It’s easy to do a raunchy show with no restrictions. Extremely talented hosts have done it on the years, arguably even some of the best, but you can really tell how gifted someone is at sports radio when they’re doing a clean show. That’s the opinion Scott Ferrall has, who’s probably more qualified than anyone to speak on the subject, seeing as he’s made his career doing both unrestricted radio with no rules and network shows that operate under strict guidelines.
There’s arguably nobody in sports radio that’s had the wild time Ferrall has had over his career. He’s done multiple shows at strip clubs, appeared on David Letterman twice and has even been in movies. He truly understands the entertainment aspect of sports radio.
Maybe he’s always had that in him, seeing as he looked up to Howard Cosell at a very young age. But his loud, opinionated, funny and entertaining persona has separated Ferrall from the rest of the pack since his early days in radio.
His journey has taken him from the Indiana basketball beat covering Bob Knight, to hosting on Howard 101 to calling games for an NHL team and a whole lot more. His journey should be both talked about and celebrated in equal sense.
Tyler McComas: So Howard Cosell is your idol growing up and then a major publication compares you to him. Can you even describe that feeling?
Scott Ferrall: I mean it was crazy that the Wall Street Journal said that. I’ll never forget it and I have it to this day in my house. It was the one thing that, I guess, mattered to me in media. I’ve had millions of stories written about the show and about my career – magazines, newspapers, everywhere. I respect all those, but that was the one that really stood out. When I woke up and saw that I was on the cover the Wall Street Journal with one of those dotted pictures that they used to be famous for and it said I was Generation X’s Howard Cosell I just really thought I had arrived.
TM: Did you ever get to meet him?
SF: No, I didn’t. But it’s strange, I always said on the show that the Monday Night Football booth they did, and everything he did, in sportscasting and boxing, his interview style, his smarts, he’s a genius. That’s what appealed to me. I thought he was smarter than everybody and I thought they were very entertaining.
I’ve always said they’ve never been able to replace him. Ever. They’ve been chasing that dragon since the day that ended. It’s never ever lived up to that. When they were in there, Gifford and Meredith and him in that booth, forget about it. That was it. Those are the ones that last forever, booths like that.
TM: Early in your career you’re covering IU hoops and Bob Knight. He’s never been nice to the media. Did that give you confidence that, man, if I can cover this guy I can interview anyone?
SF: That’s an interesting theory, because that’s pretty much the deal. I wanted to go be around Bob Knight as a kid. I wanted to be Howard Cosell and then I wanted to cover Bob Knight. I just felt like, what could be cooler than being around that guy?
I’ve always said that the guy had a huge influence in my life. Just a gigantic piece of me came from that guy. Being around him every single day for five years and covering that team seeing them win a national championship in New Orleans in the last game I ever covered, that was pretty special. I love him and I’m one of the few. He meant a lot to me and he always came on my show for all these years later. He called me ‘asshole’ for 35 years. He said, ‘I can’t believe somebody would marry you, asshole!’ and then, ‘I can’t believe they let you have kids, asshole!’. If he was your friend, he was a really good friend. If he was your enemy, I always said, you should probably move.
TM: Was there anything ever more thrilling than doing a show at a strip club?
SF: I worked at a lot of them. I have a couple of different stories I can throw at you. One of them was when we had a strip club golf tournament in the Bahamas and got raided by like The Federalis. They came crashing into the golf course and there was a lot of bad things going on. That was pretty wild.
Then I did the Playboy Pillow Fight, or something like that, in Indio and Palm Springs, California. That was just rather wet and naked. I’ve done shows like that over the years and they’ve always been pretty wild. That kind of stuff got me a reputation, then I ended up doing tons of stuff with Penthouse and then all of them when I worked with Howard Stern. There were a lot of porn stars and everything else. It’s strange, that’s like a wild ride.
