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2018 NFL Broadcast Boot Camp

By Randy Norman

The NFL Broadcast Boot Camp is an annual professional development program put on by the league’s Player Engagement division. The boot camp is three days long and it provides the opportunity for current as well as former NFL athletes to gain broadcasting experience as they attend a number of educational sessions that are taught by experts in the industry. This year marked the 10th annual NFL Broadcast Boot Camp, and for the first time ever, it was held at our very own Bowling Green State University. In previous years, the Richard A. Maxwell Sport Media Project has collaborated with the NFL Player Engagement department to host a Journalism Boot Camp. However, the Broadcast Boot Camp differs from those in years past at BGSU as it exposes the players to a wider variety of on-air job functions in television and media.

I was honored to have been selected, along with seven other students, to serve as an Ambassador for the 2018 NFL Broadcast Bootcamp. As student ambassadors, we were responsible for guiding the players and visiting representatives to each of their designated sessions and assisting them as needed. There were roughly 36 players who attended this year’s boot camp, and they were split into four groups in order to make the breakout sessions more personal and engaging. Two student ambassadors were assigned to each of the four groups, which allowed us to get to know the players very well.

I was pleasantly surprised at how approachable and down to earth all of the players were. It was very easy to strike up conversation and I found that I had a lot in common with many of them. From having a conversation about Madden and 2K with Green Bay Packer legend Ahman Green, to joking with Jerry Porter about how big his earrings were, I enjoyed every interaction;  engaging with each of the players was definitely a memorable experience.

Not only were the players very approachable, but the NFL staff and other representatives at the boot camp were also extremely friendly and personable. I had the pleasure of speaking with Lya Vallat, who is the Senior Coordinating Producer at NFL Films; and Marcus Smith, who is the Senior Director of Talent Relations at FOX Sports. Both Vallat and Smith were congenial, and they each provided me with valuable insight into the sports industry. I also had multiple encounters with Gerry Matalon and J.B (James Brown), and I had the opportunity to hear them speak in several of the sessions at the boot camp. Though my encounters with Matalon and J.B were brief, I could sense that they were sincere and their knowledge and expertise was evident as they spoke in the sessions and gave impactful messages to the players.

The most significant experience throughout the course of the boot camp was without a doubt being able to sit in on the sessions with the players. One session that stood out to me in particular was the mock press conference with longtime football official, Gene Steratore. In this session, Steratore sat in the front of the room and talked about his experiences as an NFL official. Once he was finished speaking, the players had the opportunity to stand up and ask questions as if they were reporters in a press conference. This session was intriguing to me for two reasons. For one, I was able to hear about football from a completely different perspective than what I am accustomed to hearing. I am used to hearing takes from players, coaches, and sports analysts. However, it is very rare, if ever, that we hear the official’s point of view. The second reason why I enjoyed the mock press conference is because it was cool to see the players switch roles, and have to be the ones asking questions rather than answering them. A memorable moment from the mock press conference session is when Bobby Brown stood up to ask a question and referred to himself as “Bobby Brown from New Edition News.”

At one point during the mock press conference session, Cameron Lynch of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reflected upon a time when he was in training camp and his performance on the field that day was so outstanding and he was so excited, that he felt compelled to milly rock (for those who don’t know, the milly rock is a dance that emerged into popular culture in 2015). Lynch referred to that particular moment of jubilation as his “Milly Rock Moment”, and he asked Gene Steratore what his Milly Rock Moment was in his experience as an official. As I was reflecting back upon my experience with the NFL Broadcast Boot Camp, I thought about what my Milly Rock Moment would have been.

I decided that my Milly Rock Moment was watching the players apply what they had learned in an on-air setting. One of the sessions required the players to actually go into the studio and debate a given sports topic as they would if they were on a sports television show. This moment was noteworthy for two reasons: not only was I witnessing NFL players’ debate who was going to be the top pick in this year’s NFL Draft, but also they were all extremely talented. In my opinion, each of the players in my group would make great on-air personalities and I am excited to see what the future holds for their broadcasting careers.

Overall, the 2018 NFL Broadcast Boot Camp was an amazing experience, and I have memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of such a wonderful program, and I hope that they continue to host the boot camp at BGSU so that future students will also have the opportunity to be a part of something special.

