At least Phil Mickelson got himself a nine-figure check to cape up for LIV Golf.
From the looks of it, Colin Cowherd was willing to provide his seal of approval for nothing more than a hot take and getting in the good graces of those people who’ve gotten criticized for their involvement with the Saudi-backed tour.
“There has been way, way too much pearl-clutching on this,” Cowherd said on Friday as he discussed Charles Barkley’s potential involvement as an announcer.
He’s right that there has been an awful lot of moralizing over the players who’ve signed on with the Saudi-backed circuit. But if Cowherd is any indication, the plan that’s behind LIV Golf is working to absolute perfection.
“I understand it,” Cowherd said, “any time something is new and different AND disrupts tradition. People love tradition. People freak out. Not everybody, but a lot of people freak out.”
Now, Cowherd very well might be right about this to some extent. Some people are upset because of the threat this poses to the PGA Tour. I am not one of them, though. I don’t care about the PGA Tour. At all. Not as a business entity. Not as a television property. I’m a casual golf fan, who’s aware of and watches the majors, and from a business sense, I totally understand why pro golfers would resent the tour, its business structure and its payouts. I do not think Jay Monahan and his country-club compadres are the victims in all of this, but that doesn’t make LIV Golf any better.
“Now eventually people kind of get in line,” Cowherd said, “as people join this new disruptive trend and it gets normalized.”
Well, this is 100 percent the goal of LIV Golf, which is bankrolled by the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia. They’re not paying these golfers hundreds of millions of dollars apiece so the world will stay skeptical about doing business with Saudi Arabia. This tour is about more than just a golf circuit. It’s part of a plan to make the world more comfortable working with and investing in Saudi Arabia. This is not a secret. There’s a whole web site explaining it, and to describe LIV Golf as a start-up business that is disrupting an established industry is to ignore the primary goal of the entire endeavor.
“But Colin, the Saudis,” Cowherd continued. “Colin, the Saudis. All right. Hello. You guys hear about China? Their human rights. NBA has been doing business with China for over a decade. A lot of shoes worn by NBA stars from China. By the way, play TikTok? My wife does. Yeah, that’s from China. We are in an economic relationship with China and so is sports.”
So let me get this straight, the existence of ANY business relationships with other repressive regimes justifies ALL business relationships with repressive regimes? How incredibly convenient for anyone hoping to do business with a repressive regime! It is important, while doing this, NOT to mention the specific human-rights abuses that have occurred up to and including the murder and subsequent dismemberment of dissident journalist James Khashoggi. A Washington Post columnist, Khashoggi was lured to the Saudi consulate in Turkey where it’s believed he was killed.
“There’s golf tournaments in Saudi Arabia, have been for years,” Cowherd said. “They own EPL teams. It’s all been normalized.”
Well, that’s certainly Saudi Arabia’s goal in purchasing Newcastle United and funding this golf circuit. But there are enough people still squeamish over business partnerships with Saudi Arabia that a few years ago, Endeavor had to give back a $400 million investment in the UFC. It’s remarkable really. Imagine how sketchy something has to be to generate so much pushback that a company gives back $400 million. LIV Golf is part of an overall plan by Saudi Arabia to make sure companies and people become MORE comfortable with investments like that.
“I don’t know what everybody does at every company I’ve worked at,” Cowherd said. “I go to the store. I like eggs. Bread. The products I buy, I don’t know who is on the board. I don’t know their every move. I’ve got six kids. I’ve got a life. Do you have to be a Washington Post journalist for every company you use?”
This rhetorical trick is my absolute favorite part of Cowherd’s argument. No one is asking for nor expecting that level of consumer behavior, but by taking the premise to its illogical extreme, he’s essentially saying that any action at all is pointless. Imagine a child using this approach when caught lying about having completed his homework:
Mom: Jimmy, you said you did your homework.
Child: Look Mom, we all say things every day that we don’t truly mean. Like when Dad asked you last night, ‘Does this shirt look good?’
Mom: His shirt? We’re talking about the math assignment you lied about having completed and I found blank in your backpack.
Child: Well, did you tell the truth? Because I remember you saying it looked fine instead of telling him, ‘Well, it looks exactly like every other shirt you’ve ever bought in the 20 years we’ve been together except for the ketchup stain and the fact that your belly’s now pushing out against it.’
