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Listeners Love Larry Krueger, But They Don’t Need Him

“I think this is actually one of the positive attributes of being here is that people have sports in the proper perspective. They don’t need a tragedy or a pandemic or death in the family to remind them of that.”

Brian Noe

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Originally from San Francisco, Larry Krueger does afternoon drive in the town he grew up in. His grandfather was a cable car conductor way back after World War I. His dad worked for the city attorney’s office for 40 years. Larry’s Bay Area roots — and his love for the Giants, Niners, and Warriors — run deep. He also considers his familiarity with the area to be his home court advantage. Larry has always understood what the audience wants because it’s the place he’s always called home.

Krueger To Stay By The Bay - Radio Ink
Courtesy: KNBR.com

Larry stars alongside Tom Tolbert and Rod Brooks on the legendary radio station KNBR. We cover a lot of ground in this interview including the sensitivity level of certain local teams and how Bay Area fans have been mislabeled. One of Larry’s most interesting views is why the local audience wants sports radio but doesn’t need it. Larry also talks about his identity crisis, why it’s best to not talk to a friend often, and how family and football might factor into his future plans. Enjoy.

Brian Noe: What did you learn from your time working with Gary Radnich?

Larry Krueger: He treated people so well when we’d be out in public. I just learned to treat everybody great. Sports talk radio is the toy department of life so nobody wants somebody who’s dour, and down, and bummed, and bitter when they meet them publicly. They want somebody who’s up, and fun, and enthusiastic. He treated people so well. He was on TV and radio so he was recognized all the time everywhere we went. People would want five minutes of his time. He was just so generous with his time because I think he felt like his popularity was tied a lot to the public, so he treated them well. I always kind of knew that was the case, treat people well, but to see it carried out I think really hit home.

BN: What’s the biggest difference between working with Tom Tolbert and when you worked with Gary?

LK: They’re similar in that I don’t know which direction they’re going to go. They’re not formulaic guys. They’re independent thinkers. They’re different in just their mindsets. Tom played the game at a professional level. Gary played it at a collegiate level. I think there are some lessons to be learned when you play professionally that you don’t get if you don’t.

They’re very similar in a lot of ways, but Tom is much more micro and Gary was much more macro. Tom will go deeper into some of the actual nuts and bolts of strategy in the different sports. He likes to kind of break down things where Gary didn’t really like to break things down. He would push back with humor often. [Laughs] He didn’t want to break it down. He wanted to laugh and just joke and have a good time. They both want to have a good time, but I think Tommy is a little bit more into the strategy and the game within the game. Gary likes people and the impact of everything on people. He’s looking at it more from the fan’s perspective I think.

BN: What is the key ingredient that makes your show with Tom and Rod a success?

LK: I would just say that we don’t have a meeting before the show. We don’t leave the show in the pre-show meeting because there is no pre-show meeting. I think that’s a huge key. I know there are a lot of program directors that are like, ‘Get in here two hours ahead of time and you guys hammer it out. He’s going this way, and you’re going that way, and then he’ll counter with this.’ No. Jeremiah Crowe doesn’t believe in that. The program directors prior to that didn’t believe in that. This is big market radio. They point you to the studio and they hold you accountable for the ratings. You’ve got to figure it out from there. I think that’s good because it’s organic. We don’t know if we’re going to talk about funny stuff in the first segment, or a death, or something incredibly sensitive. Especially in the last year, it’s been a very trying year, and despite the fact that a lot of people want to be very planned out with their commentary, we don’t leave it in the pre-show because we don’t have that whole let’s do the show before the show.

BN: What are the differences between Jeremiah and previous programmers Bob Agnew and Lee Hammer?

LK: Every programmer I’ve had here has given us total autonomy to do the show how we see fit. I think Jeremiah let’s the shows breathe a little bit more. He’s not giving us daily feedback or segment-by-segment feedback. I think some of the guys before would try to give you daily feedback or some kind of weekly feedback. His feedback is more like hey I’ve been listening for the last four or five weeks, this is what I hear. I kind of like that because it takes the importance out of each show. Anything can be said once but this is what I’m hearing consistently. I think what you hear consistently is a better way to evaluate. I like the way he does that. He doesn’t micromanage at all.

