What we wouldn’t do for one gonzo story, one what-the-hell moment that forges a redeeming 2020 memory, one breakout to offset the outbreaks. It would be something we never saw coming, like the coronavirus itself, and the crackpot absurdity of it all would make us laugh and shriek and emote in ways we haven’t in sports since February.
Well, the Miami Marlins are that crazy phenomenon, the revelation that silhouettes the surreal. And if they somehow win the World Series late this month, perhaps we all can just die before Election Night — particularly if they beat the cheatin’ Houston Asterisks, who are alive and (disgustingly) well thus far in the American League playoffs. Any year can be defined by LeBron James in the NBA Finals and Tom Brady throwing five touchdown passes in a game. But the rise of the Marlins from COVID-19 hell? Their escape from numerous self-inflicted ailments through time? It’s another indication that the world never will be normal again, which is exactly what 2020 had in mind.
The consensus says Major League Baseball, straining for eyeballs more than ever this October, needs traditional powers and neon stars to carry the postseason. Some even relish a chance to embrace hatred and brawls — the Astros against the A’s and the former teammate who ratted them out, Mike Fiers; the Yankees and Rays regenerating mutual contempt. But why promote animosity during a pandemic when we can embrace long, lost joy?
When the year we want to forget has the tale we’d always remember?
In July, the Marlins were the first North American sports team to be attacked and shuttered by COVID-19. Eighteen players were isolated, leaving manager Don Mattingly with scraps and oddities he barely knew, including a former Olympic short-track speed skater named Eddy Alvarez. I remember demanding they be exorcised from the regular season, not just because of virus implications but because they were THE MARLINS — 105 defeats the previous year, no winning season since 2009, the franchise gallingly known for either breaking up rosters after winning championships or shipping away great players before their prime so they didn’t have to be paid market value. This is the organization that dumped Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, J.T. Realmuto and Marcell Ozuna in a single swoop. What was the point of competing?
“Bottom feeders,’’ Phillies TV analyst Ricky Bottalico called the Marlins on Opening Day. That was one of the kinder descriptions.
Yet here they are, a youthful rebuild arriving way ahead of schedule, one of eight teams remaining while awaiting a National League divisional series against the Braves. The Marlins probably won’t win, but then, that’s what was said last week, when they swept the Cubs in Wrigley FIeld without needing Steve Bartman’s help. They won the World Series during that fall of 2003, for the second time in seven seasons, but the reviled owner, Jeffrey Loria, drove away the fan base and took substantial public money to build a ballpark/art gallery that sat mostly empty even before the pandemic. Would the new leadership hierarchy — Derek Jeter as the baseball boss, Bruce Sherman as the money man — somehow be worse?
If such an award exists in 2020, Jeter would be Executive of the Year, which surprises some but shouldn’t — wasn’t he an all-time champion and leader with the Yankees? Making the right calls on talent acquired in those painful trades, Jeter assembled a baby rotation featuring Sandy Alcantara, Sixto Sanchez and Pablo Lopez. Does it matter that we just recently grew familiar with them? The bullpen is loaded with hot kids and cool veterans. And if the offense is thin, castoffs Jesus Aguilar and Corey Dickerson dinged the Cubs when necessary, which is more than Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo can say in Chicago.
The Marlins, more than any team in sports, have persevered this year. The Cardinals were eliminated after their COVID breakout. The Tennessee Titans have been derailed after starting 3-0 in the NFL. The Bottom Feeders keep eating — and wearing the slogan on their t-shirts — after a regular season of quarantines, postponements, seven doubleheaders, mad travel and no days off between Sept. 3 and this past Saturday.
“I don’t think we’re going to be satisfied. We’re going to be looking to win,’’ said Mattingly, whose managerial career looked dead before this miracle. “The one thing we talked about all year was, `Why not us?’ These guys believed in each other and never quit.’’
“We know that everybody just thinks we’re `the Marlins.’ It’s kind of like a stigma,” Dickerson said. “We know how much talent we have. The depth is crazy, and people will start to realize it.”
What people will fall in love with is their resolve. “We’ve been screwed around all year,” closer Brandon Kintzler said. “With scheduling, fake rain delays and fake postponements, it’s just been a frickin’ whirlwind. Everyone tried to screw with us — we’re still here. You can’t get rid of us. I don’t care if we’re bottom-feeders. I want to thank Ricky Bottalico for that inspiration by the way.’’
