The Athletic is on a role. Shortly after a story about the site’s new influx of cash broke, word now comes that it will launch boxing coverage.
The boxing vertical will be lead by managing editor Paul Fichtenbaum. It is another step in The Athletic’s growing combat sports coverage. Just last week the company launched an MMA vertical lead by Dann Stupp. Former Los Angeles Times writer Lance Pugmire, former Grantland editor Rafe Bartholomew, and former Ring Magazine writer Mike Coppinger make up Fichtenbaum’s staff.
Boxing is experiencing something of a renaissance in the United States as streaming platforms spend big money to create partnerships with the sport’s top promotions and fighters.
Fichtenbaum noted in his essay announcing the new vertical that boxing is a sport that lends itself to long form storytelling. He pointed to last weekend’s heavyweight title fight as proof that the sport warrants its own department at The Athletic. “And as we found out 10 days ago when Andy Ruiz stunned the world by knocking out favored champion Anthony Joshua, boxing is still full of characters and storylines and upsets worth pursuing.”
Jared Greenberg Took Leap of Faith With NBA on TNT
“You walk into the studio here in Atlanta on any given night and it’s a who’s who of some of the greatest players of all time.”
It all started as a student in a television production elective class at Mahwah High School for Jared Greenberg. Largely surrounded by seniors, Greenberg was a freshman enamored with sports and athletics with a yearning to develop the skills necessary to compete at a high level.
While he affirms that he struggled both academically and on the playing field, his penchant for professional sports remained, frequently consuming them by listening to the radio and watching ESPN and other sports coverage.
One day in class, Greenberg’s high school teacher was told WRPR 90.3 FM, a radio station affiliated with Ramapo College, was looking for high school student volunteers to operate the board and schedule music to play over the air.
Greenberg was eager for a way to stay in the landscape of professional sports, and took full advantage of the chance. On his first day at the station, Greenberg, then-14 years old, was driven by his father on a Sunday afternoon and distinctly remembers turning on the station’s FM transmitter. In that very moment, he realized broadcast media was the industry which he desired to work in.
After some time passed playing music on the air, he approached the management team at the radio station about hosting a sports talk show, an idea the station was open to and gave him the chance to pioneer. He then asked to call play-by-play for some of the college’s basketball and baseball games and was subsequently given permission.
“Once I took advantage of that opportunity, everything kind of clicked for me,” Greenberg said. “I could turn my passion for watching and talking about sports into a career… and [the] focus for my entire life changed.”
Greenberg’s decision to matriculate at Hofstra University was at the suggestion of CBS Sports and YES Network broadcaster Ian Eagle, who he met at 15 years old while credentialed at a professional sporting event.
During his time on the island, he worked a majority of the football and basketball games as a play-by-play announcer on 88.7 WRHU-FM, the college’s award-winning campus radio station. In the summer preceding his first semester at the school though, Greenberg drove from Mahwah, N.J. to Hempstead, N.Y. to participate in the station’s required training class. Four years later, he graduated with over 200 live game broadcasts under his belt, along with additional experience producing sports talk and morning drive programming.
“I spent more time at that radio station and [was more] involved in that radio station than anything else on campus,” Greenberg said. “I understand that education is important and classroom work is vital, but I think the most important step to success in this industry is gaining practical experience. I think what gets undervalued at college radio and TV stations is real-life, real-world experience.”
Near the end of his time in college, Greenberg worked as a public relations intern with the New York Giants. That experience was short-lived though, as the statistician for radio play-by-play announcer Bob Papa did not show up to a home game, leading Greenberg to be asked to fill in on short notice. Greenberg did his best to quickly adapt to the experience, and remained in it for several years thereafter.
“Just learning from Bob Papa and Carl Banks, and I got to work with Chris Carlin who was often filling in for Bob or doing our postgame show; it was the most surreal experience,” Greenberg said. “….I’ve been a close mentee and friend of Ian Eagle for years, so to have two of the very best play-by-play voices in football [and] just [get] to be so close to [them] and learn from them has really been priceless for me.”
Around the same time in his career, Greenberg worked with the Newark Bears, an unaffiliated Atlantic League team, in which he served as the team’s media relations manager and broadcaster for all road games. He had previously been with the organization in high school as a broadcast associate, working directly with lead play-by-play announcer Dave Popkin to gain exposure and experience covering professional sporting events.
