JR Jackson Is Starting With A Blank Canvas
“I’m not Mother Teresa healing the world and praying for it in totality, but I’m just trying to do my part with something I enjoy. Entertain folks and give them a platform, that’s extremely important to me.”
Creating great content as a sports radio host is challenging enough right now without the support of live sports. Professional sports leagues are suspended indefinitely and broadcast companies are making budget cuts, but amid the chaos, a new nightly show debuted on CBS Sports Radio.
JRSportBrief, with host J.R. Jackson launched Monday, Mar. 23, taking over the 10pm – 2am timeslot previously held by Ferrall On The Bench. There’s a reason not many national radio shows launch during the MLB All-Star break. But having no sports isn’t a concern for J.R. who’s used to creating his own content.
Not a prototypical background for a sports radio host, he built his own brand and succeeded in the digital space at a young age. For J.R., building a sports show without sports to watch isn’t hard. Building a radio show without being able to walk down the street and talk to people during the COVID-19 pandemic is the more challenging part. J.R. is a host that values his listeners and wants to get to know them on a personal level to further the sense of community.
He joins CBS Sports Radio having already been a daily contributor to Entercom with V103 in Atlanta as a morning show host. Even though he’s on nationally until 2am every night, J.R. can still be heard regularly on V103, contributing to The Morning Culture and hosting with The Big Tigger Show in the afternoon
Brandon Contes: You have a unique story, because you built your own brand and did it rather quickly, you didn’t go to a broadcasting school like Syracuse for four years first. What made you want to start creating content?
J.R. Jackson: Entertainment has always been part of my life. My uncle was a radio DJ named Fatman Scoop and I grew up in New York watching him at Hot97. From there, I met my current manager and business partner Charlie Stettler.
I was encouraged to start my own video sports blog by Fred Seibert who ran a company called Next New Networks. It was one of the first internet video production companies and he sold it to Google. He had a lot of different shows – auto, cooking, but he didn’t have sports. He knew I was producing content for other people and said, ‘I know you love sports, if you can start your own sports blog, I would love to distribute it.’ I went home and started JRSportBrief. I kept cranking out content, got a couple million views in the first few years and then I signed a distribution agreement with Fred and continued growing the platform organically. Reaching out to people, building media and athlete relationships. It was literally shaking the hands of sports fans online and on YouTube and going out and doing the same in the community.
BC: Radio has a very hard time figuring out how to track and monetize digital platforms, but you turned it into a full-time job rather quickly, you made it into a business. How do you view the connection between radio and digital?
JR: At the end of the day, content is content, it’s just a matter of how you go about finding it. Every strong brand, every strong personality and radio station, it doesn’t matter if it’s an Instagram page or radio station, it’s built off the content you produce.
We now produce video content at our radio stations that gets distributed digitally. The same content we do on our shows, it goes right out to social media platforms, so it doesn’t matter if you’re in your car, at work, on the subway, you can open up your phone and have it. Digital and radio is very symbiotic.
BC: Is it difficult hosting and launching a sports show when there are no live sports right now?
JR: Not at all, life is difficult. The people who have to go out and do grunt work and deal with the climate we’re in, that’s difficult work. Me talking for four hours isn’t work. People are looking for familiar voices, they’re looking for diversions and they’re looking for a sense of community.
My first night with the new show on CBS Sports Radio I wanted to bring on Daymond John from Shark Tank, because he’s not shooting hoops or hitting baseballs, but he can speak about elements that are relevant to everybody, not just athletes or sports fans. There are a lot of stories that are relatable to fans, and radio stations have an opportunity to keep people on schedule, to be familiar and build a sense of community. At the end of the day, sports is a microcosm of life and there are a lot of stories to tell that deal with humanity. I don’t think sports radio is just reciting stats or arguing a point. There’s a big human element to it, so it’s not difficult at all.
BC: You mentioned the importance of building a community and talking to a lot of people, do you like taking calls? Because especially with national shows, there are differing opinions about whether or not they can enhance a show, some hosts do it, but plenty don’t like caller interaction because they feel it can derail a show.