It’s understandable why the Asterisks are getting attention. They are the villains every postseason needs and still potent — Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa — despite their disgraceful sign-stealing scandal. They aren’t showing much remorse, with Correa riling the haters with this recent morsel: “I know a lot of people are mad. I know a lot of people don’t want to see us here. But what are they going to say now?” Josh Reddick followed with this doozy: “It’s all about silencing the haters. That’s what this year was about.’’
But there they were Monday, rallying to beat the A’s at, of course, Dodger Stadium — home field of the Astros’ 2017 World Series heist victims — behind two home runs by Correa, who raised an index finger that might as well have been the middle digit during one trot. When MLB commissioner Rob Manfred failed to vacate the Houston’s title or punish players for their roles in the scheme, he assured that Astros Hate never would dissipate. Now they lead an American League divisional series against the A’s and Fiers, who didn’t start a game against the Astros in the regular season but surely will be used in this series. The A’s insist they are keeping their focus on the prize: the World Series always cherished by architect Billy Beane, going back to “Moneyball,’’ but never attained.
“it’s about not being petty and letting our emotions get the better of us by trying to be over the top and vengeful and everything,” closer Liam Hendriks said. “We’ve played them enough times this year. I believe in this team, and we’re going to try to stick it to ’em as much as we can and prove that we’re the best team.’’
But the Astros do have an unfair advantage created by the pandemic: No fans in the stands to harass them. In the regular season, they dealt with retaliation from other teams — such as the purpose pitches and infamous pouty face of the Dodgers’ Joe Kelly. But even in Los Angeles, they have no distractions, unless you’re counting the cardboard cutouts of Dodgers fans in the seats or the Dodgers’ front office making known their pleasure that the Astros wouldn’t be in the home clubhouse. That didn’t stop Correa from cupping his ear as he rounded third base.
Just thinking aloud: What if the Astros meet the Dodgers in the World Series … in Texas? “I love October baseball,’’ said Correa, rubbing it in after the 10-5 victory. “The energy is just different. I know there’s no fans this year, but the energy to know you win or go home is what drives me.”
“The way people want to perceive us is fine,’’ pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. said. “People are allowed to feel any way about the Houston Astros. We have a good team. We may not have the big names and big bank accounts, but we’ve got guys with balls.’’
And guys who beat trash cans to alert hitters to pitches, though in an empty stadium, I suppose the Astros are showing they don’t need to cheat to win — the gist of their shame. “The role of villain was given to us,’’ said manager Dusty Baker, hired this year for what was presumably a thankless job. “It’s not something I took on, even though some of it — or most of it — was warranted.’’
Baker has been the right medicine man in steadying the cause. After general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were fired, the 71-year-old skipper has urged players to have fun and ditch the past, including the so-called snitch. “Nobody has mentioned his name,” Baker said. “I haven’t heard Mike Fiers’ name all year, until you just said it right now, you know what I mean? It’s like he’s not even present.” Baker might want to have a talk with the Astros’ social-media staffers.
“Stay mad. We’ll stay winning,’’ they tweeted.
Baseball’s business purists will love Yankees-Rays. By the way, is MLB still testing for steroids? Are the balls juiced again? Both California-based series are hosting home-run derby, with the Yankees getting to Blake Snell and Stanton smacking a grand slam in their Game 1 victory. Once again, the algorithmic wizards of small-revenue Tampa Bay are threatening to shame the slugging, uber-market behemoths. This series has the best chance of combustibility, with memories fresh of a September purpose-pitch war that included Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman throwing a wicked heater at Mike Brosseau’s scalp. Said Rays manager Kevin Cash, aiming his wrath at rival skipper Aaron Boone: “We’re talking about a 100 mph fastball over a young man’s head. It’s poor judgment, poor coaching, it’s just poor teaching what they’re doing and what they’re allowing to do, the chirping from the dugout. Somebody’s got to be accountable. And the last thing I’ll say on this is I got a whole damn stable full of guys that throw 98 mph. Period.”
Said Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier: “With all the history we’ve had the last couple of years, it is what it is. I’ve said many times they don’t like us and we don’t like them. It’s going to continue to stay that way.’’
