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Mike Greenberg Is Prepared For Anything At The NFL Draft

“Imagine how good your show would be every single day if I told you that you’re going to have huge news like ‘genuinely changes everything’ kind of news every ten minutes.  It’s like a dream for a talk show host.”

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Mike Greenberg has just about done it all during his run at ESPN.

The veteran sportscaster, affectionately known as “Greeny” has anchored SportsCenter, co-hosted the highly successful Mike and Mike morning radio show with Mike Golic for many years, and even called play-by-play for Monday Night Football and the Arena Football League.  Greenberg currently hosts Get Up every morning, his new solo ESPN Radio show every weekday and NBA Countdown for ABC/ESPN.

But last year, Greenberg also added an iconic role to his resume when he was named the new host for ESPN’s NFL Draft coverage and he is ready for year two this week in Las Vegas.

“I couldn’t be more excited,” said Greenberg.  “The most fun I have had covering sports in 2021 were the two nights I spent in Cleveland doing the draft.  It’s such a fabulous event and the atmosphere is so great.”

Anchoring the NFL Draft coverage is an assignment made for Greenberg because of his ability as a talk show host and collaborating with the people he has working with him.  That is no different with the NFL Draft as he will have Louis Riddick and Booger McFarland at the broadcast table with him and Mel Kiper Jr. working remotely from home.  

And of course, one of the great things about hosting a sports talk show is the reaction to big news and that obviously comes quite often at the NFL Draft. 

“Hosting the draft is like hosting a really good talk show with really excellent panelists and having enormous breaking news every ten minutes,” said Greenberg.  “Imagine how good your show would be every single day if I told you that you’re going to have huge news like ‘genuinely changes everything’ kind of news every ten minutes.  It’s like a dream for a talk show host.”

The NFL Draft became a mega television spectacular when ESPN began airing the event in 1980.  Over the course of the last 42 years, the NFL Draft turned into an enormously popular event and television show. A big reason why was host Chris Berman and his enthusiastic delivery.  Trey Wingo succeeded Berman in 2017 and Greenberg took over the hosting duties last year.  During his long run, Berman became must-see television hosting the draft as well as his long run hosting Sunday NFL Countdown, Monday Night Countdown and NFL Primetime.

But Greenberg isn’t about to replicate the iconic host.

“No one could do what Chris Berman did,” said Greenberg.  “I wouldn’t even consider trying.

“He’s one of those few people that are so inimitable that to try to do anything like him is a mistake.  There are certain people who are just so unique and so special that to try to be like Boomer, in my opinion, would just be a tremendous mistake.  I thought Trey Wingo, who actually directly preceded me with the draft, also did an excellent job.”  

If there’s one common denominator to the various on-air roles in sports broadcasting, it’s preparation.  If you’re doing play-by-play for a football game, you put together boards with information on the players and you watch film of the teams playing so that you know everything you can possibly know about the players and coaches.  If you’re doing a sports talk show, you have to be up to date on the latest news from around the sports world.

For the NFL Draft, Greenberg has put in hours and hours of preparation going back to January following the College Football Playoff championship game between Alabama and Georgia.  As of my phone conversation with him this past Wednesday, Greenberg had done prep work on 119 draft-eligible players and planned on collecting background on another ten or so by the time opening night rolls around on Thursday night.

Greenberg will host rounds one through three of the draft and last year that equated, with compensatory picks, to about 102 selections.

So Greeny, how does one possibly prepare for the NFL Draft?

“For each player that is likely to be drafted, I go through their notes, I go through their bios, and I watch a little bit of them on YouTube,” said Greenberg.  

“There are YouTube videos of literally every one of these players.  The prep is easy to do if you know what it is.  It is time-consuming.  I started in January right after the College Football Playoff Championship Game.  The week after Alabama and Georgia played for the championship, I started.  I would do two, three or four players a day.  I dedicate 45 minutes to an hour almost every day to it over the course of about three months so yes, it’s a lot of work but it’s so worth it.”

And for Greenberg, the fun starts when he arrives at the broadcast table because the hard part is over.  After the hours and hours of preparation and getting to know all of the players who will have their names called, it’s all systems go when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell steps to the podium to announce the first-round selections and also when the picks are made in rounds two and three.

