It’s almost time for this year’s BSM Summit (February 21-22). While looking at the impressive list of guests that will be taking part in the event, I wondered what I didn’t know about these people. What are some of the things that make them tick? What are they passionate about? What’s something unique about them?
I asked a number of people associated with the event to provide some unique facts about themselves that might not be commonly known. My thought is that although we recognize these names based on job titles, we might not know something interesting about who they are as people. It’s safe to say the results did not disappoint.
The unique assortment of fun facts range from scholarly and profound, to eclectic and hilarious. Both ends of the spectrum are enjoyable and very memorable. What stands out to me is that there is much more to these people than what happens inside the four walls at work. I hope you enjoy this piece and learn some fun details about this talented group.
Joe Fortenbaugh – 95.7 The Game, San Francisco
I’m a huge nerd. I focus on process rather than result, which is one of the reasons why I love to do research. And I’m not just talking about sports and sports betting research, I’m talking about whatever strikes me as interesting. Right now, I’m knees deep in researching the Cuban Missile Crisis and French wines.
Don’t ask me why my brain functions the way that it does, because I don’t have a good answer. I just so happen to stumble into something that I find interesting and then I relentlessly immerse myself in that subject matter. Recent research projects include stoicism and the decision-making process. Like I alluded to, I have no idea why my brain chooses to function in the manner in which it does.
Ramona Shelburne – ESPN
One thing that most people don’t know about me was that I was very political growing up. When most kids dressed up as princesses or their favorite movie character for Halloween, I dressed up as George Bush or Gorbachev! I wanted nothing more than to be CJ Cregg from the West Wing. I was a funny little kid.
Clay Travis – FOX Sports Radio
I went to Civil War sleepaway camp at Gettysburg College in high school. Yes, I really am a big history nerd.
Ryan Hatch – Arizona Sports 98.7
When I was 16 years old, I put together an interview reel with famous coaches and players on a cheap tape recorder from Radio Shack and used it to get my foot in the door for an internship at the first sports radio station in Salt Lake City. It took more than three months to get the interviews scheduled and another three months to eventually convince them to break their intern policy and give a high school kid a chance. I’m also a golf junky and an avid reader. My favorite book is A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.
Colin Cowherd – FOX Sports Radio / FOX Sports 1
I’ve lived in six states (Nevada, California, Oregon, Connecticut, Florida, Washington). I’m one of the very few sportscasters to have lived in all four corners of the country. I’ve also been to 49 of the 50 US states. The only state I haven’t visited is South Carolina. I don’t have plans as of now to see it.
Don Martin – FOX Sports Radio
I am an avid international traveler and history buff. I have traveled to six of the seven continents of the world (Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America). The only one left is Antarctica. As Program Director of 850 KOA in Denver we won five consecutive Station of the Year Awards and two Marconi Awards!
Jim Graci – 93.7 The Fan, Pittsburgh
Radio has afforded me many ancillary opportunities. I was thrilled to have done public address announcing in the NBA for 14 seasons, four with the Atlanta Hawks and two stints with the Seattle SuperSonics totaling 10 seasons.
It was during that first stint with the Sonics that I was asked to be in an episode of the television show “Frasier”. I played both the public address and broadcast announcer for an episode in season three, “Head Games”. I had multiple lines of dialogue, received guest star status, but in typical radio fashion, was not on camera. It was just my voice.
Jeff Rickard – 1070 / 107.5 The Fan, Indianapolis
I have either raced or ridden my bike over seven of the 10 highest, paved mountain peaks in the United States including Trail Ridge Road, Mt. Evans and Mt. Haleakalā.
I don’t like hot dogs or mustard and I’m allergic to shellfish, but I could eat great Italian or Mexican food forever (specifically fettuccine Alfredo). Lucky Charms is a frequent middle of the night meal, but Captain Crunch will do in a pinch.
The Denver Broncos are my favorite team in all of sports but I hate the “new” helmets and logo. John Elway the general manager makes me miss John Elway the quarterback.
Dan Zampillo – ESPN LA 710
I love hockey! I know it’s not the biggest radio sport in most markets, but I think it is an incredible sport. Plus, I’ve gotten to hold the Stanley Cup multiple times.
I really enjoy American history, especially the Civil War and presidential elections. My favorite food is deep-dish pizza (I know, cliché Chicago, but it is the best). I have kids, so I have no hobbies anymore. My favorite movie is The Bridge in the River Kwai. My favorite TV shows are The Americans, Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, and Atlanta.
