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Mike Salk’s Team Makes His Job And His Life Easier

“I think over time ratings stop defining shows, so I’m really proud more for the whole package. I’m really proud of the stuff we’ve done at 710 this year.”

Brian Noe

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If you mistake Mike Salk for a dumb guy, you’re the one who’s lacking intelligence. He’s had quite the range of experiences in his career — from Seattle to Boston mixed with a side of Bristol — and has formulated many wise and helpful observations about the sports radio industry along the way.

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It’s funny, just the other day I read about Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. blaming his former employer. He said the New York Giants held him back. Never mind the times Odell got in Odell’s own way by melting down on the sideline, getting suspended for going psycho on Josh Norman, and stinking up the joint in his only playoff appearance against the Packers. In many ways Mike Salk is the anti-OBJ. Instead of pointing the finger at WEEI in Boston for a relationship that didn’t work out, Mike points the finger at himself. It’s refreshing when men act like men by owning their shortcomings.

Mike made his way back to Seattle in 2014 where he doubles as a host and PD at 710 ESPN. He makes one of the most brilliant observations I’ve ever heard about working with an ex-athlete. He also describes how jealousy can limit the growth of hosts, and that viewing a rival sports station as the only competition is shortsighted. Enjoy.

Brian Noe: Over the 10 years that you and Brock Huard have done a show together, what area has your show gelled the most?

Mike Salk: In order to answer that you have to understand how little things gelled when we first started. I mean really, the show was troubled. I was from the Northeast and trying to make my way as a first time talk show host in a completely foreign city. Brock, who’s the nicest human being in the world, had never done talk either. In the first couple of weeks on the air, rather than saying something he once nodded on the air, which didn’t make for great radio.

The more Brock didn’t say much, didn’t offer a ton of opinion, the more over the top I was. I don’t want to quite call it hot take radio, but just the more opinionated and sort of east coast I would be, which didn’t fit the market at all. It took us a long time to meet in the middle.

I’m sure there are still times where we’re not perfect, but I think over those first couple of years he learned how to give an opinion on things — now he’s unbelievable at it — and I learned how to tone it down a little bit in order to kind of grow up and understand the market that I was talking to every day.

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Noe: How difficult was it for you to adjust to the Northwest?

Salk: Hard. At first, really hard. I spent probably the first two years not understanding it at all. Then finally the next two years I started to grasp it a whole lot better. Maybe I even took it for granted when I went to Boston for the year because I think I had sort of become much more northwest at heart by the time I attempted that.

Noe: For anybody who hasn’t done radio in the Northwest, how would you describe some of the ways it differs from the Northeast?

Salk: It differs a lot. Seattle is known for being passive-aggressive. That sort of its M.O. It’s not an aggressive city. People don’t respond well to daily bashing of the teams, daily bashing of your fellow hosts, daily bashing of much of anything. They generally want an honest but friendly and sometimes positive take on the world. It’s not always my natural inclination, so I think maybe at times I stand out in that regard. I think generally Seattle’s a pretty happy place and people want to be pretty happy here.

Noe: What area of being a manager do you think you’ve grown the most?

Salk: I think unfortunately you’d probably have to ask the people I manage. I have really tried to grow the most in terms of putting the growth of their careers first. Putting aside my own show, my own hosting desires. Taking a backseat to what the hosts, producers, board operators, and everybody else on our team want to accomplish in their careers. That’s generally what I find most rewarding is seeing them succeed.

Noe: Parents sometimes learn from their kids. Do you find yourself learning how to be a better host through the talent you oversee as a manager?

Salk: 100 percent. Yes. Everyone does this differently, right? There’s no one right way to do radio. There’s not even any common thread that runs through every host or every show on any station, including ours. I think every day I’m either listening to shows on our station or other stations around the country.

I find myself learning from people all the time. It’s so easy as a radio host to be jealous of other talk shows that sound good. Rather than give into the jealousy part of it, I try to just incorporate and use it to remind myself of the things that can help make our show better at times.

Noe: Can you walk me through the timeline of you joining 710 and then going back to WEEI? How did that unfold?