By comparison, the Dodgers-Padres series — in Arlington, Texas, of course, while the AL plays in Los Angeles and San Diego — is all about starpower. If Clayton Kershaw can dominate October with his renewed killer slider, it’s hard to imagine anyone beating Mookie Betts and the Dodgers … unless closer Kenley Jansen beats himself again. It will be a hoot watching the bat-flipping Tatis and those disruption-minded Padres.
“I feel like we’re back,’’ Tatis said of a traditionally sadsack franchise. “We’re back to Slam Diego.’’
Imagine a Padres-Marlins NL championship series. Imagine a Yankees-Astros AL championship series. Imagine a Marlins-Astros World Series. Imagine anything you want.
Jay Mariotti, called “the most impacting Chicago sportswriter of the past quarter-century,’’ writes a weekly media column for Barrett Sports Media and regular sports columns for Substack while appearing on some of the 1,678,498 podcasts in production today. He’s an accomplished columnist, TV panelist and radio talk host. Living in Los Angeles, he gravitated by osmosis to film projects. Compensation for this column is donated to the Chicago Sun-Times Charity Trust.
Marty Smith Loves The ‘Pinch Me’ Moments
“I don’t look at it as a talent-based platform. I don’t look at it as a results-based platform. I look at it as a platform that was built and sustained through the way I treat other people, through the work ethic that I believe that I have and through the passion that I know I have.”
I tell this story all the time. It is told for laughs, but it is absolutely true. Marty Smith once gave me a giant box of beef jerky.
I was in Charlotte visiting him and Ryan McGee on the set of Marty & McGee as part of a larger feature I was doing on the SEC Network. We spent probably 3 hours together that day. It was a lot of fun. The last thing I watched the duo shoot was a promo for Old Trapper Beef Jerky, the presenting sponsor of their show.
As they finished, I shook their hands and told them I had to get on the road. That is when Smith presented me with a box of twelve bags of Old Trapper and told me, in as sincere a voice as you can imagine, that he wanted me to have it.
“I mean, listen, if you give a man beef jerky, by God, you like him,” Smith said to me when I reminded him of that story earlier this week. “That’s redneck currency right there, bud.”
There just aren’t a lot of people in this business like Marty Smith. ESPN definitely knows it too. That is why the network finds every opportunity it can to use him to tell the stories of the events and people it covers.
Last week, he spent Monday and Tuesday with the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens. He got a day back home in Charlotte before he headed to Atlanta for the SEC Network’s coverage of the SEC Championship Game on Thursday. Saturday, after his duties for SEC Nation and College GameDay were done, he hit the road for Tuscaloosa to interview Nick Saban and be ready for ESPN’s coverage of the reveal of the final College Football Playoff rankings.
As if that isn’t enough, this week he heads to New York. It will be the second time ESPN will use him to conduct interviews and tell stories during the telecast of the Heisman Trophy presentation. It’s an assignment that Marty Smith still cannot believe is his.
“I’ve had a ton of pinch-me moments, but in the last five, six years, seven years, there are two that kind of stand out above the rest. One was when Mike McQuaid asked me to be part of his team to cover The Masters. The other was last year when my dear longtime friend Kate Jackson, who is the coordinating producer over the Heisman broadcast, asked me to be a part of her Heisman broadcast team and interview the coaches, players and families of the finalists,” Smith says. “You know, brother, I’ve been watching the Heisman Trophy my whole life.”
We talk about what the broadcast around the Heisman Trophy presentation is and how it differs from being on the sideline for a game. He is quick to point out that on a game day, the old adage “brevity is king” is a reality. In New York though, he will have more time to work with. He plans not to just fill it, but to use it.
Marty’s interest in his subjects’ backgrounds and their emotions is sincere. It is part of a larger philosophy. He respects that everyone has a story to tell and appreciates the opportunity to be the one that gets to tell it, so he is going to do all he can to make sure the people he is talking to know it and know that they matter to him. That means putting in the time to be respectful of his subject’s time.
“When I’m interviewing these players or coaches before a game, I want to interview them, and I’m saying not on camera, but when I’m doing the record. I want to get as thorough as I can get. Then you take all of that and you try to pare it down into a very small window. It’s not easy. I mean, look, most of the time you come home with reams of notes that never even sniff air.”
Marty Smith has always been a unique presence. As his profile has grown and he shows up on TV more often and in more places, more people question who this guy really is.
That is par for the course though, right? Someone with a unique presence sees their star rise and out come the naysayers ready to question how authentic the new object of our affections really is.
