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Brandon Tierney Has Unfinished Business In New York

“My roots run deep in this city. I’m one of you. I just happen to be blessed with a microphone every day. I can promise you we will not always agree and we will most definitely battle, but you will get my absolute best.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Brandon Tierney is a star. Just ask anyone that has worked with him or that has been entertained by him. He has had success in markets large and small. Most recently, he said farewell to his CBS Sports Radio audience after a nine-year run on the national network. Now, it is time to get some professional wins that won’t just represent career goals. They will be the culmination of lifelong dreams as well.

If you were a New York sports fan in the 1980s, there are four iconic letters that have shaped the way you think and talk about sports. Brandon was just 14 years old when WFAN signed on at 1050 AM. Getting there was a goal of his as soon as he realized he was going to be a broadcaster.

While he eventually made it to 1050 AM, it was long after WFAN moved down the dial to 660 AM. That changes this week. Brandon Tienery and his partner of the last nine years, Tiki Barber, officially join the WFAN lineup.

Before the duo take over the mid day slot, I had the chance to chat with Brandon about what the opportunity and the history of the station mean to him. We also talked about what Tiki & Tierney could change about the station and what the station will change about the show.

Demetri Ravanos: What does it mean to you to finally get that call and to now host a daytime show on WFAN? 

Brandon Tierney: Surreal. The realization of my earliest industry dream. I never knew exactly how I would get there, or when, but I always believed that I would.

That aspiration was fuel early in my career. It balanced me, centered me no matter what part of the country I was living in or how far away from home I was. I always had an eye on working at WFAN.

In 1997, as an intern in the Promotions Department at the station, I used to recruit other interns and sneak into a small production studio at the back of the station in Queens and do mock shows. Every day. Sat behind a mic, and actually rolled thru topic after topic. We weren’t even recording, but the allure of that microphone and those topics. It was potent, like a drug. I was creating a template for how I would eventually host. Finding my style, my voice, what worked, what didn’t.

I remember being so disappointed when I was kicked out of that studio and forced to actually do something pertaining to promotions. All I wanted to do was talk. Promotions? Nahhh man, I just want to let it rip. And I’ve always dreamt of doing it on WFAN from Day 1.

DR: How did this radio station influence your entry to the business? Who did you listen to?  

BT: WFAN is in my DNA. It’s a huge part of who I am, even though I’ve yet to launch the new show, It was just always there, engrained in my soul. The sound. The energy. The jingles. How big it felt when I was a kid.

My Dad always had it on in the car, starting with Imus. I fell asleep to the Schmooze. I was captivated by the back and forth of Mike and Chris, the combative nature of some for their debates. They made it sound so important because it was so important – to them, to us as a city. Our teams, Knicks vs Bulls, Knicks vs Pacers, Knicks vs Heat, Yankees vs Red Sox, Bobby V.  You cannot fake that. You’re either all in or you’re out. We sniff out the posers right away, we know when a host truly cares and we definitely know when someone is just wasting a few hours a day on the radio collecting a paycheck.  

I view that as a personal affront to New York fans. They deserve the best. They’ve had the best. They demand the best.  And it is my mission to continue that lineage, to make it even better with my slant and my style. But it’s not going to happen overnight.

I’m not naive. I have to earn the trust and respect of a new audience. I’m entering this phase of my career almost as if no one knows who I am. I don’t assume that listeners will remember me from my days at 1050 ESPN Radio or SNY or St. John’s. It’s a blank slate. And I can’t wait to begin creating something meaningful and God willing, something lasting and palpable.

DR: When Spike Eskin and Chris Oliviero raised the idea of moving over with Tiki to the local side, were there any reservations on your end or Tiki’s? 

BT: Zero. The timing is right. I’ve always leaned on my instincts in this business and trusted my gut, and thankfully those instincts have always led me to a better place. To leave New York for San Francisco in 2011, of course there were real doubts, but deep down I was confident that was the right move, and it was.