Salk: Timeline wise? I moved out here in April of ‘09. I did (2) two-year contracts here in Seattle. Then I went to WEEI in March of 2013. I left there just under a year later. I’ve been back here as the PD and host since.

Noe: What was it like for you to adapt while doing radio in two very different cities — Boston and Seattle?

Salk: I think the problem was that I didn’t adapt very well. I’d like to tell you that I did, but I didn’t. I didn’t adapt very well to what Boston needed. I wasn’t a very good fit there. I didn’t handle that situation particularly well.

It’s a hard question for me to answer because I just didn’t do it very well. I didn’t make enough of an adjustment. I was pretty relieved to come back to a town that really had become home, meaning Seattle.

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Noe: What did you learn the most throughout that whole experience?

Salk: I think I started to learn even more the differences between the way radio is done in the Northeast versus the Northwest. I don’t think I understood it particularly well even though I probably should have. I thought there was a market in Boston for doing things differently and there wasn’t really. There didn’t need to be.

I also learned a lot about how to enter new into a situation. I didn’t handle myself particularly well in Boston at WEEI. There were some issues with what I was told versus what ended up happening.

Overall I’m the one who showed up and I think I probably approached that job with far too much confidence — talking too much, not listening enough — and ultimately it led to a massive failure. I tried to learn from it. That’s been my goal.

Noe: What advice would you give to a host that’s trying to adapt after moving to an unfamiliar area?

Salk: I think it’s a really tricky balance of maintaining who you are while still listening, understanding, and coming to learn about the city that you’re moving to. It’s easy to learn the sports history of a town. It’s easy to learn the sports issues that you’re going to be dealing with on a day-to-day basis, but it’s hard to learn the style and personality of a region.

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I think trying to ask as many people as possible about it — immerse yourself in whatever the local culture is. That’s enormous. Wherever you are, I think immersing yourself, doing the types of things people in that region do is pretty important to feeling like you truly belong there. There’s no substitute for time either.

Noe: Which do you think is more important — is it knowing the sports history, or understanding the vibe of a new place?

Salk: Oh, I think it’s the vibe. The internet can tell you anything. You can always look something up. You can always rely on your co-host for that part of it. But actually understanding what people are looking for and just the personality of a city, I don’t know that you can substitute for that. That’s why it takes shows — especially ones with people coming from out of town — it can take them a little bit longer to succeed because the sound may be different and it may be evolving. That takes some patience on the part of a program director.

Noe: As a host, if you went back and listened to one of your old shows from years ago, you would absolutely hear how much progress you’ve made. How do you gauge the improvements you’ve made as a manager?

Salk: Good question. I think in an alternate world in which we taped all of the behind-the-scenes conversations that we have and you played the ones from five years ago versus the ones now, I think they’d be pretty different.

I think that being a first-time manager is hard. Doing it while you’re doing a radio show every day is complicated. I hope they’d sound different. I hope that they’d show more improvement. I hope that I’m doing a better job of listening to people instead of spouting my mouth off. I think that’s — I’m learning — more and more important to management.

Noe: As a host or manager, what area have you changed your approach the most?

Salk: The management job is really divided up into a couple of different parts. On one hand you have the upward and outward facing elements of strategy. Trying to determine what a radio station should sound like, and what digital should look like, and what the interplay between them should be like moving forward. The other side of it is the true managing of people.

They’re completely different skills and completely different parts of the day other than that nexus point of trying to translate, here’s the plan for where we’re going, into managing the people who are actually going to be executing that vision. They are two very different skills. You’ve got to find a way to put them together while handling all of the day-to-day parts of running a radio station — things that just have to be done every day.

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I will say for me — and especially given that I have the other part of my job — the team I have working on those things, they’re incredible. I have an APD in Kyle Brown who is top-notch. I have a social engagement, imaging, and digital team with James Osborn and Taylor Jacobs who are incredible. They are creative every day. Executive producer Jessamyn McIntyre takes care of so many little details. Then just all the way through with producers and hosts. It’s a really incredible team that makes it so much easier to do all of those things.

Noe: How closely do you pay attention to your competition in Seattle?

