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As Baseball Blows It, The Bubbles Are Blowing Up

“The NBA and other leagues playing games in restrictive environments are beating the virus, at least so far, while the sports without Bubbles — MLB and football — are mired in chaos.

Jay Mariotti

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If the human element mattered in this surreal, stupefying slog of 2020, the consensus directive would be, “Health first, sports later.’’ Instead, the resumption of games has become a marketing slogan — “YOU CAN’T STOP SPORT’’ — courtesy of Nike, of course, which is trying to spike its stock with yet another campaign portraying athletes as invincible gods who, in this case, are bigger than COVID-19.

“You can’t stop sport,’’ says Russell Wilson, who is in the commercial, “because you can’t stop us.’’

And when any of us challenge that rationale as foolish, dangerous and ass-backward — that one’s life is a bit more important than a bastardized ballgame amid a pandemic — we are subjected to the millennial wisdom of Kyle Brandt, he of the NFL Network, who surely heard an “Attaboy’’ or two from his league bosses when he tweeted, “There’s a segment of the NFL media that seems to be almost rooting for COVID to affect the season. They want it. They see the Marlins news and say, `Yep! Lots of luck, football!’ These are people who make their livings off football. I don’t get it.’’

Well, Kyle, the Marlins’ outbreak news soon became the Cardinals’ outbreak news, inevitably to be followed by another team’s coronavirus spread. And some of us, as professional journalists, are obligated to be honest to the masses and not underplay a global health crisis because we’re beholden to a pay day, as maybe you are, Kyle, along with others I see in sports media. Consider it more jarring proof that this Major League Baseball season never should have been attempted and that Rob Manfred, the so-called commissioner, should be banished to another planet for jeopardizing the lives of players and families and further humiliating the sport. It’s now more evident than a 104-degree fever and relentless diarrhea runs that leagues not playing seasons in restrictive medical environments are doomed to stall, which eventually will include the NFL and college football, once mass outbreaks occur as players spit, breathe, slobber and bleed on each other every play, then gather in confined locker rooms to spread those expectorations, then travel to road hotels or mask-optional campus parties. These are not dominoes, Kyle. These are human beings who might get sick and spread COVID-19 to others, who could get sick themselves or, I don’t know, maybe die.

Yet the ongoing realities of the virus — “We just have to assume the monster is everywhere,’’ said Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, whose state is home to two MLB franchises — has only turned Manfred into his own kind of monster. In a country with 500,000 new infections the past week, a country that Johns Hopkins University says needs a “reset’’ because the U.S. “is not currently on course to get control of this epidemic,’’ Dr. Rob isn’t going down without a fight. Knowing the NBA, NHL and other leagues in Bubbles are functioning well so far and making MLB look typically inept, Manfred responded with his own grand, “You Can’t Stop Sport’’ declaration to ESPN after postponing 17 games in his season’s first 10 days. In the process, he continued to point a long index finger at the players — and their union, as always — for violating health/safety protocols when: (1) Manfred and the owners signed off on those protocols; (2) MLB should have been monitoring the players’ behavior all along and canceled the Miami-Phillies game eight days ago, when the Marlins’ outbreak emerged; and (3) MLB decided not to conduct tests daily, meaning infected players can be exposed to other people for days while awaiting results, which probably is what happened when the Cardinals had their explosion of positive tests.

“We are playing,” said Manfred, who pondered canceling the season — and should have. “The players need to be better, but I am not a quitter in general and there is no reason to quit now. We have had to be fluid, but it is manageable.”

Yeah, just as Howard the Duck thought he could manage Son of Satan. This from the man who refuses to put baseball’s virus catastrophe in “the nightmare category,’’ the very definition of denial if not delusion. “It’s what the public health experts have been saying from the beginning about this, that there is no one big magic fix,” Manfred, who has not held a press conference in months, told the Associated Press. “The protocols are a series of little things that people need to do. We’ve had some problems. In order to be better, it’s a series of little things. I think it’s peer pressure. I think it’s players taking personal responsibility.” When will Manfred realize this is not a fair fight? How many positive tests, team quarantines, game postponements, reconfigured schedules, Yoenis Cespedes blow-offs and seven-inning doubleheaders does he need before he finally gets it — that he’s risking a full-blown tragedy — and starts thinking with common sense instead of feeding his shattered ego? He already has said baseball can’t afford to “not finish this season’’ if others leagues do. But quitting, at this point, would be the noble and sensible option, with epidemiologist Zachary Binney tweeting, “This is veering quickly into `shut all of MLB down’ territory for me.”