For me, there is a moment that defines Marty Smith, at least in this aspect. I cannot remember the year or the situation, but he was on The Dan Le Batard Show, back when it was on ESPN Radio. Smith was telling Dan about friends of his that are stars in the country music world and Dan asked what it is like when they are hanging out backstage before one of these guys goes out to perform.
I cannot remember Smith’s exact answer, but a word he used stood out to me. He said it was just buddies having a cold beer and “fellowshippin'”.
I told Marty about this memory of him and said that I am not accusing him of being inauthentic or his persona on television being an act, but I was curious if he was concious of the words he chooses. Even if the version we get of Marty Smith on TV is the same one we would get if we were part of the fellowshippin’, does he think about how he wants people to think about him?
He is quick to note that is isn’t an act at all. What you see when you see Marty Smith isn’t a persona he cooked up when he decided he was going into television. That is just his personality.
“It is a lifelong field from where I’m from to where I am,” he says of what we see on TV. “It is relationships made that pinched my clay and remolded who I was to who I am and reshaped me as a person.”
Anyone from The South can tell you that there is no one monolithic “South”. The gregarious, larger-than-life personalities in Louisiana may not always feel real to people from the more reserved and anglo-influenced South Carolina. The Southern accent I got from growing up in Alabama sounds nothing like the Southern accents I live near now in North Carolina.
If Marty Smith doesn’t seem authentic to you, maybe it is because his version of “Southern” isn’t one you’re familiar with. Maybe it is a version of “Southern” that only exists in one dude on the entire planet.
Smith is from Pearisburg, Virginia just outside of Blacksburg. Surely that informs who he is, but he is also shaped by the wealth of conversations he has had and the characters he has met from his professional life.
“At our company, you have to work really hard to not only make it, but to sustain it. I try hard to do that every day,” he says. “I’m sure I’ve said it before, man. I don’t look at it as a talent-based platform. I don’t look at it as a results-based platform. I look at it as a platform that was built and sustained through the way I treat other people, through the work ethic that I believe that I have and through the passion that I know I have. You piece all of those different things together, and along with opportunity you can do something special, and I’m trying to do that every day.”
The Marty Smith you see on TV is the guy that will hand you a box of beef jerky just because you had a great conversation. He is the guy you see in that viral video from a few years back giving a young reporter advice and encouragement.
You can be confused by Marty Smith. You can have your questions about him and his motivations. They aren’t going to change him though. It took too long for him to become who he is to start second-guessing it now.
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.
Another World Cup Run Ends And There’s Still No Soccer Fever In The USA
“We get fired up once every four years, sing the anthem, wear American flag t-shirts, then go back to our daily lives, forgetting about the sport that was attached to the patriotism.”
Soccer fever? Hardly. Not in the United States at least. The US Men’s National Team lost in the round of 16 against the Netherlands 3-1 last Saturday. The ratings are in. And the ratings are revealing.
An average of 12.97 million viewers tuned in to see the Netherlands-United States World Cup match on FOX. Before you say, “Hey, not bad,” consider the fact that the ratings are down from eight years ago when 13.44 million viewers watched the USMNT lose to Belgium in the knockout stage on ESPN.
Even more damning are the ratings of the USMNT’s initial match in the 2022 World Cup against Wales, an unhealthy 8.31 million viewers.
Let me get this straight; fans waited, waited, and waited some more to finally see the USMNT in World Cup action, and the first game in eight years drew 8.31 million viewers? Really?
There were 5.5 million viewers across TV and digital that watched the NFL Network’s telecast of the New York Giants-Green Bay Packers game in London. That was a Week 5 game in the NFL compared to the World freaking Cup. Network television (FOX) compared to cable TV (NFL Network). And the ratings are comparable? Come on, US Soccer. Y’all gotta do better than this.
*Mini rant alert — it drives me crazy when soccer in this country is consistently compared to soccer in this country. The promoters of the sport paint an obnoxiously rosy picture of the growing popularity by comparing US soccer now to US soccer then. It’s a joke.
It would be like comparing Nebraska’s 4-8 record in college football this year, to Nebraska’s 3-9 record last year. “Hey, things are looking up!” Never mind the fact that the Cornhuskers are significantly trailing several teams in its conference and many other teams across the country. That’s US soccer in a nutshell. Don’t compare it to other leagues and sports that are crushing it, just say we’re up 10% from last year. Ridiculous.
