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Meet the Market Managers: Chris Oliviero, Entercom New York

“People who know me know my two passions are radio and New York City. So this job actually combines those two passions.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Chris Oliviero is a titan in the radio world. I mean, how could he not be? The prestige that comes with being the market manager of Entercom’s New York cluster alone is enough to make the industry listen when you speak. But his history of making big decisions goes back well before May when he took on his current role.

Chris Oliviero Addresses Craig Carton Rumors, State of WFAN On BSM Podcast  | Barrett Sports Media

Chris had the professional privilege of spending most of his 22 years with CBS Radio, working with stations in different formats and locations as the company’s head of programming. Under his watchful eye, CBS Radio built and maintained the industry’s best sports audio portfolio, and became the envy of many operators. The company’s results and reputation are what ultimately made it an attractive acquisition target for Entercom.

But one side of the business had an even bigger impact on Chris, negotiating and making deals with hosts and agents. It was the talent relations side of the job that first gave Chris the idea that he might want to have more influence over a cluster’s entire operation. He had a front row seat to Howard Stern exiting CBS for satellite radio. He had the same seat for watching Chris Russo do the same thing. He then saw things from the other side when Jim Rome left Premiere Radio Networks to help launch CBS Sports Radio.

When someone spends over two decades in a competitive industry like radio in a top corporate position, it’s likely they’ll be thrust into the middle of some our industry’s and format’s most high profile upheavals. Chris knew that came with the job, and though it didn’t teach him everything he needed to know about being a market manager, he learned more than enough about every aspect of the business during his time with CBS and Entercom. His lengthy experience as an executive combined with his passion for the business, intelligence, ability to lead, and stellar reputation, are a big reason why Susan Larkin and David Field had faith that he could take the reigns at Entercom New York during the height of a pandemic, and continue leading their brands to success.

In our conversation below, I spoke with Chris about everything from becoming a first time market manager during the most abnormal year of our lifetime, the media’s coverage of sports radio’s most iconic brand, and what he is looking for in Mark Chernoff’s successor.

The conversation starts though at the most natural place I could think of. Sure, Chris is an extremely accomplished and talented guy, but he isn’t the only extremely talented and accomplished programmer out there. So why don’t we don’t see more programmers earning opportunities to ascend from PD to market manager?


DEMETRI RAVANOS: Few market managers in our business come through the programming side of the building. You saw firsthand in 2005 how Howard Stern leaving terrestrial radio impacted local stations. The same could happen right now in the News/Talk space following the death of Rush Limbaugh. Having a feel and understanding for programming I think helps in some of these critical situations but yet there are more people in these roles who’ve come thru the sales side. Does that need to change?

CHRIS OLIVIERO: I totally agree. It’s something I’ve always felt passionate about. We are a content business. We are in the entertainment business. So why should people who come up through the content side of the house somehow automatically be disqualified? Which by the way, if you look at it, it almost was like that was the case that hey, the percentage of leadership that came from the sales side was so high, it almost seemed like it was an automatic disqualification, even though there were a handful of great programmers who became leaders like Dan Mason, Scott Herman, but the vast majority were out of the sales side of the house.  

I think if you consider where the industry is today, where we live and die with creative content that’s not only compelling to an audience but also to clients, why not have that point of view and perspective? Now, that said, what I’ve always said to my colleagues in programing, if you want to make that leap, you’ve got to be able to balance the show and the business in show business. You can’t you can’t go at these jobs, like market manager, all about the show or all about the business. You’ve got to find that middle ground. Can you marry your creativity with a discipline, a financial responsibility, and with an understanding of a P & L? If you can balance that, I think the more programing people that get into market manager positions, the healthier and better the industry will be. 

Obviously, sales leadership, it’s the same thing. Great managers have come out of the sales side. My only point is it should be balanced.

DR: The other example I can think of is Mike Thomas in Chicago. It’s weird to say this about those two markets in particular, but I do wonder if you’ve ever felt like you are under a microscope for the industry as a whole to see if programmers can do the very top job in a building? 

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CO: I don’t feel that, and I’m very good friends with Mike. I know he doesn’t feel that either, because if you start thinking like that, you’re just going to set yourself up for frustration and disappointment. Just focus on doing the job. And I think in my case in particular, coming from my corporate position for so many years, though, the job title was Head of Programing for CBS Radio, I was lucky enough to be very involved in business and management and P & L’s, so I felt like I was coming from an experience that was more than just programing and content, which sets me up, I think, hopefully for success in this job, knock on wood. 

