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Jason Ross Wants To Be Everywhere & Do Everything

“Generally I really love it in October and November. The Kings are going. I’m consumed with college football on the weekend and the prep that takes all week. Then a show and being the program director.”

Brian Noe

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Personal happiness is mostly tied to your mindset — whether you have a positive or negative outlook on the things you experience in life. In spite of having numerous responsibilities and a very hectic schedule, Jason Ross actually prefers his job to be challenging. It’s a good thing he views things favorably. Jason could become a crazy person if not.

His sports radio journey began at Sports 1140 KHTK back in 1994. Jason has remained in Sacramento ever since. Jason’s list of duties include talk show host, program director, pre/half/postgame host for Sacramento Kings basketball, and the radio voice of Sacramento State football since 1997. This definitely qualifies as challenging to say the least.

They say timing is everything. Whoever “they” happens to be has it right. Jason had to choose between two opportunites; he chose a fill-in shift for two weeks that turned into a 25-year career at the same station.

He shares great insight below in a very conversational tone. Jason also shares his thoughts about the role he covets most going forward. Enjoy.

Brian Noe: When did you figure out that you wanted to pursue sports radio as a career?

Jason Ross: It was pretty easy for me. I can pinpoint it exactly. I was a junior at UC Davis and I went to school to play sports and to possibly be a veterinarian. I was trying out for the basketball team. I made it all the way to the end and was one of the last cuts. That very weekend the men’s team was going to have their first game. One of my friends was working at the campus radio station and he said, “Hey, you know the team. You’ve been around the guys. I need someone to do color commentary with me. Would you like to sit in with me?

I thought, “Well I love sports. I’ve watched sports all my life. I want to stay involved in some way. Sure.” The second I did the first game, I knew that’s exactly what I wanted to do. Then I got an opportunity to do the women’s games. Everybody that was at the campus station at the time was a senior or moving on, or graduating and going to grad school.

That very next year I was a senior and I was the program director at the campus station. Then I got a chance to create my own show, do football, basketball, baseball, get commercials, sell, just all of it, everything all-encompassing. Right then and there I said, “Yeah, this is exactly what I want to do.”

Noe: You almost were a veterinarian?

Ross: (laughs) That was one of my goals. I wanted to play sports as long as I possibly could. I was actually on the baseball team my first year. I was a redshirt. It was a loose program that way where you could be a redshirt and be around. I really was just there for that, for the beginning of that first year. But then I was always playing basketball, basketball, basketball. That’s where in my third year; I tried out for that team.

I went to school thinking that would probably be my long-term goal. I think it was my sophomore summer in college; I worked at a veterinarian’s office. I liked it, but I kind of realized then that I don’t think that was the career path I wanted to go down. Shortly thereafter was when the opportunity to do some radio work happened and that’s when I fell in love with it.

Noe: What was the first station that you worked at?

Ross: I’m also unique in that regard. The second my college time ran up, I started putting out all of the flyers and feelers to see what can be next for me. I had an opportunity to go back home to Orange County and work at the Orange County Newschannel, which was a 24-hour news station at the time that was relatively new and have an internship. Or at Sports 1140, which was at the time Hot Talk 1140, in Sacramento as a part-time, fill-in board op for two weeks.

There was going to be a guy that was going to be on vacation for two weeks and the station needed a board op. I was really torn on which one to do, but I went for — as sad as it was — the money. It turned out the guy never came back. I got a job at the station and I’ve been there for 25 years. People move all over the place. I just stayed in one spot. Everybody’s got a different path, but that’s been mine.

Eventually that same summer, the station got the Sacramento Kings. We turned into a sports station. It was just incredible timing. My boss at the time said, “Hey, we’re going to need a locker room reporter. I said, “I’ll do it.” You just start saying you’ll do weekend shifts and work holidays and all of the things you have to do to move up. I’ve been at the same place longer than anyone at that station for 25 years.

Noe: The only reason you chose Sacramento was because the fill-in gig was paid?

Ross: Probably, and maybe being comfortable. I was still living in Davis. School had just ended. All of my friends were still here. I could have gone home. It seemed to make sense to at least try that to me. I had a girlfriend at the time. Friends, girlfriend, it was all still happening up here. Could I have gone home? Sure, but I took my chances on that and little did I know it would be just the greatest decision I could have made.

