FOX Sports Radio host Jason Smith is a smart dude. It dawned on me during my discussion with him that he’s not just playing chess or checkers, he’s actually playing both games on the air each night. The checkers approach is simple; find ways to entertain listeners and make them laugh. We aren’t splitting atoms and solving the world’s problems. Let’s loosen the collar and enjoy some figurative dessert together. That’s the easy part.
Due to Jason’s timeslot — 7-11pm PT — it would be foolish to discuss the biggest stories of the day while using the same angles as daytime hosts. He and co-host Mike Harmon have to figure out new ways of approaching the top stories. That isn’t easy. Daytime shows can afford to be like pop music while taking a straightforward approach. A nighttime show is more advanced like jazz with key changes midsong. Straightforward becomes repetitive and stale. Fresh and unpredictable is king.
It takes a special talent to blend checkers and chess together. Jason is one of the few that is up for the challenge. An emmy-award winning producer and author, Jason talks about the best piece of sports radio advice he’s received, which is actually quite funny. The worst piece of advice he’s gotten is a great lesson for everybody in the industry. Jason also shares an awesome story about how wood, yes wood, played a major role in his radio career. Enjoy.
Brian Noe: How did your path unfold to where you are now?
Jason Smith: I don’t recommend my path for anybody. [Laughs] I don’t know that it works anywhere but in Los Angeles. I did radio in college at Syracuse. I got out of college and I got a job at ESPN. I was a production assistant, associate producer and I was really enjoying life. It was a great job and I loved it. Then I became a producer at FOX when my wife and I moved to Los Angeles. Everything was awesome. I was going to be a TV person, producer, executive and do all this stuff.
Then something happened — this was the moment where I realized I have to get back and I have to do radio. I was producing Monday Night Live, which was a TV show that aired in Los Angeles after the Monday Night Football games. This was back in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. It was a variety show. Bill Weir was the host. We were doing the first show that night and Bill’s co-host was Ellen K who was on with Ryan Seacrest and before that was on with Rick Dees. This is when she was on with Rick Dees. Bill was going out doing these appearances and as a producer of the show I was there with him to help with the talking points.
We go to — back then it was 1150 in Los Angeles, the only sports talk station I think at the time. We walk in there and Bill does a hit with the people on the air there. Then we go and do a hit on Rick Dees’ show. I’m like wow this is cool. Rick Dees is doing a national morning show. We walked into the studio and I met Rick Dees. I think radio people will understand this, but the smell of the studio — the wood, the equipment, took me all the way back to everything I did in college. At that moment I said to myself I’ve got to get back into radio.
All the things that happened after that, it was the smell of the control room and specifically the wood and seeing the carts, which is what they used to play songs off of. It was just one of those epiphany moments where I knew okay what I’m doing now, I’ve got to stop doing this. Within the next year, I segued from doing that. I was filling in doing sports talk radio in L.A. Ellen K helped me get an introduction with the program director at 1150. That’s where my career went from there. If I don’t walk into Rick Dees’ studio and smell the studio, I’m on a different career path.
BN: Wow, that’s crazy, man. Were you married at the time?
JS: No, my wife and I have been together since the mid-‘90s. We met in Connecticut and we moved out to L.A. together. Then we got married in 2007. We had been together for like 12 years before we got married. We were just lazy.
BN: [Laughs] Okay but you were together when you had this radio epiphany. How did your now-wife take that?
JS: She was incredibly supportive because she knew it was going to mean me quitting my job. Right away she said to me okay well then you have to quit. I said really? She said yeah. I said wow; I was expecting more of a conversation. She said well the first thing I’m going to tell you is your mood is going to change because you seem much happier.
She said producing and what you were doing, you just don’t seem as happy. You’re a little bit shorter with your comments. I can tell at times the way you talk you’re not the happy-go-lucky person that you were.
She was so incredibly supportive because she knew if I was going to leave and do this I had to be open at any time they could call me to fill in. I needed to say yes every single time. They couldn’t call me to fill in and I say, I can’t, I have to work, because they’re going to call somebody else and somebody else is going to get that. So I had to quit. I had to go with no job and just hope that when I was filling in they would keep calling me. They called me enough to fill in where we were able to stay afloat for a while.
