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Dan McNeil Is Taking His Mask Off

“I can’t change those who want to look at me only as what I did to get fired. I can’t change that.:

Brian Noe

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Dan McNeil

Some hosts know how to create interesting radio. They can entertain and deliver compelling topics that catch your ear. Then there are rare talents that know how to create interesting radio, while also being interesting themselves. Dan McNeil is one of these hosts.

McNeil consistently showcased the chops that made him one of the titans of Chicago sports radio. He oozed both big personality and presence. He also spoke openly about his life. McNeil pointed out his warts, which made him more relatable and real. He connected with people easily.

Great stories rarely involve smooth rides. They typically include some turbulence and maybe a loss of cabin pressure along the way. McNeil’s journey has been bumpy at times. In our chat he opens up about addiction, depression and the tweet describing Maria Taylor’s wardrobe that got him fired. McNeil has a new opportunity though. He’s talking football and having a blast podcasting twice a week for BetRivers Network.

This could be a fluff piece, or it could be honest. My guess is that McNeil prefers the latter. The Northwest Indiana native is a striking mixture of triumph and tragedy. He’s won big, but should’ve won bigger. His career is like the Seattle Seahawks at the 1-yard line with a chance to win another Super Bowl, only to make the wrong choice. Danny Mac is both successful and complicated. Through it all, he’s unforgettable.

There’s a great line from an old Michael Jordan commercial: “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why, I succeed.” McNeil’s struggles have helped and hurt his success. It’s been a game of tug of war, but it’s part of who he is. It’s part of what makes him, him. He’s flawed. He’s raw. He’s also magic behind a mic. Enjoy.

Brian Noe: What did you learn the most during your early trial-by-fire days in radio?

Dan McNeil: Yeah, just try to get all of the suck out of your system as you possibly can. [Laughs] I had a real good program director at my first job at an FM rock station called the Loop. A guy named Greg Solk. He’s still in the business. We’re still friends. He encouraged me to interact with callers. A host named Chet Coppock didn’t do that very well and he didn’t like to do it.

Greg said to me, you’re more of an every man’s man, you’re more capable of having a conversation with Joe in Orland Park than Chet is. Why don’t you do that? Because you’re kind of more suited for it. That story you told about quitting a job at a restaurant on the spot to go see a concert; people dig that shit. Just be you.

That went a long way in, I think, separating myself from the rest of the pack because there’s millions of guys who know sports, but not all of them have the ability to engage an audience and get that audience to invest in them as personalities. I have to give Greg Solk a lot of credit for bringing that out of me.

BN: Are you surprised at all that a lot of hosts don’t have that ability? It seems like a very common trait, but there are a lot of hosts that don’t have it.

DM: That’s a challenging question, Brian, and I like it. I think the reason for it is many of them haven’t lived interesting lives maybe. Maybe some of them have been very sheltered. There’s a lot of nerds in sports broadcasting who haven’t been in a lot of places where some of us street kids have been, or they just aren’t willing to share it. Things as simple as admitting you smoke weed, which is legal in a ton of states now. I know some guys who that’s verboten; don’t ever mention that we smoked pot together. But I think those who have the courage to lay it all on the line — you’re gonna rub a lot of people really wrong, but that’s okay if a lot of people on the other side are really on board.

BN: Correct me if I’m wrong, but have you had to take a break or two along the way from radio?

DM: Oh yeah, I took a couple. It was February of 2012 when I hit the brakes to address addiction and depression because I hadn’t been treating those very debilitating mental health issues with any degree of reverence. I had gone off of a psych med without discussing it with my doctor. About six months prior to when I finally tapped out, I noticed a precipitous loss in appetite for the things that interested me when I went off the psych med. In addition to that, it’s been my history. I’m a pothead and drank a little bit more back then.

I was starting to get a little bit heavier involved in pain medication; I became addicted to it. When I had spinal fusion surgery in ‘07, I discovered Norco. I’d had pain medication before and I used it recreationally before without issues, but that Norco just did something different to me and it made me want it all the time. I had to stop and reassess and catch my breath and get healthy. Unfortunately, I stumbled again about 15, 18 months after that and went into residential treatment for the same reasons. 