BN: KNBR has been labeled as being overly positive toward Bay Area teams. Do you think that’s a fair assessment?

LK: That’s a great question. I think that is a fair assessment to be honest. I worked with Russo at Mad Dog Radio. I used to be an affiliate relations person for a network so I’ve listened to a lot of sports radio in other markets. I think there’s more of an antagonistic relationship in a lot of these markets. One time I commented to a guy who was doing sports updates for me on Mad Dog, I’m like dude, every score you just gave, the team lost to the other team. Nobody beat anybody. Everybody lost. The Celtics lost of the Nets tonight. The Knicks lost. I said just think about that for a second. Everybody lost. I think the atmosphere is hyper-negative in this industry coast to coast so I prefer a little bit more positivity.

I also think it’s tied to the business relationships. When you’re the flagship station — we had a competitor this year who after a 49er game just filmed himself saying, ‘I hate Nick Mullens,’ at the top of his lungs. That kind of I’m the voice of the fan, people here are a little bit more sophisticated. I don’t think that jives that well to be totally honest.

You also have to remember the Giants own a part of the station. Being the flagship station is a different deal than just being a station in the market. I think that’s the balance. When you’re a 50,000-watt station and you were the only show in town for a long time, you have to be entertaining, you have to get the fans going, but you also have to maintain relationships with your partners or you’re not going to be in it for the long haul. I do think we’re a little bit more favorable across the board toward the home teams here than what I’ve heard around the country. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing, but I definitely think it’s the case.

BN: Sometimes teams are very sensitive about what the flagship station is saying about them. How would you rate the sensitivity level of the teams in the market?

LK: I do the 49er pre and postgame show with Dennis Brown and John Lund in addition to doing my Monday through Friday show. The 49ers are so big time it’s unbelievable. I’ve talked to the head of broadcast over there, the owner, general manager, head coach, I’ve talked to every major executive, I’ve never once had anybody even suggested to me, hey your tone, or your this or that. I’m known as somebody who gets it right as far as facts; I spend a lot of time to try to get it right. Part of that could be it. But also they’re just big time. It’s like New York or LA, they don’t have rabbit ears. It’s amazing.

KNBR's Larry Krueger: You can go home again
Courtesy: Ben Fong-Torres

I’d rank them number one. Then I would rank the Giants and the Warriors number two. Easily the most sensitive franchises have been the Raiders and the A’s. If you said something about the Raiders, you just wouldn’t get a Raider. That would be it. You had to decide what you wanted to do. Do you want players on your show or do you want to have freedom to say what you want to say?

I would say the 49ers are number one. You can absolutely say — they don’t want you to go crazy — but as long as you’re somewhat fair and somewhat on topic, there’s total latitude to say pretty much what you want, when you want. I like that. As somebody who does a postgame show, you know the way the NFL is, the NFL is passionate and every game means everything, and we’re taking phone calls. I’ve lived through the Chip Kelly and Jim Tomsula eras. There were times I had to say this is just not going to work anymore. I’ve been incredibly critical of the teams at times, and the 49ers I would say are the best I’ve ever been around as far as that. They just will not try to in any way impact what you’re going to say.

BN: How about the way fans have been labeled in that area as being passive or less caring; do you think that’s accurate at all?

LK: No, I don’t. People here have incredible passion for their teams. It’s just this is California. We’re not locked in our house and there are a lot of great things to do in California. The weather is fantastic. The ocean is there and the mountains are there. There’s skiing and surfing and you can do them in the same weekend. It’s practically all year long. The people here, they love sports radio but they don’t need it. They need in other parts of the country. Need it. Here they like it, they want it, they prefer it, but they don’t need it. So you better be good.

I think this is actually one of the positive attributes of being here is that people have sports in the proper perspective. They don’t need a tragedy or a pandemic or death in the family to remind them of that. The Warriors could have an NBA championship parade and there could be people literally calling up going why are there so many people gathering? That wouldn’t happen in other towns. Here there are people that are so in to what they’re in to, that they’re disengaged on that level. In other words you’re never going to get them, really. But I think that’s healthy because that’s society. Sports is an aspect of our society. It’s not society. I think the perspective that people have here is healthy to be honest. I really do.

