We are less than five years removed from the massive layoffs that claimed the jobs of people on camera and behind the scenes at ESPN. One of those people was college football analyst and co-host of Russillo and Kanell, Danny Kanell.
Kanell was on The Ryen Russillo Podcast this week to talk not only about college football, but to look back at that time where both Russillo and Kanell felt uncertain about their positions at the company.
“I had talked to my agent and he was like you are good to go. College football is one of the biggest priorities of the company, you are one of the bigger voices, you’re good,” Kanell said. “Couple weeks would go by and you kind get a little more nervous. A lot of people were holding meetings trying to make sure they are in good standing and I would go play golf on the off-day…Then comes the day. No one knew when the day was going to be. It was like a Black Friday without knowing there was a Black Friday.
“I get a phone call and it was the number from ESPN. I didn’t answer the first time and then it calls back and then it was a call from one of our higher-ups in radio who said hey, can you come in? It was eerily similar to can you bring your playbook conversation. I didn’t ask on the phone, I said sure…When the time I hang up the phone, I call my agent and I’m like what is happening? He’s like I don’t know. I go in and they got the two higher-ups there because they want the witness, make sure nothing happens and it’s thank you for your time.”
Russillo had a meeting with John Skipper at the time to want to talk about where he stood with the company, but while Russillo wanted to talk, Skipper just wanted to vent on something that was bothering him, according to Russillo.
“I had gone in to meet with Skipper. We usually got together every 6 months and he was good to me in that way. I was like hey, this isn’t working out for me in radio. I know what’s going to happen. All the signs point to this. They don’t like the show with Danny and I. I don’t want to leave. I think there’s going to be value for me somewhere else. That was the whole plan.
“The meeting with Skipper was Tuesday. The Monday, there was a leak that all of these people on air were going to let go. We spent the entire meeting, I listened to him complain about leaks and I was like okay, we didn’t get anywhere. Selfishly, I needed some Ryen time. I was just kind of being his therapist for an hour while he was like I can’t believe these leaks, Ryen.”
When Kanell looked back at why he might have been laid off by ESPN, he thought back to two specific instances.
“Possibly because the person who I upset the most was asking me to be suspended for a tweet because I was trolling the SEC. It did tick off somebody and even though I apologized, I don’t know if that person ever got over it. That person since that time rose up the ranks where they were really powerful and had some influence whether or not I was there.”
“The other thing I don’t know if it helped, even though it was a joke, was wearing the ‘make radio great again’ hat just because it was red and it appeared like a MAGA hat even though it wasn’t. I’m sure there were people that might have walked by a TV and double-take. One of those two things probably put the final nail in the coffin.”
Russillo and Kanell were able to talk about that awkward moment and they took the listener inside what happened during one of the crazier times at ESPN as their show was coming to an end.
Ricky Keeler is a reporter for BSM with a primary focus on sports media podcasts and national personalities. He is also an active podcaster with an interest in pursuing a career in sports media. You can find him on Twitter @Rickinator555 or reach him by email at [email protected].
ESPN 97.5 in Houston Announces New Lineup
“The station had to make some very tough & unfortunate economic decisions last week.”
ESPN 97.5 in Houston announced they will have a new lineup starting Monday Feb. 26. The drive time slots will continue to feature John Granato and Lance Zierlein in mornings and The Killer B’s, Jeremy Branham and Joel Blank, in the afternoon.
In between the two shows will now have The Del Olaleye Show airing from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. followed by Gallant and George with Paul Gallant, who had been hosting the early midday slot previously and Joe George, the station’s Assistant Program Director.
Earlier this week, Josh Beard and Michael Connor confirmed they had been let go from the station after being in the midday slot for just six months. George posted on X at the time, “So here’s the deal. The station had to make some very tough & unfortunate economic decisions last week. It has nothing to do with the quality of their show and work they did. Programming on the station will be weird this week, then back to fully local from 7 am – 6 pm on 2/26.”
Former Toronto Blue Jays Announcer Ben Wagner Named to Baltimore Orioles Broadcast Team
A release from the Blue Jays says Wagner will appear on radio and select television broadcasts throughout the year.