I’m down with meeting whoever, athletes, rock stars, entertainers, actors, actresses, whether they’re on the big screen, which I’ve done, I’ve done a couple of movies, that’s cool, or working with porn stars, I’ve done all that and I’m cool with it. But I know it’s something that probably my wife doesn’t dig that much or that I want my kids around, but it’s funny. I’ve always said that they wanted to bang my wife. So what’s the difference?
TM: So what’s that balance? At that time, you’re obviously who you were on the air. How’s balancing that with your family?
SF: Pretty much, when I stopped doing shows for Howard Stern on Howard 101 and I had to go back and do Vatican radio at CBS Sports radio, it was clean, family sports talk. I think at the time I did the filthiest show ever and it was repulsive and disgusting and absolutely kick ass. People dug it fast and hard. There were a lot of pranks flowing. I was just the craziest show ever. Then I had to go and do this really candy ass show but it was a good show.
The show had to be thought out, in terms of, I think it’s a lot harder to be smart and clean than it is to be dirty on the air. I mean it’s easy to just be filthy. Most people would love to do an uncensored, raw, completely no-rule show. And then they all started doing podcasts so now everybody does whatever they want. But radio, that doesn’t happen. On AM or FM radio it would never happen with the FCC and everything else. When I went to Howard 101 on satellite radio that was unheard of. Now everybody’s cussing so it’s no big deal. But you find out who’s good when you have to do a clean, family sports talk show, or any show for that matter, which has to be clean and sophisticated.
They didn’t want me doing anything dirty at CBS, they can barely handle suck or ass or anything like that. I did a completely different show so I say it all ended when I stop doing dirty for Howard. I love Howard and I always will. He’s the man, I look up to him, and it’s the greatest thing I ever did in my career. It was a blast. But it was too easy to do that raunchy style, and now I’m doing clean TV every day and radio, again.
TM: Most hosts only joke about it, but what’s it like when the FCC is really coming after you?
SF: Well, they went after me several times. Nothing ever materialized with any of it so I never really did anything that I felt was worthy of it. They tried to get me in Miami and that didn’t work. Then they tried to get me in New York and that didn’t work. After a while, they just realized I wasn’t doing anything that bad and I think when I went away and did satellite, they forgot about me. Then I came back and started doing it clean, while trying to be really sophisticated and smart. I think they got a whole new impression of me. I think they were all blown away, because I’ll be honest with you, when I got the gig to go back to CBS Sports Radio they were scared to death of me and they felt that I would last for about five minutes doing clean radio.
My goal was to blow them away. I won them over after about four years and then the last three years I rode that surfboard in deep barrels and it was fun. I got along with everybody and the bosses that didn’t originally want me there, wanted me to be there until the bitter end, when I left to go to SportsGrid. I had a great run there and they didn’t think it would happen. The suits that ran that place wanted no part of me. Chris Oliviero is the one that brought me in from Howard to CBS again. I had already left CBS once and they didn’t like me, so to get back there and win them over and be successful was capitalism at its finest.
TM: What’s a move you made in your career that you thought was risky at the time, but ended up being a great decision?
SF: I mean I guess going to do the hockey for the Atlanta Thrashers was very risky. I walked away from a lot of money to do it, but I loved hockey more than I love money. I’ve always said that I wanted to do it. It was an expansion team, it was pretty exciting and the whole thing was pretty cool how it evolved. The guy that basically ran the Olympics came to me and said, we’re trying to sell hockey in the south. I was really popular in Atlanta. I was gargantuan in Atlanta doing my show from 3 to 7. I owned Atlanta. Who can sell hockey to rednecks better than me? I think that’s why they gave me the shot.
They put me in a room and I called a game with no rosters or anything. I looked at the Blues and the Red Wings, that’s who was playing, and all I did was make everyone in the room’s jaw drop. I did a bunch of fights that were exaggerated, and I did it until I was like soaking wet sweating and they were just staring at me like I was going to drop dead or something. And then like 20 minutes later they gave me the gig.