BN: When you’re competing for ratings against Damon Bruce, has that had any impact on your friendship?

LK: He just called me the other day. He was my producer in 1995 when I worked for Ron Barr’s Sports Byline USA. We’ve been friends ever since. We don’t talk as much as we used to. [Laughs] I’ll say that. We’ve only talked like once or twice in the last year even though we’re still friends and we’re still represented by the same agent and we have a lot of history. I have nothing but good things to say about him as a person and I’m sure he’s got nothing but good things to say about me as a person. But he’s competitive and I’m competitive. I’m the kind of person that would say I kicked your butt more than you’ve kicked my butt, so it’s best just not to talk.

BN: Since 2011, you’ve had another station to compete against in The Game. How has it impacted your approach to the job with a rival station in the market?

LK: I think competition makes people better. I’m a believer in America. I’m a believer in capitalism and competition. Jim Harbaugh used to say iron sharpens iron. I just think competition makes us all better. I love that they’re there. It keeps everybody on their toes.

To be totally honest it’s probably the reason I got back on the air in 2011 because suddenly there was competition. There are two shows in town. Before that it was like, do you want me on your team or not? Then after that point it was like, do you want me on your team, or do you want me against you? [Laughs] I think competition is always a good thing. I think it makes everybody better. I think it’s been a real positive. It gives people more choices and it makes us be on top of our game. You don’t have the announcer that’s going on and on and on about the eleventh rated topic that he himself is super passionate about, but the audience couldn’t give a crap about. That doesn’t happen anymore because there’s somebody down the dial who’s probably playing the hits. So play the hits.

BN: What was it like for you during that time [between ’05 & ‘11] not being on the air in the Bay Area?

LK: It was like an identity crisis to be totally honest. It was like, was I a sports talk host who just wasn’t working, or was I doing what I was doing and not putting everything into it? It was a constant thing. I did really well away from radio. I made really good money but it also felt more like work.

To me it all comes down to how you feel on a Friday and a Sunday. When I’m doing sports radio, Sunday comes up and I don’t care. It’s like any other day of the week. Why? Because I love what I do. I don’t really care if tomorrow is Monday morning and I have a whole other workweek. I don’t look at it as work. When I didn’t do sports radio and I did other things for money, I cherished Friday afternoon. The weekends went by too fast and the weekdays went by too slow.

BN: What were you doing outside of sports radio?

LK: I did sales. I sold siding, like fiber cement siding that you put on buildings. It was great. I sold millions of dollars of that stuff but it just wasn’t — [Laughs]. The other thing I learned, anybody who does this for a living could do well at sales. It’s all about talking and holding the audience.

BN: Having previously worked for Mad Dog and ESPN Radio, what would you say are the biggest pros and cons of doing a national show?

LK: Well the pros are definitely that you have a greater variety of topics. And I love talking to people. There’s great passion around the country. There’s very little passion in this part of the country for college football, and yet there’s great passion around the country for college football. I like the national platform from that perspective; you have people that are super passionate all around the country. I think it’s really interesting when you start taking calls and you go to the different regions of the country, the different accents, their perspectives. It’s really refreshing.

As far as the constraints, I felt like you have to go with the NFL or NBA story. Baseball nationally doesn’t go. Baseball locally, if you’re in New York on the FAN, talk Yankees all day. But you get on Mad Dog Radio and you start talking tons of baseball, it’s like ugh, when are you going to talk basketball or the NFL? On the national platforms I think they’re too reliant on the NFL. NFL stories that aren’t even stories can get pushed for days sometimes with no legitimacy just because it’s the NFL and people want to go with the biggest national story. That’s the downside I think is that it’s a little bit overdone as far as the NFL and NBA breakdown. I’ll hear NBA breakdowns throughout August. It’s like bro, I don’t want to talk any more NBA. Let’s put it away.

BN: Looking to the future, are there any goals on your list that you’d like to accomplish?