My first sports memory was watching Italy winning the 1982 World Cup with my Italian grandfather. I have watched the final out of the Cubs World Series win no less than 168 times on YouTube. One of my sports goals is to witness a no-hitter in person. The night of Justin Verlander’s first no-hitter, I gave away tickets so I could go on a date with a girl. Needless to say, I missed my best chance, and the date was awful. Double whammy.
Eric Johnson – 97.5 The Fanatic, Philadelphia
I like to do a lot of running and have participated in 10-mile runs and 1/2 marathons. I’m currently training for “The Seneca7,” which is a 77-mile, seven-person relay race around Seneca Lake in New York.
Steve Mason – ESPN LA 710
I’m known for my broadcasting career, but for 25 years, I owned movie theaters in Southern California. I owned theaters in Hawthorne, Azusa and at USC. My most recent theater was Cinemas Palme d’Or in Palm Desert, CA.
While operating in Palm Desert, partner Bryan Cranston and I were victims of a practice known as circuit dealing by Cinemark Theaters. Essentially, Cinemark “blocked” the Palme d’Or from playing first run film. After 13 years of litigation, in April of 2017, the company won a major antitrust lawsuit in a jury trial against Cinemark. That marked the end of my movie theater operator days.
Scott Shapiro – FOX Sports Radio
One big interest of mine, which is very rare for folks as into sports as I am, is my interest in Broadway. And when I see shows I like, I can’t get enough. I’ve seen Hamilton let’s just say north of five times. I really shouldn’t share the actual number of times I’ve seen it since my credibility and level of sanity will be significantly questioned. I’ve also seen shows such as Les Mis, Phantom, Rent, and Jersey Boys more than four times each as well.
Steve Wyche – NFL Network
I’m a big wine enthusiast. Wine is not made to be tasted. It is made be enjoyed. Also, a huge interest of mine is to one day possibly write a book about airport and airplane behavior. Why do some people use speaker mode to have a conversation in the seating area, then berate the gate agent for not being upgraded despite having platinum status, then put their bare feet on the bulkhead wall before clipping their nails at 30,000 feet?
Julie Stewart-Binks – ESPN LA 710
I was in a unique situation this year, which afforded me an opportunity to explore other interests outside of sports. I decided to pursue stand-up comedy. It’s not something I ever thought I would do, but having been immersed in improv comedy at Upright Citizen’s Brigade in New York this year, and having experience in performance through TV and radio, I thought this might be a fun extra curricular. I’m also somewhat of an adrenaline junkie.
I’ve become extremely interested in the different ways of writing and performing to elicit and evoke emotions — in some ways it’s a formula, in others it’s completely random. I’ve never been challenged both mentally and physically like I have been doing stand-up. It’s really the most vulnerable thing you could possibly do. But there is no greater high than making a room of strangers laugh. You feel like the Incredible Hulk, and all you want is the next laugh. It’s addictive.
Demetri Ravanos – Barrett Sports Media
I have a film degree from the University of Alabama, which is like having a degree in tropical studies from the University of Alaska. My only two true sports loves are ‘Bama and the Boston Celtics. I was a freshman when Shaun Alexander was a senior, so he will always be my favorite player. Before I made the switch to sports, I worked exclusively in rock radio for 18 years. I used to write and host a podcast about the Disney theme parks.
When I was 11, I was at a basketball camp at the University of South Alabama where Charles Barkley showed up for a day and did a Q&A. I saw him tell another 11-year-old to “quit being a pain in the ass.” I own as many shirts with the Golden Girls on them as I do the Alabama logo. My favorite episode of the Golden Girls is the one where Blanche dreams her husband faked his death.
Amanda Gifford – ESPN
I am a proud graduate of Penn State where I have a bachelor’s of journalism degree and also a bachelor’s of science in elementary education. I started working in radio when I was 16 years old at a very small station in upstate NY where I did everything — morning news in the summer, commercial voice overs, ran the board for NASCAR races…everything…but when I went to college I thought I wanted a “normal” schedule for my career.
Always having a love for working with kids, I started in college as an education major. About halfway through my sophomore year I got some sense in my head and decided I really wanted to work in sports. I was too far in to my education classes to just change majors, so I added the journalism major and graduated with both degrees in 4 ½ years. I have never used my teaching degree because I came to ESPN right after college, but it is always a good backup plan!
