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Anything Weirder Than A-Rod Buying The Timberwolves?

Matching baseball’s impetuous bon vivant with a failed basketball franchise — in Minnesota, of all places — is so bizarre that Alex Rodriguez should think twice about the $1.5 billion purchase.

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So here we have the non sequitur of all sports non sequiturs: Alex Rodriguez finalizing a deal to purchase the Minnesota Timberwolves. If there is even one common denominator between these parties, please speak up. At least Donald Trump was swinging in the same state when he tried to buy the Buffalo Bills.

A-Rod? The land of 10,000 lakes meets the man of 10,000 lies. He comes from baseball, a sport he scandalized with steroids usage and cover-ups and now butchers as an analyst on ESPN and Fox. He has led a glamorous life, in New York and Miami and points between, cold-calling Warren Buffett to be his mentor in what has become a relentless, post-career entrepreneurial whirl. He is still with entertainment megastar Jennifer Lopez, I believe, and they tried to buy the Mets in the city where both were born, which made sense.

Alex Rodriguez Near Deal to Purchase Timberwolves and Lynx - The New York  Times

The Timberwolves? They are a nondescript, unglamorous basketball team in MinneSOOOOOOOODA, home of ice fishing, county fairs, venison jerky, the headquarters of Target and that creepy, cult-like Skol chant/horn blow before Vikings games. I remember covering a Yankees-Twins playoff series, in the inflatable Metrodome, when the locals heartily booed Rodriguez, even when they’re known as nice folks. It’s safe to assume they don’t like him because, you know, America doesn’t like Alex Rodriguez.

Feelings aside, he’s the new front man of a franchise owned dubiously the last 27 years by Glen Taylor, a native Minnesotan, and coached to its only Western Conference finals by the late Flip Saunders, who oozed Minnesota. I, for one, cannot imagine Rodriguez moving to Minneapolis, though it would present an opportunity to wear an extravagant fur coat for photo ops. Nor can I see Lopez joining him there unless she seeks a Paisley Park seance with Prince. A-Rod’s partner in the proposed $1.5 billion deal is a close pal, e-commerce king Marc Lore, who sold his first major web project — which included Diapers.com (an A-Rod joke in there somewhere) — to Amazon for $545 million, then got Walmart to pay $3.3 billion for another startup.

Resources? Check. Starpower? Check. But in what is quite possibly the most provincial state in all the land, the disconnect is overwhelming. I would suggest Rodriguez hold his first press conference not at Target Center and not in a Gucci suit, but in a flannel shirt and jeans at Loon Cafe, down the street, where he can start with the Minnesota Wild Rice Soup before diving into the Crusted Walleye Sandwich.

Order and guzzle a Grain Belt Premium on draft. Then go blow the Gjallarhorn, which is what they call the Skol horn, even if they have to transport it from U.S. Bank Stadium. Then burst into “Little Red Corvette.”

That way, maybe the boos aren’t as nasty.

The positive angle, of course, is that Rodriguez brings his Latino heritage to a pro sports industry that sorely needs diversity in the upper ranks. Another real-world responsibility looms: Once the transaction is completed within a 30-day exclusive negotiating window, Rodriguez and Lore immediately assume roles as civic leaders amid ongoing racial tensions in Minneapolis. As the prospective owners were preparing their visit, clashes between police and hundreds of protesters followed the fatal shooting of a black man Sunday, with the National Guard called in not far from where George Floyd was choked to death by police. The NBA is a predominantly Black league. Ready or not, Rodriguez has to be involved in all community issues as Timberwolves owner.

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As a sportsman, he’s determined to succeed, meaning he won’t stand for losing. But it’s a massive stretch to think A-Rod, despite his three MVP awards and World Series title ring, is the magical corporate leader who will repair the underachievement and dysfunction that has relegated the Wolves to the NBA dregs. What does he know about basketball when he makes mistakes in the booth every baseball broadcast? He’d better learn quickly, because at 14-40, the Wolves are plunging toward the NBA’s worst record for the third time in 11 years while assured of their 15th losing season in 16 tries. Not that there aren’t valuable pieces on the roster — a prized big man in Karl-Anthony Towns, a former All-Star guard in D’Angelo Russell, a rising scorer in Anthony Edwards, a young two-way stud in Jaden McDaniels. Hell, Cade Cunningham or Jalen Suggs could arrive in the draft.