Then FOX Sports Radio started and I got in there as a part-time update anchor overnight on the weekends. That was at least a steady paycheck. She was really supportive. Without that I don’t know if I would have been able to do it. Right away there was no conversation. It was okay good. You want to do this? Let’s do it. Without that, I don’t know.
BN: Were you listening to the hosts as an update anchor thinking, ‘This guy stinks. I could do a way better job’?
JS: [Laughs.] I knew I could do it. I had to bide my time because I knew that’s what I wanted to do. It was like okay I have to pay my dues. I have to be an update anchor. I was doing what I wanted to do so I was okay with that. I would get chances here and there to co-host. It was good.
As I noticed what was going on, I was like okay; I’m not seeing anybody reinvent the wheel here. I think I can be pretty good at this and start to figure out my own personality. I knew that I would have my own path. Everybody has their own personality and their own way they do the show. I knew the way I was going to do it, my interests, I had a feeling it was going to hit and it was going to resonate.
BN: Are there things you’re incorporating in your show during the pandemic that you anticipate continuing once more sports return?
JS: Absolutely. I think that we saw the landscape change a bit when it comes to where we’re going to be after COVID-19. Everybody still wants the hits, but you don’t have to play all the hits. You can get outside the box and do something that is fun, that is entertaining, that may be something that everybody is talking about that’s outside of sports because it’s still a hit.
I look at it this way; I did radio as a DJ in college. There were different stickers on all the songs you played. There was a red sticker that was on the hottest songs. Every two hours you played a red. Then every four hours you played a song with a white sticker on it because that was a song that was either on the way up to being popular, or it was popular and now it’s on the way down. I think in sports talk radio it used to be where we’ve got to play all the reds and we’ve got to play the whites. But really you just have to play the reds.
The reds can be all the big sports stuff going on and outside of it because the more time goes on, the more the line is blurred between sports and other topics. I’d rather spend two minutes talking about how it’s the big 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back than if I’m doing a story about something that Dwight Howard may have said earlier in the day. I think that appeals to more people. It’s more fun for me and I think it’s something that is a little bit outside the box that gets a little unpredictable.
BN: The “stick to sports” crowd used to be a lot more vocal in the past. Now that we’re unbuttoning the top button and straying outside of sports during the pandemic, do you anticipate listener habits changing where they might want hosts to loosen up if sports conversations get too serious in the future?
JS: Oh yeah. That top button, then the next button, then the next button, and suddenly it’s chest hair, and it’s a big medallion. What’s going to happen is we’re going to see when sports returns there’s going to be that initial rush just to get back to what people are used to and that is the breaking down of games. Obviously with the NBA playoffs coming up really quick it’s going to be okay, what do we think about that? But once we get past that it’s going to be you know, I kind of like sometimes when it’s not so serious and every topic is not life or death.
I think people deal with a lot of negative stuff now and everybody’s lives have changed forever. Can you still listen to people screaming at each other for three hours? I don’t think you can.
I think you can listen to people doing that for a little while, but eventually you’re going to say okay I’m ready for something else. I think that something else is going to be much more in the form of entertainment and doing things that are going to make people laugh. I’m glad about that because I know we can do that well. I don’t know that everybody can, but I think that’s going to be the way that sports talk radio kind of segues. A morning show type atmosphere might permeate itself into a midday show, an afternoon show, a night show. I think you might see the tone of shows change.
BN: In what ways does your approach differ between your normal nighttime show and when you fill in on daytime shows?
JS: The biggest thing is that when I’m doing the show during the day — if I’m in for Dan Patrick let’s just say — the big stories are there. It’s meat and potatoes and we’re eating. We’re driving opinions and entertaining and you’re not really thinking as much. When I do the show at night, I have to sit back and think what’s a way to talk about something that’s still a big story, that everybody wants to hear, that is 10 hours old? While I can’t just go completely off the deep end and talk about something that really doesn’t relate, I have to find different ways to bring up the same big story. I’ve got to give you more at night to make you think about it and do it a little bit different.
BN: What’s some of the best advice you’ve gotten over the years?
