John Michael Vincent, better known as JMV, has developed quite the following as a sports radio host in Indianapolis. As I see it, there are three main reasons for his success; talent, connections, and time. The first part is obvious; the guy has the chops. JMV is skilled and gets radio. As far as connections, I don’t mean that he knows big wigs in high places; I’m talking about connecting with his audience. The Fan’s afternoon guy isn’t hiding in the dressing room before he performs. He’s practically in the parking lot doing keg stands with his listeners before he hits the stage. He’s one of them.
Time is also important. JMV, who’s actual name is John Michael Gliva, simply has time for people. If you bump into someone who is short with you, I doubt you’ll walk away feeling valued. JMV has a welcoming charm and makes you feel like he has all day for you if needed. That type of vibe can’t be forced or faked. It’s just who JMV is. A lot of hosts enjoy speaking to people through a microphone. Many aren’t as eager to speak in person. JMV enjoys doing both a great deal.
Owensburg, Indiana — a town of only 300 people — is where JMV is originally from. He told me that listening to the few radio stations they had when he was young made a connection with him and that he always wants to make a connection with people because of that. It shows. JMV talks about the origin of his nickname and a unique future goal. He also tells great stories about royally ticking off Adam Schefter, being blackballed from ESPN, and hilariously missing out on a big scoop. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: How did the nickname JMV come about?
John Michael Vincent: I was on with a guy named Mark Patrick who actually for a long period of time did both FOX Sports Radio in the morning nationally and MLB Network nationally. He was big time in this market doing local TV. I started with two other guys and then I think within six months I was their producer at Sports Radio 1260 WNDE back in 2000. I was going by John Michael, which is my first and middle name. Mark tagged me with John Michael Vincent. My role on the show was to play the illegitimate son of the former, now deceased actor Jan-Michael Vincent. In the mid-‘70s Jan-Michael Vincent was huge as an actor and then he resurfaced in the ‘80s on the show Airwolf. That was my name, John Michael Vincent. Then it ultimately got shortened to JMV. A lot of people bristle in radio — I want to go by my own name blah, blah, blah — but when you’re with a guy like Mark, you just kind of take it. I have to give him credit, man, because we rode that out and now JMV is my name. That’s how it all started. I was the illegitimate son as his producer of the actor Jan-Michael Vincent.
BN: What’s the most important asset for a host to have in Indianapolis?
JMV: Ultimately it’s relatability. Especially in Indianapolis — I’m assuming you get this all over the map, probably even in the larger markets like New York, Boston, Philly — around here it is relatability. It’s like I walk among the folks. I’m one of them. I’ve never wanted to do national radio probably because I understand my limitations. But also because around here it’s important to folks. If we didn’t communicate with them, if we didn’t have our shows here, nobody else would really give a crap about them around here. When Andrew Luck quits on the team they do, but for the most part no one really cares about the Colts. And we do. That’s why love local radio is so important.
I always try to explain to folks who wanted me to be more like hey, listen to these national shows, and listen to this great tease, and listen to what they do, and I say bullshit. Because people around here, I’ve got to talk with them. I’ve got to have them on. I’m out with them. I can’t disappear behind the curtain like you do nationally. Then you just kind of restart your three hours the next day.
I see these people out and I embrace when they go hey, what you said about Frank Reich was accurate or inaccurate, and what you said about Chris Ballard I don’t really believe, or I’m with you on that. You can’t disappear behind a curtain on a daily basis as you do nationally. I’ve always had a great deal of respect for that. I guess that’s just because I love where I am and I love what I do. I think that’s what people around here really do embrace overall; it’s just you being yourself and this kind of is me. I don’t change to go on the radio. It’s just me all the time. I think people especially around here embrace that.
BN: I think sometimes for younger broadcasters, it takes a bit to just be yourself. You feel like you’re on stage or need to be a souped-up version, then you realize, I just need to be me. Were you always yourself, or did there come a time where you’re like man, I need to stop being a version of what I think people want and just be me?
