College Football Playoff debates can get heated in a hurry. Oklahoma and Georgia have very energetic fan bases. Ohio State fans have shared a spirited opinion or two recently. Sprinkle in some obnoxious UCF logic on top, and poof! You’ve got a radioactive mixture.
Fans can get very passionate/crazy about their team’s postseason standing. It’s important for on-air hosts to remain passionate without becoming crazy themselves.
The playoff committee revealed on Sunday that Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma have each earned a playoff berth. Georgia and Ohio State are the first teams on the outside of the playoff looking in. There are strong arguments to be made for which four playoff teams should be in the mix. Good arguments should be made without getting personal. I didn’t exactly exceed in this area myself a couple of days ago.
Andy Furman and I do a show each Sunday morning on FOX Sports Radio. He was making a point that Georgia should be included in the CFP along with ‘Bama, Clemson, and the Irish. I had a much different opinion. “It’s funny because in the studio, SportsCenter is on right now,” I said. “Kirk Herbstreit has the same four [playoff teams] as you. And you both are idiots with that line of thinking.” I really emphasized idiots too.
As soon as I said it, I thought, “Too much.” I immediately wanted to take it back. It’s almost as if I could see the word “idiots” flowing out of my mouth. I wanted to grab it and put it back before it could be heard. Andy has thick skin and didn’t indicate if it even bothered him in the first place, but it was unnecessary. All it really did was invite anybody who views Georgia as a playoff team to dismiss my opinions.
We live in a country that tends to disregard the other side now more than ever. Back in my online dating days, I was amazed at how many profiles said, “Trump supporters, swipe left.” Not only did those people disregard a different point of view, they wanted no association whatsoever with anyone that thought differently. It wasn’t, “That’s fine you have those views, but I go the other way.” It was, “Get away from me. You have cooties.”
I don’t believe that listeners will disregard a host forever if they view a random Week 14 NFL game differently. However, I do think that being disrespectful to the audience can get you blacklisted. It’s too much to say something like, “You’re a moron and have zero football intelligence whatsoever if you think the Eagles are going to beat the Cowboys.” Insults are over the top. People are more geared these days to move on if they think differently. Why give them added motivation by being nasty?
I’m going to switch banks soon. I’ve been with Wells Fargo since 1996, but Flagstar has bought some of their branches out. My account automatically switched over. I spoke with Wells Fargo and they said I’d have to open a brand new checking account with them here in Portland. I asked about getting the same perk that others receive for opening a new account. If I’m inconvenienced and have to open a brand new account, shouldn’t I receive $200 bucks or whatever it is also?
The girl I spoke with said she didn’t think it applied to me because I’m an existing member. Why would you invite me to leave your bank by not giving me the same perk that someone off the street would get? You’re basically saying, “Maybe check out Chase. They’ll give you cash money over there.”
Inviting and motivating your customers to go somewhere else is a horrible formula. It works the same way in sports radio with how we deliver our views. Why would we motivate our audience to go somewhere else by being disrespectful? There’s a saying that reasonable minds can disagree. Well, the reasonable part is pretty important. We can’t expect our views to be heard and accepted if they are delivered in an unreasonable manner.
Actor Mark Rylance said something once that has always stuck with me. He made a great statement while handing out the award for best supporting actress during the 2017 Oscars. “The thing these films made me remember and think about was the difficulty — something that women seem to be better at than men — of opposing without hatred.” I love the thought of opposing without hatred. Opposing is easy. Leaving out hatred sometimes isn’t, but it’s necessary to be heard.
There is a commercial airing right now that features the Dean Martin song, “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You.” I disagree with the message — I don’t think someone else’s love is required for you to be somebody — but it’s much easier to accept the message because of the way it’s delivered. Dean never said you’re an idiot if you don’t believe this to be true. It isn’t necessary to sing, “You’re nobody ‘til the playoff committee loves you,” while delivering your opinion, but the delivery matters.
