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Brandon Tierney Is Passionate & Loud

“I have never been a guy that just rolls in unprepared, opens the mic and just f***s around.”

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Going back to January 2nd, 2013, aside from the more than a year of working from home during the pandemic, Brooklyn native Brandon Tierney walked through the glass doors of the WFAN studios in New York City every day to do his show.  But while the doors read “WFAN”, Tierney entered the studios to do his national show on CBS Sports Radio.  He was home in the New York area after spending some time in San Francisco, but he wasn’t truly home in terms of talking New York sports like he had done at a previous stop on his journey.

But Tierney’s homecoming was completed in January of this year when Audacy brought him and his partner Tiki Barber over from CBS Sports Radio and moved Tiki and Tierney down the hall to be the new 10am to 2pm midday show on WFAN.

“I missed the energy,” admitted Tierney. “You can’t replicate that.  There’s no way around it.  The beat is stronger.  It’s an injection of energy for me.  My style is very consistent with who I am off-air.  I’m very much a communicator.  I’m passionate.  I’m loud.  I like to debate.  Some of those qualities, just by the nature of the genre, were a little suppressed on national radio.”  

“BT” enjoyed his time doing national radio as it allowed him to grow as both a talk-show host and also as a broadcaster.  Tierney, who is also part of the St. John’s University radio broadcast team, brought his passion and energy to work with him each and every day at CBS Sports Radio but also had an eye on moving down the hall on the 10th floor at 345 Hudson Street.

In Tierney’s mind, getting back to New York radio was inevitable.    

“I was able to expand in certain areas and, I think, get better as a broadcaster,” said Tierney of his time on national radio. “But I was always driving in and keeping my ear on the FAN and the other local station and wondering when I would get back into the game…not if…when I would get back into the local game.  It seems like the timing is right and it was meant to be.”

Tierney’s first foray into New York sports radio came in April 2003 when he left Sports Radio 1130 “The Fan” in Detroit to come home to work in New York.  He began a run at what was then 1050 ESPN Radio (now 98.7 FM ESPN New York) and was there until May of 2011.  In addition to his hosting duties at the station, Tierney was also involved in New York Knicks broadcasts hosting pre-game, halftime and post-game while also filling in on play-by-play from time to time.       

During Tierney’s run at ESPN Radio, he experienced a spectrum of emotions.

“There were times when it felt like a really small station…not quite the major leagues,” recalled Tierney.  “And other times, it absolutely did.  I think it was a good window where I can make some mistakes and maybe not feel the heat if I made those same mistakes on WFAN.  I could experiment a little bit.  What that did for me was it really forced me, trained me and taught me how to really craft a conversation and not just be overly reliant on phone calls because there were some nights when they weren’t there.”

And that is something that is not a problem at his new prime real estate during middays at WFAN.  Tierney is “galvanized” to be back on the New York airwaves and has rediscovered a certain “energy” to start the show every day.   He only knows one way of hosting a show and that is, as I steal a line from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, to “Just Bring It” each and every day on the air.

To not have that feeling is something that just doesn’t resonate with him.

“I get uncomfortable if I feel like the show doesn’t have an energy, a pop or a sizzle, and maybe sometimes I’ll try to force it and maybe that’s not the best thing,” said Tierney.  “I have never been a guy that just rolls in unprepared, opens the mic and just f***s around.   I’m not saying every show is an A+ but my motivation is to make it an A+.  I never lost that drive nationally, but it’s a renewed vigor being back home.”

While Tierney is finally back “home” in New York radio on WFAN, he’s along for the ride with his longtime partner and former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber.  It’s been a partnership that began in 2013 and has grown into a radio team that exhibits a tremendous amount of chemistry.  Both Brandon and Tiki bring their own skillset to the table and what makes them unique individually has helped them evolve into a wonderful tag team on the air.

“We have a great relationship,” said Tierney.  “What I bring to the table, he needed and I think what he brings to the table, I needed.”  

As Tierney and Barber continued to work with each other over the years, they grew stronger as a team because they learned a lot from each other.  Brandon was the “radio” guy while Tiki was the “ex-jock” and with those qualities came the evolution of a show where the hosts developed the strong ability to play off each other and to take advantage of their strengths.  

