This is it. The final day has arrived. When the work day comes to a close, I’ll be walking out of the offices of 95.7 The Game for the very last time. That doesn’t mean I won’t visit in the future, because this place has been a huge part of my life for the past 4 years. I have a deep respect, admiration, and love for many people inside these walls, but like with many things in life, all good things must eventually come to an end.
It’s funny how when you know you’re leaving somewhere, you start to pay closer attention to some things that you might have taken for granted previously. For example, I love taking BART each morning and grabbing a coffee at Peet’s at the Montgomery Street exit. Sean, Chris and the rest of the crew are always in a good mood, they treat their customers right and they make it a point to get to know you. It’s hard not to see that group of upbeat friendly people working together as a team each day, and not recognize how important that is in what we do as a radio station.
I also started to realize recently how much I enjoyed driving into work and parking in our garage on Hawthorne during my first 3 years here. The reason why, KNBR was right next door (they’ve since moved to another location). I don’t need much to motivate me, but walking out of our garage and seeing that KNBR sign stare me right in the face each day absolutely fired me up and got me ready to go to work and try to make an impact.
There are a number of great things about this place that I’m going to miss. From walking the Embarcadero, to dining out and shopping in Walnut Creek, to experiencing the views of San Francisco from the top of the Fairmont Hotel and the hills above the Golden Gate Bridge. Wine tasting in Livermore and Napa Valley was also a personal highlight. But as great as all of those perks are, it’s the people you work with who occupy most of your time, and I’ve been fortunate to form a few relationships that will always matter a great deal to me.
When I reflect back, I can’t say that it’s gone according to plan from start to finish. Yes there are things I would do differently, but when I think of my entire tenure and everything I’ve learned, gained and experienced here, I couldn’t be more proud of what we accomplished as a team. To go from 27th to 3rd in less than 4 years is a remarkable feat in the #4 market in the country. That’s a tribute to everybody who’s ever worked here, and to every local person who listened, supported, connected and rooted for us to succeed. Thanks for sticking with us!
It may seem simple but as someone who’s done it a number of times, I can tell you that adjusting to a new city is not easy. It takes a good amount of time to get up to speed with local teams, players, media people and fans and that’s not even taking into account which pieces of content connect best and which ones have a lesser importance.
Next, you have the challenge of learning the area and how local people think and live and if you’re not fully willing to embrace your new surroundings and learn from those you work with, it won’t end well. I didn’t even mention the pressure you feel to perform immediately because the company is depending on you or the internal and external criticisms you have to put up with because of the fact that you were born and raised someplace else.
I didn’t come to the Bay Area trying to change people, but I did try to teach, coach and push them to become better at creating strong, compelling and entertaining radio. While there was a previous standard in place for how sports radio was done in San Francisco, I also believed that there were other ways to create interest in the format too. Some of it worked and some of it didn’t, but we created our own path and did it our way. Bill Parcells and Tony Dungy can both win you a Super Bowl! You’ve just got to decide which identity suits you best.
I will always remember this time fondly and I’m honored to have had the opportunity to build this radio station from scratch and work with a number of amazing and talented people. To see people like Damon Bruce, Guy Haberman, John Middlekauff, John Lund, Greg Papa, Flight 957, and every other member of this team, have the success they’re having is very rewarding and well deserved. My successor Don Kollins is walking into a great situation, and I will be rooting for him and everyone inside this building from 3,000 miles away.
I wanted to touch on a few things I’ve learned that have made it interesting, unique, enjoyable and challenging to work here the past few years. The Bay Area is a 2-team market which can be hard to navigate at times because you’re always going to piss off at least one fan base. For what it’s worth, these are my views on the local dynamics, and some will disagree, but isn’t that part of what makes sports radio great in the first place?
