Not all paths are the same. And not many paths resemble Fred Toucher’s journey in radio. The Detroit native openly roots for the New York Jets, bashes New England Patriots crybaby fans, and hosts a successful morning show in Boston. How in the holy hell does that add up?
Unconventional works if you’re authentic, which certainly sums up Toucher. Along with his radio partner, Rich Shertenlieb, Toucher & Rich has been a fixture on 98.5 The Sports Hub since 2009.
Toucher was a rock radio host for over a decade. He teamed up with Rich in 2006 at rock station WBCN in Boston. They eventually migrated to sports radio a few years later where they still thrive today. As Tom Brady tweeted when Ben Roethlisberger retired — there’s more than one way to bake a cake — the same is true in radio. Toucher is proof of it.
We chat about his uncommon path, admitting you’re an outsider, his hatred for the Patriots, and Toucher’s actual last name. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: How did you end up in Boston when you’re originally from Detroit?
Fred Toettcher: I was in Atlanta for eight years. I was at 99X in Atlanta when Cumulus bought 99X. I didn’t like the Dickey brothers and they were local, which was going to be a big pain in the ass. I asked if I could get out of my contract and they didn’t put up much of a fight.
I had known Rich from working at 99X when he worked there. A consultant, Randy Lane, helped us get together and we auditioned for CBS in Phoenix. Then CBS put us in Boston doing afternoons at BCN. That’s it. Eight years in Atlanta, then started here in 2006.
BN: What led you to going from Detroit to Atlanta initially?
FT: I went to college in Florida. I got out of college and I was interning for The Mitch Albom Show in Detroit. My best friend moved to Atlanta, so I just moved to Atlanta and worked there. It was CBS’s decision to move us to Boston. It wasn’t my intent to live in Boston, it was CBS’s thought. I guess my personality is suited for the Northeast is what everyone said. Sort of more caustic, probably better than the South.
BN: What did you think at the time when it was down to Phoenix versus Boston and how it shook out?
FT: Oh, I was glad that we ended up in Boston. I’m not a big fan of Phoenix. It was weird because this actually happened; they were like all right, we really liked your audition, but we’re not going to put you in Phoenix. They were like, we’re not going to tell you where we want you; we’re going to tell you where we want you on this date.
This guy, who did the show with us when we first started, and I went to this bar in Atlanta and waited around. It was like the draft. We waited around for a phone call from my agent to tell us where we would be moving to. That was pretty strange how they did it. Then we had five days to find a place to live and everything. It probably could’ve been handled better.
BN: [Laughs] That’s a wild story. In what ways has the show changed from initially being on a rock station to now being on a sports station?
FT: Things were still pretty wild in rock radio when we got to Boston. There were so many things that we couldn’t do now and probably wouldn’t want to do now. The sports format gave us much more structure. Knowing that you had to devote a lot of time to sports on the show definitely helped in terms of focus and everything. I’m glad that we were on rock radio when we were on it, but we probably wouldn’t have lasted in one market if we were in rock radio.
I think it also gave older people permission to listen to our show. A lot of people would be like, I don’t listen to BCN anymore, I’m too old. People in their 30s were like, I’m too old for BCN. So when we went to the sports format, it’s like people felt, well, this is a format that I can listen to. Our older audience got much bigger almost immediately.
Those are the two big things is that it gave people permission and also forced us to structure the show. It wasn’t easy. We had to meet with the programmer, Mike Thomas, every day for a year after the show to hash out how the show was going to be. I’m sure that wasn’t his idea of fun. That was a pain in the ass, but it ended up obviously working out.
BN: Were those times hard or undesirable?
FT: Yeah, there was also the belief — I knew it wasn’t true — but the belief that they were just keeping us around until our contracts were up. People were like, well, they’re just going to get fired. They’re not going to be here when their contract is up. The audience was like, who the fuck are you guys? You guys don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. You’re not sports guys.
Yeah, it was very difficult for the first year. It was no fun. Rich didn’t want to do sports. He tried really hard, but he didn’t really want to be doing it so that was difficult as well. The first six months were miserable.
Then the station started succeeding and every show succeeded on the same path. That’s all you’re doing at that point; you don’t want the other shows to outperform you if you’re us. We were performing as well as the other shows. Everyone started performing well about six months after we started. We weren’t number one or anything, but we were getting pretty good ratings. The pressure was starting to dwindle a little bit after six months, but the first year was not fun.
BN: If I would’ve told you back in ’09 that you’d be sitting here in 2022 enjoying the success that you have, would you have believed it?
FT: No, no, no. No one would’ve. No one would’ve thought the station would be this successful. Certainly no one would’ve thought our show would’ve been successful. I didn’t think that our show was successful. I didn’t know why they kept us. It was a big gamble for them to keep us from BCN. No one else thought they should have. No, there was no way I thought I’d still be in Boston.
