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Jared Stillman Was Ready For Company In Afternoon Drive

“When we decided to make the show more of a company, I didn’t think we would get someone as talented as Caroline, but our producer Ian, he does a fantastic job on the air and off the air.”

Tyler McComas

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Jared Stillman didn’t blink when he was asked to host solo in November. In fact, neither did anyone at ESPN 102.5 The Game in Nashville, even though the station knew it would have to undergo a search to find his next co-host. Floyd Reese, a former GM of the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans, announced his intentions late last year to resign as the co-host of Jared & The GM. Stillman had hosted solo before and it was an incredible luxury for the station, because there wasn’t a mass panic to hurry and fill the spot. Instead, The Game took its time and carefully vetted each candidate to find the best partner for Stillman in afternoon drive. 

“I’ve done solo shows before so doing them in November, December and at the beginning of the year wasn’t that hard for me,” said Stillman. “By being able to do a solo show it gave us the opportunity to take our time.”

Stillman & Company | The Game Nashville

102.5 The Game being able to take its time with the search, meant the station discovered Caroline Fenton, a social media producer at ESPN in Bristol. Amidst tons of other applicants, the fit seemed natural from the beginning. 

“They interviewed a lot of people,” Stillman said. “A lot of people wanted to be on an afternoon drive show in Nashville. I was able to get on a Zoom with her and I thought she was great. She came to Nashville and we got to really know her.”

Things move fast in this industry. After spending a week behind the scenes learning all of the digital elements the station had to offer, she was soon making her debut as the new co-host on Stillman and Company. April 5th was her first full day on the show, just in time for the stretch run for the NFL Draft and smack dab in the middle of the Predators’ regular season.

“I thought it was really well played out,” Stillman said. “I definitely think it’s probably better right now since we’re in the middle of a hockey season and it looks like the Predators are going to make the playoffs. That’s a big deal around here, because we’re the flagship station for the Predators. We had a plan and because of that it’s made the first week a lot easier. What we were doing, it wasn’t like, hey, here’s the mic, go. It was like, hey, here’s the segment you’re going to be a little bit more active and here’s the segment where you’re going to be a little less active. Or even, here’s what we’re going to want digitally. Caroline is really smart and she’s really talented so those things weren’t very difficult at all.”

Stillman has every club in the bag you need as a sports radio host. He can host solo, he can host with the former player or coach and he can even host with someone who wants to share as many strong opinions as him. No matter the situation in the studio, not only can he handle it, but he has the confidence and the talent to turn it into really compelling radio. He’s done different types of shows but this one will signal a very important step for the development of his career. 

“It’s kind of like different genres of movies,” Stillman said. “Some guys are comedy actors, some guys are drama guys and some guys are action guys. Then you have someone like Ryan Reynolds who can do all of them. For me, this is a really important step for my development as a host. I try not to make it about me, or think that it’s about me, but it’s a really important step in my development. Floyd was a management guy, but it’s all the same with the ex-coach, ex-GM, ex-player, it’s kind of the same concept. I’ve done those shows and this is a little different.. This is like a Colin Cowherd show or a Bobby Bones show. It’s not just one guy, there’s a crew.

“When we decided to make the show more of a company, I didn’t think we would get someone as talented as Caroline, but our producer Ian, he does a fantastic job on the air and off the air. For me it’s a different experience, because it’s a different kind of show, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think we’re not able to get listeners what they want every day and entertain them, which is really what the whole point is anyway.”

ESPN 102.5 The Game 😷 on Twitter: "ESPN 102.5 The Game is proud to  announce the addition of Caroline Fenton to their afternoon show “Stillman  & Company” with host Jared Stillman, which

Nashville still has one of the newer franchises in the NHL, but it takes a backseat to nobody when it comes to passion within its fanbase. The state of Tennessee has long been labeled a football state, and that’s still probably true, but you better know hockey if you’re going to talk sports in the Nashville area. Fenton has quickly transitioned herself into daily hockey talk, but knowing exactly what’s happening on the ice can be intimidating for someone that didn’t grow up in a hockey market. 

“Hockey is important because that’s what the people here care about,” said Stillman. “It’s like when I worked in Louisville and it was all about college sports. It was all about Louisville and Kentucky. I think Caroline is like any new host when they go into a different city, where they have to feel it out. It doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re talking about or they’re not knowledgeable but even I had to learn some things when I got here and I grew up here. I do think Caroline has worked really hard off the air to master it.

“I think too much in radio, and I think this is a much larger issue than Caroline, but we just put a microphone in someone’s face and say go. There’s not an education process. I’ve been in situations where someone stuck a microphone in my face and said go. I just don’t think that’s the best way to do this. Ryan Porth has been our program director for five years and he has the experience on how to bring somebody up.”

