Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray won the 2018 Heisman Trophy on Saturday. Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was a strong favorite to win the award throughout the entire season right up until the last game occurred. That’s when Murray sped past Tagovailoa like the Road Runner in a Looney Tunes cartoon. Murray ended up with 517 first-place Heisman votes compared to Tagovailoa’s 299.
By the way, it’s pronounced “tounge-oh-vie-loa.” Back to your regularly-scheduled column.
How did the Heisman race change so dramatically? It was all about the final impression. Murray threw for 379 yards and three touchdowns in Oklahoma’s win over Texas in the Big 12 Championship. It was a much different story for Tagovailoa who completed only 10-of-25 passes for 164 yards and two interceptions in the SEC Championship. The Hawaiian product was also forced to leave in the fourth quarter of Alabama’s win over Georgia due to a high ankle sprain.
Sure, Kyler Murray was a dynamic player this year. He compensated for Oklahoma’s abysmal, ragtag defense. The arguments were valid that the Sooners would be in a much worse place without Murray than Alabama would be without Tagovailoa. But you know as well as I do that if Tagovailoa played well in the SEC Championship while leading his team to a win, he would also be a Heisman winner right now. Final impressions matter.
It got me thinking about sports radio. If Tagovailoa can go from a strong favorite to win the Heisman, only to finish runner-up after the final game, can the same dynamic exist in radio? You better believe it. Instead of a last impression, this business is about the latest impression. One insensitive comment can change a strong reputation. One tasteless joke can undo a lot of hard work. With so many choices out there, one bad show can result in listeners going in a different direction.
It’s also how “latest” impressions work in life. If you have a big disagreement with your significant other, it’s easy to lose sight of that person’s great qualities. It can put you in a box of limited thinking. You don’t see the overall picture due to focusing on certain portions from a negative viewpoint. If the latest impression can affect the way you view someone you love, think about how strongly it can impact the way you view a sports radio host that you simply like.
We live in a world that constantly asks, “What have you done for me lately?” Tom Brady was criticized for not leading the Patriots to a Super Bowl for a decade-long stretch. Never mind the fact that he won 10 or more games in every full season he played during that span while also leading New England to the Super Bowl twice. The guy has five Super Bowl rings now and there are some talking heads that still bring up the so-called drought. If Tom Brady’s resume gets questioned, you’d be a fool to think that your sports radio resume is bulletproof.
Living off of past success is a cassette-tape approach — it doesn’t fit in today’s world. In a society that always wants to know what you’ve accomplished lately, you better bring it every day.
I was at the Chargers game on Sunday. After a huge comeback win against the Steelers the previous week, the Chargers slopped their way to a 26-21 victory over the lowly Bengals.
The Bengals are ranked 29th in rush defense and dead last in pass defense, but the Chargers only gained a mere 288 yards of total offense. Why?
Because they weren’t locked in. The Bengals actually outgained the Chargers. I repeat — the Bengals actually outgained the Chargers.
Maybe the Bolts were looking ahead to a monster showdown on Thursday night against the Chiefs or just took the Bengals lightly. Either approach will get you beat in sports radio. Looking forward to your next gig or taking a random Wednesday lightly will cost you in the long run.
Sometimes I forget the lessons I’ve learned through the faulty thinking of others. There are athletes, like Bears Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher, that fall into a trap of thinking that past accomplishments matter more to the present than they actually do. Urlacher walked away from the Bears offer of $2 million for the 2013 season. He told SiriusXM NFL Radio in March of that year, “For me to go through the season and put my body through what it goes through during the season at my age, I’m not going to play for that — not for the Bears at least.”
Where’s the faulty thinking? Urlacher believed that all of the amazing things he did for the Bears over the years should’ve earned him a better offer in 2013. Sports don’t work like that. Sports radio doesn’t work like that. Life doesn’t work like that. What we did in the past doesn’t matter to the here and now as much as we think it should.
If you took your wife out to dinner last night or wrote a nice note a few days ago, that’s great, but it doesn’t matter if you neglect her today. It’s fantastic that Urlacher was a Pro Bowl linebacker in 2011, but that didn’t mean much to the 2013 season when his play and health had regressed.
A sports radio host might’ve had a great month or even years of solid shows. That doesn’t matter if today’s show is a dud though. The metal band Pantera has a song, “Yesterday Don’t Mean Sh*t.” That might as well be the slogan for the upcoming year. “2019 — yesterday don’t mean bleep.”
Penn State head coach James Franklin made an interesting comment about his program this year. “Right now, we’re comfortable being great. And I’m going to make sure that everybody in our program — including myself — is very uncomfortable because you only grow in life when you’re uncomfortable.”
A lot of us can relate to that. We get comfortable to a fault in a job or relationship and don’t put forth the same effort. Take Pantera’s thought and tweak it a little bit — pretend that yesterday didn’t even happen.
