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Wayne Randazzo Wants More Monumental Moments

“You have to network but you also have to get good at what you do,” he said. “I think spending the time to get better and make yourself a fundamentally good broadcaster”.

Derek Futterman

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As he stepped up to the plate at Dodger Stadium, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman/designated hitter Albert Pujols was two swings away from becoming just the fourth player in league history to reach 700 career home runs. The 42-year-old is in the midst of his final season in Major League Baseball and it is certainly one to remember, especially since the Cardinals will play in October with a legitimate chance to capture a World Series championship. Perched several levels above the field, Wayne Randazzo was behind the microphone for the Apple TV+ Friday Night Baseball broadcast with a near-capacity crowd fixated on the field and many more watching from afar.

Once Pujols crushed his 699th career home run, the palpability of hitting number 700 became much more genuine in scope. As the perennial slugger stepped up to the plate for the third time, Randazzo and the Apple TV+ broadcast team were ready for the chance to deliver an enduring moment in baseball history.

For Randazzo, 36, it represented a milestone in his broadcast career and the realization of a dream of his to be able to call indelible accomplishments in Major League Baseball on a national stage. From the time he was a child in Chicago, the nuance and grandeur associated with baseball served as factors that persuaded him to work in sports media – and the announcers explaining it all helped him effectively learn the game.

One announcer in particular that stood out to Randazzo during his formative years of fandom was Harry Caray, the longtime play-by-play voice of his childhood team, the Chicago Cubs. Caray’s unique style of announcing and ability to entertain baseball fans of all ages impacted Randazzo’s development as a broadcaster and cultivation of a distinctive style.

“His enthusiasm and passion for calling the games was really infectious to me,” Randazzo said of Caray, “so I always wanted to get involved with it and followed different sportscasters that I liked.”

After initially attending Arizona State University to study broadcast communications, Randazzo transferred schools and attended North Central College, a school considerably smaller in size with a robust broadcast program. As a member of the school’s radio station, WONC, Randazzo immediately networked with the sports director at the time who gave him opportunities to call various types of sporting events and eventually ascended to the role himself. His passion and drive to succeed were so great that he was willing to do whatever it took to get him on the air.

“There were just a lot of opportunities there to call football, basketball, and baseball [where I could] really start to hone my skills and the craft and really just kind of be behind the microphone and call those sporting events,” Randazzo said. “It was a lot of fun for me to go to a school that allowed me to be able to do that.”

Throughout his time in college and in conversations with other people within the industry, Randazzo was often told about the highly competitive and cutthroat nature of sports media that has dissuaded some incipient talents from working in it. Unfazed and confident in his own abilities, Randazzo landed a sports internship with WGN Radio in Chicago following his first year in college and was surprised to enter into an environment centered around the principles of congeniality and collaboration.

“It was still the number one station in Chicago – it was the king,” Randazzo said. “…I just remember everyone being really happy there…. It just seems like everybody was on cloud nine just to be there. I thought that was a really cool environment they had at the time there.”

Over his time interning at the station, Randazzo felt immersed as a member of the team and had several mentors including Mike Ferrin and Andy Masur, the latter of whom still works for WGN as a play-by-play announcer and anchor along with serving as a columnist for Barrett Sports Media. As Randazzo’s internship concluded, the people at the station helped him land a job at the Illinois Radio Network as a morning sports anchor and reporter at 21 years of age.

“Everybody just really looked out for me,” Randazzo said of the team at WGN. “I think they thought I was a good intern and they listened to my tapes and they thought my tapes were good. They thought I had a future in the business and they really taught me as much as they could and they set me up on a good path.”

Two years later, Randazzo attended the job fair at the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings, which in 2007, were taking place at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville. Equipped with various demo tapes and résumés with the hope of landing a broadcasting job, Randazzo interacted with team representatives and received several offers to work as the number two broadcaster in the booth for minor league teams.

