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Cassidy Hubbarth is Focused on Engaging NBA Fans on ESPN

“When I look back on my career and I think, ‘What is the time when I was feeling at my best?,’ it was on the NBA Tonight desk.”

Derek Futterman

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As a midfielder, Cassidy Hubbarth was responsible for contributing on offense and defense for the Evanston Wildkits soccer team – and she had to maintain her stamina in order to perform at a high level. Thanks to her play and that of her teammates, the group won the Illinois High School Association Class AA State Championship for the 2001-02 season. Throughout her time in high school, Hubbarth played more than just soccer, as she also developed her skills on the hardwood and followed the Chicago Bulls at the height of their dynasty led by Hall of Fame guard Michael Jordan.

Even though she enjoyed playing sports, Hubbarth knew from her time in middle school that she wanted to pursue a career in sports media. One day when she and her family were watching Fox NFL Sunday, Hubbarth found herself captivated by sideline reporter Pam Oliver and her role on the broadcast.

“I remember seeing her do a talkback interview with one of the players and it just kind of finally opened my eyes to, ‘I’m not just watching the game but I’m actually enjoying coverage about the game,’” Hubbarth recalled. “That’s the moment I decided that this is what I want to do. I honestly don’t think I thought of any other career after that point.”

Although she was an athlete, Hubbarth made sure she maximized the opportunities available to her at Evanston Township High School to hone her broadcasting skills. She was a member of the radio, television and film club in the school and also did play-by-play for boys basketball home games when she had time in her schedule.

Hubbarth had always looked to attend Northwestern University located in her hometown of Evanston, Ill.; however, her family did not have the necessary means to send her there. Because of this, she went to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign as a freshman on several grants and worked at both the school’s radio and television stations. That year was especially difficult though because of her father’s diagnosis with throat cancer – and Hubbarth prioritized being there for her family through the arduous circumstance.

Fortunately, her father recovered from the disease and is a cancer survivor, but the hardship motivated Hubbarth and her family to find a way to afford tuition at Northwestern University. Once she was accepted, Hubbarth officially transferred as a sophomore to study within its acclaimed Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.

During her time at the university, Hubbarth was a member of the Northwestern News Network and volunteered her time in the athletic department helping stream football press conferences. It was her earliest experience in digital media, an expansive niche in the industry that has been prominent throughout her career.

She received her first two jobs out of school from the university’s job fair – one as a traffic reporter and producer at WMAQ NBC5 Network in Chicago; the other as a producer and host for Intersport, a sports production company that created short content for Sprint Exclusive Entertainment on flip phones. Immediately working in both news and sports media, she gained unique perspectives and recognized the lack of dichotomy between these two ostensibly contrasting sectors of the industry.

“I think they kind of learn from each other [about] how to collect the right information and what question to ask [while] trying to capture the right emotions of certain stories,” Hubbarth said. “When it comes to that early part of my career, it was just kind of a grind doing traffic and really not knowing where the hell I was going but trying to tell people places to avoid. Then also working [in] sports media at Intersport, [I was] trying to figure out how sports media was changing digitally.”

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Cassidy Hubbarth has been with ESPN since 2010 working on several signature properties most notably the NBA Photo ESPN Press Room

Hubbarth joined Comcast SportsNet Chicago in 2008 working as an associate producer with wide ranging tasks and responsibilities. The movement from optimizing sports stories and information for nonlinear digital platforms to contributing to live television broadcasts gave her a new perspective on the ferocity and efficiency required when working on a deadline.

Additionally, it helped her develop aplomb in these types of situations, burgeoning her overall versatility. She describes it as her “grad. school,” expanding on what she learned and experienced as an undergraduate student at Northwestern University.

“Cutting voiceovers; writing shot sheets; making sure I was on deadline and making sure there were no typos in the scripts for the anchors; these were things that I learned in school,” Hubbarth said. “As far as having the intensity and the pressure of live shows happening, that experience taught me a lot about live TV essentially and all the work that goes into putting together a live broadcast.”

Starting in fall 2009 though, she only worked at the outlet four days of each week, ending each Wednesday by taking a flight from Chicago to Atlanta This was to work her other job overseeing social media for SEC Gridiron Live on Fox Sports South, a studio show previewing the upcoming college football action in the Southeastern Conference. Then she would travel to an SEC school to be among the fans and film “Cassidy on Campus,” a digital segment for the show giving viewers an inside look at the game atmosphere.

“To be exposed to SEC football was a different beast and understanding that fandom and being able to capture that fandom on social media which is really what social media has done for sports fans – it’s allowed them to have a voice and a say basically in the coverage of their teams,” Hubbarth said. “….I created comment sections on our Facebook pages and I was trying to engage with viewers and break down that wall between viewers and our show.”

