In the city of Houston there certainly isn’t a problem when it comes to finding an entertaining sports morning show to listen to. “The Proper Gentlemen of Sports” features Lance Zierlein and Adam Clanton and together they’ve been patrolling the airwaves of SportsTalk 790 since August 2013. In less than 1 year the show has experienced strong ratings growth including holding the #1 spot during the February 2014 book. For Zierlein it was the 4th time in his career that he’s had the highest rated morning show in the Houston market, a feat even more impressive when you take into account that he’s done it at 3 different stations.
When I’ve listened to Lance in the past there were a number of things that stood out that I believe make him successful at what he does. First and foremost, he’s got a passion and understanding of the NFL that’s impossible to ignore. Having grown up in a football family with a father who’s coached for over 30 seasons in college and the NFL, it’s easy to see why football is a big part of his life and a strong focus on his show. Read his website The Sideline View and you’ll see just how much time and effort he puts into studying the pro and college game. Now combine that football obsession with a fan base which cares deeply about the Houston Texans and you’ve got a winning combination.
Secondly, his quick wit and ability to be a natural smart ass makes listeners react both positively and negatively and that shows an ability to stir emotions and connect with an audience. On one particular day I listened in as Lance and Adam presented what they titled “The PGS Programming Survey” where listeners could call up and discuss what they loved or hated about the show and sports talk radio and after hearing one caller explain how he wanted less entertainment on the show and more “hot takes”, Lance and Adam instantly flipped the switch and turned into wide world of sports-like anchors delivering a very old-school style presentation that would bore today’s audience to tears. It was laugh out loud funny and it’s that type of quick thinking and ability to have fun on the air that keeps Lance’s audience engaged and curious. To hear it click here.
Last but not least, Lance is not afraid to take a stand and deliver some riveting rants (click here for his passionate rant last season on the Texans) yet he’s also quick to feed off the energy of the room and break into one of his many known characters and leave the room in stitches. His impressions of Jon Gruden, Wade Phillips and Phillip Rivers are outstanding and he’s also a master at creating characters such as the SEC guy and Communist News Network Spokesperson among others. Check out this video and you’ll get a better idea of how Lance brings his Wade Phillips impersonation into the on-air discussion.
I had the pleasure recently of reconnecting with Lance and we discussed his approach to entertaining, how he determines what’s most important to his audience and some areas of his game that he believes can still get better. Enjoy!
Q: If I asked a Houston sports radio listener to sum up the “Proper Gentlemen of Sports” by using 3 buzz words what would they be?
A: Entertaining, Energetic and Unique
A: We visit with our PD and he’s able to monitor which show topics hit nerves with listeners through our PPM trends. By tracking individual shows – especially the ones that have seen spikes – we’re able to trust in the data and have a greater understanding of what hits with listeners in terms of “A” topics. As for the “B” topics – which are often the differentiators in ratings success if you do those topics well, they come from show prep on a variety of non-mainstream sites (Deadspin, Big Lead, etc.) and they’ll make their way onto the show when things start slowing down.
Q: When you listen to other local or national sports radio shows what draws you in and what sends you away?
A: What draws me in is spirited debate between the hosts or topics/angles that are unique. What drives me away is mindless topics that make me feel like the hosts are putting it on cruise control or when hosts have bad chemistry. If what I hear on the radio doesn’t sound like a conversation or banter I might hear between two or three people in a sports bar or sitting on a couch in someone’s living room, then I probably won’t stay for very long.
A: I think one of the most difficult issues that I deal with is remembering that topics aren’t old to listeners just because I’m getting bored with them. Listeners are joining my show for the first time that day throughout the morning so staying disciplined and making sure to continue to hit the primary topics is something that can still be difficult. If I’m getting bored with a topic, I have to be able to either find a new angle to the topic, or come up with a segment that allows me to have fun and be creative before getting back to headliners. It’s like having my own recess but in the middle of a segment.
Q: How often do aircheck yourself or listen to audio with your PD or show unit?
A: I don’t aircheck myself as often as I used to. When my PD airchecks us after the show, it is usually not a good thing because that means he’s getting ready to make a point. I think airchecks are essential in the formative years for a host and they were very helpful for me at that time. To be honest, I should probably do it more often than I do right now.
Q: Over the years you’ve developed a ton of characters and included them in your show and they seem to have connected well with your audience. What is the hardest part about creating a character and what advice would you give to someone who’s trying to add that type of creativity and fun into their show?
