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Wolchuk and Chiofalo Bring The Team to GBag Nation

There was an instant connection between Chiofalo, Wolchuk and the current hosts of GBag Nation.

Tyler McComas

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GBag Nation

The weekday routine used to be a lot different for both Eric Chiofalo & Zach Wolchuk. For instance, a random Thursday night probably meant both were hustling from their day jobs in the DFW Metroplex to the studios at 105.3 The Fan to host their night-time radio show The Nosebleed Seats from 7-11 p.m. Chiofalo would sell cars at Premiere Autos of Dallas and Wolchuk would manage a Chick-fil-A before coming together each weekday night to host a show. 

The hours were long but it was a sacrifice the two were more than willing to make. If you understood the dynamic of the history Chiofalo and Wolchuk had together, you’d better understand why it was such a labor of love.

The two met in college at The University of North Texas. It was almost as if they were always meant to be friends, because one of the first things they bonded over is the same place where their biggest professional break happened. They’ve been radio and podcasting partners ever since.

“When I met Wolchuk, one of the things we immediately bonded over was that he was a TOLO (turn it on, leave it on) listener of the 105.3 The Fan,” said Chiofalo. “He even had an internship at the station the summer prior. He had a legit connection with the station. We just always wanted to be a part of it.”

The two decided over lunch one day in college they’d chase the dream together. The decision was easy and one they were quick to agree on. Someday, they would be show hosts at 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. Fast forward a handful of years from that conversation at UNT and Chiofalo and Wolchuk had kept their promise to each other. They were at the same station they strived to be at, but most importantly, they did it together. After hosting a podcast together that was wildly entertaining and had built a following, The Fan decided to elevate them to hosts in the night time slot. 

“We knew immediately when that night-time slot opened up that we wanted it,” said Wolchuk.”We knew it was a great launching point at The Fan.”

The duo took their new show very seriously and the chemistry they had built back in college was shining over the air. It was evident they were destined for great things at The Fan and showed that consistently over the course of a few years.

Last February, Jeff Cavanaugh’s departure from GBag Nation in afternoons at The Fan put in motion an opportunity that Chiofalo and Wolchuk were highly interested in. The decision for management began with an in-house search. That meant both Chiofalo and Wolchuk were going to get a chance to try out for the opening with current hosts of GBag Nation, Gavin Dawson, Bryan Broaddus and Lucious Alexander. 

The only potential issue was that the only person leaving the show was Cavanaugh. The two had been a duo their entire career. Would they hire just one of them and split them apart?

“They originally wanted it to be an individual thing,” said Chiofalo. “They wanted me to sit in with GBag Nation for a week and then Wolchuk, and then Kevin (Gray), and then Reggie (Adetula). But Wolchuk and I have been together since we met in college about six years ago and our vision was that we’d always been a tandem. We’re buddies and just love working together. Whenever we got approached for trying out for GBag Nation it was an honor, but we asked if we could try out together and if they’d possibly promote both of us together if it sounded good. The bosses decided they were down with it, as well as Gavin and Broaddus.”

There was an instant connection between Chiofalo, Wolchuk and the current hosts of GBag Nation. Granted it helped that the two had been at the station for a few years and developed a rapport with the current guys on the show, but the initial reaction was positive. There were more candidates to vet and try out, but Chiofalo and Wolchuk seemed like a natural fit into the show. 

“We tried out the first week of March and it went really well,” said Chiofalo. “We had worked with those guys a bunch. The chemistry was strong and it turned out to be a really great week.”

The month of May rolled around and The Fan was ready to make their decision on who the new additions were to GBag Nation. Chiofalo and Wolchuk were obviously extremely hopeful, but also had the daily task of worrying about their daytime jobs and night time radio shows. But then came a text.

“We got a text from our boss Gavin Spittle,” said Wolchuk. “He texted Eric and myself and asked if we had time to talk. At the time we both had our day jobs. We were both waiting to find out, so we said, yeah, of course. He got us on a three-way call and said we’d like for you guys to be a part of the GBag Nation. It was a dream come true to get that phone call.”

It’s hard to imagine what those two felt at that moment. Meeting in college, deciding to become a duo, working towards being a host at The Fan, busting it daily to make ends meet so that it can happen, and then Spittle calls with the news. It’s a true feel-good sports radio story. 