Brian Long – XTRA Sports 1360, San Diego
I am originally from Kansas City so I am cursed with being a long-suffering Chiefs fan. As a teenager I began playing the drums and ultimately dreamed of being a professional musician. However, I figured out rather quickly there are “real musicians,” then there was me. I moved to Palm Springs in 1997 and took up playing golf. Today, I play the drums like a golfer and golf like a drummer.
Traug Keller – ESPN
I have another job — been chairman of Mustard Seed for over a decade now. It’s near and dear to my heart, started by a priest friend of mine from Boston College. You can get a sense of the org at mustardseed.com.
John Ireland – ESPN LA 710
I can sing any song from The Sound of Music (either the male or female part). I can name at least one dive restaurant in any US major city, from Boston to San Diego. I’m convinced that the all-time Lakers team could beat any All-Star team you could assemble from all of the other 29 teams combined. Magic and Kobe at guards, Kareem at center, Elgin Baylor and LeBron at forwards. The bench would include Wilt Chamberlin, Shaq, Jerry West, James Worthy, Karl Malone, Gail Goodrich, Jamaal Wilkes and Bob McAdoo.
Brian Musburger – VSiN
I have been the Underwater Camera Assistant for the Ironman World Championships for the last 12 years. I scuba dive beneath the starting line for the greatest endurance race in sports every year in Kona, Hawaii.
Bruce Gilbert – Cumulus Media / Westwood One
It is becoming more and more common that people know that Mike Thomas is my real blood brother, but what a lot of people don’t know is that we both have an older sister, Becky, that has been an on-air talent for over 20 years on small market stations in Central Illinois.
Becky did mornings on 101 Country, WHPO for over 20 years. She then took some time off before becoming the PM Drive talent at Classic Hits 95.9 WIQI in Watseka, IL, which is her current position. Becky is the oldest sibling in our family and she completes the trifecta for my father. My dad was in the radio business and all three of his kids have made it their career.
Becky is a true entertainer in every sense of the word. She has a HUGE personality, a tremendous sense of humor and — most importantly — she gives a damn about EVERY listener that has ever tuned into her show. She really cares about people and has raised millions of dollars through her show for St. Jude and other great charitable organizations.
Our Thanksgiving dinners have often been spent talking promotions and sales packages, much to our mother’s chagrin.
Phil Mackey – SKOR North, Minneapolis
Back in 2009, I co-founded what’s now the Mid-States Poker Tour, and remain a major supporter and fan of the poker industry. My favorite starting hand in Texas Hold ‘Em is Jack-10 suited.
Tony Bruno – The Tony Bruno Show
When I’m not watching sports, my guilty pleasure shows are on Science Channel and watching people build cabins in rain and snow in Alaska while complaining about how much the weather sucks in Alaska. Home improvement is my strength, but only on my home, not busting up kitchen cabinets in some stranger’s joint.
Justin Craig – ESPN
So in thinking about what makes me, me would be my recent infatuation with running. In the past few years I’ve racked up almost a dozen half marathons and completed my first NY marathon. Why? Great question. Although since I’ve been doing them, I’ve fallen in love with pushing myself to train for something, see it through, aiming to increase my personal bests and more importantly…to live longer.
Selfishly, I look better in pictures actually having a neck back again. Even more rewarding is being able to run with two of my best friends, even though we aren’t in the same cities, we continue to plan on runs that we can see each other at, therefore pushing the training to a different level. Throw in the added benefit of just this past fall when my son and nephew asked me if I would run a 5K with them, and the reward is through the roof.
(Oh yeah, and it’s a great chance to catch up on listening to shows and podcasts. Seriously, I listened to a live stream of the network when I was running the full marathon! Who knew cursing out bad transitions and sloppy teases could be so motivating!)
Adam Klug – 97.3 The Fan, San Diego
In the last 9 years, I’ve lived and worked in five different states: Georgia, Connecticut, California, New Jersey and New York. I have made four long-distance moves since 2010: from Georgia to Connecticut in 2010. From Connecticut to California in 2012. From California to New Jersey (lived in New Jersey, worked in New York) in 2014. From New Jersey to California in 2018. My wife has made each move with me. Both of my kids were born in New Jersey and made the most recent move to San Diego.
