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Al Michaels Wasn’t Sure What to Expect From Amazon

“I didn’t know what my expectations were except for the fact that I knew that with Fred in control, this was going to look big-time – and it did.”

Derek Futterman




As Jacksonville Jaguars kicker Riley Patterson launched the football between the uprights, the crowd in Jacksonville erupted in jubilation, a stark contrast to its palpable despondence just a short time before. The Los Angeles Chargers had established a sizable 27-0 lead in the Wild Card game but proceeded to have no answer for the Jaguars’ offense in the second half. Working in his emeritus role with NBC Sports, Al Michaels was on the call for the matchup and delivered the final call to a national audience, which subsequently received a deluge of criticism from sports fans and media pundits alike.

In fact, some people, deeming the broadcast lackluster, went so far as to suggest Michaels should step aside and retire from broadcasting altogether.

Yet Michaels, who has made a stellar career of nailing the big moments with just the right tonality and volume, saw an official throw a penalty flag following the game-winning field goal. As an experienced national play-by-play announcer, he remained patient and waited for the ruling to see if it would impact the final score.

It was a shrewd observation on his part, but the penalty, which turned out to be a defensive offside on Asante Samuel Jr. of the Chargers, was declined by Jacksonville. The game ended in a 31-30 Jaguars victory, and many fans preferred the impassioned call made by Jaguars’ radio voice Frank Frangie, sharing it across social media.

“It might have been something like, ‘A comeback for the ages for the Jaguars; a meltdown for the ages for the Chargers,’” Michaels hypothesized on his final call had there not been a penalty flag. “That’s it. I don’t go on and on. I don’t holler the game at you; I don’t scream the game at you.”

For the previous 16 seasons, Michaels had been the voice of Sunday Night Football on NBC, working with the late-John Madden and Cris Collinsworth on the prime time matchup of the night. Throughout what turned out to be his final season with NBC Sports in 2021, there was much speculation about where Michaels would end up; however, it was made obvious to him that his broadcast scenery would change.

“I was not offered the opportunity to remain on Sunday night, so we start there,” Michaels said. “This was not a move that I made; this was a move that was made for me.”

NBC Sports had chosen Mike Tirico to take over as the play-by-play announcer for Sunday Night Football, one segment of a larger broadcasting shakeup across the NFL last offseason. Michaels and Tirico had corresponded over the years at NBC, having conversations about the future of the business and collaborating on broadcasts as the play-by-play announcer and Football Night in America host, respectively.

Recognizing that Tirico is a veteran in the industry, Michaels knew he would quickly assimilate into calling Sunday Night Football full time with Cris Collinsworth – especially since Tirico had been his predecessor once before. As a result, he knew Tirico would not need unprompted advice from him regarding the new role.

“Don’t forget, Mike did 10 years of Monday Night Football,” Michaels said. “It’s not like Mike was coming into a fishbowl and he hadn’t been there before. People forget [that] I did 20 years of Monday night [and] he did the next 10. Monday Night Football is still… a major, major American television institution. Mike has had a ton of experience; it wouldn’t be like somebody brand new coming in and making a big leap.”

In March 2021, the NFL announced a new media rights agreement beginning in 2023 worth a reported $110 billion between CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC/ESPN, and Amazon Prime Video. The deal also includes increased flex scheduling for Sunday Night Football on NBC and Monday Night Football on ESPN, along with Amazon Prime Video being named the exclusive home of Thursday Night Football.

Originally, Amazon Prime Video was not supposed to begin its production of Thursday Night Football until the 2023 season; however, negotiations between the company and the league resulted in its launch being moved a year earlier. FOX Sports had been producing Thursday night football games since 2018, and the broadcast was simulcast to NFL Network and on Amazon Prime. The network raised no qualms when afforded a chance to back out of the final year of its agreement, ceding the broadcast property to Amazon Prime Video.

Amazon Prime Video officially announced the signing of Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit as its inaugural Thursday Night Football booth after months of speculation and reporting about the potential broadcast pairing. The OTT streaming service had secured the Thursday night broadcast rights for 11 years and sought to build ethos and trust with its audience while innovating on its modern platform.

A key move that piqued the interest of Michaels in joining Amazon Prime Video was when it named Fred Gaudelli as the broadcast’s executive producer. Michaels had worked with Gaudelli for the last 21 years – 5 at Monday Night Football on ABC; 18 at Sunday Night Football on NBC – and developed a rapport with him.

Due to the success of Sunday Night Football as being prime time television’s number one show for the 11th consecutive year while averaging a total audience delivery of 19.9 million viewers, Michaels was, in his own words, “surprised… that he was going to do this.”

“He’s at the very top,” Michaels said of Gaudelli, who produced his final NFL game last month in the truck but will continue in the executive producer role with Amazon Prime Video and NBC. “A lot of us in the business say, ‘Our producer; our director is the very best.’ I’ll go to war about that…. Fred is at the top of the line.”

With the broadcast team in place, Amazon Prime Video began preparing for the season by assembling shoulder programming, composing a theme song and building out hi-tech mobile broadcast units. The production felt at scale with what Michaels had departed from, and he felt confident the new endeavor in his career would be successful.

“I didn’t know what my expectations were except for the fact that I knew that with Fred in control, this was going to look big-time – and it did,” Michaels said. “I credit him with making the show look what it looked like. He did it like Sunday Night Football; he put together a crew from scratch.

“Our directors; our guys – ‘Take one;’ period; end of story; live,” Michaels said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for the people who do this [and] I would hope the league appreciates how good television makes the National Football League look every week on all of the networks.”

According to Nielsen ratings data, Amazon Prime Video’s presentation of Thursday Night Football averaged 9.58 million viewers over its 15-game package, peaking during its first broadcast in a matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers. A particular challenge Michaels and the broadcast team faced emanated simply from broadcasting games on a Thursday.