A: The hardest part about creating a character is finding the right voice and personality for the character that will allow the character to become memorable for listeners. I also feel like it is important to create quirky characters with over-the-top personality traits so that layers can be added to the character and storylines can be fleshed out. When listeners feel like they are “in on” the bits, they become more loyal listeners. These characters become something they can share with their friends either over the phone (‘hey did you hear what happened on the show today?’) or via podcast links.
Q: How often do you involve characters in your show and how do you decide what’s enough, not enough and/or too much on the show?
A: I like to let the character involvement happen organically. I don’t like to be forced into doing the characters or I feel like it becomes more forced than fun. I will be doing SEC Guy or Gruden or Philip Rivers during the football season but will only bring them out on rare occasions outside of football. Often, I will just see an opening for a character to call in and I will literally dial the hotline on my cell phone as I’m leaving the studio towards the hall. I’ll conduct my call from the hall and then hang up and jump back onto the show. Program directors and other hosts have wanted me to do these character much more frequently but I try to be cognizant of not doing them to death and over-saturating the listener.
A: I was #1 in my time slot five years earlier at another station so I will change the question. What am I doing differently now than two years ago? I would say the key to my ratings re-emergence has been getting back to doing unpredictable, entertaining radio. There is an artificial ceiling on shows that follow the same script and formula each day. Once I decided to take the lead and trust my own instincts and talent rather than trying to just blend in and do what others were doing, it all clicked for me once again. Your advice to take the lead played a big role in the way I started approaching the show. I’ve always done fun, memorable shows that rated well but I got into a funk for about 3 years and was being bounced from show to show and I’m finally locking in on doing what I do best once again.
Q: Having established a strong brand in your market, which area of your game do you believe still needs improvement and how can your PD, Producer and Co-Host help you in the process?
A: There is no question that my interviewing skills need so much more work despite the time I’ve put in on the radio. I can ask good questions and I can transition from topic to topic effectively with a guest but I take entirely too long to ask the questions sometimes. The best way a PD could help me is to simply pull an aircheck of when he hears me going long with questions.
To learn more about Lance’s morning show on SportsTalk 790 in Houston click here. You can also discover more information about Lance himself by checking out his website The Sideline View or by reading up on his wikipedia page.
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at [email protected].
Joe Buck: Minneapolis Miracle ‘Easily the Most Exciting Singular Moment’ of Career
“It was easily the most exciting, singular moment that I’ve ever been a part of calling games for now 30 years on the network level.”
Joe Buck has what could be labeled as a sometimes contentious relationship with Minnesota Vikings fans. However, he believes a moment including the franchise is one of the finest moments of his storied career.
During an appearance on SKOR North’s Purple Daily, Buck told Phil Mackey and Judd Zulgad the “Minneapolis Miracle” — Stefon Diggs’ 2018 game-winning touchdown catch against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Divisional Round — is one of the biggest moments of his broadcasting legacy.
“People ask me ‘What’s your favorite call of your career?’ They go, ‘What’s your favorite baseball call? What’s your favorite football (call)?’ That’s always my favorite football call. Because it’s a walk-off moment. You don’t really get that very often in football compared to baseball, obviously,” Buck said.
“If you do, it’s usually the kicker which, in that moment, I think the instinct for Diggs was unbelievable because he made that catch. And you’re thinking okay, ‘They got a shot of the game-winning field goal’. And he turns around, and nobody’s there. It was right down in front of us in this incredible, great stadium, with the best view we could possibly have. Your natural instinct is to go ‘Okay, get out of bounds’ and he spins around, nobody’s there. And he goes down the sideline, and they walk off with the win. I mean, it was easily the most exciting, singular moment that I’ve ever been a part of calling games for now 30 years on the network level.”
Joe Buck was asked about his relationship with Vikings fans. During a playoff game in 2004, Buck called Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss’ touchdown celebration a “disgusting act” as he pretended to moon Green Bay Packers fans. He claimed it was “unfortunate that we had that on our air live”.
The comments have been criticized for nearly two decades, with Buck admitting he went too far.
“I hear that back and it kind of gives me a little bit of a jolt because I’m like, ‘Man, I can’t believe that that’s what came out of my mouth’, but I have to live with that. And I’m not saying that I regret it, but it feels a little over the top.”
Joe Buck added that his wife — Michelle Beisner-Buck — preceded him at ESPN, and said Moss was the colleague that treated her the most, with Buck saying Moss “and I have become really good friends. And I don’t think Randy cares about it. So, you know, I guess I’ll just move on and hopefully everybody else can too.”
