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Cubs Ratings Are Surging

Jason Barrett



This year’s good timing award goes to ABC-7 and WBBM-AM 780.

In December, ABC-7 signed on for a five-year package of Cubs games despite the team’s TV ratings sinking to historic lows in 2014. John Idler, the station’s president and general manager, figured the ratings would rise dramatically at some point. He didn’t, however, expect to hit the jackpot this year.

“The timeline has been accelerated,” Idler said. “The (2015) ratings definitely have exceeded our expectations.”

Meanwhile, WBBM says the station is drawing ratings 30-50 percent higher than at the start of the season for its game broadcasts during the first year of its radio deal with the Cubs.

The Cubs turnaround has confirmed what everyone thought: They were a sleeping giant on the ratings front.

Through Wednesday, Comcast SportsNet was averaging a 3.2 rating for Cubs games, up dramatically from 1.50 in 2014; 1 local ratings point is worth an estimated 35,000 homes. WGN-9 is averaging a 4.7 for its Cubs telecasts, more than double from last year. ABC-7 is doing a 4.5 rating for the 22 Cubs games it has aired.

Those numbers don’t even tell the whole story. The ratings have exploded with the Cubs’ surge since the All-Star break.

ABC-7 averaged a 7.9 rating between 7-8:15 p.m. for the Cubs-Tigers game on Aug. 18 before a long rain delay halted play. WGN-9 peaked with a 7.3 rating for the Cubs-Brewers game on Aug. 12. CSN posted its highest-rated Cubs game in six years with a 5.1 rating for the game against the Brewers on Aug. 11.

Naturally, CSN vice president and general manager Phil Bedella is ecstatic to see the interest of Cubs fans after several lean years.

“This feels different,” Bedella said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen people who follow the Cubs closely this excited about the team and where it is going with these young players. Fans are thinking, ‘My God, these guys have the framework to be good for a long time.’ The demand for the Cubs is at a level we never thought we’d get to this quickly in the process.”

CSN, WGN-9, and ABC-7 are gearing up for even bigger ratings with the Cubs actually playing meaningful games in September. Knowing the team’s history, Bedella felt a bit sheepish in talking about a recent staff meeting about coverage plans if the Cubs clinch a playoff berth.

“We don’t want to jinx anything, but it’s something we have to do,” Bedella said. “We said, ‘When was the last time we had any discussions about the Cubs and the playoffs?’ It’s been a long time. It feels great to have that kind of conversation.”

Sox ratings: With the team failing to meet high expectations, the White Sox ratings on CSN have been mostly flat, hovering around a 1.0 average. Bedella, though, says the Sox have seen nice ratings bumps on the days and nights Chris Sale pitches.

Bedella also believes the Sox have benefited from the Cubs’ strong ratings.

“What we’ve seen before is that when one of the teams does well, it lifts all ships,” Bedella said.

Remote patrol: Brian Urlacher has signed on with ESPN 1000. The station will air “The Brian Urlacher Show” with Tom Waddle and Marc Silverman at 5 p.m. on 12 select Tuesday afternoons during the season starting Sept. 15. Bears guard Kyle Long also is back as a regular contributor to WMVP.

WBBM will encounter its first conflict with the Cubs and Bears both playing on Saturday night. The Bears-Bengals game will start on WBBM-AM 780 and WCFS-FM 105.9 at 5:30 p.m. The Cubs-Dodgers game then takes over 105.9 at 7:45 p.m. with the Bears continuing on 780. After the Bears game, the Cubs will be heard on both signals. WBBM will air the first John Fox show of the season at 6:30 p.m. Monday.

Credit to the Chicago Tribune who originally published this article

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Sports Radio Talks Memories of Bill Walton; Dave Pasch Joins Arizona Sports

“Whether you agreed or disagreed with a lot of his takes on life, I feel like everybody should try and emulate his ability to enjoy life.”