While she enjoyed the early part of her career working both in front of and behind the camera, Hubbarth always coveted covering basketball and bringing viewers stories to enhance broadcast coverage. It is what enthralled her to sports media in the first place – and she knew ESPN would be just the place to do it. Out of college, Hubbarth had considered applying to join the production assistant program at the network and moving to Bristol, Conn., but instead decided to take opportunities closer to home that allowed her to get on the air.

During her time working at both Comcast SportsNet Chicago and Fox Sports South, Hubbarth felt she had the momentum necessary to move upwards in the industry, perhaps at a national level. Her feelings were validated when she received a call from ESPN inquiring about her interest to join the network as an independent contractor to help develop its digital platforms. Once she auditioned and subsequently landed the job, she moved to Bristol, Conn. within a month and put the wheels in motion to excel in the next chapter of her career.

“It happened quick; it happened fast,” Hubbarth said. “….[I was] basically hosting the simulcast of our college football games and college basketball games on ESPN3 before we had the app. As ESPN was launching their digital streaming network, I was essentially the face of it.”

From her early days at ESPN, Hubbarth established professional relationships with her colleagues and found mentors to help ease the transition in leaving her home market to join a distinctive, national brand. When Hubbarth was young, she found inspiration for watching Erin Andrews and Michele Tafoya work as sideline reporters on NFL broadcasts, reporting on what would otherwise perhaps be concealed storylines.

At ESPN, Stuart Scott, a longtime SportsCenter anchor who passed away from appendiceal cancer in 2015, had a profound impact on Hubbarth and encouraged her through his work ethic and dedication to the craft to endure and chase her dreams.

“I think so many times when I would be talking to him in the hallways at ESPN and he would not be feeling well and dealing with just all the emotions going in his head with his daughters and his health,” Hubbarth said. “He would step on to that studio floor, the light would go on and he would absolutely give it his all until the light went off.

“You could see that it was taking so much out of him, but it was also giving him so much that he took so much pride and so much joy into this business – which is such a gift to be able to do. I try to remind myself of that in times where I’m dragging or not feeling grateful for the opportunity I have.”

After hosting various shows across the network including Highlight Express with Jorge Andres; SportsNation with Christian Fauria and Jarrett Payton; The Word with Jemele Hill and Sarah Spain; and various digital series including This Day in Sports History, College Football 411 and NBA 411, Hubbarth made the move to covering the Association on a full-time basis.

In 2013, then-ESPN NBA coordinating producer Bruce Bernstein gave her the chance to host NBA studio coverage on both NBA Tonight and NBA Coast to Coast. At this stage of her career, Hubbarth was living out her dream – covering basketball nationally and serving as a vital part of the network to guide discussion and debate, informing and entertaining viewers.

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ESPN NBA host and reporter Cassidy Hubbarth has grown into her role with the networks coverage Photo ESPN Images

Over the years, she has worked with various analysts on these programs including P.J. Carlesimo, Chauncey Billups and Ohm Youngmisuk, and helped broaden her skill set on linear programming.

“The NBA is my favorite sport and it’s always been my favorite sport,” Hubbarth said. “….When I look back on my career and I think, ‘What is the time when I was feeling at my best?,’ it was on the NBA Tonight desk.”

Although both shows taped their final episodes in 2016, Hubbarth has continued to find opportunities to appear on the linear side of programming. Over the years, Hubbarth has served as a guest host across ESPN’s programming portfolio on shows including Get Up, First Take and SportsCenter, and has also contributed to Mike & Mike, a discontinued sports talk radio show that featured Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg and was simulcast on ESPN2.

“I’ve hosted basically every single show at ESPN except for NFL Countdown and College GameDay,” Hubbarth said. “I feel confident I can host anything in terms of seriousness or as formal as it needs to be…. I like to have a little bit more fun; have it be a little bit more loose; have it be more casual; more conversational. That’s typically my style.”

Part of that confidence was fostered in 2015 when Hubbarth was assigned to host Baseball Tonight. While she possessed knowledge about the game of baseball growing up as a fan of the Chicago Cubs, it was not her strength. As a result, the initial days hosting the show engendered anxiety resulting in her experiencing eye twitches because she never felt prepared enough for the show, which operated without a rundown.

Thanks to the team of analysts, producers and other ESPN personnel, Hubbarth assimilated into the role and consequently, started to feel increased sanguinity with each repetition.

“It got to a point at the end of the summer where I felt really, really confident that I could handle that desk. I was no Karl Ravech out there – I’m not saying I was good at it – but I think I did a decent job and I think I served the viewers, and I walked away from that experience very proud of myself. If I just work hard, put my mind to it and respect the role, I can do any job they put in front of me.”

Following that summer, in which she simultaneously hosted NFL Insiders and NFL Live, Hubbarth began hosting college football coverage on ESPN and ABC. She also explored the aural space, appearing on the NBA Lockdown podcast with Jorge Sedano and Amin Elhassan and on the first all-female ESPN podcast, The Hoop Collective, on Mondays with Ramona Shelburne and Chiney Ogwumike.

