Sports radio hosts encounter Twitter trolls constantly. It’s common to receive messages like, “You suck, I hate you,” or my personal favorite, “Your an idiot.” Being the target of anger comes with the territory. Many hosts don’t have to deal with feedback that is racist or sexist in nature though.
Sadly this is not a luxury that FS1 superstar Joy Taylor enjoys. The brilliant co-host of The Herd with Colin Cowherd talks about a method she has developed for dealing with these lowlifes. Hopefully her technique will discourage others from lashing out so Joy can be treated with the respect she deserves.
There is much more wisdom from Joy in the conversation below. The biggest improvement she has made as a broadcaster traces back to her early days in the industry. Joy carries what she developed in Miami to the national radio and TV airwaves. Her views on how the prodominantly white media is handling topics that deal with the current social unrest is a must-read. Joy also says that she doesn’t want to be normal and embraces being a little off. Many people — aka the smart ones — love her just the way she is. Enjoy.
Brian Noe: Which FaceApp picture do you think is better; you as a man or Colin as a woman?
Joy Taylor: [Laughs] Colin actually was more impressive. I obviously spend a lot of time on social media and I have Snapchat. It sounds weird but I’ve seen myself as a man before, at least according to what the apps would say.
I think this was Colin’s first experience with FaceApp. He looked great — high cheekbones, really great hair. It was fun. It was very unexpected. I saw Jason had tweeted that. I look exactly like my nephew, [former Miami Dolphin and Joy’ brother] Jason [Taylor]’s older son Isaiah. He looks like Jason with hair, so it was funny.
BN: What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned from Colin?
JT: Colin is a very thorough prepper. I think prepping is the number one thing you have to learn as a broadcaster. How do you prep the right way to let you do a good job? What kind of materials do you need during the show to do a good show? It’s really different for each person.
Every talent has a completely different routine for how they like to do it. With Colin we do a two-hour prep call before every three-hour show. So essentially Colin does a show before the show, which is remarkable. Now he would say it’s not that big of a deal, but it is a big deal. That’s a lot of prep.
I’ve worked with a ton of different talent in the industry, not that there’s any right or wrong way to do it, but that’s a lot of energy to talk through every single topic that thoroughly. He has his own system of notes, which I kind of tease him about because no one else on Earth could possibly understand his note system. I’m very OCD so I like my notes to be super organized, highlighted, this part bold, underlined. I have a completely different formula for how I do it but I have learned a lot about how and what preparation works best for a show of our length — especially being a TV/radio simulcast, which is different from doing just a radio only show. He’s very thorough and likes to be very, very prepared. I’ve been learning a lot from him when it comes to that.
BN: What was your first break in sports radio?
JT: I started interning at 560 QAM in Miami when I was in college at Barry University on the Joe Rose morning show. That was my first entrance of any official kind into the business. I did an internship with him. I believe it was my junior year of college. At that time those stations were owned by Beasley Broadcasting and they also had Power 96 in the building.
After I finished my internship with Joe Rose, I had developed a relationship with DJ Laz and the morning show over at Power 96 so they gave me an opportunity to intern there in a completely different capacity. It’s a music morning show, entertainment, a little bit of sports, and I would do sports updates for him, but also learning a completely different side of the business and implementing a lot of entertainment into the show. I did some internships in college that prepared me. I also worked at the radio station at our university as well. I really tried to get a lot of hands-on experience.
I eventually got my first job at QAM where I had interned a few years later on The Sid Rosenberg Show as a part-time producer. Anyone who knows radio knows that that is not a very high-paying gig, but I was very happy to have it because it’s very hard to get a job in the business. That’s the first step.
Nobody wants to hire you if you don’t have any experience. You can’t get any experience if you don’t get hired. That was really my first break; my first paying job in the business was being a part-time producer at QAM for Sid Rosenberg’s show. I freelanced at a few other places while doing that show but that was the first break.
BN: When do you first remember thinking, man, I really want to be on the air as a sports radio host?
JT: I’ve always loved sports. I grew up in Pittsburgh so that’s not an option whether you’re going to like sports or not when you grew up in Pittsburgh. I played sports growing up and obviously had the opportunity to watch my brother’s career, which taught me a lot about the business and the personal side of sports. I think I just always was meant to be a personality.
