A scary scene took place at Minute Maid Park last Wednesday. Chicago Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. hit a sharp line drive down the left-field line against the Houston Astros. The foul ball struck a four-year-old girl who was taken to a nearby hospital for precautionary reasons. Almora actually cried during the game and was visibly shaken while talking to reporters afterward as he feared for the well-being of the young child.
At first I thought that Almora had a job to do and needed to pull it together in spite of the ugly situation. Although that’s true, it goes much deeper than that. I later thought about how much better off we’d be as a country if we all cared as deeply about people we don’t even know. Almora talked about wanting to have a relationship with the girl and her family. The compassion he showed is admirable. Cubs manager Joe Maddon described Almora by saying, “He’s a wonderful young man, emotional, sensitive. What’s wrong with that? He cares.”
I agree. What’s wrong with that?
It reminds me of another story that recently took place in Portland, Oregon. On May 17, former Oregon Ducks wide receiver Keanon Lowe disarmed a student at Parkrose High School. After Lowe wrestled a shotgun away from a 19-year-old, he shared some compassionate words with the young man.
“He broke down and I just wanted to let him know that I was there for him,” Lowe said. “I told him I was there to save him. I was there for a reason and that this is a life worth living.”
I have a hunch that if the gunman felt he was valued that much beforehand, the incident at Parkrose probably never takes place. To me, two of the main causes of major crimes are that the wrongdoers don’t value others, or don’t feel valued themselves.
It is so important in life to show other people that they are valued and have worth. Although it might be easy to forget at times, this concept absolutely applies to the sports radio world as well.
Many listeners flock to sports radio, not only due to their love of sports, but because it’s an escape from reality. Life causes plenty of stress — getting stuck in traffic, raising kids, having to pay the bills on time, a boss that’s yelling at you. Sports radio can serve as a safe zone to help forget about those pressures for a little while. The last thing a listener needs is to get beaten over the head one more time by a host that’s lashing out at them.
While thinking about this idea it dawned on me that one of my biggest strengths as a host is also one of my biggest weaknesses; I’m incredibly competitive. While that drive to compete fuels my work ethic and other beneficial qualities, it can also cause me to be overly aggressive while stressing a point to a caller or co-host. It’s as if we’re on a football field or the ancient Colosseum doing battle in those moments of debate.
We’re not. We’re just talking sports. It shouldn’t be that serious.
Winning a sports argument should never come at the expense of belittling someone else. One of the main reasons many listeners are there in the first place is to escape reality. It doesn’t make sense to disrupt that escape by pouring a bucket of ice water on them with an angry response. It’d be like going to Burger King for some food and being offered a muffler. That’s not why you went in the first place. We need to provide listeners with what they’re looking for — entertainment and thought-provoking opinions without contentious arguments.
Look, sports radio will never be as cuddly as those old Snuggle TV commercials. If Jim on a cell calls in to say, “Hey, I just think that Kirk Cousins is the greatest quarterback in NFL history.” The response doesn’t need to be obnoxiously gentle. Just don’t yell at the caller while saying he’s the biggest bozo in the history of bozos.
Be mindful that one of your main goals as a host is to make people feel like they matter. Going full lambast mode on them in front of their friends and loved ones won’t accomplish this goal.
I’ll never forget a time when I was talking to a manager in his office. A sales guy and friend of mine, Alex, was dropping by to tell me something. Just then the manager literally shooed him away. I went up to Alex afterward to apologize on the manager’s behalf. It was completely unnecessary and made me feel bad for Alex because he wasn’t treated right. Listeners will view hosts the same way if they mistreat the people around them.
It’s easy to admire a person who treats others with respect. Take recently retired NBA star Dwyane Wade for instance. He made a surprise commencement speech to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Sunday. A school shooting last March claimed the lives of 14 students and three staff members. Wade visited the school when it reopened last year and circled back during the commencement ceremony on Sunday.
Wade talked about the challenges the students still face following the mass shooting. He mentioned Joaquin Oliver who was a victim and a huge D-Wade fan that was buried in a Wade jersey. He offered motivational words, but most importantly Wade showed that he cared. He showed compassion and made people feel like they are valued.