“When we first started, Tiki was a little stiff on the air and he needed to learn to be vulnerable,” said Tierney.  “He was reluctant to let it fly early on.  I think being with me and seeing how I comport myself on the air just having a conversation and understanding that sometimes you’re going to piss people off and sometimes you’re going to be wrong…that’s benefited him.”

And how has Barber helped Tierney?

“What’s benefited me is that I really had to learn to not be the guy that thinks he knows everything on the air,” said Tierney.  “Working with somebody that is very different in terms of temperament and just everything about him.  I just think we complement each other very well.”  

Tierney joined WFAN as part of the country’s first all-sports radio station’s revamped lineup that kicked off back in January.  The very successful “Boomer and Gio” morning show was joined by “Tiki and Tierney” middays, “Carton and Roberts” as the new afternoon drive-time show, Keith McPherson at night and Sal Licata overnights.  

With new Vice-President of Programming Spike Eskin now in charge, WFAN has entered a new era and Tierney is not only a big part of it but relishes the opportunity in front of him.

“It’s an honor to be in the middle of that change and that new wave of voices because the station has always meant so much to me,” said Tierney. “When you put it partially in the hands of somebody who has always revered WFAN and what it represents and always wanted to be a part of the fabric of WFAN, you know that I’m going to protect it and give it every ounce of energy and everything that I can possibly conjure up to make sure that it not only works but to elevate it from what it was.”  

With a storied history that included iconic shows like “Imus in the Morning”, “Mike and the Mad Dog” and Steve Somers, WFAN has now turned the reigns over to the next generation of on-air personalities and while the bar has already been set very high, Tierney figures why just settle for the same success of the past.

“You don’t want it to be as good as it was,” said Tierney.  “You want to take it to the next step.  As corny as it sounds, that’s what I strive to do every day.”

Brandon Tierney may have returned “home” from San Francisco in 2013, but he is now truly “home” talking New York sports on WFAN and bringing his trademark passion and energy to the audience he missed talking to for many years.  

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BSM Writers

Grant Cohn’s Trolling of Players is Unacceptable

After an altercation between Javon Kinlaw of the San Francisco 49ers and Grant Cohn, it became clear that Kinlaw was being trolled by a member of the media.

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grant cohn

Grant Cohn is a media member who writes for the FanNation 49ers blog on SI.com. He also talks about the team on his YouTube channel, which has over 48,000 subscribers as of noon Thursday. His father, Lowell, was a longtime columnist in the Bay Area.

Javon Kinlaw is a defensive lineman, whom the San Francisco 49ers drafted in the first round despite concerns about the durability of his knee. He played four games last season, his second in the league.

The two were involved in two confrontations this week. The first one occurred off to the side of the 49ers’ practice field. Kinlaw apparently cursed at Cohn and knocked his hat from atop his head. Later in the day, Kinlaw again swore at Cohn, this time after joining a live stream on Cohn’s YouTube channel. (Side note: I have never felt so freaking old as I did while typing that previous sentence.)

OK. That’s my attempt at an absolutely straightforward and objective summary of a situation that scares the hell out of me. Not because a player was mad at a member of the media. I’ve had it happen to me and I’ve seen it happen to others. It’s my opinion that this has been happening for as long as human beings have scrutinized the athletic efforts of other human beings.

What scared me was that I was seeing some version of the future of sports media. A future in which media members behaved like YouTube trolls, acting purposely ridiculous or antagonistic to initiate conflicts that could be turned into more conflicts that would could be gleefully recounted as content for the audience. I thought that because that’s pretty much what Cohn did:https://youtu.be/4Hf9sjBttFY

Cohn essentially bragged about the number of different things he said that may have prompted Kinlaw’s reaction, and you know what? It worked. Kinlaw got mad. He confronted Cohn. Twice. TMZ published a story about it. So did SFGate.com.

This is troll behavior. You know, the online pests who say or do something intended to provoke a reaction, and once they get that reaction, they recount and scrutinize that reaction with an eye toward triggering another reaction. Lather, rinse repeat. Increasingly, entire online media ecosystems consist of nothing more than people who don’t like each other talking about how much they don’t like one another.

I’m not going to pretend this is entirely new in sports media. Sports columnists have been known to make reputations with their willingness to be critical of the home team. A huge part of Skip Bayless’ brand is his unwavering insistence on highlighting Lebron James’ perceived flaws. Stephen A. Smith has engaged in public feuds with players, namely Kevin Durant.