Unexpectedly, Randazzo also received two offers to be the lead play-by-play announcer for minor league baseball from both the Hickory Crawdads (High-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates) and Mobile BayBears (Double-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks). Randazzo took the job in Mobile, and also worked as the team’s director of media relations meaning he was working as both a broadcaster and public relations practitioner simultaneously.

“It was an unbelievable learning experience,” Randazzo said. “I was doing all the games by myself and traveling with the team. I didn’t know what I was doing at all [but] it was a great chance to spend three hours a night broadcasting these games and just learning how to do it.”

Randazzo returned home to Chicago after three seasons with the Mobile BayBears to join 670 The Score as an update anchor and part-time talk show host. Once baseball season came around, he joined the Kane County Cougars, then-Single A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, to work both in sales and as the play-by-play announcer. The experience of working in a major market while continuing to refine his skills as a broadcaster was a unique blend that set Randazzo up for sustained future success.

“When I went to Chicago, it was really a big deal to get on 670 The Score and to do updates,” Randazzo said. “It was really my first taste of being known in a market [and…] it was great to have that experience to really work in front of an audience for the first time.”

Aside from those roles, Randazzo also joined the Big Ten Network as a play-by-play announcer for its sporting events and signed on with ESPN to announce games on ESPN3 and ESPNU, which over the years have included basketball, college football, and ultimate frisbee. Setting himself up as a professional with stellar versatility and adaptability, he felt he would be able to easily fit with the New York Mets broadcasting team once a position opened prior to the 2015 season to host pregame and postgame coverage on the radio.

“They wanted someone who could host, do interviews, and also do play-by-play,” Randazzo recalled of the job opening. “They were kind of looking for a jack-of-all-trades and I was one. I really put myself in a position to do everything so that if something like that opened, I could slide over and do it.”

In his first year with the New York Mets Radio Network with its flagship station, WOR-AM at the time, the Mets advanced to the World Series, meaning that Randazzo was able to provide coverage deep into the postseason. It was a special opportunity for him in his first year and one he hopes to have again as the team looks to make a championship run this year.

At the same time though, being able to be around professional broadcasters including Howie Rose, Josh Lewin, and Gary Cohen allowed Randazzo to receive advice and work on improving his skills and get them to the point where he could eventually earn a promotion as a play-by-play announcer.

“I got better at play-by-play and I think I grew so much as a play-by-play announcer in that role, even compared to seven years doing Minor League Baseball, because the stakes were different,” Randazzo said. “The highlights were put out into the universe [and] you heard your calls back on different networks or different stations. I felt like I had to step up my game and I did to a point that when Josh [Lewin] left, I was really kind of right there; I was the only target really to replace him.”

Randazzo was promoted to work alongside Howie Rose on the radio broadcasts, a distinctive pairing of two professional broadcasters bereft of a former athlete doing color commentary such as Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling, who work with Cohen on the Mets’ television broadcasts on SNY. Yet his promotion, which coincided with the transition to WCBS Newsradio 880 as its flagship station, was conditional in that he was signed to a one-year contract, meaning that he had to prove that he belonged.

“I thought there might be some pressure but there really wasn’t,” Randazzo said regarding his first year in the booth. “I was getting used to the role and developing chemistry with Howie…. I never really thought about it; I thought things would take care of themselves if I did what I was capable of, and that’s all I focused on.”

Howie Rose, an accomplished broadcaster with experience calling games in multiple sports on both television and radio, has served as a mentor to Randazzo who seeks to continue to grow in the industry. Rose was mentored by his childhood idol, Marv Albert, and enjoys passing it forward by mentoring younger broadcasters himself and serving as a resource throughout their journeys in sports media. For Randazzo, having the opportunity to work with Rose on a regular basis and be the recipient of his broadcasting expertise has significantly catalyzed his growth as an announcer, giving him the skills for success no matter the situation.

