The NFL has us all wrapped around its finger.
Don’t take my word for it, just look at the numbers. As we get set for the NFL Playoffs kicking off this weekend, we are nearly 18 months removed from the NFL’s latest soiree into politics, yet the league is as strong as ever.
The NFL’s regular season viewership rose 10%, which is a bounce-back from a 7% drop in 2020.
About 17.1 million viewers tuned in to regular season games on TV and online. It was the highest regular season audience for the NFL since 2015, according to a statement from the league. With the audience for traditional TV falling, NFL games continue to dominate the ratings, ranking as 91 of the top 100 telecasts this season, the league said.
So what happened?
Well first we need to look backwards: 2020 was a perfect storm. The NFL did go political to a degree, adding “social justice” phrases to the end zones and the backs of players’ helmets. It was not as in-your-face as what the NBA did, but it was noticeable. It bothered a portion of fans who may have temporarily stepped away from watching football in a boycott. Add to that an incredibly tense 2020 election season, along with being in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it was natural to expect to see a decrease in viewership.
Oh, and let’s be honest, the mostly empty stadiums were just ghoulish.
But the NFL weathered the storm. Because that’s what it does. It’s the best product on TV and it’s brought many back into the fold as things have gotten back to normal in 2021.
It’s also why I never boycotted the league. First off, I knew I wouldn’t last long. We all need outlets from the insanity of the news cycle. I knew myself too well. And if I was going to boycott, I was going to do it right. I never thought I could do an NFL boycott “right”.
Was that weak of me? I know I certainly took the backlash from some of my listeners. But based on the ratings numbers we are seeing this week, it seems like many who were tough talkers in 2020 have quietly come back to the league with their tail between their legs.
For the record, I’m OK with that. I won’t be admonishing anyone over it. The NFL puts on a first-class product. And let’s be honest, the NFL knew that they could toe the line of doing “enough” on the social justice front to appease those requesting it, while allowing time to heal wounds of those not wanting it, and not hemorage their audience in any significant way.
It turns out the NFL was right. Once again. We can’t get enough. Republicans, Democrats, Independents. And we’ll be tuned in starting with Wild Card Weekend on Saturday.
So as we get ready for another season of NFL Playoffs, there’s no conversation around politics infringing on the product and the league is dominating TV ratings in a way no other sport or show is coming close to duplicating.
The NFL weathered the storm, the stadiums are full, fans are back, and we’re all, once again, addicted.
It’s OK to admit it. I am. Will you?
Financial News Media Praises LeBron James
On The Dave Ramsey Show, co-hosts George Kamel and Rachel Cruze discussed LA Lakers star LeBron James becoming a billionaire while still playing.
On a recent episode of The Dave Ramsey Show, co-hosts George Kamel and Rachel Cruze discussed a story that intersected the pop culture world and financial news.
And they used one of the most polarizing athletes of our day to make their point.
According to a report from CBS News, basketball star Lebron James has officially become the first player to reach billionaire status while still in his playing days.
Kamel quoted the article, saying, “After another monster year of earnings, totaling $121.2 million, before taxes and agents fees over the last twelve months, Forbes estimates he’s officially become a billionaire while still playing hoops.”
James has both large numbers of admirers and detractors, often stemming from the argument over who is basketball’s Greatest of All-Time, or G.O.A.T. Some say, James, while others point to Michael Jordan.
In addition, James has waded purposefully into the political waters as an outspoken supporter of Democratic politicians and their liberal policies. Unfortunately, many feel these policies hurt the very people James supports in so many other ways.
During the show, Kamel and Cruze continued discussing the article, which estimated the net worth of the hardcourt legend to be $1 billion. It quoted James as saying the milestone is important because he wants to maximize his business.
“He’s commanded more than a $385 million salary from the Cavaliers, Miami Heat, and Lakers as the NBA’s highest-paid active player,” Kamel continued, quoting the article. “And off the court, to your point, Rachel, he’s raked in upwards of $900 million in income from endorsements and other business ventures. So he’s a very smart businessman on top of being an incredible athlete.”
“Kinda like Michael Jordan,” Cruze added.
“So, here’s the funny thing,” Kamel said. “This isn’t just why I wanted to talk about this. Yes, he’s a billionaire; that’s an amazing milestone. And it’s a thousand millions for those of you that need to get that picture in your head. But my favorite thing about this story is that he is known as the cheapest player in the NBA.”
