As he steps in front of the camera on FOX NFL Sunday, Jay Glazer has always expected to suffer from a panic attack. Oftentimes, he finds his heart starting to beat quickly, his hands shaking and his eyes darting back and forth amid a feeling of the walls caving in. Yet he has found a way to wrestle with his condition, which he refers to as his “abuser” in order to “live in the gray,” a term he uses to indicate finding ways to succeed amid living with mental illness, including anxiety, depression, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Glazer has sought to give a voice to the voiceless through his work, a critical reason he released his best-selling book “Unbreakable: How I Turned My Depression and Anxiety into Motivation and You Can Too” earlier this year. Shortly thereafter, he began a mental health podcast entitled Unbreakable with Jay Glazer in which he welcomes guests and discusses how to thrive when struggling with one’s mental health.
The show, which is an extension of the book and releases new episodes on Wednesdays, recently welcomed former competitive swimmer and Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps. The decorated athlete revealed his struggles with mental health over the years – including overdosing on medication following his second DUI – compelling Glazer to reveal a difficult moment he experienced in the past.
“I punched myself in the head when I [was] melting down,” Glazer said. “We put this out there and the next day, somebody reached out and DMed us saying that that saved their life…. Those messages are coming in by the week now.”
Discussing mental health is a difficult task for many who suffer from it, but is an important part of disseminating the message that no one is alone and that there are people to talk to. Since more openly talking about his struggles with mental health, Glazer has found himself experiencing fewer panic attacks when he goes on the air. When he does, he immediately tells his colleagues Curt Menafee and Howie Long in order to try to get over it, as he is unable to stop to drink water or do breath work while he is on the air.
“Every person I’ve ever talked to about [mental health] – it’s gotten me closer to them,” Glazer stated. “My people are The Rock, Michael Strahan, Randy Couture – these are the baddest dudes on the planet and none of them have ridiculed me for it. It’s gotten us closer. Open up to show you have more in common with people.”
Through his love for the game of football and success in sports media, Glazer has built a platform to spread his message regarding mental health and become a respected voice in the sports media. His relationships both as an NFL insider for FOX Sports and as a mental health advocate are built in trust and openness – and his career has helped establish his credibility and allowed him to be of service to those who yearn for assistance.
“Without the power of football, I wouldn’t have the forum to be able to do this,” Glazer said. “No one’s questioning my manhood because of that. I can be more vulnerable; I can cry openly; I can tell people when I’m struggling. No one’s going to call me a woosy; no one’s going to tell me to suck it up. You’re not questioning my manhood so I’m able to talk about it a lot more.”
Glazer matriculated at Pace University where he concentrated in speech communications and media studies. As a native of Manalapan, N.J., he wanted to remain in the New York metropolitan area so he could pursue internships and gain early professional experience in sports media. In the early 90s, he was one of the first interns at WFAN and affirms he only landed the internship because he had worked hard in his pursuit of a career – trying his hand at bartending, boxing, bouncing and performing as a standup comedian as an undergraduate student. He also worked at CBS Sports logging tape and was paid $50 per game, an early indication of his earnest determination to find a path to success.
“I was relentless,” he said. “I won’t get one internship; I’ll get four. I won’t get one job; I’ll get seven. I know what my limitations are. I didn’t go to a big school like everybody else and kind of get the experience…. I had to learn on the fly, but that’s what college did for me.”
Upon his graduation, he worked with the National Football League’s New York Giants’ official magazine called Giants Extra in which he covered the team and wrote stories about its players. From the start, he looked to be personable and professional in the locker room and was cognizant of not having the same experience as some of the other reporters. As a result, he possessed an indefatigable attitude regarding the way in which he would approach his job, seeking to outwork everyone else by a large degree.
Being able to put in 100 hours per week trying to break stories, however, would have been much more difficult if not for a friendship he cultivated from his early days in East Rutherford, N.J.
