Shan Shariff has been in attack mode since day one. Before the sports radio host landed in Dallas morning drive 11 years ago, he wanted to be a play-by-play broadcaster. Shariff scalped a ticket with a friend to go see the Spurs and Nets in the 2003 NBA Finals. He used a tape recorder to record himself doing play-by-play of the game. Shariff used the dubbed audio underneath the game footage as his resume tape, which helped him land a job doing color commentating for the CBA’s Rockford Lightning.
From there the American University grad became the sports director at an ESPN affiliate in his hometown. Shariff is from Cambridge, a town along the eastern shore of Maryland. While hosting his own sports radio show, he also interned in Baltimore and later in D.C. All of that hard work helped Shariff land a gig in Kansas City. A successful stint in KC eventually led to a major market opportunity in Dallas.
How many people do you know that would go to an NBA Finals game and record themselves doing play-by-play? How many people do you know that would intern at bigger stations while also being employed as a sports director? The guy is a bulldog.
The interesting twist with Shariff is that although he’s hardwired to be dead serious about sports radio, he’s learned to loosen up and have fun on the air. We also chat about the best and worst parts of hosting in Dallas, butting heads with Ed Werder, and the only rule Jerry Jones has while granting interviews. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: What’s one of the more off-the-wall things you did early in your career to try to get established?
Shan Shariff: I flew out to Bristol to take a tour of ESPN with my mom. My whole plan the entire time was, I’m going to sneak into Bruce Gilbert’s office who was running the radio and hired Colin Cowherd and was in charge of Mike and Mike. I’m like I’m going to slide in here and impress him and sit down and be like I’m your next hire. Because at 20 you think you can do any effing thing in the entire world. You think you’re ready.
I snuck past security in Bristol on the tour, snuck into the office and Bruce Gilbert had just taken the job at 980 in D.C. for Dan Snyder. I’m like dammit. Scott Masteller I believe was the one who had taken his spot. I gave him the whole pitch like I’m here, this is fate, I’m sitting right in front of you, I’m sure no one else in the world has ever thought of this, this creativity. Because you’re supposed to do that with your cover letters and your resume tapes. I’m showing up here. I’m your next hire here in Bristol. And Scott did not hire me. [Laughs] It took a little while longer than I had hoped, but that was part of my grand plan in order to sneak in to ESPN Radio to get hired.
BN: Looking back at your career, what’s something that you should’ve done differently?
SS: It was probably a major mistake early in my radio career in Dallas when I was just trying to be myself, and be honest, and genuine. I let it be known that I was a Washington fan. I sang “Hail To The Redskins” to Jerry Jones after RGIII’s debut. There are listeners who never forgot that, never forgave that. That was a really dumb PR move.
I found at least for me getting older, my die-hard love of my sports teams kind of went away and Dan Snyder in D.C. really made that easier. I left rooting for Washington a long time ago and I root for Cowboys success because it’s better for us and the radio station.
I’m also kind of viewed as the more serious one on the show. Let’s get to the topics. I took broadcasting classes and had an agent and paid for the broadcasting seminars. I really wanted to be a student of it in terms of interviews and resetting and getting to the point of the topic and keeping it on the path. I was probably a little bit too serious with that where my producer and my co-host had been in DFW forever and there’s a lot more light-hearted radio here.
I’m used to D.C. and Baltimore and even when I was in Kansas City for a year. It’s like hey man, it’s a sports show. I would say I’m not going to apologize for talking about sports but that was probably a mistake. It took me too long to lighten up and joke around and get more personal every single day for four and a half hours.
BN: What are the best and worst things about hosting a show in Dallas?
SS: I think it has to fit your sports loves. I’m football first and NFL first. In Dallas, it’s Cowboys obviously. If you’re going to rank it: it’s Cowboys, Cowboys, NFL, then college football, and now it’s kind of morphed over to the Rangers, then the Mavericks, then the Stars. I’m not the biggest hockey fan, so that fits me in the pecking order. I love that I can talk as much football as I want, as much Cowboys as I want.
I know it sounds corny and cheesy but being on the Dallas Cowboys flagship and hosting a morning show and hosting the draft for them on the Dallas Cowboys Radio Network, that’s a big honor for me. I used to think I want a national show, I want to be on FOX Sports Radio or I want to be on ESPN and then you look up every Tuesday afternoon and your name is on ESPN anyway because Jerry Jones puts you there. You are national basically if you are on the Dallas Cowboys station. Getting the head coach access every single week. Getting Jerry, that would probably be the best part.
