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This is Just Who Emmett Golden Is

“Getting behind a mic and talking just came naturally to me. I like to talk to people and have fun.”

Tyler McComas

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Doing a self-evaluation is never fun, but Emmett Golden knew he had to do it for the betterment of his family. He’d already had several jobs: working at American Greetings in the shipping and receiving department, making plumbing supplies at a factory, even selling treadmills at Dicks Sporting Goods. He needed an actual career. 

So at 29 years old with a wife and a family, Golden sat down and asked himself what he was good at. 

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“I couldn’t think of anything,” laughed Golden. “I thought to myself, well, I think I’m funny, so does that mean I’m going to be a comedian? No.”

The other thing that came to his mind was his ability to easily make friends. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a job title that existed where you just make friends. But then something clicked as he was listening to the Dan Patrick Show. If Golden considered himself funny and outgoing, then that’s exactly what Seton O’Connor, one of his favorite guys on the show, was. 

“He’d jump in and crack a joke here and there,” said Golden. “I always thought that was cool. I don’t want to disrespect him, but I was thinking, maybe I could do that.”

Golden listened to ESPN Cleveland his entire life, mainly because of his father’s love for the station. The funny thing is he admits he hated the station when he was young and would often ask his dad to change the station to music. Golden’s dad never complied with the requests. But as the years went by, Golden started to acquire a taste for sports talk radio. When it came time to re-evaluate his options and look for a career, his father had been gone for close to five years. That’s when Golden heard the ad on ESPN Cleveland for a local broadcasting school. He was instantly intrigued. 

“I just decided to do it,” Golden said. “I called and I enrolled. I was working and going to school and then I applied for several internships. I didn’t get any calls back.”

Golden followed up via email with ESPN Cleveland and the station invited him for an interview. When he walked in, he instantly noticed there was a vast difference between him and the interns in the building. Golden was a 29-year-old with a family, but everyone else was 20 and 21-year-old kids. 

“I was convinced there was no way they were giving me an internship because I was too old,” laughed Golden. “Finally I got an email that offered me an internship.”

He walked into the building thinking he had made it, but what he soon realized is they had already hired their interns for the year, but a couple of people quit and they needed more. That’s why Golden was getting his shot. He didn’t take it personally, instead, he was grateful for the opportunity. He was ready to work harder than anyone else in the building. 

For a guy that was trying to find a better financial situation for this family, interning at a sports radio station was probably the most questionable decision he could have made. Thinking about that now makes Golden laugh, but he made every sacrifice to make it work, including riding the bus to work every day. 

“Everybody was like, man, he rode the bus to work every day,” Golden said. “To me, it wasn’t a big deal. We only had one car and there was no way in hell I was going to let my wife or kids ride the bus. Those rides were adventurous, to say the least, but it wasn’t a huge deal to me.”

The attitude early on was the same every day. He’d bus to work and ask to do anything and everything he could. It didn’t matter, because he had to make this work. Finally, he got the call he’ll never forget. 

Golden went to an empty studio inside ESPN Cleveland and called his wife. When she answered, he had the best news he’d had in a long time. He was just offered a full-time position with the station as a producer for the afternoon show. Golden’s wife couldn’t contain the excitement. 

“She was so happy,” Golden said. “I was like, OK, I have to run and get back to work. But my phone kept blowing up and I thought it was hilarious because she was so happy she went and told everyone about it. That was a big moment for us.”

Emmett Golden on Twitter: "Ugly Christmas Sweater party with my wife.… "

Golden had made it as a full-time employee but he wasn’t satisfied. Just like everyone else, he wanted to be in the host’s chair. Finding your way as a producer to the opposite side of the glass can be one of the biggest challenges in the business, but Golden jokes he had a secret nobody else did. 

“It’s a secret and I don’t want many people to know this, but I was just a terrible producer,” laughed Golden.” That’s how I did it. I’m good at coming up with ideas and having a feel for the audience, but I’m not an organized person at all. To be a producer, you have to be organized and I used to forget we were having guests on the show and all kinds of other things.”

Though Golden will joke it was because he was a terrible producer, it was really because Evan Cohen, Content VP at Good Karma Brands, instantly recognized his talent. 

