On Saturday, before over 80 college football games, and on the weekend that the NFL regular season returns in full force, the sports world and the entire world will stop and remember the 20th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in United States history.
The key to the country’s recovery back then was and still is sports. While all sports provided a lift, baseball played a pivotal role. There were dramatic games and an outpouring of patriotism that was seen on all ballfields.
In 2005, HBO produced and aired a documentary chronicling the role baseball played with Nine Innings from Ground Zero. Now, in 2021, co-directors Ross Greenburg and Joe Lavine revisited that doc with a brand-new feature for HBO Max entitled, Extra Innings from 9/11: 20 Years Later.
“It was difficult. I’m not going to kid you, all of us shed a lot of tears,” Greenberg said exclusively on my Sports with Friends podcast. “We had been through this once before, but it was a very difficult moment.”
The film does a lot more than retell the story of how the Mets and Yankees responded to the tragedy. The best part of the film is the beginning when members of the 2001 Mets and 2001 Yankees explained where they were when the planes struck the World Trade Center.
“New York is a Testament to survive,” former Yankee manager Joe Torre says in the film. “No matter how hard the city gets hit, it always finds a way to get back up on its feet.”
Al Leiter was trying to get on a plane to pitch in Pittsburgh that night. The Yankees were home, after being rained out the night before. That immediately reminded me that I was supposed to go to Yankee Stadium for that rained-out game.
I hadn’t gone out to the ballpark by invoking the “Seth Everett Rain Delay Policy (One drop I’m out – inspired by the late great Phil Rizzuto and an 11-hour Marlins-Rockies split double-header I covered in Denver in 1997.)
The next morning I went on a radio show hosted by Holden Kushner in Des Moines, Iowa. During the segment, my call-waiting went off, multiple times. Still, radio people know you don’t ask a host to hold on.
After the segment, the phone rang again. (This is a hard-line phone – it was 2001.) It was my father. He was across the street from the World Trade Center. He just called to tell me he was alright.
My younger sister lived in Greenwich Village in New York City in 2001. She was walking downtown and saw the second plane hit with her own two eyes, not on TV like the rest of us. My father and sister ran back to her apartment and turned on the television.
The bridges and tunnels were immediately closed. Living in Brooklyn, I could not get to Manhattan if I wanted to, and could not get to New Jersey where my mother was. Instead, I climbed to the rooftop of my apartment building to see the smoke from ground zero.
“All of us had personal stories,” Greenburg said. “Mine was deeply personal. I lost my mother on September 9th and a month and a half later found myself going to game three (of the World Series), even though my wife, Michelle, did not want me to go because she felt like a bomb was going to drop on Yankee Stadium. When I went, I realized I was living a documentary.”
“September’s a great time of year,” Torre said. “The weather cools down, pennant races heat up. Everyone was talking baseball.”
The Mets manager back then was Bobby Valentine. In the film, Valentine followed Torre by saying, “And there was no reason to think that 2001 would be any different.”
The film tells the story of a camp in Massachusetts that was set up for kids who lost family members on 9/11. Two of the campers that met back then are married adults today.
Greenburg said it was key to not only show how the families are still impacted, but how they also have positive things in their respective lives.
“That was the one thing that Joe (co-director Levine) and I were very adamant about,” Greenburg added. “We wanted to send the message loud and clear that if you’ve been through a horrific event and you’ve had to overcome very startlingly, tough times that you can get through it and you can live your life.
“That doesn’t mean that you’ll ever forget those days of 9/11 and everything that happened after. But it does mean that we’re human beings and we can live our lives. And in these difficult times, I think that’s a message.”
The “Piazza Game” was 10 days after 9/11. It was a Friday night, and I had never attended a sporting event on the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. Still, I felt compelled to be at Shea Stadium that day.
The crowd was so tense that night. Everyone was talking, but not cheering. Until Piazza’s 8th inning home run. And the cheers were of “USA! USA!” more than anything for the Mets or against the Braves.
