He’s a couple weeks into his new CBS Sports Radio gig, manning the noon-to-3 p.m. slot behind Jim Rome, but the things that have drawn the most reaction for Gottlieb lately are his “CBS Sports Minute” updates that are inserted during the day on various affiliates.
So, without an outlet in L.A., what are we missing?
The purpose is to give a quick take on a topical subject. And, in turn, a reaction to it. Monday, Gottlieb made a comparison to Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez experiencing his first NFL playoff victory to when former Laker A.C. Green finally had his first sexual experience after years of abstinence.
Deadspin.com jumped on it and referenced it as a “media meltdown.” It provided a platform for immediate Gottlieb bashing, which was to be expected.
Gottlieb explained that the Gonzalez-Green comparison was “more tongue-in-cheek than anything and some fail to see the sense of humor in it.” He understands there’s “a little ‘gotcha’ factor to it – someone hears something and if they like or don’t like you, they try to say something outlandish, so they overreact.”
Gottlieb, who’ll be paired with Spero Dedes as the analyst on CBS’ coverage of the UCLA-Oregon game from Pauley Pavilion on Saturday (Channel 2, noon), appears to accept his role as something of a polarizing figure going back to his days at ESPN when he also did radio, studio analysis and game coverage.
He says the spots CBS asks him to do on the radio for national distribution aren’t intended to be a take on a local story but something “different, or memorable, with an opinion and a sense of humor – maybe both.”
For the Gonzalez-Green take, Gottlieb said he was thinking of different situations of breaking through a glass ceiling, “and as a guy who grew up in L.A., I remember the running joke where athletes poked fun at A.C. Green (for his abstinence). Tony’s a friend, and my dad coached A.C. in his senior year at Oregon State, so, I don’t know, I was just trying to be interesting and different and do something creative.”
Last month, Gottlieb also got some reaction for a “CBS Sports Minute” take trying to put Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim winning his 903rd game into some context by saying he was “not a great coach, but a very good one.” Boeheim responded: “I don’t think he knows what he is talking about. I think he has an agenda when he talks about things and his agenda has always been anti-Syracuse and an anti-Jim Boeheim agenda, really, for whatever reason. That’s fine.”
Explained Gottlieb: “I don’t live by the filter I think college basketball is covered with. We throw terms around, everything’s ‘great’ or ‘awesome’ for a coach who achieves this milestone, but we don’t thoroughly examine them under a microscope. So often we reward guys who put up huge career numbers instead of someone who was much more dominant in their sport during a shorter time.
“John Calipari for the last seven years has dominated college basketball, and that’s more impressive to me than loading up on non-conference wins and falling short every time it matters for the last 35 years. So when you say someone is ‘very good, but not great,’ it becomes blasphemy in college sports.
“I didn’t say Boeheim was ‘bad,’ but again some of it is people hear something completely different from the narrative that you sell them on because of one particular word you use here or there. My intent was to create an argument and either you make your opinion super strong or you make it funny and clever. Those two things create something more memorable.”
Gottlieb, who turned 37 this week, does his weekday show out of the KLAA-AM (830) studios in Anaheim since his move back to Orange County recently after years at ESPN.
Without a CBS Radio affiliate in Southern California, Rome’s show can be occasionally heard via AM-1090 in San Diego, but the station does not carry Gottlieb’s show.
“I can’t imagine Rome and Gottlieb, the only two solo national hosts broadcasting from Southern California, wouldn’t eventually be on a Southern California station,” Gottlieb said. “It’s like of like that ‘Field of Dreams,’ where if you build this network, they’ll come. If the product is good enough, and we’re patient, it’ll happen. In the meantime, we’ll just keep pumping out good content.”
Gottlieb’s decision to leave ESPN for CBS after a 10-year run came with a package deal that not only included the radio show, but also hosting a weeknight show on the CBS Sports Network cable channel, writing for the website, and doing live college basketball games.
His UCLA-Oregon assignment will be the first for this season on the major carrier. He did UNLV-San Diego State on Wednesday for CBS Sports Network.
“The ESPN experience was great, and they had a huge volume of games to do,” said Gottlieb. “I’d have a regular schedule, but I’d also be on call to maybe fly to Austin and do a Texas-Texas A&M game after doing a late studio show. I liked that role of always being available and having to prepare in a condensed fashion. But with all those volume of games, it was tougher to stick out.
“It’s much different now. You leave that cocoon of ESPN and there’s a fear of the unknown. I’d been doing games on ESPN for 10 years, but doing games for CBS, during the season and during the NCAA tournament, was a huge reason why I came over. Now I’m talking to a producer a month ahead of time about ideas on covering the UCLA-Oregon game. I think this opportunity at CBS will allow people to see how I’ve grown and see how I’ve become pretty good at doing games.”