I was sick. I don’t dispute that for a second, but there is a big part of me that always will wonder if I paused and went to the bench again, because I was simply f—kin’ sick of working. The culture of the Score at that time was incredibly negative, and foolishly, I let that get into my head. Most of the shows got along. I got along with everybody on the show; I loved doing radio with them, but all the individual shows were on an island. There was no sense of team.

That was a radical departure from the first run at the Score, it was considerably opposite of what I experienced at ESPN. And frankly, I didn’t handle it very well. I wanted to run away from that; and self-medication, and sadness, and clinical depression are not a good cocktail. I don’t regret it. They easily could’ve fired me, but I was trying to get right and hopefully it helped.

BN: How would you describe what those toughest days of radio were like for you, when you’re dealing with all that stuff at the same time?

DM: You have to put on a mask sometimes when your mind is occupied by family issues, or whatever, whether it’s personal issues, whether it’s irritability, lack of sleep, clinical, whatever. You put on the mask and you try to fake it. Sometimes it’s hard to even make speech when you’re wanting to shut down. It was particularly rough on me. I was in a position where I had to talk about things that didn’t interest me. I couldn’t give a f—k about NBA basketball. Baseball in the winter doesn’t pump my testosterone a bit. When you’re in there every day for four or five hours, you have got to grind out thoughts.

Matt Spiegel and I had a basketball guest on once. I remember having physical pain in my stomach, not being able to think of one f—king thing I wanted to ask that guy. And I think it was a big name; I think it was Kenny Smith from TNT. And I like his work, but at that time, I would have rather had a root canal procedure than talk publicly with Kenny Smith. It didn’t interest me. I was done with that part of my life and trying to get through that was real tough. It’s like trying to punch underwater is one way I’ve heard it described and that’s pretty accurate.

BN: I have to ask you about the Maria Taylor tweet. If the Score was with you through these stints where you had to pause due to some really heavy stuff in your life, and then you get fired for a tweet about Maria Taylor, was that a surprise to you?

DM: Well, it was a different management team and it was a different company. At the time it was Entercom now Audacy. It was a completely different group from CBS, even though my program director, Mitch Rosen, was the same. Was I surprised I got fired the next day? No. A couple close friends of mine asked me if I was trying to get fired. I think the answer is no.

I only had 18 months left to go. Even had that not happened, I wouldn’t be on the Score today. We had agreed to extend my deal 18 months to coincide with the conclusion of this past year’s Super Bowl. I wouldn’t be doing afternoons now anyway, even if that didn’t happen. And to a large degree that softened the blow for me that I only had 18, 19 months until the finish line.

I hated to see it end the way it did because I’m not a misogynist. I contend to this day, it wasn’t a sexist tweet. It was a wardrobe critique that was harsh. I’d have said the same f—king thing about Kyle Brandt if he showed up for Good Morning Football wearing shorts and a sleeveless tank top; I’d ask when he’s going to work for the Thunder Down Under in Vegas. But it was directed at Maria. If I really hurt her, I feel terrible.

I’m not a bully. I abhor social media bullying. When you look at teen suicide as a result of that, it’s startling. But she is not a high school cheerleader. She was on Monday Night goddamn Football. That’s a high profile position. I live in a world where wardrobe is part of the critique of visual media. That’s never going to change for me. But your question was, was I surprised? No, because that’s where we are in this era.

BN: If I was in your position, I’d feel like, ‘It was wrong, it was stupid. Fine, but can we not blow things out of proportion?’ But if you say that, it doesn’t land well; you know how it goes. How do you balance those two things together?

DM: Yeah, I hid basically for six months after it happened. It’s remarkable how I stayed off of reading stories; I checked my newsfeed of things that I usually read. You know how they always pop up on your phone. I’m seeing on SI.com, ‘Chicago yacker fired for misogynistic tweet’. Every paper in the country is using that as a tease to get people to look at their products. I’m like, I can’t f—king believe this.

I’m on Inside Edition with Deborah Norville who I’ve loved since the ‘80s when she used to be at Channel 5 in Chicago. But I didn’t open them. I think I read social media for maybe three hours after I tweeted and I said this is a battle I’m going to lose, and I’m probably going to lose it tomorrow. I don’t want to open a thing because I know myself and I’ll be tempted to reply and just dig a bigger f—king hole and I don’t want to do that.

BN: Spinning it forward, do you ever experience, ‘Oh, you’re the guy who sent that tweet?’ And you’ve done all this other work. How do you distance yourself from the tweet while owning it at the same time?

