Put yourself in the shoes of a professional athlete. You have just retired from playing the game that you love, a craft you have been perfecting from the moment you stepped onto the field, and are wondering what comes next. These thoughts are quite common among retiring athletes. For many of them, stepping away from the sport as a player does not mean they step away from it completely.
After 15 years in the NBA, JJ Redick retired from playing but still remains involved in the landscape of the game as an analyst for ESPN. Similarly, former National Football League defensive end Chris Canty, following 11 years in the NFL, joined 98.7 FM ESPN Radio New York as an on-air host, and has seen his role evolve into working as a national host for ESPN Radio.
Many former athletes have or are in the process of establishing themselves as integral parts of the world of sports media, whether it be as an on-air host, analyst, contributor, executive, etc. Former athletes bring a perspective other commentators lack; that is, the ability to place themselves in the mindset of those on the field or court or ice, and discuss things from that angle.
Lou Merloni played Major League Baseball for nine seasons, the first five of which with his hometown Boston Red Sox. Merloni finished his career with a .271 batting average, and a .716 OPS as a second baseman in stints with the Red Sox, San Diego Padres, Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Angels. After retiring in 2007, Merloni worked to find his niche in sports media, starting at WEEI as a co-host on The Big Show. Additionally, Merloni began his foray on the television side as an analyst on NESN’s Boston Red Sox pregame and postgame shows during the 2008 season. Today, Merloni continues to work at WEEI with Fauria as a co-host of Merloni and Fauria on weekdays from 2-6 p.m.
Tom Waddle played six seasons in the NFL as a wide receiver for the Chicago Bears. In 60 games, Waddle had 183 receptions and 2,109 yards, and retired from the game prior to the start of the 1995 season. Waddle has had roles on radio and television since his retirement Waddle currently serves as a football analyst for WLS-TV, and a co-host of Waddle and Silvy with longtime radio personality Marc Silverman on ESPN 1000 Chicago on weekdays from 2-6 p.m.
Derek Futterman: How would you describe your relationship with the media during your playing days?
Lou Merloni (Host, WEEI): I think I had a pretty friendly relationship with all of those guys. I was a utility guy in Boston, but I think I made friends with a lot of the media members.
Tom Waddle (Host, ESPN 1000 Chicago): It was very friendly. I played from ‘89 to ‘95 and thought the relationship between all the players and the media – for the most part – was pretty good. I would definitely say that I had a good relationship with a lot of the guys covering the team. I actually was also doing some media work towards the tail end of my career, so I kind of looked at some of those guys as a good resource to guide me to do what I was going to do.
Futterman: What similarities exist, if any, between playing and talking about the game?
Lou Merloni: [As an athlete,] the test… is the game itself. And the test for us is the actual show itself. You really can’t accomplish either one if you don’t put the work in beforehand. If you’re playing — if you’re not doing the right things — taking your ground balls; taking batting practice; going over scouting reports, you’re not going to be prepared for the game. I feel like it’s the same thing with radio and the show. All the real work is done the night before in watching a game and writing down notes and waking up the next day and reading and thinking about what you want to do and putting a show together. And the test is the actual show, and at that point you have everything in front of you and you just perform.
Tom Waddle: [It is] very competitive. There are very few jobs and an immense number of people that want those jobs. There is a certain level of competition. It’s a challenge for sure; you’re in an arena that you might not be as comfortable in. You have to perform; when the light goes on in television, or when the music stops and it’s your turn to talk on the radio, you’ve got to have something to say.
Futterman: What do you say to those who might say you are unable to understand a fan’s point of view due to not experiencing the highs and lows in the same way they have?
Merloni: For me, it’s being in Boston where I grew up. I was a fan of the teams — following them as a fan, thinking as a fan, before I was a member of the Red Sox. When we were in the ALCS, you’re thinking as a professional athlete in the moment, but there are times you sit back, and say ‘Man, we win this game, we go to the World Series.’ And thinking as a fan: ‘[If we win,] we are going to the World Series.’ Sometimes the job takes you in different areas where you have to be more critical than you would be if you were just a fan, but I was a fan first before I was a professional athlete.