JMV: Yeah, you know what, it’s funny. This is what I found out; it’s nothing about anybody else that hosts a show, but I think listening to other shows and their content is detrimental to you and yours. Especially when I come on around three o’clock, and before me you’ve got two local shows on our station, or you can listen to a lot of stuff nationally, Brian. I think what it does is it will interfere in your dome with your content and your thought. It enters into your psyche and because you might be talking, it may be something that you say. I don’t want to use or plagiarize anybody else’s take. I want everything to be as completely original in thought from my head as possible. I’ve always tried to do it that way.
Back in the day I would sit there and prepare for the show and Jim Rome would be on in the background. I’m not suggesting I wanted to sound like Jim Rome but inevitably your takes kind of have a bit of a Jim Rome feel and you don’t want that, man. I realized it was okay to F up. I realized that it’s okay because people go oh yeah, well that’s JMV, he F’s up all the time. Hashtag JMV SUX. He sucks. I guess that’s part of the overall radio acceptance that you strive for. I think they’re accepting me as I am and that I’m going to be flawed.
I try to go in when I start at three o’clock as fresh as possible without listening to all this other stuff, or listening to the ESPN guys in the morning on TV stirring stuff up with hot takes. I don’t want to be hot-take guy. I want to be me. I want to be me with my own content. This is what I think or this is what I’ve heard. It takes a little bit of time to realize that it’s not somebody else that people want; it’s you that people want. It’s your take that people want. Like it or loathe it, that’s what they’re looking for when they tune in. I’ve always tried to give that.
When you’re early in your career, you’re searching for what makes you confident. You see these guys that are benefiting, that are good, and are loved on the radio especially because of what they’re doing with their content. Thus, you feel that maybe you should add a little bit of a twist of your own to that, but it’s really unnecessary because people are looking for you; your content, your originality, you as a person. There are so many different outlets and avenues that you can soak up stuff and then ultimately end up parroting some of this content on the air and that’s not at all what I ever wanted to do. It takes a little bit of time to realize that.
BN: How did the whole JMV SUX phenomenon come about?
JMV: It’s kind of funny. It just started with social media; hashtag JMV SUX. I had a golf outing last Monday; the JMV SUX But His Larceny Bourbon Golf Outing Doesn’t. Probably it started like this; a lot of people telling me I suck. Once I embraced that I suck, and people tell me that, it almost diffuses them. Like if people out there, Brian, really think I suck, and they go you know what JMV, you’re take about the Colts, it sucks and so do you. Oh yeah, really? Well they make shirts with JMV SUX on the shirt. Come up with something new. It kind of diffuses that a little bit. I can’t lie. It’s fun to play with it. I don’t mind. I’ve never really minded it.
It’s funny; you think you’re not affected by what people say or what people tweet, but it’s impossible in the early stages of your career. Especially with the revolution of social media and the way that it was over the course of my career, it’s impossible not to feel chafed or be thin-skinned at times.
This has helped to relieve a lot of that pressure. It’s helped not to care what people say. In the process it’s something that people have embraced. I’ve got a closet full of JMV SUX t-shirts. The first one that was ever made was a Run DMC Raising Hell type of album cover that said JMV SUX instead. It kind of took off from there. It started with me diffusing anger and crap that was said to me and then just kind of rolled into something that people liked so I just went with it myself.
BN: Is there anything that you haven’t done in your career that you would still like to do?
JMV: I would. Yes, I’m glad you brought that up. I would love to do a show on Sirius to where you can — I don’t mean cuss, I don’t need to cuss or anything — but kind of broaden it just a little bit. I would also love to do a music show on Sirius. I think that would be great.
When COVID first started, I started a live call-in music show on our sister station B105.7 that I do every Saturday night. It’s called the JMV Takeover. Literally, I do this every Saturday night live from six until midnight. I have zero playlist. They just turn it over to me to play either what I want or whatever the callers want to hear. That kind of scratches the itch that I had because I love music radio a great deal. I thought it was fun. Any interaction at all with fans and listeners is always pretty cool.
