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A Conversation With Steve Gorman

Brian Noe

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Have you ever gone to a bar and bumped into somebody that was a great storyteller who also had a really interesting past? It’s entertaining to listen to a person like that. This description fits Steve Gorman incredibly well. Steve is a phenomenal storyteller who happens to have a slew of fascinating stories to share from his past.

Steve has told me many epic stories about his musical experiences during commercial breaks and following radio shows. Of course he shares a lot of these stories with his listeners while on the air too, as he’ll share in a book due next summer about his adventures as the drummer of the Black Crowes. The fusion of the sports and music worlds mixed with unique storytelling is something that is very rare in sports radio. It’s an approach that Steve applies very nicely.

“I’m a big believer in if you’re not in over your head, you don’t know how tall you are.” That was Steve’s philosophy when he was initially offered a weekday national show on FOX Sports Radio. After being thrown in the deep end, he’s still standing tall five years later. 

Steve can be heard from 6-8pm ET on FSR and the iHeartRadio app. I keep listening for Steve to profess his hidden love for heavy metal music. It hasn’t happened yet, but you never know. There’s still hope. Enjoy!

Brian Noe: Would you rather listen to seven straight hours of heavy metal or watch the Yankees smoke the Orioles in a doubleheader?

Steve Gorman: Only because I’m so used to it and it wouldn’t feel that unusual, I think the Yankees smoking the Orioles. I’ve got a lifetime of painful experience being dominated by the Yankees, so it would actually go by quicker.

Noe: Okay. Now, does this signal a growing love for heavy metal in your eyes?

SG: It doesn’t. The signal for a growing love of heavy metal in my eyes — I don’t know what that would be. If I were signaling something from my eyes it would actually be Morse code saying, “Help me, get me out of here.” That’s what comes to mind. A hostage situation where I’m saying, “Yes, I love heavy metal,” but I’m truly being held against my will.

Noe: (laughs) That’s disappointing, but I understand where you’re coming from. How much was music and sports a part of your family life growing up?

SG: It was huge. I have five older brothers and four of my older brothers were big jocks and the fifth played guitar. You just look up to your older brothers. The ones who didn’t play music all had record collections. I think about my childhood and the idea of shooting hoops in the driveway — playing HORSE, or 21, one-on-one, two-on-two, or even three-on-three, but there’s a speaker out of someone’s bedroom window blasting music the whole time. That’s what it was like at my house.

You were usually doing something to keep your body moving with a ball and listening to music. Soccer and basketball were the sports that I played at school for my teams, but football in the backyard, tennis, baseball and whatever else there was to do at all times. We were just always doing something and there was always music on.

Noe: Would you say that you were bigger into sports or music growing up?

SG: It’s interesting. I love them both. I would sit and listen to records and not move for hours at a time. My greatest passion was absolutely for music, but there wasn’t a path for music that I could see. As a kid, you have Little League and everybody plays, but you don’t have Little League rock bands. I guess now you have the School of Rock if you live in a town with one and so the kids can actually think about being in a band.

Our culture has sports all wrapped up in it with your school, with your neighborhood, sports are something that is just part of daily life. I wanted to be in a band. Like early, I don’t remember there being a time where I didn’t think, “Man, I want to be a drummer in a rock ‘n’ roll band.” But at the same time when I was seven, you didn’t go to Little League to join a band. You went to Little League to play baseball. 

There was a path to sports and there was a reality for sports. There was nothing like that that I was aware of to go play music. If you asked me what I wanted to do, I would have always said I want to be in a band. But that just didn’t seem like a realistic thing to me on any level where I could go play drums. I could go play any number of sports.

Noe: How did your sports radio career begin?

SG: It began in my mind in the late ‘90s. I had been a broadcasting major in college in the ‘80s [at Western Kentucky University]. When I was a college student, I thought I would just be a sportscaster. That was my first actual goal. I was a broadcasting major. I dropped out, bought a drum kit, and started a band. Then, took a long diversion, if you will, away from that thinking.

I never thought about broadcasting again once I bought a drum kit until I started listening to sports talk radio in the mid-to-late ‘90s as it was blowing up. I remember very specifically the first time I ever heard Jim Rome. I was in Atlanta — ‘96 or ‘97 probably — when he got on the air there. I remember I had read an article about him and his show in Sports Illustrated. It was talking about other markets had sports talk but this guy was going national. It focused on a few guys — there was Jim Rome and there was “Ferrall On The Bench” were the two shows that were on in Atlanta that I started listening to.

The jungle back then — I mean Jim Rome’s show was very different then than what it became as most shows do evolve greatly — but when I first heard it I thought there’s something there. That’s an interesting format. It’s creative. It’s unique, and I wonder if there’s a way to do a show like that but where you have a lot more music content. It was just a vague thought, but it was something that stayed in the back of my mind for years and years. I never thought to do anything about it. It would just occur to me as I would listen to the show.

When I moved to Nashville, I was here in 2004, and sometime around 2008 I was at preschool picking my daughter up and I was talking with one of the other dads [Willy Daunic]. He did the afternoon drive-time show on a local sports talk station here in Nashville. We just met and we we’re just shooting the shit. He said, “Hey, you should come in and do a segment with me sometime. Come in for an hour. You’re a sports fan. You’re in this big band and you’re funny. Come on in. It’ll be fun.” And I said, “Yeah sure, no problem.”

I had done radio interviews throughout the entire ‘90s with the Black Crowes. I would go to radio stations all the time — to rock stations — and if they had a sports talk station I’d say, “Hey, can I go sit in with those guys too?” I just always wanted to do that.