Gestures on a much smaller scale are still worth making. We can’t pump our own gas here in Portland. The state law requires a gas station attendant to do it. I get plenty of things wrong and start to turn green like the Hulk if somebody tailgates me in traffic. (Man, I hate tailgaters.) One small thing I’m proud of is that I always tip the attendants. They all look at me and genuinely feel good after receiving a small payment.
One time I was out of singles and handed an attendant a $10 bill. His exact words were, “Are you sure?” I laughed and said, “Yeah man, that’s all you.” The purpose is that I want those people to feel like they’re valued. I don’t want them to feel like they’re unneeded and taken for granted.
If Keanon Lowe can show compassion to a kid intending to do harm with a shotgun, it isn’t too much to ask hosts to remain calm with listeners who bash them on Twitter. If Albert Almora Jr. and Dwyane Wade can show sympathy to people they don’t even know, it should serve as a great example that we all should strive to do the same.
Showing patience and compassion to people that are disrespectful isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. Why? It’s the right thing to do, and like the title of a song by the great guitarist Steve Vai — “The Audience Is Listening.”
The last place listeners want to experience drama is the place that’s supposed to serve as an escape from it. Make your listeners and co-workers feel like they matter by treating them respectfully. There is always great value in valuing others.
Who Handled the Tua Concussion Discussion Best?
Rex Ryan, Rodney Harrison, and Boomer Esiason stood out with their commentary on the Tagovailoa story.
The major story going into the bulk of Week 4’s NFL action on Sunday was the concussion suffered by Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in Thursday’s game versus the Cincinnati Bengals.
Amazon’s Thursday Night Football telecast, particularly its halftime show, faced heavy criticism for neglecting to mention that Tagovailoa had been tested for a concussion in his previous game just four days earlier. Additionally, the NFL Players Association called for an investigation into whether or not the league’s concussion protocols were followed properly in evaluating Tagovailoa.
In light of that, how would the Sunday NFL pregame shows address the Tagovailoa concussion situation? Would they better inform viewers by covering the full story, including the Week 3 controversy over whether or not proper protocols were followed?
We watched each of the four prominent pregame shows — ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown, Fox NFL Sunday, CBS’s The NFL Today, and NBC’s Football Night in America — to compare how the Tagovailoa story was covered. With the benefit of two extra days to research and report, did the Sunday shows do a better job of informing and engaging viewers?
Here’s how the pregame studio crews performed with what could be the most important NFL story of the year:
Sunday NFL Countdown – ESPN
ESPN’s pregame show is the first to hit the air each Sunday, broadcasting at 10 a.m. ET. So the Sunday NFL Countdown crew had the opportunity to lead the conversation for the day. With a longer, three-hour show and more resources to utilize in covering a story like this, ESPN took full advantage of its position.
The show did not lead off with the Tagovailoa story, opting to lay out Sunday’s schedule, which included an early game in London between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints. But the Countdown crew eventually got to issue on everyone’s minds approximately 28 minutes into the program.
Insider Adam Schefter provided the latest on the NFL and NFLPA’s investigation into the matter, particularly the “gross motor instability” Tagovailoa displayed in stumbling on the field and how the Dolphins initially announced that the quarterback had suffered a head injury, but later changed his condition to a back injury.
Schefter added that the NFL and NFLPA were expected to interview Tagovailoa and pass new guidelines for concussion protocols, including that no player displaying “gross motor instability” will be allowed to play. Those new rules could go into effect as early as Week 5.
“This is an epic fail by the NFL,” said Matt Hasselbeck to begin the commentary. “This is an epic fail by the medical staff, epic fail by everybody! Let’s learn from it!”
Perhaps the strongest remarks came from Rex Ryan, who said coaches sometimes need to protect players from themselves.
“I had a simple philosophy as a coach: I treated every player like my son,” Ryan said. “Would you put your son back in that game after you saw that?
“Forget this ‘back and ankle’ BS that we heard about! This is clearly from head trauma! That’s it. I know what it looks like. We all know what it looks like.”
Where Sunday NFL Countdown‘s coverage may have stood out the most was by bringing injury analyst Stephania Bell into the discussion. Bell took a wider view of the story, explaining that concussions had to be treated in the long-term and short-term. Science needs to advance; a definitive diagnostic tool for brain injury doesn’t currently exist. Until then, a more conservative approach has to be taken, holding players out of action more often.
Grade: A. Countdown covered the story thoroughly. But to be fair, it had the most time.
