Already, Brady One-Upping Mahomes In Mind Game
By declaring he might play past 45, Brady has taken control of the Super Bowl media narrative and, combined with spicy comments from Tony Romo, placed the onus on Mahomes not to lose Sunday.
Well, that didn’t take long, just a matter of firing up the Zoom machine and asking Tom Brady a question. Now that he has established he can obliterate the laws of time and reach a Super Bowl at age 43, might he play beyond 45?
“Definitely,” he said Monday. “I’d definitely consider that.”
Hell, why not 50? Sixty? One hundred, even? Isn’t this the first athlete we’ve ever encountered who makes us wonder, “Hmmm, might he live forever? Will he never have to worry about obesity, memory loss, colonoscopies, diabetes and erectile dysfunction? Will he never slurp soup or need an adult diaper?”
As we chuckle in awe of the man, having left our doubts and insults far behind, Brady immediately was seizing early control of the most monumental quarterbacking matchup in Super Bowl history. Rather than cede ground in the inescapable reality that he is 18 years older than his similarly transcendent counterpart, Patrick Mahomes, Brady doubled down on a once-preposterous notion: that he can play at a high level, alter a franchise culture and compete for a championship at an age when most quarterbacks are retirees who limp around the backyard, attend autograph shows or, like Tony Romo and Drew Brees, settle for the catbird seat of the broadcast booth.
He isn’t viewing Sunday as his final game. He sees it as his seventh stop in the Vince Lombardi Trophy receiving line, with two or three more ahead. At this point, is anyone foolish enough to doubt him?
“The perspective I have on that is, you never know when that moment is. Just because it’s a contact sport,” explained Brady, who had a stylin’ thirtyish pompadour going as he spoke to the national media. “There’s a lot of training that goes into it. And it has to be 100 percent commitment from myself to keep doing it. I think I’ll know when it’s time. I don’t know when that time will come. But I think I’ll know. And I’ll understand that I gave everything I could to give to this game. You put a lot into it. I don’t think I could ever go at this game half-ass. I’ve gotta put everything into it. When I put it all out there and feel like I can’t do it anymore — I don’t feel like I can commit to the team in the way that the team needs me — then I think that’s when it’s probably time to walk away.”
It was his way of saying, politely, that he has checked every box. With those observations, Brady has deftly one-upped Mahomes in a competition he is well-suited to winning as a veteran of 10 such media weeks — the Super Bowl mind game. He has flipped the narrative to where the pressure isn’t on him to win; it’s on Mahomes not to lose. Here we thought St. Patrick was just boarding the legacy speedtrain as he and the Chiefs attempt the NFL’s first repeat since Brady and the Patriots in 2005. At 25, doesn’t he have 15 more years to mesmerize us with eyeball-glazing dazzle, playground-dirt fun, Super Bowls, MVPs, a boyishly humble sensibility and a strong social presence that helped Roger Goodell finally acknowledge that Black Lives Matter? My God, isn’t he just getting started on one of the notable sports careers ever?
Apparently not. If you listen to Romo, who might have downed one too many espressos and read too many Wikipedia chess stories before a CBS media call, Mahomes must win Sunday … or else.
“This is the biggest game Patrick Mahomes will ever play in for the rest of his career,” Romo said. “It’s the only way he can catch Tom Brady. He has to win this game. If he loses this game, he cannot catch Tom Brady, in my opinion, because Tom Brady (is) Bobby Fischer, and you got a chance to play Bobby Fischer for the world championships.
“It’s LeBron versus Jordan. You know how hard it’s going to be for Patrick to play in 10 Super Bowls and win seven? I mean, with a perfect career, Patrick is the rare guy who might. But as long as he lost to Tom when Tom was older, he’d have to go to 12 Super Bowls and win nine. So I think this is the biggest game of Patrick Mahomes’ career. … Brady, I promise you, shuts the door if he wins this game. There’s almost no way you could ever argue if Tom Brady at 43 years old, turning back Father Time, beats Patrick Mahomes, who is the face of the NFL — and rightfully so — and who’s the only guy who could possibly climb the ladder. If Tom Brady closes that in this game, I just don’t see some other human being ever competing in 10 Super Bowls, winning seven and being able to say you’re better than Tom Brady.”
