Nashville is a loud place. Most people either love it or hate it. Allison Warren loves it.
To her, loud doesn’t just mean there are bachelorette parties and pedal pubs clogging Broadway. It means that the place is dynamic. It means Nashville is always changing and never sitting still.
Allison Warren had her eyes on a market manager role for a long time. It’s why she made the move from programming and promotions to marketing and then to sales. When the opportunity in Nashville presented itself, the only question she needed to answer is “is this the right place?” It was, and since 2014, she has been the leader of Cumulus’s cluster in Music City.
In our conversation, presented by Point-to-Point Marketing, Allison discusses the challenges of making major personnel changes during the pandemic, Nashville’s unique competitive landscape and how it forced her brands to evolve, and why 104.5 The Zone is as welcoming to transplants as it is to lifelong Tennesseans.
Demetri Ravanos: When I was growing up in Alabama, I used to joke that you graduate from an SEC school and the first thing you do is decide if you are going to Nashville, Atlanta or Birmingham. Nashville’s transplant base has grown way beyond that though. I wonder how that has changed things in terms of the city’s sports culture and the standing of 104.5 The Zone with citizens that come here from all over and may not care about the Titans or the Vols.
Allison Warren: I can tell you, I have learned sports fans are sports fans. They like listening to and talking about sports no matter what. What the Zone has been able to do is create a sports ecosystem. That’s kind of been our goal from day one.
We’re proud to be the rights holder for the Tennessee Titans and the UT Vols, but we talk about all sports, from top to bottom and side to side. We have a heavy influence for the SEC and certainly the Tennessee Titans. Really though, we look at ourselves as being able to provide a real pulse for what’s happening in sports in general. So regardless of where you come from, you’ll find something that’ll appeal to you on The Zone.
DR: In addition to The Zone, you have Super Talk 99.7. That gives you the market leaders for both sports and news talk. I wonder in your position, do you see a different ceiling for each format here in Nashville or different paths for each to get to a similar ceiling in terms of what is possible for ratings and revenue?
AW: We’re a five-station cluster, and so in general, I think we mirror the market beautifully. We’ve got a great news talk station, which you mentioned. We’ve got 104.5 The Zone. We’ve got two country stations and an urban station. So we think we represent the population of Tennessee exceedingly well.
We’re looking at an entire ecosystem, when we talk about what makes any of our stations strong. We don’t just look at a Nielsen performance to decide if the station has reached its highest level of performance. We look at total audience engagement. That means we’re looking at all of our socials, our Zone TV channel, and all the aggregate views that it garners. YouTube, obviously, and Twitch being our largest volume producers of engagement.
We look at all of those metrics and decide, “is the station healthy and reaching the audience that we want it to reach?” I don’t think either of the stations you mentioned has reached its full potential. We’ve got some pretty strong, healthy great ratings and levels of engagement, but I think both Dan Mandis and Paul Mason would say that there’s still work to be done and still ground to make up. That’s what makes it exciting.
DR: Let’s talk about total audience engagement. Nashville has become a hub for new media brands in both the news and sports spaces. That forces everyone in town to pay attention to what they are doing as you compete for both the audience and talent. I don’t want to assume it is a if-a-than-b situation with the launch of The Zone TV, but clearly this market forces you to think in a different way about being available wherever the audience is.
AW: You said it right there at the end. The Zone went through some significant changes as we watched where and how the audience consumed sports. We brought Paul Mason onto the team during the pandemic, which you know, is always interesting to onboard an employee during a time when nobody’s in the office. It’s like “Best of luck meeting your team! Everybody’s at home.”
He did a phenomenal job of creating a solid culture of what’s next, engagement, and where are we going. He really challenged the thinking. I’m kind of an entrepreneurial spirit, so when Paul knocks on the door and says, “Hey, I think we could try this,” of course my answer is “alright, let’s look at it.” To his credit and the credit of our engineering and IT teams, they figured it out and it’s been really successful. I think that mindset from 18 months ago or so, when he started, has been for us to dominate the sports universe and to put blinders on. That way we can just do what we felt was right to serve the sports audience and not think about it as what the traditional line for what radio might do or who it may serve is. We really tried to break the model and Paul’s leadership in that space has been second to none.
We looked everywhere when it was time to hire new talent. We looked at the entire sports universe and we landed on a great podcaster with Buck Reising. He’s been fantastic and adds a kind of great, new energy to the station. We’ve had a lot of other great new hires as well. Paul’s really pushed the station forward in that way. I don’t think we’re done either.
DR: You mentioned hiring Paul during the pandemic. Talk to me a little bit about finalizing a PD search in that time. It had been a long time since there was a leadership change at The Zone, and then all of a sudden, in the middle of this search, here comes this once-in-a-lifetime event where we don’t know what we can do when. What sort of conversations were you having with those involved in this process? Was there ever a moment where you were wondering or considering just shutting things down?