I have the same story that every broadcaster has when you’re a kid you did your newscast with your hair brush in front of the mirror. My mom had gotten us this VHS camera that you put the whole actual tape in. We would record these news broadcasts. I really thought this is what I was supposed to do and what I really felt like I could be great at. After I finished college and went through the little journey you go through after you don’t get your first job that you want out of college, and just realized I love sports and I love talking.
I always wanted to be on air and got the opportunity with Sid. Sid is a very big personality. I learned a lot from him as well just being very unapologetic. I quickly realized from being with those talents — Joe Rose, DJ Laz, and then starting with Sid — that if I was going to be successful in this business I want to be a personality. That’s what best suits me.
I had done some reporting stuff. I had done some news stuff in college. There are so many different areas in the business you can get into but you should really do what you’re passionate about the most. I think all the experiences that I had early on in my career and in college really helped me get into the space that I’m in now.
BN: What is the main improvement you’ve made from when you first started off to where you are now?
JT: I think confidence. That really comes from reps. When you’re a young broadcaster, you feel like you’re getting into a business where you have to be very confident, but you don’t get opportunities, or you’re still a little nervous. There’s a lot that goes into it. It’s not just turning the microphone on and talking. You’ve got to hit breaks. You’ve got to read lives. You have to make sure that you get all the commercials in. Are you taking callers? How do you introduce them? How do you pull them up? Where’s the cough button? There’s a lot that goes on during a show that’s not just talking.
I think in the beginning knowing what kind of personality you want to be — that can be difficult too because maybe there isn’t someone in the business that exists to look up to. Confidence for me has been the biggest thing. Just understanding that you’re going to make mistakes, which is why I think working for a student radio station and doing internships and taking those Saturday night 8 o’clock to 10pm shifts on the local radio station that probably not a lot of people are listening to, but you can make your mistakes there and learn to not be nervous and be confident. I think that’s the biggest change because you know how you feel, right? You know when you’re watching a game and you’re talking to your friends what your opinions are, but how to put it all together, how to be smart and informed and prepped and be entertaining at the same time just comes from reps. I think the biggest change for me is definitely confidence.
BN: What do you think about the way your show has handled subjects like George Floyd and NASCAR banning the Confederate flag?
JT: I think we’ve handled it on the show really well. I’ve had the opportunity to have some really open conversations. I think our network does a really good job about empowering talent to have those conversations and supporting us in that.
I’m exhausted and I’m very sad and frustrated that we still have to have these conversations. But I think it’s an important time in history with everything that’s going on with the election year, COVID obviously, and then now the string of deaths, murders, bringing that to light and having these really open conversations that I hope will bring about some real healing and change. I think it’s important to keep shining the light on it because as soon as it goes quiet that’s when we sink back into what we’ve been doing for many years in this country, which is not giving the true racist scar that this country has the attention it needs to heal and move forward together. I won’t speak for everyone but I talk to a lot of people in the business and it’s been a very exhausting time for everyone, but necessary.
I get a lot of…let’s just call it hate on social media, which I’m used to and I can handle, but normally if someone’s doing too much I’ll just block them. It’s not going to change my life whether or not you see my next social media post, but lately I’ve made a conscious effort not to block people and kind of highlight the terrible things that people are saying.
I’ll see people and they’ll talk to me and be like, “Wow, I’ll read some of this stuff on social media and it’s horrible. How do you deal with that every day?” I’m like well I want you to see that. I want people to see that this stuff does happen. It exists. There are lots of people out there that still feel the way they do and they’re still very racist. They’re very sexist.
BN: When you go on social media after a show and someone sends you something that’s racist or sexist, is it hard not to get dragged down by that?
JT: Yes and no. I feel like I’m fortunately — I don’t know if it’s fortunate or not — but I feel like I’m very callous to it, very used to it.
It’s not something I spend my day complaining about, but I also realize I am not just speaking for me. I represent other people. As a black woman in the business and having a platform, I have a responsibility to use that platform properly. Does it hurt my feelings? No. Me? No, because I know if I saw this person on the street they wouldn’t say anything to me. They would not do that. These are weak people. They’re hiding behind fake accounts. These are internet trolls. They’re too scared to even put their name on what they’re saying.
I do realize other people see that and may feel threatened or afraid or sad or brought down by what’s being said to me. Does it hurt? It hurts that it’s still happening, not that that person is doing something that’s going to change my day. I know who I am and what I’m capable of and what I’m going to do, so that person doesn’t hurt me. It’s more of the fact that I want to continue to show other people who are out there denying that any of this is real and this is all a conspiracy or it’s not that bad or whatever, they need to see that. It’s more for them.
