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Le Batard Warns: “If You Leave, You’ll Get Lost”

Jason Barrett

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Is ESPN still a destination for the world’s biggest sports media personalities? It’s no secret that over the past two years the company has experienced an exodus. Skip Bayless, Colin Cowherd, Bill Simmons, Keith Olbermann, Jason Whitlock, and Mike Tirico have all departed and a narrative has been created that the worldwide leader in sports is no longer interested in forking over big dollars to the nation’s top talents.

But do they have to?

One can make a case, that exposure for an individual is largely increased when they perform on ESPN. Stephen A. Smith re-signed with the company when he probably could’ve earned more elsewhere, but he was wise enough to recognize the value he gains from being associated with the company.

Make no mistake about it, Smith is still well paid. But, as competition has increased, talent now find themselves in a position to reap the benefits financially, even if it reduces their influence professionally.

Yesterday on Dan Le Batard’s ESPN Radio show, the subject of Skip Bayless departing was raised. Le Batard spoke candidly about it, and provided a behind the scenes account of a conversation he had with Colin Cowherd when he was entertaining moving on. Kyle Koster of The Big Lead transcribed the commentary, and a video is available on The Big Lead’s website:

“The ego of these guys is such that they don’t believe they’re choosing money over winning. They believe they are going to make the difference. It’s happening right now in the sports opinion business. I told Colin Cowherd not to leave this spot. We were having conversations — now I’m revealing private conversations that I shouldn’t be — even though it would have benefited us, I was telling Colin Cowherd I don’t think you leave. You leave, you’re going to get lost, you’re going to do it for money and no one’s going to know where to find you. We don’t do this to have our voices stuffed in a drawer; we do this to be heard.”

“Skip Bayless doesn’t think he’s going for money,” Le Batard added. “Skip Bayless thinks he’s going to make a difference. And he’s not. What’s been happening with the athletes is happening in the gasbag business.”

LeBatard isn’t wrong that there’s a drastic shift in terms of relevance when a top flight personality vacates ESPN, and signs on at another network. The reach of brands such as the CBS Sports Network, NBC Sports Network, and FS1 have yet to enter ESPN’s neighborhood, but that doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t in the future.

It also doesn’t mean that an individual who has an opportunity to vastly improve their financial standing shouldn’t explore it if they feel it will make other aspects of their life more rewarding. Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, and Dan Patrick took similar risks and they’ve turned out just fine, even if they broadcast to smaller audiences.

However, if personalities are going to move on from the four letter network, and expect immediate results in another arena, they’re likely to find themselves disappointed. You don’t make the jump without understanding that it’s a long-term play. ESPN may find itself right now in unchartered territory, but the brand still remains powerful. They can also reverse their stance on paying premium dollars for talent tomorrow if they choose to.

What this ultimately boils down to is giving up influence, and relevance for the almighty dollar. Critics and fans of an individual may find fault with a personality’s decision to chase the money, but I’m certain that the person making the decision will gladly welcome media criticism, and public scorn in exchange for enjoying a better life.

Sports Radio News

Jonathan Zaslow No Longer With WQAM

An attempt to reach out to Zaslow for comment went unanswered.

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WQAM midday host Jonathan Zaslow is no longer with WQAM in Miami.

The radio station has removed his show from the website and references to him and his normal 10a-2p ET midday timeslot program have been scrubbed from the station website.

Zaslow tweeted at 5:19p ET confirming the news.

Whether or not this has any effect on his involvement with the Miami Heat broadcasts is unknown as of now.

Barry Jackson, a veteran journalist with the Miami Herald, reports that 790 The Ticket morning hosts Brendan Tobin and Leroy Hoard will move to that 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. WQAM slot during the week of Oct. 3.

In more station movement, Joe Rose’s WQAM morning show with Zach Krantz now will be simulcast on The Ticket, replacing the Tobin/Hoard program. Audacy, which owns both WQAM and The Ticket, also simulcast Marc Hochman’s and Channing Crowder’s afternoon show.

