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LIVE From Santa Monica, The American Apocalypse

“Caught in the crossfire of civil unrest, Jay Mariotti wonders if a tortured and anguished America can recover from the convergence of police brutality, a devastating pandemic and rampant unemployment.”

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This is my turf, the beach community of Santa Monica, where I moved to worship the sun and escape the crime and deep freeze of Chicago. And I’ve just watched paradise degenerate into Hell On Earth, CA, 90409. We are almost 2,000 miles from Minneapolis, but looking around, the world feels as bleak as it did when a racist cop pressed his knee for more than eight minutes against the neck of George Floyd, killing him.

Over there on Ocean Avenue, where I drive my bike most days, a row of police officers is firing hard rubber bullets and smoke bombs into a sea of protesters ignoring a curfew. Across the street, where I swam for years at a resort pool, a fire extinguisher is thrown from an apartment building, among many projectiles — rocks, glass, golf balls, M-80 firecrackers — hurled at police. And Chez Jay, the dive bar by the famed pier where Ben Affleck and Matt Damon wrote “Good Will Hunting’’ and John F. Kennedy rendezvoused with Marilyn Monroe … rat-a-tat-tat, there goes a round of pepper spray balls.

“STOP KILLING BLACK PEOPLE,’’ reads a sign.

“END THE HATE,’’ reads another.

Lawlessness is one-upping sunshine as the prevailing mood. Protesters throw bottles, telling the cops to “(bleep) yourselves,’’ but the police don’t make mass arrests until later in the night. Looters are everywhere — busting windows, storming into stores and pharmacies and stealing merchandise from establishments that have been shuttered for months by the pandemic. Helicopters are hovering, innocent people are running for shelter. If anyone is wearing a mask, it’s a rarity. A grocery store where I’ve shopped is surrounded by a SWAT team, snuffing out the food looters. Blocks away, a police car is on fire beside Civic Auditorium, where they handed out Oscars in the ‘60s and once hosted Pink Floyd, Queen, Bowie, Springsteen and the Eagles.

Welcome to the Hotel California. Such a lovely place …

Peaceful protests, looting, arrests grow across Southern ...

Fortunately, I don’t live in the thick of the skirmish lines. But this is the area, on the westside of Los Angeles, where I walk, eat, drink, socialize, shop, write, exercise, sip espresso and visit the doctor and dentist. What started as a downtown L.A. curfew extended to two nights of stay-home orders in response to mass rioting and looting throughout a sprawling metropolis, returning us to isolation just as COVID-19 lockdowns were easing, businesses were opening and you actually could sit down at a restaurant or get a haircut. Forget about that cheeseburger, beer and sideburns cleanup when the governor deploys the National Guard, last summoned to the L.A. streets in 1992, when the cops who beat Rodney King were freed by a not-guilty verdict.

Were the military Humvees, carrying Guardsmen with M-4 rifles, hauling ass down the 10 freeway? Why, yes, they were, settling after dark in locations throughout town, including the courthouse where O.J. Simpson lost the civil suit. And that crackling. Was that a round of fireworks or gunfire? Why was I hearing Rage Against The Machine in my head? There always will be blue skies and oblivious surfers in these parts, but anarchy is the new SoCal vibe. Yes, that was sports troublemaker JR Smith in a TMZ video, kicking the hell out of a white man who allegedly smashed his car window in a residential neighborhood somewhere in the L.A. fray. “I chased him down and whipped his ass,’’ Smith said in a video. “This ain’t no hate crime. I ain’t got no problem with nobody who ain’t got no problem with me. It’s a problem with the mother(bleeping) system. That’s it. … One of these mother(bleeping) white boys didn’t know where he was going and broke my (bleeping) window in my truck.”

A more measured social observer, basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, captured the biggest picture with appropriate dignity. “Those people out there are demonstrating for something that is very valid,” he told KTLA. “The idea that all men are created equal is not really applied to our justice system.’’

He’s right. Why would an evil cop let a little old pandemic stop him when there’s hatred to vent, a neck to suffocate and an unarmed black man to murder? Why let the most catastrophic health crisis of our time interfere with an enemy no vaccine ever will cure? We could push a reset button on life as we’ve known it, which sounds like a fine idea right now, and there still would be a white police officer brutalizing a fellow human being for no other reason than the malignant growth of racism.

