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Bickley & Marotta: NFL ‘Devalued’ Sport With Thursday Night Football

“It’s just laughable how hypocritical the NFL can be to even stand on the platforms of player safety.”

Derek Futterman

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A photo of Dan Bickley and Vince Marotta

This week’s Thursday Night Football matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the Arizona Cardinals was a thriller, ending with Packers cornerback Rasul Douglas coming up with an interception to beat his former team. The highly-anticipated quarterback matchup between 37-year-old veteran Aaron Rodgers and 24-year-old newcomer Kyler Murray kept fans entertained all throughout the contest, despite other star players, such as Green Bay’s Davante Adams and Arizona’s J.J. Watt, being out for the contest.

On Friday morning, Bickley and Marotta on 98.7 Arizona’s Sports Station in Phoenix recapped the primetime contest and let callers give their thoughts and opinions on the Cardinals’ first loss of the season. One caller, who said he drives for a living, mentioned the shortcomings of Thursday Night Football as a product for the National Football League, and how the change in game scheduling for teams ultimately hinders the on-field product.

Thursday Night Football continues to be a disgrace for the NFL,” said the caller Friday morning. “Players aren’t able to play because they don’t get enough rest; they are dropping all over the field. Every Thursday night, it’s the same thing.”

The NFL recently negotiated new media rights deals with various broadcast networks, such as Fox, NBC, and ABC; however, Fox’s contract to broadcast Thursday Night Football, in which they pay $660 million a year to the league, was recently renegotiated to end at the conclusion of this NFL season. According to the Standard Media Index, the average cost of a 30-second advertisement on Fox’s Thursday Night Football broadcasts was just under $500,000, and the league expects to generate even more revenue with its new deal with Amazon Prime. 

Amazon is set to pay $1.32 billion annually to become the exclusive home of Thursday Night Football for the next 11 seasons, the first sole streaming provider to secure a broadcast deal of this magnitude with the National Football League. The subscription-based streaming service seeks to innovate the way sports broadcasts are presented, and will lead what is thought to be a new era in multimedia dissemination.

While having an exclusive, primetime contest makes sense from a logistical standpoint for the NFL in order to maximize ratings and revenue, Bickley and Marotta agree that from a football standpoint, it is not exactly practical in offering the best product on-the-field, sacrificing long-term health and sustainability for short-term gain.

“It’s just laughable how hypocritical the NFL can be to even stand on the platforms of player safety,” said Dan Bickley, co-host of the morning drive program and former columnist at The Arizona Sun. “They’ve just devalued the game.”

While a recent study performed by scholars at the University of Illinois College of Medicine and Northwestern University suggested eliminating Thursday Night Football would not significantly impact the injury rate, fans around the league continue to question the NFL’s commitment to player safety. After all, Thursday Night Football does significantly shorten the practice and ramp-up time for NFL teams who previously played in a Sunday contest that calendar week.

Referencing a dangerous play that happened in the game, co-host Vince Marotta echoed Bickley’s sentiments, saying the league continues to be duplicitous in its commitment to protecting the players.

“Immediately prior [to the dangerous play] happening was a public service announcement [about] how important players safety is,” said Marotta, “and I thought to myself, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ And it really hits home when it’s a team you’re invested in [playing] on Thursday Night Football.”

Thursday Night Football broadcasts will continue on Fox for the remainder of the 2021 NFL season before shifting to Amazon Prime a year earlier than originally anticipated. Streaming is largely thought of as the future of watching live sports, and with the move, the National Football League will attract and draw a new audience to platforms such as Amazon Prime to watch the game’s best go at it in prime time for 15 regular season games — even if it superficially augments the risk for the occurrence of injuries before, during or after the game.

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Mark Schlereth: Level of Intrigue for ‘Receiver’ on Netflix is ‘Not Less Than Zero, Although It’s Close’

“It’s not zero.”

Barrett Sports Media

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Mark Schlereth
Courtesy: FOX Sports

Netflix recently released the trailer for Receiver, a 10-part docuseries produced by NFL Films, Omaha Productions and 2PM Productions that will premiere on July 10. The show features NFL stars Davante Adams, Justin Jefferson, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Amon-Ra St. Brown, giving viewers a look into their lives on and off the gridiron. The series is a sequel to Quarterback, which premiered last summer and received stellar reviews from a large faction of viewers when it highlighted quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes, Kirk Cousins and Marcus Mariota. Mat Smith, who was filling in for Mike Evans on Friday’s edition of Schlereth and Evans, mentioned the series as part of the show’s “4 Down Territory” segment in which they discuss key topics from the world of football.

Smith outlined that the show had problems getting more quarterbacks to commit last year and could not really pull off the concept because of its intensity. The show, however, did exhibit parts of their personal lives and ended up following Mahomes as he won Super Bowl LVII from State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. Heading into the new season, Smith was curious to get Schlereth’s perspective on the level of intrigue he had in the sequel.

“It’s not zero,” Schlereth said. “It’s not less than zero, although it’s close.”

Schlereth played 12 seasons in the NFL as an offensive lineman and currently serves as a broadcast analyst for FOX Sports in addition to co-hosting morning drive on Denver Sports 104.3 The Fan. Smith then asked him if he would be interested should the third season of the show be titled Offensive Lineman and presumably follow athletes in that position.

