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George Wrighster Is Trying To Open A Lot of Doors

“As you know, it’s easy to just pump out hot takes. But when it’s actually something that you believe and you can support it with some stats and data or personal experience that makes it believable.”

Brian Noe

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I’d describe George Wrighster as a man that has controlled strength. He’s motivated by obstacles and driven by naysayers, but it isn’t written all over his face.

It’s a bit like Aaron Rodgers. The Green Bay Packers’ quarterback wasn’t visibly emotional when he slid to the 24th overall pick in 2005, or when his team drafted Jordan Love to possibly take his spot. Best believe Rodgers hasn’t forgotten about being slighted though. I think George is similar. The former NFL tight end is a competitor, but he might not let you see that your doubts ticked him off. He’ll just get back to work and grind so that one day you are eating your words.

George Wrighster joins SiriusXM's Mad Dog Sports Radio | Hear & Now

George has achieved a lot in sports radio within a relatively short period of time. He can be heard on two national platforms — FOX Sports Radio and SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio. His brand new show on Sirius began two short months ago. The Oregon grad shares some interesting thoughts about not being pigeonholed as a former athlete and also what it’s like to help change the landscape in a mostly white dominated industry.

I’ve known plenty of things about George, like how he rages against heavy metal music and trashes Velveeta cheese. Hey, we can’t all be perfect. But the Oregon grad touches on many things that aren’t common knowledge. George shares a wise thought about building a community. He unveils what got him listening to sports radio in the first place when he never listened during his playing days. George talks about the show that freaked him out the most and also shares a list of his strong goals. Makes sense though. It’s his controlled strength at work again. Enjoy.

Brian Noe: How’s everything going with the new gig at Sirius?

George Wrighster: It’s going really good. I got a chance to do a couple of special projects too. I did an MLK special with Kirk Morrison and some stuff with the college football national championship. I hosted some other shows on the network. It’s cool getting more opportunities and more reps, trying to get better.

BN: What’s the main goal you try to accomplish when doing shows, especially your new one?

GW: I want people to feel educated and entertained when they listen to the show. It’s important to me that people also feel like this is a place where they can get the truth and honesty and not just shtick. As you know, it’s easy to just pump out hot takes. But when it’s actually something that you believe and you can support it with some stats and data or personal experience that makes it believable. I think that’s the best thing that you can do. We all see sometimes where people say things and you’re like there’s no way this dude believes that. He’s just saying it because it’s going to get people riled up.

I try to talk about stories in a different way that people normally may not. I try to approach it from the human side of things and not get too far deep in the weeds on the X’s and O’s, but kind of how athletes are real people; how these things impact their sport and their decisions. We also talk a little politics on the show — how politics and business intersect sports in certain aspects too. We’re not debating propositions. No, we’re not doing all that, but we are at that intersection where sports does intersect with politics and business. We do go there.

BN: What do you remember most about your first show on Sirius?

GW: It’s funny because as many shows as I’ve done — solo, with other people, all of that — I remember the first night that the light came on and it was just me. I was nervous that entire day, dude. I went walking around the neighborhood because I would take the baby on a walk every day. I was nervous that whole day. I was like oh my God, what if when the light comes on, I can’t say anything? Nothing comes out?

It’s funny to think about because you’ve done it so many times, but the fact that it was all on me, it was my show, solo, it just hit me like, dude, I’m responsible for this whole ship. But the good part is, I was like if the ship sinks, if the car crashes, it’s going to be because I gave it everything that I had and it just didn’t work. It’s not going to be because I let somebody else control my future.

George Wrighster - Harvard Football Players Health Study

BN: What happened once you cracked the mic that first night?

GW: Every show has different clocks, how long each segment is and all of that. Our first segment for the opening monologue is between 15 and 22 minutes max. It was funny because that first 20 minutes, or however long I went, it felt like it was two hours long. It was crazy to me because I record my podcast sometimes for 30 minutes straight with nobody talking to me. It’s just me talking to the camera because I do it on a live stream, nobody responding, not taking comments, so it was just funny that it felt so long when I had to do it all by myself. But now it breezes by.