LK: One of the things that we haven’t talked about at all is that I went to Sac State, and out of college I got a job scouting in the Canadian Football League with the Sacramento Gold Miners. I left the Gold Miners and went to the Arizona Cardinals and was doing personnel for them until I kind of decided that one of my real goals in life was to have kids and have a family. I’m one of four kids. I just saw football personnel evaluation as not conducive to building a family. That’s truly what I’m best at. At some point I feel like I’ve got two kids in college right now, I’ve got a couple more to go, but someday, somehow, someway I’m going to get back into football player personnel because that’s what I’m good at.

BN: Do you think that focusing on your family or other non-sports things makes you more interesting as a sports host?

LK: Absolutely. You can’t relate to somebody if you don’t have a mortgage, if you don’t have a kid, if you don’t have a wife, if you don’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend, whatever it is. You have to have life experiences. One of my favorite guys to listen to, he’s one of my good friends, is Jody Mac. He’s an older guy but he’s got life experiences and you can hear it. He brings it to the air. I love that. That’s what I love about Dog too. He’s got passion but he’s also has lived. That’s what I love about Radnich. He always used to have a saying; I’ve lived a little.

With plenty of emotion, Gary Radnich says goodbye after 24 years at KNBR
Courtesy: KNBR

The one thing I learned from being involved in scouting in my 20s, and all the other scouts were in their 60s for the most part, is that old people know a lot and young people know very little. We should shut up and listen more to older people. I don’t know why we don’t honor older people in our society the way other societies do. That’s a bigger question probably for another time, but I just think older people have knowledge, and they have perspective, and they have wisdom, and we don’t take the time to listen enough.

What we’re doing is about relatability. The best hosts are the ones who relate. How do you relate if you haven’t lived? How do you relate if you have nothing to compare it to? Maybe you had a bankruptcy or had a foreclosure or had a divorce or have been fired. I think that’s why you see guys last a long time in this business because if you can maintain your passion and your desire to be a voracious reader and digest all the day-to-day minutia, well then you will have it all because you also have the perspective of having lived.

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Meet The Bettors: Jeremy Stein, SportsGrid

“You know, when we first started SportsGrid, a lot of the opportunity that we’ve seen in the past year, are opportunities that we never would have dreamed about.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Meet the Bettors - Jeremy Stein

Remember when America was debating whether or not daily fantasy sports was a form of gambling? There was never much of a question for Jeremy Stein. He knew it was gambling, because he was playing all the time.

It’s hard to say whether or not he knew that his employer, Metamorphic Ventures, investing in one of these companies would lead him down a new career path. All he knew is that there was something to this business.

Stein was more than just kind of successful in the daily fantasy world. He became the first person to ever win a million-dollar prize twice in the same calendar year back in 2016. But that was in the early days. Soon, the DFS sites would become more popular, and the games would get a lot harder. 

Like many sharp players during that time, Stein leaned into data to set his lineups. It was something that he and his partner Lee Maione quickly recognized as an opportunity. If you had strong data and took it to a host that was entertaining, it would create a product every sports fan in the country might value.

And that is how SportsGrid was born.

Today, Stein is the company’s CEO. In our conversation, presented by Point to Point Marketing, we touch on the opportunities embracing FAST TV has created for the brand, what opportunities will arise from the growth of women’s sports, and so much more.

Demetri Ravanos: What is the hole that would exist in the market if SportsGrid went away tomorrow? What segment of bettors do you look at and say, “no one can serve them like we do”?

Jeremy Stein: That’s a really interesting question because, we had a few tailwinds at SportsGrid. The first was sports gambling, where the government flipped the switch and said, “go grow in ways that you never thought were imaginable,” right?           

The second tailwind that we have is connected TV. SportsGrid is on 95% of all connected TVs. We have over thirty different distribution partners throughout the United States. So, we have very considerable scale within our category, and what we kind of discovered very early on on TV is the bulk of content on connected TVs is playback. If you look at FAST channels, there’s probably 2000 or more of them at this point, a lot of them are single IP channels, meaning there’s been a very successful sitcom and that IP owner just has a 24/7 channel of that IP going.          

The real niche that we got early on is that we are the only live sports network on a lot of these platforms. So, while we do cater to gambling enthusiasts, if you will, we really have a viewership body that encompasses all sports fans. That’s part of how we have evolved over time, because we were able to pick up on that observation that our opportunity is just a little bit bigger than focusing on, you know, I’m not going to call it a narrow vertical, but sports betting in many respects is a little bit narrow. 

