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Q&A with 3HL of 104.5 The Zone

Brian Noe

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Some sports talk shows act like you stepped inside the octagon with them as they seek surrender via hot-take submission. Other shows like “3HL” on 104.5 The Zone in Nashville, Tennessee take a different approach. One of the goals Brent Dougherty, Mickey Ryan, and Dawn Davenport have is to talk with the people, not at them. It’s a refreshing approach that helps the show continuously thrive.

Southern hospitality is a phrase that isn’t always applied correctly. The expression is absolutely valid though when describing “3HL.” I could feel it when I sat down with the cast. You can hear it when listening to their show. It doesn’t mean the trio has a shortage of strong opinions. They just present their views in a way that invites a conversation while keeping the vibe positive and welcoming.

It wouldn’t make sense to root against this approach. It’s nice when the good guys (and girl) win, and when a show that “gets it” happens to be cranking out monster ratings in the process. Check out more on their philosophies and unique career paths below. Find out which host interned for another, the early days of speeding in a Ford Escort station wagon, and doing a show with a meat salesman.

Brian Noe: How long have you had this new trio?

Dawn: August 15th, I think. So not very long. It’s been like six months.

Brent: We broke ground on this version of “3HL” in August.

Dawn: It is just at our six-month mark. We should’ve partied. We made it. We haven’t killed each other.

Noe: What do you think has been the biggest improvement during those six months?

Brent: I don’t know? Have we gotten better?

Dawn: Oh, from day one of me joining? Oh yeah!

Brent: Better?

Dawn: I hope so.

Mickey: I think it’s just more learning each other’s personalities. Brent and I have known each other for over 20 years. He was my intern when I was a television anchor in the ‘90’s in Kentucky. He knows there are certain things he can say and exactly how I’ll react. We’re kind of learning what’s a hot-button topic for Dawn that you can say something and you know what kind of reaction — and she’s learning the same thing about us. To me that’s the biggest thing is just getting to know each other’s personalities.

Brent: But like a week ago, we finished each other’s sentences a couple of times.

Dawn: And it was completely random to where during the break at one point I looked at him and I go, “How the hell did you know I was going to say that?” You like pulled it out of nowhere.

Brent: It’s been fun and Dawn brings a lot to the table too from a female perspective. That’s rare in this country. It’s awesome because we’ve known her for a long time and she’s got that TV background. We watched her on television [WKRN]. We already knew each other when we hit the ground and Dawn joined “3HL.” I feel like we hit the ground running because of that and because I watched everyday, so I already knew kind of what your mannerisms were. I think that helped.

Noe: How would you explain the differences between having a guy and a girl in that chair?

Brent: Man, that’s a good question. I don’t even view it that way. Honestly, she was a collegiate athlete and her entire background in this business is in sports outside of — well, you did the one show.

Dawn: Outside of slummin’ it in morning show news.

Brent: But even the way that y’all did that morning show — it was kind of the way that we do this show. Even though that was news and this was sports. In terms of entertainment, to me it was basically the same.

Dawn: It was less scripted and personality-driven.

Brent: But in terms of having a different vibe of having a woman in the chair in the room — there really isn’t one to me because she’s such a big sports fan and entertainment fan. She’s a really good communicator — that’s what you need — and a good entertainer. That’s the other thing to me.

Mickey: It does give our show perspective though if there’s a case where there’s a sexual assault. If there’s something that involves a female point of view. Instead of us saying, “Well, here’s what we think” or “This is what I read that somebody said,” you actually can get the female point of view, which to me is huge for us because she can break down any sport, but at the same time she can also say, “Hey, as a woman” — like we were talking about the US Olympic hockey team. They had no benefits, were making no money, and when we talked about them winning a gold medal for the first time in 20 years you said, “No no, they’re champions for women’s rights.” You went through all the things that they had done to make things better for the future generation of women’s hockey players. I think that gives us really an opportunity to offer a viewpoint on things that how many shows in the country even have? Very few.

Noe: Dawn, sometimes I’ll hear a female host, and it’s like they’re just trying so hard to prove they know their stuff. Others feel very comfortable and you come across that way — not going over the top. Where does that come from?

Dawn: I think it comes from being around sports for so long. The minute I graduated college I was doing local TV sports. In local TV sports, you do everything on your own. There’s nobody there to help you or hold your hand so you have to know your stuff because you are your producer. You’re your writer. You’re your shooter.

I’ve been around sports doing it for so long. I think that’s where that comfort comes from. Also, because I’ve been in this town for so long, and I started as a weekend sports anchor, so I’m fortunate that I know the history of the teams here. I can pull from, “Oh, hey do you remember back in 2008 this team did that,” so I think from that standpoint I’m comfortable because I do know what we’re talking about so well. Then, when I work with SEC Network I’m very knowledgeable about it because that’s what I do.

I’m also fortunate that the people in this town from the minute I got here welcomed me in and accepted me. I’ve never felt the need to prove that, “Hey, I know what I’m talking about. I can talk sports. I promise.” I feel like this town was very open to having a female in the sports world and that’s helped me because I haven’t had to go overboard to try and prove myself because people have accepted it.

Noe: What type of role does Program Director, Brad Willis play in your show’s maturation? Is he very hands on or does he let you guys work things out?

Brent: His goal with us always has been — ‘cause we’ve made changes with this show before — he’s more into letting things grow and develop. With the three of us, have it grow organically, and that’s kind of where we are with it.

Dawn: Which I think has been great. Instead of him pushing, “Hey, you need to talk more, you need to do this.”

Brent: Yeah, he treats us like professionals. I’ve been doing this for 21 years. We’ve all been doing this so long that you just take some time to know and learn and understand where he can go, where she can go, where I can go. It just kind of organically happens. He’s been completely hands off. Now, if we have questions about something that we’re doing or trying, he’s always available.

Mickey: I think the key for him is he’s there for a resource, but he wants the show to happen organically. It’s like, “Look, if you have something unique, come to me and let’s work it out,” but on a day-to-day basis it’s, “You guys are all three professionals. I hired you to be professionals. Do what you do.”