Bruce Gilbert took a major chance on me because of the success I had in Kansas City and probably because I stalked him and let him know I could make it work and adjust no matter what. These people in Dallas, for the most part, have accepted me and overlooked the early Washington root for them days and my more brash, aggressive, non-laid-back style. I would say those are the best things about hosting in DFW.
In terms of the worst, I mean early on for me it was a struggle thinking that me talking about my laundry machine blowing up could be half a segment, or a full segment. Troy Aikman called this a winner’s town so it can be tough if you’re not on fire, then you’re running out of some sports topics. The Rangers and Mavericks right now are playing on Bally Sports Network. Bally has had their issues throughout the country in terms of broadcasting their games. We’ve got like 50 percent of the freakin’ metroplex that can’t watch the games. It makes it hard, right?
First off the Rangers have sucked, so you’re talking about a sorry baseball team in a bandwagon town who likes winners. I like to call it LA Light where you have to have something going on. You have to give me a reason. You got things to do here. You’ve got people to see. It’s not Ohio. It’s not Pittsburgh where it’s going to be more diehard sports. You got to give me a reason to watch.
The Rangers haven’t done it. Fifty percent of the people can’t watch the Rangers. Same thing with the Mavericks. Then as I said the Stars, this isn’t a major hockey area so that can be a real challenge around here, which is why we need the Cowboys to give us some non-stop drama all the time, which they do.
BN: I know it depends on the town, but what would your advice be to a sports radio host who’s been drilled: don’t waste time, get to the topic, tease, all that stuff, but sometimes digressing and talking about your weekend badminton game is great. How would you go about telling someone how to feel that out?
SS: Well that’s a great question. Like you prefaced it, I think it matters on the town. If I was going to come here and start over from day one in Dallas, I would say let’s make it 75-25 sports to other. Some might say 70-30. The Ticket might go even heavier than that on the opposite side. I don’t know how it is in Boston. I don’t know how it is in New York.
I heard Mike Francesa the other day say we talk sports, we’re a sports show. But people want to connect. The thing I tell younger broadcasters is obviously work hard, be on top of your shit, and you’ve got to connect with likability and relatability.
If you have a 10-minute segment and you can do a seven-minute sports topic and throw in a great, worthy, three-minute off-topic from sports addition to that segment, then go ahead and do that. That would kind of be a 70-30 mix, 75-25. But learn the market and know the town. One of the guys on the station when I first moved here said here’s a Dallas Cowboy history book. You better know who Tom Landry is, you better know Bob Lilly, you better know Harvey Martin, you better know Drew Pearson because you make one mistake like that around here and you could be screwed.
Learn the town, ask your boss, and you also have to be funny if you’re going to do that. Know what you’re talented in. If you’re a tremendous storyteller, tell more stories. If your life is chaotic and hectic and you’re willing to open up with it about your dating life or about how wasted you get on the weekends, go ahead and do that, but I would ask your boss the formula and what type of town it is.
BN: Do you ever have a plan with the non-sports stuff where you’re like okay, I could go with falling down while bowling this weekend, or I could talk about the stale sandwich I ate at Subway. What’s your process for picking topics that you think will connect best?
SS: A lot of this in my opinion, it’s about judgment. You can be really talented, you can be really funny, but you’ve got to pick the right topics to talk about. You have to know when to go back to the topic. That’s part of the training in terms of play the hits.
What’s your TSL? How often are people tuning in? How often are people tuning out? Then you’ve got to judge if this is a funny enough story. My co-host, RJ, thinks every effing thing he does is funny. He could sit there talking about blowing his nose and that should be half a segment. Well, what’s relatable? What can connect that everyone’s going to talk about?
Daylight saving was a perfect example. Last week we were complaining about how it sucked that all of a sudden the clock changes. I’ve got a two-year-old. I’ve got to readjust his schedule. It’s awful. Then bam, the political world is talking about passing a Daylight Saving Time change and what’s going to happen with that. We brought it back up again. Everybody can relate to it. I can sit here and talk about how my life is different because of my kid, how all of a sudden dinner time is here, I’ve got to go to sleep it feels like a lot earlier. That’s an example of deciding when something is kind of relatable that everyone can identify with and you can tell your own personal story.