Noe: What do you remember most about those two weeks of fill-in work?

Ross: It was a nationally syndicated non-sports talk show. It was just learning the business, running the board, playing carts, cutting tape, just literally the old-school radio that’s not even a thing anymore. Just trying to figure that out. It just all seemed like it moved so fast — making my mistakes and figuring out the business. Not that you figure it all out certainly in two weeks, but just starting to dip your toe into it and figuring out what I didn’t know.

Noe: When you’re wearing so many hats — on-air guy, PD, doing the Kings stuff, play-by-play — what part of your job do you enjoy the most?

Ross: I would say my number one thing that I love more than anything is play-by-play. I just love the art of that. The preparation. No game is the same. The people you meet. You could have two terrible teams and you see the greatest individual performance or team performance that day. You could also see the worst thing. You see someone score seven touchdowns, someone score 60 points, someone go 0-for-25. The greatest dunk, the worst pass. I love that.

I just love all of those things about play-by-play and the art of calling it. Did I describe it perfectly there? What could I have done better? Then I try to take that same approach to the other elements too — creating a show, trying to do the best that I can for the station. I think overall my favorite thing by far is play-by-play.

Noe: Do you find yourself listening closer to play-by-play guys or sports radio hosts?

Ross: That’s a great question. Probably both because I think you can identify where someone is missing something, or what someone is good at based on your own experiences. For an example, in play-by-play — I know this has happened to me before — I take pride in knowing who everyone is out on the field and having as much prep on the court.

Football is the trickiest one. There are 11 offensive guys and 11 defensive guys. Maybe a ball is tipped and it’s a backup linebacker. In that moment you may not know who picked it off. Then you recover and you look at your chart and you find out who it is.

I can listen to a game especially on radio and hear someone that gets caught up in that same thing and describes a pass, “It’s picked off and they’re going the other way.” I say, “Oh, they don’t know who it is,” because I’ve been there. I know that they don’t know who it is and then they catch up and they go, “Oh, that was John Smith with the pick, his third of the season.” I say, “Okay, they got it. They recovered and handled it well.”

It’s the same idea on a talk show when someone asks a question, or they’re trying to go somewhere. I go, “Oh, they’re trapped. They’ve got a crutch.” Probably from what my own mistakes have been I can hear where people maybe get stuck in play-by-play or on talk shows.

Noe: What was your crutch word that was pointed out to you?

Ross: (laughs) I had a football game. Sacramento State was playing Cal State Northridge and they ran what would be like a run-and-gun offense. Their football program doesn’t even exist anymore, but they said, “Hey, I heard the game. You know how many times you said quick hitter?” I said, “Quick hitter?” Really?” They said, “You said it all the time.”

I went back and listened to the tape and it was disgusting. I literally said it for almost every pass. I couldn’t believe it. I wouldn’t have guessed I ever said it. I’d say, “Quick hitter over the middle. Quick hitter.” I mean it was disgusting. I said it way too much, but it was great that someone told me that. You need someone policing you out there, if it’s not yourself, because it’s hard sometimes to go back and listen to your work consistently.

That was constructive. It wasn’t meant to be mean. If someone can be honest with you like that, it’s really helpful. I think we can all get caught up in saying some of the same things. That’s the art of play-by-play too is describing something similar with different words and different sayings and being creative. That was frustrating, but a good lesson.

Noe: Play-by-play is so fluid and constantly moving forward based on how the game unfolds. Do you think that impacts you as a sports radio host where maybe you tend to move through topics more fluidly than other hosts?

Ross: I’m not sure because I only know this way of doing play-by-play and doing a talk show. I think the art of doing a talk show has been extremely helpful the other way around with play-by-play. I know a couple of years ago, the Kings had a game in Philadelphia. I was back in the studio doing the pre, half, and post — threw it out to Gary Gerould to basically start the coverage and there was condensation still on the hardwood from the ice underneath.