Salk: I just try to focus on what we’re doing. It’s not that they’re doing anything good or bad. We try to pay attention to what we’re doing. If we are doing our job right, that should be the only thing that matters. I want all stations to succeed. A rising tide would lift all boats. The more people interested in sports in Seattle, the better for me, but I really try not to think of any specific station as our competition. 

If our demo was men 25-54, our competition is any station that is registering ratings in men 25-54. I think the radio industry is constantly focused inward on itself. Really, I think Jason has done a great job of this trying to unite parts of the industry, trying to find ways to say, no, television is the competition in some ways. XM might be part of the competition and part of the solution. Same with podcasts. Same with Pandora and anything else.

Noe: What’s important for a host to be aware of when working with an ex-athlete as a partner?

Salk: They’re much better athletes than you realize. I didn’t find that out until about a year or so in when Brock and I went to spring training and we worked out together one day. I was like, “Oh, he’s not just this chump backup quarterback.” He’s just throwing weight around and running like it’s nothing. It’s just totally different than I realized.

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It’s a couple of things. One, in terms of the management side of it, ex-athletes are generally really coachable. They’ve been coached their entire life. They’re looking for feedback. They’re looking for help getting better and they genuinely want to improve. In terms of being a co-host, they have so many stories. They have such a unique ability to relate to professional athletes in a way that the rest of us simply can’t.

They just gather so much immediate respect. The whole you-can’t-talk-about-it-because-you’ve-never-played-it crowd that’s out there, they do want to hear from those ex-athletes who have the experience and have played at that highest level. You’ve got to find a way to tap into all of that. At the same time, and Brock has been incredible at this, the ex-athlete has to find a way to legitimize their co-host. The best ones don’t just revel in the fact that they’re the experts. They do that and they handled that, but they also throw questions back to their co-host and even if they disagree with the position, they don’t kill the position. They don’t illegitimize the position.

It’s something that I know is important to me and probably a lot of other hosts who’ve never played the game at a level above high school. We want to argue but that ability goes away if the ex-athlete is just saying, “Well you didn’t play so your opinion doesn’t matter.” Nobody wants to then start fighting about whose opinion matters. That’s bad radio. You just want to be able to dig into the whole thing. Brock’s been fantastic at that and I think nowadays most everybody seems to understand that thankfully.

Noe: That’s a great point. When Brock continues to grow in terms of play-by-play on a national stage, how does that affect your show?

Salk: It’s generally been really positive. First of all Brock’s access to premium guests that just want to go on with him is incredible. Just the number of national play-by-play and color commentators we’ve had on the show in the last few years, I think we’ve had each of the number one teams for all four NFL top broadcasting teams. At least before Romo replaced Phil. It’s not me. It’s not our producers. It’s Brock and just the reputation that he has. They respect him for how great he is.

I don’t think people truly understand how hard Brock works at both our job and at his college football gig. He is so well prepared every single week for that. I listen to a lot of guys around the country when I’m watching games. There are a lot of people who are really good at it. I don’t think there’s anyone in the country who prepares any harder than Brock does for those games. That’s the work during the week preparing at home, but then the amount of time he spends really thinking about the questions and taking stuff out of the in-person interviews they do leading up to it, he’s incredible at it.

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Noe: If some major network lured him away, what would be your next step?

Salk: I’m probably not interested in starting another new radio show. So, I don’t know. Thankfully, I don’t have that situation. The real answer is just working with Brock every day — it’s one of my favorite parts about my job. I just love that relationship and that conversation. I’ve not spent a ton of time thinking about what the world would look like if he were lured away somewhere else.

Noe: If you think back to the time when you needed to tone it down and Brock needed to be more talkative, did you guys have a breakthrough where you thought, “Okay, we’ve finally gotten over the hump?”

Salk: I think it was just over a year in, we went to spring training together. We had a chance to get away. I think we went out for sushi one night and we just really talked about it. We’re really different people — politically, religiously, we come from completely different ends of the Earth. I think at that point we just kind of made a deal that the one thing we had in common was our desire to make this thing work. We wanted to win. That day we just sort of — I don’t want to call it quite a pact — but it was like, “Hey, we’re going to do everything we can to make this work.” Since then that seemed to kind of bind us together instead of apart.