If this isn’t the 21st-century apocalypse, what is? One hundred million Americans have been killed by the coronavirus, 40 million are jobless, at least 1.5 million are homeless, scads of COVID-iots won’t wear masks to safeguard themselves and others from infection — and now, as if on cue from the usual demons heckling in the balcony box, our red, white and blue canvas is covered by mayhem, flames, sirens and mass destruction that might only be getting started. Of course, police brutality, civil unrest and the resulting violence would rear their wicked fangs with the worst timing imaginable, further battering a nation crippled by a pandemic that has conflated hellishly into political, economic and wellness divides.

Los Angeles mayor requires face coverings when entering businesses ...

Pleaded Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, who extended the overnight curfew to 5:30 a.m. Monday: “With liberty comes the responsibility to be able to peacefully protest. We cannot, though, protect our ability to protect life when we see people are looting. We cannot protect our ability to protect life when we see fires set in dense urban areas that not only endanger firefighters, but could put buildings or residents up in flames. We’ve seen this before in Los Angeles. When the violence escalates, no one wins.”

As for President Trump, is he still threatening White House protesters with “vicious dogs’’ and “ominous weapons?’’ Or do more infantile tweets await from the man who created much of the madness?

It’s difficult to think about much else when the country is a war zone. Needless to say, sports is only on the minds of degenerate gamblers and, I suppose, the leagues and broadcast networks desperate to recoup lost fortunes.  This is no time to insult an American intellect that is pummeled and exhausted yet still armed with perspective. Don’t say the fires that burned in Minnesota, the demonstrations demanding justice for another victim who couldn’t breathe, ever could be soothed by — mute the ESPN theme music — the return of live games. Don’t suggest we can escape an inane presidency of Twitter bombs, currently flagged by a yogi tech titan who fasts on weekends and meditates in Myanmar, by simply sitting back and watching round balls dribbled and batted in quiet buildings.

But soon enough, after a respectful pause, we’ll again read the leaked stories that continue to incrementally push a $200-billion industry toward a resumption of games. If the summer continues to be intense — and why wouldn’t it? — does it make even less sense than before to carry on with basketball and baseball and, at some point, pro and college football? The sports-obsessed Spike Lee, when asked when Hollywood film production might resume, said this to Vanity Fair BEFORE Floyd’s death: “They ain’t doing a thing until the vaccine. I know I’m not going to a movie theater. I know I’m not going to a Broadway show. I know I’m not going to Yankee Stadium. Corona is a bitch. Corona is not playing. You (bleep) around, you’re going to get killed, you’re going to die. I’m not ready to go.” Are similarly smart people really going to watch a ballgame when, in addition to the lurking virus, your city is burning on 15 other TV channels? Will athletes and their families be able to focus on games amid the unrest when, as it is, they are imperiled by virus outbreaks no matter how many tests are readily available?

Logic makes a strong argument for American sports to shut down until 2021. Why not monitor the national condition, as well as the re-openings of European soccer leagues to see if the pandemic strikes back in those countries? Oh, I forgot. Billions of dollars are at stake, with team owners and network executives aghast at the thought of dented empires, while some players are convinced they’re invincible and bigger than any silly virus. Until we hear otherwise, assume the NBA is returning in late July and that Major League Baseball will continue to wage its internal labor battles — so inappropriate, so dumb — before deciding whether to play an abbreviated season or fade into much-deserved oblivion.

Derek Chauvin Reportedly Receiving Checks Similar To Suicide Watch ...

I must say, even when idle, sports has managed to hammer home its considerable influence in the hours after Floyd’s death. The immediate outcry might be recalled as more important than any games scratched out in the fraught months ahead. Who needs LeBron James trying to win a playoff series in an Orlando quarantine bubble when he’s posting a photo of Derek Chauvin’s knee juxtaposed beside a photo of Colin Kaepernick kneeling on a sideline? There is a time and place for social activism in sports. This is the time and place, after the murders of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Michael Jordan, formerly activism-phobic, answered criticism from “The Last Dance’’ docu-series by condemning police brutality, writing in a statement, “I am deeply saddened, truly pained and plain angry. I see and feel everyone’s pain, outrage and frustration. I stand with those who are calling out the ingrained racism and violence toward people of color in our country. We have had enough.”

We have yet to hear from current sports G.O.A.T. Tom Brady, who has been disproportionately visible during the pandemic — cussing up a storm with Howard Stern, telling golf razzer Charles Barkley to “take a suck of that’’ after a miracle birdie, irresponsibly hawking coronavirus-aimed supplements — but somehow can’t lash out against racism even when challenged by a HOCKEY star, Evander Kane.