BN: Sports radio in general is very white dominated. Does it ever make you uncomfortable if you flip on a show and they’re talking about George Floyd or a social issue?
JT: Yeah, it makes me uncomfortable depending on how the conversation is going. I wish there was more diversity in the business. I wish there was more diversity behind the scenes in the business. I wish they would hire more black producers, more black women in executive positions, more black people behind the scenes as well as in front of the camera. I just wish the business was more diverse overall. Some of the conversations definitely make me uncomfortable.
I think the George Floyd conversation is directly related to George Floyd. I think for the most part what I’ve seen and heard has been very straightforward and mostly everyone has hit the tone of what it should be correctly, which is that he was murdered and deserves justice. I do think with the broader conversations there can be a tone of ignorance and more importantly a lack of empathy from non-diverse talent. That’s what’s more hurtful to me.
When I’m hearing some of the conversations that I don’t agree with, it’s not so much that I feel like they don’t know what’s going on, it’s more just a lack of empathy for an entire community that’s been saying this is a problem for a long time. Now it’s become very undeniable because we have camera phones to prove what’s happening.
To answer your question there’s definitely been times where I’ve been extremely uncomfortable, but the broader conversations are more of the ones that start to put me in that space because the George Floyd conversation is very straightforward.
BN: Is having your podcast a good outlet in terms of the conversations you want to have and the topics you want to hit on that might differ from The Herd?
JT: Yeah, absolutely. I started the podcast when I started on Undisputed because I did come from Miami doing a four-hour morning drive radio show. Being a moderator, your space is quite limited. Obviously I was very happy to have the opportunity but I still wanted to be able to get my opinions out there and stay sharp as a talent. That’s why I started the podcast a little over two years ago now.
I definitely still use it in that space. The week that everything started to ramp up with the conversation around George Floyd, I didn’t feel right doing a normal podcast so I just had everyone that’s on the podcast with me just get on a Zoom call. We did that as our podcast instead. We just had a conversation about how all of us were feeling and what this really means. I think it was very therapeutic.
I feel like the podcast is a space that I try to use to focus on things that I really want to talk about. I want the podcast to be a good blend of youth, culture, sports, entertainment, conversations that I have with my friends and things that we talk about pertaining to sports, people that I think will be interesting to talk about sports with. That’s the thing that I’ve tried to keep the podcast in since we launched it.
BN: How did you settle on the name for your podcast? What’s the backstory with Maybe I’m Crazy?
JT: [Laughs] Crazy has a lot of implications. I’ve always been a little off but I embrace it. I don’t want to be normal. That’s sort of where the name came from. I’m saying these off-the-wall things that people get really irritated or excited about. That’s just kind of where it came from.
BN: You have so much ahead of you in the industry, is there anything in particular that you would like to do along the way?
JT: It’s really important to me to be able to have an impact on the industry outside of just myself. Obviously I have goals and things that I want to accomplish in the business in the near future and further down the road, but I just want whatever I do to have an impact on the next generation of broadcasters and sports broadcasters that come after me. I don’t want to leave the business the same way that I came in. Does that make sense?
JT: It’s important to me to see a more diverse culture when it comes to sports media and sports entertainment on camera and behind the scenes. Anytime I have an opportunity to make decisions as a talent, which isn’t always obviously, we all have bosses and work for networks, but when I do have those opportunities I want to take advantage of them as far as making sure that I have a diverse staff on any project that I work on and just encouraging young people to think in that same way and hopefully use whatever influence that I gain in the business to keep pushing that forward because I think it’s very important.
Being able to see yourself on television or see people that look like you or come from where you come from in those positions, it’s really seeing is believing. Representation really matters. I just want to continue to be a mentor and help push that forward however I can. Whatever I do in the business — which we’ll see, we’ve got to get sports back [laughs] — I have a lot of aspirations and different things I want to do in the business for sure short-term and long-term, but that’s just the most important thing to me.
Julian Edelman Has Been FOX’s NFL Breakout Star
Edelman has an easy-going and free-wheeling nature about him. He’s a joy to watch, and he seldom wastes airtime with cliches and empty comments.
He was a key member of the NFL’s last true dynasty, a children’s book author, a regular talking head on NFL Network’s America’s Game anthology, an actor in the film 80 for Brady, and a multimedia favorite. And oh yeah, he is third all-time in the NFL for postseason receptions and was the MVP of Super Bowl LIII. He is Julian Edelman.