Noe: When it comes to career goals, do you think about what you’d like to accomplish, or are you more of a day-to-day thinker based on your day-to-day workload?

Salk: Somewhere in between I guess. I don’t believe you can think too far down the line. I think I did when I first got into this. Before I got into the management side of it, I think like every young radio host my initial goal was I wanted to be on the air somewhere. I didn’t even care if it was sports radio. I just wanted to get into radio. Once that happened, my next goal was I wanted a steady gig. Then I wanted a drive-time gig.

There was a part of me that wanted to see what it would be like to go back to Boston and try to perform in the city that I had originally grown up in and love sports in. There was a part of me that wondered can I be the next Mike Greenberg? Can I host a big-time national radio show? I think along the way some of those goals fall off. You learn kind of your place in this landscape. I don’t think I’m going be the next Mike Greenberg. I’m not going to host a big-time national show. My goals just sort of shifted.

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I’m really focused on the city I live in and my life here — a work-life balance, raising kids, being a good husband, trying to be a good leader for 710 and just push the station forward. The station has been incredible to me. Twice it’s helped me. The first time in 2009 I was unemployed and trying to figure out what the heck I was going to do. I had just gotten married. The station started and I was lucky enough to be invited out to work with Brock. Then when things went wrong in Boston, the station kind of magically was there for me again. I feel an immense sense of debt — a responsibility to a station and to my boss who’s taken a chance on me twice. It’s really important to me to try to pay that off.

Noe: When you think back to just trying to get on the air initially, could you have imagined that you’d have the career you’ve experienced?

Salk: Some of those nights when I was parking cars in the winter outside the John Hancock building in Boston in 20-degree weather, I would have just been happy to have a job inside on some of those nights. Being on the air was a thrill. There’s nothing quite like the exhilaration of starting a radio show every day. It hits you every single day.

I’ll never forget during the first couple of shows I did in Bristol. Louise Cornetta invited me to Bristol to do some shows, and driving back the two hours from Bristol to Boston and just feeling like I was going to drive 1,000 miles an hour home because I was just so amped up from doing those shows.

Working with Jeff Rickard and Freddie Coleman and some of the folks who were doing GameNight at the time who are awesome, and just couldn’t have treated me better, just amazingly easy to work with. Those moments were spectacular. Just the adrenaline rush of it was hard to forget.

Noe: What would you say is the biggest bright spot of your entire career?

Salk: The biggest bright spot? That’s a good question. I don’t know if I’ve ever been asked that question before. I don’t know that I have one. There’s no one moment. I think the first time our ratings turned for me and Brock, the first time we ended up getting good ratings after the first year or so of ratings that were not impressive, we were pretty excited. I wouldn’t say I did like the Merton Hanks, but I mean we were pretty pumped when those ratings turned for the first time.

I think over time ratings stop defining shows, so I’m really proud more for the whole package. I’m really proud of the stuff we’ve done at 710 this year. The station has been around for 10 years and we’ve never had one specific charitable function that we’ve been known for.

Finally this year we worked together as a whole group — and I’m talking everyone from hosts, producers, sales, promotions — everybody kind of got together and decided to work with this group called Coaching Boys Into Men. It’s a local group that does some really cool stuff on teaching high school kids how to respect women, consent, it’s an anti-domestic violence group, a leadership group and that’s been incredibly rewarding to see this group grow as we’ve worked with them.

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Noe: When you wake up tomorrow morning, what is the one thing above all else that gives you the most enjoyment and excites you to run into the radio station?

Salk: The real answer is coming home for the nap later in the day.

(Laughs.) Honestly it’s the people. I know that’s sort of a cop-out answer, but it’s been really important to me, to my predecessor Brian Long, to my boss Dave Pridemore. It’s been really important to the people that have run 710 and Bonneville Seattle in general that we have a group of good people. 

There are days that I don’t want to leave work. Heather my wife will be like, “Hey when are you coming home?” I’ll say, “I’ll be home soon.” Then I just sort of dawdle on my way out the door because I keep running into people that I want to talk to. It’s the people. It’s far and away that. All of the other stuff — ratings, revenue, digital, coaching, managing, strategy — all of that kind of pales in comparison to just getting to work with fun people.

