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Quick Hits on the Past Week and Upcoming Weekend in Sports Broadcasting

Thoughts on the two NFL Conference Championship games and how to watch, stream, or whatever, the Olympics starting this week on NBC. 

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It’s a busy time of year in the world of sports and broadcasting. Here’s a quick recap of the past weekend and a look ahead to the week in sports:

** Not sure if you heard or not, but after much debate and conflicting reports, Tom Brady retired from the NFL… after 22 seasons. It was a week of “He’s retiring, he’s not retiring”… it became official Tuesday. 

Perhaps the best headline out there was provided by NBC New York (@NBCNewYork): 

“#BREAKING: Tom Brady, who lost 2 Super Bowls to the Giants during his legendary 22-year NFL career, retires; see his full message here…”

Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the best/worst from the weekend of NFL Conference Championship Games on Fox and CBS…

CBS/AFC Championship Broadcast Highlights

** With the clock stopped at 13 seconds,  Jim Nantz said that the big question of the week has been “What can you do in 13 seconds?’” Of course, he was alluding to how much time the Chiefs needed to get into field goal range to force overtime with the Bills the week before.

Brilliant question by Nantz, it was ironic and eerie that the same amount of time was on the clock at the end of the first half. We were all thinking it and Nantz knew it. 

** The CBS halftime show was an unmitigated disaster. James Brown couldn’t be heard. Walker Hayes had the stage and the airwaves of CBS. The network had major audio problems during the halftime show. The PA announcer drowned out the halftime host and it was a tough listen. It became a concert, featuring halftime stats and graphics.

After all the bragging about the set that was on hydraulics to raise up “two stories,” the CBS halftime crew was really just an opening act for Hayes. By the way, am I the only one that has no idea who Walker Hayes is? He sings something about Applebee’s? 

** I do give Brown a ton of credit for being as professional as he was. I can only imagine how loud it was for the guys on the set, considering they wear IFBs (a way for the producer to talk to the talent in their ears to advise about what is next, etc.). Those gadgets are wedged right into your ear and it had to be unbearable, listening to the amplified sound of the concert. Brown handled the mishap well. Not surprising; he’s a pro. 

** More from Nantz as the Bengals tied the game at the end of the third quarter, the momentum was clearly with Cincinnati. The Chiefs couldn’t do anything on offense or defense. Nantz joked to Tony Romo heading into the commercial break leading to the fourth quarter, asking him, “You thought this game would be tied heading into the fourth, didn’t you?” Again, relevant and well-played, Jim. 

** After the game, Tracy Wolfson was waiting to interview Joe Burrow on the field. The scene on the playing surface was chaotic and every time she thought she had the QB’s attention, a player would come up to Burrow to congratulate him. Wolfson, never breaking stride, maintained the professionalism she’s known for and got the interview. Nice work. 

FOX/NFC Championship Broadcast Highlights

** Troy Aikman was on his game during the Fox broadcast of the NFC Championship game. Most notably when pointing out that on a touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp, the Rams had to go on a silent count, because of the noise in the stadium. He noted that it’s not normal for the home team to have to do that. Fox producers were on it as well, showing the stands filled with red and gold 49ers clad fans seemingly outnumbering Rams fans significantly. Pretty spot-on observation. 

** Aikman also pointed out on several occasions that the Rams defense was pressuring Jimmy Garoppolo, forcing him into bad decisions. Especially on a pass that was nearly intercepted. Aikman observed that the Rams defensive line created pressure on Garoppolo all night making it tough for him, “even without a sack on the night.”

** Perhaps the most poignant moment happened after the game was over. While the Rams were celebrating a trip to the Super Bowl, the first in Odell Beckham Jr.’s career, he shared a moment with 49ers receiver Deebo Samuel on the San Francisco bench. The cameras caught OBJ leaning over a visibly emotional Samuel, giving him some words of encouragement.

The only thing that clouded the moment, was Joe Buck recapping the game over it. I’m not sure if a producer failed to get into his ear to tell them they had the shot, or if it just happened so quickly that the recap couldn’t be avoided. Not assigning blame, but it would have been a much better moment, with no soundtrack.

** People were definitely tuned in for the NFL’s Championship Weekend. According to CBS, the network’s broadcast of the Bengals’ overtime win over the Chiefs averaged 47.9 million viewers, marking the most-watched conference championship game in the early window in six years. (In 2016, the Pats beat the Broncos to an audience of 53.3 million.) The Bengals-Chiefs match-up peaked with just shy of 61 million viewers.

** For Fox, Fox Deportes, and Fox Sports streaming platforms, the Rams-49ers game brought in 50.4 million total viewers. That marks the most-watched NFC Championship face-off since 2014, when the Seattle Seahawks beat the Green Bay Packers, in front of an audience of nearly 56 million.

