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!
5 Goals: Rob ‘World Wide Wob’ Perez
“I’ve always had aspirations, hopefully with FanDuel in collaboration with another network, to apply NFL Red Zone to the NBA.”
This month’s subject of five goals is Rob Perez, better known to NBA Twitter as World Wide Wob. The content creator and producer for FanDuel shared with me five things he wants to accomplish or see happen.
1. I want to make FanDuel, my licensing partner in content creation, as happy as possible.
My goal is to drive people to their web site or app, and spread the reach of the brand. I’m sure there’s a more formal word for that, but I want to organically integrate FanDuel into everything I do.
I don’t want to just be a commercial — hey 20% off, or here’s a free bet — because people are drowning in those across various forms of communication. All the content I do is naturally involved, and if someone’s asking about who’s favored it’s a very seamless type of content integration in which I can include them and drive them to FanDuel if they’d like to put their money where their mouth is.
I would certainly love the opportunity to continue working with them — not just because they pay me to do so, but I do find value in working with a sportsbook of that size that is turning into a content company. Of course, they’re always gonna be a sportsbook. It makes them the most money. But, giving you additional reasons to engage with that brand, if you have an itch to bet on something, is what my job is.
I want to continue to be the face of the NBA for them, having a very casual conversation about the game itself — whether that’s off the court stuff, or all the coaching departures earlier this week. Integrating the FanDuel logo into all this feels much more real than a 30-second commercial between timeouts. I want you to enjoy the experience of the show, and gamble if you so choose.
2. NBA Red Zone.
I’ve always had aspirations, hopefully with FanDuel in collaboration with another network, to apply NFL Red Zone to the NBA. It would work best on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and sometimes Sunday, when there are 8-9 concurrent games.
That’s why I’m where I am today. I’m watching every single dribble of every single game. But, I would never expect any other normal human with responsibilities outside of NBA content creation to ever keep up with what’s going on between the Kings and Pistons while there’s seven other games on, one of which is nationally televised.
So, if the NBA ever decides to have a true commitment to their version of the Red Zone — they’ve tried versions of it on NBATV, but I’ve never seen one hopping between games every 15-20 seconds, hot switching any time there’s a play stoppage — I’d love to do it.
You’d have a Scott Hanson type host who is as integrated with the league as it gets. I hope maybe one day I have the opportunity where what I do on my own personal timeline merges with true rights partnership from the NBA. Just based on the feedback I get on my Twitter page, there would be demand for it.
3. Do another NBA variety show.
In the past, I had a show called Buckets that I did with Cycle and ESPN. It had sketches, pre-produced talk segments, and interviews. Think of it like Jimmy Kimmel or Jimmy Fallon’s shows, but applied to the NBA.
Inside the NBA is obviously the gold standard for an NBA talk show. But, those guys are going to retire at some point. What I do on Twitter Spaces, Twitch, and Periscope — I want the ability to blow that out with some more production resources.
Right now, I’m doing everything myself, from playing DJ to directing to taking calls to actually running the show and talking basketball and researching stats — I’m doing it all on the fly. While I’m certainly happy to do that, I know what we could create with a team around me because we’ve done it in the past. I would love to do a weekly variety show based around the NBA.
4. Some more work life balance.
My entire day for 11 months out of the year revolves around the NBA. It’s my job and I’m happy to. I love following it. At some point, I feel like I’m gonna get burned out, and I don’t want to ever get to the point where doing this feels like work.
It felt a little bit like work this year, and that might be because I’m on Year 8 doing this. [RG note: at this point, I mentioned how last offseason was so condensed after the bubble, and how the energy felt partially zapped out of sports with a lack of fans]. I’m gonna watch regardless because I’m a crazy person, but I think a lot of people would agree with you that the return to normalcy is helping with the engagement on a mainstream scale.
This offseason will be condensed again. We have the Olympics, which of course I’m going to watch because stars will be playing. Summer League is in August. There’s free agency and the draft. There’s barely going to be one month — September — where there probably won’t be a whole lot of NBA news or events.
But then we’re going back to the normal schedule from before the pandemic, which means Media Week will be the first week of October. There’s one month off before it all starts again, and I’m hoping I don’t get burned out by it.