While the LeBron James-Michael Jordan analogy is apt — I can’t speak to Bobby Fischer and Magnus Carlsen, also name-dropped by Romo — it’s a little loony to declare Mahomes must win or bury his head in the sand of St. Pete Beach. Is it his fault that Brady is nuts and wants to play pro football 20 or 25 years to win six or seven titles? And why would Mahomes share the desire to play into his mid-to-late 40s, having just signed a $500 million deal and maybe preferring more years with his family in midlife? Say Brady and the Buccaneers do win, giving him seven championships to Mahomes’ one. There are no definitives in the vague, subjective handbook of determining the greatest quarterback of all time. In my estimation, Mahomes could win, oh, four Super Bowls and still eclipse Brady as the G.O.A.T. if he: (1) keeps revolutionizing the position as a dual-threat magician who throws from all angles and escapes all predicaments; and (2) remains the all-time regular-season and postseason leader in passer rating, the NFL’s defining QB metric.
Romo’s comments smack of Dana White promoting a UFC event. In truth, a variety of elements are involved. Brady, as a pocket passer, was protected by offensive lines in New England and this season in Tampa Bay and gets rid of the ball quickly, thus reducing wear and tear. Mahomes, as an improvisational whirlwind, is vulnerable to injury, as seen this postseason with a concussion that knocked him out of the Cleveland game and an ongoing turf toe issue. If he continues to be injury-prone, will it diminish his legacy? Absolutely. And he’ll need the help of coach Andy Reid and owner Clark Hunt, late arrivals to the Super Bowl victory circle, to keep the Chiefs championship-competitive for the long term.
But can we please let this doubled-edged drama play out on Sunday, if not into the future, before declaring absolutes? Because if Mahomes and the Chiefs win — as I suspect they will, even as injuries deplete Kansas City’s starting tackles against Shaq Barrett and a fearsome pass rush — the Super Bowl scoreboard suddenly is 6-2. Mahomes would be 2 for 2, Brady 6 for 10. Which brings us to Jordan vs. James. Among the reasons Jordan always will remain the NBA’s G.O.A.T., even if James wins again this year with the Lakers and narrows the race to 6-5, is that he played in six Finals, won six Finals and won six Finals MVPs, for a 1.000 batting average. James has lost six times in the Finals. Such a matchup can happen only on video games, of course. Which is the beauty of Brady vs. Mahomes — a whopping age discrepancy suddenly doesn’t matter, the ultimate rarity in sports. We can compare eras, right there on a field. This is what Romo definitely gets as he blathers on.
“This is going to be one of the great matchups in sports history because it doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “This matchup is what you talk about with your friends when you talk about as if. Could you imagine if Michael Jordan got his team to the NBA Finals … when he was older against a young LeBron James, who’s the face of the league? It would be the greatest thing in the history of sports. I think we might actually have that Super Bowl. We might have that game. It just has never happened.
“You want to see this guy in his prime and this guy in his prime. It’s like Jack Nicklaus against Tiger Woods. There’s no comparison I could find in any sport, and I would love it if somebody could. The only thing I can think of is LeBron James chasing Michael Jordan. He’s spent his entire career chasing. Jordan set the bar so high, so LeBron has to be so amazing to get in the discussion — and he is. Somehow he’s put himself in the discussion. The fact that Patrick Mahomes is somehow even remotely in this discussion shows you how amazing this guy is. We all see it. When it’s all said and done, there’s a chance for Patrick Mahomes. If you’re playing in this game, this could be the thing if you get close to climbing that ladder; this game could push you over the top when it’s all said and done. To say you beat Brady in the Super Bowl head to head.”
