At the age of 11, Ryan Haney remembers calling in to I-95 Birmingham’s Top Rock, then-broadcasting on 94.5 FM, to try to win free tickets to see Jimmy Buffet at the Oak Mountain Amphitheatre in Pelham, Ala. His father was away on a business trip and he wanted to win the seats to surprise him upon his return.
As if it were by fate, Haney turned out to be the lucky caller and took his father to the concert – officially marking the only radio contest he has ever won. Yet it kept 94.5 FM in the back of his mind – and now three decades later, he has a stake in the content going over its airwaves.
“I’ve been with this brand longer than over half of my life — which if you really think about it — it’s hard to believe,” Haney said. “It all comes full circle in some really unique ways, I think.”
Haney works as the program director of WJOX 94.5 FM, along with its AM equivalent and secondary station WJQX-FM in Birmingham. Growing up in the area gave him a distinct understanding of the marketplace, which is heavily predicated on NCAA college football. It is widely regarded as the second-most popular sports entity in the country behind the NFL and is imbued in the culture of the locale.
“The state of Alabama and the city of Birmingham is… the number one college football market in the nation,” Haney said. “When you have like-minded people that understand that and they love the town, they love the sport, and they love the community they’re in, it makes it real easy at times… to grow because everybody’s fighting for the same thing.”
When he was in high school, Haney interned at various radio stations but had transitioned to become a student assistant in media relations by the time he matriculated at Auburn University. His life changed, though, when he made a phone call to check in on his father and found out he was meeting with someone from WJOX, the local sports radio station.
In a nonchalant manner, Haney said over the phone that he would be interested in interning at the station – and was subsequently told to call its offices. The very next day, he was officially an intern at the station, gaining professional experience in sports radio. A few weeks later, he was offered a role as a producer, an opportunity he did not want to pass up which engendered a monumental change in his life.
“I really loved interning with the folks I was interning with at the time and so I asked my parents – I said, ‘I think I want to stay here. I really like this and I want to transfer,’” Haney said. “I transferred back to Birmingham to UAB to finish up while I was working. It all happened so fast; it really was a unique situation… but it all worked out.”
While he was taking classes to earn an undergraduate degree from UAB, he was spending large swaths of time each week at the radio station. Whether it was working on the morning show or running the board late at night during Atlanta Braves or Tennessee Titans games before the advent of widespread automation, Haney did whatever was necessary to become an asset to the broadcast outlet.
By the time he graduated college, he had already assimilated into working at the station on a regular basis, owned and operated by Cumulus Media, and was surrounded by “smart” and “passionate” colleagues and people he still considers mentors.
In 2004, WJOX was searching for a new program director to oversee the shows and content offerings by the station. Haney, who had been at the station for six years, discussed the possibility of applying for the job with general manager Dale Daniels. At the time, the station was broadcasting solely on AM 690, but proceeded to add a simulcast of its programming on 100.5 FM two years later.
“He believed in the vision that I had and at that point in time, he believed in a guy in his 20s [to] work with guys that had a lot more experience than him,” Haney said. “He believed in the vision and I’ll forever be grateful that he gave me that opportunity.”
Entering a new role as the program director of WJOX, Haney worked closely with Brian Jennings, the vice president of sports talk and news talk for Citadel Broadcasting – which was acquired by Cumulus Media for $2.4 billion in September 2011. The team Haney has had around him at the station has maintained a culture of innovation and success, beginning with the addition of sports talk personality Paul Finebaum to its airwaves in January 2007.
Finebaum was the host of the Paul Finebaum Radio Network, a growing broadcast property that had over 20 affiliate stations. However, his show emanated from WERC-AM, a news station owned by Clear Channel Communications. Once his contract expired, Finebaum signed on with the all-sports station WJOX-FM to expand the reach of his show and broadcast exclusively within the sports talk format.
Although Finebaum no longer broadcasts directly with WJOX-FM, his national ESPN Radio show is distributed to the station and various other affiliate stations on weekday afternoons. In fact, his national program finished second in the Nielsen fall ratings book with a 7.6 share among the demographic of men aged 25-54.
“I think good content is good content,” Haney said. “I think naturally in a market like Birmingham – because that’s what I can speak to – it’s very important. I think good content is good content no matter where it is [or] how you consume it, and the idea is [that] you want to put the best content out there that you can that will appeal to your core listeners.”