I didn’t know it then, but it was preparing me for a 9-year national run. It added depth to my on-air game. It enabled me to do a four-hour Sunday morning NFL show (TOPS) for seven years, to mix it up with Coach Cowher and Boomer and eventually Nate. It diversified my game. And most importantly, it brought me back home, to the company that owns the FAN. That part definitely put me in position to make the jump back into local waters.

There were two levels to this move: the emotional level, which I was fully on board with from minute one. And of course the business side, which we were able to hammer out fairly quick. Once the two meshed, it was a no-brainer. 

DR: After spending a decade on CBS Sports Radio, which is right next door to WFAN, how many times did you walk past the studio & think to yourself ‘that’s where I belong!’? 

BT: I think I did a good job of balancing what I can control versus what I cannot and really just living in the moment. I appreciated what we were building on the national level. and investing all of my energies into that. Every year our profile and reach grew, especially when we launched the TV simulcast five years ago. Growth was my singular focus.

Candidly, of course, my mind occasionally wandered. I missed the energy and juice of local, but I did not live looking backwards. There were really no “what ifs,” just a desire to create something compelling, something memorable, and something lasting with Tiki.

If you squeeze too hard, things tend to fall out of your grasp. Personal maturity and a confidence in my place in the business allowed me to just be immersed in the show, to be present in the show, without constantly hoping for change.

Yes, without elaborating, there were a few times the past few years where it seemed as if my platform was poised to change. But for a multitude of reasons, it never happened, and I always took solace in the fact that it simply was not meant to be. Not yet. You can’t speed up fate. You can try, but it’s almost always more damaging than rewarding and beneficial.

DR: One interesting thing I think is that you have been in the building, just not at WFAN, as legends like Mike, Chernoff, and Steve said goodbye. You’ve been influenced by them as a listener, they have been co-workers. Chernoff was even your boss at CBSSR. But you represent a new era for the station without those names. How do you process that and what was it like to see and interact with that history in the way that you did? 

BT: I do not take that responsibility lightly, I embrace it. And as much as we rightly romanticize what WFAN used to be, to me, I’m very impressed with our current lineup and looking forward to joining my new teammates. We have a ton of talent with diverse deliveries, different personalities and styles.

For me, Boomer represents the quintessential player-turned-broadcaster: big presence, great playing resume, ability to expand on all sports, a true fan, which a lot of former athletes are not. When he speaks, it carries weight, but he’s also very comfortable laughing at himself and with others. And he better be, because sitting next to Gio every morning is a ride in itself. I think Gregg’s comedic timing and unpredictability are outstanding. He’s another talent willing to laugh at himself. He is legitimately funny and truly a good dude.

As for Craig and Evan, like any new show, naturally, they are still finding their ultimate footing together. But their individual talents are so obvious. Evan is a true fan. The dude knows his stuff as well as anyone in the city. He’s a walking sports search engine. And being wired like that myself, I truly appreciate that. Now, our deliveries are very different and we are two completely different personalties, but the work required to be that in tune with so many different things, I get it and I really respect it.

As for Craig, I view him as a radio genius, and I’ve told him that. New York radio is simply better when Carton has a mic. His ability to keep things moving, to piss people off, to hit areas most people are unwilling or unable to effectively hit, he was born for this job.

So again…the history and roots of WFAN are what pulled me, but adding to that unmatched legacy, that drives me. As for my partner, I simply love the guy. At the top of the list in terms of intelligence. Just a naturally curious person. Adaptable. We play off each other well. He knows when I’m getting ready to enter my zone, when the voice raises, the hands start flying and the beads of sweat build…and he allows me the space needed to be me. To do what I do.

It’s such an underrated aspect of a partnership. Mike was great with that with Chris. When it was time to explode, Mike surrendered the stage, so to speak. And long ago, l learned what drives him, and I surrender the space as well. But segment to segment, day to day, we are just in sync. We see the world in a very similar manner. We both subscribe to hard work, accountability, and common sense. We both come from relatively humble beginnings. But we also disagree on enough things inherently where there is an equal give and take. Nothing is contrived. Our deliveries are polar opposites. 

Personally, I think Tiki is going to love local. He’s never experienced radio quite like this. You strap in every day. Bring a hard hat, exhale, and do it all again the next day and the day after. It’s like being back in the trenches, back on a field. 