Barrett Sports Media



Photos of Bill Walton

As most sports radio stations across the country return from being off for the Memorial Day holiday, many hosts had their first chance today to talk about the passing of Bill Walton who died Monday at the age of 71. Walton was a Hall of Fame player, but to many, especially the younger generations, he was best known as one of the most entertaining basketball broadcasters of all time.

Dan Bickley and Vince Marotta had the chance to welcome Dave Pasch to their show on Arizona Sports, Bickley and Marotta Mornings. Pasch and Walton were longtime partners on ESPN college basketball broadcasts.

“The number of tributes you see pouring in tells you a lot,” Pasch said. “The focus is on the friendships and the uniqueness of Bill, and he made you laugh and smile…The guy you see on TV, that’s who Bill is…He was so kind to everybody. He had a way about him. The players loved him because he was so funny…they just got a kick out of him…Everyone got a kick out of Bill because he was so authentic…He brought the best out of me. He wanted me to be authentic on the air because he wanted to be authentic on the air.”

In Dallas at 105.3 The Fan, morning hosts Shan Shariff and RJ Choppy talked about Walton on their show, Shan & RJ. “He was really just a treat to listen to tell stories,” said Choppy. “He loved his concerts. He said he never compared concerts, championships, coaches, children and congratulatory messages.” Shariff added, “He is to me, arguably the most likeable sports personality in modern television.”

In Detroit, Mike Stone was filling in for Jon Jansen on 97.1 The Ticket. Stone talked about Walton as a player and then added, “In the media, he was really, really funny and would say the craziest things…He was hysterical, he was really good…He was one of a kind…He is a treasure that will be missed.”

Jim Costa added, “Incredibly likeable and he did it his way. He was as genuinely himself even when it was weird even if it was off-putting to other people. He was himself always, even if it was odd to people. That was going to be Bill Walton being Bill.”

In Houston on SportsRadio 610, Seth Payne compared Walton to John Madden, saying, “It seemed like they sucked every ounce of joy out of life…He was such a free spirit in the world of sports where people try like hell to tamp down your free spirit…Whether you agreed or disagreed with a lot of his takes on life, I feel like everybody should try and emulate his ability to enjoy life.”

Bob Haynie of 195.7 The Fan in Baltimore said about Walton, “He became kind of a polarizing broadcaster because of his unorthodox style. He was a little out there with what he did…He just kind of lived on his own terms but was beloved by everyone.”

Dan Patrick said on The Dan Patrick Show, “So many positive memories…. Bill went out of his way to make you feel good, to make you smile…When you thought of college basketball, Bill Walton was the name, the face…you can’t help but have a smile on your face when you think about Bill.”

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BSM Writers

Rich Shertenlieb Enters New Era on WZLX: No Fred Toucher, No Music, No Guarantees

“It’s worked for me in the past and there’s no secret sauce. It’s just try to be entertaining every morning and work your ass off to do it right.”

Demetri Ravanos



Rich Shertenlieb and WZLX logo in Boston
Boston photo: courtesy of Getty Images

It’s a time of change and transition for rock radio listeners in Boston. WZLX rolled out its new morning show last week featuring local icon Rich Shertenlieb. It’s not only a new adventure for the former Sports Hub morning man. It’s also the start of a new era for the station.

Kevin Karlson, the anchor of the station’s previous morning show, died in his sleep in October. It ended a nearly 20-year run on WZLX for Karlson, McKenzie & Heather. Pete McKenzie and Heather Ford carried on, but earlier this month, they were let go.

“I definitely have big shoes to fill,” Shertenlieb says of his new gig. “Kenny Young, who was a member of the previous show, I got to know him pretty well over these last couple of months. He is now our producer, and he couldn’t be more valuable to the show. He has been an awesome bridge between what was and what is now, and I love the guy to death. He is one of the more skilled people in radio when it comes to being a jack of all trades and it’s awesome that he’s there.”