“I’m totally comfortable whatever name Roger reads,” said Greenberg.  “I’m very comfortable that I will be able to give you a little bit of interesting insight about them and then I turn it over to the guys you really want to hear from, which are Mel, Louis and Booger.”

Not even Greenberg’s family cares what he thinks about who the Jacksonville Jaguars are taking with the first pick.

“They want to see who is picked and they want to hear what Mel, Louis and Booger think of it.  That is why people are turning on the draft.  I’m very aware of that and very comfortable with it. So my job is to facilitate all of that as seamlessly as possible and then to get out of the way.”

After the Jaguars, Lions and Texans make their picks and assuming there are no trades, the New York Jets will have the fourth pick in the draft and as of now they also have the tenth selection.  You won’t be able to see it or hear it on the NFL Draft coverage, but when the Jets are on the clock Greenberg’s heart is going to be racing. 

If you’ve listened or watched Greenberg on his daily shows over the years, you know that he’s a die-hard Jets fan, but this is not one of his daily shows.

You will see and hear Mike Greenberg the host, not the fan.

“That is the one event where my fandom is not relevant,” said Greenberg.  “On my talk shows, people are tuning in and they want to hear what I think.  I’m a Jets fan and that’s part of the presentation.  With the draft, no one cares that I’m a Jets fan.”

But I’m a Jets fan too and selfishly, I wanted to know what Greenberg thought about what Gang Green might be up to!   

“They have an extraordinary opportunity to really reshape the franchise in a variety of ways,” said Greenberg.  “It will be fascinating to me to see what direction they choose to go.  They have a significant need at wide receiver.  They have significant need for an edge pass rusher and I’m not sure that the best player in this entire draft isn’t an offensive tackle or a cornerback.”  

Mike Greenberg has a resume of success during his time at ESPN and the NFL Draft duties that he assumed last year, along with his new NBA duties, are the latest examples of how good and how versatile of a broadcaster he is.  He is the perfect quarterback and point guard for a show that has a lot of moving parts with analysts and reporters and he’s as prepared as anyone could be in terms of insight and knowledge of the players.

BSM Writers

Grant Cohn’s Trolling of Players is Unacceptable

After an altercation between Javon Kinlaw of the San Francisco 49ers and Grant Cohn, it became clear that Kinlaw was being trolled by a member of the media.

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Grant Cohn is a media member who writes for the FanNation 49ers blog on SI.com. He also talks about the team on his YouTube channel, which has over 48,000 subscribers as of noon Thursday. His father, Lowell, was a longtime columnist in the Bay Area.

Javon Kinlaw is a defensive lineman, whom the San Francisco 49ers drafted in the first round despite concerns about the durability of his knee. He played four games last season, his second in the league.

The two were involved in two confrontations this week. The first one occurred off to the side of the 49ers’ practice field. Kinlaw apparently cursed at Cohn and knocked his hat from atop his head. Later in the day, Kinlaw again swore at Cohn, this time after joining a live stream on Cohn’s YouTube channel. (Side note: I have never felt so freaking old as I did while typing that previous sentence.)

OK. That’s my attempt at an absolutely straightforward and objective summary of a situation that scares the hell out of me. Not because a player was mad at a member of the media. I’ve had it happen to me and I’ve seen it happen to others. It’s my opinion that this has been happening for as long as human beings have scrutinized the athletic efforts of other human beings.

What scared me was that I was seeing some version of the future of sports media. A future in which media members behaved like YouTube trolls, acting purposely ridiculous or antagonistic to initiate conflicts that could be turned into more conflicts that would could be gleefully recounted as content for the audience. I thought that because that’s pretty much what Cohn did:https://youtu.be/4Hf9sjBttFY

Cohn essentially bragged about the number of different things he said that may have prompted Kinlaw’s reaction, and you know what? It worked. Kinlaw got mad. He confronted Cohn. Twice. TMZ published a story about it. So did SFGate.com.

This is troll behavior. You know, the online pests who say or do something intended to provoke a reaction, and once they get that reaction, they recount and scrutinize that reaction with an eye toward triggering another reaction. Lather, rinse repeat. Increasingly, entire online media ecosystems consist of nothing more than people who don’t like each other talking about how much they don’t like one another.

I’m not going to pretend this is entirely new in sports media. Sports columnists have been known to make reputations with their willingness to be critical of the home team. A huge part of Skip Bayless’ brand is his unwavering insistence on highlighting Lebron James’ perceived flaws. Stephen A. Smith has engaged in public feuds with players, namely Kevin Durant.