BSM Writers

Marty Smith Loves The ‘Pinch Me’ Moments

“I don’t look at it as a talent-based platform. I don’t look at it as a results-based platform. I look at it as a platform that was built and sustained through the way I treat other people, through the work ethic that I believe that I have and through the passion that I know I have.”

Demetri Ravanos

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I tell this story all the time. It is told for laughs, but it is absolutely true. Marty Smith once gave me a giant box of beef jerky.

I was in Charlotte visiting him and Ryan McGee on the set of Marty & McGee as part of a larger feature I was doing on the SEC Network. We spent probably 3 hours together that day. It was a lot of fun. The last thing I watched the duo shoot was a promo for Old Trapper Beef Jerky, the presenting sponsor of their show.

As they finished, I shook their hands and told them I had to get on the road. That is when Smith presented me with a box of twelve bags of Old Trapper and told me, in as sincere a voice as you can imagine, that he wanted me to have it.

“I mean, listen, if you give a man beef jerky, by God, you like him,” Smith said to me when I reminded him of that story earlier this week. “That’s redneck currency right there, bud.”

There just aren’t a lot of people in this business like Marty Smith. ESPN definitely knows it too. That is why the network finds every opportunity it can to use him to tell the stories of the events and people it covers.

Last week, he spent Monday and Tuesday with the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens. He got a day back home in Charlotte before he headed to Atlanta for the SEC Network’s coverage of the SEC Championship Game on Thursday. Saturday, after his duties for SEC Nation and College GameDay were done, he hit the road for Tuscaloosa to interview Nick Saban and be ready for ESPN’s coverage of the reveal of the final College Football Playoff rankings.

As if that isn’t enough, this week he heads to New York. It will be the second time ESPN will use him to conduct interviews and tell stories during the telecast of the Heisman Trophy presentation. It’s an assignment that Marty Smith still cannot believe is his.

“I’ve had a ton of pinch-me moments, but in the last five, six years, seven years, there are two that kind of stand out above the rest. One was when Mike McQuaid asked me to be part of his team to cover The Masters. The other was last year when my dear longtime friend Kate Jackson, who is the coordinating producer over the Heisman broadcast, asked me to be a part of her Heisman broadcast team and interview the coaches, players and families of the finalists,” Smith says. “You know, brother, I’ve been watching the Heisman Trophy my whole life.”

We talk about what the broadcast around the Heisman Trophy presentation is and how it differs from being on the sideline for a game. He is quick to point out that on a game day, the old adage “brevity is king” is a reality. In New York though, he will have more time to work with. He plans not to just fill it, but to use it.

Marty’s interest in his subjects’ backgrounds and their emotions is sincere. It is part of a larger philosophy. He respects that everyone has a story to tell and appreciates the opportunity to be the one that gets to tell it, so he is going to do all he can to make sure the people he is talking to know it and know that they matter to him. That means putting in the time to be respectful of his subject’s time.

“When I’m interviewing these players or coaches before a game, I want to interview them, and I’m saying not on camera, but when I’m doing the record. I want to get as thorough as I can get. Then you take all of that and you try to pare it down into a very small window. It’s not easy. I mean, look, most of the time you come home with reams of notes that never even sniff air.”

Marty Smith has always been a unique presence. As his profile has grown and he shows up on TV more often and in more places, more people question who this guy really is.

That is par for the course though, right? Someone with a unique presence sees their star rise and out come the naysayers ready to question how authentic the new object of our affections really is.

For me, there is a moment that defines Marty Smith, at least in this aspect. I cannot remember the year or the situation, but he was on The Dan Le Batard Show, back when it was on ESPN Radio. Smith was telling Dan about friends of his that are stars in the country music world and Dan asked what it is like when they are hanging out backstage before one of these guys goes out to perform.

I cannot remember Smith’s exact answer, but a word he used stood out to me. He said it was just buddies having a cold beer and “fellowshippin'”.

