When somebody has passion for what they do, you can feel it. As it relates to Todd Fritz, you can also hear it and see it.
Fritzy, as he’s known on The Dan Patrick Show, oozes passion. He has been a valuable asset for DP since his early days on the show back in June of 2002. He’s done great work for nearly 17 years as a co-producer. There’s no way to maintain, let alone thrive, in a demanding role without a genuine love and enthusiasm for what you do. Fritzy possesses those qualities.
While talking about a former co-worker in this piece, Fritz mentions that if you love what you do and you’re creative, you’re going to accomplish great things. The same principle applies to himself. It’s no wonder he’s had such a great run.
Among many interesting details below, Todd talks about his surprise characteristic, his notebook of organized chaos, and the one guest above all others he’s still in hot pursuit of.
Brian Noe: How did you end up becoming part of DP’s ESPN show back in 2002?
Fritz: I was working on a number of shows over the years at ESPN including Up Close with Roy Firestone, Up Close with Chris Myers and Gary Miller, a show called Talk2 with Jim Rome on ESPN2. All those shows were out in LA. They moved me back east and I was working on SportsCenter and ESPNews and different ESPN shows back in the Bristol headquarters.
I guess they were making some changes to some of the staff right around May-June of ’02. I was approached by a couple of the executives at the network including Dan. They were trying to put together the group that they wanted to take the show forward to the next level I guess for lack of a better word. He called upon me as did some of the executives at ESPN Radio and asked if I wanted to do that.
I had been doing a lot of TV at the time. My radio background was WFAN sports radio in New York and KMPC sports radio in LA. I always loved radio, but for me to stop doing some of the TV stuff and get back into radio, I felt like the only way I would do that, it would have to be a big-time, high-profile, national, well-respected show like The Dan Patrick Show.
I remember telling my wife that — and this was before I was even approached — and then just all of a sudden like a self-fulfilling prophecy or something, I get this call. The next thing you know I’m on The Dan Patrick Show staff and there was no turning back and no looking back after that.
Noe: How did it then come about where Dan asked you to be part of the current show?
Fritz: I think it was back in 2007. I can’t believe it’s been like 12 years since we’ve been at ESPN. He had mentioned to me and a couple of the other guys that he was probably going to be moving on from ESPN after 18 years there.
He was looking to put together a little group. It was a huge decision for me because I remember how excited I was when I first got hired by ESPN. That’s the big time. I thought I’d be there forever, but we spoke about my future and his future and what we wanted to accomplish together. He made me an exciting offer. It was the right time to move on.
I wasn’t sure what was going to be the next step at ESPN, but I had been there for 14 years. He was moving on and I was very flattered that of all the people that he’s worked with over the years that he approached me as one of the people that he thought would be an important cog in the wheel of his future career and the next step that he wanted to take. It was a tough decision to leave a company like ESPN/ABC/Cap Cities/Disney and all that, but I knew that whatever Dan was going to do in the future was going to be very successful. I had an opportunity to be a part of it and so I said “Let’s do it. Let’s go!”
Noe: That probably had to be the toughest decision of your professional career, right?
Fritz: It was. When I was at WFAN, I was interning. Then I was a desk assistant and I was editing tape back in the old days splicing things and taping things together. I had a great time there for a couple of years in Astoria, Queens. Then I moved out to LA for a radio job to help start an all sports radio station in LA, which was 710 KMPC in LA.
It was wild for me — I had never been on an airplane before and the next thing I know I’m leaving my apartment building in Brooklyn, New York, and all of a sudden I’m living in Burbank and working in a studio on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. That was a very big decision too, but it was a no-brainer to do something like that. I was only like 22 at the time and just graduated NYU. It was a big opportunity to go out to LA.
But for this, this was big because it’s ESPN. It’s the Mothership, as we like to call it, the Worldwide Leader in Sports. They don’t just hire anybody. You’ve got to have quite a resume to get your foot in the door at ESPN. I had accomplished a lot of stuff in LA and at the Bristol headquarters, but I liked what Dan’s vision was going forward and what he wanted to do.
Sometimes you’ve got to take a leap of faith. Although I didn’t exactly know what was going to be the next step, I did have a very good idea what Dan’s vision was and I wanted to be a part of that.
Noe: What was your experience like behind the microphone before working with Dan?
Fritz: I basically had no experience. An overnight host back in the day at WFAN, Steve Somers, was kind enough to let me do a couple of updates. We probably would’ve gotten in trouble if anyone found out. It was like 3:30 in the morning on a Wednesday. He let me do some WFAN sports updates, which are normally handled by obviously the so-called professionals that come in and pick what sound they’re going to use, the in-cues and the out-cues, and they write their script.