At the end of the day I did it, it was a grind, I didn’t like it because of the sameness of it every day. The buses, the planes and the hotels. I guess I was just used to doing a show and I was crazy. At the time I was young and wild and I partied. The team sucked, they won like 11 games the whole year. So at the end, they didn’t want me to stay and I didn’t want to stay, either. Luckily for me it was a good deal. They paid me for four years and I only worked for one. I always say it’s the best job I ever had. I got paid a lot of money to do nothing.
TM: Have you listened to anyone where you say, hmm, he reminds me of a younger version of myself?
SF: Gabe Morency who I worked with at SportsGrid. When I met him the first time he was doing Hardcore in Toronto. It was like the satellite version of our SiriusXM. It was a hard-core, uncensored sports channel that they ran up there. He was doing a show up there with a whole lot of heavy metal, radical high-octane show and he had a gravelly voice like me and wild like me. He used to say he wanted to be me.
When I first met him, he was younger and a rock and roller. He was in a metal band and switched to do sports talk. At the time, when I first started, it was just me doing it, right. That’s how it evolved. And Jim Rome got into it and it kind of grew from there. Now there’s 5 million shows that are national here.
TM: Is anything off limits right now, when it comes to guests on the show?
SF: I try to get really cool people that people dig and they do something that matters. I had Tony Hawk on last week and we go back. He’s a magnificent dude. He’s a giant and a titan. Guys like him, who I have a relationship with, Thomas Dimitroff, the Falcons GM, coaches, players and GM’s around the league, a lot of play-by-play guys and analysts, great writers and actors, actresses and I love putting comedians on.
I’m constantly putting comedians on and I try to do it at least once a month, where we have a kick ass comedian on. We had Dan Soder on from Billions the other day. I bring back Howard guys. Every guy that I met Don Jamieson Gino Bisconte, all these comedians. I’m going wherever cool people are and try to get them on the show. I love getting unique guests. I love getting players right off the floor at the games. That’s what I like doing.
TM: Do you feel like your style over the years set you up to do a show during a pandemic with no sports?
SF: We’ve done it. I’ve been on every single day and we’ve been live doing the 4 to 6 Eastern on SportsGrid every day. I’ve had great guests on and we just dig for killer stories that we can turn into topics for the show. My guys get involved, I’ve always been a guy that supports others being involved in the show. I’ve done a lot of shows with the other SportsGrid hosts. The show isn’t just constantly doing the normal thing. It’s different doing the show from home every day and never leaving my crib. You would think I’d be in this plush penthouse in New York City and I’m sitting in my house with green screens and cameras, lighting, cable lines out of the room, it’s crazy. But we’ve just done it every day like normal.
TM: I can’t imagine a sports radio host being on Letterman these days. You were twice. How was that?
SF: Honestly, that was like floating. That’s how gigantic David Letterman is. When I got to do his show, for me, it was like I was floating and like it wasn’t even real. I couldn’t fathom that I was going on Letterman. And then, it wasn’t just once, it was twice. It’s funny, I’ve seen people go on there multiple times, way more than me, but for me, just once, was exotic and twice was just absolutely crazy. The fact that he would have me back on again was just absurd. I must’ve done something right.
I won’t deny that I was lit. When I went out there I was so nervous and so excited but so lit. Like absolutely lit. I went out there and was predicting who was going to win the title games, because it was around the Super Bowl, I started doing kicker windmills on stage. Dave was cracking up, the audience was roaring. I was whipping my leg a million miles an hour and I have no idea what I was doing. My leg could’ve flown off my body. And then the other time I did Letterman, and I thought I had the top the first time, I was wild, I did my thing and I made him laugh. Paul and him were going back-and-forth.
Second time I did it I announced that I was leaving radio to do the Thrashers gig and I stripped down all through different jerseys until I got to the point where the final thing I had on my body was a Thrashers jersey. That’s how I announced I was going to the NHL. I remember going off the stage on Letterman and my boss called me and fired me, I said, it’s a little late. I already signed with the hockey, but nice knowing you
Tyler McComas is a columnist for BSM and a sports radio talk show host in Norman, OK where he hosts afternoon drive for SportsTalk 1400. You can find him on Twitter @Tyler_McComas or you can email him at TylerMcComas08@yahoo.com.