Giants vs. A’s – The Giants fan doesn’t care or mind if you talk about the A’s but when the situation is reversed, the A’s fan views it as the biggest slap in the face. On the field, the A’s have been a great story the past 3 years. The only problem is that the Giants have stolen their thunder every single time. 3 World Series championships in 5 years is impressive and yes I’m aware that the A’s have won more titles in their franchise’s history but we live in a “what have you done for me lately” world and right now, the market belongs to the Giants. Yes they’ve created a number of silly gimmicks and slogans, and maybe if you don’t have kids you could care less about the oversized Coke bottle in left field, but Larry Baer and his group are phenomenal marketers and they run their business well.
On the other hand, Billy Beane is one of the best in baseball at his job and as long as he’s in Oakland, the A’s will always be in the mix to contend. His decisions may not be popular but he’s great at his job. He’s also pretty great on the radio too! There are three areas though where I disconnect from the A’s. The first is when Lew Wolff speaks about stadium situations and spending money to win. The second is when A’s fans invade Twitter or Facebook with negativity because the Giants were talked about on our radio station. I understand their passion for wanting more, but just because one station only talks about the Giants, doesn’t mean the other one is going to only talk about the As. Third, the stadium is awful. The fans in the stands are great, and they provide some extremely funny and clever chants and comments throughout the game, but the limited space in the concourse, the Mount Davis backdrop, and the troughs in the bathrooms, make for a less enjoyable experience. MLB wake up – the A’s and their fans need a new stadium! Get it done!
Raiders Misconceptions – When you watch TV, you’d assume every convict who ever escaped prison showed up at a Raider game wearing face paint and carrying a ball and chain. It’s not true and it’s unfair. Are their some bad apples in the crowd? Yes. But what football fan base in America doesn’t have some? What I learned about most Raiders fans is that they’re knowledgeable, passionate and hungry to win. The one negative, they drink the kool aid way too quickly. One sign of hope and they’re ready to print off Super Bowl tickets. However, for all the negative things I heard before I moved here, I’ve never once not had a great experience at a Raiders game.
While it’s fair to criticize the team for their win-loss record over the past decade, their fans do care deeply. Just because someone puts on face paint on Sunday, does not mean they possess a rap sheet. I’ve have had a tremendous relationship with a number of people who work for the organization and I’ve found them to be fair, objective and easy to work with. That wasn’t always the case in the past. My only area of concern for the future is the black cloud that hangs above their head with regards to staying in Oakland or heading to Los Angeles. I’m really hoping they remain in Oakland for a long time. It’s where they belong.
49ers Misconceptions – I know Levi’s Stadium has its fair share of critics but I’m not one of them. My game day experiences there were very good. I will though point out that the parking situation is frustrating and closing the museum on game day makes no sense. The food choices are excellent, the space on the concourses are great and the video boards and audio quality is outstanding. If there’s one other item though that bugs me, it’s how the TV networks present the team and where they are. If you’re watching a game you’ll see pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, Napa Valley, Lombard Street, etc. None of that is even remotely close to where the Niners are.
That said, while Jed York and Trent Baalke are under the gun right now for running Jim Harbaugh out of town, they have built a very successful franchise which has played meaningful games for 3 of the past 4 years. I also have a high level of respect and admiration for a number of people who work for the 49ers organization and they’ve been one of the better local teams to work with for most of my time in the Bay Area.
Golden State Warriors – I’ve never been in a louder NBA arena in my life and the way Joe Lacob and Peter Guber operate their organization is extremely impressive. They want to win and will do anything it takes to be successful. The only criticism is that they can be overly confident and smug with their comments (especially about Mark Jackson). I’d rather have a brash owner though who puts it all on the line to win, than someone who treats the team like a personal trust fund.
I’ve had the pleasure of doing business deals with David Lee, Klay Thompson and Bob Meyers and all three were excellent to work with and as the past few years have passed by, I’ve legitimately become a fan of the team. The people in the organization on the court and behind the scenes are first-class, which makes it even more enjoyable to root for them to succeed. Now go take down King James and bring that trophy home!
Sharks/Hockey Talk – You won’t find a better person, broadcaster or promoter of the sport than Dan Rusanowsky, the voice of the Sharks. His passion and love for hockey is impossible to ignore and I enjoy hearing him call Sharks radio broadcasts. The “Shark Tank” is an awesome place to watch a game and it was the first venue I saw a game at when I was being recruited to work here. I loved it then and I love it now. The only negative surrounding the Sharks for our business is something beyond their control. Hockey as a whole, generates less sports radio listening.