JR: There’s no such thing. The people who listen to you are not derailing anything. It’s community based and I made it clear on my show that the people who listen, this is their show. I go back to when I started on JRSportBrief, the tagline I use is, “by a fan, for the fan.”
I’m not your prototypical sports fan given my relationships and position, but it’s about community. We’re not supposed to be out here shaking hands, we’re supposed to stay six feet apart from each other. But there is no show if the fans don’t listen and you can’t communicate with your people. I more than like taking calls, this is a show for the people. It’s their show. They will have a voice, they do have a voice and that’s me at my core. I want to go out and meet the people who I’m listening to.
BC: How do you sort through so many different topics and different options? Especially with national radio, there’s already so much you can dive into whereas locally, if you’re in New York on WFAN today, you know you’re talking about Robby Anderson and Noah Syndergaard’s elbow. But without sports, you really have a blank canvas daily, can that be daunting at all?
JR: It’s beautiful to have a blank canvas because you can put something together without barriers. How many of us, every single day can wake up and say I have a blank canvas to go out and do something awesome?
For me, it boils down to having your finger on the pulse of what’s going on. Whether it’s local or national, it doesn’t make a difference because I know what’s going on. I can’t do it in this climate with the coronavirus, but I get outside, I love walking around New York, I love walking around Atlanta, I love talking to the security guard, the receptionist, people at restaurants. I love talking and meeting listeners at remotes. Talking to fans, being at the stadium and getting to know managers, agents and players. When you know what’s going on, it’s not hard to tailor that message to the audience.
BC: Launching a sports radio show without sports, it might not be the optimal time to build a new show, but as you said, building a successful radio show is so much about creating a community of listeners. Is there anything to the idea that having this freedom to talk about anything you want can help listeners get to know you quicker on a personal level?
JR: Absolutely. My background, as you said, is not traditional. I didn’t go to Syracuse. I didn’t go to a broadcasting school, I learned all elements of this from the ground up. Pure experience. I put myself out there and built the platform.
For me, it’s all about community and I think I have a well-rounded experience from both production and being able to relate to different people. I’m not afraid to be on the lower end of the building hanging out with the security guards, and I’m also not afraid to hack it up with the president or multi-billionaire. People are people. Some people can only talk about sports, can only recite and regurgitate numbers. I’m a person, I’m a human being, I have varying interests.
BC: You have the perfect personality for launching a sports show without sports because you clearly have confidence in your entertainment value and the ability to know you can go off the cuff and talk about whatever topic rolls your way.
JR: This goes beyond sports for me, but it’s a matter of always being ready and always being prepared. I grew up in a military family and there’s not going to be a stone left unturned. There’s not going to be an alternative when you boil things down. You do it, or you don’t, there’s no middle.
There’s nothing I would do that I’m not going to be prepared for. This is not the greatest time in the history of our world. It’s not the greatest time with people passing away and getting sick. But this is also a time to realize our humanity and connect with one another. I’m not Mother Teresa healing the world and praying for it in totality, but I’m just trying to do my part with something I enjoy. Entertain folks and give them a platform, that’s extremely important to me.
BC: It’s too bad you didn’t start your show a week earlier because I kept hearing ‘the only live sporting event right now is the Iditarod’ and I bet not many sports radio hosts have the experience you do of going to Alaska and riding on a dog sled!
Jr: [Laughs] Alaska is beautiful and that’s something I have – that my background is really varied. I’ve been all over the world – India, Alaska, Brazil. It put me in a beautiful spot. I can sit here and say I’ve had conversations with everyone from President Clinton to Young Jeezy.
I have a unique background in entertainment, but mainly in the people business. When I think about my brand of sports and how I want to approach people, it’s no different than me sitting with you at the bar, or in a friend’s basement having a beer and watching the game. That’s how I want it to come across with listeners. I’m an ordinary guy just like everybody else. I like to throw out my trash, I like to figure out what meal I want to cook. It’s a real community and right now, what we’re doing on radio is allowing people to try and be normal.
BC: You’ve had these great experiences through your JRSportBrief platform, is there one that stands out the most?