Fair or far-fetched, the seed has been planted. Mahomes, still a kid who puts ketchup on most food items and demands the “Patrick Price” in State Farm ads, suddenly has to ponder legacy. The challenges are piling up — the Chiefs are the first road team in Super Bowl history, arriving in Tampa on Saturday — and Mahomes is facing crazy questions this week about trying to keep up with Brady’s longevity. Would he play until he’s 43 or older? You know, to try and surpass Brady’s Super Bowl ring total? This is Nicklaus vs. Woods stuff, but unlike the golfing majors count, football is a team sport that also depends on how a quarterback’s defense and front office perform. It’s shallow to equate this as simply Brady vs. Mahomes, like a heavyweight fight in the day. But Mahomes is dealing with history nonetheless.
“I want to play as long as they let me,” he said Monday. “In order to do that, I have to take care of my body as much as I take care of everything else on the field. If you want to play this sport for a long time, how physical as it is, you have to invest as much time into your body as you do anything else. I’ve learned more and more in my young career so far about what I can do to keep myself available and healthy and try to be in the best nutritional state I can be in. I feel like I can be better.”
Such are the pressures created by Brady’s unprecedented career. Now that he’s taken down his forerunners and contemporaries — from Joe Montana to Peyton Manning to Aaron Rodgers in the NFC title game — he eyes the new kid. Having attained all the fame, wealth and all-time status he could want, you’d think Brady would stop exacting revenge against career slights. He has won all of those wars, hasn’t he? But he still thinks he’s the 199th pick in the draft. Or the guy accused of deflating balls. Or a lucky beneficiary of the Bill Belichick system. Thus, though he understands his place in the sporting pantheon, he refuses to settle.
“I could never have imagined it would be like this. I don’t think anybody could have,” Brady said. “(I’ve) tried to go play my ass off every week. I’m still trying to do it. This work for me has never been about — I would have thought that success is passing yards or touchdowns or Super Bowls — it was always maximizing my potential, being the best I could be. When I showed up as a freshman in high school, I didn’t know how to put pads in my pants. I was just hoping to play high school football because I wanted to be like Joe Montana and Steve Young. And then when I got a chance in college, I just wanted to play at Michigan. When I got drafted by the Patriots, I just wanted to play, I just wanted to start. It’s just been a series of steps like that of trying to be a little better every year, trying to learn a little more every year, trying to grow and evolve in different areas.
“My life has taken certainly a lot of different directions. I’m obviously older now. I’ve got a family. A lot of incredible blessings in my life. Fast-forward 21 years — sitting in Tampa and trying to win a Super Bowl in our own home stadium would be pretty sweet.”
Though Brady’s career has been marred by clouds, including Deflategate and the suspicious presence of personal trainer Alex Guerrero, the media are bowled over by the implausibility of it all — at 43, playing for the running-joke Buccaneers in a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Rather than starring in the league’s 55th movie, and one of its most captivating, Mahomes is treated like a supporting actor. He was asked, on Zoom, not about his massive achievements so far but about a loss to Brady in the 2018 AFC championship game … and how Brady stopped by the Kansas City locker room to offer encouragement.
“It was important because it showed I was doing things the right way,” Mahomes said. “As a young quarterback in this league, you show up early and you try to put in the time and put in the work. Him saying that he respected what I was doing and how I was playing on the field and the type of person I was, it kind of put a stamp on me that I needed to go in and be even better in order to get to the Super Bowl.
“He’s the same way I am. He’s going to leave everything he has on the field every single time he’s out there. He doesn’t care what it takes. He doesn’t care if he has to throw for 400 yards or if he has to throw for 100 yards. He wants to win. I feel like I have the same mentality. I just want to win no matter what happens or how it happens.”
Of course, the questions inevitably returned to Brady … and what Mahomes needs to borrow from him. At this point, I’d have excused myself, but this was not a UFC match. He had to be polite. “The way he’s able to dissect defenses before the snap is something I truly admire. I’m trying to get to that level,” Mahomes said. “The way he’s able to move within the pocket and be able to reset his feet and be completely calm and still make the throw right on the money no matter who’s around him — it’s something I can continue to work on. As I continue in my career, I’m just going to try to do whatever I can to watch the tape on him because he’s doing it the right way. You can tell by how many Super Bowl championships he has and the rings on his fingers.”
