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10 Tributes To John Madden From The BSM Staff

“This is a piece that could go on forever. Frankly, there is no one correct way to eulogize John Madden.”

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No one, and I mean NO ONE has made a bigger impact on the way football is presented on television than John Madden. You could just mention his eponymous video game series and the way TV executives plucked innovation after innovation from it to change the way the sport looks on TV and that would be enough. His contributions and the things networks did to woo him and make him happy though go far beyond however many pixels we are at these days.

Madden NFL All-25: Coach John Madden
Courtesy: EA Sports

Busses, turduckens, telestrators – these are all things football fans know and think about because of John Madden. He orchestrated a trade of a cartoon character to Disney in order to get the partner he wanted at NBC.

This is a piece that could go on forever. Frankly, there is no one correct way to eulogize John Madden. That is why the BSM staff is doing it in ten different ways.

After news of Madden’s death became public, I scribbled down about two dozen ideas. Then I picked my ten favorites and sent them to our columnists to make sure the guy got every kind of tribute he deserved. Enjoy! – Demetri Ravanos


PERFECT PARTNERS FINALLY REUNITE by Jason Barrett

Pat Summerall and John Madden’s pairing was perfect. They were a hit for over two decades because they understood their roles and the differences each brought to the broadcast booth. In Summerall, you got the straight man, who gave the booth the steady, serious touch it needed when important moments were unfolding. No matter how dramatic the moment, Pat was calm, cool, and collected, allowing the pictures to tell the story. Perhaps his best quality though was understanding Madden, and giving him the room needed to operate.

The nation became captivated by John’s personality and vocabulary, but they also respected his ability to analyze football. The fact that each spent time in the NFL led to mutual respect between them, which allowed them to understand the pace of the game, tell stories, and interact unlike any other combination in the history of football broadcasting. Many are understandably saddened by John’s passing. But knowing that one of the greatest tandems of all time is now reunited in Heaven should ease some of the pain, and make all of us envious of not being able to hear their next broadcast.


THE BEST MOVE FOX EVER MADE by Ryan Maguire

Growing up, when Madden and Summerall were the ones doing YOUR game, you knew the eyes of the entire country were going to be on your team (for better or worse).  Whenever another announcing crew from CBS was calling the action, it just didn’t feel as special or meaningful.   

When FOX got the rights to air games in 1994, reuniting that duo was vital and Rupert Murdoch outbid NBC and ABC to do it.  Why?  Because he knew that having Madden and Summerall as the number one crew helped give his young network much-needed credibility to the league and its fans as a rookie rightsholder. 

RIP Pat Summerall

Sure, Fox brought new voices and innovations to the broadcast that have withstood the test of time, but having Pat and John remain the duo that would bring you every week’s marquee matchup provided that comfortable familiarity that made things feel legit.  


MR. THANKSGIVING by Brian Noe

Of all the many reminders we have of Madden — his famous video game, his signature usage of the word “boom!” — any mention of turducken will also remind me of him immediately. Madden routinely professed his love for the magical mixture of boneless chicken, duck and turkey on Thanksgiving Day telecasts. Madden also began giving away a turkey leg to the Thanksgiving Day MVP way back in 1989.

Madden fit perfectly on Thanksgiving; he had a jolly vibe and was ready to eat. If only Madden had been on the call for the infamous Jerome Bettis botched coin toss game in 1997. Now that would’ve been some tremendous television.


HOW JOHN MADDEN HELPED US UNDERSTAND FOOTBALL by Andy Masur

When you think of John Madden, you may harken back to his Super Bowl victory as head coach of the Raiders. But if you’re of a certain age, it’s all about Madden the television analyst. That’s where I’m most familiar with his work. 

Think about how many times you heard, “Boom!”, “Whap!”, “Bang!” or “Doink!” to describe action on the field. Madden was a master of describing things the way we saw it. He simply said it how we were thinking it. The words live on as his legacy. 

He also pioneered the use of the telestrator, a device he first used during the 1982 Super Bowl to draw plays and routes on our screens at home. Madden would use his squiggly lines to punctuate things that happened on the field. But they weren’t only used to highlight those plays. He once circled the lack of facial hair on Troy Aikman who said he was trying to grow a beard. But when it came to football, those markings were followed by information that the common fan could understand. 

Imagine trying to watch a game now without a telestrator. You can’t, can you? He paved the way for Tony Romo and even a still facial hairless Troy Aikman.


