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Ian Beckles Has Crushed Many People

“Like I said if Stevie Wonder is going to teach me music, I’m going to listen. There’s times where I feel like saying just listen, because this is my thing.”

Brian Noe

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The most interesting people in radio typically have a lot of life experiences. Ian Beckles, an afternoon drive host on WDAE in Tampa, Florida, certainly qualifies as one of these people. The former offensive lineman had a nine-year NFL career — including seven with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He teamed up with Hall of Famers Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, and John Lynch. A native of Montreal, Beckles made his way from Canada to Bloomington where he graduated with a BS in business while playing his college ball at Indiana University. Beckles also opened Dignitary Cafe, which merges his passion of all things food with his growing knowledge of CBD products.

I feel like I practically need to rob a bank to compete with Ian’s life experiences.

Tampa's 102.5 The Bone Begins Airing Tampa Talk Veteran Ian Beckles on Aug.  7 – Cox Media Group

Beckles drops by to discuss a wide range of topics. He touches on the retirement of Ron Diaz last December, his former partner who spent four decades on the Tampa airwaves. Beckles talks about his new on-air partner, Jay Recher, who moved from producer to co-host. The ambassador of all things tasty in Tampa Bay also speaks about fluffy radio, being yourself, Angelo Dundee, what fans know nothing about, and caps it off with an excellent Stevie Wonder comparison. Enjoy.

Brian Noe: How did you get your start in sports radio after your playing days? 

Ian Beckles: I never even knew sports radio existed. When I played, and even afterward, I never listened to sports radio, not one time. I was at a gym with a young lady, Jayne Portnoy, who used to work for the Bucs. She said to me you’d be great in sports radio and they’re looking for somebody at 620. Once again I didn’t know what was going on. I went to 620. They had about 10 people in there looking to get a Sunday job for pregame. I won, I guess, because I got the job. I started my Sunday show with Sandy Penner. That one might have been 20 years ago. That turned into a Monday night show on 620, which kind of turned into me filling in for Chris Thomas and ultimately me taking over for Chris Thomas with Ron Diaz.

BN: How do you think your style has changed over the last two decades, if it even did?

IB: I’d like to believe that my style didn’t change, because I think when you’re behind the mic, you’re just doing yourself. That’s what I’m trying to do anyway. If I was to give somebody advice, I would say just be yourself. Some people get behind the mic and they want to change and make it more professional. I just open the mic and just talk like I’d be talking to my buddies and we’re having a cocktail.

I don’t think my style has changed. I really don’t. I’ve learned a lot because we talk about a lot of different sports and one of the things that you learn is that if you don’t know a whole lot about something, you don’t want to elaborate too much on it. If we’re talking about NASCAR, I’ll joke around and say I don’t know much about NASCAR. The worst thing to do is try to be smart when you don’t know anything, so I guess I just learned a lot of little lessons throughout the years.

BN: What did you enjoy most about working with Ron before he retired?

IB: What I enjoy the most working with Ron was what I learned. What’s funny is I think Ron and I survived together because we’re both professionals. A lot of people will say hey man, you and Ron, you guys hang out all the time like you’re best friends. Although Ron and I were friends and we respected each other, we didn’t hang out afterwards. We just respected when that mic came on, we’re going to put on the best product. I think the reason why it succeeded so much is that we were so different. I always tell people if you have a show with Tucker Carlson and Hannity, it might be too much, but you put Tucker Carlson and Anderson Cooper together, it’d be a great show. I think that’s what Ron and I did.

There’s going to be people that don’t like me, and the people that don’t like me, would like Ron. I think vice versa as well. There are certain times when you get into an argument, I know there’s people on the other side of the radio saying, don’t let up Ian, or don’t let up Ron. Sometimes there are no right answers. I thought it worked because we hit the whole spectrum.

For me, working with somebody who’s been in radio that long and was a pioneer, I’m a sponge. I was like that in the locker room as well. When Anthony Muñoz came in the locker room or one of those old-school guys, I listened to everything they said. I understand you got there for a reason. I got a chance to grow up with Brooks and Sapp and those guys, so we all learned together. But I’ve always learned to listen. I watch too. I watched a lot of things Ron did and a lot of things Ron said, and the way he said them. I think I adopted a lot, and hopefully in my older age young, young cats like Jay Recher and some of the other kids coming up can hear it and adopt it and hopefully learn from me. I thought about the other day, I’m becoming one of the elder statesmen because I’ve been on the air for a while now.

BN: What has it been like getting used to Jay who was a producer and now is your co-host?

IB: I didn’t have to. When Ron was out, me and Jay did the show. That happened probably a half-dozen times and every time we did the show, we were like “Oh my God, that was cool. That was relaxing.”