I told Marty about this memory of him and said that I am not accusing him of being inauthentic or his persona on television being an act, but I was curious if he was concious of the words he chooses. Even if the version we get of Marty Smith on TV is the same one we would get if we were part of the fellowshippin’, does he think about how he wants people to think about him?

He is quick to note that is isn’t an act at all. What you see when you see Marty Smith isn’t a persona he cooked up when he decided he was going into television. That is just his personality.

“It is a lifelong field from where I’m from to where I am,” he says of what we see on TV. “It is relationships made that pinched my clay and remolded who I was to who I am and reshaped me as a person.”

Anyone from The South can tell you that there is no one monolithic “South”. The gregarious, larger-than-life personalities in Louisiana may not always feel real to people from the more reserved and anglo-influenced South Carolina. The Southern accent I got from growing up in Alabama sounds nothing like the Southern accents I live near now in North Carolina.

Marty Smith is from Pearisburg, Virginia just outside of Blacksburg. Surely that informs who he is, but he is also shaped by the wealth of conversations he has had and the characters he has met from his professional life.

“At our company, you have to work really hard to not only make it, but to sustain it. I try hard to do that every day,” he says. “I’m sure I’ve said it before, man. I don’t look at it as a talent-based platform. I don’t look at it as a results-based platform. I look at it as a platform that was built and sustained through the way I treat other people, through the work ethic that I believe that I have and through the passion that I know I have. You piece all of those different things together, and along with opportunity you can do something special, and I’m trying to do that every day.”

The Marty Smith you see on TV is the guy that will hand you a box of beef jerky just because you had a great conversation. He is the guy you see in that viral video from a few years back giving a young reporter advice and encouragement.

You can be confused by Marty Smith. You can have your questions about him and his motivations. They aren’t going to change him though. It took too long for him to become who he is to start second-guessing it now.

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BSM Writers

Another World Cup Run Ends And There’s Still No Soccer Fever In The USA

“We get fired up once every four years, sing the anthem, wear American flag t-shirts, then go back to our daily lives, forgetting about the sport that was attached to the patriotism.”

Brian Noe

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Soccer fever? Hardly. Not in the United States at least. The US Men’s National Team lost in the round of 16 against the Netherlands 3-1 last Saturday. The ratings are in. And the ratings are revealing.

An average of 12.97 million viewers tuned in to see the Netherlands-United States World Cup match on FOX. Before you say, “Hey, not bad,” consider the fact that the ratings are down from eight years ago when 13.44 million viewers watched the USMNT lose to Belgium in the knockout stage on ESPN.

Even more damning are the ratings of the USMNT’s initial match in the 2022 World Cup against Wales, an unhealthy 8.31 million viewers.

Let me get this straight; fans waited, waited, and waited some more to finally see the USMNT in World Cup action, and the first game in eight years drew 8.31 million viewers? Really?

There were 5.5 million viewers across TV and digital that watched the NFL Network’s telecast of the New York Giants-Green Bay Packers game in London. That was a Week 5 game in the NFL compared to the World freaking Cup. Network television (FOX) compared to cable TV (NFL Network). And the ratings are comparable? Come on, US Soccer. Y’all gotta do better than this.

*Mini rant alert — it drives me crazy when soccer in this country is consistently compared to soccer in this country. The promoters of the sport paint an obnoxiously rosy picture of the growing popularity by comparing US soccer now to US soccer then. It’s a joke.

It would be like comparing Nebraska’s 4-8 record in college football this year, to Nebraska’s 3-9 record last year. “Hey, things are looking up!” Never mind the fact that the Cornhuskers are significantly trailing several teams in its conference and many other teams across the country. That’s US soccer in a nutshell. Don’t compare it to other leagues and sports that are crushing it, just say we’re up 10% from last year. Ridiculous.

*Mini rant continuing alert — the Michigan-Ohio State game drew 17 million viewers last month. The New York Giants-Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving drew 42 million viewers. Those are regular-season matchups compared to the biggest stage soccer has to offer. But go ahead and just compare US soccer to itself.