DR: It’s a niche vertical. I think all sports talk kind of is in that way. I was going to ask you about the appeal of FAST TV, but it seems like you laid it out perfectly there. So instead, let’s talk about the technology and future opportunities. I wonder if you look at what Roku has just done with Major League Baseball and think that opens up possibilities for SportsGrid that maybe you hadn’t considered before. 

JS: The simple answer to that is yes. You know, when we first started SportsGrid, a lot of the opportunity that we’ve seen in the past year, are opportunities that we never would have dreamed about. We have looked at live rights. We have looked at tier one live rights in the past year.           

It just goes back to the trend. Last year was the first year where homes that do not subscribe to cable outnumbered those that do. You know, now we don’t just have a term called cord cutters. We also have a term that’s called cord-nevers. I think that it is just the natural evolution of where the leagues are going to go.           

I mean, we just saw Netflix do a deal with the NFL. While I understand that that is not FAST. I do think that over time and, you know, this could be a decade in the future, but I do think that you will see, a lot more sports pop up on these platforms. 

DR: Yeah, I could totally see that, myself. What did Scott Ferrall bring to SportsGrid when he came in? Certainly name recognition, but what else, in a business sense, did he bring? 

JS: Scott is great and his show right now is sponsored by Bet MGM, and Bet MGM is a very important commercial partner for SportsGrid. Both sides are very happy with the way that that relationship is blossoming. So he’s very important in that respect.           

You know, SportsGrid is not just 18 hours of live video content on a daily basis. We’re 21 hours of live original audio. We have channel 159 on Sirius XM. And of course, Scott is by far and away our biggest talent in the audio category. He does have the Sirius XM audience. You know, he came from Howard Stern way back in the day. So, he’s a pretty dynamic talent, if you will, for SportsGrid. We’ve been very happy to leverage him in various ways. 

DR: Yeah. I sort of have a two-part question here, because doing what I do, when I go to SportsGrid.com, one of the first landing spots for me is industry news. How much do you think the average user of SportsGrid is interested in things like when states go legal, something like the pushback going on in Florida right now, and will that get to the Supreme Court from a media standpoint?           

I tell sports radio hosts all the time that people care far less about us than we think they do. What about in the gambling world? 

JS: News is a very big category, and obviously it’s broad, right? It’s not just general sports news. It is what is happening in the gambling industry. We are fortunate enough to have a lot of data on every show that we produce, and we have seen a lot of positive momentum uncovering specific industry news. So, a lot of what you actually see, on the web, for example, we believe that is largely a gap in the market based on our viewership.           

One thing you’re going to start to see on SportsGrid, you know, more and more is we launched a college transfer portal show. There is no major media outlet on broadcast television that is doing a dedicated show, relating specifically to the college transfer portal. It makes college football and college basketball year-round sports. We believe that that’s a big gap in the market. So, you’ll also see a lot of that content flowing through our website too, and not just on our website, but also a lot of our syndication partners like MSN.           

Everything we do here has a data driven focus. So if you’re seeing a lot of a specific vertical, there’s a reason for it. It’s largely because that’s what our viewers demand. 

DR: Interesting. So, from the standpoint of what is going on in the gambling industry, the idea of the Supreme Court taking up a case related to Florida is interesting because it is such a complicated issue there, as it involves the Indian Gaming Act. Do you think we’re going to see that go in front of the Supreme Court? 

JS: Look, I’m certainly not in a position to comment on a legal matter that, you know, I’m not really close to it, to be perfectly honest with you. But Florida is a very populous state, and that is, you know, another reason, to your point, why there is so much interest in it, right?           

I think it does speak to the fact that there is a real demand for sports wagering within the state of Florida. But look, the complexities and nuances behind all of the lobbying and a lot of the legal cases that are happening there are certainly beyond our scope. 

DR: Yeah. I was reading an article in the Miami Herald earlier this week that was talking about the effect Lionel Messi has had in betting markets around the world, because even if MLS isn’t on a country’s soccer radar, he certainly is. Can you think of any other athlete that has had that sort of effect on bettors or on his league, where he can get bettors to pay attention to something they usually would not? 