These days he answers to a new calling – a rising star on FOX’s excellent NFL commentator roster. Edelman, who retired in 2020 after 12 seasons as a wide receiver with the New England Patriots, has logged impressive recent stints on FS1’s The Herd with Colin Cowherd.
Edelman has been an unexpected jewel in FOX’s football crown, providing behind-the-scenes, players-only insight in a casual and humorous style. On a recent edition of The Herd, Edelman’s talent was on full display.
In a discussion about Patriots’ signal caller Mac Jones, Cowherd implied that it would have been easier for the Alabama QB if he had gone to a less intense environment with an offensive-minded head coach.
Edelman countered by referencing Josh Dobbs, who played great in his first start for the Vikings after being with the team for just a couple of days. Edelman stated, “If you’re a guy, you’re a guy,” meaning that good players adapt to any situation. He added, “This is the National Football League. If you don’t win, the quarterback and the head coach get the blame. This is a production business.”
One of the refreshing aspects of Edelman’s TV game is his candor. He was deeply rooted in the Patriot Way and benefitted from all it offered him, but he pulls no punches in talking about his former team.
He does not buy into the excuse that Mac Jones has had three different offensive coordinators in his three NFL seasons. Edelman stated that ex-Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels’ and current OC Bill O’Brien’s offensive schemes are essentially identical.
Edelman has an easy-going and free-wheeling nature about him. He’s a joy to watch, and he seldom wastes airtime with cliches and empty comments. He uses his strong connections to Tom Brady and other members of the NFL’s glitterati to his advantage, but he is not violating these friendships with kiss-and-tell BS.
In his young broadcasting career, Edelman has also embraced a rare quality among media personalities, namely, the courage to admit when he is wrong. He recently stated that he thought Texans’ quarterback CJ Stroud was going to be just another failed Ohio State quarterback joining the likes of Cardale Jones, Terrell Pryor, Troy Smith, and the late Dwayne Haskins.
Julian Edelman acknowledged his error and lauded Stroud for his performance and the Houston offensive staff for keeping it simple and allowing Stroud to flourish. He then made an accurate comparison between Stroud and Dak Prescott who had a similarly amazing rookie season in 2016. He also revealed that he and Tom Brady would sit and watch Prescott play during that season and marveled at his performance.
Such neat revelations have become commonplace for Edelman who also told Cowherd that Bill Belichick had different rules for different players. This goes against the accepted theory that Belichick coached all his players the same.
When asked about good and bad locker rooms, Edelman revealed that the 2009 Patriots had some “a-holes” on the team, “guys who had a lot of money and acted like they had a lot of money.”
He also regaled Cowherd with a funny story about former teammate and current ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi. During his rookie season, Edelman made repeated contact with Bruschi during a team drill. After the play, Bruschi got in Edelman’s face and said, “If you ever touch me again, I’ll cut your arm off, Rook!”
In a subsequent discussion, Edelman was asked about how NFL players view Thursday night games. He said that the goal for players is to just get through the game and try to get the win. He called having a Thursday night game a “baby bye week” because of the extra prep time gained for the next week. Baby bye week – new lingo from a new age analyst.
Speaking of language, Julian Edelman may have created another new football term. He called the NFL games after Thanksgiving “cream season,” when the cream rises to the top and when football season truly starts. Edelman told Cowherd that this is when coaches raise the intensity in the building.
A week later, Edelman was a panelist on FOX’s NFL Kickoff. It was clear that the show’s producers and host Charissa Thompson were tuned into Edelman’s Herd appearance as they made his cream season line a theme of discussion.
Edelman picked the Ravens and Niners as his current cream teams and entertained Thompson and his fellow panelists with a few dairy-related puns. He was funny, saying that both these teams could end up becoming butter teams – even better than cream.
Edelman is unafraid to ruffle feathers, even if those feathers reside in Foxboro, MA. In discussing last week’s Patriots-Giants game, he boldly tweeted and stated on NFL Kickoff that the Patriots would be better off losing that game in order to get a better 2024 draft position.
If Julian Edelman has any flaws, it is that at times his analysis RPMs run into the red. In his discussion of last week’s crucial Jaguars-Texans game, he was visibly pumped up and spoke far too quickly even stumbling on some commentary. He recovered well and simply needs to slow down, trust his knowledge, and calculate his pace.
Edelman has made such an immediate impact that NFL Kickoff has even given him his own segment. It is called “The Nest” and his based on his children’s book Flying High, the story of Jules, a football-playing squirrel who is small in stature but big on heart and enthusiasm. Sound familiar?