That doesn’t mean the radio station couldn’t do a better job talking about bigger stories that take place, but when you’re in a market like this with the Giants, 49ers, A’s and Warriors all experiencing massive success, it becomes harder to discuss what the Sharks are doing. If the job is to entertain the most people possible, and those other stories generate higher interest, then you’ve got to provide the content that interests the largest available audience. However, when it comes to model franchises in the NHL, they’re at the top of the list in my book.
As I get ready to exit stage left, it’s well documented how much my son Dylan means to me. I can’t wait to return to New York and be closer to him on a regular basis. I’ve been on more than 400 flights during the past 9 years to make sure I stayed active in his life while balancing my professional aspirations. Now though it’s time to go home, and I’m very excited about it.
Equally as important in my life is my girlfriend Stephanie. She’s experienced every up and down with me over the past 9 years, and she too has had to live in my world and endure 7-8 days alone per month while I’ve gone back and forth to NY. That’s not including the countless times when I’ve come home from work, had a quick bite and then went back to work to finish other things. For every professional decision I’ve made, she’s been my sounding board and moral compass and kept me sane. To say that I’ve been exhausting at times would be a giant understatement.
Although my departure from San Francisco and relocation to New York is aimed at being closer to my son, I’m also gaining the addition of more time with her which she very well may regret in the next month or two! Sometimes in this business I can’t enjoy the wins because I’m so focused and driven by what has to be done next. Luckily I’ve had her by my side to slow me down and remind me of what’s been accomplished. I’m thankful for her support, love and trust because without her, this would have been impossible to execute by myself.
It’s been one hell of a roller coaster ride. Far from perfect, but definitely interesting. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way!
John Skipper To Speak At The 2022 BSM Summit
“In January 2021, Skipper’s plate became even more full when he reunited with Dan Le Batard to create Meadowlark Media. Since joining forces, the group has raised millions of dollars in funding, lured key talent to join the brand, and in April, Meadowlark closed a deal with DraftKings for a reported fifty million dollars over three years. Not too shabby for year #1.
Putting on a two-day industry conference comes with a fair share of challenges. Months are spent building sessions, selling sponsorships, and talking to so many people that by the time the event rolls around, all I can think about is reaching the finish line and avoiding major issues.
But then the event happens, and there are moments where I’m able to block out the noise for 30-40 minutes and just be present in conversation. It’s what I enjoy most. Being able to sit across from an industry leader who’s been successful in business, and pick their brain on the past, present and future of our industry is both personally and professionally fulfilling. Not only does it provide me with an education, but it helps everyone in attendance too. That’s my motivation for running this conference.
When we return to New York City on March 2-3, 2022, I’m thrilled to share that I’ll have a chance to do that once again with someone I’ve professionally respected and admired for a long time. It is an honor to announce that Meadowlark Media CEO John Skipper will join us for a special on stage conversation at the 2022 BSM Summit.
If you’ve worked in this industry or aspire to, then you’re likely aware of what John has accomplished. He’s seen the business from many different points of view and remains very much involved in helping shape its future. But before we discuss his present involvement, let’s revisit the past.
During his tenure with ESPN, John spent five years serving as company president where he secured a series of long-term, multiplatform agreements with key rightsholders such as the NBA, NFL, MLB, Major College Conferences, US Open Tennis, FIFA, the Masters Tournament and British Open, the College Football Playoff, and the Rose, Sugar and Orange Bowls. He also oversaw the evolution of several brands including The Undefeated, Grantland, five thirty eight, and espnW among others.
Prior to becoming company president, John held the position as EVP of Content, which he earned after helping create and introduce one of the most successful magazine launches of the 1990’s with ESPN The Magazine. His understanding and belief in digital helped ESPN move ESPN. com forward in 2000, adding a paid section, ESPN Insider, and delivering a revamped site approach to generate more advertising. His foresight also spurred the launch of ESPN3, a television network producing more than 4,000 live events on the web and through mobile devices. If that wasn’t enough, John also supported the creation of the Watch ESPN app, played a key role in elevating the careers of many of the industry’s top sports media stars today, and oversaw the growth of ESPN Films, ESPN Radio, and many of ESPN’s key television programs.