How the announcement was made on The Fan was equally as cool. Dawson, who drives GBag Nation, decided to put some theatrics behind it. On the live video stream of the show stood two faces in the doorway of the studio. In front was Wolchuk and behind was Chiofalo. 

GBag Nation is getting back to being five-wide,” commented Dawson as he hyped the upcoming announcement. 

The listeners immediately picked up on the hint. The show currently had three voices. They weren’t just bringing on one person, they were two coming to GBag Nation.

Dawson announced Wolchuk and he strolled into the studio with a bigger smile than Dallas. He hopped on his new show to talk about how excited he was about the new promotion. Just a few minutes after, Chiofalo was announced and he strolled in commenting how his phone was buzzing with excitement from others. 

“That moment was absolutely awesome,” said Wolchuk. “That was all Gavin Dawson’s idea of how he wanted to set all that up. It was like he was announcing a starting lineup, because GBag Nation is back to being five-wide. It was a surreal moment and to have gone from being an intern with GBag Nation, to six years later being a part of the show. It was a pinch-yourself moment.”

Dawson immediately began reading texts of all the excited listeners. The moment was set-up and executed perfectly. Plus, GBag Nation was getting two really good hosts. But soon after, the focus turned to how the dynamic of the show was going to work. Granted, there was confidence it would, especially since the week-long tryout went so well, but working five voices into a show was going to have its transition period. 

“It’s been an interesting challenge and it’s certainly a different dynamic than doing the show with just one other host,” said Chiofalo. “You just have to learn how to pick your spots. But the week of trying out for them was eye-opening to how open Gavin and Bryan were to our thoughts and style. It’s been smooth and nobody is a control freak. Gavin is a great quarterback for the show. They’ve really given us the floor to bring the content we want to bring. I think it was welcomed for them as well, because they’ve been doing a five-hour show for so many years.”

Chiofalo and Wolchuk had their own style when it came to prep work for The Nosebleed Seats, but now they were dealing with three other hosts that have ideas, too. When it was just the two of them hosting a show, they’d put together an email list of topic ideas and links to stories. Then, about an hour-and-a-half before the show, they’d collaborate on what the best content for the show would be. 

“We’ve continued that with GBag Nation,” said Chiofalo. “We’ll send an email in the morning filled with all the topic ideas we have for that day. And then we’ll all get to the station an hour-and-a-half before the show and huddle up together and decide what we feel like is the most important stuff to hit on that day and what creative ideas we want to bring to set us apart. It’s a really collaborative effort.”

Five hours of radio is a beast of a day, regardless of how many voices are on the show. It’s just another natural transition that both Chiofalo and Wolchuk have had to make since joining GBag Nation

“Five hours is definitely a long show,” said Chiofalo. “Fortunately for us, and since we have so many voices on the show, it makes for a situation where I don’t have to consistently be the talker for five-straight hours. There’s enough voices to go around. We also carry the Rangers so there’s several times where that programming cuts into our normal show. But with all the voices on the show it hasn’t been overtly strenuous to be honest.”

As great as the addition has been for GBag Nation and The Fan, overall, it did leave a hole at nights on the station. A precedent has now been set, that if you succeed in that time slot at The Fan, you’re almost bound to be promoted within the station, given the recent track record of previous hosts. So what was the station’s plan to replace Chiofalo or Wolchuk?

“Kevin Gray has been nothing but an extremely hard worker,” said Wolchuk. “What he brings in terms of Mavericks content is phenomenal. Reginald Adetula actually started around the same time as I did and was our initial producer with The Nosebleed Seats. We have a great relationship with him and we’re absolutely thrilled. It was a little bit of a weird dynamic, all of us trying out for GBag Nation, but we knew if Eric and I got that spot that Reg and KG would be able to slide into that night show. I think it sounds absolutely phenomenal. They’ll be able to carry on the legacy of great night shows at 105.3 The Fan.”

BSM Writers

NBC Must Develop a Real No. 2 NFL Crew for Playoffs

Is the network’s only other option Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett?