The show then cut to an audio clip of former NBA star Dwyane Wade referring to James as “the cheapest guy in the NBA.” James listed a few extras he’s unwilling to pay for, such as data roaming, phone apps, or commercial-free streaming music.
“Let’s be clear, LeBron James is not living in a shack. He’s got a nice house; I’m sure he’s got nice cars. He’s done really well,” Kamel joked. “But it’s amazing to me the things he goes. I’m not paying three bucks for that.”
“Hey, do you know who else who is not a billionaire but listens to Pandora with commercials,” Cruze asked.
“Rachel Cruz!” Kamel answered.
“I’m basically like LeBron,” she quipped.
“I want to make it clear, LeBron James is not a cheapskate. In fact, he’s very, very generous,” Kamel made sure to note. “And there’s maybe a connection there; maybe you can speak to this. This is another article from CBS News. Lebron says he’s opening a multi-million dollar medical facility in his Ohio hometown. He’s built the I Promise School in his hometown in Ohio. He’s pledged to send 2300 students to college debt-free through scholarships. So to me, I just go; this guy has a plan for his money. He’s got a vision for where he wants it to go.”
Cruze agreed, discussing the mental approach and discipline needed to make such a significant financial impact.
“It’s not the Pandora subscription that’s going to make you a billionaire. That is not it. But it’s a mindset, too, of seeing what’s wasteful, what’s not. And it’s the same ways of looking at life that really could lead you; I mean, that kind of stuff can play into his business deals. Where he’s like, hmmm, what am I doing, it’s that same thought process that really can make you become successful.”
Ramsey Solutions has preached for years about the necessity of devising a plan for your money and following it rather than simply doing what feels good. They have always been strict adherents to a budget, regardless of how much one has flooded in on the income side of the equation. They also talk extensively about being a good steward and becoming incredibly generous along your journey.
Apparently, LeBron James shares many of the same deeply-held values.
“It’s wisdom with money,” Kamel added.
“LeBron, well done,” Cruze summed up.
The Cost of “Thoughts”
Jack Del Rio made a classic mistake of wondering aloud about topics that people in public positions aren’t allowed to think about on Twitter.
The first recorded use of the expression, “A penny for your thoughts,” was made by Sir Thomas Moore precisely 500 years ago (1522). But, no doubt, a penny went much further in the 16th century.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s most recent Consumer Price Index (CPI) shows that inflation continues to increase above expectations. The current annual rate of 8.6% is the highest since 1981. The cost of thoughts, or at least saying them aloud, well, saying certain things in a public forum, has gone up far more than the CPI.
Jack Del Rio, defensive coordinator for the Washington Commanders (formerly known as the “Washington Football Team,” and before that, the Washington Redskins), made a classic mistake of wondering aloud about topics that people in public positions aren’t allowed to think about on Twitter. Specifically, his Tweets compared (what he called) “the summer of riots” to January 6th at the U.S. Capitol. As the late, great Alex Trebek would say, Del Rio’s comments were “in the form of a question.”
Faced with media scrutiny about his Tweets, rather than back down, Del Rio referred to January 6th as a “dust-up at the Capitol.”
Can I tell you a trade secret of press flacks? They all have a small can of lighter fluid and a pack of matches within reach behind a piece of glass with the words “break only in the case of emergency” scrawled on it. Certain phrases or words will cause a press person, at great personal danger and sacrifice, to break the glass, douse themselves with the accelerant, and strike a match before flinging their immolating body in front of the podium. Okay, not literally, but I guarantee the Commanders’ public relations director would think this alternative less painful than hearing those words come out of Del Rio’s mouth in front of the press gaggle.
The controversy that followed was swift and certain: as was the reaction from Commanders Head Coach Ron Rivera. He promptly assessed a $100,000 fine on Del Rio for his comments.
Two points here: First, this is not a sports story. Talk Radio observers should be far more concerned with the consequences of this story than NFL or sports fans. Second, it doesn’t matter what you think happened on January 6th. You should still find the fine issued by Rivera chilling, whether you call it an insurrection or a dust-up.
I used to believe that comedian Bill Maher and I were about as far apart on the political spectrum as any two Americans could be. Maher and I, however, hold similar views on freedom of expression.
On his HBO show, “Real Time,” Maher defended Del Rio by saying: “In America, you have the right to be wrong. They fined him; the team fined him $100,000 for this opinion. Fining people for an opinion. I am not down with that.”
Because this is where we meet, I’d like to buy Bill Maher a drink and have a laugh over all the times he’s been wrong, or we can share that drink and a smile for understanding that freedom of expression IS the foundation of democracy – no matter who’s right or wrong. Freedom of expression is an issue where liberals and conservatives must find common ground.
