle of the playoff hunt making bets. I get its fear of the message it sends to have players making bets.

Roger Goodell and the 32 team owners are well within their rights to object to men that can potentially control the outcome of a game or postseason seeding doing anything that even appears to jeopardize its fairness. Even perceived impropriety can compromise the league’s tremendous value.

But Bernie Kosar doesn’t have that kind of influence on the outcome of a game. He is just a broadcaster and not even a game analyst. He is part of studio coverage.

I am far from the first to point this out, but in 2023, the NFL has three official sports betting partners. Just last week, it approved the first ever in-stadium sportsbook, which Fanatics is set to open inside of FedEx Field. If the NFL is comfortable enough with the reality that its fans like to bet to make those things a reality, then Kosar losing his gig is absurd. It is the result of nothing other than “well, that’s the way we’ve always done it” thinking.

Maybe Kosar was terrible on the radio and the team was looking for a reason to move on. I don’t live in Cleveland and I am not a Browns fan, so I have no idea.

How many times have we heard that NFL owners hired Goodell to “protect the shield”? I’m not even really sure what it means or when it applies anymore. If I had a vested interest in the public perception of the league, I know that I would want someone to do the PR math on this situation.

Bernie Kosar isn’t an addict that can’t watch a game without the high of winning or the emotional distress of losing everything at stake, at least not as far as we know. This was a bet made through an advertising partner, to benefit charity. He even said on his podcast this week that the purpose of making the bet was to generate some money for former players in need of help.

This is like Disney threatening daycare centers with lawsuits for painting Mickey Mouse on a classroom wall. The NFL has bigger fish to fry than Bernie Kosar. Hell, it has more pressing issues in Cleveland alone.

Surely you have seen Garrett Bush’s impassioned rant on the Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show about the obstacles facing Damar Hamlin because of how many hoops the NFL makes former players jump through in order to get some kind of pension.

On January 2, we were all united in our concern for a guy that hadn’t even completed his second full NFL season. We didn’t know if he was going to live, but if he did, we all knew that the NFL had done everything it needed to in order to protect itself from ever having to pay a dime for his medical care. Less than a week later, Bernie Kosar was fired for what amounted to a charity stunt that was meant to raise money and attention to very similar issues.

At both the league level and the team level, there was incompetence that lead to a man unnecessarily losing a gig and to the Browns and the NFL looking horribly out of touch with reality.

Are we acknowledging that people gamble or not? Are we acknowledging there are responsible ways to bet on football and are interested in generating revenue off of it or not? Because it doesn’t seem to me that the same league that just gave the thumbs up to open a sportsbook inside of a stadium is really that concerned with people that cannot affect the outcome of games betting on those games.

Has the NFL come out and said that it is going to cover every medical bill for everyone that has ever played the game? We know that this is a brutal game that leaves a physical and physiological impact on the men that played it. Why would we make it harder for someone that knows that pain to help others do something about it?

I feel awful for Bernie Kosar. Whether he needs the money or not, it is embarassing to be at the center of a controversy like this, particularly because in the NFL in 2023, there is no reason for a controversy like this to exist.

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Barrett Media Writers

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