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Lisa Kerney Embraces New Challenges At FanDuel TV

“I just learned early on that it was okay to be me.”

Derek Futterman

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From the time she was young, Lisa Kerney considered herself to be a jock. Growing up in Leawood, Kan. as one of five children, Kerney was raised in a household where sports and competition were relatively quotidian and always in the stream of consciousness. After all, her mother was a marathon runner and her father played college basketball at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, so athletics were entrenched in their DNA.

She and her siblings were captivated by the game of football though and it quickly became a part of their Sunday routine after church and yard work. Once Kerney viewed several live game broadcasts and forms of studio programming including SportsCenter on ESPN, she recognized that she wanted to one day be on the other side of the screen.

“At some point when I was 6 or 7 years old, it kind of clicked for me that I was like: ‘Oh wait, I can actually live out these stories and be the one to share [them] with sports fans around the world’,” Kerney recalled. “I became committed to being a sports broadcaster when I was very little and truly had blinders on; I never came up with a Plan B.”

Kerney frequently used her four siblings, other family members, and friends as mock interview subjects throughout her childhood, immediately trying to hone her craft before she had any real-world experience. At the same time though, Kerney played basketball at Saint Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, Kan., and ultimately chose to attend Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. to study broadcast communications and play on the school’s basketball team on a scholarship.

While her primary focus was always to build a career in sports media, playing sports enhanced her abilities as a broadcaster and afforded her perspectives that could have otherwise been left unrealized.

“Being part of a team is such a gift,” she said. “You learn so much not only about yourself but about how to work with others. You learn how to push your limits; you learn how to collaborate; you learn how to communicate. All of these things are critical skills in life.”

Balancing studies and athletic commitments can often be difficult for college students, but Kerney embraced working hard rather than loathing it. By her senior year, she was the team captain of the Lynn University Fighting Knights and was named the school’s scholar-athlete of the year. At the same time, she worked as an intern at Metro Sports, giving her professional exposure to sports media before she graduated with honors.

“I thrived because I really learned how to lean into hard work as well through sports and it became such a part of my fabric,” Kerney expressed. “If I’m not working hard, it doesn’t feel like I’m doing it right.”

Kerney’s first job out of college was at local television station KXLF in Butte, Montana; she started in September 2004 working as a sports reporter and anchor. One year later, she was selected as the best sports reporter and best television personality at the Montana Standard People’s Choice Awards, representing monumental achievements for Kerney as she sought to break into the industry.

Entering that first job in market No. 296, she took the opportunity seriously and tried to be authentic with her audience by being herself on-camera rather than adopting a television persona.

“I just learned early on that it was okay to be me,” Kerney said. “Not only that as I grew that it was okay to be me, but it was the best way for me to grow and succeed to just be the same on-camera as I am off-camera.”

As she experienced success early in her career, Kerney was quick to hire an agent and explored opportunities to continue to report on sports in a larger market. After nearly taking a job in San Diego and interviewing for a role in Austin, she was informed by her agent of a chance to join KING-TV in Seattle, which turned out to be the perfect fit.

Working in a major sports city for the first time in her career, she noticed a stark contrast in the culture and its associated expectations, requiring her to intensify her efforts to progress as a reporter. It was early in her tenure when she conjectured that she had a lot to learn if she wanted to keep her position at the station and responded by making connections with colleagues and being inquisitive, looking to maintain a positive growth trajectory.

“I had no idea how much work I had to do on me because I was just living it up; I was living my dream job even when I was in Montana – and little did I know it was very different in Seattle because the expectations were so high,” she said. “All of a sudden you were so visible. I really took a step back when I got to Seattle…. [but] I just started asking a ton and ton of questions and really invested in making myself better.”

After hosting Northwest Sports Tonight featuring local, collegiate, and professional coverage of sporting events and athletes, along with anchoring weekend sports coverage, Kerney came to the east coast for the first time in her career. She began her time in the New York metropolitan area in Secaucus, N.J. working at MLB Network as a sports contributor and reporter for nearly a year before transitioning to work directly in “The Big Apple,” the number one media market in the world, with CBS 2.

Beginning her shift at 4:30 a.m., Kerney was the sports anchor on CBS 2 News This Morning, recapping the previous day’s action and previewing what was forthcoming in the day ahead. Once that show ended at 7:00 a.m., she walked across the studio to host Live From the Couch – a morning show grounded in entertainment news.

Working alongside John Elliott and Carolina Bermudez, Kerney and the team welcomed actors, authors, and other guests who typically appear on morning programs such as Today and Good Morning America. Moreover, the show would also have lifestyle segments, such as those illustrating beauty secrets and demonstrating cooking tips, for their viewers to enjoy and learn from.