DM: Yeah, that’s a good question. It’s like Mark Giangreco at Channel 7 who gets fired over a joke he made about Cheryl Burton. And all the Emmys that are on the shelf above his fireplace, all out the window. That’s how he’s going to be remembered. Yeah, that’s frustrating, but there’s nothing I can do to change perception. Early on in your career you’ve got to accept that because you’re going to be tagged as the guy who did this or did that regardless.

Thom Brennaman was a very versatile broadcaster, very good voice, both baseball and football. And everyone’s gonna remember him for when he thought he was off the air. That gets out and it’s like, that’s how he’s always going to be remembered. That’s the way it goes. My listeners, especially those who were on board early on, know who the f—k I am and what my values are. And like I said, I can’t change those who want to look at me only as what I did to get fired. I can’t change that.

BN: What is it about your relationship with BetRivers that excites you most?

DM: It’s football and it’s unsupervised. It’s just me, which I historically have not enjoyed. I always preferred having a partner. It’s more natural. It’s more fun when it’s interactive and two guys play ping-pong. It can be real magic as it was with most of my partners. I’m trying to get used to just standing on my feet for 35 minutes and flapping my gums about football. I’ve done four or five of them and remarkably I have found it to be incredibly exhilarating without the partner.

I love football and that’s going to be a super high percentage of my content. God, I don’t see it changing between now and the end of the Super Bowl. I’m talking football. I don’t have any pressure from business partnerships at radio stations, ‘Hey, calm this down,’ or, ‘Tone that down a little bit.’ Not that that happened often, but it’s present. I don’t have to weigh every thought like these poor slobs have to do on terrestrial today. I can just lay it all out there. I’m not gonna say f—k for effect, but if I want to talk about the Bears going one and f—king 13 on third down, that’s what I’ll say.

BN: [Laughs] Have you been into sports gambling for a long time?

DM: First Super Bowl I bet on was Super Bowl III. I was nine. [Laughs] I took the Colts laying 18.5 and the Jets won straight up. I should have known then. No, but I started wagering on sports more seriously, probably as I started to earn a little bit of money in the ‘90s. It’s taken a long time to learn how to get better at it, but I think the last five years I have figured out some things that have led to winning seasons finally. Not colossally huge seasons, but I’m winning more than I’m losing. 

The biggest reason is betting fewer games. And laying off parlays, not chasing, not looking at money earned as free money. That’s the biggest mistake guys make. You hit two games at noon, okay now it’s time for the afternoon tilts. I didn’t like Denver before, but I like them now. No, no, no, keep the money in the pocket, so that’s helped.

BN: BetRivers has signed some major talent: you, [Mike] Francesa, Mark Schlereth. Is there a sports radio host that’s really appealed to you over the years where you’re like, man, that person knows what they’re doing?

DM: The partner I would love to work with most and it just wouldn’t happen — that ship has sailed, I’ll never do terrestrial likely again other than this thing I’m doing now for WJOB, my hometown station in Hammond — but it’s Boomer Esiason. I would love to be in Gio’s shoes or Carton’s shoes before he went to the stripy hole for shit he got involved in.

That’s a great number two chair because football matters a ton to him and he loves the Rangers and he speaks hockey. When he’s talking baseball or basketball, he does it on a very cursory level, which for me is the only way to talk about it without going crazy. And he’s a regular dude. He was also born in 1961 and all the coolest people who walk the face of the earth were born in 1961. So Boomer would’ve been a great partner.

BN: Who would you say has either been your favorite partner, or the most talented partner you’ve worked with?

DM: Terry Boers at the Score between ’92 and ‘99 was a very good partner. I think where he was strong I was weak and vice versa. He also was very content to be the number two. That helps when you have a guy who’s the second or third option not trying to run everything.

Danny Parkins is a very, very talented guy and he’s very, very close to becoming a great host. That was kind of a fun way to wrap it all up doing what I called a father-and-son vibe. There were 25 years between us and I had not heard that attempted anywhere. It’s kind of remarkable nobody tried it over these years because what you do is lock in every goddamn demo there is. I got the old guys. I got some guys in the middle. He’s got guys in the middle and the young guys.

BN: What do you think would cause Danny to go from good to great as the host?

