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Al Dukes and Jerry Recco Examine State of Sports Radio

Brandon Contes

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Al Dukes and Jerry Recco from WFAN’s morning show used their Wednesday postgame podcast to analyze the sports radio format and what the audience wants from it. They didn’t have an answer, because there is no verified answer, but Dukes and Recco offered interesting insight.  

The concept of talking sports for a living sounds easy, but being tasked with holding people’s attention in a world that demands fast and immediate content is challenging. Recco and Dukes suggested shorter shows throughout the format, including the 6 – 10am morning show they contribute to daily. It was said tongue-in-cheek, but they posed changing WFAN’s lineup to feature Boomer and Gio from 6 – 9a, Dukes and Recco 9a – noon, Moose and Maggie noon – 3p, followed by Carton and Roberts 3 – 6p.  

They also discussed the balance of straying from sports during a sports radio show. I believe social media and podcasts have given sports radio the ability to be less informative than it once was, opening the door for less sports talk. If a listener wants immediate sports news, they’ll check Twitter. If they want in-depth statistical breakdowns featuring analytics, they’ll likely get it from a niche podcast. 

So where does that leave sports radio? Recco said relatable life-talk always connects with the audience and generates reaction, but noted, “you can’t force it.” 

As much as I’m a die-hard sports fan, I prefer when the truly entertaining hosts keep sports to a macro level, soliciting those unique and relatable discussions about 7-Eleven or finding squirrels in your pool. Sticking to the nuts and bolts of sports might not always be the more entertaining route, but it’s usually the safer route because not every host has the ability to navigate away from it. The deeper a show gets into a sports conversation, the harder it is to branch off into those real-life topics. 

Recco also mentioned he gets tired of resetting the same conversation when he fills in for Boomer or Gio. Covering repetitive topics about DeShaun Watson to the Jets for the tenth consecutive day can get monotonous for the host, and that energy resonates with the audience. If the host is bored talking about a topic, the audience is probably going to be bored listening. 

Listeners generate predisposed expectations of hosts and shows. Last week, Recco harshly told Boomer and Gio, he doesn’t want to hear them talk about the Nets. Recco’s a Nets fan, he enjoys Nets commentary, but he goes elsewhere for it. A listener’s predisposed opinion of Boomer and Gio might be that the hosts’ biases prevent them from having an honest conversation about the Nets.   

That rationale is also true for the balance of sports vs non-sports topics. Listeners expect to laugh when Craig Carton is behind the mic, they trust him to take the show in different directions. But if another host attempts a bit that’s deemed out of character, the audience won’t have enough trust to give it a chance the first time. 

Knowing you can’t please everybody while trying to entertain the majority is a difficult task. Even for longtime industry personnel like Dukes and Recco, there might not be a definitive answer on the best way to construct a sports radio show. But that’s not a bad thing, varying approaches to creating a show encourages diverse content.

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Dan Le Batard: I Didn’t Give Them ‘Exactly What They Wanted’ in Interview for ‘Up for Debate’ ESPN Docuseries

“I sat down with their team for about 90 minutes, and I don’t know if I was cut out of it.”

Barrett Sports Media

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Dan Le Batard

Earlier in the week, ESPN, Religion of Sports and Mr. SAS Productions released a new docuseries titled Up for Debate, which chronicles the history of sports debate programming. The three-part venture outlines innovation and adoption of the format in multiple capacities spanning several decades and includes sit-down interviews with various sports media personalities, including Stephen A. Smith. Dan Le Batard, a former ESPN television and radio host who left the network in December 2020 and subsequently launched Meadowlark Media with former ESPN president John Skipper, shares a dissenting viewpoint on what the format has done for sports television and sat for an interview as well.

During a previous episode of South Beach Sessions, Le Batard expressed to Smith that he had ruined sports television because of the imitators that the content has precipitated. Although Le Batard did not watch the documentary at the time of recording Thursday’s edition of The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, he perceived that he may have been left out. Le Batard observed that Smith was discussing the project on First Take and was ultimately skeptical as to whether or not he had been included.

“I’m not totally sure,” Le Batard said. “I sat down with their team for about 90 minutes, and I don’t know if I was cut out of it. I don’t know. I haven’t seen it yet. I remember that the interview wasn’t great between me and them where I wasn’t giving them exactly what they wanted. I did not know exactly what they wanted, but I’m an opposing viewpoint on what debate television has done in general, corrosively, to how it is the athlete is covered and how cruel some of the coverage is.”

Le Batard and Smith have discussed their contrasting perspectives on debate television in previous times, and the beginning of the second episode of the docuseries outlines their thoughts on the matter. Not having seen the presentation at the time though, he was unsure if his interview was ultimately left on the cutting room floor. In the description of the documentary as read in studio, Le Batard’s name was not included on the list of people interviewed, rather being grouped into an ‘Others’ category.

“That part is interesting if I can get the insult of just being ‘Others,’” Le Batard said, “but I want to be able to kick and scream about the fact that my viewpoint was simply cut out of a documentary that I spent 90 minutes interviewing on, but I haven’t seen it and don’t know if I can make the accusation.”

Amin Elhassan was in studio co-hosting the program on Thursday and eventually reacted to Jeremy Taché reading the list of names, ostensibly to determine whether their level of celebrity and/or eminence was larger than that of Le Batard. Before that though, he reminisced on the relationship he deciphers between Le Batard and ESPN, and recognized the outcome of the interview may have been indicative of tension.

