If you overheard a serious conversation while in the toy department, it would probably sound ridiculous. If you only heard serious conversations in the toy department of life — meaning sports — that would also be absurd. Steve Covino and Rich Davis are two radio veterans that believe sports discussions are supposed to be fun. It’s hard to argue with them. If it doesn’t make sense to be somber next to LEGO sets or action figures, why would it be a good idea to be joyless when discussing Aaron Rodgers or the AFC East?
Fun works. It’s a big reason why Inside the NBA keeps stacking Emmys. It’s partially why Peyton and Eli Manning received stellar reviews for their Monday Night Football telecast. It’s also why Covino & Rich continues to grow. You don’t end up on major platforms like SiriusXM, SNY, ESPN, and FOX Sports Radio just because you have good hair, although that doesn’t hurt. You end up in those places because you have a formula that works.
Prioritizing fun has served Covino & Rich well. The duo has been hosting shows together for nearly 17 years. They now have a brand new show that airs Sunday evenings on FOX Sports Radio. The East Coasters — Covino is from Union, New Jersey and Rich is from Long Island — discuss how their friendship is rare in the industry. They also touch on cussing, Covino’s DJ skills, celebrity interviews, and Chubb touches. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: How far back do you guys go?
Rich Davis: We started doing our radio show together at SiriusXM at the very end of ’04. We debuted around Super Bowl ’05. That was the Super Bowl where Donovan McNabb ran out of steam versus the Patriots. That was sort of the beginning of Covino & Rich.
Steve Covino: We were friends before that. That’s how it sort of started. We both worked in terrestrial radio but at competing radio stations. I worked at K-Rock New York and Rich was the nighttime hottie at Z100. Then we became friends through mutual friends. We would hang out and go to the bars and talk sports.
Actually, that was the first thing we bonded over. ‘You like baseball? So do I.’ That sort of thing. He was a Mets guy. I was a Yankees guy. The yin to my yang in a lot of ways. We both ended up at SiriusXM. He was doing the pop radio stuff and I was doing the rock radio stuff. Then we just said yo, let’s do this talk show. We started doing this talk show together and here we are.
Rich: Hold on, backpedal for a second, Brian, because I have to tell you, when I first met Covino he was DJing part-time at a bar in Hoboken called O’Donoghue’s.
Covino: That was my side hustle.
Rich: I remember we’d go there and hang and drink on Thursday nights. I’m like who’s this DJ guy? He wouldn’t mix songs; in between the songs he would just play sound effects of like ‘El Covino.’ I’m like he’s playing radio drops at a bar? [Laughs]
Covino: I like to say I was ahead of the game, Brian; a shameless self-promoter from the start.
Rich: We had mutual friends and I remember Covino was going through a breakup; one of his girlfriends dumped him for an athlete actually.
Noe: Was it McNabb?
Covino: [Laughs] No, actually I was going through a really crappy streak. Rich was there at the perfect time to help me through it. I lost an ex-girlfriend to a New Jersey Net who shall not be named. And then my next girlfriend I lost to a New York Ranger who will not be named. And I was just some dude starting out in radio. I was so down in the dumps and that’s when I met Rich and he changed my life.
Noe: What led to you guys doing a show together?
Rich: We got together to do radio at SiriusXM because Sirius had a partnership with Maxim. They were like hey, we’re looking for shows to talk about sports, women, relationships, lifestyle, movies, TV. You know, just guy talk.
Covino: That was in our wheelhouse.
Rich: Covino and I said yo, this is what we do when we’re hanging out. We both know radio so we pitched it and that was almost 17 years ago now. They would send us out to Home Run Derbys, Super Bowls, All-Star Games. We were the guys that could cover sports but also the lifestyle side of it. Like hey guys, go to the EA Madden party and talk to a lot of these guys on the red carpet about their sneakers, their relationships, about the non-on-the-field stuff.
I remember this clearly; we were at a Super Bowl and Tim Tebow was the hot shit at the moment. This is when everyone on Earth was talking about Tim Tebow. We got an interview with him. A guy named Brad Como at SNY in New York watched us interview Tebow. We just had a really fun interview with him. We got back to New York and Brad Como and Curt Gowdy Jr. at SNY were like yo, we like what you guys do. Let’s talk.
Covino: Sports should be fun. You guys make it fun. You’re covering something different. You’re not making it boring and X’s and O’s and stats. We’re getting to see a different side of these guys; can you do that here at SNY? We’re like hell yeah, we’d love to.
Noe: You guys obviously had chemistry for years before you were on the air. Where did you grow the most once you started doing a show together even though you had that off-the-air chemistry?
Covino: I think SNY was a big step for us, to be honest, because that took us from radio to television. And it was live in Times Square. We got the SNY opportunity in 2013. We were on there for two-plus years. I think the pressure, the excitement, going live from New York City in our home city, talking all things New York sports; I think that was a big growing moment for us. Dealing with teleprompters and just having to react live and deal with that every day was big for our growth.
Rich: Covino loves to point out a great thought, which is we were young guys at the time so we never even thought failing was an option. It’s probably a great way to go into things. Now as an adult you overanalyze shit all the time, but back then we didn’t even think that this could go wrong.
