Getting to know Mo Egger is a testament to what a small world radio is. Mo got his start producing Jim Scott’s morning show at WLW in Cincinnati. Jim’s son, Scott Fitzgerald (obviously not his real name) has been one of my very best friends in this industry for the better part of a decade. I didn’t know this before I picked up the phone to call Mo, but at the end of our conversation we started swapping stories about this family we both have an emotional connection to.
In his radio career, Mo has moved up at iHeartMedia’s Cincinnati office. He has never moved out, and he doesn’t have any plans to either.
Like so many of his listeners, Mo Egger was born in Cincinnati and he plans to stay in Cincinnati. The Reds and Bengals unite the town’s sports fans, while the Buckeyes, Bearcats, Muskateers, Wildcats, and maybe half a dozen other college teams divide it.
My conversation with ESPN 1530’s afternoon host touched on legendary Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman’s final season behind a microphone, Mo’s sensitivity to local college basketball fans, how we have each screwed up our kids, and the finer details of making and eating authentic Cincinnati chili.
Demetri: Why do you you think there is no competition for you guys in Cincinnati? I know there are multiple sports stations in the market, but they’re all in your building, right?
Mo: Yeah. It is just sort of the way ownership in the market played out. We happen to own all of the AM sticks here that matter.
When I was in high school and college there was a company called AM/FM I think. They had a sports talk radio station that was really quite good. We actually ended up hiring a lot of their guys. One of them is still with us.
They were on the air from 1994 until like 2000 or 2001. They had a morning show, a mid day show, and an afternoon show. They took the Bengals rights for a while. Then just the way things went down with regulation in the 90s, that station ended up folding.
Then across town Radio One launched a station in 2012.
D: This was the CBS Sports Radio affiliate right? If I remember, weren’t they all national shows?
M: No. They had a local morning show and a local afternoon show. The problem against us is we have the rights to everything. We have the Reds, Bengals, UC (University of Cincinnati), and Xavier. The problem in a market like this is that it’s hard when you can’t get rights to anything.
It’s a weird market. I am on ESPN 1530. WLW is literally two doors down, and a lot of what we do is programmed not to compete with them, but to offset or supplement them. If you want to do sports talk radio, there’s really only one place to go.
D: Does the average sports fan in Cincinnati value the play-by-play more than hosts and shows?
M: Yeah. Maybe. It’s a baseball-centric town and the sport you most connect to radio is baseball. And we’ve always had iconic broadcasters doing baseball in this town, so that branding has always meant so much.
It’s funny, whenever I hear people talk about apathy for the Reds, they can still recite what Marty Brennaman said the night before. It may be a little less so for the NFL because that is such a TV sport. Plus, when you have the rights you have access to Marty and to the Bengals guys and you have a larger degree of access to the teams themselves, which helps the programming.
The Reds are so unique because, he’s retiring this year, but Marty doing a Reds game is almost like another talk show. He is so opinionated. It’s always been interested to me how he kinda sets the tone for what so many people say and think. Not many people have done this the way he does and have a voice that is so authoritative. It’s what makes the broadcast so unique.
D: How much do Reds fans care about that story? The team isn’t competitive this year. Is who will replace Marty Brennaman a subject on your show?
M: I don’t think people care who replaces Marty. I think whoever replaces Marty, people will just complain about him.
Cincinnati is a very parochial town. Sports talk radio, as you know, is very local, but maybe here even more so. It really has to transcend if it happens outside the 275 loop or we’re probably not going to talk about it.
We’ve had a lot of coaching changes here over the last couple of years. Maybe it’s like this everywhere, but the Reds need a new manager and everyone just mentions their favorite former Red. The Bengals need a new head coach and everyone just mentions their favorite former Bengal. There are a lot of folks that consider themselves die hard Reds fans that probably can’t name five other local baseball broadcasters, because they just aren’t paying attention.
They’re using a guy from their Double-A team on broadcasts this year named Tommy Thrall.
D: This is the kid from Pensacola, right?
M: Yeah. I think they are doing the smart thing. They’ve had him work some games with Marty. He is doing their postgame show. I think they’re working him in and saying “here’s our guy” so that when the torch is passed to him the listeners will accept it, but when it was announced, no one knew who he was.
Those are obviously big shoes to fill. If you ask most Reds fans who should take Marty’s place they would say “I don’t know. Thom Brennaman?” or “Why not have Jeff Brantley do the games?”. I don’t think most listeners could really give you a bunch of qualified candidates.
D: So it’s the Dietrich story then that is the obsession night in and night out?
M: Oh yeah. It’s been interesting, because this team has been entertaining and they have had so many of these kinds of personalities. Cincinnati is the world’s biggest small town, but when these big personalities show up, people just embrace them. It makes us feel like “We’re New York! We’re cosmopolitan! We’re cool!”.