So anyway, I did an hour locally here with the afternoon show and the program director [Brad Willis] came in and said, “Man that was great! You sounded good. You’re really funny. We could do a weekly segment with you if you wanted it. I could sponsor it and probably give you a couple of hundred bucks a week.”

My answer, even at the time it was just kind of a joke, but you always gotta see what you can get away with, I said, “You know, actually I’d rather just have my own show.” He looked at me and he goes, “What is it?” I said, “Musicians talking about sports.” He laughed and he goes, “Okay, well, let’s get lunch tomorrow and talk about it.” Literally two weeks later I was on the air.

Noe: That’s awesome, man. (laughs) That’s a great story.

SG: And I’ve been on a million radio shows that I can tell you this — it was a Sunday night. He said, “Just come in and do Sunday nights from like 8 to 9. Just take one hour and just feel it out.” Me and my buddy Brandon [Gnetz] — I convinced him to do it with me — we went in on a Sunday night and we wrote a ton of bits together ahead of time. We wrote enough content to, right now, would be a week of radio. We had so much material and I just basically sat there and read it really fast trying to sound calm. I’m sure if I heard it now it would be the worst thing ever.

We went in there and I thought it was a cool thing and it was going to be fun. The first time I heard myself say the words Steve Gorman Sports, all I could think was, “What the hell did I just get myself into?” It’s one thing to go sit in on someone else’s show and it’s another when they say, “Okay, you’re on,” and it’s your show and you really don’t know what you’re doing.

As I said it was Sunday night at 8pm, which is not exactly high ratings drive time, so I don’t know that anybody heard it. We just started doing that on Sundays. The band was working a lot. Through the summer of ‘08 through 2009 and into 2010, I would just get Sunday nights for an hour and sometimes two hours, just whenever I wanted to. Whenever I was home and had time to do it, they would just give me the time. The thinking was always I’m going to be off the road one day.

The PD of the station there [Brad Willis] — he’s still a friend of mine — he just said, “Look, man, just picture it like a batting cage. You’re just going in and taking cracks. You’re just swinging the bat. That’s all you do. If this is something you ever want to commit to, you’ll figure it out.” He was super supportive. He thought it was kind of great that I didn’t know what I was doing because chances are you’re going to find something kind of unique that way. 

The Crowes took ‘11 and ‘12 off so I had two years I knew I was going to be home. In 2011, that first station I was ever at, which is called The Zone here in Nashville, they had no time for me. I went to the PD and he said, “Man, I’d love to give you some time, but I have nothing. There’s another station that just switched formats so there’s a little competition in town at a station called The Game. Go see if they have time.”

I went out and met the PD there [Troy Hanson] and he put me on nights the summer of 2011. I started doing 10-to-midnight five nights a week on The Game. Then after six months, I moved to the afternoons for just one hour, but that’s what I was doing for all of ‘11 and ‘12 and then about the first half of 2013.

Noe: What was your reaction when Fox Sports Radio initially offered you that weekday gig to host national shows?

SG: Oh, I couldn’t even believe it. I had been on the air here on a daily show for about a year and a half. I was just getting ready to go out on tour with the Black Crowes in 2013. I got a call from Bruce Gilbert at FOX Sports Radio who had heard about the show and listened to it online a couple of times. You know Bruce, Brian, and he was like, “What is this? Is this a hobby? Is this a real career move? I’m intrigued. It’s just very different.” We just had a long conversation. We had a long talk about my vision for the show and what kind of show I’d like to do and he thought it was cool.

That was all very good, but I was on the road all year. In the fall of 2013 in August or September, he said, “Hey man, when the tour stops in December, if you want I can put you on weekends on FOX Sports Radio.” I was thrilled. I was like holy crap. Like, “How many stations would you put me on?” I thought he was going to say seven. He goes, “No, the whole network. It’s like 230 stations.” I just couldn’t believe it.


When you’re a young band and you’re making your first record, you’re listening to your favorite bands’ records and you’re envisioning yourself, “Can we get as good as my favorite bands? Can we get as great?” I hadn’t really taken radio in the same way as seriously just because the show was so unlike anything else. I didn’t have anything to really compare it to. To hear a guy like Bruce — for him to be that interested and say I’ll put you on weekends, that was like, oh man, I got to really get a little more serious about this because I’ll get exposed real fast for just kind of winging it if you will.

I think I was a little over nervous. We were working hard, but again I just didn’t feel we knew what we were doing. I look back now and be like, “Yeah, we knew exactly what we were doing,” but it was just way more than I would’ve expected. Then again it’s not that unusual, that’s kind of how radio works. At the same time, one guy came to see The Black Crowes in New York in 1988 and said, “Do you want to make a record?” All of a sudden we’re making a record. 

I mean things do happen quickly. It’s not about the finished product. It’s about does somebody see talent? Does somebody see potential? I put things into that framework so I could make more sense of it. I compared it to the music world just so I could get a sense of context.

For the fall of 2013, I was anticipating getting on weekends in 2014 as a starting point. I went into the holidays thinking this would be great, man. We had decided to wait until football season ended just because if I had been on the air on a Saturday or a Sunday, all you’re doing is updating scores like, “Hey, Steve Gorman Sports, from South Bend, Notre Dame just scored again.” You’re just doing that kind of a show on the weekends. That’s just different. I thought if a bunch of program directors are going to hear the show they should probably hear something more like what we want it to be. 