We were all behind the scenes in our cubicles in Bristol. I’m booking all the guests for the show and we’re doing research and all that kind of thing. Then all of a sudden, the radio show evolved into TV and Dan, I guess, was speaking to some of the powers that be at DirecTV.
He said, “Hey, I want to hear what these guys have to say. I want to give them a voice. I don’t want it to just be me. These guys have a lot of unique personalities and interesting things to say.”
Basically it was Dan’s idea to say, “I think we should have this ensemble of me, Paulie, Seton, and McLovin to actually be on the air and not just be quiet on the other side of the glass doing their individual tasks whether it’s running the board, producing, chasing after guests, or researching.”
It kind of took off from there. Everybody has their own unique personality and brings their own sense of humor to the show. The feedback we’ve gotten seems to work very well and everyone seems entertained and informed by what we’re trying to do every day.
Noe: This is your first major experience on the mic and it’s such a huge platform. What was going through your mind when you first started off in that role?
Fritz: That’s a great question. I was a little nervous, but I had enough confidence in what I had to say that I felt good about it. It was a lot easier than I thought. I think it got a little trickier just speaking into the microphone if Dan happened to call on one of us. Sharing your thoughts even though it was odd seeing the light on the mic button. Then you’re hearing yourself in your headphones. You’re trying not to think about all the different people around the country that are hearing your every word because that might freak you out a little bit.
I think it got a little trickier when all of a sudden TV cameras were put in the studios and DirecTV got involved. Now it’s a radio show on TV. You want to make sure you’re not being distracted by the cameras that are moving and being controlled by the LA headquarters. That took a little time to get used to.
It was exciting and it was very cool. We were all like, “Wow, this is great. We’re on national radio and national TV.” But I remember those first few weeks and those first few months — you wanted to make a cognizant effort not to play to the camera. Just try to do your thing and do your job, say what you have to say, but ignore the fact that there are cameras all over the place.
Noe: It’s really unique that you have so many voices on the show. How long did it take for all of you to establish some chemistry and really be tight as a unit?
Fritz: I think it happened relatively quickly. We all have very different personalities, but we all have what I like to think of is a strong sense of humor and a strong working knowledge of sports. Dan had the idea that we would kind of raise our hand, which I’m sure you’ve seen over the years, so that we don’t speak on top of each other.
That was the only thing that when we first started we might have stepped on each other a little bit because it’s Dan and there’s four Danettes’ voices in the room. To make sure that we’re not all talking at the same time we have to let Dan know with a glance or raising your hand like you’re in a classroom just to avoid people stepping on one another. Dan would call on each us and we’ll say what we have to say.
Sometimes we’d make a really good point. Other times, which I’m sure you’ve seen also, I may say something that takes that segment for a whole left turn. Dan will definitely let any of us know if he thinks that something we had to say took us off course a little bit. We try to make a joke about it. I try not to do that too much. I want to bring the segment and the topic forward and not take us in some kind of odd direction.
Noe: What are some of the benefits and some of the challenges that come from working with the same crew for over a decade?
Fritz: We all have a good feel for each other’s personalities. It was never really awkward because we had been working together for a while. Andrew came on later on from Sports Illustrated, but I had worked with Paulie and Seton before when it was back at ESPN Radio in Bristol. We kind of knew what made each other tick and what each of our strengths and weaknesses might be.
That was probably the best thing of all was the chemistry came relatively quickly. We never had meetings afterwards where it was something terribly awkward. We never had things scripted out. The only thing that we prepare for ahead of time is we’ll have a morning meeting and we may have a few guests booked ahead of time. We’ll go through the topics of the day and try to put a little rundown together of what we may be talking about in which segments during those three hours. But from the get-go, everybody hit it off because we all bring something different to the table. It just meshed.
There’s nothing more flattering than when we go on the road to an All-Star game, a Super Bowl, a Final Four, or whatever and somebody comes up to us and they say how much they enjoy the show and how much they feel that camaraderie coming out of the speakers of the radio or what they see on TV. They kind of feel like they can hang out with us. It’s the power of TV I guess. They feel like they know you and they can easily grab a bite to eat with you or hang out in the bar.
From a little Jewish kid in Brooklyn to being in different parts of the country and people recognize you and come up to you and tell you how much they appreciate what you do with the show is very gratifying.
Noe: What’s something that people might not know about you and could be surprised to find out?
Fritz: I can be very shy at times. On the air I can be a little boisterous. I love making people laugh. I started dabbling in a little stand-up comedy over the last year or so on the show. I tell the guys even more than booking that huge guest or landing that person that everyone’s trying to get, as much of a great feeling as that is, I’ve always enjoyed whether it’s family, friends, co-workers, if I can get a hearty laugh out of the people around me, I really enjoy that.
