Ryan McGee Wanted To Eat Pizza With His Dad & Brother
“We basically grew up on college campuses and with Dad being a college official and administrator, that’s what we grew up talking about around the dinner table. Football was something our family bonded over.”
For some people, football is nothing more than a game. For the McGee family, it is a way of life. Family patriarch Dr. Jerry McGee was a prominent college football official, so his sons Ryan and Sam learned lessons from their father that go beyond the gridiron and can be applied to everyday life.
“The biggest thing I learned from Dad is to take a beat and process what your eyes just saw before making a decision, whether it’s throwing a penalty flag or anything else in life,” Ryan McGee says. “He taught me that it was always better to be accurate than to be first and have made a mistake.”
That lesson has served Ryan McGee well throughout his long and successful career in sports media where his primary focuses are NASCAR and college football. He is currently the co-host of the popular ESPN program Marty & McGee with Marty Smith, but has been involved with a litany of other projects, including The Bottom 10, a podcast, and regular contributions to the SEC Network to name a few. Whether it is as a print or digital journalist or as a radio and TV personality, McGee has diversified himself into many aspects of the industry. No matter the medium, however, he always goes back to lessons learned from his father.
“In everything I do, I just try to be fair,” McGee said. “People may not always agree with what I say or write and that’s ok. My goal is not to have people agree with me or to say something just to get clicks or viewers but to cover a story in a way where people say, ‘I don’t agree with him, but he was thorough, made a logical argument and did it fairly’. ”
Many of those lessons from his father, along with stories and experiences from Jerry McGee’s career are chronicled in a new book, Sidelines and Bloodlines, which Ryan co-wrote with his brother. The forward was penned by Ryan McGee’s ESPN colleague Rece Davis.
“We had a blast writing the book together,” McGee said. “We all lead such busy lives it was just an excuse to sit down with my Dad and my brother, share a pizza and some stories. Between the three of us, we have seven college degrees and I barley have one. My main job was just to write everything down and spell everything correctly.”
Even with the publication of a full length book, McGee says his father still has plenty of stories to tell and lessons to teach.
“Dad will be doing a radio interview and he will tell a story or say something that I have never heard before. I’m like, ‘dang it Dad. Why didn’t you tell me that? It should have been in the book’.”
His father planted the seeds, but McGee’s passion for sports that would eventually bloom into a successful career, were watered in his hometown of Rockingham, North Carolina. Even though he moved a lot due to his dad’s profession as a college administrator, McGee said his love of NASCAR began in the shadows of Rockingham Speedway.
“Marty Smith tells me all the time that I claim so many hometowns, I’m like (Country Music artist) Kenny Chesney. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite team because it seems like I have one no matter where I go,” McGee said.
“But living in Rockingham was everything (for me loving NASCAR). As with most things, everything goes back to Dad. He was in the National Guard in the ‘60’s. He was scrubbing toilets and there was a guy scrubbing toilets next to him whose name was Dave. He claimed to be a race car driver. They got to talking and Dave said that when he came to Rockingham he needed a gas can man and would call him up. Dad did not pay that much attention to it. Five years later, the phone rings and Dave turns out to be Dave Marcus. He is going to be in the Winston Cup and needed a gas can man. I grew up with Dad being a gas can man at the local races. NASCAR was always in the background.”
McGee’s love of college football began similarly.
“We basically grew up on college campuses and with Dad being a college official and administrator, that’s what we grew up talking about around the dinner table. Football was something our family bonded over. We lived in Raleigh when I was around 12 and in the 80’s ACC football was big. We got behind the scenes access and saw the game from a different perspective. We learned football in a completely different way from most people.”
Having a dad as a prominent college official led to many unusual experiences for McGee.
“When he coached our Little League or Pop Warner teams, he never took it easy on the umpires,” McGee said. “They really couldn’t say anything to him because he called the Georgia-Clemson game on National TV the week before. I also learned how to cuss by going to games and listening to people yell at Dad.”
It was that behind the scenes contact with NASCAR and college football, along with his Southern roots, that gave McGee an advantage to start his career.
“I was fresh out of college in 1994, just starting at ESPN,” McGee said. “Jeff Gordon had just won the Brickyard 400, so NASCAR was getting really big. Rece Davis, one producer and I were the only ones from the South. They came to me and said ‘you’re from Rockingham. You must know a lot about NASCAR.’ The truth is, I didn’t know as much as I probably should have, but I knew more than they did. So Rece and I started work on a program, RPM2Nite on ESPN 2.”