Add Jon Lester To The List Of People That Hates The Pitch Clock - Vendetta  Sports Media

Understandably, players are tired of being blamed while Manfred and the owners sit in their bunkers, counting early revenues. Said veteran pitcher Jon Lester: “I don’t know Rob’s situation, and I don’t want to put my foot in my mouth. But I do know we — not only players, but families — are making sacrifices, day in and day out. … I’ll stop there.” This after Cubs teammate Anthony Rizzo, who, as a cancer survivor, is especially vulnerable to the virus, tweeted during a rain delay in Cincinnati: “Player safety? @mlb let’s sit around for 8 plus hours inside the clubhouse.. I’m sure I can find that somewhere in the 113 page safety protocol.’’

Meanwhile, leagues playing inside Bubbles have found a competitive mood and safety vibe antithetical to baseball’s chaos. While realizing any medical or logistical hiccup is possible at any moment, I’d say the NBA’s Bubble is blowing up right now, to paraphrase the kids, with a chance not only to complete a season but even be entertaining and compelling in the process. Seamlessly, and almost miraculously, the coronavirus became an afterthought as we watched: LeBron James hit a game-winner to end an intense Lakers-Clippers game … the Raptors beat down the Lakers with smothering defense and a reminder they could repeat as champions … COVID-19 scapegoat Rudy Gobert hit the first shot and two deciding free throws in the league’s first game back … James Harden go for 49 in a playground romp between the Rockets and Mavericks … Zion Williamson pout while tethered to the bench on a playing-time restriction … Giannis Antetokounmpo make another MVP statement … and the league’s players and coaches beautifully salute Black Lives Matter, whether kneeling, standing or wearing a jersey with no social justice message, as Jimmy Butler tried to no avail.

As Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, relaying his thoughts about George Floyd while kneeling during the national anthem, “The hardest thing that happened to me was, my knee was hurting. In the middle of it, I’m thinking, `In two minutes, my knee is hurting, yet there was a guy that had his knee on someone’s neck for eight minutes.’ Think about that. A national anthem took two minutes. There were guys who needed towels and things to get under their knees, and yet someone kneeled on another human being’s neck for eight minutes.’’

This is what the NBA does. It figures out solutions and keeps eyeballs on basketball, thanks to more cameras, tight angles and technical innovations. Yes, the virtual, big-headed fans are goofy, as are the occasional simulated ventures into NBA 2K mode. But we barely notice because the games are interesting — and the same can be said for the NHL, which followed the NBA’s lead and established two bubbles in virus-dulled Canada, so far with solid reviews in Toronto and Edmonton.

LeBron James Postgame Interview | Clippers vs Lakers | July 30, 2020 -  YouTube

Said James: “We’re in the land of the unknown. Things are happening for the first time. You just take it for what it is. Don’t take the moment for granted. We’re all still living and alive and back to doing what we love to do: playing the game, watching the game. That’s a blessing, because 2020 has been pretty (crappy). We’re all blessed. … No matter what the (situation) is, no matter what the bubble is, no fans, or with fans, basketball is basketball and competitive spirit is competitive spirit, so we’re right back to where we left off.’’