DR: Looking at WFAN, Gregg Giannotti, Craig Carton & yourself have hosted in other cities. Spike Eskin has programmed in other cities, yet others have moved up the ladder within the building to earn their shot. There’s no one way to be successful there anymore. How do you feel the experience of working in other major markets has made you capable of handling the big stage in NYC? 

Brandon Tierney: The Sixers Have to Trade Ben Simmons

BT: I would not change a thing, quite frankly. As a young broadcaster with no family commitments at that time, traveling the country, chasing my dreams, it added a layer of depth that I believe is very much an asset for me on-air: toughness. Nothing was easy and nothing was handed to me.

I always felt natural behind a mic, but my actual broadcasting ascent was an arduous one. Lots of tough decisions and blind faith, an empty bank account until the age of almost 30. Granted, some people’s paths are more linear than mine. It’s a straight shot. Graduate from college, hook up with a local radio or TV station before slowly ascending to a more visible position. There are many examples of that in our field and in our market, highly successful talents who never left the city.

But for me, it was an amazing, galvanizing experience. The different traditions of each fan base, the politics of each city…I embraced it all. But even throughout all of my travels deep down, my focus was always on working and thriving in New York. It was my magnet.

Mentally, I never wavered from that New York sensibility, with the belief that I would eventually return home one day better than ever. When? Where? With whom? I wasn’t sure, but I always had conviction I would be back. I always felt as if I had unfinished business in New York. 

DR: Aside from the obvious content selection, how will Tiki & Tierney on WFAN be different from the nationally syndicated version of Tiki & Tierney

BT: Callers. On the national level, it’s all about topic development. It’s paramount to see things and present them in an interesting, non-obvious way. So there was the constant inner battle of talking about Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers but doing so in a way that was different from say, Colin Cowherd or Dan Patrick. That is a lot tougher than you think.

Locally, it’s about tapping into the vein of informed, passionate fans. The presentation is different. It’s a quicker pace. The tone is different. Still authentic, still intelligent…but a bit more raw, which I love. It’s natural. From the moment you open that mic locally, there is a rush and surge of adrenaline that is hard to describe and for me, nearly impossible to replicate in any other facet of my life. That pure, unfiltered mix of every possible emotion wrapped up into one memorable rant or take? It’s the best. It’s what drives me professionally, still to this day. It’s lmost like chasing the perfect golf shot. When everything clicks, when it all meshes, you feel like your flying.

DR: Is there anything about national radio you will miss when the show goes local?

BT: I had the great fortune of having a very large platform during a very pivotal, volatile time in American history. The world was changing and we had a lot of important conversations that I will always cherish. They were uncomfortable conversations that we brought an element of comfort to, conversations and topics that transcended sport. Real depth. That’s probably the best part of doing a national show. The reach.

Generally there is more surface stuff in national. More macro and less micro, less in the weeds.

But I like the weeds and have always enjoyed the nuance of local. I love the intimacy, but national gives you a chance to branch out in a way that that local does not. It was a nice weapon, one I took very seriously. 

DR: Any concerns about interacting with a vocal Giants fan base that has a love/hate relationship with Tiki? 

Tom Coughlin, ex-Giants coach, was 'very upset' when he heard Eli Manning  was benched - New York Daily News

BT: We relish it. I know Tiki does. Listen, there’s no way around it, people are going to test Tiki early. Some are going to come to the table with a gripe or preconceived perception of who he is or what he did. A gripe that he retired early, resentment about what he said about Eli and Coughlin.

The irony is that during the time in which he said what said, we were ALL saying the same exact thing on the local airwaves. There was no real evidence early that Eli was absolutely going to elevate the Giants to prominence and there was little evidence Coughlin was going to do the same despite success in Jacksonville. He was inflexible. Some thought his style was antiquated, that it would no longer work with the modern athlete. It was not seamless for either with the Giants.

I think at the end of the day, Tiki was only guilty of one thing: bad timing. When he said what he said, it came across as malicious, but that was never the intent. He was transitioning to the media, and I think the tone was unintentionally lost. Do I think Tiki could have communicated his thoughts on Eli better? I do. It was a bit awkward.