John Mamola Didn’t Overthink New WDAE Lineup
“I don’t go book-to-book my talent, I just don’t. I think the more and more you dive into ratings, the more and more you overthink things.”
Just over one month ago, WDAE in Tampa Bay reshuffled its daily line-up. The iHeartMedia station, programmed by John Mamola, moved the Ronnie and TKras program from mornings to afternoons and moved the midday Pat and Aaron show into mornings, while creating a new midday show centered around Jay Recher and producer-turned-host Zac Blobner.
The station let previous host Ian Beckles go as part of the reshuffling.
Barrett Sports Media caught up with Mamola this week to talk about the new line-up, the Tampa Bay market, the importance of developing from within and much more.
(Some of the answers have been edited for brevity and clarity)
BSM: It’s been just over a month since these changes took hold, what would you say is the overall response to them?
JM: Overall, really positive. We lost a really important piece and a pillar of the station in Ian Beckles, but with the moves that we did make, it was overall a pretty positive response from the listeners.
BSM: This wasn’t just creating one new show and calling it a day, this was moving multiple shows into new dayparts. How do you as a programmer get multiple hosts on board with re-arranging their schedules in that manner?
JM: My morning show went into afternoons so they didn’t have to wake up early, so they were very open and welcome to that. As for the original midday show, I knew they were early risers, so moving to mornings didn’t really affect their sleep schedules. And then my midday show, which is the new one, putting those two together is just a combination of some very young, hungry guys that always want new opportunity and are always looking to capitalize on opportunity.
So I wouldn’t say necessarily the convincing was the hard part because it just made a lot of sense for the people involved. The guys in the morning didn’t have to wake up early. The guys in the mornings are early risers anyway, and you get two young, hungry guys to take care of that opportunity so the convincing part was quite easy.
BSM: I got to know Zac Blobner a little bit on the Producers Podcast. He was highlighted a few episodes back and I thought really highly of him. Why was this the right time to get him into a full-time on-air role?
JM: Zac’s been doing some on-air stuff for on the weekends for a number of years. He had his own show and then we tried him out with a couple people on staff on Saturday mornings. That just didn’t necessarily work out but he has hosted a fantasy football show, which we actually air Orlando and in Miami as well as Tampa, live for the last five years.
So his on-air persona – he was a huge part of the morning show and the success of the Ronnie and TKras Show for their run in mornings. So if we were to elevate someone from inside, it just seemed like he was the right guy to elevate, and to pair with Jay Recher. It’s two young, hungry guys and they play well off each other. Some of the best highlights of my day are just sitting in their pre-show meetings with them and their producer Jon Dugas and just listening to how they collaborate together as a threesome on how to attack content, what sound to use, and what guests to book.
Really, it’s three producers in one room all talking about how to collaborate and do a show. Zac has earned the opportunity, just like Pat Donovan who was a producer first. Aaron Jacobson was a producer at first. It was Zac’s time and he’s done a tremendous job with it so far, albeit it’s only a month, but I totally expect it to be a very high ceiling for that show and for Zac in particular.
BSM: Some programmers believe on developing and promoting from within and some programmers believe in always looking for a splashy hire from the outside. Why is developing talent and promoting from within important to you and WDAE?
JM: I think it’s vital for every brand to have a good bench and to continue to find different ways to utilize that bench. Maybe not on the Monday through Friday, but definitely on the weekends in some capacity. And if not there, then on the digital product. You bring in certain guys to push everyone else. Zac was one of those guys. Jay Recher was one of those guys. Pat Donovan was one of those guys. Ronnie and TKras were two of those guys. I like to bring in guys that have a goal and want to push everyone to be better, not just themselves, but push everyone to be better. We have a tremendous team atmosphere on WDAE and we’ve had it for a number of years.