I do see a difference between this and what Cohn did, though. The reaction Bayless and Smith are primarily concerned with is from their audience, not their subjects. The subjects may get mad, but that’s not the primary goal. At least I hope it’s not.

What happens if that is the primary goal? What if someone is offering opinions not because it’s what they really think, but because they want to provoke a response from the subject? Media careers have been built on less.

I don’t know if that’s the case with Cohn. I’ve never talked to him in my life, and even if I had, it’s impossible to know someone’s true intent. But in listening to everything he said AFTER the initial confrontation with Kinlaw, I’m not willing to assume that Cohn was operating in good faith. Here’s how Cohn described the initial confrontation with Kinlaw, which occurred as practice was beginning.

“In the training room, I saw Javon Kinlaw, who is the king of the training room,” Cohn said. “He’s usually in the training room.”

Cohn said the two locked eyes, but were separated by about 70 yards at the time. Kinlaw then walked across the field to where the reporters were gathered. He stood directly behind Cohn.

“So I turn, and I say, ‘Wassup, Mook Dawg?’ “ Cohn said, referencing the nickname on Kinlaw’s Instagram account. “And he doesn’t say anything. And I say, ‘Why are you looking at me like that, Javon?’ “

“And then he said, ‘What are you going to do about it you bitch-ass,’ and then he said one more word that I can’t say,” Cohn said. “And then I turned to face him, and I said, ‘Oh, it’s like that?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, it’s like that.’ And then he knocked the hat off my head.”

OK. Pause. In my experience, when your job is to publicly describe and critique the performance and attitudes of professional athletes, there will be times in which the athletes do not care for your description or your critique. Some of those who are displeased will make their objections known to you.

However, there are two things that are unusual here: First, the fact Kinlaw knocked the hat off Cohn’s head, which is unacceptable. Second, Cohn then posted a video on  YouTube to not only talk about what had happened, but state he had been so critical of Kinlaw for so long he wasn’t sure what specifically sparked Kinlaw’s anger.

“Javon, what are you upset about?” Cohn asked toward the end of  his video. “Is it the fact that I said you have an 80-year-old knee? Is it the fact that I said that you’re a terrible pass rusher and you’re just a two-down player? Is it the fact that I said the Niners shouldn’t have drafted you and should have taken Tristan Wirfs instead. Is it the fact that I said that you’re unprofessional and immature.

“It escapes me, which of the hundred negative things I’ve said about Javon Kinlaw the last couple of years, moved him to approach me in such a way, but you know what, I applaud Javon Kinlaw for coming to speak to me directly, and I ask you, what do you think Javon Kinlaw is mad about.”

Cohn was trolling Kinlaw. No other word for it.

That night, Cohn was conducting a live stream on YouTube, which Kinlaw joined, while apparently eating dinner, to make declarative statements about the size of Cohn’s genitalia — among other things.

Neither one looked particularly impressive. Not Kinlaw, who was profane and combative with a member of the media, at one point making a not-so-subtle threat. Not Cohn, who asked Kinlaw, “Do you think I’m scared of you, Javon?” He also said, “I don’t even know why you’re mad, Javon.”

I think Kinlaw would have been better off ignoring Cohn. If I was Kinlaw’s employer, I would probably prefer he not log into video livestreams to make testicular comparisons. But honestly, I don’t care about what Kinlaw did. At all. He’s not on a team I root for. He didn’t physically harm anyone. He used some bad words in public.

I am bothered not just by Cohn’s actions, but by some of the reactions to them because of what I think this type of behavior will do to an industry I have worked in for 25 years. Credentialed media members who behave like Cohn did this week make it harder for other media members who are acting in good faith. Preserving access for people like him diminishes what that access will provide for those who aren’t trying to use criticism to create conflict that will become content.

I think Cohn knew what he was doing. In his livestream, before Kinlaw joined, Cohn stated he was not scared because he knew — by virtue of his father’s history in the business — that if Kinlaw had touched him he would potentially be entitled monetary compensation.

By now, it should be pretty apparent how problematic this whole thing is and yet on Thursday, a number of 49ers fans online were sticking up for Cohn as just doing his job. Dieter Kurtenbach, a Bay Area columnist, Tweeted: “Javon Kinlaw does not know that @GrantCohn was built for this.” Built for what? Winning Internet fights? Kurtenbach also deleted a Tweet in which he called Kinlaw “soft.”