Zaslow had been with 790 the Ticket since 2004. He was transitioned from Audacy-owned 790 to sister station AM 560 Sports WQAM last October. During his tenure he has worked with a number of established local voices including Joy Taylor, Amber Wilson, Brett Romberg, and Brendan Tobin amongst others.

WQAM has gone thru a number of changes, including a rebranding effort to call the station “560 The Joe”. That ended last year with the station returning to the AM 560 Sports WQAM brand listeners were more familiar with. What they have planned next in Zaslow’s timeslot is unclear but local listeners will likely get some answers next week.

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Sports Radio News

Vanessa Richardson Named Houston Rockets Sideline Reporter, Paul Gallant to Host Solo on ESPN 97.5

Vanessa Richardson will be on the sidelines for the Houston Rockets and Paul Gallant will host solo show on ESPN 97.5.

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Vanessa and Gallant

Changes are taking place in Houston sports media. First, the Houston Rockets will have a new television sideline reporter this season, and she’s a familiar name to Houston sports fans.

Vanessa Richardson, the now former co-host of ESPN 97.5’s Vanessa and Gallant, revealed that she will be on the sidelines for the NBA franchise covering the team for AT&T SportsNet Southwest.

She tweeted the news saying, “Elated to be the new Houston Rockets sideline reporter! I can’t wait to travel the country & share the stories of this dynamic team during 80+ games on AT&T SportsNet Southwest. I’ll continue to fill-in as a host/reporter for Astros broadcasts as well.”

Richardson’s co-host, Paul Gallant, tweeted that with Richardson leaving the show for the Rockets sideline gig, Vanessa and Gallant will become the Paul Gallant Show. The solo show led by Gallant begins Monday September 26th.

“We’re excited to have Paul host his own show”, said Todd Farquharson, General Manager of ESPN 97.5 & 92.5.  “He’s super creative, energetic, and likeable.  He’ll get the audience involved and have fun.”

Paul commented, “You know what I’ve always loved about sports talk radio?  That it’s interactive.  Whether through a phone call, text message, tweet or on Twitch, it’s the best place for sports fans to come together and celebrate…or vent.  And that’s what The Paul Gallant Show is going to be…Houston’s platform to talk about its teams. THE most interactive sports talk show in Houston.”

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Sports Radio News

Ken Carman: Al Michaels ‘Feels Untethered’ On Amazon Prime Video

“The thing that stuck out was Kirk Herbstreit ripping the elf,” said Carman. “Don’t be ripping Brownie the Elf, man.”

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The Cleveland Browns defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers during Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime Video. 92.3 The Fan morning host Ken Carman applauded Al Michaels for his performance during the presentation.

“Al Michaels feels untethered for the first time. He’s not network television anymore and he can say whatever he wants. We interviewed him on the pregame show and I was nervous,” Carman said.

“He’s a legend,” co-host Anthony Lima added.

During the final play of the game, the Steelers fumbled a lateral into the endzone which the Browns recovered to make the final score 29-17. Michaels said “that may be meaningful to some of you. And you know who I mean”, alluding to people who had placed wagers on the game.

Carman, who hosts two-hours of pre-game coverage on the Browns Radio Network, continued to discuss how nervous he was interviewing Michaels. He also discussed how impressive Amazon’s behind-the-scenes production was, pointing out the only football broadcast with more cameras is the Super Bowl. More than 400 people work behind the scenes for Amazon Prime Video.

“The thing that stuck out was Kirk Herbstreit ripping the elf,” said Carman. “Don’t be ripping Brownie the Elf, man.”

Carman later said people angry that Michaels misspoke by saying the Pro Football Hall of Fame is “down I-71” instead of I-77 were unreasonable, and joked “Al Michaels hasn’t been on a highway in 20 years”.

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