Up until this point in his career, Greenberg was focused on working in radio largely because it was the medium from which most of his experience derived. Yet his early chances to work as a sideline reporter on select television broadcasts at Hofstra University made him more sentient of potentially working in television.
As a freelance reporter at News 12, Greenberg was responsible for being on location and acting as a full-throttled multimedia journalist. He would then sometimes be asked to host the sport segment on the news at night.
“I was still only covering sports, but it was obviously through a different lens literally and figuratively,” Greenberg explained. “….With a newcast, you’re being told you’re on at 10:20 and you’ve got 90 seconds to deliver all this information you have. It’s a lot different to fit it in that short period of time. Also, you can’t be a second late because if you’re a second late, you throw off the entire newscast.”
Greenberg assimilated back into working at a sports network when he was hired by the Madison Square Garden Company to host programming on the now-defunct MSG Varsity channel. Additionally he worked as a play-by-play announcer for the Northeast Conference on ESPN and as a digital host for the New York Giants.
“I loved the idea of doing some studio hosting; some play-by-play; some sideline reporting; [and] some anchoring in a studio in terms of a news broadcast doing sports,” Greenberg said. “I loved the idea of doing so many different things.”
Greenberg returned to working in radio when he was hired by SiriusXM as a host on its NBA radio station, contributing to various programs including Out of Bounds, FanDuel Fantasy Basketball and Off the Dribble.
“I think it’s sometimes difficult to remember that what you find interesting or what you want to talk about is not what the general public or the mass audience wants to hear or listen to,” Greenberg said.
“I think it’s a really hard balance; there’s no exact science on how to figure that out…. This is a really special art form that if you’re going to be good at it, it takes a lot of energy and time to invest in how to really capitalize on all of that.”
As a child, Greenberg always wanted to be a professional basketball player. Instead, he resorted to covering the game and received a chance to do so with the league itself when he signed on with NBA TV in 2005 as a voiceover artist.
During his job interview with NBA TV, he remembers being told that he would never be on television with the network and that if he were to be hired, it would be to strictly perform voiceovers for game highlights and other programming.
“You’ve got to be great at the job you’re hired [for], but never satisfied with the position you’re in and always reaching for more without overreaching,” he said. “….For me, that was a position of me being motivated.”
One year later, Greenberg was being utilized as a fill-in television host, a role that expanded when the network was purchased by Turner Sports in 2012 and subsequently moved to Atlanta.
Previously, Greenberg never foresaw himself moving away to advance his career, as he was working in the industry’s top market; however, the opportunity to work with Turner Sports was simply too good of an offer to pass up.
“I had never been to Atlanta prior to auditioning for the role I got,” he said. “It was a weird feeling. I was getting a promotion but I’m also leaving the number one media market.”
Within his first week of employment, he was pulled aside by Ernie Johnson and Charles Barkley to be formally welcomed to the family. It was a moment that had profound meaning and impact for Greenberg as he sought to assimilate into his new lifestyle.
“You walk into the studio here in Atlanta on any given night and it’s a who’s who of some of the greatest players of all time,” Greenberg said. “It’s just a chill atmosphere, and one of the biggest things about Tuner is that they don’t put up [with] or hire, quite frankly, any of that diva mentality.
“Everybody is so low key, and that tone is set with Charles Barkley who is… the face of all of this. He is the most approachable, giving person you could ever imagine for being a household name.”
Over the years working with Turner Sports on both TNT and NBA TV, Greenberg has hosted The Jump, NBA GameTime, Making The Call and, of course, Shaqtin’ A Fool where he was famously picked up on set by Hall of Fame center Shaquille O’Neal. Greenberg seeks to accentuate the perspectives analysts bring to each program with the goal of making the content appealing for viewers.
“You can’t just ask a blanket question to an analyst or set them up in a blanket way,” Greenberg said. “You have to learn to play to their strengths [and] set them up for things they are passionate about to get the most out of them. That’s just been a really cool experience.”
As a television host, Greenberg relies on his preparation to be able to adapt to various scenarios, whether those be on a hard or soft news basis. The same premise applies when preparing to work as a sideline reporter for the NBA on TNT. The essence of the role itself was explained to him by the late Craig Sager, a standout sports reporter known for his flamboyant outfits and effervescent personality.