I would love to bring back nationwide, more of what I discovered on Saturday around here being able to utilize the live listener and the caller and putting that together. Even though I know that’s not how that works on SiriusXM on any of their music formats. But to me I think it would be fun to do. With my knowledge of the ‘80s and ‘90s, I could do that. So maybe SiriusXM for sports, SiriusXM for music, maybe sometime how about a SiriusXM sports and music mixture too. I just don’t know if any of that crap would ever work to be honest with you.
I really have done all that I ever wanted to do, man. People always say, well you know what, you’re not good enough to be national, which I’m sure is the case. But legitimately this was my goal. Coming from the town where I came from there is not a lot of opportunity to ever be able to reach a goal like this so I always look back on that and feel good about it certainly. I made a lot of friends. I love going out and hanging out with people. I love doing live remotes. I do about two or three of those a week. I love trying to produce live, local radio and keep that alive because I think in a lot of ways we see that across the radio landscape disappearing.
BN: Why were you blackballed from ESPN on radio row because of a mistake you made with Adam Schefter?
JMV: Well, it’s twofold. When Schefter was back on the NFL Network, they would reach out to WNDE and he would come on. He wasn’t the best interview. Maybe it was because I wasn’t the best interviewer when I first started. I don’t know. But we never really liked one another except they always kept pushing him.
I was at the combine when it was still at Lucas Oil Stadium. The whole radio row was set up inside the concourse. It was in February, cold, late, about six o’clock, and I was kind of sick. I had a promotions guy come over and go hey, Adam Schefter’s over there, you want me to go ask him to come on? I go man, I just don’t feel like dealing with this right now. Nah, he’s always giving me short answers and I just didn’t think it was going to be worth the time or the effort. I said don’t worry about it. I go to the can. I walk out of the bathroom and Schefter is sitting in the seat right across from where I’m sitting. I went ahh, dang it. So I come over there and I go okay, it’s all good.
As I was asking questions, he just answered in really short form; like five words or less. Then it got even lower than that and I could tell the dude didn’t want to be here. The fact that he didn’t want to be here, and I didn’t want him there, resonated to me at the moment. So I said I’m going to make him sit here as long as possible. I started asking some of the most ridiculous questions ever to kind of be a jerk. It was wrong of me, but I was sick and I was pissy and that was my reaction. I think literally at the end of the conversation I asked him his favorite color. That’s how bad it got. It absolutely devolved into that. He didn’t like that and that’s fine.
I think afterwards Jim Irsay had tweeted something and then Schefter had sent a barb back to him, retweeted it. I sent out a tweet that said hey, you’re great at what you do, but this is yet another reason why a lot of people think you’re a smarmy ass or something like that. I shouldn’t have done it. I regretted it. He got pissed; went up the chain at ESPN and they got pissed. They called my bosses. They got pissed.
So fast forward to the Super Bowl when it was here. I’m on radio row and all of these ESPN guys are telling my producer who’s now the voice of the Colts, Matt Taylor, that they weren’t allowed to come on with me because I was a dick to Schefter. [Laughs] So I got blackballed. Nobody from ESPN during the Super Bowl week came on with me.
To close the story out, a friend of mine here works for the FOX affiliate. This was another combine. He had to take Adam from downtown to the FOX studios. I guess the entire way — this was like two years later — ripped me nonstop. Talked about how big of a jerk I was and how I was the worst interviewer ever. They really like him around here? He’s awful. Stuff like that. He ripped me for 30 minutes, I mean a new ass, which I absolutely deserved. He didn’t realize this guy was a really good friend of mine. [Laughs]
There was a long time I never talked about it, but I think we’re pretty much down the road now to where I can bring it up. It’s one of the best stories ever because it was two years later and I would have thought that guy wouldn’t have given a damn about anything I would have said. But clearly he did. I will stand by the fact that the guy in an interview situation was a jerk to me and that’s fine. But that was a moment of truth for me in social media going hey, you got to handle this better than that. It was all me. You’ve got to take the blame and move on a little bit, so I owned it.
