Tony Romo and Kevin Garnett’s Grand Media Entrances Have Been Fun, Awkward and Hard Not To Watch
A Future Retrospective on Player-Driven Sports Content
It’s 5:25pm on October 23, 2027. Sunday Night Football just started. I type an “f” into the address bar of my web browser, it auto-populates with “facebook.com” and I hit enter. Emphasized amidst a bevy of well-organized links for live shows, premium shows, movies, music, podcasts, drone-shipped laundry detergent and a post by someone I went to high school with (how quaint) is a box showing the live feed of tonight’s game. Facebook knows to auto-play Sunday Night Football based on my usage history.
Tonight’s game is a matchup between longstanding NFL rivals, the defending Super Bowl champion London Jaguars and the Washington Hilltoppers. Twelve minutes are left in the first quarter. It’s 14–7 Hilltoppers.
This season, Facebook’s “color-capture” feature allows viewers to change the color of the jerseys. The ‘Native Red Throwback’ colorway for Washington sounds controversial, but I always leave the jerseys set to whatever colors the teams are actually wearing — the color-capture technology gets a little glitchy during goal line scrums. The new ‘Touch-moji’ filters are fun too. They let you customize the animated filter effects that turn on when each team scores. I have the “London Falling” filter on. Every time Washington scores, an animated London Bridge crumbles into the Thames and a disembodied British voice says “Oh dear me!”
I un-mute my computer to hear a nasally truism from Chris Collinsworth about the Hilltoppers’s running woes so far this season. Al Michaels responds with a Harvey Weinstein joke about finding holes.
As much as I’ve grown to love the two old goofballs, I rarely listen to Al and Chris’s audiocast during Sunday Night Games. For one, there’s no video simulcast component. But the real reason is there are too many other ones better suited to my interests. I usually go with Marshawn Lynch’s “Don’t Get A Fine” simulcast, Kevin Garnett’s “No Curse Button” simulcast or Tony Romo’s “Picked Apart” simulcast. Romo is hosting Bill Burr and Pete Rose for tonight’s game. Marshawn is calling the game with Richard Sherman, Neil Everett and Snoop Dogg. I’m sold. “DGAF” it is.
Facebook started offering simulcast options for their primetime sporting events to capitalize on the movement toward uncensored, informal, minimally produced content that started with podcasts and seeped into mainstream media a decade ago. Some include a video stream of the hosts, others don’t. Anyone can create a simulcast and stream it on Facebook. The queue of options is 1,473 simulcasts long. My cousin Tim started one last week. The family “supports” it, but it’s trash.
I click on the “DGAF” link and a small video box appears in the corner of my screen…
Jaguars-14 | Hilltoppers-14, 8:12 left in the 1st Quarter
Everett to Snoop: … and the Marriott security kicked you guys out?
Snoop: Nah Neil. We were able to hash it out. Get it?
Facebook immediately started tinkering with broadcast customizations when they purchased the rights to certain NFL broadcasts in 2022. They launched their ‘FB Streamcast’ feature that same year and content creators flocked to the site. Suddenly, anyone willing to live stream their audio (or video) could become the voice (or face) of Sunday Night Football. Along with the hoards of wannabe play-by-play announcers, alt-right soap box-ers and Pauly Shore, ex-athlete-media-personalities and podcast hosts took a swing at producing live Streamcasts for major sporting events.
The cream quickly rose to the top. Most of the popular Streamcasts were produced by established media brands. These big companies parlayed the popularity of their celebrated on-air talent into well-received Streamcasts almost immediately. The Ringer’s Kevin Durant came out with a spin off of his “It’s a Business” podcast for live events, CBS put together “Picked Apart — Live” with Tony Romo and Turner’s Kevin Garnett put out the “No Curse Button” Streamcast to rave reviews. Some unexpected independent productions thrived as well, often buoyed by famous names. The aforementioned “DGAF” from Marshawn Lynch was a cult sensation from the jump. Despite being frequently criticized as “monotone, self-absorbed and scattered,” Kobe Bryant’s “Muse Cage: Live” has jumped up and down on the charts. Ice Cube’s “Colored Commentary”, Richard Sherman’s “Out of Context” and Eli Manning’s “Mouth Breathing” have all seen time in the top 100 too.
Jaguars-24 | Hilltoppers-21, End of 1st Quarter
Marshawn: Man, these boys is soft. I could run for a hunnid’ on these “Hill-sloppers”!
Snoop: Ay Marshawn, pass the Henny this way nephew.
(Marshawn grabs the bottle and extends it toward Snoop. Sherman snatches it.)