I think Derek Dietrich has done that. I think Yasiel Puig has done that. Nobody did that better than Chad Johnson. They just made people not only feel good about Cincinnati but like Cincinnati is cool.
I also think that has framed how people view the team. As we’re talking they’re 27-32. They haven’t been above .500 since opening day. The franchise itself hasn’t advanced in the postseason since 1995, but right now no one wants to hear that because of Derek Dietrich and Yasiel Puig. This team has a certain personality that has hooked people.
Now, you haven’t necessarily seen that translated into ticket sales. That is such an uphill battle for this team that it will take more than a Derek Dietrich to sell some tickets, but they’ve really changed the conversation around here. It’s been fun to talk about something besides “Why can’t they win?” or “Who are they going to trade?”.
D: Maybe I’m wrong here, but it seems like the Reds have had that situation a lot since like 2010. Maybe the team is not good, but there is one exciting player that you don’t want to miss the highlights from whether it is Joey Votto or Johnny Cueto or now Derek Dietrich.
M: Well Votto is always that guy. He’s been the best player for like a decade. You talked about 2010. No one saw that team coming. They won 90+ games. I cannot remember anything that galvanized Reds vans like that year when he initially didn’t make the All-Star team.
People were pissed. They took that personally. We had the league leader in OPS and he didn’t make the All-Star team? If he was playing for the Yankees or the Cubs or the Mets you can’t tell me he isn’t a shoo in!
The one thing we aren’t used to here is someone making $236 million. Money always changes relationships. We’ve gotten a lot of milage out of that topic. I think it greatly changed the relationship between Joey and this city. Plus, the sport has changed over the last 20 years. It’s more analytically driven and he has been at the epicenter of that.
In 2013 he was in the top 10 I counted in like 19 different offensive categories. I could still do three hours everyday on “Joey Votto is overrated because he doesn’t have enough RBI.” I could say “Yeah, but he leads in on-base percentage, plus they have two other guys with 100 RBI and its largely because of Joey Votto.” No one wanted to have that conversation.
He put together seven straight MVP calibre seasons, with the exception of 2014 when he was hurt, and yet he was the most polarizing guy. I can’t name a whole of other cities where the guy that was clearly the best player was the most polarizing guy. There was just this time where you could not have a conversation about Joey Votto without people mentioning what he was making. That’s interesting to me.
It’s maybe predictable. There’s just been no one like him, and he’s not going away. He’ll be here for the next four years, and he’s still making a lot of money and from a pure baseball standpoint, the numbers aren’t what they have been in the past.
D: What about when you switch over to college sports? What is fandom like in Cincinnati, because Ohio State is this big national brand, but I get the impression that Cincinnati is more of a college basketball town, and when it comes to college basketball, you have two much better teams right there in the city.
M: It’s funny. I try to approach my show knowing I’m a fan. I’m a UC basketball fan. I’m a UC football fan. I grew up a fan of those teams.
The first thing I try to do is say “Okay, if I’m going to talk about the Bearcats, I need to be able to do it in a way that I am not going to lose the Xavier fan, the Ohio State fan, the Kentucky fan, the Dayton fan, the Louisville fan, the Indiana fan, and that’s hard to do. It’s particularly hard when there is a coaching change or any major topic that is specific to one school. I’m really cognizant of that.
I get pushback all the time. “Boy, your show is a three hour UC lovefest,” but I really go out of my way. If we are going to have someone on talking about UC basketball during the season, I am going to make sure we have someone on later talking about Xavier basketball, because I am really sensitive to the perception that you are unfair to one school because you love the other.
Whenever you’re doing college sports in this market, you have to frame things in a way that at least keeps fans of other programs there. You also have to go out of your way to make sure you’re talking about every program objectively and fairly. I don’t pride myself on much, but I have a good relationship with Xavier University. We have their coaches on and we do plenty of topics. We talk about them fairly.
I go back to Cincinnati being very parochial. If I talk about Kentucky basketball, who by the way, we carry their games, I will inevitably get a call. “Why is a Cincinnati station talking about Kentucky basketball? They’re 90 miles away.” Well, it matters to a lot of people in my audience, and I’m always going to serve my audience.
Most times you are going to try to make those topics broad enough to appeal to everybody, but sometimes they are big stories for just one school. A few years ago Ohio State played for the national title in the first College Football Playoff. It used to be they played a BCS game. The run up to it was Christmas and you might not be on the air so then it would just kind of happen. Well, this time you had a College Football Playoff game and then the title game. It lapsed into the new year. Then you had Cardale Jones and the whole quarterback situation. It was a unique situation and it mattered to a large chunk of my audience.
I would still hear from UC people. “Why are we spending so much time on Ohio State?” and it’s like “Look, if UC is playing for a national title, we’ll be there. Ohio State is playing for a national title. That’s not my fault. It matters to a lot of my audience. We’re going to talk about it.”