So is baseball, for that matter, still stuck in the same world of hurt and inevitable impasse when the collective bargaining agreement expires next year. Leave it to MLB to clumsily lead the pandemic way for Big Sports in America, only to wobble frantically, with no sadder scene than sending the Marlins back to South Florida in sleeper buses after at least 18 players were infected and quarantined in Philadelphia. Obviously, even a shortened season already has been stripped of its competitive integrity and ability to produce a legitimate champion, which I wrote a week ago while calling for the season to be canceled. Since then, Manfred has directed his ire at Players Association executive director Tony Clark, threatening to shut down the season if players don’t manage the virus better. Rizzo wants to know how that’s possible when, without a Bubble, teams are required to travel to cities, stay in hotels and come into constant contact with virus carriers — and that doesn’t include protocol violators who might be taking risks around town or at a Wisconsin golf course, as some members of the Cardinals have been accused. “It’s one of those things where you can get food delivered to you, and if (the virus) is on there, we don’t know where this thing hides all the time,’’ Rizzo said. “You got to be prudent. You got to have faith, but guys are gonna get it. Tomorrow, we could have someone walking around here asymptomatic and spread it to 10 guys.”

The opt-outs, positive tests and short-season-related injuries continue, an absence of continuity that is robbing fans of whatever enjoyment they can muster. Mike Trout — whose wife delivered their first child, a son named Beckham Aaron — would be wise to stay home and not return, but he’s a good man who wants to help a dying sport. Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, who has a heart issue likely stemming from a recent COVID-19 bout, shut down his season. Milwaukee’s Lorenzo Cain explained his weekend decision to opt out: “With all of the uncertainty and unknowns surrounding our game at this time, I feel that this is the best decision for me, my wife, and our three kids.’’

And Nationals manager Dave Martinez, who has an underlying heart condition, continues to speak about his fears, telling the Washington Post, “You know what? I’m just not going to hold it in anymore. This is different for everyone. This is scary for us, even if our job is to play a game. I feel like that’s something I have to say. … This is weighing on me a lot. It’s not just the players or myself. That’s only the start of it. It’s my coaching staff, the clubbies, the PR staff, the beat writers, everyone’s families. A lot of people could be in danger if we’re not smart and safe. And even then, you really don’t know if that’s enough.’’

David Martinez, Washington Nationals COVID-19 MLB | wusa9.com

Yet, the owners expect these men to keep trudging out there every day and play ballgames, no matter the health fallout. Is Manfred even listening to a man who only directed a team to a championship last autumn?

Just as America was in no mood to hear the owners and players jibber-jabber over money before the season resumed, no one wants to hear the owners blame the players for outbreaks. All the sides want to do is fight, a rift that goes back decades and was exacerbated last spring when Manfred described the World Series trophy as a “piece of metal.’’ Tweeted pitcher Trevor Bauer, referring to the protocol blame Manfred is placing on players: “Take no risk yourself; blame everything on the players; protect TV revenue at all costs.’’ Is Bauer not dead-on right? He didn’t mention that the players weren’t interested in a Bubble, but the prospect turned moot anyway when owners engaged players in a a weeks-long fight over taking a second pay cut. We should ignore the rhetoric. Baseball will not recover from this, nor does it deserve to after the league’s medical director, Gary Green, tried to justify the Marlins’ outbreak thusly last week: “Twenty-nine out of 30 is a pretty good batting average if you’re playing baseball.’’ By my count, six teams and counting have been disrupted so far, which means the batting average is climbing.

Not that anyone in sports is treating COVID-19 with appropriate fear. These multi-billion-dollar industries have exploited America’s divided views on the coronavirus — wearing masks, sending kids back to classrooms, geopolitical madness and who should win an apocalyptic presidential election presumably ahead in just three months — to almost sneak-slide games back into the American consciousness. The media have gleefully responded with mostly Brandt-approved coverage, such as when ESPN led “SportsCenter’’ not with an important Marlins update early last week … but a Pirates-Brewers game. Sometimes, the network reminds me of a drug dealer, slipping coke to fans to feed their “Why We Love Sports’’ fix and make sure they keep watching and gambling.

Coronavirus? What coronavirus?

Yet explain how Charles Barkley and the “Inside The NBA’’ crew can make us not only forget the pandemic, but make us LOL.