“It’s difficult for the league to give us a compelling game every week because you can’t ask teams to play more than once a year on a Sunday-Thursday type of schedule,” Michaels said. “That’s why, for the most part, you have to do every team in the league.”

Throughout the season, Thursday Night Football had its fair share of matchups that were ostensibly not appealing to consumers because of the teams and/or the flow of the game.

Michaels had similar experiences over his time with ABC and NBC, enduring through contrasting facile and difficult stretches of games, but knew many factors were beyond his control. Just because a game fell short of expectations, however, did not mean it equated to a subpar broadcasts, as there were contests throughout the season – most notably the Los Angeles Rams’ Week 14 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders – that were decided in the final five minutes garnering an implausible and/or unlikely denouement.

“You’re going to get some dramatic games; you’re going to get some pretty good games; you’re going to get some okay games; and you’re going to get some stiffs,” Michaels said. “….We had our share this year of games that were less than compelling, so hopefully the law of averages gets us some games that will go down to the wire.

“I don’t think anything televises like football,” Michaels said. “I think a lot of the popularity of the National Football League can be attributed to what it looks like, and I think the advent of HDTV years ago, and now 4K [and] skycams – you’re taken inside the huddle; you’re taken wherever you need to go…. I’m even amazed being inside the business of how great it looks and how amazing it is that we’re able to get the shots that we get.”

One of the first things Al Michaels remembers in life is walking into Ebbets Field on the first-base side in the early 1950s with his father, Jay, by his side. As he marveled at the baseball field the then-Brooklyn Dodgers called home, he knew his future would somehow involve remaining around the world of sports.

His father, who initially worked as a booking agent and went on to become a television executive, taught him about the rules of the games and kept him immersed in the Dodgers, along with other local teams. He would go on to attend many more Dodgers games in his formative years, always transfixed on both the action and the broadcasters. Additionally, he would listen to baseball games from afar, including local New York Giants and New York Yankees broadcasts.

“Sports had to be a part of my life and it never wavered,” Michaels said. “It is the only thing that I ever wanted to do; I was able to do all of the things to get to the point where I was able to get into the business.”

Around the same time when Michaels attended his first Dodgers game, the team had introduced its new announcer who would go on to be known as the legendary voice of baseball, Vin Scully. In his rookie season, Scully worked with Red Barber and Connie Desmond, two established sportscasters in their own rights – and went on to broadcast the World Series three years later at the age of 25.

Working within the Dodgers organization for 66 years, Scully was a renowned figure among baseball fans at large. He was widely regarded as a master storyteller, emblematic of America’s national pastime and a recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award for his contributions to the game. Michaels followed Scully from his early days as a member of the Dodgers’ broadcast team and is someone for whom he has a profound amount of respect.

“I was unbelievably and thrillingly honored when the Dodgers asked me to come and emcee the Opening Day tribute to Vinny going into his last year,” Michaels said. “So many of the players I grew up with were there to honor him. Vinny – number one – was the guy I always strived to model myself after.”

Shortly after his graduation from Arizona State University, Michaels called Hawaii Islanders’ Minor League Baseball games, a Triple-A club then-affiliated with the Chicago White Sox. This came after a brief stint as a talent coordinator with Chuck Barris Productions where he would assist in the planning of The Dating Game, a television game show hosted by Jim Lange.

Additionally in 1967, he had worked with Chick Hearn as a broadcast assistant for the Los Angeles Lakers while also helping the team in its public relations department. After eight games (four of which he appeared on the air) though, Michael was surprised to learn that he had been fired via a phone call by Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke. He found out years later that he had only been brought on the broadcasts to help Hearn assimilate working with a partner, who eventually would turn out to be Rodney Hundley.

While many people visit Hawaii to relax and unwind, Michaels did the complete opposite, working in a variety of roles that gave him a decade’s worth of experience in the span of just three years. In addition to his role calling Islanders baseball, he announced University of Hawaii football and basketball games and high school sporting events. He also wrote a column in a weekly magazine all while appearing on television twice per day on a news station at 6 and 10 PM.

His ticket back to the continental United States came when someone at NBC had heard Michaels broadcasting during their vacation and recommended the Cincinnati Reds interview him for their open radio play-by-play announcer job. Michaels’ first major league broadcast partner was former Reds pitcher Joe Nuxhall and together, they covered Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, and “The Big Red Machine” for the next three seasons.

Early in his broadcast career, Michaels had displayed versatility and was always cognizant of opportunities to learn new information and gain new experiences. When the team qualified for the World Series in his second season, he appeared on NBC at the age of 27 alongside its national broadcast team of Tony Kubek and Curt Gowdy to call the game and provide local insight.

“I also loved Curt Gowdy when I was growing up because Curt was extremely versatile,” Michaels said. “Curt did the Super Bowl; he did the World Series; he did the Final Four and a number of other shows…. It was a great thrill for me to get to work with [him].”

Following the next season, Michaels returned to California to call games for the San Francisco Giants and also began calling men’s basketball for UCLA. In 1977, he signed with ABC Sports and became the lead play-by-play announcer for its coverage of Major League Baseball and had the opportunity to call the World Series seven additional times, two of which he alternated broadcast duties with Keith Jackson depending on the location of the game.

One of those World Series occurred in 1989 when the San Francisco Giants were playing the Oakland Athletics – and Michaels was live on the air when Game 3 was interrupted by the Loma Prieta earthquake, which registered a 6.9 on the Richter scale. For the next eight hours, Michaels broadcast live coverage of the earthquake from Candlestick Park, the home of the Giants, demonstrating his adept proficiency in adjusting the scope of coverage. He received an Emmy nomination for his abeyance of broadcasting the game itself to provide on-site news coverage, informing viewers in the San Francisco Bay Area and around the country as to what had occurred and the events that ensued.