DR: You took over as Entercom New York’s market manager in May 2020 when we were at the height of the pandemic and many people didn’t know what to expect day to day. How were you able to provide leadership and make sure everyone was on the same page and understood your vision during a time when no one was in the building?

CO: Still to this day, most people are not (in the building). I have stressed to our team, and I firmly believe this, if I didn’t have a history with the company, Entercom and then obviously before that CBS Radio, and knew a vast majority of the people and clearly was familiar with the New York properties immensely, as a joke I say ‘if I didn’t know where the bathroom was located’, I don’t think I could have started this job in the midst of working from home, virtually, during the pandemic. I think it might have been overwhelming and I would have been in the fetal position. 

It was the fact that I went in with a base already. I knew the company shorthand. I knew where the third rails were. I think it gave me the ability to, at minimum, hit the ground running as opposed to having to take time to kind of learn the cadence of the operation. So I think that was a huge advantage selfishly for me. 

DR: So let’s talk about your history in the building, because in addition to your run with CBS Radio, you did spend time with Entercom after the merger and then chose to leave. What changed either in your life or at the company that you were willing and ready to come back when the job was offered?

CO: After the merger happened, I was very upfront with people close to me, including the leadership of Entercom. I think I was itching for a little bit of a break. You know, we just went through the sale process on the CBS side. That was a very emotionally and physically draining process, preparing a company for either a potential IPO, spin off, a merger, all these various scenarios that could have played out. 

So that was really a personal decision. That wasn’t a decision like, ‘oh, I’m done with radio’. That wasn’t the decision. It wasn’t like, ‘oh, I don’t want to work for Entercom’. It was more of a personal decision where I felt like “Hey, you know what? I think I’m going to put a nice stamp on this chapter. It feels like closure. It feels like a really good time to put a period at the end of that sentence and say it’s time to move on.” And that’s that’s what I did. It was very amicable, very friendly, which you know, clearly if it wasn’t, I don’t think I would have wanted to come back nor would they have asked me to.

So during the year and a half or two years after I left, I stayed in very close contact with the people at Entercom personally and professionally. And then when this opportunity presented itself, as you said in the midst of the pandemic, I wasn’t looking for it. It just kind of presented itself. Susan Larkin was kind enough to reach out and explain the opportunity. I just paused and I was like “huh, this might be something for a next chapter”, because to your point, it’s very different than my first job.

This was a chance to get back to a local market. This was broadening, the core responsibilities beyond programing, and doing it at a place that I just have a passion for. People who know me know my two passions are radio and New York City. This job combines those two passions.          

I think it’s the best job in local broadcasting anywhere in the country when you think about the assets in the cluster. So I said, let’s jump into it. And again, I was looking for a challenge and let’s be honest, local radio in the midst of a pandemic? Yes, it’s going to classify a challenge. 

DR: So I’m going to need you to answer or I guess settle a running joke/debate between JB and I. So the BSM summit was in New York three months before you were announced in your new position. I have jokingly told Jason that Susan Larkin owes him a finder’s fee. Did the conversations begin backstage at the BSM summit? JB doesn’t think they did. 

CO: No, they did not. So you owe Jason whatever you wagered. Please pay your debt.

It started a few weeks after that. Actually, the date was the final day you were allowed to have indoor dining in New York City. So that was like mid-March. I had lunch with Susan and that’s kind of where it came up. So it did not happen at the Summit. 

DR: So we can’t put that on the poster for next year, then? 

CO: You cannot put that on the poster. That would be a lie. 

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DR: So as you look at Entercom as a whole, podcasts are obviously very popular. It’s a space the company believes in and it’s continuing to gain popularity. In New York, you have local and network radio brands. There’s also a digital network with Radio.com Sports. I wonder as you think about all those assets where sports talk is happening within your building, where you think most people immediately associate sports talk these days? 

CO: Immediately, I still believe it’s terrestrial broadcast radio. Without a doubt, especially when you go market by market. If you were in New York and you said to somebody on the street “sports radio”, I think unaided, they’re going to say FAN. If you go to Boston, they’re going to say EEI or the Sports Hub. Chicago The Score, WIP in Philly.     

