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Brian Kelly Perfected The Art Of Being A Phony, So You Don’t Have To

“People can tell when you are bending over backwards to pretend to be something you really are not.”

Demetri Ravanos



USA Today Sports

Brian Kelly and I have something in common. We are both lifelong Southerners. The only difference is I have been a lifelong Southerner for a little over 40 years. Kelly has been one for about four days.

He was named the new head football coach at Louisiana State University on Monday night. By Thursday evening, the Everett, MA native, who had never spent a day living south of Cincinnati, OH, developed a Southern accent.

The internet has zeroed in on “fah-mlee,” but personally, I can’t decide if my favorite pronunciation is “thay-kyew,” “starrded,” or “Loo-wee-zee-anna.”

This is what I want to write about today, because brother, there is a lesson here. Just look around social media. Pay attention to the coverage of the man’s first appearance in Baton Rouge. Everyone is pointing out just how pathetic Brian Kelly looks in this moment.

Let this be a lesson. The public can spot a phony from a mile away. Brian Kelly doesn’t look like an asshole because his entire understanding of the Southern dialect comes from Forest Gump. He looks like an asshole because it is clearly a desperate and incensere cry to be loved.

People can tell when you are bending over backwards to pretend to be something you really are not. It is a mistake that too many people make when showing up in a new market.

Jason Barrett told me a great story about bringing in a talent to audition for a role on air in Philadelphia. He told the guy before going on air not to discuss the roadways or cheesesteaks. There is no win for an outsider to bring them up. Later that day, the guy on air tried to sell the audience on how much he loved Geno’s while describing the atmosphere at Pat’s. After the show, JB had to tell the guy the audition was over. He had already lost credibility with locals.

Forget what you know about Saints fandom. Louisiana’s first love is the LSU Tigers. As long as Brian Kelly wins, they will eventually embrace him. Right now though, the guy is the butt of everyone’s jokes.

When you get yourself caught pretending to be something you aren’t, you’re going have a hard time bouncing back. You don’t have a football team you can take to a College Football Playoff to change people’s minds. It’s most likely that the audience won’t give you a chance to redeem yourself if they decide you are a phony.

Being a punchline is the best case scenario really. People can have fun with a punchline and eventually, they will get sick of making the joke.

Sometimes the consequences can be much worse. The audience can be so put off by a single moment that they never give you another chance. Seriously, think about Steve Rannazzisi. Remember him?

Rannazzisi was a comedian and actor. His star was on the rise thanks to his role in the FX show The League. In 2015, he was busted in a lie that he had been telling for years. He had to admit that he made up a story about escaping the World Trade Center on 9/11.

All the work he had done was irrelevant. None of the fans he had made were stepping up to support him. One lie turned the guy into a pariah. Many of the same people that were first in line to get into a comedy club Rannazzisi was playing just months earlier were now telling the world how much they hated him.

Comedy Central to Air Steve Rannazzisi's Special – The Hollywood Reporter
Courtesy: Rich Fury/Invision/AP

The guy is a phony and he made his most dedicated fans look like idiots. That, for some, is an unforgivable sin.

Being a phony also puts your team in a bad position. LSU players are going to be asked about their new coach’s Southern accent. What are they supposed to say? If they try and cover for Brian Kelly, they look like fools. If they say “yeah, wasn’t that ridiculous?” Kelly may cut their playing time. What is his new boss supposed to say? The athletic director doesn’t want fans to turn on him, so he cannot say that Kelly looked stupid, but he also doesn’t want to look like a rube himself.

If you get caught on air pretending to be something you aren’t or speaking on teams and games you have no real knowledge of, the people around you will suffer. They have to decide if they are going to cover for you and risk their own reputations or are they going to cut you out of the conversation and do the show at half strength? There is no obvious win. The PD that hired you is in the same boat.

One of the most shortsighted decisions you make when going overboard in trying to create a false narrative about yourself is that you can’t even say for sure if you wouldn’t have been embraced for who you really are.

Do you know how head over heels Louisiana would have been for Brian Kelly if he had gone on a tour of the state sampling jambalaya and riding on air boats? There are so many Cajuns that would love to teach a yankee to pronounce parish names like Tangipahoa and Plaquemines.

