When COVID-19 caused the world to shut down in March of 2020, there was no playbook as to what the next year would look like.
Add a cancer diagnosis to that, and life just got a whole lot scarier.
As the entire country blindly navigated how to work from home, socialize over Zoom, and rely on each other for support, Marc “Silvy” Silverman, co-host of the Waddle and Silvy Show on ESPN Chicago, was sitting in a doctor’s office awaiting news that would change his life.
On April 3, 2020, Silvy was told the three words no one ever wants to hear: You have cancer. Thirteen days later, he received word that the exact type of cancer he would be batting was non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Having been with ESPN Chicago for more than 20 years, it was ironic that the first person he told at the station was the person he knew the least. New market manager Mike Thomas had only been at the station for six months when Silvy came to him with the news.
“Mike knew right away, and it was an interesting way to sort of, you know handle some things with a new boss,” said Silvy.
“From the very start he was like ‘I’m going to beat this. I’m going to figure out what I need to do, how I need to do it, and, you know, this thing is not going to get me,’” said Thomas. “He just had an amazing attitude from the very start of it.”
While much of the nation had already shut down and people began to work from home, Silvy was one of the few ESPN Chicago employees who continued to work out of the State Street headquarters. However, upon his diagnosis came a newly compromised immune system which forced him to set up a makeshift studio inside his basement. It would become his new workspace.
For most of us, spending 2020 confined to our homes was a difficult adjustment to say the least. For Silvy, being forced to stay home throughout the pandemic might have saved his life.
“The silver lining was that the entire country was working from home and if it wasn’t during a pandemic, I would have pushed myself and my body to go up and back downtown,” said Silvy, who lives approximately 30 miles from downtown Chicago. “I probably would have commuted. I probably would have been in the office. I probably would have taxed my body more, just from not being in my own home.
“But because of the pandemic, because it was normal for even radio hosts to work from home, that helped me in the big picture to get through this and keep my body probably from getting too rundown.”
Despite multiple rounds of chemotherapy and an immunotherapy clinical trial, Silvy never showed signs of being rundown. The only days he didn’t work throughout the whole process were the days surrounding his treatment.
“The dude showed up for work every single freaking day,” said Silvy’s co-host and former Chicago Bear Tom Waddle. “I have had my ass whipped by a lot of big people in the NFL and I consider myself a fairly tough individual. I don’t think I could have handled it the way he handled it both mentally and physically.”
Working from home provided Silvy a sense of normalcy and allowed him to focus his energy on something other than the fact that he had cancer. What also made his circumstances seem more normal was his decision to share his diagnosis on air.
“His openness and his willingness to let everybody in has always been one of his characteristics,” said Waddle. “He doesn’t keep this private life over here and his public persona over there. They’re one and the same with regard to how he approaches his job and I think that in a lot of ways that made this fight a little bit easier for him because there was no change.”
While Silvy has always been very candid with his audience regarding his personal life, his decision to share his cancer diagnosis stemmed from much more.
“I know it was really important for him to kind of give back because guys like Eddie Olczyk, and we’ve had others in the office, who have had experiences or family members that have gone through difficult situations,” said Waddle.
In 2017, Eddie Olczyk, who calls Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago, announced to viewers that he was diagnosed with colon cancer. According to Silvy, he remembers paying close attention as Olczyk shared updates throughout his cancer journey.
“I don’t know whether there was a sixth sense like I paid extra attention to it, and I always marveled to myself, ‘this dude is so candid, this dude is so strong,’” said Silvy. “And I couldn’t believe how much he was sharing, and I always remember that, and it always stood out to me.”
His decision to be candid with his audience also came from the longstanding support the station has shown for the V Foundation. Each year during Jimmy V Week, Waddle and Silvy spend time on-air talking about the V Foundation and raising money for cancer research. During this time, they opened up phone lines for people to call into the show and tell their story of how they’ve been affected by the disease.
“A lot of people have always said to us, ‘those are some of the most amazing shows because they’re raw, they’re emotional, and it’s real-life,’” said Silvy. “And I couldn’t sit there going through what I was going through after asking people on my show to share their experiences on how they’ve dealt with cancer.”
Throughout his entire treatment process, Silvy was honest with fans and listeners about where his health was at. In return, he received an overwhelming flood of support. It was a response he never could have anticipated and certainly wasn’t one he was looking for, yet he was blown away by the amount of encouragement and inspiration it brought him.
“The one line I always remember from someone who was a survivor who said to me ‘You don’t know this until you go through this, but you have a village behind you,’” said Silvy. “And you’ve always heard that term ‘it takes a village,’ but you don’t realize that until you’ve gone through it, because then you’re like holy s—t, this is a village behind me.”
That village came in many different forms.
Local apparel company, Obvious Shirts, came to Silvy with the idea of creating and selling shirts to raise money for him. While he loved the idea, Silvy told them he didn’t want the money going to him but instead wanted to donate it all to the V Foundation.