BN: How did that opportunity come about for you at Sirius?

GW: This was years in the making. This is where you say relationships matter and keep banging on the door and then one day it might open. Back in 2014 I finally got into the NFL’s broadcast boot camp. That’s where former and current NFL players can go get media training and get in front of executives. There are executives and actual decision makers from FOX, from ESPN, CBS, a bunch of places, and former athletes who have made it. You get a lot of workshops and they teach you how to interview. They expose you to TV and radio because a lot of times people don’t know which lane they want to be in or if they truly want to be in it. So you get big exposure.

When I got back from it one of the people that I met there was Steve Cohen. Not the Mets’ Steve Cohen, but the Steve Cohen who, at that point in time he may have been the program director or Senior Vice President over at Sirius. I just followed up with him. Every six months, four months I’d shoot him an email telling him what I was doing, letting him know I was available if anything came up.

Fast forward about four months ago, I got an email from Steve Cohen. He was like yo, we may have an opening over at Sirius. What are you doing now? That was weird because I hadn’t emailed Steve in a few months, but I was going to email him soon. I keep these reminders to email all of these people. All of these times he was always like yo George, I’ll keep you on the radar if anything comes up. He sent that e-mail, followed up, and then I tested. Apparently I did pretty well. They offered me the job and here we are.

BN: Was the test a demo or a fill-in show?

GW: It was a demo because they do things a little bit different over at Sirius. If you’re not under contract with them or don’t have an agreement with them, doing an on-air demo there doesn’t happen, I don’t believe. We did it just like an actual show. We produced an actual show except for it was only an hour and a half long. We took breaks; so I had to talk to commercial break and interview guests. And yeah, we did it like a mock show.

BN: What was it about sports radio where you said you know what, this is the road I want to go down?

GW: I’ve done TV, and I do want to do more TV as well, but radio allows you to communicate with people in a different way. In TV you’re speaking in sound bites a lot more. You don’t get a chance to expound, not as much storytelling. With radio you get a chance to build an audience and communicate with them. They become part of your family, part of building a community.

I saw that with a guy out here in LA named Fred Roggin. Fred just builds a community with his family. It’s the same thing with Petros Papadakis on his show Petros and Money. They build a community and the people are so invested. I like that. The idea that you don’t just build a community for that station; you build your community. So when you do move locations or you do change because it’s business — sometimes contract disputes happen, sometimes companies are bought and sold or whatever — then your audience is portable because that’s your family.

BN: When you talk about community, it makes me think about race. Sports radio is a very white dominated industry. As a black host, do you have that at the forefront of your mind that if you do a good job, it might open the door for others?

GW: Absolutely. I look at this as a two-fold thing. Yes there is a racial element and I’ll talk about that next, but the first thing is as a former athlete, they will pigeonhole you as just the sport that you played. That’s the first thing. I started writing to make sure that didn’t happen. Writing on other sports, commenting on other sports and all of that.

As an athlete I didn’t want to be pigeonholed into just football, and also pigeonholed just as an analyst. When you can host the show and be an analyst it opens up more doors for you. So now I don’t have to sit in the two chair. I can sit in the one chair also. It just gives you more diversity. As a former athlete, opening up doors as being a solo host, that’s hard to do.

But as far as a host of color, especially those who sit in a single chair, that’s tough. There aren’t a lot. There are a lot more who do two-man shows, and mind you they do a great job, but I think there is something to be said about the lack of diversity. Colin Cowherd obviously is one of the best to ever do it. So are Dan Patrick and Jim Rome. My goal is to ascend to that level the way some little kid can look at me and say oh wow; I can do this if I want to.

BN: I interviewed LaVar Arrington. He called it having a babysitter when the radio guy is in the one seat and the former athlete is in the two seat. His thought was hey man; two athletes can have a good show too. What are your thoughts on how the former athlete is typically paired with the radio guy? 