So clearly, I still think radio is that first initial reaction but again, you’ve got to define radio differently. Someone might consume WFAN exclusively as a digital product now, streaming on Radio.com or time shifted podcasts. So when we say FAN, we don’t necessarily assume it’s AM or FM at that point. So, shifting the definition of FAN from a radio station to a brand, but the brand is still, I think, the most influential local sports media brand. 

DR: I do look at Entercom and their sports presence around the country, and notice that there have been major investments made in sports betting content. Do you see that as not just a strong part of the future of sports audio, but could it be the future of sports audio? 

CO: I think it’s a part of the future of sports audio, but I don’t think it is the entirety of it. We have to think about it. Is there still a significant portion of the population that doesn’t wager on sports? I think it’s important for all of us in the sports media business to balance that approach, not make assumptions, and serve both audiences.     

So how do you serve the audience that does not bet on sports, but then also serve the audience that does? Then you have to break it down even further – the section of the audience that casually bets on sports vs. the subsection of that audience who are daily players and view it like the stock market. I think that’s the secret sauce. That’s where all these additional platforms come in where you’re able now to bifurcate your programing and serve everybody what they want, as opposed to 10, 15, 20 years ago where you just had one platform and you’re like, “OK, I have to make a choice. I could do gambling, non gambling, baseball, football.” Where now you could say “I’ve got the FM, the AM, the stream, the podcast, social channels.” There’s enough shelf space now in terms of platforms, to serve the appetite of every sports fan. So I don’t take it as like you have to choose one or the other anymore. 

DR: Since you returned to the building, WFAN has seen a number of changes to the roster. Whether it was Mike Francesa re-retiring, Joe Benigno retiring or Craig Carton returning, does that mean that WFAN has gotten an outsized amount of your attention compared to other stations in your building? 

CO: You sound like all my colleagues at the other stations, because they do remind me of that. 

DR: I will defend myself and say mine was a genuine question. 

CO: OK, so yes. I might move my office because I realized just by the nature of where the office is located, it is in the FAN section of the building. I might move to another part of the building to lessen that perception, but you’re right. And everybody understands that.      

It’s a very complicated operation, and right now, there’s been significant change that requires additional focus. To me as a manager, it all ebbs and flows. Once we get on the other side of this hill, maybe 1010 WINS or country or CBS FM will get more attention. It’ll just ebb and flow in terms of the needs.

The good thing about it, and if you were to ask me what’s the most important thing a market manager needs to be successful at it’s that they need great managers for each department. If I’m pulled in one direction, let’s say FAN right now, I know I’ve got great sales leadership across the board. I’ve got great engineering support. I’ve got great brand managers across the other properties. So if you’ve got the right people, it allows a manager to move from fire to fire. 

DR: I read around the time that Mark Chernoff announced he was retiring this spring that you were looking for a sort of brand executive instead of a traditional PD, somebody that could really think about what WFAN is going forward. And I wonder, what is the WFAN brand right now in 2021 in your eyes? 

CO: I’ll answer that in a second, but I just want to clarify that what I said at that time was I am “open to that”. It doesn’t mean I’m going to disqualify what some would say is a traditional radio brand manager, but I’m just saying that because we have the benefit of the time and because Mark’s not going anywhere immediately, why not take advantage of that time and look broadly and then figure out where the process naturally takes us? If it takes us back internally, great. If it takes us externally, that’s great, too.         

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So in terms of where the state of the FAN brand is, I think for a brand that is now 30 plus years old, that started in a traditional broadcast medium like radio, it’s still so compelling, so strong. And again, I repeat this a lot. I will win this argument. It is the most influential sports media property in New York City, more influential than any newspaper, more influential than any local television station, more influential than any other radio station, local digital asset or regional sports network. FAN is synonymous with New York sports in a way no competitor is regardless of momentary hype. That hasn’t changed in 2021. It’s the same way it was in 1991, 2001, and 2011. So the brand is strong. It’s just different and it’s different because platforms are different. Also, the talent is evolving and different. But the brand at its core is still the most influential in the market. 

DR: Are people inside the building already letting you know who or what they want to see in the next PD at WFAN? 

CO: Yes, absolutely and I seek that out! I reach out to people and say, “Hey, give me your point of view. Give me your perspective.”     

