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.
Programmers Offer Ideas To Refresh The ManningCast in Year 3
Matt Edgar, Matt Fishman, Parker Hills, Q Meyers, Jimmy Powers and Kraig Riley share their thoughts.
Monday night brought the second season of The ManningCast to a close. ESPN’s alternate broadcast of Monday Night Football featuring Peyton and Eli Manning remains a trail blazer. Plenty of other networks and other sports have tried to copy the formula. It just never seems to work as well. There is something about these guys, their chemistry, and their view of football that just works.
Still, the ManningCast missed that feeling of freshness this year. It’s nobody’s fault. We had expectations. That is very different from 2021, when this was a wild, new concept.
The circumstances at ESPN have changed too. In 2021, the network was looking for a crew that could capture the big game feel of the Monday night slot, because it didn’t have it on the main broadcast. Now, it has Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, arguably the two voices most identified with big NFL games. That means the Mannings have to do more than just provide a star-powered alternative to the main broadcast.
Going into 2023, the ManningCast will be facing a problem that is pretty common in radio. How do you improve something that works? Reinvention isn’t necessary for the broadcast, but a recalibration would certainly raise the ceiling.
“Disney isn’t looking at Peyton Manning as part of ESPN,” I wrote in 2021. “They are looking at him as Mickey Mouse or Iron Man or Baby Yoda. He is another of Disney’s mega-brands that is talked about on investor calls and upfront presentations.”
With that kind of commitment from the network in mind, I asked six radio program directors to answer two questions.
1. Going into year 3, how has your view of the ManningCast changed since its debut?
Matt Edgar (680 The Fan in Atlanta) – I view the ManningCast as the standard of all alternate game broadcasts, nothing really comes close.
Matt Fishman (850 ESPN in Cleveland) – The real challenge is how to be more interesting and entertaining each week. The first year was a great novelty. A real breath of fresh air, especially with some underwhelming games.
Now that ESPN MNF’s main broadcast is the powerhouse of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, you need to be bigger and more unique to get people to check it out.
Parker Hillis (Sports Radio 610 in Houston) – Early on I was skeptical of the ManningCast. I wanted a “two guys hanging out at the bar talking football” vibe that was less formal and more fun. What I got in the beginning was not that. The broadcasts leaned heavily into Peyton’s football IQ, diving way too deep into X and O analysis in real-time and providing more of a distraction than a benefit. The production and pacing felt clunky and awkward, another distraction. And most frustratingly, I didn’t get anything out of Peyton and Eli’s personalities.
Somewhere along the way, as the concept has been refined and Peyton and Eli clearly have gotten more comfortable, they’ve gotten there. Two goofy football nerds with incredible insight and experience seamlessly meshing smart analysis with real football fandom. They’re inviting me in to watch the game with them, not telling me what I need to know about what’s going on, and that is something I can get into and really enjoy.
Q Myers (ESPN Las Vegas & Raider Nation Radio in Las Vegas) – For me personally it hasn’t changed much. I find it entertaining but only in a small serving size. I might pop on for an interview with a guest that I really want to hear from but then tune out. I really enjoy the game being the bigger feature, and I realize for a lot of the games that aren’t that great this could help out a bit.
Jimmy Powers (97.1 The Ticket in Detroit) – It hasn’t really. I’ve enjoyed it from the beginning and thought it was genius when it debuted! I think it has given many sports fans an alternative option to the traditional broadcast, which allows them to get a better understanding of what is going on. In my opinion, the knowledge and entertainment value they bring to the viewer is excellent!
Kraig Riley (93.7 Thr Fan in Pittsburgh) – My view has changed in that, as much as I loved it when it debuted, I questioned the long-term sustainability given how driven it was by the guests they welcomed in. I always wanted more of the Peyton-Eli brotherly relationship part of it. Their breakdowns of the game were good and so were the guests, but what were they going to do to add to that? Since they’ve shown more of their personalities, it stands out more in a way that separates itself from just watching the standard broadcast of the game.
2. As a programmer, what would you do to freshen up this brand next season?
Edgar – You don’t want to get gimmicky or clownish, but I’d love to see them talk with a mic’d up player, similar to what they do on Sunday Night Baseball. They obviously can’t speak with a player between the lines, but what about someone who is in the mix and actually playing, like a linebacker after the defense comes off the field?
