Connect with us

BSM Writers

John Mamola Wants A Super Bowl, Not A Superspreader Event

“I’m really looking forward to at the end of the day looking back on this thing and saying look, even through a pandemic, we put on a hell of an experience for this market and a hell of a game for NFL fans.”

Brian Noe




Preparing for a Super Bowl to be played in your own backyard is a lot of work for a radio station. Toss in a pandemic complete with restrictions and CDC guidelines and there is a whole extra set of problems to navigate through. It’s something that John Mamola knows all too well leading up to Super Bowl LV this Sunday. John is the program director at 95.3 WDAE and WFLA NewsRadio in Tampa, Florida. Let’s just say he’s been light on sleep lately while living up to the #RespectTheGrind portion of his Twitter bio.

Q&A with John Mamola | Barrett Sports Media

John makes several great points during our conversation below. He mentions why it’s a much different reason that the Super Bowl is a can’t-miss event for the city of Tampa this year. John talks about staying focused on the Chiefs-Buccaneers game not turning into a superspreader event and how Tom Brady challenged everybody. He reveals why he’d be perfectly fine with a 2-0 outcome, and also demonstrates that he’s cool enough to use the word lit without setting off warning sirens. Enjoy.

Brian Noe: What’s it like right now in Tampa with the Super Bowl approaching?

John Mamola: The vibe is good. The vibe is positive, a lot of shock, but a lot of excitement. This has been a really good 12 months for this market between the Stanley Cup championship, a World Series appearance, and now a Super Bowl appearance on top of the game being right down the street from where I’m actually driving right now. The vibe is great. This will be my 10th year in this market after moving from Chicago and I’ve never seen the town lit like this. It’s a lot of smiles.

Look, it’s been a rough year for a lot of people for a lot of different reasons, but just to have laughs and smiles and excitement, it’s like holy cow, I can’t believe they actually did this. It’s really cool to see. The station is buzzing right now. The listeners are excited and happy and just thrilled to be witnessing what they’re witnessing. Overall it’s a great vibe.

BN: When Tampa secured its Super Bowl berth, what did you immediately think of as a PD in terms of how to maximize the value of this opportunity?

JM: Well the first thing I thought of was how little sleep I’m going to have for two weeks. Beyond that the first thought is that we’ve been on radio row as a station for going on about 15, 17 years, so we knew that part was going to happen. What we didn’t know honestly is what it would look like. I think we’re going to have a really successful week of programming at radio row. We have a ton of people already lined up.

From a sales perspective it was like all right, what are we creating? What can we continue on? Luckily we sold our big game coverage many months ago because the game was here, but what can we add on to it? From a programming standpoint, we’re adding a ton of programming especially on gameday. We were able to secure a singular broadcast site really close to the stadium where the party is going to be at, so if you don’t have a ticket, or if you can’t get in for any reason but you want to be around the stadium, we’re probably at the best place possible to enjoy the game and a couple of libations, socially distanced of course. Also how could we maximize this digitally too?

The difficult part is this is a pandemic so we can’t really do what a normal run of a Super Bowl would do because we can’t get in front of people. We can’t gather. I would love to do a ton of live broadcasts this week just ramping up excitement or live broadcasts on site at a ton of different places instead of maybe going to radio row because radio row is going to be virtual this year for the most part. But at the same time you have to adhere to the guidelines. That kind of limits you at the same time. 

It is very different being the host town because it’s amazing how many people reach out to you as opposed to you reaching out to people. I appreciate that, and believe me, we’re going to use that to our full advantage. It’s just going to be really fun and it’s going to cap off a fantastic year for the market, fantastic year for the station, and it’ll be a really, really good, quality experience I think for everybody involved.

BN: Do you feel like something’s missing with Tampa being the first team to play a home game in a Super Bowl, but with a limited crowd?