“It was a great departure for me because I was able to extend myself and really kind of put a toe in the entertainment world,” Kerney expressed. “….As much fun as that was, my heart and soul has always been in sports. It was a short-lived show and a ton of fun but I was ready to move off of that morning shift.”

When she was growing up in Leanwood, Kan., Kerney was mesmerized by the thought of one day working in sports media, specifically at ESPN as a SportsCenter anchor. Whether it was Hannah Storm, Robin Roberts, Linda Cohn, or others, Kerney found herself inspired and motivated to succeed whenever she watched women working in the industry.

“That is such a gift that I took for granted for a really long time because I thought in my world that women were always a part of the sports world,” Kerney expressed. “….Growing up being able to watch them and be such professionals and so well-versed in their craft and be able to go toe-to-toe with men and be able to deliver sports equally. It was something important for me to see as a young girl.”

Before landing her dream job as a SportsCenter anchor at ESPN, Kerney had previously turned the network down two times – largely because the timing did not work out. From the first time she began to consume sports content though, being a part of the ESPN team was something Kerney long desired, even telling adults as a child that she sought to work for the network. Despite not being taken seriously by some of her peers when younger, Kerney focused on achieving that goal from the day her interest was piqued and did so when she officially signed on with the network in February 2014.

“I don’t think we can say enough about SportsCenter because you have every single element of sports television in [each episode],” Kerney said. “You have highlights; you have interviews; you have breaking news and also each SportsCenter [during] each time of the day is completely different. We have our pre-production meetings and we map out the whole show, but at any point, if breaking news comes in, you just throw those scripts away and you’re just basically ad-libbing and moving on the fly and pivoting and taking interviews from across the country.”

Aside from anchoring the network’s signature program, Kerney also penetrated into the podcasting space as the host of ESPN’s first internally-produced podcast called Stay Curious with Lisa Kerney. Once she began working in her hosting role and became a regular voice on the network, she was given the opportunity to host Fantasy Football Now on Sunday mornings throughout the National Football League season.

One of the first subjects taught to students in science classes is Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of motion – the law of inertia – which states that an object will sustain motion at a constant speed unless acted upon by an outside force. As her momentum trended upward at ESPN, Kerney became hesitant to decline any new opportunities presented to her, essentially removing the word ‘No’ from her lexicon.

Yet as she tried to raise a family with four young children and routinely drove 73 miles from her home to work at ESPN’s primary campus in Bristol, Conn., she found that accelerating her career and maintaining her work-life balance was unsustainable.

“As much as I wanted to give to ESPN and wanted to continue – and I had a contract on the table that I walked away from which a lot of people are like, ‘How do you do that?’ – it was a time in my life where I bet on myself and bet on my future,” Kerney said. “Sure enough, I get into an industry where betting is the next thing in sports.”

Kerney interviewed to join FanDuel in 2018, a time when the sportsbook was exploring opportunities to grow within sports media and working to turn its vision of launching its own network and OTT streaming platform into a reality. Following her initial conversation with Executive Producer and Vice President of TV Kevin Grigsby, Kerney was captivated by what was written on the company’s whiteboard and signed on to be a host of the platform’s first sports betting program called More Ways to Win.

Five years later, Kerney’s show is a central part of the recently-launched FanDuel TV, which includes shows featuring Kay Adams, Michelle Beadle, Shams Charania, Pat McAfee, and Bill Simmons.

“We’re so proud at FanDuel because we’ve positioned ourselves in a way to play a significant role in the changing landscape,” Kerney said. “We’ve had our show and we’re the core of a sports betting network in More Ways to Win, and I’m grateful to be able to host our show.”

The linear and digital network evolved out of TVG Network, an affiliate of FanDuel, and is available on multiple dissemination platforms including social media outlets and the FanDuel Sportsbook mobile application. According to Kerney, the network has various pieces of news to share regarding content development in the fourth quarter and into the start of the new year: one of which is the launch of a new NBA show called Run It Back featuring Beadle and Charania, along with Chandler Parsons and Eddie Gonzalez.

“I’ve been here almost five years at FanDuel and it feels like five minutes because of how fast our industry is growing and how quickly we’re changing,” Kerney expressed. “It’s thrilling to be a leader in this space.”

Kerney describes her hosting style as energetic and relatable, supplementing the analysis provided by betting experts and former players with her own commentary and ability to keep each show both dynamic and engaging. She is eagerly anticipating the show’s continued evolution and is cognizant in communicating her authenticity with viewers and aims to evoke genuine interest in sports betting.