Julian Edelman was joined in the nest by panelists Charles Woodson and Peter Schrager and provided a pretty cool analysis of current NFL wide receivers. He based his opinions on four attributes: sociability, aggressiveness, activity level, and boldness. Along the way, Edelman provide some unique commentary on the likes of Davante Adams, Travis Kelce, A.J. Brown and Stefon Diggs.
There is a rhythm to Edelman’s conversation. He is comfortable with his career, comfortable with himself, and comfortable on air. As a player, Julian Edelman was an unexpected star, a guy who parlayed personality, hard work, and hustle into a fantastic career. He is doing the same in media dishing out knowledge his way – brash, all-out, and with total abandon.
John Molori is a weekly columnist for Barrett Sports Media. He has previously contributed to ESPNW, Patriots Football Weekly, Golf Content Network, Methuen Life Magazine, and wrote a syndicated Media Blitz column in the New England region, which was published by numerous outlets including The Boston Metro, Providence Journal, Lowell Sun, and the Eagle-Tribune. His career also includes fourteen years in television as a News and Sports Reporter, Host, Producer working for Continental Cablevision, MediaOne, and AT&T. He can be reached on Twitter @MoloriMedia.
Mike Breen is Ready For Whatever The NBA Season Brings
“I’ve had an amazing set of teammates my entire life.”
Every time a new basketball season is on the precipice, there is a certain kind of enigma that permeates the landscape. Although he has been on basketball broadcasts for nearly three decades, Mike Breen still feels added nerves before donning the headset to call the NBA Finals. Last season, ESPN’s lead play-by-play voice called the 100th NBA Finals game of his broadcast career. In doing so, Breen became just the third basketball announcer on radio or television to attain such a feat.
When he first joined the broadcasts on ABC in 2006, Breen was stepping into the play-by-play role previously held by Al Michaels, working alongside color commentator Hubie Brown. He never could have imagined that the conclusion of the 2023-24 season would mark his 19th time calling the best-of-seven championship series and attributes his success to the people around him.
“There’s not a stage anywhere in the world big enough to hold that many people because that’s how many people have really been there for me and supported me and guided me and at times chastised me because you need people to always tell you the truth,” Breen said. “I’ve had an amazing set of teammates my entire life.”
For the last 18 NBA Finals broadcasts, Breen has worked alongside color commentator Jeff Van Gundy, a former head coach of the New York Knicks. Mark Jackson served as a color commentator as well for 15 of these series, taking a three-year detour to work as head coach of the Golden State Warriors. The broadcast trio was widely regarded as one of the best in basketball and frequently lauded for the strong chemistry they possessed on the air. Over the offseason though, Van Gundy and Jackson were laid off by ESPN as a part of cost-cutting measures by The Walt Disney Company. The decision disappointed Breen because of the bond he and his colleagues fostered and shared.
“We spent so much time together and we felt we had something special, and we were hoping that it was going to last longer, but nothing in this business lasts forever and that’s part of the business, and you have to figure that out and you move on,” Breen said. “Now the way I look at it is I’m just so grateful and honored that I had all that time sitting next to those two for so many big games over the years, but it’s hard when it ends.”
Breen is currently working with Doris Burke and Doc Rivers on ESPN’s lead NBA broadcast team. Broadcasting the NBA Finals, let alone sporting events as a whole, was never in his mind though; that is, until he was told by family friend and former New York Tech radio staffer Tony Minecola to consider going into the industry as a sportscaster.
Recognizing that he would not succeed as a professional athlete because of a lack of skill or as a doctor because of a lack of passion, Breen chose to major in broadcast journalism at Fordham University, immediately joining the campus radio station. Over his four years matriculating at the institution, he prioritized versatility and contributed to sports, news, talk and music programming.
“When you leave college and you have tape résumés and experience of being on the air on a live 50,000-watt station, it really gives you a great perspective of what it’s like to be in the business,” Breen said. “It’s kind of a great way to figure out, ‘Okay, is this something you like? Is this something you have a chance to be good at?’”
Ed Ingles, the former sports director of WCBS 880, helped instantiate that mindset for Breen when he interned with him during his days in college. Aside from his delivery, Breen took notice of how he interacted with his colleagues and other people in the industry, always demonstrating professionalism and kindness. Ingles advised Breen to get out of his comfort zone, which proved to be invaluable when Breen started his first job out of school in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. at WEOK-AM/WPDH-FM.