Fishman – To me, the biggest “miss” is not having Eli and Peyton in the same place. It creates a certain sloppiness and a decent amount of talking over each other. Some of that gives it the casualness that’s appealing and some of it is just messy. It’s sort of like Zoom calls. They were fine when you needed them during the pandemic, but if you can do it in person, it’s better.
Hillis – It might not be “freshening it up”, but the biggest thing I would do to tweak the Manningcast is limit the interviews. Peyton and Eli can carry the broadcast with their personalities and knowledge alone.
Having big name guests from the NFL, the sports world, and pop culture makes for a great promotion piece to draw in a different audience, but at the end of the day, it’s distracting and pulls away from the game I’m watching and the brand of the broadcast itself. I want to connect with Peyton and Eli… that’s what the brand is built around, so give me more of them.
Myers – I think keeping it a little more tight as far as breakdowns and analysis from the two make it good. A lot of times when it gets off the rails it does tend to be funny, but I don’t feel like I learn a lot from it. It feels to me like a lot of the comedic side of things is forced at times, when it happens organically it just seems better. For example, with Peyton walking off after Maher missed his 3rd kick. That felt like what we all were doing at the time.
Powers – Since they only do a number of games, I would put the two of them together in the same room to view the games. You could still split the screens and have the same look – but it would prevent (or at least limit) the talking over each other because of the delay. That is especially a problem when they bring in 3rd person.
Riley – I would push for more of the content that stands out aside from the game and can be pushed on social. I think the original audience will always need more in order to continue engaging with them over the standard broadcast of the game. That audience knows their broadcast is different, but what about the audience that hasn’t engaged yet or has possibly disengaged?
Serve them up with some breakdowns of the game that only Peyton and Eli can provide. Give them the best clips of the interviews. But super-serve them on the entertainment and personality sides so that the audience knows they’re getting something more than just the game. They can consume that elsewhere.
The ManningCast is not in danger. It’s one of the most influential sports television products of the last 15 years. Even radio is trying to figure out a way to make it work. Edgar’s station, 680 The Fan, delivered a conversational alternate broadcast of the Peach Bowl this year.
Like anything else in pop culture though, the producers always have to think about what is next. How do you tempt fans to come back for more? It’s why we don’t see Spider-Man fight the same villain in every movie. When you know the parameters, the content has to be all killer and no filler just to move the needle.
But this is a product built around live sports. By nature, there is plenty of filler in a football game broadcast. That isn’t the Mannings’ fault, and most weeks, they find a way to make gold in those moments. Going into the 2023 football season though, the novelty of the ManningCast, and frankly of alternate broadcasts in general, will have worn off. Peyton and Eli don’t have to change everything, but re-evaluating where their show stands and where it could go wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.
Frank Frangie Exudes Jacksonville’s Enthusiasm for the Jaguars on 1010 XL
“You want to be very enthusiastic but that enthusiasm shouldn’t spill over in a way that it takes away from the accuracy and the crispness of the broadcast.”
A Saturday night in Jacksonville in the NFL Wild Card Round. Frank Frangie, the radio play-by-play voice of the Jacksonville Jaguars is on the edge of his seat. He is behind the microphone amid a sellout crowd of 70,250 people at TIAA Bank Stadium with both the game and the season on the line.
The Los Angeles Chargers, led by quarterback Justin Herbert, held a 27-7 lead after the first half – but thanks to spirited play by the Jacksonville Jaguars, that lead has been cut to just two points – the score is now 30-28. Riley Patterson, the kicker for the Jaguars, is playing in his first NFL playoff game and the season all comes down to whether or not he puts a 36-yard field goal attempt through the goal posts.
Frangie proceeds to deliver a call for the ages as the ball sails through and the field goal is marked “good.” At that moment, Jacksonville had secured its first playoff victory since 2017, setting up a second-round matchup against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Fans watching the game on NBC heard the familiar, credible voices of Tony Dungy providing color commentary and Al Michaels supplying the play-by-play announcing. Michaels recently completed his first season broadcasting Thursday Night Football streamed on Amazon Prime Video and returned to NBC to call this game as part of his emeritus role with the network.