Mike Thomas – 98.5 The Sports Hub, Boston
At a Mötley Crüe after party in Dayton, Ohio…I noticed Tommy Lee was being very affectionate with Carmen Electra (who is from Cincinnati). Tommy was still with Pamela Anderson at the time. It wasn’t long after the sex tape came out. I went on our rock morning show in Dayton the next day and talked about what was happening. It went national — (not viral, that wasn’t a thing back then). Rick Dees called me and had me come on his show for “Dees Sleaze”. I ended up in the National Enquirer the next week!
Jorge Sedano – ESPN LA 710
At least 3-4 times a week, I take an hour to just walk on the beach — just good quiet time. After 40, I’ve realized I can no longer play pick-up basketball. I feel like an old loser. My favorite shows are The Daily Show, Real Time with Bill Maher, and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Beyond the entertainment, I marvel at the formats and execution of the shows. My favorite sports movie is Major League. I’m forever a sucker for good pizza and a bottle of wine. It’s why I’ll never achieve my goal of a two-pack. (I’ve got a snowball’s chance in hell at a four- or six-pack.)
Mitch Rosen – 670 The Score, Chicago
My first full-time job was an overnight producer at WGN Radio in Chicago for a legendary host, Eddie Schwartz. I worked 12am-5am. Best job I ever had as I learned how to book, manage high-ego talent, and work with all departments. I was traded with Eddie from WGN to the legendary LOOP. It was the best career move I ever made. I have been a self-proclaimed radio geek since 7th grade and followed my dream since then. A lot of people are not aware that I worked at WTKU for its launch and was part of the team that hired RuPaul to do mornings. The station went from worst to first in one book. I’m also very involved with Special Olympics Chicago and serve on the board of directors.
Brian Noe – NBC Sports Northwest, Rip City Radio, Portland / FOX Sports Radio
Might as well include myself, right? I’ve played guitar for half of my life. I used to play in a heavy metal band in LA and have performed at the Whiskey. Although metal is my favorite, my minor in college was classical guitar. I played a handful of classical pieces during my sister’s wedding. When a classical piece ended too soon while playing in my good friend J’s wedding, I played the middle part of “To Live Is To Die” by Metallica. It worked well in a pinch.
One of the most random facts about me is that I keep a stuffed animal in my computer bag when doing radio shows. It’s a little bear wearing a karate outfit that was a family gift named Tae-Kwon-Noe. I tossed him in my bag many years ago so I didn’t feel alone while performing away from home. That sound you hear is my street cred grinding to a screeching halt, but I really don’t care. That’s my little homie and he reminds me of my family who I love dearly.
Mike Silver Has An NFL Backstage Pass
“When you go through a career transition like that, let alone during a pandemic, you find out a referendum on all your relationships.”
It was the 2010 NFL Draft and standout wide receiver Dez Bryant was eligible to be selected by a professional football team. As a journalist, Mike Silver has always looked to enterprise stories and wanted to be with Bryant when the moment he had been waiting for finally arrived.
Through a preexisting relationship with Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, he got in touch with Bryant and received permission to attend his draft celebration. Before being selected in the first round by the Dallas Cowboys, Bryant revealed to him that then-Miami Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland had asked him during the pre-draft process if his mother was a prostitute.
Once that information was published in Silver’s column, Ireland had to publicly apologize and was subsequently put under investigation by the team’s majority owner Stephen Ross.
“People were like, ‘How did you get that?,’ but I was very proud because really the way I got it was because Deion Sanders respected me enough based on things that had happened decades earlier and the way that I conducted myself that I was able to ultimately get to Dez,” Silver expressed. “That to me is a validation. I’ve nurtured relationships for years and years that have led to zero reporting and thought, ‘It’s okay; it’s just part of the process. It is what it is.’”
From the start, Silver was a believer in journalism and the power the profession had in divulging stories in pursuit of the truth. Born in San Francisco, Calif. and raised in Los Angeles, he would read The Los Angeles Times sports section for a half hour per day, observing the proclivities and vernacular of other writers. As a high school student, he co-authored a sports column in the Palisades Charter High School Tideline with current Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, gaining practical experience in journalism and cultivating professional relationships.
