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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.”



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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Peter Schrager: ‘Next Good Morning Football Host Has Massive Shoes To Fill’

“I don’t know where they are going for that and I don’t play coach or GM. I’m just going to sit back and if they ask my opinion, I’ll give it.”



This week, Good Morning Football ended up winning a Sports Emmy for the best daily studio show. It is a show that has turned into part most football fans’ morning routines. However, there will be new people on the panel eventually with the departures of Nate Burleson and Kay Adams

This week, one of those left, Peter Schrager, was on The Pat McAfee Show. He did not have a name for McAfee that would fill the role Adams leaves behind and he isn’t going to interfere in the process of the executives picking the next host. 

“I would think that there is going to be a long line of people who will want that,” he said. “Those are massive shoes to fill. I don’t know where they are going for that and I don’t play coach or GM. I’m just going to sit back and if they ask my opinion, I’ll give it. But, for now, I trust the executives to hire someone who is going to take care of that hosting job.” 

As for Burleson’s seat, the show has used a number of ex-players to fill-in. Schrager likes it that way because he can learn many different stories each week: 

“Nate and I can finish each other’s sentences. Now, you have a guy I don’t know the story this player is going to tell. I don’t know where he’s going to take it and I think it’s kind of cool for us.” 

Last summer, Schrager hosted The Flying Coach podcast on The Ringer with Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay. Unfortunately, there will be no season 2 of that show this summer. That doesn’t mean there won’t be another season of the podcast in the future though. 

“I won’t do it without McVay. I begged him. He’s just out….He’s getting married this offseason. He’s got his honeymoon. He’s like, we’ll pick it up another offseason. I’m upset. I love doing it. All these new coaches, Sean and I would have had a good time with it and we talked about it, but it’s his decision and he’s saying no and I totally get it. He’s really good at it and he liked it. He’ll have opportunities and you see some of these numbers that these guys are getting. Trust me, he’s aware.”

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Shan & RJ: ‘Inside The NBA Was Trying To Prevent A Riot Last Night’

“You know that moment? Everyone’s joking around. Everyone’s having fun, then someone doesn’t take the joke as a joke anymore and all the fun is sucked out of the room and things are awkward and serious?”



Things were very far from normal on Thursday night on the set of Inside the NBA. During the postgame show, Warriors fans threw objects at Charles Barkley as TNT was broadcasting live outside of the Chase Center in San Francisco.

Friday morning on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, Shan and RJ discussed the scene and said things felt out of the ordinary long before anything was even thrown.

“You know that moment? Everyone’s joking around. Everyone’s having fun, then someone doesn’t take the joke as a joke anymore and all the fun is sucked out of the room and things are awkward and serious?” Shan Shariff said. “That’s what happened yesterday on Inside the NBA both in the pregame and the postgame.”

Barkley had been picking on Warriors fans calling them annoying and describing San Francisco as having “dirty ass streets full of homeless people” throughout the series.

Shariff said even in the pregame show, it seemed that the Inside the NBA crew was wary of the crowd gathered behind them.

“It felt like yesterday instead of having fun and cutting loose, it felt like they were trying to prevent a riot.”

After a rolled-up t-shirt struck Barkley, he got up and acted as if he was going to throw a ceramic coffee mug into the crowd. Shariff said it was clear that Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith thought Barkley was about to be involved in an altercation of some sort.

RJ Choppy disagreed though. His immediate thought in seeing the video was that Barkley was just taking his ribbing of the crowd to the next level like a WWE superstar might.

“I think he knew the wrestling role, but I don’t think the other guys did,” Choppy said.

Sean and RJ expounded on the wrestling comparison, saying that he had a specific event in mind. He compared the way the crowd treated Barkley on Thursday night to how the crowd at ECW’s One Night Stand in 2006 treated John Cena. Cena and security may have thought they knew what was coming, but it was clear when fans started throwing chairs at the WWE champ that their ire was more serious than anticipated.

There can be peace for the time being. TNT’s NBA season ends at the conclusion of the Western Conference Finals. It will be interesting to see if this animosity returns in the 2022-23 season.

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Don La Greca: ‘Howie Rose Was The Only Sports Talk Host As Passionate About Hockey As Me’

“When you look at the history of sports radio, the only person that I can think of that called games and was [as] passionate about hockey as I am that had a regular radio show was Howie Rose.”



Don LaGreca has been working on Rangers radio broadcasts since 2005, and has served as the backup play-by-play announcer for the last few seasons, filling in for Kenny Albert when he is unable to be on the call. Because of Albert’s responsibilities in calling national playoff games on television amid the new media rights agreement between the league and its partners (ESPN and Turner Sports), La Greca has called more Rangers games of late, and received positive reviews.

Yesterday on The Michael Kay Show on 98.7 ESPN New York, Kay mentioned the compliments callers have been giving La Greca for his ability to call hockey games, some of whom credit him for introducing them to the sport.

“The one thing hockey is is underexposed,” said La Greca. “Because you hear a lot of people say, ‘Boy, I didn’t realize how much fun this sport is; how great it is to go to a game,’ because a lot of us don’t grow up around it.”

La Greca realizes that he is in a unique position being the co-host of a sports radio show and an NHL play-by-play announcer, giving him a responsibility to communicate and opine on the game of hockey to his listening audience at large. He considers himself the second person to have such a distinction – the pioneer of which, while he may no longer be calling hockey games, still frequently discusses the sport on Twitter.

“When you look at the history of sports radio, the only person that I can think of that called games and was [as] passionate about hockey as I am that had a regular radio show was Howie Rose,” said La Greca. “And Howie Rose has been out of the sports radio game for 25 years.”

Rose was with WFAN from its launch on July 1, 1987 as its weekday nighttime host. Additionally, he served in the same role as La Greca, backing up Kenny Albert’s father Marv on Rangers radio broadcasts – where, in 1994, he delivered the illustrious call of Stephane Matteau’s game-winning, double-overtime goal in game 7 that sent the team to the Stanley Cup Finals. One year later, Rose left WFAN to begin calling games for the NHL’s New York Islanders on Sportschannel, and did not host a sports radio show during his time as a lead hockey play-by-play announcer.

While there are other sports radio hosts in the New York marketplace that exhibit a passion for hockey such as Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti, La Greca is the only one who actively calls the games – akin to how Michael Kay is the only active New York sports radio host who regularly calls professional baseball.

“You don’t have somebody who is as close to the sport as I am to have this kind of forum, so maybe there are a few people like, ‘Hey, I’m a fan of Don. I really don’t like hockey, but he calls a few games so let me listen,’ and it kind of opened a door that otherwise wouldn’t have been opened” said La Greca. “….I don’t think it’s anything that I’m doing. It’s just an opportunity that I have, and it is humbling and it’s pretty cool to hear and I hope those people stick with the sport.”

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