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Rod Babers And Mike Hardge Are Making History In Austin

“If you want to be in radio a long time, it’s exhausting being fake. It’s much easier to just be yourself and then you have to let the chips fall where they may.”

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An iconic piano rhythm in C# major starts every show at 3PM Monday through Friday on 104.9 FM in Autsin, TX. 22 seconds into the intro a skreetch of a plane taking off signals for drums and a higher key piano to hit simultaiouly. You can’t help but nod your head. This happens almost every time you hear the song.

The instrumental for “Interlude” from Jay Z’s The Black Album rolls on for a minute to get show hosts Rod Babers and Mike Hardge in the zone. Then Babers comes in with energy matching the beat introducing the show Ball Don’t Lie on The Horn is the first all-black and all-former professional athlete drive time show in Austin’s history. 

104.9 The Horn in Austin is the home and authority of Texas Longhorns sports. Houston native Rod Babers first came to Austin as a cornerback for the Longhorns and has been a staple in Austin Sports radio for over a decade following a professional football career. Mike Hardge from not far north, in Killeen, Texas. He had committed to The University of Texas, but was taken in the second round of the 1990 MLB draft by the Montreal Expos and played 9 years in the minors. After hanging up their cleats, Babers and Hardge found themselves back in Austin, and with roots from the station on the other side of town, the two joined forces in February 2022 and bring an intelligent, relatable sports talk show to the many people trapped in Austin highway gridlock. 

As a talk show host, Rod Babers particularly is among the most dedicated to watching film and it doesn’t go unnotice from listeners or his new co-host.

“One of the things I will never, ever question is Rod’s loyalty to the film study,” Hardge says about his on-air partner. “He is diligent when it comes to that so when us fans listen to his deep dives it is great because 1. He is passionate about it, 2. Rod is giving you a lot of information you may not see initially and 3. He’s not just getting you engaged to watch the game for your pure enjoyment, there’s certain things you can pick up and you say ‘you know what, I saw what Rod was talking about.’” 

Rod knows sometimes his information can be dense and as a veteran of hosting a show on his own, he has learned many ways to tackle topics.

“You gotta spin it and it has to be a unique spin,” Babers remarked on his balance of technical speak and keeping casual listeners. “When you get into the deep dives of technical stuff in whatever sport you’re doing, it’s fun for you, but it may not be fun for everyone else so find a way to spin it.”

Pop culture references, real-life scenarios such as dating and marriage, history lessons, and more were highlighted by Rod as how he keeps his wide Austin fan base attentive.

While still bringing sharp takes of his own, Mike Hardge is a man who seems to know everyone in Austin in some way or another and knocks it out of the park reflecting this as his on-air personality.

“I’m that guy that’s hanging out with his buddies at the bar talking about the game and seeing the things not as deep as Rod goes, but just having fun with the information Rod has given us.”

The counterbalance between the two long-time friends has brought instant chemistry to the show. Avid sports fans looking for the best Longhorns, college football, NFL, NBA and MLB talk need to hear Ball Don’t Lie. The perspective of former athletes who are passionate about what they do is unique to the central Texas airwaves and perfect a style already perfect by the original Austin sports radio former athlete, the late Sean Adams

Babers and Hardge originally met through Adams in the late 2000s. Adams was an inspirational voice on radio and had a true joy for sports talk. When asked about his thoughts on being part of Austin’s first all-black drive-time sports talk show, Babers was quick to remember Adams.

“He was proud about diversity in the workplace and all aspects of life. I think it is progressive and we’ve come a long way. I’ll give props to ARN (Austin Radio Network). I don’t even know if it is something they’ve thought about either. I think we were just trying to put the best group together that we could.”

Sometimes in sports media, topics of race relations, social justice and divisive topics come up. Mike Harge was one of Sean Adam’s closest friends and carries some of Sean’s style into his own broadcasting.

“Sean Adams was someone who always brought words of wisdom and a message to what was going on with the perspective you could look at because he’s been in those huddles. And that’s one of those things we always try to portray to the audience. We’ve been in locker rooms where guys didn’t like each other, but once we got into that locker room we were the same group of guys, fighting for a common goal and we have to have those tough conversations with each other.”

Regardless of whether Rod and Mike are talking about sports or life, Rod has learned one thing that shines through on Ball Don’t Lie.

“You gotta be able to read your listeners and don’t be fake. You have to be your authentic self. If you want to be in radio a long time, it’s exhausting being fake. It’s much easier to just be yourself and then you have to let the chips fall where they may.”

Less than three months in, Rod and Mike have let the chips fall where they may and found success as a must-listen for live radio and archived podcasts.

Barrett Blogs

BSM’s Black Friday SALE on BSM Summit Tickets is Underway!

