Former Los Angeles Raiders defensive end Howie Long once gave a memorable description of his distinctively uncommon teammate Todd Christensen. Long said on NFL Network’s America’s Game, “Well, Noah takes them all on the boat. We’ll take two of them, two of them, but we only got one of him.” Christensen’s personality stood out. A similar description would fittingly apply to the uniquely talented Petros Papadakis — a broadcaster that is easily identifiable and truly one of a kind.
As a successful football commentator and sports radio host, Petros brings a different flavor to the table. His style is outgoing and energetic, but it’s much more distinctive than that. It’s a signature concoction of random and unpredictable, immature yet intelligent. Petros is similar to a band that doesn’t quite fit into one specific musical category. He’s his own genre.
Petros and Matt “Money” Smith showcase their unconventional form each weekday starting at 3pm PT on AM 570 LA Sports. For as loud as “stick-to-sports” guy is, the successful run of The Petros and Money Show is proof that there are many sports talk listeners that prefer more than just hardcore sports talk. Petros details the moment he realized there are people that respond to radio that isn’t conventional. He also uses an intriguing word to describe the relationship he has with his radio show. Enjoy.
Brian Noe: What do you enjoy most about being behind a microphone — either as a sports radio host or as a football commentator?
Petros Papadakis: I guess I enjoy certain things about both. Calling a game is really different from doing the show in a lot of regards. A lot of the show is about me being me — my interpretation of things and stupid stuff about my life.
That’s not what a game is for, at least in my estimation. Some broadcasts might treat it differently, but when we have a game on the air it’s a good time to celebrate the young guys that are playing, the area, the schools, and the whole spectacle that goes into putting on a college football game.
You’ve got the announcers — we have these self-important guys that we send cars for. They send cars for us; you should send a car for the camera guy. (Laughs) It’s funny to me. You always hear all these stories about these diva announcers and how this guy needs his pillow fluffed and this guy needs his private jet gassed up and ready. It’s like my God. I watch the game on mute. I can’t stand most of these guys. (Laughs) I can’t stand hearing myself.
I enjoy being more economical doing the games because the radio is obviously not that way. We’ve got to pedal that bike and if you stop pedaling it just falls over. I guess that’s the difference. I enjoy both. I enjoy getting it all out on the radio. When you’ve done it as long as we have it becomes part of what your life is. I know maybe that sounds really entitled, but you feel like that afternoon is your time to be that guy. It gets very hard to live without the radio show. It’s really hard for me to let go of it, which is why I take very little vacation because it’s like an obsession I guess.
BN: If you had to pick one and not do the other, which do you think you would miss more: sports radio or commentating?
PP: Oh, radio because it’s a daily thing. When you do college games, you do 14 events a year. That’s it. It really is 14 weeks because you live the week. You do conference calls. You’re in touch with people. You’re in touch with production. You travel and you meet and do all that stuff. Nobody sees that. The radio, it just plays out every day. It’s a really personal relationship. It’s always amazed me in a way — and I don’t consider myself to be a celebrity or famous even locally — but people that recognize you from the radio, especially, they just feel connected to you, like you’re part of their lives. They know you. The truth is they do and you are a part of their life. Even though you don’t know them, they know you. That’s a really kind of cool, personal relationship that I’ve always been amazed by.
The intimate level of relationship with somebody that you don’t know, I almost liken it to — and this is another thing that amazed me — it’s been a long time since I played football. I kind of impersonate an ex-football player when I call football games. If I see a guy that I played against at some point when we were in college, there’s this weird camaraderie where you hug each other. I don’t even know the guy, but you come across each other after having played football and trying to kill each other back in the late ‘90s, and you have this weird kind of strange connection. The only other time I’ve experienced that in my life is with radio listeners. It’s interesting having all these weird, unknown friends around the city.
BN: I love that word you used where you said doing radio is like an obsession. When do you think it became that way for you?
PP: There was a producer at 1540 The Ticket when I had my first show. I had no idea how to fill the time. It was hard for me. I’m not naturally a guy that wants to sit down and talk about sports — the kind of sports that people talked about on sports talk radio back then. Like so-and-so is injured and somebody would call and ask you about the Kansas City Royals lineup and you’d be like uhhh. (Laughs) What everybody was doing in sports talk radio, I did not know how to do sincerely.