I don’t think it’s too much of a shock or a surprise to people now because they know I’ll do my mock headlines. I went on stage a few times to do the comedy thing. When I’m not on, I’ll joke around with my family and friends all the time, but there are times when you just sit quietly and watch a little TV, listen to some music, and shut down the craziness of chasing after guests 24/7.
My personality can change significantly. It’s not that you’re putting on an act when you’re on air, but Dan expects, as we all should, to have high energy and be pumped up for the show. You can’t be like that 24/7. At some point you have to settle down and decompress a little bit.
Noe: That’s funny, man. I’m just like you in that way. I’m all amped up on a show, but people don’t know I can be totally different off the air. I can relate to that.
Fritz: (laughs) I think a lot of people are like that. When you watch those late night talk shows with someone that’s funny on a TV show or in a movie role, it doesn’t come across necessarily on Kimmel or back in the day with Leno or Letterman, or if you’re on Ellen. I remember seeing a lot of comedians or people you thought were just all hyper and funny. When you’re memorizing a script or something that very clever writers have put together, it’s a lot different than when you’re just being yourself.
Everyone needs to decompress a little bit. For me whether it’s hanging out with the family, going to the gym, going for a nice long walk or whatever it is. You can’t be “on” like that all the time. I think you need that balance in your life where you can cool down a little bit.
Noe: Is there one certain guest that you haven’t been able to book that you’re still hoping to one day?
Fritz: Definitely Michael Jordan. I know Dan has wanted to have him on for a long time. We’ve all been trying, but in spite of my best efforts that just hasn’t happened yet.
I’m sure there are others. If you want to get Presidents of the United States on and things like that. I take a lot of pride in back in the Up Close days when I had booked OJ Simpson back when I was in LA. I think it was around ’97, ’98 or so.
I know obviously the whole world was going after OJ. Setting up that interview for Chris Myers, who was the host at the time, that was a big coup. I always look at that and anytime anyone has told me back in my younger days that you’re never going to get that person on the show, or don’t bother calling for so and so, I remember that as an example of you’ve got to make the effort. You’ve got a try.
If someone leaves you a voicemail or sends you an email saying that the person isn’t available or they’re not interested in coming on, or the topics are too sensitive, whatever the case may be — you’re in the business, you hear a million different reasons or excuses. Sometimes people don’t even get back to you every once in a while on certain requests. I try not to take that too personally. Knowing that at least you checked the box and you made the effort. You never know what’s going to happen or who you may be able to track down.
You end up having a very, very special and exciting moment if by some chance you can get that big-name person. Obviously we’d like to have Bryce Harper on the show. Johnny Manziel we tried to get. Eli Manning, the newsmakers that everyone’s trying to go after. That’s what you’re looking to do. Jason Witten, those are some of the names obviously that come to mind immediately. How great would it be to have those guys on the show?
If you can’t get them, that’s where the creativity comes in as a group. Okay, who would be the next best person to have on if we feel we need to have a guest? Is it a writer, a columnist, an analyst, a teammate? Let’s not just stop there. You shoot for the moon and then if you keep working that way, whatever you end up with, as long as you keep going after the biggest names you can think of, the most creative people that can discuss those topics, you’ll end up with a very strong show and guests that can discuss those things in an intelligent fashion.
Noe: Hopefully this makes sense but I think music and sports radio are similar. If you take a musician for instance — if they listen to a lot of different bands, they’re not necessarily copying them, but they can see what they like and they can use that to create their own style based on it.
Fritz: No question. I always go back to my days in the newsroom at WFAN when I was a junior at NYU. Seeing how different producers, general managers, and program directors behaved and how they interacted with one another from a corporate standpoint, but also just from a content programming standpoint. Always be inquisitive. Always try to be creative. Always have the attitude that anything’s possible.
I take things from what I learned at WFAN, and from LA, from meetings for SportsCenter and ESPNews and different hosts that I’ve worked with whether it’s Jim Lampley, or Roy Firestone, or Chris Myers, Chris Connelly, Gary Miller and obviously Dan. I’ve been fortunate to have worked on both coasts in big markets with big-name talent, which isn’t lost on me and the opportunities I’ve had. Hopefully I’ve made the most of those.
I’ll listen to different shows and hear how everybody’s covering it and what the topics are. I think that’s important to not be so narrow. You don’t want to steal anyone’s ideas or takes if you will, but it is very interesting to hear how different hosts and different programs attack the same stories and topics that you’re going to be talking about.