Mom: And this relates to the blank sheet of homework how exactly?
Child: We spend all of our days saying things we wish were true instead of what is actually true, and I don’t think it’s fair that we put a microscope over this one statement I made regarding a single math assignment if we’re not going to be as rigorous about everything else we say.
It’s a moral relativism that Homer Simpson would certainly appreciate. If you can’t do everything, why try to do anything? It’s also a complete and total cop-out. It is OK to decide to do something because you believe it’s good or choose not to do something because you believe it’s bad. You don’t have to preen about it, but you also don’t have to prove that you are politically pure and without fault.
I can say that I oppose LIV Golf while still having an iPhone in my pocket, and while this may make me a hypocrite at some level, the alternative is to throw up your hands and say, “It’s all blood money so get what you can,” or as I like to call it, the Cowherd plan.
“You like, what you like,” Cowherd said. “If you like Tesla or you like a Snickers bar, do you have to go to the board and figure out all of their political, their family history.”
No, you don’t. But if you read a story about the way employees are treated at that company or the business practices it uses, you’re also free to decide the enjoyment or experience you get from that product is outweighed by the harm it causes.
It’s pretty simple to me: The human-rights abuses documented in Saudi Arabia have made people around the world leery of doing business with the ruling regime. Instead of addressing these accusations and demonstrating some level of accountability, Saudi Arabia is aggressively investing in an effort to make people across the world more comfortable entering into those business arrangements because of the vast sums of money that can be made. And judging by Cowherd’s segment, it is absolutely working and I don’t even think they had to pay him.
Danny O’Neil is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously hosted morning and afternoon drive for 710 ESPN Seattle, and served as a reporter for the Seattle Times. He can be reached on Twitter @DannyOneil or by email at Danny@DannyOneil.com.
Your Football Conversation Has To Be Different
I don’t know why any host would go with B- or C-material just for the sake of providing variety. That’s silly to me.
Rejoice! Ball is back, baby. Life is just better when football season is included; am I right? (That was a rhetorical question because I know I’m right in this case.) Like many people in this country, I’m all about the pigskin. Outside of my family and friends, there aren’t many things in life that I love more than BALL.
With all of that being established, a simple question still exists: is there such a thing as talking too much football on a sports radio show?
I think it isn’t as much what you’re talking about; it’s how you’re talking about it. For instance, it isn’t good enough to lazily say, “Ehh, we’ll start off by talking about the game last night.” Well, how are you going to talk about it? Do you have anything original, interesting or entertaining to say? Or are you just gonna start riffing like you’re in a jam band hoping to accidentally stumble onto something cool after six minutes of nothing?
Talking about football is like opening a new burger joint. Hang with me on this one. There are so many options — Burger King, McDonald’s, Five Guys, Wendy’s, In-N-Out, etc. — that you can’t expect to have great success if you open a run-of-the-mill burger joint of your own. Having an inferior product is going to produce an inferior result.
It comes down to whether a topic or angle will cause the show to stand out or blend in. Going knee-deep on a national show about the competition at left guard between two Buffalo Bills offensive lineman doesn’t stand out. You’ll get lost in the shuffle that way.
A show needs to constantly be entertaining and engaging. One way to check that box is with unique viewpoints. Don’t say what other shows are saying. Your burger joint (aka football conversation) needs to be different than the competition. Otherwise, why are you special?
Another way to stand out is with personality. It’s impossible to have unique angles with every single topic that’s presented. A lot of hosts recently pointed out that the Dallas Cowboys committed 17 penalties in their first preseason game against the Denver Broncos. But Stephen A. Smith said it differently than everybody else. That’s what it comes down to; either say things that other shows aren’t saying, or say them differently.
New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh made a comment recently that too much of anything is a bad thing. So back to the original question, is there such a thing as too much football talk on a sports radio show?
Variety is the spice of life, but quality is the spice of sports radio. If a show provides quality, listeners will keep coming back. It’s really that simple. Sure, hosts will hear “talk more this, talk more that” from time to time, but you know what’s funny about that? It means the listeners haven’t left. The show is providing enough quality for them to stick around. If the quality goes away, so will the audience.
It’s smart for hosts and programmers to think, “What’s our strongest stuff?” If that happens to be a bunch of football topics, great, roll with it. I don’t know why any host would go with B- or C-material just for the sake of providing variety. That’s silly to me.
Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick said something interesting last week while visiting Atlanta’s training camp. Vick was asked which team’s offense he’d like to run if he was still playing today. “The offense Tom Brady is running in Tampa,” Vick said. “Pass first.”
The answer stood out to me because throwing the ball isn’t what made Vick special with the Falcons. He was a decent passer and a dynamic runner. The run/pass blend made Vick a problem. I totally understand wanting to prove doubters wrong, but there are a lot of athletes that get away from what they do best while relying on something else that isn’t their specialty.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook is not an outside shooter. He’s brutal in that area. Yet Russ will keep firing threes at a 30% clip. Why? Attacking the rim and working the midrange is his game. You don’t see Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul bombing threes if they aren’t going in. He kills opponents with his midrange skills all day.
It’ll be interesting to see how Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa approaches this season. He’s received a steady diet of “can’t throw the deep ball.” Will he try to a fault to prove doubters wrong, or will he rely on what he does best? Beating defenders with timing and accuracy on shorter throws is where he finds the most success.
Working to improve your weaknesses makes sense, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of going away from your strengths. How is it any different in sports radio? If a host isn’t strong when it comes to talking basketball or baseball, it definitely makes sense to improve in those areas. But if that same host stands out by talking football, at some point it becomes like Westbrook jacking up threes if the host gets too far away from a bread-and-butter strength.
Former New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is the only player in the Baseball Hall of Fame that was unanimously elected. He relied on his cutter — a fastball that moved, a lot — about 85% of the time. Mo didn’t say, “Man, my four-seam fastball and changeup aren’t getting enough respect.” He rode that cutter all the way to Cooperstown and legendary status.
Rivera is a great example of how playing to your strengths is the best approach. He also shows that quality trumps variety every time. Let’s put it this way: if 85% of a sports radio show is football content, and the quality of that show is anywhere near Mo caliber, it’s destined to be a hit.
One of my buddies, Mike Zanchelli, has always been a hit with the ladies. I think he came out of the womb with at least 10 girls in the nursery showing interest in him. He had a simple dating philosophy: “Always. Leave them. Wanting. More.” That might work in dating, but I think it’s the opposite in sports radio. Most listeners don’t hear the entire show. If they’re in and out, wouldn’t you want them to hear your best stuff when they are tuned in?
That’s why I say screw variety. That’s why I wouldn’t worry about overserving your audience an all-you-can-eat BALL buffet. I think it’s much wiser to focus on producing a quality product regardless if it’s well rounded or not.
Brian Noe is a columnist for BSM and an on-air host heard nationwide each weekend on FOX Sports Radio. Previous roles include stops in Portland, OR, Albany, NY and Fresno, CA. You can follow him on Twitter @TheNoeShow or email him at email@example.com.
ESPN Has Gone From Playing Checkers to Chess In Two Years
Those decisions make the future ones with the Pac-12, the Big 12, NBA and UFC fascinating to watch but what’s clear is that this ESPN strategy is different.
In the days after the Big Ten news leaked regarding some of the details of their upcoming media deals, I was hankering for more information. I wanted more insight as to the “why”. Why did the Big Ten leave such a long-lasting and prosperous relationship with ESPN. I just couldn’t imagine it and it’s why I wrote about it last week.
It was in that pursuit of knowledge that I tuned into a podcast favorite of mine, The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast. The show’s hosts are deep into the weeds of sports media with John Ourand at the Sports Business Journal and Andrew Marchand at the New York Post. It was Ourand who was dropping dimes of news on the Big Ten deal last week. I wanted to hear him dive deeper, and he did on the podcast. But it was a throwaway line that got my wheels churning.
“This is about the third or fourth deal in a row that ESPN, the free-spending ESPN, to me has shown some financial discipline” Ourand said. “They are showing a bit of financial discipline that I hadn’t seen certainly when John Skipper was there and pre-dating John Skipper.”
I had to keep digging and folks, it’s true. ESPN is essentially Jimmy Pitaro in the above quote, the Chairman of ESPN. Since taking the role in 2018, he was put into an interesting position of being in the middle of a lot of big money media rights deals that would be coming due for renegotiation soon. The rights fees for EVERYTHING were going to balloon wildly. But in the last two years, he has comfortably kept the astronomical rates somewhat within shouting distance.