I was struggling, or at least it felt like I was struggling. One day I came to work — this guy’s name was Craig Larson — and he said we’re going to sing a song. We produced a parody song. We obviously aren’t the first people ever to do that in radio, but we did a parody song about Lamar Odom to “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers. Instead of you got to know when to hold them, it was you got to know Lamar Odom, he rolls blunts and smokes ‘em. In third grade he was 11.
People called in and reacted to the song. Once we started doing that I realized that I could make it whenever I wanted. People responded to stuff that just wasn’t super conventional. That station was a little too small to stop me. (Laughs) I felt like I had something going creatively. Then Don Martin just let me do it. Don has always been hands off and let us do the show.
The only weird part about it is — I started doing daily radio in my early 20s and there’s still a lot of me that acts like I’m in my early 20s on the air now. I don’t act like that in my real life, but there’s a certain lack of maturity that people expect from me on the air. It’s like a place where I’ve never really grown up in some senses. It’s like my never-never land. I feel like it’s that way for Matt too. I mean my God, Matt’s 46, I’m 42, and we’re still there doing rap lyrics and jumping around like idiots, throwing stuff at each other, and taking shots.
BN: You guys have such a good mix where it can be off the rails, or you can have regular sports conversations at times. What’s your general approach to mapping out a show when you bring those two very different elements to the table?
PP: Well, we’ve done it for so long that it’s kind of an unspoken thing I’d have to say. We make space for each other to do what the other guy wants to do in a certain spot every day. The rest of it we fill in the blanks. A lot of those blanks I fill in just acting stupid. I think both of us know when to steer it back to whatever the middle is. The one thing I think I really try to avoid is that I don’t ever want to be seen as taking myself too seriously doing this work.
I guess the older I get, the more disillusioned I kind of am with what passes off as entertainment on the radio. (Laughs) I’m not much of a fan of the genre I guess is a good way to put it. There are a lot of people I respect that do the job, it’s just not for me the way they do it. I don’t ever like detaching myself from how hard it is to play sports at a high level. The way people talk about it like, “That guy sucks.” It’s like, dude, most of the time that guy’s pretty f***ing good. Trust me, that guy can f***ing play.
I did 10 years in the booth with Barry Tompkins. Barry was 50 years older than me and still is. Actually we’re going to reunite and do the state championships on Spectrum in a couple of weeks.
BN: Oh, that’s cool.
PP: Yeah, it’ll be fun. God, Barry’s got to be 80 now. We worked together a long time, but he was older and he’d been through the wars. He wasn’t as attached to the game in some ways. After 10 years they put me on the sideline. I got back down on the field and saw the players and smelled all the smells and listened to the sport. I did sidelines for Joel Klatt and Craig Bolerjack, championship games, and Gus Johnson’s crew. I did that for a few years and it really pulled me back into how hard it is to play the sport. I try not to detach myself from that as a commentator. It helps me be a little bit more balanced doing the job.
BN: What area do you think that you and Money have grown the most in over the years?
PP: That’s a good question. I feel like such an immature idiot on the radio. I think we just understand each other better. It’s a little easier to have perspective day-to-day. I used to be bothered about things that happened, or didn’t happen, or what we should have done, or this or that. It’d keep me up at night. I think both of us, probably him a lot earlier than me — because he’s got a daughter in college now while I’m still fighting with two-year-olds here — I think just letting the show be whatever it is and moving on to the next day. I think we’ve gotten a lot better at that. And just more polished too.
Our producer is really special. It enables us to do a lot of different things and a lot of in-the-moment things that we probably wouldn’t normally be able to do. It requires a great deal of attention in the moment because there’s a lot of the show that’s just improvisational. You really do have to be able to move and shake and be creative in your own way; take some chances. Tim Cates does a great job of that.
BN: If you go back to the beginning, how did you break into sports radio?
