It’s never easy to follow a legend.
Phil Bengtson had to follow Vince Lombardi. Ray Perkins had to follow Bear Bryant. Tim Floyd had to follow Phil Jackson. And now in Dallas, Bob Sturm is trying to follow Mike Rhyner in afternoon drive at The Ticket.
Ok, maybe that’s a little overzealous of a comparison, but if there was ever a legend to be replaced in Dallas, it’s certainly the Old Grey Wolf. But Sturm isn’t overly concerned with trying to follow a legend.
Does he realize the situation he’s in? Absolutely. But his main focus is continuing the excellent track record 1310 The Ticket has put out since its inception. He’ll help accomplish that by doing the one thing he can control: Being himself on the air.
Tyler McComas: So how would you evaluate the first six months of the show?
Bob Sturm: I think it’s gone pretty well. We weren’t bad to begin, but it was just so weird for all of us. It’s just, 20 years, man. You know everything about each other, you’ve heard all the stories and you know the body language and the likes and dislikes. Now, you scrap that and go in a whole new direction with someone that you don’t know their backstory as well.
Luckily I know Corby, but we had done very little radio together and therefore it was a rather new experience. I think we sound 1 million times smoother, already, but I realize but it took Dan and I like five years to not sound like we suck. Now, we were also in our mid-20s, so this experience will go a lot faster, but overall it’s been a fresh and new experience that I’ve really enjoyed.
TM: What was your initial reaction when Mike Rhyner retired?
BS: I think it was a shock and a bummer when Mike was retiring. It was a head spinning moment in a sense that they wanted me to try and fill Mike’s chair, which is absurd. Also, to leave Dan McDowell who’s my best friend on the planet, because we’ve been through so much together since 1999, I didn’t want him to feel like I was breaking up the team. I also didn’t want Corby to not get the future of the show that he wanted, because I don’t think it was necessarily his first thought to just move me up there. I think he had to warm to the idea.
I really just didn’t want anyone to feel upset, but at the same time, I did want to step up and answer a challenge, especially if the bosses thought that was the key to making the station strong. They’ve been very good to me for a long, long time, which includes hiring me from market No. 166 in 1998. I kind of feel, for the most part, they’ve never really asked me to do anything near this big, in terms of me leaving my comfort zone. Look, nobody wanted Mike to retire and I kind of wish we could all stay the same age like Peter Pan and keep the lineup the same. But things evolve and this is how it works.
I almost got to my 48th birthday without having to leave the noon to 3 o’clock slot, which is far and away the greatest lifestyle timeslot there is. Now I have to miss dinner a little more but there’s a lot of good in this.
The only bad thing is risking leaving a show I think was great, for a show that’s unknown. The early results are good, although I think a lot of people miss Mike. That’s normal. I think it’s a really talented team here at The Ticket and I think you could do the pairings in many, many different ways and end up with good shows. I do think Corby and I will be doing some really good stuff.
Also, let me just add this thought. I think it was important for us to get into the same location. So when Covid hit, we all did shows from our homes and some of the shows tried to figure out ways to get into the same location. Corby and I were in different locations for six weeks and the show probably sounded fine, but around April 20th we collectively said, let’s get you guys into the same room, you’ll still be 10 feet apart, or whatever. Now the verbal cues and the nonverbal cues, even the talks during the break, I think we’ve grown substantially in the last six weeks, since we got into the same room. I think that’s huge for two guys that are brand new together.
TM: Did you and Mike ever have a sit-down or a dinner where you talked exclusively about your new role with The Ticket?
BS: No, we’ve talked about a lot of things. Mike and I are quite friendly, but at the same time, we’ve talked about his path and my path in a more general term. He’s always been very complementary. He thinks I’m capable of some things beyond maybe Dallas mid-days. He would say things like that through the years. So he’s been so good to me, but we never really had a passing of the torch discussion.
I’d like to talk to him about certain things, including the name of the show, like, whether he’s totally cool with it because I respect him a ton. But we’ve never really broached that topic, because I get the sense he’s over it. He did it a long, long time and I think that’s one topic, where if he ever wanted to discuss it, that’s great. I don’t know if it’s my place to get too specific on that kind of stuff. I know that sounds evasive but we talk rather frequently still, we just don’t talk that much about the show, if that makes sense.
TM: You really entered into an incredible situation. You’re replacing a legend and during a time where sports radio has been flipped upside down.
BS: Oh, absolutely. Then not to have any games to probably play to my strengths. Yeah, that wasn’t ideal but at the same time, being at The Ticket for as long as I have, maybe that prepared me. But it’s daunting, there’s no question about it. Replacing Mike is just ridiculous and that’s why I try to convince myself that I’m not replacing him. He’s a legend and I never try to replace him, but what I will try to do is play to my strengths, which absolutely will be to cover everything in the world of sports that I absolutely love so much and work hard. I don’t think anyone probably grinds harder than I do. I think I’m probably a workaholic and I think that generally would, hopefully, be seen in the way that I do a show in the afternoon.
