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Jason Garrett Has Work To Do If He Is Going To Be As Good As NBC Says He Is

“There had been plenty of hype around him. Maybe that upped my expectations.”

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The new edition of the USFL is another place where players can showcase their talent to hopefully impress an NFL team. This rebirth of the league is a place for broadcasters and analysts to showcase themselves for next-level jobs too. The stakes are relatively low, meaning the audience isn’t sitting around waiting for the USFL games like they would on an NFL Sunday. Mistakes can be made, made again, and then corrected. Just like for the players, the announcers are getting reps. 

Count former Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett among the ones getting those precious reps. He and Jac Collinsworth make up the top broadcast team of the USFL on NBC. Garrett has seen it all in football. Coordinating producer Matt Marvin told The New York Post that he expects fans to like what Garrett has to say

“I think his passion and relatability came across during rehearsals,” Marvin said. “Jason has been a quarterback, head coach, coordinator and a position coach in the NFL, so his football knowledge is unparalleled, but he displayed the ability to put things in terms that we could all understand. He also has a tremendous energy that you can really pick up on. Football has been such a big part of his life and that is reflected in the way he calls the game.”

You’d think he has a unique perspective on the game, but does it translate to television? Well, early on, I’m not so sure. It’s not an easy move from the field to the booth, to say the least. It takes some work and work is needed in this case. 

“There’s a lot of stuff that goes into being an announcer. And obviously, I don’t have a ton of experience with that, but I was just trying to have some fun up there,“ Jason Garrett explained to 105.3 The Fan after the opening game of the USF season.

It’s true, not just anyone can hang up the coaching headset and trade it in for a broadcasting headset.

“There’s definitely a lot of mechanics to go with the rhythm and the timing to get comfortable with that,” he told 105.3 The Fan. “I do believe football sets up well and that you have a play-by-play guy who describes the actions then the color guy jumps in. Trying to get the feel for each other.”

He and Collinsworth had never worked together before. They did a couple of rehearsals in Stamford, Connecticut to get ready, but it’s hard to replicate the real thing in a studio. There is so much more that goes on in the booth and during a real telecast. Something not lost on Garrett now. 

“You got to get used to the producer talking to you. Got to get used to understanding where my eyes should go – to the field or the monitor or to the replay? All of that, and then hopefully being able to share something insightful for the viewer. So, you just kind of work through all those different mechanical things.”

With all that said, I watched the NBC telecast of the game between the New Orleans Breakers and Tampa Bay Bandits last weekend. I was not all that impressed. The production value is good. But there’s a lot going on. We hear random voices of coaches calling in plays to the quarterback, live mics on the field picking up trash talk and that’s on top of the play-by-play and commentary. 

Back to Garrett. He was like a fish out of water. He looked stiff during the open, was talking in very choppy sentences and seemed to be trying too hard and thinking too much.

I wasn’t sure why I would have expected better from a first-year guy. There had been plenty of hype around him. Maybe that upped my expectations. 

I get the fact that this is new to him. It’s also just the second real game he’s done with Collinsworth. To be honest, Collinsworth didn’t do Garrett many favors.

Early in the game the analyst barely spoke. He wasn’t jumping in when there were obvious spots for him to do so and it sounded weird. Collinsworth didn’t seem to be paying attention to it, even when Garrett wasn’t reacting to questions designed to bring him into the conversation.  We went through the lineups, first down, and second down without hearing the analyst. Finally, after the 2nd down play, Garrett chimed in for the first time. 

Fans of the Cowboys often said that Garrett spoke in clichés and never showed a ton of emotion while coaching. He clapped his hands a lot according to all the memes I saw when researching this column.

Why do I mention it? Because a lot of the early commentary offered very little insight. There wasn’t much that I couldn’t have found out by reading each team’s game notes.

It almost sounded like he was offering up coach speak at a press conference after a game. “3rd and 3 ain’t easy,” the Breakers’ quarterback was, “getting better each and every day,” oh and he was also playing “at a high level”. The Bandits’ secondary needed to “shore up their coverability”. Those were just a few of the cliches that Jason Garrett said during the broadcast.

He also had a nervous laugh throughout the broadcast. It wasn’t a full belly laugh; it was that type where you’re not exactly sure what is so funny. He also used “WOW!” several times. That’s not expert analysis.

I could see the play and think to myself “WOW!” but why was it a “WOW!” play? Give me a little something here. 