 

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2018 NFL Broadcasting Boot Camp Through My Eyes

By Don Collins

Bowling Green State University (BGSU) is like my second home. Ever since I first set foot on campus, I have loved my time here. One of the deciding factors for my enrollment at BGSU was how much like home it seemed and this spring I had an experience that felt like Christmas to me.

Bowling Green was the host of the 2018 NFL Broadcast Boot Camp that was put together by the NFL’s Player Engagement department. I was absolutely honored to be chosen as an ambassador for the four-day event. The event was an opportunity for current and former players to practice and develop their skills in the world of sport media.

As an ambassador, I was tasked with assisting a group of players with getting to and from sessions in a timely manner (which I found out was wishful thinking!). I was assigned a group by way of randomly drawing from sheets of paper. Usually I have bad luck picking things randomly. Not this time.

My group was awesome, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I must start at the beginning. The first day, I had to round up the troops prior to their first session. I can’t lie, I was a little nervous meeting 8 former players who all had on suits that made me feel like I needed a major wardrobe upgrade.

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Over the course of the day, I was able to sit in on all the sessions but also get to know more about them. This part of the Boot Camp for me was one of the best in my opinion. So much of what we see as consumers of the media is filtered through somebody else’s viewpoint. Without getting too detailed, I feel like everyone has an expectation of what professional athletes are like due to what we’ve been told, not what we’ve experienced.

My number one goal prior to the Boot Camp was something I tend to always do: Treat people as people. Granted, the people I was with for four days were giants compared to my stature, but at the end of the day, pro athletes are people as well.

One highlight of the camp was getting to know the individual personalities that each player possessed. Particularly in my group, each guy had something that I thought would serve them well in their future careers. The camp offered them a chance to see what medium best delivered that side of themselves to the consumers of sport media

The actual Boot Camp sessions were cool too. I attended almost every session and took detailed notes since this is going to be my profession as well! If the NFL Player Engagement office ever reads this, I want them to know that every session was very informative, and I learned a lot. Hopefully that means that if I took a lot away from the camp, then so did the players.

Two memories stick out to me from the Boot Camp. First was sitting down with Jerry Porter, Fred Jackson and Joselio Hanson on the set and discussing the upcoming NFL Draft and other football tidbits. For me, I am very conscious of the fact that nothing is guaranteed and that may have been my only time to share a set with these gentlemen, so I cherished the opportunity.

My second favorite memory took place on the last day of the camp. Talking to the players throughout the entire process of their culminating color commentary of this year’s Super Bowl was awesome. Seeing how they applied what they had been learning was great, but also the fun time taking pictures and sitting in on some of the sessions was a treat.

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On a personal note, this semester has been a blessing because everything seems to be happening right on time and perfectly. Ignoring the bumps along the road that come and go during a semester of college, I have never felt more comfortable with my career path and outlook. The Boot Camp literally brought tears to my eyes when it was over. Not because I was overcome with sadness that it was over, but because for four days, I felt like I was right where I needed to be. I am forever grateful to the people who gave me this opportunity, but also to the players for being the good people they are. Finally, I must shout out to my mom and dad. They have taught me the lessons necessary to be ready when the opportunity arises. It won’t be the last time that I’ll be ready.

Defying Expectations

By Don Collins

The month of March has provided the upfront and in your face approach to shattering what conventional wisdom says is possible. Every year around this time, millions of brackets are filled out in anticipation of the annual tournament. Every year, the games provide thrills, chills, sometimes spills, but above all else, entertainment.

The 2018 version of the tournament has been difficult to describe in my opinion. On one hand, the lack of a clear-cut consensus team to pick as the favorite can make some deem this year a “weak” tournament. This sentiment was never more present than the impossible coming to the forefront of not just plausible, but reality when the University of Maryland, Baltimore County upset #1 overall seed Virginia. The better team doesn’t always win, but the advantage Virginia has over UMBC should have resulted in a 30-point victory for UVA. But it didn’t.

Instead, opening weekend was a tone setter for defying expectations. That brings me to the now solidified Final Four. This year it consists of Michigan, Villanova, Kansas and Loyola-Chicago. It is not hard to pick which school doesn’t belong with the rest. The Ramblers have been on a war path so far in the tournament, but they represent for me a very interesting scenario.

By all accounts, this magical run has been what I consider the greatest sporting story in the city of Chicago since the Cubs won the 2016 World Series. At a time when the winter teams from the area are the worst they’ve been in quite some time (looking at you Bulls and Hawks), Loyola has stolen the show. When a Chicago team goes on a run, the only thing for a native to do is to cheer for the hometown team, right?