Although he has narrated myriad exciting calls over his lengthy career, viewers identified a lack of enthusiasm and excitement from him and his partner, criticism Michaels later called “internet compost” in an interview with The New York Post. Instead, football fans turned to Frank Frangie and the Jacksonville Jaguars radio booth, imparting a more fanatical encapsulation of the moment.
“I do think there’s an accountability and an expectation to make sure you get it right, to make sure you’re crisp and clear [and] to make sure that [the] listener knows exactly what happened,” Frangie said. “You want to be very enthusiastic but that enthusiasm shouldn’t spill over in a way that it takes away from the accuracy and the crispness of the broadcast.”
While Frangie did not hear the NBC broadcast in real time, he knows the matter in which he performs his job vastly differs from that of Michaels. He recalls someone telling him that NBA play-by-play announcer Mike Breen — when calling a national game — sounds like he has money on both teams. As the Jaguars radio play-by-play announcer, Frangie aims to do the opposite.
“I’m rooting for one team,” he said. “I’m bummed when my team loses and I’m thrilled when my team wins. The job is to combine a crisp, accurate play call so the listener very clearly knows what’s going on and hopefully to blend in our natural enthusiasm because we are rooting for that team as hard as the listener is.”
During the time he was hosting radio shows at WQIK-AM and later WNZS-AM, Frangie began to experiment with contributing to live game broadcast coverage. Because of connections he made as a writer covering sports at the University of Florida for The Florida Times-Union and The Jacksonville Journal, he began working with the Florida Gators Radio Network as a pregame and postgame host.
Additionally, he started providing play-by-play of select athletic events on campus, giving him the opportunity to hone his skills and eventually begin hosting college broadcast coverage on regional sports networks.
1992 Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torretta recruited Frangie to join Touchdown Radio, a new broadcast network he founded to broadcast NCAA football games and other athletic events. Aside from owning the company, Torretta worked with Frangie on live game broadcasts as the color commentator – and the duo formed synergy through an understanding of each other’s roles
“Shame on me if I talk more than the guy who won the Heisman Trophy. He knows football way better than I do,” Frangie said. “It enabled me – I call the play, then lay out and let him be the star because he was the star.”
While he was calling college football games with Torretta, Frangie had helped launch 1010 XL, the area’s first local sports talk radio station. Since its inception in 2007, which was based on a vision by co-founder and general manager Steve Griffin, it has been recognized as a trusted voice in sports media.
“He’s the leader; he’s the founder,” Frangie said of Griffin, “but there’s a lot of us that have helped Steve grow this thing and I think there’s a real connection.”
Jacksonville has a population of approximately 954,000 people, according to the 2020 U.S. census, making it the 12th-most populous city in the country; yet the most recent Nielsen ratings rank it as the No. 43 media market. Despite it being considered a mid-market radio station, what is now 1010 XL/92.5 FM Jax Sports Radio has been able to appeal to its consumers on multiple platforms through live game broadcasts, talk shows, podcasts and other multimedia content.
“I think Jacksonville has a ton of sports fans,” Frangie said. “I think sports really matter to the people of this city…. I would say 1010 XL might be – and I’m biased because I work there – the most important sports media entity that this city’s ever had.”
When the Jaguars arrived on the scene in 1995, it brought all sports fans in the area together by uniting them in their rooting interest in professional football. It also surely helped that the team advanced to the AFC championship game in its second year of existence and made the NFL playoffs for the next three years.
“The Jaguars galvanized everybody,” Frangie said. “Now all of a sudden there’s solidarity among the sports fans because everybody’s rooting for the Jaguars.”
The Jaguars, combined with the plethora of collegiate sports in the area, give radio hosts plenty to talk about over the course of any given day. The station will also discuss national news, but its main focus is on hyperlocal coverage while giving listeners unique, relatable perspectives regarding their favorite teams. Frangie expressed the Jaguars being, far and away, the most discussed topic over the airwaves – but aside from conversing about the team, the hosts also make it a point to be relatable and talk about their lives outside of sports.
“I think sports radio is about life,” Frangie said. “I think it’s about who you bumped into at the movies and ‘What’s your favorite burger?’ I think people like talking about the way they live their life and the way we live our lives.”