We decided let’s wait till February. The week after the Super Bowl, I’ll hop on the weekend. Well, that was the plan. Then on December 24th, Christmas Eve, we’ve got the kids there excited, got the tree all up, wrapping presents. The phone rings and Bruce says, “Look, I don’t have time to explain to you what’s happened. Grease fire just got put out at FOX Sports Radio, but are you ready to do five days a week the first week of January?” I said, “What are you talking about?” He goes, “3-6 Eastern, Monday through Friday, are you up for it?” 

I knew in the back of my mind that there’s no way in hell I’m up for that, so of course my answer was, “Yes, absolutely. Let’s go.” I’m a big believer in if you’re not in over your head, you don’t know how tall you are.

I remember saying to him, “How long do I have to suck before you fire me?” (laughs) I need some time. I’ve never done it on this scale. I said, “When do you look at the ratings?” He goes, “You don’t understand how this works. It takes about a year, a year and a half for a show to really find itself.” I thought he was going to say you have six weeks. You know what I mean? That’s just how little I know about radio. 

I really thought he’d go, “Hey, if it’s not working by April, we’ll cut you loose.” I fully anticipated him saying that. He goes, “You know it takes about a year,” and the second he said that, I was like, “Okay. I’m in, man. Let’s do this. Let’s go.” It turned out we started about a month later. It was the end of January when the show launched.

Noe: When you started the show and the first few months went by, did you get any brushback or feel a vibe like, “Why the hell is this musician doing a sports talk show?”

SG: Yeah, not that I was hearing it, I just could see it on Twitter. People are online tweeting about it. Bitter people are weighing in on what a bunch of bullshit this is. To Bruce’s credit — when I first talked to Bruce and we were having our very first get-to-know-you conversation, I think the things I said — I was just being very honest. He said, “What’s your favorite show?” I said I listen to Colin Cowherd every day. He goes, “Really? Why?” I said because it reminds me of what I don’t want to do, or what I don’t want to be. He loved that answer.

He said, “You know I talk to people every day who say, ‘I’m the next Colin Cowherd.’” I was like, “Oh my God. No.” I think his show is great, but I’m just all over the place. I can’t think that way. I’m not that linear of a thinker. Sports to me is all about — I look at it like music. It’s about passion, and it’s being a fan, and it’s just the funny stories that surround it.

I’m not an expert. I know a lot about sports. I know a lot more than a lot of people, but for people that do this — I’m going to say this about you, Brian Noe, I look at a guy like you in this industry and I think, you can break down things on a micro level in a way that I never could, and that I frankly never was interested in doing. I just always wanted to create a show that was just kind of my sensibility. It worked out I had a great opportunity to do that.

Then I brought my cousin [Jeffrey Gorman] along as a co-host. We tend to have a very natural rapport that plays into itself. I just never saw myself as an expert on anything. I just am very curious. I know what I like and I know what I don’t like. I know what I think is real and I know what I think is bullshit. I just saw an avenue for something that could be a little creative and unique. Here we are now in our fifth year and it’s still going well.

Noe: What do you love and hate the most about sports talk radio?

SG: In general? You don’t mean my experience, you mean just something in general? 

Noe: You could take it either way. You could take it as it applies specifically to you and doing a show, or just in general what the format is like.

SG: Well, I’ll answer it both ways. As far as the format goes, I don’t care for — I say things that I really believe. I obviously know, especially if the subject goes off of sports, I say things that get a reaction from people. I can tell you this completely truthfully. That’s not why I say it. I’m not interested in clickbait. It’s not my personality to be like, “Listen to me and look at me over here.” That’s a weird thing for a radio host to say, but I have opinions on all sorts of things that are to me completely reasonable.

I understand that other people might not agree, but the point is I tell you what I think. I’m certainly open to hearing any other opinion and thought process, but I’m not interested in conversation that is just designed to inflame people. I don’t have any time to think about how can I stick it to the people who think one way by thinking another way, or by presenting something else. If I’m talking about it, I’m telling you what I really think.

I also have no problem the next day going, “Oh, man, I was totally wrong. You know what I just realized?” I want my show to sound more like conversations that I have with friends all the time. In my life I talk about politics. I talk about religion. I talk about movies and food. To me everything in conversation is valid. I just love conversation. I like just shooting the shit with people. And that’s the kind of show I’m looking for.

I don’t look for the hot buttons. I don’t like to create hot buttons. The other point is I’m just not good at that. It’s not my forte. For the people who live to do that sort of thing that, they’re good at it. It works for them. All I can say to them is congratulations. Good for you. It’s not interesting to me. I don’t like the mindset behind that.

That said, I’m also very aware that I come at this from a very different place than a lot of people in this medium. Most of the guys that do this, this is something they wanted to do, and the only thing they wanted to do for a really long time. I sort of slid into it on a local level. There’s not a lot of cities where a guy can go to the PD at a hugely successful sports talk station and say, “Hey, it’s musicians talking sports,” and they say, “Hey, cool,” but this is Nashville. Every other person on the street is the guitar player. It makes sense here. I understand there’s a lot to my situation that some things just fell into place that very likely wouldn’t have if I were anywhere else at any given time. That’s just how it goes.

I say I’m very lucky, which means I had an opportunity and I made sure I took advantage of it. That’s what luck is. It’s preparation meets opportunity. You’ve got to make your own luck. 

There were opportunities before that I wasn’t ready for and it didn’t pan out. You could call me unlucky if you wanted. Luck is hitting the scratch-off ticket for 10 bucks. When I say I got lucky in radio, it’s not like I wasn’t doing the work. It’s not like I don’t still do the work, but I was lucky that the guy who heard me was in a position to do something about it. I was lucky that his bosses said, “Yeah, we’ll take a flyer on this guy.”

