Rarely do hyped match ups live up to the advanced billing. Most of the time they wind up in a blowout which ruins everything for the network covering it and its announcers. That wasn’t the case last Saturday when LSU faced Alabama in Tuscaloosa. CBS had its “A-Team” on the call, Brad Nessler on play-by-play and Gary Danielson handling color commentary.
I went back and watched the game, to focus on the actual broadcast and not the outcome. Here are my thoughts.
The broadcast open concentrated on the 2011 meeting between the two teams billed as “The Game of the Century”, which wound up in a 9-6 overtime win for LSU. CBS created good drama, using music and graphics to set the stage for this big moment, billed as “The Game of the Year”.
It was good to see that both Nessler and Danielson seemed be loose for calling such a big game in their on camera open. Sometimes broadcasters fall victim to over enthusiasm when it comes to calling huge games. These guys seemed relaxed and ready for what was to come that afternoon.
The open featured most of the obvious angles, concentrating on the two QBs and of course mentioning the injury to Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa. They went deeper to include an injury on defense to LSU’s safety Grant Delpit. Both were dealing with ankle injuries.
Nessler brought in Jamie Erdahl, the sideline reporter for the game, first with an interview of Alabama coach Nick Saban who confirmed what we already knew that Tagovailoa would start the game. After a brief toss back to the booth, Erdahl caught up with LSU coach Ed Orgeron who mentions that he told his team all week, “you are the better team”. Pretty good stuff here.
Back to the booth now and Nessler is going over a graphic illustrating that Alabama has an 8-game win streak in the series vs. LSU. It’s followed by a good graphic showing what these two teams have done over the course of the rivalry. Good illustration for those that may be new to the game.
The open segment wraps up with something that I had to rewind to make sure I heard correctly. Nessler exclaimed, “football fans around the world have circled November 9TH”, really? The world? Seems a bit much to me here. I get what he’s trying to say but that seemed a bit over the top.
There is good energy in the stadium for the opening kick. LSU won the toss and deferred. I liked the energy from the guys in the booth too as Alabama gained two first downs on its first two plays from scrimmage. The announcing crew didn’t get caught up in the crowd noise from the over 102-thousand fans in attendance.
To me, Danielson was very sharp early. He noticed six offensive lineman in game for Alabama on one offensive set, then four wides (receivers) on the next. I liked how he explained why Alabama had to call a timeout in the red zone on the first Tide drive. It all made sense and was easy to understand, even for the uninformed casual fan.
Danielson continued to shine as Tagovailoa fumbled trying to scramble. The crew showed the replay and it was obvious there was some rust on the QB who had ankle surgery 21 days earlier and missed some game time. “You can’t simulate game action. You can test it (the ankle) all you want, now you have to instinctively make moves. Can’t blame that one (fumble) on a bad ankle”.
LSU would take over and a lot of the focus turned to Joe Burrow the QB for the Tigers. He led the team right down the field for a score following the fumble to give LSU a lead. I thought Nessler did a great job of “laying out” after LSU touchdown. Even though the game was in Tuscaloosa, there were a lot of Tigers fans in the crowd, they were heard from after the score.
Coming back from a break CBS posted a great graphic illustrating it was LSU’s first lead over Alabama since the 2017 game in the 3rd quarter. Nessler acknowledges it after the graphic is gone because he let Danielson make a point, which a good play-by-play guy should do.
Now with Alabama on offense a poignant graphic popped up, stating that the 7-0 deficit was tied for the largest of the season for the Tide.
In an effort to show both sides, the producer popped up a graphic, a comparison of the two team’s wide receiver corps. Nessler leads to it, showing how eerily similar the numbers are – Nessler pays it off saying, “despite all that ask if there’s a better group (of receivers) than Alabama, here you go.”
The booth sends things to Erdahl after returning from a break. She has a very in depth look at the surgery Tagovailoa went through on his ankle complete with animated graphics. Nessler highlighting the detailed look with, “Jamie did so much research on that ankle thing we thought she could perform the surgery on us.”
The first quarter ends after a 77-yard punt return for a touchdown by Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle, making the score LSU 10, Alabama 7.
As the 2nd quarter begins with LSU on offense, I noticed that the CBS crew cut off a few of the replays before they were finished, because of the pace of the LSU offense. I found it really distracting and maybe they should consider waiting until the Tigers go into a huddle?
LSU continued its offensive prowess with another scoring drive. Nessler with a good call of the Burrow to Marshall touchdown. Danielson points out how the Alabama defense got schooled big time, saying “it’s just embarrassing for the Alabama defense”.