There is only one way, it seems, for Mahomes to flip a script that already is written. As the challenger, he must shock the world and beat the champ.
Except it wouldn’t be a shock. I’m expecting it.
Jay Mariotti, called “the most impacting Chicago sportswriter of the past quarter-century,’’ writes a weekly media column for Barrett Sports Media and regular sports columns for Substack while appearing on some of the 1,678,498 podcasts in production today. He’s an accomplished columnist, TV panelist and radio talk host. Living in Los Angeles, he gravitated by osmosis to film projects. Compensation for this column is donated to the Chicago Sun-Times Charity Trust.
Vic Lombardi Turns Nuggets Disrespect into Great Content
“I keep telling people they’re going to go where the money is. The money is the Lakers and the big city teams. The Nuggets don’t sell.”
There was a feeling of Denver vs. Everyone during the 10 days that separated the end of the Western Conference Finals and Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The word “boring” was being used to describe what it was going to be like watching the Nuggets play for an NBA title. It didn’t sit well with Denver media and sports fans, as the unfair tag was being consistently referenced by certain members of the national sports media.
Vic Lombardi of Altitude Sports Radio in Denver, along with several of his co-workers, decided to fight against a narrative they found uneducated and unfair. In their eyes, all you had to do this season was to actually watch the Nuggets to find them interesting.
“We assume everyone else knows what we know,” said Lombardi. “We assume that the rest of the country is watching. And all this has done, to be honest with you, has proven that a lot of national folks don’t watch as carefully as they say they do. Because if they watched they wouldn’t be as surprised as they are right now.”
There was even an on-air spat with Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated on the Altitude Sports Radio airwaves. During an appearance on the Rich Eisen Show, Mannix said there weren’t any compelling or interesting storylines surrounding the Nuggets first-ever NBA Finals appearance.
Lombardi, along with other hosts at Altitude Sports Radio took exception to the comment and fired back with their thoughts. A few days later, Mannix appeared on the station to defend his position and stick up for what he thought was accurate. Though the tensions were high during the back-and-forth it was incredible content for the station.
But Lombardi says he doesn’t take the spats, whether they’re public or private, all that seriously when other fellow media members.
“The arguments, if they’re anything, they’re all in fun,” said Lombardi. “I don’t take this stuff personally. We had a little back and forth with Chris Mannix. That was fun. I actually saw him in Denver when he came out for media. I respect anyone who’s willing to make their point on the air. It’s not the media’s job, it’s not your job as a host or a writer to tell me what I find compelling or interesting. We’re all from different parts with different needs and you can’t tell me what I desire. Let me pick that. Chase a story because the public may learn something. We’re curious by nature, that’s why we got into this business. All I ask is be more curious.”
The entire team at Altitude Sports Radio did an incredible job of sticking up for their own market and creating memorable content out of it. That should be celebrated inside the station’s walls. None of the outrage was forced; it was all genuine. But what’s the lesson to learn here from media folks, both local and national with this story?
“I think the takeaway is number one, it’s a business,” said Lombardi. “I keep telling people they’re going to go where the money is. The money is the Lakers and the big city teams. The Nuggets don’t sell.
“Well, you start selling when you start winning. They’ve got to sort of earn their way into that club. I think with what the Nuggets have done recently, and hopefully with what they’re about to do, they’re at the adult table. The media business is not unlike anything else. The biggest common denominator is what sells. I get that. I just don’t understand why a team like this, with the most unique player most people have ever seen, why wouldn’t that sell?”
Maybe it’s still not selling nationally, but locally in Denver, Nuggets talk is on fire. For years, the Denver market has been seen as one where the Broncos and NFL rule. The Nuggets have not been close to the top of Denver sports fans’ interests and have probably fallen routinely behind the Avalanche.