The big one, the NFL media rights deal agreed to last March, saw ESPN pay a very strong 30% increase for the rights. However, other networks involved had to pay “double” as Ourand so succinctly put it. He also personally negotiated with FOX to bring in Troy Aikman and Joe Buck to make their Monday Night Football booth easily more recognizable and the best in the sport. ESPN in that deal, that did NOT include doubled rates, got more games, better games, and more schedule flexibility. ABC gets two Super Bowls in the deal too. Simply put, Jimmy Pitaro set up ESPN to get a Super Bowl itself, but for now his network will take full advantage of the ABC network broadcast when the time comes (2026, 2030).
The recent Big Ten deal was massive because the conference spent forty years with ESPN and decided to reward that loyalty with a massively overpriced mid-tier package. ESPN balked at the idea. In their back pocket lies a lot of college football media rights deals with a lot of conferences including one that will be a massively profitable venture, the SEC package. ESPN takes over the CBS package of the “top” conference game. Yes, it paid $3 billion for it, but it’s a scant $300 million annually. Sure, that’s over 5X what CBS was paying annually but CBS signed that deal in 1996! I need not tell you all of the advancements in our world since Bob Dole was a presidential nominee. ESPN now gets to cherry-pick the best game from the best conference and put the game anywhere they damn well please to maximize exposure.
The F1 media rights extension is massive because of two things: one, they got it cheap before the sport littered your timeline on weekend mornings and two, when they re-signed with F1 this summer they paid way less than other streaming networks were reportedly willing to pay. The brand, the savvy worked again. ESPN takes a small risk for a potentially exploding sport and much like CBS did with the SEC for 25 years, can make massive margins.
I can keep going, and I will with one more. Sports betting. The niche is growing like my lawn minutes after the summer rainstorm. Pitaro has said publicly that sports betting “has become a must-have” and he’s full-frontal correct. ESPN is in an odd spot with their clear lineage to Disney, but it’s obvious something massive is going to come soon with ESPN reportedly looking for a deal in the $3 billion neighborhood.
Pitaro has been positioning this company from a position of strength. He pays big money for big properties, but knows when he’s getting taken advantage of and most importantly, isn’t afraid to pull his brand’s name out of the deep end.
ESPN may have an issue with dwindling subscribers, but that’s an everyone problem. The difference is ESPN is constantly trying to get you from one network ship you think is sinking into another network life raft. If you want to leave cable or satellite and go streaming, you can. ESPN+ is there to pick up the pieces. Or Sling (with an ESPN bundle). Or YouTube TV (ESPN is there too). Or a myriad of other ways. They are positioned so well right now to be where you think you want to go. Jimmy Pitaro and ESPN have been amazing at doing whatever they can to keep you paying them monthly.
The network has been aggressive with media rights deals but these newer ones have been diligently maneuvered by Pitaro. It was a choice to essentially back the SEC for the next decade, and to put more money into the potential of F1. The effort was a conscious one to keep a tight-lipped mission to bolster Monday Night Football’s booth. It was an understated strategy to reinvest in the NHL. Those decisions make the future ones with the Pac-12, the Big 12, NBA and UFC fascinating to watch but what’s clear is that this ESPN strategy is different. The old adage of “pigs get fed, hogs get slaughtered” may have applied to the network under different leadership, but these aren’t eating pigs. These are boars.
Arky Shea serves as BSM’s evening editor, a daily news writer, and a weekly media columnist. He has previously worked for Outkick, 97.7 The Zone, 740 Sports Radio, and 730 The Ump where he held roles as the station’s program director, afternoon host, and producer. To connect, find Arky on Twitter @ArkyShea.
The Producers Podcast – Big Baby Dave, Jomboy Media
Big Baby Dave has his hands in everything for Jomboy Media. He joins Brady Farkas to talk about how he brings a unique sound to each show he works with.
Brady Farkas is a sports radio professional with 5+ years of experience as a Program Director, On-Air Personality, Assistant Program Director and Producer in Burlington, VT and Albany, NY. He’s well versed in content creation, developing ideas to generate ratings and revenue, working in a team environment, and improving and growing digital content thru the use of social media, audio/video, and station websites. His primary goal is to host a daily sports talk program for a company/station that is dedicated to serving sports fans. You can find him on Twitter @WDEVRadioBrady and reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.