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Every Host Deserves A Chance To Say Goodbye

“Unless there is a breech of contract, or conduct detrimental to the organization, don’t stations owe some type of explanation as to what happened?”

John Michaels

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How do you want to go out? 

How would you like to be remembered? 

For many athletes, the chance to go out on their own terms is a very tough decision that few truly get to make. Dwyane Wade, Peyton Manning, and Kobe Bryant come to mind as guys who went out on their time and on their terms.

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Manning ended his stellar NFL career with a Super Bowl victory, but even at the end of that game, physically Manning was a shell of the great QB that we all knew and loved. Bryant went for 61 in his final game, a true testament to his greatness, but during his last years in LA there was a sentiment that the Lakers were ready to move on. Wade was given a year long goodbye tour, which was great, but people forget Pat Riley didn’t give him the contract he wanted just a few years earlier. The best thing for all of them is they got to say goodbye on their terms. 

In the sports radio business, many of us are not given that same opportunity to go out on our terms. Management is usually too afraid to allow talent to say goodbye, afraid that personalities will suddenly become unprofessional and say dumb things on the air. Why is that? Shouldn’t we be given chances to thank our audiences the same way? 

Mike Golic is an ESPN Radio staple and one of the best people to ever grace the microphone. Mike & Mike in the Morning is one of the all-time best shows. When ESPN announced that they were going to move on from Golic, everyone around ESPN was allowed to send their heartfelt messages to him. 

Mike Greenberg, Golic’s former partner, said “For all the success Mike and I had together, the most important thing I got from our relationship had nothing to do with the show. In the earliest days of our partnership, I saw what it looks like when you really put your family first. Every parent I know says their kids are their first priority, but not all of them live that way. Mike does. He lives that way every single day. As a result, when my kids were born I fully understood the sacrifices that go along with that. I believe I have become a better father because of Mike Golic.”

Golic is moving on to other assignments at ESPN, but he got a luxury that very few of us do. He got to hear his colleagues tell the world what he meant to them and to our business.

Mike Francesca is a different case, as he did his last show at WFAN just one Friday ago. The news obviously made waves because Francesca has been at WFAN for over 30 years. He’s one of the pioneers of the business and should be celebrated as such, but after a brief retirement and relaunch in 2018, Francesca’s departure last week didn’t have as much fanfare. Is it a wrestling retirement, you know the one where Ric Flair has an emotional Wrestlemania moment, only to return to action 6 months later? Is this a permanent move where Mike enjoys the fruits of his labor and time at home? This could explain why there wasn’t more hoopla surrounding Mike and WFAN parting ways.

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For the rest of us it’s never that easy, and we never usually get to call our shot. Sure, if you are lucky enough to transfer from one property to another, while under the same parent company, your program director may allow you to leave with a going away bash. Others though are fired, usually after a shift, and left to explain what happened over social media.

Unfortunately I’ve had personal experiences with losing employment and neither of them were desirable situations. 790 the Zone went out of business in May of 2014, and after starting a career and spending 10 years as the same place, it would’ve been nice to get a warning before losing a job that I loved. JP Peterson, Alge Crumpler and I hosted mornings, I would take 3 hours off and then come back to do middays. We all knew the station wasn’t doing great, but had no clue that on a fateful Tuesday morning when we signed off at 10am that doors were closing for good.

A meeting ensued and all staff was told to go see HR and pick up a severance check. Why wasn’t the last show given a chance to offer any kind of final words? The local newspaper had a press release and The Zone flipped to syndication before being sold off a few years later. After 10 years, they owed us more.

My situation at 92.9 the Game in Atlanta left an even more sour taste. Three years of having a successful midday show alongside Rick Kamla and five total years of employment, another faithful Tuesday hit, and The Midday Show with Rick and John was no more. Kamla is and will always be a good friend, as are our producers Paul Bible and Mark Owens, and when the show was terminated part of my life was lost.

Working in radio is a gift, one that never should be taken for granted, but those 3 years never felt like work. It felt like a conversation at a bar amongst friends. The most successful shows have that same feeling, and it’s one that can’t be manufactured. 

