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Linda Cohn’s Passion For Sports Keeps Her In Tune With Her Audience

“People associate me with hosting SportsCenter, which I love and is fantastic. That’s why I’ve been at ESPN for so long. It’s still fun for me. I have such a passion for sports, and I grew up as a fan first. I’m just like the fans.”

Tyler McComas

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Photo Credit: Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images

Nobody has done more SportsCenter’s than Linda Cohn. The honor means a lot, but it’s not what she’s most proud of. Few have paved the way for women in sports more than Cohn. But as noble as she’s been in that endeavor, still, that’s not what she’s most proud of. In a business where family life is almost always sacrificed in one form or another, Cohn has always put hers first. 

That’s what she’s most proud of. 

“What I’m most proud of in my life is the fact that not only did I go after my dream job, but the fact that I’m a mom,” said Cohn. “I didn’t want to jump around and in this business that’s the norm. I’m not saying I didn’t contemplate that, I’m not saying I didn’t have opportunities, but I put being a mom first. What that meant was not uproting my kids. They still have the same friends they grew up with to this day, because they were raised in Connecticut outside of Bristol, and they had that consistency in their lives.”

Cohn is one of ESPN’s most likeable personalities, but that statement not only makes her more endearing, it also humanizes her to the millions of people that have watched her over the years. That’s exactly how Cohn wants you to feel about her. She wants her listeners and viewers to know she’s the same type of sports fan they are. The main difference, she has a platform few others have. But even if she didn’t, she’d be plopped on the couch watching her favorite teams. 

“People associate me with just hosting SportsCenter, the highlight queen, which I love and is fantastic,” Cohn said. “That’s why I’ve been at ESPN for so long. It’s still fun for me. I have such a passion for sports. I grew up as a fan first. I’m just like the fans.”

Cohn got to ESPN in 1992 and has seen everything the WorldWide Leader has to offer. She was there for all the “Boo-Ya’s” with Stuart Scott. She was there for all the hilarious ESPN commercials in the late 90’s and 2000’s. She’s seen all the high’s and low’s that’s happened in Bristol over the past 29 years. Cohn has been a constant and when many people in this business think of their childhood, they think of her sitting at a desk and delivering the highlights. 

“It actually makes me smile,” Cohn said. “It’s such a compliment. It kind of confirms something that I don’t think about enough, and that’s the fact I’ve been doing it for this long. I still approach every SportsCenter, or every edition of In The Crease on ESPN Plus, or anything else, as this could be the first time that someone is seeing me. I know that sounds crazy for someone that’s been at SportsCenter coming up to 29 years, but I think that’s been a great formula for me, just to think that someone is going to see me for the first time.”

It’s true most sports fans associate Cohn with SportsCenter. That comes with the territory of hosting the most popular sports studio show that’s ever aired on television. But with all the greats that have ever sat in that chair, it’s a remarkable feat that Cohn has out-lasted all of them. 

“I remember when my wonderful boss Norby Williamson came to me several years ago around 2017,” Cohn said. “He realized I had done the most SportsCenter’s, out of anyone, male or female. He said we’re going to have a special show and celebrate your 5,000th SportsCenter. Honestly, one, I didn’t count them. Second, I was just doing something I love. I know that sounds corny and cliché, but the point is, this is my job, the one I chose. My jam is hosting SportsCenter and it just turns out I’ve done more than anybody. I looked at it as a positive.”

“Maybe some people said or thought, I don’t know, maybe it’s because she wasn’t really sent out to do more things. Or, she wasn’t able to do other assignments. I don’t care what the reason was, they still were going to me. To use another sports analogy, whether I was a starter or coming off the bench, I was still there.”

The great thing about this stage in Cohn’s career is the fact she’s getting to show she’s not just great at reading highlights off a prompter. She’s always had strong sports takes and opinions and she’s finally getting to showcase those both on radio and television. 

You can hear Cohn pretty regularly on SiriusXM Mad Dog Sports Radio and SiriusXM NHL Network Radio. She’s extremely passionate about hockey, especially her New York Rangers, so the opportunity to showcase just how much of a true fan she is has played very well with the listeners. 

“Here’s the thing, I’ve watched over 29 years, it’s great, ESPN is now allowing hosts to have an opinion and to root for their team,” Cohn said. “In the early days you were not allowed to do that. You had to sneak things in and then people began to know what teams were your teams.”

Cohn got to chase her dream and she’s been incredibly happy throughout it. But being one of the first women to be on major sports television wasn’t exactly the most accepting of roles with male viewers. Luckily, she was raised to brush off the negativity. As much as Cohn loves watching hockey, she loved playing it even more. That even meant playing against the boys when she was growing up as a goalie. 

She heard the whispers of parents saying she was better off babysitting than collecting glove saves as a kid. But she learned to block all of that out. So whether it was men saying she couldn’t talk sports or even nasty social media responses she may occasionally get, it’s brushed off. She’s already heard anything you have to say. 

“I was on Twitter in 2009 and my daughter Sammie would always say to me, treat your great mentions the same way you treat your awful mentions,” Cohn said. “Let’s face it, everyone gets awful mentions, but they don’t mean anything. There’s a great compliment I’ve gotten over the years, which was, guys coming up to me and saying, I never took sports from a woman before you. I don’t even think about gender. They would always preface it with, don’t take this the wrong way. I’m like, how can I take this the wrong way? I think that’s the greatest compliment you can give me”

So who is Linda Cohn? What’s the real version of the ESPN anchor so many of us grew up with? 

She’s the president of the Eli Manning Fan Club, she’s the author of Cohn-Head A No-Holds-Barred Account of Breaking Into the Boys Club, she’s the one that never used ESPN or SportsCenter as a stepping stone, she loves her job, she loves to laugh, she loves sports just as much as we do, she’s a mom, she’s like you, she’s like me. 

“I really love sports the way the fans do,” Cohn said. “That’s what I want people to know. From the beginning when I started at ESPN until now. I still have the passion. If I wasn’t on SportsCenter, I’d be sitting on my couch on a beautiful day watching some sporting event.”

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

Jason Barrett

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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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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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