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Brent Dougherty Had to Grind To Get To 104.5 The Zone

“I wondered how long it would take for people to kind of accept us…. We got immediate responses when we went on the air, and everybody seemed to like it.”

Derek Futterman

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He is often referred to as the “Mayor of Middle Tennessee Sports,” and for good reason. Brent Dougherty makes sure he is following all of the local teams closely, gauging the pulse of the city and discovering angles that will both inform and entertain an audience. Raised in Nashville, he grew up in an era where there were no professional sports teams in the city.

Yet the area had a sports culture, largely because of fandom towards the University of Tennessee Volunteers football team. Listening to John Ward deliver play-by-play on the radio enthralled and inspired Dougherty.

“I always wanted to be the voice of the Vols,” Dougherty said. “That’s what kind of got me started down the broadcast path.”

Dougherty attended the University of Tennessee as a communications major. What was apparent after he completed radio and TV internships was that radio would allow him to utilize and divulge his creative side. By the end of his time at the university, he knew it was the medium for him.

“I just fell in love with the creative outlet that radio provided that TV just didn’t,” Dougherty said. “Just for my personality type, radio made more sense. That’s the direction I headed and I just wanted to follow that dream.”

Upon his graduation in 1996, Dougherty started his career as a producer of The Sports Scene, a sports talk radio show on WLAC. Despite it being a news talk station, it had had previous success in other formats, helping to popularize the sports talk format in Middle Tennessee with the advent of an afternoon radio show featuring sportscaster Charlie McAlexander and avid fan Rick Baumgartner.

Joining what was a historic radio station was an exciting opportunity for Dougherty to get more professional exposure into the industry and the ability to observe how a broadcast outlet is operated from the inside. Simultaneously though, Dougherty was working at Blockbuster Video since his job at WLAC was for 20 hours per week, doing everything he could to make ends meet.

“I lived with five dudes in a house and just tried to absorb, tried to learn [and] tried to help the best I could,” Dougherty said. “It kind of let me see what the hosts were able to do on a day-in, day-out basis… The vision I had was to one day host a show if I could. I just did anything I could to kind of follow those open doors.”

In 1998, the sports landscape in Nashville changed forever with the addition of both the Nashville Predators and, shortly thereafter, the Tennessee Titans. Suddenly, the city was somewhat revitalized and infused with even more passion towards live sports.

“When the Predators came in, it completely gave downtown life,” Dougherty said. “Nobody would go downtown prior to the Predators, but that brought a lot of business. That brought a lot of restaurants [and] that brought a lot of people. Then the Titans came on top of that and it has just totally transformed what this city is.”

With the berth of professional sports in the city, Dougherty continued to work at WLAC and moved up at the station. By 2004, he was named its sports director. Although he was working in a managerial role, he made sure to continue to find time to go on the air by anchoring shows and reporting on the local sports teams. Moreover, he attained more repetitions on the air working with the Tennessee Radio Network and as a fill-in sports reporter for The House Foundation with Gerry House on The BIG 98 WSIX.

“I love it all and I love the teamwork aspect that radio provides for us to be able to help our clients grow their business,” Dougherty said. “Anybody and everybody in that building has a role in performing those duties, and so I loved, loved, loved working with people with different personality types.”

Dougherty entered the managerial role with previous experience working outside of roles based on the air. He worked as a marketing consultant at both Clear Channel Nashville and Citadel Knoxville, giving him flexibility when it was time to look elsewhere even though he had a non-compete clause.

“I left 1510 knowing that I had done all I could there – and I love those people and I appreciated the opportunity that they gave me – but I was looking for more,” he said. “I did a sports talk show on a news station, and I wanted to go where they were doing nothing but sports so 104.5 The Zone was the goal.”

For the remainder of the noncompete, Dougherty took a brief hiatus from radio. In this span, which happened to coincide with an economic recession, he found himself selling used cars, printers and doing play-by-play for high school football games in Fort Campbell, Kentucky on Oldies 1480 WHVO – anything he could to remain fiscally stable. At the same time, he was making an impact on the lives of others both at home and abroad.