We were chill. Jay and I like each other; we hang out. Jay comes over here to watch sporting events. We hang out more than Ron and I used to. Once again it doesn’t make it a better show. But I never at any time questioned whether Jay and I would have good synergy because like I said we like each other. We challenge each other because the worst crap is fluffy radio. Nobody wants that. I think Jay is so strong-minded that he won’t allow that to happen. When the bosses came to me and they go “Do you want it to be Jay Recher?” I said it has to be Jay Recher. I go it has to be. That was it. I didn’t give them a choice. I think we made the right choice for sure.

Ian Beckles on Twitter: "Beckles and Recher were honored to snap a pic with  Lotd Stanley's cup yesterday at Amalie!… "


BN: As a former player, how often do you hear sports radio hosts that didn’t play professionally, say things that are incorrect?

IB: It happens a lot. I’ll give you an example, throughout the years there’s been a couple football players I’ve been very critical about, and they were Buccaneer players. Way back in the day it was Barrett Ruud. I was like you guys keep telling me this guy is good, but he’s running backwards to make tackles. Barrett Ruud would have 150 tackles in a season but we would be last at stopping the run and you’re a middle linebacker. They don’t go together. People were upset with me; “No, you’re wrong, you’re wrong.” And I go well, you know what, if you remember what I did for a living — do you know how much film I’ve watched? I feel like saying are you going to question Stevie Wonder on music because I don’t know very many people that have better credentials than I do to evaluate a middle linebacker. After that we had Gaines Adams. I go he can’t play. He just can’t play. He’s not strong enough. He’s not mean enough. He’s too nice. He’s just running around the edge and that didn’t work out. When Barrett Ruud left here, he never played good football. With Gaines Adams, may he rest in peace, he didn’t either. 

The last one was Gerald McCoy. I go you guys keep on telling me how good this guy is. He doesn’t make any plays. He doesn’t get sacks. Our defense is last always and you guys keep on telling me he’s good. I go the second he leaves, Ndamukong Suh comes in here, I go see what happens. And what happens? Our defense got better immediately.

I don’t think, I know I see football different than everybody else because that’s all I did my whole life. Sometimes I want to stop people — it can sound pretentious at times — but I don’t care. Like I said if Stevie Wonder is going to teach me music, I’m going to listen. There’s times where I feel like saying just listen, because this is my thing. I wasn’t good in school. I wouldn’t cheat off me in school. But if we’re talking about football and inside line play, I’d be the one to cheat off of because I have a world of knowledge.

BN: Does the common fan and most of the media know the least about inside line play, which is your area of expertise?

IB: They know nothing actually. I’m starting to realize this with old age; football is a very complicated game. It’s way complicated because sometimes when I have people over here and we’re watching football — we may have Tony Mayberry here, a former teammate of mine, or Michael Clayton, or Shaun King, and we’re all talking football. I realize I don’t know what they’re talking about. I wasn’t in the wide receiver room. And God forbid I know anything about what a quarterback is doing.

When you hear the commentators speak sometimes, I realize even the commentators are speaking over the normal fans’ heads. Let me give you some common things, they’ll say he’s a 3-technique. I swear to God, ask the average person what a 3-technique is — and I’m talking about football fans — and they won’t know what it is.

They’ll say this is a two-gap defense. If you ask 10 football fans, one of them will know what the hell they’re talking about. But this is something they’ve been talking about forever, and they keep on hearing it, and they think they know what it is, but they have no idea. Football gets way more complicated than that. Inside play is not any more complicated than DB play or tight end play, it’s just different, that’s all. But football in general is very, very complicated.

BN: What’s good and bad about a lack of local competition for your radio station? 

IB: Since I’ve been in radio there was another radio station that popped up 98-something The Fan, I believe it was. When they went away everybody was like, I bet you’re happy they went away. I go why would I be happy? Life is better when there’s competition. When people’s contracts are up in radio, your company has the ability to say, well where else are you going to go? There ain’t nowhere else to go. Obviously nobody wants to leave the Tampa Bay area, but everybody wants to get your going rate for what you’re worth. I wanted the other station to work. Listen we’ve crushed a lot of people throughout the time, so I don’t feel bad for everybody. We’ve been king for a while, and hopefully it stays that way.

BN: I love your Twitter profile, ‘Ambassador of all things tasty in Tampa Bay.’ What is it about food that interests you so much?