GW: Yeah, he’s right. LaVar is right when he says that it’s like the babysitter, or the hall monitor where that person has to be the quote-unquote adult in the room. Truthfully it’s literally about the mechanics — tossing to break, watching the clock, understanding how to progress a story, how to manage callers — all the mechanics. That was something that I always pressed. Even when we started doing the show on FOX, I was like yo, I want to have more responsibility on the show. I think that once people see that you want that responsibility, and that you actually will take it seriously, and that you’ll go practice it when nobody’s listening, and then when you get the opportunity you do a good job at it, then they say oh okay, let’s throw him a bone.

Eventually something bad happens. I remember one day on FOX during the Sunday show I do now with Dan Beyer, something happened to Dan’s mic or it was a power issue or something, and he was out. I had to do it for a couple of segments and it was like, oh okay, cool, so now we know that he can do this. The more and more that you do it, then people can believe and trust because the thing that they want the most is to know that you’re not going to burn the house down. That it’s not like Home Alone where you’re going to come back and the house is ransacked or Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead where you’re going to have a party. No, you’re just going to go in there, live life like normal, put out a good show that’s entertaining, and everything will be fine.

Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead still image 4

BN: Did you listen to sports radio much during your playing days?

GW: Absolutely not. No. Not at all. The thing that started getting me to listen to sports radio was Marcellus Wiley because I had played with him. We were friends, and I just wanted to support him. Then I realized, good God, I love sports radio.

My kids sometimes get annoyed, they’re like dad, do we have to listen to talk radio today? They already know that if it’s 12 o’clock here at home, I’m probably listening to Finebaum. I don’t know why I like Finebaum so much especially during college football season. Schein On Sports. I watch Colin. I like Skip and Shannon. I tune in to Steven A. sometimes. I appreciate how much work they really put in. Yeah it’s easier when you have an army of writers and staff and researchers, but you still have to go out there and deliver it.

BN: Is there anything else about sports radio in general beyond hot takes that turns you off for you when you listen?

GW: I usually only listen to people that I like. The only thing that makes me change the dial now is if it’s a topic that I don’t want to hear about, or I’ve felt like I’ve heard too many times. I’ll turn the dial, but I like this person, so I’ll be back. It’s just I’m tired of you today. I love my kids but some days I want to go to dinner all by myself, or with my wife and leave them at home. That doesn’t mean I don’t like them, but I need a break.

BN: Who have you learned the most from in sports radio?

GW: Dude, easy answer, this guy named Brett Winterble who I hosted my first show with on The Beast 980 here in LA. Brett had been a producer for conservative talk radio but he was a huge sports fan. He was the adult in the room.

Brett actually now has a huge talk show in North Carolina. He just filled in for Rush Limbaugh and had like the highest ratings for any fill-in there. Brett literally had been through the grinder of ascending in this business. We had a producer that was absentee at best. Brett taught me how to produce a show, how to cut sound, how to come up with content. He taught me things that if I were in a normal situation with a producer and all that stuff, they would have done a lot of that work already, so I wouldn’t have learned how to do it as quickly. It would have taken me years to learn something I learned in eight months because it was a crash course. It was either fail or do it.

Brett was just the consummate professional, freaking hard working, just a grinder. He’s just a smart guy too. He showed me the ropes in this business. He gave me a lot of valuable tools and experiences from his life that I wouldn’t have ordinarily gotten. I owe a lot of credit to Brett.

BN: You’ve had a number of partners. Have you taken elements that you think work from those other hosts and molded it to your own style at all?

GW: I would say yes. From Brett I learned that this was his livelihood. He was always the adult in the room. He was always going to make the right decision for the show. To make sure that things did not go off the rails. I took that from Brett.

