When a person looks back at their high school yearbook, it can be jarring to see just how much people have changed since those years and where they may be in their lives. Perhaps the student bestowed the senior superlative of most likely to succeed went on to be an overambitious entrepreneur who failed to follow through on ideas, a group of close friends may no longer be on speaking terms, or someone’s dream career may not have panned out the way they wanted it to. Or perhaps everything went according to plan. For Ryan Ruocco, it was a combination thereof.
On one hand, his dream of playing baseball for the New York Yankees never panned out – but his other dream of broadcasting their games has. In fact, it was listed in his yearbook once he completed fifth grade.
Ruocco’s early days are defined by either playing or watching sports, the latter during which he and his father Peter, who retired from working as senior vice president of labor relations for the NFL in 2021, would talk about the broadcasters.
Because of their conversations, Ruocco felt compelled to explore a career behind the microphone composing and performing an auditory score to accompany prominent moments in sports. Play-by-play is an art form to which he has been able to excel because of his understanding of storytelling, effectively being able to captivate viewers during the rising action leading up to the climax – similar to box office hits.
“If you didn’t have ‘The Godfather Waltz’ in the background, many of those scenes are completely different,” Ruocco expressed. “If you didn’t have the ‘Jaws’ music, the shark doesn’t feel as scary. Well, if you don’t have an enthusiastic call on a Kyrie [Irving] buzzer-beater, the moment doesn’t feel as important.”
Remaining close to the energy of the game was a motivating factor for Ruocco to explore a career in sports media, and it led him to attend Loyola University Maryland during his freshman year in college. Even though he did not thoroughly enjoy his time there, he still worked all year to be selected to broadcast on the school’s radio station WLOY-FM. As the year drew to a close, he was given the opportunity to host radio shows, further cementing his genuine enjoyment of broadcasting.
At the same time, he desired to transfer to a college located closer to his hometown of Fishkill, N.Y. and was told by a friend that Fordham University was known for its radio station.
“I went and I met with Bob Ahrens who’s still my mentor to this day at 86 years old,” Ruocco said. “He just made me fall in love with WFUV. I heard that there was the possibility of being a beat writer in the Yankee clubhouse and that thought was just incredible to me and then kind of getting a grasp of the alums that had come through there.”
Ruocco began matriculating at Fordham University in 2005, and although he had to enroll in several foundational courses concentrated in subject matters such as philosophy and science, broadcasting was always his true focus. During his classes, Ruocco would bring his game charts working to memorize names and other information to be prepared for the broadcast. Furthermore, he spent an interminable amount of time with his mentor Ahrens and refined his craft through both feedback and osmosis, centered around adapting and having command throughout a live broadcast.
Eventually, he was given the opportunity to go on the air as a play-by-play broadcaster for Fordham football, baseball and basketball. In the studio, he was the host of One on One, a sports talk show that took live phone calls from listeners. By the time he graduated in 2008, he had many demos to share with prospective employers and was honored as the recipient of the Marty Glickman Award, given to the play-by-play announcer who best exemplifies Glickman’s qualities.
“Once I was on air, I’d do as many games as I could,” Ruocco said. “I just treated every single demo and on-air game like it was the Super Bowl or the NBA Finals or the World Series, and treated the preparation as such. [I] felt like I came out of school much more ready to attack this profession than many people would when they’re first getting out of school because of the resources I had at WFUV.”
While he was still in college, Ruocco landed an internship with the YES Network and sought to differentiate himself by displaying his persistence and work ethic. Additionally, he utilized opportunities to network with on-air talent so they could get to know him and so he could pick their brains. Ruocco undoubtedly stood out by the end of his internship and was subsequently contacted by YES Network Vice President of Production Jared Boshnack as a junior at Fordham University to see if he would be interested in being the broadcast booth statistician for half of the New York Yankees’ home games in 2007.
“I had never done stats but I just decided, ‘Okay, let me figure out how I can best make the broadcast better,’ and I just became obsessed with being great at that,” Ruocco said. “Michael [Kay] loved me in that position and then very shortly asked to get me on every game because I was enhancing the broadcast in that role. Michael took me under his wing; we developed an incredibly close relationship.”