The football team currently known as the Washington Commanders may need another name change. Perhaps the “Comrades” would reflect the team’s philosophy better? Levying such a hefty punishment for stating a political (and non-football) point of view because it is out of step with what is apparently official policy seems more reminiscent of the Politburo’s posture than a free society.
Del Rio’s words are understandably offensive to many. At the very least, they were ham-handed for someone who has been in the public spotlight for so long. But a $100,000 fine? Stifling political opinion is far more dangerous than anything Del Rio said.
Taking the Del Rio incident into context with the “Cancel Culture” of the past few years, Talk Radio hosts should look over their shoulders. Del Rio is also an excellent reminder to think twice before posting a politically unpopular opinion on social media.
Inflation has eaten away at the value of a penny and increased the cost of making politically incorrect statements, including on the air in recent years. What inhibits individuals from expressing their thoughts, beliefs, opinions, and emotions is a threat to Talk Radio and democracy.
Joe Pags’ Dream to Work In Media Started Early
Pags knew a career in media was for him ever since he was ten years old, even before his vocal chords did.
If you’ve ever been required to interview someone for a segment or article, you know pretty quickly when it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Joe Pags was answering my initial questions as freely as Ebeneezer Scrooge hands out Krugerrands. Teeth have been pulled from the human head with greater ease. It just wasn’t happening.
After a few minutes, I think I grew on him.
I discovered we actually had a few things in common; both of us lived in Lake Worth, Florida, we knew a lot of the same places and faces, and we both understood that summer heat in Florida is like purgatory.
However, Pags and I will both have a fond devotion to The Noid. We will always share the memories of being a manager at Domino’s Pizza.
“I worked at Domino’s when pizzas were delivered to your door within 30-minutes, or it was free,” Pags said. “After a while they went to 30 minutes or three dollars off the price. Too many people were getting into accidents trying to beat the clock.”
What Pags did not mention was that even when you legitimately made it in less than 30 minutes, you had people questioning your delivery time. I guess that’s human nature.
Soon, pizzas were just for eating, not working; Pags started his radio career in 1989 in Palm Beach County, Florida.
After that, it was a stint as a television anchor from 1994-2005 in Saginaw, Michigan, and then Albany, New York. From there he was called back to radio and landed at the Clear Channel Talk Flagship, WOAI, in 2005. The Joe Pags Show has been a fan favorite since its debut in 2007.
For Pags, the media dream started early on.
“I grew up listening to talk radio at a very young age and was determined to make my living doing it one day,” Pags says. “I actually have a tape somewhere on which I erased the DJ’s voice and recorded mine over the songs.”
Pags is probably thrilled that the tape will never be released.
Years later, he found he could pay the bills doing something he loved. “I’m lucky enough to work with great people on both local, and national radio and television,” Pags explained.
“I also remember Steve Cain, Rick, and Suds on that station,” Pags said. “It was a lot of talk radio, but it was fun. It was entertainment. Rush Limbaugh was doing the politics stuff back then.”
Pags knew a career in media was for him ever since he was ten years old, even before his vocal chords did.
“When my voice changed at 13, I developed more of a bass tone; I knew I was on my way. I had a New York accent and had to shake that.”
Before he embarked on a career in radio, his music career was going well. Pags played French horn and saxophone; apparently, he was pretty good.
He played gigs at the prestigious Breakers Hotel, among many others. “I used to play at the Backstage lounge adjacent to the old Burt Reynolds Dinner Theater in Jupiter,” Pags said.
No word on whether Reynolds ever caught Pags live or not.
As a kid, he played baseball. Pags said he was pretty good. What took center stage for Pags was music. It was the French horn and saxophone that captured his heart.
“I played professionally on the Empress Dinner Cruise on the Intracoastal Waterway,” Pags said. “I also did gigs at The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach. We made some good money.”
Before Domino’s and radio and music, it all started with a strong desire to succeed. That often comes from your family’s belief in you. Sometimes it’s not there.
“I knew that if I worked hard enough, if I showed the love for the work I was doing, then I’d succeed,” Pags said.
His family lived in Lake Worth, Florida, from 1973-74, and Pags returned every so often. “I got back to Florida recently when I went to Mara Lago and watched 2,000 Mules.”
San Antonio has been home for the past 17 years for Pags and his family. “I’ve been here at WOAI. I’ve got my own studio in a great area.” His daughter Sam is his executive producer. I asked Pags if there was any nepotism when it came to hiring Sam.