Broadcasting in afternoon drive means following three different shows (The Drill, Jaguars Today, and XL Primetime) from earlier dayparts, requiring Frangie and co-hosts Hays Carlyon and Lauren Brooks to bring fresh topics and opinions to the air. The Frangie Show not only seeks to inform its listeners with the latest news pertaining to Jacksonville sports but also looks to accentuate the medium’s factors of differentiation: entertainment, immediacy and relatability.
“My job is, ‘That guy’s had a long day at work. That guy’s tired. He hops in that car at 4:30 or 5 or whenever it is and he’s a sports fan,’” Frangie hypothesized. “‘When he turns that radio on, I need to entertain him. He needs to have fun, he needs to laugh, he needs to enjoy it, (and) he needs to look forward to the next time he’s turning it on.’ If I can keep him in that driveway a little bit longer because he’s enjoying himself… then I’ve kind of done my job.”
Aside from live game broadcasts and sports talk radio, 1010 XL/92.5 FM Jax Sports Radio has a selection of original podcasts – some of which are specialized – and video series available to watch on multiple platforms.
Moreover, all of its radio shows are available for replay on-demand as podcasts after the fact, giving listeners the chance to catch up on parts of the show they might have missed. Frangie has always been concerned about the format being replaced by podcasts but surmises it to be a larger issue for music-based formats, validated by the increased usage of music streaming services.
“I think there’s never going to be a time where someone doesn’t pop in the car, want to hit a button and hear [me] or whoever talk about sports,” Frangie said. “As long as it’s that way, we’re going to keep on doing it just the way we do it.”
From the moment Griffin and Frangie met to discuss launching 1010 XL/92.5 FM Jax Sports Radio in 2007, they knew they aspired to find a way to one day secure the Jacksonville Jaguars’ radio rights. At the time, the rights were held by WOKV and Brian Sexton, known as the “Voice of the Jaguars,” served as the team’s radio play-by-play announcer.
After a 30-page proposal geared towards helping the franchise grow its fanbase and sell more tickets, the rights were awarded to 1010 XL/92.5 FM Jax Sports Radio (WJXL) and Frangie was named as the new radio play-by-play announcer. He called the move “the most important assignment” of his career and has assimilated into the role, now covering the team in roles based on the balance of information and opinion.
Before this run, the last time the Jaguars had qualified for the NFL playoffs was in 2017 when the team fell just one win short of playing for its first-ever Super Bowl championship. The team has the potential to sustain its success with young stars such as quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne Jr. leading the charge. However, broadcasting games for the team over the last nine seasons — no matter the result — has never been burdensome for Frangie.
“Every time I go into that booth – and I mean this very sincerely – it’s the greatest privilege and the greatest honor of my career to sit in that booth and to call an NFL game for my hometown team,” he said. “That will never change [for] as long as I’m doing it.”
This year, though, the games have undoubtedly been more exciting largely due to the Jaguars’ inclination to come back from substantial deficits. The team is riding a six-game home winning streak and has trailed by nine points or more in the previous five contests. Defying the laws of probability and achieving what some may define as impossible is what has persuaded football fans everywhere to take notice of what is going on in Duval County.
“I’m a sports fan,” Frangie stated. “I just want to share the fan excitement with other fans. It’s been unbelievably fun; I can’t wait for the next game.”
Just as the team prepares for its game by drawing up new plays, analyzing film and undergoing physical treatment, the broadcasters never show up to the booth without having done their homework. For a typical Jaguars game, Frangie’s preparation largely consists of intricately learning about the opponent more so than the Jaguars since he follows the team each week.
From Monday to Wednesday, he is gathering information about the other team and ensures he knows how the depth chart is expected to look by game day. Simultaneously, he stays updated on everything occurring with the Jaguars, although he gains more team-specific information during his meeting with head coach Doug Pederson on Thursdays.
Frangie and his broadcast team also have their own meeting every Thursday to elaborate on the forthcoming broadcast, including probing potential storylines related to the game to discuss so they are ready to perform at a high level by the weekend.
“I know our team (and) I know their team a little bit better than I did at the beginning of the week,” Frangie said. “I think the hay’s in the barn by Friday night. By Friday night, if I’m not ready to call the game, then shame on me. There’s not a lot of work to do come Saturday. Most of it is Monday through Friday.”
