We’re in the stretch run of lovely football and it has been oh so tasty. The LSU Tigers capped off a perfect 15-0 season by clobbering Clemson to win a national championship. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs scored 41 unanswered points to erase a 24-point deficit against the Houston Texans. Not only have the games been exciting, but there is also a lesson to be learned.
Before I get to the lesson I’d like to refer to something that New England Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick said in the HBO special Belichick & Saban: The Art of Coaching. Belichick made a very insightful statement to Saban — “The great ones can get to the top of the mountain and say you know what, I can be even better.”
Consider how Belichick’s point applies to LSU and the Chiefs — teams that had done a lot of winning, but strived to be even better. LSU won a lot of games with their former head coach Les Miles. They claimed a national championship and played in another BCS title game under Miles. The Mad Hatter had a record of 114-34 at LSU. He won 77 percent of his games! Miles was fired in 2016 after a 2-2 start to the season. Ed Orgeron was named interim head coach and later became the full-time head man. It worked. Tip of the cap to quarterback Joe Burrow and former passing game coordinator Joe Brady who played huge roles in LSU’s success, but it all started with the dismissal of Miles and hiring of Ed O.
Another bold move by the Chiefs paid off in a major way. Kansas City traded two first-round picks and a third-rounder to the Bills to draft quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Last season Mahomes was named MVP as he threw for 50 touchdowns and over 5,000 yards. Oh, and he became the first player in NFL postseason history with 300 passing yards, 50 rushing yards, and five touchdown passes in a single game against the Texans on Sunday. Yeah, that move worked out too.
LSU and the Chiefs could’ve been content with being good. LSU was successful with Miles and so were the Chiefs with their former quarterback Alex Smith. The Chiefs were 50-26 with Smith as the starter and made the playoffs in three straight seasons. Smith actually led the entire league in passer rating in 2017. Firing Miles and trading up to draft Mahomes were largely viewed as risky moves. As it turns out they were moves that paid off handsomely because both teams were hellbent on being even better.
What’s also interesting about LSU and the Chiefs is that they looked to improve areas that were not glaring weaknesses. When we think about improvement, we generally target our deficiencies. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, looking to strengthen an area that is already strong can pay off in a big way. In sports radio, what are some areas that might be your strengths, but could actually be even stronger? Here are a few possibilities:
Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback Lamar Jackson had a special season. He led the league with 36 touchdown passes and rushed for 1,206 yards. The rushing yards alone were sixth in the NFL among everybody. Those studly numbers didn’t translate to the postseason though as the soon-to-be MVP threw two interceptions, and fumbled in a loss to the Tennessee Titans. He was asked about his thoughts regarding critics that were sure to emerge after his performance. Jackson said, “I don’t really care about what they say. We’re just going to keep going and get ready for next year.”
Maybe you’re good at brushing negativity aside like Jackson as a sports radio host. Chances are you could be even better. It isn’t just Twitter that is largely bathroom graffiti with ads, it could be nasty comments from callers, texters, or even negativity from a co-host that not only disagrees with you, but tries to discredit your opinions. Not allowing negativity to get you off track is vital in sports radio. If you’re already good in that area, look to get stronger.
Celebrating the wins
LSU quarterback Joe Burrow smoked a cigar after beating Clemson and many of his teammates danced in the locker room with Cleveland Browns’ wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. The Tigers know how to celebrate a national title in style. You might be the same way when it comes to your own success. I’ve gotten better about celebrating my wins in sports radio, but I’m a perfectionist by nature. What I do wrong generally stands out more to me than what I get right.
Former Dallas Cowboys’ wide receiver Michael Irvin has a great outlook on celebrating. He told The Athletic: “Any great journey that you’re going on – even in life – if you say, ‘I’m only going to celebrate when I get to the finish line,’ then 95 percent of those people will never make it there. But if you start at the genesis of your journey, and you make small celebrations all along the way – like when I get a quarter of the way, I get to celebrate. If I get to 50 percent of the way, I get another celebration. But, man, you bring out small celebrations ’cause those journeys are too long! 100-yard journeys are too long. The NFL has given you small celebrations. They’re called first downs, and if we end up with enough of these, we will end up with a touchdown. That is a great metaphor for life.”
Focusing too much on imperfections can drive yourself crazy. It’s important to also look at what you actually do well. You might be good at celebrating the wins, but I bet that you can improve there.