The good thing about “inside the building,” and this is a testament to Entercom’s strength in the format, I broadly define “inside the building” as inside the company. If you think about all the sports radio properties that Entercom has around the country, those are also internal conversations. So, be it a PD in another market who might express interest, that’s a blessing in the process. Clearly, from a format standpoint, I guess dominate is a fair word to say for the Entercom footprint for sports radio, so the candidate list internally is a who’s who. And again, that’s something I’m going to take advantage of, meaning there’s no rush. 

DR: I hadn’t thought about the idea of “inside the building” and “inside the company” being the same in your eyes. That makes a lot of sense for the approach.

CO: It’s got to be, because if you think of my history and my previous life at CBS Radio I was so intrinsically involved with every sports station around the country, those that we’ve launched from scratch that didn’t exist before we put them on the air or those heritage brands that we continue to evolve. So, again selfishly, that’s an advantage I think that I can rely on from my previous life. 

DR: Is familiarity with the legacy of WFAN going to be as important as a vision for its future? 

CO: Yes, because here’s why. When you have a brand that is this successful and has truly stood the test of time, you’ve probably heard this a thousand times, but you want evolution. You don’t want revolution. That brand equity is extremely valuable. You don’t want to move too quickly in a disrespectful way to the past. You want to recognize the past. You want to honor the past, use that as the foundation for the future, but this is not a revolution. There’s just no need for it. I mean, it is an extremely healthy business today. It’s just about beginning the transition to a future state. 

DR: As you look at the new afternoon show, I think it is clear most listeners are happy to hear Craig on the air again. I think fans of those guys are liking what they hear. But the media in New York is so focused on how it’s going to go, how does it sound compared to Joe and Evan or Mike Francesa, how does it stack up with Michael Kay. I wonder how hard is it to grow a new show and a new partnership under the kind of microscope that comes with WFAN and on top of that, the kind of microscope that comes with Craig Carton? 

CO: Not hard at all, actually. We welcome it. Think about it. FAN has been around the block. We have thick skin at FAN. We don’t crumble under scrutiny. And then when you talk about the talent, Craig and Evan, both total pros. They’ve been doing this a long time. They don’t shy away from the pressure, so we actually enjoy it. We enjoy the attention.      

We talked about it earlier. How many, “local radio stations” get the exorbitant amount of attention of every minutia move that they make like FAN does? It doesn’t exist anywhere else.     

I say to people all the time, it’s like the media covers sports in New York where they cover the teams and then FAN. FAN has become almost like a pro sports team. And the line up at FAN is almost judged and scrutinized like the Yankees batting line up. And we love that. We welcome it, because that is a recognition of the station’s stature. When people stop paying attention or people stop covering us, that’s when I’d get really nervous. And also to remember too, any programmer would tell you this, you don’t program to the media reaction. You program to the listener and to the fans. That’s what we do. That’s what Craig and Evan do. 

Their show is basically four months old, but even less than that if you consider the holidays and vacation times. After only three months, I couldn’t be happier with where the show is. It’s getting an enormous amount of attention. The symbiotic relationship between all the shows has never been stronger. If you think about how Boomer & Gio interact with the afternoon show now, how the afternoon show interacts with Moose and Maggie in mid days. That has not always been the case in the history of FAN. That’s good for business, where all three of the shows during the day are kind of swimming together. 

DR: You mentioned that the time is going to come where the spotlight shifts to, whether it’s CBS or 1010 WINS. I do wonder with those two stations, in addition to FAN, if there have been conversations about people’s listening habits changing in New York due to Rush passing away. Has there been sort of a “time to step up what we’re doing” discussion given the reality that new listeners will likely be available due to their favorite show no longer being available?

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CO: Yeah, I think definitely from a company perspective. But the key for us in New York is we’re in the all news business in New York. We’re not in the news talk business. So if you look at 1010 WINS and CBS 880, they’re all news all the time. They’re not news talk stations per se. That lane in New York is more the OR, WABC lane, but to your point, Rush was such a dominant personality, not just nationwide, but he did tremendously well in New York City. I know that shocks people because you think of New York City, you think of a liberal Democratic stronghold. But Rush performed extremely well for decades on WABC and even recently on WOR.

So now will there be an opportunity where a portion of the population between noon and 3 Monday through Friday in New York City are sniffing around for other audio options? I’m sure there will be. But are we going to change what 1010 and 880 do? No. Our position is going to be ‘if you stumble upon us, and you’re a post-Rush listener, you’re going to like what you hear’. But it’s an all news presentation. So if you’re still looking for news talk, well, you’ll probably go somewhere else and that’s ok.