“You talk so much about relationship-building in every industry you go into, but particularly in this one, it truly helps you to succeed,” Greenberg said. “….I try to maximize my time on the ground that you couldn’t simply get from googling or opening up your local newspaper. I want to give that perspective.”
Through his sideline reporting, Greenberg is more or less able to localize the national coverage because of the incomparable access the network receives through relationships with players and team personnel. Whereas regional broadcasters often have a direct connection through their team by virtue of the nature of their employment or ownership of the regional sports network, national reporters usually have no affiliation to a particular team, giving them more latitude in topic selection and delivery.
“A lot of the time, they’re not there to report the news; they’re there to be an infomercial for that organization,” Greenberg said of regional broadcasters. “For us we have the leeway to tell the story as it is without worrying about any P.R. consequences.”
Greenberg combines both his television hosting experience and reporting acumen as the host of the newly revamped NBA CrunchTime on the NBA league app. Over the years, there have been many networks that have tried to institute whiparound coverage. NFL Red Zone hosted by Scott Hanson is uniquely positioned because of its longevity and ability to show every touchdown from every game, as the sport of football has bursts of action. Conversely, the action is relatively continuous in basketball and the bursts are not necessarily predictable, so it is fundamental Greenberg be able to pivot at a moment’s notice.
“It’s not even just the nonstop action,” Greenberg explained. “It’s how different we are from football, and I think it’s important for people to understand that [who] are asking why [we don’t] do this every night. At 1:00 on Sunday, there’s six or eight games going on simultaneously every [week]. For us, the calendar and the schedule changes every night.”
Tonight, all but four NBA teams are active, meaning that Greenberg will be live on the NBA league app bringing viewers the most urgent action on NBA CrunchTime. There have been several iterations of Greenberg’s “passion project” over the last six seasons, airing on various different platforms. In this new format, the program will try to appeal to all types of basketball fans, whether they be focused on sports betting, fantasy sports or gaining a pulse of the action around the league as a whole.
“We’re going to have the opportunity… to deliver people what I think is a new way of watching sports and understanding the consumer,” Greenberg said. “It’s us really learning who that consumer is of our content…. We’re going to deliver you the very latest and the biggest moments as it’s happening in every game. When the schedule is right for us, we’re going to do it as much as we can.”
Being aware of movement in the industry helped Greenberg understand the direction of Turner Sports and how he could help facilitate its goals, and these were aspects of his interview and subsequent audition that surely helped differentiate him from other candidates.
Appropriately preparing for on-air work and professional interactions has rounded Jared Greenberg into a multimedia reporter and journalist eager to improve at his craft every day on the job that has given him a chance to cover the NBA All Star Game, NBA Finals, NBA Summer League and countless numbers of marquee matchups. He is grateful for all of the opportunities he has been afforded throughout his time in sports media, and looks to inspire young professionals to pursue their dreams through persistence and adaptability.
“Something that’s taken me a really long time to be half-decent at is being a good person to the people around you,” Greenberg said. “Even though this is such a big industry and there’s so much going on and there’s so many moving parts, really it’s a small industry…. Somebody knows somebody who knows you and has access to you. Be a good person, treat people respectfully and understand that you can’t step over people to get to where you want to go.”
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.
When Will NFL Studio Shows See Fresh Faces?
Having a Hall of Fame lineup certainly lends credibility to any group of analysts, that said credibility can’t outweigh entertainment.
It seemed NFL coaches were so old when I was a kid. Don Shula, Marv Levy, Bill Parcells, Dan Reeves, they all looked so old. Maybe I was just young and all those guys were just in their 40’s (which now, I might add, is quite young). No doubt, NFL coaching seemed like an old man’s game.
No longer is that the trend. The following NFL coaches are in the 40-or-younger crowd: Mike McDaniel, Kevin Stefanski, Brandon Staley, Sean McVay, Kevin O’Connell, ZacTaylor, Nick Sirianni and Arthur Smith. That’s one quarter of the head coaches in the NFL that are 40-years-old or younger. The NFL coaching youth movement is a very real thing.
