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The NSMA Awards Were All About Who Wasn’t On Stage

“The sacrifices of immediate family was a theme of speeches throughout the evening. Burke got choked up when she mentioned her kids. Woj had to pause to gather himself as he thanked his wife. Bob Ley did the same.”

Demetri Ravanos

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The Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum isn’t usually the center of the sports media universe. It has been a while since the Wake Forest Demon Deacons played a game there that had writers and broadcasters coming from all corners of the country to cover.

That certainly wasn’t the case Monday night. The National Sports Media Association handed out its annual awards at the Joel, and the star power in the building was intense. Winners from 50 states were honored with the title of Sportswriter or Sportscaster of the Year.

On a national level, the Sportswriter of the Year Award went to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. “I came here 25 years ago with my wife. I was 24 years old and won the Connecticut state award. It was like going to see all your idols,” Woj told me. “It’s still the same. I come here and see Bob Ryan and the Hall of Fame inductees and the state members. You know, we used to be in Salisbury. Now it’s in Winston-Salem. This is just something that elevates the profession.”

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On stage, he talked about what an honor it was to win the award for his work at ESPN. The Bristol, CT native talked about one of the highlights of his childhood being his father stopping the family station wagon at an intersection to watch Bob Ley fill up his car at a local gas station.

Wojnarowski also took a moment to call out the NSMA voters. He joked that as he looked at the list of past winners of the National Sportswriter of the Year award he noticed it was “so old and white that it looked like the VIP list at a Springsteen concert.”

“I’m honored to be among you tonight, but soon, and next year would be fine with me, let’s give this award to someone that doesn’t look anything like I do,” he said in support of women and minority writers.

ESPN’s big night continued with Doris Burke being named National Sportscaster of the Year. Before she even took the stage, Woj commented that Burke’s work ethic alone was worthy of recognition. “Before the ball tips off,” he said “before the camera even turns on, Doris Burke has kicked your ass.”

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“It is especially significant to me that I am here,” Burke said acknowledging her role in making history as the first female winner of the national award. It was a moment that clearly meant something to the other women in the room too. As I looked around I saw tears and smiles on so many faces.

Burke’s speech hit on something nearly every single one on Monday night did. “There are so many people here with us tonight that you never see,” she said. “They are the backbone and heartbeat of television.”

She thanked her bosses and production crew, saying that this was just as much their honor as hers. She also thanked her children, saying that they “did not ask to make the sacrifices they made” and “did not have the luxury of a mom who was home every night.”

The sacrifices of immediate family was a theme of speeches throughout the evening. Burke got choked up when she mentioned her kids. Woj had to pause to gather himself as he thanked his wife. Bob Ley did the same.

The National Sports Media Association inducted four new members into its Hall of Fame on Monday night. They were ESPN cornerstone Bob Ley, NHL play-by-play man Doc Emrick, sportswriter and NBC NFL analyst Peter King, and one of the most innovative voices in sports media, Tony Kornheiser. Ley described his fellow inductees as “three gentlemen who are excellence personified.”

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“You look at the people that have been enshrined and entered into this hall of fame, it is so humbling it will bring you to your knees,” Ley told me before the induction ceremony began.

When asked about his nearly 40 years at ESPN, Ley said that while he was happy to have a single home for the majority of his career, it was not his intention when he first arrived in Bristol. “I don’t think anybody when they are 24, that’s how old I was when I took the job, considers that this will be the critical for in the road personally or professionally for life, but that’s what it turned out to be.”

Kornheiser, who stole the night before it even began by leading off his induction speech with “I’m gonna try and be quick, because I’m old and I have to pee. I have a tan suit on, and I don’t want to do that here,” talked about his life’s goal, which was always to be a newspaper sports reporter. He shared stories of legendary sportswriters like Red Smith, who made it Tony’s job to finish his cigarettes whenever Smith was chastised for smoking indoors.

With his love and reverence for the newspaper industry on full display, I asked Kornheiser if it ever dawned on him what an influence his radio show had on that business or the influence his television show Pardon the Interruption had on that business.

“Mike (Wilbon) and I understand that the show’s been on for a long time, and Mike and I understand that a lot of people watch it,” he told me. “When we sit there to do it, we’re just do it for the three cameramen in the room. And people come up to us all the time, and it is always flattering, but it’s not like we’re important.”

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Empty seats were hard to come by at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Monday night. Young broadcasters mingled with industry legends. Broadcasting icons like Marty Brenneman were seated at tables with digital content producers like SB Nation’s Caroline Darney. It was a surreal night that spoke to the power and appeal of the sports media, and it didn’t happen in New York or Boston or LA. It happened in Winston-Salem, NC.

“We’re here because Pete DiMizio, a guy that ran an Italian restaurant in Salisbury, North Carolina, thought it was a good idea for guys to stop on their way home from spring training and they honored him,” the night’s host and North Carolina native Wes Durham told me. “Here we are 60 years later and we’re still crafting Pete DiMizio’s concept.”

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BSM’s Black Friday SALE on BSM Summit Tickets is Underway!

Jason Barrett

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Each year I’m asked if there are ways to save money on tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit. I always answer yes but not everyone takes advantage of it. For those interested in doing so, here’s your shot.

For TODAY ONLY, individual tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit are reduced by $50.00. Two ticket and four ticket packages are also lowered at $50 per ticket. To secure your seat at a discounted price, just log on to BSMSummit.com. This sale ends tonight at 11:59pm ET.

If you’re flying to Los Angeles for the event, be sure to reserve your hotel room. Our hotel partner this year is the USC Hotel. It’s walking distance of our venue. Full details on hotel rooms can also be found via the conference website.

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BSM Writers

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Demetri Ravanos

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Demetri Ravanos has questions about Disney going back to the future with Bob Iger. This entire episode of Media Noise is all about what the change at the top of the Walt Disney Company indicates about the future of ESPN.

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Media Noise: What Is Realistic For FOX at the World Cup?

Demetri Ravanos

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ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

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iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX

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