BN: What’s the story with you not breaking the news that the Colts would be featured on Hard Knocks?
JMV: Yeah, social media is overwhelming for me. I’m getting messages in 19 different directions. Sometimes I go man, I’m not looking at that. I’ve got two different Facebook pages and Twitter, I’m doing YouTube Live and all this. I missed it. A friend of mine, he’s a good friend named Sean Patrick Turley, had sent me a message on Facebook back in early September and said hey, I’ve got a cameraman friend of mine that says Hard Knocks is coming to the Colts in midseason. I didn’t even see it. Then when the news broke, I was surprised. Sean sent a tweet like hey numbnuts, I told you this two weeks ago. I go where? I don’t see it. Then I looked through and of course it was devoured by other messages that I had not opened and there it was right there. So yeah, it was my breaking story and I completely screwed the pooch on it right there.
I love the write-up that you guys had. I mean really it does fit the persona because if somebody is going to miss a massive scoop like that, it’s going to be my dumbass. Seriously. Much like the Schefter thing, I own it. I take the blame and I move on from it. I retweeted that every time. I loved the headline. We got a big laugh out of it around here too. I don’t know if my bosses laughed or not, but whatever. It was funny and it was absolutely me. It could not be more me than that was right there.
This whole thing is kind of me. There’s no faking. I couldn’t fake this level of hillbillish ineptitude. Instead of faking it, I just kind of roll with it. You play with the team that you have. You use the tools that you have and if you only have one or two tools, you use those. That’s essentially been the focus of my career to this point right now; using my lack of tools.
What Does Bob Iger Back On Top At Disney Mean For Gambling At ESPN?
“Under Chapek, I think the company was willing to make moves like that, but Iger believes more in keeping Disney and all of its subsidiaries more family-friendly.”
Will the Mouse House continue to stray from its family-first image and expand its presence in the world of sports betting? After Bob Iger’s retirement set the stage for Bob Chapek’s role as chief executive officer, many wondered how it would impact Disney’s sports betting curiosities. While Iger said in 2019 that he couldn’t foresee Disney “facilitating gambling in any way,” things slowly changed under his successor’s leadership.
During Chapek’s tenure as Disney CEO, ESPN — arguably its biggest sub-brand — would announce partnerships with the likes of Caesars Sportsbook and DraftKings, even owning a roughly 6% stake in the latter. The partnerships, in Chapek’s eyes, were needed so ESPN could look externally for help breaking into sports gambling.
“We at ESPN have the ability to do that. Now we’re going to need a partner to do that, because we’re never going to be a [sports] book, that’s never in the cards for the Walt Disney Company,” Chapek told CNBC in an interview last September. “But at the same time, to be able to partner with a well-respected third party can do that for us.”
Any further interest in Disney’s sports betting endeavors can yield a big payday for the entertainment behemoth. The Wall Street Journal speculated in August 2021 that an ESPN licensing deal would cost sports betting companies at least $3 billion over the course of several years, a figure that appears to hold weight with industry experts.
Josh Taylor, a content creator focused on the Walt Disney Company at his YouTube Channel @ModernMouse, believes that $3 billion could be the minimum amount that Disney charges its sports betting partner, which could be DraftKings. Last October, one month before Chapek was ousted as Disney CEO and replaced by Iger, Bloomberg reported that ESPN was nearing a large new partnership with DraftKings.
When Chapek was at the helm of Disney, Taylor thought that ESPN’s bevy of sports programming — SportsCenter and Fantasy Sports, to name a few — would mutually benefit both Disney and DraftKings in an expanded partnership.
“The internet provides stats, but shows on ESPN can provide more insight that you can’t get from stats necessarily,” Taylor wrote in an email. “Coverage of injuries, team shake ups, etc… are something that goes hand in hand with sports betting and fantasy leagues. A deal with DraftKings keeps people watching ESPN longer and more intently. On the flip side, a big brand like ESPN backing DraftKings gives it legitimacy and safety. Because ESPN is a trusted brand, gambling with them seems safer and will likely garner more people to do so.”