“My first friend I ever made in 1993 was this goofy guy from Germany in Michael Strahan,” he said. “He and I just grasped on to each other and I was so broke back then, I didn’t have enough money to take a Subway to the bus to Giants Stadium every day and back. Michael drove me into the city every single day from ‘93 to ‘99. It was like $28,000 in Lincoln Tunnel tolls.”
After the Giants Extra magazine ceased operations, Glazer began covering the New York Jets and New York Giants for NY1-TV, a local cable news channel, making $450 a year paid in three equal installments. When appearing on his On The Sidelines segment and on the network as a whole, he sought to build a rapport with both team personnel and viewers to gain their trust.
“I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to be a relationship guy,’” Glazer recalls thinking. “‘I’m going to start relationships.’ I kind of have more in common with the players than I did with my fellow media and I got killed for it for a while.”
At the same time, Glazer was desperately trying to land a full-time job but experienced immense amounts of rejection. Over the first seven years of his career, Glazer was not paid a salary but continued to persist through the difficult circumstances. He constantly had the gas in his apartment turned off and struggled to pay his rent and electricity bills; yet his approach was obstinate in that he would outwork all of those around him to break every story he could.
“When I walked in that Giants locker room early on, I was like, ‘I will be the last dude standing in here. I don’t care what it takes,’” Glazer expressed. “Whoever says ‘Quitting is not an option’ is a moron because it’s the easiest option in the world; you could do it every day.”
Glazer began covering the NFL on a part-time basis for The New York Post in a career move that perturbed several of his other sports reporting colleagues. At the time, reporters did not generally cross over and work in multiple mediums, but Glazer was adamant that other people would not tell him how to best provide for himself.
Glazer was not only responsible for reporting and writing the piece, but also selling it. If he was unable to do so, the story would not be posted by his editor Greg Gallo, and Glazer would lose out on the $250 he was paid per piece. The most he recalls being paid in a year working both of those jobs was approximately $9,000. In 1996, Glazer spent a summer in Albany, N.Y. working on a weekly three-hour radio show WQBK with Sandy Penner and was compensated in gift certificates to local restaurants.
“When I was at The New York Post, I had a big story that the Jets were trading Keyshawn Johnson,” Glazer said. “That came out of left field and I got no sleep that night; I couldn’t wait for it to hit the back pages…. I’m riding the Subway a lot [and] your stories on the back page of the newspapers. [That was] pretty damn cool, but that was it.”
Over the years, Glazer began gaining more experience on television, hosting both Inside the Red Zone and Unnecessary Roughness on MSG Network and appearing as a studio analyst on the New York Giants pregame show on Fox 5 New York. Additionally, he began to break a large plethora of news stories, leading him to get noticed by CBS Sports and ultimately joined the network in 1999 in his first full-time job making $50,000 a year. It was very much a validation for the hard work he put in early in his career and led to his making appearances on The NFL Today and across network programming.
While working at CBS Sports, Glazer trained and competed in mixed martial arts, sometimes fighting on a Saturday night and appearing with little to no blemishes on television the next day. When Glazer officially joined FOX Sports in 2004 though, he showed up to his first day of work with a broken rib and cuts on his face, leading network boss David Hill to tell him to cease competition in mixed martial arts.
He abided by the decision, but the thought of losing his fight team was quite difficult for him. Glazer’s passion and expertise of the sport led him, along with Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell, to begin a training program for professional athletes. NFL teams, including the Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns and New Orleans Saints, began calling on Glazer to train their players in the combat sport, and the program has since trained thousands with their methodology.
The success of his training program, along with the difficulty he faced in working out in public gyms and subsequently being videotaped and judged on social media, inspired Glazer to open the Unbreakable Performance Gym in West Hollywood, Calif. The facility has attracted the likes of celebrities including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Wiz Khalifa, Demi Lovato, Snoop Dogg and Sylvester Stallone, along with a countless number of athletes who have all sought to gain something through being immersed in the Unbreakable Mindset.
The gym was intentionally built without mirrors to encourage trainees to leave their egos at the door and work together as a team, prioritizing congeniality and healthy maintenance of both physical and mental health.