But there’s something about this operation that seems eternally unfixable. Assuming the deal goes through, Rodriguez and Lore — who already have been disappointed once in losing the Mets to Steve Cohen — don’t assume complete control of the franchise from Taylor until 2023. By then, who knows what the wreckage will look like? If the Wolves don’t finish in the top three of the lottery, they lose the pick entirely. Towns, never happy in Minnesota, continues to be the subject of trade talks. I know little about the coach, Chris Finch, and I do this for a living.

If the fans stop caring — and in the Twin Cities, the Wolves rank behind the Vikings, Twins, Wild, college football and maybe college hockey in interest — might A-Rod want to move the franchise? He can’t go to New York, where the market has two teams. He can’t go to Miami, home of the Heat. But he could take the Wolves to … Seattle, where he played seven seasons for the Mariners and where an arena renovated for the NHL’s expansion Kraken — as in crack, the substance the nickname-chooser had to be using — awaits a breathlessly missed NBA team.

Taylor told the Star Tribune, the newspaper he owns, that language in the pending paperwork will require Rodriguez and Lore to keep the Wolves and WNBA Lynx in Minnesota. “They will keep the team here, yes. We will put it in the agreement,” Taylor said. “At this point we have a letter of intent, but when we make up the contract we’ll put that in there. That’s no problem. That won’t be a problem.”

Try telling the courts. Taylor, 79, says he trusts A-Rod and Lore anyway. “When I met them and talked to them and just in the conversation what they were after — they’re bright people, very bright people, very competitive,” he said. “I could see them challenging me which I liked to have. … They said, `We got to learn about basketball. We’d like you to stay around and help us run it for a while.’ Then we’ll switch over. Those meet all of my goals.”

The agreement materialized in a matter of days, with Rodriguez and Lore approaching Taylor in early April and quickly flying to meet him and his wife at their winter home in Naples, Fla. Evidently, A-Rod is no more enamored of his broadcasting career than we are; he couldn’t wait to jump at this chance, and the networks will need new baseball voices. Is it possible A-Rod, impulsive to a fault, suddenly will pull out because he’s getting scorched in columns such as this? Or because a wiser business opportunity presents itself? For now, he’s all in, awaiting approval by league owners. “We look forward to entering this phase of the process with Glen Taylor,” Rodriguez and Lore said in a joint statement. “Our respect for him and the legacy he has built lays an amazing foundation for what’s to come. We are excited by the prospect of getting to know the Timberwolves organization.”

The players, who grew up watching Rodriguez on ballfields, were as startled as anyone by the news. Towns went so far to tell a shoplifting story from his childhood, revealing that his mother — one of seven members of his family to die from COVID-19 the past year — helped him pilfer an A-Rod jersey from a New Jersey Walmart store when times were lean and money was tight. When he tried on the jersey and told her it fit, she said, “Great. Leave it on.”

Is Alex Rodriguez Done Or Just Slumping Terribly?

“I have that jersey still to this day in my house. That jersey meant everything,” Towns said. “I wouldn’t recommend doing that to the young kids watching this. Don’t do that. But if you’re struggling and really like a player, I’m not going to say anything.”

Now, A-Rod is positioned as his boss. “Just to have his charisma and his aura, it’s going to make a lot of people gravitate toward here,” Towns said. “The fans, to be able to have such a star like that as an owner, is going to bring an awareness to this team.”

Finch can’t wait to meet the new boss. “I’m sure he understands sports at a very high level,” he said. “It certainly will bring some sex appeal to the organization, the city, to the team. I think the more skill sets and personality types you can bring to any kind of leadership group, the more it’s going to be reflected in the overall mission.”

If A-Rod wants to watch practice, will Finch kick him out? “You want them to feel intimately involved with the process, the team and everything else that goes around it. You want them to be an active partner,” he said. “I’m not the type that’s going to try to exclude them from their own team. And again, that’s super high level. My job is to coach the team and make the players as best as possible. That’s my day job, and that’s what I focus 99 percent of my time on.”

Wasn’t Kevin Garnett, greatest player in franchise history, supposed to be part of a group buying the Wolves? Oh, he didn’t get along with Taylor, and a bid never materialized. If I’m Alex Rodriguez, I’m thinking twice about spending two years of the Life Of A-Rod learning the ropes under an all-time NBA loser. Then I’m wondering about that walleye sandwich and how quickly I’d tire of it.

Siri's Fried Walleye Sandwich with Tartar Sauce - TODAY.com

Then I’m wondering about distressed franchises in Major League Baseball and thinking, yep, I have a better chance of fixing the Pittsburgh Pirates than the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Or, he can just huddle his new players in a meeting and give them PEDs.