JS: Oh, I’ll tell you the best piece of advice I got was from JT the Brick. We were at FOX together. This is when I was coming up and I was trying to get opportunities. One thing I couldn’t figure out was how could I get myself in the position to get an opportunity to succeed. How can I go from part-time update anchor to fill-in show host? How do I go from fill-in show host to weekend show host? How do I go from weekend show host to five-day-a-week show host? How do I do these things?
He said let me tell you something, you will get more opportunities because people in front of you blow up and can’t handle success than you will on your own merit. I said you’re kidding. He goes no, trust me; you will get more opportunities because of that.
This advice he gave me was probably 15 years ago. Sure enough I look up and I go yep I got that job because a host and a co-host got in a fistfight and I got a job the next day. I got the next job because the host of the show didn’t want to do the whole show live and put the whole show on tape and they didn’t like that, so okay I get it. That has been true for 15 years is that people will blow up in front of you and that’s the opportunity you get to move up more so than hey, this guy’s doing a really good job, what can we do for him?
BN: What was the worst advice you’ve received?
JS: One of my managers at ESPN. ESPN was tough because when I was there they really only wanted to promote three shows. They wanted to promote Mike and Mike, Colin, and Dan Patrick. That was it. I understand that these are the moneymaker shows, but I still wanted a chance. I wanted to move up and I wanted people to know what we were doing. Being on overnight I wanted to make sure people knew hey we did this. We had this interview on. This is doing really well. We would send down information to our bosses. Here’s what we did last night and just let people know what our show was doing.
I had a manager tell me listen I understand that but don’t do that. Let me praise you. Let me go into meetings and praise you because that’s what’s going to cut through is if I go in and say something good about you. I said okay.
After that my career just stalled at ESPN. It absolutely stalled. I didn’t really know where to go from there. It was tough. I was at the point where I’m like okay I’ve been doing AllNight for a long time and I can’t light myself on fire. It was very difficult to get noticed. I said okay let me back off. I backed off and nothing happened. That was the worst advice ever.
Whenever I talk to someone and they ask me a question about hey what’s a piece of advice, one of the things I tell them is you have to make sure people know what you’re doing. You can’t trust anybody else. You’re going to be the best champion of yourself and you have to make sure that you’re the one in charge of that. If you want to make sure people know something you’re doing, you have to make sure to tell them. That was just horrible advice. It really hurt and it stalled me out of ESPN.
BN: Is there anything in the future that you want to do specifically or is your mindset more about the next show, the next day, the future will take care of itself?
JS: Well I kind of have a short-term and a long-term. I think mainly toward the next show. I’m a content guy and I concern myself with what are we doing tonight. How are we going to cut through? What are we doing in this next segment? What are we doing in the next hour? That’s the main thing. I know because of that a lot of other things take care of themselves. We’ve been on a very good run the past few years. It’s been a really great ride.
In the future, there are a couple of things I think about. At some point I think I would love to do mornings. Whether it’s locally here in L.A., I’d like to do that, but I’m having so much fun with what I’m doing now. It’s terrific. It’s really fun doing this at night. I’ve done nights most of my life.
Outside of that, I’ve been writing a lot. I love to blog about TV. That’s another big passion of mine and something I would really like to be able to do. I’d like to get my second novel published too. Those are the things that I look at in the future.
Mainly it’s every day what are we doing with the show and obviously now how we’re going to navigate COVID-19 and post COVID-19 realities. Down the road those are a couple of things I’m thinking about. I kind of wonder what that would be like. It’s not something that actively I’m looking at and going okay what are we going to do to make this happen? Where I’m at right now I really enjoy it and just enjoy the day to day.
Tricia Whitaker Will Find The Story That Matters
“My role is to really bring the viewers down to that level of the dugout and into the clubhouse.”
When St. Louis Cardinals designated hitter Albert Pujols hit his 700th career home run in his final season in the majors last September, the baseball world erupted in mass jubilation. Although the milestone achievement occurred during a road game, the fans still showered one of the sport’s quintessential athletes with praise as they witnessed the fourth player enter this exclusive pinnacle of power hitters. For fans watching from afar, they were treated with crisp, vivid footage of the moment since the matchup was exclusive to Apple TV+ as a part of its Friday Night Baseball slate of games.