BN: When you’re interviewing Jerry Jones, are there any do’s and don’ts?
SS: Well, we obviously have a relationship with the Cowboys. We’re their flagship. The only rule there’s ever been there with Jerry is don’t get personal. Don’t make it personal. I’m not going to make jokes or comments about Jerry’s looks. It took 10 years for people to finally understand this, we have freedom with the Cowboys to talk about them and sensitive topics that other cities and other teams don’t grant their media, I don’t believe.
Jerry Jones had this story come out a couple of weeks ago about his PR guy that we all worked with for a decade, many people longer, in a voyeurism scandal. Allegedly taking photos of cheerleaders and up the dress of his own daughter. We never got one message about that.
Now, if we stepped over the line and made a joke or said something that you and your buddies may laugh at behind the scenes, maybe we’d get a phone call on that and I think we should. There is a line there. Jerry may have a daughter out there; that just came out. Never got a phone call. Never got a warning because Jerry Jones knows that 99 percent of the time all publicity is good publicity. There’s no such thing as bad publicity. That’s the only rule that there’s ever been with Jerry, don’t make it personal.
One time we got a phone call from Dalrymple the PR guy. After Jerry was on we were doing a follow-up recap and we said do you think he was lying? Was that a lie? Calling him a liar in that instance came across a little bit too personal. They weren’t thrilled about that but other than that, man, I can’t tell you other instances.
If we talk about sensitive issues like Kaepernick, the anthem, COVID, Jerry will let us usually have like a three-week span where we can ask whatever we want. Maybe the suggestion might be like hey, if there’s not another major development in this story, can you ask him about the Salvation Army or other work that he’s doing? Those are the only things that I can remember.
He knows the tough questions are coming. We have to ask the tough questions and I think people now realize that we’re no mouthpiece for the Cowboys because Jerry Jones allows us to say what we want.
BN: You locked horns with Ed Werder recently. What was the general reaction to that?
SS: General reaction was I would say 98 percent support from our listeners. I like to fight, debate, argue, it’s part of the reason I went into this. Ed had been taking some subtle shots throughout the year about our access to Jerry and other media members not having the same access because Jerry wasn’t talking as much to reporters after games because of COVID. It wasn’t even my show, it was the show after me. I was listening to the interview.
I’ll be the first one to call myself out, our guys out, but if you question the questions that are being asked and act like we’re lobbing up softballs because of the relationship, I take issue with that. That’s why I got really pissed off at Ed.
I didn’t say anything the first few times he did it throughout the year because this is Ed Werder. I grew up watching Ed Werder. He’s been a Cowboy authority. I respect his work and his reports, but man, there’s only so many times I can let you go after the guys that I work with, man. Then we got to get into it. I got a ton of support from the listeners on that, thankfully.
BN: The Ticket recently won a Marconi for Sports Station of the Year and The Musers won a Marconi for Major Market Personality of the Year. What’s it like to go up against that station and a popular morning show when you’re in the same slot?
SS: Well it’s not fun. [Laughs] I was in Kansas City going up against WHB 810. We were the upstart 610. It was me and Nick Wright, Bob Fescoe, my buddy Mark Carman, Robert Ford was on the Royals coverage, he’s now the voice of the Astros, Jeff Passan was our baseball insider. We had a squad. We were hungry. We had a chip on our shoulder and we had a lot of success.
There were times where I would beat Soren Petro, who was a major powerhouse on the station. I thought when I went to Dallas it’d be the same exact thing. I didn’t care that it was The Ticket. I didn’t care that it was The Musers. Again, I’m however old I was 12 years ago coming off great success. I’m like I might be the youngest morning show or drive-time host in the country in a top-five market. I’m feeling myself.
Then you realize the longevity and the success that they’ve had. It’s been a more challenging fight than I was anticipating, but you’ve got to acknowledge achievements and give respect where it’s due. I still view anyone that’s not on my airwaves as the enemy. I still have that mentality. But they’ve had their reputation I guess for a reason.
I think they were able to benefit greatly from kind of starting sports radio around here and being one of the first stations throughout the country. Then being here at the beginning of the Cowboys run. One of the things you learn the most from them is longevity and how important that is in terms of keeping your lineup together. Those have been some of the experiences without giving too many compliments because I would never do that.