One example for me is this is a three-hour show. When you’re listening to a local news station — for me in New York it’s CBS Radio 880 or 1010 WINS — they do the sports in like two minutes. I always chuckle with that because they go, “Yankees won, Mets lost, and Eli Manning looks like he’s going to be the quarterback next year,” and they’re done for a half hour. Three hours every day, sometimes there’s no juicy story.
You go to the different sports websites and the top story is a hockey trade. February is that kind of month. What are we going to do for three hours? Because we have such a talented, creative group and everybody works so hard and is always thinking of different ways to improve the show and raise the bar, the show just flies by — whether there’s three or four juicy topics or breaking news, or if it looks like, “Wow, there’s not a lot going on.”
Noe: Is there anything specific about Dan’s style or the styles of the other people on your show that you’re not copying, but you’re tweaking it and using it in your own unique way?
Fritz: As far as Dan specifically, I’ve always been impressed with how much he knows about everything and he’s got an amazing memory. His work ethic is second to none. Before I worked with him, when I worked back in the day with Roy Firestone — everyone always jokes that he used to make the guests cry and they’d get all emotional — after working with some of the talent and seeing their interviewing styles and their skills and their ability to have the guest be so relaxed, they forget they’re even on the air.
Dan’s proving that with the Undeniable show that he’s been doing also on DirecTV on the Audience Network in addition to what he does with our show. I didn’t realize that he’s so, not that he was stiff, but like with SportsCenter over the years with Olbermann reading the teleprompter and you could joke around a little bit. He’s a lot of fun to be around with the radio show. He’s got a lot of energy. He’s very motivated. After everything he’s accomplished, he still has that attitude and energy that he still feels like he has something to prove and has a lot more in the business and in the industry that he wants to accomplish.
We all bring our A-game because that’s what he deserves. It motivates me to really, really go after those big-name guests because he’s so great at interviewing. The least I can do is hold up my end of the bargain, which is to deliver those newsmakers and those A-level guests so that he can do his thing and talk to the people that should be on The Dan Patrick Show.
I always have that attitude; whoever we’re all going after — and a lot of shows are going after the same person — if they’re going to pick one show, I would want it to be obviously an exclusive with The Dan Patrick Show.
I always looked at us as the Nightline of sports talk. If someone’s going to do an interview, I would hope that they would choose Dan to do that with and it’s my job track him or her down and set that up.
Noe: What do you think it is that separates Dan from other interviewers?
Fritz: I think just his intelligence, his sensitivity. He doesn’t do the gotcha journalism. We’ve talked about that over the years. He’s not looking to trip somebody up or make them look foolish. He respects what they’ve accomplished in their industry and that they took the time to come on the show. He does his homework. He does his research. He makes sure he’s fully knowledgeable of the situation.
The words he chooses, and again the sensitivity I guess — that’s the word that comes up more than anything else — that he takes with the interview. It’s very thought out. It’s very thoughtful. He knows what questions the people that are listening or watching the show want answers to. He’s not afraid. He’s not going to do a softball interview. Again, very thoughtful, very sensitive. He just does it in a very comfortable, non-threatening way with a sense of humor and he makes the guests very relaxed. They know they can trust Dan and open up more than they might with another host.
Noe: It’s funny, sometimes you might flash back to sports moments that you had in grade school or high school. If you were to flash back to a moment on The Dan Patrick Show that’s a highlight of yours, what would it be?
Fritz: We had Bobby Knight and Bo Schembechler on the show together, which was a big deal. There was another time when I think two players got traded for each other. I can’t remember who they were, but we got them both on just as they were finding out they were being traded for each other.
Because I worked at ESPN for 14 years and with Dan for 18 years, every so often when you get that big-name person and they make news and you look at the websites, including espn.com with the BottomLine, and you see The Dan Patrick Show being credited, it’s kind of a big deal. It goes a long way because again, I just remember how excited I was when I was hired by ESPN that I really made it in the industry.
There have been so many different moments whether it’s getting that newsmaker on that I know everybody was going after, or a light-hearted moment like the Charles Barkley’s and Reggie Miller’s that are very funny and personable and aren’t afraid to speak their mind. It’s exciting every day because you know at any moment there could be breaking news. No two shows are the same. We don’t have a script of jokes where Paulie is going to say something and then Seton is going to have a retort and then Andrew or me adds something else. We just kind of do our thing.
Noe: How did your wife react to you singing to John Legend’s wife?
Fritz: She is extremely understanding. My wife, Jennifer, she understands the business and she doesn’t take any of that too seriously. She knows who I really am, and besides the fact that she’s not threatened, it’s not like I’m going to be running away with Chrissy Teigen anytime soon or any of these supermodels that I’m encouraged to hug that we get in the studio every once in a while. She’s great.
