Orlando Alzugaray is a longtime Miami sports talk host who was on both WQAM and 790 The Ticket. Due to Audacy gutting a lot of shows and talent, he’s gone the digital route by launching the Big O Radio Show. The show has made quite the impact already with nearly two million downloads a month. Orlando’s success is proof that it’s smart for terrestrial hosts to consider the digital space even before being forced to do so. There are no guarantees in radio. If your car could break down at any moment (terrestrial radio), it makes sense to save some cash just in case (digital space).
The Big O Radio Show airs Monday through Friday from 10am-1pm ET. The show is on YouTube and also offered as a podcast on most platforms. Interviews and rants are sliced into different segments so people can pick and choose what they want to listen to.
Orlando’s story is inspirational. He didn’t just take his ball and go home when he was phased out of terrestrial radio, he launched a behemoth. We discuss how this is the most fulfilling time in Orlando’s career, the biggest hurdle he faces, and big plans of going on the road. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: What led to you launching the Big O Radio Show in the digital space?
Orlando Alzugaray: Well basically I ended up losing my job. It was kind of funny because I knew I was losing my job. I knew there were changes coming and they were going to start cutting back. If you’ve noticed, a lot of companies have cut back on their talent and they’ve gone more national. There’s a void now in South Florida where there’s very little local programming left and there isn’t a focus on the local programming.
Then the politics are also involved because since there’s only one station now, well that one station also is tied to the teams. Then they’ve also got to play the politics. There is no real objective coverage.
I figured all right, the world’s going digital. You go home every day, it’s Amazon, it’s YouTube, it’s Spotify, it’s Stitcher. Whether it’s your music, your talk, your TV, everything is on demand. That’s where the world is at. I figured okay, there’s a need for the South Florida sports fan that not only lives in South Florida, but is all over the world to find out about what’s going on with the Canes, what’s going on with the Heat and the Dolphins, and the Marlins, and the Panthers, and Inter Miami and all of that. So that’s what I did. I put together a daily show that highlights all of those things.
We have a one-hour show every week with Ira Winderman who’s been with the Miami Heat since day one. He’s on our show twice a week also doing Heat and NBA reports. We’ve got Omar Kelly, Cameron Wolfe, Alain Poupart and Joe Schad who all cover the Dolphins. I’ve been covering the Dolphins and all the teams in town for 31 years. We give the local listener something that they can really grab ahold of every day that is theirs no matter where they are. They could be in Albuquerque, they could be in Portugal, they could be in Canada, or they could be right here in South Florida.
BN: What are your numbers like in terms of downloads?
OA: The downloads have gone through the roof. We’re up to over 1.8 million a month. We are pacing for 20 million a year and that’s why I told you the South Florida sports fans are all over the world. They’re catching us on YouTube, they’re finding out about the show, then they’re downloading the show, and they’re doing it from all over the world.
The beauty of technology now, it’s made the world so small that if you happen to be in an air base somewhere else in the world and you’re from South Florida, you can tune in to the show live, or you can listen to the podcast, or watch the recording on YouTube. We’re pacing at an incredible rate. We’re doing numbers that are more national than they are local. There’s nothing local here in South Florida that even comes close to these kinds of numbers right now.
The response is there because people can get it on demand whenever they want. They’re getting a lot of content. They’re getting very little commercials and they aren’t getting repetitive content. The listener doesn’t get robbed like they do on local or corporate radio, where they’re telling them to repeat the same things over and over again, sometimes to repeat the same interview from the beginning of the show to the back end of the show because it’s lazy radio. Plus, the listener has to sit there through 25 minutes of commercials. On our show, they don’t have to do that. On our show they’re going to get three hours of different content every single day and that’s why I think they’re chewing it up like Pac-Man right now.
BN: Were you ever surprised and say man, look at these numbers?
OA: I freak out every day. Every day I’m amazed. Today 75,000 and I’m like are you effing kidding me. This is a blessing is what it is. When you’re averaging a million downloads every three weeks, it’s crazy, dude. I never imagined that it would get to this point. Personally, I thought maybe hey man, if we can get to 15, 20,000, you do that over a whole year, that’s a lot of downloads. That’s a great day for anybody. And you start seeing 75, 80, 90; three weeks ago we had 450 from Monday to Friday, we averaged 90,000 a day. I was like I can’t believe it.
I think it’s because there’s a hunger for it. There’s actually a need for it. People want to hear it. We’re doing two million downloads a month practically. In a world of let’s copy Le Batard because there’s a lot of hey, I want to be the next Le Batard and go clowning around and screwing off, we’re back to kind of hardcore sports and it’s exploded. People do want it. There’s a place for everything. It’s growing, man. There’s more room to grow.
BN: What did you do early on to get the word out that you were starting this project?