Football always rates in every single market in the country, but when it comes to basketball, baseball, hockey or any other sport, it’s pretty much a case-by-case basis. Nashville loves hockey but is it an easy sport to talk about? Is it difficult to make the game sound interesting on radio with so many regular season games? 

“You may wear jeans and khakis every day but if you work at Lululemon, you better figure out how to sell yoga pants,” Stillman said. “People care about the Predators, so, you’ve got to watch. Some of our strongest periods were when we did four hours on the Predators during their Stanley Cup run in 2017 and their Presidents Cup season in 2018. I would laugh because here’s Floyd Reese, a 36-year NFL veteran and here he is talking about the power play. And the people loved it. I don’t think it’s any different from any other sport. The one thing you cannot do in sports talk radio right now, no matter the sport, if your audience cares, you can’t look at the game and say, oh, today’s game doesn’t matter so forget about it. Every game matters. How much it matters is how much you think it matters.

“I use Felger and Mazz in Boston as an example. When I used their model, you listen to those guys and every Celtics game matters. Every time they lose they want to talk about blaming the coach. Those guys will go on rants about somebody’s three at bats in a May 13th game with the Red Sox and they will literally drive an hour on someone going 0-3 with a walk and it’s like ‘what are we paying this guy for!’. It moves the needle and I think everyone in sports talk radio needs to adopt that with their own team. Local sports talk radio is not going away, because it’s in live time. Podcasts aren’t. Hosts have to look at what matters to the audience and if it matters to the audience for them to invest three hours of their life watching that game, then it should matter enough to you to watch it and it should matter enough to you to find ways to make discussing that game interesting.”

Give a ton of kudos to 102.5 The Game and how they’ve made the transition as easy as possible for Fenton in the afternoons. Also, give the same amount of kudos to Fenton for buying into what she was being sold and working tirelessly to perfect it. Really, how the station handled this hiring should be a learning tool for others across the country. 

Caroline Fenton (@carolinefenton1) | Twitter

But though Stillman and Company seems to have hit the ground running and are hitting their stride, has the identity of the show already been completely formed?

“I try not to predict things like that too far in advance,” Stillman said. “The show is pretty much what this show was built on way back in 2016, which was strong opinions with the Titans and the Predators and whatever else people in Nashville are talking about. I don’t think that’s going to change. We are an opinion show and I don’t ever foresee that changing. I think Caroline is ready to bring her opinions.”

BSM Writers

Who Handled the Tua Concussion Discussion Best?

Rex Ryan, Rodney Harrison, and Boomer Esiason stood out with their commentary on the Tagovailoa story.

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The major story going into the bulk of Week 4’s NFL action on Sunday was the concussion suffered by Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in Thursday’s game versus the Cincinnati Bengals.

Amazon’s Thursday Night Football telecast, particularly its halftime show, faced heavy criticism for neglecting to mention that Tagovailoa had been tested for a concussion in his previous game just four days earlier. Additionally, the NFL Players Association called for an investigation into whether or not the league’s concussion protocols were followed properly in evaluating Tagovailoa.

In light of that, how would the Sunday NFL pregame shows address the Tagovailoa concussion situation? Would they better inform viewers by covering the full story, including the Week 3 controversy over whether or not proper protocols were followed?

We watched each of the four prominent pregame shows — ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown, Fox NFL Sunday, CBS’s The NFL Today, and NBC’s Football Night in America — to compare how the Tagovailoa story was covered. With the benefit of two extra days to research and report, did the Sunday shows do a better job of informing and engaging viewers?

Here’s how the pregame studio crews performed with what could be the most important NFL story of the year:

Sunday NFL Countdown – ESPN

ESPN’s pregame show is the first to hit the air each Sunday, broadcasting at 10 a.m. ET. So the Sunday NFL Countdown crew had the opportunity to lead the conversation for the day. With a longer, three-hour show and more resources to utilize in covering a story like this, ESPN took full advantage of its position.

The show did not lead off with the Tagovailoa story, opting to lay out Sunday’s schedule, which included an early game in London between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints. But the Countdown crew eventually got to issue on everyone’s minds approximately 28 minutes into the program.

Insider Adam Schefter provided the latest on the NFL and NFLPA’s investigation into the matter, particularly the “gross motor instability” Tagovailoa displayed in stumbling on the field and how the Dolphins initially announced that the quarterback had suffered a head injury, but later changed his condition to a back injury.

Schefter added that the NFL and NFLPA were expected to interview Tagovailoa and pass new guidelines for concussion protocols, including that no player displaying “gross motor instability” will be allowed to play. Those new rules could go into effect as early as Week 5.