WJOX overhauled its lineup in July 2021, establishing a new morning show featuring Greg McElroy and Cole Cubelic, both of whom are former college football players. The morning duo ranked second among men aged 25-54 in the latest Nielsen ratings book and has found success through their perspectives into dialogue listeners who have not played on the gridiron can comprehend.
Additionally, they both invest considerable amounts of time into preparing for each show and measuring which topics the audience has interest in due to the dwindling attention span of human beings.
“I would put their football knowledge up with anyone,” Haney said. “The passion they have – and I think that’s one thing you can tell about them on the air. It comes across; it’s a real passion they have for the game and I think it’s infectious.”
When most sports fans usually think about heralded college football programs, the University of Alabama Crimson Tide almost always makes the list. The team has won seven national championships since head coach Nick Saban joined the staff in 2007, and has also produced a number of Heisman Trophy winners.
College football in the state, however, extends far beyond the University of Alabama – as there are plenty of other teams in the area such as Auburn, Troy, and South Alabama. Even though the college football season concluded last week with thE Georgia defeat of TCU, it is still a primary topic of discussion on WJOX-FM and within other local media outlets.
It is, quite simply, part of the identity of Birmingham and other large college football markets. Therefore, if WJOX-FM decided to neglect that, local sports fans would likely find another media outlet where the sport is always a topic of discussion.
“We talk about college football every day,” Haney explained. “I’ve said for years: ‘Our season never ends.’ In the portal world; in the NIL world, it’s almost becoming like an NFL calendar where there’s always something going on.”
As a program director, Haney views himself as a resource to his employees, being available to give advice and provide his staff with all that is necessary to succeed. Moreover, he understands that everyone possesses unique talents and skills – and it is part of his job to identify, cultivate and subsequently utilize them to help enhance the aggregate product as best he can. Yet being able to do that is achieved through more than simply assigning people air time and giving his input when it comes to topic selection and show format.
“Empowerment’s big with me,” he said. “When your people know you trust them and they give you the freedom and they know you support them, that goes a long way. I’ve always tried to be that and I hope everyone that’s worked for me and works for me now would say that’s how I’ve tried to be with them.”
While Haney tries to keep the focus on internal matters and how the station can reach its goals, he maintains an acute consciousness regarding other media outlets, all of whom are vying for a share of the invaluable attention of consumers. In today’s day and age, there is cross-pollination in sports media when it comes to the mediums through which talent provide coverage of events and/or disseminate their opinions.
“The exciting thing for me when you look at just the sports landscape in media is [that] there’s so many outlets out there now that talented people are talented people,” he stated. “Talented people with the right coaching; with the right attitude; the right preparation [and] the right effort can excel in all different [facets] of sports media.”
Just as a baseball team tries to do with a star prospect or a basketball team with its first-round draft pick, developing talent and subsequently watching it realize its full potential is particularly fulfilling. Aside from working in radio, Haney coaches his childrens’ sports teams and watches as they progress and improve with each practice and game.
He draws parallels between coaching a sports team and being a program director wherefore the roles are symbiotic in that the lessons learned from one can apply to the other. Acting both as a scout and development coach, Haney has become even more well-rounded and versatile as a manager and coach as he has amassed more experience and expertise.
“You’re helping people grow; you’re trying to coach people [and] get them where they want to be to reach their personal goals… within what their brands are trying to do,” Haney said. “….When people come in; seeing where they are, seeing the creativity and seeing the dedication – seeing really the belief that they have in watching them grow – it’s very satisfying and I think that’s ultimately why I fell in love with it and still love it today.”
Working as a program director is not Haney’s only role in the company, as he has also been serving as the operations manager for Cumulus Birmingham since 2011. As a result, Haney often finds himself busy doing work, albeit in an industry for which he garners great passion and interest, and never finds himself focused on the same given task each day. His dual job fluctuates in nature but no matter the role, coaching and mentoring his colleagues at the station is paramount in ensuring sustained development across the board.
“It’s making sure that you find time for everyone because at the end of the day, whatever one person’s dealing with is the most important thing to them,” Haney expressed. “If I’m going to be honest, I probably wasn’t the best at that at times but I think over the last few years, I’ve gotten a lot better with that.”