BN: [Laughs] What’s your reaction to 103.3 going away?
SS: [Waves] Bye. See ya later. That’s some of my Werder bitterness. Tim Cowlishaw decided to chime in so I guess he couldn’t save it with his show on there.
But in all seriousness, it’s kind of a sign of the times a little bit in terms of what’s happening with radio, with sports radio. I’m glad that we outlasted them. You don’t want to see people that you know lose their jobs but in the grand scheme of things, hey one less competitor, so see you later and good luck in the future.
BN: Ideally for your future, what would you want it to look like — you’re still young — what would you like to experience and accomplish?
SS: I would like to get even better ratings in Dallas. I’d like to consistently be number one over The Musers and The Ticket. That hasn’t happened during my overall run here. You’ve got to recognize the facts are the facts. I’d like to have even more consistent success at the top. Then obviously some stability. There are contract questions at this point in time because of COVID and advertising cutbacks.
A lot of this is luck too. I need the Cowboys to go on a damn run. I need them to get into a conference title game. The most prime city probably during my 10 years here, the glory place to be in sports talk radio was Boston. If you have that Patriots run I think it’s going to be pretty hard for you not to crush it in terms of your sports radio, sports TV success. You’ve seen it with EEI and you’ve seen it with The Sports Hub, which is putting up stupid monster numbers.
My number one wish would be for someone to go — preferably the Cowboys because it’s a football town first — go on a hot run kind of like the Rangers did back-to-back years with their World Series appearances.
Meet The Market Managers: Ryan Hatch, Bonneville International Phoenix
“Our pitch is that these brands have a connection to the market. That works for us, and that works because it’s emotional. It works because it’s local. It works because of the creative messaging behind it.”
For as long as I have known Ryan Hatch, he has been a good friend, encouraging me to take advantage of each opportunity put in front of me. When someone treats you that way, you cannot be anything but thrilled when you see them do the same thing.
Late last year, Ryan was elevated from a programming executive role with Bonneville to become Market Manager of the company’s Phoenix cluster. He is now overseeing every aspect of a building that he has worked in for a long time.
I thought it would be fun to visit with him to see what has changed. The last time I profiled him, he was serving as PD of Arizona Sports 98.7. The last time we profiled Bonneville Phoenix for this series, it was Scott Sutherland in the Market Manager’s chair. So, what has changed?
In this conversation, presented by Point to Point Marketing, Ryan and I discuss the changing nature of our business, retaining great talent, and supporting the person who’s tasked with filling your former position and leading the programming team forward. When a company is ahead of the curve with its digital strategy and generating strong ratings and revenue, what’s next?
Demetri Ravanos: So how has the transition gone moving from programming into the market manager’s seat? We’re a little over six months into the change. How steep has the learning curve been?
Ryan Hatch: You know what? It’s been fantastic. And I have to give so much credit to Scott Sutherland, who was in the chair before me, and others within the company for really preparing me for this moment. But it’s not just a transition from programming. I would think even if I came up through the sales, marketing or finance side there would be a curve.
I’m learning new things every single day and loving it. So whether it’s six months or six years in this chair or more, I hope that I can always say that.
I love the job. I love the market. Obviously, you know, I’ve been here for such a long time and it’s the best chair to be in. I’m thrilled.
DR: You mentioned Scott and I started thinking about this after you and I set a time to talk. There’s this advantageous environment of education there, right? Because Scott is still in the area. He held your job before. You’re obviously in the building and that’s got to be advantageous for Sean Thompson. How much do those conversations take place day-to-day? There seems to be an opportunity for everybody to learn and build on the person that came before them because they can just walk down the hall and ask.
RH: Absolutely it can be advantageous because you’ve got institutional knowledge. Every person that’s been in your chair before can certainly provide important information to help expedite the onboarding process.
The other side of it is making sure that there are clear boundaries. I can speak with Sean Thompson coming in on the programming side. My goal is to empower him and embolden Sean to take this brand to a different level with new ideas and thoughts.
I’d been in that chair for so long, we were certainly ready for somebody new to come in with a new perspective and new experiences, and Sean’s done a wonderful job doing that. I think if you talk to Scott, he would probably say something similar. So when you ask the question, “is it advantageous?”, the answer is unquestionable. Yes, it is. At the same time, you have to really be clear on where those boundaries are, how much you want to give and share, and how much you want to let that person learn and experience it on their own as they’re creating their new environment, if that makes sense.
