If Tom Brady wants to fight COVID-19 with whatever is in his TB12 medicine bag, as he has hinted, then we might as well let him try. Because any man who can make a country temporarily forget a raging pandemic could be capable of ending it, too. As we witness the unprecedented in sports and life — the sight of a 43-year-old legend cold-cocking Father Time and reaching yet another Super Bowl — it’s safe to draw some historic conclusions.
He was not the product of Bill Belichick’s system in New England. He did not need deflated footballs to throw 47 touchdown passes in a season. And if his so-called principles for sustained peak performance remain oddballish, from the goji berries to the electrolyte-infused water to the Himalayan pink salt, count me among legions of Americans heading to his website to load up.
To call him the greatest quarterback of all time seems hollow now. The new distinction: Brady is the first human being who might be correct in thinking he won’t die until he’s 130, if ever. Stretching the boundaries of age, health and sensibility in preposterous ways, he is mastering the art of leadership and winning in 2021 just as he did 10 and 20 seasons ago, when he launched the longest enduring championship run in American sports. We winced when he left the Patriots and the oppressive Belichick regime to join the often-mocked Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team with the pirate ship in the end zone. But at a stage in life when he should be making appointments to check his colon and prostate, Brady instead has a date with his 10th Super Bowl Sunday — with the first team ever to play for an NFL championship in its home stadium.
Is this happening? It is.
And even more absurd: He will duel Patrick Mahomes, his antithesis in every way — age, playing style, diet, hair, commercials — in a time warp described aptly by Tony Romo in the CBS broadcast booth. “It’s like LeBron and Jordan, playing in the Finals,” he said.
Except we expected Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs to be here. Brady? The Buccaneers? By the pirate ship in a pandemic? With the Bucs practicing at home all week while the Chiefs fly in the day before kickoff? Somehow, it’s true, as 68-year-old coaching lifer Bruce Arians verified when asked what Brady has meant to what officially is known as Tompa Bay.
“This trophy! This trophy! The belief he gave everyone in this organization, that this could be done,” Arians said. “It only took one man. We’re coming home. And we’re coming home to win.”
As further confirmation this wasn’t a dream, there was Brady, pointing at the stands and grinning after the 31-26 victory over the Packers, asking a question of an usher at cold, barren Lambeau Field. “Can I say hi to my son?” he said. And coming down the stairs, with a hug, was his oldest son, 15-year-old Jack, who still was years from birth when Brady’s relationship with immortality began. When he said a few years ago that he wanted to play until age 45, it seemed ludicrous. Turned out we were the fools, not realizing how Belichick’s system had suppressed him and that he only needed weapons and a spirited defense to resume his own dynasty … while the one he left behind immediately slipped into non-playoff irrelevance.
The critics, the haters, Belichick — Brady has vanquished all of them, as usual, with three consecutive postseason road victories. This is a middle-aged man who could have been buried by the pandemic, by the hurried transition, by the uncertainty of it all. Instead, unlike other greats who switch uniforms in their twilight, he flourished under new circumstances.
“Well, this is the ultimate team sport,” Brady said of a decision that only burnishes his legacy. “I made a decision, and I love coming to work every day with this group of guys. We’ve had a lot of people work really hard over a long period of time to get to this point. To go on the road and win another road playoff game is just a great achievement.
“And now a home Super Bowl for the first time in NFL history, I think, puts a lot of cool things in perspective. Anytime you’re the first one doing something, that’s usually a pretty good thing. Now we’ve got to go have a great two weeks and be ready to go.”
He is not an old man. Rather, he is a vintage bottle of red who refuses to let go of the old school, a pocket passer continuing to prosper with savvy, brains, gumption and sweet deep throws when necessary. In that context, Super Bowl LV becomes an epic showdown of clashing styles — Brady the statue, clinging to his traditional paradigm, against Mahomes, the Next Gen magician with the $500 million contract. The new era of mobile playmakers already is in place, led by Mahomes, Josh Allen, Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson. And so much of the league’s quarterbacking landscape is disoriented — Watson and Matthew Stafford wanting to be traded, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers retiring, Carson Wentz in limbo, Ben Roethlisberger looking old, Trevor Lawrence and others arriving in the upcoming draft. How stirring to see Brady, in his 21st season, as the Jurassic World constant.
“I’m definitely older,” he said. “But I’m hanging in there.”
And now he has a chance to be the king of all kings, sealing his second act with a seventh championship. Does he have even one gray hair? All you need to know is that Brady vanquished the other quarterback who has defined the sport in recent times, Aaron Rodgers, who was done in Sunday by a coach who didn’t believe in him. Remember when the Packers drafted Jordan Love in the first round last spring? Remember when Rodgers used the snub as motivation for a sensational season and presumptive third league MVP award? That was forgotten when Matt LaFleur — facing 4th-and goal at the Tampa Bay 8, trailing 31-23 with 2:09 left in the fourth quarter — decided Rodgers wasn’t his best play. Meaning, LaFleur became Matt LeBlanc, as in shooting a blank. Armed with three timeouts, he chose to kick a field goal and rely on a defense that had made mistakes all afternoon, many by cornerback Kevin King, who wound up yanking the jersey of Bucs receiver Tyler Johnson for a pass-interference penalty that ended any chance of winning.
“Anytime it doesn’t work out, you always regret it, right?” LaFleur said. “It was just the circumstances of having three shots and coming away with no yards and knowing that you not only need the touchdown, but you need the 2-point (conversion). The way I was looking at it was, we essentially had four timeouts with the two-minute warning. … We’re always going to be process-driven here, and the way our defense was battling, the way our defense was playing, it felt like it was the right decision to do. It just didn’t work out.”
Said Tampa Bay’s Shaq Barrett: “If he could take it back, I’m sure he wouldn’t do it the next time. But I appreciate it.”