Self-made people don’t exist. You need help no matter what you do unless you literally invent a new chemical. If you can invent a new molecule then okay, maybe you’re a self-made success, but otherwise you just need a lot of help. That’s been my experience.

Noe: Who are some musicians you know that are either big sports fans or active listeners of sports radio?

SG: Oh, I know a ton. I’ve said for years every band has at least one big sports fan in it. Pretty much any band I’ve ever met. The guys from Oasis are massive soccer fans. A couple of the guys in Wilco are ginormous basketball and football fans. The guys in Hootie and the Blowfish — I’m just thinking about different types of bands — were all huge sports fans. Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers were massive basketball and soccer fans. Mike Mills, the bass player in REM, University of Georgia and all Atlanta sports teams. Obsessive. There’s just so many.

For that matter, Robert Plant is a partial owner of a soccer team in England. There’s all kinds of sports fans in all kinds of music. As far as who listens, I don’t know. In the Black Crowes, the singer in our band, Chris Robinson, is a huge sports fan. I mean massive sports fan. That image, people just don’t think that makes sense because he’s a front man, completely stoned all the time, whatever you think of him, but he played sports growing up. He’s a huge basketball, football, and soccer fan. He likes everything. He likes baseball at times. We’ve been to a million games together all over the place.

Noe: What has been your single favorite moment in music and your single favorite moment in sports radio?

SG: Wow. I mean single favorite moment in music is impossible. I could give you a different answer every day for the rest of my life. There’s some serious highlights. The first time Jimmy Page jumped onstage and sat in with the Black Crowes was pretty mind-blowing. And mind-blowing because people say, “Oh, it was like a dream come true,” and it’s beyond that because it never occurred to me to dream it. At no point did I think, “Man, maybe one day we’ll play with Jimmy Page.” That just didn’t even occur to me as a possibility.

That led to playing with him whole lot. That led to a whole tour and a live album. That very first time we were in Paris in early 1995 and he turned up at the gig and we said, “Do you want to sit in for the encore?” He said yes. Just that moment, the anticipation like, “Wait a minute. He’s going to do this?” I’ll never, ever, ever forget that.

It’s funny because we met him two weeks earlier in London for the first time. We played the Royal Albert Hall and we met Jimmy Page because we had already known Robert Plant. We had toured with him. So, Robert came to the gig and brought Jimmy along. We walk offstage. Jimmy walks in. “Oh, man, good to meet you. How are you?” He’s like, “Oh, I loved it. I love the band. It was great.” Like, “Oh my God! Jimmy Page!” As far as guitar players go, there’s nowhere else to go on the list. He’s one of the pinnacle guys.

This is late January of ‘95. As it turns out it’s the night of the Super Bowl — Niners and Chargers. We’re in London so the game is starting London time at like midnight. We held a room at the Albert Hall and it had some TVs. We had an after-show party to watch the Super Bowl and Jimmy Page was there. The first night we ever hung out with Page the Super Bowl was on and we were standing there and he was talking about the first time he ever saw an American football game. He met Joe Montana once and this, and that, and the other. He’s telling stories and I’m watching the Super Bowl and I’m like, well this is just all the pieces of my brain nice and neat all in one moment. I’m watching the Super Bowl with the two guys from Led Zeppelin like, “Holy shit.”

It was funny because a year to the day later, we we’re with Page and Plant at an after-show party watching the Super Bowl in Brazil. We had two straight Super Bowls with those guys out of the country. Those moments are always pretty cool.

Favorite moment in sports talk was probably — I’ve had Ringo Starr on my show a few times and I know him. I say we’re friends. I’m one of more than a million young drummers that loves to drum and love drums because of Ringo Starr. He’s very sweet to me and very friendly. We’re not exactly pen pals, but the fact that we’ve met and we have a good rapport, that is my dream. I was such a Beatles fan growing up. I just revere him so much.

To be on the radio with Ringo and he’s telling me stories in the ‘70s of how he always loved the Dallas Cowboys. He was watching the Cowboys once and just decided, “I’m going to live in Dallas.” So, he just on a lark flew to Dallas and bought a cowboy hat and looked at ranches for a whole day, and then decided, “Nah, I’ll go back to LA,” and just flew right back to LA. At no point did he mention, I think it was obvious, he was high as a kite and barely remembers it, but the point of the story was he likes the Dallas Cowboys. For me, Steve Gorman Sports gets no better than Ringo Starr talking about the Dallas Cowboys in the 1970s.

Noe: I love it. That’s great. Which would drive you crazier; would it be a whole month without playing drums once, or a whole month without doing a single sports talk show?

SG: Without music for sure. I haven’t been playing shows much at all. I’m going to be busy next year on the road and I’m dying to do that. The last few years I have played the fewest shows ever since 1987. I’ve been barely gigging at all, but it was good. It helps to take a long break. I’ve never done it before. I think it has been a good thing.

I have to hit something every now and then. I have to sit at a kit and at least play for five minutes — that’s me. Not doing the show, not talking about sports or doing Steve Gorman Sports — if I took a month off maybe it would drive me crazy, but it’s been awhile since I’ve had a month off that too. Right now I’d say it’s much harder to think about not drumming.

Noe: What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started doing Steve Gorman Sports on FOX?

SG: Momentum. Keep going forward. It’s storytelling and it’s getting your opinion across. When I first started, I had some subconscious concerns. Once I was able to identify them, they went away pretty quickly. Like you referenced — what about people who were bagging you for, “Where did this guy come from?” I felt like I had to prove I belonged. I didn’t want it to look like I was just handed a gig because I’m a guy in a band.