“I’m just a sports fan that gets to talk about sports for a living,” Kerney said. “I’m grateful for every opportunity that I’m at the desk and am a point guard of our show. I don’t give out specific bets but I have really smart analysts and experts that are on the show with me.”

The show seeks to appeal to all audiences whether or not viewers have partaken in any form of sports betting. In essence, it serves a dual purpose of assimilating new customers to sports betting and the FanDuel Sportsbook while enriching the expertise of existing sports bettors and keeping them interested.

“We want to bring you along with the game; we want to bring you along with the terminology; we want to help you understand while giving you information to help you place your bets and what bets we think are going to play out in a certain way,” Kerney said. “A lot of times our experts and our analysts don’t agree and they explain why and that’s the fun part…. At the same time for seasoned bettors, you get really insightful information and statistics and really deep research that you wouldn’t get on other shows.”

Following a decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court in May 2018 in the court case Murphy v. NCAA that struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act – which prohibited sports betting in all states except Nevada – it has been delegated to states to adopt legislation officially legalizing it if they so choose. At the moment, more than 30 states have legalized some form of sports betting and many others are considering the measure including California, whose voters will decide the fate of two propositions this coming November regarding the practice.

“They’re coming fast; we see them falling so quickly,” Kerney said of states legalizing sports betting. “The regulation is so important not only for the safety of all of our players, but obviously the positives that come with each state legalizing and the taxing and where those tax dollars can go to help improve schools and roads and all those things.”

Nearly 20% of American adults say they have bet on sports sometime in the last year according to a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center. The National Football League, its teams, and its players encompass an ideal property for bettors to follow and gamble on, Kerney says, largely because of the existing popularity and wide variety of bets that can be made on any given play. From props to teasers to parlays, sportsbooks like FanDuel continue to pitch to fans the ability to go beyond the game and have a stake in the action – a sort of metadrama instilled within the manifestation of competition in live sports.

“Back in 2018, the way I described sports betting to people is [that] it’s truly like playing a game within a game within a game,” Kerney expressed. “It keeps you interested beyond the score; it keeps you interested beyond… who won, who lost and what [a team’s] record [is]… Our slogan is ‘Make Every Moment More’ because literally in every moment, you could have a bet riding which is really exciting to turn up your Sunday a notch.”

Social media is a new content avenue that has augmented the power of viewer choice, leaving it in the hands of the consumer pertaining to just when or where to immerse themselves in multimedia – and nearly all distribution platforms have adapted themselves to be accessible in this way. It was a change facilitated by evolving technologies and shifting psychographics within the marketplace, combined with meeting an immediate and symbiotic need to continue to connect with sports fans through a global pandemic amid the cessation of game competition.

More Ways to Win was initially distributed through local regional sports networks – usually in states that had legalized sports betting. The problem came in finding the show as since it was distributed on a wide array of networks, consumers sometimes ran into trouble locating where it was in their market. With content offerings on multiple platforms, consumers may opt to watch or listen to programming that they can more easily find; therefore, new and innovative platforms are emphasizing enhancing their ability to be found.

“When we started our show back in 2018, we had a great product but our challenge for a long time was distribution,” Kerney said. “….I would be putting out through the magic of social media; I kept posting like, ‘Hey, catch our show here,’ and then it would be a rundown of 30 different states and local markets and times. We were all over the place and it was not a streamlined process of how best to find our show and at the time our show, More Ways to Win, was the only forward-facing content FanDuel had from a linear perspective.”

While she was unable to comment on any specific future opportunities, Kerney alluded to chances to continue to hone her craft and try new things down the road. Having worked in sports media for nearly two decades, she remains curious and ambitious in her own career pursuits, along with helping to grow the reach and actualization of the full potential of FanDuel TV.

“I’m competitive as hell, and not only with people around me but with myself to just get better and better every day,” Kerney said. “Now having FanDuel TV, a new challenge for us at FanDuel, this has really been the highlight of my career – getting to step out of my comfort zone and expand in ways that I haven’t yet. The best is yet to come for sure.”

Being able to step outside one’s comfort zone can often be difficult to embark upon and subsequently achieve for aspiring professionals. Coping with feelings of discomfort though is usually essential in finding one’s niche and effectuating vertical movement in the industry. One of those sources of uneasiness is small-market television and the thought of moving away to a great unknown. Young journalists, sometimes oblivious of the value starting in a small market garners, can feel crestfallen and apprehensive towards opportunities in those locales – which is why Kerney tries to disseminate a positive message to those she encounters.

“Small market TV is such a gift when you’re just starting out,” Kerney said. “Go to the small markets; be in markets that are barely visible. You can mess up; you can ask questions; it’s not going to stay with you. You can really get reps that are so valuable before you move on and really build your confidence.”