Charles Barkley Defends Players Refusing to Kneel for Black Lives Matter |  News Thud

The U.S. casualty numbers, which are nearing 200,000 and could reach a half-million without a miracle vaccine, have not deterred sports in the least. The NFL, a $15-billion-a-year enterprise lorded over by a commissioner and team owners who won’t be risking their health on lines of scrimmage, still believes a regular season will start in five weeks; the sizable number of players already opting out, including eight New England Patriots, strongly suggests otherwise, as does the positive test of another head coach, the Eagles’ Doug Pederson. College football hedges its bets, moving schedules back in wishfully thinking the virus will fade, but more outbreaks and opt-outs are inevitable. The almighty Southeastern Conference, still planning a shortened season in a region with less virus-related resistance, allowed players to speak with commissioner Greg Sankey and medical advisers in a conference call last week, the Washington Post reported. The exchange was ominous.

“There are going to be outbreaks,” one SEC official told the players. “We’re going to have positive cases on every single team in the SEC. That’s a given. And we can’t prevent it.”

Added Sankey: “Part of our work is to bring as much certainty in the midst of this really strange time as we can so you can play football in the most healthy way possible, with the understanding there aren’t any guarantees in life.”

The pushback, shall we say, was akin to a goal-line stand. Said Texas A&M linebacker Keeath Magee II: “You guys have answered a lot of questions the best way that you guys could, and we really appreciate it. But as much as you guys don’t know … it’s just kind of not good enough. We want to play. We want to see football. We want to return to normal as much as possible. But it’s just that with all this uncertainty, all this stuff that’s still circulating in the air, y’all know it kind of leaves some of us still scratching my head. I feel like the college campus is the one thing that you can’t control.”

Expect more rebellion in coming days, with a group of Pac-12 players threatening to opt out of games if the conference doesn’t meet their safety demands while, according to a letter published by The Players’ Tribune, addressing concerns about racial injustice and  “economic rights and fair compensation.’’

They want to be paid.

Sabrina Ionescu: WNBA No 1 pick under the microscope | NBA News | Sky Sports

Wouldn’t you, if you were age 20 and assuming all the health risks while the leagues, universities and TV networks were making the billions? At least WNBA phenom Sabrina Ionescu was making a salary when she suffered a Grade 3 ankle sprain that could cost her the season — and who’s to say she, like other athletes, wasn’t more susceptible to injury by rushing back to play after a limited preseason?

Somehow, perhaps because this virus also is destroying brain cells, the deadly ramifications of a global pandemic have been lost amid the fury of restarting sports and rushing events onto TV. The games inside Bubbles have scratched the familiar sports itch, and, I admit, I watched the final period of a Blackhawks-Oilers game. Golf has been a surprise hit, with the hulking emergence of Bryson DeChambeau still dominating conversation before the PGA Championship, the season’s first major — yep, major — arrives later this week at Harding Park in San Francisco.

Yet, in the time I took to write this column, more people have died from COVID-19. And a goof like Kyle Brandt won’t pay attention, preferring we ignore and whitewash an epic catastrophe so he doesn’t lose his gig on “Good Morning, Football.’’ Good night, Kyle.

The Nike commercial, too, will continue in heavy rotation. But to say “You Can’t Stop Sport’’ is false advertising. Maybe you can’t stop sports inside Bubbles, at least for now, but baseball and football soon will be added to the mounting death toll.

BSM Writers

NBC Must Develop a Real No. 2 NFL Crew for Playoffs

Is the network’s only other option Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett?

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Several years ago, the NFL objected to NBC wanting to employ Mike Tirico as the lead play-by-play voice for its Thursday Night Football broadcasts. The league preferred Al Michaels because he was NBC’s No. 1 NFL play-by-play announcer and wanted the TNF telecasts to carry the same prestige as Sunday Night Football.

Following the network’s heavily-criticized broadcast of Saturday’s Wild Card playoff game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL may want to impose its authority again and insist that a top-tier broadcast team call the action of an important postseason game.

The consensus among fans and media watching Saturday’s broadcast was that Michaels and analyst Tony Dungy were surprisingly low-energy for an NFL playoff game, let alone one that became so exciting with Jacksonville rallying from a 27-0 deficit for a 31-30 victory on a last-second field goal.