When asked about the success of Kevin Garnett’s “No Curse Button” Turner’s Ernie Johnson said, “We all knew Kevin was going to be a hit on the air, even before we brought him to Turner. The guy talks smack. There are reels upon reels of Kevin Garnett smack-talking tape from his days in the NBA. Shaq, Chuck and Kenny all echoed the same ringing endorsement of KG when we were considering signing him back in 2015. Frankly, back then, we were seeing unqualified, bombastic ex-players becoming media darlings left and right. And when they stumbled over their words and spit out alphabet soup, it was funny. Kevin was a hot mess when he first started ‘Area 21.’ His nerves were obvious, he cut people off constantly and most of white America had no idea what he was saying. His on-camera behavior made looking away both intriguing and impossible. I mean, KG made a conversation about peanut butter and jelly look like a rap battle. That right there? That was entertainment! I’m not surprised at all that his Streamcast has taken off.”
Johnson’s quote highlights a sports media trend that executives across the globe have noticed: Back in the 2010’s when content production was undergoing it’s great democratization, the classic, hyper-produced broadcasts were in many ways being undercut by the raw, unfiltered takes of magnetic current, and former athletes. Players from every sport were putting together media ventures. Often small but powerful, they were able to harvest the passion of their fans and communicate without any corporate muzzles. And when they were terrible, well, there’s a reason people watch skateboarding wipeout compilations on YouTube. From Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye’s “Road Trippin” Podcast, to Kevin Durant’s YouTube Channel (now owned by The Ringer) to Richard Sherman’s collaboration with The Player’s Tribune, “Out of Context” to Damian Lillard’s “4 Bar Friday” to Kevin Garnett’s “Area 21” on TNT, the race to hold a seat in the congress of new sports media was on. Viewers were voting with their attention and, turns out, they didn’t care if you had a Masters in Communication from Syracuse, in fact, they preferred that you didn’t.
Jaguars-31 | Hilltoppers-28, 2:43 left in the 2nd Quarter
Richard Sherman: Interception London! House it! House it! Hous…
(Marshawn thizz dances in a blur of rattling jewelry and dreadlocks)
(Snoop Crip-walks in the background)
(Everett takes a hit from the bong)
Another boat-rocker of sports broadcasting in the 2010’s was Tony Romo. His rookie season as a color commentator for CBS showed exactly how powerful someone who knows everything about playing quarterback and much less about broadcasting could be when you put him in front of a mic to talk over NFL games. He picked apart bad QB decisions and cut off his play-by-play guy with unbridled panache. He was educational and insightful. I for one, never knew that putting a receiver in motion was how QB’s found out whether the coverage they were facing was man or zone until Tony told me during a broadcast, twelve times.
In a 2024 interview with the since-defunct ESPN, Jim Nantz described Tony’s first season on the mic by saying, “I knew from the moment we let him loose in the booth that NFL broadcasts would never be the same. Making predictions was something that most broadcasters stayed away from because, for one, we didn’t want to get it wrong and look bad on TV, but we also didn’t want any flack on Twitter for jinxing a player or team. Tony didn’t care about that stuff at all. I think he tried to predict all but maybe five plays in the first game he announced. The whole time I was thinking to myself, ‘Good lord! The viewers are going to throw golf clubs through their TVs. He just keeps running off at the mouth with predictions.’ But no! The people loved it! And honestly, most of his predictions panned out. And when they didn’t, he simply called attention to a mistake by the quarterback. It was incredible! Tony’s first season was a landmark in color commentary.”
Jaguars-38 | Hilltoppers-45, 6:08 left in the 3rd Quarter
Everett: By the way, the Trojans, Cardinal, Bears… all getting beat this year by my Ducks.
Marshawn: Fuck outta here Neil! You need to stop smokin’ that ganja bruh!
Snoop: How is it the highest motherfucker in here is the only one without dreadlocks?
Athletes parlaying their fame into high paying, high-profile media gigs is nothing new. But our collective palette for unorthodox, unpolished conversation has matured with the democratization of content production. Ever since your neighbor Ed could start a podcast about caring for bonsai trees in Phoenix, our guard has come down. We don’t need masterful one-minute intro songs or slapstick sound effects. We need interesting people talking how they normally talk. Oh, you’re a famous athlete? Even better. You’re going to stutter and spew nonsense on air? We’ll laugh at you. You’re going to crack jokes with old teammates like you’re playing cards on the team plane? We’ll laugh with you. You’re going to give us authentic glimpses into the mind of a super-rich, super-famous superstar? Great. Just keep the corporate suits and their focus group reports locked in their offices and be yourself.
I thank God for the pioneers of freewheeling on air experiences — the Kevin Garnetts and the Tony Romos. And the Chucks, Shaqs, Van Gundys and Waltons before them. If it weren’t for them, we might not have 1,473 simulcast options for tonight’s Hilltoppers game. These are blessed times.
Jaguars-52 | Hilltoppers-59, 00:34 left in the 3rd Quarter
Snoop: See that receiver? Number 18 on the Jags? That’s my nephew.
(Marshawn tosses back a handful of Skittles)
Everett: Like your actual nephew?
Now this is entertainment.