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5 Mistakes We Make In Interviews

“Interviewing is an art not a science. Everyone is going to create interesting content in a different way. The roadblocks to doing great interviews are common across the board though.”

Demetri Ravanos




I have been in my car a lot over the past week. I went from Raleigh, where I live, to Winston-Salem (a three hour roundtrip) on Monday for the NSMA Awards Dinner. On Wednesday I drove to Charlotte (two and a half hours one way) for a meeting and to review Spider-Man: Far From Home (It’s quite good.). Then on Thursday, I drove down to Columbia, SC (90 minutes from Charlotte and then three and a half hours back to Raleigh on Friday) to fill-in for Heath Cline for a couple of days on 107.5 the Game.

As you can imagine, all of that time in a car gave me plenty of time to clean out my iPhone’s podcast app of just about anything and everything I have been saving.

One show I had been holding on to was an episode of Disgraceland, in which host Jake Brennan interviewed Elton John. The show usually recaps stories where true crime and the biggest names in music overlap, but this was a straight interview to promote the movie Rocketman. Sir Elton is apparently a fan of Disgraceland and requested that Brennan do the interview for iHeart Media.

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I’ve always liked Elton John, and I think Jake always does his research and is prepared to tell any story he chooses on Disgraceland. I had never heard him do an interview, but still was optimistic.

What I heard was really bad. It was so bad that I started scribbling down notes as I drove about where Jake went wrong. Let me be fair to Jake. He said in the show’s intro that there were certain questions he had to ask in order to get audio that could be distributed to iHeart stations, but for anyone that works in radio or any other field that involves doing a lot of interviews, it was a tough listen that inspired this list of ways we over-prepare and make what should be good interviews sound boring.


As I listened to the Disgraceland episode with Elton John, the biggest problem was that it all sounded so scripted. Whether or not the questions he was asking were written by Jake Brennan or by someone else, they were clearly written and he was clearly reading.

Elton John isn’t a boring guy. This is a guy that was the biggest rock star on the planet in the 70s and 80s and is a living legend to this day. He did most, if not every, drug under the sun, and during the height of his fame, he was living in the closet. There’s a reason you make a movie about a guy like that. He has a story worth telling.

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Having your questions pre-written makes it hard to pivot or explore a little deeper when the interview subject says something that piques your curiosity. More than that, it makes the interviewer sound aloof and disconnected.

It is good to want to be organized and give yourself reminders of things you want to cover. Instead of writing down the questions exactly how you want to ask them, simply write down the subject you want to hit. It forces you to be in the moment and keeps you from falling into the trap of tunnel vision, shutting yourself off from being able to go with what the subject gives you.


This is a trap even the most entertaining host can fall into if they aren’t ready to pivot at any moment. Sometimes we have a legendary story we want the subject to tell, or a particular moment we want a player to relive that we can get laser-focused on it. It’s understandable to want to bring the story to your listeners, but if it is clear the subject isn’t giving up the goods, it is impossible to create good radio by staying the course.

There are stories celebrities from all walks of life are known for and feel like they have said all they possibly can on the matter. We have all asked players and coaches to describe a moment or a call and been met with “You were there. You saw what happened.”

No one will ever say there is anything wrong with being a bulldog to get information, but if you are in a situation that is a full interview and not just trying to get a sound bite, your goal has to be to move the conversation along. Focusing on a topic the interviewee doesn’t want to talk about risks making the whole conversation worthless.


Elton John is a pioneer and icon of rock n’ roll. Jake Brennan isn’t used to talking to people of that stature. It is understandable that he might have been a little thrown.

This doesn’t happen often in sports radio, but it does happen. When I was at the NSMA event, I talked to a host that was taken aback by Tony Kornheiser agreeing to be on his show. I saw plenty of professional interviewers struggle to ask Doris Burke for a photograph.

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Think about that time you got to talk to a hero from your youth, who was on the interview trail promoting something. Think about the first time after moving to a new market that you came face to face with someone who until now was only an image on TV.

Maybe you weren’t fully starstruck, but you had to reset yourself and quickly adjust to the fact that this was a reality and you are at work. You had a job to do and couldn’t use airtime to fawn over a hero. That is only interesting to you.


We all have a name in mind when we read that headline. All of us can think of someone that takes three minutes to answer a single question. They may be an unimpeachable expert on the sport they cover, but they talk for so long that listeners forget the question that the host asked in the first place.

Elton John was going to tell Jake Brennan every thought or feeling he had ever had about anything, and look, that’s fine for a podcast. You’re not clicking play on that episode for a quick introduction to who Elton John is and what he’s all about. I just couldn’t help but think of how that would sound in a radio context.


Letting an interview subject steamroll you puts him or her in total control. They get to decide what questions get answered. They influence the way your listeners think about the segment. We always want a guest to be comfortable. We just don’t want them to feel like they can move in and make the show their home.