JS: I think the examples of that are probably few and far between. You know, soccer is one of the true international sports, and with that comes a very large betting market. I think it is certainly kind of unique in that sense, right? You’re not going to see that with an NBA player moving into the Chinese basketball league. You might see the media attention that kind of happens there. It’s certainly not going to drive the amount of betting handle that we have seen in soccer. 

DR: What about betting as the popularity of women’s sports and female athletes have increased? What has been the demand for content from you guys, whether it’s Caitlin Clark’s WNBA debut, the women’s NCAA tournament, or whatever it might be? 

JS: There’s a ton of demand. We’ve always had an interest in women’s sports. We’ve produced, in the past, shows for the WNBA. And I think that that demand is only going to continue to grow. Women’s sports, from an economic standpoint, is a huge area of growth. Alongside of that comes all of the viewership. So, we’re very excited, about women’s sports. You’ll absolutely see a lot more coverage from SportsGrid going forward. 

DR: So I want to wrap here just sort of with a follow up to that, because the way you guys think about creating content with providing that data to talented people that can command attention, as women’s sports grow in popularity, and it then becomes more and more of a part of what you do, do you foresee the people you have now, because they have the talent, being able to intelligently cover it or would you  have to go out and hire people more versed in and live in that world? 

JS: It’s a little bit of both. You know, you always want to find a talent that resonates with the audience. We’re pretty confident that we have a few of those in our stable. But of course, we will always look to bring in fresh faces. Yeah, it’s a really dynamic market, and it’s something that we are incredibly excited about. 

To learn more about Point-To-Point Marketing’s Podcast and Broadcast Audience Development Marketing strategies, contact Tim Bronsil at [email protected] or 513-702-5072.

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An Easy Way for Sports Radio Stations to Get Publicity for Their Talent and Brands

The truth is, we can do a much better job at our jobs with a little help from you.

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Stock photo of a person talking into a megaphone
Credit: Pexels.com

Having been in this role with Barrett Sports Media for almost six months, there is one thing that has really surprised me. I am shocked at how little we hear from some sports radio stations. There are some PDs and other executives out there who do a great job keeping us informed of any changes and one or two who send us information when they have something special going on, but the silence from the heavy majority of leaders in sports radio is shocking and confusing to me.

When I was running stations or sales teams, I would often say, “If we aren’t going to tell our story, who the heck else is going to do it for us?”

Well, in this case, we will do it for you if you let us know about it and it’s worthy of coverage. It’s like that other famous line in Jerry Maguire – “Help me, help you.”

Perhaps we just need to let you know what we are looking for. So, let me take this time and space to let you know and maybe we can work together more often moving forward.

Obviously, we will cover your major personnel changes. If you are adding someone to your team or giving someone a promotion for the hard work they have done, let us know about it. There are no stories we would like to tell more than ones about people in our industry advancing. We want to highlight those people and the stations and companies that are taking notice of what someone is doing and rewarding them for it.

Where are the rising stars? We profile many people in the industry and enjoy doing that so others can read about successful people and learn what it is that makes them stand out. This can be a weekday host, someone standing out during off-peak times or producers, digital or promotions staff. Let us know who is performing at a high level and perhaps we can feature them and tell their story so others can see who they are and the work they’ve done.

On the business side, I’d like to feature your top salespeople or sales leaders in one of my ‘Seller to Seller’ features. Let me know someone who is killing it out on the streets and let’s highlight their success. Personally, I’d love to write about some sellers who are fairly new to the industry but are really having success, whether that be a younger person hired or someone who had never been in the space before but has really caught on. Or who is your veteran seller who has done the best job of adapting to the new, digital world?

What is your station doing that is unique? There are a couple of stations, which you can probably figure out if you are paying attention, that are very good about sending us a quick note when they are doing something different or special. We may not always write a story about it, but several times we have, and we would not have known about it had the station management not given us a heads up.

I like to hear about the creative process, and I know other station managers appreciate learning what others are doing to creatively drive audience or revenue. Have someone in your building who is the creative brain behind many of your ideas? Let us know about them, let’s let everyone know about them.