BSM Writers

NBC Must Develop a Real No. 2 NFL Crew for Playoffs

Is the network’s only other option Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett?

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Several years ago, the NFL objected to NBC wanting to employ Mike Tirico as the lead play-by-play voice for its Thursday Night Football broadcasts. The league preferred Al Michaels because he was NBC’s No. 1 NFL play-by-play announcer and wanted the TNF telecasts to carry the same prestige as Sunday Night Football.

Following the network’s heavily-criticized broadcast of Saturday’s Wild Card playoff game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL may want to impose its authority again and insist that a top-tier broadcast team call the action of an important postseason game.

The consensus among fans and media watching Saturday’s broadcast was that Michaels and analyst Tony Dungy were surprisingly low-energy for an NFL playoff game, let alone one that became so exciting with Jacksonville rallying from a 27-0 deficit for a 31-30 victory on a last-second field goal.

Such a lackluster broadcast led to questions of whether or not Michaels was now past his prime after a season of calling subpar TNF games for Amazon and what initially appeared to be another snoozer when the Jaguars fell behind by 27 points. Pairing him with Dungy, who was a studio analyst all season, certainly didn’t help.

Dungy was as basic as a game analyst could be, typically narrating replays viewers could see for themselves while adding little insight. Worst of all, he demonstrated no enthusiasm for the action, leaving Michaels to fill most of the airtime. The veteran broadcaster showed that he can no longer carry a broadcast by himself. He needs the energy and back-and-forth that Cris Collinsworth or Kirk Herbstreit provide.

So how did NBC get here?

Most football fans know that the network’s top broadcast team is Tirico on play-by-play alongside analyst Cris Collinsworth. But they had their own assignment during Super Wild Card Weekend, calling Sunday night’s Ravens-Bengals match-up. With the postseason field expanding from 12 to 14 teams, resulting in six games being played on Wild Card weekend, NBC was awarded one of the additional playoff broadcasts.

Thus, another broadcast team was needed for that second Wild Card game. Fortunately, NBC had a renowned play-by-play man already in place. Michaels finished out his final season as SNF‘s lead voice by calling Super Bowl LVI, part of a powerful one-two combination for NBC Sports coming toward the end of its 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics coverage.

Ending his legendary career with a Super Bowl broadcast would’ve been a wonderful final note for Michaels. That appeared to be a natural path when Tirico moved from ESPN to NBC in 2016. Network executives admitted that a succession plan was in mind for Tirico to take over SNF eventually. At the time, Michaels also likely thought he would retire by then.

But when confronted with the possibility of retirement, Michaels realized he wasn’t interested. He was still enjoying broadcasting the NFL. His skills were still sharp. And perhaps most importantly, he was in demand. Amazon wanted Michaels as the lead voice for its Thursday Night Football broadcasts, bringing instant credibility to a streaming venture that drew some skepticism. ESPN considered him as its Monday Night Football play-by-play man.

As it turned out, ESPN made a bold move for MNF, swiping Fox’s No. 1 NFL crew of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. That left Amazon for Michaels, and the streaming giant paid him a commensurate salary with the top broadcasters in the industry as part of his three-year contract.

Yet Michaels wasn’t done with NBC either. After his agreement with Amazon became official, NBC announced that its relationship with Michaels would continue in an “emeritus” role allowing him to broadcast the network’s Olympics coverage and that additional Wild Card playoff telecast.

NBC can’t have been happy that most of the social media chatter afterward focused on the broadcast, rather than the game result. Especially when the discussion centered on how poorly Michaels and Dungy performed in what turned out to be a thrilling playoff game. That’s a pairing that the NFL probably doesn’t want to see again.

Michaels will likely call at least one more Wild Card playoff game for NBC since he intends to work on the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics. He’s also under contract with Amazon for another two seasons unless he decides to retire before that deal expires. So perhaps the simple solution is keeping Dungy out of the broadcast booth and giving Michaels a better partner.

But can NBC drop in another analyst who hasn’t worked with Michaels all season? Anyone would arguably be an improvement over Dungy. Is it at all possible for Herbstreit to be hired on for a one-off playoff broadcast, thus ensuring that the broadcast team will have some on-air familiarity and chemistry?