The NFL Today – CBS
CBS’s pregame show led off with the Tagovailoa story, going right to insider Jonathan Jones to report. He cited the key phrase “gross motor instability” as a significant indication of a concussion.
Jones also clarified that the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant who helped evaluate Tagovailoa made “several mistakes” in consulting with the Dolphins’ team doctor, leading to his dismissal by the NFL and NFLPA.
The most pointed remarks came from Boomer Esiason, who said any insinuation that the Dolphins, head coach Mike McDaniel, or the team medical staff put Tagovailoa back in the game in order to win was “off-base.” Phil Simms added that the concussion experts he spoke with indicated that Tagovailoa could miss four to six weeks with this injury.
Grade: B-. The opinions from the analysts were largely bland. Jones’s reporting stood out.
Fox NFL Sunday
The Fox NFL pregame show also led off with the Tagovailoa story, reviewing the questions surrounding how the quarterback was treated in Week 3 before recapping his injury during Week 4’s game.
Jay Glazer reported on the NFL’s investigation, focusing on whether or not Tagovailoa suffered a concussion in Week 3. And if he did, why was he allowed to play in Week 4? Glazer noted that Tagovailoa could seek a second, maybe a third medical opinion on his injury.
Jimmy Johnson provided the most compelling commentary, sharing his perspective from the coaching side of the situation. He pointed out that when an injured player comes off the field, the coach has no contact with him. The medical team provides an update on whether or not the player can return. In Johnson’s view, Mike McDaniel did nothing wrong in his handling of the matter. He has to trust his medical staff.
Grade: B. Each of the analysts shared stronger opinions, particularly in saying a player failing “the eyeball test” with concussion symptoms should be treated seriously.
Football Night in America – NBC
Sunday Night Football was in a different setting than the other pregame shows, with Maria Taylor, Tony Dungy, and Rodney Harrison broadcasting on-site from Tampa Bay. With that, the show led off by covering the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, its effects on the Tampa area, and how the Buccaneers dealt with the situation during the week.
But after 20 minutes, the show got into the Tagovailoa story with Mike Florio reporting what his peers told viewers earlier in the day regarding pending changes to the NFL’s concussion protocol and “gross motor instability” being used as a major indicator.
Florio emphasized that the NFLPA would ask how Tagovailoa was examined and treated. Was he actually examined for a back injury in Week 3? And if he indeed suffered a back injury, why was he still allowed to play?
When the conversation went back to the on-site crew, Dungy admitted that playing Thursday night games always concerned him when he was a coach. He disclosed that teams playing a Thursday game needed to have a bye the previous week so they didn’t have to deal with a quick, four-day turnaround. That scheduling needs to be addressed for player safety.
But Harrison had the most engaging reaction to the story, coming from his experience as a player. He admitted telling doctors that he was fine when suffering concussion symptoms because he wanted to get back in the game. Knowing that was wrong, Harrison pleaded with current players to stay on the sidelines when hurt because “CTE takes you to a dark place.”
“It’s not worth it. Please take care of yourself,” said Harrison. “Don’t depend on the NFL. Don’t depend on anybody. If something’s wrong with your head, report it.”
Grade: B+. Dungy and Harrison’s views of the matter from their perspective as a coach and player were very compelling.
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.
Jason Barrett Podcast – Terry Dugan & Adam Delevitt, BetRivers
Sportsbooks are creating their own media now, and no company is doing that using more guys that have made their names on sports radio than BetRivers. Terry Dugan & Adam Delevitt talk about the strategy behind that decision for today and for the future.
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Joe Rogan Betting Admission Reveals Gray Area
Rogan’s admission raises a question as to just how ethical it is to place bets with insider information, and whether it should be legal or not.
For nearly a decade, I’ve been fortunate enough to cover the football and basketball programs for the University of Kentucky in some form or fashion. Whether writing for blogs or working with ESPN Louisville as co-host of the post-game show, I’ve gotten to know people around the program I grew up supporting, and other individuals in the media doing the same. I’ve made some terrific friendships and cultivated quite a few relationships that provide me with “inside information” about the teams.
As an avid sports bettor, that information has sometimes put me into some difficult personal situations. There have been times when I’ve been alerted to player news that wasn’t public, such as a player dealing with an injury or suspension. It’s often been told to me off-the-record, and I’ve never put that information out publicly or given it to others.