Covino: We really didn’t.
Rich: We very quickly realized when they put together shows, we seemed to get along on and off the air like brothers. We’d fight and people were like are you guys mad at each other? No, it’s just what we do. We very quickly realized that we had chemistry while other people’s chemistry wasn’t developing.
Covino: It happened organically though because we were really friends. Other shows most of the time are just two random people that are put together. The chemistry is never going to be real. If someone is fighting, it’s kind of hard to move on from that the next day. We were in it from the start. This is what we do, this is how we fight, and this is how we get along at the same time. That’s sort of how it started.
Rich: And we always had the same goals. A lot of times people will link up and be made co-hosts in the sports world and the news world, and egos come into play. It’s like who gets the lead chair? Who opens the breaks? Whose name is first? These are things that we were like let’s just fuckin’ win. We weren’t like is it Covino & Rich or Rich & Covino? Who cares? All right fine, Covino & Rich. Who’s going to open the breaks? All right Rich, you come out of commercials. Fine, who cares? We kept that throughout our whole career so far and still to this day. Neither one of us will ever let those types of things get in the way. We have the same goals.
Noe: TV is quick; you’re moving, moving. Radio is kind of like living in the South; it’s just a slower pace. Do you ever feel like man, this radio segment is taking forever compared to doing TV?
Rich: No, but I feel that way when I hear other people’s radio shows. [Laughs] Sometimes I’ll hear other people and I’m like, damn they have zero excitement level. Covino and I, sometimes people say man, their energy is too high; I don’t feel like you can have enough energy. I really don’t. I feel like anytime I listen to radio, podcasts, or anything, the minute I hear some monotone shit, I’m checked out.
Covino: You’ve got three hours, or two hours with commercials to bring it. If you’re not bringing it, why am I listening? That’s how I feel.
Rich: Yeah, I feel like whether it’s a comedian’s podcast or a top-40 morning show, if they’re not having fun and laughing and busting chops, to me, that bores me.
Covino: And people that take sports too seriously; that bores me too. Sports are fun. Let’s have fun. Let’s have fun and share some laughs. It doesn’t have to be boring. It doesn’t have to be serious and that’s sort of our goal, the goofier the better sometimes. Just try to keep it lighthearted and remind ourselves, this is fun. It’s supposed to be fun.
Noe: How did the opportunity with FOX Sports Radio come about for you guys?
Rich: Our buddy, who became our super agent, Shaun Wyman, who works at Maxx Sports now was a listener of our radio show. Over a decade ago, we met Shaun at a Super Bowl party and he’s like “Covino and Rich, I listen to you guys. I work at ESPN. Here’s my card.”
Covino: He handed me a business card and I was like you know what, I got to keep ahold of this one. This one looks important.
Rich: He’s like I work in the talent department. I used to be a producer. We became friends with Shaun. His whole thing was like, I’m going to get you guys on ESPN. I was like well that’s awfully ambitious, but I’m with it.
Covino: As he climbed the ranks, he got into more meetings, kept pushing us, and eventually that got us onto ESPN Radio.
Rich: And all the people there, Shaun sold us to Rob Savinelli at the time, Amanda Gifford, all the folks at ESPN.
Covino: They bought into it.
Rich: Traug [Keller] when he was there. There were people there that really felt what Shaun was pushing and really had our back. They said let’s do this. Shaun Wyman got us into ESPN, then because of budget and COVID and all that, our contract wasn’t renewed. We were waiting for our next opportunity and Scott Shapiro at FOX was well aware of what we did. I was not aware of how much he knew about us.
Covino: He gets it, which is awesome.
Rich: He gets our style of humor. He gets what we do. Our first phone call with Scott was super satisfying when you’re talking to someone that knows what you do where you don’t really have to sell as much. We said listen man, we’re going to deliver for you because more than anything, Covino and I want to win. We want to show you that you’re making a good decision.
Covino: People play harder with a chip on their shoulder and although we have a great time, we’re not doing it for the fun; we’re doing it to win. We have a chip on our shoulders.
Rich: And I like this opportunity because I like to think that this is step one in my mind.
Noe: You guys keep it organic and the conversation is going to go where it goes, but after a full day of ball on Sunday, does it feel weird at all to digress and talk about Jolly Ranchers or something random?
Rich: You know what, sometimes I feel like you need to break it up a little bit. I can sometimes get sports burnout, but on a Sunday night I’m still so in that zone that there really just isn’t enough football on Sunday. People want to keep talking about it. We will dive into those dumb things. If we had more time Sunday, Covino saw an empty Red Vines in the garbage can. We were going to have a Red Vines, Twizzlers argument. But we didn’t get to it because Aaron Rodgers provided too much.
Covino: Anytime we can be relatable and tie it into a real-life scenario and try to give personal examples, we’re going to jump at that opportunity. That’s where we shine the brightest.
Rich: Like how Sam Darnold’s full on shit. When Sam Darnold says he doesn’t care that he beat the Jets; that’s like showing up somewhere with your hot new girlfriend looking all slick in front of your ex. Oh, I don’t care; of course you care. Even Robby Anderson, you don’t think after the game they were like, that was f***ing awesome. You don’t think they loved that? The two former Jets connected for a 57-yard touchdown. Come on.