Bruce Gilbert is the senior vice president of sports at Cumulus Media and Westwood One, and someone who has helped Haney augment his skills as a manager in a business centered around its people. Despite not joining the company until 2015, he has made an indelible impact on its employees while broadening its vast portfolio and numerous partnerships.
“I’ve learned so much from him and he’s really challenged me in so many ways,” Haney said. “I feel like I’ve grown as a manager and really as a person since I’ve been working with him.”
By surrounding himself with established professionals and other skilled colleagues, Haney has learned to worry about what the station is able to control rather than chasing perfection or certain desirable numbers in the ratings. He regrets hyperfocusing on metrics and other circumstances out of his control earlier in his career and now operates on a daily basis to be present for his staff and serve as an exemplary leader as best he can.
“I’ve had ratings books throughout the years where I didn’t think we hit our marks and we had really high numbers,” Haney said. “I’ve had ratings books through the years where I thought the content was spot-on; the focus was done really well and we didn’t register for whatever reason. You have to take it for what it is. Like anything, I think it’s all what you want to learn from it no matter what it says.”
Regardless of what the ratings may indicate, WJOX-FM looks to continue producing stellar content while remaining at the forefront of innovation in the sector. It brings listeners local shows on 94.5 FM and nationally-distributed programming on WJQX-FM (Jox 2) and WJOX-AM (Jox 3) from ESPN Radio and FOX Sports Radio, respectively.
Fostering partnerships and thriving in the industry not only requires an ear for appealing content though; it also means establishing and preserving professional relationships across the board. Paul Mason, the program director of 104.5 The Zone in Nashville is someone Haney often calls to discuss ideas with and sometimes asks for advice in certain scenarios.
“Everybody’s trying to put the best content out they can, and there’s a lot of smart people in a lot of different areas in sports media,” Haney said. “I think maintaining as many relationships as you can [and] just having conversations with people – the exchange of ideas – I think makes us all better.”
Innovation in sports media requires managers and their larger entities to face the reality of change. Although change is necessary, it is not always looked at fondly – and usually even less so if it incurs costs with no guarantee of generating revenue. It is through change, however, in which breakthroughs in broadcast media have arisen, such as the advent of podcasts, digital programs, OTT platforms and streaming services.
Having an aspect in determining the timeline of sports media content and discovering new ways to reach consumers is a part of the job that energizes Haney. He works tirelessly each day to do his part in giving WJOX-FM and its associated stations the chance to capitalize on its strengths and improve on its weaknesses.
Simultaneously, looking at areas of potential opportunity and/or threats creates a sentience of what is occurring beyond studio walls, affording the entity a more comprehensive understanding of its position in the marketplace when evaluating its internal and external key performance indicators.
“I might [have viewed] things as a roadblock,” Haney said about the early stages of his career. “I’ve really tried over the last several years to view things as an opportunity. It’s just crazy how fast everything’s moving, and I think we’re all – in all walks of professional life – adjusting on the fly.”
In adopting this growth mindset, media professionals can evince chances to contribute to new, perhaps previously unforeseen sectors of the industry. Rather than stubbornly insisting adherence to mundane principles and outdated technologies, grasping the wheel and exploring new areas harbors curiosity and invigorates those passionate for the craft.
“I’m excited about where sports radio and everything that it touches and sports media in general is going,” Haney said. “I think there’s more opportunities and so many talented people out there in so many different walks of what we do that we’ve got a chance. The best is still yet to come.”
Being relentless and working to achieve goals is what has allowed Haney to remain with the same company for nearly three decades – first as an intern and now as a program director and operations manager. He never sought to work in media, initially having some interest in working either as a public relations practitioner, attorney or sports agent; however, following his passion led him to radio, the medium so prevalent throughout his youth.
The key to endurance is to always have a sense of momentum rather than maintaining a constant sense of unimpeded inertia – along with staying invested in the journey filled with vectorized moments of rapid acceleration and, conversely, times where you just need to jam on the brakes and de-velocitize.
“I think so many times now with as fast as we move and this short attention span-society where everybody wants that immediate gratification – ‘I want this; I’m going to work hard…’ ‘Okay, I worked hard for two weeks and it didn’t happen so I’m going to give up,’” Haney posed. “Don’t do it; don’t do it. Have your process; trust your process; work on making that progress and always dream big.”
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.