The game broadcast featured field reporter Tricia Whitaker, who had just joined the Apple TV+ presentations to begin the second half of the season. Being there as one of the voices tasked with keeping viewers informed and captivated by the action was a special experience that she will never forget.
“You’re talking about the best cameras in the entire world capturing one of the most iconic players ever,” Whitaker said. “I thought the call was amazing; I thought the quality of the shots was amazing [and] I’l never forget that broadcast, ever, because it was so cool.”
Whitaker grew up in Bloomington, Ind. and would journey to Wrigley Field with her father once per summer to watch the Chicago Cubs. Through those games, she realized that a ballpark was her ideal future workplace.
“We just didn’t have a ton of money, [so] I would sit in the nosebleeds with him once a summer and that was the biggest treat in the world,” Whitaker said. “I just realized that I loved telling stories and I loved sports, so I decided to do that.”
Whitaker’s journey in the industry genuinely began as an undergraduate student at Indiana University Bloomington where she adopted a mindset to seize any opportunities offered to her. Despite having no knowledge or previous reporting experience, she accepted a role to cover a tennis match and quickly started preparing. After one of her professors saw her nascent media acumen, they recommended she audition for the university’s student television station to hone her skills. Whitaker earned a spot and began covering Indiana Hoosiers basketball and football for the show Hoosier Sports Night. From there, she simply kept on accepting anything in her purview.
“Your best asset is your availability, so I basically just said ‘Yes’ to everything,” Whitaker articulated.
Once it became time to search for a full-time position, her experience and tenacity helped her land a role at WBAY-TV in Green Bay as a sports reporter and anchor. After two football seasons working there, Whitaker relocated closer to home to report for WTTV-TV Channel 4 in Indianapolis. The time was valuable for her to cultivate new relationships with those around the industry while strengthening existing ones, serving as a foundational aspect of her reporting.
“If they don’t trust you to tell their stories, they’re not going to talk to you,” Whitaker said. “You have to be able to have a good relationship with the players; with the coaches and everybody involved.”
At the same time, Whitaker felt compelled to make a lasting contribution to Indiana University through teaching and inspiring the next generation of journalists. She is now an adjunct professor for the IU Media School and wants her students to know how integral it is to make themselves available while being open and willing to try new things to make inroads into the profession.
“There’s always a story to be told, so even if it’s a random event that you don’t think anyone’s paying attention to, there’s people there; there’s human stories and their stories matter,” Whitaker said. “That’s what I always try to tell my students is [to] just find that story that makes people interested in it and find that story that matters.”
Over the years working in these dual roles, Whitaker became more skilled in her position and proceeded to audition to join the Tampa Bay Rays’ broadcast crew on Bally Sports Sun as a field reporter. When she received news that she had landed the coveted job, she remembers starting to cry in her closet while trying to organize her clothes. After all, Whitaker had just learned that she would get to perform the role she idolized when she was young. The access her role gives her to the players and coaches on the field is not taken for granted.
“I’ll interview hitting coaches about a guy’s hands and where they’ve moved and about his stance,” Whitaker said. “….In the next hit, I’ll tell a story about a guy who drinks a smoothie every day before the game and he feels [that] putting spinach in it has really made a difference or something like that. My reporting style is pretty much all of it, but I do like to do the human interest stories more than I like to do anything else because I think that’s unique.”
After each Rays win, Whitaker takes the field and interviews one of the players on the team. Earlier in the season, she remembers speaking with Rays outfielder Jose Siri after he drove in three runs against the Detroit Tigers; however, the broadcast was not on Bally Sports Sun. Instead, she was doing the interview for Friday Night Baseball on Apple TV+, a national broadcast property the company pays MLB an estimated $85 million annually to carry. Going into the interview, Whitaker knew that she would need to appeal to more than just Rays fans and appropriately started the conversation by asking about the game.
Yet she also knew that it was “Salsa Night” at Comerica Park in Detroit and thanks to her work with the regional network, was cognizant of the fact that Siri likes to dance in the dugout. As a result, she concluded the interview with a request for Siri to demonstrate his salsa dancing skills, something that made an ordinary conversation stand out.