In his first year with the outlet, he would frequently attend school board meetings and county legislative sessions in order to collect 45 seconds of sound for the morning anchor to use on their program. Whereas at a sporting event, the game is oftentimes the primary story, Breen had to review the agenda and listen to the meeting to have an understanding of what is essential to the story.
“If you can cover a school board meeting that you know nothing about and do a good job on it, then you can certainly cover an NBA basketball game and figure out the storylines and the narratives and all those types of things,” Breen said. “It really made me a better sportscaster. I wasn’t just a sportscaster; I was a broadcaster.”
Breen eventually began calling Dutchess County High School basketball games and serving as an analyst on Marist College basketball broadcasts, all while working as the morning news anchor for the radio outlet. In balancing various different roles at once, Breen found himself on the air for six days a week for an entire year. The strenuous workload allowed him to enhance his skillset and ingenuity and have the confidence that he could make a career in the profession.
Through a connection he had with a classmate at Fordham University, Breen landed a part-time producing job on Jack Spector’s sports talk program, SportsNight, on WNBC. The commitment was initially for one day per week, but as Breen’s workload at the outlet increased, he was able to leave Poughkeepsie and focus on working in New York City. There was a dearth of sports talk programming at the time; that is until the summer of 1987 when WFAN launched on 1050 AM and introduced a new format to the medium.
“We were all sitting around the radio at WNBC thinking, ‘Okay, here comes our competition on the air,’” Breen remembered. “We were laughing, saying, ‘Oh, this is never going to make it. There’s no way this is going to make it,’ and it turns out that it was just the start of something that would completely change the radio industry.”
Ironically enough, WFAN moved to WNBC’s 660 AM frequency when General Electric sold several of its stations to Emmis Communications as part of a multi-station deal. Even though the station had transitioned to a new format, Don Imus kept his morning show on the airwaves, which Breen had been a part of starting a year earlier. His segments were filled with sound effects and jokes, giving him exposure within the marketplace and allowing him to penetrate beyond his comfort zone of traditional sports broadcasting and reporting.
“It wasn’t just your normal sports update,” Breen said. “It was something where you had to use your personality; you had to use your sense of humor [and] you had to use your writing skills, and it showed a little versatility and that was important.”
MSG Networks hired Breen in 1992 as the New York Knicks radio play-by-play announcer, and he assimilated into the role while keeping his spot on Imus in the Morning. In addition to adjusting to the pace of the NBA, he also refined his approach to calling games on the radio as opposed to television. Throughout this process, Breen thought about Marist play-by-play announcer Dean Darling and how he had called the games when they worked together.
“There are very few people – and there certainly are exceptions – but there are very few people who are instantly really good on the air,” Breen said. “It takes a while to hone your skills to figure out how you want to broadcast things if you have a certain style, and that’s the No. 1 thing is to get repetitions.”
When Marv Albert pleaded guilty to assault and battery in 1997, Breen was suddenly promoted to fill the role as the television play-by-play announcer for the team. Having listened to Albert call games for many years growing up, Breen knew the importance of appealing to the local audience in the New York metropolitan area. Many of the local play-by-play announcers in the locale grew up around the city, and he affirms that the knowledge and passion is discernible to consumers. Breen met New York Yankees television play-by-play announcer and ESPN New York radio host Michael Kay, who was a fellow student at Fordham University at the time, and discussed sports and broadcasting with him.
“He would tell me, ‘Oh, I’d love to be the Yankees announcer,’ and I’d say, ‘I’d love to be the Knicks announcer,’ and we would laugh at each other [like] two fools,” Breen said. “But I think because we were both New Yorkers and we both understood the New York fan because we were and still are New York fans, I think perhaps it gave us an edge because we knew what it’s like to live in New York and root for the teams in New York, and I think, or at least I hope, the fans can feel that.”
Albert returned to the Knicks telecast in 2000, prompting Breen to move back to radio broadcasts and work with John Andariese. At the same time, he began doing work for NBC Sports, including calling NBA games with Bill Walton and announcing ski jumping at the Olympic Games. When Albert was removed from the television broadcasts for being too critical of the team, Breen returned to the position and has held the role ever since.
“I tend to be old-school in that my job is to accurately describe what’s going on and also set up my partners and give them space and the lead-ins to make them excel,” Breen said. “The personality stuff, I think that comes – I hate to use the cliché – but it comes organically in terms of you’re doing the game. If something calls for you to react that involves more personality than actually broadcasting, then you do it and you have to find that balance.”