Now 1-4 in NFC championship games, Rodgers looked ashen. The other day, he referred to his latest adventure, at 37, as “a beautiful mystery.” Did his best chance to win his second Super Bowl just vanish in the Wisconsin chill?
“Just pretty gutted,” he said, devastated beneath his beanie.
And LaFleur’s call? “It wasn’t my decision,” said Rodgers, straining for diplomacy. “I understand the thinking with the two minutes and all of our timeouts. But it wasn’t my decision.”
To hear Rodgers, the “beautiful mystery” might even take an ugly turn out of Green Bay. He is signed through 2023, but he wonders if the Packers will add him to the growing list of quarterbacks on the trading block. If it seems unthinkable, maybe that’s what he wants. Imagine him with … the 49ers, in his native northern California? “(The Packers have) a lot of guys’ futures that are uncertain — myself included,” said Rodgers, who threw 48 scoring passes and only five interceptions in the regular season. “That’s what’s sad about it most — getting this far. Obviously, it’s going to be an end at some point, whether we make it past this one or not, but just the uncertainty is tough and the finality of it all.” Now hear this: Allowing Rodgers to leave, while still in his career prime, would be dumber than kicking the field goal.
With his regrettable call, LaFleur also was betting against Brady. While he and his receivers lost their touch in the second half, with three interceptions on successive plays, you never send Rodgers to the bench and put Brady back on the field. Belichick probably enjoyed it as he watched on TV, thinking Brady might fail yet. If you don’t think there’s a grudge here, consider last week’s tweets by Belichick’s girlfriend, Linda Holliday, who shouldn’t have responded to a troll — “Too bad Bill let Tom go” — but did anyway after the Bucs’ tense divisional-round victory over New Orleans.
“And you have all the answers evidently? Holliday replied. “Tom didn’t score last night … not once! Defense won that game. Were you even watching? OTOH (on the other hand) — I’m happy for Tom’s career! Why can’t you be?”
If she was so happy for him, why did she credit defense for the victory? Brady did the same Sunday, knowing Barrett and the pass-rushers pressured Rodgers into five sacks. And no doubt the Bucs will need another supreme defensive performance against Mahomes and the Chiefs, who were allowed to rest during a bye week while the Bucs have played seven straight weekends. They’ll have a smattering of local fans — including 7,500 vaccinated health-care workers — among the 22,000 allowed in their 70,000-seat home. But Brady will be the underdog as the Chiefs try to become the first NFL team to repeat as champions since, well, Brady and the Patriots in 2004 and 2005 … when Jack Brady was born.
If the birth certificate says August 1977, the gut quotient suggests he’s 25. Witness the final eight seconds of the the first half, when Arians was going to punt from the Green Bay 39 until he realized who was huddling with him a few feet away. Brady found Scotty Miller, who had beaten King, for a touchdown dagger and a 21-10 lead. “We didn’t come here not to take chances to win the game,” Arians said. “Love the play we had. Got a great matchup and a TD. That was huge.”
“Tom’s the G.O.A.T.,” Miller said. “Last year, we ended 7-9 and now we’re headed to the Super Bowl. … Just his composure — he’s been here before, he’s been in these big moments, and we know he’s going to get it done. When it’s all on the line, he’s going to make the play.”
It also spoke volumes about the Brady-Arians relationship. If the grizzled, ruddy-faced character was critical of Brady’s deep-ball failures earlier this season, he now sees all-time greatness through his forehead-to-chin virus shield. “New England didn’t allow him to coach,” said Arians, taking a dig at Belichick. “I allow him to coach. I sit back and watch.”
We’re all watching. Just as we’re watching Mahomes, who played in the AFC championship game and beat the Buffalo Bills, 38-24, when any credible doctor would have urged him to stay home. He was concussed only a week earlier, knocked silly and sent stumbling toward the turf after taking a hard shot to the neck area. Not until Wednesday did the team acknowledge a concussion, with coach Andy Reid insisting irresponsibly that Mahomes was doing just fine. And the league wasn’t about to order its meal ticket and reigning marketing face to the sideline, not with television ratings and the Super Bowl at stake. It was NFL hypocrisy at its worst, enabled by a planted report that Mahomes had merely “choked out,” whatever that meant.
Like Brady, Mahomes survived and did more than enough to win, dazzling again with an underhanded touchdown pitch to Travis Kelce. And he will have two weeks to rest his weary head and the nagging turf toe on his left foot. The Tampa Bay defense will give him more problems than the Bills, especially with his offensive line weakened by injuries. But if the Bucs have a chance, Brady will have to be in shootout mode against an arsenal featuring unstoppable playmakers in Kelce and Tyreek Hill. That seems improbable when, in the scope of life, Brady is only seven years younger than Mahomes’ father, Pat, the former major-league pitcher.
“The job’s not finished. We’re going to Tampa and trying to run it back,” said Mahomes, who lost to Brady in the 2019 AFC title game. “We’ve just got to be ourselves. I trust my guys over anybody. Our goal coming into the season was to win the Super Bowl, not to get to it.”
And the Brady-Mahomes time warp? “Going up against one of the greatest, if not the greatest quarterback, in his 150th Super Bowl, is going to be a great experience for me,” he said. Seems like 150 Super Bowls, doesn’t it?
Nothing much is certain in America these days, except Tom Brady in winter. We’re starting to say the same about Patrick Mahomes. He was six years old when Brady, cap flipped backward, held his first Lombardi Trophy. Now it’s Mahomes who wears the defiant cap, speaking respectfully about the matchup but knowing, deep in his 25-year-old soul, that he can’t let this fossil beat him.
“It’s been a great journey thus far,” Brady said.
Imagine if he wins again. On a nearby bay, he can go walk on water.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.