JR: Nobody ever believes this answer, but I speak to a lot of classrooms and have for years. It’s always cool on career day when there’s an accountant, a guidance counselor, a lawyer – and then I talk about sports. Connecting with people is the standout moment.
It’s not meeting President Clinton, hanging out with Usain Bolt or talking to the late great Kobe. All of those are great moments, but at a point in time they become washed. They’re all people, all human beings to me, but that deep connection is what I value. At the end of the day, the material goods, the money, it doesn’t matter if I’m in a mansion or an apartment. I believe in people and I believe in experience. That’s the best moment, every time I can connect with somebody, because I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that.
BC: Who were your biggest media influences growing up?
JR: I watched and paid close attention to everybody. Oprah, Stern, Wendy Williams – the way her show is produced is awesome. Growing up in New York, being able to listen to Mike and the Mad Dog and see how they format. It’s about taking different pieces of how people communicate, how they deliver their message and figure out how you can put it together yourself.
BC: You’ve talked a lot about building a community and involving the listeners, but what about utilizing people who work on the show? Is your show a collaboration?
JR: Absolutely! Anybody who thinks they know everything and can do everything isn’t that smart. I like collaboration and for someone who talks for a living, I like to listen, I like to learn, I like to absorb. I would be dumb as hell if I didn’t take advice. Surprisingly, I do even more listening than I do speaking. So, to have producers and folks who can give me advice and chime in as well, I want that.
BC: What about from a management standpoint? Who’s helped you the most?
JR: My uncle, Fatman Scoop was my first influence in radio. My current partner and manager Charlie Stettler managed Ed Lover and Dr. Dre and helped get them one of the largest deals early on in hip hop on radio. I’ve had plenty of influences that have helped along the way. Ironically, for someone who started off on YouTube, it’s all a matter of how you push the information out. Whether it’s radio, YouTube, TV, they’re all just different mediums. It’s like going to the buffet and saying what type of pizza do you want? A slice? Sicilian? It’s all pizza at the end of the day, just a matter of how you want to eat it.
BC: You’ve built your own brand, you’ve built a network, you’re a local radio host, a national radio host, what’s the next goal?
JR: It’s connecting with people and wherever that goes is fine by me. That’s always been my goal. Grow and at the same time provide opportunities for other people. It’s pretty cool to see people who have asked me for advice, then come up and do what I’m doing, and I’d be thrilled if they did what I did and went even further.
At the end of the day, I think legacy is what you do for yourself that makes you happy. It’s also what can you do for other people. I’ve seen that over the years and I’m very happy. I will continue to connect with folks and lay out the red carpet for people to say, ‘wow, this is a dude who started on YouTube and look what he’s doing.’
I can’t wait to continue to use my own voice to connect with listeners and give them a diversion, but also to encourage other people to build their brand and their businesses. I’d feel like I’m in a silo if I just sat and spoke. I want to see other people win and that’s what I want to continue to facilitate.
Brandon Contes is a former reporter for BSM, now working for Awful Announcing. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonContes or reach him by email at Brandon.Contes@gmail.com.
Meet the Market Managers: David Yadgaroff, Audacy Philadelphia
“It’s hard to replace somebody as iconic as Angelo, who really lived and breathed his role, setting the agenda for the Philadelphia sports fan.”
David Yadgaroff doesn’t talk just to hear himself speak. He gets to the point and he does it quickly, whether he is telling you what he is thinking or he is answering your questions. That fact is evidenced by the length of this week’s entry to the Meet the Market Managers series presented by Point-to-Point Marketing.
It has been a wild ride for WIP over the last 18 months. Yadgaroff had to find a new PD, figure out the best way to send off the station’s iconic morning host, and launch new shows in two different day parts. In the middle of it all were World Series and Super Bowl runs to deal with, too.
Yadgaroff discusses all of it. He also makes time to weigh in on how he addresses Audacy’s stock issues with his staff, the climate of political advertising, and the best practices he has found for making sure advertisers are making the most of digital products.
Demetri Ravanos: Tell me about life since Angelo Cataldi retired. What has changed in terms of the atmosphere in the building?