That was when I joined the show, which is a little over three years ago, after a couple of weeks he pulled me in an said, “I brought you in to talk. So talk. Just give your opinion on things. You don’t have to work your way in.” It was the same thing with Dawn. We told her, “Hey, just give your opinion. You don’t have to be tentative or anything like that. You just jump in. We’re all here to be equal. To have equal time to have equal opinions, so you just jump right in. Don’t feel like you have to warm up to us. Just jump in.”

Noe: How much have you had to deal with comparisons to previous hosts like Clay Travis and Blaine Bishop? Does that happen a lot?

Mickey: When you follow a personality like Clay, obviously there are going to be people who compare things. I’ve gotten to know Clay since I’ve moved to town and we get along great. Anytime I see him we always catch up and kind of talk about how things are going. He’s been great to get to know and it’s been a lot of fun to see all the stuff that he’s accomplishing on a national level.

There were some people who were really unkind in the beginning especially. There’s still a handful of people out there who are hanging onto it. My thing was I just had to be myself. If you like that, you like it. Maybe the nicest thing that people have said to me over the last 3+ years is, “I wanted to hate you, but once I listened to you, I realized I liked you. I thought when the show changed I would hate the show, and hey, I don’t hate you. Matter of fact I kinda like you.”

Literally people have said things like that to me, so I’m winning that way. But I know the dynamic of the show changed. It did. I think it’s okay to like him and like what he does. I think it’s okay to like me and like the current version of the show. That’s all I would ask anybody for the chance to.

Noe: Has there been anything that gets under your skin or you just go home and are like, “Man, I would’ve been better off not receiving that message”?

Dawn: Well, if you work in broadcasting, especially sports broadcasting, you’re always going to get a message where you’re like, “Yeah, well.” (sarcastic laugh)

Mickey: Well, and you [Dawn] were on TV — and women to other women who were on TV — you wouldn’t believe the things about your dress or your hair.

Dawn: Let me tell you, morning news viewer complaints are the worst thing I’ve ever endured in my life. Nothing that any sports person can ever say to me will ever upset me as much as some of the females and Facebook messages I got during morning news.

Brent: Social media is a wild place.

Dawn: It’s a different world nowadays — even from when I first started in the business. If somebody didn’t like you, you got a phone call or a hand-written letter. Now, it’s different because people immediately can facelessly tell you that they don’t like you, but this town is pretty good honestly. You’re always going to have people that don’t agree with what you say.

Mickey: But the feedback is overwhelmingly more positive than negative. But you can say, “I like donuts,” and you have some overwhelmingly negative responses to that. That’s just the world that we live in.

Brent: We live in a world where people just love to hate things. You see that on social media, but doing what we do as she said, we all have a thick skin. You have to or you won’t have success in this business anyway aside from some hater on social media. We don’t pay attention to it necessarily. To get to where we are, you’ve got to be confident in yourself. Sure, we try new things and sometimes we make mistakes and we’re harder on ourselves than anybody could be that listens. I think some mean guy on Twitter or whatever, I think that’s more about him than it is me.

Noe: How much does your role differ from a three-person to a two-person show just in terms of driving it? Not repeating one of their takes or sacrificing your own opinion to just move it forward. Does it differ greatly between the two?

Brent: I look at my job as a facilitator — almost like a scoring point guard. I’m trying to set him up with stuff and her up with stuff, but also trying to take my shot. The way I kind of visualize it in the moment — because I’m watching break time and how long is the break coming up? When do we need to hit that break? Who’s got a live spot coming? What caller needs to go next? I’m trying to balance all of those things while also throwing topics and throwing opinions. To me it’s a fun challenge. The way I visualize that is I’m going down a river with currents and I’m just trying to keep the boat as straight as possible. That doesn’t change whether it’s two or three people.

Noe: Is there anything specific to Nashville regarding topics that surprisingly work? Where you feel like, “Really? That’s what you guys are interested in?”

Brent: It’s kind of meat and potatoes honestly.

Dawn: Daily, there’s something that I’m like, “Wow, people really want to talk about that.”

Brent: Has it been a surprise to you? So, we get out of football and now it’s crazy topics that you can bring up. The response to some of those crazy topics I think surprises you sometimes.

Dawn: Yeah, it really surprises me and when we first started to go on kind of like tangents that had to do with sports but weren’t maybe necessarily specific SEC football talk, I would get nervous over there in the chair. I’m like, “Why are we not talking sports? We gotta go back to talking sports.” They’re like, “Relax. We’ve got a long show. It’s okay. It’s how it works.”

I think what surprised me the most — and I had been on the show with you guys before a couple of times, just sat in for an hour or two hours — what surprised me is some of the random topics that people want to talk about that maybe aren’t necessarily completely sports.

Brent: Here’s an example — yesterday we were talking about the Olympics and the US women had won the gold medal. I watched it. I stayed up and I thought it was the moment of the Olympics. I thought it was awesome. I thought that would get a little bit of traction. These guys started talking about the cross country race, which I didn’t even see. The next thing we know, Mickey finds the audio. We play the play-by-play and it’s one of the best sports calls ever. We go 45 minutes with people calling in about how awesome that was.

Mickey: The one guy said they were three wide like NASCAR and he was in the middle of the night watching it at his house. He felt like he raced the race with them. He felt like he sent them enough America to push them through. People get so emotionally invested in the Olympics ‘cause that’s your flag. That’s your country. They’re representing all of us. Your college football team represents your state or your region, but this is everybody. That was one of the most passionate phone calls we’ve ever had from anybody about anything.

Dawn: Talking about women’s cross country skiing. Like who cares, you know?

Brent: ‘Cause the basics are you’ve got to talk about the Titans every day in this market. You have to. When they suck, they get a 20 share on television. Over the last year and a half the Predators have risen to one of the better teams in the NHL so you need to spend a little time on them. Even though, as good as they are, their regular-season TV numbers are like a tenth of what the Titans are. We pay attention to those things. So it’s Titans, NFL, SEC, college football, and then whatever crazy stories you can find.

Noe: How do you guys balance the local stuff that you know is going to hit, with something that might go beyond Nashville that you know is still going to matter to people?

Mickey: Honestly, you can just look and see at what people are talking about on social media. To me that’s a huge metric because we all certainly follow people in this market and we have people that give us feedback — “Hey, did you guys see this? Do you guys know about that?”

Brent: That helps with what we do. Social media, that changed the game because now you can talk about things immediately as they happen. When I got into the business it was the mid-‘90’s. You didn’t have any of this. We weren’t monitoring these things.