Such a lackluster broadcast led to questions of whether or not Michaels was now past his prime after a season of calling subpar TNF games for Amazon and what initially appeared to be another snoozer when the Jaguars fell behind by 27 points. Pairing him with Dungy, who was a studio analyst all season, certainly didn’t help.

Dungy was as basic as a game analyst could be, typically narrating replays viewers could see for themselves while adding little insight. Worst of all, he demonstrated no enthusiasm for the action, leaving Michaels to fill most of the airtime. The veteran broadcaster showed that he can no longer carry a broadcast by himself. He needs the energy and back-and-forth that Cris Collinsworth or Kirk Herbstreit provide.

So how did NBC get here?

Most football fans know that the network’s top broadcast team is Tirico on play-by-play alongside analyst Cris Collinsworth. But they had their own assignment during Super Wild Card Weekend, calling Sunday night’s Ravens-Bengals match-up. With the postseason field expanding from 12 to 14 teams, resulting in six games being played on Wild Card weekend, NBC was awarded one of the additional playoff broadcasts.

Thus, another broadcast team was needed for that second Wild Card game. Fortunately, NBC had a renowned play-by-play man already in place. Michaels finished out his final season as SNF‘s lead voice by calling Super Bowl LVI, part of a powerful one-two combination for NBC Sports coming toward the end of its 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics coverage.

Ending his legendary career with a Super Bowl broadcast would’ve been a wonderful final note for Michaels. That appeared to be a natural path when Tirico moved from ESPN to NBC in 2016. Network executives admitted that a succession plan was in mind for Tirico to take over SNF eventually. At the time, Michaels also likely thought he would retire by then.

But when confronted with the possibility of retirement, Michaels realized he wasn’t interested. He was still enjoying broadcasting the NFL. His skills were still sharp. And perhaps most importantly, he was in demand. Amazon wanted Michaels as the lead voice for its Thursday Night Football broadcasts, bringing instant credibility to a streaming venture that drew some skepticism. ESPN considered him as its Monday Night Football play-by-play man.

As it turned out, ESPN made a bold move for MNF, swiping Fox’s No. 1 NFL crew of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. That left Amazon for Michaels, and the streaming giant paid him a commensurate salary with the top broadcasters in the industry as part of his three-year contract.

Yet Michaels wasn’t done with NBC either. After his agreement with Amazon became official, NBC announced that its relationship with Michaels would continue in an “emeritus” role allowing him to broadcast the network’s Olympics coverage and that additional Wild Card playoff telecast.

NBC can’t have been happy that most of the social media chatter afterward focused on the broadcast, rather than the game result. Especially when the discussion centered on how poorly Michaels and Dungy performed in what turned out to be a thrilling playoff game. That’s a pairing that the NFL probably doesn’t want to see again.

Michaels will likely call at least one more Wild Card playoff game for NBC since he intends to work on the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics. He’s also under contract with Amazon for another two seasons unless he decides to retire before that deal expires. So perhaps the simple solution is keeping Dungy out of the broadcast booth and giving Michaels a better partner.

But can NBC drop in another analyst who hasn’t worked with Michaels all season? Anyone would arguably be an improvement over Dungy. Is it at all possible for Herbstreit to be hired on for a one-off playoff broadcast, thus ensuring that the broadcast team will have some on-air familiarity and chemistry?

Otherwise, NBC’s only other option may be its Notre Dame broadcast team of Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett. (The network tried that last season with Tirico and Drew Brees, only for Brees to wilt under the harsher NFL playoff spotlight.)

The pair also called USFL broadcasts for the network, so at least there would be familiarity rather than trying to figure each other out during a telecast. Yet Collinsworth and Garrett aren’t terribly popular with viewers. And as with Brees, that crew will face intense scrutiny with a larger playoff audience.