Ahh, yes, it’s been drilled into our sports radio brains that resetting is incredibly important. Listeners are typically in and out during broadcasts. They don’t hear everything yada, (data), yada, (research shows), yada. It’s very true though. I’ve always pointed to music to describe resetting. How many songs repeat the chorus? The vast majority of them. Imagine if we heard the chorus — arguably the most important part of a song — only one time. That wouldn’t make much sense.
It’s the same thing with sports radio. When you have a solid angle on a topic that is getting a reaction, mention it more than once during your show. If listeners are reacting to your comments that Packers’ tight end Jimmy Graham was tackled shy of the 36-yard line against the Seahawks on Sunday, and that the ball should’ve be respotted, and the officials should’ve then measured for a first down, well mention it more than once. Stick with what’s working. If you’re good at resetting, look for ways to be even more consistent and creative while doing it.
These are just a few examples of possible areas that you can improve in. There are hundreds of things you can look at. I encourage everyone reading this — and God bless all of you wonderful people — to think like LSU and the Chiefs. Don’t just look to improve your shortcomings and glaring weaknesses. Target your areas of strength and look to be even better.
Who Handled the Tua Concussion Discussion Best?
Rex Ryan, Rodney Harrison, and Boomer Esiason stood out with their commentary on the Tagovailoa story.
The major story going into the bulk of Week 4’s NFL action on Sunday was the concussion suffered by Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in Thursday’s game versus the Cincinnati Bengals.
Amazon’s Thursday Night Football telecast, particularly its halftime show, faced heavy criticism for neglecting to mention that Tagovailoa had been tested for a concussion in his previous game just four days earlier. Additionally, the NFL Players Association called for an investigation into whether or not the league’s concussion protocols were followed properly in evaluating Tagovailoa.
In light of that, how would the Sunday NFL pregame shows address the Tagovailoa concussion situation? Would they better inform viewers by covering the full story, including the Week 3 controversy over whether or not proper protocols were followed?
We watched each of the four prominent pregame shows — ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown, Fox NFL Sunday, CBS’s The NFL Today, and NBC’s Football Night in America — to compare how the Tagovailoa story was covered. With the benefit of two extra days to research and report, did the Sunday shows do a better job of informing and engaging viewers?
Here’s how the pregame studio crews performed with what could be the most important NFL story of the year:
Sunday NFL Countdown – ESPN
ESPN’s pregame show is the first to hit the air each Sunday, broadcasting at 10 a.m. ET. So the Sunday NFL Countdown crew had the opportunity to lead the conversation for the day. With a longer, three-hour show and more resources to utilize in covering a story like this, ESPN took full advantage of its position.
The show did not lead off with the Tagovailoa story, opting to lay out Sunday’s schedule, which included an early game in London between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints. But the Countdown crew eventually got to issue on everyone’s minds approximately 28 minutes into the program.
Insider Adam Schefter provided the latest on the NFL and NFLPA’s investigation into the matter, particularly the “gross motor instability” Tagovailoa displayed in stumbling on the field and how the Dolphins initially announced that the quarterback had suffered a head injury, but later changed his condition to a back injury.
Schefter added that the NFL and NFLPA were expected to interview Tagovailoa and pass new guidelines for concussion protocols, including that no player displaying “gross motor instability” will be allowed to play. Those new rules could go into effect as early as Week 5.
“This is an epic fail by the NFL,” said Matt Hasselbeck to begin the commentary. “This is an epic fail by the medical staff, epic fail by everybody! Let’s learn from it!”
Perhaps the strongest remarks came from Rex Ryan, who said coaches sometimes need to protect players from themselves.
“I had a simple philosophy as a coach: I treated every player like my son,” Ryan said. “Would you put your son back in that game after you saw that?
“Forget this ‘back and ankle’ BS that we heard about! This is clearly from head trauma! That’s it. I know what it looks like. We all know what it looks like.”
Where Sunday NFL Countdown‘s coverage may have stood out the most was by bringing injury analyst Stephania Bell into the discussion. Bell took a wider view of the story, explaining that concussions had to be treated in the long-term and short-term. Science needs to advance; a definitive diagnostic tool for brain injury doesn’t currently exist. Until then, a more conservative approach has to be taken, holding players out of action more often.
Grade: A. Countdown covered the story thoroughly. But to be fair, it had the most time.
