2018 Sports Media Awards

Bobby Burack

With 2018 coming to an end, here are the winners of the 2018 Sports Media awards.

Categories include: 

  • Breakout Star
  • Best Blogger
  • Biggest Leap
  • Best Radio Show
  • Best Podcast
  • Best Television Show
  • Best Color Commentator 
  • Best Play-by-Play
  • Most Impactful Original Reporting
  • Most Underrated
  • Best Studio Host
  • Personality of the Year

Breakout Star – Laura Rutledge

We start off with one that was won rather easily. Laura Rutledge’s appearances on Get Up have been the highlight of the show’s changes thus far. The versatile broadcaster is able to move the discussion while bringing energy, opinion, and insightful discussion. This was on full display the morning when it was announced Urban Meyer would be retiring. There is a short list of people in media that can be featured on a show like Get Up, host SEC Nation, and do sideline reporting all at an A-level.

The knock on her game, well:

Next award: Best Blogger

Most Underrated – Adam Schein

Adam Schein is the most underrated talent in sports media. Both his radio show (Schein on Sports) and television show (Time to Schein) are vehicles where he displays the most insightful takes on football in the business. In a time where most of these shows are hosted by basketball people and struggle to really make their audiences smarter on other sports, Schein truly shines. In addition to football, Schein dominates the field talking baseball in the summer and makes July and August sports talk sizzle. If anyone is looking to follow an additional talent into 2019, look no further.

Next award: Best Studio Host

Best Studio Host – Charissa Thompson

Charissa Thompson is excellent and would improve every show if she was the host. On Sunday mornings, most of the football hosts can be lumped together as robotic, but on FOX NFL Kickoff Thompson gives the audience something different. She is quick on her feet, is fun, and does not take the show too seriously. Thompson is able to transition from devastating topics to football topics effortlessly. She may not have the energy that Chris Berman had, but that is the only host she does not get the edge over.

Next award: Personality of the Year

Personality of the Year – Stephen A. Smith

Some things just remain the same. Once again, Stephen A. Smith was the talent in sports media. No single person consistently draws as much buzz, moves the needle, gets important people to react, and garners attention like Stephen A. 2018 turned out to be a great ratings year for First Take, and in addition, Stephen A. asserted dominance, well, everywhere. Appearing on Get Up daily, hosting a radio show, SportsCenter hits, hosting SportsCenter, contributing to boxing coverage, and becoming the topic of conversation on other shows. At this rate, it would take a miracle for any talent to take the crown from him in 2019.

Best Blogger – Mike Florio

There are so many bloggers, but none have had more impact in 2018 than Mike Florio. In a time where we can just ignore those we do not like, Florio’s information is unavoidable for football fans. He is a must-read whenever there is a story in the NFL and any sort of misunderstanding exists. But nothing he has done in 2018 has been any different than the years before it. Florio has been the gold standard of bloggers for quite some time. The fact that no other person has been able to have the influence on a single sport from a website like Florio has on the NFL shows how prestigious his career remains today.

Next award: Biggest Leap

Biggest Leap – Will Cain

In 2018, Will Cain began hosting the Will Cain Show and quickly has become one of the best sports solo-radio hosts in the country. Cain’s show blends strong takes and hanging out with your buddies as well as any show going. It has a feel of a bunch of crazy sports fans together with an ultra-crazy leader. Outside the show, in 2018, Cain continued to bolster First Take when he was on. He gets under Stephen A. Smith’s skin nearly identical to how Skip Bayless once did. And because of that, Cain found himself in the middle of some of the best sports media moments of the year.

ESPN’s next daily studio show should be built around Will Cain.

Next award: Best Radio Show

Best Radio Show – Mad Dog Unleashed

Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo moves up two spots this year. It is not that his show is changing, but it has been off the chains in 2018. Mad Dog provides radio listeners the most exciting show daily. If the show was syndicated, it would be amongst the most popular. Unlike the majority of national shows, Mad Dog has real depth talking about more than just two sports. While it may be baseball that gets him screaming like the world is ending most days, you will also need to adjust your volume when he is talking NFL, NBA, college football, golf, and tennis. His callers are not Paul Finebaum’s but they stir things up and bring out the best in him.

If you are not familiar with his show, it is a hoot.

Next award: Best Podcast

Best Podcast – Pardon My Take

The most popular sports podcast is also the best. Big Cat and PFT Commenter’s chemistry continues to be excellent as they have mastered a simple format for their show. Their “Fastest Two Minutes,” “Done Chain,” and “Loser Goes Home, Are We Sure They Are Good, and Game of the Week” segments resulted in the two covering the NFL better than any podcast, radio show, or television of the year. The podcast also features guest that not only are interesting – usually –  but jell with the hosts. Including Mike Florio, Dana White, Baker Mayfield, Ryen Russillo, and, of course, Coach O. PMT was the best sports podcast of 2018 and is far from plateauing.

They are becoming this era’s Mike and Tony.

Next award: Best Television Show

Best Television Show – PTI

Not much explaining needs to be done here. Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser are the greatest sports media duo of the past 25 years, and their show is the best of that same time period. PTI has the best chemistry, topic selection, combination of humor and information, and most importantly, the least amount of pointless debates. For my money, and, uhm, anyone with knowledge, to watch one sports show a day this is the one … still.

Next award: Best Color Commentator 

Best Color Commentator – Tony Romo

Tony Romo has been even better this year and is pulling away from his contemporaries. We all know about his skills when it comes to telling you what is going to happen before it happens, but there is much more. Romo gives the position a personality that viewers can enjoy. He makes you smarter and builds up the moments second to none. When many color commentators chime in with useless nuggets, Romo is hyping you for the second down play like it is crucial. He often sounds like a fan in the booth and his enjoyment rubs off on those watching him even in less than stellar games.

Next award: Best Play-by-Play

Best Play-by-Play – Joe Buck

Joe Buck is the best in the world at what he does. He is constantly able to capture big moments and has the best voice in sports. He continues to enhance the broadcast by giving viewers useful and entertaining banter with Troy Aikman and John Smoltz between the plays. Again in 2018, he was able to make nearly every football game he called feel like it had major consequences, and, therefore, the viewers felt invested. Buck is even better when it comes to postseason baseball by adding to the historical greatness surrounding the World Series. This year proved again that if every talent in sports media were available in a draft, a few, if any, would go before Joe Buck.

Next award: Most Impactful Original Reporting

Most Impactful Original Reporting – Brett McMurphy

As always, there was plenty of great reporting in 2018, and deciding which was “best” is a fool’s errand. Seth Wickersham starting the year with a story on fraying of relationships in New England, and the Ringer’s reporting on Bryan Colangelo and burner accounts are among them. But there can be little doubt which story had the greatest impact on the sports landscape in 2018: Brett McMurphy’s reporting on the domestic abuse history of Ohio State assistant coach Zach Smith, which quickly led to him being a former assistant, ended up with Urban Meyer serving a suspension for his handling of Smith, and ultimately led to Meyer leaving the Ohio State program.

It was remarkable that McMurphy, who was laid off by ESPN a year earlier, broke this story on his personal Facebook page (he would join Stadium a few days later).

The story is still ongoing, and the after-effects may linger for awhile. A November follow-up about an alleged racial incident involving a former player led to widespread criticism from Ohio State players, and the University threatened legal action.

Next award: Most Underrated