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Brian Mitchell Is More Than An Ex-Football Player

“I think they understand now that I played football, but football doesn’t describe who I am. I watch all sports.”

Brian Noe

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Think of some of the best return men in NFL history. What are some of the qualities that separated those great punt/kick returners from others? They had the ability to make big plays. They were dependable and didn’t cost the team by making costly mistakes in pressure situations. Brian Mitchell possessed those qualities during his 14-year NFL career.

If you think about it, the same characteristics help radio hosts and sports analysts stand out as well. Unsurprisingly, Mitchell shines in those areas too.

The Louisiana native provides pre and postgame coverage of Washington Commanders football on NBC Sports Washington. Mitchell also has a weekday radio show, BMitch & Finlay, on 106.7 The Fan with his co-host and friend, JP Finlay.

We chat about Mitchell’s time in the NFL, his strong golf game and his broadcasting career which began in D.C. in the early ‘90s. Mitchell also talks about his four kids, the way he tortured himself during his career, and owns one of the best email address of all time — punt2me. Enjoy!

Brian Noe: What are a couple of things that a lot of people don’t know about you that you think they should?

Brian Mitchell: Youngest of seven. I absolutely love cooking. I think I take more pride in cooking than I did playing football. I went to school on academic scholarship. Before they even started recruiting me as a football player, I was offered an academic scholarship. I majored in chemical engineering. I didn’t want to be a media guy and I ended up being that.

I’m a golf watcher more than I am anything else. I’m a 6 handicap, so I’m okay now. It was way lower than that, but I started working again. I was a 2.1. From a military family. My mom and dad lived all over the world. I was born in Fort Polk, Louisiana. JP always tells everybody my secret; everybody thinks I’m this tough guy, he always tells people how nice I am and how giving I am. I say, hey man, you’re messing up my street cred. Don’t do that.

BN: [Laughs] What service were your parents in?

BM: My dad was in the Army and my mom went along with him. My dad, when he was in high school, his mom wouldn’t let him play football. He dropped out of high school to get his GED and then joined the military. Stayed there 20 years. I was 14 in the ninth grade — my junior high school was eighth and ninth grade — I’m the starting quarterback of the varsity football team. My mom, he’s too small, I don’t want to let him play. No, no, no. My dad looked at her and said, remember what I did and y’all say he’s just like me.

Well, she let me play. I built her a house. I said, remember you didn’t want me to play football? She said, get outta here. [Laughs] What he went through, she did not want to deal with that because everybody said I’m just like my dad. I had a mind of my own; I was gonna play football one way or the other.

BN: [Laughs] That’s great, man. Where is your hometown?

BM: Plaquemine, Louisiana. I grew up down there right across the river from Baton Rouge.

BN: How would you describe the vibe in your hometown compared to D.C.?

BM: Ah, rather slow. [Laughs] The street I grew up on in Louisiana, everybody was related. But you had a lot of fun. D.C. is the hustle and bustle. It constantly moves. I live outside of D.C. I live out in the suburbs and come into D.C. My neighborhood is all lots that are five acres or more. I kind of live like I grew up. The rural area. When I want to go somewhere, I go. When I want to get away from it, I go back home.

BN: You brought the country to D.C.

BM: There ya go.

BN: Did your media career start back in 2003 or before that?

BM: Probably a little bit prior to that. I think it was 2002. No, no, no. Hold on, let me go back, 1992. In ’91, ’92 I was listening to somebody on radio talk about what they would and wouldn’t do. So many people like to say how they will react to things, but you’re dealing with split-second decisions. As an athlete I just always hated the fact that most of the guys I saw on TV, or even on the radio, they were non-athletes. They were talking about what they would do. I just started to pursue an opportunity to be able to talk. I’ve never been afraid to voice my opinion.

I went to a little event they had, it was WHUR radio. They were looking for someone to do anywhere from five to 10 minutes on Monday to talk about what you did in the game, and on Friday what you’re going to do in the game. I started doing that and after about four or five weeks, the actual station I work for today, they picked me up to start doing the Monday Night Football show. I would do that prior to the Monday night game. Monday Night Football used to come on at like 9 o’clock back then. About a year or so later, I started doing a TV thing, and I’ve been doing it ever since.

BN: Did you enjoy doing the broadcasting stuff from the beginning?