The NFL Today – CBS
CBS’s pregame show led off with the Tagovailoa story, going right to insider Jonathan Jones to report. He cited the key phrase “gross motor instability” as a significant indication of a concussion.
Jones also clarified that the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant who helped evaluate Tagovailoa made “several mistakes” in consulting with the Dolphins’ team doctor, leading to his dismissal by the NFL and NFLPA.
The most pointed remarks came from Boomer Esiason, who said any insinuation that the Dolphins, head coach Mike McDaniel, or the team medical staff put Tagovailoa back in the game in order to win was “off-base.” Phil Simms added that the concussion experts he spoke with indicated that Tagovailoa could miss four to six weeks with this injury.
Grade: B-. The opinions from the analysts were largely bland. Jones’s reporting stood out.
Fox NFL Sunday
The Fox NFL pregame show also led off with the Tagovailoa story, reviewing the questions surrounding how the quarterback was treated in Week 3 before recapping his injury during Week 4’s game.
Jay Glazer reported on the NFL’s investigation, focusing on whether or not Tagovailoa suffered a concussion in Week 3. And if he did, why was he allowed to play in Week 4? Glazer noted that Tagovailoa could seek a second, maybe a third medical opinion on his injury.
Jimmy Johnson provided the most compelling commentary, sharing his perspective from the coaching side of the situation. He pointed out that when an injured player comes off the field, the coach has no contact with him. The medical team provides an update on whether or not the player can return. In Johnson’s view, Mike McDaniel did nothing wrong in his handling of the matter. He has to trust his medical staff.
Grade: B. Each of the analysts shared stronger opinions, particularly in saying a player failing “the eyeball test” with concussion symptoms should be treated seriously.
Football Night in America – NBC
Sunday Night Football was in a different setting than the other pregame shows, with Maria Taylor, Tony Dungy, and Rodney Harrison broadcasting on-site from Tampa Bay. With that, the show led off by covering the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, its effects on the Tampa area, and how the Buccaneers dealt with the situation during the week.
But after 20 minutes, the show got into the Tagovailoa story with Mike Florio reporting what his peers told viewers earlier in the day regarding pending changes to the NFL’s concussion protocol and “gross motor instability” being used as a major indicator.
Florio emphasized that the NFLPA would ask how Tagovailoa was examined and treated. Was he actually examined for a back injury in Week 3? And if he indeed suffered a back injury, why was he still allowed to play?
When the conversation went back to the on-site crew, Dungy admitted that playing Thursday night games always concerned him when he was a coach. He disclosed that teams playing a Thursday game needed to have a bye the previous week so they didn’t have to deal with a quick, four-day turnaround. That scheduling needs to be addressed for player safety.
But Harrison had the most engaging reaction to the story, coming from his experience as a player. He admitted telling doctors that he was fine when suffering concussion symptoms because he wanted to get back in the game. Knowing that was wrong, Harrison pleaded with current players to stay on the sidelines when hurt because “CTE takes you to a dark place.”
“It’s not worth it. Please take care of yourself,” said Harrison. “Don’t depend on the NFL. Don’t depend on anybody. If something’s wrong with your head, report it.”
Grade: B+. Dungy and Harrison’s views of the matter from their perspective as a coach and player were very compelling.
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.
Jason Barrett Podcast – Terry Dugan & Adam Delevitt, BetRivers
Sportsbooks are creating their own media now, and no company is doing that using more guys that have made their names on sports radio than BetRivers. Terry Dugan & Adam Delevitt talk about the strategy behind that decision for today and for the future.
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Joe Rogan Betting Admission Reveals Gray Area
Rogan’s admission raises a question as to just how ethical it is to place bets with insider information, and whether it should be legal or not.
For nearly a decade, I’ve been fortunate enough to cover the football and basketball programs for the University of Kentucky in some form or fashion. Whether writing for blogs or working with ESPN Louisville as co-host of the post-game show, I’ve gotten to know people around the program I grew up supporting, and other individuals in the media doing the same. I’ve made some terrific friendships and cultivated quite a few relationships that provide me with “inside information” about the teams.
As an avid sports bettor, that information has sometimes put me into some difficult personal situations. There have been times when I’ve been alerted to player news that wasn’t public, such as a player dealing with an injury or suspension. It’s often been told to me off-the-record, and I’ve never put that information out publicly or given it to others.