And when you do a lot of change, like we did about a month ago, you don’t want to keep it too foreign. You want to keep it with somebody that the audience knows and the audience has grown to know. Because the minute you start bringing in out of town people that nobody’s ever heard of or you start going to syndication instead of staying live and local, you start to lose your cume, and you start to lose that branding.
We like to put out as much as we can with whatever we have and I think having good, driven people in the hiring process, albeit I’ve hired a little young over my time here, it’s continued to push the narrative that we are continually growing from within and this was just the latest step of that. I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon.
BSM: When you have new shows and shows in different dayparts, are you mentioning things like ratings and revenue to them? Or do you just tell them to build the shows and worry about it later?
JM: I don’t go book-to-book my talent, I just don’t. I think the more and more you dive into ratings, the more and more you overthink things. It’s important, but it’s not the biggest thing. For me, it’s the sound of the show. If the show sounds like it’s got energy, if it sounds like it’s progressing, if it sounds like we’re creating more attention by what we’re saying and we’re developing as talents and as a station, you feel it. You don’t need to see the numbers. The numbers are the numbers.
The system is great when it’s great but when it’s terrible, it’s still flawed. You know? I mean, Neilson ratings only get you so far but If I start seeing stream numbers go up, which I’ve seen, that’s a positive. If I see digital traffic or social media growth or something like that, that’s a metric I can track. Today I went to the gas station and they had our sports station on. If I can hear that, that means we’re doing something right. I don’t look book-to-book. I think PDs that dive into numbers and analytics and, and clocks…. Look, if you put out entertaining stuff, they’ll stick with you. And it starts with giving that confidence to your talent. And that’s how I program.
Brady Farkas is a sports radio professional with 5+ years of experience as a Program Director, On-Air Personality, Assistant Program Director and Producer in Burlington, VT and Albany, NY. He’s well versed in content creation, developing ideas to generate ratings and revenue, working in a team environment, and improving and growing digital content thru the use of social media, audio/video, and station websites. His primary goal is to host a daily sports talk program for a company/station that is dedicated to serving sports fans. You can find him on Twitter @WDEVRadioBrady and reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brock Huard Believes The Third Time’s The Charm For Brock and Salk
“If I was a radio consultant, there’s two muscles you have to build constantly. A is listening and B is curiosity.”
It just felt right for Brock Huard when he stepped back behind the mic at Seattle Sports 710. On September 6th, he returned to the airwaves with longtime partner Mike Salk in morning drive. It’s been almost three months since Huard returned to radio, but it still feels as right as it did that early September morning. That’s because the business is in his blood.
“Once radio is in your blood, it doesn’t leave,” said Huard.
If you talk sports radio with Huard for any length of time, you won’t question his love or intelligence about the industry. He truly loves and understands the business. When you have a former player that has an incredible amount of passion for sports radio, you really have something. Seattle Sports 710 really has something with Huard and his return to the airwaves made locals in the Pacific Northwest very happy.
Brock & Salk haven’t had to deal with the challenges that new shows experience in the first few months. They’re not trying to establish a chemistry and flow together. They’ve had it after doing a show together twice before, plus a podcast the two hosted together.
“He and I had still done the podcast together for the last couple of years, and had a number of conversations over that time about how fun that hour and a half was, each and every week,” said Huard. “We never really missed a podcast and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. Had we not done that podcast for two years, I don’t know if we would have come back for a third iteration. The third time has been the charm on this iteration.”
What makes the show isn’t just Huard being a former athlete or Salk being a very dynamic and experienced host. The two share an incredible chemistry that shines through on the air. However, Huard thinks there’s one reason in particular that the two mesh so well on air.
“Because we listen,” said Huard. “That’s number one. I will listen to so many radio shows when I’m on the road and I’m like, this is bad radio. And you can tell hosts aren’t listening to one another, they’re just waiting for their time to talk and they fill and it’s terrible.