McGee’s career mirrors a NASCAR track itself, with a lot of twist and turns. Along with RPM2Nite, McGee became a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine, eventually climbing the ranks to Senior Writer. From 2001-03, McGee made the jump to rival Fox Sports, where he produced Totally NASCAR and then spent five more years as the head of the NASCAR Media Group. During that span, McGee brought home a pair of Sports Emmys in 2007 and 2008 while writing the script for Dale (a documentary on the late Dale Earnhardt) in 2007. But ESPN came calling again.
“I’m an ESPN-lifer,” McGee said. “Even when my career took me other places, I was looking for a way to get back in. I’m going to keep going as long as I can.”
McGee credits his longevity to adaptability and his diverse skill set.
“The days of being a one trick pony are over,” he said. “I know many extremely talented writers who are out of work right now because that’s all they do. It’s not a knock on them. That’s just how the industry has changed.”
The perfect example of that change is ESPN The Magazine, which ceased print production in September of 2019.
“I got a little emotional working on that last issue,” McGee said. “I was a little sad but mostly proud of the 20 years of high-quality storytelling we had in every issue. I had a byline in issue # 4 and one in the final issue. I think Rece and I are the only ones still around from the beginning. Working on the magazine was a lot of fun.”
In fact, writing a 2009 magazine article on Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt led McGee to the most memorable experience of his career so far.
“They sent me out to Jamaica just before the Track & Field Word Championships,” McGee said. “I was only supposed to spend one hour with him (Bolt), but I ended up spending three days. This isn’t at some resort. We are way back in the mountains and he is visiting with kids in poverty stricken areas. I am out of touch with everybody. Nobody could get to me.
“While I was there watching Usain Bolt win four events in his home stadium, some other guy named Ryan McGee overdosed at a party in Lake Norman (North Carolina). Word gets out that Ryan McGee of ESPN is dead. Everybody’s calling my phone, but I don’t have a signal. I land at Myrtle Beach when I get back and my phone just goes crazy. I call a friend of mine who works at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway to find out what in the world is going on. He’s like, ‘oh my gosh, you’re alive.’ He runs into the media room and yells, ‘McGee’s alive!!! McGee’s alive!!!’ That was my Paul McCartney moment.”
As much as McGee enjoys reminiscing over memories of ESPN The Magazine, he says it is time to look to the future and he believes the future of sports is bright.
“You know, sports are supposed to be fun,” McGee said. “With the pandemic and the much needed calls for social change coming from athletes, people seem to have forgotten that. But now that seems to be coming back. People are reaching out to me, giving me ideas or telling me which teams to consider for The Bottom 10. They are having fun with it and that’s good to see.”
“Fun” is the driving force behind the success of Marty & McGee, along with the chemistry between the two co-hosts.
“Marty & McGee was born out of a road trip we took to Martinsville for a race. We have the same sense of humor and we were just talking and giggling over nothing,” McGee said “I thought people might actually enjoy hearing this and that’s what we pitched to ESPN. After every show, we look at each other like ‘can you believe we got to talk about that and have that much fun on National TV and people watched it?’ ”
McGee says Smith’s energy and enthusiasm in particular, are what connects with viewers.
“I feel like I have known Marty Smith my whole life,” McGee said. “We can’t even remember the first time we met. What you see is what you get. People ask me all the time if he is really like that in real life. Yes, he is. He is authentic. The same energy he has on the show, he also has at four o’clock in the morning visiting schools that have made the NCAA Tournament, and in a text message at 10 pm. Sometimes it’s intense, but it is totally genuine.”
McGee also understands that it is his duty to strike a delicate balance, having fun, while at the same time reporting and offering commentary on some serious issues.
“Some of the things like NASCAR allowing drivers to kneel during the National Anthem or the other drivers supporting Bubba Wallace, that’s news. You cover it just like anything else,” McGee said. “The column I wrote about NASCAR banning the Confederate Flag, that’s my opinion. I didn’t write it to get clicks or to popular. I wrote it because it was time for the flag to go. I knew some people would not be happy about it and that’s fine, but it wound up being one of the most read pieces I had ever written.”