But there’s been a real craving for Nuggets talk during this historic run. Granted, it didn’t just start two weeks ago, there’s been momentum building for the team ever since Nikola Jokic started asserting himself as one of the best players in the NBA. But there’s more than just an appetite for the Broncos in the city and the past few years have shown it.
“I think it’s just proven to people in the city that the town is much different than it was 10, 20, 30 years ago,” said Lombardi. “The Broncos continue to rule this town and will do so because the NFL is the NFL. But I can tell you this. There are sports fans outside the NFL. I’m born and raised in Denver and I always believed, what’s so wrong about being an ardent fan of every sport? If you’re a fan, you’re a fan. There’s nothing I hate more than territorializing sports. Like, ‘oh I’m just a football fan’. Or, ‘oh I’m just a hockey fan’. Why? Sports crosses all borders and boundaries.”
Lombardi and Altitude Sports Radio have settled into local coverage of the NBA Finals, rather than fighting with a national narrative. The payoff for the entire ride has been very rewarding for the station. It included what Lombardi called the “highest of highs” when the Nuggets beat the Lakers on their own floor. It even included one of the biggest events the city has seen in the last five years, when the Nuggets hosted its first-ever NBA Finals game last week.
The last few weeks could even be considered one of the most rewarding times in station history for Altitude Sports Radio.
“Our ratings have never been higher,” said Lombardi. “It’s a great display of, sometimes in the media, we think we know what the listener wants. We think we do and we try to force feed them. I think the national folks do that, but so do the local folks. You think they know, but if you give them a nice diet, they’ll choose what they want. And that’s what we’ve done.”
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.
The Top 5 Bangs of Mike Breen’s Career
“Whether it comes in the playoffs or the regular season, it’s an unmistakable, yet simple way to convey the message that something extraordinary has just happened.”
Even though he isn’t thrilled by the moniker, Mike Breen has become the voice of the NBA. The veteran play-by-play announcer is too modest to brag about the name. He’s very respectful of those that have come before him. Whether or not he likes the title, for a certain generation of NBA fans, he’s the only television voice they’ve known.
Breen has occupied the big chair for ABC/ESPN since 2006 and is in the midst of calling his record 18th consecutive NBA Finals. Breen is professionalism personified, but the thing that separates him from most is his ability to infuse wit into his broadcasts. He’s not stuffy, and always seems to enjoy the moment.
“Bang!” is the word Breen has used for pretty much his entire career. He started using it as a student at Fordham. When he wasn’t calling games there, he’d watch from the stands and yell “Bang!” every time a Fordham player hit a shot. Then he took it to air. It’s taken off from there.
Breen’s “Bang!” is synonymous with a big moment. Whether it comes in the playoffs or the regular season, it’s an unmistakable, yet simple way to convey the message that something extraordinary has just happened.
With that in mind, I have compiled a list of the five best “BANG!” calls including a couple of Honorable Mentions. There really were no criteria, so the call could have come in the playoffs, or in a few cases the regular season.
DERRICK ROSE BUZZER BEATER 2015 EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMI FINALS
The Bulls were playing in front of a packed house at the United Center. They were trying to ride native son Derrick Rose to a series win over the Cavaliers. Game 3 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Semifinal v. Cleveland came down to the wire.
“Dunleavy, looking, finds Rose, Rose trying to get open, fires away….BANG! It’s over! The Bulls win at the buzzer! It still is a Madhouse on Madison as Derrick Rose nails the three. And the Bulls take a 2-1 lead in this Eastern Conference semifinal.”
KOBE BEATS THE SUNS AT THE BUZZER, 1ST ROUND, 2011 WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS
This was a pretty simple, yet very effective call. After a key turnover by Steve Nash, the resulting jump ball finally got into the hands of Bryant.
“A one-point game…final seconds Bryant for the win….BANG!!”
There was a lot of silence after the call and the pictures were allowed to tell the incredible story.