The criticism wasn’t reserved for just the Tide defense. Danielson, the former NFL QB had a point with the slow start for Tagovailoa and the Alabama offense. “Right now he is not in sync at all in this game. He does not have the feel of complete high level competition so far.” Also so far I’ve noticed that Nessler is having a bit of an issue with the name Tagovailoa. Not that I can blame him, but it’s been coming out a few different ways.
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Maybe it was just great timing, as Nessler and Danielson had a conversation about the ‘Bama wideouts from Jerry Jeudy’s perspective. He told the crew that Devante Smith just “caught everything”, just then Tagovailoa threw a 64-yard score to…Smith. How did he get so open? The producer showed us on replay, that several LSU defenders looking to the bench for a change in coverages as the touchdown pass developed.
CBS shined during a disputed play in the 2nd quarter. LSU receiver Thaddeus Moss made a catch near the sideline, it was very close, but called a catch on the field. “Pylon cam” showed Moss’ left foot out of bounds then re-established in the field of play to make the catch. This produced some good discussion between Danielson and rules analyst Gene Steratore about the legality of the catch. Was it illegal touching? No flag was thrown for it. Eventually after a lengthy delay, the call is confirmed. More on this situation pops up later in the broadcast.
As the first half ends, Danielson says this about Tua, “he just seems rusty to me, more than just his ankle is bothering him, just seems out of sorts.” Followed by Nessler throwing to a break, “I don’t believe I’m saying this, LSU by 20.”
The first half ends with LSU up 33-13.
To open things up, Steratore had a terrific follow up of the ruling of the completed pass controversy in the 2nd quarter. He stated that all the information wasn’t initially given about the play. He said that the official near the sideline ruled the receiver was pushed out of bounds and did not go out on his own, that would make it a legal catch rather than illegal touching. It is a strong follow up from one of the best rules analysts in the business.
The struggles continued for Alabama, with Waddle calling for fair catch inside the 10…Danielson “that’s a mistake, you’re not supposed to back up behind the 10. Usually it’s Alabama forcing their opponent into bad plays like this, today it’s different.” Strong and correct commentary.
Even after the previous statement the sentiment in the booth is that Tua is going to get hot at some point. Again, lucky or just great timing, Tagovailoa obliges and validates the thought with a touchdown pass to his RB Najee Harris.
As the quarter comes to an end, Nessler says, “If you’ve ever in your life thought about doing something now instead of watching the fourth quarter – reconsider. 33-20 LSU after 3…”
The game still felt in doubt as the final quarter began. Alabama went right to work with the Tide scoring an early 4th quarter touchdown. Right after the play, again Nessler lays out for crowd reaction, which was a beautiful thing.
After the Alabama score, the narrative switched to the pressure being on the LSU offense now which hasn’t scored since the 2nd quarter. Of course, more fortuitous timing, because a TD drive would ensue.
Nessler put on his SEC hat and seemed to go on a rant which based on Twitter reaction wasn’t received all that well. The producer put up the College Football Playoff graphic, with LSU as #2 and Alabama as #3, leading him to say, “I don’t care if Ohio State (the #1 Buckeyes) won by 100 points (73-14 actually over Maryland), if LSU beats Alabama their number one next week.” The Clemson and Oregon fan bases were the most critical of this comment of all.
The announcing crew shined in some cases as the game’s momentum swung from one side to the other toward the end.
Danielson reacted to a pass that was batted down at the line, with a possibility of him running in the picture. Danielson thought that for the first time in the game, Tagovailoa may have been affected by his ankle injury in his decision making. The analyst still wasn’t off the bandwagon, thinking there would be a moment for the Tide quarterback. The payoff came after a huge 4th down conversion resulting in a touchdown throw by Tagovailoa. It’s a 5-point game, LSU 39, Alabama 34.
Now it was Burrow’s time to shine. He led a 7 play, 75-yard drive and in the process picked up a huge first down late in the drive and quarter. Nessler pointed out, “might be a Heisman moment there.” The drive continued and wound up in a 7-yard score for running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
As quickly as the crew commented on the LSU score after the kickoff, the Tide would strike on its first play from scrimmage. The game would come to an end after a failed on-sides kick to give LSU the win in Tuscaloosa.
It didn’t seem like the moment was too big for a veteran broadcast crew, and I never really suspected it would be. I felt like Danielson was very pointed in his commentary and on both sides. He had criticisms for each of the teams and all seemed extremely warranted at the time of the commentary.
Nessler did his normal solid job with a couple of exceptions. The pronunciation of Tagovailoa’s name changed a few times and he didn’t seem to see some of the things that looked obvious on screen, especially when plays would be called back by penalty. Just a little nitpicking on my part here.
The broadcast never seemed too over the top which can be a tendency when some networks cover big games. CBS stuck to the script and to the storylines of the game itself. Nice job all around.
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.