DR: So with those boundaries, are there things you see Sean putting into place that make you think, “Oh man, that’s really cool. I kind of miss programing at this moment”?
RH: Well, the irony is in asking that question, I think today is actually his 90th day on the job. So we’re still in the basic stages of him taking that chair.
He’s full of ideas, full of energy. I can’t wait to see so much of it come to fruition. But again, when you’re only three months in, you’re doing a lot of listening and a lot of learning before you dig in to start making change. I expect that to come, but he walked into a position with a great on-air staff, fantastic talent, an unbelievable digital team, with a great marketing and promotional support team behind him as well.
I’ll tell you what I’m most excited about is what’s going to happen this fall. After the listening and the learning is done, we’ll be starting to really build some exciting plans into the NFL season around the Cardinals and the NFL. We’re also hosting the Super Bowl in February of ’23 as well. So we’ve got a great big build coming here in Arizona.
DR: So let’s talk a little bit about the future and where things can go, not just for Phoenix, but for Bonneville overall. I told you this a million times. What has always impressed me about the company, even before you and I got to know each other, was that you guys were so ahead of the curve on recognizing the value of digital content. Arizona Sports is not a radio station, it is a brand.
I wonder now that you are in the market manager’s chair, how you look at all of the money from these different companies being put into podcasts. I mean, the deals being made to turn podcasts into TV shows or movies, do you ever think about what is possible or maybe what the next evolution for the digital side of Bonneville could or should be?
RH: Well, I think as a company, and not to speak for Tanya Vea, who’s in a new EVP position helping oversee a lot of our content initiatives, we’re opening up a mechanism for local ideas to be funneled up to a team led by our VP of Podcasting, Sheryl Worsley. The idea is to be able to support a local that might scale on a national level and help it achieve that potential. I think that we’re very aggressive. I think that we’re also very strategic in the podcasting world.
There’s a blessing and a curse there. The blessing is that that audience is expanding rapidly and the revenue’s been following, you know, slowly, but still following in that direction. The downside is how much time and energy and creativity a lot of our best talent have.
Do we want to put our talk show hosts, who are spending 4 hours a day creating live broadcast content, at the forefront of that effort? How many more hours a day of creative juice do they have left for a podcast or a passion project? It could be something that might not be entirely complimentary to the brand.
I think you have to be smart and strategic and understand how big of a bed it is you want to make. I think we’re being strategic about it and making the best decision for each individual circumstance.
DR: So what about from a broadcast angle? As podcasting continues to grow and becomes the kind of thing that sellers see as easier to get clients involved with, what are the things that terrestrial radio is going to have to do to secure its own future?
RH: Well, speaking on behalf of our properties here, where we’re all local news and all local sports. Really, that’s our business. I don’t think that there’s anything that can replicate the power of live, in the moment, information-based content. And that is the value proposition that broadcast has.
Now, will that traditional radio audience continue to decline and find other venues? Potentially. I mean, that’s just natural, and I think that we’ve seen that accelerate through the pandemic. That doesn’t take away from the importance though.
If you look at Bonneville Phoenix, whether it’s Arizona Sports or KTAR, our streaming numbers are way, way up. Our monthly app users are way, way up. Our smart speaker usage is way, way up. And I think too many times we categorize one as digital and one as radio. I look at it more through the lens of what is a live broadcast and what is driven by more destination-based, story-based, topic-based choices. That’s a different experience and you can serve both.
DR: What is your view of having that live content accessed by both radios and streaming devices? When you’re a programmer, I think it is it is easier to say, “Look, people are coming to this content. This is good content. That is what matters.” But now that you’re the market manager, I know you are a real advocate for total line reporting, but now the ratings take on this whole different meaning to you than they did before. What is your view of the right path forward to paint that picture easily and accurately for advertisers about just how powerful these brands are, whether it’s Arizona Sports or KTAR?