We had a delay, and then another delay. It was filling time, and now back in the studio. I’ve done talk shows so I know how to fill time, but that was a little unique because are we filling five minutes? Is this going to be 10? Is this going to be 30? The art of being able to talk and find different storylines and find things to talk about, but also being able to cut it off if you have to go right back out to the venue. It ended up that the game was postponed and made up on another day. It was a unique night. I felt that if I was at the game by myself doing play-by-play, I would have been able to fill too, but I was back at the studio and you just kind of have to adjust.

The practice of being in a talk show format where you might have a 12, 15, 20-minute segment, hopefully with someone else, but if you’re by yourself, you’ve got to be able to fill that airspace. It’s not always easy, but hopefully you’ve got enough reps that — alright you’ve got to go for 25 minutes straight and we’re in a crisis. Alright let’s go — and just figure out how to fill the space.

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Noe: When you mention how sports radio has changed over the years with smartphones and smart speakers and all these different choices that people have, what do you think is the most important aspect to keep in mind as a sports radio host as you structure your show?

Ross: I still think if it’s a topic that’s interesting to me, I hopefully then can relate that as something that’s interesting to someone else. If you’re digging for topics just to bring it up and I’m not buying it, I don’t know that the consumer there is going to go, “I’m all in on this.” Not everybody is going to love every segment of everything that you do. That’s impossible to please everybody.

I think if you find stuff that’s interesting to you for an angle, or a storyline, or a human-interest element that you feel that you can convey, then I think you’re going to do your best job at least at that, and in the end, feel good about the content you’re delivering. Again that’s not going to be for everybody, but at least then you know you were doing your best job. I think you just have to continue. I try to find the things that interest me and then that way hopefully I’m telling the best stories or relaying the best angles of those stories.

Noe: During an Army-Navy football game, they’ll take a player’s schedule and say at 0600 this guy wakes up and does this, and at 0700 he does that. That thought came to mind as it relates to your schedule. When you have so much on your plate, how does your day generally set up?

Ross: (laughs) It’s different based on the different times of the year. It’s funny that you say that because maybe when the Kings season ends, there’ll be a couple of days where it’s just not as much on my plate. But then I also find myself — it’s not bored — but it’s not as hectic. I think I prefer a lot of plates spinning. I love all of this.

Generally I really love it in October and November. The Kings are going. I’m consumed with college football on the weekend and the prep that takes all week. Then a show and being the program director. It’s completely hectic, but I love that. Different times of the year it varies, but generally I’m at the radio station by about 8:30 and trying to do program director type things for a couple of hours.

I try to transition into the radio show mode at some time during that, at least a half hour or so before the show. It’s the show from noon to 3. Then it just depends on if it’s a Kings night or not, but get back in the program director type mode. If it’s a game, you could be at the arena until 10:30 or 11 or at the station until 10:30 or 11 — it just depends on whether the game is East Coast or West Coast.

I don’t ever look at it like, “Aww man, I got to be at the station for 12 to 14 hours.” Maybe the next day there is no game and I’m at the station until 5:30 or so. It evens out and there’s less weekend work in the non-basketball and football season, but there’s always something going on and I actually prefer it that way.

Noe: Is it ever hard to avoid thinking negatively about your different roles meaning, “Hey, if I didn’t have this PD meeting, I could put a little bit more into the prep for my show,” or vice versa. Is there ever that mindset that you have to guard against?

Ross: Probably, yes, because I feel guilty at times. I’ve got a great partner now in Damien Barling who I do the midday show with. He is amazing. He is a preparer. He gets the show put together.

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I try to do as much as I can, but sometimes I feel like I cheated him because, “Oh man, this day I had a meeting at 9 and a follow up at 10. A crisis happened and I’m rolling in at 11:50 and we’re 10 minutes from showtime. I have an idea of what we’re doing, but I don’t feel like I contributed enough at least on that day.

Other days I do more. It’s just kind of a day-by-day basis. If it was a perfect world, I’d have time to do all of that, but sometimes I don’t. That part has been a challenge for me for sure.

Noe: Was there ever a realization you came to that helped you approach each day the way you have?

