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Jason McIntyre Always Wants Forward Momentum

“I’m in no rush. I’m having fun. I’m learning practically every day from some of the best in the business.”

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Some people are scared to say something unpopular. FOX Sports Radio and FS1 host Jason McIntyre is not one of these people. His style doesn’t resemble a conservative play-caller in football. It’s more like the rapper Bone Crusher repeating, “I ain’t never scared,” from his 2003 hit song. Jason doesn’t operate a dink-and-dunk offense on the sports radio airwaves. He slings it, takes chances, and is aggressive. He’s a fearless host that will gladly face the listeners he riles up.

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There is often a misperception that a strongly opinionated and unapologetic host has to be a bit of a wild card — a loose cannon comparable to a rabid dog. This definitely isn’t the case with Jason. He’s a very nice guy who is also incredibly smart. It isn’t a requirement to be a jerk in order to produce strong stances. Jason is like a pitcher delivering some sweet chin music to a hitter only to then tip his cap and wish his competition a nice day.

As the previous owner of The Big Lead, Jason points out some interesting parallels between the sports blog and sports radio. He also talks about his days of owning the site anonymously. As a guy who has already accomplished a lot and loves to challenge himself to reach new heights, it’ll be fun to keep track of what Jason accomplishes next. Enjoy.

Brian Noe: What gives you the most enjoyment as a sports broadcaster?

Jason McIntyre: One of the big things in our industry, you know this, you have to be fearless. You can’t care what people are going to say about your take or your opinion. It does feel good when you’re out on a limb, out on the ledge saying something like, listen, I don’t want to be in the Odell Beckham business. If I were the Giants I would trade him. And all these Giants fans — “You’re an idiot! He’s so good.”

What happens like two months later? They trade him. Now the Browns after one year, “I don’t know we might move on.” Now the recent Odell Beckham mishap. It’s like come on; you couldn’t see these things coming from a mile away? But people are kind of nervous and scared to go out and say something unpopular.

I had the same thing with Baker Mayfield. His rookie year, I’ll never forget they were playing the Jets and they win the game. Baker was tremendous, he comes off the field and what’s he doing? He’s looking at his cell phone. Huge win. That’s the first thing you’re doing before you do any interviews? You’re looking at your cell phone.

I had been saying this guy’s out there. He likes to read social media and favorite comments by people. He’s favorited stuff I’ve said on FOX Sports Radio. He uses that as ammunition. You’ve got to have that inner drive to be better, not I want to get back at Joe in Milwaukee who said this about me. I just think that’s the wrong attitude. He’s so into the social media, it kind of scares me. What happened to Baker Mayfield this year? He was atrocious. I’m not picking on the Cleveland Browns here or anything. I’m just saying the idea of being fearless and going out there on the ledge all alone on an island and turning out to be right, it feels like you’re in a good place, like you’re not afraid of anything.

BN: What’s the biggest challenge for you as a broadcaster?

JM: One of the issues that I’ve found — and again I’m pretty new to this stuff. I’ve only been in radio for I think four years. I did one year at Yahoo! Sports Radio and then my agent parlayed that into FOX. Then I came out to do the TV stuff for FS1. I would say the one thing is just being consistent across the board. If one day I’ve got to do a video for FOX on NFL picks, the next day I’m going on Lock It In, then I’m going on the radio, you kind of change your mind. It’s tough to be like, yes, I think this is going to be the score on Tuesday. Then new information comes out like injuries. Oh, I kind of changed my mind a little bit. Then you see by Saturday morning, hey, all the money is on one side. Whoa, maybe I need to change my mind.

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I guess it’s a good thing because I’m not afraid to admit I was wrong. You’re going to be wrong a lot. I’m on the wrong side of this. There’s new information presented to me. You know that as a host. You might do your Portland show and talk about breaking news and then boom within the next five days a whole new narrative emerges and you go on your radio show on FOX and you say, listen, I got it wrong the first time. There’s nothing wrong with that. I think the biggest challenge is being consistent. A lot of guys, they don’t want to admit when they’re wrong. Me? I have no problem.

BN: Which is better — to come right out with honesty and say, I really don’t know how this game is going to play out, or just pick a side and almost make yourself believe that’s the way it’s going to go? 