“If I was a radio consultant, there’s two muscles you have to build constantly. A is listening and B is curiosity. I think for 14 years he’s still genuinely curious about me and how my mind works, world views, ideology and sports views. After 14 years, I’m equally interested in how he thinks and it’s very different than me.
“It was hard to be able to listen and respect one another, because we come from two totally different world views, in many ways. But at the same time, when you do, and you’re curious to listen to the other side and what they have to say, you create unique content.
“He and I used to have to build these big show sheets when we started and we still have structure and everyday there’s still show sheets, but a consultant by the name of Rick Scott told me this early on, he said you know your show will be good, when you don’t get to half of the stuff on your show sheet. And he was absolutely right 14 years ago.”
Co-hosting morning drive at Seattle Sports 710 isn’t the only gig Huard has in sports media. He’s also a college football analyst for FOX. He’ll be on the call Friday night for the Pac-12 Championship game between USC and Utah. But everything ties back to radio for Huard and a recent experience on an airplane made him realize it again.
“I was sitting next to this very smart gentleman the other day on my trip home from college football, and he was crushing crossword puzzles like I’ve never seen before,” said Huard. “He’s a very successful attorney and you could see for him, that was such a tool to keep his mind sharp. For me, radio is the same thing. It’s been the best training ground for everything I do with media, especially television.
“If you can do live radio and equip your mind to listen and strengthen that listening muscle, while also creating content, it’s a pretty good active tool. It keeps my mind sharp and plays to my mind’s strengths, I think, with just how wackado I can be between my ears at times. If you have a tremendous partner that helps shape you, like Salk is to me, then it’s just addictive and gets in your blood and doesn’t leave.”
As it relates to radio, being a college football analyst has its perks, because of the access it gives Huard. Every week before calling a game, he gets production meetings with head coaches, which gives him insight that others may not have. It also awards Huard the opportunity to create relationships with coaches. But how much of what’s said does he feel like he can use on the game broadcast or his radio show?
“99.9 percent is used on the air, on the show and sometimes I gain insight and share it with coaches that I know to encourage them,” said Huard. “It baffles me how many times I will hear from my peers, oh, I hate these coaches meetings. I don’t get anything out of them. And I’m like, God bless you. I will have a career for the rest of my life if that’s the way you approach it. It’s the most valuable real estate we have. It’s a forum that nobody else has.
“Yeah, they have press conferences, but if you build true trust and relationship and confidence, they want to tell you their story. They want to share their team. I can’t tell you how many times content from those meetings comes to life in my sit downs with Pete Carroll or Jerry Dipoto, GM of the Mariners or Scott Servais, or on the air or off the air.”
Huard has an insight to college football that few in the Pacific Northwest has, but that doesn’t mean he and Salk will jam pack content from that sport into the show. The duo knows that Seattle cares about. Sure, there’s an interest for college football, but not anywhere near the hunger from Seahawks and Mariners content.
For example, Huard called the TCU vs. Baylor game two weeks ago, which featured one of the best endings in college football this year, when the Horned Frogs nailed a field goal as time expired. The call of the moment was spectacular and could be the shining moment of the season for a TCU team that looks destined for the College Football Playoff. On the Monday after, Huard and Salk made it a part of the show, but never had the intention of making it the majority of the show.
“Our audience is dominated by the Seahawks and Mariners,” said Huard. “That dominates 80 to 90 percent of our conversation. I would say lifestyle is probably the rest. For example, we played that highlight today four times over the course of the show. We rank things at the end of every show and it was my Top 5 games of my broadcast life in 14 years on the road and that was number 1.
“I often use conversations and things I learned from those games and players and relate them to the Seahawks and Mariners. Dave Aranda talked about living with expectations and how hard that is in our meeting on Friday. He said, you watch, TCU is going to have to live in an entirely different world, where you’re on the mountain top instead of climbing it. And then you relate that toward the Seahawks or the Rams this year.
“Inevitably, yes, those moments create content, either emotionally or football 101. Radio is all encompassing in that way. I never understand radio hosts who try to play it straight. I just don’t. I think it’s bad radio. You have to be willing to live your life and put your life out there, whether it’s good, bad or ugly. The more you do that, the more you attach yourself and connect with your audience.”