As the game went on, Garrett seemed to be warming up a bit. But he went from 0 to 60 faster than a Lamborghini. Starting in the 2nd quarter, Garrett started to feel it a bit and wasn’t waiting as long to jump in to fill those spaces he needed to fill. There was a little more emotion.

The only problem was that he started talking over things, like the referee’s calls and even over Jac Collinsworth. He worked both sides of the extreme in just a quarter of action. He was starting to feel more comfortable later in the 2nd half. He was getting wordy though.

Garrett was taking too long to make his point and was still talking about a replay when the telecast returned to live action. There has to be a good balance. Not all of it was Garrett’s fault completely. 

You could also tell that Jason Garrett was working with a less experienced play-by-play guy. Collinsworth, and the producer quite frankly, could have helped him early on. Set him up. Put him in positions where he doesn’t have to really think about what to say and just be natural. I’m not an advocate for the announcer interviewing his analyst, but sometimes that’s what it takes early on to get that analyst comfortable. Bring him in more early in the game. Get him into the flow in the first quarter and the rest will take care of itself. 

I would have liked to have heard much more about his perspectives on the game. How does he view it as a coach or even as a former player? There were a few times he started to go that direction when talking about New Orleans quarterback Kyle Sloter, who was playing with a groin injury. Jason Garrett started to talk about just how difficult that is for a QB. He told the audience how the injury affected his drop back and his side-to-side movement. He didn’t come back to that at all though. I understand overkill, but this was something he had experienced. Give me some insight! Teach me something! Give me a reason to be amazed at what Sloter was doing!

Garrett is a smart guy. He played quarterback at Princeton and Columbia. He suited up for four different NFL teams. He played in the World League of American Football and the Canadian Football League. Garrett was a head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. He is the son of a football coach.

My point? There are plenty of experiences he could be drawing from. He’s probably forgotten more about football than most people watching the broadcast even don’t know that they don’t know. Garrett needs to use these experiences to better tell the story about what he is seeing on the field.

He’s not a coach right now, so there is no need for him to be buttoned-up in his commentary. There are no press conferences, he’s not making the decisions on the field. I’d like to see him loosen up a bit and have some fun. Coaches are used to wearing a loss. When they become broadcasters, they can put the headset down and go to dinner when a bad game is over. 

Jason Garrett has to find what works for him. There are a lot of examples of former coaches that have gotten into the broadcasting realm. He shouldn’t try to copy them, but figure out his niche. He doesn’t have the personality of Jon Gruden or John Madden, and that’s fine. Garrett should start with just being himself and using his knowledge of the game to bring the viewer some insight.

Once Garrett lets his guard down and lets himself get into the flow of the game he’ll be fine just telling the viewers what he is seeing. Until then, he’s just that persona he created as the former Cowboys coach – bland, speaking a lot and saying nothing. I hope that changes soon. 

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Adam The Bull Is Giving Cleveland Something It’s Never Had Before

“It was only more recently that I was like why do I have to only be a radio guy?”

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After spending 22 years on the radio, Adam “The Bull” Gerstenhaber was ready for a new adventure.  In fact, the former co-host of Bull and Fox on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland did not have a new job lined up when he signed off from his 11-year radio home last month.

“I was already leaving without having a new project,” admitted Gerstenhaber during a recent phone interview with BSM.  “I left before I knew for sure I had a ‘next project’.”

Gerstenhaber was preparing for his final show with co-host Dustin Fox on April 1st when he was contacted by an executive producer for TEGNA, a company that was developing a Cleveland sports television show on YouTube.  The executive producer, who had just found out that Bull was a free agent, made it clear that he wanted Bull to be a part of the new project.

It all came together very quickly. 

“Let’s talk on Monday,” Gerstenhaber told the executive producer. “And within a week they signed me up.”

The Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show on YouTube featuring Gerstenhaber, former ESPN personality Jay Crawford, 92.3 The Fan’s Garrett Bush, and rotating hosts to make up a four-person round-table show, made its debut last Monday.  The show, which airs weekdays from 11am to 1pm, features passionate Cleveland sports talk, live guests, either in-studio or via Zoom, as well as interaction from the audience through social media.

“I’m very excited,” said Gerstenhaber.  “It’s a definite adjustment for me after 22 years on radio doing television.  For the last 11 years, I’ve been doing a radio show with just one other host and I was the lead guy doing most of the talking and now I’m on a show with three other people and it’s such an adjustment.  So far, I’m having a ball.”  