JM: Yeah, that’s a tough one because you can’t do a segment on TV where you just come on and say I have no idea. You can’t. They’ll just be like, all right, well we’ll find someone who can. That’s the reality. You have to have an opinion. That’s why you’re here. You got to this place because you are fearless. You’re not worried about being wrong and you have interesting opinions that are going to make people think.

BN: What’s something that you’ve carried over to sports radio from your days of owning The Big Lead?

JM: The best part of owning a website was you could see every 10 minutes, every 30 minutes, every hour what posts work and what doesn’t. You pretty quickly realize that, hey man, the NFL is super popular. It’s number one. The NBA is number two and then there is a huge drop off. There’s just not as much interest in terms of debatability or topics in baseball. There just isn’t. Now obviously the Houston Astros are a phenomenal story right now. I think that has potential, but I’m curious to see whether or not it drives traffic or if it’s a social media story.

I’m sure you’ve seen, Brian, there’s a colossal difference between what works on TV, what works on radio, what works on the internet, and then there’s social media. Because you know social media skews very left. People are easily outraged at anything. All these people would get worked up on social media, but then when it came to clicking on these stories, they didn’t. We saw a disconnect between stories that you have to read and social media where you can be flippant and have comments. I thought that was fascinating.

BN: How did you get your start in the beginning of your career? 

JM: So I got out of college — this was of course before social media had popped — I get out of college and I wanted to work at a newspaper. My dream all along had been I want to cover the Lakers for a newspaper. I would have season tickets also, which made no sense, but that’s when you’re a little kid and you think, oh, Magic Johnson’s awesome and you want to be there. I got into newspapers and then about three years in I was on the staff with Adrian Wojnarowski and a couple other guys at the Bergen Record. It was just like wait a sec; this newspaper thing is starting to hit some walls here. The internet is starting to pop.

I’ll never forget I had a moment where I decided — let me buy my URL JasonMcIntyre.com. I’ll put my resume on there and my clips so I can get noticed around the country. I put that out there and one of my colleagues on staff sees it and reports me to the top guy. I get called into a glass office at the Bergen Record, “Jason, I don’t know if this is legal. You’re republishing our stories.”

I said how different is this than clipping out my stories from the newspaper and sending it to somebody? I’m not making any money off of this. What are you talking about? I realized at that point these are some old folks in the newspaper industry. They don’t get the internet. I need to get out of here. 

I had left for a better job at Us Weekly magazine and lived in New York City. Within two years I started The Big Lead. It’s hard work. It’s luck. It’s a combination of a lot of factors. Everything lined up perfectly. My girlfriend at the time, who’s now my wife, had a good job so I was able to not make any money off the website for a good year after quitting my job. It was just like “This is where I want to be. This is perfect.” Then the next thing you know the website leads to TV and FS1 and the radio. It was a springboard to me being in sports and all this fun stuff.

BN: What were your big breaks while you were still running The Big Lead

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JM: The big one was when Colin Cowherd was at ESPN. I don’t necessarily remember what was written, but it was something on The Big Lead. This was when it was anonymous by the way. Nobody knew I was running it. He read something and he’s like, wouldn’t it be great if we could just blow this website up? It just so happens that it was his first day replacing Tony Kornheiser and he had a lot of new listeners. All of these listeners went to the website and it was like a mom-and-pop shop back then. Our server was like in Romania for $27 a month. Super cheap, because I’m not spending tons of money. I didn’t really spend anything out of pocket to start the website. The website basically blew up. It was knocked offline. 

NPR reached out to me and was like, hey, we want to interview you. “I’m like can I do it anonymously?” They’re like “No, you have to put your name on it.” I was like, “All right, I can’t talk to you guys.” But they still wrote about it. Then the ESPN ombudsman wrote about it and Cowherd got reprimanded. That was the one big one that kind of put me on the map.

The one after that was Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch, who I’m sure you know him, does a lot in the media. He did the unmasking of me when I was ready to put my name on it. Once I started making money I was like, okay, I’ll put my name on it. I revealed that I was the guy behind it. Sports Illustrated wrote about it, which was very cool. Then I guess the third one would be when it sold. It was written about in The New York Times. My parents clipped it and framed it and all that fun stuff. That I think got the eyeballs of TV. I met with FOX, which turned into FS1 and then it went from there.