“That was very important for people,” Greenburg added. “That’s why this resonates so much for me as a story that needed to be told.”
The playoffs and World Series with the Yankees were much more intense moments. People forget that the Jeter “flip-play” against Oakland happened that year.
The ALCS between the Yankees and Seattle Mariners was tightly contested. Then, President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch before Game 3 of the World Series and I never felt so patriotic in my whole life.
I remember asking Mark Feinsand of MLB.COM if we could stash our MLB Radio equipment in his office because clearing security was such a long and arduous process.
The old Yankee Stadium physically shook when Tino Martinez hit a home run to tie it, and recently-inducted Hall of Famer Derek Jeter became Mr. November. The new Stadium simply cannot shake like that.
Extra Innings from 9/11: 20 Years Later will be released on HBO Max on September 11th, 2021. There are so many documentaries recently released about that horrific day. This one will resonate with sports fans, whether baseball is your game or not.
On Saturday, before the kickoffs, pitches, and Women’s US Open Final, remember the victims, and remember the patriotism. Hard to believe, it has already been twenty years.
Keeping Premier League Games Shouldn’t Be A Hard Call For NBC
“Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans.”
NBC Sports is facing some tough, costly decisions that will define its sports brand for the rest of this decade. A chance to connect with viewers in a changing climate and grow Peacock’s audience as well. However, making the right choice is paramount to not losing to apps like Paramount+ (pun intended).
NBC is currently in the business of negotiating to continue airing the Premier League as their current deal ends after this 2021-2022 season. NASCAR is contracted to NBC (and FOX) through the 2024 season.
NBC’s tentpole sports are the NFL and the Olympics.
Negotiations for the EPL are expected to go down to the wire. Rather than re-up with NBC, the league is meeting with other networks to drive up the price. NBC has to then make a decision if the rights go north of $2 billion.
Should NBC spend that much on a sport that is not played in the United States? It’s not my money, but that sport continues to grow in the US.
If NBC re-ups with the Premier League, will that leave any coins in the cupboard to re-up with NASCAR? Comcast CEO Brian Roberts hinted that there might be some penny pinching as the prices continue to soar. This may have been one of the reasons that NBC did not fight to keep the National Hockey League, whose rights will be with Disney and WarnerMedia through ESPN and TNT, respectively.
“These are really hard calls,” Roberts said. “You don’t always want to prevail, and sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong, but I think the sustainability of sports is a critical part of what our company does well.”
Roberts was speaking virtually at the recent Goldman Sachs 30th Annual Communacopia Conference. He told the audience that between NBC and European network Sky, that Comcast has allocated approximately $20 billion towards these sports properties.
Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh spoke virtually at the Bank of America Securities 2021 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference and echoed that the company is in a good position to make some strong choices in the sports realm.
“The bar is really high for us to pursue outright acquisitions of any material size,” Cavanagh added. “We got a great hand to play with what we have.”
While the European investments involve a partnership with American rival Viacom, the US market seems to have apparent limits.
Last Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway was seen by around 2.19 million people. It was the most-watched motorsports event of the weekend. That same week eight different Premier League matches saw over 1 million viewers. More than half of those matches were on subscription-based Peacock.
Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans. A game of typical soccer fan is used to a sport that is less than two hours long. The investment in a team is one or two games a week.
My connection to the Premier League began before the pandemic. When I cut the cord in late 2017, I purchase Apple TV. Setting it up, it asks you to name your favorite teams. After clicking on the Syracuse Orange and the New Jersey Devils, I recalled that my wife has family based in London, England. They are season ticket holders for Arsenal, and that family redefined the word “die-hard” fans.
I’ve long been a believer that sports allegiances are best when handed down by family. I love hearing stories of people loving the New York Giants because their parents liked them, and they pass it down to their children.
