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.
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.
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.
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.
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]
Meet The Market Managers: Ryan Hatch, Bonneville International Phoenix
“Our pitch is that these brands have a connection to the market. That works for us, and that works because it’s emotional. It works because it’s local. It works because of the creative messaging behind it.”
For as long as I have known Ryan Hatch, he has been a good friend, encouraging me to take advantage of each opportunity put in front of me. When someone treats you that way, you cannot be anything but thrilled when you see them do the same thing.
Late last year, Ryan was elevated from a programming executive role with Bonneville to become Market Manager of the company’s Phoenix cluster. He is now overseeing every aspect of a building that he has worked in for a long time.
I thought it would be fun to visit with him to see what has changed. The last time I profiled him, he was serving as PD of Arizona Sports 98.7. The last time we profiled Bonneville Phoenix for this series, it was Scott Sutherland in the Market Manager’s chair. So, what has changed?
In this conversation, presented by Point to Point Marketing, Ryan and I discuss the changing nature of our business, retaining great talent, and supporting the person who’s tasked with filling your former position and leading the programming team forward. When a company is ahead of the curve with its digital strategy and generating strong ratings and revenue, what’s next?
Demetri Ravanos: So how has the transition gone moving from programming into the market manager’s seat? We’re a little over six months into the change. How steep has the learning curve been?
Ryan Hatch: You know what? It’s been fantastic. And I have to give so much credit to Scott Sutherland, who was in the chair before me, and others within the company for really preparing me for this moment. But it’s not just a transition from programming. I would think even if I came up through the sales, marketing or finance side there would be a curve.
I’m learning new things every single day and loving it. So whether it’s six months or six years in this chair or more, I hope that I can always say that.
I love the job. I love the market. Obviously, you know, I’ve been here for such a long time and it’s the best chair to be in. I’m thrilled.
DR: You mentioned Scott and I started thinking about this after you and I set a time to talk. There’s this advantageous environment of education there, right? Because Scott is still in the area. He held your job before. You’re obviously in the building and that’s got to be advantageous for Sean Thompson. How much do those conversations take place day-to-day? There seems to be an opportunity for everybody to learn and build on the person that came before them because they can just walk down the hall and ask.
RH: Absolutely it can be advantageous because you’ve got institutional knowledge. Every person that’s been in your chair before can certainly provide important information to help expedite the onboarding process.
The other side of it is making sure that there are clear boundaries. I can speak with Sean Thompson coming in on the programming side. My goal is to empower him and embolden Sean to take this brand to a different level with new ideas and thoughts.
I’d been in that chair for so long, we were certainly ready for somebody new to come in with a new perspective and new experiences, and Sean’s done a wonderful job doing that. I think if you talk to Scott, he would probably say something similar. So when you ask the question, “is it advantageous?”, the answer is unquestionable. Yes, it is. At the same time, you have to really be clear on where those boundaries are, how much you want to give and share, and how much you want to let that person learn and experience it on their own as they’re creating their new environment, if that makes sense.
DR: So with those boundaries, are there things you see Sean putting into place that make you think, “Oh man, that’s really cool. I kind of miss programing at this moment”?
RH: Well, the irony is in asking that question, I think today is actually his 90th day on the job. So we’re still in the basic stages of him taking that chair.
He’s full of ideas, full of energy. I can’t wait to see so much of it come to fruition. But again, when you’re only three months in, you’re doing a lot of listening and a lot of learning before you dig in to start making change. I expect that to come, but he walked into a position with a great on-air staff, fantastic talent, an unbelievable digital team, with a great marketing and promotional support team behind him as well.
I’ll tell you what I’m most excited about is what’s going to happen this fall. After the listening and the learning is done, we’ll be starting to really build some exciting plans into the NFL season around the Cardinals and the NFL. We’re also hosting the Super Bowl in February of ’23 as well. So we’ve got a great big build coming here in Arizona.
