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Top Sports Ratings Moments of 2021

The following list counts down the biggest sports ratings highlights within the past twelve months, based on its impact on the sports television spectrum.

Doug Pucci

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During the year 2021, sports were approaching some sense of normalcy. Thanks to the available vaccines, fans returned to fill arenas and stadiums, while those at homes or elsewhere were gradually flocking back to their TV sets or mobile viewing devices. But as the calendar transitioned from 2021 to 2022, the pandemic remained a concern, with a continued impact upon the sports world.

The following list counts down the biggest sports ratings highlights within the past twelve months, based on its impact on the sports television spectrum as we all attempt to come out of the pandemic. America’s four major sports are represented, as are the WNBA, MLS, and PGA golf.

10. NHL Sees Immediate Gains Upon Returns to ESPN and ABC

After a 17-year absence, the National Hockey League returned to the cable network where it found its footing in the ’80s and ’90s, ESPN. Bolstered by its frequent mentions in ads and features throughout its studio shows (most notably, “SportsCenter”), the start of the season with marquee team Pittsburgh Penguins at defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning drew just shy of one million viewers. That was enough to have delivered the largest NHL opening night audience on cable on record (since 1993)

This is the first of three sports ratings moments on this list to have taken place at or surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday. ABC’s telecast of New York Rangers vs. Boston Bruins on Nov. 26 averaged 1.23 million viewers (with a peak of 1.57 million), marking the most-watched NHL Black Friday Gams since 2016.

9. Continued Growth for WNBA Finals

When the stars come out to play, fans will follow. This year’s WNBA Finals featured several notable names: Candace Parker, Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, and Skylar Diggins-Smith. The series’ peak viewership came on Oct. 12 for the Phoenix Mercury’s Game 2 overtime win (their lone Finals victory) over the Chicago Sky. It delivered 763,000 viewers, having aired on ESPN — the most-watched WNBA Finals game on any network, including ABC, in four years. That figure lifted the Finals’ average to 548,000 viewers across its four games which is the championship series’ largest since 2017.

The Finals have steadily increased in consecutive years (2019-21) for the first time since 2004-07.

8. MLS Has a Postseason to Remember

It was, no doubt, assisted by its NFL lead-in, but Major League Soccer gladly accepted the viewer boost on Thanksgiving Day. The playoffs were already in full swing, and one of its important matches featured the Colorado Rapids versus the Portland Timbers. Taking place after NFL Bears-Lions, almost 1.9 million watched MLS action — the largest audience for the league since the 2016 MLS Cup, which aired on Fox and Spanish-language broadcaster UniMas. The mark was MLS’ largest on a single network since 2004.

Adding to its banner postseason, the No. 1 TV market in the nation became home to the MLS Cup champions, NYCFC. An average of 1.1 million had watched NYCFC’s victory over Portland, the most-watched single-network MLS Cup viewership since 2018.

7. NBA Gives Its Playoffs a Jolt with Play-In Action

Emerging from a season following one that was thrown into flux in 2020, the NBA devised a new look to their playoff format. There would still be eight top seeds in each conference to qualify for the postseason, but the determinations of the 7th and 8th seeds changed. In addition, a mini-tournament that also involved the 9th and 10th seeded teams provided a Wild Card-Esque feel that the NFL, MLB, and college basketball already implement.

Of the six available Play-In games, one was the clear must-see matchup: no. 8 seed Golden State Warriors at no. 7 seed Los Angeles Lakers. It was the first meaningful game between longtime rivals LeBron James and Stephen Curry in three years.

James had previously voiced his dissatisfaction with the new playoff setup. The NBA, on the other hand, could not have been more ecstatic by the monster ratings results from Warriors-Lakers. 5.6 million tuned in on May 19, cable’s top viewer mark for an NBA telecast (excluding playoffs and All-Star Games) since Christmas Day 2011.