McGee adds that the removal of the flag has opened NASCAR to a new demographic and believes the sport can still stay true to its Southern roots.
“Michael Jordan doesn’t get involved with NASCAR without that flag coming down or Bubba Wallace being a driver,” he said. “For years, Brad Daugherty tried to get his friends to come to races. They wouldn’t because they assumed certain things that are not true about NASCAR because of the flag. Now they are giving it a chance and they are falling in love with it. The sport is growing. A lot of these new fans are as Southern as Grits and Sweet Tea, so I don’t think it will lose its Southern roots or appeal by welcoming new fans. I’m excited for the future of NASCAR.”
As for McGee’s future, he has no plans to slow down anytime soon.
“I’m going to keep going as long as I can. I love what I do,” he said. “I want to keep doing Marty & McGee for sure. When I do retire, I want people to be able to say two things about my work – that it was fun and that it was fair. That’s the goal with everything I do and I hope that’s what people remember about my work.”
Jacob Conley writes about news/talk radio BNM. He can be found on Twitter @GWUJake or reach him by email at email@example.com.
Ian Rapoport Is Competing Against Everyone
“When I’m working, when I’m not working – my brain is still going on overdrive.”
The 2023 NFL Draft was a weekend filled with speculation, intrigue and musing among football fans and experts alike. After two quarterbacks were selected with the first two picks – C.J. Stroud by the Jacksonville Jaguars; and Bryce Young by the Houston Texans – Ian Rapoport had the inclination that something was about to break at the event in Kansas City.
The third pick of the night was held by the Arizona Cardinals, but through previous intel, Rapoport knew there was a chance the team would trade it. His phone then lit up with a text message from a source that simply read, “Texans trading.” Receiving a message of this magnitude takes years of networking, credibility and immense trust from the people you cover. Rapoport has worked hard to attain all of them.
He replied by asking, “Did the Texans trade up to three?,” as the team was not set to pick again until No. 12 overall. Once he got confirmation of the scenario, he began to visibly shake in excitement and captured the attention of the NFL Network team.
“I sit there with a camera in front of me that’s not always on air – this is during the Draft – and the producer gets in my ear and he goes, ‘Can you go on air with whatever you have?,’ and I just say, ‘Yes.’” Rapoport recalled. “And then I hear Rich Eisen go, ‘Ian, you have news,’ and I was able to break that the Texans have traded up to three to go get Will Anderson.”
This is the craft through which Rapoport has cultivated a successful journalism career, ultimately distinguishing him as NFL Network’s goto insider. He hardly ever separates himself from the job, equipped with an unparalleled work ethic to ensure he can communicate messages accurately and in a timely manner. While some people may argue that he is in direct competition with others in his position, such as Adam Schefter of ESPN, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports and Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk and NBC Sports, the reality of the situation is that it is Rapoport vs. the world.
“It’s such a small world now and everyone is interconnected – and with Twitter, literally anyone could break a story and have it go viral,” Rapoport said. “Obviously, you want everything first, but really you’re competing against everyone that exists because anyone could get the story at any moment.”
Work-life balance in such a role is usually quite insurmountable in today’s dynamic, interminable breaking news environment. Rapoport strives to find some level of normalcy in his life by playing golf and attending his sons’ sporting events. In the end though, he knows the world of football never sleeps, and it is up to him to remain in the know at all hours of the day, essentially always on standby to break the next big story.
“I do not turn my phone off because that’s actually way more stressful,” Rapoport said. “At least now when my phone’s on and near me, if something crazy happens, I can react rather than having a fake relaxation moment and then being caught off guard with something.”
Rapoport recognized that journalism was the field for him almost immediately after stepping onto the Columbia University campus. He worked his way up at The Dial to ultimately become its associate sports editor. In the summer preceding his senior year, he landed a coveted internship with ESPN where he gained invaluable experience in the world of television production.
By the time he graduated, Rapoport envisioned himself becoming a nationally acclaimed sportswriter, but he knew it was going to require he start small. Three hundred eleven job applications and two interviews later, he landed a part-time role with The Journal News in Westchester, N.Y. covering high school sports. It gave him a start in the highly-competitive business – and kept him close to home while trying many new things.
Two years later, he found himself moving from the bright lights of New York City to the quaint town of Starkville, Mississippi for a notable opportunity. He had landed a job covering the Mississippi State Bulldogs for The Clarion-Ledger in the nearby capital city of Jackson and was under the direction of sports editor Rusty Hampton.
