A week ago, it was announced that Deion Sanders was leaving the NFL Network after 15 years. Most figured “Prime Time” would live up to the name; maybe Deion could be the savior of ESPN’s Monday Night Football quagmire or something equally high profile.
So during the corner blitz that took place last week, when “Neon” Deion agreed to join the pirate ship of Barstool sports, a major tone was struck against the established sports media landscape.
NFL pregame shows have followed a predictable pattern for as long as anybody can remember. One capable host + two legends + one coach + one respected regional writer (you’re not sure where they came from but they probably wrote in Denver or Philadelphia) and there’s your show.
The parts are interchangeable. Dan Marino’s out? Replace him with Boomer Esiason. Michael Irvin wants more money? Is Shannon Sharpe available? Bill Cowher suddenly wants to get back into coaching, we’ll check Jimmy Johnson’s contract situation. Lather, rinse, cliché.
So the idea of such an iconic staple of not only studio analysis, but the league itself, to high step off the merry-go-round and forge his own path with an entity like Barstool Sports is a major development. Whether you’re a “Stoolie” yourself, or someone who uses them as the poster child for everything that is wrong with media, few have no reaction when they see the “Stool and Stars” logo.
Their “Saturdays are for the Boys” flags adorn college dorm rooms the way John Belushi’s Animal House posters once did. To quote Pepsi commercials from the early ’90’s, “It’s the choice of a new generation!” (Uh-huh!)
The establishment of sports media is changing.
Players who once would have been earmarked for major network studio shows are doing their own thing. Take Chris Long, for instance. He played more than a decade in the league, won a couple of rings, was the Walter Payton Man of the Year winner and is one of the most intelligently-outspoken players in the league his entire career. Not to mention that he’s the son of hall of famer and Fox NFL Sunday monolith Howie Long.
Only 15 years ago, CBS, Fox or ESPN would’ve backed up a truck from Men’s Warehouse to his front door and told him to pick out 25 suits (4 preseason, 17 regular-season and 4 more for the playoffs). Now Howie Long has a podcast where he’s interviewed everybody from Steve Kerr to Ken Burns. Why would he even want to leave his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia, to work in Bristol, Connecticut, anyway?
Sanders and Barstool Sports will be a mutually beneficial marriage: Deion will give great validation (at least to the mainstream) to Barstool and Barstool will continue to grow the stature of Sanders as an icon to a younger generation who were born after Prime retired in 2004. Sanders has been cool for over 30 years and by doing things his way yet again, he’ll be cool for 30 more.
Sterling Pingree is the senior staff writer for Jeff Solari’s Maine Sports Chowdah newsletter and a co-host of the 3 Point Stance Podcast with NFL veteran Mike DeVito and Aaron Jackson. An avid golfer, Pingree has been a member for more than a decade at Bangor Muni. He is a native of Kingfield and was a 4-year letterman in basketball and baseball at Mount Abram High School.