6. The Manning Brothers Become NFL’s Newest Star Commentators

Since his retirement, TV networks have vied for Peyton Manning — a popular spokesperson for several products and companies throughout his Hall of Fame career — to join their team as a color analyst.

ESPN had especially eyed him for “Monday Night Football.” In 2021, they finally got him… but not in a conventional capacity: Peyton and his younger brother, fellow two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning as commentators on an alternate “MNF” broadcast for ESPN2.

The ManningCast caused an immediate stir. Its premiere attracted 800,000 viewers; it more than doubled to 1.9 million viewers by week two.

Their eye-opening nuts-and-bolts football talk, along with being joined by celebrities of all types like Charles Barkley, Phil Mickelson, Condoleeza Rice, and David Letterman, delivered much buzz for the casual sports fan. It even birthed a new player curse — the active football stars who made guest appearances on it wound up on the losing end of their subsequent games.

5. MLB Wild Card Sets New Milestones

At the publication time of this list, baseball owners locked out the players amidst negotiating terms for a new financial agreement. Among the ideas proposed during negotiations was an expansion of the MLB postseason to either a 12-team or 14-team format. That would lead to a larger Wild Card round, akin to the best-of-three first-round playoff structure tested out in the fall of 2020. Precipitating these discussions are the recently-agreed-to extended deals with ESPN, TBS, and Fox — the thought being that more playoff games will result in more revenue. Nonetheless, if 2021 was any indication, the higher-ups might be tempted to leave well enough alone.

The starting games of the postseason outdrawing almost every subsequent Division Series and League Championship Series game is nothing new. But in this past year, both single-game Wild Card eliminations achieved significant milestones. Of course, it helped that all four Wild Card participants were familiar teams with big fan bases.

The New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox on Oct. 5 — another chapter in their storied rivalry — averaged 7.69 million viewers across ESPN and ESPN2. It was the best viewer figure recorded by Nielsen Media Research for an MLB game on ESPN platforms since covering Mark McGwire’s now-controversial 61st home run (tying Roger Maris’ mark of 1961) back on Sep. 7, 1998.

On the following night (Oct. 6), the St. Louis Cardinals at Los Angeles Dodgers, which concluded with a walk-off win for LA, averaged 6.67 million viewers. It was the second most-watched MLB Wild Card game in TBS history; only Cubs-Pirates from 2015 had drawn more.

4. NFL Dominates the Holidays

We’ve already mentioned Thanksgiving for the NHL and MLS on this list. But when you think of the holiday, you think of the NFL and “America’s Team,” the Dallas Cowboys. Add into the mix the Raiders who triumphed over the Cowboys in overtime, and, with nearly 38 million viewers, you’ve got the biggest NFL regular-season telecast since the infamous 1993 Thanksgiving Dolphins-Cowboys matchup (the Leon Lett game).

Thanksgiving was not the only holiday the NFL flexed its ratings muscles. The league was the figurative bull in a china shop on Christmas Day, the perennial bastion for the NBA, with its doubleheader of Browns-Packers and Colts-Cardinals. Almost 29 million across Fox and NFL Network saw Green Bay’s close win over Cleveland from Lambeau Field, achieving the second most-watched multi-platform “Thursday Night Football” game on record (only the 3-network telecast of Patriots-Giants in 2007 when New England accomplished an undefeated regular season drew more).

3. Baseball Became a Field of Dreams Once Again

Kevin Costner was one of the biggest movie stars of the ’80s and ’90s. During the past decade, he’s been the king of the small screen from his Emmy-winning turn in the blockbuster miniseries “Hatfields & McCoys” to starring in TV’s No. 1 scripted series, the cable sudser “Yellowstone.” In August 2021, Costner achieved another massive TV audience courtesy of revisiting his 1989 film classic “Field of Dreams.” MLB and the Fox network turned the magic of Hollywood into reality in the small town of Dyersville, Iowa, for a game between the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox.