IB: When I talk about all things food, I mean from the ground up. I love restaurants. I love the experience of restaurants. I love just about every type of food. I love to cook. I love to get the best meats. It’s all important; just like everything else, if you want to be great at something, you’ve got to get great product. I’m cooking it with great pots. I’m searing meats and it’s just a passion of mine. I catch myself when I’m not watching sports, I’m watching YouTube videos of cooking, or grilling meats. Let me say the word foodie gets kicked around a lot. Whatever the hell that means, I’m substantially deeper than that. If some people go to restaurants once a week and they go to Bennigan’s and they say I’m a foodie, well okay, good for you. It’s just like this, the guy that thought he was a good football player until he came and hung out with us, and then you find out that maybe you’re not so good.

Flavor of Tampa Bay (@FlavorofTB) | Twitter



BN: How much do you talk about it on your show?

IB: Well, we actually have a segment now that we can do once a month called Flavor of Tampa Bay. This is something that I’ve created a long time ago and I’ve had different shows called Flavor of Tampa Bay. Ray Lampe was one of my co-hosts for a while, Dr. BBQ. We’re going to go out of our way to talk about food because people really enjoy that. If there’s one thing about food it’s, I don’t care where you’re from, if you say I don’t like to eat, or I don’t enjoy food, well then I’m going to move on. I don’t really understand that. I’m sorry to hear that, but when you start talking about great restaurants and great ways to prepare food and stuff like that, their ears perk up because it’s something everybody loves. Not everybody loves sports, but everybody loves to eat good food. We definitely try to implement as much food talk in our show as possible.

BN: What would you say is your highest high in sports radio during your career?

IB: Oh boy, the highest high I would say it happens probably once a year where I’ll come in and they’ll say we’re interviewing whoever it may be. I’ll give you an example; we talk to Phil Esposito every week. I grew up hating Phil Esposito because I was Montreal Canadiens fan, but I also respected the hell out of who Phil Esposito was. Being from Montreal I tell my buddies back home I’m good friends with Phil Esposito; they’re like get outta here.

It’s the exposure. A couple of years ago, we’re interviewing Scotty Bowman or we’re interviewing Jack Nicklaus. And I’m like “Wow! I never thought in my career I’d ever talk to Jack Nicklaus or Scotty Bowman would know who I am.” I ran into Scotty Bowman at a hockey game and I told him who I was, and he said, “Oh I remember that, it was a great interview.” That’s the best. We’re talking about the best of the best.

I got a chance to become friends with Angelo Dundee. His son hit me up one time and he goes hey I’m Angelo Dundee’s son. And I go, the trainer? He goes yeah, he’d like to meet you, he’s a big fan of your show. Oh my — I was like, okay. So he says well meet him at Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza tomorrow. So I went to Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza. It’s the first I ever went there. I had a meeting with Angelo for about an hour — maybe the most likeable, personable, easygoing guy I’ve ever met. I came back on air the next day, talked about him, talked about Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, that became an endorsement for years, which is comical. But I became friends with Angelo Dundee.

Angelo Dundee is at my house on Sunday watching football and telling stories about hanging out with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King and Frank Sinatra. Nobody’s watching football, they’re just listening to Angelo Dundee’s stories. Some of the relationships that I got a chance to develop where you never thought that would happen. To make a long story short Angelo Dundee passed and his son asked Ron and myself to speak at his funeral. Twenty feet in front of me was Muhammad Ali. He’s staring at me as I’m speaking at Angelo Dundee’s funeral. Weird things can come about through sports radio, but weird good things.

BN: Is there anything goals wise that you would like to accomplish over the years coming up?

IB: Goals wise, I think I’ve already exceeded anything I thought was even possible in radio. Really a lot of my goals stem away from radio. I’ve done football, I’ve done radio, television, I have a cafe I just opened here in South Tampa. I want to become a spokesperson and a face for CBD products. I have some different people that I represent in this area, New Balance Tampa, Curaleaf, and Master Purveyors. I’m not a sports radio guy; I’m somebody who’s a marketer. I do a lot of different things; photo shoots and real fun things. I’ve never really worked. I’ve never dreaded going to work. I’ve been very, very blessed. Any more goals, it wouldn’t be straight sports radio; it’d just be in general and just building my brand. My brand is Dignitary and hopefully a year from now you’ll be seeing Dignitary everywhere.

BN: The CBD stuff, as a former player, how much does it work for you?

IB: I literally take CBD every single day in the morning, during the day, and listen, I’m an overweight old offensive lineman, and I pop up in the morning. I feel good. I look around, I see people limping around and I’m blessed. I feel better than 95 percent of them. Do I say it’s because of CBD? I don’t know, but it seems to be working for me.

Whatever equation I’m doing right now works because my body feels good, my mind is good. Listen if my mind goes, everybody is going to know. It’s not like some guys you hear were on the couch for three weeks. I can’t do that. I’ve got to get up in the morning and I go. I’ve got to be on all the time. I’ve got radio shows and I’ve got television appearances. I’ve got interviews like this. I’ve got podcasts, so I’ve got to be on. If it ever hits the fan, everybody’s going to know real, real quick.