Now, that’s not how radio works. Nobody would’ve ever given me a sports talk show because I’m a good drummer. That’s crazy. But like I said, I was in over my head and you start to think crazy things when you’re there. It’s not like the Black Crowes were at their commercial peak in 2013. It’s not like we were the biggest band in the country. It’s not like someone gave Dave Grohl a radio show. He’s like a household name. I’m the drummer in a band that has a cult audience and a cult following but that was about it by the time 2013 rolled around.

I shouldn’t have had that concern, but I think I did. I was really freaked out making sure I never misspoke. On yesterday’s show, I said something about the Lakers and I said they’re the winningest franchise as far as titles go in NBA history. As soon as I said it, I went, “No, they’re not. Boston has 17, the Lakers have 16.” But it was too late.

Four years ago I would have stopped myself and said, “Hang on, hang on, hang on, I have that backwards. Boston has one more title.” But in the context it didn’t matter so I kept rolling with it. Some guy immediately tweets in, “Dude, you’re wrong.” I tweeted back, “Yeah, I know. Brain fart.” You know what I mean? It’s like I don’t care. If I’m going to talk for two hours, I’m going to get my words messed up. I’m going to say something that’s either incorrect or just completely the opposite of what I actually think because sometimes my mouth moves faster than my brain.

I’m terrible with pronouncing names. I can say Luka Donchich, Luka Donkick, Luka Donchick, Luka Donkich. I can say that six different ways in the course of one show. Talking to you right now, I know it’s Doncic, but when I’m on the air I’ll mispronounce names with the best of them. It’s just part of me and I used to really, really sweat those things and now I realize that it honestly doesn’t matter.

If the energy is up, if Jeffrey and I are legitimately engaging and listening to each other and moving it forward, that’s the goal. The goal is for two hours, someone’s driving home or sitting at their desk, people are just hanging out with us. That’s what I’m going for. I want people to feel like they can relate to us on some level.

I know that for a lot of listeners right out of the gate — drummer in a rock band, he did that for 25 years, now he’s doing this — you can certainly present the case that people don’t relate to my life. I have traveled and been in dozens and dozens of countries. I’ve played thousands of shows and met all these famous people and yada yada yada, but I don’t see myself as that guy. I’m a sports fan. I’m a music fan. 

I’m just presenting my take on things along with my cousin who sees very few things the same way I do. Part of the reason I really wanted Jeffrey wasn’t just because we had a good rapport, but our brains operate nothing alike. I thought that would make for a more compelling show — to have two people who aren’t direct opposites by design.

You listen to Mike and Mike and no disrespect, they had a tremendous run and they were a huge part of the sports talk landscape, but those characters were well-honed and rehearsed. The nebbishy, nerdy stats guy and the big dumb jock. You listen to that show once and you get it. “Oh, I see what they’re doing.” 

To their credit they made that work wildly successfully. I didn’t think of me and Jeffrey, we didn’t do it like that, we’re just naturally who we are. We’re very, very different people. But again we’re family and we have a lifelong rapport, so I thought it would work.

Noe: 10 years from now, do you have an idea of where you’ll be or a goal of where you want to be, and do those things match up or not?

SG: It’s funny because we’re in our fifth year now, and I really now am thinking in those ways. For the first six months I’m just thinking to myself, “Just don’t suck today. Let’s just don’t suck.” Then six months in, it’s like, “Hey, we’re consistently not sucking. Now let’s get consistently good.” Then you get consistently good.

Then you get to a point where right now our worst show right now is still a pretty good show. There’s days when for whatever reason we just don’t click together. You have days where life gets in the way. That’s just everyone’s life. You can be distracted by events that in the grand scheme of things are far more important than Thursday’s show. Illnesses, and I’m talking about family things and real life big issues that keep the show from being great.

Even then, the thing that happens is in due time, if you have a show where something’s off, most of the listeners aren’t aware of it anymore. That’s the same way it is with a rock band. 

The Black Crowes, if you saw us in 1990, you might have seen a show where you went, “They’re not very good.” By 1991, after we played for 12 straight months and definitely by 1992, 400 gigs later our worst show was still a pretty damn good show. We can tell the nights when it wasn’t perfect, but the fans can’t.

That’s where the radio show got after a certain amount of time. Now I am looking at other things. It’s funny, I told you when I met Chris Broussard a couple of months ago in LA for the first time. He said, “Man, you ever think about doing TV? I said, “No, I’m in Nashville.” Because to me, I was always going to be a touring musician and be doing this radio show at the same time.

When the show got picked up, the Black Crowes were scheduled to be on tour for all of 2015. I was going to be doing the show from the road. That was always another unique feature. It didn’t happen. The band ended up breaking up, but when Trigger Hippy went out in ‘14 and ‘15, I was still doing the show from the road. Then when Trigger Hippy is out next year, I’ll be doing that again.

I always wanted to establish a daily radio show on the road, being on the road the whole time. Once I’m in a position where I’m doing that, that’s going to open up a lot of other opportunities for a lot of digital content, a lot of video content. There’s a lot of ideas that I was really prepared to utilize in 2015. When FOX Sports Radio picked up it was like, “Okay, you’re in Nashville. We’ll be in Nashville for 2015. You get a year under your belt. Then we hit the road full time with the radio show.” It was going to be radio show in the day, rock show at night. Kind of my dream world.