“I was the only Warriors fan in our school because I was born in San Francisco so he used to clown me for being a Warriors and 49ers fan like everyone else in our school – so I ended up having the last laugh,” Silver said. “By old standards, you’d say, ‘You can’t cover Steve Kerr. That’s your friend.’ I think in 2022 if I have to cover Steve Kerr, I’ll just be like, ‘You know what? Everyone knows we’re friends. I’m just going to be up front about it.’”
Silver attended the University of California, Berkeley where he earned his bachelor’s degree in mass communication and media studies. The school was not known for profound levels of success within its football and basketball programs, according to Silver; however, the student newspaper was a place to gain repetitions in covering sports and having finished work published, printed and distributed.
Towards the end of his time in college, Silver wrote stories that were published in The Los Angeles Times, the newspaper he grew up reading and from which he drew inspiration to become a journalist.
“We would tell the players we covered, ‘Hey, we’re trying to go to the pros too, and we’re not going to get jobs in this industry if we don’t write the truth,’” Silver said. “We were trying to break in as legitimate journalists and we definitely ruffled some feathers along the way.”
Once he graduated from school, Silver began his professional career writing for The Sacramento Union where he covered the San Francisco 49ers. Silver grew up as a football fan and was familiar with the team but always tried to find original, untold angles to differentiate his stories from others. Shortly thereafter, he transitioned to join The Santa Clara Press Democrat as a beat writer and used the time to further develop his writing and reporting skills. Five years later, he was in talks to land his dream job as a writer in Sports Illustrated, a prolific sports magazine focused on producing original content.
Sports Illustrated was released on Wednesdays and operated under the belief of trying to omit any stories that may have been reported in the days prior. The goal was to tell stories that were under the radar and would be impactful and memorable for its readers.
During a typical week, Silver would visit both the home and road teams in their own cities with the hopes of connecting with players and team personnel. After a game, he would go to the locker room, yet he would try to avoid doing one-on-one interviews since the content would likely be published elsewhere before the magazine was released.
Then, his writing process commenced and often went through the night, as Sports Illustrated had a 9 a.m. EST deadline the following morning. By taking the approach of enterprising stories, Silver quickly became one of the most venerated and trusted sportswriters in the country, composing over 70 cover stories for the publication.
With the advent of the internet though, journalism and communication was forever changed allowing for the free flow of information and ideas in a timely manner.
“Now I can arrogantly write to whatever length I want and every precious word of mine could be broadcast to the masses, but [back then] you better have it the exact length because it’s going on a page,” Silver said. “You’re maybe reading over a story 15 times or more to get it just right before the seven layers of editing kick in. You’re also leaving theoretically half of your great stuff on the cutting room table never to surface again or seldom.”
Nurturing a relationship built on trust and professionalism is hardly facile in nature, and it required enduring persistence and resolute determination to achieve for Silver. Through these relationships, he has been able to create both distinctive and original types of content. As innovations in technology engendered shifts in consumption patterns though, he decided to do what he originally perceived as being unthinkable and left Sports Illustrated after nearly 13 years.
“When I went there, I felt like we had 30 of the 35 best sportswriters in America and it was murderer’s row,” Silver said of Sports Illustrated. “I had a great, great experience there the whole time so I never thought I’d leave.”
After meeting with Yahoo Sports Executive Editor Dave Morgan and being given an offer with flexibility in the job and a promise of a lucrative salary, Silver knew it was simply too good to pass up. He opted to still write a column on Sundays to counterprogram Peter King at Sports Illustrated, who authored his own weekly “Monday Morning Quarterback” column.
Additionally, Silver agreed to write two additional branded columns per week in a quest to adapt to the digital age of media.
“I was trying to stay current and connect to an internet generation and keep up with the way that people were consuming their content at that time,” Silver said. “….We just had a spirit at Yahoo that we weren’t owned by anyone, we didn’t have a deal with the league and we were going to report the news in a very unfiltered way.”
An advent of the digital age in media has been the practice of writers appearing on television to present their information en masse, requiring changes in their delivery. Unlike in a written piece, reporting on television requires efficiently making key points and speaking in shorter phrases to allow the viewer to easily follow the discussion. Moreover, writers are sometimes presented with questions that may provoke deeper thought or analysis, and occasionally challenge their lines of reporting.
Silver never thought he would work in television, but as a part of his contract with NFL Media, he was writing columns and serving as an analyst on select NFL Network programming. In working on television on a league-owned entity, it forced him to step out of his comfort zone and pursue mastery of a new skill set.