CBD has been a blessing for me and there’s a lot of different ways you can take it. I would just suggest it to anybody who has any issues with pain, focus, the whole nine yards. Read up on CBD. People are very ignorant to CBD. They’re still saying does it get me high? No, it doesn’t get you high. The stuff you get at Theraleaf gets you high, not the stuff that you get here at Dignitary Cafe. We sell it in a lot of different forms, so come check it out.

The Dignitary Radio Podcast with Ian Beckles #1 10/10 by HMBradio |  Entertainment



BN: Do people know less about CBD or interior offensive line play?

IB: Ooo, that’s a good question. That’s a toss-up. [Laughs]

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Missing ‘The Little Things’ Can Make Your Station Look Really Bad

Some folks really need to take a good hard look at their site and ask themselves if it represents what they want their station to be.

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Photo of a sports radio studio

I hate that this is a topic in 2024, but it seems the more I look at different sports stations online, the more I see a problem across the industry. Some stations, or companies as a whole, are not represented well at all online. Whether it be the look or feel of their website, the information available on it, the ease or lack thereof of streaming and podcasting or connecting with the talent. All of these are ‘the little things’ that can go a long way with your audience.

It all starts with your station website. And the fact that I have to take time to write about what a sports radio station should have on its website in 2024 is not good. Some folks really need to take a good hard look at their site and ask themselves if it represents what they want their station to be.

Anyone should be able to log on to a radio station website and immediately be able to get certain information. What shows air on the station, what time and give me some information about and ways to connect with your hosts. I should also be able to easily access the ‘podcast’ or replay of a show and there should be titles and descriptions which give me information so that I can choose what segments or topics I want to listen to.

Putting a so-called podcast up, which is the full three or four hours of a show, and not telling users what is in it they might want to listen to is a huge miss. It shows people in our business do not understand how people consume content these days. They want it quick, they want to be sold on what they will get out of it if they listen. It needs to be, you know, easy.

Kudos to Audacy in this regard. They do the best job of having their stations set up so that a person can truly listen on demand. You can go to any of their stations and pick a show and most of the time you will have information about every segment that has been done. Want to hear what the hosts had to say but don’t care about the guests they have on? Perfect, listen to the segments where the hosts gave strong opinions. Don’t care about football but want all the baseball that you can get? Just choose the baseball segments. It’s how it is supposed to be.

On the flip side you have several stations where you can log on to their website and not find what you are looking for.

Take, for example, today when I wanted to listen to a station’s morning show, but I wasn’t able to listen while it was live. I typed the station name into my Google machine and got the link to their webpage.

There was a drop-down menu and I clicked ‘Podcasts.’ This took me to a page which is dated November 5, 2015.

I looked at the social media channels for the station and I found a Linktree. One of the links to click said ‘Podcast’ and so I clicked that, and it takes me to a page with a completely different URL from the radio station.

I scrolled down and found the show I was looking for and took a deep breath as it loaded as I was glad to have finally figured out how to listen to the show on-demand. Then the page loads and I saw a bunch of episodes to listen to but unfortunately, they were from February.

Not having the podcasts easily accessible, not having them posted by segment, not having host bios and not having links to their social media are unacceptable in 2024. If your goal is to get new listeners to your station, you are making it incredibly difficult for people who might want to know more about your station and talent or who want to listen to your programming.

As for the rest of the content on the website, I am going to save that for another column, but if what you’re showing your audience is aggregated content from a national source with your local tags, that is another completely missed opportunity to connect with your audience.

While I am on the subject of things that are not the main programming, some stations really need to take a listen to their sports updates. From the intros to the music to the voices being used to what they are saying should be examined. I am a huge update fan, mostly because I believe they are great for sales but also because people still want that quick info, so they are more knowledgeable around the water cooler. How did the local teams do yesterday, what is happening today I need to know about, remind me to tune in to something later, hit the sponsor and get back to the hosts. No matter how good X and the internet are, you still can’t get all your local sports news in 60-90 seconds like you can on a sports update.

I hear several stations daily that air updates, but it is clear the station does not value what is being presented or they would find people better prepared to do them. If you cannot afford to have someone who knows what to present and can do it in a manner that is listenable and provides the service to the listeners that it should, figure out some other way to do them. Perhaps one of your hosts needs to do them or work them into the programming of the show. Whatever it is, don’t just let it be a throw-away piece of content.

I jokingly refer to these items as ‘the little things,’ but these are important. Especially your websites and social interaction with your listeners. If we cannot do the very basics of having a website with easy to access live audio, easy to find podcasts and easy to locate information about the hosts and ways to connect with them, what are we doing?