Forget about this business for one second though. Let’s just talk character. I’ve always taken immense pride in reading people, being able to decipher good intentions versus malicious ones. I’ve sat in the same studio with Tiki every day for nearly a decade. I know his character. I know the type of father he is. I know how well-intentioned and selfless he is with all of his charitable endeavors. Some fans will come with venom initially. I fully expect that and so does he. But I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t win them over quickly.

If you truly know Tiki Barber the person, the man, the father and husband, the concerned citizen, you can’t help but like the guy. And oh yeah, by the way, he’s one of the greatest players in the history of New York football, so there’s always that. 

DR: When you consider how WFAN was built over the past three decades and compare it to the new lineup and direction entering 2022 and beyond, what final message do you have for New York sports fans who’ve made this brand a huge part of their lives? 

BT: I do not take this responsibility lightly. I view it as if I am finally putting on the pinstripes, the absolute best brand in all of sports radio. This has always been a dream of mine. I’m from here. Grew up in Brooklyn and high school in Manhattan. My parents still live in the same home I grew up in. Sister lives in Manhattan. Both sets of grandparents lived in Brooklyn.  

My roots run deep in this city. I’m one of you. I just happen to be blessed with a microphone every day. I can promise you we will not always agree and we will most definitely battle, but you will get my absolute best. Every fiber in my body will be fixated on doing this job to the absolute best of my capability. If you’re thinking it, I can promise you I will have the balls to say it. And back it up. When I’m wrong, I will own it. I don’t hide and I won’t duck. I will be accountable and I will demand accountability and transparency from every team in this market. Fans deserve that. Every morning at 10 AM, a little piece of Mike and Chris and Joe B and the Schmooze and all of the other great pioneers of this amazing network of voices and personalities will be with me in spirit.

I’ll do it my way, the only way I know how. I will be true to who I am and what I believe in. And I hope that before long, people will say, “You know, that BT, I really like that dude. He’s a little nuts, a little loud, but he knows his shit. Would love to have a beer with that guy.”

I’ve been fueled by this crazy dream I conjured up all those years ago. I’m ready. That’s my message for New York and New Jersey. Now, it’s time to stop telling you what I’m going to do. It’s time to simply start doing it. 

BSM Writers

In Defense Of Colin Cowherd

“How did we get to this place where there are sites and Twitter accounts going through The Herd with a fine-toothed comb to create content out of ‘oh my god, look at this!’?”

Demetri Ravanos

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I don’t understand what it is about Colin Cowherd that gets under some people’s skin to the point that they feel everything the guy says is worth being mocked. I don’t always agree with a lot of his opinions myself, but rarely do I hear one of his takes and think I need to build content around how stupid the guy is.

Cowherd has certainly had his share of misses. There were some highlights to his constant harping on Baker Mayfield but personally, I thought the bit got boring quickly and that the host was only shooting about 25% on those segments.

Cowherd has said some objectionable things. I thought Danny O’Neil was dead on in pointing out that the FOX Sports Radio host sounded like LIV Golf’s PR department last month. It doesn’t matter if he claims he used the wrong words or if his language was clunky, he deserved all of the criticism he got in 2015 when he said that baseball couldn’t be that hard of a sport to understand because a third of the league is from the Dominican Republic.

Those missteps and eyebrow-raising moments have never been the majority of his content though. How did we get to this place where there are sites and Twitter accounts going through The Herd with a fine-toothed comb to create content out of “oh my god, look at this!”?

A few years ago, Dan Le Batard said something to the effect of the best thing he can say about Colin Cowherd is that he is never boring and if you are not in this business, you do not get what a compliment that is.

That’s the truth, man. It is so hard to talk into the ether for three hours and keep people engaged, but Cowherd finds a way to do it with consistency.

The creativity that requires is what has created a really strange environment where you have sites trying to pass off pointing and laughing at Cowherd as content. This jumped out to me with a piece that Awful Announcing published on Thursday about Cowherd’s take that Aaron Rodgers needs a wife.