Still, sports spoke, with backlash from an unexpected source, North Carolina Central basketball coach LeVelle Moton, who told ESPN Radio that he’s alarmed by the silence of Power Five basketball and football coaches — you know, the legends — in the wake of Floyd’s death. I agree. The quiet is deafening, as LeBron would agree.

“Do you understand NOW?’’ asked James, reminding the world why Kaepernick protested against police violence.

Then there was Jaylen Brown, the young Celtics star, driving 15 hours from Boston to lead a peaceful protest in Atlanta, near his hometown of Marietta, Ga. “Being a celebrity, being an NBA player, don’t exclude me from no conversations at all. First and foremost, I’m a black man and I’m a member of this community,’’ said Brown, a vice president of the National Basketball Players Association. “We’re raising awareness for some of the injustices that we’ve been seeing. It’s not OK. As a young person, you’ve got to listen to our perspective. Our voices need to be heard. I’m 23 years old. I don’t know all of the answers. But I feel how everybody else is feeling, for sure. No question.”

Jaylen Brown drives 15 hours to lead Floyd protests in Atlanta

If and when the games resume, they will distract us for a nanosecond — maybe — from the turbulent scenes nationwide. But sports can’t delete the sick images of a creep as distinct and despicable as Chauvin, as we enter a fourth month (or is it the sixth or 10th?) of battling a devil ghost that has drained a country’s spirit and bank accounts. There can be no diversion. We’re too far gone.

Basically, the tinderbox that is America needs something, anything, that will function through the chaos and not break down in crisis. This is how sports can re-enter the murk if it so audaciously insists — and how a progressive league such as the NBA is positioned to at least get up and running while a graying, labor-torn, out-of-touch fossil such as MLB is ill-equipped to lead in tumultuous times. And I say that knowing the Players Association submitted a proposal to play a 114-game season — a marked increase from the previous 82 — that allows all players to opt out of the 2020 season over coronavirus concerns. The owners will reject it, and then what?

If sports must return, it might as well launch with its best shot to succeed. That would be the NBA, led by a woke commissioner presiding over a predominantly African-American league. Whether it was James’ tweet … or Brown’s march … or Stephen Jackson speaking out about his friendship with Floyd … or Steve Kerr trashing Vice President Mike Pence for a White House tweet that denounced the mass protests … or teams releasing statements condemning racism and violence against the black community … let’s just say the response was exactly what we’ve come to expect from Adam Silver’s league. “This is murder. Disgusting,’’ Kerr tweeted. “Seriously, what the hell is wrong with the U.S.????’’

A ballgame never has seemed more frivolous and inconsequential. But here is one reason America still can bond with sports: The NBA gets it. And it will remind us, even inside a Disney World bubble fraught with peril, that pro basketball maintains a social conscience that baseball woefully lacks. For several days, I’ve also seen sports people beyond the NBA, athletes and coaches and executives, rail against the relentless scourge of racism. Even Joe Burrow, himself only 23, was savvy enough to wax responsibly as an NFL rookie: “The black community needs our help. They have been unheard for far too long. Open your ears, listen and speak. This isn’t politics. This is human rights.’’ But, disturbingly, I had to search hard to find related baseball tweets before seeing this from the thoughtful Sean Doolittle, who wrote, “Racism is America’s Original Sin. It was here before we even forged a nation and has been passed down from generation to generation. And we still struggle to acknowledge that it even exists, much less atone for it.’’

NFL: Roger Goodell issues statement after George Floyd's death ...

Why not more MLB-based reaction? Maybe because only 68 of the 882 major-leaguers on Opening Day rosters last season — 7.7 percent — were African American. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who showcase a statue of racial groundbreaker Jackie Robinson outside a stadium near the rioting, didn’t have one black player … and 11 teams had no more than one. The sport that once heralded Henry Aaron and Willie Mays as its greatest stars has lost a generation of talented athletes to basketball and football, with African Americans comprising 75 percent of NBA rosters and 70 percent of NFL rosters. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was quick to issue a statement: “As current events dramatically underscore, there remains much more to do as a country and as a league. These tragedies inform the NFL’s commitment and our ongoing efforts. There remains an urgent need for action. We recognize the power of our platform in communities and as part of the fabric of American society. We embrace that responsibility and are committed to continuing the important work to address these systemic issues together with our players, clubs and partners.” To which veteran receiver Kenny Stills, speaking for many players, replied, “Save the bull(bleep).’’

We’re still waiting for a statement from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, who does not get it and never will.