Working in smaller markets though should not preclude journalists from taking the job any less seriously than they would if they were in larger markets. Usually, the experience and connections made in smaller markets prove to be valuable as time goes on; therefore, it is imperative the job is viewed in the same light and executed as such.

“Hard work and sacrifice are non-negotiable in this business,” Kerney said. “We work holidays; we work crazy nights and mornings… constantly running on very little sleep. It’s hard work; it’s sacrifice.”

While Kerney has had the opportunity to interview athletes widely regarded as elite including Aaron Judge and LeBron James, she affirms that it is the broadcast teams with whom she has worked that have made her career invaluable. She looks forward to what the future holds both at FanDuel TV and in other opportunities not yet divulged, along with continuing to raise her four children with her husband and former two-time NFL Pro Bowl defensive end Patrick Kerney.

“We’re just getting started and that’s very true,” Kerney said. “Now that I’ve been in the industry for almost two decades, I have perspectives and a voice that is valued and respected. It is allowing me other opportunities that I can’t share right this second, but you’re going to see me outside [of] the TV box very soon.”

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Eavesdropping: Busted Open on SiriusXM

“If Cody would have won at WrestleMania 39 there would have been cheers. But what you got because of Cody’s victory last night was tears.”

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Graphic for Eavesdropping: Busted Open Radio

The day after the Super Bowl, it’s always fun to hear sports radio in the two towns which had teams in the game. In that same vein, I tuned into Busted Open on SiriusXM the day after WrestleMania weekend.

Host Dave LaGreca, who plays the role of the fan on the show, was joined live from WWE World by co-hosts Tommy Dreamer, Mark Henry and Bully Ray. The fan exhibit was not open to the public at the start of the show, but fans entered the picture after the first hour.

The first hour of this particular show went about as fast as a radio show can possibly move. As soon as the show started the hosts immediately got into making fun of Bully Ray, who had been a surprise guest-referee in a match during WrestleMania night two, for how he looked in the referee uniform.

“Allow me to be the very first to admit those stripes don’t look the best on me,” the WWE Hall of Famer replied to the jokes.

Mark Henry jumped in to say, “It was kind of just what WrestleMania needed. To have the ECW influence on the show, great representation for the brand and showing respect to Paul Heyman as well.” Heyman had been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame during the weekend and was celebrated not only for his WWE contributions but as the creator of ECW, which was based in Philadelphia, where he first worked with Bully Ray who was then known as Bubba Ray Dudley.

“I had people backstage in WWE telling me ‘We have never seen you smile that much in life ever,’ said Bully Ray “…I jumped at the opportunity. Too much fun.  Last night was the first WrestleMania that I got to appreciate…the level of stress that came with [when you are performing in the matches] you’re not able to take it all in…it’s really not fun because it’s so stressful.”

Bully Ray said he could feel the pop as he was introduced and really enjoyed getting to “smell the roses for the first time.”

LaGreca could no longer hold it in. He cut off the talk about his co-host participating in WrestleMania and moved on to the heart of the matter. In the main event the night before, Cody Rhodes had ended the run of Roman Reigns as the Undisputed Universal Champion after more than three and a half years. More importantly to the hosts and fans alike, the story of Cody Rhodes building to this moment was one they all agreed was one of the great moments in WrestleMania history.

Of course, WWE loves surprises and on the second night of this year’s WrestleMania, they had plenty in store. The Rock had already come back to be a part of the WrestleMania 40 storyline and then during the Sunday main event, John Cena and The Undertaker came out as surprises.

Bully Ray gave a great description of what he was doing as the main event was happening. He said he was with Damian Priest, who had earlier in the evening won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, and while they didn’t plan to watch the main event live, when it started, they thought they needed to see it. “We ran through the halls and go out into the arena,” he said. “Guys, when the gong hit for The Undertaker, the both of us turned into 12-year-olds…we were jumping up and down…lost it, loved it.”

Mark Henry said, “We reacted the same way. I cannot imagine what that must’ve felt like in person.” Bully Ray replied, “When you can hear the pop in a stadium, you know the pop is big.”

LaGreca said, “There wasn’t a lot to get excited about with night number one, but night two was just hit, after hit, after hit. And that main event, with all the stories that played out and had a conclusion during that match…You couldn’t have played that out to a better conclusion than what we saw last night.”

The hosts then listened to an audio clip from the previous year, where the day after WrestleMania some fans, including LaGreca, were extremely disappointed that Cody Rhodes did not beat Roman Reigns and “finish his story” then. At the time, Bully Ray had said there was a bigger picture story WWE would build that would show Cody fighting hard times much like his father, ‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes had gone through. Mark Henry agreed.