It feels like the third time is truly the charm for Huard and Salk. They listen, they have chemistry and the content is a refreshing mix of sports and lifestyle.
“He and I are not comedians,” said Huard. “We don’t play fake laugh tracks like others do. He and I will land way more on the analytical information side than maybe a consultant would tell us what morning radio people want. But I think where it cuts through is he and I put our lives out there. Our parenting success and failures. Relationship struggles, kids, sports, youth sports, that’s probably where we connect in a way that’s more lifestyle. That’s the word I would use.”
Tyler McComas is a columnist for BSM and a sports radio talk show host in Norman, OK where he hosts afternoon drive for SportsTalk 1400. You can find him on Twitter @Tyler_McComas or you can email him at TylerMcComas08@yahoo.com.
Chuck Swirsky Embodies ‘Always A Pleasure’
“I love working with Bill Wennington and each and every day I have the same enthusiasm of calling a Bulls game like I did as a five-year-old child calling games off a TV.”
It’s hard to imagine there are any more positive thinking people in the world than Chuck Swirsky. If you don’t believe me, just check out his daily tweets. Swirsky has a lot to be upbeat about, he’s doing what he’s always wanted to, and now he’s written a book.
“Always a Pleasure” is his creation, putting thoughts on paper, or iPad or whatever, about stories and people he’s encountered over the more than 40-years he’s been in the business.
The title is aptly accurate. Chuck is always a pleasure to be around and is one of the most supportive people I’ve ever met. He encourages those that need it. Swirsky always has time for people in the business and those trying to get into this crazy racket. I’ve seen and experienced it for myself, so trust me when I tell you, it’s the truth.
There are those that have worked multiple decades in play-by-play, and I’ll bet each and every one of them has been asked at some point, ‘hey, why don’t you write a book?’. Sounds easy enough, I’m sure. But when you really think about it, how can a person be expected to fit 40 plus years of work into a book that wouldn’t be the size of a dictionary?
More on that in a moment. I was wondering what makes someone in Swirsky’s position to write a book. So, I asked him. He outlined the main reason he decided to put pen to paper and tell some of his favorite stories and recall good memories.
“Over the past several years I was approached by several publishers and writers who were interested in detailing my journey in sports broadcasting, featuring my stops calling major college athletics and NBA basketball in addition to sports talk.” Swirsky told me. “I was reluctant to do so but a year ago I had a change of heart knowing 2022-23 Bulls season would be my 25th in the NBA, including my 2-thousandth NBA play-by-play game.”
Swirsky didn’t use a sportswriter or an author to tell his tale. “For years I have saved notes and decided to write the book myself, in my own words. I love my job. I have no desire to retire. I want to continue broadcasting Bulls game for many more years as long as my health and clarity allow me to do so.” he said.
“I love working with Bill Wennington and each and every day I have the same enthusiasm of calling a Bulls game like I did as a five-year-old child calling games off a TV. I have the utmost respect for the Reinsdorf family and our entire organization. I just felt this was the right time to write a book.”
I have followed Swirsky’s career closely and gotten to know him over the years. Growing up in Chicago, I was fortunate enough to hear him in his early days here, at the old WCFL (now ESPN 1000), where he became one of the pioneers of sports talk radio. He’s called games on radio and television.
For DePaul, Michigan, select White Sox games, the Raptors and now over the last nearly 2 decades, the Bulls. That’s a lot of experience and a lot of experiences for one person. It made ‘editing’ the book a little difficult.
“I could have easily written another 100 pages featuring additional sports personalities and stories.” Swirsky said. “But I elected to highlight specifics of a timeline allowing the reader to understand that my quest to reach a childhood goal of broadcasting NBA basketball was met with challenges, setbacks and ultimately persevering through hard work, focus, passion and positivity.”