Covino: That’s like us saying we don’t want to beat ESPN and show them we told you so. Anytime we can make it relatable, that’s what we’re going to do.
Noe: Do you ever get confused between being on SiriusXM where it’s uncensored, and another platform where cussing isn’t allowed?
Covino: That’s so funny, man. We’re really, really good at that.
Rich: Well now you jinxed us.
Covino: I know, right? We’ve been pretty great at that because we’ve been uncensored for almost 17 years, saying whatever the hell we want, talking about whatever we want. No censorship whatsoever. But I think Rich and his background, I give him credit here, his background in pop radio keeps him on his toes all the time. He’s able to put a different hat on. And me honestly it’s just a matter of reminding myself where I am and wearing that different hat. Like alright, I’m not doing this satellite radio thing where I can say whatever, I’m on FOX Sports Radio now. Every once in a while, I think there are things you can play with. Some guy called our show on Sunday and said something about Nick Chubb and touches and he kept on talking about Chubb touches. You can’t help but at least acknowledge the Chubb touches.
Rich: I don’t know; how many Chubb touches do you think are appropriate?
Covino: There’s a nice way to dance around it and make it fun and acknowledge that I can’t ignore that he said Chubb touches 10 times. Like I said when you wear different hats, although we’re guys just hanging out talking sports, we’re also parents. We have to keep that in mind that there are kids in the car and there are families listening.
Noe: Your background of interviewing celebrities is a little bit of a different world, but you can take that and apply it to the sports world. What has your music background helped you with as sports hosts?
Rich: It’s funny you would say that because I was just thinking about this recently. Everyone’s doing Zoom interviews. It’s the standard now. Howard Stern, Rogan, all these people, everyone’s doing Zoom interviews. I was like we’ve interviewed everyone I could possibly imagine and the relationships we’ve made over the years in mainstream music, television, actors, actresses; do we have that infiltrate FOX Sports Radio in a fun way? Would it be cool if we were like Guy Fieri, come hang with us Sunday night on FOX Sports Radio?
Covino: You know what’s cool about that and what we’ve learned through the years is even though Guy Fieri is known for FlavortownUSA and being on the Food Network, the guy loves sports. These guys love talking sports. Or they played sports growing up. It could be the most random people. We had Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins on our show. He wants to talk about baseball. He’s sick of talking about Siamese Dream. He wants to talk about the Cubs. You realize that there are a lot of people in the world of entertainment that are known for something, but deep down they like sports like anyone else and love to talk about it.
Rich: I remember Ty Burrell from Modern Family. Phil Dunphy, he was more excited to talk about the Mets with me than talk about Modern Family.
Covino: That’s when you really see these people open up because now they’re just being real about some stuff they’re really passionate about and you’re seeing a different side of them. You’re not getting that canned answer about their project coming up. When guests can enhance the conversation, we have a lot of fun talking to them. It’s just fan stuff. We’re not trying to out-knowledge each other. That’s what I feel sports radio and sports broadcasting has become. And to me that’s not fun.
Noe: For someone who’s new to Covino & Rich, if they wanted to check you out on FOX Sports Radio, what are they going to hear that will appeal to them?
Rich: We’re well aware that we’ve lived in a little bubble known as SiriusXM. That’s not a bad thing. SiriusXM is a great company; we still both work there, but we know that it’s a bubble. If they’ve got 30, 40 million subscribers, that’s still 10 percent of the population. There’s still 90 percent of people in America that don’t know of us because of the numbers. I think what we deliver that’s different; I guess you would say the fun conversation. If you want buddies talking about life and sports and entertainment in a fun way, check us out.
Covino: Fun is definitely the word. They were calling it Football Sunday, we’re like no, it’s Football Funday. We’re here to have fun. But from a fan perspective. Again, not claiming to be the expert. I’m just trying to relate and be as real as possible and call it as I see it. And I think we fit perfectly in the pocket where we can relate to the older sports fans with our old-school references, but still relate to a younger audience with social media. I feel we’re fluent in both languages being right there in the middle of both generations. We’re here to bring the fun and bring the laughs and bring the energy that so many people leave at home I guess, or just don’t have anymore.
Rich: Yeah, I think a couple of our takes on Sunday were so silly and stupid. I love that Covino’s take on Aaron Rodgers is that not dying his beard or hair just makes him look even worse. The fact that you came on and you’re like yo, dude’s got to use Just For Men. That was Covino’s big takeaway. If you can play like shit and look that bad on the field, it’s not helping you that you look like a washed out Negan from Walking Dead at the postgame.
Covino: Yeah, in a young man’s game when you already talked about retirement, and you come in looking like that, it doesn’t help the case. So yeah, we’re coming from a fan perspective. There’s no filter. There’s ballbusting and we’re going to bring all that, everything we’ve been doing for the past 17 years to FOX Sports Radio every weekend. Just anything that we can do to make it relatable and fun, that’s what our goal is to do.
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.