RH: Thank goodness we have fantastic sales management and account executives on the streets telling that story and big brands to back them up with that unique content that our stations are delivering. And as I’ve told you in different settings over the years Demetri, Nielsen is one of many tools that tell that story. When we’re on the streets talking to a potential advertiser, and understand that our game is not as national or our market is not as regional, we are hyper-locally focused. In Phoenix, Arizona, that’s a lot of small to medium-sized businesses. So when we can walk in and share a total audience report that gives a glimpse of Nielsen, which we know is antiquated and really, really needs to be reformed and updated. You’ve got to bring your Google Analytics and your Triton numbers. You have so many other tools to use to evaluate how our content is being delivered and consumed. You’ve got to paint that entire total audience story, and I will tell you that it’s a story that is very well received in Phoenix with our products.
DR: Maybe this is more of a question for your sales staff, but is it a matter of walking potential advertisers and current advertisers through each individual number, or do you find a way to synthesize it down into a simple illustration of how many people are listening to your content every day?
RH: It’s not a numbers game. It’s not getting into detail about how many tens of thousands of listeners we have on one platform and how many on another and how many views or clicks on websites. Our pitch is that these brands have a connection to the market. That works for us, and that works because it’s emotional. It works because it’s local. It works because of the creative messaging behind it. When you have something that works for your advertisers, they’re not going to be coming in and scrutinizing the numbers left and right.
Now, you have to deliver to the audience, and we have significant audiences. In fact, I’ll tell you right now, combining everything together. And it’s not apples to apples, because these are all different channels. But our audience is here in Phoenix between our websites, our apps, and our radio distribution. Our audiences have never been better. I mean, that’s a wonderful and easy story to tell.
DR: Play-by-play is obviously a big part of what you do on Arizona Sports. You and I have talked before about the landscape of Phoenix sports, and I think you’ve described it as, because Phoenix is a transplant market, you find yourself talking about everyone’s second favorite team.
So how does that play with advertisers? Do they buy into the idea that this is a unifying thing or is there some concern that it is too much of a transplant market for the value returned by play-by-play doesn’t match the cost to advertise in that space?
RH: Our original franchise, the Phoenix Suns, while, they had a disappointing end of the season, it couldn’t have been more galvanizing. That is the one team that has been here for 50-plus years. That orange blood does run deep. The Cardinals have had their moments. The Diamondbacks have the only championship in the major sports here, but that was back in 2001.
I’ll answer that question in a couple of ways. Number one, we are catering to the fans and to the super fans, but we try to create content that is going to be accessible and interesting for those that would claim that any of the franchises are their second favorite team in a given league. When you move into a market and you head to the office or nowadays maybe it’s a Zoom call, you still want to be able to have a conversation about something that’s relevant. You want a shared experience with your coworker or a neighbor, somebody at school when you’re hanging out waiting to up the kids. So often that conversation is sports.
We have a fantastic sports market. Now, where’s the passion level? Is it as high as a Boston or Philadelphia? Of course not and we’re not going to act like it is. But at the end of the day, what does an advertiser look for? They’re looking for an audience and they’re looking for something exclusive to put their message on. That’s what we’re able to offer with our play-by-play. On top of that, what’s become more and more important to us in our model, especially on the digital side over the years, is the access to those decision-makers, to the coaches, the exclusive access to the general managers with weekly calls, and things like player shows.
There’s so much more that you can offer beyond just the game itself that makes these partnerships great for our business and the advertising community.
DR: So coming out of what is being called The Great Resignation, what are you experiencing as a market manager and what are your other hiring managers experiencing? What are the new challenges of recruiting, whether it is sales or programing, any kind of talent in an environment like this?
RH: Well, let’s add to that and talk about inflationary pressures as well. I mean, there are so many factors at play right now, and I think it’s as tough as I can ever remember it.
What we’re doing here at Bonneville Phoenix is really leaning into our culture and making sure that we’re an employer of choice because we have a culture that people want to be a part of. It’s a good team environment full of hungry people that want to succeed not just for themselves. So the more hungry, humble, and smart people we find, the better off we’re going to be.
Now, that doesn’t mean that we haven’t lost. There’s been a dramatic shuffle. Right now, I can say that we’re close to a full boat, but that wasn’t the case a month ago. There are so many different forces at play right now. It is a difficult environment. Our news side alone faces unique challenges. News itself has been under attack for multiple years. Don’t you think that burns people out?
Absolutely I have concerns, but what can we control? Well, we can focus on executing the vision that Bonneville has provided. It’s built on passionate people and innovation. It is about creating a culture people want to be a part of.