I think, if nothing else, over time you try to establish enough equity and trust with the audience that they get it. If Mo is talking Kentucky basketball it is because something major is happening, and if they stick around, we will get back to the Bengals or the Reds or UC.
D: You’ve got a pretty young kid, right?
M: I have a 2-year-old.
D: Do you ever wonder about the psychological effects of having a dad in sports talk radio?
M: (Laughing) I wonder about the psychological effects of having me for a dad.
D: (Laughing) My kids are older. They are 9 & 7, but I do sometimes wonder what effect it has, and granted I am not on the air everyday right now, but when I was I would wonder what sort of effect it has on them to turn on the radio and hear someone calling their dad an idiot.
M: Well, her mom does that, so she’s used to it. I’ve never really thought about it from that point of view.
D: Well, you’re welcome for keeping you up tonight.
M: (Laughing) Well, to me I would also worry about the psychological impact of her dad not having a job, so I am glad I don’t have to do that. One thing I do think about, you know this, any host has to be relatable. A large chunk of my audience has kids, so naturally I introduce that into the conversation without her getting shit for it.
I don’t want her feeling like she has no privacy. My life can be an open book, but she didn’t ask for that. I definitely have thought about that, but as for the psychological impact, I could be driving a truck and I would still worry about my psychological impact on her.
D: Speaking of your relatability, I would imagine a huge chunk of the audience grew up in Cincinnati just like you and are now raising their kids there.
M: Oh sure.
D: Is it a “I was born here and so I will die here” kind of place, or do you have a lot of transplants coming in from other cities?
M: It’s mostly insular. I will hear from people that moved here from St. Louis or Pittsburgh. I always enjoy hearing from people that left here but still make time to listen to the show or catch the podcast. It makes me feel good when people tell me the show is a connection to home.
We got a call a couple of weeks ago from a guy who was a Cardinals fan and he grew up in Illinois and then he moved here. He said “Hey, I like your show” and then went on and made whatever point.
I think that’s need. Maybe you aren’t talking about something that matters to them, but I always think it is cool when people embrace whatever their new town is all about.
Let’s face it. It’s 2019. It’s easy for that guy to keep listening to whatever he was listening to before he came here, but he chooses to listen to us. That tells me that what we are doing is at least interesting enough to keep somebody or get someone who maybe isn’t interested in the subject matter. That’s flattering.
Even within the town it’s an insular town. It is segmented between the East Side and the West Side. Then there is Northern Kentucky. It’s the world’s biggest small town. Whenever people what school you went to, they aren’t talking about college. They want to know what high school you went to.
D: When someone that didn’t grow up in Cincinnati or at least doesn’t have a strong connection to the teams tells you they still love the show, do you consider that a personal compliment or is that a tribute to topic selection?
M: Oh, maybe a little bit of both. I certainly don’t think it is because they like me. I mean, why would you?
Look, when you move somewhere eventually you will be interested in what is happening there. You’ll be interested in civic matters or local politics. Chances are your new friends and co-workers will be into the local teams.
We moved away for a while when I was a kid. My dad was still a Reds and Bengals fan even though we were living in New Jersey, but he would still listen to New York sports radio and he has opinions about the Jets and Giants. He cared even though he didn’t root for those teams.
I do think on some level you have to connect with them. You have to be entertaining enough to get someone to sit through hours and hours of Reds and Bengals when maybe they are into other teams. It does make me feel good to hear from those folks.
D: So just how insular is the Cincinnati fandom? Were people there into LeBron coming back to Cleveland because it was still an Ohio story or did you treat it like “that’s a Cleveland story and my listeners don’t care”?
M: I think that was big enough that we could do it.
D: What about the Blue Jackets’ run in the playoffs this year?
M: That one is interesting. You can obviously find pockets of Blue Jackets fans. They have been a perennial playoff team and they won a series this year, so I think you had folks who didn’t have a hockey team that were like “There’s a team a 100 miles from here? Fine, let’s root for them.”
I think a lot of sports fans over the last…however long they’ve been around, have gone up to a game, and it’s a great experience. Because of that, they may not be hardcore hockey fans, but they’ll say “Well, I went to a Jackets game and had a good time, so they’re my team”. Then when they are playing important playoff games maybe those folks are a little more likely to watch.
You know though, what happens here is we are four hours from Pittsburgh and about four hours from Detroit. When the Blue Jackets came to town it took them forever to be good. Meanwhile the Red Wings and Penguins are winning Stanley Cups. The people that were into hockey before 2000 they already had a team. Chances are that team was either Detroit or Pittsburgh, and for the most part those teams gave their fans in Cincinnati little reason to jump ship.
I had John Tortorella on. That was really good. During the playoffs we had their play-by-play guy on, not before every game but there’s certainly enough of a market that it made sense to do some guest driven segments.