David Yadgaroff: It’s a great question. It’s hard to replace somebody as iconic as Angelo, who really lived and breathed his role, setting the agenda for the Philadelphia sports fan. But we’re really proud of what Joe (DeCamara), Jon (Ritchie), James (Seltzer), and Rhea (Hughes) have done in the morning to deliver a show that’s fresh and new, but also lives up to the expectation that Angelo set.
The addition of Hugh Douglas to midday with Joe Giglio has been very fun, too, because Hugh is a great character and teammate, and fun around the office, as well as very compelling and entertaining radio.
DR: So I do want to circle back on Jon and Joe here in just a second, but I do wonder, because Angelo had sort of made some hints before he officially announced his retirement. At the time you were looking for a new program director, was his decision about when to call that a career something that ever came up as you were searching for Spike’s successor? Is it something candidates wanted to know about?
DY: Yeah, absolutely. Angelo was a great partner and expressed his interest in retiring. At that time, Spike had got promoted to New York, so we discussed the radio station as a whole. Angelo, obviously his brand was so closely tied to ours and ours so closely tied to his, he said that he’d do whatever we needed at the radio station to make the transition smooth. That is how we ended up with that last year where Angelo took Wednesdays off to give him a little bit of rest and peace as he finished out his agreement. Then, obviously, he wanted to remain on until the Eagles’ season finally ended, so we had the gift of having Angelo with us until February.
DR: Let’s circle back on Joe and Jon. They are obviously known commodities to WIP’s advertisers. The job of getting that particular population on board with those guys moving into mornings, it’s very different than getting listeners on board, right? So many of your advertisers are going to be on in multiple dayparts, whereas the listeners may only come in on their drive to work or on their drive home from work. I would imagine on the business side, this was a pretty smooth transition.
DY: Very smooth. We retained the vast majority of the legacy morning show advertisers, as well as retaining the advertisers that came from middays to mornings. The fresh perspective and excitement about the radio station helped drive more sales as well.
You think about the last 12 months of the radio station, Angelo is talking about his farewell, we’re doing a lot of fun stunts about that time, the Phillies postseason, the Eagles postseason, the farewell event, and officially the beginning of a new show that already was a fan favorite. Really, we are very fortunate to have been at the forefront of the sports media narrative in Philadelphia for quite some time.
DR: The elephant in the room when it comes to Audacy right now is what’s going on with the company’s stock price. I know you cannot give me specific answers, but I do wonder, as somebody that is charged with leading a cluster, you have so many people that you are responsible for. Do you find yourself having conversations where you’re talking to someone that assumes you have more answers than you actually do right now?
DY: Let me give you the general vibe. We have a very robust business with six radio stations creating a lot of multi-platform content, selling a lot of advertising, and doing fun things. So for our staff on this side of the building, it’s business as usual. We’re having success in many metrics and marching right along.
DR: The thing I wonder about that’s different for you than other Audacy stations is you literally share a space with Audacy Corporate.
DY: I run a culture of transparency and when things happen that are newsworthy, I make sure to address them. When things aren’t newsworthy, I try to reinforce our core business here, which is one that is very profitable and healthy.
DR: So last year was extraordinary sports-wise in Philadelphia. Tell me a bit about the new opportunities that were created for WIP, whether we’re talking about interest from new potential clients or an influx of new listeners.
DY: So WIP has the benefit of being the voice of the fan for decades. We talk a lot about the Eagles. Fans want to talk Eagles 52 weeks a year, and when the Eagles perform, there’s such enthusiasm and excitement. So, yes, I think we pick up new listeners and I know we pick up new advertisers to be part of that fun.
The Phillies’ season sort of picked up suddenly at the end. It was a much more concentrated and exciting time that everybody just got into from an advertising standpoint, analyst standpoint, and fan standpoint. It was a lot of excitement in a very short period of time.
DR: Given how much Audacy has embraced digital products and where we are in terms of consumption these days, everybody is so used to on-demand content. Nobody works on a station or network’s timetable anymore. Have you found any advertisers that are more interested in the on-demand product than the traditional radio broadcast?