You can get a tweet that pops up — I remember one show we were doing, and we were going to do some Preds guest or something and the Manti Te’o story came out on Deadspin. We sent one of our guys out of the studio to read it because it was so long. One segment went by and he was back in there and we were talking about it. That’s how fast things go and we bailed on the guest. We try to be as current as possible and talk about what people are talking about.

Noe: In terms of things being current — topics move so fast and have a short shelf life — a Vols football game on Saturday, of course you’re going to talk about it on Monday, but how do you have that sense of, “This is a little old. It’s not what people are talking about now”?

Brent: 100% you think about that. You’ve got to figure out a different way to present it. Ask questions because people definitely still want to talk about that. SEC football season? You want to talk about that every day. Like every day.

Dawn: I feel like football transcends that thought. You can talk about a game that happened two weeks ago and people are still interested.

Brent: But you would present it differently in the afternoon than you would on Sunday morning where Jamal Lewis ran for 225 yards. Stuff like that. You’re thinking about different ways to present it.

Mickey: By that time you’ll have different ways where you may analyze it and look at it or maybe what it means more for what’s going to happen ahead of time. This market is just so funny. It’s such a football-centric market. Let’s say we came on today and we talked about Ole Miss football. Vols fan – he’s interested in that. Mississippi State fan — she’s okay with that.

SEC fans, you can talk about any other school or program and they’re okay with that ‘cause they want to know what they’re doing too, right? To me that’s the most interesting thing maybe about living in an SEC-centric market is it doesn’t matter what team or what program or what coach you talk about, there’s just an unbelievable level of interest by every team and every program’s fans about another team’s fans and program.

Dawn: We also have so many alums from all of those schools.

Mickey: It used to be they all moved to Atlanta and Brent says they’re coming here now.

Brent: This is the SEC melting pot. Just downtown condos — this is where the young people that are graduating college in this area are coming. They’re not going to Atlanta. They’re coming to Nashville. This city is growing and the vibe is different and awesome. It’s really exciting.

Noe: When you have high ratings and Brad Willis comes to you with a major lineup change, how do you react to that?

Brent: The first question is who is going to be on the show with us, right? Then when you find out it’s Dawn Davenport, I have zero concern whatsoever. I know that we’re going to keep rockin’ because I know how competitive she is and that’s what I want. I want somebody that’s going to win every day. She’s got that track record. From my perspective I wasn’t concerned at all. I was excited.

Noe: How about you, Dawn? When you’re going into the mix and they’re getting monstrous ratings, do you feel any extra pressure? 

Mickey: No pressure.

Dawn: Yeah, no pressure at all.

Brent: You can relate to that too Mickey.

Mickey: Yeah, no pressure.

Dawn: Radio ratings are different obviously than TV ratings. I got them every day on the morning show.

Brent: And we don’t get them that often. She would ask and I’m like, “I don’t know.” (laughs)

Dawn: I’d ask, “How are we doing? Are we doing okay?” Brad would say, “Oh, we’re doing great!” I’m like, “Okay, well can I see? Do you have numbers from last week or whatever?” I had to learn how it actually worked. I was definitely nervous stepping into a successful show and replacing a former athlete [Blaine Bishop] that people really valued his opinion. I was definitely worried about it, but I had listened to the show enough to know that I felt like it would be a good fit and that we would be okay.

Noe: Do you have a TV background at all, Brent?

Brent: No.

Mickey: You were my intern for one semester.

Brent: Yeah, I needed one class to graduate at UT, the University of Tennessee, and I needed to do an internship. Living here and I was hanging out in Bowling Green. I had some friends at Western Kentucky. I was like, “Well, if I’m going to do an internship, I might as well do TV. I might as well go to WBKO,” which is in Bowling Green — the ABC affiliate there. So, I just knocked on the door and he can tell you more about it, but I just knocked on the door and got that internship.

We went all over South Central Kentucky on Friday nights covering high school football and it was awesome. There were a couple of things that happened along the way where I was like, “I don’t want to do TV.” (laughs) “I don’t want to do TV.” Because you work all day — there is a rush during the news when the stuff you’ve been working on all day is going, but things that you can’t control happen.

Mickey: He saw a couple of times where we went out and shot seven games and brought the tapes back and the tapes got out of order and you didn’t know what highlight you were doing. He saw things like that. Or the tape machine would fail or the teleprompter would go out. We don’t have a tape machine or a teleprompter. They just turn on the microphones and we talk.

Dawn didn’t really know the story — it was either a Saturday or a Sunday night. We had a 5 o’clock news — I was the weekend sports anchor at WBKO. The weatherman walks out. He comes back in and he goes, “There’s some kid outside in the parking lot that wants to ask to be your intern.” I go out and it was that kid right there.

So, it’s been over 20 years ago in the fall of 1996. I come out and here’s Brent Dougherty. He says, “Man, I wanna be your intern.” He starts explaining things and I said, “Look, man, that’s fine. You can just be my intern.” We had great chemistry and we drove a Ford Escort station wagon for several thousand miles that fall covering games.

Brent: At 100 miles an hour.

Mickey: Years later, I wind up moving to Nashville to pursue music. I got out of TV. I just came here and wanted to play music.

Dawn: He’s a heck of a bass player by the way.

Mickey: Well, I like to think so. (laughter) I’ve played 12th & Porter, 3rd and Lindsley. I’ve played in Europe and all over the US. I’ve got a couple albums on iTunes, but you know, no big deal. (laughter) I was driving down Interstate 65. This is a true story. I had my radio on scan. I was scanning FM stations after recently moving to town. I went to hit another button and I hit a bump, and I switched my radio to AM and he was on 1510 AM. It was him talking!

I don’t think I even had a cell phone at this point. I drove to my apartment and called the radio station and left him a message. We had lost touch with each other. He was producing a show for a couple of heavy hitters in town. He said, “They’re going to let me do a show on Saturday. You should come and do it with me.” So for years, I managed a real estate office and played music and I would go on Saturday and do a radio show with Brent and another guy named Russ Berrie, who’s a meat salesman. The three of us did a Saturday show for years and years before we both wound up coming over here to The Zone.

Brent: We used to joke about Russ, he was slingin’ his meat all over the southeast. (laughs) He’s a good dude, that guy.