The backdrop of the cornfields over the outfield wall, the players’ vintage uniforms, and the game concluding with a walk-off home run by the White Sox all combined for a special night to remember. 5.9 million viewers watched the contest, posting the largest amount for an MLB regular-season game on any network since 2005.

2. The Majesty of the Olympics Loses Some of Its TV Luster

The world came together once more in the spirit of competition this past summer in Tokyo, Japan.

The figurative pandemic clouds still hovered over the proceedings, from athletes disqualified by testing positive for the coronavirus to the empty arenas where events like the Opening Ceremony took place. Overall, it was an antiseptic atmosphere that we American sports fans became undesirably accustomed to in the latter half of 2020.

Nonetheless, this was, after all, the Summer Olympics. It has long been a rating juggernaut, and it always outdrew its winter Games.

But those notions got debunked in 2021, having encountered the modern trends of home viewing. We probably should have known an Olympics still labeled as “Tokyo 2020” for marketing purposes was a bad omen for business at the very start.

Relative to what else is airing on TV, the Tokyo Olympics averaging 16 million viewers per night, is a solid achievement. But the Summer Games had never before dipped below 20 million/night, on record. The Sochi Games in Feb. 2018 did 19.8 million, so surely, NBCUniversal would have sold Tokyo as better than that to advertisers. Make-goods to those same advertisers were abounded, as a result.

Just five years earlier from Rio de Janeiro did the Olympics draw 27 million in prime time. The minimal time zone difference was an important aspect to the more robust number — Rio just one hour ahead of Eastern time; Tokyo ahead by 13 hours. But another factor has majorly affected the state of television since 2016. Audiences for linear offerings have massively eroded. Younger generations have sought other entertainment options, especially streaming services. NBC’s Peacock platform was established as a vital centerpiece for its Olympic coverage. Still, the nascent outlet has a long road ahead to be a go-to streaming option like Netflix, Amazon’s Prime Video, Disney+, or even HBO Max.

NBCUniversal may be bracing for another alarming dip for its upcoming Winter Olympics from, of all places, China.

1. Super Bowl Sets Off Domino Effect

The 2020 NFL season was a tumultuous one. The vaccine had yet to be widely available then, and multiple game postponements were a frequent occurrence. However, it all concluded on time, as Super Bowl LV was held on Feb. 7. And as a bonus, it was a battle between newfound superstar Patrick Mahomes and the GOAT himself, Tom Brady, in Brady’s first non-Patriots season of his career. With big names and known teams involved, CBS was bound for phenomenal ratings.

Or so we thought.

The following morning arrived, and no ratings were released. For what is the year’s biggest TV event since the 1970s, it was certainly an oddity that there was no early indication of how the Big Game performed. The longer the absence of such rating news, the presumption that it received not-so-great results had grown. By the morning of Feb. 9, the data was finally published, confirming the previous day’s concerns: the Big Game underwhelmed.

With over 96 million viewers (including almost 6 million on streaming platforms), the Big Game dipped to a 14-year low. It was also the lowest-rated in households since Joe Namath led the Jets to an upset win over the Colts in 1969; and the lowest adults 18-49 delivery since Washington’s win over Buffalo in 1992.

The results set the tone for the TV industry in the weeks and months that followed. NBC — despite its marquee events that were then-upcoming like the Golden Globe Awards, two Olympics, and an NFL season that culminated in their broadcast of the next Super Bowl — joined their public relations brethren of ABC, Fox, and The CW in ceasing publications of daily ratings releases.

And, in an unprecedented move, the Fox network, the broadcast home of Super Bowl LVII in Feb. 2023, began selling commercial time for that Big Game this past year to guard against any potential championship audience declines.

As 2021 came to a close, the NFL not only remained a ratings behemoth but — as noted on this very list — achieved some multi-decade highs. Perhaps the notion of erosion for the country’s biggest sport may be quickly fleeting. For the league and its TV partners, they sure hope those worries are short-lived.