As a radio play-by-play announcer, Frangie looks to accurately depict what is occurring on the field so listeners can paint a picture of the game in their minds. He also looks to entertain them and is assisted by color commentators Tony Boselli and Jeff Lageman, both of whom formerly played for the Jaguars and possess shrewd insights about the game of football. Frangie knows of their reputations and looks to accentuate their presence to help the broadcast, taking the same approach he previously adopted with Torretta.
“Shame on me if I don’t do everything I can to tee them up and get out of the way [to] let them do their thing,” Frangie said. “I think if you have that point-guard mentality – and that is, ‘Let the stars be stars,’ – then I think you can pull it off and hopefully that’s what we do.”
The fundamentals of play-by-play announcing do not change whether or not the team is competing in the playoffs; that is, in terms of preparation. There is no doubt, though, that the stakes are higher in these matchups and, in turn, a prevalence of heightened emotions are conveyed ranging from euphoric to apoplectic. It was exhibited on Saturday night during Patterson’s game-winning field goal and the video of the Jaguars’ radio call has since gone viral.
“When we called a winning kick last week, we’re jumping around in that broadcast booth and high-fiving… losing our minds – that’s what we do out there,” Frangie said. “We’re all such fans of the team and we’re all such fans of this city and so respectful and appreciative of the fans who have stayed with this team even in some hard times.”
Frangie has had a long career working in sports media both as a play-by-play announcer and radio host, helping to shape the sports landscape in Jacksonville, Fla. Whether it was covering the Florida Gators’ run to the Final Four in 1994; debating about the Jacksonville Jaguars on the radio; or calling game-winning touchdowns at the college and professional level, he is proud to be associated with the city, its teams and its fans. Moreover, he wants to be there to help aspiring industry professionals build careers and find their place in sports media.
“I like to watch some of the young people have the success that some of us that have done it for a while have,” he said. “I’d like to see 1010 XL continue to thrive; we’re very proud of our radio station and what Steve has built – the culture he has built at the radio station where we have sort of this family atmosphere.”
From his formative days in the industry, Frangie has always had a respect for the microphone and the power it garners. The crevasses and inner workings of the device that enable sound to be converted into mechanical energy have given him the chance to promulgate his voice at large and represent those in the area.
As the Jaguars continue their quest for a Super Bowl championship, Frangie aspires to personify the dedication and zeal of sports fans in the city of Jacksonville and, hopefully, call a moment where the team stands alone on top of the football world.
“We get to turn on that mic and whether I’m talking to fans of the team as a play-by-play guy or… talking to listeners driving around town; what a privilege that is,” Frangie said. “It’s not going to be perfect all the time. Work hard; never pass up an opportunity to work and always recognize what a privilege it is to do what we do.”
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, he serves as the production manager for the New York Islanders Radio Network and lead sports producer at NY2C. He has also worked on live game broadcasts for the Long Island Nets and New York Riptide. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks and wrote for The Long Island Herald. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
Chase McCabe Embraces the Player/Coach Mentality at 102.5 The Game
“I always used Mike Salk in Seattle as an example of that. I thought ‘if he can do both, why can’t I?’“
He’s referred to as “the suit” by some of his co-workers. It’s a playful way for hosts at 102.5 The Game in Nashville to describe their program director, Chase McCabe. But Chase isn’t only the PD; he’s also a host just like them. He puts on his headphones and does a weekday show from 9-11am with Michelle Knezovic. Then, he puts on his PD hat and morphs into his alter ego, the suit. (I think “the suit” sounds superhero-ish and should be accompanied by face paint and a car that can fly. Maybe that’s just me.)
In our conversation, Chase talks about the rewards and challenges of being a PD and radio host. He’s also open and honest about his thought process regarding job offers from other radio stations. We chat about the voice of the Nashville Predators, Pete Weber, returning to the air after dealing with a brain disorder. Chase also talks about being religious, which of his roles would be harder to give up, and how receiving a McDonald’s breakfast makes him love his station even more. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: So tell me about the changes to the lineup, and how everything’s going?
Chase McCabe: I think it’s been positive so far. It’s something that was not one of those decisions that was made overnight by any means. When I took over, I wanted to feature young and upcoming talent. We had that in Caroline Fenton and Michelle Knezovic, and now we can feature them even more. That was the thought process behind all of this.