This one has nothing to do with Jake Brennan’s interview with Elton John. It is just something I thought was worth mentioning, because of something I heard a local show do while I was on the road.

The hosts were talking to the coach of a local women’s soccer team about the Women’s World Cup. The coach clearly knew her stuff, but she was just really boring and giving two and three word answers to every question. As I listened, the hosts scrambled to stretch the conversation to fill their entire ten minute segment.

It reminded me of Dan Patrick’s interview with Kyler Murray. It was done during Super Bowl week. The Oakland Athletics’ draft pick and Oklahoma quarterback had not yet made a final decision about what he was going to do regarding the NFL Draft.

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Patrick pressed and Murray continued to deflect. Actually, he didn’t deflect so much as giggle and try and kill time. Patrick, being a master interviewer, was able to turn things around and get an entertaining segment out of it, but maybe you don’t have those kind of interviewing skills. That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with admitting defeat.

Will you look like a dick? Maybe in the very short term, but if it stops the bleeding then bite the bullet, look like a dick, and cut off the interview. If you can be more entertaining without the guest on the phone then you can by keeping that conversation going, then you owe it to your listeners to get that guest off the phone.

Interviewing is an art not a science. Everyone is going to create interesting content in a different way. The roadblocks to doing great interviews are common across the board though. Recognizing what they are will help you avoid them.

BSM Writers

NBC Must Develop a Real No. 2 NFL Crew for Playoffs

Is the network’s only other option Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett?

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Several years ago, the NFL objected to NBC wanting to employ Mike Tirico as the lead play-by-play voice for its Thursday Night Football broadcasts. The league preferred Al Michaels because he was NBC’s No. 1 NFL play-by-play announcer and wanted the TNF telecasts to carry the same prestige as Sunday Night Football.

Following the network’s heavily-criticized broadcast of Saturday’s Wild Card playoff game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL may want to impose its authority again and insist that a top-tier broadcast team call the action of an important postseason game.

The consensus among fans and media watching Saturday’s broadcast was that Michaels and analyst Tony Dungy were surprisingly low-energy for an NFL playoff game, let alone one that became so exciting with Jacksonville rallying from a 27-0 deficit for a 31-30 victory on a last-second field goal.

Such a lackluster broadcast led to questions of whether or not Michaels was now past his prime after a season of calling subpar TNF games for Amazon and what initially appeared to be another snoozer when the Jaguars fell behind by 27 points. Pairing him with Dungy, who was a studio analyst all season, certainly didn’t help.

Dungy was as basic as a game analyst could be, typically narrating replays viewers could see for themselves while adding little insight. Worst of all, he demonstrated no enthusiasm for the action, leaving Michaels to fill most of the airtime. The veteran broadcaster showed that he can no longer carry a broadcast by himself. He needs the energy and back-and-forth that Cris Collinsworth or Kirk Herbstreit provide.

So how did NBC get here?

Most football fans know that the network’s top broadcast team is Tirico on play-by-play alongside analyst Cris Collinsworth. But they had their own assignment during Super Wild Card Weekend, calling Sunday night’s Ravens-Bengals match-up. With the postseason field expanding from 12 to 14 teams, resulting in six games being played on Wild Card weekend, NBC was awarded one of the additional playoff broadcasts.

Thus, another broadcast team was needed for that second Wild Card game. Fortunately, NBC had a renowned play-by-play man already in place. Michaels finished out his final season as SNF‘s lead voice by calling Super Bowl LVI, part of a powerful one-two combination for NBC Sports coming toward the end of its 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics coverage.

Ending his legendary career with a Super Bowl broadcast would’ve been a wonderful final note for Michaels. That appeared to be a natural path when Tirico moved from ESPN to NBC in 2016. Network executives admitted that a succession plan was in mind for Tirico to take over SNF eventually. At the time, Michaels also likely thought he would retire by then.

But when confronted with the possibility of retirement, Michaels realized he wasn’t interested. He was still enjoying broadcasting the NFL. His skills were still sharp. And perhaps most importantly, he was in demand. Amazon wanted Michaels as the lead voice for its Thursday Night Football broadcasts, bringing instant credibility to a streaming venture that drew some skepticism. ESPN considered him as its Monday Night Football play-by-play man.

As it turned out, ESPN made a bold move for MNF, swiping Fox’s No. 1 NFL crew of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. That left Amazon for Michaels, and the streaming giant paid him a commensurate salary with the top broadcasters in the industry as part of his three-year contract.

Yet Michaels wasn’t done with NBC either. After his agreement with Amazon became official, NBC announced that its relationship with Michaels would continue in an “emeritus” role allowing him to broadcast the network’s Olympics coverage and that additional Wild Card playoff telecast.