I do see a difference between this and what Cohn did, though. The reaction Bayless and Smith are primarily concerned with is from their audience, not their subjects. The subjects may get mad, but that’s not the primary goal. At least I hope it’s not.

What happens if that is the primary goal? What if someone is offering opinions not because it’s what they really think, but because they want to provoke a response from the subject? Media careers have been built on less.

I don’t know if that’s the case with Cohn. I’ve never talked to him in my life, and even if I had, it’s impossible to know someone’s true intent. But in listening to everything he said AFTER the initial confrontation with Kinlaw, I’m not willing to assume that Cohn was operating in good faith. Here’s how Cohn described the initial confrontation with Kinlaw, which occurred as practice was beginning.

“In the training room, I saw Javon Kinlaw, who is the king of the training room,” Cohn said. “He’s usually in the training room.”

Cohn said the two locked eyes, but were separated by about 70 yards at the time. Kinlaw then walked across the field to where the reporters were gathered. He stood directly behind Cohn.

“So I turn, and I say, ‘Wassup, Mook Dawg?’ “ Cohn said, referencing the nickname on Kinlaw’s Instagram account. “And he doesn’t say anything. And I say, ‘Why are you looking at me like that, Javon?’ “

“And then he said, ‘What are you going to do about it you bitch-ass,’ and then he said one more word that I can’t say,” Cohn said. “And then I turned to face him, and I said, ‘Oh, it’s like that?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, it’s like that.’ And then he knocked the hat off my head.”

OK. Pause. In my experience, when your job is to publicly describe and critique the performance and attitudes of professional athletes, there will be times in which the athletes do not care for your description or your critique. Some of those who are displeased will make their objections known to you.

However, there are two things that are unusual here: First, the fact Kinlaw knocked the hat off Cohn’s head, which is unacceptable. Second, Cohn then posted a video on  YouTube to not only talk about what had happened, but state he had been so critical of Kinlaw for so long he wasn’t sure what specifically sparked Kinlaw’s anger.

“Javon, what are you upset about?” Cohn asked toward the end of  his video. “Is it the fact that I said you have an 80-year-old knee? Is it the fact that I said that you’re a terrible pass rusher and you’re just a two-down player? Is it the fact that I said the Niners shouldn’t have drafted you and should have taken Tristan Wirfs instead. Is it the fact that I said that you’re unprofessional and immature.

“It escapes me, which of the hundred negative things I’ve said about Javon Kinlaw the last couple of years, moved him to approach me in such a way, but you know what, I applaud Javon Kinlaw for coming to speak to me directly, and I ask you, what do you think Javon Kinlaw is mad about.”

Cohn was trolling Kinlaw. No other word for it.

That night, Cohn was conducting a live stream on YouTube, which Kinlaw joined, while apparently eating dinner, to make declarative statements about the size of Cohn’s genitalia — among other things.

Neither one looked particularly impressive. Not Kinlaw, who was profane and combative with a member of the media, at one point making a not-so-subtle threat. Not Cohn, who asked Kinlaw, “Do you think I’m scared of you, Javon?” He also said, “I don’t even know why you’re mad, Javon.”

I think Kinlaw would have been better off ignoring Cohn. If I was Kinlaw’s employer, I would probably prefer he not log into video livestreams to make testicular comparisons. But honestly, I don’t care about what Kinlaw did. At all. He’s not on a team I root for. He didn’t physically harm anyone. He used some bad words in public.

I am bothered not just by Cohn’s actions, but by some of the reactions to them because of what I think this type of behavior will do to an industry I have worked in for 25 years. Credentialed media members who behave like Cohn did this week make it harder for other media members who are acting in good faith. Preserving access for people like him diminishes what that access will provide for those who aren’t trying to use criticism to create conflict that will become content.

I think Cohn knew what he was doing. In his livestream, before Kinlaw joined, Cohn stated he was not scared because he knew — by virtue of his father’s history in the business — that if Kinlaw had touched him he would potentially be entitled monetary compensation.

By now, it should be pretty apparent how problematic this whole thing is and yet on Thursday, a number of 49ers fans online were sticking up for Cohn as just doing his job. Dieter Kurtenbach, a Bay Area columnist, Tweeted: “Javon Kinlaw does not know that @GrantCohn was built for this.” Built for what? Winning Internet fights? Kurtenbach also deleted a Tweet in which he called Kinlaw “soft.”

