Greg Papa understands the value of a role model. Someone tangible in front of you who has risen to heights to which you plan to ascend yourself. A person who blazed a path forward while graciously leaving breadcrumbs behind.
No one needs a role model when things are going well – when everything’s working out. When times are good, success feels effortless, almost inevitable.
It’s the tough times when you need that spark – when you think you don’t belong or you’re not quite good enough. During those times it’s all too easy to make excuses. To settle. To throw your hands in the air and figure it was never meant to be. During times of doubt – it’s vital to understand yours is a battle that has been fought and won time and time again.
As the only broadcaster to ever work for the Warriors, A’s, Giants, Raiders and 49ers – you don’t have to work hard to paint Papa as a role model himself. It’s an exercise, however, in which he has no interest.
“I’m always very humbled when people come up to me and say they grew up listening to me and watching me,” he pauses, clearly uncomfortable at the idea of discussing his Bay Area celebrity. “More times than not I’m thinking ‘aren’t you my age?’”
Papa didn’t have to look far for his role model, in fact he was right down the hall in his childhood Buffalo, NY home. Gary Papa, eight years Greg’s senior, was everything a younger brother could ask for. Even over the phone in 2020, Greg speaks of Gary with such a reverence – you’re forced to hang on every word.
Like any younger brother – Greg is quick to measure himself up to Gary.
“He went to Cornell – then he went on to law school,” explains Greg, as if annoyed at his brother’s success.
“I was never going to be an Ivy League guy.”
When he wasn’t attending University at Buffalo Law School classes, Gary was anchoring sports for WGR-TV down the street. By 1981, with a law degree in hand, the elder Papa began a career at WPVI in Philadelphia that lasted nearly 3 decades.
“I still don’t know how he was able to pull all that off,” admits Greg, his voice somewhere between awe and admiration.
Greg may not have inherited his brother’s academic fortitude, but he certainly has the work ethic. He would also never admit it, but Greg’s post collegiate career might be more impressive than that of his brother’s.
With the Ivy League out of the question, Papa settled on Syracuse University – a reasonable safety school by any metric. By his junior year, he was the Sports Director for the student led WAER and cutting his play by play teeth on just about every sport the Athletic Department had to offer.
As it turns out, he was a promising young talent in a school known for it’s talent at just the right time.
“My senior year, Sports Illustrated had contacted us to do a story on what had become ‘the incubator of sportscasters’ at Syracuse,” he grins. “I got a little cocky.”
Papa’s self-diagnosed “cockiness” was not unfounded.
Right out of school, the fresh faced 22-year-old was offered the Sports Director position for KGO in San Francisco. Where Greg differed a bit from his older brother was his gravitation towards the play by play booth. He preferred the games over the studio and wanted to land somewhere he could call some action.
That opportunity came in the form of Indianapolis with the Pacers. The team needed a bench broadcaster to fill in and the recent Syracuse grad was their man.
Generally speaking, broadcasters straight out of their caps and gowns don’t get jobs in the NBA. While grateful for the opportunity – Papa was not about to rest on his laurels.
In 1986 the Golden State Warriors had an ownership change and Greg’s boss in Indiana, Roger Blaemire, had himself a new position in Oakland as a VP and brought Papa out west. Just a few years removed from Upstate New York – Greg was now the TV and radio voice of the Bay Area’s only NBA team.
“For the first month I was out here – I stayed at the Oakland Airport Hilton. It took me about two weeks to realize how much I loved the Bay Area. It’s like a small country out here, in a 3 hour drive you can do anything you want,” the transplant takes a beat, careful to be completely honest about the tough times involved with the move.
“I will say I was a little intimidated for a while. For one, the people out here were so smart, so worldly. I also wasn’t sure I could ever afford a house!”
The rookie west coaster combined his excitement with his fear and allowed it to fuel his work. Alongside Jim Barnett, Papa called the Warriors’ first playoff season in a decade. He was a new name in the market but his voice was now synonymous with winning.