“If you have a team and a community that are all training there with you, our whole thing is like, ‘We’re going to train together in here, but we’re going to walk this walk together out there and you’re going to have a team out there.’”
Glazer’s deal to join FOX in 2004 was to cover both the NFL and UFC mixed martial arts, but the network lost the UFC media rights during his second week. As a result, the network created a national mixed martial arts show and tabbed Glazer to host the Pride Fighting Championships from Saitama, Japan.
When the UFC media rights were re-acquired by FOX Sports in 2011, Glazer contributed to the network’s coverage hosting pre-fight and post-fight coverage on the network. In 2018, he signed on with Bellator MMA where he continued covering the combat sport both in the broadcast booth on Paramount Network and on the promotion’s digital platforms.
Breaking news is very much a 24-hour, seven day a week ordeal – and with the advent of social media, its dissemination occurs more rapidly than ever before. During his early days on the network, he appeared across FOX Sports Net’s regional sports networks and original programming including Totally Football, the Ultimate Fantasy Football Show and The Best Damn Sports Show Period.
Additionally, he provided breaking news to FOX NFL Sunday, the network’s pregame show which, at the time, featured Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson, along with host James Brown. Some of the breaking news included the disappearance and resulting suspension given to former Oakland Raiders center Barrett Robbins after he was not able to be found the day before Super Bowl XXXVIII; the subpoena of 10 NFL players as part of the BALCO investigation; and the return of Joe Gibbs to return to coach Washington for a second time in 2004.
In 2007, Glazer was moved to FOX NFL Sunday permanently as its NFL insider and just two weeks into the new job, he broke one of the most impactful stories of his career. He had obtained exclusive video footage of the New England Patriots illicit recording of the New York Jets’ defensive signals and aired it on the show, resulting in the commencement of a league investigation and hefty penalties levied on Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and the team.
Since then, he has continued to bring viewers stories and interviews, including Plaxico Burress shooting himself in the leg in 2008; Jay Cutler discussing why he wanted to be traded from the Denver Broncos; and the resolution of collective bargaining negotiations that nearly canceled the 2011 NFL season. These large news stories do not represent all of the information he has obtained though since some of it is off-the-record or on deep background.
“As an insider – at least for me – I put out a very, very, very, very small percentage of what I’m told because if somebody tells me it’s off-the-record, I honor that,” he said. “If somebody says, ‘Hey, you can’t use this but…,’ you can’t use that. It’s also information you have [so] as I’m telling a story I know what’s true and what’s not.”
Glazer ensures his stories are correct, as he is focused on being accurate in the information he obtains and presents by triangulating sources. When FOX Sports broke the story of the jersey then-New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had donned when he won Super Bowl LI, it had been held for a few additional weeks to confirm the information was correct.
“I have missed out on way more stories than I’ve broken because I’ve waited for the third source,” Glazer said. “The reason why I do three sources is if I just talk to two guys, one of them may have told the other one [and] then it’s really just one source…. I get really, really, really conservative making sure I have three independent sources on everything. That’s me. Other people may not have that same penchant for accuracy; I always have.”
A large majority of sports news is initially reported on Twitter by top industry insiders, such as Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Adam Schefter of ESPN and, for several years, Glazer. He does not run his own Twitter account because of the detrimental effects he has seen it have on his own temperament and those around him.
“When we got bullied on the playground growing up, it sucked for a month,” Glazer explained. “Now we’re seeing hate a thousand times a second and I don’t think the human condition is meant for that. When you used to break a story, you used to tweet it and eventually I said, ‘I don’t work for Twitter; I work for FOX. So I’m going to break my stuff on FOX; not on Twitter.’”
The platform, which is now owned and operated by Elon Musk, has inexplicably altered the way people communicate with one another. In fact, one time after a Conor McGregor fight, a fan approached Glazer and told him that he hated UFC, only to later reveal he was lying just so he could have a conversation with Glazer – acting like the conversation was taking place through a computer screen instead of being face-to-face.