#5 LIN-SANITY REIGNS IN TORONTO 2012
During the height of “Linsanity” Jeremy Lin hit a game winning three pointer at the buzzer on February 14, 2012. This was a regular season game in Toronto and the crowd was into it like it was game 7 of a playoff series. The call shows you that Breen succeeds when the game is intense and close late whether in the playoffs or a regular season game.
“Mike D’Antoni won’t call timeout and let the Raptors set up their D. The crowd on its feet here at the Air Canada Centre. Lin puts it up. Bang! Jeremy Lin from downtown and the Knicks take the lead! Amazing here at the Air Canada Centre. Five tenths of a second remaining. Lin-sanity continues.”
#4 ERIC GORDON 2019 GAME TYING BASKET V. THE CLIPPERS
Eric Gordon hit a tough double-clutch three-pointer to send this regular season game in 2019 against the Lakers into overtime. This one led Breen to pull out the rare double bang!
“They find Gordon. Gordon puts up a three. Bang! Bang! He ties the game!”
It wasn’t a playoff game or even a very memorable game overall. Perhaps Breen got caught up in the moment? It happens.
#3 LUCA DONCIC GAME 4 2020 WESTERN CONFERENCE FIRST ROUND V. CLIPPERS
Dallas was already down 2 games to 1 in the first round of the 2020 NBA playoffs in the Walt Disney World bubble. The Mavericks didn’t want their own bubble to burst, so they turned to Doncic. The Mavs were down 1 in OT with 3.7 seconds left to go. Luka Doncic took a dribble, created some space and let it fly.
“Doncic pulls up, three-pointer, BANG, BANG! IT’S GOOD, DONCIC WINS THE GAME AT THE BUZZER!” After a little time and some replays, Breen astutely added, “We are witnessing the next great star in the NBA, in his first playoff series.”
The rare double bang rears its head again. Kudos to Breen for generating this much excitement without any fans in the building. It’s pretty impressive and hard to do, just shows that he can rise to the moment without any help from the vibes in a building during a game.
#2 RAY ALLEN GAME TYING “3”, 2013 NBA FINALS GAME 6
This shot was one of the biggest in the career of Ray Allen. Playing for the Heat in the 2013 NBA Finals, he hit a crucial shot to send Game 6 into overtime. Breen made the moment iconic. “James catches, puts up a three, won’t go, rebound Bosh, back out to Allen, his three-pointer, BANG. TIE GAME WITH 5 SECONDS REMAINING!”
Breen’s voice captured the emotion of the moment, without being out of control. He recalled to the Athletic in 2020 what went into that call.
“I remember looking over at the Spurs’ bench. They were, I don’t want to trash them and say they were celebrating, but they were ready to celebrate. It was that giddiness, the hopping up and down, we’re about to win a championship.” Breen said. “It seemed like it was a foregone conclusion. And then, the thing about it, there had to be about six or seven things to fall into place for that to happen, over the last 30 seconds and every single one of them fell into place.”
#1 STEPH CURRY, 2016 GAME WINNNING “3” v. OKLAHOMA CITY
The original “double bang” game, came in 2016 as Steph Curry and the Warriors faced Oklahoma City in February. The Warriors entered 53-4 and Curry had already hit 11, 3-point field goals on the night. Who could blame Breen for getting caught up in this play? The game-winning and record-tying basket came from a spot on the floor that almost nobody hits from.
“They do have a timeout. Decide not to use it. Curry, way downtown. Bang! Bang! Oh, what a shot from Curry! With six tenths of a second remaining! The brilliant shooting of Stephen Curry continues. he ties the NBA record with his 12th three-pointer of the game.”
“Don’t ask me why or how it came out,” Mike Breen was quoted of saying after the game. “It was like an out-of-body experience.”
Breen’s effect on the players has been noted on a few occasions in recent months. 7 years after the call of Curry’s 40-footer, and the birth of the double-bang, Curry honored the call with a pair of his new shoes. They’re called the Curry 2 Bang Bang PE Retros. Curry delivered the shoes to Breen in person and included this video message:
“I realize there’s no way we can drop these without the involvement of the man who gave these shoes a nickname seven years ago. You’re the first person to get these in hand. We got a double bang and call in 2016, before it’s all said and done, I think I need a triple bang call from Mr. Mike Breen himself.”