Not to generalize, because the likes of Doolittle, Marcus Stroman and Paul DeJong are as enlightened as any modern athlete. But baseball isn’t exactly brimming with social awareness. Can you believe some players have said they won’t obey COVID-19 protocol rules that ban sunflower seeds, chewing tobacco and the spitting necessary for both functions?

“Wait, what? I’m 100 percent gonna spit,’’ Colorado outfielder Charlie Blackmon, the four-time All-Star, told Sports Illustrated. “That’s ingrained in my playing the game. Whether or not I’m dipping or chewing gum, I’m still gonna spit. I have to occupy my mind. It’s like putting things on autopilot. I don’t have this idle time where my consciousness wanders. I fill my time with thought processes that are like a cruise control.”

There’s woke. And there’s wack.

MLB Welcome To Australia Press Conference

When I see the brainpower and energy invested in the rush to resume sports — the race to be the first major league back in business on U.S. soil — I wonder why such efforts and dynamism aren’t redirected to where they’re truly needed: medical science, race relations, leadership. In the case of baseball, such missions are laughable. MLB has tried to advance its role as a comforting, restorative balm, which is especially hokey with the league in its usual self-destructive labor mode. Once again, owners  would rather portray players as greedy, pandemic-deaf ingrates than embrace a gift of the calendar: a July 4 holiday, in the heat of a volatile summer, that could present the sport in a rare positive light. Imagine a temporary truce, a mutual willingness to table their money differences and give the country a patriotic mental-health option.

Silly me. Meet the new commissioner, same as the old commissioner, representing the same ownership mindset that almost killed baseball in the mid-‘90s … and might bury the sport forever if the season is canceled because of financial contretemps that never have been more galling than amid a national crisis.

All of which leaves the NBA poised to lead at some point, near or far, as MLB crashes. Not that a cumulative wokeness can stop a virus outbreak, of course, one that could end a season as abruptly as it stopped on Rudy Gobert Night. As an indoor endeavor played by men in shorts who sweat and spray saliva on every possession, basketball is the one sport in which positive tests are inevitable. Which could lead to disarray, in particular if athletes and family members foolishly slip away from the “campus’’ and venture into Orlando, then spread whatever they might catch throughout this so-called Magic Kingdom of roundball. Remember: America may be over the pandemic, but the pandemic is not over.

At least the coronavirus has a puncher’s chance for an eventual cure. Racism is untreatable, terminal, beyond hope. My suggestion, for a pure sports fix, would be to find a happy place where children are enjoying a game for the fun of it.

Wait. The park where I watched fathers toss balls to their kids? You may have seen it in the news footage, caught in hatred’s crossfire.

BSM Writers

Meet The Market Managers: Ryan Hatch, Bonneville International Phoenix

“Our pitch is that these brands have a connection to the market. That works for us, and that works because it’s emotional. It works because it’s local. It works because of the creative messaging behind it.”

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For as long as I have known Ryan Hatch, he has been a good friend, encouraging me to take advantage of each opportunity put in front of me. When someone treats you that way, you cannot be anything but thrilled when you see them do the same thing.

Late last year, Ryan was elevated from a programming executive role with Bonneville to become Market Manager of the company’s Phoenix cluster. He is now overseeing every aspect of a building that he has worked in for a long time.

I thought it would be fun to visit with him to see what has changed. The last time I profiled him, he was serving as PD of Arizona Sports 98.7. The last time we profiled Bonneville Phoenix for this series, it was Scott Sutherland in the Market Manager’s chair. So, what has changed?

In this conversation, presented by Point to Point Marketing, Ryan and I discuss the changing nature of our business, retaining great talent, and supporting the person who’s tasked with filling your former position and leading the programming team forward. When a company is ahead of the curve with its digital strategy and generating strong ratings and revenue, what’s next?


Demetri Ravanos: So how has the transition gone moving from programming into the market manager’s seat? We’re a little over six months into the change. How steep has the learning curve been?

Ryan Hatch: You know what? It’s been fantastic. And I have to give so much credit to Scott Sutherland, who was in the chair before me, and others within the company for really preparing me for this moment. But it’s not just a transition from programming. I would think even if I came up through the sales, marketing or finance side there would be a curve.              

I’m learning new things every single day and loving it. So whether it’s six months or six years in this chair or more, I hope that I can always say that.                    

I love the job. I love the market. Obviously, you know, I’ve been here for such a long time and it’s the best chair to be in. I’m thrilled. 

DR: You mentioned Scott and I started thinking about this after you and I set a time to talk. There’s this advantageous environment of education there, right? Because Scott is still in the area. He held your job before. You’re obviously in the building and that’s got to be advantageous for Sean Thompson. How much do those conversations take place day-to-day? There seems to be an opportunity for everybody to learn and build on the person that came before them because they can just walk down the hall and ask. 