BSM Writers

Adam The Bull Is Giving Cleveland Something It’s Never Had Before

“It was only more recently that I was like why do I have to only be a radio guy?”

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After spending 22 years on the radio, Adam “The Bull” Gerstenhaber was ready for a new adventure.  In fact, the former co-host of Bull and Fox on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland did not have a new job lined up when he signed off from his 11-year radio home last month.

“I was already leaving without having a new project,” admitted Gerstenhaber during a recent phone interview with BSM.  “I left before I knew for sure I had a ‘next project’.”

Gerstenhaber was preparing for his final show with co-host Dustin Fox on April 1st when he was contacted by an executive producer for TEGNA, a company that was developing a Cleveland sports television show on YouTube.  The executive producer, who had just found out that Bull was a free agent, made it clear that he wanted Bull to be a part of the new project.

It all came together very quickly. 

“Let’s talk on Monday,” Gerstenhaber told the executive producer. “And within a week they signed me up.”

The Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show on YouTube featuring Gerstenhaber, former ESPN personality Jay Crawford, 92.3 The Fan’s Garrett Bush, and rotating hosts to make up a four-person round-table show, made its debut last Monday.  The show, which airs weekdays from 11am to 1pm, features passionate Cleveland sports talk, live guests, either in-studio or via Zoom, as well as interaction from the audience through social media.

“I’m very excited,” said Gerstenhaber.  “It’s a definite adjustment for me after 22 years on radio doing television.  For the last 11 years, I’ve been doing a radio show with just one other host and I was the lead guy doing most of the talking and now I’m on a show with three other people and it’s such an adjustment.  So far, I’m having a ball.”  

And so far, the reaction to the show has been very positive.

A big reason why is that it’s something that Cleveland didn’t have and really never had, unlike a city like New York, where there are local radio shows that are simulcast on regional sports channels. 

“There’s nothing like that in Cleveland,” said Gerstenhaber.  “And there was certainly nothing like this with a panel.  Cleveland is such a massive sports town and now people that don’t live in Cleveland that are maybe retired in Florida or Arizona, now they actually have a TV show that they can watch that’s Cleveland-centric.”

The new venture certainly represents a big change in what Bull has been used to in his radio career.  He’s enjoying the freedom of not having to follow a hard clock for this show. In fact, there have already been some occasions where the show has been able to go a little longer than scheduled because they have the flexibility to do that on YouTube.

Doing a show on YouTube gives the panel a great opportunity to go deep into topics and spend some quality time with guests.  And while there is no cursing on the show at the moment, there could be the potential for that down the road.

Don’t expect the show is going to become X-rated or anything like that, but the objective is to be able to capture the spirit and emotion of being a sports fan and host.

“It’s something we may do in the future,” said Gerstenhaber.  “Not curse just to curse but it gives us the option if we get fired up.  It is allowed because there’s no restrictions there.  The company doesn’t want us to do it at the moment.”  

There’s also been the shift for Gerstenhaber from being the “point guard” on his old radio show, driving the conversation and doing most of the talking, to now taking a step back and having Crawford distributing the ball on the television show.

For a guy called “The Bull”, that will take some getting used to. 

“Jay is a pro’s pro,” said Gerstenhaber.  “He’s the point guard for this but he’s also part of the conversation.  I’m not used to not being the point guard so I have to adjust to that.  I think it’s gone pretty well and the chemistry is pretty good and with time we’ll get used to the flow of it.”  

Gerstenhaber’s move from sports radio to an internet television show is a perfect example of how the industry is changing.  A good portion of the listening and viewing audience these days, especially those in the younger demographic, are not necessarily watching traditional television or listening to terrestrial radio.  For a lot of sports fans, watching and listening on a mobile device or a computer has become a very important way of life.

The desire to adapt, along with a shorter workday, was very enticing to him.

“It was only more recently that I was like why do I have to only be a radio guy?” wondered Gerstenhaber.  “There were things about my job that I was unhappy about.  I was doing a five-hour radio show.  It’s too long. That’s crazy.  Nobody should be doing a five-hour radio show at this point.” 

Broadcasting on the internet has arrived and it’s not just a couple of sports fans doing a show from their garage anymore.  The business has evolved to the point where the technology has provided more opportunities for those who have already enjoyed success in the industry and are looking for new challenges.

Kind of like Adam The Bull!

“I think years ago, probably like many people in the radio business, we looked at internet and podcasts as like whatever…those guys aren’t professionals…they’re amateurs,” said Gerstenhaber.  “But the game has changed.”