Look, I don’t think every single one of Cowherd’s analogies or societal observations is dead on, but to point this one out as absurd is, frankly, absurd!

This isn’t Cowherd saying that John Wall coming out and doing the Dougie is proof that he is a loser. This isn’t him saying that adults in backward hats look like doofuses (although, to be fair to Colin, where is the lie in that one?).

“Behind every successful man is a strong woman” is a take as old as success itself. It may not be a particularly original observation, but it hardly deserves the scrutiny of a 450-word think piece.

On top of that, he is right about Aaron Rodgers. The guy has zero personality and is merely trying on quirks to hold our attention. Saying that the league MVP would benefit from someone in his life holding a mirror up to him and pointing that out is hardly controversial.

Colin Cowherd is brash. He has strong opinions. He will acknowledge when there is a scoreboard or a record to show that he got a game or record pick wrong, but he will rarely say his opinion about a person or situation is wrong. That can piss people off. I get it.

You know that Twitter account Funhouse? The handle is @BackAftaThis?

It was created to spotlight the truly insane moments Mike Francesa delivered on air. There was a time when the standard was ‘The Sports Pop’e giving the proverbial finger to a recently deceased Stan Lee, falling asleep on air, or vehemently denying that a microphone captured his fart.

Now the feed is turning to “Hey Colin Cowherd doesn’t take phone calls!”. Whatever the motivation is for turning on Cowherd like that, it really shows a dip in the ability to entertain. How is it even content to point out that Colin Cowherd doesn’t indulge in the single most boring part of sports radio?

I will be the first to admit that I am not the world’s biggest fan of The Herd. Solo hosts will almost never be my thing. No matter their energy level, a single person talking for a 10-12 minute stretch feels more like a lecture than entertainment to me. I got scolded enough as a kid by parents and teachers.

School is a good analogy here because that is sort of what this feels like. The self-appointed cool kids identified their target long ago and are going to mock him for anything he does. It doesn’t matter if they carry lunch boxes too, Colin looks like a baby because he has a lunch box.

Colin Cowherd doesn’t need me to defend him. He can point to his FOX paycheck, his followers, or the backing for The Volume as evidence that he is doing something right. I am merely doing what these sites think they are doing when Colin is in their crosshairs – pointing out a lame excuse for content that has no real value.

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BSM Writers

Even After Radio Hall of Fame Honor, Suzyn Waldman Looks Forward

WFAN recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, but that’s not something that Waldman spends too much time reflecting on.

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Yankees radio broadcaster Suzyn Waldman was at Citi Field on July 26th getting ready to broadcast a Subway Series game between the Yankees and Mets. A day earlier, Waldman was elected to the Radio Hall of Fame and sometimes that type of attention can, admittedly, make her feel a bit uncomfortable.

“At first, I was really embarrassed because I’m not good at this,” said Waldman. “I don’t take compliments well and I don’t take awards well. I just don’t. The first time it got to me…that I actually thought it was pretty cool, there were two little boys at Citi Field…

Those two little boys, with photos of Waldman in hand, saw her on the field and asked her a question.

“They asked me to sign “Suzyn Waldman Radio Hall of Fame 2022” and I did,” said Waldman.  “I just smiled and then more little boys asked me to do that.”  

Waldman, along with “Broadway” Bill Lee, Carol Miller, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, Ellen K, Jeff Smulyan, Lon Helton, Marv Dyson, and Walt “Baby” Love, make up the Class of 2022 for the Radio Hall of Fame and will be inducted at a ceremony on November 1st at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago.

Waldman, born in the Boston suburb of Newton, Massachusetts, was the first voice heard on WFAN in New York when the station launched on July 1st, 1987. She started as an update anchor before becoming a beat reporter for the Yankees and Knicks and the co-host of WFAN’s
mid-day talk show. In the mid 1990s, Waldman did some television play-by-play for Yankees games on WPIX and in 2002 she became the clubhouse reporter for Yankees telecasts when the YES Network launched.

This is Waldman’s 36th season covering the Yankees and her 18th in the radio booth, a run that started in 2005 when she became the first female full-time Major League Baseball broadcaster.