Whether it’s Charissa Thompson, Chrissy Teigen, or countless other Victoria’s Secret models and different people we’ve had on the show. They know I’m the hugger. I’m the more affectionate one and I’m serenading them or whatever is going on, she’ll roll her eyes a little bit or she’ll tease me a little bit when I come home from work on those occasions, but she certainly doesn’t get upset and doesn’t feel threatened at all that I’m running away with any model any time soon.
She’s got a great sense of humor. She’s very supportive especially when I have my phone next to me at the dinner table and I’m trying to have family time, yet she knows the job of booking The Dan Patrick Show — or booking any national radio/TV show — occupies a lot of your time, especially when you don’t know what news is going to break at any given moment. I’ve got to hand it to her.
We’ve been married — it’s going to be 20 years coming up in October. She’s the best and I’m very fortunate she’s that supportive and that she’s a sports fan who likes to watch games and appreciates what’s going on in the sports world. It’s not so foreign to her that I’m in some separate world from her. We watch sporting events together. We talk about the sports news of the day. We went to the Rockets-Celtics game on Sunday. My wife and kids were totally excited about it. I’ve got a 16-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter. They appreciate what I do and really like sports. I’m blessed in that way.
Noe: That’s awesome. As far as the specific teams you root for, do you root for similar teams, or are there any clashes?
Fritz: I raised my son to be a Bronco fan like me from day one. We had the Bronco baby bottles, pacifiers, bibs, pajamas and all that. So we’re a big Denver Broncos family. They all have the jerseys and the hats and everything. We’re watching all the Bronco games on DirecTV. It’s just great. I started rooting for the Broncos in 1977 before they lost to the Cowboys in Super Bowl XII. I started rooting for the Astros back in 1980. I grew up in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn and everyone’s wondering why I’m rooting for Houston and Denver. Especially when I was in high school, it’s amazing I didn’t get beat up.
I always like to tell this story; it was 1986 and the Astros are playing the Mets in the NLCS, which was an amazing NLCS, and the Angels were playing the Red Sox in the ALCS. The Broncos were playing the Giants in Super Bowl XXI. So here I am in New York, I’m rooting for the Houston Astros to beat the New York Mets in the 1986 NLCS, and I’m rooting for the Broncos to beat the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXI, neither of which worked out.
No one could understand why I would be rooting for the Astros and Broncos instead of the Giants and the Mets. When I was a little kid I would go to Yankees and Mets games. I appreciated Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium. I would root for the Yankees and Mets, but once I saw the Orange Crush and then Elway came aboard, I was all in on Denver.
Noe: With the forthcoming move away from the NBC Sports Network, what do you anticipate in terms of how it could impact the show on a day-to-day basis?
Fritz: I’m not sure. I know we’re all excited about it. We don’t know what the future holds with that. I know Dan had mentioned the other day — I’m not privy to some of those internal conversations with the powers that be — but this relationship with Turner Sports and the merger with Time Warner, I guess we’re going to be on Bleacher Report Live at some point in the near future. I don’t know at some point if there’s an opportunity to be on one of the Turner channels, but we’re excited about things.
We had a great six-year run with the NBC Sports Network. For now we’re still obviously on DirecTV’s Audience Network. We’re on about 340 radio stations and SiriusXM. When it’s time for them to share the next step with me, the powers that be, they know where to find me. For now, all I can do is keep doing my job and chase after the guests and have fun with the show every day.
There’s certain things you can’t control, but I know there’s an enthusiastic aura about what’s going on. It’s moving on to bigger and better things. We had a great relationship and I have a lot of friends over at the NBC Sports Network. If it’s time to move on to something else as far as where we might be airing on the web or on TV beyond the Audience Network, I’m excited to find out what that is even though it’s still a question mark right now.
Noe: What’s something that you remember most from the 13 months you worked alongside Jason Barrett?
Fritz: His enthusiasm. I know he’s a big wrestling fan — we always tease him about that. His just wanting to raise the bar each day — challenging our hosts, challenging the rest of us, coming up with long lists of guests we should have on the show. Just wanting to try new things and not be like every other show, not be cookie-cutter. He wanted to be unpredictable, which I respected a lot.
Just seeing what he’s doing for a living now, and having worked with him when we were doing Dan’s show at ESPN Radio, he’s very passionate about what he does. He knows how to deal with talent and producers. I’m not surprised he’s doing what he’s doing now.
The analysis of different shows, and what different hosts and producers bring to the table, he has a good feel for that. Again, you can’t put a price tag on enthusiasm and passion. If you love what you do and you’re creative, you’re going to accomplish great things.