I thought when BCN ended I had a pretty good inclination like a year before, I thought we were going to get fired. Then they told us they were keeping us six months before BCN went off the air. I thought I was going to get fired then and I certainly thought I was going to get fired after our first contract was up. No, I didn’t think there was any chance this was going to happen.
BN: What does it take for an outsider to be accepted as a host in Boston?
FT: To admit you’re an outsider. To not try to front like you’re not. Everything around here is impossible. The town names are impossible to pronounce. Everything is pronounced wrong. Everything is weird. If you come in and have flashcards trying to learn everything about the town, it’s going to come off very phony. My advice would be, just admit that you’re not from here. Admit if you weren’t on a sports station. Admit that you’re not a sports reporter. Just lay it out and if people accept you, they accept you. If they don’t, they don’t. But they will. I think the region values honesty.
BN: What’s your role during the BSM Summit?
FT: I don’t know. [Laughs]
BN: You just said yeah, I’ll be a part of it.
FT: Yeah, 11:30 in the morning I think I’m supposed to do something. I’m on with Felger and Carton. I’m not sure, though. [Laughs] I’m not positive. I know I’m not giving a speech. I know that. I think it’s probably a group of us. I’m hoping. I’ve prepared nothing, so I don’t know. [Laughs]
BN: Are you looking forward to it?
FT: Yeah, I haven’t been at an industry thing in a really long time. Like decades. I’ve only met my agent once, so she’ll be there. I’m sure I’ll see people I haven’t seen in a really long time. I like that stuff. I never have the opportunity to go do that kind of stuff. I’m never invited to anything.
BN: [Laughs] What are you hoping to gain by being there, or to provide by being there?
FT: Really, I’m going for fun and maybe to connect with some people that I haven’t seen. We’re syndicated now and always looking to pick up affiliates. If I’m out there and there’s someone from a small enough market that would take our show, I’d welcome that. Like everyone else, to go out and meet the people.
I hope that I have some insight. I don’t know if people go to these things to learn something. If there are people coming that want to get into sports radio, hopefully I can deliver some insight. I think my story is very odd and if I can do it, that should lead people to be inspired that they can do it.
I didn’t go to Syracuse and work at the school newspaper in the sports department. There’s different paths to get into the industry. You don’t have to follow the same path as everyone else. I think that’s probably a good message. I probably have one of the odder origin stories of anyone there. That I can offer.
BN: Is there anything from rock radio that you miss?
FT: Yeah, some days I don’t want to talk about sports at all. It’s like anything else; if you do it for a living, you get sick of it. We don’t talk about sports every break, but we have to talk about sports. There are days that I just don’t want to. Rock radio, you can do whatever you want. You don’t talk about rock music all the time.
In the long run, it’s not as good because you don’t have anything to fall back on. But there are days where I’m like, aww, I really don’t want to fuckin’ talk about sports. I don’t care. Especially if something contrived is happening that I find annoying. Like a lot of Patriots shit, I know what it’s going to be like going in the next day. I really don’t want to talk about this and hear the same thing. You’ll see stuff on Twitter and everyone’s saying the same thing and you’re like, ugh, I have to get in tomorrow and hear all of this again.
BN: What are some of the things you do today that you wouldn’t typically hear on a sports radio show?
FT: We do a lot of stuff. When I first moved to Boston, there’s this town called Brookline that’s like this really academic, annoying town. It was hell living there. Everyone’s yelling at you. There was one guy that had a megaphone on his front porch and if you stepped on his lawn he would be able to yell at you from his couch. We take the real 911 calls from Brookline and play them and make fun of them. So we do everybody’s angry in Brookline.
We do recaps where we have a kid on our show go out and talk to people, like weirdos after games. It started off being a drunken recap, but that got old. We met so many strange characters with him just being on the streets of Boston at night, just a bunch of weirdos and stuff. So we do that. We don’t have a lot of regular bits. We don’t have anything that we do on Wednesday at 8 o’clock or anything.
BN: I noticed on your email that your last name is spelled differently [Toettcher]. You don’t have a stage name, but is it a stage spelling of your last name?
FT: Yes, my regular spelling, no one would know my name is Toucher. It’s T-O-E-T-T; it’s very full-on German. No one would know what the hell it was. When I was at 99X, Sean Demery was like you have a cool last name, you should go by Toucher. It wasn’t even Fred Toucher, he was like you should go by Toucher. I’m like okay, so I did nights as Toucher. But I thought in print, no one’s going to know what the fuck this name is. So yeah, it’s phonetically spelled. Much to the delight of everyone at the doctor’s office when they ask for your email.
BN: [Laughs] What ideally would you want your future to be in radio or beyond?
FT: I would like it if the syndication grew. You always want a new challenge. I’m always interested in opportunities outside of radio. Not to exchange my career, but in addition to doing the radio show. Right now, in terms of radio, just to keep growing.