The Black Crowes broke up as a classic frontman singer narcissism crazy band situation developed, and the band had to end. That was taken off the table. That threw a big wrench in the overall plan, but now I’m starting to see it again. I don’t mean this to sound bad, but the original vision was that it was not just a radio show, but it was a radio show on the road. That part of it is still my number one goal. By getting on the road, it’s going to open up a lot more opportunities for different types of content. 

You have to already be doing it before you can then figure out how to pitch it to make it something big. Be that it’s an online series or whatever it is. You kind of have to get it going yourself before anybody can possibly understand what you’re trying to do. You have to show people what it is before you can sell it.

You’ve got to just get out and do it. I knew that I could talk about doing a radio show or I could just go do a radio show. When I started doing nights in 2011 here in town — I was doing 10-to-midnight — I did it for six months before I made one penny. Two hours a night, five days a week for free, but I knew that’s what it takes. No one’s going to give you a damn thing. You just have to show that you want to go out there and do it. So that’s how I did it.

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ESPN and the 2024 ESPY Awards Mix Sports Entertainment with a Great Cause

Serena Williams hosted the special night from Los Angeles which continued to support The V Foundation for Cancer Research.

John Molori

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ESPYS
Courtesy: ESPYS on X

When it comes to glitz, glamour, and gripping stories, the 2024 ESPY Awards which aired live on Thursday, July 11 on ABC certainly did not disappoint. The fanfare took its roots in this year’s host, former tennis superstar and all-around icon Serena Williams. The 2024 ESPYs may just serve as the launching pad for the birth of a new entertainment star.

Hosting a long, involved, and wide-ranging awards show is hard, and Willams was absolutely terrific. We all know that Williams has charisma. She set new trends and was a groundbreaking presence on the court – not only with her play, but with her style, flair, and dramatics. But did you know that she could deliver jokes with dead on timing and even sing?

Williams brought all of this to the ESPY Awards stage. She kept the show moving at a pace that rivaled her own swiftness on the tennis court. For those who were wondering what the heck Serena Williams was doing hosting the ESPYs, she stated, “You may be wondering why I’m doing this. First of all, any opportunity to wear 16 outfits in three hours, I’m going to take it.”

 Of course, there was no shortage of superstar talent to go along with Williams. With nominees such as Jaylen Brown, Caitlin Clark, Coco Gauff, Patrick Mahomes, and Shohei Ohtani, the ESPYs indeed lived up to its moniker as the Oscars of sports.

The vast array of celebrity and sports presenters was equally amazing. Personalities gracing the stage included Quinta Brunson, Nikki Glaser, Rob Lowe, Paige Bueckers, Draymond Green, Lindsey Vonn, and Candace Parker, among others.

The group of names I just mentioned truly defines the underlying essence of the ESPY Awards, namely, diversity. More than any other awards show on television, the ESPYS are all about bringing people from different walks of life together, bonded by a common love of sports.

It has been said many times that entertainers want to be athletes and athletes want to be entertainers. On no stage is this more apparent than the ESPYs. The event is all about gigantic personalities dating back to 1993 and the epic speech by the late ESPN broadcaster and college basketball coach, Jim Valvano.

Valvano was the epitome of showmanship both on the sidelines and on the air, and his emotional 1993 ESPY speech is now the stuff of legend.

 Suffering from cancer, Valvano was brilliant, telling people to laugh, cry, and think every day while making the audience in attendance and at home do all three at once. It was this speech that essentially founded the V Foundation for Cancer Research, the ESPYs charitable arm and an organization that has helped raise more than $200 million for cancer research.

Indeed, the ESPYS are not just about 2024, but about history. The program always brings to mind Valvano as well as the late ESPN superstar anchor Stuart Scott, who gave his own memorable ESPY speech in 2014 just months before succumbing to cancer in January 2015. The images of Valvano and Scott hover over the ESPY stage like angels looking down in satisfaction that the cause continues.

In addition to awards for best athletes, teams, and moments, the 2024 ESPYS also continued the tradition of special honorees. Former New Orleans Saints’ safety Steve Gleason, who has valiantly and publicly fought ALS for years, received the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage.

University of South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley received the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance named after the aforementioned Valvano, and Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, received the Pat Tillman Award for Service in recognition of his work helping veterans.

Still, it was the Gleason presentation that stood out for me. The Ashe Award is given to individuals whose contributions transcend sports and reflect the spirit of Ashe with strength, courage, and a willingness to stand up for their beliefs in the face of adversity. Many have followed him, but it was Gleason who truly gave a high profile face to the debilitating disease that is ALS.

In response to receiving the honor, Gleason wrote on Instagram, “My aim has always been to see if we can discover peace and freedom with the love of life, in the midst of extreme adversity. Being recognized at the 2024 ESPYs is not just an honor, but a powerful platform to further help and serve others.”

The ritzy Dolby Theater in Los Angeles served as the perfect venue for this star-studded event. Perhaps the best part of the ESPY Awards each year is the mingling of past and present. It’s great to see the likes of ESPN’s Chris Berman and other sports veterans on stage, along with new stars in both athletics and entertainment.

 The award categories were, as always, filled with superstar names, but the Men’s Sports, Best Athlete group is worth noting. This year’s nominees included Patrick Mahomes, Shohei Ohtani, Scottie Scheffler, and Connor McDavid. Honestly, have their ever been four nominees who have so utterly dominated their respective sports in one year? For Mahomes to earn this award was quite a feat for sure.

The Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback was already an ESPY winner before the awards show even aired. He was announced as the winner of the Best NFL Player ESPY on the July 10 edition of ESPN’s NFL Live.

Mahomes has taken the mantle of Tom Brady and is now the most dominant presence in the NFL. With two consecutive and three overall Super Bowl championships as well as three Super Bowl MVP Awards, he has lifted himself into that rarefied air of fame.

