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Ric Bucher Is Just A Storyteller

“I’ve always been able to adapt in my career, to change” declares Bucher. “It’s served me well.”

Jack Ferris

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Over the last decade or so – we’ve seen the rise of the “insider” in sports media.

The title adorns the names of respected reporters like a military rank.  It’s a bit of a buzz word that demands the attention of the casual sports fan.  After all, insiders don’t just grow on trees, theirs is a title that was earned – forged after years of conference calls and locker room interviews.  While he’d never describe himself as such – it can’t be denied that Ric Bucher is one of the first journalists to earn an “NBA Insider” distinction.

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“I don’t even know what that means,” shrugs Bucher.  “I’m just a storyteller.”

The truth is – labeling the media veteran as an NBA Insider is probably selling the first generation American short.  While he’s certainly earned all the stripes necessary to becoming an insider – the national columnist, radio host and sideline reporter would best be described as a renaissance man.  

Born to German immigrants, Bucher started playing piano at the age of 6.

“By the time I was 12 I hated it,” recalls the Cincinnati native.  “At that point it just wasn’t cool.”

Fortunately for 12-year-old Bucher, his attitude toward the ivories changed thanks to one of his earliest role models.  

“9 year old Joel – I’ll never forget it!”

Though three years his younger – it was Bucher’s fellow student Joel who opened his eyes to the world of jazz piano.

“I was so used to classical sheet music.  Jazz you got a couple chords, maybe a key and you go from there.  There’s so much creativity involved, so much freedom – you can make anything your own.  Kind of like writing a column – I loved that.”

To this day, the former Baldwin Music Company student still plays. 

Bucher’s ability to make proverbial lemonade would become a bit of a theme in his life.  No matter the circumstances presented – he would always find a way to make things work for him.

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If you ask the 6’3″ athlete today, he’d say if he was born 15-20 years later he would’ve pursued a collegiate basketball career.  As it was growing up the son of German immigrants in the 70s, soccer was just about all he knew.  A lifelong player, he was always the goal scorer in high school – a mindset he was forced to shift when he began playing at Dartmouth.

“The Dartmouth coach was a former goalkeeper – so his philosophy was certainly defensive.  In order to get on the field I had to change how I played, so I shifted to kind of a defensive midfielder.”

Bucher’s compromise earned him a spot on the varsity soccer side as a freshman, a roster position he held for four years.  

After college, it was an internship with Sports Illustrated that allowed the English major to realize what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

“I was surrounded by all these writers who would just parachute into these huge events and write great pieces.  I couldn’t wait to get started on my own somewhere.”

Up until that point, Bucher thought he would put his communication skills to work as a lawyer or an advertising executive.  Whatever it was – he wanted to be sure his working class parents were proud given their tremendous sacrifice putting him through college.

“There weren’t scholarships for soccer players, I was able to earn a bit of an academic scholarship but my annual tuition was half of what my dad’s annual salary was.  I don’t know how they did it.”

His first position landed him at the San Diego Tribune, a job he was happy to have, but he couldn’t help but compare his choices to that of his friends.

“That was a bit of a tough time for me,” admits Bucher.  “I was looking around at all my Dartmouth classmates who were working for Lehman Brothers or Leo Burnett, and I was at high school football games.  It was hard, but it was probably the best thing that could’ve happened to me.”

Bucher’s early days in Southern California turned the eager young professional into a journalist.  He began sniffing out stories himself, developing resources and making the calls.  He learned how to find the story and, more importantly, how to tell the story.  

“After San Diego, I knew I could work for just about anyone.”

The resilience of the writer was eventually rewarded with a position on the San Jose Mercury News staff covering the San Francisco 49ers.  Bucher liked football – but not like he loved his basketball.  Undeterred, he made the most of his position.  He continued to plug away until he found himself as the paper’s Warriors writer four years after his initial hiring.  