Unfortunately, NBC appears to be stuck here. Unless the new Big Ten broadcast team of Noah Eagle and Todd Blackledge gets a shot. That might be the best option! Other than Notre Dame or USFL games, where are the other opportunities for NBC to develop a No. 2 NFL broadcast team? No one wants to put Al Michaels through Chris Simms in the broadcast booth, right?

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BSM Writers

Al Michaels Has Options But He Has To Make a Choice

“It does all of us in the sports industry well to remember 99% of our audience would gladly trade places with us.”

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I don’t ask much out of game announcers; get excited when appropriate, get the simple information correct, don’t get so caught up in your shtick you put yourself above the game. Al Michaels has been doing all those things well for the better part of half a century and few would argue that he’s not one of the best to ever do it. That doesn’t mean he can’t lose his fastball.

Before you read any longer, I am not here to say Al Michaels has lost his fastball. What I am here to say is Michaels has all too often this season seemed upset with and disinterested in the game he is calling. That isn’t entirely surprising when you consider some of the Thursday night action he called on Amazon Prime where the average margin of victory was almost nine points per game.

On top of that, the Amazon schedule had a dreadful two week stretch with Colts 12-9 win over the Broncos in Week Five and the Commanders 12-7 win over the Bears the next Thursday. It was in that Broncos-Colts game Michaels asked Herbstreit if a game “can be so bad it is good?” Herbstreit’s answer was “No”, by the way. It was the full 15 game schedule that Michaels told The Athletic’s media critic Richard Deitsch was like trying to sell a used car.

All of that is fine, the inaugural Amazon Prime season was not a smashing success. The streaming giant missed audience projections and will lose advertising revenue because of it. The lackluster schedule did not help that. But Michaels was given a second life; he was the NBC play-by-play announcer for the Saturday Night Wildcard Playoff game between the Chargers and Jaguars. It initially looked like Michaels might be the problem as five first half Jags turnovers had them in a 27-0 hole. But the home team staged a nearly unprecedented comeback for the win.

It was the performance by Michaels and, to a lesser degree, his analyst Tony Dungy that has led to criticism. Criticism might be too soft of a word, Michaels was roundly dragged for his lack of enthusiasm during the comeback and specifically on his call of the Jacksonville game winning field goal. The enthusiasm of the call of the game winner had a mid-3rd quarter of week four feel to it.

Me telling Al Michaels how to do play-by-play of an NFL game would be the equivalent of me telling a physicist how to split an atom. So, this isn’t just a Michaels criticism, few things bother me more than hearing a game announcer complain about the length or quality of a game as if he’d rather be anywhere else. It does all of us in the sports industry well to remember 99% of our audience would gladly trade places with us.

How many NFL viewers would sit in the seat Michaels, or any NFL announcer occupies, for free? They’d feel like they won the lottery if they also were getting the money those announcers are getting paid to be there. The guy that works a 12-hour Thursday construction shift just to get home and crack a beer for the NFL game probably doesn’t want to hear how tough that game is to announce.

On top of all of that, Michaels was given the gift of one of the wildest NFL Playoff comebacks you’ll ever see and, at times, sounded as if he was completely disinterested in being there. Pro tip: the best NFL announcer in those moments is Kevin Harlan (see: Miami at Baltimore from earlier this season. That has nothing to do with my lifelong Dolphins fandom). Michaels’ lack of enthusiasm was compounded by the exact opposite from Mike Tirico on the very same network for the Bengals-Ravens Wildcard game Sunday night. 

Tirico, like Michaels, has a sterling resume of play-by-play accomplishments. The difference is Tirico sounded like he was having the time of his life on Sunday night. 

To be fair, their two styles are different. Michaels has a very old school, Pat Summerall approach. Summerall, Vin Scully and Dick Enberg came along at a time when announcers were far more likely to let the pictures tell the story. More new school guys like Harlan and Tirico approach it differently.

Look, Al Michaels helped us believe in miracles. His place in the Sports Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame has long since been cemented. Being a hall of fame inductee doesn’t mean your style will forever be accepted by the masses. That leaves you with a few options; you can continue your style and accept or ignore the criticism or you can ride off into the sunset and enjoy the fruits of your decades of labor.