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Several years ago, the NFL objected to NBC wanting to employ Mike Tirico as the lead play-by-play voice for its Thursday Night Football broadcasts. The league preferred Al Michaels because he was NBC’s No. 1 NFL play-by-play announcer and wanted the TNF telecasts to carry the same prestige as Sunday Night Football.

Following the network’s heavily-criticized broadcast of Saturday’s Wild Card playoff game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL may want to impose its authority again and insist that a top-tier broadcast team call the action of an important postseason game.

The consensus among fans and media watching Saturday’s broadcast was that Michaels and analyst Tony Dungy were surprisingly low-energy for an NFL playoff game, let alone one that became so exciting with Jacksonville rallying from a 27-0 deficit for a 31-30 victory on a last-second field goal.

Such a lackluster broadcast led to questions of whether or not Michaels was now past his prime after a season of calling subpar TNF games for Amazon and what initially appeared to be another snoozer when the Jaguars fell behind by 27 points. Pairing him with Dungy, who was a studio analyst all season, certainly didn’t help.

Dungy was as basic as a game analyst could be, typically narrating replays viewers could see for themselves while adding little insight. Worst of all, he demonstrated no enthusiasm for the action, leaving Michaels to fill most of the airtime. The veteran broadcaster showed that he can no longer carry a broadcast by himself. He needs the energy and back-and-forth that Cris Collinsworth or Kirk Herbstreit provide.

So how did NBC get here?

Most football fans know that the network’s top broadcast team is Tirico on play-by-play alongside analyst Cris Collinsworth. But they had their own assignment during Super Wild Card Weekend, calling Sunday night’s Ravens-Bengals match-up. With the postseason field expanding from 12 to 14 teams, resulting in six games being played on Wild Card weekend, NBC was awarded one of the additional playoff broadcasts.

Thus, another broadcast team was needed for that second Wild Card game. Fortunately, NBC had a renowned play-by-play man already in place. Michaels finished out his final season as SNF‘s lead voice by calling Super Bowl LVI, part of a powerful one-two combination for NBC Sports coming toward the end of its 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics coverage.

Ending his legendary career with a Super Bowl broadcast would’ve been a wonderful final note for Michaels. That appeared to be a natural path when Tirico moved from ESPN to NBC in 2016. Network executives admitted that a succession plan was in mind for Tirico to take over SNF eventually. At the time, Michaels also likely thought he would retire by then.

But when confronted with the possibility of retirement, Michaels realized he wasn’t interested. He was still enjoying broadcasting the NFL. His skills were still sharp. And perhaps most importantly, he was in demand. Amazon wanted Michaels as the lead voice for its Thursday Night Football broadcasts, bringing instant credibility to a streaming venture that drew some skepticism. ESPN considered him as its Monday Night Football play-by-play man.

As it turned out, ESPN made a bold move for MNF, swiping Fox’s No. 1 NFL crew of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. That left Amazon for Michaels, and the streaming giant paid him a commensurate salary with the top broadcasters in the industry as part of his three-year contract.

Yet Michaels wasn’t done with NBC either. After his agreement with Amazon became official, NBC announced that its relationship with Michaels would continue in an “emeritus” role allowing him to broadcast the network’s Olympics coverage and that additional Wild Card playoff telecast.

NBC can’t have been happy that most of the social media chatter afterward focused on the broadcast, rather than the game result. Especially when the discussion centered on how poorly Michaels and Dungy performed in what turned out to be a thrilling playoff game. That’s a pairing that the NFL probably doesn’t want to see again.

Michaels will likely call at least one more Wild Card playoff game for NBC since he intends to work on the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics. He’s also under contract with Amazon for another two seasons unless he decides to retire before that deal expires. So perhaps the simple solution is keeping Dungy out of the broadcast booth and giving Michaels a better partner.

But can NBC drop in another analyst who hasn’t worked with Michaels all season? Anyone would arguably be an improvement over Dungy. Is it at all possible for Herbstreit to be hired on for a one-off playoff broadcast, thus ensuring that the broadcast team will have some on-air familiarity and chemistry?

Otherwise, NBC’s only other option may be its Notre Dame broadcast team of Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett. (The network tried that last season with Tirico and Drew Brees, only for Brees to wilt under the harsher NFL playoff spotlight.)

