Veteran sports analyst Colin Cowherd recently conceded that he gins up antagonistic narratives to get certain fanbases "riled up."
The polarizing Fox Sports 1 pundit revealed the cynical calculus involved in how he decides to serve up his hot takes, with the aim of inflaming the passions of fans in cities that just so happen to be "big enough" to drive ratings.
Cowherd, who has long been a critic of Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, again dredged up the city of Cleveland, this time as an example of a relatively smaller market that doesn't "matter enough" for him to troll.
“There’s no money in it for me to get Cleveland riled up," Cowherd told news anchor Joy Taylor. "You’re not a big enough city. You don’t matter enough.
"Like, it would be one thing if I was riling up New York, or Chicago, or Dallas, or L.A., or Atlanta, or Philadelphia. Cleveland is like -- is Cleveland even as big as Columbus, Ohio? I don’t think it is, is it?”
Cleveland has the 19th-largest media market in the US, according to Nielsen, Awful Announcing reported.
Cowherd's crass admission came after a lengthy segment in which he unfavorably compared Mayfield to several other starting quarterbacks. The talking head then went on to explain that his longstanding criticisms of Mayfield were not a troll job, because there's "no money" in riling up Browns fans.
So, if you're keeping score at home, Cowherd's takes on small-market teams can be taken at face value, because there's no financial incentive for him to opine otherwise. But for big-market teams, all bets are off apparently.
Now, few would mistake Cowherd for a reporter, and most audiences understand that he's an opinion maker, not a news breaker. Still, he occupies a powerful seat with a large reach, and his cavalier acknowledgement of trends that should be profoundly worrisome to a nominal journalist speaks to the massive divergence in interests between media elites and the audiences who consume their content.
All of which is to say, Cowherd is saying the quiet part out loud with respect to a broken media ratings system. While his candor might be refreshing, the patronizing delivery suggests he's more out of touch than he is telling it like it is.
Cowherd didn't seem to have any problem kicking the hornet's nest on a pair of smaller markets last month, when he bizarrely suggested the AFC title game be moved to accommodate Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes after he suffered a concussion.