“I did Fort Campbell High School football games and that was really special to me because the kids playing on the field oftentimes had parents that were deployed overseas,” Dougherty recalled. “I would get emails from parents all the time telling me how much they appreciated our broadcast. All I would do was try to tell the story of what was going on; to paint the picture in your head of what was happening on the field.”

In September 2008, Dougherty officially made the move to 104.5 The Zone working as a sports talk radio host. Early in his tenure at the station, he continued to sell used cars as he would host radio shows whenever slots freed up, usually closer to midnight, with Mickey Ryan. Eventually, Dougherty and Ryan started hosting a show together called The Overtime, giving them both air time on a mid-market station.

“You’d wake up [at] 5:00 the next morning, get the kids ready for school, go sell things and then go do it all again,” Dougherty said. “You just kind of have to put your time in, that’s for sure.”

While he was at 1510 WLAC, Dougherty conversed with Duncan Stewart, who he refers to as “the godfather of sports talk radio in Nashville.” Stewart was formerly an afternoon drive host and sports director at The BIG 98 WSIX.

In the end, they came up with an idea for a sports talk radio show which never came to fruition at WLAC. In essence, the show would resemble friends sitting at a sports bar talking about sports and other parts of their lives, akin to the way many alternate game telecasts are seeking to penetrate a new sector of live game commentary.

What followed at 104.5 The Zone was the creation of a unique on-air product with a distinctive sound of friends talking with listeners rather than talking at them.

“Friends don’t always get along. Friends don’t always agree and that’s fine,” Dougherty explained. “If we all agreed with each other about everything, it’d be a boring world. We hope that we’ve set up something where we can all be right and wrong from time to time and give each other crap and have fun with it.”

3HL has had various iterations since its launch in January 2010, initially starting with Dougherty, radio host Clay Travis and four-time NFL Pro Bowl safety Blaine Bishop. Eventually, Mickey Ryan joined the cast, along with sports broadcaster and reporter Dawn Davenport. Dougherty and Davenport remain on the show today and are joined by a third co-host in University of Tennessee basketball standout Ron Slay. Viewing himself as the “point guard” of the program, Dougherty sees a benefit in working with two other personalities rather than one to bring listeners compelling and engaging daily sports talk.

“I’m lobbing things up for Ron Slay to dunk. I’m trying to feed off his energy which is unmatched,” Dougherty said. “….Dawn Davenport is kind of the professional end of things for us. I try to lean on her to make sure we’re not going off the tracks.”

Being tasked with replacing Jim Rome’s nationally-syndicated show on the airwaves, a palpable level of pressure was placed upon Dougherty and his co-hosts. Especially on day one, there was a cognizance that the show concept had to work; it was a risk in trying to take over the afternoon slot from a bonafide national talent and, simultaneously, try to elevate its standing in the marketplace.

“Jim Rome is such a huge presence in this field,” Dougherty explained. “His listeners are so passionate and so loyal. I wondered how long it would take for people to kind of accept us…. We got immediate responses when we went on the air, and everybody seemed to like it. We all just kind of looked at each other after the first day and we were like, ‘I guess we can do this. Let’s go kick ass and have fun.’”

As he prepares for a show, Dougherty takes it upon himself to look at stories and think about which of his co-hosts on the show would be most apt to talk about them, emblematic of his previous role as a producer. His job today is to enhance what Davenport and Slay bring to the program, helping them find talking points of which they can bring strong perspectives and opinions. Similarly, Dougherty’s co-hosts try to position him for success, creating a symbiotic relationship that has helped to establish a working chemistry on the program.

“I love going into the room and just kind of feeding them and then feeding off of them,” Dougherty said. “I think that’s what’s worked well for us. We have such a good thing going right now.”

Despite being the flagship station of the Tennessee Titans and Nashville affiliate for the University of Tennessee Volunteers football team, Dougherty has not felt limited in terms of offering criticism. In fact during his time working with Program Director Paul Mason and other members of upper management, he has never once been told to refine his opinion, allowing him to share his genuine feelings towards situations surrounding the teams.