*Mini rant continuing alert — the Michigan-Ohio State game drew 17 million viewers last month. The New York Giants-Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving drew 42 million viewers. Those are regular-season matchups compared to the biggest stage soccer has to offer. But go ahead and just compare US soccer to itself.
And no, the edge you might feel in my words isn’t born out of fear that soccer will somehow surpass the popularity of football. That would be like Mike Tyson being scared that the Stanford Tree mascot could beat him up. US soccer isn’t a threat, it’s a light breeze. I just hate a bad argument. And many soccer apologists have been making bad arguments on the behalf of US soccer for years. *Mini rant over
The World Cup didn’t prove that American fans are invested in soccer. It proved that we love a big event. It’s the same recipe every four years with the Olympics.
During the 2016 summer games in Rio, when swimmer Michael Phelps was in the pool for what turned out to be his final outing in an Olympic competition, the ratings peaked at 32.7 million viewers. Phelps helped Team USA win gold in the men’s 100-meter relay and then rode off into the sunset.
We don’t really care about swimming. When’s the last time you asked a friend, “You heading out tonight?” and the response was, “Are you crazy? The Pan Pacific Championships are on.”
Whether it’s the Olympics or World Cup, Americans care about the overall event much more than the individual sport. We get fired up once every four years, sing the anthem, wear American flag t-shirts, then go back to our daily lives, forgetting about the sport that was attached to the patriotism.
Ask yourself this, at the height of US swimming’s popularity, would you have paid $14.99 per month to watch non-Olympic events? Me either. US soccer isn’t exactly on fire following its showing in the 2022 World Cup, so the timing isn’t awesome to introduce a paywall for the sport’s top league in this country.
Apple and Major League Soccer have announced that MLS Season Pass will launch soon. I know you’re excited, but try to stay composed. Yes, MLS Season Pass will launch on February 1, 2023. It’s a 10-year partnership between MLS and Apple that features every live MLS regular-season match, the playoffs, and the League’s Cup.
Have I died and gone to heaven?
It’ll run you $14.99 per month or $99 per season on the Apple TV app. For Apple TV+ subscribers — make sure you’re sitting down for this, you lucky people — it’s $12.99 per month or $79 per season. If you don’t have US soccer fever right now, I doubt you’re running out to throw down cash on a product you aren’t passionate about.
Now if the USMNT won the 2022 World Cup, cha-ching. The popularity of US soccer would definitely grow in a major way. Even if they had a strong showing while reaching the quarterfinals, the momentum would be much greater. But a 3-1 loss to the Netherlands in the group of 16? Nope. This isn’t it. I don’t expect much more than some tumbleweed rolling by instead of cash registers heating up for MLS Season Pass.
Colorado Hiring Deion Sanders Will Be Constant Gift for College Football Media
“If Coach Prime achieves the same sort of success that he did with the Tigers, he will be far more than a curiosity. Sanders will be a disruptor.”
Deion Sanders quickly made it clear why the University of Colorado chose him to be its next head football coach.
Coming off a weekend in which the four College Football Playoff teams were announced and all of the other bowl-eligible teams accepted their invitations, Colorado — which went 1-11 this past season — made news for hiring Sanders, the former NFL star who was phenomenally successful at Jackson State.
The media that covers college football and sports as a whole should be thrilled that the Buffaloes program decided to take a big leap for attention and notoriety. Sanders is a bold, risky hire. But he’s also been successful in virtually every venture he’s taken. “Primetime” had a Hall of Fame NFL career and also played Major League Baseball. And he’s a master at drawing attention to himself.
During his first meeting with his new team, Sanders made sure to mention that he has Louis Vuitton luggage to make the point that some of his Jackson State players are coming with him to Boulder — including his son, quarterback Shadeur Sanders. Nick Saban and Kirby Smart probably don’t cite luxury fashion when explaining to their players that they’ll have to compete for starting positions.
Coach Prime will not be boring to cover. (That self-appointed “Coach Prime” title, which was on his name plate at his introductory press conference, is a big clue there.) He never has been. This is a man who said during the 1989 NFL Draft, after being selected No. 5 overall by the Atlanta Falcons, that if the Detroit Lions had selected him at No. 3, he “would’ve asked for so much money, they’d have had to put me on layaway.”