10 years removed from graduating Dartmouth – Bucher had his dream job.  Most stories would wrap up there – the son of immigrants who defied the odds to earn himself a place in the NBA media landscape.  However, as Bucher remembers it, this is where the road got even tougher.

As a minority owner, team Vice President and Head Coach – Don Nelson was the Warriors in 1993, and he wasn’t trying to make any new friends in the media.

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“I arrive on the scene and I was already way behind all my competitors.  Every other writer had been covering the team for years and had a relationship with Nelly.  I had no shot at getting any kind of exclusive information.”

Rather than raise his arms in defeat and blame his “unfair” circumstances, Bucher went to work.  He knew if he couldn’t develop Nelson, he’d try to strike up a relationship with their new draft pick out of Michigan – Chris Webber.  

“When Chris landed in Oakland for the first time there were two people there to greet him – myself and a real estate agent.”

In no time, Webber and Bucher had a bond.  Both were new on the job and trying to make a name for themselves.  At the time, Bucher was just developing a source he thought would help him through his first year.  He had no idea this source would produce the biggest story of his young career.

On the court, the Warriors were having a great season.  Webber was working on a Rookie of the Year campaign and Nelson was guiding the team back to the postseason.  From an outsider’s perspective, all seemed well in Oakland – but that was far from the case.

“Chris and Nelly weren’t getting along, and Chris used to tell me all about it.  How he wasn’t sure if he could keep playing for him,” remembers Bucher in such clarity it feels as if the conversations happened last season.

“I told him I would keep everything under wraps, but as soon as it became apparent during games that there’s a problem I would have to write it.  That’s the understanding we had.”

By February, it had become evident there was absolutely an issue between the Warriors head coach and their star player, and Bucher wrote the piece.  Before publishing, he offered Nelson a chance to comment, a chance Nelson dismissed.

Writing a story that sheds negative light on a subject you cover every day is never easy for a journalist – especially when that subject is an NBA legend and you’re a first year beat reporter.  Unfortunately for Bucher, mother nature and the scheduling gods stepped in to make matters even worse.

“We were on the road in Chicago when I was putting together the story.  We had an off day before our next game in Cleveland so a lot of the older beat writers travelling decided to spend an extra day in Chicago.  Being the new guy, I caught the first plane I could to Cleveland – and that’s when the story was published,” he pauses, the trauma of the moment still audible in his tone.

“That day, there was a huge storm in Chicago and all the other writers were snowed in, which meant they would miss Nelly’s next media availability and I would be there to face him all by myself!”

With almost 30 years covering the NBA, Bucher doesn’t seem to take much personally.  Emotions are all part of the business.  That’s why when he describes the colorful insults the Hall of Famer hurled at him that day he does so with an admirable sense of humor.  

“It was tough for a while, I was under some scrutiny and it felt like I was on an island by myself but eventually everything turned out to be true.”

Unknown to him at the time, Bucher’s courage to pen the piece earned him a favorable reputation around the league.  Not only did he write the tough story, he faced the music and refused to backpedal.  

The budding insider’s next gig sent him to the Washington Post in 1997.  It was here he had a preview of what would become iconic sports programming just a few years later.

“I used to walk into Kornheiser’s office and pose a question on whatever happened the night before, then pass the word onto Wilbon and just sit back and watch them go at it.”

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After just a year in Washington, Bucher was approached about a position with ESPN the Magazine as it launched in 1998.

When asked about his transition from a daily paper to a national magazine – Bucher’s almost lost for words.

“It was awesome!”

In 1998, Sports Illustrated was still king, but ESPN the Magazine was the cooler, younger and edgier competitor.

Not only was he able to build his brand and readership on a national stage, but for the first time he had the opportunity to be on television.  It wasn’t the medium he set out to conquer, but the piano playing soccer star was never one to back down from a new challenge.  In time he was able to hone his on air skills as he became a regular contributor to studio shows.  He didn’t realize it at the time, but by branching out as a multimedia personality, Bucher was preparing himself for the seismic shifts that would slowly upend the industry.  

