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Mitch Rosen Is Humbled And Rejuvenated

“What I was doing three or four years ago as a PD has changed. Today as a brand manager you just have to be able to be adaptive, go with the changes, be open to ideas and come up with new ideas. You can’t wait for it to come to you.”

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Mitch Rosen has been in the radio game for a long time. He’s spent some 30 years in his home market of Chicago, working for a number of well-known and respected stations including WGN Radio, and ESPN 1000. Rosen has been the program director for 670 The Score, since 2005.

Under his leadership, The Score has become one of the most respected sports stations in the country. Rosen added a second station to his portfolio in the Summer of 2019. In addition to leading the Score, he took on the added responsibility of programming 105.7 The Fan, in Milwaukee. He’s a busy guy, and wouldn’t have it any other way.  

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Rosen will be honored at the 2020 BSM Summit in New York next week as the first ever winner of the Mark Chernoff award. 

I recently sat down with him to get his thoughts on winning the prestigious award, what it’s like to program two stations simultaneously and just how competitive the Chicago market is with two sports stations on the air. 

Andy Masur: You were the top guy on the BSM list of major market PD’s and will be the first to receive the Mark Chernoff award. What does that mean to you, having your peers recognize what you do for the format?

Mitch Rosen: It’s very humbling, I’m very honored two-fold. Number one, Mark and I are very good friends in this industry, so, to receive this award named for him is really an incredible feeling. I’ve learned so much from him. I remember about 16 years ago, I started in February of 2005 and Mark interviewed me over the phone for the job at the Score. Ever since then, learning from him and talking to him and still to this day running ideas by him and consulting him on different things, it’s just amazing that I was the one chosen for this award is a great honor.  

This award and honor it’s really not about me, it’s about the people I work with, it’s also about our brand, you know the Score brand was born in January of 1992. I happen to be the one that day in and day out works close with this brand. But it’s about the people, it’s producers, on air talent, people in our digital department, people at Radio.com sports, Entercom, CBS Sports/Westinghouse. So many people touch this brand and oh by the way it’s our audience. Without the listeners of Chicago and folks that listen to our product on the Radio.com app and online every day, you know, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be overseeing this tremendous brand, so even though my name is on it, it’s all about the Score brand and about people that I work with on a daily basis. 

AM: What are you looking forward to at the BSM Summit?

MR: I always look forward to collaborating with my peers. Also, watching and listening to the great panels. I think the panels Jason has put together this year are incredible and I always look at it as a great learning experience. No matter how long you’ve been in this business when you can absorb knowledge from some of the people that he’s assembled is great. It’s great to see some of my peers that you really only get to see once a year at Jason’s summit, so that’s what I’m really looking forward to, seeing a lot of people in the industry and talking about great ideas. As we know our industry, I feel, changes on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. To be able share ideas and knowledge is really huge. 

AM: What is the competition like in a crazy sports town like Chicago with 2 sports stations?

MR: This market is unusual, you have two stand-alone AM radio stations in us and WMVP (ESPN 1000) and I think it’s a credit to this Chicago sports market. Both stations do very well. I think at the end of the day when you look at it, I think our station has more listeners throughout the year on a weekly basis. Though, if an outsider said you have two stand-alone AM radio stations that talk sports and on a weekly basis combined you cume sometimes a million and a half people a week that’s pretty impressive. 

We’ve seen the trend of sports stations going to FM around the country and it just hasn’t clicked yet in Chicago. I think it’s a testament to when there’s great content people find you. When you have two great AM stations, and I think both do a good job in terms of content, its not just the AM band anymore. It’s all the different platforms through social media that people find great content and I think that’s how we’ve survived over the years since 1992 and you have to adjust with the times. You can’t sit back and wait for technology to come to you, I think you really have to follow technology and be ahead of the game. We’ve seen that in what we’ve done with live video streaming on a number of our shows and the OTT products and things like that. 

AM: You and Mike Thomas at ESPN 1000 are friends, what’s the dynamic like in competing against him and his station?

