It all started as a student in a television production elective class at Mahwah High School for Jared Greenberg. Largely surrounded by seniors, Greenberg was a freshman enamored with sports and athletics with a yearning to develop the skills necessary to compete at a high level.
While he affirms that he struggled both academically and on the playing field, his penchant for professional sports remained, frequently consuming them by listening to the radio and watching ESPN and other sports coverage.
One day in class, Greenberg’s high school teacher was told WRPR 90.3 FM, a radio station affiliated with Ramapo College, was looking for high school student volunteers to operate the board and schedule music to play over the air.
Greenberg was eager for a way to stay in the landscape of professional sports, and took full advantage of the chance. On his first day at the station, Greenberg, then-14 years old, was driven by his father on a Sunday afternoon and distinctly remembers turning on the station’s FM transmitter. In that very moment, he realized broadcast media was the industry which he desired to work in.
After some time passed playing music on the air, he approached the management team at the radio station about hosting a sports talk show, an idea the station was open to and gave him the chance to pioneer. He then asked to call play-by-play for some of the college’s basketball and baseball games and was subsequently given permission.
“Once I took advantage of that opportunity, everything kind of clicked for me,” Greenberg said. “I could turn my passion for watching and talking about sports into a career… and [the] focus for my entire life changed.”
Greenberg’s decision to matriculate at Hofstra University was at the suggestion of CBS Sports and YES Network broadcaster Ian Eagle, who he met at 15 years old while credentialed at a professional sporting event.
During his time on the island, he worked a majority of the football and basketball games as a play-by-play announcer on 88.7 WRHU-FM, the college’s award-winning campus radio station. In the summer preceding his first semester at the school though, Greenberg drove from Mahwah, N.J. to Hempstead, N.Y. to participate in the station’s required training class. Four years later, he graduated with over 200 live game broadcasts under his belt, along with additional experience producing sports talk and morning drive programming.
“I spent more time at that radio station and [was more] involved in that radio station than anything else on campus,” Greenberg said. “I understand that education is important and classroom work is vital, but I think the most important step to success in this industry is gaining practical experience. I think what gets undervalued at college radio and TV stations is real-life, real-world experience.”
Near the end of his time in college, Greenberg worked as a public relations intern with the New York Giants. That experience was short-lived though, as the statistician for radio play-by-play announcer Bob Papa did not show up to a home game, leading Greenberg to be asked to fill in on short notice. Greenberg did his best to quickly adapt to the experience, and remained in it for several years thereafter.
“Just learning from Bob Papa and Carl Banks, and I got to work with Chris Carlin who was often filling in for Bob or doing our postgame show; it was the most surreal experience,” Greenberg said. “….I’ve been a close mentee and friend of Ian Eagle for years, so to have two of the very best play-by-play voices in football [and] just [get] to be so close to [them] and learn from them has really been priceless for me.”
Around the same time in his career, Greenberg worked with the Newark Bears, an unaffiliated Atlantic League team, in which he served as the team’s media relations manager and broadcaster for all road games. He had previously been with the organization in high school as a broadcast associate, working directly with lead play-by-play announcer Dave Popkin to gain exposure and experience covering professional sporting events.
Up until this point in his career, Greenberg was focused on working in radio largely because it was the medium from which most of his experience derived. Yet his early chances to work as a sideline reporter on select television broadcasts at Hofstra University made him more sentient of potentially working in television.
As a freelance reporter at News 12, Greenberg was responsible for being on location and acting as a full-throttled multimedia journalist. He would then sometimes be asked to host the sport segment on the news at night.
“I was still only covering sports, but it was obviously through a different lens literally and figuratively,” Greenberg explained. “….With a newcast, you’re being told you’re on at 10:20 and you’ve got 90 seconds to deliver all this information you have. It’s a lot different to fit it in that short period of time. Also, you can’t be a second late because if you’re a second late, you throw off the entire newscast.”