Of course – there wasn’t a bigger winner in the late 80s in the Bay Area than the Oakland A’s, a neighbor of Papa’s Warriors. During the 1990 season, just months after 1989’s Bay Bridge Series, Greg joined Oakland’s broadcast team and followed the A’s all the way to their 3rd consecutive World Series appearance.
By 1997, with a decade of experience calling Warriors games and a handful of summers spent in the Coliseum – Papa had already established himself as a major player in the Bay Area sports media market. That fall, he would start the job that would cement his place as an icon in town.
“I have to say,” begins the ever-modest Papa. “My first Raiders game, first preseason game, I was terrible! The worst broadcast in my career. I had never done the NFL, I was passive. By my second game I understood I had to attack the game. Formations, substitutions – I had to be aggressive in my calls. I got better.”
For 20 years, Greg Papa’s emphatic “Touchdown RRRRRRaiders” calls were as much a part of the Silver and Black game day experience as Blake Hole cutaway shots and “The Autumn Wind” blasting from car radios as tailgaters began their march to the Coliseum.
While he would never describe himself as such, Papa was something of a hero for the East Bay sports scene at the turn of the 21st Century. In a market that celebrated mediocre Giants and 49ers teams over championship seeking A’s and Raiders squads – Papa was a proud representation of the often-slighted Oakland sports fan.
Industry politics, as they so often do, stood between Papa and the ability to be the voice of all three East Bay teams at once.
“It was close, but it never did exactly line up. I was a few months off.”
In the summer of ‘97, the Warriors opted to make a change in the broadcast booth. Undeterred, Papa found a way to keep his NBA fix – nearly 2,000 miles away in San Antonio.
From 1997 to 2000, the same man who marveled at how his brother Gary could work as a fulltime sportscaster while attending law school, was calling games on TV for the A’s and Spurs while manning the radio broadcasts for the Raiders.
3 teams, 3 sports, 2 markets, no offseason.
You won’t hear Greg complain about that schedule. Rather, he counts himself lucky to have had a front row seat to the dawn of Gregg Popovich’s head coaching career and the first 3 years of the remarkable Tim Duncan era – not to mention a 1999 championship season.
It was late in 2003 – as Greg was nearing his 20-year mark in the Bay Area – that Papa received what he calls one of the toughest phone calls of his career. He was reached out to by the then VP of Programming for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and CSN California, Ted Griggs.
“Ted got on the phone, and I’ll never forget it. He told me the A’s wanted to go in another direction – but that if I wait 5 minutes, I would be getting a call from Larry Baer.”
Papa understood a call from the owner of the San Francisco Giants meant an offer to join the broadcast crew for the team across the Bay. He was honored to be considered, but immediately faced with a new set of challenges.
“There was already a great team of broadcasters over there. Duane and Mike (Kuiper and Krukow) are two of the best in the business on the TV side, and on the radio you had the unbelievable team of Jon Miller and Dave Flemming! Needless to say, I was the low man on the totem pole.”
Maybe the most impressive thing about Greg Papa, outside of his undying respect for his colleagues and predecessors, is his brutal honesty when assessing his own performance. As it happens, the switch to the National League after nearly 15 years in the AL was tougher than the veteran broadcaster had anticipated.
“That was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my career! I was so familiar with the AL, I didn’t realize how out of touch I was with the NL. I was pretty hard on myself for a stretch when I was filling in.”
On top of navigating the waters of a foreign league, Papa had to deal with the backlash of switching fan bases.
“There was definitely some: ‘This is an A’s guy! What’s he doing here!?’ There’s not much I can do about that, fans are passionate.”
While his divorce with the A’s and courtship with the Giants was difficult, Greg points out it made his next dismissal slightly easier to stomach.
In July of 2018, just a month before preseason games were set to kick off, the Raiders notified Papa he would not return for a 22nd campaign with the team. At that point, Papa had worked for 3 other Bay Area franchises and was back doing pre and postgame shows for the Warriors – but above all else Greg’s voice was associated with the Raiders. The decision of the Raiders to move on from Papa was major news in Northern California, but rather than cast blame or stew over those who wronged him – Greg chooses to walk on the sunny side of the street.