Cohen was sitting with Jerod Cherry during an aircheck and heard Golden’s voice because he was the producer of the show. Cohen asked Cherry who this Golden guy was. Cherry told him exactly who he was and what he did at the station. Cohen then asked a question that sounded more like a statement.

“Why isn’t this guy a host?”

Soon after, Cohen was grooming and preparing Golden to be a host at ESPN Cleveland. Co-hosting opportunities became more and more frequent and he found himself on the opposite side of the glass he was used to. 

“Getting behind a mic and talking just came naturally to me. I like to talk to people and have fun. People started telling me to do exactly that, be yourself and have fun. I just try to walk in every day and have a good time.”

Golden is now the co-host of The Next Level with Emmett and Jerod on ESPN Cleveland. There may not be a better example in sports radio of how determination and hard work can create success and opportunities. It’s humbling for Golden to look back on his journey from a 29-year-old intern to a current-day show host, especially since he’s doing it all at his father’s favorite station. 

The Next Level Show - PodCenter - ESPN Radio

“He’d be blown away,” Golden said. “I just know he would. We’d talk about sports anyway, but I can see him calling me with his sports takes. I can see him calling me before a show and asking what we were going to talk about that day.”

As crazy as it may sound, Golden still feels like an intern at ESPN Cleveland. It shows by the way he treats and builds relationships with the interns in the building. Golden is never too important to talk to anyone and it’s a huge reason why he’s such a valuable commodity to the station. He’s an expert at building relationships with people in the building and it’s why he’s one of the most well-liked media members in Cleveland. 

But as genuine and nice as he is, he also shoots it straight with the young interns. He tells them it’s going to be hard. He tells them there’s going to be adversity and he tells them it’s going to be a grind. 

“When they walk in I know exactly how they feel,” Golden said. “I know they’re both excited and nervous, especially when they don’t know anyone. I do everything I can to build relationships with them and give them advice.”

One of the most popular compliments Golden gets is how he’s the same guy off the air, as he is on the air. It’s a rare trait in sports media, but no matter the situation, Golden is the exact same guy. 

“Why isn’t everybody like that?” laughed Golden. “I’m a guy that likes positivity, to have fun and laugh.”

It’s the reason why he’s been such a success at ESPN Cleveland. Golden is an extremely likable personality on the air that people gravitate towards. He’s authentic and honest, even when he doesn’t necessarily know the answer. 

“One of the things I’ve always done is that I have a question about the business, I asked multiple people in the business the same question,” Golden said. “I feel like if I get different answers, there are no real rules on the way to do it, but if everyone tells me the same thing, then maybe that’s the way. I remember a few guys telling me, Emmett, it’s right or left. It’s black or white, you can’t straddle the fence and say I don’t know when you’re hosting a sports radio show. As much respect as I have for those men, that was the first time I really disagreed with something, because I felt like if I don’t know something, then I don’t know.”

Matt Fishman, Director of Content at ESPN Cleveland. has developed a great relationship with Golden. That’s important, seeing as the two need to get along and see eye-to-eye for the betterment of the station. 

“I love Fish,” Golden said. “The first time we met it was over lunch and we instantly hit it off. I love that I can be frank and honest with him. He’ll shoot it straight to me and that’s all you want. If we disagree or he tells me no on something I know it’s from a good place. I love working for him.”

It’s hard to take this opportunity for granted when you’ve come from working odd jobs. Golden was able to elevate himself from a factory job creating plumbing supplies into a job where he’s been sprayed with champagne in the Cavs locker room and in the stadium for a World Series.  You’ll never hear him be ungrateful or complain about his situation. Golden knows his situation is a great one, especially with the hype of this upcoming NFL season. 

ESPN Cleveland Host Going 24 Hours - Radio Ink

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Golden said. “Cleveland is a Browns town. I did a 24-hour show before the playoff game against Pittsburgh and it was sold out. At 3 o’clock in the morning, normally, you’re listening to nothing but promos, but we had every spot sold out for 24 hours and I know it wasn’t because of me. It was because of the Browns. Not only is it a great time for fans, it’s a great time for advertising partners because everyone is listening to sports talk radio. Business is great right now.”

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

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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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