Look, I understand this is sports radio, not church. The conversations will rarely be buttoned up as if communion is about to take place. It’s a colorful medium that involves pressing buttons and firing listeners up. It’s fine to playfully say things like, “Did you take your crazy pills again this morning?” We’ve lost when the conversation escalates to, “You’re a bozo. Do you even have a brain?” An opinion isn’t the only thing that matters. The delivery, tone, and wording are all important as well.
We need to push the envelope without going too far. Sometimes we forget about stepping over the line and resemble Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick yelling at each other. The thing is that staying in Belichick’s good graces isn’t essential to Thielen’s paycheck, but staying in our audience’s good graces is essential to our job status. Would you yell at your sports radio boss? No, because you’d be out of a gig. If you yell at your audience, you’ll end up in the same place.
The slogan for Discover is, “We treat you like you’d treat you.” That’s an interesting thought. How many of us would be disrespectful and condescending toward ourselves? Not many. It isn’t fun to be treated that way. It’s senseless to think that treating the audience in the same manner will actually be beneficial.
When somebody shares an opinion that makes zero sense to you, it’s easy to take a cheap shot. Believe it or not, we actually share opinions that make zero sense to others as well. We don’t want to be belittled when that happens. We still want to be respected. Always show others the same respect that you desire. Oppose without hatred.
Grant Cohn’s Trolling of Players is Unacceptable
After an altercation between Javon Kinlaw of the San Francisco 49ers and Grant Cohn, it became clear that Kinlaw was being trolled by a member of the media.
Grant Cohn is a media member who writes for the FanNation 49ers blog on SI.com. He also talks about the team on his YouTube channel, which has over 48,000 subscribers as of noon Thursday. His father, Lowell, was a longtime columnist in the Bay Area.
Javon Kinlaw is a defensive lineman, whom the San Francisco 49ers drafted in the first round despite concerns about the durability of his knee. He played four games last season, his second in the league.
The two were involved in two confrontations this week. The first one occurred off to the side of the 49ers’ practice field. Kinlaw apparently cursed at Cohn and knocked his hat from atop his head. Later in the day, Kinlaw again swore at Cohn, this time after joining a live stream on Cohn’s YouTube channel. (Side note: I have never felt so freaking old as I did while typing that previous sentence.)
OK. That’s my attempt at an absolutely straightforward and objective summary of a situation that scares the hell out of me. Not because a player was mad at a member of the media. I’ve had it happen to me and I’ve seen it happen to others. It’s my opinion that this has been happening for as long as human beings have scrutinized the athletic efforts of other human beings.
What scared me was that I was seeing some version of the future of sports media. A future in which media members behaved like YouTube trolls, acting purposely ridiculous or antagonistic to initiate conflicts that could be turned into more conflicts that would could be gleefully recounted as content for the audience. I thought that because that’s pretty much what Cohn did:https://youtu.be/4Hf9sjBttFY
Cohn essentially bragged about the number of different things he said that may have prompted Kinlaw’s reaction, and you know what? It worked. Kinlaw got mad. He confronted Cohn. Twice. TMZ published a story about it. So did SFGate.com.
This is troll behavior. You know, the online pests who say or do something intended to provoke a reaction, and once they get that reaction, they recount and scrutinize that reaction with an eye toward triggering another reaction. Lather, rinse repeat. Increasingly, entire online media ecosystems consist of nothing more than people who don’t like each other talking about how much they don’t like one another.
I’m not going to pretend this is entirely new in sports media. Sports columnists have been known to make reputations with their willingness to be critical of the home team. A huge part of Skip Bayless’ brand is his unwavering insistence on highlighting Lebron James’ perceived flaws. Stephen A. Smith has engaged in public feuds with players, namely Kevin Durant.
I do see a difference between this and what Cohn did, though. The reaction Bayless and Smith are primarily concerned with is from their audience, not their subjects. The subjects may get mad, but that’s not the primary goal. At least I hope it’s not.
What happens if that is the primary goal? What if someone is offering opinions not because it’s what they really think, but because they want to provoke a response from the subject? Media careers have been built on less.