“I’ll be honest with you Dan,” Elhassan said. “If I were ESPN and I hated you as much as they hate you, I would make you sit down for 90 minutes and then cut you out.”

“It is perfect torture, right?,” Taché replied. “Sit down for 90 minutes, explain this to us.”

“As soon as you walk out, delete that sh**,” added JuJu Gotti.

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Greg Olsen: Aspirations are Still to be a No. 1 Analyst ‘Whether at FOX or Elsewhere’

“I’m not just content to be there, I ‘m not just happy to have a seat, I want the top seat and I want that wherever that opportunity allows.”

Barrett Sports Media

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Screengrab from Greg Olsen on the Front Office Sports Today podcast
Screengrab from Front Office Sports Today

FOX Sports NFL analyst Greg Olsen was a guest on the Front Office Sports Today podcast. He talked about his new startup company Youth Inc. and also got into the topic everyone wants to know about which is this upcoming football season and him being bumped down to the No. 2 team to make room for Tom Brady.

Host Owen Poindexter asked Olsen if he is approaching his job any differently now that he is longer on the No. 1 team.

“No,” he said. “I have been very clear, on the record, numerous times since I jumped into this field in 2021 following my retirement from playing. My goal is to be the best. My goal is that our crew is looked at as the best. And that’s not just about me, that’s about my partner, that’s about our sideline analyst, that’s about our production team, our producer, our director and the guys and girls in the truck. So, it is something I’m very passionate about, it’s something that I’m very competitive in.

“When I was the No. 2 crew before I said my goal is to be the No. 1. Then I had the opportunity to be elevated alongside a really good friend, Kevin Burkhardt, and be the No. 1 for the last two years and call Super Bowls and call record setting audiences and record setting games and really had a great time doing it. Now, obviously the circumstances have changed with Tom coming and understanding what all the ramifications of all that means. It doesn’t change [what I do], I’m excited to work with Joe. I think that Joe an I’s goal is very much the same. This is not a disrespect to anyone at our network or disrespect to anyone at other networks, but I don’t see our path changing. I think the goal is that we are the best team out there and that’s what we are working towards.

“Hopefully that’s what the public will respond to and hopefully they continue to enjoy our broadcast as they have in the past. Obviously, I’ll miss Kevin, I’ll miss Erin and Tom and some of my really good friends. We talk almost daily if not a couple times a week and they’ll forever be close friends of mine. They were a huge, huge help to my growth. But I’m excited for my new team and I’m excited to grow with Joe and learn each other. My aspirations are still to be a No. 1 analyst whether it’s at FOX or elsewhere and that will never change as long as I do this. I’m not just content to be there, I ‘m not just happy to have a seat, I want the top seat and I want that wherever that opportunity allows. And I’ll never stop working for that. I feel more motivated for that now than ever.”

Olsen also talked about having a conversation recently with Tom Brady and that the two didn’t really know each other on a personal level, they had just been two competitors playing against each other. Now, they have something else in common and both offered to be a resource for the other.

“I’ve had a chance to talk with [Tom] and told him I’ll be as much of a resource as I can. From doing this the last couple of years, maybe I have some insight that would help in his transition. And he has been super grateful and humble coming on board so that process has been great but listen I would be lying if I [didn’t say] I’d love to be that guy calling the Super Bowl this year…My hunger, my approach, my aspirations if anything have just gotten stronger.

“I made it very clear to him I want to be a great teammate, I want to be a great resource at whatever level I can be, and he echoed the exact same sentiment.”

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Dan Le Batard: Inside the NBA is ‘Most Popular Studio Show in the History of Sports Television’

“I believe that studio show still could exist.”

Barrett Sports Media

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Graphic for The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, a photo of David Samson and a logo for Inside the NBA
Photo Credit: David Samson X Profile

With news coming down earlier today the NBA would soon be formalizing deals with ESPN, NBC and Amazon for its media rights after next season, the immediate thought for a lot of NBA fans is more about who is not part of group. That would be TNT, who has had a 40-year history with the league and is also home to the incredibly popular Inside the NBA show led by Ernie Johnson and featuring Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith. Former Marlins president and sports business expert David Samson, who hosts the Nothing Personal with David Samson podcast, joined The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz to talk about the show’s future.

Le Batard began reading the breaking news story from the Sports Business Journal as he brought David Samson in to the conversation. “The best sports studio show there’s ever been, Charles Barkley won another Emmy last night as he always does as part of that show,” Le Batard said. “It would appear that one of the most popular shows in the history of television, not just in sports television, it’s the most popular studio show in the history of sports television. But it ends, right David? How does it get saved? It means next season will be the last, not this season, you’ll get one more year of it. But is there anything that rescues that?”

“Well, you love the people not the show,” Samson replied. “So, the question is, do any of the new networks who have rights to show basketball games, will they try to hire Shaq, Kenny and Charles? And will Ernie follow up on his promise not to leave Turner? And the thought is that he likes his life, he doesn’t necessarily want to leave Atlanta. Could the show continue in Atlanta just for a different network? Is there studio space? Is any of that possible? The answer is yes. So, I think it’s way too early to say Inside the NBA is done…I believe that studio show still could exist.”

Charles Barkley confirmed in a recent interview on ESPN Cleveland that he has an opt-out in his deal should TNT Sports lose broadcasting rights to the NBA. Smith and O’Neal reportedly hold a similar clause.

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