BN: Why were you so careful about not revealing that you were the guy running it?

JM: A couple things. Number one was I had the magazine job at Us Weekly. I didn’t think it would be a good look if posts were going up on the site as I’m sitting there in the office at Us Weekly or wherever I was reporting. I wasn’t really doing stuff while on the job. I would just wake up at 6am, listen to Howard Stern, and then set up like two or three posts. I would set them to post throughout the day. I was able to do both at the same time, which was nice.

The other aspect was I didn’t know where this was going. I think the fact that it was anonymous — there was like an air of mystery. Who the hell is this guy? Where is this guy getting his information? Of course you know how the media works, once you start writing about the media, they definitely want to be on your side because they’re afraid of you. I had all of these media guys reaching out to me trying to become friendly. I got to be friendly with some of them obviously. They would give tips and they would be like, oh, I heard this is happening at ESPN or at Sports Illustrated. Then that would become a story. Next thing you know it wasn’t just sports fans reading, it was the important people, the decision makers at magazines and TV and radio. I guess once you get the media and the fans it’s a big win.

BN: How did you become friends with Cowherd? 

JM: Well it’s funny. After he did that whole blow-up thing, I guess maybe six months later was the Sports Illustrated reveal. Then six months later I had started doing interviews with media people, but more in-depth. I spent the day at the Big East Tournament with Jay Bilas and hung out with him. I was showing that I’m not just a guy who would do hot takes and media gossip, so I would do these longer form pieces.

I emailed ESPN for one of them. I was like, hey, can I come up and interview Cowherd? They reached out to Cowherd and Cowherd was like, “Oh yeah, that’s great.” Next thing you know I went up to Bristol for a night and hung out with Cowherd for the day. It was pretty incredible. I guess in a way he kind of liked or respected what I had built and that I was a normal guy.

Listen man, Brian you’re in radio, you meet some of these guys, and there are some strange individuals to say the least. I like to think of myself as a normal dude. I have a wife, kids, regular guy, and I guess he liked that and we just kind of got to be friendly.

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BN: That’s cool, man. What would you consider to be your biggest strength and your biggest weakness as a sports radio host? 

JM: I would say the strength we kind of covered a little bit, just a fearless mentality. I’m not afraid of anybody. If somebody’s going to come after me, whatever. Hey, you want to talk sports? That’s fine. Discuss other stuff? There’s no reason to be afraid of anyone. I’ve always had that mentality.

I play a lot of pickup basketball. I always want to guard the best guard on the other team. I want to challenge myself. I don’t want to guard some scrub. I’m not going to get better. Being fearless I think would be my biggest strength.

My weakness I guess I get too into sports sometimes if that’s possible. I know that’s kind of nerdy to say. I don’t like to focus on weaknesses. There are a lot of guys in the TV industry who basically are like, hey, this person can’t do this. My thought is who cares what they’re not good at? Focus on what they’re good at. It applies to sports. All these teams were like “I don’t want Lamar Jackson. He can’t do this.” The Baltimore Ravens said “No, no he can do this.” Then they basically built their franchise, their offense, around him and he’s the MVP of the league putting up historic stuff. I know they had a playoff stinker there, but he had like 500 yards of offense. I think that’s a mentality — don’t focus on the negatives, focus on what you do best and really hammer that and build off of it.

BN: What are some of your goals that you would really like to accomplish?  

JM: Well we always want forward momentum in anything we do. I’ve been doing weekend radio for three or four years on FOX. I would love to have a five day a week show. I’ve been doing TV now at FS1 for three years. I’d love to have a daily show, but I’ve become a lot more patient. It could be living out here in L.A. I grew up in the Northeast. You may or may not know this, but in the Northeast you better be 15 minutes early if you want to be on time. Out here in L.A. it’s like you’re 30 minutes late, oh well, glad you showed up. You’re on time. It’s just totally different and a different speed.