The pair also called USFL broadcasts for the network, so at least there would be familiarity rather than trying to figure each other out during a telecast. Yet Collinsworth and Garrett aren’t terribly popular with viewers. And as with Brees, that crew will face intense scrutiny with a larger playoff audience.

Unfortunately, NBC appears to be stuck here. Unless the new Big Ten broadcast team of Noah Eagle and Todd Blackledge gets a shot. That might be the best option! Other than Notre Dame or USFL games, where are the other opportunities for NBC to develop a No. 2 NFL broadcast team? No one wants to put Al Michaels through Chris Simms in the broadcast booth, right?

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BSM Writers

Al Michaels Has Options But He Has To Make a Choice

“It does all of us in the sports industry well to remember 99% of our audience would gladly trade places with us.”

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I don’t ask much out of game announcers; get excited when appropriate, get the simple information correct, don’t get so caught up in your shtick you put yourself above the game. Al Michaels has been doing all those things well for the better part of half a century and few would argue that he’s not one of the best to ever do it. That doesn’t mean he can’t lose his fastball.

Before you read any longer, I am not here to say Al Michaels has lost his fastball. What I am here to say is Michaels has all too often this season seemed upset with and disinterested in the game he is calling. That isn’t entirely surprising when you consider some of the Thursday night action he called on Amazon Prime where the average margin of victory was almost nine points per game.

On top of that, the Amazon schedule had a dreadful two week stretch with Colts 12-9 win over the Broncos in Week Five and the Commanders 12-7 win over the Bears the next Thursday. It was in that Broncos-Colts game Michaels asked Herbstreit if a game “can be so bad it is good?” Herbstreit’s answer was “No”, by the way. It was the full 15 game schedule that Michaels told The Athletic’s media critic Richard Deitsch was like trying to sell a used car.

All of that is fine, the inaugural Amazon Prime season was not a smashing success. The streaming giant missed audience projections and will lose advertising revenue because of it. The lackluster schedule did not help that. But Michaels was given a second life; he was the NBC play-by-play announcer for the Saturday Night Wildcard Playoff game between the Chargers and Jaguars. It initially looked like Michaels might be the problem as five first half Jags turnovers had them in a 27-0 hole. But the home team staged a nearly unprecedented comeback for the win.

It was the performance by Michaels and, to a lesser degree, his analyst Tony Dungy that has led to criticism. Criticism might be too soft of a word, Michaels was roundly dragged for his lack of enthusiasm during the comeback and specifically on his call of the Jacksonville game winning field goal. The enthusiasm of the call of the game winner had a mid-3rd quarter of week four feel to it.

Me telling Al Michaels how to do play-by-play of an NFL game would be the equivalent of me telling a physicist how to split an atom. So, this isn’t just a Michaels criticism, few things bother me more than hearing a game announcer complain about the length or quality of a game as if he’d rather be anywhere else. It does all of us in the sports industry well to remember 99% of our audience would gladly trade places with us.

How many NFL viewers would sit in the seat Michaels, or any NFL announcer occupies, for free? They’d feel like they won the lottery if they also were getting the money those announcers are getting paid to be there. The guy that works a 12-hour Thursday construction shift just to get home and crack a beer for the NFL game probably doesn’t want to hear how tough that game is to announce.

On top of all of that, Michaels was given the gift of one of the wildest NFL Playoff comebacks you’ll ever see and, at times, sounded as if he was completely disinterested in being there. Pro tip: the best NFL announcer in those moments is Kevin Harlan (see: Miami at Baltimore from earlier this season. That has nothing to do with my lifelong Dolphins fandom). Michaels’ lack of enthusiasm was compounded by the exact opposite from Mike Tirico on the very same network for the Bengals-Ravens Wildcard game Sunday night. 

Tirico, like Michaels, has a sterling resume of play-by-play accomplishments. The difference is Tirico sounded like he was having the time of his life on Sunday night. 

To be fair, their two styles are different. Michaels has a very old school, Pat Summerall approach. Summerall, Vin Scully and Dick Enberg came along at a time when announcers were far more likely to let the pictures tell the story. More new school guys like Harlan and Tirico approach it differently.