DY: I don’t think there’s a general statement that describes everyone’s appetite. We focus our salespeople on trying to sell multi-platform campaigns through re-marketing. We find that the more things advertisers are invested in, the more connected they are with our business and the more success they have. All of our salespeople are cross-trained. Ultimately, we try to focus on what an advertiser needs and then make successful recommendations for them. There’s a lot of attention on WIP, so obviously they’re doing a nice job of that.
DR: Let’s talk about that cross-training as it relates to the stations in the cluster. I recently read this piece that said we are already on pace to see political advertising for the 2024 election cycle surpass what we spent in 2020. Last year, you guys have these two contentious elections inside of Pennsylvania. When it comes to revenue generation, has the fracture between the two parties been relatively good for business in radio? I mean, do you find that people that candidates are advertising further and further out from election day now?
DY: I think there’s two folds to that question. One is the TV advertising environment gets so toxic and nasty with political ads. It forces out transactional advertisers. That gives us the opportunity to put those advertisers on the radio. So that’s one part. The second part of it is, yes, candidates for PACs are spending more and they’re spending more frequently.
DR: I would imagine that KYW and WPHT see most of those buys in your cluster, but what about WIP? How much are those PACs and candidates and those campaigns looking to a format to spread their message where maybe the listener is not engaged in the political conversation 24 hours a day?
DY: I think the first thought is that stations like KYW and PHT do the best, but it really depends on the campaign and the issue and what their strategy is. I mean, there are some issues and campaigns that come down that they can only want to buy. WBEB And WOGL because they are looking for a suburban mom. So it really depends. I think political advertisers are a lot more strategic than they were years ago where they just bought news and news talk.
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.
5 Candidates For Saudi Sports Investment After LIV Golf, PGA Merger
“Don’t get me wrong. I am not rooting for any of this.”
The term sports washing gets thrown around a lot. It’s usually used accurately, but honestly, I think we give the practice more credit than it deserves. Was there ever a moment where you thought to yourself “The Saudi government can’t be all bad. Just look at LIV Golf!”?
LIV Golf was kind of a failure in the sports-washing realm. The organization had plenty of money, but the ratings and rhetoric all told the same story: that shit was a joke.
Then came Tuesday. Money changed hands. PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan got his sweet deal and cushy new title and forgot his moral objections to Saudi blood money. Mike Francesa put it best: Saudi money is the future of golf.
Let’s play make-believe. Pretend you control the Saudi Public Investment Fund. You have just seen the narrative go from greedy, amoral golfers taking your blood money to now controlling everything about the sport on the professional level.
Why would you stop? Wouldn’t it make sense to see where else you could inject your influence into American popular culture using sports?
Make-believe over. Did that thought make you uncomfortable? Me too, but I think it is a reality we have to prepare for. Here are five sports investments the SPIF could make next.
1. COLLEGE SPORTS
That second A in NCAA stands for association. In reality, college sports are a confederacy. It is a group of schools and conferences that are only willing to work as a collective because they see individual benefits.
Rumors of the most powerful college football programs breaking away from the NCAA to govern themselves have existed for years. You can understand why Ohio State might be salty that it makes the same amount from the Big Ten’s massive TV deals that Iowa does. Saudi money could expedite the process.
Jay Bilas said earlier this year that he has heard a lot of grousing about the top schools in the top conferences wanting an alternative to the NCAA basketball tournament. If the SPIF could convince the likes of Kentucky, Duke, UConn and other bluebloods to bolt the NCAA, which tournament do you think broadcasters would be more interested in?
Is Disney really interested in spinning off ESPN? If so, the Saudi government may not have a better opportunity to do a little sports washing. Say whatever you want about the quality of the programming or the future of traditional cable subscriptions, wherever sports fans go, ESPN establishes a presence and leads the conversation.
Buying ESPN would give Saudi Arabia influence over all of its partners. It would have prime advertising space to hock tourism and investment opportunities.
Forget leagues or promotions. The biggest name in sports media makes for the biggest opportunity in sports washing.
Whether you have ever placed a bet or not, the US is a nation that bets on sports now. Individual states get to make that call for themselves, and that is why buying the market leader amongst mobile sportsbooks offers the SPIF a serious opportunity for influence.