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I’ve gotten a lot better I think with just being patient and letting things come to you. You never want to force anything whether it’s a radio show you’re not ready for, or a TV show you’re not ready for because you’ve seen a lot of people really want things badly. They get it and what happens? It doesn’t end well for them quickly. I’m in no rush. I’m having fun. I’m learning practically every day from some of the best in the business. I’ll see Skip Bayless in the building and chat him up and learn something. I’ll see Cowherd. FOX has great executives. I love talking to Scott [Shapiro]. I had breakfast with Scott and Don [Martin] last year and learned a lot of stuff. I like those guys a lot. I’m just a sponge out here in the industry trying to get better every day as cheesy as that sounds.

Barrett Blogs

Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?

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How many times have you heard this sentence uttered at conferences or in one of the trades; radio has to do a better job of telling its story. Sounds reasonable enough right? After all, your brands and companies stand a better chance of being more consumed and invested in the more that others know about them.

But what specifically about your brand’s story matters to those listening or spending money on it? Which outlets are you supposed to share that news with to grow your listenership and advertising? And who is telling the story? Is it someone who works for your company and has a motive to advance a professional agenda, or someone who’s independent and may point out a few holes in your strategy, execution, and results?

As professionals working in the media business, we’re supposed to be experts in the field of communications. But are we? We’re good at relaying news when it makes us look good or highlights a competitor coming up short. How do we respond though when the story isn’t told the we want it to? Better yet, how many times do sports/news talk brands relay information that isn’t tied to quarterly ratings, revenue or a new contract being signed? We like to celebrate the numbers that matter to us and our teams, but we don’t spend much time thinking about if those numbers matter to the right groups – the audience and the advertisers.

Having covered the sports and news media business for the past seven years, and published nearly eighteen thousand pieces of content, you’d be stunned if you saw how many nuggets of information get sent to us from industry folks looking for publicity vs. having to chase people down for details or read things on social media or listen to or watch shows to promote relevant material. Spoiler alert, most of what we produce comes from digging. There are a handful of outlets and PR folks who are great, and five or six PD’s who do an excellent job consistently promoting news or cool things associated with their brands and people. Some talent are good too at sharing content or tips that our website may have an interest in.

Whether I give the green light to publish the material or not, I appreciate that folks look for ways to keep their brands and shows on everyone’s radar. Brand leaders and marketing directors should be battling daily in my opinion for recognition anywhere and everywhere it’s available. If nobody is talking about your brand then you have to give them a reason to.

I’m writing this column today because I just spent a day in New York City at the Disney Upfront, which was attended by a few thousand advertising professionals. Though I’d have preferred a greater focus on ESPN than what was offered, I understand that a company the size of Disney with so many rich content offerings is going to have to condense things or they’d literally need a full week of Upfronts to cover it all. They’re also trying to reach buyers and advertising professionals who have interests in more than just sports.

What stood out to me while I was in attendance was how much detail went into putting on a show to inform, entertain, and engage advertising professionals. Disney understands the value of telling its story to the right crowd, and they rolled out the heavy hitters for it. There was a strong mix of stars, executives, promotion of upcoming shows, breaking news about network deals, access to the people responsible for bringing advertising to life, and of course, free drinks. It was easy for everyone in the room to gain an understanding of the company’s culture, vision, success, and plans to capture more market share.

As I sat in my seat, I wondered ‘why doesn’t radio do this on a local level‘? I’m not talking about entertaining clients in a suite, having a business dinner for a small group of clients or inviting business owners and agency reps to the office for a rollout of forthcoming plans. I’m talking about creating an annual event that showcases the power of a cluster, the stars who are connected to the company’s various brands, unveiling new shows, promotions and deals, and using the event as a driver to attract more business.

Too often I see our industry rely on things that have worked in the past. We assume that if it worked before there’s no need to reinvent the wheel for the client. Sometimes that’s even true. Maybe the advertiser likes to keep things simple and communicate by phone, email or in-person lunch meetings. Maybe a creative powerpoint presentation is all you need to get them to say yes. If it’s working and you feel that’s the best way forward to close business, continue with that approach. There’s more than one way to reach the finish line.

But I believe that most people like being exposed to fresh ideas, and given a peak behind the curtain. The word ‘new’ excites people. Why do you think Apple introduces a new iPhone each year or two. We lose sight sometimes of how important our brands and people are to those not inside the walls of our offices. We forget that whether a client spends ten thousand or ten million dollars per year with our company, they still like to be entertained. When you allow business people to feel the excitement associated with your brand’s upcoming events, see the presentations on a screen, and hear from and interact with the stars involved in it, you make them feel more special. I think you stand a better chance of closing deals and building stronger relationships that way.