Cohn’s father, Lowell, is a former columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle and Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. He promoted the first video his son made on Tuesday:

Sorry, I don’t find it funny because it’s another step down a path in which media members seek reactions at the expense of information. Where they look to make fun of players instead of learning about them. They’ll stop acting like journalists and start acting like the trolls who make their money by instigating a conflict, which they then film: “Jake Paul, reporting live from 49ers practice …”

If that’s the case, thank God I’m about to age out of this business, entirely. I’m 47 years old and I can’t believe there’s anyone in our industry who thinks what Cohn did this week is acceptable.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 75

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A new episode of Media Noise is all about reaction. Demetri reacts to the ManningCast’s big win at the Sports Emmys. Danny O’Neil reacts to people reacting to Colin Kaepernick’s workout in Las Vegas and Andy Masur reacts to John Skipper’s comments about Charles Barkley.

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BSM Writers

Bron Heussenstamm Blends Bleav Podcasts Advertising with SiriusXM

Bron Heussenstamm, the CEO of the Bleav Podcast Network says blending podcasting advertising with satellite radio’s reach is a victory for both sides.

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Last week, the Bleav (pronounced believe) Podcast Network announced a deal with SiriusXM to make all 32 NFL team-specific Bleav pods available on the SXM app. SXM can also air Bleav content on any of its sports channels. Each NFL Bleav show pairs a former player with a host to discuss team issues. Eric Davis, Lorenzo Neal, and Pac-Man Jones are amongst the former players Bleav has signed as talent.

I have hosted a Bleav podcast about Boise State football -the Kingdom of POD. I am usually provided 1-3 advertisers per episode by the network and get paid by the download. My subject matter is regional, so my take-home pay is usually under four figures. I have enjoyed the technical assistance and cross-promotion I receive and I enjoyed meeting Bleav CEO Bron Heussenstamm. Bron is Los Angeles-based, a USC graduate, and founded Bleav in 2018. We discussed the SXM deal, podcast advertising, and the future. 

Will the podcast advertisers be carried on the SXM distribution platform?

Yes, Bleav baked-in advertisements and hosts read ads are distributed across all platforms. This enables the host to do their show once through, making it as easy as possible for the hosts and consistent for the advertisers.

Bron Heussenstamm, CEO Bleav Podcast Network

How is advertising on Bleav different? 

We want to be more than a ‘host read ad’ or a ‘digital insert’ with our advertising partners. When companies work with Bleav shows and talent, those companies can receive our omnichannel of distribution points—podcast platforms, YouTube, socials, streamers, TV, radio, and more. This allows for consistent branding across all platforms: great talent presenting great companies to fans and consumers no matter where they consume content. 

What is the growth pattern for podcasts that you see? 

The industry trades have presented 400%-800% percent growth over the next ten years. Once the COVID fog lifted, we really saw these gains. Sports are always going to be at the forefront of culture. The increases in all sports sectors have certainly carried into the digital space. 

SXM has started with NFL shows but can also air more Bleav content – what does that look like? 

We’ve started with our NFL network of 32 team shows hosted by a former player. We’ve kept the door open for our NCAAB, NCAAF, MLB, NHL, Basketball, and Soccer networks. We’re happy for our hosts to be part of such a tremendous company and platform. SiriusXM can continue to amplify its voice and give fans the access and insight only a player can provide. 

The Interactive Advertising Bureau-IAB- says podcast revenue grew 72% last year to $1.4B and is expected to grow to $2B this year and double to $4B by 2024. Have you seen similar growth? What is driving the industry now, and what will be the primary cause of growth by 2024?  

There is a myriad of reasons for the growth. I‘ll lean into a couple. 

At Bleav, we launch and maximize the digital arm of industry leaders. The technology upgrades to allow hosts to have a world-class show — simulcast in both audio and video – from their home has led to an explosion of content. With this, the level of content creators has risen. Having a YouTube, RSS feed, podcast, and more is now part of the brand, right alongside Twitter and Instagram. 

If a company wants to advertise on Bleav in Chargers, we know exactly how many people heard Lorenzo Neal endorse their product. We can also safely assume they like the Chargers. The tracking of demo specifics for companies is huge. It’s a fantastic medium to present products to the right fans and consumers.

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