“If you look at my career, I saw the end of newspapers.  I saw it a little bit at a time, decision makers not seeing that everything was moving toward digital.”

In 2012, Bucher thought it was time to cut down on the travelling and focus on being around his kids in the Bay Area.  With years of television experience now on the resume, he took a job with CSN Bay Area and the Warriors as a sideline reporter.  He also joined the Bay Area’s new sports station 95.7 the Game as a morning show host.  However, the move that raised the most eyebrows was his eventual agreement to work for Bleacher Report.

“I’ll admit – that was kind of dumb luck,” reflects Bucher today.

It’s hard to imagine, but just five years ago the idea of a national writer as well-known as Bucher working for a website was relatively unheard of. 

“I wasn’t so sure at the time when they approached me, I actually told them they didn’t have the best reputation – but I liked the plan they had for themselves and I agreed to give it a shot.  My role with them was changing all the time at the beginning, but I stuck with it and they remained true to their word.”

Five years later Bleacher Report’s platform is undeniable, and digital outlets the likes of The Athletic and The Ringer have become sought after destinations for national writers and media personalities alike.  

“I’ve always been able to adapt in my career, to change” declares Bucher.  “It’s served me well.”

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Ric Bucher has seen his career evolve from a high school sports writer in San Diego to the lofty position of NBA Insider for both ESPN and now Fox Sports.  He doesn’t claim to have predicted the evolution of the sports media landscape, but he always seems to be slightly ahead of the curve.  

Like turning classic piano chords into jazz – Bucher’s never been afraid to improvise.   

BSM Writers

In Defense Of Colin Cowherd

“How did we get to this place where there are sites and Twitter accounts going through The Herd with a fine-toothed comb to create content out of ‘oh my god, look at this!’?”

Demetri Ravanos

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I don’t understand what it is about Colin Cowherd that gets under some people’s skin to the point that they feel everything the guy says is worth being mocked. I don’t always agree with a lot of his opinions myself, but rarely do I hear one of his takes and think I need to build content around how stupid the guy is.

Cowherd has certainly had his share of misses. There were some highlights to his constant harping on Baker Mayfield but personally, I thought the bit got boring quickly and that the host was only shooting about 25% on those segments.

Cowherd has said some objectionable things. I thought Danny O’Neil was dead on in pointing out that the FOX Sports Radio host sounded like LIV Golf’s PR department last month. It doesn’t matter if he claims he used the wrong words or if his language was clunky, he deserved all of the criticism he got in 2015 when he said that baseball couldn’t be that hard of a sport to understand because a third of the league is from the Dominican Republic.

Those missteps and eyebrow-raising moments have never been the majority of his content though. How did we get to this place where there are sites and Twitter accounts going through The Herd with a fine-toothed comb to create content out of “oh my god, look at this!”?

A few years ago, Dan Le Batard said something to the effect of the best thing he can say about Colin Cowherd is that he is never boring and if you are not in this business, you do not get what a compliment that is.

That’s the truth, man. It is so hard to talk into the ether for three hours and keep people engaged, but Cowherd finds a way to do it with consistency.

The creativity that requires is what has created a really strange environment where you have sites trying to pass off pointing and laughing at Cowherd as content. This jumped out to me with a piece that Awful Announcing published on Thursday about Cowherd’s take that Aaron Rodgers needs a wife.

Look, I don’t think every single one of Cowherd’s analogies or societal observations is dead on, but to point this one out as absurd is, frankly, absurd!

This isn’t Cowherd saying that John Wall coming out and doing the Dougie is proof that he is a loser. This isn’t him saying that adults in backward hats look like doofuses (although, to be fair to Colin, where is the lie in that one?).

“Behind every successful man is a strong woman” is a take as old as success itself. It may not be a particularly original observation, but it hardly deserves the scrutiny of a 450-word think piece.