In 2008, Ruocco was the statistician for all the home games and by virtue of being dedicated to the role, started to be recognized for his play-by-play skills. After tuning in to Fordham Rams football on the radio, several YES Network employees, including Kay (a fellow Fordham alumnus), realized it was their colleague Ruocco doing the play-by-play, and they quickly saw great potential for him to grow and announce at a larger scale.
“They were impressed by me and how I sounded at that age,” Ruocco said. “They all kind of separately talked to the powers that be at YES and said, ‘Hey, you got to listen to Ryan.’”
Sports radio had long been a passion of Ruocco’s and was part of the reason why he began working at 1050 ESPN New York in 2008 as a sports update anchor and host of The Leadoff Spot from 5-6 a.m. Before stepping into this role though, he had filled in on various shows for ESPN Radio and anchored ESPN Radio SportsCenter updates, giving him exposure before regularly hosting an hour-long program.
Beginning his career in the world’s number one media market was not intimidating to Ruocco because of the comfort he felt being at home around the teams he had been following as a child. Moreover, he was an avid listener of New York sports radio, giving him an idea of the parlance and pulse of the city allowing him to thrive and succeed in the locale.
“I think what I love about New York is that there is this energy and attention to everything and it’s just completely different than, I think, anywhere else in the world in that regard,” he said. “There’s also the reality that so many key figures in media live in New York, so you just have a greater chance of being heard here.”
Shortly thereafter, he added hosting a midday show to his responsibilities, titled Second Verse with Robin Lundberg, and sought to lean into he and Lundberg’s youth to cultivate a unique on-air sound imbued with optimism and positivity. This was all while being especially cognizant of ensuring to resist becoming infatuated by the culture of “making mountains out of molehills,” predicated by consistent hyperbole.
“It exists because it’s not easy to fill all those hours every single day unless sometimes you overinflate how big a deal certain things are,” Ruocco said. “….If I was going to say, ‘What are the two things we wanted our show to be?,’ it would be smart and fun. I felt like it was that and we ended up having this very loyal, engaged audience with us.”
Developing cohesiveness with Lundberg was facile in nature since he had been Ruocco’s producer prior to co-hosting middays. Once Ruocco began hosting in the afternoons with Stephen A. Smith on 98.7 ESPN New York, the duo took time to learn about one another and created a synergy that attracted listeners to their show, built on authenticity and credibility.
“If you are authentic, people will respect you and you’ll just have a better chance of vibing and bonding on air if you’re just being truly who you are,” Ruocco said. “I think, for the most part, I’ve been able to do that and I think that most co-hosts are going to appreciate and respect that and Robin and Stephen certainly did.”
Maintaining a relationship with listeners is fundamental in sustaining radio programs and accentuating the qualities that make the broadcast medium distinctive. One way of effectively doing that is by having a keen awareness of the audience and discussing what it wants to hear. Essentially, radio personalities endear themselves to listeners and ultimately attempt to become a quotidian part of their schedules. Conversely, if hosts neglect the interests of the audience nor try to interact with them through taking calls or utilizing social media, consumers have plenty of other options.
“There’s an unlimited amount of entertainment out there,” Ruocco said. “….You have to have your finger on the pulse of what a New York sports fan is thinking and feeling each day and not drift too far from that for too long – and then you also just have to be relatable and someone who, I think, people feel like they can hang out with.”
Although Ruocco left 98.7 ESPN New York in 2015 after a stint in which he hosted with Dave Rothenberg and contributed to The Michael Kay Show, he has continued creating aural content, albeit through podcasting rather than live sports radio. When Ruocco was scoreboard hosting during New York Yankees home games at Yankee Stadium beginning in the team’s 2009 championship season, he bonded with all-star starting pitcher C.C. Sabathia.
One day in the Yankees’ clubhouse, Sabathia told Ruocco that they needed to collaborate someday in the future on a project. Fast-forward to 2017 – Sabathia’s antepenultimate season in the major leagues – and the duo launched the R2C2 Podcast with The Players’ Tribune, a media company founded by Derek Jeter focused on allowing athletes to directly communicate with fans.