She decided to take a look at the names that are currently in the Hall of Fame, specifically individuals that she will forever be listed next to.

“Some of the W’s are Orson Wells and Walter Winchell…people that changed the industry,” said Waldman. “I get a little embarrassed…I’m not good at this but I’m really happy.”

Waldman has also changed the industry.

She may have smiled when those two little boys asked her to sign those photos, but Waldman can also take a lot of pride in the fact that she has been a trailblazer in the broadcasting business and an inspiration to a lot of young girls who aspire, not only to be sportscasters but those who want to have a career in broadcasting.

Like the young woman who just started working at a New York television station who approached Waldman at the Subway Series and just wanted to meet her.

“She stopped me and was shaking,” said Waldman. “The greatest thing is that all of these young women that are out there.”

Waldman pointed out that there are seven women that she can think of off the top of her head that are currently doing minor league baseball play-by-play and that there have been young female sports writers that have come up to her to share their stories about how she inspired them.

For many years, young boys were inspired to be sportscasters by watching and listening to the likes of Marv Albert, Al Michaels, Vin Scully, Bob Costas, and Joe Buck but now there are female sportscasters, like Waldman, who have broken down barriers and are giving young girls a good reason to follow their dreams.

“When I’ve met them, they’ve said to me I was in my car with my Mom and Dad when I was a very little girl and they were listening to Yankee games and there you were,” said Waldman. “These young women never knew this was something that they couldn’t do because I was there and we’re in the third generation of that now. It’s taken longer than I thought.”

There have certainly been some challenges along the way in terms of women getting opportunities in sports broadcasting.

Waldman thinks back to 1994 when she became the first woman to do a national television baseball broadcast when she did a game for The Baseball Network. With that milestone came a ton of interviews that she had to do with media outlets around the country including Philadelphia.

It was during an interview with a former Philadelphia Eagle on a radio talk show when Waldman received a unique backhanded compliment that she will always remember.

“I’ve listened to you a lot and I don’t like you,” Waldman recalls the former Eagle said. “I don’t like women in sports…I don’t like to listen to you but I was watching the game with my 8-year-old daughter and she was watching and I looked at her and thought this is something she’s never going to know that she cannot do because there you are.”

Throughout her career, Waldman has experienced the highest of highs in broadcasting but has also been on the receiving end of insults and cruel intentions from people who then tend to have a short memory.

And many of these people were co-workers.

“First people laugh at you, then they make your life miserable and then they go ‘oh yeah that’s the way it is’ like it’s always been like that but it’s not always been like this,” said Waldman. 

It hasn’t always been easy for women in broadcasting and as Waldman — along with many others — can attest to nothing is perfect today. But it’s mind-boggling to think about what Waldman had to endure when WFAN went on the air in 1987.

She remembers how badly she was treated by some of her colleagues.

“I think about those first terrible days at ‘FAN,” said Waldman. “I had been in theatre all my life and it was either you get the part or you don’t. They either like you or they don’t.  You don’t have people at your own station backstabbing you and people at your own station changing your tapes to make you look like an idiot.”

There was also this feeling that some players were not all that comfortable with Waldman being in the clubhouse and locker room. That was nothing compared to some of the other nonsense that Waldman had to endure.

“The stuff with players is very overblown,” said Waldman. “It’s much worse when you know that somebody out there is trying to kill you because you have a Boston accent and you’re trying to talk about the New York Yankees. That’s worse and it’s also worse when the people
that you work with don’t talk to you and think that you’re a joke and the people at your own station put you down for years and years and years.”

While all of this was happening, Waldman had one very important person in her corner: Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who passed away in 2010.

The two had a special relationship and he certainly would have relished the moment when Suzyn was elected to the Hall of Fame.

“I think about George Steinbrenner a lot,” said Waldman. “This is something that when I heard that…I remember thinking George would be so proud because he wanted this since ’88.  I just wish he were here.” 