JM: Well the Super Bowl wasn’t going to be filled with Bucs fans anyway. It’s the people that can afford those tickets. I don’t think the decreased amount of people that’s going to be there is necessarily a bad thing because the Super Bowl is really never a home crowd anyway. Yeah, there is a little bit of a sentiment of well maybe it could have been, but let’s be honest, not a lot of people can afford that kind of rate on a ticket price. It just wouldn’t be that.

I think the NFL is doing it right by giving first responders, healthcare workers, and frontline people the day in the sun that they deserve by giving them free Super Bowl tickets. I think that’s absolutely the right play. Then saving a certain select number of those for people that can afford them. Not having a home crowd for a home team in the Super Bowl isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 

It’ll be interesting though for me just from a viewer of Bucs football, how close to a normal home game they keep it. Do the cannons fire off when they get inside the 20? Do they do that for both teams? Is there fake crowd noise for both teams? The Bucs are the NFC representative as the home team for this, so do they keep it down the line like a normal Super Bowl where you would hear cheering for both teams? I’m interested in seeing how close they have it to an actual Bucs home game. But it’s the NFL’s show. If they want to keep it down the line 50/50, we’ll see how they present that.

It was never going to be a Tampa Bay crowd. The Tampa Bay crowd is going to be the one crowded outside Raymond James Stadium, especially if they win.

BN: What is the city like in terms of security with the game around the corner?

JM: We don’t have a lot of security right now. I don’t know if you’ve been to Tampa, but Raymond James is right next to where the Yankees do their spring training. There is a lot of open field. There’s really only about four streets that surround Raymond James; you’ve got Himes Avenue, Dale Mabry, which I’m on right now, and then you’ve got some cross streets, but that’s really about it. They’ve closed off one of them, and that’s more or less to just set up the parking lot for the entryway and to make sure the people have an easy in for those that are working on the stadium. But as far as security past two or three blocks of the stadium, it’s not there yet. I’m sure that there’s going to be fencing going up. There’s fencing already up in the parking lots to help people enter. Obviously there’s going to be COVID precautions so people will probably get their temperature checked and all that kind of stuff. But around town? It’s normal traffic right now. I’m sure Thursday or Friday will probably be a little different. There’s not really a bigger sense of security yet.

Bucs can clearly see Super Bowl 55 from here

BN: What’s the difference between how you manage the news station’s content and how you manage the sports station’s content right now?

JM: The news station’s content is a different audience. Let’s call a spade a spade; it’s a red state. People that listen to what we do on WFLA like the Bucs, they kind of keep up with the Bucs, but they’re not in love with the Bucs. The audience on DAE loves the Bucs and doesn’t really want any of the political stuff.

As far as the news station, for me it’s just kind of making sure we have the right people on. We’re the official media partner of the host committee. I try to make sure we give them their time on the station. Rob Higgins who’s the Executive Director of the Sports Commission has done a fantastic job with us for many, many years. Obviously giving him some time to talk about the events and things to do around town, not necessarily X’s and O’s. It’s just more or less giving people information on how they can experience a little slice of the Super Bowl.

With COVID, everything is restricted for the most part. The Super Bowl experience is typically open to the public. You can come in, come out. This year you have to get an appointment and you have a certain amount of time that you have to enjoy it. All of those are sold out. If you’re looking to get a pass right now, good luck. It probably ain’t happening. It’s just making sure that people are informed as opposed to really diving in. Street closures will be a bigger thing when we get closer to the game. Press conferences obviously we’ll be running that in our news and sports reports. We don’t do deep dives on the news station like we do on the sports station. There is a little directive to pepper it in here and there just with the most update information as possible, but really it’s not in-depth kind of stuff.

Also making sure that people understand that when the game is over, it’s not a mosh pit. I know when the Bucs got back into town there were a lot of people around the airport. The city just mandated masks everywhere, even outdoors and all public places. They’re serious about this. We do not want this to be remembered as a superspreader event. We want this to be remembered as a great showcase of the entire area and that does include Clearwater, St. Pete, and the Sarasota area too. We don’t want this to be remembered for something other than that.