When will that move to the NFL studio shows? That remains to be seen. Those shows are massive money makers for FOX and CBS but they have also started to trend a bit older. The networks are doing all they can to hook younger viewers to guarantee a long term viewership of games they pay billions to air. Need I remind you of the CBS/Nickelodeon simulcast of NFL Playoff games? The Over 50 crowd doesn’t know what it meant to “get slimed”; shoutout, Marc Summers.
It is startling to look at the cast of each studio show and the last time they were active in the NFL. Start with the desk of The NFL Today on CBS:
Bill Cowher – 2006
Boomer Esaiason – 1997
Phil Simms – 1993
Nate Burleson – 2013
The FOX numbers are even more startling. Look at the last active years of the analysis on FOX NFL Sunday:
Terry Bradshaw- 1983
Howie Long – 1993
Jimmy Johnson – 1999
Michael Strahan – 2007
If you are a 20-year-old NFL viewer, the only person of those eight analysts you can reasonably be expected to remember playing or coaching is Nate Burleson. This is not to say these shows don’t serve their purpose, to entertain and inform, not at all. Those shows can be very entertaining and the combined Hall of Fame knowledge on those two desks is unparalleled. But, in an entertainment world that is trending younger, when does the youth movement start?
Here’s one major issue, that list of players and coaches above have a lot of mustard jackets among them. Having a Hall of Fame lineup certainly lends credibility to any group of analysts, that said credibility can’t outweigh entertainment. If any show isn’t entertaining, it will not last long. These shows have found a way to weave in humor with the Pro Football Hall of Fame level of analysis.
But humor to some generations is not humor to all generations. What is funny to a guy in his 60’s may not reel in the 20-30’s crowd. Don’t tell me FOX and CBS are not interested in that group, they know it is crucial to long term success. FOX is so interested in that group they spent time using Snapchat filters on their hosts during the Thanksgiving studio shows. Make no mistake, that day brings a massive audience for FOX and CBS.
In fact, according to FOX Sports, the Dallas Cowboys-New York Giants game was watched by 42 Million viewers, the most-watched regular season game on any network on record. This is as big as it gets until the NFL reaches the postseason. It was on that stage FOX chose to use the Snapchat angle, knowing families were gathered across the nation watching that game. That meant an entryway to the younger demographic looking for anything to watch to get away from the conversation with their elderly aunt.
According to Omnicore Agency, Snapchat has 319,000,000 users and 65% of 18-29-year-olds in the United States use Snapchat. This is the audience FOX was trying to reach on their Thanksgiving studio show. It is the audience they would love to reach every Sunday.
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have shown even the biggest names will walk straight from the most successful of careers to an NFL telecast. Manning is part of his production company’s Manning Cast during Monday Night Football and Tom Brady is slated for the main FOX booth after his retirement. If those two guys see value in it, you can bet most any player would.
FOX’s hand will soon be forced, Jimmy Johnson is 79 and Terry Bradshaw is 74. Those two can’t work forever and there will need to be a plan in place for the sake of continuity. The difficult thing is identifying which players or coaches have the gravitas to sit on that desk with those Hall of Famers.
Age comes for all of us and there isn’t a Snapchat filter that can change that. If they do invent one, maybe my kids will tell me about it…and show me how to use it.
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.
Can Tom Brady Realistically Be the Critical NFL Broadcaster He Envisions?
If Brady frequently harped on players and the level of performance on the field, would he risk becoming the NFL’s John Smoltz?
Tom Brady and his presumed future as a broadcaster has been viewed with some skepticism. After 23 seasons of playing in the NFL, and considering what this season has apparently cost him personally, will he still want to devote so much time to football calling games each week?
Naturally, this is under the presumption that the 2022-23 NFL season will be his final one as an active player. And it’s easy to draw such a conclusion. Would he really want to put himself through another season like this one?
Ending his brief retirement to play another season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have been the breaking point for his marriage. The Bucs aren’t playing well, compiling a 5-6 record going into Week 13. Yet in an NFC South division in which no team currently has a winning record, Tampa Bay could still make the playoffs.