“People talk to you now the way they tweet at you, and it’s not culture; it’s not okay,” Glazer said. “Where I used to kind of bask in breaking stories on Twitter, I now tend to hardly look at it because it’s more important that I take care of what’s between my ears.”
Glazer considers himself as being part of a family on FOX NFL Sunday and spends time with the cast of the show outside of the studio both during the season and during the offseason. On the show, Glazer brings fans original reporting and stories informing them about the latest around the world of professional football.
“We’re so different,” Glazer said. “We’re kind of like the first family of football. People are now watching it with grandkids and introducing their grandkids to us. It’s pretty damn cool and our ratings have never been higher.”
Some of the stories he has broken on FOX NFL Sunday include the New England Patriots violating league rules in filming the Cincinnati Bengals sideline 2019, the trade of Odell Beckham Jr. from the New York Giants and the inevitable exit of Jim Harbaugh as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. He has a stellar track record in getting stories factually accurate and effectively reporting them to his audience and was named “Media Person of the Year” by Sports Illustrated in 2007.
In addition to his television work, which has also included contributions to NFL Network, Spike TV and regular appearances on HBO’s Ballers series along with his stint writing for The Athletic, he and Nate Boyer founded the Merging Vets and Players Foundation (MVP): a non-profit organization that looks to match combat veterans with former professional athletes.
Its goal is to ease their transition into everyday life, giving them a direct teammate and a network of people going through the same transition for which they can reach out for assistance. The charity and building his mental health awareness brand, along with his work as an NFL insider, are Glazer’s genuine passions in life, and it helps him combat his own hardships as he tries to destigmatize mental health and spark an ongoing conversation.
“My levels of depression and anxiety are so bad,” Glazer said. “I’m feeling some of it but I’m working with my therapist to be able to really feel it even more because I’ve never felt worthy of praise or part of my mental health issues tells me I’m not worth being loved. I don’t know how to love myself from the inside out and I always feel like the universe hates me and it’s crashing down around me. It’s an everyday thing in my life.”
FOX has been supportive towards Glazer’s outside endeavors, inviting him to speak to the company about mental health and purchasing 1,500 copies of his book to distribute to employees. Glazer knows he has a significant contribution to make to the world that far exceeds the bounds of professional football and encourages those struggling with mental health to be open about it and find ways to withstand its associated burdens.
“Now I’m doing a lot of speaking engagements around this and traveling the country and speaking to different businesses and groups,” Glazer said. “I had a 16-year-old girl come to one of the events recently to tell me she started attempting suicide at 14. She’s now 16, and my book has changed her life and she won’t try it again. That’s way bigger than any story I could ever break, and it’s pretty damn cool.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health matters, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 (or 800-273-8255) to connect with a trained counselor, or visit the NSPL website.
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, he serves as the production manager for the New York Islanders Radio Network and lead sports producer at NY2C. He has also worked on live game broadcasts for the Long Island Nets and New York Riptide. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks and wrote for The Long Island Herald. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
NBC Must Develop a Real No. 2 NFL Crew for Playoffs
Is the network’s only other option Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett?
Several years ago, the NFL objected to NBC wanting to employ Mike Tirico as the lead play-by-play voice for its Thursday Night Football broadcasts. The league preferred Al Michaels because he was NBC’s No. 1 NFL play-by-play announcer and wanted the TNF telecasts to carry the same prestige as Sunday Night Football.
Following the network’s heavily-criticized broadcast of Saturday’s Wild Card playoff game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL may want to impose its authority again and insist that a top-tier broadcast team call the action of an important postseason game.
The consensus among fans and media watching Saturday’s broadcast was that Michaels and analyst Tony Dungy were surprisingly low-energy for an NFL playoff game, let alone one that became so exciting with Jacksonville rallying from a 27-0 deficit for a 31-30 victory on a last-second field goal.
Such a lackluster broadcast led to questions of whether or not Michaels was now past his prime after a season of calling subpar TNF games for Amazon and what initially appeared to be another snoozer when the Jaguars fell behind by 27 points. Pairing him with Dungy, who was a studio analyst all season, certainly didn’t help.