PP: A guy named Mark Huska hired me at FOX to do the SoCal Sports Report opposite Matt Stevens. USC was a pretty big story in town. They just fired my coach Paul Hackett. I didn’t really have any plans to do media, but I had done a good deal of interviews when I was the captain at SC. Somehow they got USC to hire me as one of those — like what Max Browne is doing now — pre and post radio.
The first year I did TV two or three times a week in the studio at FOX with Todd Donoho. I did radio from the studio or from the Coliseum on Saturdays. I had no idea what I was doing. USC had a contract with this very small radio station that Mike Garrett negotiated called 1540 The Ticket. It was a third radio station launching in town. They didn’t have a lot of structure or anything.
Very soon I had my own show. I had a show with Mark Willard. I didn’t get along with him very well. I just did not enjoy being his radio partner and I think it really set me back because it made me very combative early in my career. I got really protective and really closed off to some things. I hate to blame Mark for that, but he was a very difficult personality for me. Some people I get along with very well, you know? (Laughs) Let’s just put it like this, he was the opposite of who I wanted to be on the radio.
I was able to wrestle myself away from him and I just had my own show. It kind of went from there. With the USC stuff, I went from doing pre and post to the next year I became their sideline guy. I did that job till 2003. The Leinart Rose Bowl beating Michigan was my last SC game. Then I started doing the Pac-10 Game of the Week in ‘04, which was FOX’s national package at that time. It was on all their regionals. I was in the booth with Barry by the time I was like 26, 27. Then I did that for 10 years. I had no idea what was happening in any of those jobs. I feel like just now I’m starting to really grasp doing color on TV. I don’t know how I pulled it off since ‘04.
BN: With everything you’ve been able to accomplish, is there anything that stands out the most to you?
PP: I consider it a privilege to be able to do the games and tell those stories on TV. I’m grateful to FOX for allowing me to do it for this long — same with the radio. We have a lot of fun on the radio and whatever the line is that’s drawn in the sand, we still really enjoy doing it. So I’m really just grateful for those things. The one thing that kind of surprises me is just how long I’ve been able to fool everybody. I’ve worked bigger games, but I kind of like doing the level of game that I do. (Laughs)
I’m not one of those guys that was like I’m going to be the number one analyst. I’ve never really been that guy. I guess that’s one of my bigger flaws is I’m not the most ambitious guy out there. The guy that hired me at FOX way back in the day still acts as my kind of manager. I never went with any agency or anything like that. Now he’s an executive producer on the Tennis Channel and he still has to negotiate my contracts and stuff. I guess that’s probably one of the things that’s a little bit more unique about me — sometimes people try to hire me for work and they’re like “I could not get ahold of you.” I’m like “don’t you have the secret textoso line?” (Laughs)
BN: What do you think has been really helpful for you as a sports radio host or a commentator that you figured out on your own?
PP: On my own? Gosh, I’m a slow learner. I guess just a certain level of excitement is one of those things. You have to kind of be your own blocker. You have to act like you care about what you’re talking about almost to a level where you sound absurd, but not in an insincere way, just kind of a fun way. That’s one thing I’ve always figured out.
The other thing — and this applies to a football game or any kind of game on TV, or really any kind of show, and certainly on a radio show — is whether people listen for five minutes or they listen to the whole three hours, it’s got to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It’s got to be like a story. Whether you do that with music, or in the beginning you introduce everybody, in the middle you let it play out, in the end you go more big picture.
People used to say that to me — not that I really figured it out on my own — production people used to say that to me and I didn’t really understand what it meant. Now I sort of do. It’s really just more of a feel. The better feel you have for that as a broadcaster or somebody who’s shaping a show, somebody in production, the more naturally things just come to you.
BN: What other good advice have you gotten that helps you?
PP: Less is more. That’s written on the wall at FOX. (Laugh)
BN: Do you have that tattooed yet?
PP: No, but I should because it’s hard for me obviously. Less is more; you don’t have to drown everybody with everything all the time. Some of the top broadcasters in the world do it. Just because you researched it and wrote it down doesn’t mean it has to fit into the show. You have to discern when and where to use it. People don’t need to feel like you’re exponentially smarter than them. They just need to feel like you’re a little bit more well-informed than them and they’ll listen to you. They don’t need to feel like you are the guy from A Beautiful Mind.