Following Chapek’s ouster at Disney however, there is some uncertainty about the latter’s sports betting future. While Iger has yet to comment on Disney’s gambling plans following his return as CEO, he might try to reverse Chapek moves that appeared to run antithetical to the company’s wholesome reputation.
“Iger now coming back does make the Draft Kings deal less likely,” Taylor said. “I almost think its a dead deal. Under Chapek, I think the company was willing to make moves like that, but Iger believes more in keeping Disney and all of its subsidiaries more family-friendly. He’s still someone who wants to bring in money for the company, but Bob Chapek was more about money than about the continued legacy of a brand.”
With Chapek revealing plans to lower Disney’s expenses through layoffs and hiring freezes prior to his departure, Iger might take it one step further. The rumored DraftKings mega-extension could also fall victim to Iger’s possible penny-pinching plans for Disney.
“With ESPN reportedly asking for $300mm a year per our channel checking, could DraftKings even afford to do that deal? Especially in light of its recent 3rd Quarter results and the investor reaction to its apparent inability to reduce costs?” said Eilers & Krejcik Gaming (EKG) Partner Emeritus Chris Grove in the most recent edition of the research firm’s weekly “EKG Line” report. “Bottom line, in the current market, we find it hard to see who would pay up for an exclusive ESPN deal—unless the price drops significantly.”
An increasingly competitive sports betting landscape might also make Iger less apt to expand Disney’s resources in that area. Of the United States’ 59 sports-betting operators in October, only three had double-digital market share. FanDuel leads the way at roughly 42%, followed by DraftKings and BetMGM. Fanduel CEO Amy Howe told CNBC on November 16th, that, “almost 90% of the operators have a sub-2% share of the market.”
Coincidentally or not, Howe’s comments came one day after Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin revealed plans to launch sports betting operations in January 2023 and to expand gambling nationwide by the start of next year’s NFL season.
“It should be clear that new entrants that are entering now at this point may face a real challenge taking on scale players who have more than a four-year head start,” Howe added.
Fanatics’s reveal was made just days apart from competitors like MaximBet and FuboTV sharing plans to shutter their respective sportsbook operations. That might give Iger more of a reason to weigh the pros and cons of Disney’s sports betting plans.
“If I am looking at ways to grow profits for shareholders, sports betting is not the easiest way of making that happen, at least yet,” John Holden, a business professor at Oklahoma State University, wrote in an email.
Iger’s second run at Disney has many wondering if it will be as successful as its first. Boomerang CEO success stories are few and far between in business. Outside of Steve Jobs’ second stint as CEO of Apple and Howard Schultz’s second run at Starbucks, returning CEOs and founders generally lead their companies to perform, “significantly worse than other types of CEOs,” management professors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, UC Irvine and Marquette University have found.
The researchers pointed to past experiences of boomerang CEOs’ performances at their companies. Xerox’s stock plummeted 60% after Paul Allaire was CEO between 2000 and 2001. Dell’s valuation dropped by 33% following the return of founder Michael Dell. Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang took over as CEO of 2007 and, after struggling to compete with Google, stepped down in under two years.
Iger will be looking to recapture the magic at Disney that made him one of this country’s most successful CEOs. He led the acquisition of major Disney brands like Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm. He also closed the $71 billion deal to buy most of 21st Century Fox. He also spearheaded Disney’s efforts to dominate the streaming market through Disney+, which under Chapek’s leadership saw global subscribership swell to 164.2 million.
Within a day of Iger announcing his return to Disney, shares jumped as high as 6%. For now, it might be wise to watch how he handles Disney’s sports betting aspirations before making any assumptions, argues Holden.
“Perhaps Iger is the magician who can find all the profitability,” Holden said.
Eddie Moran is a sports media reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He is a graduate of Boston University’s College of Communication, and has previously written for Front Office Sports, The Basketball Tournament, the USGA, and BU’s independent student newspaper, The Daily Free Press. He can be reached on Twitter @EddieMorannn.