Mickey: He sells ham. Yeah, great guy.

Brent: Man, you went into the long story like Noe’s writing a book or something. The history of us. This is us and no one’s crying.

Noe: Dawn, these two have known each other for 20 years — is it ever weird where two people know each other so well and you’re trying to learn them as you go?

Dawn: I don’t think so. I haven’t felt that at all.

Mickey: And you don’t get our Fletch references though. That’s the one thing.

Brent: The whole key to knowing us is really simple: watch Fletch. It’s the key to life and to understanding making a friend.

Dawn: The good thing, I knew them prior. Especially you [Brent], I’ve known you since I moved here and we’d run into each other at events and I’ve hopped on their radio show a million times. That’s the good thing. We’ve hung out outside of work too. I’m on a daily text with your wife right now [Mickey]. (laughs) So, I feel like I kind of jumped right in. Obviously I haven’t known them for 20 years, but from that standpoint, have really gotten to know them and I know their families.

Noe: Is there anything from the TV world that translates very well to sports radio and things that just don’t fit whatsoever?

Dawn: Well, the don’t fit is I panicked when I first started. In TV, this block is six minutes and 40 seconds, and you’ve got to hit six minutes and 40 seconds so you can hit clicks and do all of that, and everything is scripted. At least for the morning show, for what I did the last five years, everything is in there. It might not all be scripted — there’s a lot of adlib, but for the most part it’s super organized. You know exactly what you’re talking about, and when, and you know exactly what’s coming.

With sports talk radio? When I started I was like, “So, we’re not going to script out every single segment and know exactly when we’re going to talk about what?” And they’re like, “No, because if somebody calls in and some subject gets going, we’ll stick with that.” I was like, “Okay?” It took me awhile to be okay with — not necessarily spontaneity, but kind of — like a lack of specific, everything is timed out.

Brent: And it’s funny, in my course of doing this job I love the freedom to be spontaneous. I love that. It leads you down a creative space that really is unlike anything else that you could do in this business. I love that part of it. I knew from doing this — after having TV people come in and do an hour every so often, they always would say that, like, “Man, that’s so much fun because I’ve got like two and a half minutes to do my sports and that’s what it is. Here’s the script. I never really have time to give my opinion. It’s really not that kind of place to give your opinion.”

Dawn: That’s where I’ve had to grow because I wasn’t allowed to give my opinion at all. Then as a sideline reporter you have 15-20 seconds to do your report. It’s not an opinion-based job. That was something coming in I’ve really had to work on — learning that it’s okay for me to give my opinion now because you can’t in news.

I think the plus of doing news — especially that morning news show that I was part of — there was a lot of adlibbing. There was a lot of personality conversation and that has lent well to stepping into this job because it’s basically what we did, especially in the 4am hour. It’s what I did for five years really. This is just a different level.

Brent: Early on she would ask me during a break, “Did you know you were going to go into Tennessee-Vanderbilt basketball right there?” And I would say, “No, but that microphone is on, and I’m talking, and that’s what came out.” She’s like, “Okay.”

Dawn: In the beginning, it took me awhile to be okay with it.

Brent: Yeah, and I think that’s part of the organic transition and I think we’re there now. But I learned from her to be a little more structured in terms of what we do.

Noe: Did you do anything to try to draw out more opinions because they weren’t used to it?

Brent: I didn’t really have to necessarily, but she has this notebook of stuff that she keeps. She’s got like, I don’t know, eight-nine pages for today. She knows what the topics are because we kind of text during the day. There’s going to be stuff that we all see that we haven’t communicated to each other. It’s almost better that way to me because then you get more into that spontaneous reaction from Mickey about women’s curling or whatever.

There’s a lot of that, but when I do that — I’ve jumped out of an airplane and I’m flying through the air. I’m going from topic to topic in my head and I go into something — I know that she has researched it and has some notes jotted down. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but I’ll talk long enough to let you flip through your papers to get to that topic. It’s a growth process.

Noe: Do you find it more challenging in the heart of football season to hit on everything you want to get in there, or is it now where it’s a lot slower? Which is more challenging?

Brent: Challenging might not be the word, it’s just different. I have fun in — I love football, it’s my favorite thing — but doing what we do, I actually think I have more fun in the non-football area because of the random things that we can talk about. We’re a Nashville show. We love the city of Nashville. We’re going to talk about things that happen in Nashville. It’s not necessarily going to be sports-related.

If I walk over to the Tin Roof and sit down and talk with people, if there’s 100 people in there, what percentage of people just want to talk about sports? That’s all they’re interested in. Four? We think of it in terms of, hopefully, entertaining people every day. We have no fear at all, in fact we love doing it — going off topic. That infuriates stick-to-sports guy, but I don’t care.

Mickey: Four percent of the guys who want only sports. They get infuriated.

Brent: This time of year is really, really fun to me. For example today, we’ve got this college basketball corruption scandal and that’s going to be a healthy part of the show, but we also have one of the top-20 tennis players in the world coming on. We’ve got one of the best hockey players in the world coming on. Guests kind of dictate topics with us.

Noe: In terms of the goals you have for the show, does anything change that mindset when you’ve gone thru lineup changes?

Brent: For me, no. My job is to help our clients grow their business. From there it’s to entertain the guy that’s at a job that he hates, is having an awful day, and is in his car for 45 minutes and wants to be entertained. He wants an escape from whatever it is he’s dealing with and everybody’s dealing with something. Those are the two things I think about. As long as it’s a room full of creative people that like to have fun, I’m good.

Mickey: When we were driving around 21 years ago in that Escort station wagon, I used to tell him, “Look, here’s my goal; I’m going to put as many people’s kids on TV tonight as I can. We’re going to spray the crowd. We’re going to have the band. We’ll have an establishing shot of the cheerleaders and I want to put as many people’s kids and grandkids and neighbors and friends on TV as I can, to give more people a reason to watch.”

Brent: I’ve always thought about that too. I remember him saying that and that really stuck out to me. I think about that all the time.

Mickey: When you go out and you’re in the grocery store and you’re the TV person and they go, “You had my nephew on the other night,” and I say, “Oh, did he score a touchdown?” And she said, “No, you just said how cool he looked. He was the tuba player,” and I’m like, “Oh, I remember him.” But that meant the same thing to her as the kid who scored the touchdown that won the game. That’s her nephew or friend or son or grandson or whatever. To me that was so powerful to do that.