Does Mike & The Mad Dog Reunion Really Have Broad Appeal?
“My confusion is not about the content. It is about the strategy.”
I know this is an unpopular opinion, especially on a site built on the back of sports radio, but I also know that I am not alone when I say this. I do not get why ESPN is reuniting Mike & the Mad Dog on First Take on Wednesday.
That is not a comment about Mike Francesa or Chris Russo as people. I am not going to sit here and tell you their show was not groundbreaking or pretend that its success did not make it easier for the sports format to spread across the country. They deserve all of the credit and accolades they get from our industry.
My confusion is not about the content. It is about the strategy. Who outside of New York and/or outside of the broadcast industry feels like this is must-see TV? This feels like some real whiffing of our own farts.
When ESPN writes a press release about the success of First Take, they tend to highlight two demographics. It’s either with men 18-49 or with men 18-34. The age range is important because Mike & The Mad Dog hasn’t been a thing for almost 15 years. Francesa and Russo have had their own success in that time. It is not like they disappeared, but 2008 was a long time ago. Even lifelong New Yorkers in the desired demos may not have a strong connection to Francesa and Russo as a brand.
And then there are those of us outside of New York. We may understand that Mike & The Mad Dog was a thing, but what does it really mean to us? Outside of industry professionals, I would venture a guess that if you say “Mike and the Mad Dog” to someone from the Central, Mountain or Pacific time zones, the very best-case scenario is that they would tell you that it sounds familiar, but they have no idea why.
Mike and the Mad Dog is a very specific dynamic, and credit to Stephen A. Smith and his producers, it is a dynamic that is perfect for First Take, but thanks to First Take, it isn’t a dynamic that I can only get from those two guys anymore. Their loud, unrelenting debates were revolutionary in 1989 when the show launched. Since then, the style has spawned so many imitators that I would worry the significance of the reunion will be lost on the average Joe tuning in from outside the Tri-State Area.
Smith is important enough to ESPN that if this is what he wants to do on First Take, then the bosses needed to make it happen. I respect that. But selling this as an event? It seems more exclusionary than anything. To us everywhere-elsers, Wednesday is just going to be an extraordinarily loud episode of First Take.
I have been working for Barrett Sports Media long enough to know the influence that people that are successful on New York radio have across the sports media industry. Why else would FS1 rearrange its schedule to make room for Craig Carton? If First Take were a show dedicated to debating ratings points and the value of digital audiences versus broadcast audiences, then a Mike & the Mad Dog reunion would be a home run.
But First Take is where sports fans turn to hear discussion of the Cowboys’ most recent playoff failure and the possibility that Nikola Jokic wins a third straight MVP award. Those are topics that cast a wide net – think like the net that commercial fishing vessels drop into the ocean. Using a walk down memory lane with Francesa and Russo as a ratings driver is like trying to catch fish with a pool skimmer.
Well okay, maybe not a pool skimmer. New York is really big, so let’s so it is like trying to catch fish with a laundry basket.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.
Jamie Erdahl Reflects On First Season of Good Morning Football
“I learned a lot [and] I got the nuances of the show down. Next year, I hope to elevate even more [and] just push the box a little bit more in.”
Jamie Erdahl, who was named in July 2022 as a new host of Good Morning Football on NFL Network following Kay Adams’ departure from the show, has looked to redefine the role of studio host and shatter the boundaries of being simply a moderator passing the baton to analysts throughout her career in sports media.
“I don’t personally feel that it’s my job to include them,” Erdahl said of her colleagues. “I like to think that this show is the four of us including each other in the conversation, and I happen to be the one that gets us on the air [and] gets us off the air, but everywhere in-between that it’s very much an equal lift if you will.”
Since its inception in August 2016, Good Morning Football has provided football fans unparalleled coverage of their favorite sport through recurring segments, interviews with active players and alumni, live demonstrations and insightful analysis. Aside from Erdahl, the show cast consists of Kyle Brandt, who was the former executive producer of The Jim Rome Show, along with NFL analyst Peter Schrager, former NFL cornerback and Super Bowl champion Jason McCourty.