BM: Yeah, I did because it gave me a chance to voice my opinion and also give the opinions of a lot of my teammates. A lot of people always wondered, how will I be able to talk about the guys that may have had a play, a blunder that cost us a game? What I learned, when you’re playing ball, and I was always a quarterback growing up, you know what they’re going to ask you. They’re going to ask you about the great things or the horrible things.

What I would do is always go and talk to my teammates, the guy that may have fumbled, or the guy that had three touchdowns in the game and talk to them. When they asked me the question on radio, what do you think about Donovan McNabb, he threw an interception. Well, I talked to Donovan after the game and Donovan said this. I was able to use their words without giving my opinions of it. I told them my opinions, but you have to be careful when you’re on radio. Somebody may make you say something against your own teammate.

BN: How about the non-athletes that are a part of the media. As you being a former player, what tends to get under your skin about that dynamic?

BM: Well, the thing that gets under my skin is that a lot of people in that position, they’re trying to get the favoritism of the team, the coach, the GM, the president, the owner, things like that. Everything that they’re told, they take it as fact.

My whole thing is, I’ve always told my guys this, and I try to educate them as well, if they’re telling you the same thing they’re telling everybody else, why are you running around believing everything that they say, or trying to go above and beyond to try to keep them happy?

Now, if they give you something that nobody else has, I can understand. But if they’re giving you the same stuff, then what the hell difference does it make? Because I’m gonna be who I am. And I am willing to have a face-to-face conversation with anybody. I’m not a clicks person. When I say something it’s what I believe. I don’t care if people click on it or not. But even behind closed doors, I will tell you the same stuff.

BN: Now that you’re retired from football, what do you miss most from your playing days?

BM: The checks. [Laughs]

BN: [Laughs]

BM: Nah, actually the team camaraderie. Getting ready for the year. I’m weird, I guess, because I enjoyed the preparation, the torture to get yourself into tip-top shape to be able to go through a football season. I enjoy finding out which players I know I could depend on. I can depend on this guy because I watch him put himself through the rigors of this sport. I miss that.

A lot of the friendships still go on today. A lot of guys I played with I’m still good friends with. I have them come on the show sometimes because people look at athletes as if you’re just an athlete. We cry, we laugh, we have friends, we have all kinds of failures in life, we have tragedies in our lives. When you go through all of this stuff that we go through to get prepared for a season, you form special bonds with those guys.

Duce Staley who’s still coaching, good friend. Leslie Shepherd, Earnest Byner, Terry Allen. All these guys, Darrell Green, who taught me a lot about this game. Art Monk, Charles Mann, guys who taught me how to become a man, not just a football player. Tim Johnson, who got me more into my spiritual self.

I respect all of those things. It wasn’t just me playing football. I grew from being a little wet behind the ear kid from Plaquemine, Louisiana, to a full-grown man at 54 years old now. I try my best to give as much as I can like those guys gave to me.

BN: It makes me think of Matthew Slater with the Patriots. He’s a guy who enjoys the process just like you did.

BM: I enjoyed it. I tell people, in the offseason, I tortured myself. Because the game of football is fun. Running around, you’re on TV, we dream about this job. You’re getting paid to play a game. Why wouldn’t you have fun? I remember Corey Simon, a guy who played with me in Philadelphia. He asked me the question, ‘Man, why you always laughing and joking on a football field?’

I said because I put all the work in in the offseason, so right now I’m supposed to have fun. I said one day you’re going to realize as much as a profession this is, it’s still a game. If you don’t prepare properly, you won’t ever have fun.

I was in my 11th year and Corey was in his first year. I said if you keep being that serious, I’m gonna play longer than you play from this point on. I think I did another four years, he might have done five or six. But I got close because I enjoyed it.

I absolutely love the game. I love trying to come up with a strategy that may be better than theirs. And the fact that on a football field, I don’t care how big you are, the mindset of football makes everybody come to be the same size.

BN: What’s something that you miss the least about not playing anymore?

BM: The least about playing, the travel. I could care less about the travel because I always tell people, I like to travel to have fun, not to work. We were traveling to work, but you had to do it. I don’t like the travel. A lot of the politics. It’s been many times where we know a guy should make the team but he didn’t for whatever reason.

Then the guy that makes the team in his spot is a guy that really doesn’t help us, but he’s just around and we’re like, why the hell is he on the team? He’s not doing anything to help us when that guy we know could help us. They’ll use the story that well, this guy is dependable, that guy isn’t. I don’t know how dependable this guy is, but I’m sure if he’s on the field he’ll help us more than the other guy. The politics was something I totally despise.