Given that many local clusters have relationships with hotels, theaters, teams, restaurants, etc. there’s no reason you can’t find a central location, and put together an advertiser appreciation day that makes partners feel valued. You don’t have to rent out Pier 36 like Disney or secure the field at a baseball stadium to make a strong impression. We show listeners they’re valued regularly by giving away tickets, cash, fan appreciation parties, etc. and guess what, it works! Yes there are expenses involved putting on events, and no manager wants to hear about spending money without feeling confident they’ll generate a return on investment. That said, taking calculated risks is essential to growing a business. Every day that goes by where you operate with a ‘relying on the past’ mindset, and refuse to invest in growth opportunities, is one that leaves open the door for others to make sure your future is less promising.

There are likely a few examples of groups doing a smaller scaled version of what I’m suggesting. If you’re doing this already, I’d love to hear about it. Hit me up through email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com. By and large though, I don’t see a lot of must-see, must-discuss events like this created that lead to a surplus of press, increased relationships, and most importantly, increased sales. Yet it can be done. Judging from some of the feedback I received yesterday talking to people in the room, it makes an impression, and it matters.

I don’t claim to know how many ad agency executives and buyers returned to the office from the Disney Upfront and reached out to sign new advertising deals with the company. What I am confident in is that Disney wouldn’t invest resources in creating this event nor would other national groups like NBC, FOX, CBS, WarnerMedia, etc. if they didn’t feel it was beneficial to their business. Rather than relying on ratings and revenue stories that serve our own interests, maybe we’d help ourselves more by allowing our partners and potential clients to experience what makes our brands special. It works with our listeners, and can work with advertisers too.

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BSM Writers

Brandon Kiley Doesn’t Pretend To Be Someone He’s Not

“There was a time where the audience probably said, this guy isn’t a St Louisan. But this is home for me now and I’ve adopted it.”

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There must have been something about Brandon Kiley that everyone saw as a young aspiring sports radio host. Nick Wright saw enough to bring him to Houston at SportsRadio 610 as an intern for a summer. Will Palaszczuk saw enough to urge him to apply for his old job in Columbia, MO at KTGR. Ben Heisler saw enough to know he’d fit perfectly with Carrington Harrison in afternoon drive at 610 Sports in Kansas City. 

Maybe you can chalk it up to Kiley being able to make such great contacts. Or maybe it’s just that he was supremely talented at a young age. Odds are it’s a combination of both. But he was destined to be a sports talk host somewhere, it just turns out he’s having success over the air in a city he never imagined he’d work in. 

A Kansas City kid, Kiley knew at 16 years old he wanted to be a sports radio host. He was even more sure of it when he started doing college radio at Mizzou. But it was in Houston where he got his real taste of what sports radio was like.

“I went to 610 in Houston for the morning show with Nick Wright,” Kiley said. “He basically just assigned me as an extra producer. We had known about each other through Twitter and I had a little bit of a relationship with him beforehand. I think he knew I was willing and able to take on more tasks than a typical intern would usually do. Essentially, I became an extra guest booker, cut audio for them, and came up with topics at night. It was like he had an extra producer for the summer and it was my first real experience doing something like that.”

Imagine the confidence he left Houston with as he traveled back to Columbia for another year of college at Mizzou. Few, if any, on campus could have claimed the kind of summer Kiley just had. He parlayed that experience into a once-a-week show at KCOU, the student radio station. The following semester, he pitched the idea of doing a daily show

“I told them I’d take any time slot available,” Kiley said. “The one that I got was the very glamorous 6-7 am time slot. There weren’t a whole lot of college kids that wanted to wake up that early every morning. I ended up having a rotating cast of co-hosts and it ended up being super valuable because I learned how to work with a lot of types of personalities.”

He excelled as a host and found his style behind the mic, and soon after, he got his first big break. In March of 2014, Will Palaszczuk contacted Kiley and told him he was taking another radio job outside the market. The two knew of each other, seeing as both were in Columbia and covering the same games in town. Palacsuk told Kiley he needed to apply for the spot he was leaving at KTGR.