“I knew how to write, but I really didn’t know how to report,” Rapoport said. “He was probably the best [at] showing me, ‘This is all about reporting. It’s all about telling people something they don’t know rather than how well you can pen a sentence.’ To be really valuable to society or your newspaper, you really need to inform rather than entertain. I think he was probably the first and best person to teach me that.”
After spending two years in Mississippi, Rapoport became a beat reporter for The Birmingham News tasked with following the Alabama Crimson Tide. Just months into his new role, the program made a coaching change and hired Nick Saban, who has since led the program to six national titles.
Rapoport learned the thoroughness necessary to cover the Southeastern Conference as he rapidly watched the program become a perennial contender. In turn, he became an eminent college football reporter and his work began to be consumed nationally.
Simultaneously, Bill Belichick, another accomplished football head coach in his own right, was in the process of trying to lead the New England Patriots back to championship glory. Known to be stoic and restrained in his press conferences, reporters asking him questions knew extrapolating answers was not the easiest of tasks.
When Rapoport saw a job opening to cover the team with the Boston Herald that required NFL experience, he knew that he was not qualified verbatim per se. Yet he figured the experience he had in covering Saban and Alabama would serve him well in the role, and articulated such in a protracted email to the newspaper’s editors. His strategy worked, proving why Rapoport is considered one of the industry’s best communicators at the micro and macro levels.
“You don’t see a lot of sources within the Patriots or sources within Alabama – there’s not a lot of that,” Rapoport said. “So I learned to report despite that and kind of work the edges and get the information I needed, despite head coaches who weren’t always the most forthcoming with information.”
NFL Network oftentimes has local beat reporters on the air to interact with studio talent and give their perspectives about teams, and it was something Rapoport did while at the Boston Herald. He had no television experience outside of other appearances he made on Comcast New England and certainly no intention to pursue the medium as a career.
In Super Bowl XLVI, the New York Giants overcame the New England Patriots, who were undefeated for the year entering the game. Rapoport was on hand for the proceedings, and shortly afterwards was called into a meeting with NFL Network executives.
He didn’t know he was interviewing for a job until he asked just why he had been summoned. He expressed his lack of television experience to the executives, who said the network would teach him everything he needed to know.
Once the meeting concluded, Rapoport called his wife, who he had met while living in Starkville, Mississippi, and told her what had just happened. She tempered his expectations, warning him not to get his hopes up as he remained optimistic. One month later, Rapoport received a job offer and found himself moving once again – this time to the Lone Star State.
“I hired an agent and moved to Dallas and basically spent the next year reporting on the Cowboys and some other things being very, very bad at TV, but learning and eventually figuring it out,” Rapoport said. “At the time, this guy, Eric Weinberger, who was our boss, kind of mentioned to me the possibility of transitioning [me] from reporter to insider.”
Rapoport acknowledged that he did not have the contacts necessary to effectively work as a league insider for a national outlet, but through his years of experience, he knew how to network and he was ready and willing to take the challenge.
Once he began the new position, Rapoport, along with reporter Michael Silver, was on the road for Thursday Night Football and contributed to its pregame and halftime coverage. While his television skills improved, Rapoport was hard at work bolstering his contacts and took somewhat of a geographical approach.
Every time he arrived in a new city, he would contact anyone and everyone he could conjure up, including general managers, scouts and head coaches. If he could not schedule a meeting time with them, he would introduce himself by roaming the sidelines at practices and before games. He engaged in a similar practice before the NFL Draft Combine, training camps and the Super Bowl along with other premier events, always staying focused on the task at hand.
“It probably took me five or six years to get a baseline of sources where if something happened, I had someone to call,” Rapoport said. “And then it took me a couple more years to get to the point where I would know before a lot of people when something was about to happen. It’s all a multi-step process, and just [the] layering and layering and layering of sources is really the sort of engine that drives this thing.”
Ian Rapoport always attempts to triangulate his sources to verify information before he releases it publicly. There is no guarantee sources are always truthful or acting in a professional manner. Therefore, it is incumbent on a journalist to ensure the validity of content before publishing it themselves.
“If you’re only right some of the time, then none of it is really worth it,” Rapoport expressed, “because then you say something and they’re like, ‘Well, wow, that’s a big story if this is true.’ The whole point of doing this is when I pop up on TV or when people see my Twitter alerts or whatever, they have to know that it’s true – they have to know.”