Lastly, an honorary mention:

  • Mickelson’s Historic Win Lifts PGA Championship

Phil Mickelson was already among the legendary golfers of the 21st century. Back on May 23, he transcended his career even further by winning the PGA Championship. At the age of 50, he became the oldest to ever win a golf major, beating the previous mark by two years. The tournament’s final round averaged 6.6 million viewers — the largest amount in three years. A peak of 13 million was tuned in to CBS in the moments Mickelson had clinched his win. With the exception of The Masters one month prior, it delivered the largest PGA Tour golf audience since the March 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns.

Note: ratings were tabulated by Nielsen Media Research, and most of their provided context was originally complied and mentioned by Jon Lewis of Sports Media Watch at sportsmediawatch.com.

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Radio Has an Overloaded Spot Block Problem and Here’s How to Fix It

Raise rates but don’t just sell airtime. Sell your clients an exclusive opportunity for a media partnership.

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While the radio industry insists that our medium is still king, I’m skeptical. I hope the numbers are being spun properly, I just have doubts. In either case, we’re sweeping a lot of stuff under the rug. People may still be “sampling” radio but are they listening? Do they buy what you’re selling?

The typical news/talk station airs 22 minutes of commercials per hour. When you add in five minutes of network news and spots plus recorded promos (commercials for ourselves), we’re talking half an hour of content killer.

I’m a typical listener. With rare exceptions, I only listen while I’m driving. Behind the wheel, my habit is standard: punch around my presets until I hear something of interest or at least actual content and not commercials. When a talk segment ends, I listen to the tease and then punch out. I don’t sit through what I know will be a five or six-minute commercial break. If the tease was done well and it interests me, I’ll try to remember to come back. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t.

Here in Dallas these days, I mainly listen to our two excellent sports talk stations, The Ticket and The Fan. And I always smile when I hear them constantly trying to convince me that by choosing to listen to their particular station I’m part of an exclusive club. That’s nothing new really but the branding is ingenuous.

105.3 The Fan cleverly labels listeners “TOLOs”, implying people who wisely “Turn it On, Leave it On”. The Ticket merely plays the highest authority card, referring to their listeners as “P1s”. I know what it means but the average listener has no clue. It’s an inside joke. I’ve never heard the station explain it but their faithful listeners supposedly wear the badge proudly.

I’ve never seen any figures on shared listening but I expect the crossover between the two sports talk stations would be nearly 100%. People do what I do, punch back and forth looking for interesting content.

After hiring and inspiring great talent and setting the tone for a station’s identity, a news/talk programmer’s primary job is trying to navigate a sea of clutter. There are various ways to do it but anything short of reducing the number and length of commercial breaks is just rearranging the furniture.

One of the most common tactics is promoting a commercial-free segment. In my opinion, that’s just calling attention to the problem and admitting that commercials are a necessary evil. I’ll bet your clients love that.

I admire and pity radio salespeople who have always had to fight to survive in a dog-eat-dog world but now also have to sell clients on the idea that their money will be well spent even though their message might be buried in the middle of a five-minute cluster.

Are there too many commercials on the air? Hell yes. 22 minutes per hour for talk and news? Why do people sit through that?

They don’t. They pop around the dial as I do, and are increasingly learning that podcasts offer information and entertainment with far fewer interruptions. The RTDNA and the RAB don’t want to admit that. Nielsen puts a rosy spin on the numbers because broadcasters are their main customers. Even highly respected news outlets report the idea that radio is doing great but read this and see if you don’t share my skepticism below the headline:

Americans Listen To Far More Radio Than Podcasts—Even Young People, New Data Shows

“American adults still spend an overwhelming majority of their daily listening time on radio broadcasts despite the rise in popularity of podcasts and music streaming services, new Nielsen data on listening habits in the first quarter of 2024 shows. Though younger audiences are starting to buck that trend by choosing on-demand audio at a higher rate than their elders.” Forbes, May 1, 2024

I’m not the smartest guy in any room. I’ve never been a GM or Sales Manager. I have been an air talent and program director, though, and I can smell as well as hear the problem. There are far too many commercial interruptions for radio to survive this way for much longer.