RH: Absolutely it can be advantageous because you’ve got institutional knowledge. Every person that’s been in your chair before can certainly provide important information to help expedite the onboarding process.              

The other side of it is making sure that there are clear boundaries. I can speak with Sean Thompson coming in on the programming side. My goal is to empower him and embolden Sean to take this brand to a different level with new ideas and thoughts.           

I’d been in that chair for so long, we were certainly ready for somebody new to come in with a new perspective and new experiences, and Sean’s done a wonderful job doing that. I think if you talk to Scott, he would probably say something similar. So when you ask the question, “is it advantageous?”, the answer is unquestionable. Yes, it is. At the same time, you have to really be clear on where those boundaries are, how much you want to give and share, and how much you want to let that person learn and experience it on their own as they’re creating their new environment, if that makes sense. 

DR: So with those boundaries, are there things you see Sean putting into place that make you think, “Oh man, that’s really cool. I kind of miss programing at this moment”? 

RH: Well, the irony is in asking that question, I think today is actually his 90th day on the job. So we’re still in the basic stages of him taking that chair.                   

He’s full of ideas, full of energy. I can’t wait to see so much of it come to fruition. But again, when you’re only three months in, you’re doing a lot of listening and a lot of learning before you dig in to start making change. I expect that to come, but he walked into a position with a great on-air staff, fantastic talent, an unbelievable digital team, with a great marketing and promotional support team behind him as well.                       

I’ll tell you what I’m most excited about is what’s going to happen this fall. After the listening and the learning is done, we’ll be starting to really build some exciting plans into the NFL season around the Cardinals and the NFL. We’re also hosting the Super Bowl in February of ’23 as well. So we’ve got a great big build coming here in Arizona. 

DR: So let’s talk a little bit about the future and where things can go, not just for Phoenix, but for Bonneville overall. I told you this a million times. What has always impressed me about the company, even before you and I got to know each other, was that you guys were so ahead of the curve on recognizing the value of digital content. Arizona Sports is not a radio station, it is a brand.             

I wonder now that you are in the market manager’s chair, how you look at all of the money from these different companies being put into podcasts. I mean, the deals being made to turn podcasts into TV shows or movies, do you ever think about what is possible or maybe what the next evolution for the digital side of Bonneville could or should be? 

RH: Well, I think as a company, and not to speak for Tanya Vea, who’s in a new EVP position helping oversee a lot of our content initiatives, we’re opening up a mechanism for local ideas to be funneled up to a team led by our VP of Podcasting, Sheryl Worsley. The idea is to be able to support a local that might scale on a national level and help it achieve that potential. I think that we’re very aggressive. I think that we’re also very strategic in the podcasting world.              

There’s a blessing and a curse there. The blessing is that that audience is expanding rapidly and the revenue’s been following, you know, slowly, but still following in that direction. The downside is how much time and energy and creativity a lot of our best talent have.                 

Do we want to put our talk show hosts, who are spending 4 hours a day creating live broadcast content, at the forefront of that effort? How many more hours a day of creative juice do they have left for a podcast or a passion project? It could be something that might not be entirely complimentary to the brand.                          

I think you have to be smart and strategic and understand how big of a bed it is you want to make. I think we’re being strategic about it and making the best decision for each individual circumstance. 

DR: So what about from a broadcast angle? As podcasting continues to grow and becomes the kind of thing that sellers see as easier to get clients involved with, what are the things that terrestrial radio is going to have to do to secure its own future? 

RH: Well, speaking on behalf of our properties here, where we’re all local news and all local sports. Really, that’s our business. I don’t think that there’s anything that can replicate the power of live, in the moment, information-based content. And that is the value proposition that broadcast has.                

Now, will that traditional radio audience continue to decline and find other venues? Potentially. I mean, that’s just natural, and I think that we’ve seen that accelerate through the pandemic. That doesn’t take away from the importance though.                         

If you look at Bonneville Phoenix, whether it’s Arizona Sports or KTAR, our streaming numbers are way, way up. Our monthly app users are way, way up. Our smart speaker usage is way, way up. And I think too many times we categorize one as digital and one as radio. I look at it more through the lens of what is a live broadcast and what is driven by more destination-based, story-based, topic-based choices. That’s a different experience and you can serve both. 