I wish I could also say I’ve never placed a wager based on that information, but that would be a lie. While it’s been a long time since I’ve done so, I’ve ventured into that ethical gray area of betting on a team that I’m covering. I’ve long felt uncomfortable doing so, and I’d say it’s been a few years since I last did it.
At least I know I’m not alone. On his latest episode of The Joe Rogan Experience, Rogan told guest Bert Kreischer that earlier in his UFC broadcasting career he regularly bet on fights. He claims to have won nearly 85% of the time (which I highly doubt but that’s another discussion for another time), either via bets he made or ones he gave to a business partner to place on his behalf.
From his comments, Rogan doesn’t seem to have been using sensitive information to gain an edge with the books, but he also didn’t state that he didn’t. He indicates that much of his success stemmed from knowing quite a bit more about fighters coming from overseas, and he said he “knew who they were and I would gamble on them.”
But Rogan undoubtedly has long been in a position where he knows which fighters might be dealing with a slight injury, or who are struggling in camp with a specific fighting style. It’s unavoidable for someone whose job puts him into contact with individuals who tell him things off-the-record and divulge details without perhaps even realizing it.
But let’s say Rogan did get that information, and did use it, and was still doing so today. The fact is…there’s nothing illegal about it, not in the United States at least. While it’s against the rules of some entities — the NFL, for example, has stated they could suspend or ban for life individuals who use inside information or provide it to others — it’s not against any established legal doctrine. Unlike playing the stock market, insider betting is not regulated by any central body or by the government.
However, Rogan’s admission raises a question as to just how ethical it is to place bets with insider information, and whether it should be legal or not. Many of the after-the-fact actions that have been taken in the realm of legalized sports betting in this country, or those being discussed currently (such as advertising limitations), fall in line with changes made in Great Britain following their legalization.
One of their big changes was making it illegal to utilize insider information, with very specific definitions about the “misuse of information” and what steps the Gambling Commission may take. It lays out what information can be used, the punishments that may be levied, and at what point it might venture into criminality.
Sportsbooks do have recourse in some instances to recoup money on insider betting, but not many. If they can prove that a wage was influenced, they can cancel the bet or sue for the money. The most well-known instance is the individual who bet $50,000 at +750 odds that someone would streak on the field during Super Bowl LV –which he did– and then was denied the payout when he bragged about his exploits. But unless someone foolishly tells the books that they’ve taken them with information that the public wasn’t privy to, they have little to no chance of doing anything about it.
There are ramifications to insider betting that raise truly ethical dilemmas. Just like stock trading, information can be immeasurably valuable to those with stakes large enough to change prices. If I’m placing a $20 prop bet with the knowledge that a team’s starting running back might be out for a game, or dealing with an ankle injury, I’m not going to harm anybody else playing that line. But if I give that information to a shark, who places a $20,000 wager on that same line, I’ve now enabled someone to move a line and impact other bettors.
Online sports betting in this country continues to grow, and every day we are reminded that there are still aspects of the space that can feel like the wild west. As individuals in the media, we have to decide personally what our ethical stances are in situations like this. We also have to keep in mind the impact that betting can have on our biases–especially if we’ve bet using inside information. A prime example is Kirk Herbstreit, who won’t even make a pick on College Gameday for games he is going to be doing color commentary for lest he possibly appears biased on the call.
At one end of the spectrum, you have someone like Herbstreit, and on the other end, you have folks like Rogan who, while he no longer does so, was more than happy to not only wager on fights himself but gave the information to others. And in the middle, you have hundreds of people in similar situations, who might lean one way or another or who, like me, may have found themselves on either side of that ethical line.
There is no black or white answer here, nor am I saying there’s necessarily a right or wrong stance for anybody in the sports media industry to take. I would say that each person has to take stock of what they’re comfortable doing, and how they feel about insider information being used. Rogan didn’t break any rules or laws by gambling on the UFC, but his admission to doing so might be the catalyst towards it no longer being accepted.
Jason Ence resides in Louisville, KY and is fully invested in the sports betting space. Additionally, he covers Premier League and Serie A soccer, college football, and college basketball for ESPN Louisville 680 including serving as the station’s University of Kentucky correspondent, and co-host of the UK football and basketball post-game shows. He can be found on Twitter @JasonUK17 and reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.