Greenberg assimilated back into working at a sports network when he was hired by the Madison Square Garden Company to host programming on the now-defunct MSG Varsity channel. Additionally he worked as a play-by-play announcer for the Northeast Conference on ESPN and as a digital host for the New York Giants.
“I loved the idea of doing some studio hosting; some play-by-play; some sideline reporting; [and] some anchoring in a studio in terms of a news broadcast doing sports,” Greenberg said. “I loved the idea of doing so many different things.”
Greenberg returned to working in radio when he was hired by SiriusXM as a host on its NBA radio station, contributing to various programs including Out of Bounds, FanDuel Fantasy Basketball and Off the Dribble.
“I think it’s sometimes difficult to remember that what you find interesting or what you want to talk about is not what the general public or the mass audience wants to hear or listen to,” Greenberg said.
“I think it’s a really hard balance; there’s no exact science on how to figure that out…. This is a really special art form that if you’re going to be good at it, it takes a lot of energy and time to invest in how to really capitalize on all of that.”
As a child, Greenberg always wanted to be a professional basketball player. Instead, he resorted to covering the game and received a chance to do so with the league itself when he signed on with NBA TV in 2005 as a voiceover artist.
During his job interview with NBA TV, he remembers being told that he would never be on television with the network and that if he were to be hired, it would be to strictly perform voiceovers for game highlights and other programming.
“You’ve got to be great at the job you’re hired [for], but never satisfied with the position you’re in and always reaching for more without overreaching,” he said. “….For me, that was a position of me being motivated.”
One year later, Greenberg was being utilized as a fill-in television host, a role that expanded when the network was purchased by Turner Sports in 2012 and subsequently moved to Atlanta.
Previously, Greenberg never foresaw himself moving away to advance his career, as he was working in the industry’s top market; however, the opportunity to work with Turner Sports was simply too good of an offer to pass up.
“I had never been to Atlanta prior to auditioning for the role I got,” he said. “It was a weird feeling. I was getting a promotion but I’m also leaving the number one media market.”
Within his first week of employment, he was pulled aside by Ernie Johnson and Charles Barkley to be formally welcomed to the family. It was a moment that had profound meaning and impact for Greenberg as he sought to assimilate into his new lifestyle.
“You walk into the studio here in Atlanta on any given night and it’s a who’s who of some of the greatest players of all time,” Greenberg said. “It’s just a chill atmosphere, and one of the biggest things about Tuner is that they don’t put up [with] or hire, quite frankly, any of that diva mentality.
“Everybody is so low key, and that tone is set with Charles Barkley who is… the face of all of this. He is the most approachable, giving person you could ever imagine for being a household name.”
Over the years working with Turner Sports on both TNT and NBA TV, Greenberg has hosted The Jump, NBA GameTime, Making The Call and, of course, Shaqtin’ A Fool where he was famously picked up on set by Hall of Fame center Shaquille O’Neal. Greenberg seeks to accentuate the perspectives analysts bring to each program with the goal of making the content appealing for viewers.
“You can’t just ask a blanket question to an analyst or set them up in a blanket way,” Greenberg said. “You have to learn to play to their strengths [and] set them up for things they are passionate about to get the most out of them. That’s just been a really cool experience.”
As a television host, Greenberg relies on his preparation to be able to adapt to various scenarios, whether those be on a hard or soft news basis. The same premise applies when preparing to work as a sideline reporter for the NBA on TNT. The essence of the role itself was explained to him by the late Craig Sager, a standout sports reporter known for his flamboyant outfits and effervescent personality.
“You talk so much about relationship-building in every industry you go into, but particularly in this one, it truly helps you to succeed,” Greenberg said. “….I try to maximize my time on the ground that you couldn’t simply get from googling or opening up your local newspaper. I want to give that perspective.”
Through his sideline reporting, Greenberg is more or less able to localize the national coverage because of the incomparable access the network receives through relationships with players and team personnel. Whereas regional broadcasters often have a direct connection through their team by virtue of the nature of their employment or ownership of the regional sports network, national reporters usually have no affiliation to a particular team, giving them more latitude in topic selection and delivery.