DM: I knew you’d pick up on that. The more life experiences he has, and he has had some really trying ones over the last three years. His first son was born I think nine weeks prematurely and was in NICU for a number of weeks. His brother has glioblastoma and has been fighting for his life for a couple years. His father isn’t in great shape.

Those life experiences and his willingness to talk about them when he has the courage to do that, stand in front of that microphone, it’s making him more relatable. It’s making him much more appealing to the everyday motherf—kers who might have just seen him as another silver spoon from the North Shore years ago. His life, until he started experiencing real life shit, was one of leisure. And I think Danny could take more of an interest in the history of sports before he started watching them. As he experiences more, hopefully he will, because many sports talk consumers enjoy reflecting on the ups and downs of their lives as fans.

BN: What would be ideal for you in terms of your future?

DM: Winning the Powerball.

BN: [Laughs] Yeah. If the Powerball doesn’t have your numbers, what do you want it to look like?

DM: You know what, Brian, you learn at some point not to obsess about the destination. It took me forever to get there. The podcasting thing is fun. If it grows into something really big, terrific. I really don’t want to commit any more than a few days a week doing it. Would I love Sirius XM to say hey, we love you, we want to hear you get wild, you want to do Sunday nights and do NFL? If the money is right, yeah, that would be a lot of fun too.

But just trying to enjoy it week by week. The little terrestrial thing I do on Fridays for my hometown station, I’m enjoying the shit out of it. It pays a little bit better than I expected it to and most would’ve expected it to. I have a great crew. That’s been fun. If that show were on every day in Chicago, until I got sick of it and didn’t show up, it would be one of the best shows in the market. [Laughs] But I’ve learned all things in moderation, including me.

BN: Is there one thing that you would like to do most going forward?

DM: I’ve got to finish the book I started a while back. I have been grinding away at this thing for several years and I had the perfect opportunity to do it when they fired me. But I needed some distance between that time and reliving so much of a career that was both very rewarding and satisfying, but also sometimes very upsetting.

I had my heart ripped out of my chest several times in this business by people who should’ve treated me better. When they broke up the original partnerships at the Score in ‘99, that sickened me because I should’ve been involved in those conversations and not just told what was happening. Then when ESPN fired me in ‘09, that kind of changed the way I looked at the industry for a long time. I’m sorry, I get a little [emotional].

I gotta finish that book. I’ve got a lot of stories to tell. Many of them I’ve told already, but there’s a lot of stuff I’ve left on the cutting room floor. This is kind of a no-holds-barred approach to my career, the people I’ve met in it, athletes, coaches and radio dorks, and also some of the challenges I’ve had in my life away from work.

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Meet The Bettors: Jeremy Stein, SportsGrid

“You know, when we first started SportsGrid, a lot of the opportunity that we’ve seen in the past year, are opportunities that we never would have dreamed about.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Meet the Bettors - Jeremy Stein

Remember when America was debating whether or not daily fantasy sports was a form of gambling? There was never much of a question for Jeremy Stein. He knew it was gambling, because he was playing all the time.

It’s hard to say whether or not he knew that his employer, Metamorphic Ventures, investing in one of these companies would lead him down a new career path. All he knew is that there was something to this business.

Stein was more than just kind of successful in the daily fantasy world. He became the first person to ever win a million-dollar prize twice in the same calendar year back in 2016. But that was in the early days. Soon, the DFS sites would become more popular, and the games would get a lot harder. 

Like many sharp players during that time, Stein leaned into data to set his lineups. It was something that he and his partner Lee Maione quickly recognized as an opportunity. If you had strong data and took it to a host that was entertaining, it would create a product every sports fan in the country might value.

And that is how SportsGrid was born.

Today, Stein is the company’s CEO. In our conversation, presented by Point to Point Marketing, we touch on the opportunities embracing FAST TV has created for the brand, what opportunities will arise from the growth of women’s sports, and so much more.

Demetri Ravanos: What is the hole that would exist in the market if SportsGrid went away tomorrow? What segment of bettors do you look at and say, “no one can serve them like we do”?

Jeremy Stein: That’s a really interesting question because, we had a few tailwinds at SportsGrid. The first was sports gambling, where the government flipped the switch and said, “go grow in ways that you never thought were imaginable,” right?           