DR: What is your view of having that live content accessed by both radios and streaming devices? When you’re a programmer, I think it is it is easier to say, “Look, people are coming to this content. This is good content. That is what matters.” But now that you’re the market manager, I know you are a real advocate for total line reporting, but now the ratings take on this whole different meaning to you than they did before. What is your view of the right path forward to paint that picture easily and accurately for advertisers about just how powerful these brands are, whether it’s Arizona Sports or KTAR? 

RH: Thank goodness we have fantastic sales management and account executives on the streets telling that story and big brands to back them up with that unique content that our stations are delivering. And as I’ve told you in different settings over the years Demetri, Nielsen is one of many tools that tell that story. When we’re on the streets talking to a potential advertiser, and understand that our game is not as national or our market is not as regional, we are hyper-locally focused. In Phoenix, Arizona, that’s a lot of small to medium-sized businesses. So when we can walk in and share a total audience report that gives a glimpse of Nielsen, which we know is antiquated and really, really needs to be reformed and updated. You’ve got to bring your Google Analytics and your Triton numbers. You have so many other tools to use to evaluate how our content is being delivered and consumed. You’ve got to paint that entire total audience story, and I will tell you that it’s a story that is very well received in Phoenix with our products. 

DR: Maybe this is more of a question for your sales staff, but is it a matter of walking potential advertisers and current advertisers through each individual number, or do you find a way to synthesize it down into a simple illustration of how many people are listening to your content every day? 

RH: It’s not a numbers game. It’s not getting into detail about how many tens of thousands of listeners we have on one platform and how many on another and how many views or clicks on websites. Our pitch is that these brands have a connection to the market. That works for us, and that works because it’s emotional. It works because it’s local. It works because of the creative messaging behind it. When you have something that works for your advertisers, they’re not going to be coming in and scrutinizing the numbers left and right.                      

Now, you have to deliver to the audience, and we have significant audiences. In fact, I’ll tell you right now, combining everything together. And it’s not apples to apples, because these are all different channels. But our audience is here in Phoenix between our websites, our apps, and our radio distribution. Our audiences have never been better. I mean, that’s a wonderful and easy story to tell. 

DR: Play-by-play is obviously a big part of what you do on Arizona Sports. You and I have talked before about the landscape of Phoenix sports, and I think you’ve described it as, because Phoenix is a transplant market, you find yourself talking about everyone’s second favorite team.            

So how does that play with advertisers? Do they buy into the idea that this is a unifying thing or is there some concern that it is too much of a transplant market for the value returned by play-by-play doesn’t match the cost to advertise in that space? 

RH: Our original franchise, the Phoenix Suns, while, they had a disappointing end of the season, it couldn’t have been more galvanizing. That is the one team that has been here for 50-plus years. That orange blood does run deep. The Cardinals have had their moments. The Diamondbacks have the only championship in the major sports here, but that was back in 2001.             

I’ll answer that question in a couple of ways. Number one, we are catering to the fans and to the super fans, but we try to create content that is going to be accessible and interesting for those that would claim that any of the franchises are their second favorite team in a given league. When you move into a market and you head to the office or nowadays maybe it’s a Zoom call, you still want to be able to have a conversation about something that’s relevant. You want a shared experience with your coworker or a neighbor, somebody at school when you’re hanging out waiting to up the kids. So often that conversation is sports.                        

We have a fantastic sports market. Now, where’s the passion level? Is it as high as a Boston or Philadelphia? Of course not and we’re not going to act like it is. But at the end of the day, what does an advertiser look for? They’re looking for an audience and they’re looking for something exclusive to put their message on. That’s what we’re able to offer with our play-by-play. On top of that, what’s become more and more important to us in our model, especially on the digital side over the years, is the access to those decision-makers, to the coaches, the exclusive access to the general managers with weekly calls, and things like player shows.                 

There’s so much more that you can offer beyond just the game itself that makes these partnerships great for our business and the advertising community. 

DR: So coming out of what is being called The Great Resignation, what are you experiencing as a market manager and what are your other hiring managers experiencing? What are the new challenges of recruiting, whether it is sales or programing, any kind of talent in an environment like this? 

RH: Well, let’s add to that and talk about inflationary pressures as well. I mean, there are so many factors at play right now, and I think it’s as tough as I can ever remember it.                 

What we’re doing here at Bonneville Phoenix is really leaning into our culture and making sure that we’re an employer of choice because we have a culture that people want to be a part of. It’s a good team environment full of hungry people that want to succeed not just for themselves. So the more hungry, humble, and smart people we find, the better off we’re going to be.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we haven’t lost. There’s been a dramatic shuffle. Right now, I can say that we’re close to a full boat, but that wasn’t the case a month ago. There are so many different forces at play right now. It is a difficult environment. Our news side alone faces unique challenges. News itself has been under attack for multiple years. Don’t you think that burns people out?           