“A lot of the time, they’re not there to report the news; they’re there to be an infomercial for that organization,” Greenberg said of regional broadcasters. “For us we have the leeway to tell the story as it is without worrying about any P.R. consequences.”
Greenberg combines both his television hosting experience and reporting acumen as the host of the newly revamped NBA CrunchTime on the NBA league app. Over the years, there have been many networks that have tried to institute whiparound coverage. NFL Red Zone hosted by Scott Hanson is uniquely positioned because of its longevity and ability to show every touchdown from every game, as the sport of football has bursts of action. Conversely, the action is relatively continuous in basketball and the bursts are not necessarily predictable, so it is fundamental Greenberg be able to pivot at a moment’s notice.
“It’s not even just the nonstop action,” Greenberg explained. “It’s how different we are from football, and I think it’s important for people to understand that [who] are asking why [we don’t] do this every night. At 1:00 on Sunday, there’s six or eight games going on simultaneously every [week]. For us, the calendar and the schedule changes every night.”
Tonight, all but four NBA teams are active, meaning that Greenberg will be live on the NBA league app bringing viewers the most urgent action on NBA CrunchTime. There have been several iterations of Greenberg’s “passion project” over the last six seasons, airing on various different platforms. In this new format, the program will try to appeal to all types of basketball fans, whether they be focused on sports betting, fantasy sports or gaining a pulse of the action around the league as a whole.
“We’re going to have the opportunity… to deliver people what I think is a new way of watching sports and understanding the consumer,” Greenberg said. “It’s us really learning who that consumer is of our content…. We’re going to deliver you the very latest and the biggest moments as it’s happening in every game. When the schedule is right for us, we’re going to do it as much as we can.”
Being aware of movement in the industry helped Greenberg understand the direction of Turner Sports and how he could help facilitate its goals, and these were aspects of his interview and subsequent audition that surely helped differentiate him from other candidates.
Appropriately preparing for on-air work and professional interactions has rounded Jared Greenberg into a multimedia reporter and journalist eager to improve at his craft every day on the job that has given him a chance to cover the NBA All Star Game, NBA Finals, NBA Summer League and countless numbers of marquee matchups. He is grateful for all of the opportunities he has been afforded throughout his time in sports media, and looks to inspire young professionals to pursue their dreams through persistence and adaptability.
“Something that’s taken me a really long time to be half-decent at is being a good person to the people around you,” Greenberg said. “Even though this is such a big industry and there’s so much going on and there’s so many moving parts, really it’s a small industry…. Somebody knows somebody who knows you and has access to you. Be a good person, treat people respectfully and understand that you can’t step over people to get to where you want to go.”
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, he serves as the production manager for the New York Islanders Radio Network and lead sports producer at NY2C. He has also worked on live game broadcasts for the Long Island Nets and New York Riptide. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks and wrote for The Long Island Herald. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
NBC Must Develop a Real No. 2 NFL Crew for Playoffs
Is the network’s only other option Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett?
Several years ago, the NFL objected to NBC wanting to employ Mike Tirico as the lead play-by-play voice for its Thursday Night Football broadcasts. The league preferred Al Michaels because he was NBC’s No. 1 NFL play-by-play announcer and wanted the TNF telecasts to carry the same prestige as Sunday Night Football.
Following the network’s heavily-criticized broadcast of Saturday’s Wild Card playoff game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL may want to impose its authority again and insist that a top-tier broadcast team call the action of an important postseason game.
The consensus among fans and media watching Saturday’s broadcast was that Michaels and analyst Tony Dungy were surprisingly low-energy for an NFL playoff game, let alone one that became so exciting with Jacksonville rallying from a 27-0 deficit for a 31-30 victory on a last-second field goal.
Such a lackluster broadcast led to questions of whether or not Michaels was now past his prime after a season of calling subpar TNF games for Amazon and what initially appeared to be another snoozer when the Jaguars fell behind by 27 points. Pairing him with Dungy, who was a studio analyst all season, certainly didn’t help.