Loyola celebrating.jpg

The Ramblers picked an awesome time to go on this run. This coincides with my favorite college basketball team making their run at the chip. Yes, if you didn’t know, I am a Kansas fan. My bracket every year has those Jayhawks winning it all. Yup, you read that right, every year since I filled out my first bracket and got every Final Four participant right along with the champion, I’ve picked them to win the whole thing.

Unwavering faith and belief in my team has become something of a running joke both in society and amongst my friends. Kansas is one of the few teams whose only goal in a season involves winning a title. Fair or not, anything less is seen as a disappointment. So, the future Hall of Fame head coach, Bill Self, has had his legacy called into question and many players leave “less accomplished” somehow because they didn’t survive until the very end in the past decade.

Kansas, in a weird twist of fate, has become an underdog of sorts when it comes to March Madness. Not a true one, of course, because they have the talent to go on a run every year. No, they defy much different expectations: the impossible ones that deem your successes failure simply for failing to hoist a trophy.

kansas_loss.jpg

On a personal level, these two being in the Final Four is nothing short of exciting. My best friend, Gia, is a Loyola alum and to see her alma mater’s history altering ways bring pure happiness to her has been flat out amazing. Normally, anything that’ll put a smile on her face is pre-approved in my book. So, even though it’ll eliminate the team I had facing Kansas in the championship game, I’ll be pulling for Loyola to upset Michigan this weekend. But if Kansas then takes care of business against Villanova, a respected bunch of guys with championship pedigrees themselves, things get interesting.

The duality of the situation is so intriguing to me. Basketball is not the thing that Gia and I usually bond over, but here we are in the middle of March dedicating time to discussing this highly improbable event. Both of our teams, for wildly different reasons, aren’t supposed to be here. Loyola, an 11-seed, was supposed to be bounced a few games ago. And Kansas? Oh, they were supposed to choke around the same time, wilting under the pressure of March.

But, here we are. What was deemed the worst group Bill Self has had in the past decade is knocking on the doorstep of doing what none of his other teams have done since 2008. And the little team from Chicago is still on their path to making history.

Sports are truly one of a kind. They have the power to connect in ways you never thought possible. So, G, I hope that Sister Jean’s team continues this wonderful run. I also hope my team wins it all, but we can cross that bridge when we get there.

Canelo & Clenbuterol

By Randy Norman

Boxing fans around the world may be disappointed come May 5th, as one of the most anticipated fights of the year could be at risk of being canceled. Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Álvarez were scheduled for a middleweight title bout in May – a rematch that many are looking forward to, in light of their fight last September which ended in a contentious draw. However on Friday, the NSAC (Nevada State Athletic Commission) ruled that Canelo Álvarez will suffer a temporary suspension for testing positive on two accounts for the substance clenbuterol.

Clenbuterol is an extremely strong substance that increases metabolism and helps burn fat while retaining lean muscle. For these reasons, the substance is a common performance enhancement drug used by bodybuilders and athletes alike. However clenbuterol is not only used by athletes, the substance is also very widespread in the meat industry as it can be used as a growth steroid for livestock. While clenbuterol is illegal in the United States, it is very common in other countries such as China and Mexico, where laws regulating meat production are not as strict. Canelo Álvarez, a Mexican fighter, claims that the positive test results stemmed from eating contaminated meat. While Golovkin and his camp believe that Álvarez intentionally injected the substance, Álvarez’s claims are not necessarily implausible.

The ingestion of clenbuterol by athletes has been a recurrent issue for over a decade. During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, in efforts to eliminate the possibility of athletes consuming contaminated meats, China prohibited their athletes from eating meat that was not prepared by designated chefs. Also, in 2011 at the U17 FIFA World Cup held in Mexico, over half of the athletes who competed in the tournament tested positive for clenbuterol (Sidiki, Connors, Krstic, & Lee, 2016). Even the NFL has had experience with athletes testing positive for the banned substance. In light of the NFL’s decision to begin playing games internationally, in destinations including Mexico City, the league issued a memo to players, advising them to be conscious of the foods that they are consuming as the risk of contamination is higher in foreign countries.

In a statement issued to ESPN, Golden Boy Promotions spokesman Stefan Freidman reported, “Over his career, Canelo has tested clean more than 90 times and would never intentionally take a banned substance” (Rafael, 2018, para. 9). Intentional or not, Álvarez will have a hearing with the NSAC on April 10th, where the board will question Álvarez and decide whether or not to extend his suspension.