And so far, the reaction to the show has been very positive.

A big reason why is that it’s something that Cleveland didn’t have and really never had, unlike a city like New York, where there are local radio shows that are simulcast on regional sports channels. 

“There’s nothing like that in Cleveland,” said Gerstenhaber.  “And there was certainly nothing like this with a panel.  Cleveland is such a massive sports town and now people that don’t live in Cleveland that are maybe retired in Florida or Arizona, now they actually have a TV show that they can watch that’s Cleveland-centric.”

The new venture certainly represents a big change in what Bull has been used to in his radio career.  He’s enjoying the freedom of not having to follow a hard clock for this show. In fact, there have already been some occasions where the show has been able to go a little longer than scheduled because they have the flexibility to do that on YouTube.

Doing a show on YouTube gives the panel a great opportunity to go deep into topics and spend some quality time with guests.  And while there is no cursing on the show at the moment, there could be the potential for that down the road.

Don’t expect the show is going to become X-rated or anything like that, but the objective is to be able to capture the spirit and emotion of being a sports fan and host.

“It’s something we may do in the future,” said Gerstenhaber.  “Not curse just to curse but it gives us the option if we get fired up.  It is allowed because there’s no restrictions there.  The company doesn’t want us to do it at the moment.”  

There’s also been the shift for Gerstenhaber from being the “point guard” on his old radio show, driving the conversation and doing most of the talking, to now taking a step back and having Crawford distributing the ball on the television show.

For a guy called “The Bull”, that will take some getting used to. 

“Jay is a pro’s pro,” said Gerstenhaber.  “He’s the point guard for this but he’s also part of the conversation.  I’m not used to not being the point guard so I have to adjust to that.  I think it’s gone pretty well and the chemistry is pretty good and with time we’ll get used to the flow of it.”  

Gerstenhaber’s move from sports radio to an internet television show is a perfect example of how the industry is changing.  A good portion of the listening and viewing audience these days, especially those in the younger demographic, are not necessarily watching traditional television or listening to terrestrial radio.  For a lot of sports fans, watching and listening on a mobile device or a computer has become a very important way of life.

The desire to adapt, along with a shorter workday, was very enticing to him.

“It was only more recently that I was like why do I have to only be a radio guy?” wondered Gerstenhaber.  “There were things about my job that I was unhappy about.  I was doing a five-hour radio show.  It’s too long. That’s crazy.  Nobody should be doing a five-hour radio show at this point.” 

Broadcasting on the internet has arrived and it’s not just a couple of sports fans doing a show from their garage anymore.  The business has evolved to the point where the technology has provided more opportunities for those who have already enjoyed success in the industry and are looking for new challenges.

Kind of like Adam The Bull!

“I think years ago, probably like many people in the radio business, we looked at internet and podcasts as like whatever…those guys aren’t professionals…they’re amateurs,” said Gerstenhaber.  “But the game has changed.”

Gerstenhaber, Crawford and everyone associated with the “Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show” should not have much of a problem attracting the younger audience. That demographic is already accustomed to watching shows on YouTube and other streaming platforms.  The challenge now is to get the more mature audience on board. There are certainly some obstacles there.

I know this from experience with trying to explain to my mother in Florida how she can hear me on the radio and watch me on television simply by using her tablet.

Bull can certainly relate to that.

“My mother is still trying to figure out how to watch the show live,” said Gerstenhaber with a chuckle.  “The older fans struggle with that. A lot of my older fans here in Cleveland are like how do I watch it? For people that are under 40 and certainly people that under 30, watching a YouTube show is like okay I watch everything on my phone or device.  It’s such a divide and obviously as the years go by, that group will increase.” 

With the television show off and running, Gerstenhaber still has a passion for his roots and that’s the radio side of the business.  In the next couple of weeks, “The Bull” is set to announce the launch of two podcasts, one daily and one weekly, that will begin next month.  But he also hasn’t ruled out the possibility of returning to terrestrial radio at some point.

“I have not closed the door to radio,” said Gerstenhaber.  “I still love radio.  I would still, in the right set of circumstances, consider going back to radio but it would have to really be the perfect situation.  I’m excited about (the television show) and right now I don’t want to do anything else but I’m certainly going to remain open-minded to radio if a really excellent opportunity came up.”

