It was 9:00 on the evening of November 30th of 2021, when Travis Davidson logged on to host his first-ever Twitter Space. His idea was simple. Lincoln Riley had just left Oklahoma for USC two days before. Travis wanted to host a Twitter Space to let OU fans sound off with their thoughts and hear the latest rumors on the coaching news. Thus, OU Rumors and News was born.
Davidson had a basic understanding of how Twitter Spaces worked, but like everyone at the time, it was still a relatively unknown outlet.
“They were almost like a book club, where people just sat around in the afternoon and talked,” said Davidson of the Twitter Spaces he had listened to.
So he had an idea on how he was going to run OU Rumors and News. He was going to run it like a radio show. He would serve as the host, bring on a couple of co-hosts and the thousands of people listening would have to request to speak. Almost like taking a phone call over the air. It was organized and it immediately worked.
“It was a very high time for social media because people were looking for coaching search news and to bash Lincoln Riley,” Davidson said. “The first night we went from 9 pm to 5 am. Over 2,000 people joined. We were the largest Twitter Space on the app for four nights in a row.
“The second night I got several messages asking if I was going to do it again. So we did. It was 1:00 am and I was so tired but there were 1,500 people in it and the conversation was going well. I really needed to go to bed. So I kept myself on mute. If the host shuts it down, it shuts down the whole space. I didn’t want to be so selfish and shut it down because I was tired. So I went to sleep and just let the space run. I woke up at 8:00 am and there were still over 300 in the space and all of us were sleeping.”
George Foreman joined the Twitter Space, along with former OU players and even journalists from all over the world. There’s even a story where a recruit’s dad joined OU Rumors and News to see how the fanbase spoke about its players and coaches. He was blown away by the attitude of the fans, compared to the other spaces he had dropped in on. His son ultimately signed with the Sooners.
“I think at this point a lot of people were so new to Twitter Spaces, I think they were trying to learn how they could use them,” Davidson said. “It was great for journalists because they could get a scoop by just listening to other people.”
Needless to say, Davidson’s dive into Twitter Spaces was a massive success. For two weeks straight, thousands would join to listen to the latest rumors and updates on the OU football program. The Wall Street Journal and ESPN.com even wrote about Davidson and the incredible online success he was having. But someone else noticed, too. It just so happened to be the radio station I work at, The REF in the Oklahoma City market.
What started as a radio hit to talk about the success of his Twitter Spaces, as well as Lincoln Riley moving to Los Angeles without giving Davidson his two smokers back, led to a weekly spot on our station, which led to an opportunity to co-host the postgame show of the OU Spring Game, which has now led to an opportunity to co-host with me every Friday from 3-6 pm during the offseason, starting on May 13th. All of it came in the span of about five months.
He’s a shining example of the new era of sports media. If you’re willing to look outside of the traditional box for new talent, you can find some extraordinary people. For people that have made their name on Twitter or digital platforms, there’s never been a better time to get discovered by a traditional platform such as radio.
Bunkie Perkins is a Twitter account that’s synonymous with the humorous side of college football. He also tweets about golf, pro wrestling and Ole Miss. With over 43,000 followers, he’s an incredible following on social media. In 2016, Tony Kornheiser even mentioned the account on an episode of PTI.
Before the Twitter account started, the man behind the Bunkie Perkins Twitter account had a sports blog. It had a decent following, which would soon follow to social media.
“So I had, I don’t know if you want to call it a built-in following, but some people that followed me,” Perkins said. “It’s just grown organically. Honestly, I don’t really care about this point. It’s great for what it is, and it’s also not great for what it is. I just try to find a happy medium somewhere in there.”
He has a job outside of sports meda that’s completely unrelated. Truthfully, he does the Twitter account strictly for fun and entertainment. There’s no hard push for it to turn into another professional opportunity.
“I get asked to go on radio shows and do podcasts, but at this point, I’ll really only do it if it’s a friend of mine,” Perkins said. “I think the most fruitful thing that’s come out of my account is legitimate friends that I’ve made. A great example is I’m currently in Eugene, OR going to play golf with the guys of No Laying Up. We started an online friendship that has resulted in us hanging out several times a year and playing golf. That is more important for me.”
Davidson and Perkins have both built an incredible following but have different preferences as to what they want to get out of it. Whereas Davidson is ready to chase down his new passion for sports radio, Perkins is more interested in making potential friendships and not taking the app too seriously.
Davidson will excel in sports radio. I’ve done enough weekly spots with him to know he’s a great fit for our station, but I was blown away when we hosted the two-hour postgame show together after the OU Spring Game. In an honest attempt to not inflate his ego or pump up the recent hire made by my station, we meshed immediately and he asked great questions to the numerous guests we had on-site. He’s informed, but he also has a great on-air presence.
How does a guy that doesn’t have radio experience just show up on the air and be great? Did hosting the Twitter Space have a huge impact on that?
“I think the Twitter Spaces absolutely helped,” said Davidson. “ It was my training to get into radio, because of the way I ran it. I ran it specifically like a talk show. I was the host and had a couple of co-hosts and I was steering the show. It got to the point where people in the administration were contacting me and asking to steer the conversion away from Lincoln Riley and more towards Bob Stoops and the positivity around the program. They knew I had the ear of the fanbase. That was definitely a part of my training.
“Secondly, I feel like I just consume a lot of media. One of my favorite interviewers is Sean Evans with Hot Ones. I think he may be the best interviewer there is. I tend to gravitate towards people who are really good interviewers or entertaining on the air. I think it’s rubbed off, just because that’s what I like to consume.”
But why radio? Davidson could have easily started a YouTube show by himself or taken his talents to a larger digital forum. What’s his draw to sports radio?
“I enjoy speaking with informed people,” said Davidson. “Most of my sports discussions happen on Twitter. Not a ton of people on Twitter are informed about the argument, because a lot of them are in more of your listener category. They are on Twitter to be informed. It’s a lot of swimming through the mud, this guy really knows what he’s talking about, let’s walk out some theories with this guy, I can learn from this guy, all that kind of stuff.
“Secondly, Twitter is like a microwave. Your points have to be quick and catch on. That’s why hot takes live on Twitter. There’s a character limit. With radio, it’s more of an oven. It’s a whole cooked meal. The microwave is good for popcorn, but if you want the Sunday roast, you want to let it cook. Radio gives you the time to have a really good argument and have really good points.”
Regardless of what comes their way, Davidson won’t stop his OU Rumors and News Twitter Spaces and Perkins won’t stop cracking hilarious jokes on Twitter. Well, unless one particular thing happens.
“I have a running gag about Houston Nutt and I’ve always said the day he gets a coaching job is the day I leave Twitter,” said Perkins. “I can take it or leave it a little bit at this point, I enjoy it, especially during sporting events and it’s fun to keep up with it while you’re watching games, or if something crazy happens. At some point, you get Twitter fatigued. I like to be funny. I think I’m relatively funny and I follow a lot of people that are relatively funny. If I come up with a joke and tweet it out and if certain people like it, that’s all the Twitter fulfillment I need.”
Tyler McComas is a columnist for BSM and a sports radio talk show host in Norman, OK where he hosts afternoon drive for SportsTalk 1400. You can find him on Twitter @Tyler_McComas or you can email him at TylerMcComas08@yahoo.com.
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 email@example.com.
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.