While at the network, Michaels had the opportunity to cover a wide range of different sports, including college football, horse racing and ice hockey. In 1980, Michaels was on the broadcast team for the Winter Olympics at Lake Placid – the year when the United States upset the Soviet Union 4-3 in what was perhaps the 20th century’s most iconic moment in sports. The game was aired on tape delay and ultimately resulted in a gold medal finish for the United States when they came back to defeat Finland two days later. The victory also ended the Soviet Union’s streak of capturing four straight Olympic hockey gold medals.

Michaels affirms that his famous call, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!,” is the unequivocal highlight of his career. Years later, it was utilized in the Walt Disney Pictures movie “Miracle,” a depiction of the 1980 U.S. Men’s National Team starring Kurt Russell as former head coach Herb Brooks and Patrick O’Brien Demsey as team captain Mike Eruzione. Even without the movie though, the team remains fixed in American sports lore forever – and Michaels’ call continues to provide the bonafide soundtrack of what is perhaps its most heralded moment.

It also continues to run in the family, as his grandson, who is a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, is set to call his first women’s hockey game.

“The hockey coach at the University of Wisconsin – they’ve got a fantastic program – is Mark Johnson, who [was] one of the big heroes at Lake Placid,” Michaels said. “Everyone thinks about Eruzione and Jim Craig, but I can’t wait until Mark Johnson finds out that my grandson [is] going to be announcing one of his team’s games. I can’t believe it – it’s just unbelievable. I’m excited as hell for that to happen; I can’t tell you.

“My younger grandson plays hockey and his team went to Lake Placid about three years ago when he was 12 or 13 years old, and they wound up winning the gold medal in their group,” Michaels added. “Here’s my… grandson at Lake Placid, on the ice, taking a picture with a gold medal around his neck. You can’t make this stuff up – it’s unbelievable.”

When Al Michaels first became aware of the job opening with Amazon Prime Video, he was not looking to reinvent the wheel, instead trying to find aspects of the broadcast on which to improve each week. After all, there is no competition from other television broadcasts in the National Football League on Thursday nights, giving Amazon Prime Video a unique chance to differentiate itself from other programming.

In persuading viewers to try streaming the game, Thursday Night Football brought on an credible and sagacious broadcast team in Michaels and Herbstreit. The commentators, joined by Kaylee Hartung as its sideline reporter, quickly developed chemistry in the broadcast booth, blending traditional perspectives and modern insights to cultivate an appealing weekly program.

Some viewers, however, were confused as to why Herbstreit was added onto these broadcasts, but the decision made complete sense to Michaels. He pointed out that more than half of the players on NFL rosters today are either in their first, second or third seasons – meaning that Herbstreit, from his time in college football, had an esoteric base of knowledge on which to provide cogent, detailed analysis.

“‘He’s seen them all,’” Michaels said he told those skeptical of the decision to hire Herbstreit. “‘He’s more up-to-date with those guys than anybody who’s been doing just the NFL.’ I think that boded well for what it was.”

As a play-by-play announcer, Michaels aims to foster a connection with the listener and accurately depict what is occurring on the field. Despite moving from linear television to an OTT streaming platform, the way in which he calls the game has remained the same. If he had changed his announcing style, Michaels says people would have questioned what he was doing and why he deviated away from what had worked for a prolonged amount of time.

“I have no idea,” Michaels said regarding changing his announcing style. “Would I bring back Dennis Miller? Well, I could do that too. Anyway, that’s what it is. People are more comfortable – I don’t want to say with a standard telecast – but if you go too far… you make it more about yourself than the game and people don’t like that.”

Over his storied career in sports media, Al Michaels has called 11 Super Bowls, most recently last year’s contest between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams. Several of the contests came down to key plays made in the waning moments – such as Kevin Dyson falling one-yard short of keeping the game alive in 2000 and Malcolm Butler’s interception in 2014.

“You get to the game and you don’t want to get over-excited – you just have to calm yourself down and make the week as normal as possible if you’re doing a regular game,” Michaels said. “Once you’re on the air, it’s very exciting. You know where you are; you know how many people are watching – but once you get going, it’s pretty much like the players say: You have that first contact; the play gets underway; the pregame hype is over and then you do your job.”

It was never a sporting event Michaels thought about broadcasting in his youth because the first Super Bowl was not played until 1967, the year after he graduated Arizona State University, in a matchup between the AFC’s Kansas City Chiefs and NFC’s Green Bay Packers. Over the years, the game has become “an unofficial national holiday” and usually dominates sports media coverage upon the completion of the NFL’s championship round.

Although its linear television ratings have slightly decreased over the years, partially due to viewers streaming the game, it remains, by far, the most-watched sporting event of the year in the United States.

As Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen prepare to call the action this year on FOX, the critical thing, just as it is in any other game, will be to keep viewers informed regarding all the action.

“You want to make sure that you’re right on top of everything,” Michaels said. “I’ve had a few of them that went down to the very last play of the game and you’ve got to make sure you’re on top of it. You don’t want to have a blown call on the last play of the game.”

Despite the disparity in the ratings compared to previous years on linear television and inconsistency in the appeal of the schedule, Michaels was pleased with the first season of Thursday Night Football.

He is cognizant of the challenges the broadcast has to continue to overcome in attracting viewers from a broad range of demographics and making the technology accessible en masse; however, the opportunity to be part of this avenue of innovation in sports media both excites him and keeps him motivated to perform at a high level.

“It’s intoxicating and exhilarating for me to still be a part of this and still be a part of the National Football League, which has become the king of all sports right now,” Michaels said.

“The thought of moving away from it – no, that has no appeal to me. To do what? People say, ‘Well, you can retire and play golf.’ I play enough golf….. To me, it’s not a job really; it really isn’t. It’s a source of great enjoyment for me and it keeps my brain stimulated. I’ll probably do this as long as somebody will have me and my health holds out.”

BSM Writers

Julie Stewart-Binks Is Going to Be Everywhere At Once

“The industry has changed so much from when I first started and I was first in journalism school. We were learning right then what Twitter was.”