DR: So let’s talk a little bit about the future and where things can go, not just for Phoenix, but for Bonneville overall. I told you this a million times. What has always impressed me about the company, even before you and I got to know each other, was that you guys were so ahead of the curve on recognizing the value of digital content. Arizona Sports is not a radio station, it is a brand.
I wonder now that you are in the market manager’s chair, how you look at all of the money from these different companies being put into podcasts. I mean, the deals being made to turn podcasts into TV shows or movies, do you ever think about what is possible or maybe what the next evolution for the digital side of Bonneville could or should be?
RH: Well, I think as a company, and not to speak for Tanya Vea, who’s in a new EVP position helping oversee a lot of our content initiatives, we’re opening up a mechanism for local ideas to be funneled up to a team led by our VP of Podcasting, Sheryl Worsley. The idea is to be able to support a local that might scale on a national level and help it achieve that potential. I think that we’re very aggressive. I think that we’re also very strategic in the podcasting world.
There’s a blessing and a curse there. The blessing is that that audience is expanding rapidly and the revenue’s been following, you know, slowly, but still following in that direction. The downside is how much time and energy and creativity a lot of our best talent have.
Do we want to put our talk show hosts, who are spending 4 hours a day creating live broadcast content, at the forefront of that effort? How many more hours a day of creative juice do they have left for a podcast or a passion project? It could be something that might not be entirely complimentary to the brand.
I think you have to be smart and strategic and understand how big of a bed it is you want to make. I think we’re being strategic about it and making the best decision for each individual circumstance.
DR: So what about from a broadcast angle? As podcasting continues to grow and becomes the kind of thing that sellers see as easier to get clients involved with, what are the things that terrestrial radio is going to have to do to secure its own future?
RH: Well, speaking on behalf of our properties here, where we’re all local news and all local sports. Really, that’s our business. I don’t think that there’s anything that can replicate the power of live, in the moment, information-based content. And that is the value proposition that broadcast has.
Now, will that traditional radio audience continue to decline and find other venues? Potentially. I mean, that’s just natural, and I think that we’ve seen that accelerate through the pandemic. That doesn’t take away from the importance though.
If you look at Bonneville Phoenix, whether it’s Arizona Sports or KTAR, our streaming numbers are way, way up. Our monthly app users are way, way up. Our smart speaker usage is way, way up. And I think too many times we categorize one as digital and one as radio. I look at it more through the lens of what is a live broadcast and what is driven by more destination-based, story-based, topic-based choices. That’s a different experience and you can serve both.
DR: What is your view of having that live content accessed by both radios and streaming devices? When you’re a programmer, I think it is it is easier to say, “Look, people are coming to this content. This is good content. That is what matters.” But now that you’re the market manager, I know you are a real advocate for total line reporting, but now the ratings take on this whole different meaning to you than they did before. What is your view of the right path forward to paint that picture easily and accurately for advertisers about just how powerful these brands are, whether it’s Arizona Sports or KTAR?
RH: Thank goodness we have fantastic sales management and account executives on the streets telling that story and big brands to back them up with that unique content that our stations are delivering. And as I’ve told you in different settings over the years Demetri, Nielsen is one of many tools that tell that story. When we’re on the streets talking to a potential advertiser, and understand that our game is not as national or our market is not as regional, we are hyper-locally focused. In Phoenix, Arizona, that’s a lot of small to medium-sized businesses. So when we can walk in and share a total audience report that gives a glimpse of Nielsen, which we know is antiquated and really, really needs to be reformed and updated. You’ve got to bring your Google Analytics and your Triton numbers. You have so many other tools to use to evaluate how our content is being delivered and consumed. You’ve got to paint that entire total audience story, and I will tell you that it’s a story that is very well received in Phoenix with our products.
DR: Maybe this is more of a question for your sales staff, but is it a matter of walking potential advertisers and current advertisers through each individual number, or do you find a way to synthesize it down into a simple illustration of how many people are listening to your content every day?