“This is an epic fail by the NFL,” said Matt Hasselbeck to begin the commentary. “This is an epic fail by the medical staff, epic fail by everybody! Let’s learn from it!”

Perhaps the strongest remarks came from Rex Ryan, who said coaches sometimes need to protect players from themselves.

“I had a simple philosophy as a coach: I treated every player like my son,” Ryan said. “Would you put your son back in that game after you saw that?

“Forget this ‘back and ankle’ BS that we heard about! This is clearly from head trauma! That’s it. I know what it looks like. We all know what it looks like.”

Where Sunday NFL Countdown‘s coverage may have stood out the most was by bringing injury analyst Stephania Bell into the discussion. Bell took a wider view of the story, explaining that concussions had to be treated in the long-term and short-term. Science needs to advance; a definitive diagnostic tool for brain injury doesn’t currently exist. Until then, a more conservative approach has to be taken, holding players out of action more often.

Grade: A. Countdown covered the story thoroughly. But to be fair, it had the most time.

The NFL Today – CBS

CBS’s pregame show led off with the Tagovailoa story, going right to insider Jonathan Jones to report. He cited the key phrase “gross motor instability” as a significant indication of a concussion.

Jones also clarified that the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant who helped evaluate Tagovailoa made “several mistakes” in consulting with the Dolphins’ team doctor, leading to his dismissal by the NFL and NFLPA.

The most pointed remarks came from Boomer Esiason, who said any insinuation that the Dolphins, head coach Mike McDaniel, or the team medical staff put Tagovailoa back in the game in order to win was “off-base.” Phil Simms added that the concussion experts he spoke with indicated that Tagovailoa could miss four to six weeks with this injury.

Grade: B-. The opinions from the analysts were largely bland. Jones’s reporting stood out.

Fox NFL Sunday

The Fox NFL pregame show also led off with the Tagovailoa story, reviewing the questions surrounding how the quarterback was treated in Week 3 before recapping his injury during Week 4’s game.

Jay Glazer reported on the NFL’s investigation, focusing on whether or not Tagovailoa suffered a concussion in Week 3. And if he did, why was he allowed to play in Week 4? Glazer noted that Tagovailoa could seek a second, maybe a third medical opinion on his injury.

Jimmy Johnson provided the most compelling commentary, sharing his perspective from the coaching side of the situation. He pointed out that when an injured player comes off the field, the coach has no contact with him. The medical team provides an update on whether or not the player can return. In Johnson’s view, Mike McDaniel did nothing wrong in his handling of the matter. He has to trust his medical staff.

Grade: B. Each of the analysts shared stronger opinions, particularly in saying a player failing “the eyeball test” with concussion symptoms should be treated seriously.

Football Night in America – NBC

Sunday Night Football was in a different setting than the other pregame shows, with Maria Taylor, Tony Dungy, and Rodney Harrison broadcasting on-site from Tampa Bay. With that, the show led off by covering the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, its effects on the Tampa area, and how the Buccaneers dealt with the situation during the week.

But after 20 minutes, the show got into the Tagovailoa story with Mike Florio reporting what his peers told viewers earlier in the day regarding pending changes to the NFL’s concussion protocol and “gross motor instability” being used as a major indicator.

Florio emphasized that the NFLPA would ask how Tagovailoa was examined and treated. Was he actually examined for a back injury in Week 3? And if he indeed suffered a back injury, why was he still allowed to play?

When the conversation went back to the on-site crew, Dungy admitted that playing Thursday night games always concerned him when he was a coach. He disclosed that teams playing a Thursday game needed to have a bye the previous week so they didn’t have to deal with a quick, four-day turnaround. That scheduling needs to be addressed for player safety.

But Harrison had the most engaging reaction to the story, coming from his experience as a player. He admitted telling doctors that he was fine when suffering concussion symptoms because he wanted to get back in the game. Knowing that was wrong, Harrison pleaded with current players to stay on the sidelines when hurt because “CTE takes you to a dark place.”

“It’s not worth it. Please take care of yourself,” said Harrison. “Don’t depend on the NFL. Don’t depend on anybody. If something’s wrong with your head, report it.”

Grade: B+. Dungy and Harrison’s views of the matter from their perspective as a coach and player were very compelling.

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BSM Writers

Jason Barrett Podcast – Terry Dugan & Adam Delevitt, BetRivers

Jason Barrett

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Sportsbooks are creating their own media now, and no company is doing that using more guys that have made their names on sports radio than BetRivers. Terry Dugan & Adam Delevitt talk about the strategy behind that decision for today and for the future.

iTunes: https://buff.ly/3nTJC5K 

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3z9hErM

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3oyi0U0

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Amazon: https://buff.ly/3w9hqAh

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BSM Writers

Joe Rogan Betting Admission Reveals Gray Area

Rogan’s admission raises a question as to just how ethical it is to place bets with insider information, and whether it should be legal or not.