“We have complete freedom to go [in] any direction that we want, and I think that’s important in sports talk radio – being able to try new things,” Dougherty said. “It might not work – bits might not work – but try them and see what happens and if they don’t work, can it and try something else.”

104.5 The Zone has experienced success in the ratings, especially since the start of football season for both the Titans and Volunteers. In addition to the traditional Nielsen numbers though, the show also receives digital numbers from its live stream on 104.5 The Zone TV. Launched by digital producer Will Boling, the station’s sports talk shows and original programming are streamed live every day on Facebook, Twitch, Twitter and YouTube.

Additionally, the station makes its content available to consumers on-demand and also produces original podcasts. More people than ever are consuming radio digitally, according to Dougherty, engendering levels of engagement that make phone calls, to a degree, superfluous.

“We use [the] comments as phone calls sometimes as conversation generators to help us do what we do but also to include those guys that maybe can’t listen in the car but are watching at home or watching at work and have their headphones in to make them feel like they’re a part of what’s going on,” Dougherty said. “I think this medium is certainly headed down that direction and I’ve really, really enjoyed watching the growth of Zone TV as a supplement to what we do on the air.”

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Colorado Hiring Deion Sanders Will Be Constant Gift for College Football Media

“If Coach Prime achieves the same sort of success that he did with the Tigers, he will be far more than a curiosity. Sanders will be a disruptor.”

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Deion Sanders quickly made it clear why the University of Colorado chose him to be its next head football coach.

Coming off a weekend in which the four College Football Playoff teams were announced and all of the other bowl-eligible teams accepted their invitations, Colorado — which went 1-11 this past season — made news for hiring Sanders, the former NFL star who was phenomenally successful at Jackson State.

The media that covers college football and sports as a whole should be thrilled that the Buffaloes program decided to take a big leap for attention and notoriety. Sanders is a bold, risky hire. But he’s also been successful in virtually every venture he’s taken. “Primetime” had a Hall of Fame NFL career and also played Major League Baseball. And he’s a master at drawing attention to himself.

During his first meeting with his new team, Sanders made sure to mention that he has Louis Vuitton luggage to make the point that some of his Jackson State players are coming with him to Boulder — including his son, quarterback Shadeur Sanders. Nick Saban and Kirby Smart probably don’t cite luxury fashion when explaining to their players that they’ll have to compete for starting positions.

Coach Prime will not be boring to cover. (That self-appointed “Coach Prime” title, which was on his name plate at his introductory press conference, is a big clue there.) He never has been. This is a man who said during the 1989 NFL Draft, after being selected No. 5 overall by the Atlanta Falcons, that if the Detroit Lions had selected him at No. 3, he “would’ve asked for so much money, they’d have had to put me on layaway.”

Even if he doesn’t win as much as Colorado hopes, Sanders will pursue top talent — players who want to perform on a larger stage than the FCS-level Jackson State allows — and impact athletes will be attracted to him. He got the No. 1 recruit in the nation, cornerback and wide receiver Travis Hunter, to play for him. (Hunter is following his coach to Boulder.) Now that Sanders is at an FBS school in a Power 5 conference, more stars will surely come.

But if Coach Prime achieves the same sort of success that he did with the Tigers — going 27-5 in three seasons, including a 12-0 campaign in 2022 — he will be far more than a curiosity. Sanders will be a disruptor. And he’ll get the attention that such figures typically draw from media and fans. According to the Denver Post‘s Sean Keeler, at least 400 people attended what felt more like a celebration than a press conference.

Coach Prime wasn’t going to just win the press conference, which is what any school and fanbase want when a new coach is introduced.

If Colorado wanted someone to sit at a podium, and give platitudes like “We want to win the Pac-12 and get to the College Football Playoff,” “We’re going to build a program with young men you’ll be proud of,” or “It’s time to restore Colorado to the football glory we remember,” Sanders isn’t the guy for that.

“Do I look like a man that worries about anything? Did you see the way I walked in here? Did you see the swagger that was with me?” Sanders said during his introductory presser. “Worry? Baby, I am too blessed to be stressed. I have never been one for peer pressure. I put pressure on peers. I never wanted to worry, I make people worry. I don’t get down like that. I am too darn confident. That is my natural odor.”

