Freedumb, the 24-hour livestream of the Dan Le Batard Show, was Meadowlark Media planting its flags. It was the company’s coming out party. It was a reintroduction to the audience that maybe hasn’t heard or even thought about Dan, Stu, and the Shipping Container since the show left ESPN Radio.
I am not going to lie to you. I didn’t watch all 24-hours. I consumed the event in multiple two or three hour sessions.
There was a lot of good. I really enjoyed watching everyone, not just the producers, run around in real-time looking for guests. I liked the familiar elements of the Dan Le Batard Show that I knew from ESPN Radio like “put it on the poll” and Stump the Meech. Using the show to raise more than $100,000 for ALS research was a very admirable thing. It threaded the needle between sincere (the effort was lead by Tom Haberstroh and Kate Fagan, each of whom have had parents affected by the disease) and the silly (the motivator for donating was watching Haberstroh and Fagan eating Carolina Reaper peppers).
Admittedly, there was stuff I didn’t like too. Look, this isn’t me calling these elements simply bad. I just thought these were missteps for an event trying to establish what the next evolution of the Dan Le Batard Show will be.
Rather than go through each minuscule complaint I have, I will focus on one key thing. Dan and his crew will have have to put ESPN in their rearview mirror in order to truly embrace the freedom they claim to enjoy.
It doesn’t mean you can’t talk to former colleagues anymore. It doesn’t mean you cannot revel in the fact that so much of what you can do now you couldn’t just one year ago, when Mickey Mouse was your boss. But now, the rebellion against ESPN hits different. When you are raging against the machine from inside of it, you are a rebel and a voice of decent. When you are bringing Dan Patrick, Michael Smith and Jemele Hill on to tell the same stories that I have already heard them tell multiple times, you sound bitter.
Also, it all feels very self-serving. I don’t think the audience cares about Dan Le Batard’s newfound creative freedom when it isn’t being used to do cool stuff. I’m not sure who multiple guests raging against Disney was for aside from people that have had professional dealings with Disney.
Now, I do think that if you made me rate the Freedumb stream on a scale of 1 to 10, it would come out way closer to 10 than 1. I would say taken in total, of the 8 to 9 hours I watched, I would give it an 8. My complaints about the content come way more from thinking like a professional trying to think like a listener. Mostly, I was just entertained, and that is good.
I have written before that I was concerned that DraftKings’ money was going to turn the irreverent show that is only kind of about sports into an irreverent show that was shamelessly about gambling. At least for the time being, I would say Freedumb did a lot to ease that fear.
As soon as I turned the stream on, I started taking notes and documenting the moments that stood out to me as really great. I could write multiple paragraphs about each one, but that would make this column way too long. So, instead I put on my editor’s cap and narrowed the list of moments worth writing about down to five.
That means great stuff isn’t going to get a deep dive from me. Real quick, I want to mention Rasheed Wallace’s hilariously wimpy RV horn, Dan calling out how miserable Dan Patrick is by saying that the celebrities that are drawn to him find a “dried up twig of a man,” an owl lunging for Mike Ryan’s head, the people that openly said Chris Cote wasn’t a celebrity, the ones that believed he was, the event opening with Stugotz mismanaging the Marching Band to Nowhere, Charles Barkley telling Dan he wanted to murder Papí, Papí saying the name Rui Hachimura, Stugotz trying to spell the name Rui Hachimura, and finally Mike Schur PERFECTLY mocking Stugotz’s Game Notes. They were all hilarious, and unfortunately did not crack the top 5.
With that in mind, here are the five best moments of the entire 24 hours.
5. PAT RILEY SINGS THE PRAISES OF OLD SPICE
This is a moment that isn’t going to show up on any of the highlights, because literally every second Pat Riley was on was worth watching. The interview opened with Dan Le Batard forcing Ryan Cortes, a Miami Heat superfan, to ask Riley a very unfomfortable question: “What do you smell like and where can we meet for a hug?”