I’ve also had this view that, I think you get more out of three-hour shows. It takes a special talent to go four hours and just keep up that same energy level. That’s why we left Jared (Stillman, the station’s afternoon host) at a four-hour show because that’s all he’s ever done in his career. But I think giving people more choices throughout the day was certainly a positive in all of this, and that’s what we’ve done.
Playing the ratings game, I think it’s going to give us a better chance to improve by having more choices throughout the day. I think it’s gone well. I’m excited about it. It’s an opportunity for me to be a player/coach, still be on the air, but only two hours a day, which is definitely helpful with my schedule. It gives me a chance to coach the young talent like Michelle as we go along. I think it’s been really good.
BN: What’s your general approach to handling both the PD side and the hosting duties that you have?
CM: It’s not easy. It’s funny, when I first started in this business, my goal was just to be a host. I had never even thought about programming. As I kind of grew into it, I was a producer. One of my mentors was my old PD. He really saw something and helped me go down that path. But I was always stubborn and wanted to do both. I always used Mike Salk in Seattle as an example of that. I thought ‘if he can do both, why can’t I?’ So it became one of those personal goals of just watch me.
Once I got to the point where I became PD, I decided ‘Well, I’m going to focus on that’. I’ve been APD, but it’s the first time being PD. I stepped off the air a little bit, made some appearances here and there as a fill in, and then when we made some changes, I went back on full time. I realized that it’s a lot, especially doing a four-hour show in the middays.
It’s just really hard to do, but I was disciplined. I’m still disciplined now about it. It’s a big thing of having your schedule, knowing what you need to get done, and now that I’m off the air at 11 AM, it’s a lot easier. I come in, I’m usually in the building by eight o’clock. I’ve prepped the night before for the show. I’ll make some changes depending on what may have happened overnight and in the morning. I jump on the air, it flies by, and then the PD hat goes back on.
It’s made things run a lot smoother because I can meet with clients, I can meet with my GM, I can meet with our partners, with the Predators. I can meet with talent and coach talent. It’s really been much easier to do it that way. It’s a balance, that’s for sure. I think it makes me a more effective PD to be able to practice what I preach. If I’m sitting here telling a member of our on-air team, hey, I need you to go to break on time, this is why. Then I’m turning around and doing it, they have an example of that’s how it should be done. The whole player/coach mentality is one that I have definitely embraced.
BN: Which do you think you would miss more if you had to give up one of those roles?
CM: That is a very good question. I think I’d miss programming. I never thought that I would say that. My goal for so long was being on the air. I had to really scratch and claw to get to that, and I love it, but I’ve realized that I’ve found a role I’m so natural at, and that is being a leader and being the PD, and being able to create.
That was one thing that I miss about producing. I never really loved producing until I wasn’t doing it anymore, and that was the creating. Create the sound of the station, writing promos, building promos, working on a show lineup, helping the show’s plan. That’s really fun for me. I think I’d miss being the PD or as they call me on the air, the suit.
BN: [Laughs] There you go. Do you have any crazy stories about juggling the two roles at the same time?
CM: Yeah, I’m really bad on if I see a text or I see an email. It’s like, oh, that’s really important. Even though it can probably wait a couple hours, I’ll start responding. There’s been times we’ve been on the air and I’m responding to an important email and they go, Chase, what do you think? I just kind of look up and I go, suit duty. [Laughs] Sorry. I’ve gotten better about that. That was really early on, but we all laugh about that.
The biggest thing that happened was honestly about a month ago. We’re in the middle of the show and the Titans fire their general manager. I’m the lead host and I go, we’ve got breaking news. The Titans have fired general manager Jon Robinson. I’m in host mode. I’m talking about getting people on the air to see what they know, and all this stuff.
Then this light bulb goes off. ‘Hey, you idiot, you need a breaking news promo on the air. You need to let this person know. I literally had to wear both hats. Luckily, I had two other hosts on the show with me. One of them is a former player in Derrick Mason, so they could run with it while I got our imaging director a script for the breaking news promo. We had that on the air pretty quick, and everybody that needed to know what was going on was informed. It’s one of those things where sometimes it’s just a reminder ‘hey, you wanted this. You got to wear both hats’. I’ve gotten very good at multitasking. Let’s just put it that way.
BN: I believe it, man, that’s the only way you can do it. What’s the cliff-notes version of your career path?