Dungy was as basic as a game analyst could be, typically narrating replays viewers could see for themselves while adding little insight. Worst of all, he demonstrated no enthusiasm for the action, leaving Michaels to fill most of the airtime. The veteran broadcaster showed that he can no longer carry a broadcast by himself. He needs the energy and back-and-forth that Cris Collinsworth or Kirk Herbstreit provide.
So how did NBC get here?
Most football fans know that the network’s top broadcast team is Tirico on play-by-play alongside analyst Cris Collinsworth. But they had their own assignment during Super Wild Card Weekend, calling Sunday night’s Ravens-Bengals match-up. With the postseason field expanding from 12 to 14 teams, resulting in six games being played on Wild Card weekend, NBC was awarded one of the additional playoff broadcasts.
Thus, another broadcast team was needed for that second Wild Card game. Fortunately, NBC had a renowned play-by-play man already in place. Michaels finished out his final season as SNF‘s lead voice by calling Super Bowl LVI, part of a powerful one-two combination for NBC Sports coming toward the end of its 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics coverage.
Ending his legendary career with a Super Bowl broadcast would’ve been a wonderful final note for Michaels. That appeared to be a natural path when Tirico moved from ESPN to NBC in 2016. Network executives admitted that a succession plan was in mind for Tirico to take over SNF eventually. At the time, Michaels also likely thought he would retire by then.
But when confronted with the possibility of retirement, Michaels realized he wasn’t interested. He was still enjoying broadcasting the NFL. His skills were still sharp. And perhaps most importantly, he was in demand. Amazon wanted Michaels as the lead voice for its Thursday Night Football broadcasts, bringing instant credibility to a streaming venture that drew some skepticism. ESPN considered him as its Monday Night Football play-by-play man.
As it turned out, ESPN made a bold move for MNF, swiping Fox’s No. 1 NFL crew of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. That left Amazon for Michaels, and the streaming giant paid him a commensurate salary with the top broadcasters in the industry as part of his three-year contract.
Yet Michaels wasn’t done with NBC either. After his agreement with Amazon became official, NBC announced that its relationship with Michaels would continue in an “emeritus” role allowing him to broadcast the network’s Olympics coverage and that additional Wild Card playoff telecast.
NBC can’t have been happy that most of the social media chatter afterward focused on the broadcast, rather than the game result. Especially when the discussion centered on how poorly Michaels and Dungy performed in what turned out to be a thrilling playoff game. That’s a pairing that the NFL probably doesn’t want to see again.
Michaels will likely call at least one more Wild Card playoff game for NBC since he intends to work on the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics. He’s also under contract with Amazon for another two seasons unless he decides to retire before that deal expires. So perhaps the simple solution is keeping Dungy out of the broadcast booth and giving Michaels a better partner.
But can NBC drop in another analyst who hasn’t worked with Michaels all season? Anyone would arguably be an improvement over Dungy. Is it at all possible for Herbstreit to be hired on for a one-off playoff broadcast, thus ensuring that the broadcast team will have some on-air familiarity and chemistry?
Otherwise, NBC’s only other option may be its Notre Dame broadcast team of Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett. (The network tried that last season with Tirico and Drew Brees, only for Brees to wilt under the harsher NFL playoff spotlight.)
The pair also called USFL broadcasts for the network, so at least there would be familiarity rather than trying to figure each other out during a telecast. Yet Collinsworth and Garrett aren’t terribly popular with viewers. And as with Brees, that crew will face intense scrutiny with a larger playoff audience.
Unfortunately, NBC appears to be stuck here. Unless the new Big Ten broadcast team of Noah Eagle and Todd Blackledge gets a shot. That might be the best option! Other than Notre Dame or USFL games, where are the other opportunities for NBC to develop a No. 2 NFL broadcast team? No one wants to put Al Michaels through Chris Simms in the broadcast booth, right?
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at email@example.com.
Al Michaels Has Options But He Has To Make a Choice
“It does all of us in the sports industry well to remember 99% of our audience would gladly trade places with us.”