LaGreca said he was “eating some crow” but then admitted it’s all part of it where the emotion gets so high, and he pointed out that people were actually crying when the main event ended.  “If Cody would have won at WrestleMania 39 there would have been cheers.  But what you got because of Codys victory last night was tears,” LaGreca said. “This is an end of one story, but more importantly the beginning of a new story.”

LaGreca came back from a break and reverted immediately back to what the difference was in Rhodes winning the title in 2024 versus having done it in 2023. “It went from a great moment…to maybe one of the greatest WrestleMania moments of all time last night,” he said.

There was strong insight given out by all of the former wrestlers at different times during the show, and they also pointed to things a casual fan may not have picked up on. One of those happened when you heard ring announcer Samantha Irvin get genuinely emotional in announcing Rhodes as the new champion.

“We’re not used to hearing emotion in a ring announcer’s voice, so Samantha Irvin brought something special and extra to the table in that announcement,” said Bully Ray.

Tommy Dreamer added, “It was the most perfect imperfection ever and it made that moment even more real…it was something that will be remembered through the annals of time.”

As the hosts continued to talk about the emotion of the night, Henry said, “It felt like WE won.” This gave Bully Ray the chance to sum it all up as he said, “The key word that you just said, WE. Cody made you feel like you were a part of his struggle. You were a part of his story.”

Henry went on to say, “I felt like last night, for the first time, that I could almost cry for Cody. I honestly felt emotional seeing him become the face of this new era, the ‘Triple H’ era….Wrestling is a feel business and if you don’t feel it then it’s not worth really putting on television. I felt that [last night] and I know every fan felt that.”

The hosts continued to give insight as they discussed a gift given to Cody Rhodes by WWE executives backstage and a spot where a table broke before it was supposed to and how smoothly the performers pivoted. Having Henry, Dreamer and Bully Ray on the show allows for a lot of this type of discussion where they can give perspective from having been in the ring.

Later LeGreca is asked if he would rank this WrestleMania up there with WrestleMania 17, widely considered the best of all time. LeGreca said if night number two stood on its own he would say it was better, but perhaps not if you consider both nights. The panel as a whole agreed it was definitely up there as one of the best and Henry noted it will be the highest grossing, so that is one way to judge which was the best.

“There were very few holes in that show,” Dreamer said.

While the first hour was rapid fire and had a ton of great reaction to all of the highlights of the night before, the show took a bit of a turn in the second hour. As the crowd became a part of the show it seemed to change the demeanor of the hosts a bit, especially LaGreca who seemed to be playing to the crowd rather than the listening audience. He yelled out “We did it!” talking about Cody Rhodes winning and then led a “Cody! Cody! Cody!” chant that didn’t go over well to those not on site.

Then there was a very strange guest appearance by WWE superstar Liv Morgan which seemed to bring the show to a halt. Later, Kevin Owens was live on the show and his appearance made a lot more sense as he participated in WrestleMania and had thoughts to share about others who performed and the storylines which were created. Owens helped bring the energy of the show back up and you could tell as a listener how passionate he is about wrestling and what took place during WrestleMania 40.

The programmer in me would remind the hosts not to do the show for their hardcore fans only, as they have to assume people are coming in and out of the show. They had incredible content in the first hour with really strong opinions from their experts, but there was never any resetting or going back to what was talked about, which I thought was a bit of a miss.

With that said, if you are a wrestling fan and you didn’t feed off the energy and excitement the hosts had for what they had witnessed the night before, something is wrong with you. Busted Open Radio was an excellent listen as a follow up to what was a memorable WresleMania weekend.

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Andrew Catalon is Prepared to Meet the Moment

“You get excited like a fan would – you inform – but ultimately the game is the show, and you’re just kind of there to supplement what we’re watching.”

Derek Futterman

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Andrew Catalon
Courtesy: John Paul Filo, CBS

The city of Pittsburgh is known for its propensity to build, serving as the point of widespread adoption of steel-making that revolutionized the construction industry for perpetuity. Situated at the conjunction of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers, the locale is fixed at the pathway of innovation and splendor where what may seem impossible can expeditiously render itself into reality. Even though Andrew Catalon did not forecast it beforehand, he found himself at the intersection of fantasy and reality at PPG Paints Arena during a game within the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. The No. 14 Oakland Golden Grizzlies were closing in on an all-time upset of the No. 3 Kentucky Wildcats, and time was waning on the clock.