Erdahl never thought hosting a national morning football show produced by a league-owned media outlet was realistic nor possible in the first place, wherefore she focused her early career endeavors towards covering local teams. In fact, her first exposure to sports media was as a 16-year-old shadowing broadcasters and answering the phones at KFAN Sports Radio in Minneapolis, screening callers who wanted to discuss the Minnesota Vikings among other topics.
After transferring from St. Olaf College to American University, Erdahl was placed into a production internship with ESPN through the Association for Women in Sports Media in a role she refers to as one of her “most formative professional experiences off-camera.” Her principal responsibility was cutting highlights for Baseball Tonight and SportsCenter, along with writing scripts for the anchors to recite over the highlights during the broadcast.
“To this day, I don’t think I would be as great or as strong at reading highlights if I had never had that opportunity at ESPN,” Erdahl said. “….I don’t think you can be really good on the air if you don’t have a full understanding of what it takes to get there from a production standpoint.”
Out of college, Erdahl returned to Minneapolis, where she worked as a freelance reporter at Fox Sports North, a regional sports network. In that role, she was a sideline reporter for various high school basketball games and Minnesota Lynx WNBA contests. One year later, she made the move to Boston to join NESN as an on-air anchor and reporter, contributing both to studio coverage and in-person event coverage ranging from the Boston Marathon to Boston College hockey.
Through several years of persistence and determination, Erdahl was afforded more opportunities and chances to continue elevating her skills. During her first year at NESN, she was working on NESN Sports Today as an anchor and reporter while also filling in for Jenny Dell as a field reporter for Boston Red Sox games. By September 2013, she was named the new rinkside reporter for Boston Bruins live game broadcasts where she succeeded Naoko Funayama, an established broadcaster who held the role for nearly six years.
“[Boston], more than any [market] I’ve ever been around, expects the world of you,” Erdahl said. “They expect the world of their athletes; of their coaches; of their organizations; and then of the media that covers the team. They’ll sus you out right away if they have a sense that you don’t know what you’re talking about or if you don’t know their team like the back of your hand like they do.”
Over her season as the rinkside reporter for Boston Bruins games on NESN, Erdahl performed her job well but internally struggled to report solely on the team. In being immersed in the dynamic atmosphere of a professional team, it is entirely plausible that while the storylines may change, much of the quotidian routine is mundane in nature.
Akin to a beat reporter, Erdahl’s job was to focus her work on the Bruins and NHL at large while remaining cognizant of Boston sports. Through it all, she inherently desired something more – a role in which she could cover several teams within a sport rather than just one.
“I am amazed at the people who can do 162-plus baseball games a year,” Erdahl said. “I just applaud them so much. I think your wealth of knowledge is admirable, but I found it so challenging to, let’s say, do 82-plus [games] of hockey because I felt like I wanted more sport variety.”
In 2014, Erdahl signed with CBS Sports as a sideline reporter for the NFL on CBS, traveling every week around the country to uncover stories and perspectives enhancing the game broadcast. She primarily worked with the No. 3 broadcast team of Greg Gumbel and Trent Green, along with director Suzanne Smith, who has served as one of Erdahl’s mentors. The move from reporting in one city to adopting a peripatetic lifestyle helped her with professional development and allowed her to cultivate relationships around the country.
“When you are at the regional [sports network], you’re just answering to that one team,” Erdahl said. “I loved reporting but what I loved about when I got to CBS was [that] you are answering to the broadcast; you are answering to players from both sides. You had to work to make sure that your coverage was fully equal.”
After several seasons covering the NFL, Erdahl was named the lead reporter for college football on CBS Sports, including within its SEC broadcast package. Despite the game being similar in many ways, college football presented challenges to Erdahl, largely due to the size of the rosters and the fact that many SEC on CBS Game of the Week broadcasts regularly included the Alabama Crimson Tide, Georgia Bulldogs and Louisiana State University Tigers.
