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Extra Innings From 9/11 Reminds Us How Much We Needed Baseball

“There are so many documentaries recently released about that horrific day. This one will resonate with sports fans, whether baseball is your game or not.”

Seth Everett

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On Saturday, before over 80 college football games, and on the weekend that the NFL regular season returns in full force, the sports world and the entire world will stop and remember the 20th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in United States history.

I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you': George W. Bush's bullhorn  speech still echoes
Courtesy: FOX News

The key to the country’s recovery back then was and still is sports. While all sports provided a lift, baseball played a pivotal role. There were dramatic games and an outpouring of patriotism that was seen on all ballfields.

In 2005, HBO produced and aired a documentary chronicling the role baseball played with Nine Innings from Ground Zero. Now, in 2021, co-directors Ross Greenburg and Joe Lavine revisited that doc with a brand-new feature for HBO Max entitled, Extra Innings from 9/11: 20 Years Later.

“It was difficult. I’m not going to kid you, all of us shed a lot of tears,” Greenberg said exclusively on my Sports with Friends podcast. “We had been through this once before, but it was a very difficult moment.”

The film does a lot more than retell the story of how the Mets and Yankees responded to the tragedy. The best part of the film is the beginning when members of the 2001 Mets and 2001 Yankees explained where they were when the planes struck the World Trade Center.

“New York is a Testament to survive,” former Yankee manager Joe Torre says in the film. “No matter how hard the city gets hit, it always finds a way to get back up on its feet.”

Al Leiter was trying to get on a plane to pitch in Pittsburgh that night.  The Yankees were home, after being rained out the night before.  That immediately reminded me that I was supposed to go to Yankee Stadium for that rained-out game.

I hadn’t gone out to the ballpark by invoking the “Seth Everett Rain Delay Policy (One drop I’m out – inspired by the late great Phil Rizzuto and an 11-hour Marlins-Rockies split double-header I covered in Denver in 1997.)

The next morning I went on a radio show hosted by Holden Kushner in Des Moines, Iowa.  During the segment, my call-waiting went off, multiple times. Still, radio people know you don’t ask a host to hold on.

After the segment, the phone rang again. (This is a hard-line phone – it was 2001.)  It was my father.  He was across the street from the World Trade Center. He just called to tell me he was alright.

My younger sister lived in Greenwich Village in New York City in 2001.  She was walking downtown and saw the second plane hit with her own two eyes, not on TV like the rest of us.  My father and sister ran back to her apartment and turned on the television.

The bridges and tunnels were immediately closed. Living in Brooklyn, I could not get to Manhattan if I wanted to, and could not get to New Jersey where my mother was.  Instead, I climbed to the rooftop of my apartment building to see the smoke from ground zero.

“All of us had personal stories,” Greenburg said. “Mine was deeply personal. I lost my mother on September 9th and a month and a half later found myself going to game three (of the World Series), even though my wife, Michelle, did not want me to go because she felt like a bomb was going to drop on Yankee Stadium. When I went, I realized I was living a documentary.”

Extra Innings from 9/11: 20 Years Later to Premiere on HBO Max, Saturday,  Sept. 11 | Pressroom

“September’s a great time of year,” Torre said. “The weather cools down, pennant races heat up. Everyone was talking baseball.”

The Mets manager back then was Bobby Valentine. In the film, Valentine followed Torre by saying, “And there was no reason to think that 2001 would be any different.”

The film tells the story of a camp in Massachusetts that was set up for kids who lost family members on 9/11. Two of the campers that met back then are married adults today.

Greenburg said it was key to not only show how the families are still impacted, but how they also have positive things in their respective lives.

“That was the one thing that Joe (co-director Levine) and I were very adamant about,” Greenburg added. “We wanted to send the message loud and clear that if you’ve been through a horrific event and you’ve had to overcome very startlingly, tough times that you can get through it and you can live your life.

“That doesn’t mean that you’ll ever forget those days of 9/11 and everything that happened after. But it does mean that we’re human beings and we can live our lives. And in these difficult times, I think that’s a message.”

The “Piazza Game” was 10 days after 9/11.  It was a Friday night, and I had never attended a sporting event on the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur.  Still, I felt compelled to be at Shea Stadium that day. 

The crowd was so tense that night. Everyone was talking, but not cheering.  Until Piazza’s 8th inning home run.  And the cheers were of “USA! USA!” more than anything for the Mets or against the Braves.

“That was very important for people,” Greenburg added. “That’s why this resonates so much for me as a story that needed to be told.”

The playoffs and World Series with the Yankees were much more intense moments. People forget that the Jeter “flip-play” against Oakland happened that year.

The ALCS between the Yankees and Seattle Mariners was tightly contested. Then, President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch before Game 3 of the World Series and I never felt so patriotic in my whole life.

I remember asking Mark Feinsand of MLB.COM if we could stash our MLB Radio equipment in his office because clearing security was such a long and arduous process.

The old Yankee Stadium physically shook when Tino Martinez hit a home run to tie it, and recently-inducted Hall of Famer Derek Jeter became Mr. November.  The new Stadium simply cannot shake like that.

60 Moments: No. 11, Derek Jeter becomes Mr. November and makes New York  sing – The Athletic
Courtesy: Bill Kostroun/AP

Extra Innings from 9/11: 20 Years Later will be released on HBO Max on September 11th, 2021. There are so many documentaries recently released about that horrific day. This one will resonate with sports fans, whether baseball is your game or not.

On Saturday, before the kickoffs, pitches, and Women’s US Open Final, remember the victims, and remember the patriotism. Hard to believe, it has already been twenty years.

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.

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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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