Gerstenhaber, Crawford and everyone associated with the “Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show” should not have much of a problem attracting the younger audience. That demographic is already accustomed to watching shows on YouTube and other streaming platforms.  The challenge now is to get the more mature audience on board. There are certainly some obstacles there.

I know this from experience with trying to explain to my mother in Florida how she can hear me on the radio and watch me on television simply by using her tablet.

Bull can certainly relate to that.

“My mother is still trying to figure out how to watch the show live,” said Gerstenhaber with a chuckle.  “The older fans struggle with that. A lot of my older fans here in Cleveland are like how do I watch it? For people that are under 40 and certainly people that under 30, watching a YouTube show is like okay I watch everything on my phone or device.  It’s such a divide and obviously as the years go by, that group will increase.” 

With the television show off and running, Gerstenhaber still has a passion for his roots and that’s the radio side of the business.  In the next couple of weeks, “The Bull” is set to announce the launch of two podcasts, one daily and one weekly, that will begin next month.  But he also hasn’t ruled out the possibility of returning to terrestrial radio at some point.

“I have not closed the door to radio,” said Gerstenhaber.  “I still love radio.  I would still, in the right set of circumstances, consider going back to radio but it would have to really be the perfect situation.  I’m excited about (the television show) and right now I don’t want to do anything else but I’m certainly going to remain open-minded to radio if a really excellent opportunity came up.”

The landscape of the broadcasting industry, particularly when it comes to sports, has certainly changed over the years and continues to evolve.  Adam Gerstenhaber certainly enjoyed a tremendous amount of success on the radio side, both in New York and in Cleveland, but now he has made the transition to something new with the YouTube television show and he’s committed to making it a success.

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BSM Writers

I Heard A Lot of Boring, Uncreative Sports Radio On Friday

“Sometimes your first idea is your best one. You don’t know that though if you stop thinking after one idea. That is what it feels like happens a lot the day after NFL schedules are released”

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Maybe this one is on me for expecting better. Maybe I need to take my own advice and accept that there are times the sports radio audience just wants a little comfort food. Still, this is my column and I am going to complain because I listened to probably six different stations on Friday and all of them were doing the exact same thing.

The NFL schedule was released on Thursday night, so on Friday, regardless of daypart, every show seemingly felt obligated to have the same three conversations.

  1. How many games will the home team win?
  2. What does the number of primetime games we got mean for how much respect we have nationally?
  3. Why do the Lions still get to play on Thanksgiving?

Football is king. I get that. Concrete NFL news is always going to take priority. That is understandable. But where was even an ounce of creativity? Where was the desire to do better – not just better than the competition, but better than the other shows in your own building?

I listened to shows in markets from across the league. The conversations were the same regardless of size or history of success. Everyone that picked in the top 5 in last month’s draft is going to go 10-7. Every team that got less than 5 primetime games feels disrespected. It was all so boring.

Those of us in the industry don’t consume content the way listeners do. We all know that. Perhaps I am harping on something that is only a problem to me because I listen to sports talk radio for a living. If you don’t ever want to put more than the bare minimum of effort into your show, decide that is the reason for my reaction and go click on another article here.

Consider this though, maybe the fact that I listen to so much sports radio means I know how much quality there is in this industry. Maybe it means that I can spot someone talented that is phoning it in.

I want to be clear in my point. There is value in giving your record prediction for the home team. Listeners look at the people on the radio as experts. I will bet some futures bets in a lot of markets were made on Friday based on what the gambler heard coming through their speakers. All I want to get across is there is a way to have that conversation that isn’t taking two segments to go through each week one by one. I heard no less than three stations do that on Friday.

Sometimes your first idea is your best one. You don’t know that though if you stop thinking after one idea. That is what it feels like happens a lot the day after NFL schedules are released. It’s a very familiar rhythm: pick the wins, get a guest on to preview the week 1 opponent, take calls, texts and tweets with the listeners’ predictions.

I didn’t hear anyone ask their listeners to sell them on the over for wins. I didn’t hear anyone give me weeks that you could skip Red Zone because one matchup is just too damn good. I didn’t hear anyone go through the Sunday Night Football schedule and pick out the weeks to schedule dates because the matchup isn’t worth it.

Maybe none of those ideas are winners, and that is fine. They are literally three dumb ideas I pulled out of the air. But they are all ways to review the schedule that could potentially leave a smile on your listener’s face.

Show prep is so important, especially in a group setting. It is your chance to tell your partner, producer, or host that you know you can do better than the idea that has just been thrown out. Quit nodding in agreement and challenge each other! It may mean a little more work for you, but it means more reward for the listeners. And if the listeners know they can rely on you for quality, creative content, that leads to more reward for you.