“Look at it this way – I’ve been fired from 3 different teams in the Bay Area and I’ve never had to move. How many people can say that?”
Last summer, Gary’s little brother received an offer that would escalate his already stellar career to an unprecedented level. He was asked to become the radio voice of the San Francisco 49ers – the 5th Bay Area team to seek his services.
“I honestly did think about it for a second. My wife thought the transition would be tough because I was so closely associated with the Raiders,” remembers Papa.
Fortunately for 49ers fans, that second didn’t last long.
In 2019, Greg Papa became the first broadcaster to work for all 5 major sports franchises on either end of the Bay Bridge. As humble as the day he left Buffalo, he’s not one to boast about his unparalleled career accomplishments, but the significance certainly isn’t lost on him.
“One of my most prized possessions is hanging right now above me in my office. It’s a Niners jersey with the number 5 on it – signed by Kyle Shanahan and a number of people from the organization. It was a great gesture by the team.”
Greg Papa has done things in his career so many could only dream of. He’s called two Super Bowls, one for each team. He was along for the thrill ride of the A’s historic 20 game winning streak and was immortalized in 2012’s Moneyball for his efforts. He lent his voice to Barry Bonds’ all-time home run chase of Willie Mays, Babe Ruth and ultimately Hank Aaron. He was there for Sleepy Floyd’s 51 point playoff game against the Lakers in the late 80s, and the agonizing pain of the “Tuck Rule,” and the birth of Tom Brady’s legacy at the cost of Silver and Black hearts.
2020, however, marks the most bizarre and challenging time of Papa’s life and career.
“It’s hard to comprehend all of this,” he admits. “My career has lasted through two Iraq wars and 9/11, but this is different. This is on a completely different level. I’m consumed by it, day and night. I think the hard part is not knowing exactly when this will all wrap up. The idea of worrying about sports seems a little silly right now. For now, we just have to look out for each other.”
Greg makes light of the fact that he’s been fired by three different teams, he almost embraces it. You might think he does so to deflect, but in reality, it’s clear that when the chips are down – even a man defined by sports understands that sports are trivial compared to what really matters
In 2009, Gary Papa lost a long bout with cancer. The Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Hall of Fame Inductee was survived by his wife Kathleen and two boys.
So many times these days we’re asking ourselves questions to which we have no answer. When will it end? What will be the same? What will be different? The unknowns can be scary.
“I don’t know when, but sports will return. Our way of life will return and when it does we’ll be better and stronger than ever.”
We may not see the finish line at the end of this particular race, and we may not yet have definitive answers to questions that keep us up at night.
One thing we do know is that the Bay Area is fortunate to have a role model like Greg Papa – and his role model is and will always be proud of his little brother.
790 The Ticket Was Something Special And Stugotz Knows It
“I had programmers calling me saying this is the best local lineup that they’ve ever seen, that they’ve ever heard.”
When I was making the transition from the rock world to talk radio, there was one show I looked at as a guide. I got laid off from 96 Rock in Raleigh, NC in the summer of 2011. That was the beginning of my flirtations with streaming and podcasts, which is how I stumbled onto The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on 790 The Ticket out of Miami.
Coming from a format that I felt out of place in at times, I instantly latched onto a show that reveled in pointing out how out of place it was in its own format. It became a daily listen for me, which opened me up to hearing other voices on the station like Jonathan Zaslow, Joy Taylor, Brian London, Brendan Tobin, Brett Romberg and others.
There were unique thinkers and passionate sports fans in every day part on 790 The Ticket. What set the station apart though is that I never heard anyone that sounded uncomfortable when the conversation turned to something that wasn’t a Dolphins’ loss or LeBron’s stat line. They talked sports the way normal human beings talk about sports. It was part of their lives, not the only thing they paid attention to.
Look at the outpouring of love for the station on Thursday. Hosts, producers and programmers from across the country took to social media to eulogize the station when the news broke that it would cease to exist the following week.
I can’t say for sure that all of those people felt the same way I did about the station and I cannot say whether or not it was for the same reasons. What I can say is 790 The Ticket had an influence that stretched far beyond South Florida.