On top of that, he is right about Aaron Rodgers. The guy has zero personality and is merely trying on quirks to hold our attention. Saying that the league MVP would benefit from someone in his life holding a mirror up to him and pointing that out is hardly controversial.

Colin Cowherd is brash. He has strong opinions. He will acknowledge when there is a scoreboard or a record to show that he got a game or record pick wrong, but he will rarely say his opinion about a person or situation is wrong. That can piss people off. I get it.

You know that Twitter account Funhouse? The handle is @BackAftaThis?

It was created to spotlight the truly insane moments Mike Francesa delivered on air. There was a time when the standard was ‘The Sports Pop’e giving the proverbial finger to a recently deceased Stan Lee, falling asleep on air, or vehemently denying that a microphone captured his fart.

Now the feed is turning to “Hey Colin Cowherd doesn’t take phone calls!”. Whatever the motivation is for turning on Cowherd like that, it really shows a dip in the ability to entertain. How is it even content to point out that Colin Cowherd doesn’t indulge in the single most boring part of sports radio?

I will be the first to admit that I am not the world’s biggest fan of The Herd. Solo hosts will almost never be my thing. No matter their energy level, a single person talking for a 10-12 minute stretch feels more like a lecture than entertainment to me. I got scolded enough as a kid by parents and teachers.

School is a good analogy here because that is sort of what this feels like. The self-appointed cool kids identified their target long ago and are going to mock him for anything he does. It doesn’t matter if they carry lunch boxes too, Colin looks like a baby because he has a lunch box.

Colin Cowherd doesn’t need me to defend him. He can point to his FOX paycheck, his followers, or the backing for The Volume as evidence that he is doing something right. I am merely doing what these sites think they are doing when Colin is in their crosshairs – pointing out a lame excuse for content that has no real value.

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BSM Writers

Even After Radio Hall of Fame Honor, Suzyn Waldman Looks Forward

WFAN recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, but that’s not something that Waldman spends too much time reflecting on.

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Yankees radio broadcaster Suzyn Waldman was at Citi Field on July 26th getting ready to broadcast a Subway Series game between the Yankees and Mets. A day earlier, Waldman was elected to the Radio Hall of Fame and sometimes that type of attention can, admittedly, make her feel a bit uncomfortable.

“At first, I was really embarrassed because I’m not good at this,” said Waldman. “I don’t take compliments well and I don’t take awards well. I just don’t. The first time it got to me…that I actually thought it was pretty cool, there were two little boys at Citi Field…

Those two little boys, with photos of Waldman in hand, saw her on the field and asked her a question.

“They asked me to sign “Suzyn Waldman Radio Hall of Fame 2022” and I did,” said Waldman.  “I just smiled and then more little boys asked me to do that.”  

Waldman, along with “Broadway” Bill Lee, Carol Miller, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, Ellen K, Jeff Smulyan, Lon Helton, Marv Dyson, and Walt “Baby” Love, make up the Class of 2022 for the Radio Hall of Fame and will be inducted at a ceremony on November 1st at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago.

Waldman, born in the Boston suburb of Newton, Massachusetts, was the first voice heard on WFAN in New York when the station launched on July 1st, 1987. She started as an update anchor before becoming a beat reporter for the Yankees and Knicks and the co-host of WFAN’s
mid-day talk show. In the mid 1990s, Waldman did some television play-by-play for Yankees games on WPIX and in 2002 she became the clubhouse reporter for Yankees telecasts when the YES Network launched.

This is Waldman’s 36th season covering the Yankees and her 18th in the radio booth, a run that started in 2005 when she became the first female full-time Major League Baseball broadcaster.

She decided to take a look at the names that are currently in the Hall of Fame, specifically individuals that she will forever be listed next to.

“Some of the W’s are Orson Wells and Walter Winchell…people that changed the industry,” said Waldman. “I get a little embarrassed…I’m not good at this but I’m really happy.”

Waldman has also changed the industry.