Waddle: I think I got a head start on that because I was a blue collar player who was probably less athletic than most of the fans who were listening to us. I think I had a great relationship to begin with because there was an identity that existed from my playing days. I came into the industry, and my thought was: ‘I’m going to be honest. I’m going to give you the perspective I have. I’m going to be professional and tell you how I feel.’ I respect the players; the audience; and the fans, and in some ways, you have to walk a fine line by giving them what they deserve and respect, but not becoming personal. I came into the industry with the benefit of kind-of knowing how it stings when people are critical in a personal manner, and kind of felt that would be something that was going to be a focal point of my next career.
Futterman: How has being part of a team as an athlete differed from being part of a team as a broadcaster?
Merloni: It’s interesting. As much as baseball is a team sport, it’s probably the most individual sport of them all because my teammates, even though there’s things we can see and help with one another, whether it be scouting reports, when I’m in the box it’s up to me. When a guy hits me a ground ball, it’s up to me. There are ways where teammates definitely help you, but for the most part, it’s up to you to get the job done. I actually think in the media when you are doing a show with somebody, you rely on them more than you rely on a teammate to help you do your job in baseball. When it comes to baseball, I rely on my teammate for that show to click more.
Waddle: There’s some similarities, obviously. I don’t know that it is significantly different. Maybe smaller teams — on the air, it’s myself and Marc Silverman, and we have two producers. I live by the same concepts that everyone’s contributing and that no one is more important than anyone else. I was one of 11 in an offensive huddle; now I’m one of four doing a show from 2-6. I think there are more similarities than differences to be honest with you.
Futterman: Having been coached as a player, what similarities and differences have you noticed in handling feedback from media bosses?
Merloni: I think it’s a lot easier being a pro athlete receiving constructive criticism than maybe somebody who’s never gone through that before. As an athlete, if I’m not hitting well, I’m searching for answers and relying on resources and coaches to try to get me to where I want to be. And I don’t care what kind of criticism I hear from them; as long as it gets it to where I want to be — that’s all that matters. When you’re in the radio business, that doesn’t bother me — I just want to know what I need to do to be better. I think hearing that as a pro athlete; you are able to take those criticisms in this profession a little bit better than maybe some.
Waddle: You’ve got to be receptive to it. Just because I played in the NFL doesn’t mean I deserve any special type of treatment or recognition as a broadcaster. I want to be treated the same way by my bosses as I was by Mike Ditka – minus some yelling – as a player. I don’t have any problem with somebody coming in and saying, ‘Hey, guess what? I think you should have gone this direction with the interview.’ I am not above being coached, that’s for damn sure.
Futterman: How do you manage criticizing former teammates or friends on the air?
Merloni: That was the hardest part — the first few years of doing radio. When some of my former teammates and friends were still on the team. It made it a lot easier when some of those guys left, and I was able to look at it critically. I’ve always kind-of felt like the athlete will always be able to look himself in the mirror. Initially, they might not like what they hear, but at the same point, if it’s wrong that’s one thing. But if you are talking about ex-teammates or friends, you know them well, and you kind of know the reasons why things are going south. It’s not that they want to hear those things, but deep down, they might know that that’s the reason. That was probably the toughest thing to do for those first few years.
Waddle: It’s part of your job. I think you can be critical without being an asshole. As long as you don’t cross the line, or start making comments that are personally offensive, I don’t think that you’re crossing the line. I think the job is to give the opinions and analysis they brought you in to give; you have to have strong thoughts. I don’t have any inclination to want to take cheap shots at anybody; I don’t think it’s necessary, and I don’t think you’re doing anyone any favors.
Futterman: Who was the first player, coach or executive who you ticked off with something you said?