“When you’re a young announcer in his orbit and you reach out to him for something, he is there right away,” Randazzo said. “He’s there to give good, thoughtful advice every single time. If there was a call I wasn’t sure about or if there was an opportunity coming up that I wanted to get and wanted some thoughts from him on how to get it, he’s always right there to tell you something that maybe you haven’t thought of or an angle you could look at differently.”

Aspiring broadcasters in sports media have more resources than ever before to utilize in their quest to build careers with the advent of social media and advancement of technology. Whether it is in doing play-by-play, reporting or hosting, the ability for a multitude of voices to be disseminated in the marketplace is there and the chances to receive feedback are plentiful. Nonetheless, an essential part of working in media of any kind is networking and fostering professional relationships with those inside and outside of the industry to enhance one’s work and career trajectory.

Doing that networking while risking the development of your own skills and building a broadcast portfolio though is an issue, according to Randazzo, with many young broadcasters and a focus he cautions taking.

“You have to network but you also have to get good at what you do,” he said. “I think spending the time to get better and make yourself a fundamentally good broadcaster; I think that will be much more helpful as you go along to pair it with the networking instead of just networking and maybe not paying as much attention to what you’re doing.”

Akin to Rose, Randazzo is no stranger to the big moment. In his first season working directly with Rose, it was Randazzo on the call when Mets rookie first baseman Pete Alonso broke the Mets’ single-season home run record. Following his call of the home run, he went to Rose for feedback on how to better approach a big moment with the hope of being able to improve on it if another opportunity arose.

“I asked Howie what he thought,” Randazzo said. “He said: ‘Next time you get a call like that, don’t worry as much about the historical stuff; focus on the reaction on the field.’”

One month later, the Mets were playing a Saturday night matchup against the Atlanta Braves with Alonso on the cusp of breaking the major league single-season rookie home run record set two years earlier by New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge. The game was being televised nationally by Fox, meaning that it would be Don Orsillo delivering the call rather than SNY’s Cohen if the record was broken that night.

On the radio though, Rose and Randazzo were the ones occupying the radio booth at Citi Field – named after former Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy – and when Alonso stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the third inning, he delivered a blast to right-center field.

“When Alonso hit his 53rd home run, I gave the call and then focused on Alonso rounding the bases and his approach towards his teammates,” Randazzo explained. “It’s radio; you’ve got to do a little more describing. I focused on the things that Howie said to focus on more. [I thought] it was a more satisfying call… [and] I was able to fill in the historical component of it after that.”

Fast-forward to this past Friday. Randazzo was in Los Angeles, Calif. at Dodger Stadium on the call for an Apple TV+ exclusive broadcast of the St. Louis Cardinals’ matchup against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He did not start working with Apple TV+ until there was a last-minute opening to do play-by-play for its broadcast of a Mets game against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, Calif., which turned out to be an exciting win for the Amazins’.

“They liked what they heard and they asked me if there were some possibilities to do a few games later in the season because they felt there would be a couple more openings as we went along,” Randazzo said. “One of them was Cardinals-Dodgers and I had that circled on my calendar.”

Apple TV+’s coverage of Major League Baseball has received its fair share of criticism in its inaugural season as the media landscape gradually shifts towards digitally-based streaming platforms and OTT providers for television consumption. With broadcast crews that only work together once per week, it can be difficult to immediately foster chemistry and appeal to national audiences, especially when part of that audience is staunch in their ways of watching games on network television and steadfast to those commentators. This seismic shift in media consumption and programming is necessary though for content providers to continue to reach various demographics and encourage widespread contribution to content creation.

“I think people will eventually embrace those kinds of games, and I think that for baseball especially, they need to be on the ground floor of this stuff,” Randazzo stated. “They’re the ones who feel like they’re losing an audience to some degree or have lost part of their audience and they try to make sure they’re gaining younger viewers. Putting these games on Apple TV+ I think is smart [and] I think that it will help them grow.”