We are here to cover the industry. It would be great if we could listen to all of your stations each and every day, but that would be impossible. Plus, you know what is about to happen so getting the information out to us beforehand can help us plan our coverage. The truth is, we can do a much better job at our jobs with a little help from you. I know everyone is busy but think about what it would mean to a staff member for someone to reach out and say, ‘Your boss told us about the great work you’ve been doing,’ or ‘We heard about the great idea you came up with, we want to tell the story about what you created.’

I’d also like to do more stories that relate to things you have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, stories that can be written that others may look at and learn something from, maybe get a tip on how to handle a particular situation or just get your thoughts on a particular media story. I plan to reach out to more of you to get your thoughts on things happening in our industry. You are the leaders who are there to take this format into the future, I want to know what you think, and I believe that is what our readers want as well.

When you take a step back and think about what we get to do for a living, that we all get to be in and around sports coverage in our communities, that’s pretty cool. Let’s work together to help advance the format by keeping people up to date on the great things going on in sports radio.

I am not hard to reach. My email is [email protected] and while I know several of you, the majority I do not know, but I’d like to. Reach out, let me know what’s happening at your station, send over a topic you want to hear what others might think about or let’s just connect and next time I’m looking for someone to give their thoughts and opinions, perhaps I can reach out to you as a thought leader in the space.

The invitation is there to get your station, your people and your successes highlighted. I don’t think I can make it more clear or easier. I hope you take advantage of it.

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The Best Thing I Heard Recently

I was flipping through SiriusXM last week and caught Mike Florio talking on Pro Football Talk Live about the NFL schedule release and the topic was whether or not it is fair for certain teams to have so many stand-alone games.

Florio’s point was that these games have “an extra layer of stress and strain.” Despite the Chiefs winning the Super Bowl last year with a prime-time heavy schedule, Florio used the Jets early season schedule as the best example of the league making it very tough on a team with quick turnarounds, international travel and several stand-alone games.

The segment really made you think. You can listen to the show by clicking here. Look for Episode 1956.

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In Case You Missed It

Last week, Andy Masur weighed in on what might happen to Inside the NBA now that it appears TNT will lose the NBA media rights. Andy says he is convinced the show only works on TNT and others have agreed saying networks like NBC probably wouldn’t allow the show to have as much freedom as TNT has.

About the current show, Masur wrote, “This show is the envy of all other studio shows. Other networks have tried to copy the formula but have failed. It’s really hard to duplicate what this show brings to the viewer.”

You can read Andy’s article by clicking here.

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One Mistake by a Sports Broadcaster Should Not Define Their Career

Look, it doesn’t mean that these broadcasters are horrible human beings.

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Photos of Glen Kuiper, Charissa Thompson and Thom Brennaman

We’ve seen numerous broadcasters lose, his/her job over the years because of slip ups, hot mics and misspeaks. Situations that could have been avoided but happened. Some of these cases are more prominent than others, due to the profile of the job lost and the nature of the words said by the sports broadcaster.

I bring this up because of the dubious anniversary that just passed. It was a year ago, that Glen Kuiper was fired by the Oakland A’s for the use of the “N-word” during the opening of a telecast. The A’s were in Kansas City and Kuiper spoke about his trip to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum with broadcast partner Dallas Braden during a pregame segment on NBC Sports California. Kuiper attempted to say, “We had a phenomenal day today, Negro League Museum and Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque,” but he mispronounced “negro,” in a way that sounded like a racial slur.

“A little bit earlier in the show, I said something that didn’t come out quite the way I wanted it to. I just wanted to apologize if it sounded different than I meant it to be said… I just wanted to apologize for that.” Kuiper said during the game.

After initially being suspended, Kuiper was let go May 22, 2023. This even after Negro League Museum President Bob Kendrick forgave him in a Tweet the night of the incident.

“I’m aware of the unfortunate slur made by Glen Kuiper. I welcomed Glen to the NLBM yesterday and know he was genuinely excited to be here,” Kendrick tweeted Saturday. “The word is painful and has no place in our society. And while I don’t pretend to know Glen’s heart, I do know that my heart is one of forgiveness. I hope all of you will find it in yourselves to do the same.”