Next season will be the final year CBS will broadcast SEC games before the conference’s media rights agreement with The Walt Disney Company (ABC/ESPN) takes effect: a 10-year deal worth a reported $300 million annually. CBS will broadcast the Big Ten Conference instead, inking a 7-year deal for the second-best rights package worth a reported $350 million annually.
“Here I was back again [asking], ‘Okay, how do I make things new and fresh?,’” Erdahl said. “You can’t talk to Tua Tagovailoa every time on the phone. You’ve got to branch out; you’ve got to tell other guys’ stories.”
In addition to reporting on college football and NFL games, Erdahl was one of the first anchors on CBS Sports HQ, a free 24/7 sports news network available to stream on multiple platforms. She also reconnected with her athletic roots when she provided sideline reporting for CBS Sports’ coverage of March Madness. Her alacrity for the game and proficiency in its vernacular gave her an advantage as a media member reporting on one of the year’s premier events.
“My translation speed, let’s say, of what I hear in a basketball huddle is so much faster to laymen’s terms in basketball than it is for football,” Erdahl said. “That’s just a matter of I played basketball; it is a part of my lifeblood; it is part of my body and soul and upbringing.”
Erdahl eventually moved back into sideline reporting for the NFL on CBS; however it differed the second time around because she had two young children at home and had to leave them from Thursday to Sunday each week. Although she was content with her role at CBS and had the support system in place to make it possible, she wanted to be able to see her children grow up and spend time with them.
At the same time, continuing to cover football was important to her and a reason why she considered a studio-based hosting role. In the end, she was ultimately named the new co-host of Good Morning Football on NFL Network.
“Professionally, I think I was very much honing my skill set to become a really great, strong sideline reporter at CBS,” Erdahl said. “I grasped at the opportunity to become a really great, strong studio host. I’m not there yet – it’s only been six or seven months – but I really wanted this job in particular to get me to a place within the NFL [and] within the industry to be a really good host.”
For 15 hours per week, Erdahl is on television discussing the game of football with Brandt, Schrager, McCourty and Selva, along with a plethora of other guests and industry experts. Entering the role from the perspective of a sideline reporter, she has found many aspects of her previous role permeate into this job, most notably those pertaining to listening to others.
“As a sideline reporter, all you can do is be eyes and ears and you’re just hoping that if you’re not the one saying it on the broadcast, you’re relaying information back to the truck or to the play-by-play guy to make sure that what you’re seeing or hearing on the field is getting on to the broadcast…. I like to take that back into a studio setting. Very easily we could sit around the table and we could each talk for a minute and give our takes, but then you’re not really listening to each other.”
Before landing the job, Erdahl had conversations with Kay Adams where they discussed the role and just what makes it unique. Their discussions left Erdahl energized and eager to get started and disseminate her opinions and points of view to consumers on weekday mornings.
“You get to have your own arc of creativity, no matter what chair you’re sitting in,” Erdahl expressed. “I think Kay did that incredibly well for six years. People loved Kay for all the things that she did – but the job isn’t, ‘Here’s how Kay did it; do it the way Kay did.’ That’s not how it was presented [to] me [and] I don’t think Kay would have wanted it that way.”
Over the years, Erdahl has established relationships with colleagues and competitors alike in sports media, staying in touch and reaching out for advice. She was friendly with many of her colleagues at the NFL on CBS, including Tracy Wolfson, Amanda Balionis and Melanie Collins, along with ESPN/Amazon Prime Video’s Charissa Thompson and NFL Network host Sara Walsh. She also estimates speaking to SEC on CBS analyst Gary Danielson weekly, someone who was instrumental in her development as a broadcaster and learning more about the game of football.
Erdahl and the rest of the Good Morning Football on-air personalities do not simply show up to the studios to broadcast each morning; rather, there is an immense amount of preparation that goes into each and every show beginning the night before.
On a shared document, show producers compile a layout for the next day’s program and Erdahl and the other personalities write notes and perspectives to better inform the rest of the crew as to their individual thought processes. There is a production crew that works overnight to monitor the news cycle and prepare production elements for the next day’s program so by the time 7:00 AM ET comes around, the team is ready to produce three hours of insightful football coverage.