Since its inception, the podcast has rapidly grown into one of the premier sports podcasts on the market and has been distributed by other platforms over the years. Longevity in a dynamic media marketplace can be hard to find, but Ruocco and Sabathia’s podcast recently celebrated five years thanks not only to the duo’s credibility, but also in the conversations they have and interviews they conduct.
“We have a very embedded fanbase,” Ruocco said. “We both are managing different aspects of our schedules now so that’s a little different when we knew, ‘C.C.’s on the Yankees’ schedule and I’m going to be in this city with him.’ That can be challenging but we’re both still completely dedicated to making sure we get our episode out every Thursday and having these conversations and I think we both still just love it.”
Some of the guests the show has welcomed over the years from the worlds of sports and media include David Ortiz, Ken Rosenthal, Aaron Judge, Sue Bird and the aforementioned Stephen A. Smith. According to Ruocco, many guests remark on how much fun they had doing the show once their segment concludes, proof of the atmosphere the duo has cultivated without “Gotcha” questions or intentionally making a guest uncomfortable.
“C.C. is really special in that he is so authentic; he does not change no matter what audience is in front of him,” Ruocco said. “….[He is] a winner and a champion… who is, I think interestingly, shy and an introvert – which people are always [initially] surprised by and he always jokes about [it] – but then when you actually get to know him, he has this unbelievably powerful and warm personality. I feel like that really disarms people and gives us the best chance to get into things with guests that otherwise maybe we wouldn’t.”
While he was and continues to work in audio, Ruocco primarily is a play-by-play announcer for YES Network and became a member of the Brooklyn Nets’ broadcast team as the backup to Ian Eagle in 2012. In the years preceding that, he had called several college games and filled in on select then-New Jersey Nets games. From the first game he called, Ruocco’s goal was and remains to put a soundtrack to the pictures on the screen, calling signature moments with ostensible aplomb and setting up his analyst, often Sarah Kustok or Richard Jefferson, for success.
“I try [to] paint the picture of the story of the game; highlight the key moments in a way that makes sense to the audience and is enthusiastic and engaged; and then bring out the best of my analyst,” Ruocco said. “If I can do all of those things – and I think that plays in any market – it ends up standing out just because you’re trying to make sure you’re doing the game justice; not because you’re trying to stand out.”
Over the years with YES Network, Ruocco has been on the call for a countless number of big games, including the largest comeback in Brooklyn Nets franchise history when they defeated the Sacramento Kings 123-121 in March 2019. It was Ruocco’s fourth game in his fourth different city in four nights and despite being fatigued, was able to muster enough energy and flamboyance in his calls to propagate the magnitude as to what had occurred.
“Sarah [Kustok] and I [called] that game and [I] literally [stood] up getting into the calls going full fist-pump,” Ruocco reminisced, “not because I was necessarily celebrating the moment, but just that’s what it took to get every ounce out of my voice.”
Ruocco has also been behind the microphone for New York Yankees games on YES Network, filling in for Michael Kay including when Kay had vocal-cord surgery in July 2019. Earlier that year, he had filled in for longtime Yankees’ radio voice John Sterling on WFAN, ending a streak of 5,060 consecutive Yankees games Sterling had called so he would be ready for the second half of the season.
This past season amid Aaron Judge’s chase towards the American League single-season home run record, Ruocco was again filling in for Sterling on WFAN amid a rotation of play-by-play announcers including Rickie Ricardo, Justin Shackil and Brendan Burke. Ruocco was scheduled to call the Yankees’ late-season series against the Toronto Blue Jays, however, he willingly stepped aside to allow Sterling the chance to call the record-breaking home run. While Judge did not break the record until the next week against the Texas Rangers, it was in Toronto where he tied the record, previously held by Roger Maris (61).
Calling a baseball game vastly differs from basketball largely because of the pace of the action. In baseball, Ruocco estimates he is only calling play-by-play for 10 to 12 minutes over the course of the game, and conversing and engaging his analyst(s), discussing storylines or sharing anecdotes over the rest of the broadcast, which usually spans, at the very least, three hours.
“The analogy my mentor used to [use] is, ‘Baseball’s like a rocking chair where you’re leaning back, telling the story and then at the moment of the pitch, you lean forward with engagement,’” Ruocco said. “….Whereas basketball and football are a little similar in that they have a more defined cadence of action and you’re not necessarily waiting.”