BN: How would you describe what it’s like to do sports radio in D.C., especially if you’re explaining that to someone who hasn’t done radio in that market?

BM: It’s fun like any other city, but we know the mindset of people that live in this town. I don’t care where you live, you could be in the ritziest neighborhood, or you can be in one of the baddest neighborhoods, you have some perspective or idea of politics. And it comes to play in the sports world as well. I know when the coaches come here, like Ron Rivera, he’s finding out right now.

He was in Charlotte, and he was able to dictate and manipulate certain things. In this town, we deal with presidents. We deal with politicians. We deal with senators. We have federal judges and the Supreme Court. We could care less what you say, because we know right. And we’re going to challenge you because when you say something, we’ve being told stuff by politicians all the time. We naturally don’t believe what you’re saying. We dig into it. And if we find out you’re lying to us, you got problems.

BN: D.C. is a very political town. With your sports show, do you separate the two, or do you dive into sports subjects that are connected to politics?

BM: If it’s politics that affect sports. If it’s like the committee that was investigating Dan Snyder, we discuss those things. But actually the Republican/Democrat debate, no, we don’t get into that. We don’t voice our opinions about who we we’re voting for and things of that nature. I think it’s best not to.

Everybody has that right to whatever they truly believe in. But not whenever it’s something that’s political like the January 6 insurrection. I feel when it’s something that affects your rights, and something that affects you as a citizen, you have to be able to discuss it. I don’t have a problem doing it. My co-host, JP, doesn’t have a problem doing it. But for the most part, we talk about sports. If we have to, we will, but we rather not talk about politics.

BN: What’s your view on the diversity or the lack thereof in sports radio, especially when there are topics that might be tied to politics that have an impact on sports?

BM: I remember working at the TV station, and we had this thing one time. Remember when Serena Williams told the line judge if you make that mistake, and I’ll shove this ball somewhere? [Laughs] I was supposed to be on the set. For some reason, the producer felt he should tell me I’m not on the set at that time. As I’m listening to the discussion, I’m seeing that there’s no representation for Serena. I was told I was on the set by one of the top guys; the producer at the last second decided he didn’t want me on it.

They all are totally against Serena. It annoys me when I hear people whether a man or a woman talking about how menacing she is. She’s an athlete, she’s a bigger person than most people, but she’s not menacing. We move to the next thing, so I’m back on and we’re going to talk about football. I say before we go on, I’m going to voice my opinion about the last segment. I remember what they said and I addressed every one of them. I say producer, I’ll see you when we’re done. He wasn’t there when we were done.

I think they understand now that I played football, but football doesn’t describe who I am. I watch all sports. I try to be a well-rounded person so I have an opinion on it. I especially have an opinion when a guy is an African American or a minority in a sport, where a lot of us aren’t, to where we don’t get a fair shake.

I felt that when someone is costing you a possibility of $1.4 million, it pisses you off. I know a lot of people say, well, she shouldn’t have said that and she shouldn’t have — you don’t know what somebody should do in a split-second decision. We do it all the time in our personal life, but we judge everybody so harshly.

BN: I saw that your co-host, JP, once said, ‘Brian and I usually are talking sports over a few drinks and that’s exactly the vibe that we will bring to the show. Without the drinks mostly.’ Is that a good description of what your show is like?

BM: It is because the thing of it, he and I are real friends. The thing that people don’t get, when I’ll say stuff about the Commanders in this town, people are like well you played for them. What the hell does that mean? If I get mad at my brothers and sisters, I get mad at my mom and dad, get mad at my kids sometimes, why can’t I get mad at the football team?

So JP and I are friends, and both of us are loud and we talk a lot and we’re opinionated. Sometimes we do get into disagreements and things like that. We speak on it, and then guess what, we go right and have a beer together. That’s how life is. We don’t agree all the time, but we still understand that we’re friends.

BN: Let’s say over the next five years, what do you think would make you happiest as far as your job and where you’re at?

BM: I love the things that I do. I could see myself beginning to do a podcast. My show, we kind of focus on football a lot more. I’ve always fought, when I first started doing media, to talk about every sport. I told them I didn’t want to be typecast. Then it evolved into this because I know some of the shows on my station, they talk about different things.