BN: Along those same lines, how would you describe the way Tampa planned for the pandemic, and how it was actually hit by the pandemic.

JM: Let’s start with the second part. We were supposed to have a Stanley Cup run. We were supposed to have WrestleMania. We were supposed to have the Valspar tournament down here. We were supposed to have a little slice of March Madness. The Rays season got shortened. We couldn’t go to any of those games. The amount of money that this market lost between March Madness, WrestleMania, a World Series, a Stanley Cup, Tom Brady just in general playing home games, and on top of that you throw a Super Bowl that isn’t going to be like any other Super Bowl. I’m sure the lost revenue that was planned is just going to be absolutely massive.

With that being said, when this whole thing started I feel the host committee knew the challenge they had in front of them. They held everything very close to the vest. They didn’t want to make any proclamations like, oh yeah, we expect this and we expect that. No, they were very aware and very good at adjusting. That’s also a credit to the local governments out here between Tampa, St. Pete, and Clearwater — Mayor Castor of Tampa, Mayor Kriseman of St. Pete — working with the host committee on trying to make this still a great experience for not only the area, but everyone traveling to the area. I think they adjusted really well to this. We don’t even know what tomorrow is going to look like with this thing, unfortunately. Every state is a little different. Every situation is a little different.

Florida has a high number of cases. It just does. People are very lax about wearing masks around here. But if you can make it known that this is going to be distanced, it is going to be to the CDC guidelines, then it’s up to them to adjust to that. Radio row is going to be completely different. They’ve cut down on the amount of outlets that can come out. We have plexiglass now on tables at radio row, which will be interesting for the setup on Sunday.

With the amount of loss that this market had with just potential revenue for some really big events, I think they approached this one as we can’t miss. I think they really, really adjusted well to where they can still make this a really great event — again not just for the locals and those traveling — but also a great showcase for the area. Everyone has worked together. It’s been tremendous teamwork for the entire area and the host committee. I’m really looking forward to at the end of the day looking back on this thing and saying look, even through a pandemic, we put on a hell of an experience for this market and a hell of a game for NFL fans.

BN: It’s funny, man. You’ve been there for about a decade and this is the first playoff experience for Tampa.

JM: Yeah, how bout that, huh?

BN: I know, right? How would you describe what Tom Brady has meant to the Tampa area?

JM: I’ve always looked at Buccaneers fans like Cub fans. Every year there’s a renewed hope. No matter who’s wearing a jersey, every year is a new hope. I love ‘em for that. But when you have the greatest player, quarterback, whatever, to come into your backyard — I don’t care if he’s 65 years old — the fact that he’s putting on the pewter and red, that’s a huge burst of energy and just a jolt of life into the organization.

We got the feel that Tom was thinking Tampa really early. It was like, ehh probably not, but it’s kind of fun to think about. Then it happened. It was about two weeks of like holy crap. [Laughs] We got Tom Brady playing football. I got more calls from people in Boston saying hey congratulations. I was like well I didn’t do anything, but thanks, appreciate it. 

It’s just breathed new life into a product that every year you kind of start hot, like man here we go, Buccaneers football is finally here. We’re out at training camp, we do the preseason, we get those first couple of games in, and then typically by end of October we’re kind of done with it. The season is pretty much over. You have those diehards, so you have to supply them with some Buccaneers conversation and breakdowns, but it just seemed too routine. Then you put that guy in there wearing number 12 and it’s like okay, this is different. It was almost like it challenged everybody to be a better fan. It challenged us to be a better radio station. It’s just been a really, really interesting journey. 

Tom Brady, Shaq Barrett lead Bucs past Broncos - Orlando Sentinel

Then on top of that, Bucs fans are also Rays fans and Bolts fans too. This has been Christmas in a pandemic for them. When he signed it was like okay, this is for real now. It’s home run or nothing now and it’s been a home run ever since. Everybody is benefiting. Everybody wins. It’s a good vibe in the market. It’s a good vibe for fans because goddammit they needed it. Five years of Jameis Winston? To have the GOAT here has been a real good vibe. I don’t care if he plays until he’s 70; just keep playing. Let’s just keep it going.