Randazzo, who has had previous experience announcing games on television for Fox and as a backup to Cohen on SNY, knows the medium differs in terms of the loquaciousness in diction and evocation of imagery in the vernacular of a play-by-play announcer. His versatility and thorough understanding of working in different areas of media paid off on Friday when he delivered the national call of Albert Pujols’ 700th career home run. His preparation for the moment was minimal; he once again spoke to his radio partner Rose and reviewed key points to make in the midst of the moment.

“I think saying the number in the live call as soon as you can is an important thing to do,” Randazzo said. “I wanted to say that Albert had joined the 700 home run club, which I did. Other than that, I didn’t want to prepare too much for anything; I didn’t want to be ready to say something because you never know what kind of home run that it’s going to be.”

Pujols had not hit a home run in a week entering Friday’s matchup, but hit a majestic blast for number 699 early in the game, meaning that the possibility of his hitting the milestone home run became all the more probable. Randazzo and the Apple TV+ broadcast team had prepared for just the scenario in their production meeting earlier in the day, strategizing on how they would approach his forthcoming at-bats and overall game presentation with a potential marker in baseball history looming large.

“My thoughts were to call it quickly; just call the pitches during the at-bat [and] not really even say much during the at-bat,” Randazzo said. “Call the pitches and then cap the home run call and then get out of the way and let the pictures tell the story…. I think that was really important to let the moment and the pictures and the crowd and Albert’s reaction carry the broadcast.”

Randazzo received much praise for his call on social media and from other announcers and colleagues across the industry. For him, the moment was indicative of something that was “beyond a dream come true”; however, he believes Cardinals play-by-play announcer Dan McLaughlin deserved to be on the microphone instead of him. It was the subject of conversation regarding the other Apple TV+ broadcast that night as the Yankees faced the Boston Red Sox with Aaron Judge one home run away from tying the American League single-season record previously set by Roger Maris in 1961.

Stephen Nelson, a broadcaster for Apple TV+ and host on MLB Network, was in the broadcast booth that night joined by Katie Nolan and Hunter Pence, and he would be the one recording history rather than Yankees play-by-play announcer Michael Kay if it happened. It was reported by The New York Post that the Yankees organization was negotiating with Apple TV+ to air the game on YES Network featuring their broadcast team, but the deal never went through and was criticized by Kay who felt Nelson deserved the moment if it happened during the game on Friday.

“When you’re making that leap to television, you know it comes with sacrifices; you know it going in,” Randazzo said. “If your team is good, you’re going to lose games because they’ll be on national TV. If they get to the playoffs, you’re not doing them because the playoffs are on national TV…. It’s a sacrifice that I think you make for all the good things that come with doing TV.”

Making calls at moments of profound meaning and impact are what most broadcasters aspire to do throughout their careers, and Randazzo hopes Friday night was the continuation of an evolving career containing many more chances to narrate those stories to viewers worldwide. Perhaps Randazzo will be in the booth for more special moments as the Mets try to embark on a postseason run that they hope ends in the organization’s first World Series title since 1986.

“I want to be a part of telling the stories every day to a fanbase that cares [and] that is hoping that their team wins and is there with you every day,” Randazzo said. “On the other hand, I’d like to do more games on a national scale and be a part of big moments and deliver calls like the one I did on Friday…. I hope I get a chance to call games at the highest level. Whatever that looks like and whatever network that is, I hope I get those opportunities.”

BSM Writers

Marty Smith Loves The ‘Pinch Me’ Moments

“I don’t look at it as a talent-based platform. I don’t look at it as a results-based platform. I look at it as a platform that was built and sustained through the way I treat other people, through the work ethic that I believe that I have and through the passion that I know I have.”

Demetri Ravanos

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I tell this story all the time. It is told for laughs, but it is absolutely true. Marty Smith once gave me a giant box of beef jerky.

I was in Charlotte visiting him and Ryan McGee on the set of Marty & McGee as part of a larger feature I was doing on the SEC Network. We spent probably 3 hours together that day. It was a lot of fun. The last thing I watched the duo shoot was a promo for Old Trapper Beef Jerky, the presenting sponsor of their show.