RH: It’s not a numbers game. It’s not getting into detail about how many tens of thousands of listeners we have on one platform and how many on another and how many views or clicks on websites. Our pitch is that these brands have a connection to the market. That works for us, and that works because it’s emotional. It works because it’s local. It works because of the creative messaging behind it. When you have something that works for your advertisers, they’re not going to be coming in and scrutinizing the numbers left and right.
Now, you have to deliver to the audience, and we have significant audiences. In fact, I’ll tell you right now, combining everything together. And it’s not apples to apples, because these are all different channels. But our audience is here in Phoenix between our websites, our apps, and our radio distribution. Our audiences have never been better. I mean, that’s a wonderful and easy story to tell.
DR: Play-by-play is obviously a big part of what you do on Arizona Sports. You and I have talked before about the landscape of Phoenix sports, and I think you’ve described it as, because Phoenix is a transplant market, you find yourself talking about everyone’s second favorite team.
So how does that play with advertisers? Do they buy into the idea that this is a unifying thing or is there some concern that it is too much of a transplant market for the value returned by play-by-play doesn’t match the cost to advertise in that space?
RH: Our original franchise, the Phoenix Suns, while, they had a disappointing end of the season, it couldn’t have been more galvanizing. That is the one team that has been here for 50-plus years. That orange blood does run deep. The Cardinals have had their moments. The Diamondbacks have the only championship in the major sports here, but that was back in 2001.
I’ll answer that question in a couple of ways. Number one, we are catering to the fans and to the super fans, but we try to create content that is going to be accessible and interesting for those that would claim that any of the franchises are their second favorite team in a given league. When you move into a market and you head to the office or nowadays maybe it’s a Zoom call, you still want to be able to have a conversation about something that’s relevant. You want a shared experience with your coworker or a neighbor, somebody at school when you’re hanging out waiting to up the kids. So often that conversation is sports.
We have a fantastic sports market. Now, where’s the passion level? Is it as high as a Boston or Philadelphia? Of course not and we’re not going to act like it is. But at the end of the day, what does an advertiser look for? They’re looking for an audience and they’re looking for something exclusive to put their message on. That’s what we’re able to offer with our play-by-play. On top of that, what’s become more and more important to us in our model, especially on the digital side over the years, is the access to those decision-makers, to the coaches, the exclusive access to the general managers with weekly calls, and things like player shows.
There’s so much more that you can offer beyond just the game itself that makes these partnerships great for our business and the advertising community.
DR: So coming out of what is being called The Great Resignation, what are you experiencing as a market manager and what are your other hiring managers experiencing? What are the new challenges of recruiting, whether it is sales or programing, any kind of talent in an environment like this?
RH: Well, let’s add to that and talk about inflationary pressures as well. I mean, there are so many factors at play right now, and I think it’s as tough as I can ever remember it.
What we’re doing here at Bonneville Phoenix is really leaning into our culture and making sure that we’re an employer of choice because we have a culture that people want to be a part of. It’s a good team environment full of hungry people that want to succeed not just for themselves. So the more hungry, humble, and smart people we find, the better off we’re going to be.
Now, that doesn’t mean that we haven’t lost. There’s been a dramatic shuffle. Right now, I can say that we’re close to a full boat, but that wasn’t the case a month ago. There are so many different forces at play right now. It is a difficult environment. Our news side alone faces unique challenges. News itself has been under attack for multiple years. Don’t you think that burns people out?
Absolutely I have concerns, but what can we control? Well, we can focus on executing the vision that Bonneville has provided. It’s built on passionate people and innovation. It is about creating a culture people want to be a part of.
DR: We’ve heard a lot about burnout when people talk about why they leave a job in any industry. We hear about work-life balance. You’re responsible for the entire building, so what are you telling your managers on the sales and programming side about creating an environment for employees that respects that those are real and valid concerns while still maintaining the level of expectation of quality for Arizona Sports and KTAR.
RH: We’re still committed to the highest standards, and we always will be. And we found that certain parts of the business can work pretty effectively from home, while other parts of the business really can’t. I will tell you, on the content side working from home, we did it when we had to. We did it, I would say fairly effectively for a few extended periods. But overall, in a local news and local sports environment that really is driven by the breaking news, the need to work together in a space is real. You just can’t do things as quickly or as effectively or as creatively if you’re separated. You just can’t.