AW: Our interview process had happened before we really knew what was what was coming. It’s always hard when there’s a leadership change, but we had some pretty amazing candidates to choose from. There are some really phenomenal sports programmers in the country. I was blown away in the conversations that we had with some of the individuals that applied for this position. It really encouraged me for what’s to come in sports media. There’s some really, really great talent out there, some phenomenal thought leaders.
Paul just had just the right marriage of temperament and ideas for us. It was a good fit. So we had firmed our deal up. We had a little bit of a wait for him, but he was worth it. He was wrapping up a job in another market. We always believe all tides rise and we wanted to honor that time that he needed to give his previous employer. So we had some runway between when we inked a deal and when he was able to start with us.
So for him, when we went into the shutdown, it was like, “am I still moving there?”. I said “yes, please get the moving truck. Get Sarah. Get in the car and drive”. It was pretty stressful, I think for him. We had dinner together, and then I didn’t meet him again in person for three months while we were all dealing with the lockdown.
I think the first opportunity for us to get our broadcasters back into the building, he and his team were first in. A lot of our broadcasters were remote. For a while it was really 104.5 The Zone and a handful of other people on each station that were in the building. I joked that when I went in, it was like a locker room. I swear it smelled like a locker room up there. There’s like pizza boxes, socks doors were just propped open, people were milling. I was like, “This is the place to be. I want to move my office upstairs! Y’all are having fun.!”
Bear in mind, everybody’s masked. Everybody’s got seven inches of like hand sanitizer on them, so things weren’t exactly “normal,” but yeah, they were having fun and connecting. We felt that, so we worked really hard with Cumulus and our safety protocols to bring more and more of our shows back earlier than most because we just noticed the connection was there and that it was working. We were hiring a lot of new people and we just felt like that was really important.
So I don’t know if that answers your question, but I do know that it was hard for Paul to connect with people, because you’re trying to do it from far away and follow safety protocols. Paul’s a true professional. As soon as we started bringing people back, he was in the building. He was there with his people. I think his commitment to that made a huge difference with his team as he really led from the front.
DR: Brad Willis was obviously really popular with his crew and had great relationships across the building. I wonder when he tells you that he is going to take this job at the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, as a market manager, what exactly are you bracing yourself for? Do you start to think about every problem you might need to address or are you already formulating your answers to those problems?
AW: You know, I think it’s a little bit of both. I think whenever a key member of your leadership team decides to go in a different direction, you have mixed feelings. First, for Brad, as a person, I always support somebody’s desire to grow and explore something new. He was very transparent with us. We had a lot of very honest dialogue, so I can’t say that I was surprised.
Brad’s a class act. Even in his desire to go in a different direction, he handled things with absolute total grace and gave us a very long window of time to be on call and available. He knows where the proverbial bodies are buried, and so he was a terrific resource for us. Heck, he started with Titans radio. I mean, he’s a staple and extremely well respected. That’s a hard thing and guy to lose.
Now for us, we had Bruce Gilbert. He is just a phenomenal resource and leader. We couldn’t have been luckier to have somebody like him in that critical moment. It was really getting on a call with him and agreeing that these opportunities are rare. While we don’t like to lose someone as great as Brad, let’s wave a magic wand and try and figure out first what exactly is the station that we’re building for the future and then two, who do we think can take us there? Let’s go see if we can find that person. To Cumulus and Bruce’s credit, we were able to take our time with the process. We felt like we wanted to build a radio station and find a PD for what was around the bend. We think we accomplished that.
DR: I want to talk about some of those lineup changes. Some of the folks that exited obviously had been well-entrenched at the station for a long time. So what role were you taking in terms of talking to clients? How were you acknowledging their concerns while also assuring them that the next chapter of the station is going to be exciting and have even more value for them as your partner?
AW: Those conversations are always challenging and opportunistic at the same time. What I think makes radio so special is the connection that our talent have with our fans and our clients are often our fans. Those are very deep, emotional connections. Our broadcasters are with them, some of them endorse products. Those are always really delicate conversations.
I think you do the best you can to lean into what change feels like. Those things can be hard Those relationships are important. You’re asking clients to lean into trusting that we understand the sports universe, and that we’re going to bring things to the station that are going to help move it forward.
I’m kind of an earnest person. I asked people to give me a week. Listen for a week and tell me what you think. Send me an email. Tell me what you like. Tell me what you don’t like. And people actually take you up on that. We got a lot of emails from a lot of people giving us their thoughts, which was great. I read every one of them and we heard every client and took it all in.
We take the responsibility of building a brand really seriously. Our clients invest a lot of money with us. It’s our responsibility to our fans and our clients to put the best products forward. That’s what we tell them, and we hope we deliver on that. We get a lot of positive feedback, but those early phases of change are always hard, but our clients are our friends. They’re are advertisers, and they gave us a tremendous amount of grace to do what was right for the station. We’ll always be thankful for that.