I wish I could also say I’ve never placed a wager based on that information, but that would be a lie. While it’s been a long time since I’ve done so, I’ve ventured into that ethical gray area of betting on a team that I’m covering. I’ve long felt uncomfortable doing so, and I’d say it’s been a few years since I last did it.
At least I know I’m not alone. On his latest episode of The Joe Rogan Experience, Rogan told guest Bert Kreischer that earlier in his UFC broadcasting career he regularly bet on fights. He claims to have won nearly 85% of the time (which I highly doubt but that’s another discussion for another time), either via bets he made or ones he gave to a business partner to place on his behalf.
From his comments, Rogan doesn’t seem to have been using sensitive information to gain an edge with the books, but he also didn’t state that he didn’t. He indicates that much of his success stemmed from knowing quite a bit more about fighters coming from overseas, and he said he “knew who they were and I would gamble on them.”
But Rogan undoubtedly has long been in a position where he knows which fighters might be dealing with a slight injury, or who are struggling in camp with a specific fighting style. It’s unavoidable for someone whose job puts him into contact with individuals who tell him things off-the-record and divulge details without perhaps even realizing it.
But let’s say Rogan did get that information, and did use it, and was still doing so today. The fact is…there’s nothing illegal about it, not in the United States at least. While it’s against the rules of some entities — the NFL, for example, has stated they could suspend or ban for life individuals who use inside information or provide it to others — it’s not against any established legal doctrine. Unlike playing the stock market, insider betting is not regulated by any central body or by the government.
However, Rogan’s admission raises a question as to just how ethical it is to place bets with insider information, and whether it should be legal or not. Many of the after-the-fact actions that have been taken in the realm of legalized sports betting in this country, or those being discussed currently (such as advertising limitations), fall in line with changes made in Great Britain following their legalization.
One of their big changes was making it illegal to utilize insider information, with very specific definitions about the “misuse of information” and what steps the Gambling Commission may take. It lays out what information can be used, the punishments that may be levied, and at what point it might venture into criminality.
Sportsbooks do have recourse in some instances to recoup money on insider betting, but not many. If they can prove that a wage was influenced, they can cancel the bet or sue for the money. The most well-known instance is the individual who bet $50,000 at +750 odds that someone would streak on the field during Super Bowl LV –which he did– and then was denied the payout when he bragged about his exploits. But unless someone foolishly tells the books that they’ve taken them with information that the public wasn’t privy to, they have little to no chance of doing anything about it.
There are ramifications to insider betting that raise truly ethical dilemmas. Just like stock trading, information can be immeasurably valuable to those with stakes large enough to change prices. If I’m placing a $20 prop bet with the knowledge that a team’s starting running back might be out for a game, or dealing with an ankle injury, I’m not going to harm anybody else playing that line. But if I give that information to a shark, who places a $20,000 wager on that same line, I’ve now enabled someone to move a line and impact other bettors.
Online sports betting in this country continues to grow, and every day we are reminded that there are still aspects of the space that can feel like the wild west. As individuals in the media, we have to decide personally what our ethical stances are in situations like this. We also have to keep in mind the impact that betting can have on our biases–especially if we’ve bet using inside information. A prime example is Kirk Herbstreit, who won’t even make a pick on College Gameday for games he is going to be doing color commentary for lest he possibly appears biased on the call.
At one end of the spectrum, you have someone like Herbstreit, and on the other end, you have folks like Rogan who, while he no longer does so, was more than happy to not only wager on fights himself but gave the information to others. And in the middle, you have hundreds of people in similar situations, who might lean one way or another or who, like me, may have found themselves on either side of that ethical line.
There is no black or white answer here, nor am I saying there’s necessarily a right or wrong stance for anybody in the sports media industry to take. I would say that each person has to take stock of what they’re comfortable doing, and how they feel about insider information being used. Rogan didn’t break any rules or laws by gambling on the UFC, but his admission to doing so might be the catalyst towards it no longer being accepted.
Jason Ence resides in Louisville, KY and is fully invested in the sports betting space. Additionally, he covers Premier League and Serie A soccer, college football, and college basketball for ESPN Louisville 680 including serving as the station’s University of Kentucky correspondent, and co-host of the UK football and basketball post-game shows. He can be found on Twitter @JasonUK17 and reached by email at email@example.com.