One day, Rapoport was having a conversation with a source and discovered through their conversation that Rob Gronkowski had informed the New England Patriots that he would return to the game of football under the stipulation he be traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to reunite with quarterback Tom Brady. There had been much speculation pertaining to Gronkowski’s future after he had worked as an NFL analyst with FOX Sports, and now Rapoport realized he had a monumental scoop – that is, if it was true. Within six minutes, Rapoport verified the story with three sources, contacted his editor and reported to the world Gronkowski’s intentions. The story was picked up virtually everywhere.
“I just think about the job all the time, and I make little lists for myself of things that I need to track down, and I just make a lot of phone calls for it,” Rapoport said. “When I’m working, when I’m not working – my brain is still going on overdrive. It ends up just a brain full of football thoughts, and then I spend the rest of the time trying to figure out what I can learn from it.”
Working for a league-owned entity can sometimes epitomize an inherent conflict of interest. For Rapoport however, he has found working at NFL Network to be hassle-free. He knows, however, the nature of his job means he will not be universally liked.
“Whatever you do, you’re going to report and the people you report on are going to be happy or upset or neutral – or whatever it is,” Rapoport said. “I’m never going to criticize a referee, for instance, because that’s a nuanced thing and people might say, ‘NFL criticizes referees.’ I’m never going to do that, but I wouldn’t do that anyway.”
Rapoport continues to appear on a variety of external media outlets, perhaps most notably The Pat McAfee Show, which recently concluded its “Up to Something Season.” The grand conclusion of the proceedings was McAfee announcing he would be bringing his show to ESPN’s linear and digital platforms starting in the fall.
While McAfee is retaining creative control and has expressed on multiple occasions that his show will not be changing, many have wondered whether insiders employed by other networks will be able to continue making appearances. It is an answer Rapoport himself does not know, nor has he asked about.
“When the news broke, my phone blew up with all sorts of people saying all sorts of different things,” Rapoport said. “I have no idea. I really don’t.”
Even so, Rapoport is elated for McAfee and his team taking the next step in their show’s journey and is genuinely glad to see them succeed. He does not think McAfee’s goal was to reshape sports media, but rather to cultivate a distinctive sports talk program built for fans and today’s generation of consumers.
“You get to know someone and you think they’re a good person and you respect the way they work. Some people have success and some people have a little success and some people don’t. It’s really rare to see someone who has every bit of success that’s essentially possible and deserves every bit of it, and that’s kind of how I thought about Pat. It’s really cool, honestly. He’s built it himself.”
It was on McAfee’s show where another prominent football insider – Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk and NBC Sports – said it would be a matter of “when,” not “if” the NFL would have games seven days per week. While devoted football fans like Rapoport are open to such a proposition, he is not sure the league would ever go that far.
“I don’t even know that it would affect my schedule that much,” he said. “It sort of doesn’t matter. I’ll report all year round anyway.”
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.
Face-to-Face Sales Meetings Have Never Been More Valuable
“With the increase in virtual meetings, new buyer preferences, limited time, and better tech, we have our work cut out to get the F2F.”
When did you last attend a face-to-face (F2F) in-person sales call? Let’s imagine for a second.
In New York, Sarah, a determined sports radio salesperson, got tired of chasing a major client for months. Despite her calls, emails, and text, she couldn’t break through to get a meeting.
Throwing caution to the wind, Sarah decided to go for it. She loaded her deck and took her burning desire via airplane to Florida to make the pitch. She showed up unannounced at the client’s office and startled the decision-maker. She was given the meeting and won over the client, getting a substantial annual contract and a movie deal in Hollywood.
We have all seen that storyline. F2F meetings used to be the obvious choice over a phone call, and most buyers were open to that idea. We even conducted market trips to meet our buyers in person and create better relationships.
With the increase in virtual meetings, new buyer preferences, limited time, and better tech, we have our work cut out to get the F2F. Lots of us work and listen from home.
Gartner Research points out that live, in person selling is superior to virtual selling in financial services or, as I think, in radio sales. Now, prospecting new clients F2F is much more difficult. You have never met them, you don’t know who you are looking for, and gatekeepers and remote decision-makers make walk-ins more challenging.