And no, the edge you might feel in my words isn’t born out of fear that soccer will somehow surpass the popularity of football. That would be like Mike Tyson being scared that the Stanford Tree mascot could beat him up. US soccer isn’t a threat, it’s a light breeze. I just hate a bad argument. And many soccer apologists have been making bad arguments on the behalf of US soccer for years. *Mini rant over

The World Cup didn’t prove that American fans are invested in soccer. It proved that we love a big event. It’s the same recipe every four years with the Olympics.

During the 2016 summer games in Rio, when swimmer Michael Phelps was in the pool for what turned out to be his final outing in an Olympic competition, the ratings peaked at 32.7 million viewers. Phelps helped Team USA win gold in the men’s 100-meter relay and then rode off into the sunset.

We don’t really care about swimming. When’s the last time you asked a friend, “You heading out tonight?” and the response was, “Are you crazy? The Pan Pacific Championships are on.”

Whether it’s the Olympics or World Cup, Americans care about the overall event much more than the individual sport. We get fired up once every four years, sing the anthem, wear American flag t-shirts, then go back to our daily lives, forgetting about the sport that was attached to the patriotism.

Ask yourself this, at the height of US swimming’s popularity, would you have paid $14.99 per month to watch non-Olympic events? Me either. US soccer isn’t exactly on fire following its showing in the 2022 World Cup, so the timing isn’t awesome to introduce a paywall for the sport’s top league in this country.

Apple and Major League Soccer have announced that MLS Season Pass will launch soon. I know you’re excited, but try to stay composed. Yes, MLS Season Pass will launch on February 1, 2023. It’s a 10-year partnership between MLS and Apple that features every live MLS regular-season match, the playoffs, and the League’s Cup.

Have I died and gone to heaven?

How much?

It’ll run you $14.99 per month or $99 per season on the Apple TV app. For Apple TV+ subscribers — make sure you’re sitting down for this, you lucky people — it’s $12.99 per month or $79 per season. If you don’t have US soccer fever right now, I doubt you’re running out to throw down cash on a product you aren’t passionate about.

Now if the USMNT won the 2022 World Cup, cha-ching. The popularity of US soccer would definitely grow in a major way. Even if they had a strong showing while reaching the quarterfinals, the momentum would be much greater. But a 3-1 loss to the Netherlands in the group of 16? Nope. This isn’t it. I don’t expect much more than some tumbleweed rolling by instead of cash registers heating up for MLS Season Pass.

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Colorado Hiring Deion Sanders Will Be Constant Gift for College Football Media

“If Coach Prime achieves the same sort of success that he did with the Tigers, he will be far more than a curiosity. Sanders will be a disruptor.”

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Deion Sanders quickly made it clear why the University of Colorado chose him to be its next head football coach.

Coming off a weekend in which the four College Football Playoff teams were announced and all of the other bowl-eligible teams accepted their invitations, Colorado — which went 1-11 this past season — made news for hiring Sanders, the former NFL star who was phenomenally successful at Jackson State.

The media that covers college football and sports as a whole should be thrilled that the Buffaloes program decided to take a big leap for attention and notoriety. Sanders is a bold, risky hire. But he’s also been successful in virtually every venture he’s taken. “Primetime” had a Hall of Fame NFL career and also played Major League Baseball. And he’s a master at drawing attention to himself.

During his first meeting with his new team, Sanders made sure to mention that he has Louis Vuitton luggage to make the point that some of his Jackson State players are coming with him to Boulder — including his son, quarterback Shadeur Sanders. Nick Saban and Kirby Smart probably don’t cite luxury fashion when explaining to their players that they’ll have to compete for starting positions.

Coach Prime will not be boring to cover. (That self-appointed “Coach Prime” title, which was on his name plate at his introductory press conference, is a big clue there.) He never has been. This is a man who said during the 1989 NFL Draft, after being selected No. 5 overall by the Atlanta Falcons, that if the Detroit Lions had selected him at No. 3, he “would’ve asked for so much money, they’d have had to put me on layaway.”

Even if he doesn’t win as much as Colorado hopes, Sanders will pursue top talent — players who want to perform on a larger stage than the FCS-level Jackson State allows — and impact athletes will be attracted to him. He got the No. 1 recruit in the nation, cornerback and wide receiver Travis Hunter, to play for him. (Hunter is following his coach to Boulder.) Now that Sanders is at an FBS school in a Power 5 conference, more stars will surely come.

