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Joe Davis Gets The Chance To Be The Voice Of Baseball

“It was one of those things that was like, ‘Okay, I’ll believe this when I see it.’ I imagined Joe Buck would be at Fox calling the World Series and the Super Bowl forever.”

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As the Los Angeles Rams came back to defeat the San Francisco 49ers in the 2022 NFC Championship Game, a conversation was being had behind closed doors in The City of Angels. The NFC Championship Game could very well have been the final time Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, an iconic duo spanning two decades in the booth together, would broadcast a game on Fox Sports. Aikman’s contract with Fox Sports expired at the conclusion of this past season, and after negotiations, he inked a five-year deal to call Monday Night Football on ESPN. Buck followed soon after. That opened up two jobs to a pool of candidates – the network’s lead football and baseball announcer.

Fox Sports announced the promotion of Kevin Burkhardt as its lead football play-by-play announcer in late March, making him the voice of the Super Bowl for two of the next three seasons. Now it was up to the network to tab its new lead play-by-play announcer for its coverage of Major League Baseball.

Taking the seat of a legend is nothing new for Joe Davis. As the television play-by-play voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Davis replaced Vin Scully at 28 years old and has been a distinctive part of the soundtrack of signature moments for baseball’s most consistent contender over the last five years.

Davis’ interest in broadcasting began at a young age, growing up as a sports fan in Potterville, Michigan. His father was a football coach and sports were a consistent part of everyday life, making it easy for Davis to envision himself working in sports in the future.

While majoring in communications and journalism at Beloit College, Davis honed his skills both on the field as a quarterback and in the booth as a broadcaster. As an undergraduate student, Davis was the voice of Beloit Buccaneers baseball and basketball during the winter and spring, and played quarterback for the school’s division-three football team in the fall. Having an understanding of the perspective of an athlete as a broadcaster is something that has served to benefit Davis throughout his career thus far, especially in realizing his place in certain settings.

“It gave me a sense for my place in the clubhouse or in the locker room having been on the other side [and] knowing what exactly goes into being a player and where I stood once I became a broadcaster,” said Davis. “Not being a nuisance [and] kind of being seen but not heard, especially at first.”

As a result of his work ethic and desire to improve his skills, his rise in the industry was expeditious, to say the least, upon his college graduation in 2010. In the span of seven years, Davis served as the play-by-play announcer for the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits, called college sports for ESPN and Comcast Southeast and worked as a studio host for the Baylor Bears. In 2014, Davis was hired by Fox Sports to call both college football and basketball games, along with appearing on select Major League Baseball broadcasts.

Throughout his time in college and early days in the industry, Davis developed somewhat of an announcing style, or as he refers to it, discovering just who he was on the air and allowing for him to show his personality. Calling multiple sports and maintaining that identity, as daunting as it may sound, is something Davis has embraced, allowing him to move far into the industry at a rapid pace.

“From sport to sport, I love that I get to do multiple sports,” said Davis. “They’re all so different in the prep and then in the act of actually calling the games. I think that it’s nothing but a good thing.”

Davis has worked with the Dodgers since the 2016 season, albeit his beginning in a limited role as an alternate play-by-play announcer. During Vin Scully’s final season, he and Dodgers radio play-by-play announcer Charley Steiner filled in for Scully on games he was unable to call. Upon Scully’s final game of his legendary career, the Dodgers announced their new broadcast booth for the 2017 season, featuring 1988 World Series Champion and all-star pitcher Orel Hershiser as the color commentator with Davis as the primary play-by-play announcer on Spectrum SportsNet LA

Every day he enters the Dodgers’ television booth, Joe Davis recognizes the magnitude of the role and the weight Scully’s legacy garners, keeping him inspired and motivated to perform the role to the best of his ability.

“Knowing that when I sit in that Dodger chair everyday, I think about the fact that for 67 years, the best ever to do this job was in that chair, and the responsibility that comes with being the person to follow Vin is a big part of what makes the Dodger job special,” said Davis.

Throughout his time with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team has finished with a winning record; in fact, the team has not finished with a losing record since the 2010 season. Davis realizes that he has been and remains fortunate to call games for a franchise in a large media market with a steadfast commitment to winning and the resources to do it on a year-by-year basis.

“We talk all the time about how lucky we are to be doing Dodgers games. I say [that] half-jokingly – but really it is only half-jokingly; I’m somewhat serious,” said Davis. “I think part of the reason I’m still here [and] people haven’t run me out of town is because I’m delivering good news. People like to hear good news and people like to watch a winner, and thankfully this team since I’ve gotten here has been so, so good.”

In covering a talented team with bona fide superstars including Mookie Betts, Clayton Kershaw, Freddie Freeman and Walker Buehler, along with a surplus of quality depth at both the major league and minor league levels, high-pressure situations yielding dramatic “Hollywood-esque” finishes are abundant. An aspect of Davis’ announcing style is his ability to thrive in these situations, something his predecessor Scully did exceptionally well. Part of the reason Davis has made iconic calls early in his career highlighted by exclamations including “Absolute madness” and “You are ridiculous” comes from advice Scully gave him, along with his own background as an athlete.

“You almost have to think like a player and take a deep breath and really relax and not put pressure on yourself,” said Davis. “I don’t think you script big moments, but I do think it’s important to anticipate the big moments coming and then think to yourself, ‘If this big moment that I’m anticipating coming happens, what is the bigger context around that?’”