The ESPYs have also grown technologically. This year’s show not only aired on ABC, but was live streamed on DIRECTV stream, Fubo, Hulu + Live TV, and Sling. The widespread popularity of the program stems from its unique award categories such as Best Breakthrough Athlete which featured winner JuJu Watkins and nominees Victor Wembanyama, C.J. Stroud and others.

I also liked the Best Record Breaking Performance category with Christian McCaffrey, Tara VanDerveer, Max Verstappen, and the winner Caitlin Clark, who became the NCAA’s all-time scoring leader breaking Pete Maravich’s record.

The ESPYs Best Championship Performance Award went to Jaylen Brown of the Celtics, but the nominee list went beyond the four major sports with Kayla Martello of Boston College women’s lacrosse and Midge Purse the NWSL Championship MVP award winner.

Best Athlete with a Disability and awards for race car driving, UFC fighting, boxing, tennis, and soccer hit home the show’s consistent theme of variety. Speaking of categories and winners, here are a few of my own from the 2024 ESPYs:

Best Speech: Steve Gleason after winning the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage

Best Moment: The Presentation of the Pat Tillman Award for Service mainly because it keeps Tillman’s name alive and eternal

Best Joke: Serena Williams saying to Caitlin Clark, “Caitlin, you are Larry Bird in that you are an amazing player, you have ties to Indiana, and white people are really crazy about you.”

Best Presenters: Jayden Daniels, Livvy Dunne, and Lil Wayne – the ultimate ESPY trio with stardom in sports, social media, and entertainment represented.

With flash and panache, the 2024 ESPY Awards show was a thoroughly entertaining showcase of stardom and success. It was interesting, exciting, and at times, quite moving – truly a home run for hope, a touchdown for triumph, and an ace for accomplishment.

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Sports Radio Advertising vs. Social Media

While social media is essential for specific campaigns, sports radio’s concentrated and loyal audience provides advertisers with a unique opportunity to connect meaningfully with credibility.

Jeff Caves

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Picture of a radio studio with a graphic showing various social media platforms

Increasingly, clients are wondering about the power of radio vs “everybody” on social media. Occasionally, it is a good idea to remind your sports radio advertising clients and yourself of the power your sports radio station has in its audience. While social media is the most popular kid in school, they are not headed for Harvard. You, my sports radio-selling friend, have all the advantages that make you a superior option for advertisers.

Your Audience is Engaged and Loyal

Sports radio listeners in the U.S. are incredibly engaged. According to Nielsen, Americans spend over four hours daily on audio, with a significant portion dedicated to radio. Specifically, sports radio listeners average around 3 hours and 24 minutes per week, as reported by Edison Research for ESPN Audio. Sports radio listeners are loyal, providing your advertiser with a reliable way to reach a dedicated audience who spends plenty of time immersing themselves in the station.

Social Media = Superficial Media

When your clients mention that they are buying social media or that they are impressed with the local influencer who has 50,000 followers, point out the average time users spend on social media platforms per day:

– Instagram: 30 minutes, translating to roughly 9 seconds per account if a person is following 200 accounts (I follow about 235).

– X: About 3.39 minutes per session; with two sessions daily, that’s about 1.35 seconds per account.

– Facebook: 33 minutes, equating to about 13.2 seconds per account if following 150 accounts.

These brief interactions pale compared to the time sports radio listeners dedicate to their favorite hosts and shows. This concentrated listening experience means your clients’ ads are more likely to be absorbed and remembered.

Ad Impact

Unlike social media ads, which can be easily skipped or ignored, endorsement radio ads are seamlessly integrated into programming, making them less likely to be bypassed. Who is paying attention when your favorite Insta model starts pitching another pre-workout drink? Is there ANY credibility? Moreover, the context of live radio commentary, analysis, and discussions enhances the relevance and effectiveness of radio ads, aligning perfectly with the listeners’ interests.

Reliability and Trust

Trust is a vital element where sports radio excels. Radio has long been viewed as a reliable news, entertainment, and information source. This credibility extends to the advertisements heard on sports radio. Listeners are more inclined to trust and act on these ads than social media ads, which often face issues of credibility and trustworthiness. What do we know about social media endorsers besides that they want followers to do ads and make money?

Sports radio’s significant listening time, deep engagement, the impactful nature of radio ads, and the desirable audience demographics all contribute to its effectiveness. While social media is essential for specific campaigns, sports radio’s concentrated and loyal audience provides advertisers with a unique opportunity to connect meaningfully with credibility.

Leverage these advantages when presenting sports radio, especially when you hear that social media advertising is some superior vehicle you can’t compete with. We need to educate the masses!

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How Would Sports Radio Solve the Joe Biden Problem?

“Sports radio is no stranger to this problem. Every station on the air is trying to stay relevant to its listeners.”

Demetri Ravanos

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A photo of President Joe Biden
Photo: Gage Skidmore, C.C. 2.0

Have you watched Jon Stewart’s response to the Democrats demanding that people questioning age and cognitive fitness of Joe Biden for a second term keep their mouth’s shut? If you haven’t, you really should. Not only is it a masterpiece of political commentary, but it really forces the party to confront the fact that it sure sounds like it isn’t taking the threat to American democracy as seriously as every elected official with a D next to their name claims to be. 

I have been saying since 2020 that it’s utterly embarrassing how old and incompetent both Joe Biden and Donald Trump are. Frankly, it’s disgusting to ask me to entrust decisions about my kids’ and my futures to one of two men that will probably be dead before 2028. They are too old for me to believe they either care about or even comprehend modern issues facing the country.