“I was on not only the chemo but immunotherapy as well because of advancements in medicine, and because of all the money raised for different cancer charities, I was a beneficiary of this sort of stuff,” said Silvy. “I want to make sure that other people are even greater beneficiaries down the road.”
There were two different shirt designs with “Silvy Strong” plastered across the front of each. The most popular featured a drawing by Silvy’s son Mason who was five at the time.
“He gained a lot of support and inspiration from so many people that were willing to reach out,” said Waddle. “And I think sharing his experience, you know, he drew from all those people that were wearing the Silvy Strong shirts or people that would just send a text.”
Fans began using the hashtag #SilvyStrong on Twitter and ESPN Chicago started a social media campaign to help promote the sale of the shirts. Followers who traveled during the summer were asked to take a picture in their Silvy Strong shirts and post it on social media.
“We got [pictures] from all over the place,” said Thomas. “People were at the Grand Canyon, on an island and everywhere else wearing their Silvy Strong shirts. It was pretty amazing.”
To date, the sale of “Silvy Strong” shirts has raised approximately $43,000 for the V Foundation.
According to Silvy, he has always been a huge advocate for mental health, and going through this process made him even more aware of how important that aspect was to recovery. He sought guidance from a few different places. One being from Imerman Angels, a company that randomly matches you with a mentor who went through your exact same type of cancer. He also went to the Cancer Wellness Center in Northbrook.
But much of what made it possible to keep a positive attitude throughout the scariest time of his life was the support of the community.
“You know people sort of fueled me; I’ve never been more grateful,” said Silvy. “That was the word that I used the most. The appreciation for people, some of the stuff that you read, it lifts your spirits and you understand that your show means something to somebody and that they’re rooting for you and helping you get through your day.
“It’s just an incredible feeling and without the support that I had from my teammates, or the fans or my bosses in management, I never could have gone through this.”
On September 25, Silvy was given the news he had long waited for. He was officially in full remission.
His return to the studio was halted by COVID-19 restrictions, yet his April 12, 2021, State Street homecoming was worth the wait.
The small number of colleagues who were back in the office lined the halls as Silvy entered on a fake red carpet surrounded by balloons and decorations.
“It was a celebration,” said Thomas. “We were happy and it was hard to hold back the tears and all of the things that you would expect, still a little bit different just because of COVID, but that was an awesome day to have him back here.”
“It was really an important moment for him to be able to come back to work,” said Waddle. “I know he felt the support of the entire Good Karma Brand. I know he felt the strength coming from everybody, and I think it kind of was a milestone for him and it was an achievement.”
Silvy’s return brought a new perspective to everyone at ESPN Chicago.
“It becomes a reminder for all of us to enjoy ourselves,” said Waddle. “It’s great to be all worked up about what the Cubs or Sox are doing and shouldn’t take you away from being emotional about that, but at the end of the day when the work is over, it’s been a nice reminder that there are more important things in life than who’s going to hit leadoff for the White Sox.”
For Silvy, it signified a fresh start and the release of a huge mental burden he had been carrying.
“I felt like I was a freshman starting high school, or a freshman so happy to be on a college campus for the first time,” said Silvy. “It was like that back-to-school day where you have the butterflies.”
Most importantly, it was an opportunity to return to normal. To return to radio the way it should be, being able to look Waddle in the eye while complaininging about the Cubs and Sox. And to return to the place where he first connected with all the listeners who gave him the strength to get through the most difficult year of his life.
Keeping Premier League Games Shouldn’t Be A Hard Call For NBC
“Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans.”
NBC Sports is facing some tough, costly decisions that will define its sports brand for the rest of this decade. A chance to connect with viewers in a changing climate and grow Peacock’s audience as well. However, making the right choice is paramount to not losing to apps like Paramount+ (pun intended).
NBC is currently in the business of negotiating to continue airing the Premier League as their current deal ends after this 2021-2022 season. NASCAR is contracted to NBC (and FOX) through the 2024 season.
NBC’s tentpole sports are the NFL and the Olympics.
Negotiations for the EPL are expected to go down to the wire. Rather than re-up with NBC, the league is meeting with other networks to drive up the price. NBC has to then make a decision if the rights go north of $2 billion.
Should NBC spend that much on a sport that is not played in the United States? It’s not my money, but that sport continues to grow in the US.
If NBC re-ups with the Premier League, will that leave any coins in the cupboard to re-up with NASCAR? Comcast CEO Brian Roberts hinted that there might be some penny pinching as the prices continue to soar. This may have been one of the reasons that NBC did not fight to keep the National Hockey League, whose rights will be with Disney and WarnerMedia through ESPN and TNT, respectively.
“These are really hard calls,” Roberts said. “You don’t always want to prevail, and sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong, but I think the sustainability of sports is a critical part of what our company does well.”
Roberts was speaking virtually at the recent Goldman Sachs 30th Annual Communacopia Conference. He told the audience that between NBC and European network Sky, that Comcast has allocated approximately $20 billion towards these sports properties.
Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh spoke virtually at the Bank of America Securities 2021 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference and echoed that the company is in a good position to make some strong choices in the sports realm.
“The bar is really high for us to pursue outright acquisitions of any material size,” Cavanagh added. “We got a great hand to play with what we have.”
While the European investments involve a partnership with American rival Viacom, the US market seems to have apparent limits.
Last Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway was seen by around 2.19 million people. It was the most-watched motorsports event of the weekend. That same week eight different Premier League matches saw over 1 million viewers. More than half of those matches were on subscription-based Peacock.
Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans. A game of typical soccer fan is used to a sport that is less than two hours long. The investment in a team is one or two games a week.
My connection to the Premier League began before the pandemic. When I cut the cord in late 2017, I purchase Apple TV. Setting it up, it asks you to name your favorite teams. After clicking on the Syracuse Orange and the New Jersey Devils, I recalled that my wife has family based in London, England. They are season ticket holders for Arsenal, and that family redefined the word “die-hard” fans.
I’ve long been a believer that sports allegiances are best when handed down by family. I love hearing stories of people loving the New York Giants because their parents liked them, and they pass it down to their children.
I’ve successfully given my allegiance to the Devils to my young daughters.
By telling Apple TV that I liked Arsenal, I get alerts from three different apps when the “Gunners” are playing. The $4.99 is totally worth it to see Arsenal.
Whenever I told this story, I was amazed to see how many other American sports fans had a Premier League team. Students of mine at Seton Hall University rooted for Tottenham Hotspurs, while an old colleague cheers on Chelsea.
This is not meant to say that NBC should sign the EPL on my account. The key for any US-based soccer fan is that between Bundesliga, Serie A, and other leagues, there will be no shortage of soccer available on both linear television and streaming services.
Besides, Dani Rojas did say that “Football is life.” NBC, originator of the Ted Lasso character, should make keeping its Premier League US connection a priority.
Media Noise – Episode 45
Today, Demetri is joined by Tyler McComas and Russ Heltman. Tyler pops on to talk about the big start to the college football season on TV. Russ talks about Barstool’s upfront presentation and how the business community may not see any problems in working with the brand. Plus, Demetri is optimistic about FOX Sports Radio’s new morning show.
6 Ad Categories Hotter Than Gambling For Sports Radio
“Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life.”
For years sports radio stations pushed sports gambling advertisers to early Saturday and Sunday morning. The 1-800 ads, shouting, and false claims were seedy, and some stations wouldn’t even accept the business at 5 am on Sunday.
Now, with all but ten states ready to go all in on sports gambling, sports radio stations can’t get enough of that green. Demetri Ravanos wrote about the money cannon that sports gambling has become for stations. Well, what if you are in one of those ten states where it isn’t likely to ever be legal like California or Texas? Where is your pot of gold?
Or, let’s face it, the more gambling ads you run, the more risk you take on that the ads will not all work as you cannibalize the audience and chase other listeners away who ARE NOT online gambling service users and never will be. So, what about you? Where is your pot of gold?
Well, let’s go Digging for Gold.
The RAB produces the MRI-Simmons Gold Digger PROSPECTING REPORT for several radio formats. In it, they index sports radio listeners’ habits against an average of 18+ Adult. The Gold Digger report looks at areas where the index is higher than the norm – meaning the sports radio audience is more likely to use the product or service than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. The report, generated in 2020, indicates that sports radio listeners are 106% more likely to have used an online gambling site in the last thirty days. That’s impressive because the report only lists 32 activities or purchases a sports radio listener indexes higher than an average adult. I looked at those 32 higher indexes, and I think we can start looking for some gold.
Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life. The gambling companies who commit significant money to get results will continue advertising and chase the others away. So, the future of sports radio needs to include other cash cows.
If it is evident to online sports gambling services that sports radio stations are a must-buy, who else should feel that way? I looked at the Top 32 and eliminated the media companies. ESPN, MLB/NHL/NFL networks, and others aren’t spending cash on sports radio stations they don’t own in general. But Joseph A Bank clothing, Fidelity, and Hotwire should! Here’s your PICK-6 list I pulled together that’s hotter than sports gambling:
- Sportscard collectors, Dapper Labs, Open Sea- read about Sports NFT $.
- Online brokerage firms-Fidelity, Charles Schwab, Robinhood, Webull, TD Ameritrade
- Golf courses, resorts, equipment, etc.- we play golf at home and vacation
- Hotwire.com, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, Carnival Corporation, and Priceline.com- we’ve used Hotwire in the last year.
- FedEx, UPS, U.S. Postal Service, Venmo, PayPal, Zelle-we wired or overnighted $
- Jos. A. Bank, shein.com, macys.com, nordstroms.com- we went to Jos. A. Bank in last three months
The sports card/NFT market is 32% hotter than the sports betting market for sports radio listeners. Everything on the PICK-6 is at least 100% more likely to purchase than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. All listed are at or above indexing strength compared to sports betting. The individual companies I added are industry leaders. Bet on it! Email me for details.