As they finished, I shook their hands and told them I had to get on the road. That is when Smith presented me with a box of twelve bags of Old Trapper and told me, in as sincere a voice as you can imagine, that he wanted me to have it.

“I mean, listen, if you give a man beef jerky, by God, you like him,” Smith said to me when I reminded him of that story earlier this week. “That’s redneck currency right there, bud.”

There just aren’t a lot of people in this business like Marty Smith. ESPN definitely knows it too. That is why the network finds every opportunity it can to use him to tell the stories of the events and people it covers.

Last week, he spent Monday and Tuesday with the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens. He got a day back home in Charlotte before he headed to Atlanta for the SEC Network’s coverage of the SEC Championship Game on Thursday. Saturday, after his duties for SEC Nation and College GameDay were done, he hit the road for Tuscaloosa to interview Nick Saban and be ready for ESPN’s coverage of the reveal of the final College Football Playoff rankings.

As if that isn’t enough, this week he heads to New York. It will be the second time ESPN will use him to conduct interviews and tell stories during the telecast of the Heisman Trophy presentation. It’s an assignment that Marty Smith still cannot believe is his.

“I’ve had a ton of pinch-me moments, but in the last five, six years, seven years, there are two that kind of stand out above the rest. One was when Mike McQuaid asked me to be part of his team to cover The Masters. The other was last year when my dear longtime friend Kate Jackson, who is the coordinating producer over the Heisman broadcast, asked me to be a part of her Heisman broadcast team and interview the coaches, players and families of the finalists,” Smith says. “You know, brother, I’ve been watching the Heisman Trophy my whole life.”

We talk about what the broadcast around the Heisman Trophy presentation is and how it differs from being on the sideline for a game. He is quick to point out that on a game day, the old adage “brevity is king” is a reality. In New York though, he will have more time to work with. He plans not to just fill it, but to use it.

Marty’s interest in his subjects’ backgrounds and their emotions is sincere. It is part of a larger philosophy. He respects that everyone has a story to tell and appreciates the opportunity to be the one that gets to tell it, so he is going to do all he can to make sure the people he is talking to know it and know that they matter to him. That means putting in the time to be respectful of his subject’s time.

“When I’m interviewing these players or coaches before a game, I want to interview them, and I’m saying not on camera, but when I’m doing the record. I want to get as thorough as I can get. Then you take all of that and you try to pare it down into a very small window. It’s not easy. I mean, look, most of the time you come home with reams of notes that never even sniff air.”

Marty Smith has always been a unique presence. As his profile has grown and he shows up on TV more often and in more places, more people question who this guy really is.

That is par for the course though, right? Someone with a unique presence sees their star rise and out come the naysayers ready to question how authentic the new object of our affections really is.

For me, there is a moment that defines Marty Smith, at least in this aspect. I cannot remember the year or the situation, but he was on The Dan Le Batard Show, back when it was on ESPN Radio. Smith was telling Dan about friends of his that are stars in the country music world and Dan asked what it is like when they are hanging out backstage before one of these guys goes out to perform.

I cannot remember Smith’s exact answer, but a word he used stood out to me. He said it was just buddies having a cold beer and “fellowshippin'”.

I told Marty about this memory of him and said that I am not accusing him of being inauthentic or his persona on television being an act, but I was curious if he was concious of the words he chooses. Even if the version we get of Marty Smith on TV is the same one we would get if we were part of the fellowshippin’, does he think about how he wants people to think about him?

He is quick to note that is isn’t an act at all. What you see when you see Marty Smith isn’t a persona he cooked up when he decided he was going into television. That is just his personality.

“It is a lifelong field from where I’m from to where I am,” he says of what we see on TV. “It is relationships made that pinched my clay and remolded who I was to who I am and reshaped me as a person.”