After seventeen years together, Shertenlieb split from his radio partner Fred Toucher in November. They held down morning drive at 98.5 The Sports Hub since the station’s launch in 2009. The duo was an institution in Boston and their ratings proved it over and over again. 

There has to be a juicy story there, right? I mean, who walks away from that kind of success without a concrete reason? 

Speculation will continue to run rampant. After all, each twist and turn during the final days of Toucher & Rich were covered pretty extensively on this site and others. According to Shertenlieb though, no one ever crossed a red line. There is no moment when he realized the partnership could not be saved. He was just ready for something new.

“I mean, listen, it’s kind of boring because it’s not as scandalous as people might think that it is,” he says. “You only get a couple of times in your career to be able to reevaluate what you’re doing. I would sign long term contracts for about five years. And so, you only get about once every five years to sit and say, ‘I got a chance to try to do something else.’ When your contract comes up, you ask yourself a few questions. ‘Do I still absolutely love what I’m doing?’ and ‘Do I absolutely love where I’m doing it?’ And finally, ‘Is there another step I’d want to take?’ If any of those questions have any kind of doubt or cloud, then you owe it to yourself to at least explore what’s out there. And that’s what I did.”

Shertenlieb doesn’t hide from reality. It was scary to leave the familiarity behind. Even when apparent tension between he and Fred Toucher was impossible to hide, he never pinned blame for wondering what is next on the state of their relationship.

Listeners and social media followers did a lot of speculating about the show’s future in early 2023. Toucher missed extended time, first to deal with a vocal condition and then to focus on his mental health. They wanted to know what was going on in the Beasley Media offices after Toucher took to Twitter to say no one from the show’s cast had reached out to check on him during his absence. 

Rich Shertenlieb says that the conversations were never that interesting. He didn’t think it had to be a catalyst for drastic action.

“There was no discussion about the future of the show. I think that there was confusion. The guys on the show, I think, were confused about why he was saying stuff about us that obviously, we’re all looking at each other and going, ‘Well, this isn’t true. Why is he saying that? I don’t know what was going on there.’ That part was definitely strange, but there weren’t any conversations about the future of the show at all.”

When the decision was made to leave Toucher & Rich, Shertenlieb says he knew instantly that it would mean leaving 98.5 The Sports Hub. It wasn’t about hard feelings. It was about on-air real estate.

Shertenlieb didn’t want to join an existing show. He wanted to start something new with him at the center. Maybe it would work. Maybe it wouldn’t. Either way, he was comfortable with the consequences of his name being the only one on the marquee. Without a major overhaul, that wasn’t possible at his current station.

“I don’t think that that would be fair to anybody. I think that to achieve that they’d have to move people around and stuff like that. I don’t think that that would be fair. I do think that in fairness to everybody else that I worked with, I would have to go do that on my own.”

WZLX, Shertenlieb’s new home, is owned by iHeartMedia. The company made it clear to him that he was a priority. Bosses asked Shertenlieb who he wanted to work with and got those people on board. They presented him with the opportunity to launch a podcast network in the future. 

The company even acquiesced to Shertenlieb’s demand that the classic rock the station is known for disappear in morning drive.

“I’ve just looked around and I’ve seen that there’s really no morning show that is geared mostly towards guys that truly wins while also playing music. That’s the recipe that you have to go with, at least in mornings,” he says.

Music snobs aren’t totally left out of the new morning show. Shertenlieb loves rock music and makes it a part of the show’s regular discussions. He also notes that what is now considered “classic rock” is the music he grew up with and holds most dear, particularly Alice in Chains.

Listeners will hear Michael Hurley, who Shertenlieb calls “truly a gem” every day. Every host needs someone that gets all of his references and that’s what Hurley is for Shertenlieb. Throughout the week, former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson, Meadowlark Media host Charlotte Wilder and Mike Giardi of the Boston Sports Journal will all make appearances.