Jon Weiner, better known as “Stugotz” to fans of the The Dan Le Batard Show, helped start the station in 2004. He told me that it didn’t take long for him to learn just how much The Ticket’s approach was making an impression on everyone in sports radio.
“I had programmers calling me saying this is the best local lineup that they’ve ever seen or heard,” he said in a phone call on Sunday. “I had people from out of market who had secure jobs at places that weren’t startups sending resumes and tapes because they wanted to be part of it. So yeah, we were aware and it is what we were going for. We got there pretty quickly and we were aware of the impact, not just in South Florida, but throughout the country.”
Last week, Brian “The Beast” London said his internal alarm bells first went off when he heard the Miami Heat were giving up their relationship with 790 the Ticket. The station and the team had been partners since 2008. He said in a YouTube video that it was hard to imagine the team’s games being heard anywhere else.
I asked Stugotz if he had the same feeling when he heard that news. He said in hindsight, he realized it was the beginning of the end, but he didn’t really get a sense something was up until Jonathan Zaslow was let go.
“[Zaslow] had been there since basically day one with us. And so I just kind of figured, yeah, between the Heat and then that I felt, okay, you don’t make a move like that unless there’s going to be some sort of seismic change. Otherwise, there’d be no reason to let him go. That was the moment I was like ‘okay, 790 is likely going away.'”
His feelings are no secret. He took to social media immediately on Thursday and said that the news that 790 The Ticket would soon be going away filled him with both sadness and pride. What Stugotz told me in our phone call was that he realizes that the station lasted about 15 years longer than it should have.
When the station was sold to Lincoln Financial Media, he was not expecting that company to want to keep a sports station. Senior Vice President Dennis Collins surprised him.
“The company saw so much potential in what we had built, both from a lineup and a sales perspective that they kept it going and that’s why it lasted all the way to 2022. We got it up and going and were responsible for the first three or four years, but Dennis saw the growth potential with the lineup we put together. That made me feel great because I had a pit in my stomach like ‘Oh, man, this thing we started is going to go away. It’s going to be three, four years and gone.’ And he said, ‘No, we love it. We want to keep it going’. So that was a huge compliment to everyone.”
Stugotz described the original owner of 790 The Ticket as a “young, good looking real estate mogul driving around in Lamborghinis.” That certainly helped the image of the station when it launched, but it is also a phenomenon that was very of the moment. It’s not 2004 anymore. Lamborghini-owning real estate moguls aren’t chomping at the bit to pour money into radio stations.
The conditions may be similar to what Stugotz and his partners saw in 2004. You could look at the radio landscape in Miami and see a way that a new challenger could fit in the sports radio scene. But what are the chances it actually happens?
“It’s a great question,” Stugotz said. “So just to go back to that time, two sports radio stations were popping up in every market. I’m not certain if that’s still the case anymore just because of podcasting and the way the way younger people are consuming media through Tik Tok, Snapchat, and other things that aren’t AM radio.”
He is quick to commend Audacy, the current owners of the 790 AM frequency. Dan Le Batard and Jorge Sedano were part of his early lineups at 790 The Ticket because Stugotz recognized the Cuban-American community in Miami was not being served in the sports space in 2004, just like it isn’t being properly served in the news/talk space right now. That’s why there’s room for the conservative-leaning brand Radio Libre in Miami and other markets are likely paying attention.
“It seems like a good plan, and I know it’s something that the Spanish population should have and deserves to have and probably was not being catered to correctly. So, yeah, I could see there’s a warning sign to some other sports radio stations or news stations in other markets where the Hispanic population is great. Absolutely!”
It is a shame that 790 The Ticket is no more and it is concerning that a station with its legacy and influence can simply disappear. But if we are being real, it isn’t the first station of its kind to suffer that fate and it won’t be the last.
As the media business changes and leaves sports stations vulnerable to something cheaper and with broader appeal, 790 The Ticket and stations like it should be touted as examples of how to rise above the noise and make an impact. Stugotz and his partners looked around in 2004 and said “we can be different and we can do this better” and that’s exactly what they did.