When Ruocco was hosting afternoons with Stephen A. Smith, he remembers Smith being one of the people to ask executives at ESPN why they did not have Ruocco doing play-by-play. Ruocco believes Smith’s words made them pay attention to his skillset more, and eventually he was given the chance to call NBA games on the network.
“Nationally – you’re going to be equally excited for both teams [while] locally, you’re going to be excited no matter what for big plays,” Ruocco said. “Of course [for] the local team whose regional network you’re on, you’re going to give a little more juice to in their big moments than an opponents’ on a local broadcast.”
Ruocco frequently broadcasts NBA on ESPN games during the regular season, recently calling the Christmas Day matchup between the Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks with J.J. Redick and Cassidy Hubbarth. Since 2013, he has been the lead voice of the WNBA on ESPN, working with Rebecca Lobo, Holly Rowe and Andraya Carter to punctuate moments that have fueled the growth of the league, such as Game 5 of the 2018 WNBA Semifinals between the Seattle Storm and Phoenix Mercury and last year’s WNBA Finals between the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks.
“My role is to call the games with the enthusiasm and credibility that the league deserves,” Rucco said. “My hope is that if someone is tuning in to the WNBA for the first time and they don’t know exactly what to expect and… they hear a broadcast that sounds elevated and sounds engaged and energetic; enthusiastic. They [would] say to themselves, ‘Oh, this is legit,’ because the basketball very much is and that’s how the broadcast should be as well.”
In addition to his work on presentations of NBA and WNBA basketball on ESPN/ABC, Ruocco has also called college football games on the network and NFL games on its radio platform. As it pertains to basketball though, he had the chance to call the NCAA Final Four as the lead play-by-play announcer for women’s college basketball, a role he was named to in late-2020 by ESPN. He continues to work with Lobo and Rowe, sustaining the chemistry they have formed working WNBA games while seeking to highlight the next generation of basketball stars.
“Feeling the magnitude of the event [and] walking out to the arena floor at Target Center before the championship game between UConn and South Carolina and just really feeling how big it was [is] something I’ll always remember,” Ruocco said.
Preparing for a live game broadcast at the national level vastly differs from doing so locally because of the amount of information and “catching up” broadcasters need to do so they can appeal and relate to viewers. Whether it is reading articles compiled from local publications and sent out each morning by Thomas Kintner; or listening to podcasts from the “Locked On Podcast Network” specifically focused on each individual NBA team, Ruocco is able to extrapolate information that he can use for the broadcast and add to his game boards.
A perk to broadcasting national games is the ability to speak with the coaches from each team as well, learning information – some of which is told on the condition of deep background – that can be used to formulate more cogent, erudite opinions.
“I think the key to doing a national game is not sounding like you’re parachuting in,” Ruocco expressed. “You need to sound like you have your finger on the pulse of what’s been happening with that team because any fan that watches that team regularly is going to sniff out you not really knowing what’s going on with their team very quickly.”
Evidently, Ruocco always wants to be improving at his craft and emphasize signature moments in order to do them justice. While he is hesitant to mention any specific positions he covets and just how he wants his career to evolve, being inducted as a broadcaster into a professional sports Hall of Fame is a goal he hopes to achieve by its conclusion.
“I think that’s such a cool, amazing honor for broadcasters and really what it ends up being is somebody who’s been an ambassador for a league for an incredible period of time,” Ruocco said. “That’s something I hope someday long down the road I have the opportunity to do.”
A piece of advice his mentor Ahrens was told by Vin Scully that was previously told to Scully by Red Barber was that the only thing you can take from the broadcast booth is yourself. Those words were passed down to Ruocco, and he tries to manifest them every time he authors the script of the game. Having the propensity to meet the moment has been with him from the beginning though; he is likely one in a small percentage to accurately predict his career in his fifth grade yearbook.
“Being an imitation or a knock-off of anybody else is always going to mean you’re only ever second-best,” Ruocco expressed. “The way you do your best work is by being totally and genuinely yourself. That’s something I always try and remember.”
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.