Dungy was as basic as a game analyst could be, typically narrating replays viewers could see for themselves while adding little insight. Worst of all, he demonstrated no enthusiasm for the action, leaving Michaels to fill most of the airtime. The veteran broadcaster showed that he can no longer carry a broadcast by himself. He needs the energy and back-and-forth that Cris Collinsworth or Kirk Herbstreit provide.
So how did NBC get here?
Most football fans know that the network’s top broadcast team is Tirico on play-by-play alongside analyst Cris Collinsworth. But they had their own assignment during Super Wild Card Weekend, calling Sunday night’s Ravens-Bengals match-up. With the postseason field expanding from 12 to 14 teams, resulting in six games being played on Wild Card weekend, NBC was awarded one of the additional playoff broadcasts.
Thus, another broadcast team was needed for that second Wild Card game. Fortunately, NBC had a renowned play-by-play man already in place. Michaels finished out his final season as SNF‘s lead voice by calling Super Bowl LVI, part of a powerful one-two combination for NBC Sports coming toward the end of its 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics coverage.
Ending his legendary career with a Super Bowl broadcast would’ve been a wonderful final note for Michaels. That appeared to be a natural path when Tirico moved from ESPN to NBC in 2016. Network executives admitted that a succession plan was in mind for Tirico to take over SNF eventually. At the time, Michaels also likely thought he would retire by then.
But when confronted with the possibility of retirement, Michaels realized he wasn’t interested. He was still enjoying broadcasting the NFL. His skills were still sharp. And perhaps most importantly, he was in demand. Amazon wanted Michaels as the lead voice for its Thursday Night Football broadcasts, bringing instant credibility to a streaming venture that drew some skepticism. ESPN considered him as its Monday Night Football play-by-play man.
As it turned out, ESPN made a bold move for MNF, swiping Fox’s No. 1 NFL crew of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. That left Amazon for Michaels, and the streaming giant paid him a commensurate salary with the top broadcasters in the industry as part of his three-year contract.
Yet Michaels wasn’t done with NBC either. After his agreement with Amazon became official, NBC announced that its relationship with Michaels would continue in an “emeritus” role allowing him to broadcast the network’s Olympics coverage and that additional Wild Card playoff telecast.
NBC can’t have been happy that most of the social media chatter afterward focused on the broadcast, rather than the game result. Especially when the discussion centered on how poorly Michaels and Dungy performed in what turned out to be a thrilling playoff game. That’s a pairing that the NFL probably doesn’t want to see again.
Michaels will likely call at least one more Wild Card playoff game for NBC since he intends to work on the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics. He’s also under contract with Amazon for another two seasons unless he decides to retire before that deal expires. So perhaps the simple solution is keeping Dungy out of the broadcast booth and giving Michaels a better partner.
But can NBC drop in another analyst who hasn’t worked with Michaels all season? Anyone would arguably be an improvement over Dungy. Is it at all possible for Herbstreit to be hired on for a one-off playoff broadcast, thus ensuring that the broadcast team will have some on-air familiarity and chemistry?
Otherwise, NBC’s only other option may be its Notre Dame broadcast team of Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett. (The network tried that last season with Tirico and Drew Brees, only for Brees to wilt under the harsher NFL playoff spotlight.)
The pair also called USFL broadcasts for the network, so at least there would be familiarity rather than trying to figure each other out during a telecast. Yet Collinsworth and Garrett aren’t terribly popular with viewers. And as with Brees, that crew will face intense scrutiny with a larger playoff audience.
Unfortunately, NBC appears to be stuck here. Unless the new Big Ten broadcast team of Noah Eagle and Todd Blackledge gets a shot. That might be the best option! Other than Notre Dame or USFL games, where are the other opportunities for NBC to develop a No. 2 NFL broadcast team? No one wants to put Al Michaels through Chris Simms in the broadcast booth, right?