Fanduel is going to be involved in discussions to legalize sports gambling in every single state. If the Saudis bought a controlling share of the book and its parent company Flutter, it could feasibly lobby politicians and set policy. It’s something the Saudis know how to do. Just ask the Trump Administration and Jared Kushner.
4. THE OLYMPICS
The International Olympic Committee is struggling to find countries and cities interested in hosting the games these days. The Internet has made everyone hip to the game. There is no way to justify the investment required to win an Olympic bid.
If Saudi Arabia wants to really use sports to reshape its age, why not buy the Olympics? Put the Winter Games in the same indoor facilities filled with synthetic snow and ice every four years. Put the Summer Games in the same sports village every four years. Make the whole endeavor an advertisement for Saudi Arabia.
This is the one that worries me the most, not because I am a soccer fan, but because there are so many different ways to do this. What if the SPIF poured billions into the MLS? Forget an aging Zlatan Ibrahimović or David Beckham. The SPIF could put enough money into the league to attract the likes of Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappé to come to the US right now while they are in their prime.
The Saudis could revive the idea of a European Super League. NBC has proven that Americans are genuinely interested in international leagues so long as they are easy and free to access.
The SPIF could also follow the same model I suggested for the Olympics and just buy the World Cup. Let FIFA keep their name on it and reap all the other benefits and it is one hell of an investment.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not rooting for any of this. There are plenty of objectionable characters involved in sports already. It just seems like an inevitability.
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.
Adam Amin Will Broadcast Whatever is in Front of Him
“That’s always kind of the goal eventually – to have one of those positions and maybe get a chance to be the voice of a sport in America.”
Adam Amin had never watched a game of water polo in his life, nor did he have any background information on how the sport was broadcast, let alone played. During his formative years in the industry though, eschewing opportunities to go on the air was simply not in his psyche. Amin wanted to stand out, and was willing to do anything it took to become familiar with a sport well enough to call it.
Three weeks after being asked about calling water polo, Amin was at Princeton University on the assignment. It came after considerable time spent reading about the sport, watching previous matches and having conversations with players, coaches and personnel. By the time he arrived, Amin felt like people could rely on him to deliver objective, factual coverage of the match.
“It forced me to expand my horizons and get out of a comfort zone and not just do football and basketball and baseball – the three sports I was most connected to,” Amin said. “You’ve got to learn how to do a lot of stuff because you want to show that you have those abilities, and you want to show that you can handle a lot of stuff not just to your employer, but to yourself.”
Through his years penetrating into sports media, Amin was watching others in the industry rapidly ascend. He put an immense amount of pressure on himself to avoid reaching a presumed nadir, especially one that proved insurmountable. Amin knew that he would need to prove himself with quality reps and a relentless work ethic.
Throughout his time at Valparaiso University, Amin became one of the country’s premier college broadcasters, and was duly named as a finalist for the prestigious Jim Nantz Award in 2009. With 250 games and two Indiana Collegiate Sportscaster of the Year honors in tow, Amin was ready to make the leap to the big leagues.
Amin’s dedication to college mediums and pre-professional endeavors cemented his career path. In his early years, he received additional repetitions calling Minor League Baseball games for the Gary SouthShore RailCats and Joliet JackHammers, along with high school volleyball championships on FOX Sports Wisconsin. Amin also worked with Turner Sports on its broadcast of the Division II National Championship in basketball with Hall of Famer Gail Goodrich. Amin was industrious and steadfast in striving to attain success in sports media – traits he retains today – and is willing to embrace being uncomfortable.
“I kind of tried to approach everything like that and tried to approach it meticulously… even though I was a scared 23-year-old kid working with Hall of Fame-type people. It felt like I didn’t know what I was doing, but we approached it as meticulously as possible and as professionally as possible.”
Amin relocated to Spirit Lake, Iowa to be the sports director of KUOO Radio. The area contains an assortment of high school sports, and family members often turned to the station to listen to their childrens’ events. It required an adjustment to the way Amin called games, focusing more on documenting the action and less on implementing analysis or critical points of view.