Noe: JB has mentioned the chaos that is your notebook full of contacts. For anybody that hasn’t seen it, how would you describe it?
Fritz: It is an organized mess. If someone was to look at it — I’ve shown it off to some people and they like to call it A Beautiful Mind like that movie where it’s just got scribble all over. That’s really a good analogy. It’s got stars and highlighters and arrows and different phone numbers. To the average person it would look like a bunch of scribble, that I was like a serial killer or something, or that I’ve got some kind of disorder of some kind.
But for me, I know where everything is. I like to fit a lot of stuff on a page. I usually put about six shows worth of notes on one side of a page. I have several notebooks and each notebook can last me like a year and a half or more. I don’t know how that happened. I think when I was a kid back in school I used to write very small when I was taking notes. That way when it was time to study for tests, maybe it didn’t look like there was that much to study if everything was on three or four pages as opposed to 15 pages. Maybe there was something psychological about that.
We all have our little system and it’s worked for me over the years. I can definitely appreciate it when someone looks at it. They either have one of two reactions; one it’s like, “Wow, that’s amazing,” like in a positive way. The other side, they’ll raise an eyebrow and be like, “Are you okay? Should you be on some type of meds or something like that? It’s disturbing that you write like that and that’s how you function every day.” That’s of concern to some people that maybe you need to go lay on the couch and talk to somebody.
Noe: Say over the next 10 years, is there a certain goal that you would like to accomplish personally?
Fritz: I talk to my wife about this all the time. I’ve been blessed where one job has led to another where I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen next or what I wanted to do next. I met someone at a gym in Brooklyn while I was at NYU and that led to an internship interview at WFAN, which led to an internship and then a job there for a couple of years.
I never knew that I was going to work at WFAN. I never knew that was going to lead to flying across the country to help start an LA version of WFAN. I certainly didn’t expect to be at ESPN on both coasts on different LA talk shows and then at the worldwide leader headquarters. I’ve been thankful that I’ve worked in these big markets with big-name talent. I impressed, I guess, the right people that make these decisions on hiring. I take that very seriously.
There are a lot of people in this business that you work very hard and it doesn’t necessarily amount to anything. There are no guarantees. You could be stuck in a small market somewhere. You could be very talented and work really hard, but it may not lead to anything. Fortunately one thing has led to another. I used to wonder, “Was I doing this years ago because I wanted to book the guests for Oprah, or Letterman, or Leno? What exactly is the goal? Do I want to be like an executive at a network?”
I’m enjoying the ride right now. It scares me sometimes that I don’t have a specific goal, but it’s worked so far because I look back at what I’ve been able to accomplish over the years not knowing exactly what was going to be next. Hopefully those next things will somehow continue to find me. If there’s something out there down the road when The Dan Patrick Show comes to an end that catches my eye to work with a particular person or a network or company, then I will cross that bridge.
Hopefully things will come clearly to me and I’ll be approached maybe for exciting things down the road. For now, I’m hoping The Dan Patrick Show continues to last a very long time. Whatever the future holds I’m sure it’ll be something fun and positive, and something that waking up in the morning I can be pumped about going to that place.
Grant Cohn’s Trolling of Players is Unacceptable
After an altercation between Javon Kinlaw of the San Francisco 49ers and Grant Cohn, it became clear that Kinlaw was being trolled by a member of the media.
Grant Cohn is a media member who writes for the FanNation 49ers blog on SI.com. He also talks about the team on his YouTube channel, which has over 48,000 subscribers as of noon Thursday. His father, Lowell, was a longtime columnist in the Bay Area.
Javon Kinlaw is a defensive lineman, whom the San Francisco 49ers drafted in the first round despite concerns about the durability of his knee. He played four games last season, his second in the league.
The two were involved in two confrontations this week. The first one occurred off to the side of the 49ers’ practice field. Kinlaw apparently cursed at Cohn and knocked his hat from atop his head. Later in the day, Kinlaw again swore at Cohn, this time after joining a live stream on Cohn’s YouTube channel. (Side note: I have never felt so freaking old as I did while typing that previous sentence.)
OK. That’s my attempt at an absolutely straightforward and objective summary of a situation that scares the hell out of me. Not because a player was mad at a member of the media. I’ve had it happen to me and I’ve seen it happen to others. It’s my opinion that this has been happening for as long as human beings have scrutinized the athletic efforts of other human beings.
What scared me was that I was seeing some version of the future of sports media. A future in which media members behaved like YouTube trolls, acting purposely ridiculous or antagonistic to initiate conflicts that could be turned into more conflicts that would could be gleefully recounted as content for the audience. I thought that because that’s pretty much what Cohn did:https://youtu.be/4Hf9sjBttFY
Cohn essentially bragged about the number of different things he said that may have prompted Kinlaw’s reaction, and you know what? It worked. Kinlaw got mad. He confronted Cohn. Twice. TMZ published a story about it. So did SFGate.com.