The show after me, they have a lot of baseball focus, but they talk about other stuff. We mention things in a segment, maybe two at the most, but we’re normally on the football team. I would love to be talking about a lot of different things and just, I guess, expanding the amount of people that can hear what you say.

I watch a lot of media and I believe that a lot of people don’t speak the truth. A lot of media to me is about bits and trying to get people to click. The things that my friends and I discuss is when we know the person is truthful, and it’s also impactful and has given us stuff that helps us, we’ll listen to that before we listen to the person that gives you these outlandish statements and they can’t have anything to back it up. I would try to do something like that.

BN: It sounds like you’re pretty well set in D.C. What if there was a fancy offer from somewhere else, would you consider it?

BM: You know what, I would consider it now. Early on, I never considered it because I am truly a family guy. My son is older, he’s 33 now. My daughters are 28, 22 and 20. Now that my baby is at the point where she can basically go and fend for herself, I don’t have to be there all the time. I don’t have a problem traveling.

Because I played football and I found out that I missed a lot of my son and my oldest daughter’s lives. I was like, make sure I’m around the other ones as they grew up. If something comes now I don’t have an issue doing it because if I have to go somewhere and do something, they could come see me.

They travel all the time anyway, so it would probably work at that point. I’ve always loved being able to go home, and they can see me daily or nightly or whatever. I got three out of college. They all three have jobs. And I got one that’s a junior, so I think I’m doing a good job with that.

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Jen Lada Has Built a Multiplatform Presence at ESPN

“I always say my job is to make the viewer care about somebody and root for somebody that they might ordinarily not root for or care about.”

Derek Futterman

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Jen Lada
Courtesy: Phil Ellsworth, ESPN Images

When Jen Lada appeared on Around the Horn earlier in the month, she became the 58th panelist to be part of the program since its launch in 2002. Facing off against three other panelists from around the country, she garnered a victory in her on-air debut and elicited plaudits from her colleagues. Throughout the program, Lada demonstrated her deft sports knowledge and nuanced opinions that have crafted her into a venerated, skilled reporter at the network.

Although she had appeared on many ESPN programs previously, Around the Horn represented a show to which she wanted to contribute for many years. In fact, she has memories of watching the show just out of Marquette University and remarking about its brilliance and ingenuity.

Utilizing reporters with comprehensive knowledge of various sports who have chronicled several events, the show provides them an opportunity to give their opinions on issues and engage in debate with their contemporaries. Lada earned a spot on the show by being persistent, continuing to express her proficiency in commentary and sports discussion. The journey to arrive at this stage of her career, through which she has realized high-level assignments and a presence both at the local and national level, required adaptability and fortitude, and she continues to never take opportunities for granted.

“It’s great that I won, but it just sets the bar really high for the next time I go out there, which is not something I’m afraid of,” Lada said. “I love a challenge, and I love proving to myself that I can keep trying new things and doing new things well, and I hope that if people see me as some sort of example in the industry, that that’s what they walk away with.”

The approach adopted by Lada within her multifarious career ventures is to develop and maintain versatility, always innovating within her approach to content. As she looks to build off her initial victory on Around the Horn, she aims to be more compendious in her discourse and applying a more succinct approach. Making the adjustment in order to deliver compelling, distinctive points quickly differs from her other work, but it is all ultimately centered on sports.

While studying at Marquette University, she observed her classmates having a conversation about the men’s basketball team and what had happened in a recent game. Lada, who at the time was dating a player on the team and cheerleading at games, began to give her thoughts and was subsequently asked if she had ever considered sportscasting.

“I didn’t know that women could be sportscasters,” Lada said. “It wasn’t on my radar as a real career that women held because there were so few of them at the time doing it, and so once I realized that that was something I could do, then I kind of turned all my attention to, ‘Well, how do I make this happen?’”

As Lada began to complete internships and navigate through the media industry, she learned to develop a thick skin and refined her conduct. Out of school, she had completed a year of a non-paid sports internship and was waitressing on the side to pay the bills. The first interview she took for a job at a television station in a top-10 market ended with her being sexually harassed. It was a jarring experience that disappointed Lada because of her propensity to give people the benefit of the doubt, and it also forced her to evaluate her own disposition.

“I think it’s only natural that you wonder how you contributed to the circumstance or what you could have done differently to maybe not put yourself in that space,” Lada said, “but I was very lucky that when I told my family about what had occurred, they very quickly knocked any notion of that out of my head.”