She may have smiled when those two little boys asked her to sign those photos, but Waldman can also take a lot of pride in the fact that she has been a trailblazer in the broadcasting business and an inspiration to a lot of young girls who aspire, not only to be sportscasters but those who want to have a career in broadcasting.

Like the young woman who just started working at a New York television station who approached Waldman at the Subway Series and just wanted to meet her.

“She stopped me and was shaking,” said Waldman. “The greatest thing is that all of these young women that are out there.”

Waldman pointed out that there are seven women that she can think of off the top of her head that are currently doing minor league baseball play-by-play and that there have been young female sports writers that have come up to her to share their stories about how she inspired them.

For many years, young boys were inspired to be sportscasters by watching and listening to the likes of Marv Albert, Al Michaels, Vin Scully, Bob Costas, and Joe Buck but now there are female sportscasters, like Waldman, who have broken down barriers and are giving young girls a good reason to follow their dreams.

“When I’ve met them, they’ve said to me I was in my car with my Mom and Dad when I was a very little girl and they were listening to Yankee games and there you were,” said Waldman. “These young women never knew this was something that they couldn’t do because I was there and we’re in the third generation of that now. It’s taken longer than I thought.”

There have certainly been some challenges along the way in terms of women getting opportunities in sports broadcasting.

Waldman thinks back to 1994 when she became the first woman to do a national television baseball broadcast when she did a game for The Baseball Network. With that milestone came a ton of interviews that she had to do with media outlets around the country including Philadelphia.

It was during an interview with a former Philadelphia Eagle on a radio talk show when Waldman received a unique backhanded compliment that she will always remember.

“I’ve listened to you a lot and I don’t like you,” Waldman recalls the former Eagle said. “I don’t like women in sports…I don’t like to listen to you but I was watching the game with my 8-year-old daughter and she was watching and I looked at her and thought this is something she’s never going to know that she cannot do because there you are.”

Throughout her career, Waldman has experienced the highest of highs in broadcasting but has also been on the receiving end of insults and cruel intentions from people who then tend to have a short memory.

And many of these people were co-workers.

“First people laugh at you, then they make your life miserable and then they go ‘oh yeah that’s the way it is’ like it’s always been like that but it’s not always been like this,” said Waldman. 

It hasn’t always been easy for women in broadcasting and as Waldman — along with many others — can attest to nothing is perfect today. But it’s mind-boggling to think about what Waldman had to endure when WFAN went on the air in 1987.

She remembers how badly she was treated by some of her colleagues.

“I think about those first terrible days at ‘FAN,” said Waldman. “I had been in theatre all my life and it was either you get the part or you don’t. They either like you or they don’t.  You don’t have people at your own station backstabbing you and people at your own station changing your tapes to make you look like an idiot.”

There was also this feeling that some players were not all that comfortable with Waldman being in the clubhouse and locker room. That was nothing compared to some of the other nonsense that Waldman had to endure.

“The stuff with players is very overblown,” said Waldman. “It’s much worse when you know that somebody out there is trying to kill you because you have a Boston accent and you’re trying to talk about the New York Yankees. That’s worse and it’s also worse when the people
that you work with don’t talk to you and think that you’re a joke and the people at your own station put you down for years and years and years.”

While all of this was happening, Waldman had one very important person in her corner: Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who passed away in 2010.

The two had a special relationship and he certainly would have relished the moment when Suzyn was elected to the Hall of Fame.

“I think about George Steinbrenner a lot,” said Waldman. “This is something that when I heard that…I remember thinking George would be so proud because he wanted this since ’88.  I just wish he were here.” 

Waldman certainly endeared herself to “The Boss” with her reporting but she also was the driving force behind the reconciliation of Steinbrenner and Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra. George had fired Yogi as Yankees manager 16 games into the 1985 season and the news was delivered to Berra, not by George, but by Steinbrenner advisor Clyde King.

Yogi vowed never to step foot into Yankee Stadium again, but a grudge that lasted almost 14 years ended in 1999 when Waldman facilitated a reunion between the two at the Yogi Berra Museum in New Jersey.