I encourage all managers to take some time, as soon as possible, and go through your station sites. See if these things can be done easily, see if the information is up to date. Look at it from the standpoint of the users or someone new coming to your site.

It’s time to clean up ‘the little things.’ Everyone is busy, but we can’t be too busy when it comes to making stations sound better and making them more user friendly.

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The Best Thing I Heard/Watched Recently

I am locked in on FX’s Clipped: The Scandalous Story of LA’s Other Basketball Team which is being shown on Hulu. The first two episodes came out together and now they are being dropped weekly on Tuesdays. It’s not nearly as good as the Lakers shows, but that is only fitting I suppose.

As I have said before, give me all of these behind-the-scenes shows. I realize you are generally only getting one side of a story and things are changed up for television, but I will watch every one of these kinds of shows they want to make. Sports. Nostalgia. Drama. Inject it into my veins!

You can learn more about the show and see a trailer by clicking here.

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In Case You Missed It

Earlier this week, Peter Schwartz profiled Marc Ryan, who just recently started at 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit. Ryan had been at WYRD in Greenville, South Carolina. What is unique about this story is that as Schartz wrote, “For each of the last 14 years of his career, [Ryan] carried with him a Post-it note as a reminder of where he ultimately wanted to land. On that note were three all-sports radio stations that were his dream situations and those were 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, WFAN in New York and 670 The Score in Chicago.” 

Congratulations to Marc for making his dream a reality and best of luck in Detroit.

You can read the full feature by clicking here.

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Meet the Bettors: Ben Mintz, Barstool Sports

“The thing I always say about Barstool is take what you do seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Meet The Bettors - Ben Mintz

One of the toughest things to do when you create gambling content is to get others invested in your wins and losses. If I don’t know you, why would I root for or against you? Somehow though, Ben Mintz has broken through.

He’s one of the many gamblers on the Barstool Sports payroll. Maybe it’s being introduced amidst a losing streak. Maybe it’s his comeback story. I would guess what makes most people take an interest in Mintz’s money is Mintz himself. He’s just genuinely likable and easy to talk to.

Mintz, as he is known to Barstool fans, is the focus of the latest Meet the Bettors column presented by Point to Point Marketing. We talk about that aforementioned losing streak, the past and future of America’s interest in poker, and why the brick-and-mortar sportsbooks will someday be a thing of the past.

Demetri Ravanos: We’re both SEC guys. Probably around the same time too. I graduated from Alabama in 03. Around that time, we all knew people who were finding ways to make bets. They probably thought they had an advantage over the bookmakers because they were in the heart of college action and living and breathing it.          

Do you think those advantages still exist for college sports fans? There are so many games across so many sports. Is there anywhere a dedicated fan has an advantage over the books?

Ben Mintz: Well, I’m not like the biggest college basketball guy, but the early part of college basketball season. It’s especially in the smaller schools. If people really focus on it, I’ve heard that there are big edges. There’s just so much information for the oddsmakers to keep up with from the transfer portal especially. It’s just so hard to handicap that stuff being in season with 300-and-something teams.          

I think there’s a little bit of an edge in the college baseball stuff still, just because they’ve only been doing these lines for a few years. The oddsmakers are still just trying to figure out how to properly handicap it, so I think there’s a little bit of edge there.         

DR: When you were on local sports radio in Louisiana, how much of this were you able to talk about, even if you were just using it as context for how much of a favorite a team might be? 

BM: All the time. I’ve been betting on sports for a long time now. I’m in my 40s, and this was always a big part of my brand, even when it was a little taboo. I was doing line segments, breaking down games, making picks. That was always a big part of what I did.           

I mean, it’s a fascinating part of the industry. And as long as you do it responsibly, I think it just makes everything more interesting.           

I love college baseball stuff and I’ve been firing the NCAA Tournament. I’ve got a big futures bet on NC State at 35/1 right now that I’m loving. I’m going to Omaha. I’m super into it. I always have been and it’s always been a big part of my brand. 

DR: So as a gambler, obviously you always want to win, but when it comes to creating content, especially for a brand like Barstool, is it better if you lose? 

BM: Well, I think the thing with me is, I was a professional poker player from 2006 to 14, and I played a lot of high stakes poker and in some of the biggest tournaments in the US and did really well. I mean, I made a living at poker for eight years. Sports gambling stuff is really fun to me.           

I think kind of the biggest thing with that is you’ve got to look yourself in the mirror and say, “am I doing this to make money or am I doing this for entertainment?” And I do it for entertainment, so I’m not like the biggest player. I bet like 50 bucks a unit and I just enjoy it.     