DR: You mentioned Buck Reising earlier. Not only did you bring him in, but you also brought in Ramon Foster to be part of a new morning show. Then you added Ron Slay to 3HL. When hiring new people to a brand like The Zone, how long do you give them on the air to figure out what it is their show is going to be before you start talking to clients about, “hey, would you like to do business with these guys? Would you like for these guys to be the voices telling the listeners to come do business with you?”?
AW Well, it depends on who you’re talking to you. For Dave Elliott, our general sales manager, this conversation started on day one. He’s hustling, and he’s got his team out hustling.
To the credit of everyone that joined us, they made themselves extremely available to clients, whether it was on the phone, in person, or through virtual meetings. It was fantastic. They kind of understood what was ahead, and they wanted to meet our clients and customers because they knew that those are their fans as well.
The ask is somewhat immediate. It doesn’t always happen immediately, but our desire for our clients and fans to know anyone new to the staff is fairly quickly. Letting those hosts and their shows grow is a different answer, but I think that’s also a different question.
DR: That’s totally fair. So we talked about the fact that The Zone is not just a radio station anymore. What did that partnership with A to Z Sports do for the brand? How did that push The Zone TV forward in terms of getting that message out, not just to listeners, but to those advertisers as well, that this is more than just a radio station now?
AW: I’m glad you mentioned that. That was a really progressive strategic partnership at the time that intrigued us. We’d been following A to Z fondly from their launch. People tell me all the time “Oh, you’ve got to look at this” or “you’ve got to watch that”. Buck was on A to Z. Before we had decided we wanted to add Buck, we’d had some soft conversations just in general with Austin and Zach, who run that brand. Through our discussions about wanting to bring Buck on, it deepened our discussions about how similar yet different our business models were. Paul and I thought we could lean into this and work together.
Those early days of a partnership that is not normal are always interesting, because you’re just trying to figure it out. What’s right for them? What’s right for us? They brought some real value to what we were doing. They’re very pro radio in general. They both were on the other FM station, so they get what we do and there is some fondness for that. We just kind of carved out a lane and that really works well for us.
We think that the partnership’s been really good for us. We like to believe that we are everywhere where sports is happening. If there’s a major sporting event happening, we’ve got at least one of our shows or a correspondent there to bring that firsthand experience back to our fans, and they actually help us in that space because they are also everywhere where sports happens. So it really deepens our bench for what we’re bringing to our fans.
It’s been a good partnership. I think Zach and and Austin would say the same. It’s fun to watch them grow. They’re great. They’re a great duo.
DR: You have been with the cluster now long enough to see the Titans rise to this point. They are a very good team, but not a championship team, yet they’re at that bump in the road. Looking at it from a radio station perspective, what would it mean for the Titans radio network, for Cumulus, for The Zone, for them to get over that hump? I mean, forget winning the Super Bowl just to make it. What sort of different stratosphere would that put your relationship with them and your clients’ relationships with them in?
AW: For the town, for the station, for the team it’d be electric. I was in Denver when the Av’s won the Stanley Cup the first time. I was 20 years old, driving a promo van down a street while the van was rocking back and forth. I thought, I’m never going to get this honey back to the station. We just had to lean into it. We popped the Marti and just went live from the middle of the street. That was hockey! So, football in the South? Come on!
Listen, the Titans radio broadcast crew is second to none. The voice of the Titans is Mike Keith. He’s a staple for Tennesseans. He’s absolutely fantastic. That entire broadcast team works really hard to deliver a quality broadcast to their fans.
The team itself works exceedingly hard to create a fan experience that is second to none. What they’ve done over the last couple of years has just really improved the overall experience. I think it’s deepened their fandom. I mean, obviously from a revenue perspective, that’s always a win. But from a content perspective, you know, listen, I had my tickets to LA bought. We know we’ve got a great team, and great leadership. We know they care. We’ve got great ownership. They’re invested in the team and they’re going to do the things they need to do to get us where, where we need to be.
It’s our job to cover the team, and we say what we see, but as residents of Tennessee, we are 100 percent behind the team hopefully making it to that that Super Bowl. Listen, you saw what we did with the draft and that was the draft, right? Can you imagine a Nashville party when we win the Super Bowl? Broadway is going to shut down from Murfreesboro to Cookesville.
We’re very proud to be the the the rights holder for the Tennessee Titans, and that makes it sweeter for us, but I don’t think that there’s a person in the city that didn’t catch the fever when we were making that run last year.
NBC Must Develop a Real No. 2 NFL Crew for Playoffs
Is the network’s only other option Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett?
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?
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.”
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.
Ryan Brown is a columnist for Barrett Sports Media, and a co-host of the popular sports audio/video show ‘The Next Round’ formerly known as JOX Roundtable, which previously aired on WJOX in Birmingham. You can find him on Twitter @RyanBrownLive and follow his show @NextRoundLive.
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.”
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.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.