The landscape of the broadcasting industry, particularly when it comes to sports, has certainly changed over the years and continues to evolve.  Adam Gerstenhaber certainly enjoyed a tremendous amount of success on the radio side, both in New York and in Cleveland, but now he has made the transition to something new with the YouTube television show and he’s committed to making it a success.

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BSM Writers

Why You Should Be Making Great TikTok Content

“We’re specially trained in the world of TSL (time spent listening), and the longer people view your content on TikTok, the more the app rewards you by shoving your content into more and more feeds.”

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It feels like there’s a new social media platform to pay attention to every other week. That makes it easy to overlook when one of them actually presents value to your brand. It wasn’t long ago that TikTok was primarily used by teenagers with the focus being silly dance trends filmed for video consumption with their friends and followers alike. Now, as the general public has become in tune with how this complicated app works, it’s grown far beyond that.

TikTok is now an app used by all types of demographics and unlike TikTok’s closely related cousins Instagram and Facebook, this app provides a certain type of nuance that I think people in our line of work can really excel in. 

Before I get into the nuts and bolts of how you can use TikTok to your advantage and how to make your videos catch on, I think it’s important to first mention why this matters for you. Now, if I’m being realistic, I’m sure there are some that have already stopped reading this or those that could scroll away fast enough when they saw the words TikTok. You might be thinking that this doesn’t fit your demo, or maybe that it’s a waste of time because productivity here won’t directly lead to an uptick in Nielsen ratings. But I’m not sure any social network directly leads to what we ultimately get judged on, and we aren’t always pumping out content directly to our core audience.

TikTok, like any other app you may use, is marketing. This is another free tool to let people out there know who you are and what you offer in this endless sea of content. And the beauty of TikTok is that it directly caters its algorithm to content creators just like us. Bottom line, if you are a personality in sports talk, there’s no reason you can’t be crushing it on TikTok right now. All it takes is a little direction, focus, consistency, and a plan. 

Unlike Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter where you can throw a photo up with a caption and be done for the day, TikTok’s whole model is built on creative videos that keep users engaged for longer periods of time. This approach works. According to Oberlo, a social media stat tracking site, people spend more time per day on TikTok than any other popular social media application. 38 minutes per day!

This is where this is good news for us in talk radio. We’re specially trained in the world of TSL (time spent listening), and the longer people view your content on TikTok, the more the app rewards you by shoving your content into more and more feeds. TikTok’s algorithm doesn’t care how many followers you have, your level of credibility, or the production on your video. All ir cares about is 1) Is your content good. and 2) Are people watching it. 3) How long are they watching it. The more people watch and the longer they watch creates a snowball effect. Your videos views will skyrocket, sometimes within hours. 

So, how do you create content that will catch on? It’s really not all that different than what you do every day. Create thought-provoking commentary that makes people think, argue, or stay till the end to get the info you teased up for them. I’ve found through my own trial and error that it’s best if you stay away from time-sensitive material, I’ve had more success the more evergreen my content is. That way, the shelf life expands beyond just that day or week. This is different for everyone and there’s no one-size-fits-all, but this is where I’ve seen the most success. 

Also, put yourself out there, don’t be afraid to say something that people are going to vehemently disagree with. Again, it’s not unlike what we do every day. It’s one thing to get someone to listen, it’s another to get them to engage. Once they hit you in the comment section, you’ve got them hooked. Comments breed more views and on and on. But don’t just let those sit there, even the smallest interaction back like a shoulder shrug emoji can go a long way in creating more play for your video. 

If you want to grow quickly, create a niche for yourself. The best content creators that I follow on TikTok all put out very similar content for most of their videos. This means, unlike Instagram where it’s great to show what a wildly interesting and eclectic person you are, TikTok users want to know what they’re getting the second your face pops up on that screen. So if you are the sports history guy, be the sports history guy all the time. If you are the top 5 list guy, be the top 5 list guy all the time, and on and on, you get the point. 

Other simple tricks

  • Splice small videos together. Don’t shoot one long video. 
  • 90 seconds to 2 minutes is a sweet spot amount of time. 
  • Add a soft layer of background instrumental music (this feature is found in the app when you are putting the finishing touches on your video) 
  • Label your video across the screen at the start and time it out so that it disappears seconds later. This way a user gets an idea of what the content is immediately and then can focus on you delivering your message thereafter.  
  • Research trending hashtags, they are far more important than whatever you caption your video. 
  • Use closed captions so that people can follow your video without sound. 