“Zero,” Schlereth said. “Yeah, I already did that – I lived that. That was the thing with the Quarterback thing. Everybody was like, ‘Oh, you got to watch this, you got to watch it. Oh, it’s unbelievable, you’ve got to watch it,’ and so I was like, ‘Alright, I’ll watch one episode,’ and I watched it and I was completely bored with it.”

Since he was a former NFL player, Schlereth did not need for the program to divulge what happens behind the scenes. In fact, he was somewhat indifferent towards the whole venture, not really finding it interesting for him because he previously lived in a similar situation. To close the segment, Smith wanted to know if his interest would change if the series was simply called Schlereth and ostensibly chronicled his life along the same premise.

“I think it would be the worst show ever produced on television,” Schlereth said, “because you would think you were getting into something really juicy and you realize how freaking boring I am.”

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Caroline Fenton Announces She is Leaving 102.5 The Game

“Please bear with me today as I work through the emotions of leaving a place that has become my home with people that grew into family.”

Barrett Sports Media

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Logo for 102.5 The Game in Nashville and a photo of Caroline Fenton
Photo Courtesy: 102.5 The Game

Caroline Fenton, who has been a part of 102.5 The Game in Nashville since 2021, announced today on her X account that today will be her last day with the station. She did not say what she’d be doing next but said she would announce that soon.

Fenton’s announcement said, “Today is my last day at 102.5 The Game. Please bear with me today as I work through the emotions of leaving a place that has become my home with people that grew into family. I’ve felt so much love this week, so thank you.”

Fenton joined the station in 2021 as part of the Stillman & Company show in afternoon drive. When the station shuffled its lineup around in January 2023, Fenton was moved to middays where she has been part of Caroline, Willy & DMase with Willy Daunic and former Tennessee Titans wide receiver Derrick Mason.

Fenton came to Nashville from ESPN in Bristol, CT where she created content and contributed on-air as a social/digital video producer. She is a native of St. Louis and a graduate of LSU.

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Sean Pendergast: I Didn’t Know Brian Windhorst Had This in Him

“He destroyed Luka in the postgame after Game 3.”

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Brian Windhorst
Courtesy: Juan Ocampo, ESPN Images

The Boston Celtics are preparing to take the court Friday night with a 3-0 series lead in the NBA Finals, only needing to secure one more victory to obtain the 18th championship in franchise history. Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Dončić, who helped lead the team to the NBA Finals with a strong postseason performance, has struggled throughout the series and been on the receiving end of criticism about his conduct and play on the court. Seth Payne and Sean Pendergast of SportsRadio 610 in Houston spoke about how Dončić was evoking a similar sentiment to that of former Rockets guard James Harden in that he is an offensive-minded player who demonstrates minimal effort on the defensive end.

Payne expressed that Rockets fans had been frustrated that Dončić would be praised for his style of play while Harden would be somewhat castigated over the years. The plaudits that he has received though seems to have taken a turn amid this series because of the lackluster play.

“This is not a great Finals – [it] could get closed out tonight – and Luka in Game 3 was a mess,” Pendergast said. “He’s arguing with the refs, he’s arguing with his bench… yelling like a child at his coaches. Not a good look.”

The criticism of Dončić from ESPN senior NBA writer Brian Windhorst on SportsCenter with SVP gained notoriety on Wednesday night because of the tone used and the way in which Dončić was called out for carrying himself. The Payne & Pendergast morning drive show played audio of Windhorst delivering his analysis of what occurred on the court and the sentiment surrounding the team.

“Brian Windhorst, man,” Pendergast said. “I didn’t know Windhorst had this in him. He destroyed Luka in the postgame after Game 3.”

Windhorst believed that Dončić put himself in an unacceptable position fouling out of Game 3, specifically in how he looked at his bench after committing his sixth foul and stating that they “better bleeping challenge it.” Within his report, he stated that he was standing in the Mavericks tunnel and that the winners are within the Celtics tunnel and then referenced what Dončić would have to do in order to render the Mavericks tunnel the location of the winners.

“His defensive performance is unacceptable – he is a hole on the court; the Celtics are attacking him,” Windhorst said. “They are ahead in this series because they have attacked him defensively, and you’ve got a situation here where Luka’s complaining about the officiating. They have begged him – they have talked with him, they have pleaded with him. He is costing his team because of how he treats the officials.”

Windhorst continued to voice that Dončić was going to have to get over it, but the fact that he blamed the officials after the game demonstrated to him that he is not close. The performance he had in Game 3 is one that Windhorst called “unacceptable” and attributed it to a reason as to why the Mavericks are not going to win.

“So maybe over the summer somebody will get to him because nobody with the Mavericks or anybody else in his life has, and that’s where the Mavericks are at this point,” Windhorst said. “They’re never going to get to this tunnel with the trophy if he doesn’t improve those aspects of his game.”

The comments from Windhorst elicited further discussion on SportsRadio 610 about the similarities and differences between Dončić and Harden. Whereas Dončić is gaining a reputation for complaining to the officials, Payne conveyed that Harden was “surgical” in his understanding of how to create fouls during the game. Although everyone in the league “begs for calls at some point,” according to Payne, he never recalled Harden having an issue with the officials throughout an entire series.

“If they get swept out of the Finals, that’s going to be a huge story,” Pendergast said. “That’s going to hover over him all summer, like the poor performance in the Finals [and] just the complete fade. You could argue Luka would have been better off playing heroically in a seven-game loss in the Conference Finals than making it to the Finals and getting destroyed.”

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