Writing books can be a way to look back on a career. Swirsky if far from done. He never really reflected on things, because he was always looking forward. But the retrospective allowed him to realize a few things along the way.
“I would say this. I am my own worst critic. I very seldom look back on my career. While I was writing “Always A Pleasure” I had to stop and truly reflect how blessed I am to be in the position where I am today. I never take it for granted. Never have. Never will.” Swirsky said. “Nothing is easy. It’s hard. This business can be exhilarating yet so difficult. I never get too high nor too low although I’m very sensitive and my insecurities get the best of me which is probably not a good thing , especially in radio-television.”
In looking back there’s bound to be a few lessons learned from the past. Swirsky did find a few things in writing the book that he remembered, educated him along the way. “I learned that anyone who applies themselves, making a commitment to work on their skill set, and their weaknesses through hard work, dedication, passion and purpose, can be successful.” he said.
“For example, not every professional athlete is going to hit .330. Let’s say another player is hitting .240. What is keeping him in the big leagues? Is it his glove, his ability to play multiple positions? His character in the locker-room? The same principle is in effect in our industry. Maximize your strengths and do it with a great attitude, humility and kindness.”
Swirsky’s book details his interactions with some very familiar people in the business and the sports world. “I have plenty of stories featuring some of the biggest names in sports ranging from Hall of Fame baseball star Willie Mays who many consider perhaps the greatest player of all time to Kobe Bryant who left our world way too soon.” he says. “When you’ve been a professional broadcaster for 46 years, one meets many, many players, coaches, executives, media and sports personalities along the way.”
The one thing you can say about Swrisky, is he is real. There’s no pretense or facade. A genuine human being that is interested in what people have to say. Athletes, coaches, broadcasters and yes, even fans. His book has been reviewed by some of the greats. Mike Breen, Chris Bosh and even Steph Curry. Here’s the 2-time NBA MVP’s take on Swirsky and the book.
Having known Chuck since my days as a still-developing youth player in Toronto, where my dad was a member of the Raptors, I can attest to the fact that his passion for people and basketball is deep and sincere.
Chuck’s unique desire to mentor young people, especially minorities and those of different cultures and backgrounds, will help inspire those who share the same dreams, dreams that enabled him to persevere to the top of his profession.
I’m proud of Chuck, and excited that others can become enlightened by his exciting broadcasting journey, which includes nearly 25 years in the NBA and, of course, a trio of Curry family members shooting from the stars, just like him.
A book written by someone as accomplished in this industry as Swirsky draws interest because of who he is. But the Bulls’ play-by-play man is always thinking of others and trying to help where he can, just like Curry said. Along with stories, he lends his knowledge and relates it to those who are already in broadcasting and those trying to get in.
“I’m hoping those in our industry who read the book even those outside the radio-tv, new media field will come away knowing that perseverance is a powerful resource to help withstand the emotional heartache of rejection, disappointment and loneliness.” said Swirsky. He adds, “I have experienced everything. The good. The bad. The ugly. I’m talking all levels. My message is to stay true to your core values. In this case, my foundation is built on respect, kindness, honesty, sincerity and selflessness.”
Given the opportunity to beam about the finished product, Swirsky in typical fashion, deflected any praise. Simply saying, “I am very humbled and appreciative of the professionalism of the book’s publisher, Eckhartz Press. They allowed me to be me. That’s all I wanted. Mission accomplished. I am grateful.”
The entire industry should be grateful for people like Swirsky. There are so few in the business who are as kind and caring as he is. There are just as few people that take interest in others, and help mentor the next generation like Chuck. Inspiring stories, a career chronicle and life lessons, “Always a Pleasure” is going to be on my must-read list for the holidays. Congrats “Swirsk” keep up the great work.
Andy Masur is a columnist for BSM and works for WGN Radio as an anchor and play-by-play announcer. He also teaches broadcasting at the Illinois Media School. During his career he has called games for the Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox. He can be found on Twitter @Andy_Masur1 or you can reach him by email at Andy@Andy-Masur.com.