Every time Breen takes the air, he hopes that the consumers are able to see that he is prepared, enamored with the sport and enjoys working alongside his colleagues. From his days on the Knicks’ radio broadcasts, Breen has been paired with Walt “Clyde” Frazier for 25 seasons and understands how venerated the two-time NBA champion is within the city.
As the only member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a player and a broadcaster, Frazier strikes a chord with basketball fans and brings his credibility and proficiency to the airwaves every season. In addition, he always arrives in his signature flamboyant outfits and intersperses astute rhymes to the cadence on the hardwood.
“He’s managed to stay true to who he is, yet develop this unique on-air style that very few people have had, but the bottom line is yeah, there’s style, but there’s so much substance to what he says,” Breen explained,” and I think Knick fans love him because he tells it like it is, but at the same time, you can feel his love for the franchise.”
Since joining the NBA on ESPN broadcast team in 2003, Breen has balanced his local responsibilities with calling games at the national level. Throughout the season, he logs a considerable number of traveling miles and always puts his family first when he is not working. In fact, the reason he stopped calling other sports was not only to recharge over the summer, but also to spend time with his children.
By being absorbed in the NBA during the year, the preparation for the different types of broadcasts often overlaps. One thing he cannot prepare for, however, is the occurrence of a buzzer-beater or game-saving block.
“For me, I’ve always felt at a big moment, less is more for a broadcaster because your voice is not made [for] those high-intensity calls to go for 20 seconds,” Breen said. “Your voice can crack; who knows what else could happen, but when you make a good, strong concise call at a big moment and then let the crowd take over, I think that’s always been, for me, the best way to go.”
Although he derived his signature three-point call of “Bang!” while sitting in the stands at Fordham Rams games as a student, he did not think it worked on the air. But by the time he was calling a weekly high school basketball game for SportsChannel America, he noticed that the maelstrom of amplified sound within the gyms drowned out his voice during consequential moments. As a result, he resorted back to the monosyllabic exclamation and has stuck with it ever since.
“I’ve just been very careful about not overusing it,” Breen said. “I try to save it for big moments because if I was yelling, ‘Bang!,’ on every three-pointer, it would lose its luster, I believe.”
Breen will call NBA games from a new venue next week in Las Vegas, Nevada – T-Mobile Arena – when the league’s inaugural In-Season Tournament reaches its conclusion and a champion is crowned. The Association introduced the single-elimination endeavor this year in an effort to further incentivize regular-season play and establish a new tradition.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that these In-Season Tournament games bring out a little extra in the players [and] in the fans, and we’re not even at the knockout round yet and this is only the first year,” Breen said. “….To have this kind of excitement in November and then early December, it’s a win-win for everybody.”
Despite the NBA still being in its first half of the season, Breen feels encouraged by the broadcasts he has participated in thus far with Doris Burke and Doc Rivers. After all, he had worked with Burke on the first NBA game she ever broadcast and could tell how talented she was. Moreover, he has been friends with Rivers for over 30 years and speculated that he would be a broadcaster when he was finished playing and coaching.
The network’s lead broadcasting team will embark on a new challenge ahead of their first NBA Playoffs working together next Saturday, Dec. 9 when they broadcast the championship game of the NBA In-Season Tournament on ABC at 8:30 p.m. EST/5:30 p.m. PST.
“It takes a while to get the on-air chemistry, and the three-person booth is not easy for the analyst because they have to figure out a way to still get all their points across with less time, and same thing for me and that’s part of it,” Breen said. “Everybody has to just find their niche, and so far they’ve been great. They’re not only great friends; they’re really talented broadcasters, and I’m really excited about the potential.”
Breen recently signed a four-year contract extension with ESPN that will keep him on the airwaves past the expiration of the network’s current media rights deal with the National Basketball Association. The rationale behind staying with the network had to do with the people at the company, avouching that it is a great place to work and how he is thrilled he will be allowed to stay longer.
“Clearly I’m hoping that they work out a deal and I’m fairly confident they will,” Breen said. “ESPN loves the NBA; the relationship between the league and ESPN has always been wonderful. So I’m rooting hard for them to say ‘Yes’ and sign on the dotted line.”