When we go out and people tell us, “Life is going this way and there’s some bad things happening, but I’ll tell you what, I know when I’m in the car listening to you guys, I can forget about it.” That’s the greatest, to me, thing that anybody can say about what we do is you helped me forget my problems for an hour or for 30 minutes, or gosh there are some people who are going to listen to the whole show I guess on their computer at work.

Brent: God love ‘em.

Mickey: Yeah, those are special people, but for somebody to say, “Man, I’m going through this terrible thing, but I know I’ve got a refuge for X amount of time with you guys every day.” That’s one of the main reasons that we do what we do. We love doing it, but we love the interaction with people and knowing that you can actually help somebody have a better day, forget something bad that’s going on in their life.

Even if we come in and things aren’t great for us, we still think, “Gosh, there’s a whole lot of people listening — they have bigger problems, they have bigger things they’re dealing with than we do, not that we’re immune to dealing with things, but let’s just get together. Let’s entertain them. Let’s enlighten them. Let’s tell them what’s going on in the sports world. Let’s have a few laughs. Let’s give them a little kind of place they can go for four hours a day.”

Noe: Do you think hosts lose track of that where it’s “I want to be a hot-take guy” and it gets too far away from wanting to entertain people?

Dawn: Yes.

Brent: Yeah, but everybody has to be themselves and this is who we are, and I love it. I’m so blessed to have been able to do this on this radio station. 104.5 The Zone is one of the best radio stations in the country. I am so blessed to have been able to work with four of the most talented radio people that I could ever be around. I’m so happy with the team we have here with Mickey and Dawn. I’m looking forward to the next however long y’all want to do this. 50 years? 60?

Dawn: Time to retire. (laughing) Seriously this guy, they were like, “Oh, you guys want Presidents’ Day off?” I’m like, “Oh yeah, let’s take it off.” They’re like, “Oh, well are you sure? Are you sure you don’t want to work?” I’m like, “What is wrong with you? I love my job, but you guys are not normal.”

Brent: I mean there’s flame-thrower guy out there, that’s not me. That’s not what we do. That’s not who we are.

Dawn: We don’t have the hot-take, piss-you-off, be-mean-to-you-kind-of person really. Unless you really push our buttons.

Mickey: The angry Chihuahua. One of the first conversations we ever had was let’s just pretend like we’re in a sports bar talking to our friends. Let’s talk to people. We’ve always tried to talk with people and not at people.

Brent: There are times when everybody gets riled up. It’s an opinionated business. We’re paid to have an opinion. That’s the reality of the situation, but I think we’re more into building people up.

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Missing ‘The Little Things’ Can Make Your Station Look Really Bad

To be straight with you, some of your websites are awful.

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Photo of a sports radio studio

I hate that this is a topic in 2024, but it seems the more I look at different sports stations online, the more I see a problem across the industry. Some stations, or companies as a whole, are not represented well at all online. Whether it be the look or feel of their website, the information available on it, the ease or lack thereof of streaming and podcasting or connecting with the talent. All of these are ‘the little things’ that can go a long way with your audience.

It all starts with your station website. And the fact that I have to take time to write about what a sports radio station should have on its website in 2024 is not good. Some folks really need to take a good hard look at their site and ask themselves if it represents what they want their station to be.

Anyone should be able to log on to a radio station website and immediately be able to get certain information. What shows air on the station, what time and give me some information about and ways to connect with your hosts. I should also be able to easily access the ‘podcast’ or replay of a show and there should be titles and descriptions which give me information so that I can choose what segments or topics I want to listen to.

Putting a so-called podcast up, which is the full three or four hours of a show, and not telling users what is in it they might want to listen to is a huge miss. It shows people in our business do not understand how people consume content these days. They want it quick, they want to be sold on what they will get out of it if they listen. It needs to be, you know, easy.

Kudos to Audacy in this regard. They do the best job of having their stations set up so that a person can truly listen on demand. You can go to any of their stations and pick a show and most of the time you will have information about every segment that has been done. Want to hear what the hosts had to say but don’t care about the guests they have on? Perfect, listen to the segments where the hosts gave strong opinions. Don’t care about football but want all the baseball that you can get? Just choose the baseball segments. It’s how it is supposed to be.

On the flip side you have several stations where you can log on to their website and not find what you are looking for.

Take, for example, today when I wanted to listen to a station’s morning show, but I wasn’t able to listen while it was live. I typed the station name into my Google machine and got the link to their webpage.

There was a drop-down menu and I clicked ‘Podcasts.’ This took me to a page which is dated November 5, 2015.

I looked at the social media channels for the station and I found a Linktree. One of the links to click said ‘Podcast’ and so I clicked that, and it takes me to a page with a completely different URL from the radio station.

I scrolled down and found the show I was looking for and took a deep breath as it loaded as I was glad to have finally figured out how to listen to the show on-demand. Then the page loads and I saw a bunch of episodes to listen to but unfortunately, they were from February.

Not having the podcasts easily accessible, not having them posted by segment, not having host bios and not having links to their social media are unacceptable in 2024. If your goal is to get new listeners to your station, you are making it incredibly difficult for people who might want to know more about your station and talent or who want to listen to your programming.

As for the rest of the content on the website, I am going to save that for another column, but if what you’re showing your audience is aggregated content from a national source with your local tags, that is another completely missed opportunity to connect with your audience.

While I am on the subject of things that are not the main programming, some stations really need to take a listen to their sports updates. From the intros to the music to the voices being used to what they are saying should be examined. I am a huge update fan, mostly because I believe they are great for sales but also because people still want that quick info, so they are more knowledgeable around the water cooler. How did the local teams do yesterday, what is happening today I need to know about, remind me to tune in to something later, hit the sponsor and get back to the hosts. No matter how good X and the internet are, you still can’t get all your local sports news in 60-90 seconds like you can on a sports update.

I hear several stations daily that air updates, but it is clear the station does not value what is being presented or they would find people better prepared to do them. If you cannot afford to have someone who knows what to present and can do it in a manner that is listenable and provides the service to the listeners that it should, figure out some other way to do them. Perhaps one of your hosts needs to do them or work them into the programming of the show. Whatever it is, don’t just let it be a throw-away piece of content.