Would you behave much differently if this were day one of a new job or relationship? If so, that’s a problem. The same effort should always be there regardless if it’s day one or year 10.
It’s a world full of knee-jerk reactions and prisoner-of-the-moment logic now. Before the Big 12 Championship, Kyler Murray was a solid quarterback that was getting fat against pathetic defenses. Afterward, he was a difference maker with dynamic passing and running ability that Oklahoma couldn’t live without. Before the SEC Championship, Tua Tagovailoa was an absolute dual-threat stud that was taking Alabama to heights it had never seen before. Afterward, he was a player that wasn’t essential to a stacked team that would be winning without him. Viewpoints change quickly.
Forget week to week, or show to show in sports talk — viewpoints can change minute to minute. If a host is dry or dogging it during a particular segment, the audience is gone. Listeners don’t think, “Man, this guy sucks today, but hey, he was great last year so I’ll stick around.” They are adios, amigos. And they might be gone for good. Make sure your performances are solid so you don’t get the Tua treatment.
Following the SEC Championship Game, Alabama head coach Nick Saban suggested, “Everybody should look at the whole body of work when they’re deciding who the best player is.” We absolutely should. But we don’t.
It’s a world that overvalues the last thing seen or heard. With this in mind, it’s important to prepare each show like it’s your last. It will definitely be the latest impression you leave.
Jason Barrett Podcast: Rich Eisen, NFL Network
Rich Eisen reveals how he ended up partnering with Stuart Scott, the moment he knew he made the right move joining the NFL Network, and the influence standup comedy had on his broadcast career.
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Does FOX Need West Coast College Football Success?
“I think we are all looking forward to the twelve team playoff and I don’t know if it matters as much as it did in the last eight years.”
Don’t believe them. Don’t believe those people that try to sell you on the idea that a given sport is better if a given team in said sport is good. You know, college football is better when Notre Dame is good. Maybe they tell you college basketball is better when UCLA is good. Might they say the NFL is better when the Dallas Cowboys are good? Let me tell you, whoever the they is saying those things, they are wrong. FOX isn’t living or dying on it?
I am not here to tell you college football is better when USC is good. The Trojans are ninth all-time in FBS wins with 866 victories, they claim 11 National Championships and 39 conference championships. There is zero doubt they are among the elite, blue blooded programs of the college football world. With all of that said, USC hasn’t contributed to college football’s national championship discussion in more than 15 years. But, now Southern California is back and in College Football Playoff contention.
With only Notre Dame and a PAC 12 Conference Championship left to play, 10-1 USC is in excellent position to earn the first College Football Playoff bid in school history. The Trojans would be the third west coast team in the playoffs, 2014 Oregon played in the inaugural edition and 2016 Washington was the only other PAC 12 participant. It has now been five playoffs since a PAC 12 team has been in the top four.
That brings up the obvious question, how important is it for the health of the College Football Playoff to have west coast teams involved, especially one based in Los Angeles? L.A is, of course, the second largest media market in the nation. College football is well down the list of priorities in the City of Angels but having a team in the mix might help the overall national rating.
College Football has long been criticized for becoming too regional of a sport. The results thus far do lend themselves to that belief, the only team from outside the South to win a national championship was 2014 Ohio State. The SEC has twice had two teams among the four playoff teams and two of eight championship games matched Alabama and Georgia from the SEC.
So, does the College Football Playoff need West Coast teams for long term health? FOX is one of the rights holders for PAC 12 football and the main FOX college analyst, Joel Klatt, doesn’t think it is necessary. “I don’t know if it matters this year. This is like the last two years in an eight year term for a president,” Klatt told me on my show, The Next Round, “I think we are all looking forward to the twelve team playoff and I don’t know if it matters as much as it did in the last eight years.”
To Klatt’s point, the College Football Playoff seems to be screeching towards that twelve team format and a bigger media rights deal. That deal will almost certainly include multiple networks, not just ESPN/ABC, and will be worth significantly more money than the current deal. So, it is not as if the lack of a presence west of the Rockies has hurt the attractiveness of the College Football Playoff to the networks.
On the other hand, the playoffs have never reached the lofty ratings they had year one. Was the 2014 edition just ratings lightning in a bottle or has the regional nature of the product hurt those ratings? The 2014 semi finals did fall on New Year’s Day which meant the games were played in the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl which has proven to be the most successful schedule in terms of ratings success.
The college football lover in me couldn’t get enough of FOX’s Saturday night USC-UCLA telecast. There’s something about both teams wearing those classic home colors and playing in that historic stadium under the lights. They put on a great show, the show also would go on without them.
I want as many people as possible exposed to college football; it only makes the sport healthier. If that means more West Coast teams need to be in the playoffs, I hope they earn their way in. An expanded playoff will only make it easier. Until then, just keep telling people college football is better when your team is good
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.