“I tried to personalize it a little bit to help people get to know Jose Siri a little bit better because I think that’s important,” Whitaker said. “….You make sure you talk about baseball, but then you add a little flair to it; add a little personality to it. Everybody loves salsa, right?”
The Apple broadcasts require Whitaker to prepare as she executes her role with the Rays, keeping her wholly invested and consumed by baseball. There are occasions where she is afforded the luxury of reporting on Rays games for her Friday night assignment, but they are rare. Therefore, she needs to become familiar with two teams by reviewing statistics, reading local reporting and conversing with those involved. She keeps her notes on her cell phone and makes lists of what she is going to do during the day to keep herself organized and focused.
Throughout the week, Whitaker actively prepares for the Friday night matchup and meets with her producer to contribute her ideas and learn about the macro vision of the broadcast. The Apple broadcast, aside from using high-caliber technology, also regularly equips microphones to place on players that allow viewers to hear what is transpiring on the field. Whitaker, along with play-by-play announcer Alex Faust and color commentator Ryan Spilborghs, coordinate with the production team throughout the game to present an insightful and compelling final product.
There was criticism of the Apple TV+ live game baseball broadcasts during its inaugural season, but the noise continues to diminish in its sophomore campaign. Whitaker views her role as accruing a confluence of stories about the game and more insightful looks at the personalities on the field. Before each contest, she interviews a player in the dugout and asks questions that put the season in context, granting a comprehensive understanding about a subset of their journey.
“We try to get their thoughts on the season so far at the plate, but also try to get to know them on a personal level,” Whitaker said. “My role is to really bring the viewers down to that level of the dugout and into the clubhouse.”
It is considerably more facile to execute such a task before the game than it is during gameplay because of the introduction of the pitch clock. While it has undoubtedly sped up the game and made the product more appealing for fans of all ages, its actualization threatened the viability of unique aspects of baseball broadcasts. The Apple TV+ crew may work together once per week, but over a 162-game season spanning parts of seven months, there is a perdurable bond and unyielding chemistry evident therein.
“Everybody on that crew – and I seriously mean this – is so supportive no matter who you are as long as you do your job well,” Whitaker said. “They don’t even think about the fact that I’m a female in sports [and] they just support me. They help me take constructive criticism because they care and because they truly see me as an equal.”
Whitaker has had the chance to report from Wrigley Field with Apple TV+ and vividly remembers her experience of stepping inside as a media member for the first time. It was a surreal full-circle moment that has been the result of years of determination and persistence to make it to the major leagues.
“I walked into Wrigley and I started to tear up because I remember when my dad and I used to go there and I was 12 years old,” Whitaker stated. “If you would have told me at 12 years old [that] I would be doing a national game at Wrigley, I would have told you [that] you were lying because I just wouldn’t have thought that was a possibility.”
Although Whitaker is receptive to potentially hosting regular sports programming in the future, she has found the joy in her roles with both the Tampa Bay Rays and Apple TV+. Being able to experience historic moments, including Pujols’ milestone home run, and then diving deeper into the situation makes the countless flights, hotel stays and lack of a genuine respite worthwhile. She hopes to continue seamlessly fulfilling her responsibility this Friday night when the New York Mets face the Philadelphia Phillies at 6:30 p.m. EST/3:30 p.m. PST, exclusively on Apple TV+.
“There’s always a story to be told, and if you’re good at your job, you’re going to find that story even on a day where you’re like, ‘Oh gosh, there’s nothing going on,’” Whitaker said. “I take that pretty seriously.”
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.
Radio Advertising Can be the Secret Weapon For In-House Digital Marketers
“The trend of businesses gaining digital marketing proficiency presents a unique opportunity for YOU.”
Remember when in-house marketers were primarily focused on traditional media and needed help navigating the digital and social media landscape? Well, the tables are turning!
The rise of digital-savvy in-house marketers is opening up exciting opportunities for radio ad salespeople. As local businesses increasingly invest in digital marketing, some are finding they need your expertise in radio advertising.
Borrell Associates has released their latest Business Barometer, and included in the findings was a slight but noticeable shift favoring traditional forms of broadcast media. Let’s dive into how sports and news radio ad salespeople can leverage this shift to target businesses with proficient digital marketing people on board who may need to know more about the potential of radio advertising.