Oh, I forgot somebody else I learned a lot from was Petros. Petros is just Petros. I think that a lot of times when people get into this business — and I fell victim to it too — of I have to be radio guy. I have to be TV guy when the thing that people really connect with the most is you being you. That’s what Petros showed me was just be you. You don’t have to be anybody else; just be the best George that you can possibly be. I don’t know if there’s anybody more themselves than Petros.

BN: Goals. Is there anything specifically that you want to accomplish in sports radio or beyond?

GW: Yes. I would like to have a simulcast like Colin does. Be number one on the Talkers 100. What that would mean for me, it would be a sense of accomplishment in my second career doing something that wasn’t so physical like sports. Doing something that was foreign, working at it, and then reaching that goal.

2019 TALKERS Heavy Hundred 1-25 : TALKERS magazine – “The bible of talk  media.”

I do want to have a simulcast with radio and TV at the same time. But my ultimate goal, if I could be doing either my radio show or a podcast version of it like Joe Rogan does, while hosting a show on the Food Network and College GameDay on the weekends, I would be the happiest person in the whole world.

BSM Writers

John Mamola Didn’t Overthink New WDAE Lineup

“I don’t go book-to-book my talent, I just don’t. I think the more and more you dive into ratings, the more and more you overthink things.”

Brady Farkas

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Just over one month ago, WDAE in Tampa Bay reshuffled its daily line-up. The iHeartMedia station, programmed by John Mamola, moved the Ronnie and TKras program from mornings to afternoons and moved the midday Pat and Aaron show into mornings, while creating a new midday show centered around Jay Recher and producer-turned-host Zac Blobner.

The station let previous host Ian Beckles go as part of the reshuffling.

Barrett Sports Media caught up with Mamola this week to talk about the new line-up, the Tampa Bay market, the importance of developing from within and much more.

(Some of the answers have been edited for brevity and clarity)

BSM: It’s been just over a month since these changes took hold, what would you say is the overall response to them?

JM: Overall, really positive. We lost a really important piece and a pillar of the station in Ian Beckles, but with the moves that we did make, it was overall a pretty positive response from the listeners.

BSM: This wasn’t just creating one new show and calling it a day, this was moving multiple shows into new dayparts. How do you as a programmer get multiple hosts on board with re-arranging their schedules in that manner?

JM: My morning show went into afternoons so they didn’t have to wake up early, so they were very open and welcome to that. As for the original midday show, I knew they were early risers, so moving to mornings didn’t really affect their sleep schedules. And then my midday show, which is the new one, putting those two together is just a combination of some very young, hungry guys that always want new opportunity and are always looking to capitalize on opportunity.

So I wouldn’t say necessarily the convincing was the hard part because it just made a lot of sense for the people involved. The guys in the morning didn’t have to wake up early. The guys in the mornings are early risers anyway, and you get two young, hungry guys to take care of that opportunity so the convincing part was quite easy.

BSM: I got to know Zac Blobner a little bit on the Producers Podcast. He was highlighted a few episodes back and I thought really highly of him. Why was this the right time to get him into a full-time on-air role?

JM: Zac’s been doing some on-air stuff for on the weekends for a number of years. He had his own show and then we tried him out with a couple people on staff on Saturday mornings. That just didn’t necessarily work out but he has hosted a fantasy football show, which we actually air Orlando and in Miami as well as Tampa, live for the last five years.

So his on-air persona – he was a huge part of the morning show and the success of the Ronnie and TKras Show for their run in mornings. So if we were to elevate someone from inside, it just seemed like he was the right guy to elevate, and to pair with Jay Recher. It’s two young, hungry guys and they play well off each other. Some of the best highlights of my day are just sitting in their pre-show meetings with them and their producer Jon Dugas and just listening to how they collaborate together as a threesome on how to attack content, what sound to use, and what guests to book.

Really, it’s three producers in one room all talking about how to collaborate and do a show. Zac has earned the opportunity, just like Pat Donovan who was a producer first. Aaron Jacobson was a producer at first. It was Zac’s time and he’s done a tremendous job with it so far, albeit it’s only a month, but I totally expect it to be a very high ceiling for that show and for Zac in particular.