HBO’s ‘Shaq’ Docuseries Tells Shaquille O’Neal’s Story With Style, Personality
What ‘Shaq’ wants the audience to know is that success wasn’t easy for the man, despite his physical gifts.
From the very beginning of HBO’s Shaq docuseries, Shaquille O’Neal tells us how important storytelling is to him. Just recapping a sequence of events isn’t enough for the Hall of Famer. As the man puts it himself, “sometimes when you tell a story, you wanna add a little barbecue sauce.”
Director Robert Alexander (The Shop, A Man Named Scott) adds plenty of barbecue sauce to O’Neal’s life story, especially in the first two parts of the docuseries. (Shaq runs four episodes, with the opener debuting Wednesday, Nov. 23 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max. Each of the following three episodes will premiere on the subsequent Wednesday.)
Nothing less should be expected from a gigantic personality like O’Neal. This isn’t a dry documentary that simply chronicles a series of events. Alexander mixes in stock, news, and archival sports footage to add embellishment and punctuation to many stories and important points. Music, creative set design, and animation also play key roles in keeping the narrative moving and the audience engaged.
Each episode has a visual theme to it. Part 1 emulates a music video. Several comic book elements are incorporated into Part 2. Part 3 is meant to invoke a classic stage drama, a Shakespearean tragedy. Unfortunately, Part 4 is less focused in that regard, though some fun video game graphics are produced. Editors Freddie DeLaVega, Lenny Messina, and Ted Feldman deserve significant credit for making all the pieces fit together into a cohesive visual trip that gives the documentary an energy not seen in many projects like this.
Much like The Last Dance did for Michael Jordan, Shaq helps define a basketball icon for newer generations more familiar with the athletic giant from being part of TNT’s Inside the NBA panel and his many, many commercial endorsements.
The documentary begins with an adolescent O’Neal growing faster than his body and mind could handle. He wasn’t a phenom who was a superstar from the very moment he took the court, despite his obvious size advantages. And his path to major college basketball didn’t take the typical route.
Eventually, however, viewers see what those of us old enough to have watched O’Neal play at LSU remember. He looked like an adult among boys. His dunks were ferocious, raising his knees as he bent the rim to his will. And, as you might recall, young Shaq was much thinner than the diesel he became late in his professional career.
The first two episodes of Shaq chronicle O’Neal’s rise to superstardom, from college sensation at LSU to No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick by the Orlando Magic, developing into a force for whom there was no match on the court on the way to NBA championships. O’Neal was so dominant that the game had to adapt to him. Rival teams stocked their rosters with three to four big men that could each spare six fouls roughing O’Neal up and sending him to the free throw line. The NBA’s defensive rules changed to allow more double-teaming.
Parts 3 and 4 of the docuseries are less fun, as the second pair of episodes follow O’Neal’s fall from the ultimate heights of his career and difficulties in his personal life. His relationship with Kobe Bryant deteriorated and took a championship dynasty down with it. A major factor in those tensions developing was O’Neal’s reluctance to stay in shape during the offseason, continuing to put on weight, and eventually having toe surgery right before the 2002-03 season.
This is where O’Neal’s involvement and cooperation probably hurt Shaq the most. Unlike the first two episodes, when everything was going well for him, the big man doesn’t offer as much insight into his shortcomings. Particularly frustrating is his lack of accountability. At one point, O’Neal flat-out says he’s not talking about what went wrong with the Lakers.
Looking right into the camera and accepting responsibility for his role in the demise of two championship teams (later including the Miami Heat) would have been riveting. Instead, others are left to try and explain O’Neal’s actions, which feels dishonest as teammates like Rick Fox and longtime Lakers trainer Gary Vitti try to cover for him.
What Shaq wants the audience to know is that success wasn’t easy for the man, despite his physical gifts. Basketball did not come easily to him as a youth, nor did championship success in college or the NBA as he grew up. But like so many great athletes do, O’Neal channeled criticism from the media and slights from opponents including Dikembe Mutombo into major aggression on the court. (His words for the 1999-2000 NBA MVP voter who prevented him from the league’s first unanimous win are profanely hilarious.)
O’Neal makes it clear that strong figures in his life provided discipline and guidance — beginning with the military-influenced upbringing of his stepfather, then coaches who could teach him how to be a great player like Phil Jackson and Pat Riley — made him who he is. He has always been a personality and time has been kinder to some of the behavior that was once considered brash. Now he’s a worldwide brand known even to non-sports fans. Those viewers, along with diehard basketball fans, will enjoy getting to know him better in this docuseries.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Part 1 of Shaq premieres Wednesday, Nov. 23 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. Each of the three episodes will premiere on the subsequent Wednesday, through Dec. 14. The docuseries will also stream on HBO Max and be available on-demand, with repeat airings on HBO networks.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.