1. Digital-Marketing Trending UP!
Borrell Associates’ recent findings indicate that businesses are increasingly proficient in digital marketing. They are adeptly managing their websites and social media channels, driving results through online campaigns. However, this digital surge doesn’t necessarily translate to expertise in traditional media, such as radio. Hey, do you know a business like that? And make sure you know of an outsourced digital agency you can refer who can handle your clients’ digital and social media for very few dollars. You can help manage the rest of the budget!
2. Target In-House Buyers
Make a list of businesses you know that have in-house people who are digital-oriented or younger owners who handle mostly digital advertising independently. Or, how about the in-house marketing person who only takes on marketing initiatives like events or sales promotion and knows nothing about advertising? Get ’em!
3. We create demand
One of the unique selling points of radio is its ability to generate demand and send more customers to Google or your client’s website. Digital marketing can often direct buyers seeking a specific purchase but can’t create lasting impressions and build demand and loyalty like your station. Use this advantage to demonstrate how radio can reinforce the brand story and enhance the effectiveness of digital campaigns.
4. Surround the listener
Recognize that businesses with digital marketing expertise may want holistic solutions. Sell packages that combine digital and radio advertising. Include your streaming endorsements with social media and geo-fencing. They get it and will be impressed with reaching their target audience across multiple touchpoints.
5. Be the Teacher
Your prospects may be experts in digital marketing, but they might not fully understand the potential of radio advertising. Take on the role of an educator. Provide resources, case studies, and success stories that showcase how your station and radio have boosted digital-savvy businesses’ results.
6. 1+1=3 for Creativity
Collaboration is key when working with clients with a digital marketing team. Involve them in the creative process of writing and producing radio ads. Creativity could be their strength, and they will bring fresh perspectives to your production.
The trend of businesses gaining digital marketing proficiency presents a unique opportunity for YOU. Maybe your client is struggling with their digital strategy. Imagine that now they may be seeking you out to help them understand what they have already read about buying radio advertising. It’s time to adapt your approach and position radio as a complementary and powerful tool in the digital marketing person toolkit.
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.
Bill Parcells Shaped The Media By Giving Them Hell
“Parcells doesn’t belong in a studio chatting with a quarterback. He belongs in a temper tantrum screaming at a sportswriter.”
Two of the most talked about media stories of the past couple of weeks intersect in the form of one legendary NFL head coach – Bill Parcells.
In the wake of Aaron Rodgers’ potentially season-ending Achilles injury in Week 1 of the NFL season, many media pundits harkened back to 1999 when then-Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde suffered a similar injury in the first game of the season. Like Rodgers, Testaverde was a veteran signal-caller looking to bring the long-suffering Jets to a Super Bowl.
One week after Rodgers’ injury, Los Angeles Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley was in the media mechanism for an exchange with a reporter after his club fell to 0-2. Staley took issue with a query about whether the team’s monumental playoff collapse last season versus Jacksonville has carried over to their slow start this season.
ESPN’s First Take included video of Staley’s comment on their September 19 show building it up as some rash, heated interaction between coach and press. It was not. In fact, Staley merely directly answered the question asserting this season has nothing to do with last season.
Both of these headlines find common ground in the person of Bill Parcells. Parcells was the head coach of the Jets in 1999 when Testaverde’s season ended in that fateful game vs. New England. In addition, he was notorious for some truly vitriolic run-ins with post-game reporters.
Forget about Staley or even the infamous press conference rants of Jim Mora (“Playoffs!?”), Herm Edwards (“You play to win the game!”), and Dennis Green (“Crown ‘em!”). To the media, Parcells was Armageddon, Three Mile Island, and Hurricane Katrina rolled into one. Never has there been a football character so inexplicably loved and despised.
In New England, Parcells’s arrival as head coach of the Patriots in 1993 signaled the turnaround of the franchise, but fans refuse to vote him into the team’s Hall of Fame because of his unceremonious jump from to the Jets after the 1996 season.
When that happened, Parcells again grasped the media spotlight stating, “If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.” He was referring to new owner Bob Kraft taking final say personnel decisions away from Parcells.
Like him or not, Parcells, known as The Tuna, rejuvenated five NFL franchises. The New York Giants were a mishmash of Joe Pisarciks and Earnest Grays before Parcells turned them into two-time champions.