BN: How do you think Tampa winning the Super Bowl would benefit DAE?

JM: When I first started here we used to have a slogan because the home games were blacked out because they didn’t sell a certain percentage of tickets. We always used to say when the Bucs would lose, it’s good for us because people need a place to bitch and vent. No one wants to talk about a winner. Now? It’s completely different.

We’ve had a Stanley Cup and a World Series to kind of introduce more people to us. We’ve benefited off of that. It’s kind of like Trump. Trump gets Obama’s economy and then he takes full credit for it because then the economy is great. It’s kind of like that too. We’ve benefited so much off a Lightning Stanley Cup run and a Rays World Series run, then you add Tom Brady and a Buccaneers Super Bowl run to that, we’re capitalizing off that because we already got everyone else.

Our ratings have been fantastic every single book. Our digital numbers are even better than they were last year and those were some bigger numbers than we’ve ever had. The station is benefiting because it’s Tom Brady and they’re winning.

Honestly if you’re not winning if you had all of this success, you probably should just hang it up. You really should. This never happens. I think it’s only happened in Boston like once. And look what happened with EEI and Sports Hub; they’re combined 25, 30 shares. You’re not going to get that in Tampa, but the numbers that we’re doing and the revenue that we’re generating is fantastic. If we weren’t doing that, then you wouldn’t be talking to me right now. I promise you that.

BN: I think I have to ask you for a prediction, man. What do you think about the game?

JM: You know, it’s funny; I’m a Bears fan. You know that. I wanted Tom Brady so bad. It’s like God, because Trubisky is awful. I’ve always said what makes the Bucs dangerous is that there’s no pressure. None. Because the guy that puts it all on his shoulders is the guy that’s in his 10th one. That team is playing loose. They’re smiling. They’re high-fiving. They haven’t had a team really test them to where they’re breaking. Everyone thought when Antonio Brown signed here that it would change the culture of the locker room and it didn’t. Tom Brady tried to high-five a ref against the Saints. Come on, man.

This team is playing with house money and they know it. Now they’re in their own damn stadium. There ain’t no pressure on this team. None. That starts with the top. It starts with BA and it starts with Tom. I got the Bucs winning and why not, right? Cap off 2020 with a Stanley Cup, an NFL Championship, and a World Series berth. Hell yeah, let’s do it. I don’t have a score and don’t care as long as they win.

Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians takes shot at Patriots with Tom Brady  comments

BN: Yeah, you’d take 3-0.

JM: Get a safety for all I care. As long as they win.

BSM Writers

790 The Ticket Was Something Special And Stugotz Knows It

“I had programmers calling me saying this is the best local lineup that they’ve ever seen, that they’ve ever heard.”

Demetri Ravanos




When I was making the transition from the rock world to talk radio, there was one show I looked at as a guide. I got laid off from 96 Rock in Raleigh, NC in the summer of 2011. That was the beginning of my flirtations with streaming and podcasts, which is how I stumbled onto The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on 790 The Ticket out of Miami.

Coming from a format that I felt out of place in at times, I instantly latched onto a show that reveled in pointing out how out of place it was in its own format. It became a daily listen for me, which opened me up to hearing other voices on the station like Jonathan Zaslow, Joy Taylor, Brian London, Brendan Tobin, Brett Romberg and others.

There were unique thinkers and passionate sports fans in every day part on 790 The Ticket. What set the station apart though is that I never heard anyone that sounded uncomfortable when the conversation turned to something that wasn’t a Dolphins’ loss or LeBron’s stat line. They talked sports the way normal human beings talk about sports. It was part of their lives, not the only thing they paid attention to.

Look at the outpouring of love for the station on Thursday. Hosts, producers and programmers from across the country took to social media to eulogize the station when the news broke that it would cease to exist the following week.