References

Rafael, D. (2018, March 28) Canelo Alvarez to have April 10 hearing as Gennady Golovkin rematch in jeopardy. ESPN. Retrieved from http://www.espn.com/boxing/story/_/id/22889219/canelo-alvarez-temporarily-suspended-nevada-state-athletic-commission

Sidiki, A., Connors, R., Krstic, Z., Lee, J. (2016) Feeding the athlete. SBNation. Retrieved from https://www.sbnation.com/a/2016-olympics-rio-food-athletes/steroids

Lamar Jackson, Quarterback

By Don Collins

It’s officially NFL Draft season. No doubt every prospect will have every aspect of their game pored over in a manner like never before in their careers. There will be some risers and fallers at every position, but none will be more criticized than the quarterback (QB) position. Every QB comes with a perceived risk in this upcoming draft class and teams will be looking to see how to navigate their shortcomings and groom them to become franchise carriers.

My issue comes with how the media is handling one NFL prospect – Lamar Jackson from the University of Louisville. Maybe you’ve heard of him. Maybe not. Just in case, here he is during his Heisman Trophy winning 2016 campaign. Surely, he deserved a shot to play QB in the NFL after this impressive campaign, right? Unfortunately, Lamar had to return to Louisville for another season to fulfill his required three years in college. What did he do to follow up his sensational season? He improved on it!

One of the rumblings circling through the media during the buildup to Day 2 of the Combine was that Jackson had been asked to switch to wide receiver (WR). This isn’t a particularly odd thing for teams to do for fringe QB prospects that have struggled with mechanics or inconsistent play. What’s odd is that Jackson is a bona fide prospect who even declined to run at the combine.

Take a second to let that sink in. A player who is projected to go late first/second round is being asked to switch positions after not catching a single pass in college. This narrative of denigrating an African American QB’s ability to do what he’s done his entire life is something that seemingly always lurks in football. The NFL has a documented history of slighting Black QB’s, but this is something truly strange.

Bill Polian, respected retired General Manager, has been adamant about his belief that Jackson is best suited at WR at the next level. In an ESPN appearance in February, Polian said “I think wide receiver. Exceptional athlete, exceptional ability to make you miss, exceptional acceleration, exceptional instinct with the ball in his hand and that’s rare for wide receivers. That’s *AB, and who else? Name me another one, Julio’s not even like that” (Lyles, 2018, para. 3). Polian continued by saying, “Clearly, clearly not the thrower that the other guys are. The accuracy isn’t there.” (Lyles, 2018, para. 4)

Are you serious??? Lamar was more accurate than consensus top 3 QB Josh Allen. He’s taller than Baker Mayfield. He is, in my opinion, the player who did the most ‘backpacking’ of his University in the past few seasons (Backpacking = putting the team on his back and carrying them further than they could have gone without him).

I am not clamoring for Lamar Jackson to be picked first in the draft. I’m simply asking him to be given the opportunity to continue playing his position.

*AB = Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

 

References

Lamar Jackson. (2018). Sports-Reference.com  Retrieved from https://www.sports-

reference.com/cfb/players/lamar-jackson-1.html

Lyles, H. (2018, February 19). Bill Polian has a bad opinion about Lamar Jackson (again!).

     SBNation. Retrieved from https://www.sbnation.com/2018/2/19/17027762/bill-polian-lamar-

jackson-nfl

What in The World Was The NBA Thinking?

By Don Collins

Over the weekend, the NBA was buzzing in popular culture. The stars were all out to commemorate the league’s All Star weekend in Los Angeles. Among the festivities, the players and the league organized a video wishing the many NBA fans in China a Happy New Year.

The video montage featured many different NBA players sending their well wishes with some even showing off their linguistic skills by trying out some Chinese phrases. A well-intended gesture until a segment of the video began making the rounds on the internet. The portion that has caused so much controversy includes Philadelphia 76er JJ Redick uttering what appears to be a racial slur.

Watching the outrage that ensued has been for me a calculated effort. One thing I have begun to do whenever anything happens, good or bad, is to let all the facts trickle out and then make a decision instead of rushing to conclusions. I watched the video and, after a few days, reached this conclusion: this is unacceptable, but my outrage does not start with Redick.