Still teams don’t have a lot of choice but to suspend and/or fire the broadcaster in those cases. Slurs aren’t acceptable. Teams serve their entire fanbase, not just one specific race or gender. Offensive language about one is handled as offensive language about all. It’s a tough thing for teams to deal with for sure.

About 4 years ago, the Cincinnati Reds and their television flagship were put in a similar situation after an unfortunate on-air slip by broadcaster Thom Brennaman. The veteran announcer issued an on-air apology after he was caught uttering a gay slur on a mic he didn’t realize was on. Like with Kuiper, Brennaman was at first suspended and then fired. It also cost him his national job with Fox Sports.

Brennaman tried to grow from the experience and soon after he was pulled from the air, he heard from some folks in the LGBTQ+ community. From all over the country. Brennaman met with leaders of the community in Cincinnati. In one of those meetings, he encountered some who thought he was a fraud, just trying to get his job back. Brennaman was not. He has spent the last four years continuing to move forward.

He told me in 2022, “I don’t want the rest of my life or career to be defined by a lot of people as being a homophobe. That’s what I’ve tried to explain to my kids”. “There are going to be people and I’ve had a hard time coming to grips with this, because I know I am not a homophobe. I know I’m not. But I used a word that can put me in that category and some people are never going to let me out of that category. I wish they didn’t feel that way, and I know I’m not a homophobe, but you got to move on and keep doing the best you can, that’s all you can do.”

This is not a recent phenomenon either. Broadcasters in the 80’s, 90’s and into the 2000’s have also been let go for unsavory comments.

Many remember Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, who appeared as the ‘gambling expert’ on the early days of The NFL Today on CBS. He was let go in 1988 after making a racially insensitive comment to a reporter.

Steve Lyons, then of MLB on Fox was fired for a making a racially insensitive comment during Game 3 of the 2006 ALCS.

Danyelle Sargent dropped an F-bomb on national television after ESPNEWS experienced technical difficulties during her segment in 2006.

Emily Austen was a Fox Sports Reporter that was fired in 2016 for making insensitive remarks about Mexican, Jewish and Chinese people. She appeared on a Barstool sports podcast where she made the comments.

The list goes on and on.

Interestingly enough, Charissa Thompson wasn’t fired for admitting that she made up stories as part of her halftime reporting duties. She also appeared on a Barstool podcast and flippantly remarked how she did this early in her career. I know she didn’t insult a racial, religious or gender related group, but she certainly upset many in the industry. Especially those that cover the sidelines for various networks right now. Should ethics count the same as the other slip ups?

Some can get carried away when appearing on shows other than their own, like the example above with Austen and Thompson. There’s a callousness that pops up in the brain, saying, “this isn’t a network show, I can swear and be myself”. Dangerous thoughts to say the least. You are still representing your organization/network and yourself when appearing on these other shows and podcasts.  

Look, it doesn’t mean that these broadcasters are horrible human beings. Everybody makes a slip up. Broadcasters though are looked at in a different manner. They are the voices of our favorite sports and are supposed to be like a member of the family, right? We spend a lot of time with them during the season and feel like we get to know them.  So, it becomes that much more shocking when that person says something inappropriate.

The initial shock and awe of the situation causes many to rush to a certain judgement. There’s no getting around what was said, everybody heard it. Should a ‘slip up’ be a career death sentence though? I think that each should be taken into consideration separately. It also depends, to me, on the apology and what that broadcaster does to go beyond words to understand why the comments were hurtful.

I’m not sure what the correct answer is to all of this.

There are some that feel, instead of firing the broadcaster, suspend them and make them work to regain the trust of the team and network. They feel like there is a missed opportunity to maybe use these situations as an educational platform.

Broadcasters need to watch themselves much more closely these days. The second you say something incorrect, ridiculous or hurtful, it’s on social media. There is no escape. You are presumed guilty in the court of public opinion before you can even blink an eye.

In these moments, context and apology is everything. One slip up, mistake, misspeak or whatever you want to call them, is one too many. But, at the same time, long illustrious careers should not be defined by one incident.

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