“I never wanted to do TV voice and be cheesy and look like someone who was trained for the medium so my strategy was more to try to be myself on camera and see how that translated,” Silver articulated. “It seemed to work to some degree – and then obviously I picked up a lot of tricks of the trade and techniques and got better reps. Essentially, I think reporting is reporting [and] information is information.”
Moving into television, a medium with sports coverage that is, at its core, nonlinear due to the potential for breaking news and unexpected occurrences, changed the manner in which the information was presented and/or prioritized on the air. In a column, Silver’s goal was to find original angles and obtain anecdotes and quotes to implement into the storytelling. Now on television, sources were still used largely on the condition of deep background, meaning no individual or group could be attributed to the information in any way.
“With TV, there was an element of, ‘Hey man, I’m just trying to sound smart when I talk about you guys,’ which is code for, ‘I don’t have to use your name when I say this stuff, but when I’m weighing on why you just traded for Trent Richardson, help me understand what’s really going on with the Indianapolis Colts at this moment,’” Silver explained. “That’s just a random example. I liked [television] more than I thought I would.”
Silver’s contract was not renewed at NFL Network in 2021, providing a stark change in his lifestyle and leaving him looking for a job in the midst of trying economic times. Through a relationship he had with sports radio host Colin Cowherd, he was given the opportunity to join his upstart podcast platform The Volume as a host. Cowherd eagerly recruited Silver to the platform following a lunch in which the topic came up naturally in conversation about future endeavors.
“When you go through a career transition like that, let alone during a pandemic, you find out a referendum on all your relationships and I have a lot of them from players, coaches, owners and GMs to media people and friends in other industries, etc.,” he explained. “Colin Cowherd is someone I’ll never, ever, ever forget or stop being grateful to…. We were kind of talking some stuff out and he was like, ‘Why don’t we do a show on my network?,’ and we started talking about what that would be. We left lunch… and about 10 minutes later he called me and said, ‘Okay, here’s what I think,’ and kind of continued it.”
Today, Silver is hosting an interview-based program called Open Mike featuring guests from the world of professional football. Recent guests on the program have included Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff, New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh and Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Marvin Jones. Prior to joining The Volume, Silver had hosted a podcast with his daughter called Pass It Down, which ultimately ran for over 50 episodes and gave him experience working within the medium.
“I’m sitting there spending an hour with [Las Vegas] Raiders GM Dave Ziegler or [Buffalo Bills] linebacker Von Miller or whoever we have on,” Silver said. “You’re not only getting to know that person; you’re watching the way I connect with that person and usually have a body of work with that person, and there’s a comfort level there too.”
John Marvel was Silver’s direct boss at NFL Media and a friend he kept in touch with for many years. Through various correspondences and the dynamic media landscape, they decided to start their own media venture called Backstage Media. The company has a first-look deal with Meadowlark Media – a company co-founded by John Skipper, who also serves as its chief executive officer. Skipper was formerly the president of ESPN and someone Silver wished he had worked for earlier in his career.
“I did not know John Skipper before I left NFL Network,” he said. “I didn’t particularly have a dream to [ever] work at ESPN. We’ve had conversations over the years – ESPN and I – and it never seemed like the perfect fit for me. Now that I know John Skipper, it’s like ‘I would have worked for that guy any time.’ He’s fantastic, [and] I’m just so pumped to be in business with him.”
The company, which focuses on producing documentaries and other unscripted programming through the intersection of sports, music and entertainment, has various projects in development. The idea was derived out of both of their penchants for storytelling and an attempt to utilize new platforms built for engagement within the modern-day media marketplace.
“We’re hoping that documentaries, docuseries [and] episodic podcasts – mostly unscripted – …will be kind of our wheelhouse,” Silver said. “….There’s about four big things that are [hopefully] close to being announced. One’s football; one’s boxing; one is basketball; and one is kind of a blend of some things. I feel like we have a pretty diverse set of interests.”
Joining The San Francisco Chronicle as a football reporter has been indicative of a full-circle moment for Silver, as he is once again around the San Francisco 49ers and writing columns about the team and other sports around the Bay Area at large. Today, he is working with Scott Ostler and Ann Kllion, and directly with Eric Branch on the outlet’s 49ers coverage. Through it all, he seeks to continue gaining access to places that the ordinary person would only be able to dream about in order to tell compelling and informative stories, no matter how they may be delivered or on what platform(s) to which it may be distributed.