** I really hate the extra week in between the championship games and the Super Bowl. It’s too much. I get that the networks want to build the “hype,” but does a game of this magnitude really need extra hype? Hmm, I wonder if one of the storylines may be that the “Rams are playing the game at home” or “Hey Detroit, look at Matthew Stafford now. Or the friendship between Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, “you know they won a National Championship game together at LSU?”

Ugh. Oh wait, I’m sure we’ll get a “Tom Brady isn’t here” story or two about him winning seven Super Bowls. 

Invented storylines and the need to fill airtime becomes boring. What hasn’t been done already? Kid correspondents, comedians sending out someone to ask a question that makes no sense. Just get on with the game and bring on the commercials.

** This just in, Tom Brady is still retired.

** NBC and its family of networks, including USA Network and, of course, the streaming service Peacock are once again preparing to completely confuse you when it comes to coverage of the Winter Olympics. Beijing is 13 hours ahead of the Eastern time zone in the U.S., which naturally further complicates things. Beginning on Friday, NBC will have full coverage of the Opening Ceremony which starts at 6:30 a.m. ET.

** Some events will be carried live on NBC, which according to its press release will “televise nearly 200 hours of coverage, including 18 nights in prime time,” featuring all the Games’ most high-profile sports including figure skating, alpine skiing, and others.

** Peacock, which famously aired a USA men’s basketball game on a Sunday morning without it being on the network, will give folks the ability to live-stream all 2800 hours of coverage. This will be available on the premium tier only. 

My conclusion: It’s really hard to watch the Olympics anymore, especially when they are halfway across the world from us. My advice, use that Google machine to figure out where/when you’ll be able to watch your favorite sports. Then pull out the credit card, because you’re probably going to have to pay to watch it live. 

** Oh, by the way, NBC will also be the home of Super Bowl LVI. Mike Tirico will host the show after he does a couple of days live in Beijing as host of the Olympics on the Peacock Network. That’s a lot to bite off if you’re NBC. Let’s wait and see how it works out. 

** Also, this weekend, the NHL has its All-Star Game and Skills Competition. I’m curious to see how both events are handled now that they are on a “new” hockey network, ESPN/ABC.  The Skills competition is Friday night on ESPN and the game comes up Saturday on ABC.

It’s been a fun event to watch for NHL fans, some of the skills possessed by the stars in the game are fascinating to watch. I’m still not a huge fan of the 3-on-3 “tournament” for the game. I liked the old conference vs. conference format.

Enjoy your weekend of sports!

BSM Writers

Keith Moreland’s Broadcasting Fills Void Left by MLB Career

“When I got through… I wanted to do something with my life and I get that same feeling with broadcasting.”

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Austin American-Statesman

Sports color analysts are more often than not former players. This has been a consistent norm across sports broadcasting at all levels. The analyst is there to add “color” to the play-by-play broadcaster’s metaphorical and verbal “drawing” of the game. For former MLB slugger and catcher, Keith Moreland, this was the surprise post-playing retirement career that has boosted him to a key figure in Austin media and national media alike.

Moreland played football and baseball at the University of Texas before making his way to the MLB for 12 years with key contributions to the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs in the 1980s.

Moreland reminisced on his decision to play baseball full time: “I thought I was going to be in the NFL, but Earl Campbell changed that. I had just played summer ball. We had won a championship and I missed the first few days of two-a-days. I hadn’t even had a physical yet and I’m in a scrimmage. I stepped up to this freshman running back and as he ducked his shoulder, one of his feet hit my chest and the other hit my face mask and he kept on truckin’. I got up and I thought ‘I could be a pretty good baseball player.’

So I told Coach Royal after practice I was going to focus on baseball and he asked ‘what took you so long? We were surprised you came back because we think you have a really good shot at playing professional baseball.'”

It was a good choice for Moreland. He was part of the 1973 College World Series winning Texas Longhorns baseball team. While at Texas Moreland hit .388 and became the all-time leader in hits for the College World Series. After being drafted by the Phillies in the 7th round of the 1975 draft, Moreland would go-on to play in the majors from 1978 to 1989.

“You go your whole life trying to get to play professionally. When I got through my opportunity to play in the big leagues, I wanted to do something with my life and I get that same feeling with broadcasting.”

Broadcasting was not the original retirement plan for Moreland. He first tried his luck at coaching with his first stop being his alma mater as an assistant for the Longhorns. At the time, Bill Schoening (a Philadelphia native and Phillies fan), was the radio play-by-play broadcaster. Schoening made Moreland a go-to for a pre-game interview and convinced him to come on talk shows. Schoening even convinced Moreland to practice live broadcasting skills by taking a recorder to games and listening back to them to learn.

“Bill was the guy who brought me onboard and I still have those tapes and I really learned from them, but I don’t want anyone else to ever hear them!” Moreland adds with a chuckle on how far he has come in over 25 years of broadcasting.