I don’t ask much out of game announcers; get excited when appropriate, get the simple information correct, don’t get so caught up in your shtick you put yourself above the game. Al Michaels has been doing all those things well for the better part of half a century and few would argue that he’s not one of the best to ever do it. That doesn’t mean he can’t lose his fastball.
Before you read any longer, I am not here to say Al Michaels has lost his fastball. What I am here to say is Michaels has all too often this season seemed upset with and disinterested in the game he is calling. That isn’t entirely surprising when you consider some of the Thursday night action he called on Amazon Prime where the average margin of victory was almost nine points per game.
On top of that, the Amazon schedule had a dreadful two week stretch with Colts 12-9 win over the Broncos in Week Five and the Commanders 12-7 win over the Bears the next Thursday. It was in that Broncos-Colts game Michaels asked Herbstreit if a game “can be so bad it is good?” Herbstreit’s answer was “No”, by the way. It was the full 15 game schedule that Michaels told The Athletic’s media critic Richard Deitsch was like trying to sell a used car.
All of that is fine, the inaugural Amazon Prime season was not a smashing success. The streaming giant missed audience projections and will lose advertising revenue because of it. The lackluster schedule did not help that. But Michaels was given a second life; he was the NBC play-by-play announcer for the Saturday Night Wildcard Playoff game between the Chargers and Jaguars. It initially looked like Michaels might be the problem as five first half Jags turnovers had them in a 27-0 hole. But the home team staged a nearly unprecedented comeback for the win.
It was the performance by Michaels and, to a lesser degree, his analyst Tony Dungy that has led to criticism. Criticism might be too soft of a word, Michaels was roundly dragged for his lack of enthusiasm during the comeback and specifically on his call of the Jacksonville game winning field goal. The enthusiasm of the call of the game winner had a mid-3rd quarter of week four feel to it.
Me telling Al Michaels how to do play-by-play of an NFL game would be the equivalent of me telling a physicist how to split an atom. So, this isn’t just a Michaels criticism, few things bother me more than hearing a game announcer complain about the length or quality of a game as if he’d rather be anywhere else. It does all of us in the sports industry well to remember 99% of our audience would gladly trade places with us.
How many NFL viewers would sit in the seat Michaels, or any NFL announcer occupies, for free? They’d feel like they won the lottery if they also were getting the money those announcers are getting paid to be there. The guy that works a 12-hour Thursday construction shift just to get home and crack a beer for the NFL game probably doesn’t want to hear how tough that game is to announce.
On top of all of that, Michaels was given the gift of one of the wildest NFL Playoff comebacks you’ll ever see and, at times, sounded as if he was completely disinterested in being there. Pro tip: the best NFL announcer in those moments is Kevin Harlan (see: Miami at Baltimore from earlier this season. That has nothing to do with my lifelong Dolphins fandom). Michaels’ lack of enthusiasm was compounded by the exact opposite from Mike Tirico on the very same network for the Bengals-Ravens Wildcard game Sunday night.
Tirico, like Michaels, has a sterling resume of play-by-play accomplishments. The difference is Tirico sounded like he was having the time of his life on Sunday night.
To be fair, their two styles are different. Michaels has a very old school, Pat Summerall approach. Summerall, Vin Scully and Dick Enberg came along at a time when announcers were far more likely to let the pictures tell the story. More new school guys like Harlan and Tirico approach it differently.
Look, Al Michaels helped us believe in miracles. His place in the Sports Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame has long since been cemented. Being a hall of fame inductee doesn’t mean your style will forever be accepted by the masses. That leaves you with a few options; you can continue your style and accept or ignore the criticism or you can ride off into the sunset and enjoy the fruits of your decades of labor.
Al Michaels has what we all want; great options. He can choose any of them and be a winner in the game of life. It doesn’t matter if he enthusiastically embraces them, or not.