The second tailwind that we have is connected TV. SportsGrid is on 95% of all connected TVs. We have over thirty different distribution partners throughout the United States. So, we have very considerable scale within our category, and what we kind of discovered very early on on TV is the bulk of content on connected TVs is playback. If you look at FAST channels, there’s probably 2000 or more of them at this point, a lot of them are single IP channels, meaning there’s been a very successful sitcom and that IP owner just has a 24/7 channel of that IP going.          

The real niche that we got early on is that we are the only live sports network on a lot of these platforms. So, while we do cater to gambling enthusiasts, if you will, we really have a viewership body that encompasses all sports fans. That’s part of how we have evolved over time, because we were able to pick up on that observation that our opportunity is just a little bit bigger than focusing on, you know, I’m not going to call it a narrow vertical, but sports betting in many respects is a little bit narrow. 

DR: It’s a niche vertical. I think all sports talk kind of is in that way. I was going to ask you about the appeal of FAST TV, but it seems like you laid it out perfectly there. So instead, let’s talk about the technology and future opportunities. I wonder if you look at what Roku has just done with Major League Baseball and think that opens up possibilities for SportsGrid that maybe you hadn’t considered before. 

JS: The simple answer to that is yes. You know, when we first started SportsGrid, a lot of the opportunity that we’ve seen in the past year, are opportunities that we never would have dreamed about. We have looked at live rights. We have looked at tier one live rights in the past year.           

It just goes back to the trend. Last year was the first year where homes that do not subscribe to cable outnumbered those that do. You know, now we don’t just have a term called cord cutters. We also have a term that’s called cord-nevers. I think that it is just the natural evolution of where the leagues are going to go.           

I mean, we just saw Netflix do a deal with the NFL. While I understand that that is not FAST. I do think that over time and, you know, this could be a decade in the future, but I do think that you will see, a lot more sports pop up on these platforms. 

DR: Yeah, I could totally see that, myself. What did Scott Ferrall bring to SportsGrid when he came in? Certainly name recognition, but what else, in a business sense, did he bring? 

JS: Scott is great and his show right now is sponsored by Bet MGM, and Bet MGM is a very important commercial partner for SportsGrid. Both sides are very happy with the way that that relationship is blossoming. So he’s very important in that respect.           

You know, SportsGrid is not just 18 hours of live video content on a daily basis. We’re 21 hours of live original audio. We have channel 159 on Sirius XM. And of course, Scott is by far and away our biggest talent in the audio category. He does have the Sirius XM audience. You know, he came from Howard Stern way back in the day. So, he’s a pretty dynamic talent, if you will, for SportsGrid. We’ve been very happy to leverage him in various ways. 

DR: Yeah. I sort of have a two-part question here, because doing what I do, when I go to SportsGrid.com, one of the first landing spots for me is industry news. How much do you think the average user of SportsGrid is interested in things like when states go legal, something like the pushback going on in Florida right now, and will that get to the Supreme Court from a media standpoint?           

I tell sports radio hosts all the time that people care far less about us than we think they do. What about in the gambling world? 

JS: News is a very big category, and obviously it’s broad, right? It’s not just general sports news. It is what is happening in the gambling industry. We are fortunate enough to have a lot of data on every show that we produce, and we have seen a lot of positive momentum uncovering specific industry news. So, a lot of what you actually see, on the web, for example, we believe that is largely a gap in the market based on our viewership.           

One thing you’re going to start to see on SportsGrid, you know, more and more is we launched a college transfer portal show. There is no major media outlet on broadcast television that is doing a dedicated show, relating specifically to the college transfer portal. It makes college football and college basketball year-round sports. We believe that that’s a big gap in the market. So, you’ll also see a lot of that content flowing through our website too, and not just on our website, but also a lot of our syndication partners like MSN.           

Everything we do here has a data driven focus. So if you’re seeing a lot of a specific vertical, there’s a reason for it. It’s largely because that’s what our viewers demand. 

DR: Interesting. So, from the standpoint of what is going on in the gambling industry, the idea of the Supreme Court taking up a case related to Florida is interesting because it is such a complicated issue there, as it involves the Indian Gaming Act. Do you think we’re going to see that go in front of the Supreme Court? 

JS: Look, I’m certainly not in a position to comment on a legal matter that, you know, I’m not really close to it, to be perfectly honest with you. But Florida is a very populous state, and that is, you know, another reason, to your point, why there is so much interest in it, right?           