Moreland has been a key part of University of Texas radio broadcasts for baseball since the 1990s and has catapulted that broadcast experience to Texas high school football, Longhorn football radio and television broadcasts, ESPN, the Little League World Series, the Chicago Cubs and more since hanging up his cleats and picking up a microphone.

While his playing days are well behind him, Moreland still takes the spirit of his professional athlete background to his broadcasting:

“If you don’t bring energy to your broadcast, somebody’s gonna turn the game on and wonder ‘what’s wrong? Are they losing the game?’”, Moreland remarks, “So you have to come prepared and with energy for the broadcasts.”

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BSM Writers

Radio Partnerships With Offshore Sportsbooks Are Tempting

The rush to get sports betting advertising revenue offers an interesting risk to stations in states where the activity is illegal.

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Maryland Matters

As the wave of sports gambling continues to wash over the United States, marketing budgets soar and advertisements flood radio and television airwaves. Offers of huge sign-on bonuses, “risk-free” wagers, and enhanced parlay odds seem to come from every direction as books like DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM fight over market share and battle one another for every new user they can possibly attract.

For those in states where sports betting is not yet legalized–or may never be–it is frustrating to see these advertisements and know that you cannot get in the action. However, as with any vice, anybody determined to partake will find ways to do so. Offshore sports books are one of the biggest ways. Companies such as Bovada and BetOnline continue to thrive even as more state-based online wagering options become available to Americans.

While five states–Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, and New York–have passed laws making it illegal for offshore books to take action from their residents, using an offshore book is perfectly legal for the rest of the country. While there are hurdles involved with funding for some institutions, there is no law that prevents someone in one of those other 45 states from opening an account with Bovada and wagering on whatever sporting events they offer. The United States government has tried multiple times to go after them, citing the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006, and have failed at every step, with the World Trade Organization citing that doing so would violate international trade agreements. 

While gambling is becoming more and more accepted every day, and more states look to reap the financial windfall that comes with it, the ethical decisions made take on even more importance. One of the tougher questions involved with the gambling arms race is how to handle offers from offshore books to advertise with radio stations in a state where sports betting is not legalized. 

Multiple stations in states without legalized gambling, such as Texas and Florida, have partnerships with BetOnline to advertise their services. Radio stations can take advantage of these relationships in three main ways: commercials, on-air reads, and the station’s websites. For example, Bovada’s affiliate program allows for revenue sharing based on people clicking advertisements on a partner’s website and signing up with a new deposit. This is also the case for podcasts, such as one in Kansas that advertises with Bovada despite sports gambling not being legal there until later in 2022.

People are going to gamble, and it’s legal to do so. In full disclosure, I myself have utilized Bovada’s services for a number of years, even after online sports wagering became legal in my state of Indiana. As such, advertising a service that is legal within the state seems perfectly fine in the business sense, and I totally understand why a media entity would choose to accept an offer from an offshore book. However, there are two major factors that make it an ethical dilemma, neither of which can be ignored.

First, Americans may find it easy to deposit money with a book such as Bovada or BetOnline, but much more difficult to get their money back. While the UIGEA hasn’t been successful in stopping these books from accepting money, it has made it difficult–near impossible, in fact–for American financial institutions to accept funds directly from these companies. Therefore, most payouts have to take place either via a courier service, with a check that can take weeks to arrive, or via a cryptocurrency payout. For those who are either unwilling or not tech-savvy enough to go this route, it means waiting sometimes up to a month to receive that money versus a couple days with a state-licensed service.

The other major concern is the lack of protections involved with gambling in a state where legislation has been passed. For example, the state of Indiana drew up laws and regulations for companies licensed to operate within its borders that included protections for how bets are graded, what changes can be made to lines and when they can take place, and how a “bad line” is handled. They also require a portion of the revenues be put towards resources for those dealing with gambling addiction or compulsion issues. 

None of those safeguards exist with an offshore book. While the books have to adhere to certain regulations, it’s much more loosely enforced. I’ve lost track of the number of times a book like Bovada has made somewhat shady decisions on what bets to honor as “wins”, and how they handle wagers on what they deem to be “bad lines” where they posted a mistake and users capitalized on it. Furthermore, not a single dime of the monies received go towards helping those dealing with addiction, and there are few steps taken by the offshore books to look for compulsive or addictive behaviors.  

As states look to move sports betting out of the shadows, the decision whether to take advertising dollars from offshore books seems to be an even larger gray area than ever before. Although it is perfectly legal to accept these funds when offered, it feels unethical to do so. There are moral obligations tied to accepting the money involved, especially given the lack of regulations and safeguards for players in addition to the limited resources for those who find themselves stuck in a situation they may struggle to escape. While it’s possible to take steps to educate listeners on these pitfalls, it simply feels irresponsible to encourage people to utilize these services given the risks involved, and the lack of protections in place.

