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How Do We Talk To Coaches On The Hot Seat?

“What the fanbase doesn’t understand is this sponge of ire is a person.”

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Bad seasons are tough on everyone. Management, coaches, fans and yes, broadcasters. It’s why I never understood a player’s rational when saying “you are rooting against us”. Um, no, I’m not. It’s just hard to sugarcoat what isn’t happening on the field. But as the old saying in baseball goes, “you can’t fire 26 players, so you fire the manager.” That’s usually what happens. With the money being paid to some coaches/managers, the front office will let it play out. In other words, not a quick hook, more of a delaying of the inevitable. Social media adds fuel to the fire and whips a fanbase into a frenzy. Pundits will place that coach/manager on the “hot seat” and that typically puts everyone on guard and unsure how to deal with that person. 

How should you prepare for an interview or a production meeting with a coach/manger on the hot seat? Go in with the understanding that, yes, this individual knows what’s going on already. Even if he/she says, “I don’t read the papers or listen to the radio,” they have someone who does. So, don’t beat around the bush, just get right to it. They are pretty well in tune with the fact that seat he/she is sitting on is indeed hot. Don’t make it the “elephant” in the room, but don’t add fuel to the fire. Allow this person to explain where they are coming from, you may get a better understanding with what that coach/manager is going through. He or she may have a good explanation for some of the moves made, plays called and roster moves made. Give them that opportunity. Now you’ll have their side, right from the mouth of that ‘hot seat sitter’ to allow you to have another angle to the situation. 

Five NFL Head Coaches on the Hot Seat in the 2018 Season

It’s a different story if you are a local team broadcaster. You have to walk that fine line, since you and the coach are probably employed by the same people. You will likely see this person every day. The fine line is between acknowledging what is going on without erring on the side of “team shill.”

Most fans will be quick to tell you that you’re the latter, but don’t let that affect how you do your job. It’s hard to cover up the truth and you probably shouldn’t do that. Also, as a broadcaster you are likely privy to some things that are going on behind the scenes. Like a player that refuses to play a certain position, or an injury to a key member of the team that he/she is playing through. All of these things limit what a coach/manager can do, but it’s not information you can divulge. It’s sucks, because you’d like nothing better than to identify the problems, but that would open up a whole new can of worms for you. So how can it be explained? How can it be handled? Facts tell the story. Your listeners will appreciate it and you at the same time won’t be betraying any trusts. 

For an example in today’s world, living in Chicago, we’re going through the pains of watching the Bears play. Head Coach Matt Nagy is probably on the hottest seat in the NFL right now. He’s a nice guy, very pleasant to deal with. He’s likeable. But he’s not getting it done. I can see it. You can see it.

It’s easy to go for the low hanging fruit, especially when a team is struggling. It feeds a rabid fan base, but if you’re calling games, you can’t do it. Rather than saying his play calling is “inept” or “he needs to give up the play sheet”, let the obvious numbers tell the story.  You’ll need to prepare for these things. Figure out a softer way to express things, or just go to the numbers. Something like, “the Chicago Bears are ranked 32nd in total offense, have allowed the most sacks in the NFL and have averaged only, ‘this many points’, so far.” You are protected. These are stats readily available to everyone. Let the fans draw their own conclusions.  

Working in Chicago for as long as I have, I can speak from experience in what it’s like to deal with someone on the hot seat. I got to know two managers pretty well along the way here in town, both were let go as the team was under performing. There was no denying what was likely inevitable. That doesn’t mean you have to treat the situation or the person any differently than you did before. Getting labeled as a ‘front runner’ or somebody that’s with you ‘win or tie’ isn’t a good thing. Especially in our line of work as broadcasters. Covering losses are not a lot of fun for anyone, trust me. Losses put extra pressure on everyone and affect people’s livelihoods. Respect for the human being is of utmost importance. Just because that person is losing games, doesn’t mean that individual is a loser. They are the same person they were during winning times, so why should you change your tune as well?  

What the fanbase doesn’t understand is this sponge of ire is a person. We as broadcasters get to know the leader as a person as well as a coach. You’ve met these people’s families, friends and mentors. So, you are seeing this person for what they really are, a human being with feelings. They don’t like losing. They don’t like the negative things being said about them. Fans see nothing of the sort. They see someone not capable of leading their team to glory. I get it. 

Matt Nagy T-Shirts | Redbubble

Now, just because you know someone on a personal level, doesn’t give the situation a free pass. They just deserve to be treated fairly. One of the greatest compliments I got working in baseball, was by a manager who knew he wouldn’t be back the following year. He’d suffered through a couple of tough seasons. One day late in his final year, he called me into his office. I had no idea why he wanted to see me. I walked in and he shook my hand and invited me to sit down. He wanted to tell me how much he appreciated how I handled our relationship. He understood that I had to tell the truth on the air because it was my job. The thing that surprised me though was his expression of gratitude for the way I approached things. He said, ‘you were the same guy to me, whether we were winning or losing, and that goes a long way with me. I’ll never forget it.’ I was blown away, but proud at the same time. 

Stay true to yourself not just as a broadcaster, but as a person in these situations. Just because everybody else is taking shots, doesn’t mean you have too as well. It goes back to treating someone like you’d like to be treated. Fans are sometimes irrationally passionate and turn some professional moments into personal ones. Being critical of someone’s work is one thing, it comes with the territory. Coaches that get into the profession understand that they will be questioned about play calls, lineups and general decisions. Keep that in mind as you’re discussing a coach’s future on the air during a game. Don’t let it get personal. Things can get heated at times, but stay above the fray. Remember, ultimately, it’s not your decision to make whether or not the coach is fired. Stick to the facts and let the other noise come from somewhere else. 

BSM Writers

Who Handled the Tua Concussion Discussion Best?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday NFL Countdown – ESPN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The NFL Today – CBS

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

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

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

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

Fox NFL Sunday

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

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

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

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

Football Night in America – NBC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BSM Writers

Jason Barrett Podcast – Terry Dugan & Adam Delevitt, BetRivers

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

iTunes: https://buff.ly/3nTJC5K 

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Joe Rogan Betting Admission Reveals Gray Area

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

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Joe Rogan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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