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Al Michaels Has Options But He Has To Make a Choice
“It does all of us in the sports industry well to remember 99% of our audience would gladly trade places with us.”
I don’t ask much out of game announcers; get excited when appropriate, get the simple information correct, don’t get so caught up in your shtick you put yourself above the game. Al Michaels has been doing all those things well for the better part of half a century and few would argue that he’s not one of the best to ever do it. That doesn’t mean he can’t lose his fastball.
Before you read any longer, I am not here to say Al Michaels has lost his fastball. What I am here to say is Michaels has all too often this season seemed upset with and disinterested in the game he is calling. That isn’t entirely surprising when you consider some of the Thursday night action he called on Amazon Prime where the average margin of victory was almost nine points per game.
On top of that, the Amazon schedule had a dreadful two week stretch with Colts 12-9 win over the Broncos in Week Five and the Commanders 12-7 win over the Bears the next Thursday. It was in that Broncos-Colts game Michaels asked Herbstreit if a game “can be so bad it is good?” Herbstreit’s answer was “No”, by the way. It was the full 15 game schedule that Michaels told The Athletic’s media critic Richard Deitsch was like trying to sell a used car.
All of that is fine, the inaugural Amazon Prime season was not a smashing success. The streaming giant missed audience projections and will lose advertising revenue because of it. The lackluster schedule did not help that. But Michaels was given a second life; he was the NBC play-by-play announcer for the Saturday Night Wildcard Playoff game between the Chargers and Jaguars. It initially looked like Michaels might be the problem as five first half Jags turnovers had them in a 27-0 hole. But the home team staged a nearly unprecedented comeback for the win.
It was the performance by Michaels and, to a lesser degree, his analyst Tony Dungy that has led to criticism. Criticism might be too soft of a word, Michaels was roundly dragged for his lack of enthusiasm during the comeback and specifically on his call of the Jacksonville game winning field goal. The enthusiasm of the call of the game winner had a mid-3rd quarter of week four feel to it.
Me telling Al Michaels how to do play-by-play of an NFL game would be the equivalent of me telling a physicist how to split an atom. So, this isn’t just a Michaels criticism, few things bother me more than hearing a game announcer complain about the length or quality of a game as if he’d rather be anywhere else. It does all of us in the sports industry well to remember 99% of our audience would gladly trade places with us.
How many NFL viewers would sit in the seat Michaels, or any NFL announcer occupies, for free? They’d feel like they won the lottery if they also were getting the money those announcers are getting paid to be there. The guy that works a 12-hour Thursday construction shift just to get home and crack a beer for the NFL game probably doesn’t want to hear how tough that game is to announce.
On top of all of that, Michaels was given the gift of one of the wildest NFL Playoff comebacks you’ll ever see and, at times, sounded as if he was completely disinterested in being there. Pro tip: the best NFL announcer in those moments is Kevin Harlan (see: Miami at Baltimore from earlier this season. That has nothing to do with my lifelong Dolphins fandom). Michaels’ lack of enthusiasm was compounded by the exact opposite from Mike Tirico on the very same network for the Bengals-Ravens Wildcard game Sunday night.
Tirico, like Michaels, has a sterling resume of play-by-play accomplishments. The difference is Tirico sounded like he was having the time of his life on Sunday night.
To be fair, their two styles are different. Michaels has a very old school, Pat Summerall approach. Summerall, Vin Scully and Dick Enberg came along at a time when announcers were far more likely to let the pictures tell the story. More new school guys like Harlan and Tirico approach it differently.
Look, Al Michaels helped us believe in miracles. His place in the Sports Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame has long since been cemented. Being a hall of fame inductee doesn’t mean your style will forever be accepted by the masses. That leaves you with a few options; you can continue your style and accept or ignore the criticism or you can ride off into the sunset and enjoy the fruits of your decades of labor.
Al Michaels has what we all want; great options. He can choose any of them and be a winner in the game of life. It doesn’t matter if he enthusiastically embraces them, or not.