Catalon has called many upset victories behind the microphone across a variety of sports since starting his work as a play-by-play announcer. Just one year ago, he delivered an enduring call of No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson defeating No. 1 Purdue in the first round of the tournament. Fans can purchase T-shirts with Catalon’s verbiage of “FDU Believe It?!,” commemorating what is regarded as one of the greatest upsets in the history of the sport and demonstrating the impact of his words. The key to it all is to remain focused on the action taking place on the court in order to deliver an accurate and apropos soundtrack to the moment.

“I’d say the biggest lesson I’ve learned with some of the upsets over the years is not to get ahead of yourself,” Catalon said. “It’s a long game, and there will be time at the end to explain the significance of it, but before that, you’ve got to call the game and stay within that moment.”

Throughout his broadcast career, Catalon has broadcast 300 college basketball games and usually does not think about hypotheticals; however, the FDU-Purdue matchup happened to represent a rare exception in that paradigm. After all, a FDU victory would represent just the second time in tournament history that a No. 16 seed defeated a No. 1 seed in the bracket. The only other time it had happened was in 2018 when No. 16 UMBC beat No. 1 Virginia, and the moment as delivered by play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz continues to stand the test of time.

“I knew it’d be replayed [and] I wanted to be prepared in that moment, but I also think that being spontaneous and just kind of going with the flow also makes for a good final call,” Catalon said. “Last year I did have that ‘FDU Believe It?!’ kind of in the back of my mind as the game went on, but for Oakland this year, it just kind of came out.”

Once Kentucky guard Antonio Reeves clanked a desperation three-point attempt long off the rim, Catalon exclaimed that Oakland had completed “a March memory of a lifetime.” From there, he let the crowd and marching band tell the story accompanied by a dichotomy of jubilation and despair. Part of what makes that possible is the understanding from color commentator Steve Lappas of how to approach the moment, something that has been built through the countless repetitions he and Catalon have had broadcasting games together. In fact, Catalon estimates he can count the number of college basketball games he has announced without Lappas on his hands.

“I know what he wants to say or when he wants to get in, and he knows when I want to get in and what I want to say, and that just makes it so much better,” Catalon said. “So look, there’s nothing better than having a consistent partner, and I credit CBS for that; they have kept us together.”

Reaching these types of moments requires comprehensive preparation, research and informed observation to understand the teams and accurately report and expound on the surrounding storylines. For a typical March Madness game, Catalon watches the previous matchups for the teams he has coming up on his schedule and reviews his boards from years prior.

“I don’t want to be the guy that just parachutes in having never seen a team before, and I think fans can detect that, so my prep is always to get up to speed so that a viewer of a team doesn’t think that, ‘This guy hasn’t watched us play,’ or, ‘This guy doesn’t know what we’re all about.’ That would be a huge disservice to the viewer and to the fan, and that’s always what I try to accomplish in my prep.”

Catalon has sought to prove that he can come through in the clutch during his time working in sports media, bringing a consistent approach to his craft no matter if it is among the strident crowd at a college basketball arena or the subdued greens of Augusta National. Over the course of the week, he has been on-site to call the 88th edition of The Masters golf tournament from Augusta, Ga., a revered tradition that takes place annually with its coveted green jacket and several other lucrative prizes hanging in the balance. With the inherent spirit of congenial competition subdued yet effervescent, storytelling takes center stage with a keen foresight and cognizance of the moment.

“There’s a lot more teamwork involved,” Catalon said. “You think about a broadcast – we have 7-8 announcers as opposed to two or three for a football or basketball game – and that’s another big part of camaraderie and partnership is spending time with that golf crew so that when I pinch hit for Jim Nantz, it’s seamless. I don’t want them to think that, ‘Okay, we’re in a different broadcast because Jim’s not here.’”

Nantz has been hosting coverage of The Masters since 1989 and has become synonymous with the tournament itself, authoring its slogan, “A tradition unlike any other.” Catalon understands the responsibility he incurs when taking the air from Augusta and is living out a longtime career aspiration of calling golf. Leading up to a pivotal shot or tournament-winning putt, he works to effectively contextualize the situation and let it play out in the environment.

“No one can fill Jim’s shoes and I’m not trying to,” Catalon said, “but I want to make sure that that team knows that I’m doing my homework and that they can count on me to deliver in the big moment.”

From the time he was an undergraduate student at Syracuse University, Catalon knew that he had a penchant for sports media and began gaining repetitions at WAER, the student-run radio station. Calling football, basketball and lacrosse games, he developed professional friendships and gained a broader understanding of the industry itself. Being situated in the broadcast booth, he developed ideas of how to approach a game and an ability to translate the feats of athleticism and achievement into succinct, nuanced phraseology.

“There’s no doubt that all the reps that I got in college at WAER have certainly helped me not only get a job, but also for a lot of the stuff that I do now,” Catalon said. “I still make my boards the same exact way I did in college. I handwrite everything with different colored markers and pens, and I just retain the information better.”