I think it does speak to the fact that there is a real demand for sports wagering within the state of Florida. But look, the complexities and nuances behind all of the lobbying and a lot of the legal cases that are happening there are certainly beyond our scope. 

DR: Yeah. I was reading an article in the Miami Herald earlier this week that was talking about the effect Lionel Messi has had in betting markets around the world, because even if MLS isn’t on a country’s soccer radar, he certainly is. Can you think of any other athlete that has had that sort of effect on bettors or on his league, where he can get bettors to pay attention to something they usually would not? 

JS: I think the examples of that are probably few and far between. You know, soccer is one of the true international sports, and with that comes a very large betting market. I think it is certainly kind of unique in that sense, right? You’re not going to see that with an NBA player moving into the Chinese basketball league. You might see the media attention that kind of happens there. It’s certainly not going to drive the amount of betting handle that we have seen in soccer. 

DR: What about betting as the popularity of women’s sports and female athletes have increased? What has been the demand for content from you guys, whether it’s Caitlin Clark’s WNBA debut, the women’s NCAA tournament, or whatever it might be? 

JS: There’s a ton of demand. We’ve always had an interest in women’s sports. We’ve produced, in the past, shows for the WNBA. And I think that that demand is only going to continue to grow. Women’s sports, from an economic standpoint, is a huge area of growth. Alongside of that comes all of the viewership. So, we’re very excited, about women’s sports. You’ll absolutely see a lot more coverage from SportsGrid going forward. 

DR: So I want to wrap here just sort of with a follow up to that, because the way you guys think about creating content with providing that data to talented people that can command attention, as women’s sports grow in popularity, and it then becomes more and more of a part of what you do, do you foresee the people you have now, because they have the talent, being able to intelligently cover it or would you  have to go out and hire people more versed in and live in that world? 

JS: It’s a little bit of both. You know, you always want to find a talent that resonates with the audience. We’re pretty confident that we have a few of those in our stable. But of course, we will always look to bring in fresh faces. Yeah, it’s a really dynamic market, and it’s something that we are incredibly excited about. 

To learn more about Point-To-Point Marketing’s Podcast and Broadcast Audience Development Marketing strategies, contact Tim Bronsil at [email protected] or 513-702-5072.

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An Easy Way for Sports Radio Stations to Get Publicity for Their Talent and Brands

The truth is, we can do a much better job at our jobs with a little help from you.

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Stock photo of a person talking into a megaphone
Credit: Pexels.com

Having been in this role with Barrett Sports Media for almost six months, there is one thing that has really surprised me. I am shocked at how little we hear from some sports radio stations. There are some PDs and other executives out there who do a great job keeping us informed of any changes and one or two who send us information when they have something special going on, but the silence from the heavy majority of leaders in sports radio is shocking and confusing to me.

When I was running stations or sales teams, I would often say, “If we aren’t going to tell our story, who the heck else is going to do it for us?”

Well, in this case, we will do it for you if you let us know about it and it’s worthy of coverage. It’s like that other famous line in Jerry Maguire – “Help me, help you.”

Perhaps we just need to let you know what we are looking for. So, let me take this time and space to let you know and maybe we can work together more often moving forward.

Obviously, we will cover your major personnel changes. If you are adding someone to your team or giving someone a promotion for the hard work they have done, let us know about it. There are no stories we would like to tell more than ones about people in our industry advancing. We want to highlight those people and the stations and companies that are taking notice of what someone is doing and rewarding them for it.

Where are the rising stars? We profile many people in the industry and enjoy doing that so others can read about successful people and learn what it is that makes them stand out. This can be a weekday host, someone standing out during off-peak times or producers, digital or promotions staff. Let us know who is performing at a high level and perhaps we can feature them and tell their story so others can see who they are and the work they’ve done.

On the business side, I’d like to feature your top salespeople or sales leaders in one of my ‘Seller to Seller’ features. Let me know someone who is killing it out on the streets and let’s highlight their success. Personally, I’d love to write about some sellers who are fairly new to the industry but are really having success, whether that be a younger person hired or someone who had never been in the space before but has really caught on. Or who is your veteran seller who has done the best job of adapting to the new, digital world?