Jason Barrett

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Each year I’m asked if there are ways to save money on tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit. I always answer yes but not everyone takes advantage of it. For those interested in doing so, here’s your shot.

For TODAY ONLY, individual tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit are reduced by $50.00. Two ticket and four ticket packages are also lowered at $50 per ticket. To secure your seat at a discounted price, just log on to BSMSummit.com. This sale ends tonight at 11:59pm ET.

If you’re flying to Los Angeles for the event, be sure to reserve your hotel room. Our hotel partner this year is the USC Hotel. It’s walking distance of our venue. Full details on hotel rooms can also be found via the conference website.

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BSM Podcast

Media Noise: What Does The Return of Bob Iger Mean to ESPN?

Demetri Ravanos

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Demetri Ravanos has questions about Disney going back to the future with Bob Iger. This entire episode of Media Noise is all about what the change at the top of the Walt Disney Company indicates about the future of ESPN.

ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3AVwa90

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX

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Barrett Blogs

Mina Kimes, Bruce Gilbert, Mitch Rosen, and Stacey Kauffman Join the 2023 BSM Summit

“By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference.”

Jason Barrett

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The 2023 BSM Summit is returning to Los Angeles on March 21-22, 2023, live from the Founders Club at the Galen Center at the campus of the University of Southern California. Information on tickets and hotel rooms can be found at BSMSummit.com.

We’ve previously announced sixteen participants for our upcoming show, and I’m excited today to confirm the additions of four more more smart, successful professionals to be part of the event. Before I do that, I’d like to thank The Volume for signing on as our Badge sponsor, the Motor Racing Network for securing the gift bag sponsorship, and Bonneville International for coming on board as a Session sponsor. We do have some opportunities available but things are moving fast this year, so if you’re interested in being involved, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

Now let’s talk about a few of the speaker additions for the show.

First, I am thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Mina Kimes to the Summit for her first appearance. Mina and I had the pleasure recently of connecting on a podcast (go listen to it) and I’ve been a fan of her work for years. Her intellect, wit, football acumen, and likeability have served her well on television, podcasts, and in print. She’s excelled as an analyst on NFL Live and Rams preseason football games, as a former host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and her appearances on Around The Horn and previously on Highly Questionable and the Dan Le Batard Show were always entertaining. I’m looking forward to having Mina join FS1’s Joy Taylor and ESPN LA 710 PD Amanda Brown for an insightful conversation about the industry.

Next is another newcomer. I’m looking forward to having Audacy San Francisco and Sacramento Regional Vice President Stacey Kauffman in the building for our 2023 show. In addition to overseeing a number of music brands, Stacey also oversees a dominant news/talk outlet, and two sports radio brands. Among them are my former station 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, and ESPN 1320 in Sacramento. I’m looking forward to having her participate in our GM panel with Good Karma’s Sam Pines, iHeart’s Don Martin, and led by Bonneville’s Executive Vice President Scott Sutherland.

From there, it’s time to welcome back two of the sharpest sports radio minds in the business. Bruce Gilbert is the SVP of Sports for Westwood One and Cumulus Media. He’s seen and done it all on the local and national level and anytime he’s in the room to share his programming knowledge with attendees, everyone leaves the room smarter. I’m anticipating another great conversation on the state of sports radio, which FOX Sports Radio VP of programming Scott Shapiro will be a part of.

Another student of the game and one of the top programmers in the format today is 670 The Score in Chicago PD, Mitch Rosen. The former Mark Chernoff Award recipient and recently appointed VP of the BetQL Network juggles managing a top 3 market sports brand while being charged with moving an emerging sports betting network forward. Count on Mr. Rosen to offer his insights and opinions during another of our branding and programming discussions.

By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference. My focus now is on finalizing our business and digital sessions, research, tech and sports betting panels, securing our locations and sponsorships for the After Party and Kickoff Party, plus working out the details for a few high-profile executive appearances and a couple of surprises.

For those looking to attend and save a few dollars on tickets, we’ll be holding a special Black Friday Sale this Friday November 25th. Just log on to BSMSummit.com that day to save $50 on individual tickets. In addition, thanks to the generosity of voice talent extraordinaire Steve Kamer, we’ll be giving away 10 tickets leading up to the conference. Stay tuned for details on the giveaway in the months ahead.

Still to come is an announcement about our special ticket rate for college students looking to attend the show and learn. We also do an annual contest for college kids to attend the event for free which I’m hoping to have ready in the next few weeks. It’s also likely we’ll give away a few tickets to industry professionals leading up to Christmas, so keep an eye out.

If you work in the sports media industry and value making connections, celebrating those who create an impact, and learning about the business from folks who have experienced success, failure, and everything in between, the Summit is worth your time. I’m excited to have Mina, Bruce, Mitch and Stacey join us for the show, and look forward to spending a few days with the industry’s best and brightest this March! Hope to see you there.

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