Every-Thing Sports

Jermaine Every: Is the NFL controlling the narrative, or catering to media partners?

Jermaine Every: Is the NFL controlling the narrative, or catering to media partners?
Is Roger Goodell overreaching with his media policies? Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Monday was another average day at Gow Media. Some of the personalities have taken vacation, so some of your favorite shows had fill-ins. The Bench had Lance Zierlein and Raheel Ramzanali instead of John Granato with Del Olaleye producing. Charlie Pallilo was replaced by Raheel and Del, with Tyler Scott producing. The Usual Suspects are the Cal Ripken of ESPN 97.5 because they’re always there. Joel Blank, Barry Laminack, and producer Nick Sharara held down the 1-4 p.m. slot as usual. Barry wasn’t even on his typical world tour doing comedy. Even when he is, he’s on-air from a remote studio. The Blitz, the No. 1 one show in the market so far every month in 2018, was intact with Fred Faour, AJ Hoffman, and producer Jong Lee. These shows have more than held their own in this market, often times they occupy most of the top slots.

Seeing as this station has occupied most of the top slots in the ratings, you would think the Texans would be more than happy to grant them media credentials for the season, right? WRONG! Word came down today that for the third year in a row (possibly fourth, I’ve lost track of the count), ESPN 97.5 will have to apply on a game by game basis for FOUR credentials! They most likely won’t even offer up parking passes. I know. I know. Parking passes are first world problems. But if you’ve ever had to pay for parking at a Texans’ game, you’d know how much of a hassle it is to park further away at a cheaper rate, or to pony up the money to park closer. So who exactly are they saving all this space for?

Their radio partner, A.K.A. “Houston’s Sports Leader,” gets everyone credentialed, including Tammy from accounting. And we all know how Tammy from accounting acts in public after a few drinks. Their television partner gets the same treatment. I’ve also been in the press box when The Beaumont Telegraph, KPPH-TV of Nacogdoches, and KBHY of Jefferson have had at least one or two seats. Not to say the smaller newspaper, television, or radio outlets don’t deserve access to cover the team, but what about one of the most successful, locally-owned media companies?

At one point in time, I thought this was strictly a Texans issue. My thought was: Kevin Cooper is gone, now they’ve put someone in his place that wants to control things and let that power get to their head. However, after looking into the situation by consulting with industry professionals around the country, other media outlets are having similar issues with other NFL teams granting them access via credentials. Yes. I know the NFL has its own network to put over. I know they want people to put eyes and ears on their version of the product, but what about the honest opinions and analysis of others?

Some may be thinking “here’s another fluff piece in-house,” and you’d be wrong. I can write my Texans column without having to be at the game. Anyone who knows me, knows I don’t like crowds or dealing with an overwhelming amount of people unless absolutely necessary. I can also write my NFL column more effectively from home since the NFL bars you from watching Sunday Ticket inside an NFL stadium. Yet another attempt of them to control how you consume their product, I might add.

This was about the NFL setting a dangerous precedent. If an entity can control what media is allowed to cover said entity, it shapes the public perception of that entity. If they’re allowed to control who covers them, how they are covered will be dictated as well because media outlets given access will feel pressure to cover them favorably to maintain access. Look no further than what President Trump did to a CNN reporter recently. CNN’s rival news network Fox News even issued a statement of solidarity. This is akin to a teacher giving the class a survey on his/her teaching methods/style, but hinting at the results of the survey affecting their grade. It’s blackmail in a suggestive form. Commissioner Roger Goodell has enough to worry about. From CTE, to the national anthem, to disciplinary problems, his plate is beyond full. Unnecessarily adding total control of media access won’t help his cause. It’ll only make him more vilified than he already is and the media will happy to cover his downfall.

 

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Will robot umps improve baseball? Composite Getty Images.

Major League Baseball could test robot umpires as part of a challenge system in spring training next year, which could lead to regular-season use in 2026.

MLB has been experimenting with the automated ball-strike system in the minor leagues since 2019 but is still working on the shape of the strike zone.

“I said at the owners meeting it is not likely that we would bring ABS to the big leagues without a spring training test. OK, so if it’s ’24 that leaves me ’25 as the year to do your spring training test if we can get these issues resolved, which would make ’26 a viable possibility,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday during a meeting with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. "But is that going to be the year? I’m not going to be flat-footed on that issue.

“We have made material progress. I think that the technology is good to a 100th of an inch. The technology in terms of the path of the ball is pluperfect.”

Triple-A ballparks have used ABS this year for the second straight season, but there is little desire to call the strike zone as the cube defined in the rule book and MLB has experimented with modifications during minor league testing.

The ABS currently calls strikes solely based on where the ball crosses the midpoint of the plate, 8.5 inches from the front and the back. The top of the strike zone was increased to 53.5% of batter height this year from 51%, and the bottom remained at 27%.

"We do have technical issues surrounding the definition of the strike zone that still need to be worked out,” Manfred said.

After splitting having the robot alone for the first three games of each series and a human with a challenge system in the final three during the first 2 1/2 months of the Triple-A season, MLB on June 25 switched to an all-challenge system in which a human umpire makes nearly all decisions.

Each team currently has three challenges in the Pacific Coast League and two in the International League. A team retains its challenge if successful, similar to the regulations for big league teams with video reviews.

“The challenge system is more likely or more supported, if you will, than the straight ABS system,” players' association head Tony Clark said earlier Tuesday at a separate session with the BBWAA. "There are those that have no interest in it at all. There are those that have concerns even with the challenge system as to how the strike zone itself is going to be considered, what that looks like, how consistent it is going to be, what happens in a world where Wi-Fi goes down in the ballpark or the tech acts up on any given night.

“We’re seeing those issues, albeit in minor league ballparks," Clark added. "We do not want to end up in a world where in a major league ballpark we end up with more questions than answers as to the integrity of that night’s game or the calls associated with it.”

Playing rules changes go before an 11-member competition committee that includes four players, an umpire and six team representatives. Ahead of the 2023 season, the committee adopted a pitch clock and restrictions on defensive shifts without support from players.

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