And lay off the Lions. It’s Thanksgiving. You’re stuck at home. The NFL could give you Lions vs Jaguars and you’d watch.

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BSM Writers

Why You Should Be Making Great TikTok Content

“We’re specially trained in the world of TSL (time spent listening), and the longer people view your content on TikTok, the more the app rewards you by shoving your content into more and more feeds.”

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It feels like there’s a new social media platform to pay attention to every other week. That makes it easy to overlook when one of them actually presents value to your brand. It wasn’t long ago that TikTok was primarily used by teenagers with the focus being silly dance trends filmed for video consumption with their friends and followers alike. Now, as the general public has become in tune with how this complicated app works, it’s grown far beyond that.

TikTok is now an app used by all types of demographics and unlike TikTok’s closely related cousins Instagram and Facebook, this app provides a certain type of nuance that I think people in our line of work can really excel in. 

Before I get into the nuts and bolts of how you can use TikTok to your advantage and how to make your videos catch on, I think it’s important to first mention why this matters for you. Now, if I’m being realistic, I’m sure there are some that have already stopped reading this or those that could scroll away fast enough when they saw the words TikTok. You might be thinking that this doesn’t fit your demo, or maybe that it’s a waste of time because productivity here won’t directly lead to an uptick in Nielsen ratings. But I’m not sure any social network directly leads to what we ultimately get judged on, and we aren’t always pumping out content directly to our core audience.

TikTok, like any other app you may use, is marketing. This is another free tool to let people out there know who you are and what you offer in this endless sea of content. And the beauty of TikTok is that it directly caters its algorithm to content creators just like us. Bottom line, if you are a personality in sports talk, there’s no reason you can’t be crushing it on TikTok right now. All it takes is a little direction, focus, consistency, and a plan. 

Unlike Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter where you can throw a photo up with a caption and be done for the day, TikTok’s whole model is built on creative videos that keep users engaged for longer periods of time. This approach works. According to Oberlo, a social media stat tracking site, people spend more time per day on TikTok than any other popular social media application. 38 minutes per day!

This is where this is good news for us in talk radio. We’re specially trained in the world of TSL (time spent listening), and the longer people view your content on TikTok, the more the app rewards you by shoving your content into more and more feeds. TikTok’s algorithm doesn’t care how many followers you have, your level of credibility, or the production on your video. All ir cares about is 1) Is your content good. and 2) Are people watching it. 3) How long are they watching it. The more people watch and the longer they watch creates a snowball effect. Your videos views will skyrocket, sometimes within hours. 

So, how do you create content that will catch on? It’s really not all that different than what you do every day. Create thought-provoking commentary that makes people think, argue, or stay till the end to get the info you teased up for them. I’ve found through my own trial and error that it’s best if you stay away from time-sensitive material, I’ve had more success the more evergreen my content is. That way, the shelf life expands beyond just that day or week. This is different for everyone and there’s no one-size-fits-all, but this is where I’ve seen the most success. 

Also, put yourself out there, don’t be afraid to say something that people are going to vehemently disagree with. Again, it’s not unlike what we do every day. It’s one thing to get someone to listen, it’s another to get them to engage. Once they hit you in the comment section, you’ve got them hooked. Comments breed more views and on and on. But don’t just let those sit there, even the smallest interaction back like a shoulder shrug emoji can go a long way in creating more play for your video. 

If you want to grow quickly, create a niche for yourself. The best content creators that I follow on TikTok all put out very similar content for most of their videos. This means, unlike Instagram where it’s great to show what a wildly interesting and eclectic person you are, TikTok users want to know what they’re getting the second your face pops up on that screen. So if you are the sports history guy, be the sports history guy all the time. If you are the top 5 list guy, be the top 5 list guy all the time, and on and on, you get the point. 

Other simple tricks

  • Splice small videos together. Don’t shoot one long video. 
  • 90 seconds to 2 minutes is a sweet spot amount of time. 
  • Add a soft layer of background instrumental music (this feature is found in the app when you are putting the finishing touches on your video) 
  • Label your video across the screen at the start and time it out so that it disappears seconds later. This way a user gets an idea of what the content is immediately and then can focus on you delivering your message thereafter.  
  • Research trending hashtags, they are far more important than whatever you caption your video. 
  • Use closed captions so that people can follow your video without sound. 

Finally, don’t be intimidated by it or snub your nose at it. Anything that helps your brand is worth doing and anything worth doing is worth doing well. 

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