Tell Me A Story
“A lot of sports radio is a topic immediately followed by an opinion. Topic, opinion. Topic, opinion. What’s the rush? Light a candle and put some music on first.”
There is something about a story that’s captivating. Some stories are touching and inspire us. Other stories are amusing and make us laugh. Stories spark many different emotions, but they typically accomplish one common thing; a story grabs our attention. Maybe it’s because we simply want to know how it ends. Maybe it piques our interest due to an unpredictable or relatable element. The exact reasons differ from time to time, but one thing is for sure; we’re a sucker for a good story.
Take the story of Cleveland Browns rookie wide receiver Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi for instance. This is one for the archives. Sheehy-Guiseppi last played football in 2016 at a junior college in Phoenix, but he wouldn’t let his NFL dream die. Sheehy-Guiseppi spent every penny he had to attend an NFL tryout in Miami. There was a minor problem though; the guy wasn’t actually invited to the tryout.
He convinced the people in charge that he knew Cleveland Browns vice president of player personnel Alonzo Highsmith. Another minor problem; Sheehy-Guiseppi didn’t actually know Highsmith. He smooth talked his way onto the field and ran a 4.38 40-yard dash, which earned him an official tryout with the Browns. All is great now, right? Wrong. There were still more problems.
Because he didn’t have any more money, Sheehy-Guiseppi was homeless and slept outside of a 24 Hour Fitness gym so he could work out and take showers. He then officially earned an invite to training camp. The undrafted free agent returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown last Thursday night against the Washington Redskins. His teammates rushed to the end zone to celebrate with him because they knew how bumpy the road was leading to that moment. What a story. That type of perseverance is inspiring.
Jamie Foxx delivered a great line while playing Ray Charles in the movie Ray; “I’m gonna tell you something, man. That country music. You know why they like it? Stories, man. They got great stories.”
Our love for stories starts at an early age. I asked my mom what my favorite stories were as a kid. (I can remember constantly asking her to read me a story, which she did because she’s the best.) She told me that The Little Red Hen was a favorite. The Mr. books — Mr. Busy, Mr. Happy — were a big hit too.
Let’s do the math here. We are curious beings who enjoy stories from childhood through adulthood. The demand for stories is so high that movies, books, and TV shows focused on storytelling continue to thrive. If the thirst for stories is so great, why would it make sense for sports radio shows to lack that element of storytelling? It wouldn’t, yet that’s what many shows are missing. It’s so easy for hosts to get laser-focused on delivering strong opinions that they forget to share stories. Don’t make that mistake.
Denzel Washington made an interesting demand in the movie Training Day — “Tell me a story, Hoyt. No, not your story. A story. Since you can’t keep your mouth shut long enough for me to read my paper, tell me a story.”
Denzel’s words underscore the common theme here — stories entertain us. The other part is this; the stories that hosts share on sports radio shows shouldn’t always be about themselves. Sharing personal stories is very important, but there is also an art to telling a story about someone else in a way that keeps the audience wanting more.
Former NBA and Fresno State basketball player Chris Herren is a great example of this. His latest ESPN documentary, The First Day, is a masterpiece. (If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s amazing.) Herren is a motivational speaker who not only talks about his own battles with addiction, he also shares powerful stories of kids facing similar struggles. The stories are compelling, but Herren brings all of the stories to life — not just his own — with extraordinary feel and timing.
When I listen to sports talk hosts, I want to hear more than just strong opinions. I want to have a great sense of who the hosts are based on the stories they share about themselves. It’s also very important that they have the ability to tell a story about someone else. Quentin Tarantino doesn’t direct movies only about his own life. He paints vivid pictures of other people. Hosts need to possess the same ability.
A lot of sports radio is a topic immediately followed by an opinion. Topic, opinion. Topic, opinion. What’s the rush? Light a candle and put some music on first. Set the mood. Maybe there is a great story that helps set up a topic before the opinion is delivered. Don’t dive head first into your opinion every time. Always look for openings to tell stories. The stories don’t overshadow opinions. They typically accentuate them.
I visited home in South Bend, Indiana a month ago. My family invited me out to church. I happened to be operating on very little sleep this particular day. I hate to admit it, but I was nodding off. It wasn’t just a subtle closing of the eyes either; we’re talking violent head nodding here. I was just trying not to accidentally headbutt my nephew next to me or the other people in rows behind and in front of me as I tried to fight off my fatigue.
The preacher might’ve thought I was listening to a heavy metal band in my head because I was practically headbanging. He then told a story about losing his wallet when he was visiting a foreign country. This preacher carried a fair amount of cash on him when he traveled internationally. His sister couldn’t find his wallet. They looked everywhere. He then said to himself that if the wallet turned up he would give all of the money away to the less fortunate. The wallet was found 30 minutes later. He made good and gave the money to other people.