What is your station doing that is unique? There are a couple of stations, which you can probably figure out if you are paying attention, that are very good about sending us a quick note when they are doing something different or special. We may not always write a story about it, but several times we have, and we would not have known about it had the station management not given us a heads up.

I like to hear about the creative process, and I know other station managers appreciate learning what others are doing to creatively drive audience or revenue. Have someone in your building who is the creative brain behind many of your ideas? Let us know about them, let’s let everyone know about them.

We are here to cover the industry. It would be great if we could listen to all of your stations each and every day, but that would be impossible. Plus, you know what is about to happen so getting the information out to us beforehand can help us plan our coverage. The truth is, we can do a much better job at our jobs with a little help from you. I know everyone is busy but think about what it would mean to a staff member for someone to reach out and say, ‘Your boss told us about the great work you’ve been doing,’ or ‘We heard about the great idea you came up with, we want to tell the story about what you created.’

I’d also like to do more stories that relate to things you have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, stories that can be written that others may look at and learn something from, maybe get a tip on how to handle a particular situation or just get your thoughts on a particular media story. I plan to reach out to more of you to get your thoughts on things happening in our industry. You are the leaders who are there to take this format into the future, I want to know what you think, and I believe that is what our readers want as well.

When you take a step back and think about what we get to do for a living, that we all get to be in and around sports coverage in our communities, that’s pretty cool. Let’s work together to help advance the format by keeping people up to date on the great things going on in sports radio.

I am not hard to reach. My email is [email protected] and while I know several of you, the majority I do not know, but I’d like to. Reach out, let me know what’s happening at your station, send over a topic you want to hear what others might think about or let’s just connect and next time I’m looking for someone to give their thoughts and opinions, perhaps I can reach out to you as a thought leader in the space.

The invitation is there to get your station, your people and your successes highlighted. I don’t think I can make it more clear or easier. I hope you take advantage of it.

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The Best Thing I Heard Recently

I was flipping through SiriusXM last week and caught Mike Florio talking on Pro Football Talk Live about the NFL schedule release and the topic was whether or not it is fair for certain teams to have so many stand-alone games.

Florio’s point was that these games have “an extra layer of stress and strain.” Despite the Chiefs winning the Super Bowl last year with a prime-time heavy schedule, Florio used the Jets early season schedule as the best example of the league making it very tough on a team with quick turnarounds, international travel and several stand-alone games.

The segment really made you think. You can listen to the show by clicking here. Look for Episode 1956.

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In Case You Missed It

Last week, Andy Masur weighed in on what might happen to Inside the NBA now that it appears TNT will lose the NBA media rights. Andy says he is convinced the show only works on TNT and others have agreed saying networks like NBC probably wouldn’t allow the show to have as much freedom as TNT has.

About the current show, Masur wrote, “This show is the envy of all other studio shows. Other networks have tried to copy the formula but have failed. It’s really hard to duplicate what this show brings to the viewer.”

You can read Andy’s article by clicking here.

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One Mistake by a Sports Broadcaster Should Not Define Their Career

Look, it doesn’t mean that these broadcasters are horrible human beings.

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Photos of Glen Kuiper, Charissa Thompson and Thom Brennaman

We’ve seen numerous broadcasters lose, his/her job over the years because of slip ups, hot mics and misspeaks. Situations that could have been avoided but happened. Some of these cases are more prominent than others, due to the profile of the job lost and the nature of the words said by the sports broadcaster.

I bring this up because of the dubious anniversary that just passed. It was a year ago, that Glen Kuiper was fired by the Oakland A’s for the use of the “N-word” during the opening of a telecast. The A’s were in Kansas City and Kuiper spoke about his trip to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum with broadcast partner Dallas Braden during a pregame segment on NBC Sports California. Kuiper attempted to say, “We had a phenomenal day today, Negro League Museum and Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque,” but he mispronounced “negro,” in a way that sounded like a racial slur.

“A little bit earlier in the show, I said something that didn’t come out quite the way I wanted it to. I just wanted to apologize if it sounded different than I meant it to be said… I just wanted to apologize for that.” Kuiper said during the game.

After initially being suspended, Kuiper was let go May 22, 2023. This even after Negro League Museum President Bob Kendrick forgave him in a Tweet the night of the incident.