OA: The beauty is, you put all of our insiders together and myself — I have 96,000 followers — together we’ve got somewhere in the neighborhood of 700,000 followers. When you’ve got that kind of power on social media, all of a sudden everybody’s retweeting the show and where to go. I’m going to date myself, but it’s like that old shampoo commercial, and we told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on.
That’s also been the beauty of all of this; it’s kind of been all homegrown. We’re trying to do something that we actually connect with the public. We answer their questions. We take their questions. There’s a connection. We read their social media posts. Instead of the corporate world that’s kind of disconnecting from the listener, we’re actually conducting ourselves with the listener. I think they’re noticing that.
BN: Is this the most fulfilling time for you in your broadcasting career?
OA: Yeah, actually it has been to be honest with you because I’m not tied to any corporate entity. I don’t answer to anybody and the only people I can listen to are the fans. They’re the ones that guide us and sometimes they tell us hey, we want to hear more of this or that, and it drives the downloads. I don’t have to have an agenda. The only agenda I have now is to actually feed the people that are like me.
Something you may not know about me, I’m a freak. I’m a born and raised Floridian. I was born in Belle Glade, Florida, which is in the northwest corner of Palm Beach County, raised in Little Havana in Hialeah. I am born and raised for 55 years in South Florida. I love South Florida sports. Anybody that’s known me for 31 years doing radio locally, you know what I’m all about.
Here’s the other thing, radio shows no longer go on the road. We go on the road. We’re going to go to the Senior Bowl. We’re going to go to the combine. We’re going to go to NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. We’re going to go to the draft there in Vegas. We’re going to do all of those things. We’re going to cover the big MMA events and UFC, the boxing events. We’re going to go travel to places that radio stations don’t ever go to anymore. Why? Because we’re not tied down to a big old antenna.
We don’t need a building. We don’t need vans. We don’t need any of that. We don’t have a lot of overhead. What we do want is the content.
We can take off, just me and the producers, and go cover all of the events. We can actually give people what they want and connect with them at the same time and provide for them something that they’re never going to get ever again on local radio because it’s become corporate and it’s not willing to invest individually in each market.
BN: You’ve done a great job of adapting to the current climate. Does it sadden you at the same time to see some stations scaling back and going the cheap route?
OA: Yeah, and you know what they did, right? They did it on FM. For years now they’ve been cutting down on the live DJs. They’ve got DJs that record for 30, 50, 70 stations. Then they just use those cut-ins all throughout the country. They said all right, let’s go cookie cutter. FOX kind of started that because they wanted to highlight all of their national talent, so they bought all the individual stations in different markets so they can create their network. This is the same thing that Audacy is doing now. They’re trying to think national. That’s what they’re catering to. Instead of connecting with each of the individual markets, they’re creating one platform on a national basis.
The sad part is now that there’s less investment in the broadcast business. When I grew up, I grew up with Hank Goldberg, Neil Rogers, Joe Rose. These are the guys that I learned from. These are the guys that I filled in for. I filled in for Hank Goldberg, Ed Kaplan, Neil Rogers. I filled in for all of these type of guys and I learned from them about the business. The sad part is we’re not reinvesting in all of the different markets to create more radio talent.
Radio and newspapers are two of the mediums that have suffered the most, unfortunately. They’ve fallen by the wayside. It’s just sad because there are a lot of young kids that aren’t going to get the opportunity that I got 30 years ago when I was a young guy and they told me hey yeah, we can hire you. We’ll give you an opportunity to be a reporter, a beat guy, those kind of things. Obviously, my career took off from there and I love everything that I’ve done. But yeah, it is sad that there is no longer any more reinvestment in our local communities.
BN: What was the biggest hurdle in your way to get this project to where it is right now?
OA: I think the biggest hurdle is the motivation every day when you have to explain it to people. Some people don’t understand it. Here’s the trick; in my 30-year career, one of the things I also did was I understood the business side of radio. I didn’t just go in to play radio and go cover a team and go break a story. I did all of those things, but I made sure I knew my sponsors. I understood what deals were being cut, what the salespeople were doing, what the station was getting out of it, all of those things. I understood all of that. You’ve got to understand the business side of it too. That’s the important part of all of this. You’ve got to bring both together.
I’ll bring it back full-circle, guys like Joe Rose, Neil Rogers, Hank Goldberg, the people that I learned from, they not only did radio, they did the business of radio. I think that that’s the problem. Everybody wants to play radio. A lot of us can play radio, a lot of us have an opinion, but do you understand the business? The business is what runs you over.