I was virtually crashed out in a pew, but I remember that story. If you’re looking for a great way to connect with people and grab their attention, tell a story.
There’s a reason why ESPN’s 30 for 30 is so successful, why Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel is still around, and why former NBA player Steve Nash will “dive deeper into storytelling” as a member of the NBA on TNT this season — the public loves compelling stories. If storytelling sells — E:60, “My Wish,” etc. — then sell it in your show.
Joaquin Phoenix once said in the movie Gladiator, “Striking story. And now the people want to know how the story ends.” That’s one of the elements that makes storytelling so interesting.
I wanted to know what happened after Sheehy-Guiseppi slept outside of the 24 Hour Fitness. I wanted to know what happened to the preacher’s wallet, or the outcome of Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You Book when I was tiny. Use the audience’s curiosity to your advantage as a host. Don’t just give me your opinion. Tell me a story.
Brian Noe is a columnist for BSM and an on-air host heard nationwide on FOX Sports Radio’s Countdown To Kickoff. Previous roles include stops in Portland, OR, Albany, NY and Fresno, CA. You can follow him on Twitter @TheNoeShow or email him at email@example.com.
Disney Has One Logical Choice For The Future – Jimmy Pitaro
“If Bob Iger wants his next successor to come from the sports world, that is his guy. Hell, forget sports. Pitaro may be the best person available no matter how far and wide the search goes.”
Bob Iger’s latest tenure atop the Walt Disney Company fascinates me. The company begged him to come back to clean up the mess made by his handpicked successor, but it was made clear from the get-go that he has a very limited window to get this right and then go home. That is why, less than six months after Iger returned to Burbank, we are already hearing about who will be the next CEO of Disney.
There is reportedly a shortlist of candidates for the job and it is sports-heavy. Two of the four spots are occupied by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro. I see the value both men could bring to the job, but I think there is a clear frontrunner and obvious choice.
Jimmy Pitaro is already inside the Disney walls. He has already learned to operate within the Disney hierarchy. He has had to answer investors’ tough questions about budget and direction. If Bob Iger wants his next successor to come from the sports world, that is his guy. Hell, forget sports. Pitaro may be the best person available no matter how far and wide the search goes.
Adam Silver’s tenure as NBA Commissioner is the target of all sorts of criticism, mostly from people that don’t watch the NBA anyway. For all of the pissing and moaning about load management and player empowerment, people are still watching and the league is still as profitable as ever. By the metrics that matter to the people that matter (team owners), he is doing an excellent job.
On a recent episode of Meadowlark Media’s Sports Business, John Skipper made it clear that he loves Silver and thinks he would make an excellent CEO for the Walt Disney Company, but that is a totally different world from the one Silver is currently thriving in.
“My advice would be to stay at the NBA,” the Meadowlark Media boss said. “It’s not a public company. You don’t have to face shareholders. You do have to face 30 NBA owners, but you don’t have activist shareholders. And I think Adam is a committed NBA commissioner. He’s been for a long time.”
The public posturing of Ron DeSantis will always get attention, but it doesn’t always have to be taken seriously. The moment he threatened to dissolve the special district in Central Florida that Walt Disney World operates out of, legal scholars were quick to point out that the proposal would create a major burden on the state and its citizens that no politician wants to be responsible for.
DeSantis wanted his culture war. Disney wanted the problem to go away. The two sides quietly found a compromise that made it look like the governor didn’t lose while Disney got to go on basically with business as usual. That is the kind of corporate policy war whoever takes over for Bob Iger will have to be ready to wage.
Disney needs a salvager in that chair, someone who knows how to diagnose the problems of business relationships and find fixes that hurt each side just enough that both can say the other really took it on the chin. Pitaro is that guy.
Look at ESPN’s relationship with the NFL when he arrived versus where it is now. The company needs someone that makes stars and creators feel like this company is one that it can trust and one that they want to be in business with. Look at what Pitaro has done to bring the Manning Brothers, Pat McAfee, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman under the Disney umbrella while simultaneously finding ways to keep stars like Stephen A. Smith and Bomani Jones happy with non-exclusive deals that allow them to grow their profile with new opportunities outside of the company walls.
Most importantly, no segment of the Walt Disney Company and arguably, no network on basic cable, has had to answer as many questions about the future of distribution as often as ESPN. Jimmy Pitaro has been asked about a future where entertainment is driven solely by the needs of the audience so many times that he has undoubtedly thought about the ups and downs of the streaming landscape more than just about anyone else on Earth.