How about getting out and seeing your current or former clients F2F? 65% of outside account executives attain quota, 10% more often than inside reps. Here are some simple strategies to get outside and F2F:
STAY IN TOUCH
Turn the sales faucet on ‘drip’ and contact your current clients with whatever works: phone calls, emails, or texts. Tell them you are checking in to see if anything has changed, give them a local business lead, or share your latest insight on their favorite team. When doing so, tell them you want to meet F2F and go deep into the next quarter’s ad plan or a new idea to get them back on the air. They may start looking forward to your communication.
Schedule an annual review ahead of their busiest time of year to review the upcoming messaging in ads. Go over what worked or didn’t last year. Share a success story of a similar advertiser in another market or show them a new opportunity that fits.
Be upfront that with F2F, we can get more specific, work with better feedback, and partner on hitting their goals. Be the person who looks ahead and helps keep your client focused.
Organize workshops for your current clients. Teach that about streaming, OTT, or Google ads. Get your digital person involved. Let them know you are bringing in other local businesspeople they may want to know or network with and meet F2F! A Mortgage broker may want to meet a realtor who wants to meet a wealthy local businessperson interested in meeting the local head coach. Stand out as a leader in the industry and watch clients brag about working with you.
HIT A TRADE SHOW
Attend trade shows where your current clients will be. This will show you are serious about their business and want to stay current so you can learn and earn. Set up a meeting over coffee or a drink. Share what you learned.
Client Appreciation Events held at your town’s most meaningful events or places. Do whatever it takes to get hospitality tents at big games and concert suites to show appreciation and bond with your current clients. Host a luncheon at the hottest new local restaurant. Focus on providing an atmosphere or experience everyone wants, but not many can attend. Be the exclusive person in town.
GET PERSONAL REFERRALS
Leverage your existing client relationships to seek referrals. Do it in person. Tell them you want to see them and ask for help and advice. Ask for introductions to potential new clients they know, and you will be surprised how much they like working with you.
Bring your Digital manager to them and do a free review of their SEO, PPC, whatever. Working off your client’s pc and bringing them an expert at no charge or obligation is much easier. Watch your partnership grow by providing so much expertise at no extra expense.
Don’t forget the value of F2F meetings. It’s a great way to build trust, connect, and unlock new opportunities. We are in a people business doing business with tons of local directs who still make most of their money serving retail customers F2F. Let’s get out and sell!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter @jeffcaves.
All Jason Timpf Needed Was A Moment of Clarity
“I didn’t know it until after I was hired, but they said they played my video for Colin and he knew right away that I could do this.”
There was once a time when Jason Timpf always included Colin Cowherd in his commute to work. As he made his morning drive to a sales job at Verizon, The Herd was appointment listening each morning for Timpf. The ex-college basketball player would marvel at Cowherd’s ability to make relatable references and break down all of the same basketball games he would watch the night before.
One of the unique things Timpf can remember from listening to The Herd during that time was Cowherd saying if FOX ever put someone in front of him, he could tell in five seconds if that individual had the skills to be a host. It was far from a hot take on the Lakers, but still a distinct moment that stuck with Timpf for many years. Little did he know at the time but Cowherd would soon give a five-second evaluation of Timpf’s career.
Jason Timpf was a late-bloomer in basketball. He played college hoops at an NAIA school in Utah, but not until his third year, after being a regular student the first two. After graduating, he pursued a basketball career overseas in India. However, after the league folded, he left the game for a normal job in the States.
There was a real desire for Timpf to get into the sports media business, but he was having difficulties finding the right fit. He wanted advice on the best way to start, but the tips he received just didn’t feel like the right initial path.
“I’d hear, hey, go bang on a radio station’s door and ask if you can work the soundboard,” said Timpf. “Or, try to go to a journalism school. Another big one that everyone was doing was the SB Nation blogs and FanSided blogs. I briefly tried to do that a little bit. But none of it was materializing the way that I had hoped.”
But then the lightbulb went off for Timpf and it happened during the middle of a podcast interview. In October of 2020, Jason Maples of Blue Wire reached out to Timpf to talk hoops on his podcast. It was in the middle of that interview when it all made sense. It felt exactly like the camaraderie he enjoyed with his old teammates and friends talking basketball. It was relaxed, fun and what he used to do for enjoyment. The perfect fit had just found Timpf organically.