Ryan Brown is a columnist for Barrett Sports Media, and a co-host of the popular sports audio/video show ‘The Next Round’ formerly known as JOX Roundtable, which previously aired on WJOX in Birmingham. You can find him on Twitter @RyanBrownLive and follow his show @NextRoundLive.
Bernie Kosar Was the Victim of a Policy That Doesn’t Work Anymore
“The NFL has bigger fish to fry than Bernie Kosar. Hell, it has more pressing issues in Cleveland alone.”
One week ago, Bernie Kosar lost his job on the Browns Radio Network for placing the first legal sports bet in the state of Ohio. Kosar, just like Jets coach Miles Austin weeks earlier and Calvin Ridley last year, violated a league policy that forbids team employees from placing a bet on any NFL game.
The integrity of the games still matters. The belief that what we are all seeing is being fairly contested is what gives those of us that like to have a little vested interest in the outcome the desire to lay our money down in the first place. I get the league’s discomfort with a coach on the staff of a team in the middle of the playoff hunt making bets. I get its fear of the message it sends to have players making bets.
Roger Goodell and the 32 team owners are well within their rights to object to men that can potentially control the outcome of a game or postseason seeding doing anything that even appears to jeopardize its fairness. Even perceived impropriety can compromise the league’s tremendous value.
But Bernie Kosar doesn’t have that kind of influence on the outcome of a game. He is just a broadcaster and not even a game analyst. He is part of studio coverage.
I am far from the first to point this out, but in 2023, the NFL has three official sports betting partners. Just last week, it approved the first ever in-stadium sportsbook, which Fanatics is set to open inside of FedEx Field. If the NFL is comfortable enough with the reality that its fans like to bet to make those things a reality, then Kosar losing his gig is absurd. It is the result of nothing other than “well, that’s the way we’ve always done it” thinking.
Maybe Kosar was terrible on the radio and the team was looking for a reason to move on. I don’t live in Cleveland and I am not a Browns fan, so I have no idea.
How many times have we heard that NFL owners hired Goodell to “protect the shield”? I’m not even really sure what it means or when it applies anymore. If I had a vested interest in the public perception of the league, I know that I would want someone to do the PR math on this situation.
Bernie Kosar isn’t an addict that can’t watch a game without the high of winning or the emotional distress of losing everything at stake, at least not as far as we know. This was a bet made through an advertising partner, to benefit charity. He even said on his podcast this week that the purpose of making the bet was to generate some money for former players in need of help.
This is like Disney threatening daycare centers with lawsuits for painting Mickey Mouse on a classroom wall. The NFL has bigger fish to fry than Bernie Kosar. Hell, it has more pressing issues in Cleveland alone.
Surely you have seen Garrett Bush’s impassioned rant on the Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show about the obstacles facing Damar Hamlin because of how many hoops the NFL makes former players jump through in order to get some kind of pension.
On January 2, we were all united in our concern for a guy that hadn’t even completed his second full NFL season. We didn’t know if he was going to live, but if he did, we all knew that the NFL had done everything it needed to in order to protect itself from ever having to pay a dime for his medical care. Less than a week later, Bernie Kosar was fired for what amounted to a charity stunt that was meant to raise money and attention to very similar issues.
At both the league level and the team level, there was incompetence that lead to a man unnecessarily losing a gig and to the Browns and the NFL looking horribly out of touch with reality.
Are we acknowledging that people gamble or not? Are we acknowledging there are responsible ways to bet on football and are interested in generating revenue off of it or not? Because it doesn’t seem to me that the same league that just gave the thumbs up to open a sportsbook inside of a stadium is really that concerned with people that cannot affect the outcome of games betting on those games.
Has the NFL come out and said that it is going to cover every medical bill for everyone that has ever played the game? We know that this is a brutal game that leaves a physical and physiological impact on the men that played it. Why would we make it harder for someone that knows that pain to help others do something about it?
I feel awful for Bernie Kosar. Whether he needs the money or not, it is embarassing to be at the center of a controversy like this, particularly because in the NFL in 2023, there is no reason for a controversy like this to exist.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.