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This is What Howie Rose Lives For

“It was a very, very joyful experience for me just to get back behind the mic with a baseball field in front of me and the game going on.”

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Howie Rose has been a voice synonymous with New York Mets baseball for nearly a quarter-century, and for the first time in his career last season, he had to cut his season short to undergo a medical procedure. A fan of the team from their inception in 1962, Rose watched Tom Seaver and the 1969 “Miracle Mets” win a World Series championship, lived through the 1977 “Midnight Massacre” trade and watched the franchise rebuild and win another championship in 1986.

The Mets’ yearly campaigns, aside from the shortened 2020 season, have always begun at spring training, first in Tampa, Fla., and, since 1988, in Port St. Lucie, Fla. For Rose, being back at spring training among the players, coaches and management evinced feelings of nostalgia with the prescience that baseball would indeed be played in 2022, and he would once again be in the booth bringing fans the action.

“It was a very, very joyful experience for me just to get back behind the mic with a baseball field in front of me and the game going on,” said Rose. “You don’t get the same flow of adrenaline in a spring training game as you do for a regular season game, but I will say I had that adrenaline flowing a little bit more strongly.”

Howie Rose became infatuated by the possibility of becoming a broadcaster from the time he was 7 years old listening to Mel Allen call New York Yankee games. As a native New Yorker, he grew up following professional sports in the area and took note of the styles of various announcers, something that eventually helped him craft his own distinct sound. At the age of 13, Rose created and served as president of “The Marv Albert Fan Club,” dedicated to play-by-play announcer Marv Albert, a person who became a mentor to Rose and helped him as he made his way into the industry.

During his time as an undergraduate student at Queens College, Howie Rose was a credentialed media member for the NHL’s New York Islanders in their inaugural season. It was an experience that set him on a path to becoming a professional, positioning him for his first job working at Sports Phone as its weekend night announcer. By dialing 976-1313, sports fans had the ability to hear the latest game scores and news about their favorite teams. Shortly after in 1977, Rose worked at WHN, a country music station in New York City, as a morning sports anchor, and eventually served as its sports director before leaving in 1983. He continued working in radio when he became an update anchor for WCBS, and, on the side, served as a freelance broadcaster for the NBC Radio Network.

July 1, 1987 is one of the days that transformed sports media. It marked the official launch of WFAN, the first radio station dedicated to the sports talk format. Rose’s former station, WHN, officially flipped formats and became the first-ever 24/7 sports talk radio station, and he became one of its inaugural hosts.

Rose was behind the microphone as WFAN’s first-ever nighttime host on weekdays, while also hosting the Mets Extra show and working alongside his childhood idol Marv Albert as a backup radio play-by-play announcer for the NHL’s New York Rangers. Through countless hours of listening to Albert and other broadcasters combined with his vast experience up to that point in time, Rose had evolved as an announcer – all while remaining in his hometown.

“There comes a time for every young broadcaster when… you just begin to realize that you’ve got complete command of what you’re supposed to do between the language and your ability to condense what you’re seeing on the field; or on the ice; or on the court, to a point that makes it understandable to the listener,” said Rose. “When you get to that point, you’re, for lack of a better word, polished, but I don’t know if that’s a philosophical thing. It evolves over a period of time.”

Like Howie Rose, Albert grew up in New York City and was a fan of the local teams. Rose gravitated towards him was because of his ability to show fandom on the broadcast without it becoming subjective. It is a lesson he took with him throughout his career and one he continues to carry with him today.

“He seemed to be an unabashed rooter for those teams – the Knicks and Rangers – and then as his career grew, he, I think, tried to stress the importance, and properly so, of objectivity and being able to tell the story as it unfolded in front of you,” said Rose. “That doesn’t mean that you can’t have that emotional bond with whichever team you happen to be broadcasting – if it’s real.”

May 27, 1994. Eastern Conference Finals Game 7. The New York Rangers hosted the New Jersey Devils at Madison Square Garden with a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals on the line, and held a one goal advantage into the game’s final minute. Vying for their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance since 1979, Rangers fans were on their feet in hopeful anticipation. As the clock ticked down below 20 seconds, the Devils pulled their goaltender and managed to sneak a shot past Rangers goaltender Mike Richter to tie the game at one, and keep their championship aspirations alive.

After a scoreless first overtime that kept the game tied, Rangers forward Stéphane Matteau intercepted the puck in the second frame for a scoring opportunity against the hall-of-fame goaltender Martin Brodeur. In what was shaping up to be an all-time dramatic conclusion, Rose told the listening audience of the thrilling finish in one of the most iconic calls in NHL history.

“Matteau behind the net, swings it in front, he scores! Matteau! Matteau! Matteau! Stéphane Matteau! And the Rangers have one more hill to climb, baby, but it’s Mount Vancouver! The Rangers are headed to the Finals!,” exclaimed Rose in a jubilant moment for Blueshirts fans within a city of 16 million.

In that moment, Rose’s passion for both the Rangers and New York sports as a whole shined through. All of his years of practicing with a tape recorder in the blue seats as a fan watching the Rangers had led to that quintessential moment he could, for so many years, only refer to as a verisimilitude. Yet he always remained ready for the opportunity to arrive, and when it did, he delivered a call that represented what had happened appropriately. Twenty-eight years later, the magnitude of that once-in-a-lifetime moment is still evident to Rose each time he steps behind a microphone.

“It’s what we work for – it’s what we live for,” said Rose when asked about the significance of calling memorable moments. “It was stuff that I dreamed about as a fan…. Just thinking about it still gives me goosebumps.”