I can’t say for sure that all of those people felt the same way I did about the station and I cannot say whether or not it was for the same reasons. What I can say is 790 The Ticket had an influence that stretched far beyond South Florida.

Jon Weiner, better known as “Stugotz” to fans of the The Dan Le Batard Show, helped start the station in 2004. He told me that it didn’t take long for him to learn just how much The Ticket’s approach was making an impression on everyone in sports radio.

“I had programmers calling me saying this is the best local lineup that they’ve ever seen or heard,” he said in a phone call on Sunday. “I had people from out of market who had secure jobs at places that weren’t startups sending resumes and tapes because they wanted to be part of it. So yeah, we were aware and it is what we were going for. We got there pretty quickly and we were aware of the impact, not just in South Florida, but throughout the country.”

Last week, Brian “The Beast” London said his internal alarm bells first went off when he heard the Miami Heat were giving up their relationship with 790 the Ticket. The station and the team had been partners since 2008. He said in a YouTube video that it was hard to imagine the team’s games being heard anywhere else.

I asked Stugotz if he had the same feeling when he heard that news. He said in hindsight, he realized it was the beginning of the end, but he didn’t really get a sense something was up until Jonathan Zaslow was let go.

“[Zaslow] had been there since basically day one with us. And so I just kind of figured, yeah, between the Heat and then that I felt, okay, you don’t make a move like that unless there’s going to be some sort of seismic change. Otherwise, there’d be no reason to let him go. That was the moment I was like ‘okay, 790 is likely going away.'”

His feelings are no secret. He took to social media immediately on Thursday and said that the news that 790 The Ticket would soon be going away filled him with both sadness and pride. What Stugotz told me in our phone call was that he realizes that the station lasted about 15 years longer than it should have.

When the station was sold to Lincoln Financial Media, he was not expecting that company to want to keep a sports station. Senior Vice President Dennis Collins surprised him.

“The company saw so much potential in what we had built, both from a lineup and a sales perspective that they kept it going and that’s why it lasted all the way to 2022. We got it up and going and were responsible for the first three or four years, but Dennis saw the growth potential with the lineup we put together. That made me feel great because I had a pit in my stomach like ‘Oh, man, this thing we started is going to go away. It’s going to be three, four years and gone.’ And he said, ‘No, we love it. We want to keep it going’. So that was a huge compliment to everyone.”

Stugotz described the original owner of 790 The Ticket as a “young, good looking real estate mogul driving around in Lamborghinis.” That certainly helped the image of the station when it launched, but it is also a phenomenon that was very of the moment. It’s not 2004 anymore. Lamborghini-owning real estate moguls aren’t chomping at the bit to pour money into radio stations.

The conditions may be similar to what Stugotz and his partners saw in 2004. You could look at the radio landscape in Miami and see a way that a new challenger could fit in the sports radio scene. But what are the chances it actually happens?

It’s a great question,” Stugotz said. “So just to go back to that time, two sports radio stations were popping up in every market. I’m not certain if that’s still the case anymore just because of podcasting and the way the way younger people are consuming media through Tik Tok, Snapchat, and other things that aren’t AM radio.”

He is quick to commend Audacy, the current owners of the 790 AM frequency. Dan Le Batard and Jorge Sedano were part of his early lineups at 790 The Ticket because Stugotz recognized the Cuban-American community in Miami was not being served in the sports space in 2004, just like it isn’t being properly served in the news/talk space right now. That’s why there’s room for the conservative-leaning brand Radio Libre in Miami and other markets are likely paying attention.

“It seems like a good plan, and I know it’s something that the Spanish population should have and deserves to have and probably was not being catered to correctly. So, yeah, I could see there’s a warning sign to some other sports radio stations or news stations in other markets where the Hispanic population is great. Absolutely!”

It is a shame that 790 The Ticket is no more and it is concerning that a station with its legacy and influence can simply disappear. But if we are being real, it isn’t the first station of its kind to suffer that fate and it won’t be the last.