Absolutely I have concerns, but what can we control? Well, we can focus on executing the vision that Bonneville has provided. It’s built on passionate people and innovation. It is about creating a culture people want to be a part of. 

DR: We’ve heard a lot about burnout when people talk about why they leave a job in any industry. We hear about work-life balance. You’re responsible for the entire building, so what are you telling your managers on the sales and programming side about creating an environment for employees that respects that those are real and valid concerns while still maintaining the level of expectation of quality for Arizona Sports and KTAR. 

RH:  We’re still committed to the highest standards, and we always will be. And we found that certain parts of the business can work pretty effectively from home, while other parts of the business really can’t. I will tell you, on the content side working from home, we did it when we had to. We did it, I would say fairly effectively for a few extended periods. But overall, in a local news and local sports environment that really is driven by the breaking news, the need to work together in a space is real. You just can’t do things as quickly or as effectively or as creatively if you’re separated. You just can’t.                  

Now, on the sales side, we want them on the streets. We want them out of the office, but there is a balance. So what are we asking our great sales managers to do? We’re asking them just to make sure that they are up to speed on where the activity is and that we’re doing all the jobs that need to be done. Do I ever see us going back to five days a week in the office? I don’t. I think that ship has sailed and I think that’s just fine. I think there’s some real benefit to that.  

The way to make this all work is to empower our department heads to come up with a plan that’s going to work best for them, for their people, and deliver on what our expectations are for the business. And then as leaders, we have to understand that the plan is going to be evolving. It really is. This is not going to be decided on a new policy set. I think that we’re in a new world, probably for the rest of our lives. 

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BSM Writers

Broadcasting Fills The Baseball Void For Keith Moreland

“When I got through… I wanted to do something with my life and I get that same feeling with broadcasting.”

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Austin American-Statesman

Sports color analysts are more often than not former players. This has been a consistent norm across sports broadcasting at all levels. The analyst is there to add “color” to the play-by-play broadcaster’s metaphorical and verbal “drawing” of the game. For former MLB slugger and catcher, Keith Moreland, this was the surprise post-playing retirement career that has boosted him to a key figure in Austin media and national media alike.

Moreland played football and baseball at the University of Texas before making his way to the MLB for 12 years with key contributions to the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs in the 1980s.

Moreland reminisced on his decision to play baseball full time: “I thought I was going to be in the NFL, but Earl Campbell changed that. I had just played summer ball. We had won a championship and I missed the first few days of two-a-days. I hadn’t even had a physical yet and I’m in a scrimmage. I stepped up to this freshman running back and as he ducked his shoulder, one of his feet hit my chest and the other hit my face mask and he kept on truckin’. I got up and I thought ‘I could be a pretty good baseball player.’

So I told Coach Royal after practice I was going to focus on baseball and he asked ‘what took you so long? We were surprised you came back because we think you have a really good shot at playing professional baseball.'”

It was a good choice for Moreland. He was part of the 1973 College World Series winning Texas Longhorns baseball team. While at Texas Moreland hit .388 and became the all-time leader in hits for the College World Series. After being drafted by the Phillies in the 7th round of the 1975 draft, Moreland would go-on to play in the majors from 1978 to 1989.

“You go your whole life trying to get to play professionally. When I got through my opportunity to play in the big leagues, I wanted to do something with my life and I get that same feeling with broadcasting.”

Broadcasting was not the original retirement plan for Moreland. He first tried his luck at coaching with his first stop being his alma mater as an assistant for the Longhorns. At the time, Bill Schoening (a Philadelphia native and Phillies fan), was the radio play-by-play broadcaster. Schoening made Moreland a go-to for a pre-game interview and convinced him to come on talk shows. Schoening even convinced Moreland to practice live broadcasting skills by taking a recorder to games and listening back to them to learn.

“Bill was the guy who brought me onboard and I still have those tapes and I really learned from them, but I don’t want anyone else to ever hear them!” Moreland adds with a chuckle on how far he has come in over 25 years of broadcasting.

Moreland has been a key part of University of Texas radio broadcasts for baseball since the 1990s and has catapulted that broadcast experience to Texas high school football, Longhorn football radio and television broadcasts, ESPN, the Little League World Series, the Chicago Cubs and more since hanging up his cleats and picking up a microphone.