The biggest mistake, and I make this mistake all the time because I’m doing it for entertainment, is you can bet on too many games. If you’re going to do it and you want to do it at the top level, you’re looking at a full college football board on Saturday night, and then you’re betting like 3 to 6 games in the NFL.           

Look at the whole board, but only bet like 2 to 4. It’s all about being selective and then going big on the ones you really like and getting a few on because it’s kind of similar to the casino thing. If you’re betting 20 or 25 games in a day, I don’t care who you are, the juice is gonna catch up to you. The style to win, if you’re really like, “hey, I’m doing this to make money,” it’s about being selective and aggressive. 

DR: Was there ever a change in the way you guys could play with losses?  Did the content you could create around losing picks change when Dave sold to Penn National or change back after he reacquired the company? 

BM: Well, I mean, when I was getting started with Barstool, the first thing that really got me going my first summer was my historic college baseball losing streak. During that time, I went like two-for-eleven in Omaha. I got so cold. There was also an issue in college baseball in its infancy with lines. I didn’t know what I was doing or how to handicap it.           

The biggest mistake I was taking too many favorites. When you look at college baseball’s middle bats being the great equalizer, there’s a ton of underdog value. I think what happens a lot is, Vegas makes the favorites too much of a favorite.  That summer I didn’t know that. My content blew up because I was losing so many bets. As far as the content goes, you know, you’d rather be red hot or ice cold. The worst thing you could be is like 4-5, you know? Nobody cares if you’re in the middle.           

The thing I always say about Barstool is take what you do seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. I mean, you’re going to get roasted in the public eye. Deal with it. It’s been happening for four years to me.          

What I’ve noticed with the Barstool thing that’s so interesting to me is like, you look at what happens on Twitter or Reddit. You can’t overanalyze that stuff because in real life, I mean, I’ve gone around the whole country now with Barstool. I’ve had like 3 or 4 negative interactions with people in 3 or 4 years. That’s it, you know? And so, it’s all like super positive in the flesh. These people just get behind the keyboards and you know, they’re just not afraid to let the fur fly. 

DR So you mentioned poker. I want to ask you about a couple of your experiences because you’ve gotten to experience poker in two very different realities. So let’s start with the most recent. During that time between when Penn let you go and before Dave rehired you, I know you were doing some events for PokerGo. That kind of business used to advertise all over ESPN and every other sports broadcast. What is the health of the poker-centric sites and businesses in 2024? 

BM: Well, the online side of it is not doing as well, but for live poker, the numbers have never been bigger. I think a lot of it was, coming out of Covid, people missed it.           

I’m actually heading out to Vegas on June 29th for the World Series of Poker. I’ll be out there and it’s all around you. I’m playing a few warm-up events, and I’m playing my ninth World Series of Poker main event. I’m playing the last day on Saturday, July 6th.          

Live poker, I mean, it’s not just crushing in Vegas. It’s crushing everywhere. The online stuff is still lagging way behind because, there are a few states where it’s legal, like Pennsylvania, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey and Nevada, but that’s not the whole country.           

Online poker was so great from like 2003 or 4 to 2011. You had the whole world playing together, so you got such a massive player pool. Then when the government tried to  crack down on it, it’s never been the same. There are a few sites that operate illegally, that people play on that are pretty big, but honestly, the online thing’s just, you know, I maybe play a couple times a year, but it’s just I’m not really that into it anymore. 

DR: Are a lot of the guys you’re going to be at the table with for the World Series of Poker, will they have action on sports as well? 

BM Yeah, most poker players are down to gamble because you’re kind of doing it for a living and just looking for edges and stuff. You see some, you know, real heavy football and sports betting guys I play poker with, for sure. There’s definitely a ton of that.           

You know, the poker sportsbook thing kind of go hand-in-hand. Poker rooms are always right by the sportsbook. They’re kind of first cousins in a way I would say.

DR: So the catalyst for that big boom, obviously, was how much ESPN invested in the World Series of Poker back in the early 2000s and started airing the main event on ESPN, obviously on delay. Do you think that poker can enjoy something like that again now that gambling in general has become less taboo? 

BM: I think the big thing with poker, you see this big push nationwide for sports betting and poker is just not that big of a business. I’m not saying that the poker world’s still not big, but, you know, there isn’t that much of a push to get it going nationally and, you know, they no longer have the World Series on ESPN. Now they tape it for CBS Sports.           

You mentioned PokerGo. Those guys keep this thing going. I mean, if you like poker, you pay 15 bucks a month and they’re the ones that live broadcast all these World Series of Poker final tables every night. I worked with them for six weeks last summer, and I just can’t say enough about what they do for the poker scene. 