Derek Futterman




Oftentimes, personalities around the world of sports media are former athletes themselves – whether or not at the professional level notwithstanding. The lessons one can take away from suiting up on a playing surface and being in a team setting are extensive and can serve as guiding principles in other professions. Having an understanding of this, Julie Stewart-Binks initially pursued working in sports psychology after playing intramural hockey, running varsity track and field and competing in figure skating.

Growing up in Toronto, hockey was naturally imbued into the fabric of her being, and her nascent passion for the game on the ice was evident. At the suggestion of her mother, Georgie Binks, who worked for various radio and television outlets as a reporter and anchor, Stewart-Binks inquired about volunteering at her university’s radio station, but was turned down due to a lack of opportunities. Resolute in trying to foster a career, she took a chance to work in television as a reporter for Queen’s University TV in nearby Kingston and began gaining repetitions in the field.

“I just loved that adrenaline,” Stewart-Binks said. “The preparation to the execution felt a lot like sports. That was sort of the mirroring of my athletic career as well.”

Although Stewart-Binks graduated the university with a dual degree in psychology and drama, she had cultivated opportunities to work in journalism as a student with some of the school’s media outlets. Upon her graduation, she worked as a reporter during summer 2009 at CKWS Newswatch and, with her focus set on building a journalism career, attended graduate school shortly thereafter in London.

“The industry has changed so much from when I first started and I was first in journalism school,” Stewart-Binks said. “We were learning right then what Twitter was. A journalism master’s, if anyone ever still does that, would be completely different from what it would be now.”

From the beginning, much of Stewart-Binks’ career has been predicated on developing and demonstrating widespread versatility across sports media. In her formative years, she worked as a hockey host and reporter on TV Cogeco and a co-host on Sports Night Radio, getting her accustomed with the multiplatform nature of the business. She then worked for TV Cogeco Niagara as a reporter and host on The OHL Tonight, producing and disseminating information about the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs.

Not only was she appearing on the visual medium of television, but she was also working as a sports writer for the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s website and as a program assistant for its signature show: Hockey Night in Canada. Essentially, it was her way of ingratiating herself into the world of hockey, a sport she continues to play recreationally today at Chelsea Piers in New York, N.Y.

“It’s just been in my blood since I was a kid,” Stewart-Binks said. “….Getting to know these guys and watch them grow into NHL stars has been such a cool experience.”

Stewart-Binks had her mother to look to as inspiration in the broadcast industry, and as time went on, she discovered other mentors and role models to supplement her career. Michelle Beadle, who has worked for a variety of outlets in the industry, is someone who in particular stands out to her. In watching her report and simultaneously contend with the misogyny she faces as a woman working in sports media, Stewart-Binks views her as a “guiding light.”

“I think she just is a pillar and a huge role model of being not only authentic,” Stewart-Binks said, “but paving the way for women to straddle so many different avenues of being able to use personality; being able to use analysis; and [to] be serious and be funny, but be professional.”

As a native of Canada, Stewart-Binks moved to the United States and gradually assimilated herself into the culture. On one hand, she worked on losing her Canadian accent by writing words phonetically into teleprompters to ensure she would pronounce them in the American style.

Moreover, she recognized the broad array of sports consumed in the United States, and tailored her reporting to reflect the levels of interest. In exuviating senses of bonafide ethnocentrism, Stewart-Binks found a way to appeal to her audience while covering events both at the local and national level for FOX Sports.

Stewart-Binks regularly reported on regional broadcasts for the Anaheim Ducks, closely following the team throughout its season and reporting on pertinent storylines. Nationally, she contributed to studio and game coverage for baseball, football and soccer, along with being afforded the chance to cover the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi.

The amalgamation of countries and cultural diffusion was exhilarating to her–  in addition to having the chance to learn the unique stories about the athletes. She believes those stories work to create a formidable connection between Olympians and spectators, communicated and gathered through deft reporting.

“We can all relate to athletes at the Olympics because they’ve all gone through having a dream and getting to celebrate and have this incredible moment,” Stewart-Binks said. “We’ve all kind of had to go through adversity as people. You hear their stories and [how they] go through adversity and they fail, and it relates to every single person on any level of their life.”

Maintaining persistence and confidence in oneself can seem insurmountable to those in any profession, and it is fundamental to eliminate the stigma around prioritizing mental health. In many ways, Stewart-Binks’ career as a journalist better informs people watching that there are a countless number of others enduring challenges and finding ways to overcome obstacles. “Seeing people train for years and years and years to get to that moment and it doesn’t go the way they expect it [is] real life for a lot of people,” Stewart-Binks remarked.

After several years with FOX Sports, Stewart-Binks signed a deal to work as a sideline reporter for Major League Soccer and on games for the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Team with ESPN. During her time at FOX Sports, she had always had a hand in its soccer coverage, even making her United States national television debut anchoring FOX Soccer Report.

In 2013, she officially moved to Los Angeles to help launch FOX Sports 1 as host of FOX Soccer Daily, a studio-based show featuring news, opinion and analysis from around the sport. Furthermore, she reported from a multitude of on-site events, including the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which took place across various Canadian provinces, giving her increased exposure to an international audience.

In being ubiquitous, however, came a strenuous travel schedule resulting in road trips spanning not days, but rather weeks. It was a continuous cycle of preparing, traveling and executing, often juggling various tasks at once, demanding synergy and collaboration while maintaining a level of understanding about the grind of the soccer season. Reflecting on that time period, Stewart-Binks is in disbelief over what she achieved and ascertained that it would be considerably more difficult to do now considering much of her work has been from home over the last several years.

“The biggest thing is learning how to pack efficiently and keeping yourself physically and mentally sound,” Stewart-Binks said. “Mostly eating right and being on the road is the hardest thing. You’re in different time zones or you’re in hotel rooms and you’re not sleeping right…. [It is] important to just maintain your health and to eat right; to bring supplements; [and] to sort of plan ahead.”