Cohn’s father, Lowell, is a former columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle and Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. He promoted the first video his son made on Tuesday:

Sorry, I don’t find it funny because it’s another step down a path in which media members seek reactions at the expense of information. Where they look to make fun of players instead of learning about them. They’ll stop acting like journalists and start acting like the trolls who make their money by instigating a conflict, which they then film: “Jake Paul, reporting live from 49ers practice …”

If that’s the case, thank God I’m about to age out of this business, entirely. I’m 47 years old and I can’t believe there’s anyone in our industry who thinks what Cohn did this week is acceptable.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 75

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A new episode of Media Noise is all about reaction. Demetri reacts to the ManningCast’s big win at the Sports Emmys. Danny O’Neil reacts to people reacting to Colin Kaepernick’s workout in Las Vegas and Andy Masur reacts to John Skipper’s comments about Charles Barkley.

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BSM Writers

Bron Heussenstamm Blends Bleav Podcasts Advertising with SiriusXM

Bron Heussenstamm, the CEO of the Bleav Podcast Network says blending podcasting advertising with satellite radio’s reach is a victory for both sides.

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Last week, the Bleav (pronounced believe) Podcast Network announced a deal with SiriusXM to make all 32 NFL team-specific Bleav pods available on the SXM app. SXM can also air Bleav content on any of its sports channels. Each NFL Bleav show pairs a former player with a host to discuss team issues. Eric Davis, Lorenzo Neal, and Pac-Man Jones are amongst the former players Bleav has signed as talent.

I have hosted a Bleav podcast about Boise State football -the Kingdom of POD. I am usually provided 1-3 advertisers per episode by the network and get paid by the download. My subject matter is regional, so my take-home pay is usually under four figures. I have enjoyed the technical assistance and cross-promotion I receive and I enjoyed meeting Bleav CEO Bron Heussenstamm. Bron is Los Angeles-based, a USC graduate, and founded Bleav in 2018. We discussed the SXM deal, podcast advertising, and the future. 

Will the podcast advertisers be carried on the SXM distribution platform?

Yes, Bleav baked-in advertisements and hosts read ads are distributed across all platforms. This enables the host to do their show once through, making it as easy as possible for the hosts and consistent for the advertisers.

Bron Heussenstamm, CEO Bleav Podcast Network

How is advertising on Bleav different? 

We want to be more than a ‘host read ad’ or a ‘digital insert’ with our advertising partners. When companies work with Bleav shows and talent, those companies can receive our omnichannel of distribution points—podcast platforms, YouTube, socials, streamers, TV, radio, and more. This allows for consistent branding across all platforms: great talent presenting great companies to fans and consumers no matter where they consume content. 

What is the growth pattern for podcasts that you see? 

The industry trades have presented 400%-800% percent growth over the next ten years. Once the COVID fog lifted, we really saw these gains. Sports are always going to be at the forefront of culture. The increases in all sports sectors have certainly carried into the digital space. 

SXM has started with NFL shows but can also air more Bleav content – what does that look like? 

We’ve started with our NFL network of 32 team shows hosted by a former player. We’ve kept the door open for our NCAAB, NCAAF, MLB, NHL, Basketball, and Soccer networks. We’re happy for our hosts to be part of such a tremendous company and platform. SiriusXM can continue to amplify its voice and give fans the access and insight only a player can provide. 

The Interactive Advertising Bureau-IAB- says podcast revenue grew 72% last year to $1.4B and is expected to grow to $2B this year and double to $4B by 2024. Have you seen similar growth? What is driving the industry now, and what will be the primary cause of growth by 2024?  

There is a myriad of reasons for the growth. I‘ll lean into a couple. 

At Bleav, we launch and maximize the digital arm of industry leaders. The technology upgrades to allow hosts to have a world-class show — simulcast in both audio and video – from their home has led to an explosion of content. With this, the level of content creators has risen. Having a YouTube, RSS feed, podcast, and more is now part of the brand, right alongside Twitter and Instagram. 

If a company wants to advertise on Bleav in Chargers, we know exactly how many people heard Lorenzo Neal endorse their product. We can also safely assume they like the Chargers. The tracking of demo specifics for companies is huge. It’s a fantastic medium to present products to the right fans and consumers.

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