The hardest pill to swallow is once we were let go, it’s as if we never existed at all. Scrubbed from social media, scrubbed from the website, and everything that we did was completely wiped away. My goodbye was done on Twitter, and yes I had hard feelings since I never felt like we should’ve been replaced. The audience was left to wonder what happened? There were message board rumors that we were fired for talking bad about Atlanta United, which couldn’t have been further from the truth.

The audience deserves better, and employees deserve better. Unless there is a breech of contract, or conduct detrimental to the organization, don’t stations owe some type of explanation as to what happened? Shouldn’t guys be able to tell their side of the story in a professional way? 

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Mike Golic will always be part of the story of ESPN Radio and Mike Francesca will always be a huge part of WFAN. The same can be said about many other who didn’t get to go out on their own terms. 

On Air Talent deserves better. 

BSM Writers

First Take Wasn’t Built To Discuss Ime Udoka’s Suspension

“It was the biggest sports story on Friday morning. It warranted the amount of coverage that it got but giving it the “embrace debate” treatment was foolish.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Stephen A. Smith is the franchise at ESPN. First Take has probably eclipsed SportsCenter as the network’s signature show. Those are opinions made without any judgment. They are neither good things nor are they bad things. They are merely ESPN’s business model in 2022.

On Friday, social media exploded like an elementary school class breaking out in a simultaneous “uh-woo-woo” when the teacher calls out a single student. It didn’t matter who you thought was in the wrong, everyone was talking about the verbal sparring match Smith got into with Malika Andrews while discussing the Boston Celtics’ suspension of head coach Ime Udoka.

I don’t want to dwell on who is right and who is wrong between Smith and Andrews. I don’t think that matters. The answer to that question is less important than the fact that we are asking it at all.

First Take was not built to handle the nuances and delicacy of a situation like Udoka’s suspension. Clearly, the coach was involved in something that is not as cut and dry as two adults choosing to have sex with each other. We don’t have all the facts and there is no version of a responsible discussion of the situation that involves speculation.

It was the biggest sports story on Friday morning. It warranted the amount of coverage that it got but giving it the “embrace debate” treatment was foolish. I don’t know who that is on. 

Stephen A. Smith did not come out looking great in the exchange, but it seems too simplistic to point the finger at him. Malika Andrews came in ready for a confrontation, but again, to say just one person is responsible for making this feel icky is not addressing the issue at hand.

Matt Barnes of ESPN and All the Smoke posted an interesting message as an Instagram Reel on Friday. He said that his initial reaction to the news of Udoka’s suspension was to post a message on social media defending the coach. After someone that knew the details of the suspension spoke with him, he pulled the message down because he could not defend the things he was told happened.

We all speak with emotion on social media. That whole industry is fueled by users confusing their opinions and feelings as some sort of unimpeachable moral authority. It is a pretend space. It does not matter.

ESPN is very real. What is said on the network has consequences for the people talking and the people being talked about.

First Take is the centerpiece of a billion-dollar network. It is built to be a very specific thing. In a perfect world for ESPN, the show is the spark that starts the fire of every debate in sports. 

We have been having way too many conversations in sports lately that aren’t appropriate for that kind of platform. 

First Take isn’t, and frankly shouldn’t be, a show that deals in nuance. It is loud, passionate and fun. It’s supposed to sound like a bar or a barbershop. Surely Ime Udoka and what he did or didn’t do with female employees of the Boston Celtics will be discussed in those venues, just like sexual misconduct accusations against DeShaun Watson and evidence that Brett Favre helped orchestrate a welfare fraud scheme in Mississippi likely were. But barbershop discussions don’t play out on the biggest brand on cable TV. They have no consequences.

The Boston Celtics are coming off of a season that saw their young core finally start to look like the championship team we have been told they were for the last five years. They made their first Finals appearance since 2010. As a lifelong fan of this team, trust me when I tell you that if a suspension weren’t absolutely warranted, the front office would not be trying to scapegoat the head coach responsible for all of that.

Stephen A. Smith has to take a side. He has to have an adversary to every opinion he offers. It is his brand and it is what he does well. Like the rest of us, he is welcome to have an opinion on Udoke and the suspension. 

First Take does what it is supposed to very well, but it is never going to be the right forum for conversation that has to be more fact and almost no opinion.