It’s kind of surprising, since I worked here for so long, that there’s people that haven’t heard much of me. People are busy during the day and I guess I didn’t realize that. They were familiar with me, I guess, but not listening to me for several hours a day. I don’t know how big of a part of the audience that is, but I was shocked that I could do 5,000 shows and nearly 20,000 hours with Dan and yet a lot of real loyalist in Dallas to the sport scene, because they work for a living, they are kind of unfamiliar with a lot of what I have to say. In some ways it’s a new audience and in some ways at least I have the credibility that The Ticket family is pretty welcoming, for the most part.
The guy that follows the guy always has a hard job. It’s a big responsibility to make sure that this train keeps rolling down the tracks to the level of expectation they all set for us. That’s a lot to think about. I hope this move, not only this one, but the noon to 3 o’clock moves, I think it’ll really keep us going strong for a while but I guess that’s for the audience to decide.
TM: How has your writing positively affected your radio career?
BS: I think writing has been great for me. First of all, it’s what I originally wanted to do before I discovered that I could talk for a living. I went to college to write and then found out that I got a little claustrophobic in the boundaries of writing, especially when you’re early in the game and they want you to write about the beats that nobody else wants to cover.
I wanted to talk, because that meant I didn’t have to cover a high school volleyball game. With radio I could talk about the topics that I wanted to talk about, but then I circled back to writing because it’s so valuable to basically diary your thoughts. So when I started writing, I did it for an audience of one. I would start blogging but I didn’t make any money and I didn’t really have an audience. But I just thought I wanted to write my notes, so for each game that I watch, I want to write and read them out for two reasons: One, so I can remember while I’m on the air. Two, so I can remember in five years what I thought about current topics. For example, this is what you thought back then about Tony Romo. This is what you thought about Dirk Nowitzki. Now, here you are three years later, and you may feel differently now, but it’s a reminder to kind of own your positions.
So I think it’s great in terms of accountability. Writing also scratched an itch that radio didn’t scratch, because radio is about a mass audience. I’m talking about things that most of your audience is interested in whereas I think writing allows me to be a little more niche on what my topic is. I am very interested in the X’s and O’s and the mechanics of football. I realize that’s not for a super mass audience. It’s not fantasy football, it’s not something my mom or my wife or a whole lot of people would be interested in. You really have to love football to love what I write about.
TM: I recently heard you briefly talk about phone calls on a podcast. That brings me to this: What’s your radio pet peeve?
BS: My pet peeve is probably radio people who don’t think or put a lot of thought into their opinions. Actually it’s more than just the TV audience these days with the network TV sports talk shows, I think they probably, and in defense of them, they’re probably spread so thin they can’t be experts on anything, so they kind of sound like they’re not experts on anything. I think that’s really bad for the audience and I think it makes the audience think that those opinions are something worth repeating or stealing and I think that’s a bad thing for our industry, because I was told that, at an early age, you have to be smarter than your audience or there’s no reason them to care what you say. The moment they think they know more about the topic than you do, I think that’s when you’re in big trouble.
My other one sounds bad to media people, because it sounds a little haughty, but I would say that it’s amazing to me how little the media really understands the sports they cover. I wish all of them would get as obsessive as some of us who get called nerds, because we really want to understand football or hockey or basketball at a level so the coaches and players are like, OK, this guy actually understands the game.
I don’t think that makes you a nerd. I think we should all try to dig deeper and really understand why coaches do what coaches do and why players do what players do. It’s not just watch the ball and if it crosses the goal line or goes in the hoop, then that equals good and if it doesn’t that equals bad. We should absolutely use the off-season to understand. And maybe even attend coaching clinics, just anything to feel like we’re educating ourselves on the mechanics of the sports so that we can help our audience also get smarter.
TM: So if you’re listening to radio outside of Dallas, who are you listening to?
BS: I would say Pat Kirwan on Sirius NFL Radio is the best and most influential voice I’ve ever heard in the game of football. He’s taught me so much. He does the show Moving The Chains. He used to host it with Tim Ryan, and now he does it with Jim Miller.
I don’t know if he’s the most seasoned broadcaster ever, but man, in terms of being able to explain to an audience how football works in every aspect, I feel like he’s been the college professor for me.
Before that, Chad Coppock, Jim Rome, certainly the guys at The Fan in New York, there are a lot of guys over the years that have influenced me to the point of how I sound. When I got to the year 2000 and started working with Dan a lot, Dan kind of subconsciously inspired me to find my own voice and not sound like I’m a mishmash of the three or four guys I’ve listened to the most. That’s hard for young broadcasters to do, but I think once you’ve found your own voice and start sounding like yourself and not like an off brand Jim Rome or something, I think that’s probably when I really advanced as a talker.