“I’m aware of the unfortunate slur made by Glen Kuiper. I welcomed Glen to the NLBM yesterday and know he was genuinely excited to be here,” Kendrick tweeted Saturday. “The word is painful and has no place in our society. And while I don’t pretend to know Glen’s heart, I do know that my heart is one of forgiveness. I hope all of you will find it in yourselves to do the same.”

Still teams don’t have a lot of choice but to suspend and/or fire the broadcaster in those cases. Slurs aren’t acceptable. Teams serve their entire fanbase, not just one specific race or gender. Offensive language about one is handled as offensive language about all. It’s a tough thing for teams to deal with for sure.

About 4 years ago, the Cincinnati Reds and their television flagship were put in a similar situation after an unfortunate on-air slip by broadcaster Thom Brennaman. The veteran announcer issued an on-air apology after he was caught uttering a gay slur on a mic he didn’t realize was on. Like with Kuiper, Brennaman was at first suspended and then fired. It also cost him his national job with Fox Sports.

Brennaman tried to grow from the experience and soon after he was pulled from the air, he heard from some folks in the LGBTQ+ community. From all over the country. Brennaman met with leaders of the community in Cincinnati. In one of those meetings, he encountered some who thought he was a fraud, just trying to get his job back. Brennaman was not. He has spent the last four years continuing to move forward.

He told me in 2022, “I don’t want the rest of my life or career to be defined by a lot of people as being a homophobe. That’s what I’ve tried to explain to my kids”. “There are going to be people and I’ve had a hard time coming to grips with this, because I know I am not a homophobe. I know I’m not. But I used a word that can put me in that category and some people are never going to let me out of that category. I wish they didn’t feel that way, and I know I’m not a homophobe, but you got to move on and keep doing the best you can, that’s all you can do.”

This is not a recent phenomenon either. Broadcasters in the 80’s, 90’s and into the 2000’s have also been let go for unsavory comments.

Many remember Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, who appeared as the ‘gambling expert’ on the early days of The NFL Today on CBS. He was let go in 1988 after making a racially insensitive comment to a reporter.

Steve Lyons, then of MLB on Fox was fired for a making a racially insensitive comment during Game 3 of the 2006 ALCS.

Danyelle Sargent dropped an F-bomb on national television after ESPNEWS experienced technical difficulties during her segment in 2006.

Emily Austen was a Fox Sports Reporter that was fired in 2016 for making insensitive remarks about Mexican, Jewish and Chinese people. She appeared on a Barstool sports podcast where she made the comments.

The list goes on and on.

Interestingly enough, Charissa Thompson wasn’t fired for admitting that she made up stories as part of her halftime reporting duties. She also appeared on a Barstool podcast and flippantly remarked how she did this early in her career. I know she didn’t insult a racial, religious or gender related group, but she certainly upset many in the industry. Especially those that cover the sidelines for various networks right now. Should ethics count the same as the other slip ups?

Some can get carried away when appearing on shows other than their own, like the example above with Austen and Thompson. There’s a callousness that pops up in the brain, saying, “this isn’t a network show, I can swear and be myself”. Dangerous thoughts to say the least. You are still representing your organization/network and yourself when appearing on these other shows and podcasts.  

Look, it doesn’t mean that these broadcasters are horrible human beings. Everybody makes a slip up. Broadcasters though are looked at in a different manner. They are the voices of our favorite sports and are supposed to be like a member of the family, right? We spend a lot of time with them during the season and feel like we get to know them.  So, it becomes that much more shocking when that person says something inappropriate.

The initial shock and awe of the situation causes many to rush to a certain judgement. There’s no getting around what was said, everybody heard it. Should a ‘slip up’ be a career death sentence though? I think that each should be taken into consideration separately. It also depends, to me, on the apology and what that broadcaster does to go beyond words to understand why the comments were hurtful.

I’m not sure what the correct answer is to all of this.

There are some that feel, instead of firing the broadcaster, suspend them and make them work to regain the trust of the team and network. They feel like there is a missed opportunity to maybe use these situations as an educational platform.

Broadcasters need to watch themselves much more closely these days. The second you say something incorrect, ridiculous or hurtful, it’s on social media. There is no escape. You are presumed guilty in the court of public opinion before you can even blink an eye.

In these moments, context and apology is everything. One slip up, mistake, misspeak or whatever you want to call them, is one too many. But, at the same time, long illustrious careers should not be defined by one incident.

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