I do not know him personally, but everything I have gathered about him during his career is that he seems to be a good person. I believe he made a mistake while trying to say his message. As someone who is beginning to spend more and more time on the air waves, I am learning sometimes you can say something too fast for your brain to process. This is doubly true in a situation where everyone involved is probably on a tighter schedule. His apology, a gesture that nowadays feels more obligatory than genuine, offered an explanation that was consistent with the thinking that he was trying to say too much in one sentence.

My issue with the whole thing is that no one caught this. How can a league that has billions of dollars at their disposal, not catch this in the editing process? Especially when they care so much about the growth of the brand in China. While I do not think JJ Redick is racist toward Chinese people, it was still a slur. I understand if some fans overseas do not ever root for him again or tune out 76ers games.

My hope is that all parties learn from this. American history has taught us more about the immediate people in our country. Had Redick said the n-word, accidental or not, it would almost surely be edited out of an official NBA release. While this incident is an ugly look for the NBA, it can be used as a teachable lesson. Do your due diligence. The time it would have taken for Redick to slow down or even re-record his message could have also been the amount of time needed to edit the video.

Are the Cavs Back?

By Randy Norman

Thursday February 8th marked the trade deadline for the NBA, and it was quite an interesting and eventful day. While a number of players were traded before the deadline, the most surprising and notable trades came from the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs completely rearranged their roster, trading away Isaiah Thomas, Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, and Jae Crowder. In return the Cavs received Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. from the Los Angeles Lakers, as well as George Hill and Rodney Hood from the Kings and Jazz, respectively. It is a week before the All-Star break, and the Cavs have had a tough year to say the least. While they remain the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference, something needed to change and this may be the answer to the Cavalier’s problems.

In the newcomers’ debut on Sunday afternoon, the Cavs looked like a completely different team from just a week ago. The Cavs seem rejuvenated as they played with energy, aggression, and camaraderie, which led them to a twenty-two point victory against Boston. Each of the four new players for the Cavs played exceptionally well for their first game with the team. George Hill started at point guard and scored 12 points, while Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson scored a combined 32 points coming off the bench. Larry Nance Jr. did not contribute much offensively, however his defensive efforts and energy did not go unnoticed (McMenamin, 2018).

With the new additions, the Cavs have gained youth and athleticism, which was something that they lacked with the players from their previous roster. Cleveland has also been one of the worst defensive teams in the league this season, allowing on average 110.1 points per game. However, the four new players that the Cavs acquired should be able to help turn around the team’s defensive struggles.

In addition to now having a younger, more athletic, and better defensive roster, the Cavs have also gained more scorers and playmakers. Veteran George Hill is averaging 10.3 points per game this season and currently has the league’s third highest three-point percentage at .453. Rodney Hood is playing the best basketball of his career, averaging a career-high 16.8 points per game and shooting .389 percent from the arc. This season, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. are averaging 14.5 and 8.6 points per game, respectively.

With the All-Star break a week away and only 27 games left in the regular season, many have questioned whether or not the Cavs have enough time to gel and build chemistry before the playoffs. Moreover, many doubt that the additions to the Cavs roster will be enough to push them over the edge and defeat the defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors – assuming both teams win their conference titles. Certainly though, the Cavs have improved their chances of coming out of the Eastern Conference. Prior to the trade, the Toronto Raptors were the front runners to win the east, however the Cavs have now reclaimed the spot as the favorite team.

There may be a limited amount of time before the end of the season, but team chemistry certainly did not seem like an issue for the Cavs on Sunday. The Cavs played with tenacity and dominated on both sides of the ball as if the team had been together all season long. After the game, LeBron was undeniably pleased with the team’s performance. “It’s still going to take a little timing. This was an impressive win on the road, that’s a good start,” said James in a postgame interview with Doris Burke.  When asked what excited him the most about the new players’ ability to help the Cavs succeed this year, LeBron responded, “The IQ and the passion that they play with is going to help us out a lot.”

While it is too early to say for sure, after their performance against the Celtics, the Cavs should have a positive outlook on their success for the remainder of the season and continuing into the playoffs. Although they have had their series of struggles this season, the Cavs now look like the team to beat in the east once again.

 

References

McMenamin, D. (2018, February 11).  Cavs kick off their new era with a statement win in Boston. ESPN. Retrieved from http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/22402516/cleveland-cavaliers-kick-their-new-era-road-rout-boston-celtics-nba