ESPN Radio Dreams Came True For Amber Wilson
“I’ve wanted to work for ESPN since I was 12 years old. It’s quite literally my childhood dream realized.”
It feels like a dream come true, because that’s exactly what it is. Since Amber Wilson was 12 years old, she wanted to work for ESPN. On January 2nd, 2023, her dream will be realized when she takes the airwaves on Joe and Amber, with Joe Fortenbaugh, the newest show on ESPN Radio.
But what makes this opportunity even more special is what Wilson’s 12-year-old self didn’t know at the time. One day, she would find herself in a spotlight that few other women in sports radio have been.
“It feels like a dream come true, because it is,” said Wilson. “And it’s not just being a host, it’s being a named host with my own show. That was the ultimate dream to be able to do that. I’ve wanted to work for ESPN since I was 12 years old. It’s quite literally my childhood dream realized. It’s been a really long journey to get here, over 20 years, and there’s certainly been some twists and turns but I think that makes it all the sweeter, frankly.”
This is a huge opportunity for Wilson and her career, but she takes immense pride in showing women there’s more opportunities in sports than just television. The opportunity with ESPN Radio didn’t come without twists and turns in her career, but the most rewarding feeling is helping lead the charge for more women in sports radio.
“It means everything,” said Wilson. “I hope I don’t have the job because I’m a woman. I hope I have it because of my merit. I’m grateful they saw an opportunity here to maintain a woman in their lineup as a named host. I think that’s incredibly important, because Sarah Spain said on the Around the Horn when she talked about the end of her show and her run on ESPN Radio, I think Tony Reali said when Sarah was growing up there were no Sarah Spain’s on radio. That’s been something I’ve noticed even during my career.”
“I’ve had this dream since I was 12, but it was to go into television. I saw women on television in sports when I was 12, not many, but I didn’t know women in sports radio when I was growing up. So it wasn’t a medium I considered getting into. When I started my career it was all about TV. I sort of found my own way to sports radio and I was listening to it as a consumer all the time. I was listening to all men.
“It took me a long time to break into it, but I always loved it myself. I do think it’s important to show women that, hey, there’s other avenues here if you want to work in sports and there’s not just one way to do it. Hopefully my presence will do that. Just like Sarah Spain did. There’s still far too few, I’m the only named host in the lineup, so there’s far too few, but at least there’s some progress. But I’m so thankful for the opportunity.”
There’s a lot of anticipation and excitement for the debut of Joe and Amber on ESPN Radio. Especially for those who have heard the duo work together in the past. For the past few years, their paths have crossed as fill-in hosts across the network. Naturally, that means there’s already a level of chemistry that’s been developed between Wilson and Fortenbaugh.
But there’s still a few weeks until the show debuts in early January, which means there’s time to further the chemistry even more. And that’s exactly what Wilson and Fortenbaugh are doing, because they both understand the value of chemistry on a radio show.
“We’re going to talk as much as we can leading up to the show to further develop that chemistry,” said Wilson. “We’re going to even pick out a sports subject, banter on it and do a mini show over the phone. We’ve both been in radio so long, he had a local show in San Francisco and I had a local show in Miami, so we’ve worked with different co hosts over the years and we know that, first and foremost, chemistry is everything when it comes to a radio relationship.
“It’s a very intimate relationship, I always say in sports radio with the host and the audience, because you’re really letting them in. There’s so much space with sports radio, which is what I love about it compared to television. There’s so much more space to bring your personality into it and certainly it helps if you have a report with your co-host and you have chemistry. That’s something that’s really important for us, for us to further develop that and we’re making an act to do so.”
The chemistry that’s already been established between Wilson and Fortenbaugh will undoubtedly help when the show debuts next month. But if you’ve heard the two together on air before, don’t necessarily expect an exact carbon copy of the shows you heard.