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.
Chris Simms And His Self-Professed ‘Big Mouth’ Enjoying Life At NBC
“One of the things that I worried about was that I came from Bleacher Report and is NBC going to try to curtail my personality a little bit…sometimes I like to swear on my podcast and do stuff like that and they’ve really allowed me to be me which I really appreciate.”
To be a good football analyst, one certainly has to know and love the sport but you also can’t be afraid to use the most important tool that you have to do the job. Chris Simms has all of those attributes and NBC lets him use them to the best of his abilities.
“I love football and I love X’s and O’s and I got a big mouth so it’s a great combination,” said Simms. “Between my podcast, Pro Football Talk with Mike Florio, and Sunday Night Football, I get plenty of time to talk and get my studies out there.”
There’s no doubt that Chris inherited that self-professed big mouth from his father, former NFL quarterback and longtime NFL on CBS analyst, Phil Simms.
So, the question had to be asked…does Chris have a bigger mouth than his father?
“Yeah, I probably do,” admitted the younger Simms. “That’s a big mouth to overcome, but I think I probably got him beat in that department.”
Chris Simms set out to follow in his father’s footsteps on the field and played quarterback for Ramapo High School in New Jersey where he earned a pair of All-State honors. After graduating high school in 1999, Simms moved on to play quarterback at the University of Texas where he posted a 26-6 career record as a starter and was the team MVP during his senior season in 2002.
Simms was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the third round of the 2002 NFL Draft and he would guide the Bucs to a playoff berth in 2005. He would also go on to play for the Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos completing a seven-year NFL playing career. He spent one season as an assistant coach with the New England Patriots before taking his talents to the world of broadcasting.
He started with FOX Sports as a college football announcer in 2013 and then joined Bleacher Report in 2014 while also serving as a color commentator for the NFL on CBS.
And then in 2017, Simms joined NBC Sports where he has certainly found a home.
“I couldn’t be happier,” said Simms. “It’s a great company to work for. Just good people all around. They’ve given me the platform to be me. One of the things that I worried about was that I came from Bleacher Report and is NBC going to try to curtail my personality a little bit…sometimes I like to swear on my podcast and do stuff like that and they’ve really allowed me to be me which I really appreciate.”
Simms wears many different suits at NBC Sports, most notably his role as a studio analyst on Football Night in America leading into Sunday Night Football. He’s also a part of the SNF post-game show Sunday Night Football Final on Peacock, Pro Football Talk with Mike Florio, and Chris Simms Unbuttoned, a streaming/digital show that is also a podcast multiple days a week.
But the most eyeballs are on him during Football Night in America, the most watched studio show in sports.
“I grew up wanting to play in these games more than be the guy in the studio but this is like the second-best thing,” said Simms. “I was kind of that kid at 4 or 5 (years old) who could tell you every player in the NFL, their number and all that type of stuff. It’s the NFL on the biggest stage. It’s such a well-done show. I get to be there with Maria Taylor along with Tony Dungy, and Jason Garrett, and Mike Florio, and Matthew Berry. We got a great team and it makes Sunday fun.”
From the “it takes one to know one” category, Simms has also made a name for himself with his ranking of NFL quarterbacks. He’s very diligent when it comes to watching the live action and also in his film study and his top-40 rankings have become a hot topic within the business and around the office coolers.
Simms is well aware that his rankings have become a lightning rod of discussion.
“It all kind of started organically just because I would make statements,” said Simms. “People were like ‘Why don’t you start making a list?’ It’s a really hard thing to do. It offends a lot of people and I hate that. I root for all of these guys and I say on my podcast all the time I hope this guy proves me wrong. I hope he shits on me and shows me that I was wrong. It’s certainly not personal. One of the things I pride myself on is studying and immersing myself in the game all of the time.”
Simms became a full-time employee of NBC Sports in 2019, but his first role with the network came in 2017 when he became a studio analyst for Notre Dame Football.