This is troll behavior. You know, the online pests who say or do something intended to provoke a reaction, and once they get that reaction, they recount and scrutinize that reaction with an eye toward triggering another reaction. Lather, rinse repeat. Increasingly, entire online media ecosystems consist of nothing more than people who don’t like each other talking about how much they don’t like one another.
I’m not going to pretend this is entirely new in sports media. Sports columnists have been known to make reputations with their willingness to be critical of the home team. A huge part of Skip Bayless’ brand is his unwavering insistence on highlighting Lebron James’ perceived flaws. Stephen A. Smith has engaged in public feuds with players, namely Kevin Durant.
I do see a difference between this and what Cohn did, though. The reaction Bayless and Smith are primarily concerned with is from their audience, not their subjects. The subjects may get mad, but that’s not the primary goal. At least I hope it’s not.
What happens if that is the primary goal? What if someone is offering opinions not because it’s what they really think, but because they want to provoke a response from the subject? Media careers have been built on less.
I don’t know if that’s the case with Cohn. I’ve never talked to him in my life, and even if I had, it’s impossible to know someone’s true intent. But in listening to everything he said AFTER the initial confrontation with Kinlaw, I’m not willing to assume that Cohn was operating in good faith. Here’s how Cohn described the initial confrontation with Kinlaw, which occurred as practice was beginning.
“In the training room, I saw Javon Kinlaw, who is the king of the training room,” Cohn said. “He’s usually in the training room.”
Cohn said the two locked eyes, but were separated by about 70 yards at the time. Kinlaw then walked across the field to where the reporters were gathered. He stood directly behind Cohn.
“So I turn, and I say, ‘Wassup, Mook Dawg?’ “ Cohn said, referencing the nickname on Kinlaw’s Instagram account. “And he doesn’t say anything. And I say, ‘Why are you looking at me like that, Javon?’ “
“And then he said, ‘What are you going to do about it you bitch-ass,’ and then he said one more word that I can’t say,” Cohn said. “And then I turned to face him, and I said, ‘Oh, it’s like that?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, it’s like that.’ And then he knocked the hat off my head.”
OK. Pause. In my experience, when your job is to publicly describe and critique the performance and attitudes of professional athletes, there will be times in which the athletes do not care for your description or your critique. Some of those who are displeased will make their objections known to you.
However, there are two things that are unusual here: First, the fact Kinlaw knocked the hat off Cohn’s head, which is unacceptable. Second, Cohn then posted a video on YouTube to not only talk about what had happened, but state he had been so critical of Kinlaw for so long he wasn’t sure what specifically sparked Kinlaw’s anger.
“Javon, what are you upset about?” Cohn asked toward the end of his video. “Is it the fact that I said you have an 80-year-old knee? Is it the fact that I said that you’re a terrible pass rusher and you’re just a two-down player? Is it the fact that I said the Niners shouldn’t have drafted you and should have taken Tristan Wirfs instead. Is it the fact that I said that you’re unprofessional and immature.
“It escapes me, which of the hundred negative things I’ve said about Javon Kinlaw the last couple of years, moved him to approach me in such a way, but you know what, I applaud Javon Kinlaw for coming to speak to me directly, and I ask you, what do you think Javon Kinlaw is mad about.”
Cohn was trolling Kinlaw. No other word for it.
That night, Cohn was conducting a live stream on YouTube, which Kinlaw joined, while apparently eating dinner, to make declarative statements about the size of Cohn’s genitalia — among other things.
Neither one looked particularly impressive. Not Kinlaw, who was profane and combative with a member of the media, at one point making a not-so-subtle threat. Not Cohn, who asked Kinlaw, “Do you think I’m scared of you, Javon?” He also said, “I don’t even know why you’re mad, Javon.”
I think Kinlaw would have been better off ignoring Cohn. If I was Kinlaw’s employer, I would probably prefer he not log into video livestreams to make testicular comparisons. But honestly, I don’t care about what Kinlaw did. At all. He’s not on a team I root for. He didn’t physically harm anyone. He used some bad words in public.
I am bothered not just by Cohn’s actions, but by some of the reactions to them because of what I think this type of behavior will do to an industry I have worked in for 25 years. Credentialed media members who behave like Cohn did this week make it harder for other media members who are acting in good faith. Preserving access for people like him diminishes what that access will provide for those who aren’t trying to use criticism to create conflict that will become content.