In navigating the industry with good intentions, Lada recognized that it is not her fault if other people fail at treating others professionally and create a misogynistic work environment. Receiving the lesson early in her career has made her more aware of the people to avoid, and she remains wary of advice given to women in the industry that they should just be nice. Lada was recently on a panel where someone advised a broadcast class that being nice would result in things working out for them in the future.

“I felt myself cringing internally because I don’t think that that is a luxury women are afforded,” Lada said. “I don’t think – maybe now is different, but when I was coming up, and I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years, there were people who preyed on niceness. And so the way that I would tweak that is to be professional; to carry yourself in a professional manner and recognize that sometimes being ‘traditionally nice’ puts a target on your back to be mistreated, and the best thing you can do is alert those people who would see you as a target that you’re not going to fall victim to that or you refuse to be victim to that.”

Lada joined ESPN in 2015 where she was hired to contribute to Colin Cowherd’s radio program. When Cowherd left the network and joined FOX Sports on a full-time basis, she started co-hosting a new, national program alongside Jorge Sedano. The show, however, had an evanescent run and left her feeling as if she had failed.

It took her a full year to recognize that she had been involved in a series of circumstances and decided to enact the necessary change, asking producers for advice and attending seminars. One of these was an interviewing course hosted by journalist John Sawatsky where he synthesized the art of the craft. Akin to when she was in college, she overheard in passing that the network needed more women in the features space.

“I was fortunate enough to have done a lot of features during my time in Milwaukee because we had a 9 p.m. newscast that required a local sports feature every night of the week, so between our three-person department, we had to fill that timeslot,” Lada said. “I had done a lot of lengthy sports features in Milwaukee [and] had a good foundation of what that job required.”

The meeting led to Lada doing features on an interim basis at the network and later granted her a spot on College GameDay, where she works as its features reporter. Lada presents stories every week to the audience that go beyond the gameplay and divulge a bigger picture.

“I always say my job is to make the viewer care about somebody and root for somebody that they might ordinarily not root for or care about,” Lada said. “One of the things that has occurred to me over the last few years is just what a skill is required to do that job well because not only are you preparing questions to ensure that you have all of the details and information, you’re also gathering perspective on what they’ve been through – the adversity and the situation that has led them to where they are now.”

Lada recently found herself in a high school classroom at 8 a.m. sitting with other students taking the ACT standardized test. She had to complete the exam as punishment for finishing last in fantasy football at ESPN Milwaukee this past season. After four hours, Lada emerged from the school and revealed her score this past week on the Jen, Gabe, and Chewy morning show. Hosting the local program alongside Gabe Neitzel and Mark Chmura, she has established chemistry over almost four years in the three-person format discussing hyperlocal topics.

“I try to be conversational,” Lada said. “We don’t lean on stats – obviously, we want to be accurate, and we want to be, again, fair to the subjects we’re talking about, but we try to also just be friends who are talking about what’s going on on any given day on the Milwaukee [and] Wisconsin sports scene.”

In balancing a variety of different roles, Lada has tried to master everything that she is doing, refraining from being content with her abilities. Although working in local radio regularly has been a newer role for her, she has grown into the job and has co-hosts who understand the subject matter and allow her to utilize her strengths.

“I just want to keep learning,” Lada said. “I’m not satisfied with what I’ve done, [and] I’m not complacent about the skills I have. I’m always interested in adding more jobs to the résumé, and I think that in this industry, you’re rewarded for versatility.”

Once College GameDay commences, Lada adds the responsibility of feature reporting on that program to her schedule and continues making appearances across additional ESPN programming. Lada hosted the Friday edition of College Football Live last season and has also filled in as a host on shows such as First Take and SportsCenter. Moreover, she continues to complete projects for SC Featured and is working on a documentary for E:60 scheduled to premiere later in the summer. 

Lada aims to keep showcasing her indefatigable work ethic and passion for the craft without slowing down. Whether it is hosting a podcast, taking part in more panels or writing essays, she is open to exploring new forms of disseminating stories.

“I have a lot of knowledge and experience rattling around my brain, [and] I think the next iteration is figuring out a way to continue passing those experiences on to the next generation.” Lada said. “I don’t ever want to gatekeep the secrets of success – I think that’s selfish – so as I continue to do the media work, I think the next phase for me is figuring out how to pass a lot of these lessons on to future broadcasting generations.”