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MR: He’s a friend, he’s a colleague, he’s someone I respect, but I think he would say the same thing, I wake up every morning and you think how do I get better? How do you get better than your competition? How can you motivate your staff to produce better content every day? 

I also think we compete in a world that isn’t just sports. We live in the demographic of 25-54 year-old persons and obviously our main target is men, so how do we do better than some music stations? We are all fighting for an audience, how do we get more ears on our station, more eyeballs on our digital platforms? That’s what we strive to do every day.  

AM: In a sports market like Chicago, what is the importance placed on having Chicago guys on the air talking Chicago sports?

MR: Everybody knows their city I think better than others. I’m fortunate enough that I was born in the Chicagoland area. I’ve been fortunate to work in this market since 1988. My first job was at WGN radio, first as an intern, then I was hired at WGN shortly after that. I feel it’s important that people that work in this market in sports radio either grew up here, or worked here. 

You look at our lineup from top to bottom, these people have worked here long enough and lived here. I think it’s important that they know the background of Chicago sports, they know the audience, they know geographically where people live and where they come from. They know the passion of Chicago sports, they know what it was like being a fan and they know the teams in this market. Every market is different. I can only speak for Chicago and now a little bit Milwaukee. But for the Chicago market I think it’s vitally important that people live and breathe this throughout their life. That’s how I feel about it.  

AM: How do you view the landscape of sports radio in Chicago and the format in general?

MR: I’m still a believer in live and local. I think in this format specifically. We’re in the opinion business, people always want to talk about live and local sports. People in Chicago want to give their opinion about the Bears. They want to give their opinion about the Cubs and about all local sports teams. I don’t see that going away. 

It’s how you go about figuring out through which platforms, through what different ways you communicate with the audience, those are the type of things that continue to evolve and change. As a programmer you have to be willing to adapt and change. What I was doing three or four years ago as a PD has changed.  Today as a brand manager you just have to be able to be adaptive, go with the changes, be open to ideas and come up with new ideas. You can’t wait for it to come to you. You have to be willing to share things with the staff and be open to feedback and ideas from everybody. That’s how I see it, I think this format is as strong as it ever will be and it’s all about being live and local.    

AM: What do you see as a benefit of having team play-by-play on The Score?

MR: I am a firm believer for a sports radio station to be successful you need to have a team’s play-by-play on your airwaves. It’s a great marketing tool that you can cross promote in play-by-play. It brings in a cumulative audience that helps you market your other day parts. From a sales standpoint it’s a great opportunity to generate revenue with the right business deal. Again, for a sports radio station today in 2020 its imperative that you have a play-by-play property/partnership on your radio station. 

AM: How difficult is it to be effective as a PD in two cities at once, juggling Chicago and now 105.7 the Fan in Milwaukee at the same time?

MR: I love it. You know, traditionally I’m in Milwaukee for a day and a half a week. With modern technology I’m always in touch with the Milwaukee market. I’m fortunate enough that I have great assistance there with Steve “Sparky” Fifer who also is a co-host on our “Wendy’s Big Show” in the afternoons. I have a great staff there, from our morning show to middays and afternoons.

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Milwaukee has really become a great sports town. The Packers had success this year, being a game away from the Super Bowl. The Brewers have been competitive in the NL Central and of course the Bucks. They’re probably the best team today in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. It’s fun, it’s only 90 miles from Chicago and to me being in the business a long time, it’s rejuvenated me in terms of something fresh to work with and great people. You combo that and it’s just been a joy to part of that organization. 

BSM Writers

Who Handled the Tua Concussion Discussion Best?

Rex Ryan, Rodney Harrison, and Boomer Esiason stood out with their commentary on the Tagovailoa story.

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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.

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BSM Writers

Jason Barrett Podcast – Terry Dugan & Adam Delevitt, BetRivers

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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.

iTunes: https://buff.ly/3nTJC5K 

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3z9hErM

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3oyi0U0

Google: https://buff.ly/3vh7Tqu

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3w9hqAh

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BSM Writers

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.

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Joe Rogan

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.

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