Today, she contributes to both NBA Countdown and NBA Today while covering the Association as a sideline reporter on-site during NBA on ESPN broadcasts.

Whether it has been LeBron James, Luka Dončić or Damian Lillard, Hubbarth has interviewed a countless number of NBA players, coaches and team personnel before, after and sometimes during games. In having this type of access, she strives to enrich viewers with contextual information through enterprising stories and using her journalistic instincts to identify focal points, applying her vast preparation to the specific nature of her job.

“It’s understanding what teams are dealing with and making sure as the game’s going on, how those stories can best be told that compliments the viewing experience and doesn’t distract from it,” Hubbarth said. “That’s always a delicate dance of doing sideline because you can prepare a million stories, but if it’s not in the natural flow of the game, then you’re not really helping the broadcast; you’re just helping yourself.”

The NBA is genuinely a year-round league, piquing interest from consumers whether or not games are happening. Social media is a new content avenue that has given fans unprecedented levels of freedom to curate the content they are exposed to and consume on a daily basis.

Moreover, it has afforded them the chance to consume content related to basketball culture, something that was, for a long time, principally covered through magazines and other sports lifestyle media outlets. Today, the culture of the game has become just as prominent as the games themselves; therefore, consumers are hungry for content pursuant to their interests.

ESPN+ is the company’s direct-to-consumer subscription-based streaming platform, and Hubbarth is a regular part of its NBA coverage hosting various digital shows related to the Association.

Before its launch in the second quarter of 2018, she was hosting shows designed for social media platforms, including SportsCenter on Snapchat and Buckets on Twitter, the latter which was co-hosted by Rob Perez. She also hosted SneakerCenter, a seven-part mini-series on ESPN+ underscoring the influence of sneaker culture in basketball at large.

“There’s so much content outside the lines of the game that it just continues to snowball for NBA fans who just can’t get enough,” Hubbarth said. “I think that’s at the heart of the success and then also the clips that you see on Twitter are easily digestible.”

Starting in 2018, ESPN+ launched Hoop Streams, a live, digital pregame show that takes place on-site supplementing its linear, national broadcast coverage before select matchups. Hubbarth has been the host of the show since its inception and is joined by a rotating cast of the network’s personalities, some of whom include Chiney Ogwumike, Kendrick Perkins, Gary Striewski and Jorge Sedano.

Before the suspension of the 2019-20 NBA season, the show was averaging 1.6 million streams per episode, reaching an all-time high of 2.4 million streams in February 2020.

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Cassidy Hubbarth has hosted virtually every show at ESPN during her run with the company Photo ESPN Images

This season, Hubbarth has helped launch her third digital show with ESPN/ESPN+ in the last five years; this one is called NBA Crosscourt. Co-hosted by Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, the production is pre-recorded and streams on ESPN+ on Wednesdays and Fridays, bringing fans focused digital coverage of the league.

Moreover, the program utilizes ESPN’s coast-to-coast network of NBA contributors to provide viewers with a genuine panorama across the league featuring compendious local and national perspectives tailored to the wide array of fan interests.

“We are following the trends and culture of the NBA – and the culture of talking about the NBA,” Hubbarth said. “….Our main goal is not to inform; it’s to engage. That’s what this show is; it’s just to engage the NBA fan in you who is informed and taking [very] informed viewership to engage with just your excitement about the league.”

Last season, Hubbarth continued working on ESPN’s coverage of the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, an exhibition contest featuring former NBA stars and personalities from the worlds of pop culture, sports and entertainment. She had worked as the event’s sideline reporter and host for many years, but largely interviewed event participants throughout the broadcast. This year, she continued to host coverage but, unlike in years past, provided play-by-play amid conversation with analysts Kendrick Perkins and Richard Jefferson.

“Us having fun on the air watching, I think, kind of breeds hopefully [the] viewers having fun watching it,” Hubbarth said. “That’s the whole point; the whole weekend is just the celebration of the league; a celebration of basketball, and…. I think not taking it [too] seriously is part of the way of being professional about it.”

As Cassidy Hubbarth continues hosting and reporting for ESPN, she looks forward to continuing to pioneer the growing emphasis on digital, direct-to-consumer content taking place throughout the sports media landscape. Launching her career working primarily behind-the-scenes amplified her viewpoint of the industry, and she makes it a point to understand everyone’s roles and the way sports media is changing at large.

“Take a professional approach just to how this business continues to grow because that will give you a leg up as employers are trying to figure out how they can continue to gain new viewers because that’s what everyone is looking for,” Hubbarth said. “….I had a genuine interest in how media was changing digitally. It allowed me to not just ride a wave, but to be a part of the wave.”

BSM Writers

NBC Must Develop a Real No. 2 NFL Crew for Playoffs

Is the network’s only other option Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett?

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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?

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BSM Writers

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.”

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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. 

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BSM Writers

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.”

Demetri Ravanos

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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.

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