Waldman certainly endeared herself to “The Boss” with her reporting but she also was the driving force behind the reconciliation of Steinbrenner and Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra. George had fired Yogi as Yankees manager 16 games into the 1985 season and the news was delivered to Berra, not by George, but by Steinbrenner advisor Clyde King.

Yogi vowed never to step foot into Yankee Stadium again, but a grudge that lasted almost 14 years ended in 1999 when Waldman facilitated a reunion between the two at the Yogi Berra Museum in New Jersey.

“I’m hoping that my thank you to him was the George and Yogi thing because I know he wanted that very badly,” said Waldman.

“Whatever I did to prove to him that I was serious about this…this is in ’87 and ’88…In 1988, I remember him saying to me ‘Waldman, one of these days I’m going to make a statement about women in sports.  You’re it and I hope you can take it’ (the criticism). He knew what was coming.  I didn’t know. But there was always George who said ‘if you can take it, you’re going to make it’.”

And made it she did.

And she has outlasted every single person on the original WFAN roster.

“I’m keenly aware that I was the first person they tried to fire and I’m the only one left which I think is hysterical actually that I outlived everybody,” said Waldman.

WFAN recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, but that’s not something that Waldman spends too much time reflecting on.

“I don’t think about it at all because once you start looking back, you’re not going forward,” said Waldman. 

Waldman does think about covering the 1989 World Series between the A’s and Giants and her reporting on the earthquake that was a defining moment in her career. She has always been a great reporter and a storyteller, but that’s not how her WFAN career began. She started as an update anchor and she knew that if she was going to have an impact on how WFAN was going to evolve, it was not going to be reading the news…it was going to be going out in the field and reporting the news.

“I was doing updates which I despised and wasn’t very good at,” said Waldman.

She went to the program director at the time and talked about how WFAN had newspaper writers covering the local teams for the station and that it would be a better idea for her to go out and cover games and press conferences.

“Give me a tape recorder and let me go,” is what Waldman told the program director. “I was the first electronic beat writer.  That’s how that started and they said ‘oh, this works’. The writers knew all of a sudden ‘uh oh she can put something on the air at 2 o’clock in the morning and I can’t’.”  

And the rest is history. Radio Hall of Fame history.

But along the way, there was never that moment where she felt that everything was going to be okay.

Because it can all disappear in a New York minute.

“I’ve never had that moment,” said Waldman. “I see things going backward in a lot of ways for women.  I’m very driven and I’m very aware that it can all be taken away in two seconds if some guy says that’s enough.” 

During her storied career, Waldman has covered five Yankees World Series championships and there’s certainly the hope that they can contend for another title this year. She loves her job and the impact that she continues to make on young girls who now have that dream to be the next Suzyn Waldman.

But, is there something in the business that she still hopes to accomplish?

“This is a big world,” said Waldman. “There’s always something to do. Right now I like this a lot and there’s still more to do. There are more little girls…somewhere there’s a little girl out there who is talking into a tape recorder or whatever they use now and her father is telling her or someone is telling her you can’t do that you’re a little girl. That hasn’t stopped. Somewhere out there there’s somebody that needs to hear a female voice on Yankees radio.”

To steal the spirit of a line from Yankees play-by-play voice John Sterling, Suzyn Waldman’s longtime friend, and broadcast partner…“that’s a Radio Hall of Fame career, Suzyn!”

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BSM Writers

No Winners in Pittsburgh vs Cleveland Radio War of Words

“As talk radio hosts, we often try to hold the moral high ground and if you’re going to hold that position, I can’t help but feel integrity has to outweigh popularity. “

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For nearly 18 months, we’ve known the NFL would eventually have to confront the Deshaun Watson saga in an on-the-field manner, and that day came Monday. After his March trade to the Browns, we also could more than likely deduce another item: Cleveland radio hosts would feel one way, and Pittsburgh hosts would feel another.