Being on the East Coast, it’s impossible to follow the NBA 24/7. I don’t know how people with kids and families do it. Getting back to the West Coast is a personal goal of mine, which will happen this summer when I move back to Los Angeles. These hours will allow me to get back to a more normal life.
5. I want the Knicks to win a championship in my lifetime.
Just being a die hard Knicks fan and not seeing a title in my lifetime, that’s a personal goal. I’ve put so much work into watching every effing game since I was eight years old with Patrick Ewing and John Starks in the NBA playoffs.
I was young, but I was old enough to know that I wanted to stay up for those games. I was emotionally invested. I would even get to the point where I was putting towels underneath the door so my parents couldn’t see that the TV was on. They thought I was sleeping.
Of course I want my team to win a championship, and I don’t want to die without seeing that mountaintop. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be a Red Sox or Cubs fan and going all those years without seeing them win, then having it happen. I want to experience it once.
Whatever it takes to get there. I have too many gray hairs on my head, and every single one of them I can attribute to a single Knicks game from the past decade. Being a fan while trying to create objective NBA content will always be a challenge, but being a Knicks fan will always take precedent over a career because it means that much to me.
Forget the Email, Just Smile & Dial
“Don’t confuse marketing with sales. We are not human advertisements or, even worse, spam.”
Back in August of last year, the pandemic was still front and center, acting as a roadblock for business. Retailers were in business and at the stores, but what about the advertising buyers? Where were they?
Well, the ad-buying community, corporate employees, and most white-collar workers were still at home. So were most of us in radio sales. So, when it came to prospecting for new accounts, some of us gave up, most sent emails, and a few brave souls hit the phone. Earlier this year, I wrote about the sales trainer John Barrows and how he got to the top by cold calling 400 prospects a week! That’s not cold emailing. That’s cold CALLING. And to be exact, if Barrows was working a 10 hour day on the phones Monday through Friday, he would dial at least eight prospects an hour.
Does that send a chill down your spine? Or does it make you want to run to your keyboard to avoid rejection and send some more cold emails? Back in August, when most of our ad buyers were at home, not near a business phone, Jeb Blount and Anthony Iannarino were recording a podcast about why you should hit the phone, not the email. Both sales consultants and authors thought we could improve our connect rate immensely by working the phones over email.
Both authors agreed that we need to have conversations with people about our stations, personalities, shows, and the sports world! We can hire an automated CRM service to send emails!
Now I am all for some well-crafted custom emails sent to targets that do not answer phones or listen to voice mails but not as the first activity in a sales sequence. Don’t confuse marketing with sales. We are not human advertisements or, even worse, spam. Our job isn’t to create awareness for buying sports radio packages; it is to make the sale!
We are consultants offering custom solutions to the unique challenges your clients have. And consider that if you pick up the phone and connect with the advertising buyer and get the appointment, you won’t need an email!
Both consultants agree that you don’t need email to warm up a client when using the phone to get the appointment! I recently tested this theory myself and decided that with the pandemic subsiding in most metropolitan areas and more buyers going back to the office, I could start hitting the phones more.
It worked. I got more appointments faster and wasted less time. I even got help. I had a business owner who I reached out to via email with a custom approach. I offered a few excellent ideas on how I could help him. Crickets. I let 2.5 weeks go by before I picked up the phone to dial the business and ask for him. They told me he was out on vacation and asked me if I had personal interaction with him. I explained no I was looking to connect with him on an advertising idea. The receptionist said you need to talk to Jane, the ad buyer. I was connected immediately.
I left a voice mail. The next day I received a return call indicating interest in my idea, and we set the appointment. Now, why didn’t I try that in the first place!
If you want a custom phone pitch that I wrote out for myself, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Now it’s time to smile and dial!
Media Noise – Episode 33
It has been a busy week at BSM. Demetri Ravanos talks about Domonique Foxworth and the future of commentary on ESPN. Kate Constable stops by to discuss her column on Sarah Spain and the sometimes ugly realities of life as a woman in sports media. Finally, Brian Noe and Demetri discuss Le’veon Bell’s Twitter rant and how depressingly relevant it is in the radio business.