CM: I started here 11 years ago as an intern. The station had just flipped to sports three months earlier. I had gotten to know Willie Daunic — who ironically became my co-host — and wanted to intern with him. He was at another station. That changed and so he moved over here. I ended up interning with him on the afternoon show. I ended up getting hired about six months later to do part time on the weekends. I was still in college; I was still finishing up at MTSU. My boss had told me ‘Hey, when you walk across the stage, text me.’ So I did. He said ‘Hey, congrats, you got a full-time gig in radio.’ I was like whoa.
I started in overnights. I did overnights for close to a year. But that was honestly really, really crucial because I learned how to edit. I would edit a bunch of stuff from the day and I learned to do sports updates and cutting spots, and just a lot of the little things involved in a radio station. Then I produced various dayparts for several years, did some fill-in work on the air, did a weekend show.
During that time I had gotten a couple of opportunities to potentially go elsewhere and didn’t because ultimately, this was the best fit, and more opportunities would open up here. In 2019, I went full time on the air as part of our midday show while still being the assistant program director. I was promoted to assistant program director in 2017, I believe.
Then when our former PD, Ryan Porth, left for Chicago, I remember thinking ‘Okay, I’m going to be interim.’ I go through this process, they’re going to interview a bunch of people and they did, they talked to a couple. Then I go in one day thinking ‘Alright, this is what the plan is going to be’, and they offered me the job. That was last year. The end of December 2021, I got my first PD gig and here I sit now.
A lot has happened in 11 years. I’ve been very lucky to be in the same place during that time. Anytime something comes along, I go back to our owner walking down the hallway. A quick story and one of the reasons why I love this place so much. When I was doing overnights, I would turn all the lights off because I was the only one in the building and just had a little lamp on. The owner flies a plane and he had landed late at night. He walks in at like 2:30 in the morning. The building is dark.
He walks in and he says ‘Why do you have all the lights off?’ I said ‘Well, I’m the only one here, it saves money. There’s no reason to have all these lights on with just me, so I figured we would just save money.’ He kind of looked at me and goes ‘Huh, okay, appreciate that.’ The next night, around the same time, I hear the door opening. He walks in and he’s got just a bag full of McDonald’s. He says ‘I wanted to bring you breakfast, I appreciate what you do.’ It was that day that I realized what kind of a man Bud Walters is. He’s been very good to me and that’s one reason why I’m here and I love what I do.
BN: That’s really cool, man. What’s your hometown?
BN: Wow, that’s crazy. You grew up in Nashville, went to MTSU, you started at 102.5 about 11 years ago, and you’ve been there the whole time?
CM: The whole time. It’s the only gig I’ve ever had.
BN: I don’t know the best way to ask it, but with other gigs offered, was there ever a time before you became the full-blown PD that you thought, man, maybe I should’ve jumped?
CM: I think it’s hard not to. That’s probably the best way to put it. But I’m religious. I believe in God. I know that everything happens for a reason. I think that I just kind of would look for signs to know the path I needed to take. There’s probably been three really legitimate opportunities that I’ve had to think really hard about. It’s like ‘Hey, this is going to be what you need to do.’ But the thing I come back to is, I want to finish what I started. My goals and my journey here matched up with the radio station, with the company, with Bud, with what they wanted to do. I know that I’ve been an integral part of that, literally, since the beginning that they started.
There are days where it’s like, man, maybe I should have, but then something really good will happen here and it reminds me of why I didn’t. I think that that’s why I just keep the faith. I may not be here forever. Odds are, I won’t. But I didn’t think I’d be here for 11 years at this point.
And I sure as hell didn’t think I’d be program director in 11 years when I started as an intern, but I am. It’s one of those things that I think too many times nowadays we keep thinking what’s next, what’s next, what’s next? When if you take it literally day-by-day, it’s going to work out well for you. That’s what I did. I was impatient at times, but I stuck with it and now I’m just blessed to be in this position where I’m at.
BN: Out of curiosity, which church do you go to over there?
CM: I’m not the best at going to church. I will admit that.
CM: It is one of my goals for this year to kind of get back into that. The thing that’s so tough is a lot of times Sunday mornings, we’re doing shows. We’re doing NFL shows and things. But there’s a couple of places that I’ve found that do some midweek services that I’ve tried to go to. It’s just hard to be consistent, but I’m working on it. I pray about everything and just kind of keep my relationship that way and also trying to just be a good person.