BSM: Some programmers believe on developing and promoting from within and some programmers believe in always looking for a splashy hire from the outside. Why is developing talent and promoting from within important to you and WDAE?

JM: I think it’s vital for every brand to have a good bench and to continue to find different ways to utilize that bench. Maybe not on the Monday through Friday, but definitely on the weekends in some capacity. And if not there, then on the digital product. You bring in certain guys to push everyone else. Zac was one of those guys. Jay Recher was one of those guys. Pat Donovan was one of those guys. Ronnie and TKras were two of those guys. I like to bring in guys that have a goal and want to push everyone to be better, not just themselves, but push everyone to be better. We have a tremendous team atmosphere on WDAE and we’ve had it for a number of years.

And when you do a lot of change, like we did about a month ago, you don’t want to keep it too foreign. You want to keep it with somebody that the audience knows and the audience has grown to know. Because the minute you start bringing in out of town people that nobody’s ever heard of or you start going to syndication instead of staying live and local, you start to lose your cume, and you start to lose that branding.

We like to put out as much as we can with whatever we have and I think having good, driven people in the hiring process, albeit I’ve hired a little young over my time here, it’s continued to push the narrative that we are continually growing from within and this was just the latest step of that. I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon.

BSM: When you have new shows and shows in different dayparts, are you mentioning things like ratings and revenue to them? Or do you just tell them to build the shows and worry about it later?

JM: I don’t go book-to-book my talent, I just don’t. I think the more and more you dive into ratings, the more and more you overthink things. It’s important, but it’s not the biggest thing. For me, it’s the sound of the show. If the show sounds like it’s got energy, if it sounds like it’s progressing, if it sounds like we’re creating more attention by what we’re saying and we’re developing as talents and as a station, you feel it. You don’t need to see the numbers. The numbers are the numbers.

The system is great when it’s great but when it’s terrible, it’s still flawed. You know? I mean, Neilson ratings only get you so far but If I start seeing stream numbers go up, which I’ve seen, that’s a positive.  If I see digital traffic or social media growth or something like that, that’s a metric I can track. Today I went to the gas station and they had our sports station on. If I can hear that, that means we’re doing something right. I don’t look book-to-book. I think PDs that dive into numbers and analytics and, and clocks…. Look, if you put out entertaining stuff, they’ll stick with you. And it starts with giving that confidence to your talent. And that’s how I program.

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BSM Writers

Brock Huard Believes The Third Time’s The Charm For Brock and Salk

“If I was a radio consultant, there’s two muscles you have to build constantly. A is listening and B is curiosity.”

Tyler McComas

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It just felt right for Brock Huard when he stepped back behind the mic at Seattle Sports 710. On September 6th, he returned to the airwaves with longtime partner Mike Salk in morning drive. It’s been almost three months since Huard returned to radio, but it still feels as right as it did that early September morning. That’s because the business is in his blood. 

“Once radio is in your blood, it doesn’t leave,” said Huard.

If you talk sports radio with Huard for any length of time, you won’t question his love or intelligence about the industry. He truly loves and understands the business. When you have a former player that has an incredible amount of passion for sports radio, you really have something. Seattle Sports 710 really has something with Huard and his return to the airwaves made locals in the Pacific Northwest very happy. 

Brock & Salk haven’t had to deal with the challenges that new shows experience in the first few months. They’re not trying to establish a chemistry and flow together. They’ve had it after doing a show together twice before, plus a podcast the two hosted together.

“He and I had still done the podcast together for the last couple of years, and had a number of conversations over that time about how fun that hour and a half was, each and every week,” said Huard. “We never really missed a podcast and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. Had we not done that podcast for two years, I don’t know if we would have come back for a third iteration. The third time has been the charm on this iteration.”

What makes the show isn’t just Huard being a former athlete or Salk being a very dynamic and experienced host. The two share an incredible chemistry that shines through on the air. However, Huard thinks there’s one reason in particular that the two mesh so well on air. 