Breen saw the shoes, then embraced Curry. He also shared a message of gratitude, saying “It’s an honor calling his games. And to have him say I have a small part of it means more than he knows and more than you can imagine. Thank you.”
Other players seem to really enjoy being immortalized with a “Bang!” Just the other day, Jamal Murray hit a three-pointer for Denver. Breen called the play, “back to Murray, another three-pointer. It’s good! Jamal Murray red hot.” Mark Jackson jumped in after noticing something after the shot. “Hey Mike, you didn’t see this, but Jamal Murray just looked over here and said BANG.” That’s pretty cool.
Breen continues to shine on the biggest stage of basketball, surely he’s setting up for another terrific run in this year’s finals.
Andy Masur is a columnist for BSM and works for WGN Radio as an anchor and play-by-play announcer. He also teaches broadcasting at the Illinois Media School. During his career he has called games for the Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox. He can be found on Twitter @Andy_Masur1 or you can reach him by email at Andy@Andy-Masur.com.
Meet the Market Managers: David Yadgaroff, Audacy Philadelphia
“It’s hard to replace somebody as iconic as Angelo, who really lived and breathed his role, setting the agenda for the Philadelphia sports fan.”
David Yadgaroff doesn’t talk just to hear himself speak. He gets to the point and he does it quickly, whether he is telling you what he is thinking or he is answering your questions. That fact is evidenced by the length of this week’s entry to the Meet the Market Managers series presented by Point-to-Point Marketing.
It has been a wild ride for WIP over the last 18 months. Yadgaroff had to find a new PD, figure out the best way to send off the station’s iconic morning host, and launch new shows in two different day parts. In the middle of it all were World Series and Super Bowl runs to deal with, too.
Yadgaroff discusses all of it. He also makes time to weigh in on how he addresses Audacy’s stock issues with his staff, the climate of political advertising, and the best practices he has found for making sure advertisers are making the most of digital products.
Demetri Ravanos: Tell me about life since Angelo Cataldi retired. What has changed in terms of the atmosphere in the building?
David Yadgaroff: It’s a great question. It’s hard to replace somebody as iconic as Angelo, who really lived and breathed his role, setting the agenda for the Philadelphia sports fan. But we’re really proud of what Joe (DeCamara), Jon (Ritchie), James (Seltzer), and Rhea (Hughes) have done in the morning to deliver a show that’s fresh and new, but also lives up to the expectation that Angelo set.
The addition of Hugh Douglas to midday with Joe Giglio has been very fun, too, because Hugh is a great character and teammate, and fun around the office, as well as very compelling and entertaining radio.
DR: So I do want to circle back on Jon and Joe here in just a second, but I do wonder, because Angelo had sort of made some hints before he officially announced his retirement. At the time you were looking for a new program director, was his decision about when to call that a career something that ever came up as you were searching for Spike’s successor? Is it something candidates wanted to know about?
DY: Yeah, absolutely. Angelo was a great partner and expressed his interest in retiring. At that time, Spike had got promoted to New York, so we discussed the radio station as a whole. Angelo, obviously his brand was so closely tied to ours and ours so closely tied to his, he said that he’d do whatever we needed at the radio station to make the transition smooth. That is how we ended up with that last year where Angelo took Wednesdays off to give him a little bit of rest and peace as he finished out his agreement. Then, obviously, he wanted to remain on until the Eagles’ season finally ended, so we had the gift of having Angelo with us until February.
DR: Let’s circle back on Joe and Jon. They are obviously known commodities to WIP’s advertisers. The job of getting that particular population on board with those guys moving into mornings, it’s very different than getting listeners on board, right? So many of your advertisers are going to be on in multiple dayparts, whereas the listeners may only come in on their drive to work or on their drive home from work. I would imagine on the business side, this was a pretty smooth transition.