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Joe Rogan

For nearly a decade, I’ve been fortunate enough to cover the football and basketball programs for the University of Kentucky in some form or fashion. Whether writing for blogs or working with ESPN Louisville as co-host of the post-game show, I’ve gotten to know people around the program I grew up supporting, and other individuals in the media doing the same. I’ve made some terrific friendships and cultivated quite a few relationships that provide me with “inside information” about the teams.

As an avid sports bettor, that information has sometimes put me into some difficult personal situations. There have been times when I’ve been alerted to player news that wasn’t public, such as a player dealing with an injury or suspension. It’s often been told to me off-the-record, and I’ve never put that information out publicly or given it to others.

I wish I could also say I’ve never placed a wager based on that information, but that would be a lie. While it’s been a long time since I’ve done so, I’ve ventured into that ethical gray area of betting on a team that I’m covering. I’ve long felt uncomfortable doing so, and I’d say it’s been a few years since I last did it.

At least I know I’m not alone. On his latest episode of The Joe Rogan Experience, Rogan told guest Bert Kreischer that earlier in his UFC broadcasting career he regularly bet on fights. He claims to have won nearly 85% of the time (which I highly doubt but that’s another discussion for another time), either via bets he made or ones he gave to a business partner to place on his behalf.

From his comments, Rogan doesn’t seem to have been using sensitive information to gain an edge with the books, but he also didn’t state that he didn’t. He indicates that much of his success stemmed from knowing quite a bit more about fighters coming from overseas, and he said he “knew who they were and I would gamble on them.”

But Rogan undoubtedly has long been in a position where he knows which fighters might be dealing with a slight injury, or who are struggling in camp with a specific fighting style. It’s unavoidable for someone whose job puts him into contact with individuals who tell him things off-the-record and divulge details without perhaps even realizing it.

But let’s say Rogan did get that information, and did use it, and was still doing so today. The fact is…there’s nothing illegal about it, not in the United States at least. While it’s against the rules of some entities — the NFL, for example, has stated they could suspend or ban for life individuals who use inside information or provide it to others — it’s not against any established legal doctrine. Unlike playing the stock market, insider betting is not regulated by any central body or by the government.

However, Rogan’s admission raises a question as to just how ethical it is to place bets with insider information, and whether it should be legal or not. Many of the after-the-fact actions that have been taken in the realm of legalized sports betting in this country, or those being discussed currently (such as advertising limitations), fall in line with changes made in Great Britain following their legalization.

One of their big changes was making it illegal to utilize insider information, with very specific definitions about the “misuse of information” and what steps the Gambling Commission may take. It lays out what information can be used, the punishments that may be levied, and at what point it might venture into criminality.

Sportsbooks do have recourse in some instances to recoup money on insider betting, but not many. If they can prove that a wage was influenced, they can cancel the bet or sue for the money. The most well-known instance is the individual who bet $50,000 at +750 odds that someone would streak on the field during Super Bowl LV –which he did– and then was denied the payout when he bragged about his exploits. But unless someone foolishly tells the books that they’ve taken them with information that the public wasn’t privy to, they have little to no chance of doing anything about it.

There are ramifications to insider betting that raise truly ethical dilemmas. Just like stock trading, information can be immeasurably valuable to those with stakes large enough to change prices. If I’m placing a $20 prop bet with the knowledge that a team’s starting running back might be out for a game, or dealing with an ankle injury, I’m not going to harm anybody else playing that line. But if I give that information to a shark, who places a $20,000 wager on that same line, I’ve now enabled someone to move a line and impact other bettors.

Online sports betting in this country continues to grow, and every day we are reminded that there are still aspects of the space that can feel like the wild west. As individuals in the media, we have to decide personally what our ethical stances are in situations like this. We also have to keep in mind the impact that betting can have on our biases–especially if we’ve bet using inside information. A prime example is Kirk Herbstreit, who won’t even make a pick on College Gameday for games he is going to be doing color commentary for lest he possibly appears biased on the call.

At one end of the spectrum, you have someone like Herbstreit, and on the other end, you have folks like Rogan who, while he no longer does so, was more than happy to not only wager on fights himself but gave the information to others. And in the middle, you have hundreds of people in similar situations, who might lean one way or another or who, like me, may have found themselves on either side of that ethical line.

There is no black or white answer here, nor am I saying there’s necessarily a right or wrong stance for anybody in the sports media industry to take. I would say that each person has to take stock of what they’re comfortable doing, and how they feel about insider information being used. Rogan didn’t break any rules or laws by gambling on the UFC, but his admission to doing so might be the catalyst towards it no longer being accepted.

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