“Because we listen,” said Huard. “That’s number one. I will listen to so many radio shows when I’m on the road and I’m like, this is bad radio. And you can tell hosts aren’t listening to one another, they’re just waiting for their time to talk and they fill and it’s terrible.

“If I was a radio consultant, there’s two muscles you have to build constantly. A is listening and B is curiosity. I think for 14 years he’s still genuinely curious about me and how my mind works, world views, ideology and sports views. After 14 years, I’m equally interested in how he thinks and it’s very different than me.

“It was hard to be able to listen and respect one another, because we come from two totally different world views, in many ways. But at the same time, when you do, and you’re curious to listen to the other side and what they have to say, you create unique content.

“He and I used to have to build these big show sheets when we started and we still have structure and everyday there’s still show sheets, but a consultant by the name of Rick Scott told me this early on, he said you know your show will be good, when you don’t get to half of the stuff on your show sheet. And he was absolutely right 14 years ago.”

Co-hosting morning drive at Seattle Sports 710 isn’t the only gig Huard has in sports media. He’s also a college football analyst for FOX. He’ll be on the call Friday night for the Pac-12 Championship game between USC and Utah. But everything ties back to radio for Huard and a recent experience on an airplane made him realize it again. 

“I was sitting next to this very smart gentleman the other day on my trip home from college football, and he was crushing crossword puzzles like I’ve never seen before,” said Huard. “He’s a very successful attorney and you could see for him, that was such a tool to keep his mind sharp. For me, radio is the same thing. It’s been the best training ground for everything I do with media, especially television.

“If you can do live radio and equip your mind to listen and strengthen that listening muscle, while also creating content, it’s a pretty good active tool. It keeps my mind sharp and plays to my mind’s strengths, I think, with just how wackado I can be between my ears at times. If you have a tremendous partner that helps shape you, like Salk is to me, then it’s just addictive and gets in your blood and doesn’t leave.”

As it relates to radio, being a college football analyst has its perks, because of the access it gives Huard. Every week before calling a game, he gets production meetings with head coaches, which gives him insight that others may not have. It also awards Huard the opportunity to create relationships with coaches. But how much of what’s said does he feel like he can use on the game broadcast or his radio show?

“99.9 percent is used on the air, on the show and sometimes I gain insight and share it with coaches that I know to encourage them,” said Huard. “It baffles me how many times I will hear from my peers, oh, I hate these coaches meetings. I don’t get anything out of them. And I’m like, God bless you. I will have a career for the rest of my life if that’s the way you approach it. It’s the most valuable real estate we have. It’s a forum that nobody else has.

“Yeah, they have press conferences, but if you build true trust and relationship and confidence, they want to tell you their story. They want to share their team. I can’t tell you how many times content from those meetings comes to life in my sit downs with Pete Carroll or Jerry Dipoto, GM of the Mariners or Scott Servais, or on the air or off the air.”

Huard has an insight to college football that few in the Pacific Northwest has, but that doesn’t mean he and Salk will jam pack content from that sport into the show. The duo knows that Seattle cares about. Sure, there’s an interest for college football, but not anywhere near the hunger from Seahawks and Mariners content. 

For example, Huard called the TCU vs. Baylor game two weeks ago, which featured one of the best endings in college football this year, when the Horned Frogs nailed a field goal as time expired. The call of the moment was spectacular and could be the shining moment of the season for a TCU team that looks destined for the College Football Playoff. On the Monday after, Huard and Salk made it a part of the show, but never had the intention of making it the majority of the show. 

“Our audience is dominated by the Seahawks and Mariners,” said Huard. “That dominates 80 to 90 percent of our conversation. I would say lifestyle is probably the rest. For example, we played that highlight today four times over the course of the show. We rank things at the end of every show and it was my Top 5 games of my broadcast life in 14 years on the road and that was number 1.