“There was literally one sports station and one sports show in town and it was that one,” Kiley said. “I applied to him the previous semester and said, hey man, if you guys have anything available I would love to come work there. It just so happened he got a job elsewhere and he called me up and said, ‘Hey man, I don’t know what your plans are, I’m about to take another job and they’re going to post my job available. I don’t know if they’re going to make it a producer or co-host gig, but I think you should apply because I think you’d be good at it’. Will’s good work helped a ton in terms of me landing the gig. I graduated and told them I wanted to make it full-time.I was essentially a producer and co-host for the afternoon show. I never even applied anywhere outside of Columbia”

For two years, Kiley stayed at KTGR and covered the Missouri Tigers. He was fresh out of college and living in a college town doing what he loved in his early 20’s. It wasn’t a bad life. But one night in Columbia changed his entire professional career. It just so happened it occurred on the rooftop at Harpo’s, one of the most well-known establishments in town.

“My roommate at the time, we both worked at the radio station in Columbia,” said Kiley. “He worked at the hit music station and I worked at the sports station. We all went out one night at Harpo’s and he said, ‘Hey, I just want to let you guys know I’m getting out of radio and moving to Kansas City.’ I was like, oh shit, what am I going to do? Our lease was up in two months, so the timing worked out well and I was looking at Barrett Sports Media looking where I could go next.”

“My girlfriend at the time, now my wife, was from St. Louis and there was a job available there. I had always thought, that’s not a place I want to live, why would I ever want to live in St. Louis? They didn’t have a football team, it just didn’t seem like a great fit for me. But my buddy tells me he’s moving and I’m like, St, Louis it is! That night I ended up applying for the job and got a call back from Chris “Hoss” Neupert, who at the time was the PD here, and asked if I would be interviewed with him and Kevin Wheeler, whose show I would be producing.”

So off to St. Louis he goes. For three and a half years, Kiley embraces his new city and tries to work his way up at 101 ESPN. 

But the Kansas City kid felt a pull back to his hometown. Oddly enough, Ben Heisler even reached out to tell him he was leaving the station to pursue another opportunity in sports. It felt like the perfect time to pursue his dream of doing sports radio at the station he grew up listening to.

“I’m from Kansas City and grew up listening to 610 Sports Radio,” Kiley said. “A guy I listened to growing up was Nick Wright. I also listened to a bunch of Carrington Harrison, Danny Parkins and Ben Heisler. Those guys had what I consider one of the best shows in Kansas City sports radio history. I got to know them through Twitter and Heisler sent me a text. He knows I’ve always been interested in moving to KC. He tells me he’s about to get out of radio and into more fantasy football stuff and his job is going to come open.

“I had applied for multiple other jobs in KC over the years and had never gotten any real consideration. When Heisler left, I knew Carrington and thought this might work out. I ended up getting in contact with their PD Steven Spector and it felt like a real opportunity. I got what I considered to be my dream job, producing in the afternoons and hosting a Saturday show at 610 Sports. I thought, what could there be more in life than this? This is the best.”

But life happened and he had to make a decision around three months after moving to Kansas City.

“2-3 months later it became clear, it was going to be difficult for my girlfriend, now wife, to move to Kansas City with all of the family ties she had in St. Louis,” said Kiley. “It was the decision of, do you stay in Kansas City and chase the dream or do we alter the dream, in terms of the job, and see if there’s anything in St. Louis?”

He never thought his best years and most successful years as a sports radio host would come in St. Louis but they have. It’s a city he loves and he’s worked hard in hopes it will love him back. But he’s also not going to pretend to be someone he’s not. Though it can sometimes be hard for St Louisans to accept someone that’s not from there, Kiley doesn’t act like he attended World Series games in 1982, listened to Jack Buck growing up or watched Kurt Warner at the Edward Jones Dome. He’s himself.

“That wasn’t my love and I can’t pretend that it was,” said Kiley. “Have there been times, especially early on where that was a potential issue for me? Yeah it was. There was a time where the audience probably said, this guy isn’t a St Louisan. But this is home for me now and I’ve adopted it. It does in a lot of ways remind me of Kansas City, where if you take the time to know what the soul of the city really is, in terms of sports, I think people can appreciate and respect it.”