BN: That’s cool. I lived in Nashville for a couple of years and I went to a church called Cross Point.
CM: Yeah, I’ve been to Cross Point quite a bit. The Belonging is another one. Churches like that. I like a church that has a good band. That gets me into it.
BN: There ya go. We need a heavy metal band at one of these churches. I’d go there all the time.
CM: God bless Jesus!!
BN: [Laughs] That’s right. We need that, double bass and everything. Pete Weber, he has a brain disorder, but you’ve been able to continue featuring him on some pregame coverage and some of your other shows. How important was it for you to keep him a part of the broadcasts?
CM: Very, very important. As our imaging says, the voice of the Predators since day one, Pete Weber. That’s him. He was the first. When hockey started here, Pete Weber and Terry Crisp were the voices that you heard. They taught an entire generation about the sport of hockey. I don’t think people realize just some of the elbows that Pete has bumped. He was covering the Bills when they went to four straight Super Bowls with Jim Kelly. He’s been with the LA Kings, covered Gretzky. In fact, I did an interview for our pregame show today with Eddie Olczyk from TNT. The first thing he says is ‘Hey, tell Pete I’m thinking about him. Hope he’s doing well.’
It was important for him to know that, hey, you need to take care of you. I think sometimes you get to a point where it’s like ‘I gotta keep going.’ Sometimes you’ve got to just pump the brakes and take care of you. I wanted him to know that, hey, we got you, your spot is secure. That’s why I’ve filled in on pre and post because, Max Herz, our pre and post host has been doing play-by-play. He’s doing an excellent job filling in for Pete. It’s just important to know that it’s still Pete’s chair, we’re just keeping it warm for him.
I’ve enjoyed the segments with him because he tells stories. I’ve learned more about the team and some things that I didn’t know because he’s just a walking sports encyclopedia. It’s been really cool. Pete’s doing well, he hopes to be back in the booth in a couple of weeks and be better than ever. But like I said, it’s important to all of us for Pete to know that he is the voice of the Predators.
BN: What was that process like to come up with that type of arrangement where he would still be featured?
CM: I called him and I just said ‘Hey Petey, with you not traveling, why don’t you just plan to do that opening segment of pregame with me every time.’ He loved it. I know that’s meant a lot to him. He did an article with the Predators website and said that for him to just feel like he’s still involved on those road games was important. It was important to me because I wanted him to still be on our broadcasts, even if he couldn’t travel. Those segments have been a lot of fun. He had his procedure and he’s feeling great. We’ll pick him up here probably later this week before he returns to the booth.
BN: As far as your future, what do you see in the next five to 10 years? Or is it more day-to-day for you instead of any long-term visions?
CM: It’s a good question. I hope I still have all my hair. [Laughs] Who knows with this job. I’ve thought more about that. It’s kind of funny how this has worked for me; when I started as an intern, and then eventually got hired, I was like, all right, I’m going to do this for three years. After three years, then I’m going to evaluate and see where I’m at.
Then it became, well, if I want to be on the air, I have to move to a small market. I have to go back to go forward. I was going to do that. Finally one day, somebody told me, hey, you need to just slow down and take it one day at a time. Things are going to work out. You’re a hard worker. You do the right things. You’re not a jerk to people. You’ve got a lot of people in your corner. You need to just slow down. So that’s what I’ve done.
Now that I’m older — I’m 35 — I do think about the future and do I want to go to a bigger market? Do I want to climb my way up and be in operations or what have you? Those are things that I definitely think about. It has to be the right fit. That, I’ve learned, more than anything is not always easy to find. I do think I still have more of that day-at-a-time mentality while also knowing that, all right, if I ever had the opportunity to program a station in Atlanta or Dallas or something like that, I’d probably look at it.
I love creating and teaching, so however I can continue to do that, I will. But at the same time, building this station, I’ve been at it for a year. I feel like I’ve just gotten to the point where it feels like mine. Now what is it going to do? I think a lot more about the future than I used to. I know there will come a time where it’s like, I know.
They always say if you meet that special person, when you know, you know. I think I’ll know when it’s time to do something different. But that’s one thing that I’ve definitely tried to instill on our staff. I have a lot of young people that work here. Hey, be thankful. Appreciate the little things and keep working, and then the future is going to work itself out.