“Darn right, there is nepotism,” he said. “This is Joe Pags media. I get to hire whoever I want,” he quipped. “Sam has always had a love of broadcasting. When I became syndicated in this business, I told her I trusted her more than anyone else I knew and asked her to produce my show.”
The other day I spoke with Will Cain for a piece. He told me if I visited Austin, I should also see Texas. So I asked Pags what Cain was trying to say. “He means Austin is a city like Portland; only it’s in Texas. There’s a lot of homelessness in Austin. A lot of crime. The University of Texas in Austin goes far to the Left.”
Where does Pags’ tough demeanor come from?
“My father was 100 percent Italian. We had some good pasta dishes around our house with my grandparents around,” Pags explained. “We didn’t have a good bakery in Lake Worth, so I remember my mother and aunts bringing great bread recipes over from the homeland.”
Pags has always been interested in what takes place on the periphery, not just the core of matters. He’s done a lot of things throughout his life. That experience has helped shape his radio show. Pags said his show tends to be white-collar, but he grew up blue-collar all the way.
“I liked the Superman movies. I enjoyed Rocky,” Pags explained. “As a car-buff, I loved the Burt Reynolds films with Smokey and the Bandit. Stuff like that.”
Lake Worth, like a lot of other Floridia areas, has been known to be a little rough and tumble. Just watch Cops for a week if you don’t believe me.
Pags said other than a little shoving match at the bus stop, he didn’t encounter much rough stuff. “I was a musician, I wasn’t in that mix. Perhaps a scuffle in little league.”
When he was a teenager, he thought music would be it. “I’d played with some big-hitters at the time, like The Coasters,” Pags said.
“Music career opportunities really didn’t come along as I’d hoped. In some ways, people in the industry were full of it. I still did some freelance work on the saxophone.”
Pags said he was always willing to work for what he got. “I poured coffee and ran errands for $4 an hour,” Pags said. “I had my car repossessed, and got evicted from my apartment. I still kept at it. I never was deterred from what I wanted. I knew what I wanted, but never really expected things to happen the way they did.”
Pags said if some youngster asked how to be what Pags is today, his answer was succinct. “Pour coffee, run errands, whatever you have to do.”
I asked Pags what he does in his downtime? Let’s just say he’s not running to tee-off at 7:00 am with the guys at the club on his day off.
“I’m a domestic sports car guy,” he says with pride. “I’ve got three Corvettes, a Camaro Super Sport. My Camaro was a 1967, red with white stripes. I sold that car so we could afford to adopt our daughter. I got the better end of that deal.”
He doesn’t do any weekend racing on local tracks like other aging Indy wannabes. “I like to look at those cars in the garage,” Pags said. “My dad was a big car guy. My dad is probably why I’ve succeeded in my life and career. Not for the reasons you’d think.”
Pags’ relationship with his father had the typical ups and downs. Same as it is for most men.
“My father didn’t think I’d amount to anything and had no problem relating that to me,” Pags said. “Conversely, my Mom was always extremely supportive of my interests and goals. I knew if you were good at what you did, people would take notice.”
Pags said his father excelled at being a naysayer. A glass is a half-empty kind of guy.
“He was so negative. He thought I’d never succeed at anything,” Pags explained. “I was out of the house at 17, and I was determined to become something. To prove him wrong.”
Before his father passed away, Pags believes his father became aware of a lot of things.
“A light went on in his head, and he was just so surprised I could make a living doing what I did,” Pags explains. “When I became a big enough success, he recognized my drive and determination. I’m still not sure if he was hard on me because he thought it would help me in the end. Whatever his reasoning was, it gave me the drive and determination to see things through.”
Pags’ father became so proud of his son that he’d tell friends Joe was going to be on Fox News and how they should tune in.
“It was my mother, with her ultimate support, that really made me want to succeed. For her,” Pags explained.
“I learned that if someone disparages you or makes you feel small, you have choices. You can go into a shell and take it. Believe what people say. Or you can go out and knock down some doors. If you want me to do something, tell me I can’t do it. Soon I will be syndicated on 200 stations. All that came from believing in myself. I’ll prove it to iHeart. To other broadcasters.”
Pags said at some point; you’ve got to find some kind of edge.
“I knew I wasn’t going to agree with things my father believed and said, just to shut him up. I had to stand up for my own beliefs.”
I can relate to a guy like Pags. He’s got a tough exterior, not easy to crack. But like me, I know in the center is a soft, creamy nougat.