Merloni: Probably the first one was Terry Francona. I remember it was NESN right after a game, and there was a situation. I think I said after a game that I felt like [a player] should have bunted [in a situation]. That was the first time I had a conversation with a manager [as a member of the] media. It was one of those — you don’t have all the information; you don’t this, you don’t that. And I was like, ’No, I don’t. Unless you want to call and discuss it. All I can base it off of is what I see and what I know.’ We know in the media that we don’t know. There’s a lot of things that happen in the dugout and clubhouse that we don’t know about, but when we’re asked to react about it immediately, we can only base it off of our experiences and opinions. I always respected the fact that Terry wanted to talk to me about it, and we sort of moved on.
Waddle: There’s no question about that. I was working with David Kaplan on WGN Radio, and we were in a broadcast trailer outside of Wrigley Field. I think it was a weekend game, and we were doing postgame coverage of the Cubs, and our show branched out into all sports arenas. We had Jerry Krause on, and we were previewing a draft prospect or something of that nature and I asked a question about a particular player in college, and the college season was over at the time, so it wasn’t an inappropriate question. Jerry bit my head off, and became very unprofessional with me. I remember taking my headset off, and looking at David Kaplan, and going ‘Well, you can take this the rest of the way — I’m done.’ That just didn’t sit well with me, and maybe I was being a dumbass or a hothead about it, but even someone as accomplished as Jerry Krause, I just thought it was an unnecessary approach he took to my question. I think that was the first time I was exposed to somebody giving me hell about something, and I didn’t handle it with the maturity I would handle it with 25 years later.
Futterman: If there is one piece of advice you can share with athletes who might be considering moving into this business, what would it be?
Lou Merloni: Don’t hold back. Be fair, but give a strong opinion, and remember that this is your job. Your job is to be truthful and analyze what you see. I think some guys that come in the media that aren’t all in the media kind of soft pedal a little bit. Their friendships are more important than their next career, and I’m not saying you should just destroy your friendships, but your friends should realize that you’ve moved on and this is now your job if they are really your friends.
Tom Waddle: Be prepared. No different than when you were playing against the Lions, or you lined up against the Packers. If you weren’t prepared, you’d be exposed quickly, and your job security would be challenged and you wouldn’t last long. The same goes for the broadcast industry. There are guys who go out and work just as hard covering teams or the different things who are talking about as former players because of the work ethic that got them to where they got to. I would always tell anyone — be willing to do the hard work; don’t think you are going to get by just because of your accomplishments on the field. You are in a different arena, and will be exposed quickly. I think the same lessons you learned on the playing field will serve you well and the television and radio booth. What you did as an NFL player — there’s a shelf-life to that if you don’t hone your craft and work at it.”
Futterman: What remaining goals do you hope to accomplish in the media industry?
Merloni: I think it’s funny because when you’re done with baseball — whether you are a Hall of Famer or not — I think a lot of athletes would tell you that an important thing is how a lot of your former teammates talk about you. You can be a Hall of Famer [with] nobody [liking] you. It’s how they talk about you afterwards. When the career is over, or whatever my goal is, people can look back and say ‘He said what’s on his mind. It wasn’t just cheering for the home team all the time.’ I hope people look back and say I gave an honest opinion. My goal isn’t any more than that — to do my job and to do it the best I can.
Waddle: I’ve been so blessed at this point. I never would have thought that I would work at the NFL Network or ESPN in Bristol; that I would do national work, or have my own radio show with anybody. I feel so blessed that I’ve been given so many of the opportunities I’ve been given. I don’t have these lofty goals — I feel like I’ve been able to accomplish and experience a lot. I just want to continue to be better every day, and continue to work hard at it and hopefully entertain people. Maybe that sounds like I don’t have a lot of goals — I do — I’ll be 55 in February. I want to do this for the foreseeable future, and get better at it every day.
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, he serves as the production manager for the New York Islanders Radio Network and lead sports producer at NY2C. He has also worked on live game broadcasts for the Long Island Nets and New York Riptide. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks and wrote for The Long Island Herald. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
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.