Before Catalon was calling sporting events though, he had not settled on play-by-play announcing as his primary career path. Instead, he applied to work at WVNY, a local news television station in Burlington, Vt. and was later hired over the phone as its sports director. As a result, Catalon moved to the city without ever seeing the station and remembers immediately being part of the regular workflow.

“It was a whole new world of learning how to run a department and kind of how to be mature,” Catalon said. “When you’re that young, you learn a lot of lessons, and it was an unbelievable experience. I couldn’t have asked for a better first job out of college.”

Three years later, WVNY announced that it was closing its news department and was consequently laying off several of its employees. Catalon was among the job cuts, a devastating outcome that prepared him to move back home. Yet he received assistance from his colleagues, specifically WVNY news director Peter Speciale, and helped him land a new job as a weekend anchor on WNYT in Albany, N.Y. two months later. While he was in the capital city of New York, the outlet allowed him to seize other industry opportunities to augment his versatility, including freelance play-by-play announcing for SportsNet New York (SNY) and CBS Sports Network.

“They were incredible to allow me to do all these opportunities,” Catalon said. “Very rarely did I have to say ‘No.’ They were very accommodating with my schedule, and I owe them a huge debt of gratitude because they allowed me to do all those things while I was still a full-time employee.”

Carr-Hughes Productions in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. gave Catalon the chance to voice over a curling show in their studios, and he eventually expanded his portfolio to include luge and equestrian. In 2007, NBC was looking for new curling announcers, leading Catalon to be recommended and calling a curling exhibition in Rockefeller Center. The next year, he contributed to Olympics coverage for the first time, calling handball games remotely from the network’s New York studios.

When the games were in Vancouver, B.C. in 2010, Catalon traveled to the city to call curling matches. It was there where he met award-winning sports anchor Fred Roggin, who was hosting coverage of the sport for NBC. During a dinner they had over the three weeks they were working together, Roggin shared an observation he had made about Catalon with him that fundamentally altered the trajectory of his career.

“He’s like, ‘Hey, I know you love doing the local news,’ and that’s what he did; he said, ‘but I really think that you’ve got what it takes to be a play-by-play guy, and I think that you should focus on that,’” Catalon remembered Roggin telling him. “Hearing that from him – who had been in the business for so long and who was doing what I wanted to do – I really valued his opinion, and I would say after that Olympics, I really turned my attention to focus on play-by-play.”

Catalon officially joined CBS Sports full time as a play-by-play announcer in 2013, but he had been steadily assimilated into the role with several opportunities years earlier. The first National Football League game he broadcast came in 2011 in an AFC matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals when he was asked to fill in for Bill Macatee. As has turned out to be happenstance for Catalon, the game ended in the final seconds when Bengals kicker Mike Nugent struck a 43-yard field goal for the win.

“When you’re in a close game and there’s strategy talk and you have those opportunities, you’ve got to step up and nail it,” Catalon said. “I think that I showed them in that game that I could handle a close game, NFL big stage. And after that, more and more opportunities came, but every one I treated like it was my last, and I knew that I had to do a good job to prove it to them that I could do this on a full-time basis.”

As the years went on, Catalon continued to garner more opportunities and worked to further refine his commentary to appeal to a national audience. While there are differences in the profile of a football game and golf tournament, he understands that it is his job to accentuate and describe the moments over the course of action. Through it all, he seeks to be relatable, informative and entertaining to his audience in disseminating an accurate account to pair with the video.

“I try to be the guy that you’d want to have a beer with if you’re at a restaurant watching the game,” Catalon said. “You want to come across where you’re not overbearing. You get excited like a fan would – you inform – but ultimately the game is the show, and you’re just kind of there to supplement what we’re watching.”

Catalon had been working with James Lofton on NFL games for several seasons, but CBS Sports revealed various changes across its announcing teams ahead of the 2023 regular season. As the play-by-play announcer on a new broadcast team featuring two analysts – former running back and WFAN afternoon host Tiki Barber; and former quarterback Matt Ryan – and reporter AJ Ross, Catalon spent time familiarizing himself with his new colleagues and building rapport applicable to the broadcast. Weekly dinners and several rounds of golf was part of this assimilation process and led to an enjoyable season with the broadcast team.

“I think because of that, we bonded as a group a lot faster than maybe I have with other partners in the past just because we had no choice but to kind of get up to speed quickly,” Catalon said. “Matt did a tremendous job in his first year, and Tiki is phenomenal as well and AJ is one of the best out there, so I feel lucky that I was with this group, and it was definitely one of the more fun seasons I’ve had on CBS.”