Bob Iger will be atop Disney through the end of the year and into 2024. This isn’t a decision that is being made tomorrow. Even when it is made, Iger doesn’t just get to write a name down on a piece of paper, slam down an “APPROVED” stamp and go home.
Everyone on that reported shortlist will be vetted by Iger, his confidants, members of the Disney board, and shareholders. Some may wince at the fact they have no idea how Jimmy Pitaro envisions running theme parks and a cruise line, but the reality is that no one checks all the boxes for any job as big as this one until they have been in it for a while.
When you know the perfect fit for a job doesn’t exist, you go looking for the person that is the best fit. I think Bob Iger and Disney have already found him in Bristol, CT.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.
Michael Kay Couldn’t Leave 98.7 ESPN New York Just Yet
“I wouldn’t want to leave it the way it is right now.”
When a New York Post report back in January suggested that Michael Kay was “seriously contemplating retiring from his 98.7 ESPN New York show”, maybe he was in a dark room in his home thinking about his future.
In his mind, his days of hosting sports talk shows were pretty much over.
“When that story came out, I thought I was definitely not going to come back,” said Kay during a phone interview with Barrett Sports Media. “I almost appreciated it a little bit when Aaron Rodgers said when he went on the dark retreat that he was 90% retired. Well, I’d say I was even more than that. I was probably 95% certain that I was going to walk away in September when my contract was up.”
But between then and now, Kay had a chance of heart and he announced this past Thursday on his show that he had signed a new contract with 98.7 ESPN New York and that his show would continue for “a good long while”.
The decision to stay was not an easy one and, as it turned out, it was his family that played a big role in staying at 98.7 ESPN New York.
“It was really difficult,” said Kay who is also the television play-play-play voice of the New York Yankees on YES Network.
“The most difficult part of it is that my kids are 8 and 10 so you want to see important things in their life. Even during the winter when I’m off from the Yankees, I’m out of connection from 3:00 to 7:00, so I had to reconcile with that. I talked with my wife and I actually talked with my kids about it, too, and they like me doing it so I decided to keep doing it.”
After initially feeling like it was time to step away after hosting The Michael Kay Show for 21 years, Kay began to reconsider but he also knew that he had to decide with his current contract expiring this September. The sales staff at the radio station needed to know because they had to inform potential advertisers who was going to host the show. Kay also owed it to his co-hosts Don La Greca and Peter Rosenberg to let them know what his plans were.
Everyone at 98.7 ESPN New York needed a decision.
“The radio station has to make contingency plans,” said Kay. “What’s going to happen if I, in fact, do leave? All of those people are impacted.”
Speaking of La Greca and Rosenberg, Kay’s sidekicks played a huge part in his decision to continue doing the show. There’s a tremendous amount of chemistry on the program and Kay wasn’t about to walk away from his radio family.
“Don and I have been together 21 years,” said Kay. “That’s a longer relationship than my wife and I have. We’re really special friends. Peter is for about 8 years and I feel the same way about him.”
Kay also acknowledged the people behind the scenes like Program Director Ryan Hurley, as well as executives from both ESPN and Good Karma Brands.
“They certainly tried to appeal to me to stay and after a while, it got to me,” said Kay. “I said you know what I’m not done yet so I decided to re-up. The pull to stay was stronger than the pull to just kick back and relax.”
These are certainly interesting times to talk about sports in New York.
Baseball season is about to get underway and both the Yankees and Mets are expected to be playoff contenders.
Future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers could be on his way to the Jets while the Giants are coming off of a trip to the playoffs last season.
The Knicks and Nets are heading toward the NBA Playoffs while the Rangers, Devils, and Islanders could all be going to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But all of the local teams’ success wasn’t a factor in Kay deciding to continue talking sports.
“To be honest, it didn’t play any role because sometimes when teams are bad it makes for better talk radio,” said Kay. “The fact that they’re good and they could be playing in postseason, all of them, is intriguing but that didn’t play a role.”
And now that Kay has signed his new contract, he can continue his quest to regain the top spot in the afternoon drive war with WFAN. The show has been losing the ratings battle with Carton & Roberts and it would have been difficult to retire with his show in second place.
It’s not the reason why Kay decided to sign a new deal, but he does now have some more time to become number one again.
“Obviously, I wouldn’t want to leave it the way it is right now,” said Kay. “We had beaten everybody that they put in front of us. We beat Mike (Francesa), and we beat Joe and Evan. People conveniently forget that we also beat Carton & Roberts. Carlin, Maggie, and Bart…we beat them all. Our ratings, for some reason, have not been comparable to what they were before the pandemic hit.”