“I’m old school in a lot of my mentality in terms of journalism and storytelling and all of that,” Silver said. “I think those things don’t go away. I think it’s journalism first; relationship first; access first; storytelling first; and you figure out the rest.”
As for the future of the profession which has ostensibly become less defined because of the evolution of social media and communication, relationships and storytelling have truly become the differentiators. Silver aims to continue practicing what has allowed him to gain exclusive scoops in the industry and tell stories that would otherwise, perhaps, fly under the radar, but do so in a way that does not jeopardize his sources.
“I’m going to try to develop relationships and cultivate relationships where people trust me and give me a sense of what’s going on,” he said. “I’m going to try to get into places that you, as the consumer, couldn’t otherwise go and take you there, and I’m going to err on the side of the relationship as opposed to finding out one thing that could cause a splash that day on Twitter.”
Some athletes are hosting podcasts or writing columns to directly communicate with their fans, including Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green on The Volume, intensifying the quest for engagement and attraction. Yet Silver advises journalists looking to break into the industry not to get distracted in meeting certain metrics, instead adhering to best practices and reporting truthful information without ambiguity.
“Just don’t get undone by the noise,” Silver said. “Put your head down; hyperfocus; grind; tell good stories; do journalism and hopefully over the course of time, that will stand out. I’d still like to believe that.”
Covering professional sports, specifically football, generates a large amount of potential storylines on which journalists can report – and today, digital platforms give them the ability to cover them in different ways. While some scoops may requit a large article, others may be able to be told in 280 characters or less, such as a trade rumor or injury. The amount of information Silver and his colleagues uncovered working for a print publication and then had to omit because of space limitations underscores a key journalistic principle of efficient and truthful storytelling. In today’s media landscape, he hopes to be able to do that regardless of its means of dissemination.
“If you went back and just looked at our normal… feature or story off a game [and] the level we reported on a Wednesday and translated that to a Twitter generation, people would lose their minds about how much we found out and how much we reported with on-the-record quotes usually, and they’d be like, ‘He said what!?,” Silver said. “That’s all we knew and that’s [how] we did it…. I don’t think people understand how much the threshold has changed. It’s all good. The most important things hopefully haven’t changed.”
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.
Video Simulcasts Are Now A Must Have For Sports Radio
All of these shows have done an amazing job of constantly communicating with their audiences to make sure they’re aware of changes coming their way.
Video simulcasts of sports talk radio and podcasts have gone up extraordinarily in quality as of late. The craft started as a novelty that very few participated in. ESPN and YES Network dominated the genre with their simulcasts of Mike and Mike in the Morning and Mike and the Mad Dog respectively. Slowly but surely other sports networks and RSN’s picked up the genre over time and it has now become a major component within sports coverage in the streaming world.
The most popular and prominent shows in the medium right now include The Dan Patrick Show, The Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz, The Pat McAfee Show, and The Rich Eisen Show. These four shows in particular have done an excellent job of independently producing and building out their video content to look visually appealing while also engage with the audience through graphics, pictures, stats on screen. In McAfee’s case, his company even entered into a rights agreement with the NFL for highlights.
Finding their shows can be difficult at times. Eisen’s show has moved from television to Peacock and to Roku Channel all within the span of a couple years. When LeBatard’s shipping container first began their live video voyage they didn’t have a consistent schedule. Patrick’s show has also leapt between RSNs, national networks, YouTube and its current home on Peacock. But all of these shows have done an amazing job of constantly communicating with their audiences to make sure they’re aware of changes coming their way.
The video simulcasts have become so lucrative for these shows that they’ve found sponsors to advertise against what they’re offering and they ensure that they pay attention to the look of the show. Commercials that feel like television play during Patrick and Eisen’s shows. Logos are displayed during LeBatard’s broadcast and NFL Films vignettes that you would find on NFL Network air in the middle of McAfee’s broadcast.
McAfee’s show recently moved into a new studio in Indianapolis specifically built for them by FanDuel and just yesterday LeBatard announced they would be moving into their own state of the art studio in Miami that will help expand their creativity. Patrick’s show doesn’t even have guests call into their show anymore – most join via Zoom. Eisen’s guests are more often than not in studio. All of these shows also upload highlights relatively quickly to YouTube. They’re still audio-first but video is no longer secondary. It is 1A in terms of importance.