Aside from learning about the managerial niche of the industry, Amin learned how to cover wrestling matches, setting him up to call the NCAA wrestling championships on ESPN once he joined the network in 2011. The move to a national outlet was a seminal career milestone, but one that may not have happened without the help of a mentor and trusted friend, Ian Eagle.
Eagle was running a sports broadcasting camp with NBC 4 New York reporter Bruce Beck at the time, and they took their campers to a Somerset Patriots Minor League Baseball game. Amin was the voice of the Patriots for two seasons, and he was asked by Eagle to speak to the campers about his job and sports media as a whole. He was eager for the chance, but felt apprehensive in determining what to discuss and how it was going to go. After embracing the discomfort though, Amin felt good about himself and shadowed Eagle at an NFL game, providing him with invaluable insight and understanding into the world of television. Eagle has also listened to Adam Amin’s tapes and provided feedback, acting as a bonafide resource and sounding board.
“There was just so much sound, real, applicable advice that you only get from people that have that type of experience, and I carried a lot of that for a long time,” Amin said. “Any time I needed something, I would call him and he would answer a question.”
In joining ESPN, Amin was prescient that being willing to strive for versatility would aggrandize the level of his future assignments. Through calling water polo, wrestling and volleyball, Amin was asked to broadcast sports leagues with larger profiles.
“I look at my colleagues and my contemporaries – for the most part, they’re all multi-sport people,” Amin said. “That’s kind of how I came up in this business. I imagine that’s how they came up in this business before me. They were just taught that you should do everything. Your job as a broadcaster is to broadcast whatever’s in front of you.”
Through the years, Amin was on the call for the Women’s Final Four, college football games and the NBA Playoffs, but much of his initial prime time experience came on ESPN Radio. Amin called NFL games on the platform, as well as on Sports USA Radio, over the span of eight years and familiarized himself with the flow of a broadcast.
“Getting into that world of professional sports through radio, establishing contacts and then learning the sports themselves – the pacing and the speed of pro sports on the radio. You don’t really have a grasp of [that] until you get a chance to do it,” Amin expressed. “Radio, for me, was such an incredible training ground. It was where I learned how to fine-tune, and now all those lessons that I learned are still applicable even just doing, for the most part, TV today.”
Throughout his time at ESPN though, Amin felt extensive internal pressure regarding meeting his own goals. There was a metaphorical ticking clock in the back of his mind relating to the arc of his career, and he established checkpoints abound to ensure he was on the right track, at least how he defined it.
Yet there are circumstances and situations outside of one’s control, and a part of sports media involves simply being in the right place at the right time. While he regrets adopting this mindset, he ponders whether or not he should have assuaged it and focused more on the fundamentals rather than the specific chances themselves.
“Perfection is a good thing to strive for, but it’s a bad thing to hold in high regard because it’s not achievable,” Amin said. “That still bothers me to this day if I make those little mistakes, and I’m motivated to not make those little mistakes, but I also know that at some point, you have to have confidence in yourself and what you’re doing and the work that you put in.”
Amin ultimately exited ESPN at the conclusion of his contract in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and signed on to become the television voice of the Chicago Bulls. He grew up watching those great Bulls in the 1990s with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Now, he would be replacing the man who called five of the six championships during that era, Neil Funk, heightening expectations and only adding to the duress of being part of the soundtrack of his hometown team.
“There’s a lot of kids who grew up like me who loved the team and grew up rooting for them and would do anything to have this type of position,” Amin said.
Amin quickly resumed broadcasting games nationally as well when he signed on with FOX Sports. There, he has had more of a fixated broadcast crew, allowing him to become familiar with his colleagues and establish an on-air chemistry. In continuing to broadcast games locally at the same time, he takes precedence after a majority of accomplished play-by-play announcers. The difference, in his opinion, is that he is still trying to find the ideal, winning formula in adjusting for each specific broadcast.
“The challenging part of it is still trying to balance a certain level of ‘homerism’ with still toeing this line of not neutrality,” Amin said. “I don’t think you’re ever truly neutral no matter what if you work for a team because you’re just connected and you want ‘your team’ to win. That’s a challenge, but I think it’s more of a challenge because not every fan is going to be in lockstep with how I call a game.”