Anyone from The South can tell you that there is no one monolithic “South”. The gregarious, larger-than-life personalities in Louisiana may not always feel real to people from the more reserved and anglo-influenced South Carolina. The Southern accent I got from growing up in Alabama sounds nothing like the Southern accents I live near now in North Carolina.

Marty Smith is from Pearisburg, Virginia just outside of Blacksburg. Surely that informs who he is, but he is also shaped by the wealth of conversations he has had and the characters he has met from his professional life.

“At our company, you have to work really hard to not only make it, but to sustain it. I try hard to do that every day,” he says. “I’m sure I’ve said it before, man. I don’t look at it as a talent-based platform. I don’t look at it as a results-based platform. I look at it as a platform that was built and sustained through the way I treat other people, through the work ethic that I believe that I have and through the passion that I know I have. You piece all of those different things together, and along with opportunity you can do something special, and I’m trying to do that every day.”

The Marty Smith you see on TV is the guy that will hand you a box of beef jerky just because you had a great conversation. He is the guy you see in that viral video from a few years back giving a young reporter advice and encouragement.

You can be confused by Marty Smith. You can have your questions about him and his motivations. They aren’t going to change him though. It took too long for him to become who he is to start second-guessing it now.

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BSM Writers

Another World Cup Run Ends And There’s Still No Soccer Fever In The USA

“We get fired up once every four years, sing the anthem, wear American flag t-shirts, then go back to our daily lives, forgetting about the sport that was attached to the patriotism.”

Brian Noe

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Soccer fever? Hardly. Not in the United States at least. The US Men’s National Team lost in the round of 16 against the Netherlands 3-1 last Saturday. The ratings are in. And the ratings are revealing.

An average of 12.97 million viewers tuned in to see the Netherlands-United States World Cup match on FOX. Before you say, “Hey, not bad,” consider the fact that the ratings are down from eight years ago when 13.44 million viewers watched the USMNT lose to Belgium in the knockout stage on ESPN.

Even more damning are the ratings of the USMNT’s initial match in the 2022 World Cup against Wales, an unhealthy 8.31 million viewers.

Let me get this straight; fans waited, waited, and waited some more to finally see the USMNT in World Cup action, and the first game in eight years drew 8.31 million viewers? Really?

There were 5.5 million viewers across TV and digital that watched the NFL Network’s telecast of the New York Giants-Green Bay Packers game in London. That was a Week 5 game in the NFL compared to the World freaking Cup. Network television (FOX) compared to cable TV (NFL Network). And the ratings are comparable? Come on, US Soccer. Y’all gotta do better than this.

*Mini rant alert — it drives me crazy when soccer in this country is consistently compared to soccer in this country. The promoters of the sport paint an obnoxiously rosy picture of the growing popularity by comparing US soccer now to US soccer then. It’s a joke.

It would be like comparing Nebraska’s 4-8 record in college football this year, to Nebraska’s 3-9 record last year. “Hey, things are looking up!” Never mind the fact that the Cornhuskers are significantly trailing several teams in its conference and many other teams across the country. That’s US soccer in a nutshell. Don’t compare it to other leagues and sports that are crushing it, just say we’re up 10% from last year. Ridiculous.

*Mini rant continuing alert — the Michigan-Ohio State game drew 17 million viewers last month. The New York Giants-Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving drew 42 million viewers. Those are regular-season matchups compared to the biggest stage soccer has to offer. But go ahead and just compare US soccer to itself.

And no, the edge you might feel in my words isn’t born out of fear that soccer will somehow surpass the popularity of football. That would be like Mike Tyson being scared that the Stanford Tree mascot could beat him up. US soccer isn’t a threat, it’s a light breeze. I just hate a bad argument. And many soccer apologists have been making bad arguments on the behalf of US soccer for years. *Mini rant over

The World Cup didn’t prove that American fans are invested in soccer. It proved that we love a big event. It’s the same recipe every four years with the Olympics.