Even if he doesn’t win as much as Colorado hopes, Sanders will pursue top talent — players who want to perform on a larger stage than the FCS-level Jackson State allows — and impact athletes will be attracted to him. He got the No. 1 recruit in the nation, cornerback and wide receiver Travis Hunter, to play for him. (Hunter is following his coach to Boulder.) Now that Sanders is at an FBS school in a Power 5 conference, more stars will surely come.
But if Coach Prime achieves the same sort of success that he did with the Tigers — going 27-5 in three seasons, including a 12-0 campaign in 2022 — he will be far more than a curiosity. Sanders will be a disruptor. And he’ll get the attention that such figures typically draw from media and fans. According to the Denver Post‘s Sean Keeler, at least 400 people attended what felt more like a celebration than a press conference.
Coach Prime wasn’t going to just win the press conference, which is what any school and fanbase want when a new coach is introduced.
If Colorado wanted someone to sit at a podium, and give platitudes like “We want to win the Pac-12 and get to the College Football Playoff,” “We’re going to build a program with young men you’ll be proud of,” or “It’s time to restore Colorado to the football glory we remember,” Sanders isn’t the guy for that.
“Do I look like a man that worries about anything? Did you see the way I walked in here? Did you see the swagger that was with me?” Sanders said during his introductory presser. “Worry? Baby, I am too blessed to be stressed. I have never been one for peer pressure. I put pressure on peers. I never wanted to worry, I make people worry. I don’t get down like that. I am too darn confident. That is my natural odor.”
To no surprise, Sanders announced his presence in Boulder with authority. He had cameras following him as he met with Colorado players for the first time. How many other coaches would have recorded what many would see as a private moment for posterity and post it online?
Sanders caused a stir by putting his players on notice. He warned them he was coming, telling them they’ll be pushed so hard they might quit. He told them to enter the transfer portal and go someplace else if they don’t like what he and his staff are going to do.
That candor, that brutal honesty surprised many fans and media when they saw it Monday morning. For some, that message might have felt too familiar. How many in media — or many other industries — have worried about their job status when a new boss takes over? What may have seemed secure days earlier is now uncertain.
But how do we know other coaches haven’t said something similar when taking over at a new job and addressing their team? We just hadn’t seen it before. But Sanders has been in the media. He knows social media. He understands controlling his own message and telling his story.
Sanders also knows what kind of value he brings to any venture he takes on. How many people would have left an NFL Network gig for Barstool Sports? But Sanders went to where his star would shine, where he was the main show, where he could be Deion Sanders. Maybe he’ll have to turn that down just a bit at Colorado. But athletic director Rick George knows who he hired.
Colorado could have made a safer choice, including previous head coaches Tom Herman, Bronco Mendenhall, or Gary Patterson. A top assistant from one of this year’s Playoff contenders — such as Georgia’s Todd Monken, USC’s Alex Grinch, Alabama’s Bill O’Brien, or Michigan’s Sherrone Moore — could also have been an option.
But what fun would that have been? What kind of tremor would Colorado have created in the college football news cycle? How much attention would a more conventional hire have received? Yes, Sanders has to recruit and win. However, if the objective was to make Colorado football a talking point again, that’s been accomplished.
There could be some friction too. Sanders has already been criticized for being a champion of HBCUs, only to bolt for a mainstream Power 5 program when the opportunity opened. (To be fair, other columnists have defended the move.)
At Jackson State, Sanders tried to control local media when he didn’t like how reporters were addressing him or covering a story. Last year during Southwestern Athletic Conference Media Day, he balked at a Clarion-Ledger reporter addressing him as “Deion,” not “Coach,” insisting that Nick Saban would’ve been shown that respect. Earlier this season, Sanders admonished a school broadcaster (and assistant athletic director) for speaking to him more formally on camera than he did off-camera.
Will that fly among Boulder and Denver media, or the national college football press? It’s difficult to imagine. Maybe Sanders will ease back on his efforts to control reporters within a larger university environment, metropolitan area, and media market. But we’re also talking about Deion Sanders here. He doesn’t bend to outside forces. He makes them bend to him.
Sanders’ stint in Boulder — whether it lasts the five years of his contract and beyond, or less than that — will not be dull. There could be no better gift for the media covering Colorado football. Or college football, a sport already full of bold personalities, eccentric to unhinged fanbases, and outsized expectations. Coach Prime will fit right in.
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 email@example.com.