Although he is the television voice of the Bulls, Amin does not hesitate to praise the opponents for outstanding feats or achievements on the court. He describes himself as someone who is easily impressed and excitable, but does his best to control the urge to exclaim and does so in moderation. In the end, Amin’s goal is to give viewers and listeners a vivid and accurate description that enables them to live vicariously and feel the highs and lows of a given contest.
At the same time, Amin wants to be an “easy listen,” which means recognizing his role in the broadcast and the charisma of his colleague, Bulls color commentator Stacey King.
Aside from bringing the perspective of a former player, King has several sagacious and witty catchphrases used to enhance the broadcast and emphasize different aspects of the game. He is a voice Bulls fans have come to know and trust. Amin knows not to, nor does he desire to, overstep his bounds and take the spotlight. Neither man is the center of attraction, instead directing the viewers to recognize and celebrate the talent of the players on the court.
The same goes for when Amin is in the broadcast booth for FOX Sports calling the action on the gridiron. Amin, who is joined by color commentator Mark Schlereth and reporter Kristina Pink, has worked on NFL on FOX broadcasts for the last three seasons, and gradually became more comfortable in the role.
While most sports fans and personalities were loathing the absence of fans at games during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amin used the unprecedented occurrence to his advantage. Because of this, he felt an alleviated sense of pressure and more freedom to experiment.
“It was so awkward – the silence; this weird, eerie silence at times,” Amin disclosed. “It helped us get closer – all the people I worked with – we became closer because of it because we were [all] in this kind of strange circumstance.”
Once fans were able to attend games again, Amin and his colleagues felt they had cultivated a strong chemistry that gave them the ability to broadcast the games in the way they best see fit. For instance, Amin tries to let Schlereth expound on points of analysis pertaining to the offensive line since he played there professionally.
Similarly for MLB on FOX national games, Amin pays attention to what his analyst A.J. Pierzynski does outside of the game. This year, Pierzynski began hosting a podcast called Foul Territory with Erik Kratz and Scott Braun. The show recently had a discussion about the race to 60 home runs between New York sluggers Aaron Judge and Pete Alonso, and Amin decided to talk about it, unscripted, on a recent live game broadcast.
“It’s just a nice way to get people comfortable, and that’s when you make your little jokes or you try to bring the personality out,” Amin said. “They’re much more open to that because they know they can trust you. They can trust that you’re not going to put them in a bad position. You’re not trying to make them look foolish or something. They know that you’re trying to make them shine, and that’s really, really, really important to me.”
Adam Amin considers himself fortunate to have compiled a laundry list of unforgettable moments in the industry and has lofty goals, which include calling the Super Bowl or the NBA Finals. He is thoroughly enjoying his current roles at the same time, normalizing his schedule with time to spend with family and friends, but never losing sight of what it took to get here.
“I’ve worked really hard to try to get to a point where I’ll maybe be in a position to call one of these big events down the line one day,” Amin said. “That’s always kind of the goal eventually – to have one of those positions and maybe get a chance to be the voice of a sport in America. That’s still a prestigious thing, and that’s still an important role.”
Some people delineate sports media as a gauntlet, and many parents advise progeny to take up more sustainable professions. There is a misnomer, however, attributed to just what persistence and unrelenting self-efficacy can engender, apropos to new technologies and unforeseen capabilities. Amin has taken full advantage of the landscape, and aims to perpetually redefine the height of his career apex.
“Everybody kind of creates their own path, and I think if you can stay centered in yourself and just try to focus on the things that are going to make the broadcast great and the show great so you and your teammates feel proud of what you do, that really goes a long way,” Amin said. “I know it sounds a little bit hackneyed or a little bit saccharin, but I really have come to believe that in the double-digit years I’ve done this at the national level.”
Derek Futterman is a contributing editor and sports media reporter for Barrett Sports Media. Additionally, he has worked in a broad array of roles in multimedia production – including on live game broadcasts and audiovisual platforms – and in digital content development and management. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks, wrote for the Long Island Herald and served as lead sports producer at NY2C. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.