After exiting the worldwide leader, John signed on as the Executive Chairman of DAZN. In January 2021, Skipper’s plate became even more full when he reunited with Dan Le Batard to create Meadowlark Media. Since joining forces, the group has raised millions of dollars in funding, lured a number of key talent to become part of the brand, and established a strong presence in podcasting and on YouTube. In April, Meadowlark closed a deal with DraftKings for a reported fifty million dollars over three years. Not too shabby for year #1.
What I’ve appreciated about John is that he’s never been afraid to roll the dice and take risks. Some of his moves have worked out, others haven’t. The wins have been recognized across the industry, but so too have the losses. He’s had to lead a company thru high profile talent controversies, cord cutting challenges, understand the world of video, audio, print, digital, advertising, subscriptions, talent, and rights deals both domestic and internationally, all while keeping his finger on the pulse of the present state of the media business while turning an eye towards the future and knowing which areas the company should make significant investments in.
John has been thru all of it as a media executive, and he’s still doing it while building the Meadowlark brand. A recent story in Bloomberg captured some of his views on growing the Le Batard empire and navigating various parts of the industry. I highly recommend taking time to read it. You can do that by clicking here.
We have five and a half months until we’re inside the Anne Bernstein Theater in New York City, so who knows where the industry will shift during that time. One thing is for certain, John Skipper will be ready for whatever lands on his doorstep. I’m eager to spend time with him in New York treating industry professionals to his insights, opinions and leadership lessons. I’m confident those in attendance will gain value from hearing his perspectives on the industry.
I invite you to join us either in person or virtually for the 2022 BSM Summit. Tickets to the event can be purchased by clicking here. For information on sponsorship opportunities, email JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
2022 BSM Summit Adds Pablo Torre, Joe Fortenbaugh, Kazeem Famuyide & John Jastremski
“By the time March’s conference rolls around, we’ll have somewhere between 50-60 people announced to participate at the two day Summit.”
The announcements continue for the 2022 BSM Summit. After recently sharing the news that former ESPN Radio executive Traug Keller would join us in the big apple to accept the Jeff Smulyan Award, and previously revealing the first fourteen participants scheduled to appear, it’s time to inform you of a few key talent who will participate in sessions at March’s show.
I’m thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Pablo Torre to the 2022 BSM Summit. Pablo’s been with the worldwide leader since 2012. During that time he’s served as a senior writer for ESPN.com, the host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and has appeared on shows such as Around The Horn, Highly Questionable, and The Dan Le Batard Show. He also previously co-hosted High Noon with Bomani Jones. Prior to joining ESPN he spent five years writing for Sports Illustrated. Having worked with a mixture of talent from various backgrounds, I’m looking forward to having him share his insight and opinions on the value of it at the show.
Pablo isn’t the only ESPN personality joining us in New York for the conference. I’m excited to welcome back a great friend and one of the smartest sports betting analysts on television, Joe Fortenbaugh. Joe is regularly featured on ESPN’s sports betting program Daily Wager. He also appears on other ESPN programs and segments on television, radio and digital platforms. Prior to joining the network he hosted 95.7 The Game’s morning show in San Francisco, and hosted “The Sharp 600″ sports betting podcast. He’ll moderate a conversation with sports betting executives at the show.
Given that this two-day sports media conference is taking place in the heart of New York City, it’d be silly to not include someone who’s passion, energy, sound, and content embody what New York is all about. The Ringer’s John Jastremski will make his BSM Summit debut in 2022. The ‘New York, New York’ host is known to many for his years of contributions on WFAN. It’ll be fun picking JJ’s brain on the differences between performing on a traditional platform and the digital stage.