To no surprise, Sanders announced his presence in Boulder with authority. He had cameras following him as he met with Colorado players for the first time. How many other coaches would have recorded what many would see as a private moment for posterity and post it online?

Sanders caused a stir by putting his players on notice. He warned them he was coming, telling them they’ll be pushed so hard they might quit. He told them to enter the transfer portal and go someplace else if they don’t like what he and his staff are going to do.

That candor, that brutal honesty surprised many fans and media when they saw it Monday morning. For some, that message might have felt too familiar. How many in media — or many other industries — have worried about their job status when a new boss takes over? What may have seemed secure days earlier is now uncertain.

But how do we know other coaches haven’t said something similar when taking over at a new job and addressing their team? We just hadn’t seen it before. But Sanders has been in the media. He knows social media. He understands controlling his own message and telling his story.

Sanders also knows what kind of value he brings to any venture he takes on. How many people would have left an NFL Network gig for Barstool Sports? But Sanders went to where his star would shine, where he was the main show, where he could be Deion Sanders. Maybe he’ll have to turn that down just a bit at Colorado. But athletic director Rick George knows who he hired.

Colorado could have made a safer choice, including previous head coaches Tom Herman, Bronco Mendenhall, or Gary Patterson. A top assistant from one of this year’s Playoff contenders — such as Georgia’s Todd Monken, USC’s Alex Grinch, Alabama’s Bill O’Brien, or Michigan’s Sherrone Moore — could also have been an option.

But what fun would that have been? What kind of tremor would Colorado have created in the college football news cycle? How much attention would a more conventional hire have received? Yes, Sanders has to recruit and win. However, if the objective was to make Colorado football a talking point again, that’s been accomplished.

There could be some friction too. Sanders has already been criticized for being a champion of HBCUs, only to bolt for a mainstream Power 5 program when the opportunity opened. (To be fair, other columnists have defended the move.)

At Jackson State, Sanders tried to control local media when he didn’t like how reporters were addressing him or covering a story. Last year during Southwestern Athletic Conference Media Day, he balked at a Clarion-Ledger reporter addressing him as “Deion,” not “Coach,” insisting that Nick Saban would’ve been shown that respect. Earlier this season, Sanders admonished a school broadcaster (and assistant athletic director) for speaking to him more formally on camera than he did off-camera.

Will that fly among Boulder and Denver media, or the national college football press? It’s difficult to imagine. Maybe Sanders will ease back on his efforts to control reporters within a larger university environment, metropolitan area, and media market. But we’re also talking about Deion Sanders here. He doesn’t bend to outside forces. He makes them bend to him.

Sanders’ stint in Boulder — whether it lasts the five years of his contract and beyond, or less than that — will not be dull. There could be no better gift for the media covering Colorado football. Or college football, a sport already full of bold personalities, eccentric to unhinged fanbases, and outsized expectations. Coach Prime will fit right in.

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BSM Writers

The Media Is Finally Strong Enough To Take On The Rose Bowl

“The whole Rose Bowl organization is stuck in a black and white TV world. The future playoff is Marty McFly stepping out of a Delorean and the Rose Bowl is the Enchantment Under the Seas Dance.”

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I am a sucker for packaging. Take me to a grocery store and show me a uniquely packaged sauce or condiment or waffle syrup and I’ll give it a try just based on bottle size or design. The one packaging ploy that has vexed me is the “biggie size” at the local drive through. I’m always interested in the largest drink possible but don’t necessarily want a grain silo full of fries passed through my window. The College Football Playoff is going “biggie sized” in 2024 and I’ll take all of that I can get.

The College Football Playoff Committee made official last week what had long been speculated, that the four-team playoff field would increase to 12 teams starting with the 2024 season. This was an inevitable move for money and access reasons. The power conferences and Notre Dame stand to gain significantly in TV revenue and the “non-power” conferences finally get the consistent access they have long craved.