DR: So let me ask you this in relation to something that I talked about with Mike Francesa last week. I asked him about the legalization of sports betting going everywhere and what that has done for horse racing, which he loves. He said that horse racing is a sport that can’t get out of its own way. It does not know how to grow a new fan base. Is that similar to what you’re seeing at these World Series of Poker tables, or are young players coming to it all the time? 

BM: You know, there’s still young blood coming into the game. I think the big thing about poker when you draw the World Series is you still get the international element. The European Poker Tour blew up over the last ten years. A lot of the best players in the world are out of Europe. Those kids, Germany? They’re on a level that I mean, it’s crazy how good they are.        

I think that’s what’s helping drive that growth of poker is just that, you still see kids in the United States get into it, but it’s not like it was during the boom when everybody was playing online and came up. You know, a lot of college kids came up through online poker. Now, I think it’s become such an international thing.           

When you play the World Series, I mean, the amount of Europeans that are around for the WSOP, heck, there’s like Brazilians and Argentineans. You get people from South America coming over, too. So, I think that’s what’s driving the worldwide growth.          

In the United States, it’s kind of interesting. Now, there are some pockets of places that are very random. They get these huge events. Like Cherokee, NC, which is over by Asheville. I mean, they have four World Series of Poker circuit events a year. They get 12 to 15 hundred people for them. I went to Firekeepers Michigan, up in Battle Creek last month, and they got 2800 people at a $1,000 event. You see that also in Grant, Oklahoma, north of Dallas. Those Oklahoma tournaments always pull Texas people. You see numbers like that returning. I mean, it’s still doing extremely well.           

What’s interesting about poker is everybody’s all about that World Series of Poker dream, because that’s what they see on TV. I love the World Series main because it’s got a brand name like Super Bowl or The Masters, but like a lot of the World Series is extremely overrated. There’s no way to hold a field of 7,000 people. It’s a numbers game. I mean, only nine make the final table.

DR: The poker experience makes me wonder about sportsbooks. As poker became harder to play online, people had to go back to casinos, but the opposite is happening for sports bettors. A physical sportsbook is a great experience, but people will choose the ease of betting online nine times out of ten. Do you think we will ever see physical books go away or is the offering unique enough that they will always have some kind of demand?

BM: I think it’s going to keep fading. Obviously when Nevada was the only place you could do it legally, that was always the big thing – going out there. But, you know, a lot of these same companies have the apps, MGM and Caesars. I guess they feel there’s still value, but I think what you’re going to see is them fade more and more because it’s just an online world now. Like you said, just being able to fire on the apps and the convenience of it.           

A lot of these casinos are in random locations and stuff too. You know, people are just trying to fit it in their day-to-day lives with their families and jobs and all that kind of stuff. Having it on your phone, is a game changer. I think it’s going to continue becoming more and more digital, especially as more and more states legalize. 

To learn more about Point-To-Point Marketing’s Podcast and Broadcast Audience Development Marketing strategies, contact Tim Bronsil at [email protected] or 513-702-5072.

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Sports Broadcasting Can Be a Family Affair

Sports are such a generational activity.

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Screengrabs from WTBS and CBS Sports
Screengrabs: WTBS and CBS Sports

It’s Father’s Day this weekend, a time to celebrate and recognize all the dads out there. Growing up it was always my dad taking me and my brother to the park to throw us extra batting practice. He coached our Little League teams and was seemingly always there. It was my dad that took me to my first baseball game. 1972, Wrigley Field, Cubs and Giants. He took me to my first hockey game. 1974, Chicago Stadium, Blackhawks and Bruins. I have special memories of those games and times.

Sports are such a generational activity. Passed on from grandparents to parents and to their kids. Sometimes covering sports is the same. There have been many father/son combinations that have called games, either with the same team or not, either in the same sport or not. It has to be a pretty special thing for all involved, realizing the significance. A few years ago, I featured a few father/sons and in one case grandparent combinations in honor of the day. A lot of those folks are still calling games. Some have moved on to retirement.

The names may have changed in some cases, but the story or stories have not. It can’t be easy to grow up the son of a broadcaster, especially early in life. Parents have to miss birthdays, graduations and a lot of ‘firsts’ that come along with growing up. Strangely enough, what separated them, can bring them together. A better understanding of what dad does for a living. A better understanding of the time away. So, let’s get on to some of these popular combinations. I’m going to highlight some of them, and this time around it’s not limited to only baseball.

Noah and Ian Eagle

Ian Eagle is one of the busiest guys in broadcasting. This past March he called his very first Final Four and NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game. He was excellent in that role, taking over the spot from the legendary Jim Nantz. The elder Eagle also calls NFL on CBS and the NBA on Turner Sports. He is also the television voice of the Brooklyn Nets on the YES Network.