NBC can’t have been happy that most of the social media chatter afterward focused on the broadcast, rather than the game result. Especially when the discussion centered on how poorly Michaels and Dungy performed in what turned out to be a thrilling playoff game. That’s a pairing that the NFL probably doesn’t want to see again.

Michaels will likely call at least one more Wild Card playoff game for NBC since he intends to work on the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics. He’s also under contract with Amazon for another two seasons unless he decides to retire before that deal expires. So perhaps the simple solution is keeping Dungy out of the broadcast booth and giving Michaels a better partner.

But can NBC drop in another analyst who hasn’t worked with Michaels all season? Anyone would arguably be an improvement over Dungy. Is it at all possible for Herbstreit to be hired on for a one-off playoff broadcast, thus ensuring that the broadcast team will have some on-air familiarity and chemistry?

Otherwise, NBC’s only other option may be its Notre Dame broadcast team of Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett. (The network tried that last season with Tirico and Drew Brees, only for Brees to wilt under the harsher NFL playoff spotlight.)

The pair also called USFL broadcasts for the network, so at least there would be familiarity rather than trying to figure each other out during a telecast. Yet Collinsworth and Garrett aren’t terribly popular with viewers. And as with Brees, that crew will face intense scrutiny with a larger playoff audience.

Unfortunately, NBC appears to be stuck here. Unless the new Big Ten broadcast team of Noah Eagle and Todd Blackledge gets a shot. That might be the best option! Other than Notre Dame or USFL games, where are the other opportunities for NBC to develop a No. 2 NFL broadcast team? No one wants to put Al Michaels through Chris Simms in the broadcast booth, right?

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BSM Writers

Al Michaels Has Options But He Has To Make a Choice

“It does all of us in the sports industry well to remember 99% of our audience would gladly trade places with us.”

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I don’t ask much out of game announcers; get excited when appropriate, get the simple information correct, don’t get so caught up in your shtick you put yourself above the game. Al Michaels has been doing all those things well for the better part of half a century and few would argue that he’s not one of the best to ever do it. That doesn’t mean he can’t lose his fastball.

Before you read any longer, I am not here to say Al Michaels has lost his fastball. What I am here to say is Michaels has all too often this season seemed upset with and disinterested in the game he is calling. That isn’t entirely surprising when you consider some of the Thursday night action he called on Amazon Prime where the average margin of victory was almost nine points per game.

On top of that, the Amazon schedule had a dreadful two week stretch with Colts 12-9 win over the Broncos in Week Five and the Commanders 12-7 win over the Bears the next Thursday. It was in that Broncos-Colts game Michaels asked Herbstreit if a game “can be so bad it is good?” Herbstreit’s answer was “No”, by the way. It was the full 15 game schedule that Michaels told The Athletic’s media critic Richard Deitsch was like trying to sell a used car.

All of that is fine, the inaugural Amazon Prime season was not a smashing success. The streaming giant missed audience projections and will lose advertising revenue because of it. The lackluster schedule did not help that. But Michaels was given a second life; he was the NBC play-by-play announcer for the Saturday Night Wildcard Playoff game between the Chargers and Jaguars. It initially looked like Michaels might be the problem as five first half Jags turnovers had them in a 27-0 hole. But the home team staged a nearly unprecedented comeback for the win.

It was the performance by Michaels and, to a lesser degree, his analyst Tony Dungy that has led to criticism. Criticism might be too soft of a word, Michaels was roundly dragged for his lack of enthusiasm during the comeback and specifically on his call of the Jacksonville game winning field goal. The enthusiasm of the call of the game winner had a mid-3rd quarter of week four feel to it.

Me telling Al Michaels how to do play-by-play of an NFL game would be the equivalent of me telling a physicist how to split an atom. So, this isn’t just a Michaels criticism, few things bother me more than hearing a game announcer complain about the length or quality of a game as if he’d rather be anywhere else. It does all of us in the sports industry well to remember 99% of our audience would gladly trade places with us.

How many NFL viewers would sit in the seat Michaels, or any NFL announcer occupies, for free? They’d feel like they won the lottery if they also were getting the money those announcers are getting paid to be there. The guy that works a 12-hour Thursday construction shift just to get home and crack a beer for the NFL game probably doesn’t want to hear how tough that game is to announce.

On top of all of that, Michaels was given the gift of one of the wildest NFL Playoff comebacks you’ll ever see and, at times, sounded as if he was completely disinterested in being there. Pro tip: the best NFL announcer in those moments is Kevin Harlan (see: Miami at Baltimore from earlier this season. That has nothing to do with my lifelong Dolphins fandom). Michaels’ lack of enthusiasm was compounded by the exact opposite from Mike Tirico on the very same network for the Bengals-Ravens Wildcard game Sunday night. 