During the 2016 summer games in Rio, when swimmer Michael Phelps was in the pool for what turned out to be his final outing in an Olympic competition, the ratings peaked at 32.7 million viewers. Phelps helped Team USA win gold in the men’s 100-meter relay and then rode off into the sunset.

We don’t really care about swimming. When’s the last time you asked a friend, “You heading out tonight?” and the response was, “Are you crazy? The Pan Pacific Championships are on.”

Whether it’s the Olympics or World Cup, Americans care about the overall event much more than the individual sport. We get fired up once every four years, sing the anthem, wear American flag t-shirts, then go back to our daily lives, forgetting about the sport that was attached to the patriotism.

Ask yourself this, at the height of US swimming’s popularity, would you have paid $14.99 per month to watch non-Olympic events? Me either. US soccer isn’t exactly on fire following its showing in the 2022 World Cup, so the timing isn’t awesome to introduce a paywall for the sport’s top league in this country.

Apple and Major League Soccer have announced that MLS Season Pass will launch soon. I know you’re excited, but try to stay composed. Yes, MLS Season Pass will launch on February 1, 2023. It’s a 10-year partnership between MLS and Apple that features every live MLS regular-season match, the playoffs, and the League’s Cup.

Have I died and gone to heaven?

How much?

It’ll run you $14.99 per month or $99 per season on the Apple TV app. For Apple TV+ subscribers — make sure you’re sitting down for this, you lucky people — it’s $12.99 per month or $79 per season. If you don’t have US soccer fever right now, I doubt you’re running out to throw down cash on a product you aren’t passionate about.

Now if the USMNT won the 2022 World Cup, cha-ching. The popularity of US soccer would definitely grow in a major way. Even if they had a strong showing while reaching the quarterfinals, the momentum would be much greater. But a 3-1 loss to the Netherlands in the group of 16? Nope. This isn’t it. I don’t expect much more than some tumbleweed rolling by instead of cash registers heating up for MLS Season Pass.

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BSM Writers

Colorado Hiring Deion Sanders Will Be Constant Gift for College Football Media

“If Coach Prime achieves the same sort of success that he did with the Tigers, he will be far more than a curiosity. Sanders will be a disruptor.”

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Deion Sanders quickly made it clear why the University of Colorado chose him to be its next head football coach.

Coming off a weekend in which the four College Football Playoff teams were announced and all of the other bowl-eligible teams accepted their invitations, Colorado — which went 1-11 this past season — made news for hiring Sanders, the former NFL star who was phenomenally successful at Jackson State.

The media that covers college football and sports as a whole should be thrilled that the Buffaloes program decided to take a big leap for attention and notoriety. Sanders is a bold, risky hire. But he’s also been successful in virtually every venture he’s taken. “Primetime” had a Hall of Fame NFL career and also played Major League Baseball. And he’s a master at drawing attention to himself.

During his first meeting with his new team, Sanders made sure to mention that he has Louis Vuitton luggage to make the point that some of his Jackson State players are coming with him to Boulder — including his son, quarterback Shadeur Sanders. Nick Saban and Kirby Smart probably don’t cite luxury fashion when explaining to their players that they’ll have to compete for starting positions.

Coach Prime will not be boring to cover. (That self-appointed “Coach Prime” title, which was on his name plate at his introductory press conference, is a big clue there.) He never has been. This is a man who said during the 1989 NFL Draft, after being selected No. 5 overall by the Atlanta Falcons, that if the Detroit Lions had selected him at No. 3, he “would’ve asked for so much money, they’d have had to put me on layaway.”

Even if he doesn’t win as much as Colorado hopes, Sanders will pursue top talent — players who want to perform on a larger stage than the FCS-level Jackson State allows — and impact athletes will be attracted to him. He got the No. 1 recruit in the nation, cornerback and wide receiver Travis Hunter, to play for him. (Hunter is following his coach to Boulder.) Now that Sanders is at an FBS school in a Power 5 conference, more stars will surely come.