Now, on the sales side, we want them on the streets. We want them out of the office, but there is a balance. So what are we asking our great sales managers to do? We’re asking them just to make sure that they are up to speed on where the activity is and that we’re doing all the jobs that need to be done. Do I ever see us going back to five days a week in the office? I don’t. I think that ship has sailed and I think that’s just fine. I think there’s some real benefit to that.
The way to make this all work is to empower our department heads to come up with a plan that’s going to work best for them, for their people, and deliver on what our expectations are for the business. And then as leaders, we have to understand that the plan is going to be evolving. It really is. This is not going to be decided on a new policy set. I think that we’re in a new world, probably for the rest of our lives.
Broadcasting Fills The Baseball Void For Keith Moreland
“When I got through… I wanted to do something with my life and I get that same feeling with broadcasting.”
Sports color analysts are more often than not former players. This has been a consistent norm across sports broadcasting at all levels. The analyst is there to add “color” to the play-by-play broadcaster’s metaphorical and verbal “drawing” of the game. For former MLB slugger and catcher, Keith Moreland, this was the surprise post-playing retirement career that has boosted him to a key figure in Austin media and national media alike.
Moreland played football and baseball at the University of Texas before making his way to the MLB for 12 years with key contributions to the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs in the 1980s.
Moreland reminisced on his decision to play baseball full time: “I thought I was going to be in the NFL, but Earl Campbell changed that. I had just played summer ball. We had won a championship and I missed the first few days of two-a-days. I hadn’t even had a physical yet and I’m in a scrimmage. I stepped up to this freshman running back and as he ducked his shoulder, one of his feet hit my chest and the other hit my face mask and he kept on truckin’. I got up and I thought ‘I could be a pretty good baseball player.’
So I told Coach Royal after practice I was going to focus on baseball and he asked ‘what took you so long? We were surprised you came back because we think you have a really good shot at playing professional baseball.'”
It was a good choice for Moreland. He was part of the 1973 College World Series winning Texas Longhorns baseball team. While at Texas Moreland hit .388 and became the all-time leader in hits for the College World Series. After being drafted by the Phillies in the 7th round of the 1975 draft, Moreland would go-on to play in the majors from 1978 to 1989.
“You go your whole life trying to get to play professionally. When I got through my opportunity to play in the big leagues, I wanted to do something with my life and I get that same feeling with broadcasting.”
Broadcasting was not the original retirement plan for Moreland. He first tried his luck at coaching with his first stop being his alma mater as an assistant for the Longhorns. At the time, Bill Schoening (a Philadelphia native and Phillies fan), was the radio play-by-play broadcaster. Schoening made Moreland a go-to for a pre-game interview and convinced him to come on talk shows. Schoening even convinced Moreland to practice live broadcasting skills by taking a recorder to games and listening back to them to learn.
“Bill was the guy who brought me onboard and I still have those tapes and I really learned from them, but I don’t want anyone else to ever hear them!” Moreland adds with a chuckle on how far he has come in over 25 years of broadcasting.
Moreland has been a key part of University of Texas radio broadcasts for baseball since the 1990s and has catapulted that broadcast experience to Texas high school football, Longhorn football radio and television broadcasts, ESPN, the Little League World Series, the Chicago Cubs and more since hanging up his cleats and picking up a microphone.
While his playing days are well behind him, Moreland still takes the spirit of his professional athlete background to his broadcasting:
“If you don’t bring energy to your broadcast, somebody’s gonna turn the game on and wonder ‘what’s wrong? Are they losing the game?’”, Moreland remarks, “So you have to come prepared and with energy for the broadcasts.”
Radio Partnerships With Offshore Sportsbooks Are Tempting
The rush to get sports betting advertising revenue offers an interesting risk to stations in states where the activity is illegal.