Otherwise, NBC’s only other option may be its Notre Dame broadcast team of Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett. (The network tried that last season with Tirico and Drew Brees, only for Brees to wilt under the harsher NFL playoff spotlight.)

The pair also called USFL broadcasts for the network, so at least there would be familiarity rather than trying to figure each other out during a telecast. Yet Collinsworth and Garrett aren’t terribly popular with viewers. And as with Brees, that crew will face intense scrutiny with a larger playoff audience.

Unfortunately, NBC appears to be stuck here. Unless the new Big Ten broadcast team of Noah Eagle and Todd Blackledge gets a shot. That might be the best option! Other than Notre Dame or USFL games, where are the other opportunities for NBC to develop a No. 2 NFL broadcast team? No one wants to put Al Michaels through Chris Simms in the broadcast booth, right?

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BSM Writers

Al Michaels Has Options But He Has To Make a Choice

“It does all of us in the sports industry well to remember 99% of our audience would gladly trade places with us.”

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I don’t ask much out of game announcers; get excited when appropriate, get the simple information correct, don’t get so caught up in your shtick you put yourself above the game. Al Michaels has been doing all those things well for the better part of half a century and few would argue that he’s not one of the best to ever do it. That doesn’t mean he can’t lose his fastball.

Before you read any longer, I am not here to say Al Michaels has lost his fastball. What I am here to say is Michaels has all too often this season seemed upset with and disinterested in the game he is calling. That isn’t entirely surprising when you consider some of the Thursday night action he called on Amazon Prime where the average margin of victory was almost nine points per game.

On top of that, the Amazon schedule had a dreadful two week stretch with Colts 12-9 win over the Broncos in Week Five and the Commanders 12-7 win over the Bears the next Thursday. It was in that Broncos-Colts game Michaels asked Herbstreit if a game “can be so bad it is good?” Herbstreit’s answer was “No”, by the way. It was the full 15 game schedule that Michaels told The Athletic’s media critic Richard Deitsch was like trying to sell a used car.

All of that is fine, the inaugural Amazon Prime season was not a smashing success. The streaming giant missed audience projections and will lose advertising revenue because of it. The lackluster schedule did not help that. But Michaels was given a second life; he was the NBC play-by-play announcer for the Saturday Night Wildcard Playoff game between the Chargers and Jaguars. It initially looked like Michaels might be the problem as five first half Jags turnovers had them in a 27-0 hole. But the home team staged a nearly unprecedented comeback for the win.

It was the performance by Michaels and, to a lesser degree, his analyst Tony Dungy that has led to criticism. Criticism might be too soft of a word, Michaels was roundly dragged for his lack of enthusiasm during the comeback and specifically on his call of the Jacksonville game winning field goal. The enthusiasm of the call of the game winner had a mid-3rd quarter of week four feel to it.

Me telling Al Michaels how to do play-by-play of an NFL game would be the equivalent of me telling a physicist how to split an atom. So, this isn’t just a Michaels criticism, few things bother me more than hearing a game announcer complain about the length or quality of a game as if he’d rather be anywhere else. It does all of us in the sports industry well to remember 99% of our audience would gladly trade places with us.

How many NFL viewers would sit in the seat Michaels, or any NFL announcer occupies, for free? They’d feel like they won the lottery if they also were getting the money those announcers are getting paid to be there. The guy that works a 12-hour Thursday construction shift just to get home and crack a beer for the NFL game probably doesn’t want to hear how tough that game is to announce.

On top of all of that, Michaels was given the gift of one of the wildest NFL Playoff comebacks you’ll ever see and, at times, sounded as if he was completely disinterested in being there. Pro tip: the best NFL announcer in those moments is Kevin Harlan (see: Miami at Baltimore from earlier this season. That has nothing to do with my lifelong Dolphins fandom). Michaels’ lack of enthusiasm was compounded by the exact opposite from Mike Tirico on the very same network for the Bengals-Ravens Wildcard game Sunday night. 

Tirico, like Michaels, has a sterling resume of play-by-play accomplishments. The difference is Tirico sounded like he was having the time of his life on Sunday night. 

To be fair, their two styles are different. Michaels has a very old school, Pat Summerall approach. Summerall, Vin Scully and Dick Enberg came along at a time when announcers were far more likely to let the pictures tell the story. More new school guys like Harlan and Tirico approach it differently.