Early in her tenure at ESPN, Stewart-Binks participated in an interview course which assidiously explored the craft and gave reporters insight into how to best elicit compendious answers from their subjects.

Whether it is actively listening; following up; or removing one’s ego from the conversation, she worked to develop comfortability and a distinctive style that relaxes guests and renders them interesting to hear from. To this day, she equips the esoteric knowledge gained from that course and applies it to her roles and responsibilities across different forms of media.

“People are always, in any answer, giving you Easter eggs; little nuggets – they’re dropping hints on something,” Stewart-Binks said. “The interviewer has to be able to pick those things up, see that open door and go through it…. Sideline reporting is different because you only have a certain amount of time, but if a coach or a player says something, you have to be willing to abandon whatever question you have next [and adapt].”

Up until this point, Stewart-Binks had been reporting for traditional media outlets and on typical platforms of dissemination, primarily television but also radio. While she was still working with ESPN, Stewart-Binks began hosting morning radio alongside Willie Colon and Francis Ellis on SiriusXM as part of Barstool Breakfast.

The program, which was under the auspices of Barstool Sports, allowed Stewart-Binks to diversify her digital portfolio and cement herself as a regular voice on matters pertaining to all sports. The job demanded having a passion for the work and fastidiously preparing to establish and meet expectations held by listeners and consumers of the brand at large.

Although she was working with two co-hosts, she was cognizant of the importance of being proficient in many different areas to the degree that she could talk about them by herself if need be. Additionally, possessing an understanding of the audience and how to produce content that keeps them informed, engaged and entertained was critical to allow her to stand out.

“Morning radio is one of the hardest things that you could possibly do and I think one of the biggest challenges for anyone, especially morning sports talk radio,” Stewart-Binks expressed. “I enjoyed it. I was able to show a lot of my personality and bring my insight and background from a lot of different sports.”

Upon her exit from Barstool Sports eight months later, her co-hosts loosely addressed the matter on the air, with Colon calling the company “a unique animal” and Ellis suggesting an ostensible initiation process for its employees. The time period also marked the end of her career at ESPN, signifying the start of something new with an increased emphasis on demonstrating her skills and utilizing her foresight. It brought her to the world of standup comedy.

Akin to appearing on camera in some ways, standup comedy is based on one’s ability to connect with and eloquently speak in front of an audience. Her original impetus in pursuing the endeavor was to accentuate her broadcast skills; however, it ended up leading her to find a unique niche in sports media and a chance to reset her career.

“It was horrifying to do,” Stewart-Binks said of taking a standup comedy class, “but I also really enjoyed getting up there on stage and getting instant feedback which you don’t get in broadcasting. I did that, and I was able to transfer that over; I was bit by that type of bug.”

Following a stint with the Upright Citizens’ Brigade comedy group where she performed improvisation and standup comedy routines, Stewart-Binks gained self-confidence and took on a plethora of new jobs – including with SportsNet New York on its daily show The Thread and as an anchor for CBS Sports HQ broadcasts. Her previous experience, combined with getting out of her comfort zone and exploring new approaches to cut through in the industry, allowed her to find her strong suits and emphasize them as a host.

“It’s about bringing my experience and my background and the perspective I’ve gained over the last 12 years in the industry by being Julie Stewart-Binks and remembering who I am,” she said. “That’s how you take your power back in any situation – knowing who you are.”

With a renewed sense of self-identity and aplomb, Stewart-Binks directly utilized the skills she had learned in becoming her own production team for two late-night shows through fuboTV, named Call It a Night and Drinks with Binks, respectively. Both shows were initially filmed in studios in Manhattan, but once the COVID-19 pandemic struck the country, transitioned to a remote production format. It gave Stewart-Binks the ability to book guests outside of the New York-metropolitan area and continue to communicate with her audience amid an abeyance of daily sports contests.


“I got to talk with so many people, really flex my interview skills, learn a lot, break news and kind of get below the levels and layers that we see on a normal, national scale and just get to know the people behind what they do,” Stewart-Binks said. “That’s what I think is the biggest thing. All these people that we see as athletes or entertainers – they’re actually just like all of us… and have their own fascinating stories or quirks; their highs or lows; and I love learning that and showing that to an audience.”

Now being immersed in the industry for over a decade, Stewart-Binks calls upon key figures and executives to give women opportunities to work and grow in sports media. From her standpoint, developing a culture that encourages women rather than acting aloof towards them will ensure entities continue to flourish and relate to changing demographics. The media ecosystem is dynamic in and of itself, and keeping pace with its shifts necessitates exigently adjusting and innovating to emergent technologies and the next generation of talent without prejudice.

“The more women there are in this industry, the less it is about our gender and the more it is about the work we do and the abilities we have and what we can do to be on the same playing field as men,” Stewart-Binks said. “….Because of sports being so masculine and male-dominated, it kind of leads to sports broadcasting itself being that way. I feel it’s kind of a better time for women to get involved right now, and there’s so many young women I watch doing everything.”

When Stewart-Binks sees women being criticized because of their gender, she has no qualms about speaking up and defending others, refusing to be a bystander in these types of situations. Not everyone thinks this way though, instead navigating the space and tolerating injustice displayed towards their colleagues and competitors.

She ponders how women do not always work in solidarity towards their common goal, instead reclusively focusing on their competition and scheming how to bring each other down. A particular phrase that stuck with her and transcended the bounds of her thought stated: “The greatest gift you can do is give something to someone else that you would want.” Displaying selflessness and a sense of altruism keeps her motivated to strive for more in sports media beyond wholly individualistic gains and hopeful to catalyze congeniality.

“We all can’t do this by ourselves,” Stewart-Binks said. “We all have to help one another. We’ve also been conditioned to sort of fight for that one spot at the table because of the world that’s been created for us by men. We [need to] realize, ‘Hey, we can create our own table,’ or ‘We can create more spots.’”