But if Coach Prime achieves the same sort of success that he did with the Tigers — going 27-5 in three seasons, including a 12-0 campaign in 2022 — he will be far more than a curiosity. Sanders will be a disruptor. And he’ll get the attention that such figures typically draw from media and fans. According to the Denver Post‘s Sean Keeler, at least 400 people attended what felt more like a celebration than a press conference.

Coach Prime wasn’t going to just win the press conference, which is what any school and fanbase want when a new coach is introduced.

If Colorado wanted someone to sit at a podium, and give platitudes like “We want to win the Pac-12 and get to the College Football Playoff,” “We’re going to build a program with young men you’ll be proud of,” or “It’s time to restore Colorado to the football glory we remember,” Sanders isn’t the guy for that.

“Do I look like a man that worries about anything? Did you see the way I walked in here? Did you see the swagger that was with me?” Sanders said during his introductory presser. “Worry? Baby, I am too blessed to be stressed. I have never been one for peer pressure. I put pressure on peers. I never wanted to worry, I make people worry. I don’t get down like that. I am too darn confident. That is my natural odor.”

To no surprise, Sanders announced his presence in Boulder with authority. He had cameras following him as he met with Colorado players for the first time. How many other coaches would have recorded what many would see as a private moment for posterity and post it online?

Sanders caused a stir by putting his players on notice. He warned them he was coming, telling them they’ll be pushed so hard they might quit. He told them to enter the transfer portal and go someplace else if they don’t like what he and his staff are going to do.

That candor, that brutal honesty surprised many fans and media when they saw it Monday morning. For some, that message might have felt too familiar. How many in media — or many other industries — have worried about their job status when a new boss takes over? What may have seemed secure days earlier is now uncertain.

But how do we know other coaches haven’t said something similar when taking over at a new job and addressing their team? We just hadn’t seen it before. But Sanders has been in the media. He knows social media. He understands controlling his own message and telling his story.

Sanders also knows what kind of value he brings to any venture he takes on. How many people would have left an NFL Network gig for Barstool Sports? But Sanders went to where his star would shine, where he was the main show, where he could be Deion Sanders. Maybe he’ll have to turn that down just a bit at Colorado. But athletic director Rick George knows who he hired.

Colorado could have made a safer choice, including previous head coaches Tom Herman, Bronco Mendenhall, or Gary Patterson. A top assistant from one of this year’s Playoff contenders — such as Georgia’s Todd Monken, USC’s Alex Grinch, Alabama’s Bill O’Brien, or Michigan’s Sherrone Moore — could also have been an option.

But what fun would that have been? What kind of tremor would Colorado have created in the college football news cycle? How much attention would a more conventional hire have received? Yes, Sanders has to recruit and win. However, if the objective was to make Colorado football a talking point again, that’s been accomplished.

There could be some friction too. Sanders has already been criticized for being a champion of HBCUs, only to bolt for a mainstream Power 5 program when the opportunity opened. (To be fair, other columnists have defended the move.)

At Jackson State, Sanders tried to control local media when he didn’t like how reporters were addressing him or covering a story. Last year during Southwestern Athletic Conference Media Day, he balked at a Clarion-Ledger reporter addressing him as “Deion,” not “Coach,” insisting that Nick Saban would’ve been shown that respect. Earlier this season, Sanders admonished a school broadcaster (and assistant athletic director) for speaking to him more formally on camera than he did off-camera.

Will that fly among Boulder and Denver media, or the national college football press? It’s difficult to imagine. Maybe Sanders will ease back on his efforts to control reporters within a larger university environment, metropolitan area, and media market. But we’re also talking about Deion Sanders here. He doesn’t bend to outside forces. He makes them bend to him.

Sanders’ stint in Boulder — whether it lasts the five years of his contract and beyond, or less than that — will not be dull. There could be no better gift for the media covering Colorado football. Or college football, a sport already full of bold personalities, eccentric to unhinged fanbases, and outsized expectations. Coach Prime will fit right in.

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