Look, Al Michaels helped us believe in miracles. His place in the Sports Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame has long since been cemented. Being a hall of fame inductee doesn’t mean your style will forever be accepted by the masses. That leaves you with a few options; you can continue your style and accept or ignore the criticism or you can ride off into the sunset and enjoy the fruits of your decades of labor.

Al Michaels has what we all want; great options. He can choose any of them and be a winner in the game of life. It doesn’t matter if he enthusiastically embraces them, or not. 

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BSM Writers

Bernie Kosar Was the Victim of a Policy That Doesn’t Work Anymore

“The NFL has bigger fish to fry than Bernie Kosar. Hell, it has more pressing issues in Cleveland alone.”

Demetri Ravanos

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One week ago, Bernie Kosar lost his job on the Browns Radio Network for placing the first legal sports bet in the state of Ohio. Kosar, just like Jets coach Miles Austin weeks earlier and Calvin Ridley last year, violated a league policy that forbids team employees from placing a bet on any NFL game.

The integrity of the games still matters. The belief that what we are all seeing is being fairly contested is what gives those of us that like to have a little vested interest in the outcome the desire to lay our money down in the first place. I get the league’s discomfort with a coach on the staff of a team in the middle of the playoff hunt making bets. I get its fear of the message it sends to have players making bets.

Roger Goodell and the 32 team owners are well within their rights to object to men that can potentially control the outcome of a game or postseason seeding doing anything that even appears to jeopardize its fairness. Even perceived impropriety can compromise the league’s tremendous value.

But Bernie Kosar doesn’t have that kind of influence on the outcome of a game. He is just a broadcaster and not even a game analyst. He is part of studio coverage.

I am far from the first to point this out, but in 2023, the NFL has three official sports betting partners. Just last week, it approved the first ever in-stadium sportsbook, which Fanatics is set to open inside of FedEx Field. If the NFL is comfortable enough with the reality that its fans like to bet to make those things a reality, then Kosar losing his gig is absurd. It is the result of nothing other than “well, that’s the way we’ve always done it” thinking.

Maybe Kosar was terrible on the radio and the team was looking for a reason to move on. I don’t live in Cleveland and I am not a Browns fan, so I have no idea.

How many times have we heard that NFL owners hired Goodell to “protect the shield”? I’m not even really sure what it means or when it applies anymore. If I had a vested interest in the public perception of the league, I know that I would want someone to do the PR math on this situation.

Bernie Kosar isn’t an addict that can’t watch a game without the high of winning or the emotional distress of losing everything at stake, at least not as far as we know. This was a bet made through an advertising partner, to benefit charity. He even said on his podcast this week that the purpose of making the bet was to generate some money for former players in need of help.

This is like Disney threatening daycare centers with lawsuits for painting Mickey Mouse on a classroom wall. The NFL has bigger fish to fry than Bernie Kosar. Hell, it has more pressing issues in Cleveland alone.

Surely you have seen Garrett Bush’s impassioned rant on the Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show about the obstacles facing Damar Hamlin because of how many hoops the NFL makes former players jump through in order to get some kind of pension.

On January 2, we were all united in our concern for a guy that hadn’t even completed his second full NFL season. We didn’t know if he was going to live, but if he did, we all knew that the NFL had done everything it needed to in order to protect itself from ever having to pay a dime for his medical care. Less than a week later, Bernie Kosar was fired for what amounted to a charity stunt that was meant to raise money and attention to very similar issues.

At both the league level and the team level, there was incompetence that lead to a man unnecessarily losing a gig and to the Browns and the NFL looking horribly out of touch with reality.

Are we acknowledging that people gamble or not? Are we acknowledging there are responsible ways to bet on football and are interested in generating revenue off of it or not? Because it doesn’t seem to me that the same league that just gave the thumbs up to open a sportsbook inside of a stadium is really that concerned with people that cannot affect the outcome of games betting on those games.

Has the NFL come out and said that it is going to cover every medical bill for everyone that has ever played the game? We know that this is a brutal game that leaves a physical and physiological impact on the men that played it. Why would we make it harder for someone that knows that pain to help others do something about it?

I feel awful for Bernie Kosar. Whether he needs the money or not, it is embarassing to be at the center of a controversy like this, particularly because in the NFL in 2023, there is no reason for a controversy like this to exist.

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