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Marquee Sports Network Built on Cubs Passion & Proven Talent

Seth Everett talks to Marquee Sports Network GM Mike McCarthy about surviving the pandemic just as the network launched.

Seth Everett



On February 22, 2020, there was not a way anyone involved in the Marquee Sports Network’s launch could have foreseen the challenge the Covid-19 pandemic would bring to the sports world. They aired seven Chicago Cubs’ Spring Training games, and then suddenly, a brand-new regional sports network would be without sports for months.

How to Get Marquee Network - CHICAGO style SPORTS

“I think if you were drawing it up, you probably would not want to launch a network in a pandemic,” said Mike McCarthy, General Manager of Marquee Sports Network. “I feel pretty comfortable saying that. We really didn’t have a choice because the Cubs games had to air somewhere. It wasn’t an esoteric decision for a sitcom. It was more of a ‘this was our pledge to our fan base and our carriers and we’re going to do it.’ And so, we did it.”

Marquee is a year old regional sports network operated by Sinclair Broadcasting Group and the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs are the primary source of programming and have been since the 2020 launch.

The conversation with McCarthy was wide-ranging and went way beyond the Covid issues.  Still, McCarthy went out of his way to point out that the staff going into lockdown barely knew each other and had to rally with new teammates almost instantly.

“We started producing shows from home on laptops and zoom calls,” McCarthy said.  “We were doing it every night. We were quite sure we weren’t the only RSN to do it that often.”

“Some shows were better than others,” he added. “A couple of them were pretty clunky, to be honest with you. But we got through a lot of growing pains of getting to know each other.  Once the real baseball games began was most likely a godsend to us.”

Previously, McCarthy was president of New York’s MSG Network, vice chairman and chief executive of the NHL’s St. Louis Blues, and chief operating officer of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks.

Since team-owned RSNs began at the beginning of the century, there has been a mixed success.  The YES Network and SNY (Sportsnet New York) have had both strong ratings and profits.  However, lesser-known RSNs like the Minnesota Twins-owned Victory Sports was over after the 2003 season.  The Kansas City Royals had the Royals Sports Television Network and lasted four years.

McCarthy believes that Marquee’s success is not necessarily tied to the Cubs’ success or lack of it on the field. After breaking an 87-year championship drought in 2016, the Cubs were at a fever pitch in the Windy City. Still, is Marquee’s success directly tied to the Cubs’ on-field success?

“It’s a fascinating question,” McCarthy replied. “It comes to this particular alliance because what has Cubs history been up? It’s been the lovable loser but loved. The WGN family made the Cubs almost everybody’s second favorite team. I mean, this passion that they have for the team is really not tied to success on the field.”

Cubs announce general manager for Marquee Sports Network - Robert Feder

“We know we benefit from it (the team winning),” he added. “The ratings show that. I know it may sound a little cliche and maybe anybody in this role would say it, but I’ll tell you, this might be one of the few teams in sports where the winning and the losing is really just part of the appeal.”

One topic I asked McCarthy about was streaming. Cord-cutters have many issues seeing local games without the subscription from a cable company.  Marquee does have distribution deals with Fubo-TV and AT&T TV, which are streaming services.  Still, MLB.TV only offers out-of-market games.

“I think those are more complicated scenarios to consider,” McCarthy addressed the topic. “We love the relationships we have with our cable partners, and FUBO/AT&T. There’s a lot of people speculating on what the future holds. We feel like our traditional broadcast partners are very important to us. We like to think we deliver a nice product to them, and we think, identify a solution for streaming fans by way of our other partnerships.”

One of the biggest hires McCarthy made for the 2020 season was the Cubs’ main play-by-play voice. After the 2020 season, longtime voice Len Kasper departed the Cubs to become the radio play-by-play announcer for the cross-town Chicago White Sox. Speculation on who Marquee would hire was rampant on social media. 

That speculation ended when longtime ESPN play-by-play man Jon “Boog” Sciambi was named the new Cubs TV voice.

“It’s a different kind of gig,” McCarthy added. “I think that’s why it interested Boog. If I told you the people that raised their hand in this, it would knock your socks off. I mean, this is one of those jobs. It has nothing to do with me or Marquee, which was a baby.  It’s the Cubs and their relationship with their fans.”

“People said to me, ‘you might want to look into like a Boog Sciambi-type. A guy that’s a real student of baseball, but a regular guy that everybody can identify with. We did better than getting a Boog Sciambi-type. We got him.”

Sciambi continues to do national work for ESPN. When he misses a game, longtime play-by-play announcer Beth Mowins fills in. She became the first woman in Cubs history to call a regular-season game. 

Beth Mowins: Announcer makes history with Chicago Cubs - Chicago Tribune

“I’ve been lucky to work with women broadcasting pioneering roles, like Doris Burke at the (Madison Square) Garden.  Beth is confident. She is not demure. She’s legit. You hear it in her voice. You see it in her body language. She’s right where she is supposed to be. And it really went over well here in Chicago, which was not surprising.”

McCarthy added that Mowins being a Syracuse University Newhouse graduate was held against her. Us Orange-folks tend to stick together.

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.




In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.

“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.

“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”

Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.

The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?

That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.

You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.

“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”

Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.

Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”

Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”

Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”

Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”

It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.


I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.

My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.

My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.

After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.

Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.

Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”

My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.

My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.

Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.

And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.

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BSM Writers

Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.

Jeff Caves



Radio Sales

A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours. 

But is that why you sell sports radio?

In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.

A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family. 

Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.  

I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.

Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important. 

So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table



Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.

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