AN HONOR GREATER THAN ANY THE LEAGUE COULD GIVE by Tyler McComas

Who was the NFL MVP in 2005? Yeah, I don’t remember it either, but I could easily tell you who was on the Madden cover that year. That’s because being on the cover of Madden was arguably more celebrated and memorable than winning the league MVP.

“The Madden Curse” even became so synonymous with the NFL, that EA Sports had to continually dismiss the notion an actual curse was hovering over the game. The suspense of the unveiling of the Madden cover athlete has turned into one of the main events of the NFL offseason, and that will only continue to grow in time. Madden’s is easily one of the most iconic names in video game history. 


JOHN MADDEN MADE FRANK CALIENDO by Demetri Ravanos

Mad TV was to Saturday Night Live what the La Quinta by the airport is to the Chrysler Building. The former produced nearly nothing worth remembering. That is, nothing except for Frank Caliendo’s impressions and one stood out above the rest. 

Caliendo’s John Madden impression struck a chord. Thanks to the video game and his presence on the biggest games every week in our country’s most popular sport, Madden’s voice was ubiquitous enough to convince even the most casual of sports fans that this Frank Caliendo guy was onto something. 

Viewers noticed and networks noticed too. Since he retired Madden, Caliendo has brought Terry Bradshaw, Mel Kiper Jr, Jon Gruden, and more to life for both FOX and ESPN. The sports world wouldn’t know Frank Caliendo existed, let alone have him on speed dial, if not for Caliendo locking in on John Madden as his jumping-off point. 


FOOTBALL’S MOST FAMOUS BUS by Jeff Caves

John Madden didn’t hurry to get to his next NFL assignment. Due to claustrophobia, he avoided airplanes and rode the “Madden Cruiser” to his assignments. He willingly signed up for a life on the road from September until February from 1979 all the way until 2008.

He stopped and visited with people in small towns, went to minor league baseball games, and interviewed people on the bus. He even did the Madden NFL video game deal on the bus in a few days. He reminded us to enjoy the ride. And he wasn’t in it for the luxury. He gave a bus tour here in 1991. It wasn’t glamorous. He had to love it! 


THE EULOGY BEFORE DEATH by Brandon Kravitz

The All Madden documentary on Fox aired at the perfect time considering the news that followed. The build-up and promotion to this one-hour special was tremendous, and the special delivered on the hype.

I sat down and watched the first 15 or 20 minutes on Christmas Day when it originally aired, but amid all the NFL, NBA, and family obligations, I was forced to finish it on another night. As fate would have it, that night would be Tuesday, and I received the notification about John’s passing during the final 10 minutes of the documentary. What started as a beautiful detail of this legend’s life/career, became this picture-perfect eulogy. I’m just so glad John was able to sit there and witness all the great things people had to say about him and the impact that he had just prior to his passing, very rarely are we fortunate enough to honor living legends that way.

He was an icon as a coach, an all-time great broadcaster, a Hall of Fame father, and he taught us all how to love and appreciate the game of football. John Madden was truly one of a kind and this documentary could not have aired at a better time. How fitting that the special would end with the screen fading to black and a reflective and emotional John Madden saying “whoa, that was something. When I hear that stuff, it makes me realize what I didn’t realize.”


WHAT NOW FOR EA SPORTS? by Jeremy Evans

The game itself is unlikely to change as it is popular and the main goal of the game is to win with current players, but tribute will continue to be given to John Madden and his family for the quintessential role he played in the growth of American football and living a graceful life. Maybe Madden will introduce in-game cheat codes on a play, to increase player rating, or possible Coach Madden advice on whether to use certain plays or defensive schemes.  That would indeed be a great highlight and memory for the man in the game.  Madden’s legacy lives on.  


THE VIDEO GAME THAT CHANGED TV by Derek Futterman

With improvements in technology and design, video games across all sports have become more realistic, giving users the ability to authentically simulate matchups of their choosing at any time.  The Madden NFL video game series truly set the standard for authenticity, as it always was – and remains – highly detailed by featuring accurate player portrayals, stadium renderings and parcels of in-game strategies, including team-specific playbooks and artificial intelligence to bolster the CPU.

Evidently, Madden NFL changed the way football is disseminated to an audience, especially through the medium of television. Today, watching a football game encompasses much more than seeing the action on the field; it is about having an understanding of the teams, the strategy and the implications of each matchup, just as Madden himself did every week. Additionally, graphics and presentation aspects from video games, including the vertical view of the field and detailed voice tracking by play-by-play and color commentators, have lent their part into modern-day television broadcasts.