I think Cohn knew what he was doing. In his livestream, before Kinlaw joined, Cohn stated he was not scared because he knew — by virtue of his father’s history in the business — that if Kinlaw had touched him he would potentially be entitled monetary compensation.
By now, it should be pretty apparent how problematic this whole thing is and yet on Thursday, a number of 49ers fans online were sticking up for Cohn as just doing his job. Dieter Kurtenbach, a Bay Area columnist, Tweeted: “Javon Kinlaw does not know that @GrantCohn was built for this.” Built for what? Winning Internet fights? Kurtenbach also deleted a Tweet in which he called Kinlaw “soft.”
Cohn’s father, Lowell, is a former columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle and Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. He promoted the first video his son made on Tuesday:
Sorry, I don’t find it funny because it’s another step down a path in which media members seek reactions at the expense of information. Where they look to make fun of players instead of learning about them. They’ll stop acting like journalists and start acting like the trolls who make their money by instigating a conflict, which they then film: “Jake Paul, reporting live from 49ers practice …”
If that’s the case, thank God I’m about to age out of this business, entirely. I’m 47 years old and I can’t believe there’s anyone in our industry who thinks what Cohn did this week is acceptable.
Media Noise – Episode 75
A new episode of Media Noise is all about reaction. Demetri reacts to the ManningCast’s big win at the Sports Emmys. Danny O’Neil reacts to people reacting to Colin Kaepernick’s workout in Las Vegas and Andy Masur reacts to John Skipper’s comments about Charles Barkley.
Bron Heussenstamm Blends Bleav Podcasts Advertising with SiriusXM
Bron Heussenstamm, the CEO of the Bleav Podcast Network says blending podcasting advertising with satellite radio’s reach is a victory for both sides.
Last week, the Bleav (pronounced believe) Podcast Network announced a deal with SiriusXM to make all 32 NFL team-specific Bleav pods available on the SXM app. SXM can also air Bleav content on any of its sports channels. Each NFL Bleav show pairs a former player with a host to discuss team issues. Eric Davis, Lorenzo Neal, and Pac-Man Jones are amongst the former players Bleav has signed as talent.
I have hosted a Bleav podcast about Boise State football -the Kingdom of POD. I am usually provided 1-3 advertisers per episode by the network and get paid by the download. My subject matter is regional, so my take-home pay is usually under four figures. I have enjoyed the technical assistance and cross-promotion I receive and I enjoyed meeting Bleav CEO Bron Heussenstamm. Bron is Los Angeles-based, a USC graduate, and founded Bleav in 2018. We discussed the SXM deal, podcast advertising, and the future.
Will the podcast advertisers be carried on the SXM distribution platform?
Yes, Bleav baked-in advertisements and hosts read ads are distributed across all platforms. This enables the host to do their show once through, making it as easy as possible for the hosts and consistent for the advertisers.
How is advertising on Bleav different?
We want to be more than a ‘host read ad’ or a ‘digital insert’ with our advertising partners. When companies work with Bleav shows and talent, those companies can receive our omnichannel of distribution points—podcast platforms, YouTube, socials, streamers, TV, radio, and more. This allows for consistent branding across all platforms: great talent presenting great companies to fans and consumers no matter where they consume content.
What is the growth pattern for podcasts that you see?
The industry trades have presented 400%-800% percent growth over the next ten years. Once the COVID fog lifted, we really saw these gains. Sports are always going to be at the forefront of culture. The increases in all sports sectors have certainly carried into the digital space.
SXM has started with NFL shows but can also air more Bleav content – what does that look like?
We’ve started with our NFL network of 32 team shows hosted by a former player. We’ve kept the door open for our NCAAB, NCAAF, MLB, NHL, Basketball, and Soccer networks. We’re happy for our hosts to be part of such a tremendous company and platform. SiriusXM can continue to amplify its voice and give fans the access and insight only a player can provide.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau-IAB- says podcast revenue grew 72% last year to $1.4B and is expected to grow to $2B this year and double to $4B by 2024. Have you seen similar growth? What is driving the industry now, and what will be the primary cause of growth by 2024?
There is a myriad of reasons for the growth. I‘ll lean into a couple.
At Bleav, we launch and maximize the digital arm of industry leaders. The technology upgrades to allow hosts to have a world-class show — simulcast in both audio and video – from their home has led to an explosion of content. With this, the level of content creators has risen. Having a YouTube, RSS feed, podcast, and more is now part of the brand, right alongside Twitter and Instagram.
If a company wants to advertise on Bleav in Chargers, we know exactly how many people heard Lorenzo Neal endorse their product. We can also safely assume they like the Chargers. The tracking of demo specifics for companies is huge. It’s a fantastic medium to present products to the right fans and consumers.