“The information wheel in the NFL is just constantly turning so it’s easier for me just to kind of, throughout the day, remain aware of it so then at night, I can answer all my stuff and then tomorrow, I feel a little bit more prepared,” Erdahl said. “I’m not cramming for an hour before the show…. It’s easy to kind of stay swimming in it.”
As Erdahl reflects on the impending completion of her first full season on the show, she intends to learn from her mistakes, such as relying on certain statistics or storylines as a crutch for extended periods of time, to improve as a studio host. She also aims to augment her creativity, learn more about the history of the game and demonstrate energy for the game – all qualities imbued within Brandt, Schrager and McCourty, respectively – to become a “master of the NFL.”
“I was lucky I got through the season,” Erdahl said. “I learned a lot [and] I got the nuances of the show down. Next year, I hope to elevate even more [and] just push the box a little bit more in terms of making sure I don’t have those crutches.”
Viewers of Good Morning Football or other NFL Network programming might be skeptical towards the legitimacy of some opinions because of the oversight the league has on the broadcast outlet. Yet over her time with NFL Network, Erhardt does not feel as if she has been suppressed in editorializing her views.
Moreover, it is the responsibility of the show to balance subjectivity and the maintenance of professional relationships in football with the display of objectivity and proffering of genuine analysis. After all, she believes the league trusts that she is on the air for a reason, and works to ensure the league communicates its storylines in a way discernible to a variety of demographics.
“I haven’t felt the hindrance whatsoever in terms of editorial direction that would make me feel like I shouldn’t do something,” Erdahl said. “I would say mostly on the daily, I get the green light from the things that we try to accomplish as a show.”
There are many football fans across the United States, and it can be safely assumed that many of them have at least thought about potentially covering the game as a media member. Yet very few aspiring media professionals reach the point Erdahl has; in fact, some of her most memorable moments over the years are when she was told she had received certain jobs. Although her skills on the air are evident, her demeanor and team-oriented mindset has separated herself from other candidates and led to sustained success and growth amid a competitive marketplace.
“Sixty percent of being good at this job has nothing to do with being on television, in my opinion,” Erdahl articulated. “I think it’s about a good, honest, ethical person that is nice to people; that is easy to be around; that coaches and athletes in particular want to be around and want to talk to [and] tell their story to. The other stuff will come because you are speaking to something that you went about the right way.”
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, he serves as the production manager for the New York Islanders Radio Network and lead sports producer at NY2C. He has also worked on live game broadcasts for the Long Island Nets and New York Riptide. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks and wrote for The Long Island Herald. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
Why Do NFL Fans Want More Greg Olsen and Less Tony Romo?
Olsen creates the perception that he studies each team, breaking down film of offenses and defenses, in preparation for the telecast.
Five years ago, Tony Romo retired as an active NFL player, jumped into the CBS broadcast booth, and immediately became the darling of fans and media for the excitement he brought to his telecasts. Romo’s enthusiasm for the game and understanding of modern offense allowed him to predict plays successfully, making him an instant sensation.
Greg Olsen will finish his second season as a full-time broadcaster on Feb. 12 from the NFL’s biggest stage, calling Super Bowl LVI for Fox with play-by-play partner Kevin Burkhardt. Olsen hasn’t drawn the must-see buzz that Romo did early in his TV career. No fan likely tuned into Fox’s top NFL telecast, “America’s Game of the Week,” to listen to Olsen’s analysis. His work doesn’t draw nearly the same amount of acclaim.
But the shine has worn off Romo with viewers during the past couple of NFL seasons. Watching a game with Romo in the booth previously felt like sitting alongside a fellow fan, jubilant at fantastic plays or clever strategy, and disappointed at performances that fell short. His energy also elevated Jim Nantz as a play-by-play announcer, bringing him back to life after 13 seasons alongside Phil Simms.
Now, however, Romo’s outbursts — noises in place of words, or outright yelling — seem like a crutch when coherent thoughts can’t be articulated. Where there was once fascinating insight from the analyst position, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback often resorts to clichés and platitudes that don’t add to a fan’s understanding of what’s happening on the field.