“I’m hoping that my thank you to him was the George and Yogi thing because I know he wanted that very badly,” said Waldman.

“Whatever I did to prove to him that I was serious about this…this is in ’87 and ’88…In 1988, I remember him saying to me ‘Waldman, one of these days I’m going to make a statement about women in sports.  You’re it and I hope you can take it’ (the criticism). He knew what was coming.  I didn’t know. But there was always George who said ‘if you can take it, you’re going to make it’.”

And made it she did.

And she has outlasted every single person on the original WFAN roster.

“I’m keenly aware that I was the first person they tried to fire and I’m the only one left which I think is hysterical actually that I outlived everybody,” said Waldman.

WFAN recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, but that’s not something that Waldman spends too much time reflecting on.

“I don’t think about it at all because once you start looking back, you’re not going forward,” said Waldman. 

Waldman does think about covering the 1989 World Series between the A’s and Giants and her reporting on the earthquake that was a defining moment in her career. She has always been a great reporter and a storyteller, but that’s not how her WFAN career began. She started as an update anchor and she knew that if she was going to have an impact on how WFAN was going to evolve, it was not going to be reading the news…it was going to be going out in the field and reporting the news.

“I was doing updates which I despised and wasn’t very good at,” said Waldman.

She went to the program director at the time and talked about how WFAN had newspaper writers covering the local teams for the station and that it would be a better idea for her to go out and cover games and press conferences.

“Give me a tape recorder and let me go,” is what Waldman told the program director. “I was the first electronic beat writer.  That’s how that started and they said ‘oh, this works’. The writers knew all of a sudden ‘uh oh she can put something on the air at 2 o’clock in the morning and I can’t’.”  

And the rest is history. Radio Hall of Fame history.

But along the way, there was never that moment where she felt that everything was going to be okay.

Because it can all disappear in a New York minute.

“I’ve never had that moment,” said Waldman. “I see things going backward in a lot of ways for women.  I’m very driven and I’m very aware that it can all be taken away in two seconds if some guy says that’s enough.” 

During her storied career, Waldman has covered five Yankees World Series championships and there’s certainly the hope that they can contend for another title this year. She loves her job and the impact that she continues to make on young girls who now have that dream to be the next Suzyn Waldman.

But, is there something in the business that she still hopes to accomplish?

“This is a big world,” said Waldman. “There’s always something to do. Right now I like this a lot and there’s still more to do. There are more little girls…somewhere there’s a little girl out there who is talking into a tape recorder or whatever they use now and her father is telling her or someone is telling her you can’t do that you’re a little girl. That hasn’t stopped. Somewhere out there there’s somebody that needs to hear a female voice on Yankees radio.”

To steal the spirit of a line from Yankees play-by-play voice John Sterling, Suzyn Waldman’s longtime friend, and broadcast partner…“that’s a Radio Hall of Fame career, Suzyn!”

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BSM Writers

No Winners in Pittsburgh vs Cleveland Radio War of Words

“As talk radio hosts, we often try to hold the moral high ground and if you’re going to hold that position, I can’t help but feel integrity has to outweigh popularity. “

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For nearly 18 months, we’ve known the NFL would eventually have to confront the Deshaun Watson saga in an on-the-field manner, and that day came Monday. After his March trade to the Browns, we also could more than likely deduce another item: Cleveland radio hosts would feel one way, and Pittsburgh hosts would feel another.

If you’re not in tune to the “rivalry” between the two cities, that’s understandable. Both are former industrial cities looking for an identity in a post-industrial Midwest. Each thinks the other is a horrible place to live, with no real reasoning other than “at least we’re not them”. Of course, the folks in Pittsburgh point to six Super Bowl victories as reason for superiority.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when news started to leak that a Watson decision would come down Monday. I was sure, however, that anyone who decided to focus on what the NFL’s decision would mean for Watson and the Browns on the field was in a no-win situation. As a former host on a Cleveland Browns radio affiliate, I always found the situation difficult to talk about. Balancing the very serious allegations with what it means for Watson, the Browns, and the NFL always felt like a tight-rope walk destined for failure.