I’ve successfully given my allegiance to the Devils to my young daughters.
By telling Apple TV that I liked Arsenal, I get alerts from three different apps when the “Gunners” are playing. The $4.99 is totally worth it to see Arsenal.
Whenever I told this story, I was amazed to see how many other American sports fans had a Premier League team. Students of mine at Seton Hall University rooted for Tottenham Hotspurs, while an old colleague cheers on Chelsea.
This is not meant to say that NBC should sign the EPL on my account. The key for any US-based soccer fan is that between Bundesliga, Serie A, and other leagues, there will be no shortage of soccer available on both linear television and streaming services.
Besides, Dani Rojas did say that “Football is life.” NBC, originator of the Ted Lasso character, should make keeping its Premier League US connection a priority.
Media Noise – Episode 45
Today, Demetri is joined by Tyler McComas and Russ Heltman. Tyler pops on to talk about the big start to the college football season on TV. Russ talks about Barstool’s upfront presentation and how the business community may not see any problems in working with the brand. Plus, Demetri is optimistic about FOX Sports Radio’s new morning show.
6 Ad Categories Hotter Than Gambling For Sports Radio
“Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life.”
For years sports radio stations pushed sports gambling advertisers to early Saturday and Sunday morning. The 1-800 ads, shouting, and false claims were seedy, and some stations wouldn’t even accept the business at 5 am on Sunday.
Now, with all but ten states ready to go all in on sports gambling, sports radio stations can’t get enough of that green. Demetri Ravanos wrote about the money cannon that sports gambling has become for stations. Well, what if you are in one of those ten states where it isn’t likely to ever be legal like California or Texas? Where is your pot of gold?
Or, let’s face it, the more gambling ads you run, the more risk you take on that the ads will not all work as you cannibalize the audience and chase other listeners away who ARE NOT online gambling service users and never will be. So, what about you? Where is your pot of gold?
Well, let’s go Digging for Gold.
The RAB produces the MRI-Simmons Gold Digger PROSPECTING REPORT for several radio formats. In it, they index sports radio listeners’ habits against an average of 18+ Adult. The Gold Digger report looks at areas where the index is higher than the norm – meaning the sports radio audience is more likely to use the product or service than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. The report, generated in 2020, indicates that sports radio listeners are 106% more likely to have used an online gambling site in the last thirty days. That’s impressive because the report only lists 32 activities or purchases a sports radio listener indexes higher than an average adult. I looked at those 32 higher indexes, and I think we can start looking for some gold.
Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life. The gambling companies who commit significant money to get results will continue advertising and chase the others away. So, the future of sports radio needs to include other cash cows.
If it is evident to online sports gambling services that sports radio stations are a must-buy, who else should feel that way? I looked at the Top 32 and eliminated the media companies. ESPN, MLB/NHL/NFL networks, and others aren’t spending cash on sports radio stations they don’t own in general. But Joseph A Bank clothing, Fidelity, and Hotwire should! Here’s your PICK-6 list I pulled together that’s hotter than sports gambling:
- Sportscard collectors, Dapper Labs, Open Sea- read about Sports NFT $.
- Online brokerage firms-Fidelity, Charles Schwab, Robinhood, Webull, TD Ameritrade
- Golf courses, resorts, equipment, etc.- we play golf at home and vacation
- Hotwire.com, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, Carnival Corporation, and Priceline.com- we’ve used Hotwire in the last year.
- FedEx, UPS, U.S. Postal Service, Venmo, PayPal, Zelle-we wired or overnighted $
- Jos. A. Bank, shein.com, macys.com, nordstroms.com- we went to Jos. A. Bank in last three months
The sports card/NFT market is 32% hotter than the sports betting market for sports radio listeners. Everything on the PICK-6 is at least 100% more likely to purchase than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. All listed are at or above indexing strength compared to sports betting. The individual companies I added are industry leaders. Bet on it! Email me for details.
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