Worst of all, Romo sometimes talks merely to talk, filling a quiet space when a broadcast needs to breathe or the images are saying enough on their own. That’s especially awkward when paired with a veteran like Nantz, who’s a master at letting the moment speak for itself rather than trying to punctuate it with unnecessary narration.
On Fox’s telecast of the 49ers-Eagles NFC Championship Game, Olsen explained how play-calling changes when an offense intends to go for it on fourth down. He showed an awareness of the strategies that each coach employed to gain an advantage or neutralize what the opponent was doing well.
Early on, he highlighted San Francisco defensive end Joey Bosa holding back on his natural impulse to pursue the quarterback at all costs. Instead, he maintained a position that prevented Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts from running to gain yardage when pass plays weren’t available.
With analysis like this, Olsen creates the perception that he studies each team, breaking down the film of their respective offenses and defenses, in preparation for the telecast. He doesn’t appear to be surprised by what he sees because that prep work — watching film, talking to coaches and players — informs him of the eventualities and possibilities that could arise during a game.
The hardcore football fan, those who repeatedly watch highlights and replays, loves that kind of analysis. Such attention to detail feels gratifying because it demonstrates that the person calling the broadcast is as serious about this stuff as the viewer who’s waited all week for the big game.
Yet a more casual fan is also drawn in because of Olsen’s amiable personality and ability to explain things simply and clearly. It’s similar to what viewers enjoy about ESPN’s “ManningCast” for Monday Night Football. Yes, there are jokes and funny moments. But Peyton and Eli Manning both explain strategy and preparation very well.
By comparison, Romo comes off like a broadcaster who’s winging it, letting his personality and enthusiasm fill gaps created by a lack of preparation. That might be a completely unfair criticism. We don’t know what kind of work Romo puts in leading up to a telecast. Maybe he watches as much film as Olsen. Perhaps he talks to everyone available to the broadcast crew in production meetings.
If so, however, that doesn’t show itself on the CBS telecast. Romo’s work on Sunday’s Bengals-Chiefs AFC Championship Game telecast was an improvement over his call of the Bengals-Bills divisional playoff clash. During the previous week, Romo acted as if he didn’t have to provide any insight because this was the match-up fans had anticipated all season and already knew everything about the two teams.
Perhaps in response to that criticism, Romo made a point of highlighting the importance of each team’s defensive coordinator — Cincinnati’s Lou Anarumo and Kansas City’s Steve Spagnuolo, respectively — in disrupting the performance of quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow. But rather than demonstrate an actual strategy during a replay, he stated that each defense would come after the opposing QB and create pressure.
Ultimately, the difference between Romo and Olsen seems to be schtick versus knowledge. But it’s also a product of how each analyst reached their position. Romo joined CBS’s No. 1 NFL broadcast team without previously calling any games. (As BSM’s Garrett Searight points out, that immediacy and recent connection to the game fueled what felt like fresh analysis.)
Meanwhile, Olsen called games during bye weeks while he was still an active player and was on Fox’s No. 2 crew with Burkhardt before being elevated to top status following the departure of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to ESPN. He’s had to get better out of necessity. Even now, as Olsen establishes himself as his network’s top analyst, he faces the possibility of being bumped from that position when Tom Brady retires and cashes in on the massive contract Fox offered him.
Compare that to Romo, who’s the highest-paid NFL analyst on television. His $18 million annual salary set the bar other top broadcasters are trying to reach. And he has seven years remaining on the 10-year contract he signed with CBS. That is significant job security. Even if network executives (or Nantz) lean on Romo to improve his flaws, how much motivation is there when he’s already been anointed a broadcasting king?
However, NFL fans and sports media are making it clear what they prefer from their football broadcasters. They want insight and substance. They want to learn something from the commentary, rather than just be told what they can see for themselves.
Olsen is providing that and is being rightly lauded as a broadcaster living up to his status. Romo is suffering a fall from acclaim and has become a weekly punching bag. If he and CBS want to change that, he’ll have to bring more to the booth each week. In the meantime, Fox should consider appreciating what it already has, rather than welcome a glitzy name.
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 email@example.com.