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Local Radio Advertisers Can Become Experts with Hosted Shows and Interviews

Overall, local radio interviews and talk shows can be a strategic and effective way for a local expert to enhance their business, build their reputation, and connect with the community.

Jeff Caves

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Photo of people talking on the radio

When looking for that extra edge for local radio advertisers, packaging radio commercials with an “expert” client-hosted talk show or interviews on your local shows or newscasts can be a game-changer. This strategy can build long-term business relationships with suitable clients, such as lawyers, business accountants, agents, psychologists, or sports handicappers. These professionals can provide valuable editorial contributions to sports and news stations. Of course, the expert must have good communication skills, be comfortable speaking their mind, and be ready to be the face of the business.

The radio commercials can tout the expertise the person has and give a call to action for listeners to move on. You can often find these experts on social media writing blogs or doing a series of vignettes about their business. For these types of clients, engaging in local radio news interviews or hosting a 1-2 hour talk show can enjoy several advantages:

Visibility and Brand Recognition

Visibility and Brand Recognition: Regular appearances on local radio help the expert become a well-known figure in the community. This visibility can lead to increased recognition and brand awareness and is a much faster track than just blogging on social media. Attorney Bill Handel and his ” Handel on the Law” show have created a directory business for Handel.

Public Trust and Credibility

By sharing their expertise and providing timely insights, the expert can build trust and establish credibility with the audience. Being perceived as an expert can enhance any client’s reputation and create top-of-mind awareness needed to lead business categories.

Client Acquisition

Listeners impressed by the expert’s knowledge and demeanor may seek their services. This exposure can lead to new clients who might not have been reached through other forms of advertising and give credibility to the expert who uses social media.

Community Engagement

Engaging with the local community through radio shows helps experts connect with potential clients more personally. This can foster a sense of community and loyalty. Question and answer segments can lead to deeper connections.

Educational Outreach

The expert can educate the audience on various issues, which can empower the audience. An informed audience is more likely to recognize when they need the expert’s assistance and whom to contact.

Stand Out in a Crowd

Stand out in a crowd: Being active on local radio can set the expert apart from competitors who may not use local radio. Often, the local shows or interview segments are exclusive to the expert.

Immediate Audience Feedback

Interacting with the audience through call-ins or live questions provides immediate feedback and allows the expert to address common concerns directly in real-time. The expert can be of service NOW.

Professional Development

Regularly discussing current topics can keep the expert sharp on trends and issues, contributing to their ongoing professional development.

Networking

Local radio stations often have a vast network of listeners and other professionals. This can open doors to new professional relationships and opportunities for collaboration. The station also provides a loyal audience who typically don’t follow the expert on social media. But they may start to after hearing the expert.

Overall, local radio interviews and talk shows can be a strategic and effective way for a local expert to enhance their business, build their reputation, and connect with the community.

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‘We Need To Talk’ is Insightful, Intelligent Conversation on CBS Sports Network

The show is not going to be a ratings giant like ESPN’s First Take or offer the decibel level of commentary on FS1’s First Things First, but it is a necessary and unique slice of sports television.

John Molori

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A photo of the women who host We Need to Talk on CBS Sports Network
Photo Courtesy: CBS Sports Network

CBS Sports Network’s ‘We Need To Talk‘ features a rotating roundtable of female sportscasters offering their views on a variety of topics in sports. The premise is important. Female voices in sports need to be heard. They bring perspective, weighty conversation, and thoughtfulness to each discussion.

Over the past few years, women have made major strides in being heard and seen in sports media whether it is hosting, commentary, reporting or play-by-play. This is a good trend, but We Need To Talk is about more than just female talking heads. It’s about insight, depth, and needed attention to athletes and sports that do not bask in the mainstream limelight.

This particular episode featured host AJ Ross joined by Summer Sanders, Katrina Adams, and Renee Montgomery. It was an eclectic and accomplished group with Ross, an experienced and versatile reporter, Sanders, the erstwhile U.S. Swimming star and a broadcast veteran, Montgomery, the former WNBA star, activist, and co-owner of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, and Adams, former tennis player, CEO of the United States Tennis Association, and chair of the US Open.

Montgomery got the conversation going looking back on the Celtics winning the NBA Championship. She also made a telling comparison between the Celtics-Lakers rivalry, renewed in the 1980s with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, and compared it to the current WNBA rivalry between the Indiana Fever and Chicago Sky with Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese. It’s a valid comparison, and Montgomery brought it to life effectively.