On the digital side, you’ve got to understand the business and then you’ve got to explain it to people. It’s not just a regular commercial, it’s an image. We put borders for our sponsors and we explain that those borders are running for five minutes straight. Then they’re on YouTube for a lifetime because it doesn’t go anywhere. As people are watching it, it’s a perpetual commercial. Those kinds of things. Podcasts have audio commercials inside of it so you’re doing media in a different way. That’s the way it is in digital. You’ve got to go explaining it to the sponsor how your message is getting out because it’s completely different than what they’re used to paying for and used to seeing.
BN: What’s the process been like for you to handle the sales side of your product?
OA: It’s tedious. As I’m getting all of this off the ground, it’s tedious, but it’s important. The same way I told you that it’s important that we connect with our listeners, in the same way it’s important we connect with our sponsors. I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’ve been in studios where there’s a host sitting there and in comes the sales guy that says hey, I sold this account for you. It’s this, this and this. Here’s the script.
The host never met the sponsor, never checked out the product, really doesn’t know the product if it’s any good or not, but is willing to put their name on it. Then just reads the same script word by word every single day. I don’t do that.
I get to know the sponsor. If I like the product, then I do the product. If I don’t like the product, I don’t do the product. I don’t do commercial spots. I do bullet points and I tell you a story. I tell you why I use the product and I do it differently every single day. That’s the difference between someone that actually gives a crap, or the corporate world that doesn’t care and does everything in a cookie-cutter sense. That’s what we’re eliminating. That’s what I’ve never done on my show.
By the way, that did not help me in my business. I’ve had that. The salesperson comes in and says hey, I sold you this. I go you sold me what? Did I go on the sales call? Did I meet the person? Did I test the product out? No, well then I’m not representing it. Then I have to deal with the general sales manager because all they care about is the commission. That’s the difference, man. I’m kind of tired of all of that and I’m so glad I’m away from that.
I’d rather just be myself where I can connect with human beings. That’s kind of been my success for 30 years whether I’m talking to a scout, a general manager, a fan or a sponsor, that’s always been me. While I’m modern enough to adjust to the digital world and social media and crypto and everything else, I’m still old school that I’d rather connect with people face-to-face.
BN: What is it about your show that gives you the biggest rush?
OA: Think about this, man, two years ago on the first day I got 500 downloads. It was 117,000 on Tuesday. Two years later, with the six months in between that I did not do one podcast show — we didn’t do anything from January 1 of 2021 until June 13 — from June 14 until today, we have eight million downloads. That’s what gets me going.
Then when I tell them on YouTube, tell me where you’re checking us out from, and they’re in New Zealand, and in Portugal, and in Canada, and Mexico, and California, and New York, and Atlanta. They’re all over the world. It is amazing when they’re checking in from Malaysia and everywhere else. It is the coolest thing that we can make the world this small on the internet and YouTube and all of that. The coolest thing is how many people we’ve reached already.
BN: What do you want the future to be for the show?
OA: I’d like to grow it as much as possible where we can provide all the coverage for South Florida sports. If the Marlins start spending, then not only do we cover the Marlins, but we’ll go to the owners’ meetings. I want to be the full service local sports talk show for South Florida. We’ve already got the best insiders in town. People already know to come and listen to all these guys and myself for the last 30 years. Now we just want to finish everything off since we started this monster and add all the elements.
Whether it’s the NBA draft, the NBA Summer League, or covering the Heat in the playoffs; if they get to the Finals, we want to be the show that’s going back and forth from the Finals cities, home and away, and giving the local fans the coverage they don’t get anymore from anybody else. What I grew up with, I want the same thing except maybe taking it to just a little bit higher level than what we’ve had in the past. That’s what I want to get back.
Look, I don’t have the power or the money. I have the wherewithal, I can figure it out. I can put a whole station together, but I don’t have the money to do that. I would love to put an entire station together and give South Florida fans the real coverage 24/7, but I can’t do that. So for now, let’s create the show that can really kick ass and cover all of the top stories going on in South Florida sports and give the South Florida fan the coverage they want.
Brian Noe is a columnist for BSM and an on-air host heard nationwide each weekend on FOX Sports Radio. Previous roles include stops in Portland, OR, Albany, NY and Fresno, CA. You can follow him on Twitter @TheNoeShow or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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!’?”
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.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.
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.
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!”
Peter Schwartz has been involved in New York sports media for over three decades. Along the way he has worked for notable brands such as WFAN, CBS Sports Radio, WCBS 880, ESPN New York, and FOX News Radio. He has also worked as a play by play announcer for the New Yok Riptide, New York Dragons, New York Hitmen, Varsity Media and the Long Island Sports Network. You can find him on Twitter @SchwartzSports or email him at DragonsRadio@aol.com.
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. “
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.
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.
Garrett Searight is the Editor of Barrett Sports Media and Barrett News Media. He previously was the Program Director and Afternoon Co-Host on 93.1 The Fan in Lima, OH. He is also a play-by-play announcer for TV and Radio broadcasts in Western Ohio.