Retired WGN morning legend Spike O’Dell agrees.

“Are spot breaks too long? Coming from the talent side of this issue my answer is absolutely. I’m a realist and understand that they’re necessary but a five-minute stop set is a show killer and a ratings killer,” he said. “Why in the world would a listener want to wait through that amount of time unless the content was the most fascinating subject ever?

“When I left the airwaves, we were at 23 minutes of spots an hour, and even I got bored with my own show. Spot breaks and amount of spots played per hour is a long-time sore subject to discuss or ponder. But, it didn’t take this talk show host very long to learn that I was never going to win this issue. Money will always win out. Sometimes management should do the wrong thing because it’s the right thing to do.”

Journalist, former media exec, and USC professor Jerry Del Colliano agrees and has an audacious idea: do what every other industry does and raise prices.

“Charge more for spots and limit to 12 per hour.  If there is demand for more, stick to 12 and raise the price of an ad,” he said. “Programmers have known for decades that commercials don’t build time spent listening — and they aren’t doing advertisers any favors by crowding too many spots in and creating an impossible situation to help advertisers succeed.”

Guy Zapoleon is famous for his music radio expertise and innovations but he’s also a veteran radio programmer who has to deal with clutter. He agrees. Cut the spot load and raise the rates. He says it should have been done long ago.

“Telecom and the major companies becoming publicly traded companies along with overpaying for radio stations derailed that idea. Look, I’m a fan of what Now 102.3, a Hot AC type station in Canada, is doing. They only run six minutes an hour versus 12 minutes for most of the competitors but they charge more to meet budget demands. They also go overboard helping their clients with remotes and ideas to drive customers to their clients to increase their ROI value.”

Now, there’s a thought: raise rates but don’t just sell airtime. Sell your clients an exclusive opportunity for a media partnership. Offer them more personal attention, and hands-on assistance than you’ve had time for while juggling a client list and spot load that would choke a horse.

Back to Jerry for a moment. I asked him how and when programmers should design breaks. He brushed aside quarter-hour maintenance and stayed focused on the much bigger consideration.

“Where you place them is less important than the total number per hour but the idea of loading up two-quarter hours to run all your spots obviously isn’t working, hasn’t worked, and won’t work.”

Cutting more jobs can’t improve profitability. Increasing your spot load chases away your audience and your sales strategy. The only thing left is raising rates and reducing inventory.

Explain to your clients that by paying more they are getting an exclusive opportunity to be center stage rather than being shoved to the back of a very crowded bus. Assure them your programming is the best in town.

And make that true.

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Libsyn’s Rob Walch Has Watched Podcasting Grow From Infancy to Audio Juggernaut

“When I started, Apple wasn’t in podcasting. iTunes didn’t support podcasting yet.”

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A photo of Rob Walch and the Libsyn logo
(Photo: Libsyn)

Libsyn Vice President of Podcaster Relations Rob Walch is one of the founding fathers of podcasting, helping and inspiring countless people to start their very own webcasts.

“I’ve been in [Podcasting] since 2004. Got in it early on. I read it in an article in Engadget on October 4th, 2004 and it said, ‘If you want a podcast, just add this enclosure tag to your blog feed and you can podcast.’ I went, what the heck does that all mean?,” he told Barrett News Media over a Zoom call.

“So I figured it out and launched a podcast. There wasn’t many, maybe 100, podcasters at the time. And my podcast was about podcasting. So it was the first podcast specifically about podcasting called podcast411.” Getting the inside scoop from other podcasters, the podcast about podcasting focused on tech and promotions.

His hard work didn’t go unnoticed. Just three years later, Rob Walch joined Libsyn. He now runs podcasting relations, business development, “and a whole lot more.”