“It was, ‘this is it,’” said Timpf. “‘This is how I want to do it.’ It was like a moment of clarity. Like, this is the way I want to talk about the game. Fortunately, I was working in real estate at the time, so I was super flexible, so I literally was just trying to fake it until I made it.”
While Timpf was grinding away on his new platform choice, he was constantly putting out his content on social media. For a handful of years, he had used Twitter as an outlet for basketball talk – not because he was trying to build his brand, but because it was his preferred method of sharing his takes during and after basketball games.
“My wife actually played basketball in college but she, like a lot of people, got out of it and was like, ‘actually I’m so sick of basketball, since it’s all I did growing up, that I’d rather not talk about it,’” laughed Timpf.
As Timpf had built up years of basketball takes on Twitter, he also built up followers. Not a crazy amount, but enough to have regular interactions with several basketball fans. He had no idea at the time, though he remembers occasionally interacting with him, but one of his followers in the beginning was Logan Swaim, who just happens to be Head of Content at The Volume.
Being such a huge fan of Cowherd, Timpf was absolutely familiar with The Volume, a company started by the FOX Sports Radio host. In fact, during his first plunge into podcasts, he quickly took note of how much success The Volume was having with instant reaction and video content. He wanted to emulate what they were doing and would host a Twitter Space after each Lakers game.
Swaim kept up with Timpf’s journey and continued to be impressed with what he saw. He was so impressed, in fact, that a video eventually made it in front of Cowherd’s eyes. It was the moment Timpf had always heard about while driving to his job at Verizon. Cowherd was about to make a declaration on Timpf’s abilities.
“I didn’t know it until after I was hired, but they said they played my video for Colin and he knew right away that I could do this,” Timpf said. “That was a huge boost of confidence for me, because it meant somebody I deeply respected believed I could work in this business.”
Timpf made his dream come true. He was offered a job by The Volume hosting Hoops Tonight. As much of a dream as it was when he was initially hired, the experience since has been nothing but ideal for Timpf. He gets to cover his favorite sport the way he wants to cover it.
“When I first started and Logan and I were structuring out the show, he kinda viewed it as my show would be the slower, more methodical pace, where I work through my thought process of a game. And also that I’d be a guest on other Volume shows for more conversational podcasts. I really wanted to break down pick and roll coverage. It’s just going to take me a while, so trying to do that in a debate show format or conversational format can get hard. It’s a place where I can let more of my crazy depth out. And I can also have a side format where it’s more conversational.”
Timpf has learned prep for podcasts is one of the biggest elements to being successful. As Hoops Tonight continues to draw impressive numbers over audio and YouTube, he’s figured out the best method to prepare for a long-form podcast where he’s hosting solo.
“I digest the game from the simple concept of how the game was won,” said Timpf. “Where was it won? There’s 100-something possessions in this game, there’s seven different storylines and several runs and sequences and sways in momentum, but what’s the one? Usually I’ll target that first in the opening segment of the show.
“While I’m watching the game I’ll take ancillary notes. About five minutes before I record, I sift through everything I’ve written down and limit it down to the things I think are most important. But generally the flow of the show is how the game was won.”
The whole experience has been gratifying and a full-circle moment in many ways for Timpf. Not only has it been vindicating to do things his way and see it become a success, but he’s gotten to do it with someone who he considers an idol.
Sure, Timpf always envisioned growing up he would be talking to Cowherd as a pro athlete, but talking to him as a colleague is certainly the next best thing. So when he got the call to talk with Cowherd during last year’s West Conference Finals, he didn’t hesitate.
“I was so incredibly nervous, as you could imagine,” laughed Timpf. “But I immediately remember him making me feel comfortable and confident. It immediately calmed me down.
“This is probably my favorite part of the entire experience, I think a lot of people think that these networks try to shove people in certain directions and The Volume has given me such freedom to cover the game exactly the way I want to and nobody is telling me to say crazy stuff. Nobody is pushing me in certain directions, it’s like total creative freedom. The way that Logan and Colin have been letting me do me, so to speak, has been so cool. To see my version of what I want it to look like makes me feel vindicated for talking about it the way I want to.”
Tyler McComas is a columnist for BSM and a sports radio talk show host in Norman, OK where he hosts afternoon drive for SportsTalk 1400. You can find him on Twitter @Tyler_McComas or you can email him at TylerMcComas08@yahoo.com.