So I felt for 92.3 The Fan’s Ken Carman and Anthony Lima Monday morning, knowing they were in a delicate spot. They seemed to allude to similar feelings. “You’re putting me in an awkward situation here,” Carman told a caller after that caller chanted “Super Bowl! Super Browns!” moments after the suspension length was announced.

Naturally, 93.7 The Fan’s Andrew Fillipponi happened to turn on the radio just as that call happened. A nearly week-long war of words ensued between the two Audacy-owned stations.

Fillipponi used the opportunity to slam Cleveland callers and used it as justification to say the NFL was clearly in the wrong. Carman and Lima pointed out Fillipponi had tweeted three days earlier about how much love the city of Pittsburgh had for Ben Roethlisberger, a player with past sexual assault allegations in his own right.

Later in the week, the Cleveland duo defended fans from criticism they viewed as unfair from the national media. In response, Dorin Dickerson and Adam Crowley of the Pittsburgh morning show criticized Carman and Lima for taking that stance.

Keeping up?

As an impartial observer, there’s one main takeaway I couldn’t shake. Both sides are wrong. Both sides are right. No one left the week looking good.

Let’s pretend the Pittsburgh Steelers had traded for Deshaun Watson on March 19th, and not the Browns. Can you envision a scenario where Cleveland radio hosts would defend the NFL for the “fairness” of the investigation and disciplinary process if he was only suspended for six games? Of course, you can’t, because that would be preposterous. At the same time, would Fillipponi, Dickerson, and other Pittsburgh hosts be criticizing their fans for wanting Watson’s autograph? Of course, you can’t, because that would be preposterous.

When you’re discussing “my team versus your team” or “my coach versus your coach” etc…, it’s ok to throw ration and logic to the side for the sake of entertaining radio. But when you’re dealing with an incredibly serious matter, in this case, an investigation into whether an NFL quarterback is a serial sexual predator, I don’t believe there’s room to throw ration and logic to the wind. The criticism of Carman and Lima from the Pittsburgh station is fair and frankly warranted. They tried their best, in my opinion, to be sensitive to a topic that warranted it, but fell short.

On the flip side, Carman and Lima are correct. Ben Roethlisberger was credibly accused of sexual assault. Twice. And their criticism of Fillipponi and Steelers fans is valid and frankly warranted.

You will often hear me say “it can be both” because so often today people try to make every situation black and white. In reality, there’s an awful lot of gray in our world. But, in this case, it can’t be both. It can’t be Deshaun Watson, and Browns fans by proxy, are horrible, awful, no good, downright rotten people, and Ben Roethlisberger is a beloved figure.

Pot, meet kettle.

I don’t know what Andrew Fillipponi said about Ben Roethlisberger’s sexual assault allegations in 2010. And if I’m wrong, I’ll be the first to admit it, but I’m guessing he sounded much more like Carman and Lima did this week, rather than the person criticizing hosts in another market for their lack of moral fiber. Judging by the tweet Carman and Lima used to point out Fillipponi’s hypocrisy, I have a hard time believing the Pittsburgh host had strong outrage about the Steelers bringing back the franchise QB.

Real courage comes from saying things your listeners might find unpopular. It’s also where real connections with your listeners are built. At the current time in our hyper-polarized climate, having the ability to say something someone might disagree with is a lost art. But it’s also the key to keeping credibility and building a reputation that you’ll say whatever you truly believe that endears you to your audience.

And in this case, on a day the NFL announced they now employ a player who — in the league’s view — is a serial sexual assaulter, to hear hosts describe a six-game suspension as “reasonable” felt unreasonable. As talk radio hosts, we often try to hold the moral high ground and if you’re going to hold that position, I can’t help but feel integrity has to outweigh popularity.

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