Anthony Lima: 97.1 The Fan in Columbus Does ‘Homer Radio’
“Down in Columbus on 97-point homer or whatever they are, all they did every day with Beau (Bishop) and all those guys, every day was ‘We’re not gonna lose.'”
Ohio State suffered its third consecutive defeat to Michigan on Saturday. 92.3 The Fan morning co-host Anthony Lima argues Buckeye fans in the Ohio capital have been told what they want to hear by 97.1 The Fan.
During The Ken Carman Show with Anthony Lima Monday, Lima turned his anger about the Buckeyes’ third consecutive loss to their chief rival into a rant about the “homer radio” provided by 97.1 The Fan to its Columbus audience.
“I was the only guy in the state of Ohio (saying Ryan Day wasn’t capable of beating Michigan),” Lima said. “Down in Columbus on 97-point homer or whatever they are, all they did every day with Beau (Bishop) and all those guys, every day was ‘We’re not gonna lose. We’re never gonna lose to Michigan. My god, Ryan Day picked up right where (Urban Meyer) left off. He’s just gonna take this to the next level.’ On the homer radio down there, that’s what they did, and you didn’t see it coming.”
Lima’s co-host, Ken Carman, laughed and covered his mouth in surprise during Lima’s rant.
“This is the man I wanted,” Carman joked after Lima concluded. “I’m glad I got him. I’m glad he pulled that out. He’s mad. You are unhinged.”
Bob Fescoe: Scott Hanson Doing NFL RedZone Outside During Evacuation ‘Would Have Been Spectacular’
“We don’t know what’s going on here, but you’ve got to protect Scott Hanson at all costs, don’t you?”
On Sunday’s edition of NFL RedZone, longtime host Scott Hanson announced during the fourth quarter of the matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills that personnel inside of the studios needed to evacuate the premises. Outlining a scenario that never occurred during his broadcast career, Hanson explained that viewers could hear the alarm blaring over the top of his right shoulder and that the control room left the most competitive game on the screen. Before leaving the studios, he expressed that while they did not know the nature of the emergency, everyone was remaining calm and following protocols.
“So to be continued, hopefully, although this game is in the fourth quarter,” Hanson said. “I will come back and give you a live update if and when I am able to. Thank you for your understanding and your patience, and here is 3rd-and-13 for the Buffalo Bills.”
On Monday morning, 610 Sports Radio co-host Josh Klingler mentioned the emergency and how people who were watching RedZone were witnessing something brand new on the program. Fescoe, who was watching another game in the process, had the program on a different television on mute and had no idea it was happening. Yet he did look up several times and realized that the Eagles-Bills game had not moved from the screen, leading him to think about what could be going on.
“He’s a pro – Scott Hanson – he’s done this thing for a while,” Klingler said. “And so I guess the production facility in New York or New Jersey took over for a little bit.”
Fescoe was amazed at how Hanson’s statement on the air ended in repeating the down and distance within the game rather than leaving the studios immediately upon his explanation. The dedication to the craft he displayed reminded Klingler of when 610 Sports Radio broadcast from a stairwell in the midst of a tornado. Despite the ambiguous emergency, NFL RedZone remained on the air and presented viewers with a game that was in the critical stages, and those involved in the program were eventually able to re-enter the studios.
“We don’t know what’s going on here, but you’ve got to protect Scott Hanson at all costs, don’t you?,” Fescoe said. “He is, other than the football personnel people, the players and the coaches; he’s like one of the most famous NFL people right now that everybody knows.”
“I’m surprised they didn’t go, ‘Well, we’re going to keep one person in the studio in Scott Hanson, and the rest of them need to evacuate, but we’re going to keep this thing on the air,’” Klingler replied.
An on-air contributor for the program articulated that a viable backup plan for the program could have been to take Hanson’s phone and put it against the screen so he could continue to commentate to the audience. The production could then take a remote outside to switch between the games so fans would not miss the pivotal witching hour, which Hanson has long affirmed is where wins and losses are often decided. In order to see the games for himself, he could use NFL Sunday Ticket on YouTube and YouTube TV, although Fescoe believes that Hanson would have cursed out the service for limiting the amount of games he can watch in multi-view mode.
“But people would watch that; that would be entertaining,” Fescoe said. “I think the one thing that we did learn through COVID is that the media doesn’t have to take themselves seriously when it comes to this production stuff. Throw a headset on a guy in a hotel room and call it a day. Hanson outside doing games off his phone would have been epic. It would have been spectacular.”