Jastremski isn’t the only one with a connection to The Ringer who will participate at our 2022 event. My next guest is someone who I’ve followed on YouTube and Twitter for years, has infectious energy and likeability, and has taken his life experiences and sports passions and turned them into opportunities with MSG Network, SNY, The Ringer, Bleacher Report, WWE, The Source and various other outlets. Kazeem Famuyide will join us to shed light on his journey and offer his perspective on the value of traditional vs. non-traditional paths.
By the time March’s conference rolls around, we’ll have somewhere between 50-60 people announced to participate at the two day event. I’ll be announcing the addition of a very special executive in mid-October, as well as a few high profile speakers and awards recipients in the weeks and months ahead. I’m appreciative of so many expressing interest in speaking at the conference, and as much as I’d like to include everyone on stage, I can’t. Keeping the Summit informative, fresh and focused on the right issues is important, and to do that, I’ve got to introduce different people, perspectives and subjects so our attendees gain value to further improve the industry.
A reminder, the 2022 BSM Summit is strictly for members of the sports media industry and college students aspiring to work in the business. It brings together people from more than thirty different media companies and focuses on issues of relevance and importance to media industry professionals. The show takes place March 2-3, 2022 in New York at the Anne Bernstein Theater on West 50th Street. Tickets and hotel rooms can be secured by visiting BSMSummit.com. For those unable to attend in person, the Summit will also be available to view online. Virtual tickets can be purchased by clicking here. Hope you’ll join us!
Traug Keller Named 2022 Recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award
“Former SVP of ESPN Audio and President of ABC Networks Traug Keller has been chosen as our 2022 recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award.”
Sometimes decisions are difficult. Other times they’re not. This was one of the easiest ones I’ve made since launching the BSM Summit in 2018.
If you haven’t attended the Summit before, one of the cool parts of the conference each year is that we take time to honor people who have left a permanent mark on the industry we love. Awards ceremonies are held both days to recognize difference makers who have made positive contributions to the sports radio business. At our 2022 BSM Summit, I am pleased to share that a great man will be celebrated for his life’s work.
It is my honor to announce that former SVP of ESPN Audio and President of ABC Networks Traug Keller has been chosen as our 2022 recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award. Keller becomes the third industry executive to earn the honor. Kraig Kitchin and Dan Mason were the first two to be recognized at the 2019 and 2020 BSM Summit’s.
Upon learning that Traug had been selected as the next Jeff Smulyan Award winner, Emmis Communications CEO Jeff Smulyan said, “Traug Keller has left an indelible imprint on not only sports radio, but on all of broadcasting through his remarkable career. I’m proud to call him my friend, but I’m just one of the legions of people who have loved every minute of their time with him. He’s a broadcaster’s broadcaster, but more than that he’s one of the best people I’ve ever known.”
“I am humbled for sure but thrilled to be receiving an award with the name of my good friend on it, Jeff Smulyan,” added Traug Keller, now the EVP and COO of American Media. “Jeff did what all too few leaders in business do, he took risk and action against all kinds of headwinds and the rest of us in the great business of Sports Audio were the beneficiaries of it. Thanks to BSM for this great honor and I look forward to seeing a bunch of old friends in March!”
Anyone who has crossed paths with Traug over the past three decades knows how important he was to the success of ESPN Radio. He’s been a friend to many, a great partner to hundreds of radio affiliates, and a champion for talent. His support for BSM has also meant a lot.
Perhaps even more impressive was Traug’s ability to connect with his affiliates, clients and colleagues, offering steady leadership and on-air stability for ESPN Radio. No executive leaves with a perfect record, but Keller had a knack for landing on the right side of many decisions. None as impressive though as retiring from sports radio in February 2020, one month before the sports world came to a screeching halt and a global pandemic rocked the entire advertising industry. Talk about timing Traug, haha.
In all seriousness, having Traug and Jeff together on the same stage in front of the industry to give folks an opportunity to show their appreciation for their accomplishments is a real treat. So many enjoy professional success today due to bold and smart decisions made by each of these men, and I couldn’t be happier to spend time with both in New York City this March.
For tickets, hotel and additional details regarding the 2022 BSM Summit visit BSMSummit.com.
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