Al Michaels has what we all want; great options. He can choose any of them and be a winner in the game of life. It doesn’t matter if he enthusiastically embraces them, or not. 

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BSM Writers

Bernie Kosar Was the Victim of a Policy That Doesn’t Work Anymore

“The NFL has bigger fish to fry than Bernie Kosar. Hell, it has more pressing issues in Cleveland alone.”

Demetri Ravanos

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One week ago, Bernie Kosar lost his job on the Browns Radio Network for placing the first legal sports bet in the state of Ohio. Kosar, just like Jets coach Miles Austin weeks earlier and Calvin Ridley last year, violated a league policy that forbids team employees from placing a bet on any NFL game.

The integrity of the games still matters. The belief that what we are all seeing is being fairly contested is what gives those of us that like to have a little vested interest in the outcome the desire to lay our money down in the first place. I get the league’s discomfort with a coach on the staff of a team in the middle of the playoff hunt making bets. I get its fear of the message it sends to have players making bets.

Roger Goodell and the 32 team owners are well within their rights to object to men that can potentially control the outcome of a game or postseason seeding doing anything that even appears to jeopardize its fairness. Even perceived impropriety can compromise the league’s tremendous value.

But Bernie Kosar doesn’t have that kind of influence on the outcome of a game. He is just a broadcaster and not even a game analyst. He is part of studio coverage.

I am far from the first to point this out, but in 2023, the NFL has three official sports betting partners. Just last week, it approved the first ever in-stadium sportsbook, which Fanatics is set to open inside of FedEx Field. If the NFL is comfortable enough with the reality that its fans like to bet to make those things a reality, then Kosar losing his gig is absurd. It is the result of nothing other than “well, that’s the way we’ve always done it” thinking.

Maybe Kosar was terrible on the radio and the team was looking for a reason to move on. I don’t live in Cleveland and I am not a Browns fan, so I have no idea.

How many times have we heard that NFL owners hired Goodell to “protect the shield”? I’m not even really sure what it means or when it applies anymore. If I had a vested interest in the public perception of the league, I know that I would want someone to do the PR math on this situation.

Bernie Kosar isn’t an addict that can’t watch a game without the high of winning or the emotional distress of losing everything at stake, at least not as far as we know. This was a bet made through an advertising partner, to benefit charity. He even said on his podcast this week that the purpose of making the bet was to generate some money for former players in need of help.

This is like Disney threatening daycare centers with lawsuits for painting Mickey Mouse on a classroom wall. The NFL has bigger fish to fry than Bernie Kosar. Hell, it has more pressing issues in Cleveland alone.

Surely you have seen Garrett Bush’s impassioned rant on the Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show about the obstacles facing Damar Hamlin because of how many hoops the NFL makes former players jump through in order to get some kind of pension.

On January 2, we were all united in our concern for a guy that hadn’t even completed his second full NFL season. We didn’t know if he was going to live, but if he did, we all knew that the NFL had done everything it needed to in order to protect itself from ever having to pay a dime for his medical care. Less than a week later, Bernie Kosar was fired for what amounted to a charity stunt that was meant to raise money and attention to very similar issues.

At both the league level and the team level, there was incompetence that lead to a man unnecessarily losing a gig and to the Browns and the NFL looking horribly out of touch with reality.

Are we acknowledging that people gamble or not? Are we acknowledging there are responsible ways to bet on football and are interested in generating revenue off of it or not? Because it doesn’t seem to me that the same league that just gave the thumbs up to open a sportsbook inside of a stadium is really that concerned with people that cannot affect the outcome of games betting on those games.

Has the NFL come out and said that it is going to cover every medical bill for everyone that has ever played the game? We know that this is a brutal game that leaves a physical and physiological impact on the men that played it. Why would we make it harder for someone that knows that pain to help others do something about it?

I feel awful for Bernie Kosar. Whether he needs the money or not, it is embarassing to be at the center of a controversy like this, particularly because in the NFL in 2023, there is no reason for a controversy like this to exist.

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