Patriot fans actually cheered for the likes of Hugh Millen and Eugene Chung until Parcells came to town and brought in players like Drew Bledsoe, Ty Law, Willie McGinest, Adam Vinatieri, and Tedy Bruschi, laying the foundation for a dynasty.
And the Jets? They were living off the fumes of Joe Namath’s Brut 33 until Bill Parcells constructed a team that went from 1-15 in 1996 under Rich Kotite to 9-7 and 12-4 in 1997 and 1998 respectively with Parcells.
The Cowboys were 5-11 under Dave Campo in 2002. The next year, they went 10-6 with Parcells. Miami was 1-15 in 2007. The next year, with Parcells as executive VP of Football ops, they won the AFC East with an 11-5 record.
The Catholic church has its Apostle’s Creed. Those who follow the gospel of The Tuna have A Parcells Creed, and it goes as follows: I believe if a reporter asks Parcells if he outcoached a colleague, that reporter will be called a “dumb ass.” I believe that the media are “commies” and “subversive from within” as Parcells once labeled them.
I believe in using the media to denigrate young players to keep their egos in check. After Jets QB Glenn Foley had a solid preseason performance a few years back, the New York media surrounded the redheaded QB as if he had won the Super Bowl.
Parcells walked right in front of Foley and sarcastically asked, “Do you mind if I get past Sonny Jurgensen over here,” referring to the similarly redheaded Redskin quarterbacking legend.
In 1995, when all of New England was agog over a rookie running back named Curtis Martin, Parcells slyly commented to the press, “Well, we’re not carving his bust for Canton just yet.” And of course, there was the late Terry Glenn. When asked how the former Patriot wideout was recovering from an injury, the Tuna spouted, “She’s doing just fine.”
Parcells’ stints as a studio analyst on ESPN, although insightful, seemed out of place. He would sit there, dressed in a dark blue suit talking strategy with fellow ESPN gabber Steve Young. Honestly, he looked like a rotund funeral director searching for someone to embalm.
Parcells doesn’t belong in a studio chatting with a quarterback. He belongs in a temper tantrum screaming at a sportswriter.
I interviewed Boston media personality Steve DeOssie about Parcells. DeOssie was the defensive signal caller for the New York Giants (1989-93) when Parcells was the team’s head coach. He again played for Parcells in New England in 1994.
He told me, “Parcells realizes that the media is the enemy. Let’s face it, the media cannot do anything positive for a team, but they can put stuff out there that could lose a game. The bottom line with Parcells is whether it helps his team win.”
“He loves the camera and the camera loves him. He enjoys that part of the business. The media can spin it any way they want. Parcells does not suffer fools gladly and a lot of media types don’t like being called out in press conferences.”
Another Boston media legend also gave me his reflections of Parcells. Bob Lobel is the most revered sports anchor of all-time in New England. He stated, “I did a one-on-one interview with Parcells awhile back. He is so down to earth yet has this aura. It’s easy to be in awe of him.”
The national perspective is similar. When Troy Aikman was an analyst for FOX Sports, the current Monday Night Football color commentator credited Parcells with restacking the Cowboys’ roster and bringing winning back to Dallas.
When asked about playing for Parcells with the Jets, FS1’s Keyshawn Johnson offered, “He taught me how to do things, how to pay attention.”
Even people whom Parcells fired maintain a respect for him. Sirius NFL Radio’s Pat Kirwan was the director of player administration for the Jets when Parcells arrived in 1997.
Kirwan told me, “Parcells rebuilds a franchise from top to bottom. He evaluates everyone from the trainers to the doctors to the equipment guys. In 1997 when Bill came to the Jets, I knew I was qualified, but I also knew that Bill would let me go.”
In a September 12, 2023 story, New York Post reporter Brian Costello interviewed Parcells about the Rodgers injury.
This master of media mind games famous for the quote, “You don’t get any medal for trying,” revealed his visceral core telling Costello, “You are charged with winning games under any circumstances … They’re not canceling the games. They’re not canceling them. You’re coaching them. It’s your job to get your team ready to play to the best of their ability.”
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.
Barrett Media Writers
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