In calling three different sports throughout the year that require different preparation and travel, Catalon frequently has a packed schedule. With this heavy workload, he has a vocal coach to ensure he is doing what is necessary to keep his voice strong. Catalon is proactive to safeguard against losing his voice, something that can occur more readily during March Madness because of the volume of games he is calling in short proximity.

There are occurrences where it takes some time for his voice to bounce back, and he remains prudent, so he is able to perform his job. Aside from his role to the fans, Catalon is working hard for his family and wants to make them proud.

“It’s not easy for any announcer who travels like we do to be away from their family and to miss weddings or kids’ soccer games,” Catalon said. “You have to understand when you get into this business that there’s a lot of things that you’re going to miss, and you have to have an understanding family along the way, and I’m lucky that I have one.”

Although there is no guarantee Catalon will be present for another stunning upset or overtime winner, he looks at his assignments and breadth of work with gratitude and awareness of his career windfalls. If such instances do happen in the forthcoming assignments though, viewers can rest assured that they are hearing a veteran who knows how to punctuate the climax and conclude the story unfolding in real time.

Even though he is not the author of the event itself, he is among its documentarians who writes the manuscript within a library that aims to stand the test of time. The final buzzer represents a deadline of sorts as he crafts the parlance in real time, embedded with the vernacular of the moment. 

“NFL, college basketball and golf – three of my favorite things – and CBS has all three,” Catalon said. “So I’m so lucky in this job, and I can’t tell you that there’s something I haven’t done that I want to do. I just want to keep doing what I’m doing now.”

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The ’70-20-10 Rule’ for Advertising Budgets

No one wants to be the business that holds onto the past and gradually declines.

Jeff Caves

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Graphic for 70-20-10 Rule
Credit: PennyCallingPenny.com

The ’70-20-10 rule’ is a widely accepted concept in business. Google, Coca-Cola, and other big brands manage their resources in a specific ratio to stay cutting-edge and grow. The idea is that 70% of a company’s investment should go to the core business, 20% to new developments, and 10% to new and untested ideas. If you are trying to maximize your ad budget and don’t know how to fit in all the opportunities, try this method. Here is a look at an annual advertising budget of $120,000. The clients’ best months of the year are November and December. Here is how the 70-20-10 rule could be applied to maximize returns while minimizing risks.

70%: Proven Strategies – $84K

The foundation of your advertising budget should be built on proven strategies that consistently deliver results. Allocate 70% of your budget to these safe bets. These are proven campaigns that you know will work from history or borrowing tactics from industry-trusted sources. In general, these are ad campaigns on proven platforms, such as radio, TV, Google and Facebook. Advertisers should use these tactics 12 months a year to provide a consistent return. This will establish a solid foundation for your advertising strategy while minimizing risk. Spend $7,000 each month on proven winners.

20%: Competitor Tactics – $24K

To unlock higher returns and explore new opportunities, allocate 20% of your budget to advertising initiatives that you have never tried before, but maybe your competitors are using successfully. These activities could include OTT commercials, TikTok or email marketing. You could handle these chores yourself or ask a trusted media partner, like your TV or radio rep, to assist you with their locally based digital department. It is sometimes easier to rely on trusted partners when exploring new spending in areas you are unfamiliar with. Since the best time of year for this business is November and December, this $24,000 should be spent in these two months to maximize results. Attacking the busiest time of the year with an extra $24,000 in advertising can yield the best outcome. Testing new initiatives when business is slow is like trying to sell parkas in July. Good luck. 

10%: Out-of-the-Box Ideas – $12K

Trying new concepts is critical to long-term success in advertising. Allocating 10% of your budget to experimental tactics that encourage outside-the-box thinking may lead to results you can’t quickly gauge or have a long-term benefit. Support a local cause or sports team. Generate buzz by handing out mini fans at the local summer fair. Put your ads on car dashboard monitors with QUU from your local radio rep. Spend the money wherever it makes sense for the tactic you are buying; fall, summer, or morning and afternoon drive times. Go with the flow and see if it pays back. These tactics can set you apart from your competition and endear you to audiences. Here is the latest on QUU.

Read and React

Try adapting the ’70-20-10 rule’ to your specific business and goals. Regularly evaluate the performance of your advertising efforts, measure ROI, and be open to adjusting your allocations based on sales AND metrics. Every business wants to be an early adopter of money-making new ideas. No one wants to be the business that holds onto the past and gradually declines. The road is littered with brands that didn’t evolve: Blackberry, Blockbuster, MySpace, etc. Mix up your ad spend with the proven, borrowed, and new to achieve sustainable growth in the long run.

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