Here’s a kid that grew up in North Jersey where there’s a ton of Notre Dame alumni and he’s standing on the sidelines at South Bend as part of Fighting Irish telecasts.
“Another special entity,” said Simms. “I used to get chills being out on the field every Saturday there. It gave me great experience in a different way with the halftime show and the pre-game show. One of the years I was kind of the third man in the booth but I was on the sideline. It gave me some reps on in-game stuff as well. I think most importantly what that did for me more than anything is that it opened up more eyes at NBC about me.”
And now Simms’ work has him in the discussion for a new potential opportunity down the road.
NBC, alongside FOX and CBS, has secured a seven-year media rights deal with the Big Ten Conference that will commence next season. NBC will air Big Ten Saturday Night, the first time that Big Ten Football will have a dedicated primetime broadcast on a national broadcast network. Peacock will stream an additional eight Big Ten games each season and NBC/Peacock will air the 2026 Big Ten Championship Game.
There have been rumblings that Simms could be involved in the coverage. Is he interested?
“I’m intrigued by it,” admitted Simms. “I’m very all NFL right now but broadcasting game is fun. It’s definitely something on my radar for sure. I do have some producers here in the building that are like ‘I’m going to tell the boss I want you to do some of the Big 10 games this year and what do you think about announcing?’ I’ve already had some people in my ear talking about it. It’s awesome for the company regardless. It just expands our football world. As far as me being involved, we’ll see.”
In a relatively short amount of time, Chris Simms has built up quite the broadcasting portfolio. From FOX to Bleacher Report and CBS to his current expanded role with NBC, Simms has established himself as one of the premier NFL analysts in the business and his podcast has given him the freedom to do something that he loves to do. Including putting his money where his mouth is.
Peter Schwartz has been involved in New York sports media for over three decades. Along the way he has worked for notable brands such as WFAN, CBS Sports Radio, WCBS 880, ESPN New York, and FOX News Radio. He has also worked as a play by play announcer for the New Yok Riptide, New York Dragons, New York Hitmen, Varsity Media and the Long Island Sports Network. You can find him on Twitter @SchwartzSports or email him at DragonsRadio@aol.com.
The Pat McAfee Alternate Broadcast Presents Unique Challenges
Alternate broadcasts are all the rage these days, and ESPN, in conjunction with Omaha Productions, debuted a new one this weekend as The Pat McAfee Show aired an alternate broadcast of the Clemson and North Carolina State game Saturday evening.
A few weeks ago, I wrote that Manningcast copy-cats were destined for failure. And while I don’t believe McAfee’s debut was a failure by any stretch of the imagination, I couldn’t help but notice it brings its own set of challenges.
First and foremost, College Football Primetime with The Pat McAfee Show — the world’s most convoluted way to say “The McAfeecast” — doesn’t really resemble the Manningcast. And rightfully so. I’m not sure there are two more polar opposite sports media brands than the Mannings and McAfee. The Mannings are funny, but not too funny and never “blue”, while often concerned about how finely quaffed their hair looks and whether the button-down shirt color matches with the Nordstrom quarter-zip they’ve donned. Meanwhile, McAfee wears his black tank-top, like usual, and put his best Pittsburgh-ese foot forward.
Even though the Mannings and McAfee are opposites doesn’t mean they can’t work together, however. The alternate broadcast was a win for Manning, a win for McAfee, a win for ESPN, and a win for viewers.
People love Pat McAfee. Plain and simple. For a multitude of reasons that we can get into in a later story, but let’s focus on that for a moment. It was a big portion of my column a few weeks ago. The Manningcast works because people like Peyton and Eli. The KayRodcast doesn’t work because people hate Michael Kay and Alex Rodriguez. It’s honestly, truly, that simple.
I think it benefitted the McAfeecast to debut with a smaller game, which seems counterintuitive because it was a matchup of top ten teams in primetime. But let’s be realistic, a number five versus number ten ACC game doesn’t hold the same weight as a number five versus number ten Big Ten or SEC game. And it helped McAfee and crew, because there are obvious kinks to work out.