As the media business changes and leaves sports stations vulnerable to something cheaper and with broader appeal, 790 The Ticket and stations like it should be touted as examples of how to rise above the noise and make an impact. Stugotz and his partners looked around in 2004 and said “we can be different and we can do this better” and that’s exactly what they did.

Continue Reading

BSM Writers

Chris Simms And His Self-Professed ‘Big Mouth’ Enjoying Life At NBC

“One of the things that I worried about was that I came from Bleacher Report and is NBC going to try to curtail my personality a little bit…sometimes I like to swear on my podcast and do stuff like that and they’ve really allowed me to be me which I really appreciate.”

Avatar photo




To be a good football analyst, one certainly has to know and love the sport but you also can’t be afraid to use the most important tool that you have to do the job. Chris Simms has all of those attributes and NBC lets him use them to the best of his abilities.

“I love football and I love X’s and O’s and I got a big mouth so it’s a great combination,” said Simms. “Between my podcast, Pro Football Talk with Mike Florio, and Sunday Night Football, I get plenty of time to talk and get my studies out there.”

There’s no doubt that Chris inherited that self-professed big mouth from his father, former NFL quarterback and longtime NFL on CBS analyst, Phil Simms.

So, the question had to be asked…does Chris have a bigger mouth than his father?

“Yeah, I probably do,” admitted the younger Simms. “That’s a big mouth to overcome, but I think I probably got him beat in that department.”

Chris Simms set out to follow in his father’s footsteps on the field and played quarterback for Ramapo High School in New Jersey where he earned a pair of All-State honors. After graduating high school in 1999, Simms moved on to play quarterback at the University of Texas where he posted a 26-6 career record as a starter and was the team MVP during his senior season in 2002.

Simms was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the third round of the 2002 NFL Draft and he would guide the Bucs to a playoff berth in 2005.  He would also go on to play for the Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos completing a seven-year NFL playing career. He spent one season as an assistant coach with the New England Patriots before taking his talents to the world of broadcasting.

He started with FOX Sports as a college football announcer in 2013 and then joined Bleacher Report in 2014 while also serving as a color commentator for the NFL on CBS.

And then in 2017, Simms joined NBC Sports where he has certainly found a home.

“I couldn’t be happier,” said Simms. “It’s a great company to work for. Just good people all around. They’ve given me the platform to be me. One of the things that I worried about was that I came from Bleacher Report and is NBC going to try to curtail my personality a little bit…sometimes I like to swear on my podcast and do stuff like that and they’ve really allowed me to be me which I really appreciate.”

Simms wears many different suits at NBC Sports, most notably his role as a studio analyst on Football Night in America leading into Sunday Night Football. He’s also a part of the SNF post-game show Sunday Night Football Final on Peacock, Pro Football Talk with Mike Florio, and Chris Simms Unbuttoned, a streaming/digital show that is also a podcast multiple days a week.

But the most eyeballs are on him during Football Night in America, the most watched studio show in sports.

“I grew up wanting to play in these games more than be the guy in the studio but this is like the second-best thing,” said Simms. “I was kind of that kid at 4 or 5 (years old) who could tell you every player in the NFL, their number and all that type of stuff. It’s the NFL on the biggest stage. It’s such a well-done show. I get to be there with Maria Taylor along with Tony Dungy, and Jason Garrett, and Mike Florio, and Matthew Berry. We got a great team and it makes Sunday fun.”

From the “it takes one to know one” category, Simms has also made a name for himself with his ranking of NFL quarterbacks. He’s very diligent when it comes to watching the live action and also in his film study and his top-40 rankings have become a hot topic within the business and around the office coolers.

Simms is well aware that his rankings have become a lightning rod of discussion.

“It all kind of started organically just because I would make statements,” said Simms. “People were like ‘Why don’t you start making a list?’ It’s a really hard thing to do. It offends a lot of people and I hate that. I root for all of these guys and I say on my podcast all the time I hope this guy proves me wrong. I hope he shits on me and shows me that I was wrong. It’s certainly not personal. One of the things I pride myself on is studying and immersing myself in the game all of the time.”