The WNBA was up next with Montgomery talking about Cameron Brink, the LA Sparks’ rookie who is making a splash not only on the court, but on the social media and fashion scenes as well.

It should be noted that this episode of We Need To Talk was taped before Brink suffered a season ending torn ACL, but Montgomery’s point was clear. It is not only important to be a great player. Today’s athletes also need to use multimedia platforms to raise their profiles.

Adams segued into a discussion on Wimbledon and No. 2 ranked Coco Gauff. It was good to hear some tennis talk on the airwaves, but this is a hallmark of We Need To Talk. The show makes it a point to move beyond the front-page stories and hit angles and areas that do not get much coverage.

These ladies are not afraid to get in each other’s grills as well. Sanders actually interrupted Adams to start a discussion about the upcoming Paris Olympics, but Adams would not relent and moved forward to an analysis of 2023 Wimbledon men’s singles winner Carlos Alcaraz.

The variety of sports continued with Ross starting a discussion about US track star Sha’Carri Richardson. I’ve been a fan of Ross for a long time. She does an expert job of mixing in her own commentary, while making sure all of the panelists on We Need To Talk get their due time. She’s also multitalented, seamlessly moving from reporter to host to debater.

We Need To Talk takes its roots in diversity with an all-female cast, but there is a deeper variety within the makeup of the cast. Sanders is a longtime veteran of sports, sports broadcasting, and entertainment. Ross is in the prime of her journalistic career. Adams brings perspective as an athlete, administrator, and leader, and Montgomery offers a fresh and contemporary style with her commentary.

Block 2 of the show featured Montgomery and Ross interviewing Naomi Girma of the San Diego Wave women’s professional soccer team. Girma was named 2023 US Soccer Women’s Player of the Year, the first defender to ever win that award. This is what We Need To Talk offers those who watch the show. It is almost like a smaller scale, studio version of the classic Wide World of Sports on ABC, “spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport.”

The interview was managed well with Ross asking meaningful questions and Montgomery enthusiastically following up with her thoughts and input. This edition of the program also featured a wonderfully produced feature story on USC basketball player Aaliyah Gayles.

The talented Trojan hoopster was on the fast track to basketball stardom when, in April 2022, she was shot at a house party in Las Vegas. Gayles required two emergency surgeries to save her life.

The pace, video, and sound bites in the package were equal parts frightening, sobering, and uplifting. Gayles literally had to learn how to walk again as the feature focused on her rehabilitation and eventual return to the USC lineup.

Coming back from a break, the panel engaged in a great discussion on the talent link between collegiate and US Olympic athletes. A graphic showed that 75% of Team USA athletes and 82% of United States medalists played an NCAA sport.

As the discussion expanded, Montgomery talked about the fact that in order to enter the WNBA, players have to complete four years of college or be of the age of someone who has completed four years of college. I actually did not know that. We Need To Talk passes my personal litmus test for important sports television, namely, it tells me something I don’t already know.

Bringing still another sport and recognizable female athlete into the fold, Dara Torres joined the show next for an interview. The 12-time Olympic swimming medalist talked about her new role as head coach of the Boston College men’s and women’s swim and dive teams. Sanders asked a solid question about how, as a world-class athlete, Torres will manage her expectations of the BC athletes.

 As sports continues to meld with social issues, so too does the subject matter on We Need To Talk. Ross introduced a segment on the National Gay Flag Football League. Again, kudos go to the show’s production team for a slick and enlightening feature story. Praise should also go to the program itself for expanding the boundaries of sports and opening up a whole new world of knowledge for viewers.

Following the feature story, Montgomery and Adams made a point that sports unite people and bring diverse groups and personalities together as one. Montgomery is a fast-developing on-air talent. Her wit, energy, and knowledge go far beyond the basketball court making her a rising star in sports media.

The program continued to bring sports and life together by connecting the June celebrations of Pride Month and Father’s Day with an emotional poem written by renowned DJ Zeke Thomas, the son of NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas. This was part of the We Need to Listen segment of the program.

Let’s keep it real. We Need To Talk is not going to be a ratings giant like ESPN’s First Take or offer the decibel level of commentary on FS1’s First Things First, but it is a necessary and unique slice of sports television.

The show consistently provides uncommon subject matter with an inimitable approach and tenor. Check it out when you get a chance and bring an open mind and a joy of sports. They need to talk, and we all need to hear them talk.

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