Madden 20 first official gameplay – 2K Online Franchise
Courtesy: EA Sports

John Madden’s intuitiveness for the game as a player, coach, broadcaster and video game connoisseur has required existing personnel at all levels of the game to make sure they are prepared and able to perform their role to the highest of their ability, no matter what it may be – one of many reasons why his legacy will live on in perpetuity in the world of sports.

BSM Writers

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

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

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

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

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

It all came together very quickly. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kind of like Adam The Bull!

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

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

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

Bull can certainly relate to that.

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

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

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

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

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BSM Writers

Why You Should Be Making Great TikTok Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other simple tricks

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

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

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BSM Writers

Does Tom Brady’s Salary Make Sense For FOX In a Changing Media World?

“The risk here doesn’t have to do with Brady specifically, but rather the business of televising football games in general.”

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FOX is playing it too safe when it comes to adding Tom Brady.

That’s going to sound weird given the size of Brady’s broadcasting contract. Even if that deal isn’t worth as much as initially reported, it’s a hell of a lot of loot, especially considering Brady has remained steadfastly uninteresting for a solid 20 years now.

Let’s not pretend that is a detriment in the eyes of a television network, however. There’s a long line of famous athletes companies like FOX have happily paid millions without ever requiring them to be much more than consistently inoffensive and occasionally insightful. Yes, Brady is getting more money than those previous guys, but he’s also the most successful quarterback in NFL history.

The risk here doesn’t have to do with Brady specifically, but rather the business of televising football games in general. More specifically, the fact that the business of televising football games is changing, and while it may not be changing quite as rapidly as the rest of the sports-media industry, but it is changing. There’s an increasing number of choices available to viewers not only in the games that can be watched, but how they are consumed. Everything in the industry points to an increasingly fragmented audience and yet by signing Brady to be in the broadcast booth once he retires, FOX is paying a premium for a single component in a tried-and-true broadcasting formula will be more successful. 

Think of Brady’s hiring as a bet FOX made. A 10-year commitment in which it is doubling down on the status quo at a time of obvious change. FOX saw ESPN introduce the ManningCast last year, and instead of seeing the potential for a network to build different types of products, FOX decided, “Nah, we don’t want to do anything different or new.” Don’t let the price tag fool you. FOX went out and bought a really famous former player to put in a traditional broadcast booth to hope that the center holds..

Maybe it will. Maybe Brady is that interesting or he’s that famous and his presence is powerful enough to defy the trends within the industry. I’m not naive enough to think that value depends on the quality of someone’s content. The memoir of a former U.S. president will fetch a multi-million-dollar advance not because of the literary quality, but because of the size of the potential audience. It’s the same rationale behind FOX’s addition of Brady.

But don’t mistake an expensive addition from an innovative one. The ManningCast was an actual innovation. A totally different way of televising a football game, and while not everyone liked it, some people absolutely loved it. It’s not going to replace the regular Monday Night Football format, but it wasn’t supposed to. It’s an alternative or more likely a complement and ESPN was sufficiently encouraged to extend the ManningCast through 2024. It’s a different product. Another option it is offering its customers. You can choose to watch to the traditional broadcast format with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in the booth or you can watch the Mannings or you can toggle between both. What’s FOX’s option for those audience members who prefer something like the ManningCast to the traditional broadcast?

It’s not just ESPN, either. Amazon offered viewers a choice of broadcasters, too, from a female announcing tandem of Hannah Storm and Andrea Kramer beginning in 2018 to the Scouts Feed with Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks in 2020.

So now, not only do viewers have an increasingly wide array of choices on which NFL games they can watch — thanks to Sunday Ticket — they in some instances have a choice of the announcing crew for that given game. Amid this economic environment, FOX not only decided that it was best to invest in a single product, but it decided to make that investment in a guy who had never done this particular job before nor shown much in the way of an aptitude for it.

Again, maybe Brady is the guy to pull it off. He’s certainly famous enough. His seven Super Bowl victories are unmatched and span two franchises, and while he’s denied most attempts to be anything approaching interesting in public over the past 20 years, perhaps that is changing. His increasingly amusing Twitter posts over the past 2 years could be a hint of the humor he’s going to bring to the broadcast booth. That Tampa Tom is his true personality, which remained under a gag order from the Sith Lord Bill Belichick, and now Brady will suddenly become football’s equivalent of Charles Barkley.

But that’s a hell of a needle to thread for anyone, even someone as famous as Brady, and it’s a really high bar for someone with no broadcasting experience. The upside for FOX is that its traditional approach holds. The downside, however, is that it is not only spending more money on a product with a declining market, but it is ignoring obvious trends within the industry as it does so.

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