The ratings aside, Kay is happy with the content he, La Greca, and Rosenberg provide their listeners daily. While they have some catching up to do in the battle with WFAN, Kay is pleased with the product and that his show is good clean sports talk.
In Kay’s mind, business is business but he has his way of doing a show.
“Ratings tell you one thing and that’s how we keep score, but if you listen to what comes out of the speakers, in my opinion, our show is the best sports show in all the country. We not only talk about sports but we treat people with respect. We don’t have to go low-brow. Ratings didn’t have anything to do with (his decision) but it does give you a little more runway now to make up some ground. We have already proven that we can beat them.”
Michael Kay has been a part of 98.7 ESPN New York going back to the launch of the radio station in September of 2001. Just like Aaron Rodgers, he was pretty close to calling it a career…but Kay didn’t want his radio career to fade to black just yet.
Peter Schwartz has been involved in New York sports media for over three decades. Along the way he has worked for notable brands such as WFAN, CBS Sports Radio, WCBS 880, ESPN New York, and FOX News Radio. He has also worked as a play by play announcer for the New Yok Riptide, New York Dragons, New York Hitmen, Varsity Media and the Long Island Sports Network. You can find him on Twitter @SchwartzSports or email him at DragonsRadio@aol.com.
Xperi & Joe D’Angelo Are Ready For Radio’s Future
“I want this audience to see how they can leverage the technology that is nine times out of ten already going to be at their radio station.”
In October 2022, Xperi Senior Vice President of Global Radio and Digital Audio Joe D’Angelo hosted the single most impressive radio presentation I’ve ever seen at the NAB Show in New York.
I wrote about my takeaways from the presentation after returning from New York, which essentially boiled down to: Xperi is looking out for the future of radio like no one else is. I don’t think that’s hyperbole. The company is making sure FM radio is in the best place to succeed as the audio space continues to evolve and see more and more emphasis placed on on-demand digital offerings.
D’Angelo will continue the conversation in a panel at the 2023 BSM Summit titled “How Radio Can Compete and Win in the Connected Car” on Tuesday, which will focus on the company’s DTS AutoStage platform. The offering from Xperi will revolutionize broadcast radio as automobiles become more and more technologically advanced.
“So many other platforms are much more crowded — mobile phones, smart TVs, smart speakers — there’s very low barriers of entry to building a brand, and getting content on those platforms,” D’Angelo said. “But broadcast radio has the unique advantage in the car and it’s incumbent on the publishers — the producers of content — to look for every opportunity to sustain and exploit that branding and that relationship with the car driver.
“We also allow and deliver internet-only radio — so streaming services for broadcasters — as well as catch-up content. So if you wanna make yesterday’s morning show available today, we create all the linkages there, as well as podcasts. If you’re creating podcasts, we create those linkages that aid in the discovery of that content and serve it up on your behalf on the dash of the car.”
DTS AutoStage will allow drivers to continue listening to radio stations even after leaving the broadcast range of a station, utilizing the station’s stream to continue a seamless audio delivery. Additionally, it will provide real-time analytics weekly to stations about the time spent listening, and a “heat map” of where your listeners live, work, and travel.
D’Angelo noted that the sports radio space is ripe with opportunity to promote and utilize the technology Xperi has worked on, adding that music has been co-opted by brands like Apple and Amazon to sell you more products, while sports radio is simply looking to share opinions and content with passionate audiences.
“The real opportunities now are accruing to the talk formats and sports is such a ripe opportunity with a passionate audience, and I’ll tell you from personal experience, finding sports programming on a platform like TuneIn is nearly impossible,” D’Angelo continued. “If you’ve ever used it and tried to search for a live event, you’re going to get a catalog of a hundred different things that might related to the team but have nothing to do with the live event.
“I’m coming here because we’re at a unique opportunity where I want to explain to this audience how what they do can benefit from the technology we’ve deployed…clearly, sports programming — live sports, sports talk, sports betting, local sports — is a really unique category for local radio and I want this audience to see how they can leverage the technology that is nine times out of ten already going to be at their radio station.”
At the BSM Summit, D’Angelo will showcase the real-time analytics available to stations who opt to share data with the platform, and will give attendees a look at a sample of what information is supplied to stations and companies by using data gathered by listeners of Washington D.C.’s 106.7 The Fan. BSM Summit attendees will get a first look at the information, before it’s released worldwide at Radiodays Europe on March 28th.
Garrett Searight is the Editor of Barrett Sports Media and Barrett News Media. He previously was the Program Director and Afternoon Co-Host on 93.1 The Fan in Lima, OH. He is also a play-by-play announcer for TV and Radio broadcasts in Western Ohio. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.