“We have to iron out the details and work with whoever our producer ends up being, as far as really structuring the show, but it’s certainly going to be our own flavor, since it’s our own show,” Wilson said. “Whereas before, we were filling in on other shows and trying to stay true to what they had developed and what they normally cover. It’ll probably be a little different, obviously Joe brings the better portion of things to the table, as well.
“We’ll definitely be doing some of that to get his expertise, although it’s not going to be a betting show, it’s going to be a talk show. They can still expect all the fun with sports talk and we really want to engage with the audience, as well, and put our own style and brand on it.”
Fortenbaugh is most notably known for his expertise in the sports betting space. And rightfully so, with how successful he’s been with sports betting content. However, you won’t find anybody that will doubt his ability to be more than just the ‘gambling guy’ on the show. He’ll get that opportunity on Joe and Amber. Wilson is eager and excited to be more involved in sports gambling and thinks it’s a great opportunity for her to learn from the best.
“I love that I get to work with someone with that expertise, because it’s not my expertise,” said Wilson. “It’s a growing space that I think is only going to continue to grow. I’m just so grateful to be able to learn it and absorb some of his knowledge, frankly. I think it will be invaluable to the listener and I’m pretty stoked to be able to work with someone who has that.”
Tyler McComas is a columnist for BSM and a sports radio talk show host in Norman, OK where he hosts afternoon drive for SportsTalk 1400. You can find him on Twitter @Tyler_McComas or you can email him at TylerMcComas08@yahoo.com.
Should Baker Mayfield Start Thinking About A Media Career?
“What should he anticipate when that time comes? Here are a few things I would expect from Baker if he were my broadcast partner.”
“Coach wants to see you, oh and bring your playbook”. Words no professional football player ever wants to hear. That means you’re done with that team, and it’s on to the next, or in some cases, on to a new adventure altogether.
Athletes never know when that day will come. Some are better prepared to deal with sudden change than others. A few have a skill set that can make it an easy transition to coaching, front office work, or broadcasting.
Outspoken former players or managers seem like they have a leg up on the competition. Every network wants compelling characters that bring viewership. Most often times the player that’s been a great quote their entire career or the one that isn’t afraid to speak his or her mind that stands out in the booth or studio.
When the news broke Monday that Baker Mayfield was going to be released by the Carolina Panthers, it got me thinking. Mayfield was a top quarterback in college football, won a Heisman Trophy, and was the top pick in the NFL Draft just 4 years ago. His tale is a familiar one, great in college, so-so in the pros. Matt Leinart and Tim Tebow are a couple of Mayfield’s contemporaries that fit that same bill. So, what might be next for him? Television?
The two examples I cited, have found life after football as analysts for college football broadcasts. Leinart is part of the studio crew at Fox and Tebow once worked for ABC/ESPN. Could Mayfield succeed in a television role? Absolutely. Would it take a little work to get him ready? Absolutely. There could be some stumbling blocks though.
Mayfield has a reputation for being outspoken and irreverent. His personality has been called ‘toxic’ by some, ‘cocky’ by others and ‘brash’ to another audience. But, having a personality is half the battle to work in sports television. Even if the adjectives seem to fit, are they necessarily bad things? Maybe for a football team, but not for a guy that would be talking on television.
Polarizing is another word used to describe Mayfield. His sense of humor, puts one segment of an audience off, while another loves it. For example, over the last few seasons at some postgame press conferences, he interjected phrases and rap songs into his comments. He’s a little ‘off-beat’ too. A few years ago, he took to Twitter, declaring that he and his wife Emily believed they spotted a UFO during an offseason.
The fact he hasn’t turned into a ‘franchise quarterback’ makes his swagger a turnoff to a lot of people. When you’re the number one overall pick in the draft and the success on the field doesn’t equal that status, you’re prime for the picking.
Mayfield has shown a different side to his personality though in various commercials since he was drafted. Most notable are his “Progressive Insurance: At Home with Baker Mayfield” spots. The concept being that his home stadium (at the time First Energy Stadium in Cleveland) was his actual home. He and his wife experience typical homeowner issues in this giant empty stadium. It’s funny and he’s very good in them. Unfortunately, they are no more. He’s also starred in Hulu Live TV commercials, where his face is superimposed on a significantly smaller body. It’s strange, but he makes it work.