Simms became a full-time employee of NBC Sports in 2019, but his first role with the network came in 2017 when he became a studio analyst for Notre Dame Football.

Here’s a kid that grew up in North Jersey where there’s a ton of Notre Dame alumni and he’s standing on the sidelines at South Bend as part of Fighting Irish telecasts.

“Another special entity,” said Simms. “I used to get chills being out on the field every Saturday there. It gave me great experience in a different way with the halftime show and the pre-game show. One of the years I was kind of the third man in the booth but I was on the sideline. It gave me some reps on in-game stuff as well. I think most importantly what that did for me more than anything is that it opened up more eyes at NBC about me.”

And now Simms’ work has him in the discussion for a new potential opportunity down the road. 

NBC, alongside FOX and CBS, has secured a seven-year media rights deal with the Big Ten Conference that will commence next season. NBC will air Big Ten Saturday Night, the first time that Big Ten Football will have a dedicated primetime broadcast on a national broadcast network. Peacock will stream an additional eight Big Ten games each season and NBC/Peacock will air the 2026 Big Ten Championship Game.

There have been rumblings that Simms could be involved in the coverage. Is he interested?

“I’m intrigued by it,” admitted Simms. “I’m very all NFL right now but broadcasting game is fun. It’s definitely something on my radar for sure. I do have some producers here in the building that are like ‘I’m going to tell the boss I want you to do some of the Big 10 games this year and what do you think about announcing?’ I’ve already had some people in my ear talking about it. It’s awesome for the company regardless. It just expands our football world. As far as me being involved, we’ll see.” 

In a relatively short amount of time, Chris Simms has built up quite the broadcasting portfolio. From FOX to Bleacher Report and CBS to his current expanded role with NBC, Simms has established himself as one of the premier NFL analysts in the business and his podcast has given him the freedom to do something that he loves to do. Including putting his money where his mouth is. 

Continue Reading

BSM Writers

The Pat McAfee Alternate Broadcast Presents Unique Challenges

Avatar photo




Alternate broadcasts are all the rage these days, and ESPN, in conjunction with Omaha Productions, debuted a new one this weekend as The Pat McAfee Show aired an alternate broadcast of the Clemson and North Carolina State game Saturday evening.

A few weeks ago, I wrote that Manningcast copy-cats were destined for failure. And while I don’t believe McAfee’s debut was a failure by any stretch of the imagination, I couldn’t help but notice it brings its own set of challenges.

First and foremost, College Football Primetime with The Pat McAfee Show — the world’s most convoluted way to say “The McAfeecast” — doesn’t really resemble the Manningcast. And rightfully so. I’m not sure there are two more polar opposite sports media brands than the Mannings and McAfee. The Mannings are funny, but not too funny and never “blue”, while often concerned about how finely quaffed their hair looks and whether the button-down shirt color matches with the Nordstrom quarter-zip they’ve donned. Meanwhile, McAfee wears his black tank-top, like usual, and put his best Pittsburgh-ese foot forward.

Even though the Mannings and McAfee are opposites doesn’t mean they can’t work together, however. The alternate broadcast was a win for Manning, a win for McAfee, a win for ESPN, and a win for viewers.

People love Pat McAfee. Plain and simple. For a multitude of reasons that we can get into in a later story, but let’s focus on that for a moment. It was a big portion of my column a few weeks ago. The Manningcast works because people like Peyton and Eli. The KayRodcast doesn’t work because people hate Michael Kay and Alex Rodriguez. It’s honestly, truly, that simple.

I think it benefitted the McAfeecast to debut with a smaller game, which seems counterintuitive because it was a matchup of top ten teams in primetime. But let’s be realistic, a number five versus number ten ACC game doesn’t hold the same weight as a number five versus number ten Big Ten or SEC game. And it helped McAfee and crew, because there are obvious kinks to work out.