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BSM Writers

Seller to Seller – Yaman Coskun, Yamanair Creative

Jeff Caves

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Why don’t more sellers hit the street armed with spec spots? Yaman Coskun says it is one of the most effective tools that radio uses far too rarely.

iTunes: https://buff.ly/3ysYv3H

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3BhdpNE

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3J24oK9

Google: https://buff.ly/3z9TJIA

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

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BSM Writers

The Difference Between Sports Media Nepotism and Following In Your Father’s Footsteps

Just because you’re hired simply because of your last name and obvious connections built within the business, it doesn’t mean you can’t be fantastic.

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Growing up, I often felt envious of friends who had a family business. It sounded perfect. You didn’t have to decide what you were going to do in life, what your interests were, or how you were going to make a living. Your destiny was decided. I didn’t know nepotism was really a thing.

Later in life, I changed my tune. I can only imagine the stress of having to follow in someone’s footsteps, or be questioned “that’s not the way your old man did it”. It would bother me greatly.

As a new generation of sports media talents ascend to higher profiles, I can’t help but notice familiar names rising the ranks. Collinsworth. Eagle. Golic. Just to name a few. And while there are charges of nepotism, it isn’t anything new. But to me, there’s a difference between sports media nepotism and following in your father’s footsteps.

For instance, I was fairly critical of NBC after they named Jac Collinsworth their lead play-by-play voice for Notre Dame football coverage. I still feel justified in my criticism, mostly because network television isn’t the place for on-the-job training. Collinsworth has been roundly criticized for his work during NBC’s first two broadcasts of Notre Dame football. He lacks the command and pacing of a polished play-by-play announcer, and it’s apparent throughout the broadcast.

I’m certain had I been a sports media pundit in 1994, I would have roundly criticized Joe Buck for being hired as a play-by-play announcer for FOX’s NFL coverage at the ripe age of 25. Because, like Collinsworth, Buck’s hiring reeked of nepotism.

However, just because you’re hired simply because of your last name and obvious connections built within the business, it doesn’t mean you can’t be fantastic. While a divisive presence on broadcasts, I would venture to guess the majority of viewers believe Buck to be one of the best announcers in sports. Being great takes time. That’s a fact for basket weaving just as much as it is for sports announcers.

My personal favorite broadcaster is Ian Eagle. He’s the cream of the crop, in my eyes, and he and his son, Noah, are in the same boat that Jack and Joe Buck and Marv and Kenny Albert were in the 1990s. Noah Eagle has risen to prominence as the radio announcer for the Los Angeles Clippers, but I’ve recently heard more of his work as a college football announcer for FOX Sports. Truth be told, I find Noah Eagle’s work fantastic. First of all, he sounds just like his father. Not in his vernacular, which is close, but his actual voice is incredibly similar to Ian’s.

But the handle that Noah Eagle has on broadcasts at such a young age is incredibly impressive. His talent is obvious, and I think it’s probably why you didn’t hear many charges of nepotism when he became the Clippers radio voice at age 22.

Doing quality work is the easiest way to quell nepotism accusations. To be completely transparent, as a sports radio program director, the station I ran switched from CBS Sports Radio to ESPN Radio in 2018. The first voice heard on my station when we flipped on Labor Day? Mike Golic Jr. and I immediately hated him. In my close-minded view, the only reason he was on the show, or had any presence on ESPN Radio in the first place was because of his last name.

But Golic Jr., maybe better than anyone I’ve ever heard, didn’t defend himself from claims of nepotism. He embraced them. And in retrospect, it’s such a fantastic way to deal with those accusations. Because anyone who doesn’t like you is going to immediately tell you “the only reason you have that job is because of your dad”. And, in all likelihood, those critics would be right! So why run from it? Why hide from it? Why defend your talent when you’re not going to win those people over immediately in the first place?

It was a brilliant maneuver by GoJo. One that started to win me over. But like his father, Mike Golic Jr. is a fantastic radio, now podcast, host. His ability to relate to both younger and older audiences is one of his best qualities. He quickly became one of, if not the best, ESPN Radio hosts to deal with serious subject matters. I couldn’t have been more wrong about him during my early days working with ESPN Radio.

I think that’s the difference between nepotism and following in your father’s footsteps. You’re going to be faced with the accusations. You might as well embrace them, and if you’re talented enough — like Buck, Albert, Eagle, and Golic have shown — they’ll fade away in due time.

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Barrett Media Writers

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