Riley laughed and aside from mentioning what cologne he wore, I didn’t expect much more to the answer. Instead, Riley admitted that he still wears Old Spice and went on for a good two minutes about what Old Spice meant to him and how it reminds him of his father. It was funny and heartwarming and perfectly punctuated by Le Batard’s awe at the fact that Riley’s cologne of choice can be bought at a CVS.
4. “LOOK WHO’S ON THE F***ING PIRATE SHIP!”
If you are an icon of sports talk radio going on someone else’s uncensored, unencumbered show, you better announce yourself with authority. That is exactly what Jim Rome did. We heard his voice before we saw his face and the inflection made it clear that this was Le Batard’s show, but as far as sports talk radio goes, there is only one GOAT.
What I loved about this segment was the absolute reverence the Shipping Container showed Rome. Mike Ryan admitted that he was a huge fan. Jessica Smetana tweeted later that having him on was unbelievable. These are people that clearly love the Pimp in the Box.
I also loved how self-aware Jim Rome is. He clearly gets where the guys that grew up listening to him are now in their lives and he knows his place in the radio industry. That being said, he can also look back at the over-the-top bravado that is his trademark with a wink and a laugh, which was clear as he talked about his run-in with Jim Everett.
3. GREG COTE SHOWS OFF HIS SQUISHY BELLY BUTTON
There was not a weirder, more on-brand moment of the entire 24 hours than the overnight hours with Greg Cote. Throughout the earlier hours of the event, Cote had alluded to a number of health issues he had been dealing with. The Le Batard crew largely met each complaint with disbelief.
When he took his turn in the host’s chair though, Cote was going to take advantage. At around 4:25 AM, he asked his guest, Dr. John Roberts, if he wouldn’t mind taking a look at his strange belly button via Zoom. It was a memorable event as Cote showed off what was clearly a hernia of some sort and proceeded to poke it and squish the mass that covered his naval.
Credit Roberts for being a good sport and giving his professional opinion. Credit the Shipping Container as well for showing the proper horror at just how much the moment had gone off the rails.
2. BOB LEY SHOUTS “HOLY SHIT”
Prior to leaving ESPN last year, Bob Ley had been at the center its journalistic credibility. When the network leaned into the goofiness of The Big Show and the “This is SportsCenter” campaign, there was Ley leading the Emmy-nomination bait Outside the Lines. When the network embraced debate, there was Ley, hosting panels on the head trauma caused by playing football and the corruption that plagued FIFA and the World Cup. That Bob Ley, the one that was an institution in Bristol since day 1, would never have been caught on camera shouting expletives after eating a raw jalapeño.
Welcome to the internet, General!
Ley was keen to join in Kate Fagan’s fundraising efforts for I Am ALS, that is why he was amongst the many biting into hot peppers. The real treat though, aside from the swearing, was just how animated he was in expressing his pain. Ley was sweating and crying and laughing as he tried to tell stories of covering the World Cup, while clearly in tremendous pain.
1. CHRIS WITTYNGHAM IS A FANCY LAD
Chris Wittyngham calls soccer play-by-play. He is part of the Miami Dolphins’ radio broadcast, and most recently, has joined Meadowlark Media as a producer and commentator on the Dan Le Batard Show. His idiosyncrasies have been put under a microscope since coming on board, and rightfully so. Chris is someone that gels his hair BEFORE HE GOES TO BED!
It all inspired a jingle that is played regularly on the show, and on Friday, that jingle was turned into a full-length music video.
The second I started putting the list together, it was all about what was #2. This fan-produced masterpiece is everything you love about the Dan Le Batard Show and a perfect picture of why DraftKings thought it and Meadowlark Media were worth a $50 million investment.
It has everything that made this crew great: ball busting, silliness, and character development. On top of that, it was a beautiful picture of this fanbase’s dedication to the show and its willingness to embrace inside jokes.
Seriously, if you can hear this and not go around singing “So let us mount our penny farthings, ride till dawn with our comrades,” I am not sure you have a sense of humor at all or get what made The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz great to begin with!
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.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
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.
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.
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.
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.