Ryan Brown is a columnist for Barrett Sports Media, and a co-host of the popular sports audio/video show ‘The Next Round’ formerly known as JOX Roundtable, which previously aired on WJOX in Birmingham. You can find him on Twitter @RyanBrownLive and follow his show @NextRoundLive.
Bernie Kosar Was the Victim of a Policy That Doesn’t Work Anymore
“The NFL has bigger fish to fry than Bernie Kosar. Hell, it has more pressing issues in Cleveland alone.”
One week ago, Bernie Kosar lost his job on the Browns Radio Network for placing the first legal sports bet in the state of Ohio. Kosar, just like Jets coach Miles Austin weeks earlier and Calvin Ridley last year, violated a league policy that forbids team employees from placing a bet on any NFL game.
The integrity of the games still matters. The belief that what we are all seeing is being fairly contested is what gives those of us that like to have a little vested interest in the outcome the desire to lay our money down in the first place. I get the league’s discomfort with a coach on the staff of a team in the middle of the playoff hunt making bets. I get its fear of the message it sends to have players making bets.
Roger Goodell and the 32 team owners are well within their rights to object to men that can potentially control the outcome of a game or postseason seeding doing anything that even appears to jeopardize its fairness. Even perceived impropriety can compromise the league’s tremendous value.
But Bernie Kosar doesn’t have that kind of influence on the outcome of a game. He is just a broadcaster and not even a game analyst. He is part of studio coverage.
I am far from the first to point this out, but in 2023, the NFL has three official sports betting partners. Just last week, it approved the first ever in-stadium sportsbook, which Fanatics is set to open inside of FedEx Field. If the NFL is comfortable enough with the reality that its fans like to bet to make those things a reality, then Kosar losing his gig is absurd. It is the result of nothing other than “well, that’s the way we’ve always done it” thinking.
Maybe Kosar was terrible on the radio and the team was looking for a reason to move on. I don’t live in Cleveland and I am not a Browns fan, so I have no idea.
How many times have we heard that NFL owners hired Goodell to “protect the shield”? I’m not even really sure what it means or when it applies anymore. If I had a vested interest in the public perception of the league, I know that I would want someone to do the PR math on this situation.
Bernie Kosar isn’t an addict that can’t watch a game without the high of winning or the emotional distress of losing everything at stake, at least not as far as we know. This was a bet made through an advertising partner, to benefit charity. He even said on his podcast this week that the purpose of making the bet was to generate some money for former players in need of help.
This is like Disney threatening daycare centers with lawsuits for painting Mickey Mouse on a classroom wall. The NFL has bigger fish to fry than Bernie Kosar. Hell, it has more pressing issues in Cleveland alone.
Surely you have seen Garrett Bush’s impassioned rant on the Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show about the obstacles facing Damar Hamlin because of how many hoops the NFL makes former players jump through in order to get some kind of pension.
On January 2, we were all united in our concern for a guy that hadn’t even completed his second full NFL season. We didn’t know if he was going to live, but if he did, we all knew that the NFL had done everything it needed to in order to protect itself from ever having to pay a dime for his medical care. Less than a week later, Bernie Kosar was fired for what amounted to a charity stunt that was meant to raise money and attention to very similar issues.
At both the league level and the team level, there was incompetence that lead to a man unnecessarily losing a gig and to the Browns and the NFL looking horribly out of touch with reality.
Are we acknowledging that people gamble or not? Are we acknowledging there are responsible ways to bet on football and are interested in generating revenue off of it or not? Because it doesn’t seem to me that the same league that just gave the thumbs up to open a sportsbook inside of a stadium is really that concerned with people that cannot affect the outcome of games betting on those games.
Has the NFL come out and said that it is going to cover every medical bill for everyone that has ever played the game? We know that this is a brutal game that leaves a physical and physiological impact on the men that played it. Why would we make it harder for someone that knows that pain to help others do something about it?
I feel awful for Bernie Kosar. Whether he needs the money or not, it is embarassing to be at the center of a controversy like this, particularly because in the NFL in 2023, there is no reason for a controversy like this to exist.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.