Look, Al Michaels helped us believe in miracles. His place in the Sports Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame has long since been cemented. Being a hall of fame inductee doesn’t mean your style will forever be accepted by the masses. That leaves you with a few options; you can continue your style and accept or ignore the criticism or you can ride off into the sunset and enjoy the fruits of your decades of labor.

Al Michaels has what we all want; great options. He can choose any of them and be a winner in the game of life. It doesn’t matter if he enthusiastically embraces them, or not. 

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BSM Writers

Bernie Kosar Was the Victim of a Policy That Doesn’t Work Anymore

“The NFL has bigger fish to fry than Bernie Kosar. Hell, it has more pressing issues in Cleveland alone.”

Demetri Ravanos

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One week ago, Bernie Kosar lost his job on the Browns Radio Network for placing the first legal sports bet in the state of Ohio. Kosar, just like Jets coach Miles Austin weeks earlier and Calvin Ridley last year, violated a league policy that forbids team employees from placing a bet on any NFL game.

The integrity of the games still matters. The belief that what we are all seeing is being fairly contested is what gives those of us that like to have a little vested interest in the outcome the desire to lay our money down in the first place. I get the league’s discomfort with a coach on the staff of a team in the middle of the playoff hunt making bets. I get its fear of the message it sends to have players making bets.

Roger Goodell and the 32 team owners are well within their rights to object to men that can potentially control the outcome of a game or postseason seeding doing anything that even appears to jeopardize its fairness. Even perceived impropriety can compromise the league’s tremendous value.

But Bernie Kosar doesn’t have that kind of influence on the outcome of a game. He is just a broadcaster and not even a game analyst. He is part of studio coverage.

I am far from the first to point this out, but in 2023, the NFL has three official sports betting partners. Just last week, it approved the first ever in-stadium sportsbook, which Fanatics is set to open inside of FedEx Field. If the NFL is comfortable enough with the reality that its fans like to bet to make those things a reality, then Kosar losing his gig is absurd. It is the result of nothing other than “well, that’s the way we’ve always done it” thinking.

Maybe Kosar was terrible on the radio and the team was looking for a reason to move on. I don’t live in Cleveland and I am not a Browns fan, so I have no idea.

How many times have we heard that NFL owners hired Goodell to “protect the shield”? I’m not even really sure what it means or when it applies anymore. If I had a vested interest in the public perception of the league, I know that I would want someone to do the PR math on this situation.

Bernie Kosar isn’t an addict that can’t watch a game without the high of winning or the emotional distress of losing everything at stake, at least not as far as we know. This was a bet made through an advertising partner, to benefit charity. He even said on his podcast this week that the purpose of making the bet was to generate some money for former players in need of help.

This is like Disney threatening daycare centers with lawsuits for painting Mickey Mouse on a classroom wall. The NFL has bigger fish to fry than Bernie Kosar. Hell, it has more pressing issues in Cleveland alone.

Surely you have seen Garrett Bush’s impassioned rant on the Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show about the obstacles facing Damar Hamlin because of how many hoops the NFL makes former players jump through in order to get some kind of pension.

On January 2, we were all united in our concern for a guy that hadn’t even completed his second full NFL season. We didn’t know if he was going to live, but if he did, we all knew that the NFL had done everything it needed to in order to protect itself from ever having to pay a dime for his medical care. Less than a week later, Bernie Kosar was fired for what amounted to a charity stunt that was meant to raise money and attention to very similar issues.

At both the league level and the team level, there was incompetence that lead to a man unnecessarily losing a gig and to the Browns and the NFL looking horribly out of touch with reality.

Are we acknowledging that people gamble or not? Are we acknowledging there are responsible ways to bet on football and are interested in generating revenue off of it or not? Because it doesn’t seem to me that the same league that just gave the thumbs up to open a sportsbook inside of a stadium is really that concerned with people that cannot affect the outcome of games betting on those games.

Has the NFL come out and said that it is going to cover every medical bill for everyone that has ever played the game? We know that this is a brutal game that leaves a physical and physiological impact on the men that played it. Why would we make it harder for someone that knows that pain to help others do something about it?

I feel awful for Bernie Kosar. Whether he needs the money or not, it is embarassing to be at the center of a controversy like this, particularly because in the NFL in 2023, there is no reason for a controversy like this to exist.

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