Today, Stewart-Binks is working in a variety of different freelance roles spanning traditional and digital visual media. She has remained with SportsNet New York as a host and reporter, and also carries out roles with Turner Sports and NBC Sports pertaining to hockey and fantasy football, respectively.

She recently inked a deal with BetRivers to evolve Drinks with Binks and also create a travel-based show with the intent of exposing viewers to different locales around the world of sports. Both are still in development and are projects she has been able to lend her voice and knowledge to ensure they are stellar and augment its content offerings.

“I get to bring my passion, my skills, my credibility and my background to a place that is really working, in real-time, as the next step in sports, which is what everyone is trying to be a part of,” Stewart-Binks said. “Especially with how we look at the economy and how we look at so many different industries, sports gambling and betting is just taking off beyond belief, whereas a lot of other places are cutting or aren’t really sure of their future. It’s really interesting to be a part of it.”

Following the ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, states were given regulatory power regarding the legality of sports betting. Regardless of the speed at which different states moved to legalize the practice, the presence of concomitant programming and content simply is too much to ignore.

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Various sportsbooks have started to produce their own content rather than outsourcing material, including BetRivers – owned and operated by Rush Street Interactive – which signed Mike Francesa to a multi-year deal to host an exclusive podcast and serve as a brand ambassador. The augmentation of these platforms further impugns traditionalist views of the media, encouraging laggards within the diffusion of innovation to adopt an updated and refined outlook.

“A quote from one of my good friends is, ‘You’re either in or in the way,’” Stewart-Binks said. “You’ve got to be in sports gambling, and if not, you’re kind of going to get left behind. Regardless of where you work right now, that’s where the entire industry is going.”

As her career in the industry continues to evolve, Stewart-Binks looks forward to the challenge of having multiple responsibilities and amassing repetitions on both traditional and digital mediums. She is not afraid to take risks, recognizing that she will be told ‘No’ many more times than ‘Yes’ in her life, but never willing to give up trying and embracing the response of ‘Maybe’ to an inquiry. Sports media is undoubtedly a competitive field, and it genuinely takes an indefatigable, unrelenting work ethic combined with talent and a professional network to build and maintain a formidable career.

No one succeeds in this industry alone, underscoring the importance of developing professional relationships and never burning bridges or slamming doors. From her time as an athlete to this point in her career, Stewart-Binks appreciates the opportunities she has had and will continue to have to express herself on the air to a supportive and engaged audience. As she embarks on the next frontier of her career as a trailblazer, she aims to inspire prospective broadcasters and embolden hopefuls to chase their dreams.

“For you to have success in this industry, you almost have to have a delusional belief in yourself,” Stewart-Binks said. “If you don’t, why would anyone else buy into you if you don’t buy into yourself?’”

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Anatomy of an Analyst – Grant Hill

“I mean, think about his credentials, he checks all the boxes. NCAA Champion and Hall of Fame NBA Player. Credibility was never an issue. Fitting in was the only challenge.”

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It’s hard for Grant Hill to escape history. Every time someone sees the former Duke forward in his role as a CBS/Turner analyst for the NCAA Tournament I’ll bet they are thinking about “The Shot.” The 1992 Elite 8 classic between Duke and Kentucky that ended with Christian Laettner’s buzzer-beating game winner in overtime. Hill delivered the pass from under his own basket and Laettner hit the game winner sending the Blue Devils to the Final Four. Now it’s Hill’s job to analyze passes, shots and buzzer beaters on what will be Jim Nantz’s last Final Four broadcasts.

Hill had a decorated career at Duke and in the NBA. He was the 1994 ACC Player of the Year, a two-time NCAA All-American and a two-time National Champion. His number 33 hangs in the rafters at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Upon graduating, Hill was selected by the Pistons with the third overall pick in the NBA Draft. He shared the 1995 NBA Rookie of the Year Award with Jason Kidd. Hill was a 7-time NBA All-Star. He scored just over 17-thousand NBA points and averaged 16.7 points a game during his career. 

Injuries probably prevented him from being even better than he was. In 2013 he retired from the NBA after an 18-year career. and in 2018 he was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Before his induction, Hill got involved in ownership of an NBA Franchise. Hill and Tony Ressler were a part of a group that bought the Atlanta Hawks in 2015. He is the Vice Chairman of the Board with the Hawks. 


Hill began his broadcasting career in 2013, by co-hosting the relaunch of NBA Inside Stuff on NBA-TV from 2013-18, alongside Kristen Ledlow. Hill was also part of the TNT broadcast of the NCAA Tournament and their coverage of the NBA Playoffs, before his current role. As part of the Turner family, Hill was an NBA-TV studio analyst on NBA Game Time and on TNT’s Inside the NBA.

His rise to the top broadcast team on CBS/Turner’s NCAA Final Four games, came as a big surprise to the Hall of Fame player. He recalled the story about his ascension in an interview with Yahoo Sports in 2017. Hill was a rookie all over again, and was very young in the broadcasting game, when he received a message from his boss, who wanted to see him. 

“I’m thinking I have to go to the principal’s office and they’re going to tell me how bad I am,” Hill told Yahoo. “Instead, he’s like, ‘Hey, we want you to do the Final Four with Jim Nantz and Bill Raftery.’”

The stars aligned for him after a series of events gave him the break. Steve Kerr left to coach the Golden State Warriors in May 2014 and Greg Anthony was arrested on a charge of soliciting a prostitute eight months later. CBS/Turner was in a mad scramble to find replacements to put on the broadcast with Jim Nantz. The network decided to use former coach Bill Raftery and Hill because they could come at the games from different perspectives.  

All of this was happening in early 2015, just a couple of years after Hill retired from the NBA. He had only called a few NBA games for Turner and had some experience with the NCAA Tournament as a studio analyst. The thing was, Hill wasn’t even sure that broadcasting was something he wanted to pursue as a long-term post NBA career.

