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No One Can Justify Remote Broadcasts In 2022

“The number of networks behaving this way is dropping, but the fact that there is still a list is absolutely maddening.”

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Baseball broadcasts are still being held hostage in several cities. There has been no ransom demanded or locations given for a money drop. It’s a shame too, because the hostage holders are the very networks and teams these broadcasts are seen/heard on.

While the country is trying to get back to normal, some broadcasts are still not traveling to games. Yes, I’m serious. The number of networks behaving this way is dropping, but the fact that there is still a list is absolutely maddening. 

I’ll say it as bluntly as I can. There is no excuse for broadcasters not to be traveling. None. Yes, in 2020 it was the only way. Today it’s more NO WAY. The fact that networks, radio stations, and teams are fighting this is ridiculous. For those claiming to want the best broadcasts they can possibly get to serve a fan base, not allowing travel is hypocritical. 

MASN issued a statement as to why it wasn’t allowing broadcast teams to travel. It read “The global pandemic required all of us to learn new lessons in innovation, resourcefulness, and resilience. MASN is carrying forward some of those lessons.”

These teams are taking heat from the media and from the fans. Rightfully so. I felt for Bob Carpenter on the Nationals’ television broadcast, when the picture was lost during Washington’s game at Pittsburgh. What do you do? How are you supposed to do your job? You can’t. There was also confusion over a player entering the game.

This is so unfair to the broadcasters and worse, to the fans. 

The Orioles had several issues too. Fans complained about delayed commentary, like when a key error was called several seconds after it was already seen by fans. During one spring training game, an on-site MASNsports.com reporter handled the broadcast because of technical difficulties. It’s not the broadcasters’ fault at all. Blame those that deserve it – RSNs that are trying to save a buck. 

Finally, the folks at MASN caved to the ongoing pressures. The Nationals broadcasters were in San Francisco for the series on April 29th and the Orioles were back on the road for a series with the Yankees April 26th. Victory!

It took embarrassing glitches, numerous mistakes, and finally social media critiques by the team’s fan bases. There was no reason for this to even be an issue. 

The folks making the decisions seemingly don’t understand how difficult it is to broadcast a game while you’re at the park, let alone trying to follow the action from miles away. If the decision-makers actually did “get it,” it would not have taken all that it did to get this situation corrected.

Broadcasters are ultimately judged on how they perform. Putting the added stress of not being able to actually see the game doesn’t help their cause. Some fans are quick to criticize without knowing the circumstances and the degree of difficulty these professionals are performing under. 

The situation in Anaheim is a little different, but the results have been the same. The Angels’ play-by-play man on television is Matt Vasgersian. He is calling games from Secaucus, New Jersey with the rest of the crew in California. Vasgersian also works for MLB Network, so remote broadcasts are needed in his case. He plans to do up to 100 games for the Angels this season. But the telecasts have been riddled with issues. In mid-April, the Angels were in Texas to face the Rangers. Vasgersian calling the game from hundreds of miles away had the call of a Mike Trout homer that was way behind the picture on TV. Then Vasgersian initially called a home run by Jared Walsh a foul ball. 

“My frustration is high,” Vasgersian told The Athletic recently. “I don’t take myself very seriously…But I take the work seriously. So, if your work is being criticized and clowned on, that stinks. And yeah, I don’t like the idea of that.”

Again, don’t blame the broadcaster.

At this moment, the Angels aren’t planning to travel their radio crew this year. The Orioles seemingly have no plans to let the radio broadcasters follow the television team on the road. The Blue Jays won’t let the radio broadcaster travel either. This is unacceptable as well. It’s much more difficult to call a remote game on radio.

I know, because I did it during the 2020 season with the White Sox. We didn’t complain about it then, because the pandemic was raging and we were working. Less than ideal, but the games were going on. 

The biggest issue as I recall, you couldn’t just trust your eyes. There were multiple monitors in front of me. One had the program feed, there was a tiled screen with the scoreboard, bullpens and an all-9 wide shot of the field. That picture was tiny. To try and pick up a ball in the gap on that monitor was hard to do. I was basically flying blind.

You had to do the best you could and go against everything you knew in play-by-play. I mean, I wanted to be fast to the call like normal, but I had to wait. It seemed like an agonizing amount of time to make sure things happened the way I thought they might. I made plenty of mistakes, I will admit, but I was doing the best I could.  

Brian Anderson backed my thought on the situation. The Milwaukee Brewers broadcaster said in an interview reprinted by the Washington Post, that calling a game off a monitor requires an announcer to rethink years of muscle memory.

“In the stadium, you see contact and you can immediately react. But on the monitor, you would have to wait two beats,” he said. “You fight every instinct to say something because you have to sit there in silence and wait for the next frame because you can’t be wrong. And two seconds can feel like an eternity.”

Like I said, you can’t just trust your eyes and normal thoughts. 

“My eyes can travel 300 feet in a split second,” Anderson said. “But on the monitor, batted balls can look like a foul ball. You can also use your ears at the park, how the ball sounds off the bat. That’s one thing I really lost — how it sounded and how the player reacts when he hits.” he said. I’ll add too, that baseball is probably the hardest to call off of just a monitor. The ball can go in multiple directions and you are at the mercy of a good director and camera operators.”

There is another problem with the broadcasters not traveling with the team. Now that things are becoming more normal again, announcers and reporters have access to the clubhouse again. Those that are on site are getting to develop relationships and are finding out things that the team broadcasters aren’t. I can only imagine how unprepared even the most prepared broadcaster is feeling when he/she doesn’t get word of something that everybody else knows.

Every announcer will tell you that there is value in being there. Going all-in on the team you’re covering is important. Now, even Zoom press conferences are being phased out creating an additional challenge to get information when you aren’t there. I’m getting frustrated for these folks just writing this. 

2020 forced everyone into pivot mode. We all had to be creative on how the product was delivered. The layout and monitor setup we started with in Chicago changed as the season went on based on our needs. It was great to see the cooperation level back then. It was a “whatever you need” mentality. What we all need in 2022 is for teams/networks/radio stations to stop making excuses and get our broadcasters back on the road. 

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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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