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BSM Writers

Saban v. Jimbo Is WrestleMania for College Football Fans

Ryan Brown says the Nick Saban versus Jimbo Fisher feud is one made for pay-per-view and we have nearly five months to hype the match.

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Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

It was the day after I turned eleven that Hulk Hogan body slammed Andre ‘The Giant’. WrestleMania III filled 90,000 seats at the Pontiac Silverdome and the living room of one of the houses in my neighborhood. Real or fake, we didn’t care. Three decades later, Nick Saban versus Jimbo Fisher is 100% real and it is coming to a living room near you.

I live in the capital city of SEC Country – Birmingham, Alabama. SEC football needs no additional drama here. You get a complete college football obsession at birth. That said, the October 8th Texas A&M visit to Alabama will be among the most anticipated regular season college football games both regionally and nationally.

One would think CBS will use their annual prime time date for that Saturday just as they did for last season’s Alabama at Texas A&M game, you know, when Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher were on speaking terms. Not knowing how the season will play out, it would be no surprise if ESPN’s College Gameday is in Tuscaloosa as well. While we are at it, let’s just cut to the 2024 chase and schedule a Presidential debate in Tuscaloosa that weekend, as well.

Not one person will be surprised if Alabama is undefeated and the top ranked team in the nation that week. The surprise, based on the rest of the Jimbo Fisher era, will be the Aggies being unbeaten. Their trip to Alabama comes at the end of a five game stretch that includes Appalachian State at home, Miami at home, Arkansas in Dallas and a road game at Mississippi State. Incidentally, the same Texas A&M team that was able to upset Alabama last season also managed to lose to Arkansas and Mississippi State.

Just the prospect of the two teams being unbeaten and highly ranked causes some to say this game would need no extra storylines. Shouldn’t that, and being on CBS in prime time, be enough? The Saban-Fisher Feud already has people discussing this game nationally and Lee Corso hasn’t even donned a body odor-filled mascot head yet.

I would like to project this game to deliver the largest TV audience of the regular season but I can’t, for one reason: I’m not certain it will be close. I think Alabama is that much better than Texas A&M. That’s why the build up will deliver a huge first half audience.

For perspective, in the 2021 regular season, the Alabama at Texas A&M game had the fifth largest TV audience, in a game that went down to the final play. The Ohio State at Michigan game had 15.8 million viewers on as part of FOX’s Big Noon Kickoff, almost double that of Alabama at Texas A&M on CBS in prime time.

That brings me to another misconception: big games have to be in prime time to get a big audience. Of the top ten largest college football audiences in the regular season and conference championship weekend, only half were prime time games. College football fans, and NFL fans for that matter, will find the best games no matter where they are placed.

So, back to Saban v. Fisher; why is it a bad thing? Would SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey prefer it not happen? Of course. Will it bring more attention to a game in the conference he oversees? I say, absolutely. Heck, my daily show is already selling t-shirts for the game. You may say “shameless plug”, I say paying for my kid’s college. Tomato, tomahto.

This is what made “Mean” Gene Okerlund a household name in the 1980’s. He was the far too serious host that interviewed the wrestlers who challenged other wrestlers to a grudge match in exotic places like the Macon Coliseum and the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum and the Dallas Sportatorium. Why did they do that? First, it was entertaining but, primarily, it sucked the viewer into making plans to view those matches.

I mean, if Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat said he was going to rip the head off “Big” John Studd, was I going to miss that?

That was why a bunch of kids crowded into a living room in Anniston, Alabama in 1987 to watch WrestleMania III, The Main Event. I can’t tell you who was on the undercard that night. The only wrestlers we cared about were Hulk Hogan and Andre “The Giant”.

Actually, my friend’s mom thought the Ultimate Warrior was “cute and had a great body”. He wasn’t on the card and I thought it was odd she told us that but she was footing the bill for the pay-per-view and had mixed the fruit punch Kool-Aid, so who am I to judge one’s wanton desires?

Texas A&M at Alabama will be the SEC’s main event this season and, if the cards fall right, it may be college football’s main event. What happened between the two head coaches might not be the proudest moment in SEC history but it will bring more attention to that game. And, my word, we finally have a nano-second in which two prominent coaches weren’t pre-programmed robots refusing to deviate from the script.

As amazing as WrestleMania III was for my childhood, it was scripted. The Tide and the Aggies will not be. College football remains one of the greatest values in sports. I pay very little to watch unscripted game after unscripted game. Truth is, you couldn’t even script most of what we see on a college football Saturday. 

Texas A&M at Alabama is already beyond what the most creative writers could imagine and that is why this fuel to the already smoldering fire adds to this game. Now, if Nick Saban will just try to bodyslam Jimbo Fisher, we’ll have something.

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