“Honestly, full disclosure, I didn’t think I was ready at the time,” Hill told Yahoo in 2017. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I had no clue. But I also was smart enough to realize this opportunity may not come along again when I think I’m ready, so I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”


He was certainly ‘green’ at the beginning. How could anyone really have expected more? In his early games as part of the trio, Hill seemed very passive. He was only comfortable jumping in after Raftery made a point or when either Raftery or Nantz asked him a question. Hill sometimes sounded more like a guest in the booth. Nantz and Raftery had to incorporate Hill into the broadcast by symbolically pushing him to talk. Hill was the rookie joining a veteran team and was respecting the established players a little too much. 

“I think he deferred a lot more at the beginning because he’s a gentleman,” Raftery told Yahoo. “Now he’s really ready to jump in when he has a good thought without feeling like he offended Jim or I. That’s a normal progression for anyone.”

I mean, think about his credentials, he checks all the boxes. NCAA Champion and Hall of Fame NBA Player. Credibility was never an issue. Fitting in was the only challenge. 

It didn’t take long for Hill to assimilate himself into that established broadcast. Getting some games with the guys certainly helped and developing a stronger relationship with Nantz and Raftery on and off the air was essential. The progression was pretty quick. The confidence Hill had in himself was on full display in just his second Final Four broadcast. In the Championship Game between Villanova and North Carolina, the game was on the line in the final seconds. Hill had no trouble jumping in when he noticed how the Villanova play was developing in front of him. 

Nantz: Villanova trying to go the length of the court, with Arcidiacono. Three seconds at midcourt!
Hill: Watch Jenkins.
Nantz: Gives it to Jenkins! [time expires] For the championship… YES!
Raftery: [overlapping Nantz, voice breaking] OHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
Nantz: Villanova! Phenomenal! The national champions, with Jenkins hitting the winner at the buzzer!

That’s what Hill is there for. He was an intelligent player in both college and the NBA and can see things that not many in the audience can in those instances. He jumped in at the correct moment, not getting in the way of the shot or the final call. That only happens when you feel confident and comfortable within the framework of a network telecast. He’s playing off both Nantz and Raftery from time to time. They now sound like three good friends. 

Not only has Hill sounded more authoritative on air, he’s also allowing some of his personality to show. He’s much more at ease on the broadcast and able to just do his thing and he’s doing it quite well. 


There is a story behind an infamous haircut that was ruined by an alcoholic barber just before the 1991 Final Four would be televised to the nation. Hill recalled the story to in January. Hill and his roommate at the time, Antonio “Tony” Lang, went to get themselves “right” at the barber they regularly visited who happened to have a drinking problem. 

“I get in the chair, so the mirror is behind me, so my back is to the mirror while he is cutting me and Lang is sitting in front of me. Lang is trying to give me that look – dude is messing you up! I don’t know what happened. I’m mad now, I am about to go on national TV with this head.”

Before the ‘makeover’ he had a clean high-top hairstyle, and after that he was almost completely bald. The haircut was so bad it was a topic before the game even tipped off. Coach K did not want that incident to disrupt the winning rhythm as the Blue Devils began the Final Four.

“He (Coach K) said before the game, look, I don’t want y’all doing anything crazy, like going bald or do something different than you would normally do. Now I would just cut it down and bald it, but back then, it was 1991, it was a different time.”

Hill listened and didn’t do anything to jeopardize a win. He played 28 minutes and notched 10 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. Hill also made an iconic alley-oop at the beginning of the game. However, to this day, he can’t watch the highlights of those games, thanks to the botched haircut. 

“I go out in one of the most historic Final Fours, and have some iconic moments with the worst haircut. I can’t even watch those games, I just think of that story. My head was terrible, man!”

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Ken LaVicka Waited For His Elite Eight Moment…Then The Internet Went Out

“It crossed my mind that, after 17 years of doing this, this is the ultimate moment and it’s not even going to happen. It was a stomach churning, awful low point feeling.”

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17.9 seconds flash across the scoreboard and ribbon boards in Madison Square Garden as FAU’s Michael Forrest headed to the free throw line with his team up a point. It’s Saturday Night in the East Regional Final with a trip to the Final Four on the line and FAU was just seconds away from doing the unthinkable. The college basketball world stood still. Things were about to stand still for Owls radio voice Ken LaVicka, too.

The first attempt from Forrest went in easily, barely even touching the rim. The second attempt was just as smooth. 17.9 seconds is left with FAU up three on Kansas State. Everyone in The Garden is on their feet as K-State brings the ball up the floor on the next possession.

Everyone, except for one person. Instead of being glued to the final seconds like everyone else in the building, LaVicka is frantically searching for an ethernet cord underneath his seat on press row. 

Full panic mode had set in for LaVicka. He’s off the air because all of the internet has gone out in his row of media seating. He’s scrambling to find a way, any way, back on the air. Amidst digging through wires from the TBS television broadcast, he hears a loud cheer from underneath the table on press row. K-State just made a layup. The score is 77-76 with 8.6 seconds left. A sinking feeling then overcomes LaVicka which he’ll never forget.

“It crossed my mind that, after 17 years of doing this, this is the ultimate moment and it’s not even going to happen,” LaVicka said. “It was a stomach churning, awful low point feeling.”

Just when that feeling was settling in, Kansas State head coach Jerome Tang called a timeout immediately after the made layup. It couldn’t have come at a better time for LaVicka. The situation allowed him to mentally reset for a second and figure out another option to get back on the air. 

“It was only 45 seconds where the game was stopped at that point, but that gave me enough time to think ‘Wait a minute, we’re in a big arena, there’s no way the second or third row of this media setup is being fed by the same internet source that this first row is’,” LaVicka said. “The problem was, as I started to grab for the ethernet cord above me on the second row behind me, there’s no way there was enough slack to reach my equipment.”