I don’t know if that’s the case with Cohn. I’ve never talked to him in my life, and even if I had, it’s impossible to know someone’s true intent. But in listening to everything he said AFTER the initial confrontation with Kinlaw, I’m not willing to assume that Cohn was operating in good faith. Here’s how Cohn described the initial confrontation with Kinlaw, which occurred as practice was beginning.
“In the training room, I saw Javon Kinlaw, who is the king of the training room,” Cohn said. “He’s usually in the training room.”
Cohn said the two locked eyes, but were separated by about 70 yards at the time. Kinlaw then walked across the field to where the reporters were gathered. He stood directly behind Cohn.
“So I turn, and I say, ‘Wassup, Mook Dawg?’ “ Cohn said, referencing the nickname on Kinlaw’s Instagram account. “And he doesn’t say anything. And I say, ‘Why are you looking at me like that, Javon?’ “
“And then he said, ‘What are you going to do about it you bitch-ass,’ and then he said one more word that I can’t say,” Cohn said. “And then I turned to face him, and I said, ‘Oh, it’s like that?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, it’s like that.’ And then he knocked the hat off my head.”
OK. Pause. In my experience, when your job is to publicly describe and critique the performance and attitudes of professional athletes, there will be times in which the athletes do not care for your description or your critique. Some of those who are displeased will make their objections known to you.
However, there are two things that are unusual here: First, the fact Kinlaw knocked the hat off Cohn’s head, which is unacceptable. Second, Cohn then posted a video on YouTube to not only talk about what had happened, but state he had been so critical of Kinlaw for so long he wasn’t sure what specifically sparked Kinlaw’s anger.
“Javon, what are you upset about?” Cohn asked toward the end of his video. “Is it the fact that I said you have an 80-year-old knee? Is it the fact that I said that you’re a terrible pass rusher and you’re just a two-down player? Is it the fact that I said the Niners shouldn’t have drafted you and should have taken Tristan Wirfs instead. Is it the fact that I said that you’re unprofessional and immature.
“It escapes me, which of the hundred negative things I’ve said about Javon Kinlaw the last couple of years, moved him to approach me in such a way, but you know what, I applaud Javon Kinlaw for coming to speak to me directly, and I ask you, what do you think Javon Kinlaw is mad about.”
Cohn was trolling Kinlaw. No other word for it.
That night, Cohn was conducting a live stream on YouTube, which Kinlaw joined, while apparently eating dinner, to make declarative statements about the size of Cohn’s genitalia — among other things.
Neither one looked particularly impressive. Not Kinlaw, who was profane and combative with a member of the media, at one point making a not-so-subtle threat. Not Cohn, who asked Kinlaw, “Do you think I’m scared of you, Javon?” He also said, “I don’t even know why you’re mad, Javon.”
I think Kinlaw would have been better off ignoring Cohn. If I was Kinlaw’s employer, I would probably prefer he not log into video livestreams to make testicular comparisons. But honestly, I don’t care about what Kinlaw did. At all. He’s not on a team I root for. He didn’t physically harm anyone. He used some bad words in public.
I am bothered not just by Cohn’s actions, but by some of the reactions to them because of what I think this type of behavior will do to an industry I have worked in for 25 years. Credentialed media members who behave like Cohn did this week make it harder for other media members who are acting in good faith. Preserving access for people like him diminishes what that access will provide for those who aren’t trying to use criticism to create conflict that will become content.
I think Cohn knew what he was doing. In his livestream, before Kinlaw joined, Cohn stated he was not scared because he knew — by virtue of his father’s history in the business — that if Kinlaw had touched him he would potentially be entitled monetary compensation.
By now, it should be pretty apparent how problematic this whole thing is and yet on Thursday, a number of 49ers fans online were sticking up for Cohn as just doing his job. Dieter Kurtenbach, a Bay Area columnist, Tweeted: “Javon Kinlaw does not know that @GrantCohn was built for this.” Built for what? Winning Internet fights? Kurtenbach also deleted a Tweet in which he called Kinlaw “soft.”