D: What kind of support staff do you have for your show? Between doing a show, writing for The Athletic, and doing your occasional TV work I would imagine you need all the help you can get in show prep in order to have a personal life.
M: I need help just getting out of bed.
I’ve actually been really lucky. In our building, I’ve always had the best producer. I think the reason is I did that job. I really understand how important what a producer does is to making a show great. Every producer I’ve had I’ve sat down with and said “Look, these are my expectations and my expectations are high, because I did that job.”
Maybe I wasn’t the world’s greatest, but I understood how a fully invested and engaged, creative producer can help a show. I ask them to do a lot, but I never ask them to do anything I wasn’t asked to do.
From 2009 through the end of last year I only had two different people. That is great consistency. The guy I had has moved on to Cleveland and now I am working someone new in. That can take some time, but I really value that job.
I wish more people in our business valued that job. As an industry, I wish we did a better job of cultivating producers and giving them an idea of what is expected and how rewarding the job can be and what a jumping off point that job can be. I rely on that position.
Sometimes it becomes a little bit of a crutch. When we do go through a change, there is a moment of “holy crap!” and you realize all the things that the guy that just left did for you. Now you have to get the new person conditioned to do all of that. That’s when I start to have a little bit of inner dialogue with myself about “am I being a little too reliant on the producer?”.
It’s a job I put a lot of value in. Every producer I’ve ever had, I always tell them to come with ideas. What is weird now is we’re kind of having the first generation of guys come into this job that didn’t grow up listening to the radio.
When I was a producer at WLW, I was 20 and I had grown up listening to that radio station. I was put on the morning show I grew up listening to, so I knew what it was supposed to sound like. I grew up listening to talk radio, and I got it. Now, nothing against these kids now, they just haven’t grown up listening to a radio station.
D: I was a producer before I started hosting as well. I always debate with PDs about what makes a good producer. My argument is you can build a rolodex. There is no substitute for drive and creativity. I think that can be found in the guys that want to eventually be hosts, and I wonder if these kids that grew up not listening to the radio can give the medium the kick in the ass it needs sometimes to compete with the plethora of other entertainment options that are available in your car or on your phone.
M: Oh, there’s validity to that. I have this conversation with every producer I have ever had, again that is not a lot of them, but it’s “Chances are you are listening to stuff I’m not listening to and consuming stuff I’m not. So bring ideas from that. Use those options and see what ideas you get that fit what we are trying to do.”
I think there’s value there, but you do need basic radio fundamentals. Radio is real time. Podcasts aren’t. So you do need to get people that understand this is happening right now and this is what you have to do.
I am with you in the sense that it helps an industry that is trying to evolve and adapt to have people who’s backgrounds aren’t entirely radio. At the same time, it helps to have people that get how it’s supposed to work. That way you can take what has worked and modernize it based on these other things outside our sphere.
Another thing I agree with you is, my last producer wanted to be a host. The person I was with before him didn’t want to host. She wanted to be a sideline reporter and is doing that for FC Cincinnati now. I think there is a difference between “I want to be on the air” and “I want your job,” because I have seen that one. I have seen the producer sitting on the other side of the glass and stewing, thinking “God! I am better than this guy!”. I want someone with aspirations higher than guest booking, but that version of it? That’s not productive.
D: What is the deal with you people and chili on spaghetti?
M: (Laughing) It’s the best!
M: I will admit that it is an acquired taste. I was walking downtown. I used to live there about four years ago. The Washington Nationals were in town. I’m going to meet a buddy to go to a game and I decided to stop in at Skyline Chili.
I sit down at the counter next to this couple from Maryland. They’re there to see the Nationals. The guy tells me the concierge at their hotel told them they had to check out Skyline. So I say I can help walk them through the menu and tell them what to order. They take one taste and look at me like I have three heads.
It is really, really an acquired taste, but there aren’t a lot of people in Cincinnati that don’t love it. I prefer a coney. That’s a small hot dog with the chili on it as opposed to the 3 way, which is what you’re talking about, but man, just talking about it has made me hungry.
I’m a big Cincinnati chili guy. I understand how that is viewed by outsiders, because it is very specific to this part of the country.
D: To see it on any sort of travel show, the chili does not look unlike the meat sauce my mom used to make with spaghetti, but for whatever reason the mental image of a kidney bean on top of spaghetti grosses me out.
M: Cincinnati chili is almost like a soup. People from other parts of the country think of chili and they picture something really chunky. They think of huge meaty chili. That’s not us.
The beef in Cincinnati chili is cut down really fine. It is almost like a sauce. It really is. It’s good. At least, I think it is.
D: I say this as someone that grew up on the Gulf Coast, sucking the brains out of crawfish heads, you guys eat some gross stuff up there.
M: (Laughing) Fair enough.
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.
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.