The Baltimore Orioles announced the club’s broadcast talent lineup for the 2024 season, which includes former Toronto Blue Jays announcer Ben Wagner. Wagner had served as the radio voice of the Blue Jays for the last six seasons before Sportsnet announced it decided not to renew his contract. Prior to joining the Blue Jays broadcast team, Wagner spent 11 seasons with Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons. A release from the Orioles says Wagner will appear on radio and select television broadcasts throughout the year.
The Orioles will continue to use guest analysts throughout the season, including Orioles Hall of Famers Mike Devereaux and Brian Roberts, as well as former Orioles Brad Brach and Dave Johnson.
Geoff Arnold will return for his fifth season with the Orioles broadcast team and will be the primary play-by-play announcer. Kevin Brown will be in his third season as the primary television play-by-play announcer for MASN.
Other team members for the 2024 season include Scott Garceau, Brett Hollander, Rob Long, Ben McDonald, Melanie Newman and Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, who will be in his 32nd season as an analyst and 61st year as a member of the Orioles organization.
Fred Toucher: ‘I Would Feel Weird’ if Rich Shertenlieb Reached Out to Me
“Even if it was nice, I wouldn’t like it, so if he’s listening, don’t reach out to me.”
Fred Toucher is in the midst of co-hosting a new morning program on 98.5 The Sports Hub with Rob “Hardy” Poole. The Toucher & Hardy show made its premiere in January following the end of a 17-year run in which he worked alongside Rich Shertenlieb. Last November, Shertenlieb parted ways with the outlet that elicited questions and nostalgia from listeners, some of which continue to persist on the new program.
On Friday’s edition of the program, a caller asked Toucher about the last time he spoke to Shertenlieb and if there was still communication between them. The duo started hosting their radio program together at rock radio station WBCN-FM before making the move to the sports talk format with 98.5 The Sports Hub (WBZ-FM) for its launch in the summer of 2009. The caller wanted to specifically hear a “juicy story” and apologized if his broaching the topic was “a forbidden path.”
“I have not talked to Rich,” Toucher said. “I told you I got the text message the Saturday after they didn’t put him on the air anymore, and I haven’t talked to him.”
Toucher wondered who among former members of the Toucher & Rich program had heard from Shertenlieb, leading him to go around the studio and ask. Update anchor Jon Wallach revealed that Shertenlieb texted him on Thanksgiving Day to discuss how the music group Bell Biv DeVoe was performing, but he has not heard from him since. None of the others in the studio had heard from Shertenlieb in a considerable amount of time either.
“None of us were really friends with him so I don’t know what to tell you,” Toucher replied to the caller. “I wasn’t friends with him; I didn’t talk to him, so it’s not odd that I don’t talk to him.”
Toucher then began to hypothesize what would happen if Shertenlieb were to reach out to him. As he thought over such a potential occurrence, he realized that he would have a feeling in his stomach and get anxiety. He did concede, however, that if someone paid him a large sum of money to appear somewhere with Shertenlieb, he would do the 10 seconds.
“I would feel weird; I wouldn’t enjoy the process,” Toucher said. “Even if it was nice, I wouldn’t like it, so if he’s listening, don’t reach out to me. You’d make me incredibly uncomfortable. Just don’t do it.”
In thinking about the potential nostalgia from Toucher & Rich, the program briefly mentioned Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo and his relationship with former co-host Mike Francesa. Toucher believes that Russo is doing fine without Francesa, a sentiment Wallach concurred. Wallach also shared that he feels Russo is doing better after Mike and the Mad Dog than Francesa.
Russo hosts a SiriusXM program on the Mad Dog Sports Radio channel named after him, in addition to High Heat on MLB Network and a weekly appearance on ESPN’s First Take. The split between both shows elicited interest from the listening public, something Toucher completely understands because of the unique facets of radio.
“People consume you 20 hours a week or they conceivably could, so when there’s any change, your immediate reaction to it, even though it hasn’t been bad, a lot of people if you listen to an old thing all the time it’s going to be strange to you, a new thing, or when a component of it is missing,” Toucher explained, “even if it’s better than it was, which I contend Toucher & Hardy over the last three weeks is better than Toucher & Rich was in 2023 and 2022 certainly.”
The segment concluded with Toucher proclaiming that he had answered the question and now will not have to entertain it again. “I have no idea what he’s doing and no one I know does, and no one I know has seen him,” Toucher said. “I haven’t even had a listener email me and go, ‘I saw him.’”