I jokingly refer to these items as ‘the little things,’ but these are important. Especially your websites and social interaction with your listeners. If we cannot do the very basics of having a website with easy to access live audio, easy to find podcasts and easy to locate information about the hosts and ways to connect with them, what are we doing?

I encourage all managers to take some time, as soon as possible, and go through your station sites. See if these things can be done easily, see if the information is up to date. Look at it from the standpoint of the users or someone new coming to your site.

It’s time to clean up ‘the little things.’ Everyone is busy, but we can’t be too busy when it comes to making stations sound better and making them more user friendly.

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The Best Thing I Heard/Watched Recently

I am locked in on FX’s Clipped: The Scandalous Story of LA’s Other Basketball Team which is being shown on Hulu. The first two episodes came out together and now they are being dropped weekly on Tuesdays. It’s not nearly as good as the Lakers shows, but that is only fitting I suppose.

As I have said before, give me all of these behind-the-scenes shows. I realize you are generally only getting one side of a story and things are changed up for television, but I will watch every one of these kinds of shows they want to make. Sports. Nostalgia. Drama. Inject it into my veins!

You can learn more about the show and see a trailer by clicking here.

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In Case You Missed It

Earlier this week, Peter Schwartz profiled Marc Ryan, who just recently started at 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit. Ryan had been at WYRD in Greenville, South Carolina. What is unique about this story is that as Schartz wrote, “For each of the last 14 years of his career, [Ryan] carried with him a Post-it note as a reminder of where he ultimately wanted to land. On that note were three all-sports radio stations that were his dream situations and those were 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, WFAN in New York and 670 The Score in Chicago.” 

Congratulations to Marc for making his dream a reality and best of luck in Detroit.

You can read the full feature by clicking here.

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Meet the Bettors: Ben Mintz, Barstool Sports

“The thing I always say about Barstool is take what you do seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Meet The Bettors - Ben Mintz

One of the toughest things to do when you create gambling content is to get others invested in your wins and losses. If I don’t know you, why would I root for or against you? Somehow though, Ben Mintz has broken through.

He’s one of the many gamblers on the Barstool Sports payroll. Maybe it’s being introduced amidst a losing streak. Maybe it’s his comeback story. I would guess what makes most people take an interest in Mintz’s money is Mintz himself. He’s just genuinely likable and easy to talk to.

Mintz, as he is known to Barstool fans, is the focus of the latest Meet the Bettors column presented by Point to Point Marketing. We talk about that aforementioned losing streak, the past and future of America’s interest in poker, and why the brick-and-mortar sportsbooks will someday be a thing of the past.

Demetri Ravanos: We’re both SEC guys. Probably around the same time too. I graduated from Alabama in 03. Around that time, we all knew people who were finding ways to make bets. They probably thought they had an advantage over the bookmakers because they were in the heart of college action and living and breathing it.          

Do you think those advantages still exist for college sports fans? There are so many games across so many sports. Is there anywhere a dedicated fan has an advantage over the books?

Ben Mintz: Well, I’m not like the biggest college basketball guy, but the early part of college basketball season. It’s especially in the smaller schools. If people really focus on it, I’ve heard that there are big edges. There’s just so much information for the oddsmakers to keep up with from the transfer portal especially. It’s just so hard to handicap that stuff being in season with 300-and-something teams.          

I think there’s a little bit of an edge in the college baseball stuff still, just because they’ve only been doing these lines for a few years. The oddsmakers are still just trying to figure out how to properly handicap it, so I think there’s a little bit of edge there.         

DR: When you were on local sports radio in Louisiana, how much of this were you able to talk about, even if you were just using it as context for how much of a favorite a team might be? 

BM: All the time. I’ve been betting on sports for a long time now. I’m in my 40s, and this was always a big part of my brand, even when it was a little taboo. I was doing line segments, breaking down games, making picks. That was always a big part of what I did.           

I mean, it’s a fascinating part of the industry. And as long as you do it responsibly, I think it just makes everything more interesting.           

I love college baseball stuff and I’ve been firing the NCAA Tournament. I’ve got a big futures bet on NC State at 35/1 right now that I’m loving. I’m going to Omaha. I’m super into it. I always have been and it’s always been a big part of my brand. 

DR: So as a gambler, obviously you always want to win, but when it comes to creating content, especially for a brand like Barstool, is it better if you lose? 

BM: Well, I think the thing with me is, I was a professional poker player from 2006 to 14, and I played a lot of high stakes poker and in some of the biggest tournaments in the US and did really well. I mean, I made a living at poker for eight years. Sports gambling stuff is really fun to me.           

I think kind of the biggest thing with that is you’ve got to look yourself in the mirror and say, “am I doing this to make money or am I doing this for entertainment?” And I do it for entertainment, so I’m not like the biggest player. I bet like 50 bucks a unit and I just enjoy it.     

The biggest mistake, and I make this mistake all the time because I’m doing it for entertainment, is you can bet on too many games. If you’re going to do it and you want to do it at the top level, you’re looking at a full college football board on Saturday night, and then you’re betting like 3 to 6 games in the NFL.           

Look at the whole board, but only bet like 2 to 4. It’s all about being selective and then going big on the ones you really like and getting a few on because it’s kind of similar to the casino thing. If you’re betting 20 or 25 games in a day, I don’t care who you are, the juice is gonna catch up to you. The style to win, if you’re really like, “hey, I’m doing this to make money,” it’s about being selective and aggressive. 

DR: Was there ever a change in the way you guys could play with losses?  Did the content you could create around losing picks change when Dave sold to Penn National or change back after he reacquired the company? 

BM: Well, I mean, when I was getting started with Barstool, the first thing that really got me going my first summer was my historic college baseball losing streak. During that time, I went like two-for-eleven in Omaha. I got so cold. There was also an issue in college baseball in its infancy with lines. I didn’t know what I was doing or how to handicap it.           

The biggest mistake I was taking too many favorites. When you look at college baseball’s middle bats being the great equalizer, there’s a ton of underdog value. I think what happens a lot is, Vegas makes the favorites too much of a favorite.  That summer I didn’t know that. My content blew up because I was losing so many bets. As far as the content goes, you know, you’d rather be red hot or ice cold. The worst thing you could be is like 4-5, you know? Nobody cares if you’re in the middle.           