Kiley doesn’t hold on to his Kansas City roots on the air, in terms of the topics he talks about. He’s a Chiefs fan and even writes for Arrowhead Pride, but he’s not going to talk a lot about the Chiefs in a city that doesn’t have an NFL team. He’s also a Mizzou grad and talks about the teams on Rock M Nation, but again, he’s rarely, if ever, going to do several segments a day on the Tigers. Instead, he knows the audience wants to hear about the Cardinals. Blues talk is clearly next in line. Everything else falls down the order if not off of it completely. 

Kiley grew up watching baseball, so he can easily break down what issues the Cards’ offense may be having in the middle of May, but hockey was different. He didn’t grow up around the game and the transition to having in-depth conversations on the Blues was a more difficult task. 

“When I came here the first time it was during the middle of a Blues’ playoff run. At that time I was just plopped into this thing, and I didn’t know shit about hockey. I had probably watched about 10 hockey games in my entire life. I’m looking at Kevin Wheeler like, I’ve got to be honest I don’t have a lot on hockey I’m going to be able to help you with. If you could help bring me along with it, that would be great. Over the years I’ve been able to take it in. I used to host a show with Jamie Rivers, who’s a former Blues player. If you told me five years ago I’d be able to do that, much less enjoy doing that, I would have said you’re out of your damn mind.”

Whereas most sports radio shows in football markets are searching for content to help fill segments, this is one of the sweetest times of the year for Kiley and everyone at 101 ESPN. The Blues are deep in the playoffs and the Major League Baseball season is underway. His show BK and Ferrario covers it all every weekday from 11 am – 2 pm. 

Kiley never thought this would be his life, but he loves what he’s built in St.Louis and doesn’t give off the vibe he’s looking to leave anytime soon. He’s a great example of someone who didn’t pigeonhole himself into just one market. He was willing to look outside of his hometown and has found true success. 

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BSM Writers

Will Middlebrooks Has Been The Breakout Star Of The Red Sox Season

“If I was going to work for an organization or a regional sports network, why not the Red Sox, for someone that I’m actually a fan of?”

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The Boston Red Sox experience in 2022 is just different. In every way.

The team has struggled out of the gate. They certainly aren’t the team that was two wins away from the World Series last year.

Fenway Park doesn’t even accept cash anymore.

But it’s not just that the Red Sox are different on the field or at the ballpark – they are different on television too.

When loveable, longtime Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy died in October 2021 at the age of 68, we knew that consuming the Red Sox on TV would never be the same.

There is no replacing Jerry Remy. One person can’t do it. No way.

And the fans know it.

The bosses at the NESN know it too. They haven’t tried to replace Remy on the broadcasts with just one person. 

In fact, they’ve brought in several new people to the broadcast team. A group of people just rotating in, giving viewers a different experience and a different perspective every night. 

They’ve added former Red Sox players Kevin Youkilis and Kevin Millar to the broadcast booth roster. They’ve added Tony Massarotti of 98.5 The Sports Hub as well.

And in the pre- and post-game studio, they’ve taken a similar approach, which is an extension of previous years, mixing and matching host Tom Caron with a slew of former Red Sox players including Jim Rice, Tim Wakefield, Ellis Burks, Lenny DiNardo, and former Sox infielder Will Middlebrooks, who will be in the studio for about 40 games this season.

I think that NESN has found a formula that works. It’s been fun and informative – and different. In a year that serves as a constant reminder of what’s been lost as a viewer, it’s refreshing to realize that these broadcast teams are giving you something gained.

A star is born.

When I mentioned to Caron that I wanted to write a piece on Middlebrooks, he said: “He’s a rising star.”

And it’s easy to see why he feels that way.

Will Middlebrooks is young (33), accessible, opinionated, active on social media, and he has the playing resume to legitimize his point of view.

But it took some real coaxing to get into the business in the first place. After a devastating leg injury ended his playing career in 2019, Middlebrooks was unhappy.

“I sat around and sulked and was angry about it for about three months,” he said. “And my wife, Jenny (Dell), finally said, ‘You need to get off your butt and do something, find not just, work, but find something you’re passionate about again.’”

He didn’t know at that time that he was passionate about media work, but Dell, who works for CBS Sports, volunteered him to do a show at CBS Sports HQ in Ft. Lauderdale, near where their family resides.