The former engineer turned podcaster has seen a lot change since the industry’s beginnings, most notably accessibility. “When I started, Apple wasn’t in podcasting. iTunes didn’t support podcasting yet.”

A “convoluted method” of uploading, transmitting, and manually adding each podcast into iPod tracks and then syncing to iTunes was laborious, and finding a new podcast wasn’t any easier.

“There was not really any centralized directory. There was Podcast Alley and a bunch of other places. Then Apple, in June of 2005, launched iTunes and it supported podcasting and that really was like the first inflection point of podcasting.” Another change to amplify podcasting came two years later with the launch of the iPhone.

However, Walch noted the most notable change that amplified podcasting came in 2015.

“The real big one was iOS 8. When it came out, the Apple podcast app was native and people can tap this purple app on my iPhone, and ‘How come I can’t delete it?’ They they started learning about podcasting.”

Rob Walch believes Apple gave the podcasting industry so much growth because, “At one point in time it was six iOS downloads to every one Android download.” Today the ratio is less skewed with 3.2 iOS downloads to every one Android download.

“I think the other change that happened after — it wasn’t an inflection point, it was a slow burn — was all the apps that you listened to music on began to have podcast directories … I think that, combined with everything else that led to where podcasting became ubiquitous, where we are today.”

Rob Walch also noted no matter what you read, “Apple Podcasts, is the number one place where podcasts are consumed. It’s 50% of consumption.”

Today, Walch believes the biggest trend in podcasting might be hindering to the audience. “People overly expecting video to take them to the next level and finding out that that’s not really the case. I think there’s way too many people that think they can just convert a traditional audio podcast into a video podcast, and it’s going to flower and bloom. Some do. Most don’t.”

“Most people forget that the reason podcasting is popular is because there’s more time in the day to consume audio than there is video,” he later said. “And if your audience is more of a B2B audience and you’re not good with video, don’t do video. Concentrate on the audio.”

Doing this also puts your podcast in direct competition with every video maker on YouTube instead of just podcasters.

Walch’s passion for podcasting has been evident since the very beginning of his career.

“My goal has always been to help people get into podcasting and that was what podcast411 was about. It was the first that said, ‘Here’s how you podcast. Here’s how you get done.’ That was the whole idea of the podcast was to teach people how to do it. I wasn’t selling webinars, I wasn’t trying to sign people up into this mastermind group or any of that into any of those slimy, hyper-marketing type things. I just wanted people to be able to podcast.”

For those looking to take to the mic, Rob Walch has several words of wisdom.

“Anybody could do it. That there is no magic bolt. There’s no secret sauce. There’s no way you’re going to instantly grow an audience. You have to get lucky for a show, in some ways. But you also have to be dedicated to it.”

He also noted people do not ask the right questions when it comes to launching their own podcast. “You got to answer these two questions, which is: What are you going to call your show and what’s it going to be about?”

“When you go into search, it’s called predictive search results. As you start typing, it starts giving you the results. The first word in the title of your podcast is so important. So if you’re starting a podcast, the thing you really want to make sure is: What is the one word that you think people would be searching for your topic? And it’s not your name. If they know your name, they’ll find you. Put that at the end. But what’s the one word in the topic if you’re going to spend money on Google AdSense?”

Rob Walch suggests going to Google Trends and looking at the top three popular words for the topic you want your podcast to be about. He gave this example, “I had a friend whose podcast was called the Fifth Race Podcast, and people are like, ‘What’s that about?’ It was about Stargate because it was this obscure reference in Stargate to the fifth race. And if you were Stargate fan, you got it right. But that’s not what people would say, or even people that were into Stargate don’t search for the fifth race. They search for Stargate.”

“I just said to just put ‘Stargate: The Unofficial Fifth Race Podcast.’ He just changed his title around. He went from not being searched and not being found when you search Stargate, to being the number one show when you search Stargate. Just making sure you know what people are searching for and optimizing the title of your show really will help people stumble upon your show. And that’s so important to grow your show.”