“I often use conversations and things I learned from those games and players and relate them to the Seahawks and Mariners. Dave Aranda talked about living with expectations and how hard that is in our meeting on Friday. He said, you watch, TCU is going to have to live in an entirely different world, where you’re on the mountain top instead of climbing it. And then you relate that toward the Seahawks or the Rams this year.

“Inevitably, yes, those moments create content, either emotionally or football 101. Radio is all encompassing in that way. I never understand radio hosts who try to play it straight. I just don’t. I think it’s bad radio. You have to be willing to live your life and put your life out there, whether it’s good, bad or ugly. The more you do that, the more you attach yourself and connect with your audience.”

It feels like the third time is truly the charm for Huard and Salk. They listen, they have chemistry and the content is a refreshing mix of sports and lifestyle. 

“He and I are not comedians,” said Huard. “We don’t play fake laugh tracks like others do. He and I will land way more on the analytical information side than maybe a consultant would tell us what morning radio people want. But I think where it cuts through is he and I put our lives out there. Our parenting success and failures. Relationship struggles, kids, sports, youth sports, that’s probably where we connect in a way that’s more lifestyle. That’s the word I would use.”

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BSM Writers

Chuck Swirsky Embodies ‘Always A Pleasure’

“I love working with Bill Wennington and each and every day I have the same enthusiasm of calling a Bulls game like I did as a five-year-old child calling games off a TV.”

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It’s hard to imagine there are any more positive thinking people in the world than Chuck Swirsky. If you don’t believe me, just check out his daily tweets. Swirsky has a lot to be upbeat about, he’s doing what he’s always wanted to, and now he’s written a book.

Always a Pleasure” is his creation, putting thoughts on paper, or iPad or whatever, about stories and people he’s encountered over the more than 40-years he’s been in the business.

The title is aptly accurate. Chuck is always a pleasure to be around and is one of the most supportive people I’ve ever met. He encourages those that need it. Swirsky always has time for people in the business and those trying to get into this crazy racket. I’ve seen and experienced it for myself, so trust me when I tell you, it’s the truth.

There are those that have worked multiple decades in play-by-play, and I’ll bet each and every one of them has been asked at some point, ‘hey, why don’t you write a book?’. Sounds easy enough, I’m sure. But when you really think about it, how can a person be expected to fit 40 plus years of work into a book that wouldn’t be the size of a dictionary?

More on that in a moment. I was wondering what makes someone in Swirsky’s position to write a book. So, I asked him. He outlined the main reason he decided to put pen to paper and tell some of his favorite stories and recall good memories.

“Over the past several years I was approached by several publishers and writers who were interested in detailing my journey in sports broadcasting, featuring my stops calling major college athletics and NBA basketball in addition to sports talk.” Swirsky told me. “I was reluctant to do so but a year ago I had a change of heart knowing 2022-23 Bulls season would be my 25th in the NBA, including my 2-thousandth NBA play-by-play game.”

Swirsky didn’t use a sportswriter or an author to tell his tale. “For years I have saved notes and decided to write the book myself, in my own words. I love my job. I have no desire to retire. I want to continue broadcasting Bulls game for many more years as long as my health and clarity allow me to do so.” he said.

“I love working with Bill Wennington and each and every day I have the same enthusiasm of calling a Bulls game like I did as a five-year-old child calling games off a TV. I have the utmost respect for the Reinsdorf  family and our entire organization.  I just felt this was the right time to write a book.”

I have followed Swirsky’s career closely and gotten to know him over the years. Growing up in Chicago, I was fortunate enough to hear him in his early days here, at the old WCFL (now ESPN 1000), where he became one of the pioneers of sports talk radio. He’s called games on radio and television.

For DePaul, Michigan, select White Sox games, the Raptors and now over the last nearly 2 decades, the Bulls. That’s a lot of experience and a lot of experiences for one person. It made ‘editing’ the book a little difficult.