We’re syndicated in four other markets now, so it’s not really a big deal. But it’s all set up now. I can tell you it’s very lucrative. [Laughs] No money is exchanged, but we’ve paid for everything. It’s all set up. To continue to do that and to continue to grow that would be exciting. Obviously keep doing well in Boston, but to try to grow the brand just for the challenge would be a lot of fun.
BN: What’s the most fun that you’ve had during your career?
FT: I know for sure what it is. We got to be on the duck boat when the Bruins won the 2011 Stanley Cup. That was really, really, really cool. That was by far the best moment, the moment that I’ll always remember. It’s my I’ve-been-on-the-moon story. It’s my trump-card story. I have it in my phone, all the videos of it. There were a million and a half people in the city.
When a team here wins, they’re called duck boats. There are these things that tourists take. They are cars and they also can float. We got to be on one of them. It was us and the Bruins. There weren’t many other people that weren’t on the Bruins. That was awesome. We had only been on The Sports Hub for like two years. That was fun. That was the best.
BN: How did that come about?
FT: I don’t know. The station picked us, I think, because we’re not reporters. Probably the other shows thought it would look bad because they’re supposed to be above that. Also I was a big proponent of hockey, which helped us a lot very early. The Bruins really helped us. I developed a relationship with them at BCN. I’m a big hockey fan. No one was talking about the Bruins, so I develop this relationship with them. It was great, great timing; when they started The Sports Hub, the Bruins started to get really, really good.
I think the combination of my relationship and my pom-pom waving for them, which has stopped now, but my pom-pom waving for them and the idea that we’re not journalists I think was why the station let us go. The station could’ve put themselves on it, my management could’ve put themselves on it, but they picked us, which was very nice of them.
BN: Is there anything that you hate talking about in that area?
FT: I hate the Patriots. I don’t mind talking about them, especially now. But Deflategate was the worst. Deflategate was the worst. I hated it. We actually stopped talking about it during the height of it because I couldn’t take it anymore. Listeners going over legal documents and science data and stuff. It was so boring. The victim mentality of the Patriots fans is so annoying. I hated Deflategate. Rich would tell you the same thing. I really didn’t like it.
You have to understand people talked about it all day, every day here. All day, every day. The Patriots fans are so whiny and entitled because for 20 years, they’ve been so good. If you’re in your 30s, you don’t know anything other than the Patriots winning, which is funny because they think this is just going to continue now. They don’t know what it’s like to root for anyone else.
Any other team, there’s peaks and valleys. I’m a Jets fan, so I’ve hated the Patriots my whole life. [Laughs] And now I really hate the Patriots. But they’ve helped make me a comfortable living, so I’ve got that going for me.
BN: I’ll tell you, man, you have an amazing story. Being from Detroit, Jets fan, doing a morning show on a sports station in Boston, dude. That’s crazy.
FT: Yeah, I admit that I’m a Jets fan too, which everyone uses against me. Oh, he’s just making excuses; he’s a Jets fan. But I was very honest about that. I guarantee you a consultant wouldn’t tell you to come on Boston sports talk and say you’re a Jets fan. I can assure you. Or call their fans crybabies and losers. But it’s worked out. A consultant would tell you not to do that, so don’t always listen to consultants. They just give you the easiest road.
BN: I’d imagine that you’re selling a different product than pretty much anybody else in that market. When you come out and say I’m a Jets fan, I don’t know how to pronounce these town names, do you think there’s something about being different and authentic that helps you be successful?
FT: I think it was necessary for us. We would never have succeeded if we hadn’t done it. I mean if you think about it, I’ve always thought about it like this: If you were out to dinner with five people and you didn’t know three of them, say you’re a big Yankee fan and you were at a table and someone says, oh hey, did you see the Yankee game? And you’re like no, I’m a Red Sox fan. They’re not going to get up from the table and leave. It’s not something that you’re going to judge a person’s character by.
I think in our case, I talk a lot about my personal life. I don’t know why. It just happens for better or for worse, sometimes worse. I think just being authentic because we didn’t have the sports credibility. So yeah, you’re kind of selling yourself to people and you’re just going, this is the authentic person that I am within reason.
You probably wouldn’t talk for four hours if given your druthers, but here’s the authentic person I am talking into a microphone, so you can judge me. We’re not like Felger & Mazz who immediately had this sports credibility. They only talk about sports. They have the cred to do that. I think we were forced to kind of sell ourselves. I think just being authentic was necessary for us.
NBC Must Develop a Real No. 2 NFL Crew for Playoffs
Is the network’s only other option Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett?
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?
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at email@example.com.
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.”
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.
Ryan Brown is a columnist for Barrett Sports Media, and a co-host of the popular sports audio/video show ‘The Next Round’ formerly known as JOX Roundtable, which previously aired on WJOX in Birmingham. You can find him on Twitter @RyanBrownLive and follow his show @NextRoundLive.
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.”
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.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.