DR: We’ve heard a lot about burnout when people talk about why they leave a job in any industry. We hear about work-life balance. You’re responsible for the entire building, so what are you telling your managers on the sales and programming side about creating an environment for employees that respects that those are real and valid concerns while still maintaining the level of expectation of quality for Arizona Sports and KTAR.
RH: We’re still committed to the highest standards, and we always will be. And we found that certain parts of the business can work pretty effectively from home, while other parts of the business really can’t. I will tell you, on the content side working from home, we did it when we had to. We did it, I would say fairly effectively for a few extended periods. But overall, in a local news and local sports environment that really is driven by the breaking news, the need to work together in a space is real. You just can’t do things as quickly or as effectively or as creatively if you’re separated. You just can’t.
Now, on the sales side, we want them on the streets. We want them out of the office, but there is a balance. So what are we asking our great sales managers to do? We’re asking them just to make sure that they are up to speed on where the activity is and that we’re doing all the jobs that need to be done. Do I ever see us going back to five days a week in the office? I don’t. I think that ship has sailed and I think that’s just fine. I think there’s some real benefit to that.
The way to make this all work is to empower our department heads to come up with a plan that’s going to work best for them, for their people, and deliver on what our expectations are for the business. And then as leaders, we have to understand that the plan is going to be evolving. It really is. This is not going to be decided on a new policy set. I think that we’re in a new world, probably for the rest of our lives.
Broadcasting Fills The Baseball Void For Keith Moreland
“When I got through… I wanted to do something with my life and I get that same feeling with broadcasting.”
Sports color analysts are more often than not former players. This has been a consistent norm across sports broadcasting at all levels. The analyst is there to add “color” to the play-by-play broadcaster’s metaphorical and verbal “drawing” of the game. For former MLB slugger and catcher, Keith Moreland, this was the surprise post-playing retirement career that has boosted him to a key figure in Austin media and national media alike.
Moreland played football and baseball at the University of Texas before making his way to the MLB for 12 years with key contributions to the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs in the 1980s.
Moreland reminisced on his decision to play baseball full time: “I thought I was going to be in the NFL, but Earl Campbell changed that. I had just played summer ball. We had won a championship and I missed the first few days of two-a-days. I hadn’t even had a physical yet and I’m in a scrimmage. I stepped up to this freshman running back and as he ducked his shoulder, one of his feet hit my chest and the other hit my face mask and he kept on truckin’. I got up and I thought ‘I could be a pretty good baseball player.’
So I told Coach Royal after practice I was going to focus on baseball and he asked ‘what took you so long? We were surprised you came back because we think you have a really good shot at playing professional baseball.'”
It was a good choice for Moreland. He was part of the 1973 College World Series winning Texas Longhorns baseball team. While at Texas Moreland hit .388 and became the all-time leader in hits for the College World Series. After being drafted by the Phillies in the 7th round of the 1975 draft, Moreland would go-on to play in the majors from 1978 to 1989.
“You go your whole life trying to get to play professionally. When I got through my opportunity to play in the big leagues, I wanted to do something with my life and I get that same feeling with broadcasting.”
Broadcasting was not the original retirement plan for Moreland. He first tried his luck at coaching with his first stop being his alma mater as an assistant for the Longhorns. At the time, Bill Schoening (a Philadelphia native and Phillies fan), was the radio play-by-play broadcaster. Schoening made Moreland a go-to for a pre-game interview and convinced him to come on talk shows. Schoening even convinced Moreland to practice live broadcasting skills by taking a recorder to games and listening back to them to learn.
“Bill was the guy who brought me onboard and I still have those tapes and I really learned from them, but I don’t want anyone else to ever hear them!” Moreland adds with a chuckle on how far he has come in over 25 years of broadcasting.
Moreland has been a key part of University of Texas radio broadcasts for baseball since the 1990s and has catapulted that broadcast experience to Texas high school football, Longhorn football radio and television broadcasts, ESPN, the Little League World Series, the Chicago Cubs and more since hanging up his cleats and picking up a microphone.
While his playing days are well behind him, Moreland still takes the spirit of his professional athlete background to his broadcasting:
“If you don’t bring energy to your broadcast, somebody’s gonna turn the game on and wonder ‘what’s wrong? Are they losing the game?’”, Moreland remarks, “So you have to come prepared and with energy for the broadcasts.”