As the wave of sports gambling continues to wash over the United States, marketing budgets soar and advertisements flood radio and television airwaves. Offers of huge sign-on bonuses, “risk-free” wagers, and enhanced parlay odds seem to come from every direction as books like DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM fight over market share and battle one another for every new user they can possibly attract.
For those in states where sports betting is not yet legalized–or may never be–it is frustrating to see these advertisements and know that you cannot get in the action. However, as with any vice, anybody determined to partake will find ways to do so. Offshore sports books are one of the biggest ways. Companies such as Bovada and BetOnline continue to thrive even as more state-based online wagering options become available to Americans.
While five states–Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, and New York–have passed laws making it illegal for offshore books to take action from their residents, using an offshore book is perfectly legal for the rest of the country. While there are hurdles involved with funding for some institutions, there is no law that prevents someone in one of those other 45 states from opening an account with Bovada and wagering on whatever sporting events they offer. The United States government has tried multiple times to go after them, citing the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006, and have failed at every step, with the World Trade Organization citing that doing so would violate international trade agreements.
While gambling is becoming more and more accepted every day, and more states look to reap the financial windfall that comes with it, the ethical decisions made take on even more importance. One of the tougher questions involved with the gambling arms race is how to handle offers from offshore books to advertise with radio stations in a state where sports betting is not legalized.
Multiple stations in states without legalized gambling, such as Texas and Florida, have partnerships with BetOnline to advertise their services. Radio stations can take advantage of these relationships in three main ways: commercials, on-air reads, and the station’s websites. For example, Bovada’s affiliate program allows for revenue sharing based on people clicking advertisements on a partner’s website and signing up with a new deposit. This is also the case for podcasts, such as one in Kansas that advertises with Bovada despite sports gambling not being legal there until later in 2022.
People are going to gamble, and it’s legal to do so. In full disclosure, I myself have utilized Bovada’s services for a number of years, even after online sports wagering became legal in my state of Indiana. As such, advertising a service that is legal within the state seems perfectly fine in the business sense, and I totally understand why a media entity would choose to accept an offer from an offshore book. However, there are two major factors that make it an ethical dilemma, neither of which can be ignored.
First, Americans may find it easy to deposit money with a book such as Bovada or BetOnline, but much more difficult to get their money back. While the UIGEA hasn’t been successful in stopping these books from accepting money, it has made it difficult–near impossible, in fact–for American financial institutions to accept funds directly from these companies. Therefore, most payouts have to take place either via a courier service, with a check that can take weeks to arrive, or via a cryptocurrency payout. For those who are either unwilling or not tech-savvy enough to go this route, it means waiting sometimes up to a month to receive that money versus a couple days with a state-licensed service.
The other major concern is the lack of protections involved with gambling in a state where legislation has been passed. For example, the state of Indiana drew up laws and regulations for companies licensed to operate within its borders that included protections for how bets are graded, what changes can be made to lines and when they can take place, and how a “bad line” is handled. They also require a portion of the revenues be put towards resources for those dealing with gambling addiction or compulsion issues.
None of those safeguards exist with an offshore book. While the books have to adhere to certain regulations, it’s much more loosely enforced. I’ve lost track of the number of times a book like Bovada has made somewhat shady decisions on what bets to honor as “wins”, and how they handle wagers on what they deem to be “bad lines” where they posted a mistake and users capitalized on it. Furthermore, not a single dime of the monies received go towards helping those dealing with addiction, and there are few steps taken by the offshore books to look for compulsive or addictive behaviors.
As states look to move sports betting out of the shadows, the decision whether to take advertising dollars from offshore books seems to be an even larger gray area than ever before. Although it is perfectly legal to accept these funds when offered, it feels unethical to do so. There are moral obligations tied to accepting the money involved, especially given the lack of regulations and safeguards for players in addition to the limited resources for those who find themselves stuck in a situation they may struggle to escape. While it’s possible to take steps to educate listeners on these pitfalls, it simply feels irresponsible to encourage people to utilize these services given the risks involved, and the lack of protections in place.