Ross: I still have the guilt. I don’t know that I’ve ever resolved myself from that. I think I’m better than ever with time management, but again it’s never perfect. I could come to work on a day and go, “I kind of have everything lined up. I’m in good shape. I can spend some real good time on the show.” Then a phone call, an email, a text, three things happen and all of a sudden I’m in crisis mode on something that I had no plan for.

You have to be ready to handle those things even when you think, “Alright, I’m going to have a good hour and a half, two hours here, where we can really lay out a great show.” Then it falls back to me rolling in near the end and Damien doing all of the heavy lifting.

Noe: I remember times when I’d get a phone call from a salesperson two minutes before I was about to do a show. I’d think, “They have no idea what it’s like to do a show.” Do you have that thought go through your head more, or the thought of, “You have no idea what it’s like to be a program director”?

Ross: The only thought I ever get sometimes on that is when someone will say, “Hey, can we meet tomorrow at 2?” I’ll say, “I’m on the air.” Sometimes it’s a concept of, “You’re selling the show. You know I’m on 12 to 3.” That one will get me every once in a while.

If it gets too close to that window, unless it’s the biggest of bosses or a true, true crisis, sometimes I’m just not answering that phone or that email. I’ll go, “Okay, well I’ll have to get to that after the show.” Or if it seems a little more important, “Alright I’ve got a four-minute break here, I can knock out a quick email.” But I try not to lose focus on the show at least in that three-hour window. Sometimes that’s hard to avoid.

Noe: What aspect of your many roles comes the easiest to you and which aspect do you think is the most challenging?

Ross: I guess just the love of sports I hope transfers over to all of them. I don’t know how much it does to being a program director, but to the play-by-play, to the talk show it does. I like people. I think I’m good with people so that helps. The most challenging thing I think is the program director for sure. I’ve worked under so many different ones and they have their style. I can only do it my way.

I don’t know if I’m doing it the right way, but I’m trying and I try to be there for people. I try to listen. I don’t think I have it all figured out so I try to be a good listener. I try to communicate what I think is best. If someone has an idea I’m all for it. I think that one is the one that takes the most work for me. It’s my newest of the jobs.

Noe: When you’re a fellow sports radio host, do you find it challenging to critique another talent when it might be something that you’re violating yourself?

Ross: (laughs) Yes, I try to use myself as an example. I’m not perfect and it’s very subjective. There are people that like my show, there are people that don’t. There are people that love our other shows, there are people that don’t. There’s not one way that’s considered right.

I try to point out something that’s a little bit more constructive like you’ve got to hit breaks on time. Stuff like that as opposed to — I try to stay away from content. If someone’s got and idea and it seems like a reach to me, I don’t know that I would talk about that, but in the end if you can pull it off and tell a great story, or get some emotion out of that, or say something funny, well that worked.

I try to do it more in the realm of something that’s truly constructive and may be beneficial overall for the concept of the show as opposed to, “Hey, I wouldn’t talk about this,” because who follows that? You know? I try to stay away from that.

Noe: You’ve been in Sacramento for so long. Do you see yourself remaining there always, or do you think the future will play out differently?

Ross: I’ve almost been here 25 years. I’ve only been here and it’s tough to see me anywhere else. I’ve applied sporadically to other things over the 25 years, but really wondered, “Man, if I did get that job, would I really leave? I’ve been in California my whole life. My family is out here. Would I do that?”

So at this moment I can’t picture myself anywhere else. I love Sacramento. It’s been great. The station’s been great to me. The Kings. Sacramento State. The community. There’s no reason for me to leave unless there was some offer out there that I was like, “Man, I can’t turn that down.” I’m really happy where I am.

Noe: That’s cool, man. You can’t mess with happy. What do you do outside of sports — I don’t want to say as a release because this is what you love to do, but in terms of something that’s non sports-related that adds some balance to your life — what do you like doing the most?

Ross: The reality is the time I get, I try to spend as much with my family. They’re so supportive, my wife and my son. We’ve got such a great family. My brother is in town. My in-laws. There’s always people at our house. It’s just a great time to come home. It’s rarely just my wife and son. We have friends over all the time.

It’s like when you were a kid and there was always one house we’d always go to. Well, we’re the house. I think that’s really fun. We’ll have barbecues. We just like to entertain and have people over. That’s probably it. I just love to be around people that I care about and have a good time. That’s my main thing when I’m not working, which seems like I’m working all the time.