Courtesy: Jimmy Emerson

It’s the same with talent arriving in new markets. Let the listeners tell you where the best pizza is. Laugh at yourself and let others laugh at you when you mispronounce a street name. Make an effort to learn from and correct your mistakes, but part of embracing the market is making it clear you want to fit in better.

Finally, you have to remember who all can get caught up in a single lie. The second you give the audience a reason to think you are a phony, you have made things harder not only on yourself, but on your colleagues and the brand you represent.

Saturday morning on College GameDay, Kirk Herbstreit addressed the video of Brian Kelly morphing into Foghorn Leghorn and noted how unfortunate it is that it had become the headline surrounding LSU’s football program.

“We’re losing focus on what happened,” he said. “What happened is LSU hired a great football coach.”

That is partially true. LSU did hire a coach with a very good win/loss record and a good track record of creating long-term success. They also hired a guy that clearly thinks his new fans are a bunch of dumb hicks.

If LSU boosters thought a guy with an authentic Cajun accent reflected poorly on them, how do they think Brian Kelly grabbing a microphone and pretending that he is Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel looks? Speaking as a fan of one of LSU’s most hated rivals, I found Ed Orgeron’s unapologetic yaw-yaw-yawing charming. Not dumb, but genuinley charming. I find Brian Kelly pretending he suddenly developed a twang kind of patronizing. That makes it so much easier to make fun of LSU fans.

Maybe Brian Kelly will be great at LSU. Maybe he will be the fourth consecutive football coach to bring a national championship to Baton Rouge. If he does that, he will be seen as a great coach and LSU will cement itself amongst the truly great jobs in college football. Right now, the guy looks like a dork desperate for love and LSU looks dumb for having faith in him.

BSM Writers

The Future Is Now, Embrace Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+

As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible.

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This week has been a reckoning for sports and its streaming future on Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+, ESPN+, and more.

Amazon announced that Thursday Night Football, which averaged 13 million viewers, generated the highest number of U.S. sign ups over a three hour period in the app’s history. More people in the United States subscribed to Prime during the September 15th broadcast than they did during Black Friday, Prime Day, and Cyber Monday. It was also “the most watched night of primetime in Prime Video’s history,” according to Amazon executive Jay Marine. The NFL and sports in general have the power to move mountains even for some of the nation’s biggest and most successful brands.

This leads us to the conversation happening surrounding Aaron Judge’s chase for history. Judge has been in pursuit of former major leaguer Roger Maris’ record for the most home runs hit during one season in American League history.

The sports world has turned its attention to the Yankees causing national rights holders such as ESPN, Fox, and TBS to pick up extra games in hopes that they capture the moment history is made. Apple TV+ also happened to have a Yankees game scheduled for Friday night against the Red Sox right in the middle of this chase for glory.

Baseball fans have been wildin’ out at the prospects of missing the grand moment when Judge passes Maris or even the moments afterwards as Judge chases home run number 70 and tries to truly create monumental history of his own. The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand has even reported there were talks between YES, MLB, and Apple to bring Michael Kay into Apple’s broadcast to call the game, allow YES Network to air its own production of the game, or allow YES Network to simulcast Apple TV+’s broadcast. In my opinion, all of this hysteria is extremely bogus.

As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible. Amazon brought in NBC to help with production of TNF and if you watch the flow of the broadcast, the graphics of the broadcast, NBC personalities like Michael Smith, Al Michaels, and Terry McAuliffe make appearances on the telecast – it is very clear that the network’s imprint is all over the show.

NBC’s experience in conducting the broadcast has made the viewing experience much more seamless. Apple has also used MLB Network and its personalities for assistance in ensuring there’s no major difference between what you see on air vs. what you’re streaming.

Amazon and Apple have also decided to not hide their games behind a paywall. Since the beginning of the season, all of Apple’s games have been available free of charge. No subscription has ever been required. As long as you have an Apple device and can download Apple TV+, you can watch their MLB package this season.

Guess what? Friday’s game against the Red Sox is also available for free on your iPhone, your laptop, or your TV simply by downloading the AppleTV app. Amazon will also simulcast all Thursday Night Football games on Twitch for free. It may be a little harder or confusing to find the free options, but they are out there and they are legal and, once again, they are free.