Finally, don’t be intimidated by it or snub your nose at it. Anything that helps your brand is worth doing and anything worth doing is worth doing well. 

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BSM Writers

Does Tom Brady’s Salary Make Sense For FOX In a Changing Media World?

“The risk here doesn’t have to do with Brady specifically, but rather the business of televising football games in general.”

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FOX is playing it too safe when it comes to adding Tom Brady.

That’s going to sound weird given the size of Brady’s broadcasting contract. Even if that deal isn’t worth as much as initially reported, it’s a hell of a lot of loot, especially considering Brady has remained steadfastly uninteresting for a solid 20 years now.

Let’s not pretend that is a detriment in the eyes of a television network, however. There’s a long line of famous athletes companies like FOX have happily paid millions without ever requiring them to be much more than consistently inoffensive and occasionally insightful. Yes, Brady is getting more money than those previous guys, but he’s also the most successful quarterback in NFL history.

The risk here doesn’t have to do with Brady specifically, but rather the business of televising football games in general. More specifically, the fact that the business of televising football games is changing, and while it may not be changing quite as rapidly as the rest of the sports-media industry, but it is changing. There’s an increasing number of choices available to viewers not only in the games that can be watched, but how they are consumed. Everything in the industry points to an increasingly fragmented audience and yet by signing Brady to be in the broadcast booth once he retires, FOX is paying a premium for a single component in a tried-and-true broadcasting formula will be more successful. 

Think of Brady’s hiring as a bet FOX made. A 10-year commitment in which it is doubling down on the status quo at a time of obvious change. FOX saw ESPN introduce the ManningCast last year, and instead of seeing the potential for a network to build different types of products, FOX decided, “Nah, we don’t want to do anything different or new.” Don’t let the price tag fool you. FOX went out and bought a really famous former player to put in a traditional broadcast booth to hope that the center holds..

Maybe it will. Maybe Brady is that interesting or he’s that famous and his presence is powerful enough to defy the trends within the industry. I’m not naive enough to think that value depends on the quality of someone’s content. The memoir of a former U.S. president will fetch a multi-million-dollar advance not because of the literary quality, but because of the size of the potential audience. It’s the same rationale behind FOX’s addition of Brady.

But don’t mistake an expensive addition from an innovative one. The ManningCast was an actual innovation. A totally different way of televising a football game, and while not everyone liked it, some people absolutely loved it. It’s not going to replace the regular Monday Night Football format, but it wasn’t supposed to. It’s an alternative or more likely a complement and ESPN was sufficiently encouraged to extend the ManningCast through 2024. It’s a different product. Another option it is offering its customers. You can choose to watch to the traditional broadcast format with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in the booth or you can watch the Mannings or you can toggle between both. What’s FOX’s option for those audience members who prefer something like the ManningCast to the traditional broadcast?

It’s not just ESPN, either. Amazon offered viewers a choice of broadcasters, too, from a female announcing tandem of Hannah Storm and Andrea Kramer beginning in 2018 to the Scouts Feed with Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks in 2020.

So now, not only do viewers have an increasingly wide array of choices on which NFL games they can watch — thanks to Sunday Ticket — they in some instances have a choice of the announcing crew for that given game. Amid this economic environment, FOX not only decided that it was best to invest in a single product, but it decided to make that investment in a guy who had never done this particular job before nor shown much in the way of an aptitude for it.

Again, maybe Brady is the guy to pull it off. He’s certainly famous enough. His seven Super Bowl victories are unmatched and span two franchises, and while he’s denied most attempts to be anything approaching interesting in public over the past 20 years, perhaps that is changing. His increasingly amusing Twitter posts over the past 2 years could be a hint of the humor he’s going to bring to the broadcast booth. That Tampa Tom is his true personality, which remained under a gag order from the Sith Lord Bill Belichick, and now Brady will suddenly become football’s equivalent of Charles Barkley.

But that’s a hell of a needle to thread for anyone, even someone as famous as Brady, and it’s a really high bar for someone with no broadcasting experience. The upside for FOX is that its traditional approach holds. The downside, however, is that it is not only spending more money on a product with a declining market, but it is ignoring obvious trends within the industry as it does so.

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