Cohn’s father, Lowell, is a former columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle and Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. He promoted the first video his son made on Tuesday:
Sorry, I don’t find it funny because it’s another step down a path in which media members seek reactions at the expense of information. Where they look to make fun of players instead of learning about them. They’ll stop acting like journalists and start acting like the trolls who make their money by instigating a conflict, which they then film: “Jake Paul, reporting live from 49ers practice …”
If that’s the case, thank God I’m about to age out of this business, entirely. I’m 47 years old and I can’t believe there’s anyone in our industry who thinks what Cohn did this week is acceptable.
Media Noise – Episode 75
A new episode of Media Noise is all about reaction. Demetri reacts to the ManningCast’s big win at the Sports Emmys. Danny O’Neil reacts to people reacting to Colin Kaepernick’s workout in Las Vegas and Andy Masur reacts to John Skipper’s comments about Charles Barkley.
Bron Heussenstamm Blends Bleav Advertising with SiriusXM
Bron Heussenstamm, the CEO of the Bleav Podcast Network says blending podcasting advertising with satellite radio’s reach is a victory for both sides.
Last week, the Bleav (pronounced believe) Podcast Network announced a deal with SiriusXM to make all 32 NFL team-specific Bleav pods available on the SXM app. SXM can also air Bleav content on any of its sports channels. Each NFL Bleav show pairs a former player with a host to discuss team issues. Eric Davis, Lorenzo Neal, and Pac-Man Jones are amongst the former players Bleav has signed as talent.
I have hosted a Bleav podcast about Boise State football -the Kingdom of POD. I am usually provided 1-3 advertisers per episode by the network and get paid by the download. My subject matter is regional, so my take-home pay is usually under four figures. I have enjoyed the technical assistance and cross-promotion I receive and I enjoyed meeting Bleav CEO Bron Heussenstamm. Bron is Los Angeles-based, a USC graduate, and founded Bleav in 2018. We discussed the SXM deal, podcast advertising, and the future.
Will the podcast advertisers be carried on the SXM distribution platform?
Yes, Bleav baked-in advertisements and hosts read ads are distributed across all platforms. This enables the host to do their show once through, making it as easy as possible for the hosts and consistent for the advertisers.
How is advertising on Bleav different?
We want to be more than a ‘host read ad’ or a ‘digital insert’ with our advertising partners. When companies work with Bleav shows and talent, those companies can receive our omnichannel of distribution points—podcast platforms, YouTube, socials, streamers, TV, radio, and more. This allows for consistent branding across all platforms: great talent presenting great companies to fans and consumers no matter where they consume content.
What is the growth pattern for podcasts that you see?
The industry trades have presented 400%-800% percent growth over the next ten years. Once the COVID fog lifted, we really saw these gains. Sports are always going to be at the forefront of culture. The increases in all sports sectors have certainly carried into the digital space.
SXM has started with NFL shows but can also air more Bleav content – what does that look like?
We’ve started with our NFL network of 32 team shows hosted by a former player. We’ve kept the door open for our NCAAB, NCAAF, MLB, NHL, Basketball, and Soccer networks. We’re happy for our hosts to be part of such a tremendous company and platform. SiriusXM can continue to amplify its voice and give fans the access and insight only a player can provide.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau-IAB- says podcast revenue grew 72% last year to $1.4B and is expected to grow to $2B this year and double to $4B by 2024. Have you seen similar growth? What is driving the industry now, and what will be the primary cause of growth by 2024?
There is a myriad of reasons for the growth. I‘ll lean into a couple.
At Bleav, we launch and maximize the digital arm of industry leaders. The technology upgrades to allow hosts to have a world-class show — simulcast in both audio and video – from their home has led to an explosion of content. With this, the level of content creators has risen. Having a YouTube, RSS feed, podcast, and more is now part of the brand, right alongside Twitter and Instagram.
If a company wants to advertise on Bleav in Chargers, we know exactly how many people heard Lorenzo Neal endorse their product. We can also safely assume they like the Chargers. The tracking of demo specifics for companies is huge. It’s a fantastic medium to present products to the right fans and consumers.