If you’re not in tune to the “rivalry” between the two cities, that’s understandable. Both are former industrial cities looking for an identity in a post-industrial Midwest. Each thinks the other is a horrible place to live, with no real reasoning other than “at least we’re not them”. Of course, the folks in Pittsburgh point to six Super Bowl victories as reason for superiority.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when news started to leak that a Watson decision would come down Monday. I was sure, however, that anyone who decided to focus on what the NFL’s decision would mean for Watson and the Browns on the field was in a no-win situation. As a former host on a Cleveland Browns radio affiliate, I always found the situation difficult to talk about. Balancing the very serious allegations with what it means for Watson, the Browns, and the NFL always felt like a tight-rope walk destined for failure.

So I felt for 92.3 The Fan’s Ken Carman and Anthony Lima Monday morning, knowing they were in a delicate spot. They seemed to allude to similar feelings. “You’re putting me in an awkward situation here,” Carman told a caller after that caller chanted “Super Bowl! Super Browns!” moments after the suspension length was announced.

Naturally, 93.7 The Fan’s Andrew Fillipponi happened to turn on the radio just as that call happened. A nearly week-long war of words ensued between the two Audacy-owned stations.

Fillipponi used the opportunity to slam Cleveland callers and used it as justification to say the NFL was clearly in the wrong. Carman and Lima pointed out Fillipponi had tweeted three days earlier about how much love the city of Pittsburgh had for Ben Roethlisberger, a player with past sexual assault allegations in his own right.

Later in the week, the Cleveland duo defended fans from criticism they viewed as unfair from the national media. In response, Dorin Dickerson and Adam Crowley of the Pittsburgh morning show criticized Carman and Lima for taking that stance.

Keeping up?

As an impartial observer, there’s one main takeaway I couldn’t shake. Both sides are wrong. Both sides are right. No one left the week looking good.

Let’s pretend the Pittsburgh Steelers had traded for Deshaun Watson on March 19th, and not the Browns. Can you envision a scenario where Cleveland radio hosts would defend the NFL for the “fairness” of the investigation and disciplinary process if he was only suspended for six games? Of course, you can’t, because that would be preposterous. At the same time, would Fillipponi, Dickerson, and other Pittsburgh hosts be criticizing their fans for wanting Watson’s autograph? Of course, you can’t, because that would be preposterous.

When you’re discussing “my team versus your team” or “my coach versus your coach” etc…, it’s ok to throw ration and logic to the side for the sake of entertaining radio. But when you’re dealing with an incredibly serious matter, in this case, an investigation into whether an NFL quarterback is a serial sexual predator, I don’t believe there’s room to throw ration and logic to the wind. The criticism of Carman and Lima from the Pittsburgh station is fair and frankly warranted. They tried their best, in my opinion, to be sensitive to a topic that warranted it, but fell short.

On the flip side, Carman and Lima are correct. Ben Roethlisberger was credibly accused of sexual assault. Twice. And their criticism of Fillipponi and Steelers fans is valid and frankly warranted.

You will often hear me say “it can be both” because so often today people try to make every situation black and white. In reality, there’s an awful lot of gray in our world. But, in this case, it can’t be both. It can’t be Deshaun Watson, and Browns fans by proxy, are horrible, awful, no good, downright rotten people, and Ben Roethlisberger is a beloved figure.

Pot, meet kettle.

I don’t know what Andrew Fillipponi said about Ben Roethlisberger’s sexual assault allegations in 2010. And if I’m wrong, I’ll be the first to admit it, but I’m guessing he sounded much more like Carman and Lima did this week, rather than the person criticizing hosts in another market for their lack of moral fiber. Judging by the tweet Carman and Lima used to point out Fillipponi’s hypocrisy, I have a hard time believing the Pittsburgh host had strong outrage about the Steelers bringing back the franchise QB.

Real courage comes from saying things your listeners might find unpopular. It’s also where real connections with your listeners are built. At the current time in our hyper-polarized climate, having the ability to say something someone might disagree with is a lost art. But it’s also the key to keeping credibility and building a reputation that you’ll say whatever you truly believe that endears you to your audience.

And in this case, on a day the NFL announced they now employ a player who — in the league’s view — is a serial sexual assaulter, to hear hosts describe a six-game suspension as “reasonable” felt unreasonable. As talk radio hosts, we often try to hold the moral high ground and if you’re going to hold that position, I can’t help but feel integrity has to outweigh popularity.

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