Noah is starting to make a name for himself in the industry. After brief stints at Fox and CBS, he joined NBC last February to become the play-by-play announcer for the newly acquired Big Ten Saturday Night package, as well as the Big Ten Basketball package on Peacock. The younger Eagle was also tabbed to call US Men’s and Women’s basketball games during the upcoming 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. Noah also just debuted as the lead voice for NBC Sports/Peacock at the 2024 French Open tennis championships.

The natural question would be, how tough it is to live up to expectations, considering that his father has reached the pinnacle of the profession.  Noah seems to have a pretty good attitude about things and is trying to be his own person even with the pressure.

“I think it’s there, I think it’s true of any profession if you follow a parent — if you’re in the limelight, if you’re not in the limelight — there are people that are going to be around you within that profession more than anything else that are going to look at you and say, ‘Well you better be successful,” or, “You better do it this way, you better do it that way.’” Eagle told The New York Post in December 2023. “My philosophy has always been I’m going to put in 100 percent effort, maybe even in my thought process, 150 percent, whatever that looks like, maximum effort into my preparation, maximum effort into my relationships that I build, and then just focus on what I can do — which is go out there and perform at a high level.” he added.

“I know it sounds cliché, but to me if you can control what you can control, and that is doing the job at your highest level, whatever that is, then you’ll live up to your own expectations.”

The Eagle’s both succeed in bringing a little personality and humor into their respective broadcasts.

Both have called Brooklyn Nets games.

Marv and Kenny Albert

One of the more versatile duos on the list, Marv and Kenny Albert have called a multitude of sports, sometimes in the span of a single week. They’ve both done radio and television and have styles that are unique to each.

Marv got started at the age of 19. Working his way up, starting as a young ball boy for the Knicks. He managed to strike up a friendship with the legendary New York sportscaster Marty Glickman, who took a liking to Albert and his passion for sports. Albert would get a chance to fill in for Glickman on several Knicks and Rangers games on WCBS Radio before he was 20.

“That was kind of ridiculous, especially when I go back and listen to the tapes.” Albert told the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

Marv is best known for his work at NBC, on their NFL and of course NBA coverage.

Kenny is also a multi-sport play-by-play man. The younger Albert does baseball, football, basketball, hockey and the Olympics. He’s seemingly on the air all the time. Albert works for FOX, TNT and used to call hockey on NBC. He also works on the New York Rangers radio network.

Now as far as growing up with one of the most popular sportscasters of his time?  “I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher,” Kenny said of his father. “I tagged along as often as he would allow and I picked up a lot by osmosis.” he writes in his book, A Mic For All Seasons.

“I also received a tape recorder from my parents for my birthday when I was about five or six years old. I would set up my room like a radio or TV studio. I would start calling games into the recorder.”

Harry, Skip, Chip and Chris Caray

The family with the longest lineage, now spanning 4 generations, the Caray’s. Harry started it all. His radio work in St. Louis (with Jack Buck) led him to television stints with the White Sox and Cubs in Chicago. Harry’s son Skip was next to be on the air. Skip joined the Atlanta Braves broadcasts in 1976 and stayed there until his death in 2008. Skip, like Harry, became popular outside his ‘home market’ because the games were broadcast on Superstation WTBS.

Now a second father/son duo has emerged from the Caray family tree. Chip Caray and his son Chris Caray are both major league broadcasters. Chip has been around for a little while, starting with the Cubs in 1998. He was supposed to work with his grandfather, but unfortunately Harry passed away during spring training of that year. Chip has done work for the Atlanta Braves and now is with the St. Louis Cardinals.

This year, Chris was hired by the A’s to do some of their television games. He just so happened to be working a game, when the Cardinals (and Chip) came to Oakland in mid-April. Chip and Chris met on the field before the game and spoke to the Associated Press that night.

“I’m the old guy now and I remember when I was 24 and I got my first chance to do this and my dad was in the other booth on the radio side in Atlanta,” said Chip. “And it’s very different having the torch being passed instead of being passed to you. I’m really excited and humbled and honored that Chris is here. He’s doing a great job already and I’m really excited about where he’s going to take this family business as we call it.”

Only a couple of weeks into his new job, Chris was calling a game with his dad sitting a couple of booths away. “I’m grateful and fortunate enough that they picked this series to be my fourth game. I can’t really even put it into words to tell you the truth.” he told the AP.

The Caray’s “family business” could grow by one soon. Chris’ twin brother Stefan is also calling games. In fact, Chris and Stefan both called games for the Amarillo Sod Poodles the past two years calling the games of the Diamondbacks’ Double-A affiliate.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, enjoy yourself, you deserve it.

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