In 2021, Breen was honored as the recipient of the Curt Gowdy Media Electronic Media Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for his excellence as a broadcaster, one of the highest honors that can be bestowed upon a basketball announcer. Even with various accolades to his name though, Breen’s mission each year is to get better with every broadcast. Complacency and apathy are out of bounds as he lives out a lifelong dream and strives for an outstanding performance no matter the situation.
“You have days where you’re not feeling well; you’ve had a tough travel day; you’ve got issues going on in your life, but then you sit down at half court and they throw the ball up the opening tip,” Breen illustrated. “There’s an adrenaline there that has never gone away.”
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.
How Radio Sellers Can Beat the ‘What’s In It For Me’ Question
We often get caught up in showcasing the bells and whistles of our stations—the audience reach, the sophisticated technology, and the awards we’ve earned — that we don’t answer essential questions.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of talking about technical features and company achievements with radio advertising prospects without considering the essential question: “What’s in it for me?” (WIFM) from the client’s perspective.
We often get caught up in showcasing the bells and whistles of our stations—the audience reach, the sophisticated technology, and the awards we’ve earned.
However, the heartbeat of successful sales isn’t just about these features, it’s about translating them into tangible benefits that directly address the needs and challenges of our potential clients. Here are some common pitfalls in our sales approaches and strategies to get prospects to listen to “WIFM”.
Focusing Solely on Product Features
We all sometimes get caught up in detailing our radio stations’ technical specs and features without translating those features into tangible benefits for the prospect. We love to point out that our all-sports station is on AM and simulcast on digital FM.
We need to connect them directly to the prospect’s needs or problems, which might result in a disconnect.
Instead, we could say that we reach two audiences for the price of one. 45-65-year-olds are on AM, and 25-44-year-olds are on FM. More bang for your buck!
Talking About Company Achievements
While our station won the “Best radio station in XYZ town” award from the local media, which might be impressive, prospects are often more concerned about how these accolades directly benefit them.
We need to bridge the gap between our survey win and how our listeners are proud of listening to the station and will trust the recommendations we give our listeners when it comes to buying from our prospect.
Not tailoring the pitch to suit the prospect’s specific needs or pain points is a huge miss. When we use generic, one-size-fits-all approaches, we miss the opportunity to highlight how their product or service addresses the prospect’s unique challenges or goals.
Don’t tell a car dealer he needs to sell more new cars when he wants more used sales and service business.
Failure to Listen Actively
Sometimes, we focus too much on delivering our deck without actively listening to the prospect’s concerns or desires.
Pay attention to the prospect’s feedback or cues, and maybe even ask them if anything has changed before you start the presentation.
Forget About “Across the Street”
Constantly highlighting how your station is superior to competitors without explaining how it benefits the prospect is counterproductive.
For example, if your station does a limited number of endorsements, tell the prospect they will stand out amongst the other advertisers better cause they are part of a select few live endorsements.
Prospects want to know why your idea is right for them, not just that it’s better than your competition.
What’s the ROI?
A sales pitch that doesn’t explicitly outline the return on investment (ROI) or demonstrate the value the prospect stands to gain falls short.
Running spots can outrun ‘turtle-like’ positive word of mouth or Google reviews, like the Roadrunner. Tell them that.
Too Much TSL or CPM talk
Using industry jargon without explaining its relevance to the prospect’s situation can create confusion or disinterest. Don’t pitch TSL. Tell them they can run fewer spots that have more impact. Your efficient CPM demonstrates that radio can compete with any ad medium and won’t waste money.
Communicate in a language that resonates with the prospect, making the benefits clear and understandable.
No Hit and Run
Our engagement doesn’t end with the initial pitch. Don’t forget to follow up and give them ongoing support and assistance to address any concerns or questions post-sale. By showing them you are in it for them, they will feel valued.
In the sports radio ad sales game, it’s not just about announcing your stats and shoutouts; it’s about hitting a home run with benefits that score with our clients. If our pitch doesn’t answer “What’s in it for me?” (WIFM), we might end up with the L.
So, dive into our clients’ playbook, check their needs, and deliver a play that makes them cheer for you and your station. Tackle the “WIFM” challenge head-on, and don’t worry about targeting so much.
Jeff Caves is a sales columnist for BSM working in radio, digital, hyper-local magazine, and sports sponsorship sales in DFW. He is credited with helping launch, build, and develop SPORTS RADIO The Ticket in Boise, Idaho, into the market’s top sports radio station. During his 26 year stay at KTIK, Caves hosted drive time, programmed the station, and excelled as a top seller. You can reach him by email at [email protected] or find him on Twitter @jeffcaves.