Sports radio is no stranger to this problem. Every station on the air is trying to stay relevant to its listeners. For anyone in a talk format, that requires work and research. When a talent can or will no longer put in the effort it takes to stay relevant, the bosses have a problem. When the stories and references no longer connect with the audience, the bosses have no choice but to address that problem. 

People get older. It’s natural. No one is going to lose a job in radio simply for having a different numeral at the front of their age than they did ten years ago, but if that talent is slowing down as they age and hurting the quality of the on air product, a programmer or GM has to be willing to entertain the possibility that the people around Joe Biden seemingly won’t.

I wanted to get some insight on this. What goes into such a big decision and how do you break the news to the unlucky elder statesman? I gave three program directors anonymity and asked them the same four questions about how a programmer would solve his or her own version of the Joe Biden problem.

While I will not tell you the names of these people, I will give you a description of their credentials, so that you can be assured that they have lived the experience they describe and the advice they give.

PD 1 has a history of running both stations and networks, having found success in many mid-size markets. PD 2 also has network experience as well as experience leading some of the most iconic local brands in sports radio. And finally, PD 3 has decades of major market experience, serving as a PD, producer and host. I appreciate all of them taking the time to answer my questions.

QUESTION 1: What is a sort of sure sign that it’s time to move on from a talent, even if they’re beloved?

PD 1: Results: Ratings and Revenue. If the show is still getting results but isn’t sounding great or fresh, that’s where the PD needs to coach the talent and give ideas to freshen up the show. If results continue to dip and coaching doesn’t fix it, that’s when a change is needed.

PD 2: You can start to notice in their voice, from a technical standpoint and mechanics how they sound in general but the basics, resetting, in and out of breaks, etc…

PD 3: The day to day effort wanes and you can clearly see & hear that the host is not able to engage the audience when there is not a clear headline grabbing topic.  

QUESTION 2: Have you found any way to make the talent you’re moving on from feel better about the decision or do you just have to accept that it won’t be a pleasant conversation and they may stir things up in the press and on social media?

PD 1: If it’s someone who has been an important piece of your radio station, you find a way to keep him or her around in a lesser role. Whether that’s a weekly podcast, a contributor to the station, continuing as an endorser or doing a weekend show or some combination of those. That’s a conversation to have with the talent with the areas you’d like him/her to potentially continue in. If it’s someone you want to have a clean break with, you do that. Be honest. If you’re managing and communicating properly, this conversation shouldn’t come as a surprise to the talent. 

PD 2: Its never easy or pleasant, you try to find an easy landing ie: part time work, weekends, contributor, call-ins, etc…

PD 3: You just have to be honest & direct.  There is no spinning your decision and the talent will always see through your bull**it anyway.

QUESTION 3: What issues are you thinking about having to deal with or questions do you need an answer for after the decision becomes public? 

PD 1: The internal messaging is *most* important. Fans are not going to love every decision you make, neither is your team, but you must explain what is happening and why and answer as many questions as possible from the internal team. They’re the ones that have to move forward from this.

PD 2: Be complimentary, if they have been there a long time you celebrate them, if time is minimal you try to move on as quickly as possible, I’m a firm believer the brand is bigger than the person.  The station is bigger than most personalities.

PD 3: You have to figure out if you are allowing them to do the “farewell show” and say goodbye.  You can’t be honest with your listeners and tell them the host was failing, instead you stress what you’re doing in that hosts place and how exciting it is…expansion of another show, fresh new host, etc.

There’s one important difference between replacing an aging host on your airwaves and replacing Joe Biden as the Democrats’ nominee in the 2024 election. If Biden is pushed aside, the party has just four months to get their voters to buy in.

Politically, there is a valid argument that moving on from an old, uninspiring candidate is a move for the long-term health of the country and party. In radio, replacing a talent that is well past their prime, or even their usefulness, is ONLY about the long term. It probably isn’t fair to think the majority of your base is going to be on board with the new guy or gal from day one.

So with that in mind, I asked our panel how and when they start to evaluate their decision. The answers were wildly different.

QUESTION 4: How much time do you give listeners to come around before you evaluate the new talent/show

PD 1: This answer is going to be very unpopular, but you have to give a new show two years. Yes, two years!! You’re building an audience from scratch in a (likely) important daypart. This gives the host(s) time to make mistakes, learn and grow without fearing the hook. Certainly, I’m listening and coaching but I truly think it takes two years to know what you have in a show. 

PD 2: I believe in Sports it takes at least a year. Radio/Audio is habit forming it takes a while, what does a listener give us that’s most valuable?  Time, I believe, so we have to give them to adjust hopefully like the new host or hosts.  After a year if the ratings are not there, and you as a programmer do not feel it, you have to reevaluate.  

PD 3: You have to give a new show or talent six plus months at least, in my opinion, and a year is even more warranted.  In today’s instant gratification society, that’s not always easy to do though.  

Will Joe Biden get the boot? I hope so. Frankly, I hope Donald Trump does too. This is by far the closest I have ever come to considering voting for a third-party candidate, but that option is a dude that let a worm eat part of his brain and that isn’t even the most upsetting thing about him, so as a voter that would like to see democracy stick around, I am kind of outta luck.

That isn’t the case when a radio station faces the problem of an old, out of touch person on their airwaves. I cannot force anyone in Washington to take the advice of our panel, but unlike anyone representing either political parties, the three people I talked to have a clear plan and vision for dealing with radio’s version of the Joe Biden problem.

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