Firstly, there are entirely too many people on the screen. I’m going to have nice words to say about BostonConnr than the eight-and-a-half-year-old that went viral earlier this summer, but god love ya, your time to shine likely isn’t on primetime on ESPN. In my opinion, for the McAfeecast to really work in the future, a similar setup to the Manningcast with McAfee and A.J. Hawk being the prominent figures on screen is the best solution to the problem. I know McAfee believes in his boys. It’s one of his more endearing qualities, and is frankly part of the reason his show is so successful. But you’re reaching a different audience on ESPN2 on Saturday nights, and the reason the either tuned in or will stay is because of McAfee’s presence.

I didn’t get a great feel for McAfee’s thoughts or reactions on the game simply because you didn’t get a closeup of his face. The best moments of the Manningcast, outside of Eli flipping the double birds or Peyton saying “I can’t hear shit”, have been when the pair have been absolutely disgusted by a decision made by a coach or player and their face shows it without any words following up their reactions. And McAfee definitely holds that ability, and I wish I would have gotten a better sense of his facial reactions on-screen.

Also, and I know this is something McAfee can’t actually control, he had to be a bit more reserved on cable television. Part of the allure of The Pat McAfee Show is the — let’s call it extreme candor — with which he speaks. I believe that’s the scholarly way to write “he says f*** frequently”. And believe me, I subscribe to the theory that the FCC should allow hosts the ability to say obscenities 15 times per week, so I’m down for McAfee’s swearing. But you’re just simply never going to get that on ESPN2. You’re likely never going to get that if the broadcast aired on ESPN+, either. For a “family friendly” company Disney, those cards are just flat out never going to be on the table for McAfee.

One of the things McAfee is known for is his boundless energy, which felt lacking at times on Saturday, but it’s understandable. The man was on College GameDay earlier in the day, flew back to the studio to do the alternate broadcast after travelling the day before to get to Clemson to be on GameDay. I’m sure that takes a toll. On top of that, you’re doing something new for the first time, while trying to, essentially, heard cats on the screen, and you can be a little wiped out by the end of the night.

However, the goodwill McAfee has bought with fans over his extreme generosity was on display as the alternate broadcast donated more than $100,000 to Dabo Swinney’s charity, The Jimmy V Foundation, and the American Red Cross. It was a brilliant move for a debut broadcast, because it acts as a slight shield for criticism. How can you complain about something that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity?

The alternate broadcast, for the most part, avoided the biggest problem I have with the Manningcast. The interviews. I’ve never been watching Monday Night Football, or the Manningcast for that matter, and thought “Man, I wish they were talking to Tracy Morgan right now!” McAfee brought on Peyton Manning, for obvious reasons, and former NC State quarterback Phillip Rivers. That’s it. They didn’t rely on guests to carry them through down periods. The eight folks on screen did most of the heavy lifting, and for that, I thank them.

The McAfeecast was certainly different than any other alternate broadcast I’ve consumed. The crew shooting hoops for extra donations to charity during stoppages of play definitely kept things light and interesting. I couldn’t help but be invested in whether or not someone would bury three out of five threes during an injury timeout for more money for charity.

Speaking of injury timeouts, McAfee planned a giveaway and told fans to use a certain hashtag and when to screenshot or take a picture of their TV. Immediately following him saying “now!”, an injured player appeared on the screen, and he instantly shouted “No! Not now! No! We don’t want that, and we hope he’s ok”. It was a light-hearted, nearly hilarious moment that brought levity to the situation.

The highlight of the cast, however, was — in true McAfee style — picking up on things other broadcasters wouldn’t, like an angry fan. The entire crew shouting at the same time in this specific moment was spectacular television.

Overall, I thought the McAfeecast got off on the right foot. There is undeniably a market for an alternate broadcast based around the former NFL punter’s personality, and I look forward to seeing where the show goes from here.

Continue Reading
Advertisement blank
Advertisement blank

Barrett Media Writers

Copyright © 2022 Barrett Media.