“I like having different personalities, different walks of life and people who are experts in different things to be able to rotate,” Shertenlieb says. “The great thing about everybody that I picked, whether it be Ted Johnson or Mike Girardi or Charlotte Wilder, is that even if they didn’t talk about the one thing they’re known to be an expert on, I would still love talking to these people about everything else in their life, because they’re just that interesting.”

Every new show faces challenges when it launches and The Rich Shertenlieb Show is no exception. His former partner has poked fun, his former competitor has taken shots, but Rich knows that no show gets launched as a finished product. That only comes from years of building chemistry amongst the people in studio and the people listening.

He isn’t shy about admitting that there is no guarantee that he is going to leapfrog anyone in the ratings. Sure, he has the know-how given the success he helped propel The Sports Hub to in morning drive. He also has the advantage of joining a station that already performs well.

“It’s hard work and patience,” Shertenlieb says when asked if he has thought about how he will pull ahead of The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Hardy or anyone else. “It’s worked for me in the past and there’s no secret sauce. It’s just try to be entertaining every morning and work your ass off to do it right.”

Shertenlieb knows that, for many Bostonians, he and Fred Toucher will forever be linked. He doesn’t run from that. He says he never considered leaving Boston for a “fresh start” when he decided to strike out on his own.

He doesn’t wish Toucher or The Sports Hub any ill-will. He insists that the titillating scandal everyone wants to hear about doesn’t exist. He isn’t “over sports.” It was just time to do something new.

New adventure comes with risk and uncertainty. Rich Shertenlieb is willing to embrace it and live with whatever it becomes.

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David Lamm, Jacksonville Sports Radio Pioneer, Dies at the Age of 78

“David Lamm was an icon. David Lamm was a pioneer. There is no sports radio in Jacksonville without David Lamm, and I mean that very sincerely.”

Barrett Sports Media



Photo of David Lamm
Screengrab: Jacksonville Broadcasters Association

David Lamm, who helped launch sports radio in Jacksonville, died at the end of last week at the age of 78. Lamm started as a sports writer at the Florida Times-Union, later became a columnist and then sports editor. He would later spend many years on the air on radio and television.

Lamm, affectionately known as Lamm-Chops, was a beloved figure in the Jacksonville community. In 2002 he started the David Lamm Foundation and created ‘Santa Lamm,’ a Christmas drive to provide children gift cards to go shopping during the holidays.

His son, Alex posted on his Facebook account, “It’s with immeasurable sadness to let my FB community know of my Pops passing today. Many in this community were friends or knew him. Will announce memorial plans sometime soon. RIP Pops.”

In a story posted by News4 in Jacksonville, 1010XL’s Frank Frangie, who worked with Lamm in print and radio said, “David Lamm was an icon. David Lamm was a pioneer. There is no sports radio in Jacksonville without David Lamm, and I mean that very sincerely. Jay Solomon and David Lamm were the pioneers and I got to be the tag along back in the day. And it was one of the great honors of my career. We will miss David Lamm. How authentic. How real. How he said what he believed. How he entertained. It’s a sad day in Jacksonville, the great David Lamm gone today.”

In 2019, Lamm sat down with former WJKS-TV anchor Mike Lyons for an interview. Lamm said in part, “I’m the luckiest guy on the face of the earth. I never planned for this, but I’ve had a wonderful career. I’ve spent my life covering sports, talking about sports, writing about sports. I’ve been to multiple Super Bowls and World Series and Final Fours and US Opens and Masters. I’ve traveled places, certainly this country, that I would never have traveled to, most people don’t. … so when I look back on it I’m going ‘you lucky son of a gun,’” Lamm told Lyons. “How many people fall into something, and it turns out to be the love of their life. They didn’t even know it at the time.”

Lamm is survived by his wife, Ellen, and sons Tom and Alex.

Many of Lamm’s friends and former colleagues weighed in on his passing through posts on their social media accounts:

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