“She said, like it or not, you have a show in three days. You’re going to try it out, and if you’re good at it, they’re going to hire you,” he recounts of their conversation. “I was like, I don’t want to do it. I’m not ready to talk about baseball. I hate baseball right now. I just have such a bad taste in my mouth from everything that happened over the past year.”

But that didn’t deter Dell from pushing her husband to take the chance.

“She said, well, I don’t care. I already told them that said you would do it,” he says. “So she kind of threw me to the wolves, but for the best. And I went in and I gritted my teeth and just got it done and then talked baseball. I did it a couple of more times and they said, ‘Hey, you’re decent at this. We’re going to hire you on for a year!” “And here we are, I’m four years into it,” he joked.

And over those four years, Middlebrooks has ballooned into one of the most recognizable follows for baseball fans. In addition to working at NESN and CBS Sports, he’s also one-half of the Wake and Rake podcast, has appeared on ESPN Radio, has done color commentary for college baseball, and has more than 155,000 Twitter followers.

Resonating with Boston 

When I ask Middlebrooks about landing the NESN gig for 2022, he beams through the phone. He says he wanted the challenge of working in Boston and he welcomed the opportunity to expand his media footprint.

It’s evident that he loves the Red Sox – and the city of Boston. How couldn’t he? He made his Major League debut with the organization, played parts of three seasons with the team, won a World Series with the Sox, and met his wife in the city.

“If I was going to work for an organization or a regional sports network, why not the Red Sox, for someone that I’m actually a fan of?” he said. 

While it’s clear that Will loves Boston, and it’s clear why NESN loves him, what needs more unpacking is the attachment that the Red Sox fans have to him considering he spent just those three seasons there and doesn’t live in New England full-time. 

Middlebrooks can’t quite figure out why the people of the region hold him so close, but he does have a good hypothesis.

“I think that if I left anything, it was people saying, ‘well, he played hard. He gave everything he had,’ he said. “And I know that’s really important in Boston, just the blue-collar mentality of ‘keep your head down, work, play as hard as you can, even if things aren’t going well, just bust your butt and be a good teammate and all that.’”

But there just may be something else at play.

“I think a lot maybe had to do with when the marathon bombings (2013) happened…I’m pretty outspoken on social media about that stuff and with my teammates, we all rallied around each other,” he said. “I think I was just lucky enough to be a part of a team that was really special to everybody in Boston. So they embraced me after that.”

The Family Dynamic 

Dell has been in sports media for more than a decade as a host and sideline reporter for CBS and NESN before that. She knows the business and its nuances. She understands when and how to look at the camera and when and how to ask questions of athletes. She knows the expectations of her husband’s current employers. She’s undoubtedly a great resource to have.

But as Middlebrooks finds his own footing in the business, and as his star grows, what is that dynamic like? She has the answers to the tests already, but how does he balance using that resource versus figuring things out on his own?

“I’m very open to anything she has to say,” he said. “I’ll come out of my office, like, ‘Hey, that was pretty good!’ And she’s like, ‘Yeah, it was good…but…”

“She always has something, and at first it used to really annoy me, because I’m like, man, I thought I was doing really good,” he said. “And she’s like, ‘No, you are doing good. I’m just trying to help you get to that next level. There are just little things here and there that you don’t know.’ And as a competitor, it’s really frustrating. But you know, after a couple of minutes I walk away, I’m like, you know what? I’m really appreciative to have that access to someone that can help.”

What’s Next?

At such a young age with such already vast experiences, it seems plausible that even bigger media steps could be in play for the former infielder. I asked him if he has a goal he’s working towards. Sunday Night Baseball? The MLB Network? Something else?

“One thing I’ve really learned is to not look too far down the road and kind of just live in the moment and enjoy the moment,” he said. “I’m really happy with being with with CBS and with NESN, and within that umbrella, of course, I would like to grow. Does that mean in the booth? Does that mean more games pre and post? Sure I’m up for anything where they want me, because what I’m doing right now, I feel like is a dream job outside of playing and I’m so happy with it.”

Middlebrooks has been on the NESN broadcasts all week and will continue through this weekend as the Red Sox host the Mariners in a four-game series.

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