Rose departed WFAN shortly thereafter as both a host and announcer, joining SportsChannel to replace Jiggs McDonald as the television play-by-play voice of the NHL’s New York Islanders. While he grew up a Rangers fan by virtue of their being in existence while he was young, Rose lived close to Nassau Coliseum and watched the team win four straight Stanley Cup championships from 1980 to 1984. Up until that point though, Rose’s career had been largely concentrated in radio, and while he wound up calling hockey games on television for 20 years, radio always was and remains as his preferred medium of choice.

“There’s much more description on radio,” explained Rose, “and the thrill of taking a blank canvas and painting something verbally to create an image that’s sharp enough and clear enough for a listener to interpret so that he or she can see what’s going on even though they’re not actually watching it – That’s the greatest challenge in broadcasting to me. Because of that, I’ve got a huge preference, artistically, for radio.”

Calling Islanders games was not Rose’s only gig in 1995 though, as he also began broadcasting games for the Mets on the radio and, one year later, in the television booth along with Ralph Kiner on MSG Network. For fans of National League baseball in New York, Rose has served as the soundtrack of summer from that time on, and in just his second season in the medium, was nominated for a New York Emmy Award. Calling games on the radio, Rose affirms, prepared him extremely well in transitioning to television, but he did have an eye-opening moment on day one of his new job.

“I thought to myself at the end of the [first] game, ‘Man, that was easy,’” recollected Rose. “You’ve got so many different variables on television that conspire to make your job easier. You’ve got a producer who tells you what… to say in the open; you’ve got a director who’s showing you the pictures that you have to respond to, and you’ve got the game that you describe only in snippets as opposed to vividly [like] the way you have to on radio…. I think I could roll out of bed and stumble into a television booth and do a game and not embarrass myself. I couldn’t imagine myself doing that on radio.”

Indeed, Rose did return to radio – and WFAN for that matter – when legendary Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy retired in 2003. He worked with Gary Cohen for three years before Cohen joined the newly-launched SNY as the team’s television play-by-play announcer, along with analysts and 1986 World Series champions Keith Hernadez and Ron Darling. Since then, Rose has been the primary voice of the Mets Radio Network, and has continued to work in that role with various different partners over the years.

While some radio announcers have called games solo, such as former Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully, Rose prefers having a partner to accompany him throughout the broadcast. For the last three seasons, that partner has been Wayne Randazzo, a radio broadcaster from Chicago, Ill. who had been hosting the Mets pregame and postgame shows on WCBS NewsRadio 880, the flagship radio home of New York Mets baseball. 

“You need someone to bounce things off with, and you need someone to provide a counterpoint to whatever it is that I might be saying or we might be opining about,” said Rose. “I’m also at a point in my career where I absolutely love mentoring younger broadcasters, and… I just love watching younger broadcasters evolve into real good, solid major leaguers.”

Rose acknowledges that he has been fortunate to work in his hometown for the entirety of his broadcasting career, working games for the teams with which he grew up. While his situation is not completely unique, he knows it is extremely rare, a primary reason as to why he tells prospective broadcasters pursuing a job an incommodious truth of the industry.

“As you go to college and start to think about doing this beyond school as a full-fledged professional, you need to be willing to relocate; you need to be willing to be lonely even as you perhaps marry and raise a family,” said Rose. “You have to be prepared to deal with the sometimes very deep depression of being away from them for days or weeks at a time. That’s not easy, and you have to know that that’s all part of the equation, and you have to, if not necessarily embrace it, accept it and be willing to deal with it.”

As Howie Rose continues to recover from his medical procedure, he is making lifestyle changes to ensure he can remain behind the microphone for many seasons to come as the Mets pursue their first World Series championship since 1986. Rose will still be calling 130 of the team’s 162 games; however, he will not be traveling with the team past the Mississippi River on trips to the West Coast to cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles and Denver among others. Jake Eisenberg, the lead play-by-play broadcaster for the Omaha Storm Chasers, has been hired by the Mets and WCBS to fill in for Rose during the games he misses, serving as the booth’s third voice.

“The baseball schedule is unforgiving and as you get older – it’s like a player – if you want to stay sharp, you need a blow here and there,” stated Rose. I don’t know if I would have done it right now, but certainly in a year or two.”

Rose has called a no-hitter, various cycles and a pennant-clinching game. He has watched the careers of all-time great players unfold, including Mike Piazza, David Wright and Jacob deGrom. He has and continues to serve as the Mets Opening Day master of ceremonies, possesses a near-encyclopedic knowledge about the franchise and is a fixture around the ballpark. But the one thing he has yet to do is call a World Series championship, and it is something he and every other Mets fan has and continues to patiently wait for. That is why, if the Mets qualify for postseason play, but happen to be in one of the locations Rose is refraining from traveling to during the regular season, all bets will be off.

“Once they get to the postseason, assuming they do, I don’t care where they’re playing,” exclaimed Rose. “I don’t care if they’re playing on Guam; I’m making that trip.”

Come this Friday, April 15, Howie Rose will be calling a game from the Bob Murphy Radio Booth at Citi Field for the first time since August 31 of last year, and you can unequivocally “put it in the books” that he is ready to be back in the fold.

“We’ve got the Tom Seaver statue unveiling and the Jackie Robinson [Day] ceremonies, and obviously our pregame introductions and all that,” said Rose. “To be back in that saddle is going to be very, very exciting for me.”

BSM Writers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MLB Network is another option

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

Quick bites

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

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BSM Writers

ESPN Shows Foresight With Monday Night Football Doubleheader Timing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BSM Writers

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

Demetri Ravanos

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

ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3AVwa90

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX

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