Joe Buck recently expressed doubt to Jimmy Traina on the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast as to whether or not Brady will ever join Fox Sports and the 10-year, $375 million contract reportedly waiting for him. It’s one thing for football fans and sports media observers to speculate on Brady’s future. But it’s quite another for people in the industry — and in this case, someone who still has close ties to decision-makers at Fox Sports — to ask questions.
Last week on his Let’s Go podcast, however, Brady sounded like he’d already put some thought into how he’ll approach broadcasting — or as he put it, his second career. Perhaps he was influenced by having the famously outspoken Charles Barkley as a guest on the show, but Brady believes he would be candid in his analysis and commentary.
“I’m going to be on TV and have the opportunity to be more critical than what I’ve been as a player,” Brady said to Barkley and Let’s Go host Jim Gray.
He then explained that whenever he had a problem with a teammate or coach, he addressed it directly and the issue stayed between them. That would obviously be different on television, where Brady is talking to the viewing audience.
“As I think forward… I’ve had 23 seasons professionally, when I watch football now, the only thing I see — nine out of 10 — is ‘Man, that was a really bad play,'” Brady added. “As opposed to the really spectacular play that [Patrick] Mahomes made or the spectacular play Josh Allen made. Now, it’s like, ‘Man, what a bad defensive play, what a bad play by the quarterback.'”
In Brady’s view, playing with exceptional athletes like Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and Mike Evans set a standard in his mind. But expecting a high level of play from teammates is quite different than applying such a measure to players he’s watching and scrutinizing as a broadcaster.
As a quarterback and team leader, Brady can directly affect the outcome of events. He can help inspire greater effort and achievement. Or as we’ve seen during Brady’s career with the New England Patriots, he can break a player’s spirit (especially rookie wide receivers) by grinding them against the diamond wheel of expecting perfection.
The first thought is that Brady could be enormously popular with viewers and media if he was critical of players or coaching decisions. That’s often the first flaw fans will point out in a broadcaster. “Ah, he never rips anybody. Protects his buddies.”
It’s why Barkley is so popular. We want to hear what he’s going to say. We don’t know what he’s going to say. But it will likely be sharp and funny. Yet is that too much to expect from a game analyst? Brady cites golf analyst Johnny Miller (“scathing”) as a model. But he also seems to understand that there’s a risk in being too negative.
Barkley warned against that earlier in the conversation with Brady and Gray when sharing advice that he received from Dick Ebersol upon his entry into broadcasting.
“People always tell you they want to hear the truth. They really don’t, Jim,” Barkley said. “[Ebersol] said, ‘Fans want you to tell them two things: Their favorite player is great and their team is great. If you tell them their favorite player isn’t great or their team sucks, they automatically don’t like you.'”
If Brady frequently harped on players and the level of performance on the field, would he risk becoming the NFL’s John Smoltz? Smoltz is frequently criticized for acting as if he does not like baseball in its current form. And viewers get tired of listening to that.
But to be fair, Smoltz was excellent during this year’s National League Championship Series and World Series in explaining how pitchers execute a game plan versus batters. And if Brady had the ability to quickly explain what he was seeing and the reason for his criticism, rather than just heavy sighing or huffing, that could be compelling commentary.
Yet that would have to be balanced with some healthy admiration too. Maybe not Tony Romo-level gushing, but some insight into how spectacular a play is would balance a broadcast out nicely.
It’s encouraging that Brady has some idea of what kind of broadcaster he’d like to be. When news of Fox essentially reserving Brady for his post-playing career was reported, the sentiment was that he was taking an offer that couldn’t be turned down ($375 million!) and might end up as more of a corporate shill (“brand ambassador,” etc.) than a broadcaster of substance.
Judging from his remarks to Barkley, Brady has put some thought into this. Maybe he’s been thinking about it for years. Perhaps it crystallized during his one-month retirement. But is Brady being naive about what’s realistic for a broadcaster? Would a Johnny Miller work in an NFL booth? Players might not clap back at Brady and his seven Super Bowl championships as they do to Barkley and his zero NBA titles.
Ultimately, however, fans would hold Brady to the high standard he’s envisioned for himself in broadcasting. The possibility of a must-watch analyst in an NFL broadcast booth is certainly enticing. Maybe he’s created some anticipation and intrigue for his career after football. Tom Brady has never shied away from expectations as a player. Perhaps the same will apply to him as a broadcaster.
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.