The thing I always say about Barstool is take what you do seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. I mean, you’re going to get roasted in the public eye. Deal with it. It’s been happening for four years to me.          

What I’ve noticed with the Barstool thing that’s so interesting to me is like, you look at what happens on Twitter or Reddit. You can’t overanalyze that stuff because in real life, I mean, I’ve gone around the whole country now with Barstool. I’ve had like 3 or 4 negative interactions with people in 3 or 4 years. That’s it, you know? And so, it’s all like super positive in the flesh. These people just get behind the keyboards and you know, they’re just not afraid to let the fur fly. 

DR So you mentioned poker. I want to ask you about a couple of your experiences because you’ve gotten to experience poker in two very different realities. So let’s start with the most recent. During that time between when Penn let you go and before Dave rehired you, I know you were doing some events for PokerGo. That kind of business used to advertise all over ESPN and every other sports broadcast. What is the health of the poker-centric sites and businesses in 2024? 

BM: Well, the online side of it is not doing as well, but for live poker, the numbers have never been bigger. I think a lot of it was, coming out of Covid, people missed it.           

I’m actually heading out to Vegas on June 29th for the World Series of Poker. I’ll be out there and it’s all around you. I’m playing a few warm-up events, and I’m playing my ninth World Series of Poker main event. I’m playing the last day on Saturday, July 6th.          

Live poker, I mean, it’s not just crushing in Vegas. It’s crushing everywhere. The online stuff is still lagging way behind because, there are a few states where it’s legal, like Pennsylvania, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey and Nevada, but that’s not the whole country.           

Online poker was so great from like 2003 or 4 to 2011. You had the whole world playing together, so you got such a massive player pool. Then when the government tried to  crack down on it, it’s never been the same. There are a few sites that operate illegally, that people play on that are pretty big, but honestly, the online thing’s just, you know, I maybe play a couple times a year, but it’s just I’m not really that into it anymore. 

DR: Are a lot of the guys you’re going to be at the table with for the World Series of Poker, will they have action on sports as well? 

BM Yeah, most poker players are down to gamble because you’re kind of doing it for a living and just looking for edges and stuff. You see some, you know, real heavy football and sports betting guys I play poker with, for sure. There’s definitely a ton of that.           

You know, the poker sportsbook thing kind of go hand-in-hand. Poker rooms are always right by the sportsbook. They’re kind of first cousins in a way I would say.

DR: So the catalyst for that big boom, obviously, was how much ESPN invested in the World Series of Poker back in the early 2000s and started airing the main event on ESPN, obviously on delay. Do you think that poker can enjoy something like that again now that gambling in general has become less taboo? 

BM: I think the big thing with poker, you see this big push nationwide for sports betting and poker is just not that big of a business. I’m not saying that the poker world’s still not big, but, you know, there isn’t that much of a push to get it going nationally and, you know, they no longer have the World Series on ESPN. Now they tape it for CBS Sports.           

You mentioned PokerGo. Those guys keep this thing going. I mean, if you like poker, you pay 15 bucks a month and they’re the ones that live broadcast all these World Series of Poker final tables every night. I worked with them for six weeks last summer, and I just can’t say enough about what they do for the poker scene. 

DR: So let me ask you this in relation to something that I talked about with Mike Francesa last week. I asked him about the legalization of sports betting going everywhere and what that has done for horse racing, which he loves. He said that horse racing is a sport that can’t get out of its own way. It does not know how to grow a new fan base. Is that similar to what you’re seeing at these World Series of Poker tables, or are young players coming to it all the time? 

BM: You know, there’s still young blood coming into the game. I think the big thing about poker when you draw the World Series is you still get the international element. The European Poker Tour blew up over the last ten years. A lot of the best players in the world are out of Europe. Those kids, Germany? They’re on a level that I mean, it’s crazy how good they are.        

I think that’s what’s helping drive that growth of poker is just that, you still see kids in the United States get into it, but it’s not like it was during the boom when everybody was playing online and came up. You know, a lot of college kids came up through online poker. Now, I think it’s become such an international thing.           

When you play the World Series, I mean, the amount of Europeans that are around for the WSOP, heck, there’s like Brazilians and Argentineans. You get people from South America coming over, too. So, I think that’s what’s driving the worldwide growth.          

In the United States, it’s kind of interesting. Now, there are some pockets of places that are very random. They get these huge events. Like Cherokee, NC, which is over by Asheville. I mean, they have four World Series of Poker circuit events a year. They get 12 to 15 hundred people for them. I went to Firekeepers Michigan, up in Battle Creek last month, and they got 2800 people at a $1,000 event. You see that also in Grant, Oklahoma, north of Dallas. Those Oklahoma tournaments always pull Texas people. You see numbers like that returning. I mean, it’s still doing extremely well.           

What’s interesting about poker is everybody’s all about that World Series of Poker dream, because that’s what they see on TV. I love the World Series main because it’s got a brand name like Super Bowl or The Masters, but like a lot of the World Series is extremely overrated. There’s no way to hold a field of 7,000 people. It’s a numbers game. I mean, only nine make the final table.

DR: The poker experience makes me wonder about sportsbooks. As poker became harder to play online, people had to go back to casinos, but the opposite is happening for sports bettors. A physical sportsbook is a great experience, but people will choose the ease of betting online nine times out of ten. Do you think we will ever see physical books go away or is the offering unique enough that they will always have some kind of demand?

BM: I think it’s going to keep fading. Obviously when Nevada was the only place you could do it legally, that was always the big thing – going out there. But, you know, a lot of these same companies have the apps, MGM and Caesars. I guess they feel there’s still value, but I think what you’re going to see is them fade more and more because it’s just an online world now. Like you said, just being able to fire on the apps and the convenience of it.           

A lot of these casinos are in random locations and stuff too. You know, people are just trying to fit it in their day-to-day lives with their families and jobs and all that kind of stuff. Having it on your phone, is a game changer. I think it’s going to continue becoming more and more digital, especially as more and more states legalize. 

To learn more about Point-To-Point Marketing’s Podcast and Broadcast Audience Development Marketing strategies, contact Tim Bronsil at [email protected] or 513-702-5072.

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Sports Broadcasting Can Be a Family Affair

Sports are such a generational activity.