Firstly, there are entirely too many people on the screen. I’m going to have nice words to say about BostonConnr than the eight-and-a-half-year-old that went viral earlier this summer, but god love ya, your time to shine likely isn’t on primetime on ESPN. In my opinion, for the McAfeecast to really work in the future, a similar setup to the Manningcast with McAfee and A.J. Hawk being the prominent figures on screen is the best solution to the problem. I know McAfee believes in his boys. It’s one of his more endearing qualities, and is frankly part of the reason his show is so successful. But you’re reaching a different audience on ESPN2 on Saturday nights, and the reason the either tuned in or will stay is because of McAfee’s presence.
I didn’t get a great feel for McAfee’s thoughts or reactions on the game simply because you didn’t get a closeup of his face. The best moments of the Manningcast, outside of Eli flipping the double birds or Peyton saying “I can’t hear shit”, have been when the pair have been absolutely disgusted by a decision made by a coach or player and their face shows it without any words following up their reactions. And McAfee definitely holds that ability, and I wish I would have gotten a better sense of his facial reactions on-screen.
Also, and I know this is something McAfee can’t actually control, he had to be a bit more reserved on cable television. Part of the allure of The Pat McAfee Show is the — let’s call it extreme candor — with which he speaks. I believe that’s the scholarly way to write “he says f*** frequently”. And believe me, I subscribe to the theory that the FCC should allow hosts the ability to say obscenities 15 times per week, so I’m down for McAfee’s swearing. But you’re just simply never going to get that on ESPN2. You’re likely never going to get that if the broadcast aired on ESPN+, either. For a “family friendly” company Disney, those cards are just flat out never going to be on the table for McAfee.
One of the things McAfee is known for is his boundless energy, which felt lacking at times on Saturday, but it’s understandable. The man was on College GameDay earlier in the day, flew back to the studio to do the alternate broadcast after travelling the day before to get to Clemson to be on GameDay. I’m sure that takes a toll. On top of that, you’re doing something new for the first time, while trying to, essentially, heard cats on the screen, and you can be a little wiped out by the end of the night.
However, the goodwill McAfee has bought with fans over his extreme generosity was on display as the alternate broadcast donated more than $100,000 to Dabo Swinney’s charity, The Jimmy V Foundation, and the American Red Cross. It was a brilliant move for a debut broadcast, because it acts as a slight shield for criticism. How can you complain about something that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity?
The alternate broadcast, for the most part, avoided the biggest problem I have with the Manningcast. The interviews. I’ve never been watching Monday Night Football, or the Manningcast for that matter, and thought “Man, I wish they were talking to Tracy Morgan right now!” McAfee brought on Peyton Manning, for obvious reasons, and former NC State quarterback Phillip Rivers. That’s it. They didn’t rely on guests to carry them through down periods. The eight folks on screen did most of the heavy lifting, and for that, I thank them.
The McAfeecast was certainly different than any other alternate broadcast I’ve consumed. The crew shooting hoops for extra donations to charity during stoppages of play definitely kept things light and interesting. I couldn’t help but be invested in whether or not someone would bury three out of five threes during an injury timeout for more money for charity.
Speaking of injury timeouts, McAfee planned a giveaway and told fans to use a certain hashtag and when to screenshot or take a picture of their TV. Immediately following him saying “now!”, an injured player appeared on the screen, and he instantly shouted “No! Not now! No! We don’t want that, and we hope he’s ok”. It was a light-hearted, nearly hilarious moment that brought levity to the situation.
The highlight of the cast, however, was — in true McAfee style — picking up on things other broadcasters wouldn’t, like an angry fan. The entire crew shouting at the same time in this specific moment was spectacular television.
Overall, I thought the McAfeecast got off on the right foot. There is undeniably a market for an alternate broadcast based around the former NFL punter’s personality, and I look forward to seeing where the show goes from here.
Garrett Searight is the Editor of Barrett Sports Media and Barrett News Media. He previously was the Program Director and Afternoon Co-Host on 93.1 The Fan in Lima, OH. He is also a play-by-play announcer for TV and Radio broadcasts in Western Ohio.