Radio Partnerships With Offshore Sportsbooks Are Tempting
The rush to get sports betting advertising revenue offers an interesting risk to stations in states where the activity is illegal.
As the wave of sports gambling continues to wash over the United States, marketing budgets soar and advertisements flood radio and television airwaves. Offers of huge sign-on bonuses, “risk-free” wagers, and enhanced parlay odds seem to come from every direction as books like DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM fight over market share and battle one another for every new user they can possibly attract.
For those in states where sports betting is not yet legalized–or may never be–it is frustrating to see these advertisements and know that you cannot get in the action. However, as with any vice, anybody determined to partake will find ways to do so. Offshore sports books are one of the biggest ways. Companies such as Bovada and BetOnline continue to thrive even as more state-based online wagering options become available to Americans.
While five states–Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, and New York–have passed laws making it illegal for offshore books to take action from their residents, using an offshore book is perfectly legal for the rest of the country. While there are hurdles involved with funding for some institutions, there is no law that prevents someone in one of those other 45 states from opening an account with Bovada and wagering on whatever sporting events they offer. The United States government has tried multiple times to go after them, citing the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006, and have failed at every step, with the World Trade Organization citing that doing so would violate international trade agreements.
While gambling is becoming more and more accepted every day, and more states look to reap the financial windfall that comes with it, the ethical decisions made take on even more importance. One of the tougher questions involved with the gambling arms race is how to handle offers from offshore books to advertise with radio stations in a state where sports betting is not legalized.
Multiple stations in states without legalized gambling, such as Texas and Florida, have partnerships with BetOnline to advertise their services. Radio stations can take advantage of these relationships in three main ways: commercials, on-air reads, and the station’s websites. For example, Bovada’s affiliate program allows for revenue sharing based on people clicking advertisements on a partner’s website and signing up with a new deposit. This is also the case for podcasts, such as one in Kansas that advertises with Bovada despite sports gambling not being legal there until later in 2022.
People are going to gamble, and it’s legal to do so. In full disclosure, I myself have utilized Bovada’s services for a number of years, even after online sports wagering became legal in my state of Indiana. As such, advertising a service that is legal within the state seems perfectly fine in the business sense, and I totally understand why a media entity would choose to accept an offer from an offshore book. However, there are two major factors that make it an ethical dilemma, neither of which can be ignored.
First, Americans may find it easy to deposit money with a book such as Bovada or BetOnline, but much more difficult to get their money back. While the UIGEA hasn’t been successful in stopping these books from accepting money, it has made it difficult–near impossible, in fact–for American financial institutions to accept funds directly from these companies. Therefore, most payouts have to take place either via a courier service, with a check that can take weeks to arrive, or via a cryptocurrency payout. For those who are either unwilling or not tech-savvy enough to go this route, it means waiting sometimes up to a month to receive that money versus a couple days with a state-licensed service.
The other major concern is the lack of protections involved with gambling in a state where legislation has been passed. For example, the state of Indiana drew up laws and regulations for companies licensed to operate within its borders that included protections for how bets are graded, what changes can be made to lines and when they can take place, and how a “bad line” is handled. They also require a portion of the revenues be put towards resources for those dealing with gambling addiction or compulsion issues.
None of those safeguards exist with an offshore book. While the books have to adhere to certain regulations, it’s much more loosely enforced. I’ve lost track of the number of times a book like Bovada has made somewhat shady decisions on what bets to honor as “wins”, and how they handle wagers on what they deem to be “bad lines” where they posted a mistake and users capitalized on it. Furthermore, not a single dime of the monies received go towards helping those dealing with addiction, and there are few steps taken by the offshore books to look for compulsive or addictive behaviors.
As states look to move sports betting out of the shadows, the decision whether to take advertising dollars from offshore books seems to be an even larger gray area than ever before. Although it is perfectly legal to accept these funds when offered, it feels unethical to do so. There are moral obligations tied to accepting the money involved, especially given the lack of regulations and safeguards for players in addition to the limited resources for those who find themselves stuck in a situation they may struggle to escape. While it’s possible to take steps to educate listeners on these pitfalls, it simply feels irresponsible to encourage people to utilize these services given the risks involved, and the lack of protections in place.