Tirico, like Michaels, has a sterling resume of play-by-play accomplishments. The difference is Tirico sounded like he was having the time of his life on Sunday night. 

To be fair, their two styles are different. Michaels has a very old school, Pat Summerall approach. Summerall, Vin Scully and Dick Enberg came along at a time when announcers were far more likely to let the pictures tell the story. More new school guys like Harlan and Tirico approach it differently.

Look, Al Michaels helped us believe in miracles. His place in the Sports Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame has long since been cemented. Being a hall of fame inductee doesn’t mean your style will forever be accepted by the masses. That leaves you with a few options; you can continue your style and accept or ignore the criticism or you can ride off into the sunset and enjoy the fruits of your decades of labor.

Al Michaels has what we all want; great options. He can choose any of them and be a winner in the game of life. It doesn’t matter if he enthusiastically embraces them, or not. 

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BSM Writers

Bernie Kosar Was the Victim of a Policy That Doesn’t Work Anymore

“The NFL has bigger fish to fry than Bernie Kosar. Hell, it has more pressing issues in Cleveland alone.”

Demetri Ravanos




One week ago, Bernie Kosar lost his job on the Browns Radio Network for placing the first legal sports bet in the state of Ohio. Kosar, just like Jets coach Miles Austin weeks earlier and Calvin Ridley last year, violated a league policy that forbids team employees from placing a bet on any NFL game.

The integrity of the games still matters. The belief that what we are all seeing is being fairly contested is what gives those of us that like to have a little vested interest in the outcome the desire to lay our money down in the first place. I get the league’s discomfort with a coach on the staff of a team in the middle of the playoff hunt making bets. I get its fear of the message it sends to have players making bets.

Roger Goodell and the 32 team owners are well within their rights to object to men that can potentially control the outcome of a game or postseason seeding doing anything that even appears to jeopardize its fairness. Even perceived impropriety can compromise the league’s tremendous value.

But Bernie Kosar doesn’t have that kind of influence on the outcome of a game. He is just a broadcaster and not even a game analyst. He is part of studio coverage.

I am far from the first to point this out, but in 2023, the NFL has three official sports betting partners. Just last week, it approved the first ever in-stadium sportsbook, which Fanatics is set to open inside of FedEx Field. If the NFL is comfortable enough with the reality that its fans like to bet to make those things a reality, then Kosar losing his gig is absurd. It is the result of nothing other than “well, that’s the way we’ve always done it” thinking.

Maybe Kosar was terrible on the radio and the team was looking for a reason to move on. I don’t live in Cleveland and I am not a Browns fan, so I have no idea.

How many times have we heard that NFL owners hired Goodell to “protect the shield”? I’m not even really sure what it means or when it applies anymore. If I had a vested interest in the public perception of the league, I know that I would want someone to do the PR math on this situation.

Bernie Kosar isn’t an addict that can’t watch a game without the high of winning or the emotional distress of losing everything at stake, at least not as far as we know. This was a bet made through an advertising partner, to benefit charity. He even said on his podcast this week that the purpose of making the bet was to generate some money for former players in need of help.

This is like Disney threatening daycare centers with lawsuits for painting Mickey Mouse on a classroom wall. The NFL has bigger fish to fry than Bernie Kosar. Hell, it has more pressing issues in Cleveland alone.

Surely you have seen Garrett Bush’s impassioned rant on the Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show about the obstacles facing Damar Hamlin because of how many hoops the NFL makes former players jump through in order to get some kind of pension.

On January 2, we were all united in our concern for a guy that hadn’t even completed his second full NFL season. We didn’t know if he was going to live, but if he did, we all knew that the NFL had done everything it needed to in order to protect itself from ever having to pay a dime for his medical care. Less than a week later, Bernie Kosar was fired for what amounted to a charity stunt that was meant to raise money and attention to very similar issues.

At both the league level and the team level, there was incompetence that lead to a man unnecessarily losing a gig and to the Browns and the NFL looking horribly out of touch with reality.

Are we acknowledging that people gamble or not? Are we acknowledging there are responsible ways to bet on football and are interested in generating revenue off of it or not? Because it doesn’t seem to me that the same league that just gave the thumbs up to open a sportsbook inside of a stadium is really that concerned with people that cannot affect the outcome of games betting on those games.

Has the NFL come out and said that it is going to cover every medical bill for everyone that has ever played the game? We know that this is a brutal game that leaves a physical and physiological impact on the men that played it. Why would we make it harder for someone that knows that pain to help others do something about it?

I feel awful for Bernie Kosar. Whether he needs the money or not, it is embarassing to be at the center of a controversy like this, particularly because in the NFL in 2023, there is no reason for a controversy like this to exist.

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Barrett Media Writers

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