One of Mayfield’s harshest critics, Fox Sports Radio host Colin Cowherd thinks the QB could make a career change work. On a recent show, the often-loud critic of Mayfield, was confident the former number one pick would be great on the air. “If I owned a network, I’d put Baker on as a college football announcer tomorrow,” he said. “Now he’s not (Joel) Klatt or (Kirk) Herbstreit, but I would put him on a college game. He’s got huge credibility collegiately, he’s totally outspoken.” Cowherd went on to say Mayfield could be in the #2 College Football booth in two years.
Not just anyone that’s outspoken can make it as an analyst. I think of Charles Barkley, Ozzie Guillen and even Randy Moss to an extent. Three guys that have made a good living after playing/managing by being who they always have been. All were on the highest stage and each was a noteworthy quote in their playing days and now in their roles on camera. That means something. Their opinions come from years of experience in what they did. They’ve seen things, learned things, and know how to translate those nuggets into rants and viral moments. It’s hard to fake and you either have it or you don’t.
What you see and hear is what you get with this trio. Like them or not, agree with them or not, it really doesn’t matter to them or the networks they work with. Barkley, Guillen and Moss are each the type of commentator that draws in an audience. It’s the old Howard Stern prophecy, people who didn’t like him listened almost as long or longer to him to hear what he’d say next.
Mayfield would have some cache in the college game. But thinking that just because he’s a good quote and an opinionated, and outspoken guy, he would automatically be able to work in media isn’t correct. Mayfield would need to put some work into it, not only in preparation, but in being a good teammate in a studio or booth setting.
Now, Baker Mayfield is spending at least the rest of this season still on an active NFL roster after signing with the Los Angeles Rams. That means there is time to get things right if and when he wants to try his hand at broadcasting.
What should he anticipate when that time comes? Here are a few things I would expect from Baker if he were my broadcast partner.
ACT LIKE A ROOKIE
It’s easy for those that played the game to think that they know everything there is to know about that sport. But there’s a lot to learn about the broadcasting game. There’s nothing worse than someone with little to no experience coming into an unfamiliar situation and acting like a know-it-all.
I would be hopeful that someone trying this for the first time would act like a rookie. They should be receptive to coaching and try to make a good impression. Just as in football, there are subtle nuances that need to be learned to make the relationship between a play-by-play announcer or host and his or her analyst.
Not unlike football, there’s a ton of preparation that goes into a broadcast. Not just knowing the teams, but understanding the flow of a broadcast. Prep and reps are critical in sports and in broadcasting.
As a play-by-play announcer, I expect my analyst to be prepared and not just with cliches and “when I played” moments. Believe it or not “Mr. Former Football Player”, for your first time around, we’re going to have practice too. Oh, and there’s game tape to watch in this job too. There are coaches and players to talk to as well. Don’t come into my house thinking this is easy.
A good relationship between a broadcaster and his or her analyst is probably the most critical aspect. It’s not so important that you be my friend, but teamwork is crucial.
Think about it in sports terms. I’m sure there were teammates that the player didn’t exactly get along with, but had to coexist to make the team better. Announcing and hosting is a team sport too. It takes numerous behind-the-scenes people, a director, producer, production assistants, stage managers and audio folks to make it all work. Does everybody go out to dinner every night? No. Does it matter? Not when the end game is to make it the best broadcast possible every single solitary night or day.
It is a demanding job. Yes, you won’t get hit every play, you might not get booed, but you’re going to have to work. If you come in understanding that, you’ll be fine. It’s going to be a short foray into the broadcasting world for you for anyone that doesn’t get that.
Andy Masur is a columnist for BSM and works for WGN Radio as an anchor and play-by-play announcer. He also teaches broadcasting at the Illinois Media School. During his career he has called games for the Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox. He can be found on Twitter @Andy_Masur1 or you can reach him by email at Andy@Andy-Masur.com.