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Screengrabs from WTBS and CBS Sports
Screengrabs: WTBS and CBS Sports

It’s Father’s Day this weekend, a time to celebrate and recognize all the dads out there. Growing up it was always my dad taking me and my brother to the park to throw us extra batting practice. He coached our Little League teams and was seemingly always there. It was my dad that took me to my first baseball game. 1972, Wrigley Field, Cubs and Giants. He took me to my first hockey game. 1974, Chicago Stadium, Blackhawks and Bruins. I have special memories of those games and times.

Sports are such a generational activity. Passed on from grandparents to parents and to their kids. Sometimes covering sports is the same. There have been many father/son combinations that have called games, either with the same team or not, either in the same sport or not. It has to be a pretty special thing for all involved, realizing the significance. A few years ago, I featured a few father/sons and in one case grandparent combinations in honor of the day. A lot of those folks are still calling games. Some have moved on to retirement.

The names may have changed in some cases, but the story or stories have not. It can’t be easy to grow up the son of a broadcaster, especially early in life. Parents have to miss birthdays, graduations and a lot of ‘firsts’ that come along with growing up. Strangely enough, what separated them, can bring them together. A better understanding of what dad does for a living. A better understanding of the time away. So, let’s get on to some of these popular combinations. I’m going to highlight some of them, and this time around it’s not limited to only baseball.

Noah and Ian Eagle

Ian Eagle is one of the busiest guys in broadcasting. This past March he called his very first Final Four and NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game. He was excellent in that role, taking over the spot from the legendary Jim Nantz. The elder Eagle also calls NFL on CBS and the NBA on Turner Sports. He is also the television voice of the Brooklyn Nets on the YES Network.

Noah is starting to make a name for himself in the industry. After brief stints at Fox and CBS, he joined NBC last February to become the play-by-play announcer for the newly acquired Big Ten Saturday Night package, as well as the Big Ten Basketball package on Peacock. The younger Eagle was also tabbed to call US Men’s and Women’s basketball games during the upcoming 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. Noah also just debuted as the lead voice for NBC Sports/Peacock at the 2024 French Open tennis championships.

The natural question would be, how tough it is to live up to expectations, considering that his father has reached the pinnacle of the profession.  Noah seems to have a pretty good attitude about things and is trying to be his own person even with the pressure.

“I think it’s there, I think it’s true of any profession if you follow a parent — if you’re in the limelight, if you’re not in the limelight — there are people that are going to be around you within that profession more than anything else that are going to look at you and say, ‘Well you better be successful,” or, “You better do it this way, you better do it that way.’” Eagle told The New York Post in December 2023. “My philosophy has always been I’m going to put in 100 percent effort, maybe even in my thought process, 150 percent, whatever that looks like, maximum effort into my preparation, maximum effort into my relationships that I build, and then just focus on what I can do — which is go out there and perform at a high level.” he added.

“I know it sounds cliché, but to me if you can control what you can control, and that is doing the job at your highest level, whatever that is, then you’ll live up to your own expectations.”

The Eagle’s both succeed in bringing a little personality and humor into their respective broadcasts.

Both have called Brooklyn Nets games.

Marv and Kenny Albert

One of the more versatile duos on the list, Marv and Kenny Albert have called a multitude of sports, sometimes in the span of a single week. They’ve both done radio and television and have styles that are unique to each.

Marv got started at the age of 19. Working his way up, starting as a young ball boy for the Knicks. He managed to strike up a friendship with the legendary New York sportscaster Marty Glickman, who took a liking to Albert and his passion for sports. Albert would get a chance to fill in for Glickman on several Knicks and Rangers games on WCBS Radio before he was 20.

“That was kind of ridiculous, especially when I go back and listen to the tapes.” Albert told the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

Marv is best known for his work at NBC, on their NFL and of course NBA coverage.

Kenny is also a multi-sport play-by-play man. The younger Albert does baseball, football, basketball, hockey and the Olympics. He’s seemingly on the air all the time. Albert works for FOX, TNT and used to call hockey on NBC. He also works on the New York Rangers radio network.

Now as far as growing up with one of the most popular sportscasters of his time?  “I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher,” Kenny said of his father. “I tagged along as often as he would allow and I picked up a lot by osmosis.” he writes in his book, A Mic For All Seasons.

“I also received a tape recorder from my parents for my birthday when I was about five or six years old. I would set up my room like a radio or TV studio. I would start calling games into the recorder.”

Harry, Skip, Chip and Chris Caray

The family with the longest lineage, now spanning 4 generations, the Caray’s. Harry started it all. His radio work in St. Louis (with Jack Buck) led him to television stints with the White Sox and Cubs in Chicago. Harry’s son Skip was next to be on the air. Skip joined the Atlanta Braves broadcasts in 1976 and stayed there until his death in 2008. Skip, like Harry, became popular outside his ‘home market’ because the games were broadcast on Superstation WTBS.

Now a second father/son duo has emerged from the Caray family tree. Chip Caray and his son Chris Caray are both major league broadcasters. Chip has been around for a little while, starting with the Cubs in 1998. He was supposed to work with his grandfather, but unfortunately Harry passed away during spring training of that year. Chip has done work for the Atlanta Braves and now is with the St. Louis Cardinals.

This year, Chris was hired by the A’s to do some of their television games. He just so happened to be working a game, when the Cardinals (and Chip) came to Oakland in mid-April. Chip and Chris met on the field before the game and spoke to the Associated Press that night.

“I’m the old guy now and I remember when I was 24 and I got my first chance to do this and my dad was in the other booth on the radio side in Atlanta,” said Chip. “And it’s very different having the torch being passed instead of being passed to you. I’m really excited and humbled and honored that Chris is here. He’s doing a great job already and I’m really excited about where he’s going to take this family business as we call it.”

Only a couple of weeks into his new job, Chris was calling a game with his dad sitting a couple of booths away. “I’m grateful and fortunate enough that they picked this series to be my fourth game. I can’t really even put it into words to tell you the truth.” he told the AP.

The Caray’s “family business” could grow by one soon. Chris’ twin brother Stefan is also calling games. In fact, Chris and Stefan both called games for the Amarillo Sod Poodles the past two years calling the games of the Diamondbacks’ Double-A affiliate.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, enjoy yourself, you deserve it.

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