DY: Very smooth. We retained the vast majority of the legacy morning show advertisers, as well as retaining the advertisers that came from middays to mornings. The fresh perspective and excitement about the radio station helped drive more sales as well.
You think about the last 12 months of the radio station, Angelo is talking about his farewell, we’re doing a lot of fun stunts about that time, the Phillies postseason, the Eagles postseason, the farewell event, and officially the beginning of a new show that already was a fan favorite. Really, we are very fortunate to have been at the forefront of the sports media narrative in Philadelphia for quite some time.
DR: The elephant in the room when it comes to Audacy right now is what’s going on with the company’s stock price. I know you cannot give me specific answers, but I do wonder, as somebody that is charged with leading a cluster, you have so many people that you are responsible for. Do you find yourself having conversations where you’re talking to someone that assumes you have more answers than you actually do right now?
DY: Let me give you the general vibe. We have a very robust business with six radio stations creating a lot of multi-platform content, selling a lot of advertising, and doing fun things. So for our staff on this side of the building, it’s business as usual. We’re having success in many metrics and marching right along.
DR: The thing I wonder about that’s different for you than other Audacy stations is you literally share a space with Audacy Corporate.
DY: I run a culture of transparency and when things happen that are newsworthy, I make sure to address them. When things aren’t newsworthy, I try to reinforce our core business here, which is one that is very profitable and healthy.
DR: So last year was extraordinary sports-wise in Philadelphia. Tell me a bit about the new opportunities that were created for WIP, whether we’re talking about interest from new potential clients or an influx of new listeners.
DY: So WIP has the benefit of being the voice of the fan for decades. We talk a lot about the Eagles. Fans want to talk Eagles 52 weeks a year, and when the Eagles perform, there’s such enthusiasm and excitement. So, yes, I think we pick up new listeners and I know we pick up new advertisers to be part of that fun.
The Phillies’ season sort of picked up suddenly at the end. It was a much more concentrated and exciting time that everybody just got into from an advertising standpoint, analyst standpoint, and fan standpoint. It was a lot of excitement in a very short period of time.
DR: Given how much Audacy has embraced digital products and where we are in terms of consumption these days, everybody is so used to on-demand content. Nobody works on a station or network’s timetable anymore. Have you found any advertisers that are more interested in the on-demand product than the traditional radio broadcast?
DY: I don’t think there’s a general statement that describes everyone’s appetite. We focus our salespeople on trying to sell multi-platform campaigns through re-marketing. We find that the more things advertisers are invested in, the more connected they are with our business and the more success they have. All of our salespeople are cross-trained. Ultimately, we try to focus on what an advertiser needs and then make successful recommendations for them. There’s a lot of attention on WIP, so obviously they’re doing a nice job of that.
DR: Let’s talk about that cross-training as it relates to the stations in the cluster. I recently read this piece that said we are already on pace to see political advertising for the 2024 election cycle surpass what we spent in 2020. Last year, you guys have these two contentious elections inside of Pennsylvania. When it comes to revenue generation, has the fracture between the two parties been relatively good for business in radio? I mean, do you find that people that candidates are advertising further and further out from election day now?
DY: I think there’s two folds to that question. One is the TV advertising environment gets so toxic and nasty with political ads. It forces out transactional advertisers. That gives us the opportunity to put those advertisers on the radio. So that’s one part. The second part of it is, yes, candidates for PACs are spending more and they’re spending more frequently.
DR: I would imagine that KYW and WPHT see most of those buys in your cluster, but what about WIP? How much are those PACs and candidates and those campaigns looking to a format to spread their message where maybe the listener is not engaged in the political conversation 24 hours a day?
DY: I think the first thought is that stations like KYW and PHT do the best, but it really depends on the campaign and the issue and what their strategy is. I mean, there are some issues and campaigns that come down that they can only want to buy. WBEB And WOGL because they are looking for a suburban mom. So it really depends. I think political advertisers are a lot more strategic than they were years ago where they just bought news and news talk.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.