Apple has invested $85 million into baseball, money that will go towards your team becoming better hypothetically. They’ve invested money towards creating a new kind of streaming experience. Why in the hell would they offer YES Network this game for free? There’s no better way for them to drive subscriptions to their product than by offering fans a chance at watching history on their platform.

A moment like this are the main reason Apple paid for rights in the first place. When Apple sees what the NFL has done for Amazon in just one week and coincidentally has the ability to broadcast one of the biggest moments in baseball history – it would be a terrible business decision to let viewers watch it outside of the Apple ecosystem and lose the ability to gain new fans.

It’s time for sports fans to grow up and face reality. Streaming is here to stay. 

MLB Network is another option

If you don’t feel like going through the hassle of watching the Yankees take on the Red Sox for free on Apple TV+, MLB Network will also air all of Judge’s at bats live as they are happening. In case the moment doesn’t happen on Apple TV+ on Friday night, Judge’s next games will air in full on MLB Network (Saturday), ESPN (Sunday), MLB Network again (Monday), TBS (Tuesday) and MLB Network for a third time on Wednesday. All of MLB Network’s games will be simulcast of YES Network’s local New York broadcast. It wouldn’t shock me to see Fox pick up another game next Thursday if the pursuit still maintains national interest.

Quick bites

  • One of the weirdest things about the experience of streaming sports is that you lose the desire to channel surf. Is that a good thing or bad thing? Brandon Ross of LightShed Ventures wonders if the difficulty that comes with going from app to app will help Amazon keep viewers on TNF the entire time no matter what the score of the game is. If it does, Amazon needs to work on developing programming to surround the games or start replaying the games, pre and post shows so that when you fall asleep and wake up you’re still on the same stream on Prime Video or so that coming to Prime Video for sports becomes just as much of a habit for fans as tuning in to ESPN is.
  • CNN has announced the launch of a new morning show with Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlin Collins. Variety reports, “Two people familiar with plans for the show say it is likely to use big Warner Bros. properties — a visit from the cast of HBO’s Succession or sports analysis from TNT’s NBA crew — to lure eyeballs.” It’ll be interesting to see if Turner Sports becomes a cornerstone of this broadcast. Will the NBA start doing schedule releases during the show? Will a big Taylor Rooks interview debut on this show before it appears on B/R? Will the Stanley Cup or Final Four MVP do an interview on CNN’s show the morning after winning the title? Does the show do remote broadcasts from Turner’s biggest sports events throughout the year?
  • The Clippers are back on over the air television. They announced a deal with Nexstar to broadcast games on KTLA and other Nexstar owned affiliates in California. The team hasn’t reached a deal to air games on Bally Sports SoCal or Bally Sports Plus for the upcoming season. Could the Clippers pursue a solo route and start their own OTT service in time for the season? Are they talking to Apple, Amazon, or ESPN about a local streaming deal? Is Spectrum a possible destination? I think these are all possibilities but its likely that the Clippers end up back on Bally Sports since its the status quo. I just find it interesting that it has taken so long to solidify an agreement and that it wasn’t announced in conjunction with the KTLA deal. The Clippers are finally healthy this season, moving into a new arena soon, have the technology via Second Spectrum to produce immersive game casts. Maybe something is brewing?
  • ESPN’s Monday Night Football double box was a great concept. The execution sucked. Kudos to ESPN for adjusting on the fly once complaints began to lodge across social media. I think the double box works as a separate feed. ESPN2 should’ve been the home to the double box. SVP and Stanford Steve could’ve held a watch party from ESPN’s DC studio with special guests. The double box watch party on ESPN2 could’ve been interrupted whenever SVP was giving an update on games for ESPN and ABC. It would give ESPN2 a bit of a behind the scenes look at how the magic happens similarly to what MLB Tonight did last week. Credit to ESPN and the NFL for experimenting and continuing to try and give fans unique experiences.

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BSM Writers

ESPN Shows Foresight With Monday Night Football Doubleheader Timing

ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7 and then 10 on their primary channel.

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The Monday Night Football doubleheader was a little bit different this time around for ESPN.

First, it came in Week 2 instead of Week 1. And then, the games were staggered 75 minutes apart on two different channels, the Titans and Bills beginning on ESPN at 7:15 PM ET and the Vikings at the Eagles starting at 8:30 PM on ABC and ESPN+. This was a departure from the usual schedule in which the games kicked off at 7:00 PM ET and then 10:00 PM ET with the latter game on the West Coast.

ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7:00 PM and then 10:00 PM ET on their primary channel. That’s the typical approach, right? The NFL is the most valuable offering in all of sports and ESPN would have at least six consecutive hours of live programming without any other game to switch to.

Instead, they staggered the starts so the second game kicked off just before the first game reached halftime. They placed the games on two different channels, which risked cannibalizing their audience. Why? Well, it’s the same reason that ESPN was so excited about the last year’s Manningcast that it’s bringing it back for 10 weeks this season. ESPN is not just recognizing the reality of how their customers behave, but they’re embracing it.

Instead of hoping with everything they have that the customer stays in one place for the duration of the game, they’re recognizing the reality that they will leave and providing another product within their portfolio to be a destination when they do.

It’s the kind of experiment everyone in broadcasting should be investigating because, for all the talk about meeting the customer where they are, we still tend to be a little bit stubborn about adapting to what they do. 

Customers have more choices than ever when it comes to media consumption. First, cable networks softened the distribution advantages of broadcast networks, and now digital offerings have eroded the distribution advantages of cable networks. It’s not quite a free-for-all, but the battle for viewership is more intense, more wide open than ever because that viewer has so many options of not just when and where but how they will consume media.

Programmers have a choice in how to react to this. On the one hand, they can hold on tighter to the existing model and try to squeeze as much out of it as they can. If ESPN was thinking this way it would stack those two Monday night games one after the other just like it always has and hope like hell for a couple of close games to juice the ratings. Why would you make it impossible for your customer to watch both of these products you’ve paid so much to televise?

I’ve heard radio programmers and hosts recite take this same approach for more than 10 years now when it comes to making shows available on-demand. Why would you give your customers the option of consuming the product in a way that’s not as remunerative or in a way that is not measured?

That thinking is outdated and it is dangerous from an economic perspective because it means you’re trying to make the customer behave in your best interest by restricting their choices. And maybe that will work. Maybe they like that program enough that they’ll consume it in the way you’d prefer or maybe they decide that’s inconvenient or annoying or they decide to try something else and now this customer who would have listened to your product in an on-demand format is choosing to listen to someone else’s product entirely.

After all, you’re the only one that is restricting that customer’s choices because you’re the only one with a desire to keep your customer where he is. Everyone else is more than happy to give your customer something else. 

There’s a danger in holding on too tightly to the existing model because the tighter you squeeze, the more customers will slip through your fingers, and if you need a physical demonstration to complete this metaphor go grab a handful of sand and squeeze it hard.

Your business model is only as good as its ability to predict the behavior of your customers, and as soon as it stops doing that, you need to adjust that business model. Don’t just recognize the reality that customers today will exercise the freedom that all these media choices provide, embrace it.

Offer more products. Experiment with more ways to deliver those products. The more you attempt to dictate the terms of your customer’s engagement with your product, the more customers you’ll lose, and by accepting this you’ll open yourself to the reality that if your customer is going to leave your main offering, it’s better to have them hopping to another one of your products as opposed to leaving your network entirely.

Think in terms of depth of engagement, and breadth of experience. That’s clearly what ESPN is doing because conventional thinking would see the Manningcast as a program that competes with the main Monday Night Football broadcast, that cannibalizes it. ESPN sees it as a complimentary experience. An addition to the main broadcast, but it also has the benefit that if the customer feels compelled to jump away from the main broadcast – for whatever reason – it has another ESPN offering that they may land on.

I’ll be watching to see what ESPN decides going forward. The network will have three Monday Night Football doubleheaders beginning next year, and the game times have not been set. Will they line them up back-to-back as they had up until this year? If they do it will be a vote of confidence that its traditional programming approach that evening is still viable. But if they overlap those games going forward, it’s another sign that less is not more when it comes to giving your customers a choice in products.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: Sunday Ticket Has Problems, Marcellus Wiley Does Not

Demetri Ravanos




On this episode of Media Noise, Demetri is joined by Brian Noe to talk about the wild year FS1’s Marcellus Wiley has had and by Garrett Searight to discuss the tumultuous present and bright future of NFL Sunday Ticket.






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