By recognizing the context surrounding big moments – such as win streaks, changes in the standings, career milestones, etc. – Davis has been able to succeed behind the mic no matter the scenario. Whether it be a spring training game, the regular season or the postseason, he knows how to appropriately articulate a moment for his viewing audience; however, it requires being prudent and giving each moment of the game some forethought.

“I’m not smart enough to have that moment happen and do it justice – to put a proper caption on it,” said Davis. “I think that it requires doing a little thinking [in] anticipating the moment coming.”

Recognizing his audience is indeed consuming the game both visually and aurally, Davis has been able to differentiate between calling a game on television despite getting his start in radio. Throughout his career, Vin Scully called Dodgers games on television while the team simulcast the first three innings of every matchup on the radio during his final season. A salient point Davis underscores though, especially when talking to younger broadcasters making a transition from one medium to the other, is not to overthink their multitude of differences, but rather to embrace their similarities.

“There are obvious differences [and] there are subtle differences, but… I don’t think it’s good to overthink the difference. I hear a lot of times when people are making that transition from radio to TV and [when] I listen to the TV tape, I can hear them thinking: ‘Okay, I need to talk less. I need to call it this way because it’s TV, not radio.’ I don’t think it’s healthy to overthink it.”

Another point of differentiation between the two mediums comes in the implementation of the analyst into the broadcast. The Dodgers television booth had not had an analyst in recent memory prior to Herscheiser, as Scully called the games solo over much of his career.

Davis’ most memorable moment as a broadcaster came while filling in for Joe Buck on Fox Sports’ broadcast of Game 7 of the 2020 National League Championship Series. Ironically enough, Davis’ local team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, faced the Atlanta Braves with a World Series-berth on the line. After Enrique Hernández hit a home run to tie the game 3-3 in the sixth inning, Dodgers slugger Cody Bellinger crushed a towering home run to right field to put the team on top 4-3, sending the franchise to its first World Series since 1988 – one they would eventually win in six games.

“It was a special thing… because I was sitting in Joe’s chair and I got to send a team to the World Series,” recalled Davis. “The icing on the cake was that it was the team I cover on a daily basis.”

The exhilaration of that moment on a national broadcast was something Davis hoped to be able to experience again in his career. High-pressure situations are where Davis has historically thrived in the booth, and he recently stepped into another one with his ultimate career goal in the balance.

Once it had been reported that Fox had given Joe Buck permission to pursue other jobs after it had lost Troy Aikman to ESPN, Joe Davis knew he had a legitimate shot to take over lead play-by-play duties, but was unsure whether he would be granted the monumental opportunity. The anticipation of this moment, potentially being afforded the chance to call baseball’s marquee matchups including the World Series, was something Davis had been dreaming about since he was in his youth.

“I started to read all the same stuff that all of us were reading as far as ESPN being interested in Joe Buck,” said Davis. “It was one of those things that was like, ‘Okay, I’ll believe this when I see it.’ I imagined Joe Buck would be at Fox calling the World Series and the Super Bowl forever.”

 Just as he does in high-intensity moments within the scope of a game, Davis tried not to get too ahead of himself as the process of finding Buck’s successor was underway. But with the possibility of a promotion he so genuinely desired looming in the background, Davis admitted that he struggled to remain calm throughout the process.

“[I] was checking my phone all the time; waiting for updates; waiting for calls; and hoping that something would break. It seemed like forever before anything happened.”

As his apprehension grew and a resolution neared, Davis remembered how as a child, he would watch the World Series and listen to Buck call the games, aspiring to one day follow in his footsteps.

“One of the coolest things for me has been to go from looking up to him [and] not knowing him – just admiring him and wanting to be a little like him – [to] getting to meet him as I came to Fox, and now being able to call him a friend and a mentor,” said Davis.

The time had finally come. While Davis was in Las Vegas calling the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament, Fox Sports President of Production/Operations and Executive Producer Brad Zager flew in from Los Angeles to deliver him a message – one that he had been waiting to receive since he was 10 years old.

“‘I’m here to offer you a chance to be the voice of baseball,’” Davis recalled Zager telling him in their meeting.

Earlier this month, Fox officially named Joe Davis as its lead play-by-play announcer, a role in which he will join National Baseball Hall of Fame member and 1995 World Series champion John Smoltz in the booth. In his new role, Davis will be the voice of the World Series each year, along with announcing other premier matchups and special events, including the 2022 MLB All-Star Game and MLB at Field of Dreams Game. Additionally, he will remain the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers on Spectrum SportsNet LA.

“If you had asked me when I was 10 what do you want to do, I would have told you: ‘I want to call the World Series,’” said Davis. “A World Series Game 7 would be just incredible, but… looking at my regular season schedule, it’s awesome. It’s all the marquee teams and the marquee games…. I’m not going to stop pinching myself – that’s for sure.”

Davis will make his debut as Fox’s lead MLB play-by-play announcer on May 28 when the Philadelphia Phillies take on the New York Mets. The game will be played at Citi Field, which is modeled after Ebbets Field – the former home of the Brooklyn Dodgers – the place where Vin Scully got his start on the airwaves.

“I have fun covering these games,” said Davis. “Letting that love and joy for the game come through on the air; presenting the current game as one that is special; and these people and these players within the game – presenting their stories as special. I think the foundation to it all is genuinely loving the game as it is right now.”

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

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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