Noe: How long have you and your wife been together?

Ross: We met at the radio station, which is another reason I’m thankful for all of the things that transpired. Staying at the station that long, I met her several years into being at the station. She was an account executive so we met there and struck up a friendship. It grew from that.

She since is no longer in radio, but she did it for a long, long time. She was really good at sales. So many friends, so many memories, my wife came from radio. It all feels like it was just meant to be.

Noe: Have there been other offers that you simply turned down for all the reasons you just mentioned?

Ross: No, nothing officially. There have been a couple of NBA things that I’ve applied for. I literally remember talking to my wife thinking, “Man, if I get offered this, I think I would say no. But how could I say no to one of 30?”

Now, it didn’t happen. I’ll give you an example; Cleveland was open years ago. I think it was Joe Tait who was their longtime broadcaster. I saw that was an opening and I said, “I don’t know if I want to go to Cleveland, but I have to apply. It’s one of 30 jobs.”

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I applied and nothing came of it, but I remember thinking, “Well, I feel like I’m qualified. I’ve done NBA games. What would I say if it really came down to we want to hire you?” I was really thinking, “Am I going to say no?”.

It didn’t get that far because again I’m happy here. I like it here. Maybe sometime that position will open up for me in Sacramento officially. It would have been hard to leave and it would have been hard to say no. I guess the short answer is I’m glad I wasn’t officially put in that spot to have to decide.

Noe: If you could essentially write out how you’d like the rest of your career to unfold, what would that look like for you?

Ross: I would like to do as much play-by-play as I can. I get that opportunity now, but I thirst for more of it. I’ve been lucky to be behind — and I know you know Grant Napear, Gerry Gerould is the radio guy, Grant is the TV guy — I don’t know if I’m technically behind Grant. Gary, I’ve worked so hand in hand with him for so many years. I’ve had the privilege to fill in for him. He is just a legend. He’s amazing. He is still killing it out there and he’s 78.

Whenever his time is done — he needs to write his own script — but whenever he decides he’s finished, I would love, love, love that opportunity to be the radio voice of the Kings. To go with that, to keep doing Sac State football because I’ve done that for 20+ years. If that opened up even more opportunities to do some national play-by-play, I really love radio. If TV came up I wouldn’t say no as far as play-by-play. Everything seems to be leaning towards that.

I enjoy doing the talk shows, but it’s almost like the thing I’m chasing has been play-by-play. If more things open talk show wise, certainly I would do it. I have a show now. I’m thrilled with it.

The PD job was something that became available and I thought, I’m going to grow from this. I wanted to take on that opportunity. I really have learned a lot more about myself and just managing people, and making mistakes, and making right calls, all those kind of things. I’ve enjoyed that, but I guess the thing I’m in a constant chase for is finding more play-by-play.

Noe: I hope that works out for you.

Ross: I hope so too. It’s really tricky because Gary is a friend. He’s awesome, but I know if it was my job, I’d be like, “I’m going until I’m done.” He should. He’s done it for 30-something years and he’s still great. He’s amazing.

Noe: If he was like, “What do you think, man? Do you think I should keep going?” It’d be hard to avoid saying, “No man, you should totally retire.”

Ross: (laughs) Yeah, because my friends always ask me when’s he going to stop? I’m like, “You know, I don’t know.” That’s his call. I root for him. Again, he’s a friend. He’s a mentor. He’s just awesome. I’ve been patient and I hope it would be my position after that, but nothing is ever guaranteed. I would feel really good about my chances though.

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

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

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Photo of a sports radio studio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Best Thing I Heard/Watched Recently

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

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

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

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In Case You Missed It

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

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

You can read the full feature by clicking here.

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Meet the Bettors: Ben Mintz, Barstool Sports

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

Demetri Ravanos

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Meet The Bettors - Ben Mintz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BSM Writers

Sports Broadcasting Can Be a Family Affair

Sports are such a generational activity.

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

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

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

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

Noah and Ian Eagle

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both have called Brooklyn Nets games.

Marv and Kenny Albert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harry, Skip, Chip and Chris Caray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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