“I could have easily written another 100 pages featuring additional sports personalities and stories.” Swirsky said. “But I elected to highlight specifics of a timeline allowing the reader to understand that my quest to reach a childhood goal of broadcasting NBA basketball was met with challenges, setbacks and ultimately persevering through hard work, focus, passion and positivity.”

Writing books can be a way to look back on a career. Swirsky if far from done. He never really reflected on things, because he was always looking forward. But the retrospective allowed him to realize a few things along the way.

“I would say this. I am my own worst critic.  I very seldom look back on my career. While I was writing “Always A Pleasure” I had to stop and truly reflect how blessed I  am to be in the position where  I am today. I never take it for granted. Never have. Never will.” Swirsky said.  “Nothing is easy. It’s hard. This business can be exhilarating yet so difficult. I never get too high nor too low although I’m very sensitive and my insecurities get the best of me which is probably not a good thing , especially in radio-television.”

In looking back there’s bound to be a few lessons learned from the past. Swirsky did find a few things in writing the book that he remembered, educated him along the way. “I learned that anyone who applies themselves, making  a commitment to work on their  skill set, and their weaknesses through hard work, dedication, passion and purpose, can be successful.” he said. 

“For example, not every professional athlete is going to hit .330. Let’s say another player is hitting .240. What is keeping him in the big leagues? Is it his  glove,  his ability to play multiple positions?  His  character in the locker-room? The same principle is in effect in our industry. Maximize your strengths and do it with a great attitude, humility and kindness.”

Swirsky’s book details his interactions with some very familiar people in the business and the sports world. “I have plenty of stories featuring some of the biggest names in sports ranging from Hall of Fame baseball star Willie Mays who many consider perhaps the greatest player of all time to Kobe Bryant who left our world way too soon.” he says. “When you’ve been a professional broadcaster for 46 years, one  meets many, many players, coaches, executives, media and sports personalities along the way.” 

The one thing you can say about Swrisky, is he is real. There’s no pretense or facade. A genuine human being that is interested in what people have to say. Athletes, coaches, broadcasters and yes, even fans. His book has been reviewed by some of the greats. Mike Breen, Chris Bosh and even Steph Curry. Here’s the 2-time NBA MVP’s take on Swirsky and the book.

Having known Chuck since my days as a still-developing youth player in Toronto, where my dad was a member of the Raptors, I can attest to the fact that his passion for people and basketball is deep and sincere.

Chuck’s unique desire to mentor young people, especially minorities and those of different cultures and backgrounds, will help inspire those who share the same dreams, dreams that enabled him to persevere to the top of his profession.

I’m proud of Chuck, and excited that others can become enlightened by his exciting broadcasting journey, which includes nearly 25 years in the NBA and, of course, a trio of Curry family members shooting from the stars, just like him.

A book written by someone as accomplished in this industry as Swirsky draws interest because of who he is. But the Bulls’ play-by-play man is always thinking of others and trying to help where he can, just like Curry said. Along with stories, he lends his knowledge and relates it to those who are already in broadcasting and those trying to get in.

“I’m hoping those in our industry who read the book even those outside the radio-tv, new media field will come away knowing that perseverance is a powerful resource to help withstand the emotional heartache of rejection, disappointment and loneliness.” said Swirsky. He adds, “I have experienced everything. The good. The bad. The ugly. I’m talking all levels.  My message is to stay true to your core values. In this case,  my foundation is  built on respect,  kindness, honesty, sincerity and selflessness.”  

Given the opportunity to beam about the finished product, Swirsky in typical fashion, deflected any praise. Simply saying, “I am very humbled and appreciative of  the professionalism of the book’s publisher, Eckhartz Press. They allowed me to be me. That’s all I wanted. Mission accomplished. I am grateful.”

The entire industry should be grateful for people like Swirsky. There are so few in the business who are as kind and caring as he is. There are just as few people that take interest in others, and help mentor the next generation like Chuck. Inspiring stories, a career chronicle and life lessons, “Always a Pleasure” is going to be on my must-read list for the holidays. Congrats “Swirsk” keep up the great work.

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