At this point, LaVicka is calling the game from his cell phone. He tried this last resort option when the problems initially began, but his in-studio producer didn’t know the phone number for the call-in line. He’s an employee at the radio station, but not during live weekday programming, more weekends and after hours. Not being able to immediately call in was the moment the full-on panic set in for LaVicka.  

But after finally getting the call-in number a few minutes later, LaVicka stood there with his phone in one hand explaining the technical difficulties and updating the game to the best of his abilities and holding the Comrex in the other hand. All the while, his headset is still on. It’s complete broadcasting chaos. 

The ethernet cord he finds on the table behind him is taped to the table. Maybe he doesn’t realize it in that instance, but if this cord also doesn’t work, there’s a high likelihood his call of FAU reaching the Final Four will be from his cell phone. 

“I’m ripping and ripping and ripping,” said LaVicka. “I finally got it loose and I have the Comrex in my arm. I turn around, plug it in, and sure enough I see the green and yellow flashing lights and there’s internet connection. It was a wave of relief and also a bit of urgency, like ‘Alright, let’s go’.

“I sort of tried, in the most professional way possible, just making up broadcast terms and saying, if we could have the main feed on the FAU Basketball Radio Network from Learfield. I don’t know what that means, I’m just making it up to make it sound as professional as possible, so I can avoid saying ‘Turn the phone down and turn me back up’!”

LaVicka was connected and back on the air. His heart was racing because he just pulled off a massive hail mary. Everything sounds good and clear, but there’s another problem. LaVicka couldn’t bring the equipment back to his spot on press row, because there wasn’t enough length on the ethernet cord. 

That’s when a teammate of his at ESPN West Palm stepped in. Along with calling games at FAU, LaVicka hosts Ken LaVicka Live from noon to 2 PM every weekday on the station. His partner on the show is Theo Dorsey, who was also at Madison Square Garden covering the game for a local TV station in West Palm Beach. 

Dorsey saw LaVicka scrambling to get back on the air and offered his assistance to help in any way he could. LaVicka just didn’t initially see any way his ESPN West Palm partner could help. That was until LaVicka found an ethernet connection that worked. This was Dorsey’s chance. When his partner needed help more than ever, he held the Comrex in place so LaVicka could walk back to his seat and call the final seconds of the game.

“I said ‘Don’t move this or wiggle the cords’, because I didn’t know how good our connection was,” said LaVicka. “He was cradling that thing like a baby.”

LaVicka got back on the air and was situated in time to call the ensuing possession after the Kansas State timeout. FAU hit another pair of free throws to go up by three with 6.9 seconds left. After KSU couldn’t get a shot off on its final possession, LaVicka gave the call he’d been waiting 17 years for.

“Florida Atlantic! Florida Atlantic is going to the Final Four! One of the most improbable stories in college basketball history has just played out in New York City! Houston you have a problem. Florida Atlantic is coming to town looking for a trophy!”

It was clear, itt was concise, it was perfect. Amidst the craziest and most stressful moment of his broadcast career, LaVicka was able to deliver the call of a lifetime just a few seconds later.

There’s something to be said for how he handled that moment. Not only his ability to get back on the air, but to compose himself enough to deliver the call that college basketball fans will never forget. Making all of that happen just might be a bigger Cinderella story than FAU reaching the Final Four. 

“As much as I didn’t want to, I went back and listened to the final four game minutes and I was off the air for a total of about three and a half minutes but missed about 12 seconds of actual game time,” said LaVicka. “It was 18 and six-tenths of a second. I will have looking at the scoreboard etched into my brain for the rest of eternity.”

LaVicka has a few people to thank for their assistance, either directly or indirectly, for his completion of a broadcasting hail mary. There’s Matt Norlander and Andy Katz, who were both sitting next to LaVicka on press row and let him try their ethernet cord, unfortunately to no success. There’s Kansas State head coach Jerome Tang who indirectly helped by taking a timeout, which allowed LaVicka to collect his thoughts and find a solution. 

There’s also his producer, who isn’t a full-time employee at the flagship, who notified LaVicka he was initially off the air. And then there’s Dorsey, who held the Comrex so his colleague could be in a position to make the best final call possible. 

“I told him that night I owe him the expensive steakhouse dinner,” laughed LaVicka. “I felt bad because the whole time he was asking what he could do to help and I’m like ‘Buddy, there’s nothing you can do’. But then he definitely came in handy and allowed me to turn around and do the call.”

It’s a moment the two will never forget and the fact they do a radio show together at ESPN West Palm is poetic. It’s a story that’s gone viral and it absolutely made the radio show on Monday when the duo was back on the air together for the first time. 

“We did the first half hour on it,” said LaVicka. 

Media requests have flooded LaVicka’s inbox since Saturday night to talk about the moment. Sure, LaVicka is proud he found a way back on the air and delivered the final call, but not so much for himself. He believes FAU and its fans deserved that moment. In fact, he feels even a little embarrassed for being such a big part of what happened in the Elite Eight. 

“I want to emphasize, I feel so unbelievably silly for being a part of this Final Four story with FAU,” LaVicka said. “I know FAU fans appreciate I’ve been there for a long time, my passion for the school and how I call games, because I like to think it’s very elite level for a school like Florida Atlantic, at least in its basketball history. Now I’ve sort of become a side story. I don’t love it because I don’t want to take away from what actually matters here.”

This story relates to so many play-by-play broadcasters, regardless of status. Just about every broadcaster, if not every single one, has dealt with in-game issues that knocked them off the air. It’s the single-most stressful thing that can happen doing play-by-play. This was far from the first time LaVicka experienced a situation like this. The only thing that makes this case unique, was because of the timing of the incident. 

“In the broadcast realm, so many can relate to what I’ve gone through before,” said LaVicka. “But this happens at UTSA, or East Tennessee State, it never happens at Madison Square Garden in the final moments of the Elite Eight. If this happened at the 12:05 mark of the first half, who cares. The fact it happened with 18 seconds left and FAU up 1, I can’t believe how terrible the timing was.”

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