But if Coach Prime achieves the same sort of success that he did with the Tigers — going 27-5 in three seasons, including a 12-0 campaign in 2022 — he will be far more than a curiosity. Sanders will be a disruptor. And he’ll get the attention that such figures typically draw from media and fans. According to the Denver Post‘s Sean Keeler, at least 400 people attended what felt more like a celebration than a press conference.

Coach Prime wasn’t going to just win the press conference, which is what any school and fanbase want when a new coach is introduced.

If Colorado wanted someone to sit at a podium, and give platitudes like “We want to win the Pac-12 and get to the College Football Playoff,” “We’re going to build a program with young men you’ll be proud of,” or “It’s time to restore Colorado to the football glory we remember,” Sanders isn’t the guy for that.

“Do I look like a man that worries about anything? Did you see the way I walked in here? Did you see the swagger that was with me?” Sanders said during his introductory presser. “Worry? Baby, I am too blessed to be stressed. I have never been one for peer pressure. I put pressure on peers. I never wanted to worry, I make people worry. I don’t get down like that. I am too darn confident. That is my natural odor.”

To no surprise, Sanders announced his presence in Boulder with authority. He had cameras following him as he met with Colorado players for the first time. How many other coaches would have recorded what many would see as a private moment for posterity and post it online?

Sanders caused a stir by putting his players on notice. He warned them he was coming, telling them they’ll be pushed so hard they might quit. He told them to enter the transfer portal and go someplace else if they don’t like what he and his staff are going to do.

That candor, that brutal honesty surprised many fans and media when they saw it Monday morning. For some, that message might have felt too familiar. How many in media — or many other industries — have worried about their job status when a new boss takes over? What may have seemed secure days earlier is now uncertain.

But how do we know other coaches haven’t said something similar when taking over at a new job and addressing their team? We just hadn’t seen it before. But Sanders has been in the media. He knows social media. He understands controlling his own message and telling his story.

Sanders also knows what kind of value he brings to any venture he takes on. How many people would have left an NFL Network gig for Barstool Sports? But Sanders went to where his star would shine, where he was the main show, where he could be Deion Sanders. Maybe he’ll have to turn that down just a bit at Colorado. But athletic director Rick George knows who he hired.

Colorado could have made a safer choice, including previous head coaches Tom Herman, Bronco Mendenhall, or Gary Patterson. A top assistant from one of this year’s Playoff contenders — such as Georgia’s Todd Monken, USC’s Alex Grinch, Alabama’s Bill O’Brien, or Michigan’s Sherrone Moore — could also have been an option.

But what fun would that have been? What kind of tremor would Colorado have created in the college football news cycle? How much attention would a more conventional hire have received? Yes, Sanders has to recruit and win. However, if the objective was to make Colorado football a talking point again, that’s been accomplished.

There could be some friction too. Sanders has already been criticized for being a champion of HBCUs, only to bolt for a mainstream Power 5 program when the opportunity opened. (To be fair, other columnists have defended the move.)

At Jackson State, Sanders tried to control local media when he didn’t like how reporters were addressing him or covering a story. Last year during Southwestern Athletic Conference Media Day, he balked at a Clarion-Ledger reporter addressing him as “Deion,” not “Coach,” insisting that Nick Saban would’ve been shown that respect. Earlier this season, Sanders admonished a school broadcaster (and assistant athletic director) for speaking to him more formally on camera than he did off-camera.

Will that fly among Boulder and Denver media, or the national college football press? It’s difficult to imagine. Maybe Sanders will ease back on his efforts to control reporters within a larger university environment, metropolitan area, and media market. But we’re also talking about Deion Sanders here. He doesn’t bend to outside forces. He makes them bend to him.

Sanders’ stint in Boulder — whether it lasts the five years of his contract and beyond, or less than that — will not be dull. There could be no better gift for the media covering Colorado football. Or college football, a sport already full of bold personalities, eccentric to unhinged fanbases, and outsized expectations. Coach Prime will fit right in.

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