As much as these simulcasts feel close to real TV, there are still some hijinks that fans have to get used to that aren’t the same as a regular TV broadcast. During LeBatard’s broadcast, a rolling loop of their own self produced album plays during breaks. While the songs are hilarious in nature, if you’re a weekly viewer of their simulcast it might get tiresome to hear every time there is a break.
A loop of some of the show’s greatest moments and some of the side projects Meadowlark Media produces might be more engaging and help reduce drop off rate. McAfee’s show also struggles with white balancing their cameras almost every telecast. At times in the middle of a conversation during the show, discoloration occurs before changing back to normal skin tones.
Patrick’s show has used the same set of graphics since it began simulcasting on NBC’s linear sports network years ago which could be a turnoff for younger viewers of the internet era who always want change in order to grab their attention. Eisen’s show has awkward interruptions happen in the middle of conversations because commercial breaks are different in length on terrestrial radio vs. streaming.
At the end of the day though, these shows are the epitome of what it means to have grit and guts to achieve your American dream. Although their productions are subsidized and/or licensed by big media platforms and sports books, their social media presence and the actual production of these shows was built on their own. During the first couple of weeks after LeBatard’s show left ESPN, the former columnist could often be heard teasing listeners that they were working on building a video enterprise and how difficult it was.
It’s hard to stand on your own in sports talk media without the backing of superpowers like ESPN, Fox, NBC, CBS and Turner who have been producing live broadcasts for decades. But these shows have found a way to do so in a new world that is tailored towards doing everything on your own.
Jessie Karangu is a columnist for BSM and graduate of the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland but comes from Kenyan roots. Jessie has had a passion for sports media and the world of television since he was a child. His career has included stints with USA Today, Tegna, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Sightline Media. He can be found on Twitter @JMKTVShow.
5 Ideas For December Sales Success
How much better will you enjoy Christmas and New Year knowing you have some presentations to make to prospects who want to roll into 2023 with a new idea?
Now is the time to put your foot on the gas for a great start to 2023-not waiting til January. With Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day all falling on weekends, you can’t count on who will be at work the Friday or Monday around those holidays in December.
So, looking forward from here, you only have 15 or so days that you can count on your clients and prospects to be at work before the end of 2022. And, if they are at work, consider their motivation or lack of it before approaching them. But here are five ways to attack December.
Cutting a year-end deal
Make sure you go back from the potential start date of the schedule and allow for production, proposal, and acceptance. That usually means you need a week from when you present a year-end idea to when the schedule starts. So, aim to have all appointments booked by 12/9, so you can sell 2-week packages that begin Monday, 12/19. That will give you a sense of urgency and gives you five solid business days to sell your ass off starting Monday.
Make all your pricing and payment terms expire by Friday, 12/9. You can always extend if need be once they give a partial commitment. You want anybody involved in the decision to sign off and let you cut this deal! The idea here is to create urgency and work ahead.
Beat the bushes
Do you want to wake up on 1/2/23 with an empty pipeline? How much better will you enjoy Christmas and New Year knowing you have some presentations to make to prospects who want to roll into 2023 with a new idea? Don’t try to qualify these prospects over the phone. Do it in January when both of you are fresh but get that commitment NOW. Look for your new client avatar.
From now til the end of the year is also an excellent time to meet with your sales assistant, traffic manager, production person, or anybody who helps you at the station. Sit down with them face to face and see what you can do better to make their job easier. Give them some ideas on how they can help you as well. Mend some fences or make new friends; the reason tis the season. Surprise them with a Cheetos popcorn tin for less than $10. Please do it. You will be surprised by what you hear because this is a popular time of year for layoffs, transfers, and people taking new jobs.
Practice a new pitch
December is also a great time to record yourself doing a webinar and start planning to let your content do the talking. Wouldn’t it be nice if your 10-minute talk on how to make live reads work, how to buy radio, or why your audience buys the most widgets produced some warm leads? Practice and get going!
Jeff Caves is a sales columnist for BSM working in radio, digital, hyper-local magazine, and sports sponsorship sales in DFW. He is credited with helping launch, build, and develop SPORTS RADIO The Ticket in Boise, Idaho, into the market’s top sports radio station. During his 26 year stay at KTIK, Caves hosted drive time, programmed the station, and excelled as a top seller. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter @jeffcaves.