While his playing days are well behind him, Moreland still takes the spirit of his professional athlete background to his broadcasting:

“If you don’t bring energy to your broadcast, somebody’s gonna turn the game on and wonder ‘what’s wrong? Are they losing the game?’”, Moreland remarks, “So you have to come prepared and with energy for the broadcasts.”

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BSM Writers

Radio Partnerships With Offshore Sportsbooks Are Tempting

The rush to get sports betting advertising revenue offers an interesting risk to stations in states where the activity is illegal.

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Maryland Matters

As the wave of sports gambling continues to wash over the United States, marketing budgets soar and advertisements flood radio and television airwaves. Offers of huge sign-on bonuses, “risk-free” wagers, and enhanced parlay odds seem to come from every direction as books like DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM fight over market share and battle one another for every new user they can possibly attract.

For those in states where sports betting is not yet legalized–or may never be–it is frustrating to see these advertisements and know that you cannot get in the action. However, as with any vice, anybody determined to partake will find ways to do so. Offshore sports books are one of the biggest ways. Companies such as Bovada and BetOnline continue to thrive even as more state-based online wagering options become available to Americans.

While five states–Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, and New York–have passed laws making it illegal for offshore books to take action from their residents, using an offshore book is perfectly legal for the rest of the country. While there are hurdles involved with funding for some institutions, there is no law that prevents someone in one of those other 45 states from opening an account with Bovada and wagering on whatever sporting events they offer. The United States government has tried multiple times to go after them, citing the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006, and have failed at every step, with the World Trade Organization citing that doing so would violate international trade agreements. 

While gambling is becoming more and more accepted every day, and more states look to reap the financial windfall that comes with it, the ethical decisions made take on even more importance. One of the tougher questions involved with the gambling arms race is how to handle offers from offshore books to advertise with radio stations in a state where sports betting is not legalized. 

Multiple stations in states without legalized gambling, such as Texas and Florida, have partnerships with BetOnline to advertise their services. Radio stations can take advantage of these relationships in three main ways: commercials, on-air reads, and the station’s websites. For example, Bovada’s affiliate program allows for revenue sharing based on people clicking advertisements on a partner’s website and signing up with a new deposit. This is also the case for podcasts, such as one in Kansas that advertises with Bovada despite sports gambling not being legal there until later in 2022.

People are going to gamble, and it’s legal to do so. In full disclosure, I myself have utilized Bovada’s services for a number of years, even after online sports wagering became legal in my state of Indiana. As such, advertising a service that is legal within the state seems perfectly fine in the business sense, and I totally understand why a media entity would choose to accept an offer from an offshore book. However, there are two major factors that make it an ethical dilemma, neither of which can be ignored.

First, Americans may find it easy to deposit money with a book such as Bovada or BetOnline, but much more difficult to get their money back. While the UIGEA hasn’t been successful in stopping these books from accepting money, it has made it difficult–near impossible, in fact–for American financial institutions to accept funds directly from these companies. Therefore, most payouts have to take place either via a courier service, with a check that can take weeks to arrive, or via a cryptocurrency payout. For those who are either unwilling or not tech-savvy enough to go this route, it means waiting sometimes up to a month to receive that money versus a couple days with a state-licensed service.

The other major concern is the lack of protections involved with gambling in a state where legislation has been passed. For example, the state of Indiana drew up laws and regulations for companies licensed to operate within its borders that included protections for how bets are graded, what changes can be made to lines and when they can take place, and how a “bad line” is handled. They also require a portion of the revenues be put towards resources for those dealing with gambling addiction or compulsion issues. 

None of those safeguards exist with an offshore book. While the books have to adhere to certain regulations, it’s much more loosely enforced. I’ve lost track of the number of times a book like Bovada has made somewhat shady decisions on what bets to honor as “wins”, and how they handle wagers on what they deem to be “bad lines” where they posted a mistake and users capitalized on it. Furthermore, not a single dime of the monies received go towards helping those dealing with addiction, and there are few steps taken by the offshore books to look for compulsive or addictive behaviors.  

As states look to move sports betting out of the shadows, the decision whether to take advertising dollars from offshore books seems to be an even larger gray area than ever before. Although it is perfectly legal to accept these funds when offered, it feels unethical to do so. There are moral obligations tied to accepting the money involved, especially given the lack of regulations and safeguards for players in addition to the limited resources for those who find themselves stuck in a situation they may struggle to escape. While it’s possible to take steps to educate listeners on these pitfalls, it simply feels irresponsible to encourage people to utilize these services given the risks involved, and the lack of protections in place.

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