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How Radio Personalities Can Be Both Likeable and Opinionated in Difficult Conversations

Don’t confuse likability with vanilla or milquetoast.

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We often talk about being as relatable as possible as a talk radio show host. Be present with where your listeners are. Think like they do. Put yourself in their shoes.

It’s easy to do on paper, but there’s always that push and pull as a talk radio show host. You’re interacting with business leaders, politicians, sports figures, and other prominent folks in your community to whom your listener may not have access.

That is part of what makes you credible in their eyes, and it’s part of what gives you insights on topics that the “average listener” cannot get access to. It’s why they listen to you.

But in the end, they — at least in part — want to listen to you because they like you and relate to you. Which means you have to relate to them. And please, don’t confuse likability with vanilla or milquetoast. Likable and wildly opinionated can, and ideally should, work in conjunction.

I bring all this up to discuss a topic that can apply to news/talk or sports talk radio hosts: stadiums and subsidies. It’s an incredible topic that can cross both formats. 

In Charlotte, city leaders are expected to vote next week on whether to approve the funding of $650 million for renovation projects at Bank of America Stadium, the home of the Carolina Panthers.

In April, voters here in Kansas City rejected a ⅜-cent sales tax extension for the Chiefs and Royals. That topic is back in the forefront this week as the State of Kansas held a special session and passed legislation to use its STAR Bonds program to try to lure one or both teams to the Kansas side of the state line.

I’ve heard overwhelming media reactions suggesting stadium projects involving taxpayer subsidies are no-brainers. Cities or counties, a.k.a. Taxpayers, must help out where needed to fund the building, or upkeep of stadiums. Of course, the fear is that the team(s) will always leave their current city.

Sports media folks typically will support it because, if God forbid, a team were to move, their livelihood would be at stake. Plus, they deal directly with players, coaches, and team executives who can sell them regularly all the perks a new stadium can provide for the team and media members.

News/talk folks can fall victim to hearing too much from their political contacts who often promote and sometimes are the ones who vote on these projects. They’re influenced by lobbyists and others who are legally doing their job but are also on the payroll for the big-money entities involved. 

But who’s looking out for the little guy? That should be you.

While you may have the access and contacts in the higher-end social circles of your community, that’s not where most of your listeners live.

Political feelings always ebb and flow, but we are living in a country where populism is becoming more popular. The last few years have been hardest on those from the middle class on down. COVID’s economy benefited work-from-home white-collar workers, where one parent could stay home with kids who were stuck learning from home.

In contrast, the same economy hurt working-class folks, who were less likely to be able to work from home and certainly could not watch their kids daily as they tried to learn from home. On top of that, the stock market has gone gangbusters the last couple of years, while the working class has struggled to pay for its groceries.

The economy has been very different since COVID, depending on your socioeconomic level.

That said, as populism grows in popularity on the right and the left, understand where your radio listeners are at in their lives and their likely unwillingness, or at the very least, fair skepticism, to fund stadiums for billionaire team owners.

Don’t let your relationship with a player, coach, or team executive overly influence your opinion. Don’t let your buddy, the politician or a lobbyist, get into your ear on how amazing their plan would be.

I think back nearly 15 years, when the New York Giants and New York Jets opened MetLife Stadium to much fanfare. Then, the dreaded PSL (Personal Seat License) came into being, which simply gave fans the “rights” to purchase their seats.

It was, and remains, an all-time scam. Former WFAN host Mike Francesa obliterated the teams. To his credit, while he had relationships with the franchises going back decades and could easily afford nearly any ticket in the building, he never lost touch with where the “average fan” was.

So, as these stadium projects continue to pop up around the country—and they could be coming to a town near you soon—I’m not telling you how to think or what to say on your radio show. Just be aware of the political climate in the country today, and always put yourself in your listener’s shoes first and foremost. You’ll never regret it. And they’ll trust you even more for it.

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