What may have finally pushed the new playoff over the finish line was the end of an ultimate game of chicken between college football powers and the Rose Bowl.

There is a scene from the movie The Hunt for Red October when the rogue Russian nuclear submarine is trying to avoid a torpedo from another Russian submarine. The American captain, aptly played by Scott Glenn, tells Jack Ryan; “The hard part about playing chicken is knowing when to flinch.”

The Rose Bowl finally flinched.

The only thing that delayed an earlier move to this new world was the insistence of the Rose Bowl Game to cling to the bygone era of the antiquated bowl system. Only in college football could an organization that runs a parade hold such outsized influence but, until recently, the Big Ten and PAC 12 gladly enabled their addiction to a specific television time slot.

Dan Wetzel is a Yahoo! Sports National Columnist, he also wrote the book Death to the BCS which laid out a very early argument for dumping the bowl system for a Playoff.

“The single hardest thing to explain to people is that the Rose Bowl and its obsession of having the sunset in the third quarter of its game was a serious impediment to a billion dollar playoff,” Wetzel wrote. 

Wetzel makes the point that simply moving the game up one hour would’ve helped the playoff TV schedule immensely, “They were adamant that they get to have an exclusive window on New Year’s Day, the best time of all, not only would they not give that up but they wouldn’t even move it an hour earlier (to help Playoff television scheduling) because then the sun would set at halftime.  It was so absurd but for a lot of years they got so much protection.”

We may never know what it was that finally forced the Rose Bowl to play ball with the rest of the college football world. There are many possibilities, not the least of which was the presence of SoFi Stadium just down the road. The College Football Playoff committee could have always taken the bold step of scheduling games at SoFi, in the Los Angeles market, opposite the Rose Bowl TV window to try to squeeze them out.

It is also possible the Rose Bowl scanned the landscape and realized that, if a 12-team playoff already existed, their 2023 game would’ve been Washington (10-2) versus Purdue (8-5). That shock of reality came with the understanding Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Utah and USC would enthusiastically choose a 12 team playoff bid over a Rose Bowl invite. That was the future the Rose Bowl faced with the departure of USC and UCLA to the Big Ten and the 12 team playoff gobbling up the top remaining PAC 12 teams.

I have proposed that theory to many people in the college football world and have received some version of this response from many of them: “They really wouldn’t care who is playing as long as they can still have their parade.”

That is one of the issues at play here; in many ways, the whole Rose Bowl organization is stuck in a black and white TV world. The future playoff is Marty McFly stepping out of a Delorean and the Rose Bowl is the Enchantment Under the Seas Dance.

One other possibility is that the television executives of the major networks, primarily FOX, may have put the pressure on the Big Ten and Pac 12 to have a little less interest in keeping college football stuck in the late 1970’s. It makes sense, FOX has nothing to gain by the Rose Bowl keeping influence. Fox may have everything to gain by getting a media rights cut of the future playoff. Many believe FOX was a driving force behind USC and UCLA bolting to the Big Ten. If that much is true, pressing for less Rose Bowl influence is child’s play.

No matter what was the catalyst to the expanded playoff, it worked and the fans benefited. College football is moving into a brave new world all because the college football powers finally stood up to the old man yelling at the clouds.

Turns out, it was all a game of chicken. And the Rose Bowl flinched.

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BSM Writers

Andrew Perloff Learned From The Master of Sports Radio on Television

“I think I’m really lucky because I went from a really fun and supportive place in the Dan Patrick Show and have now transitioned into what I would also call a very fun and supportive place at CBS Sports Radio/Audacy.”

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It’s a fact of life that not everybody loves their job. To have a job that you love and have fun at is pretty special. For Andrew Perloff, life is good.

“I’m just watching so much sports during the week,” said Perloff. “I don’t come up for air watching sports and I love that.  And the fact that we get paid to sit on the couch for 72 hours…oh my God…it really is the best job in the world.”

That job is being the co-host of Maggie & Perloff weekdays from 3pm to 6pm eastern time on CBS Sports Radio and simulcast on CBS Sports Network. Perloff was an on-air personality on The Dan Patrick Show beginning in 2009 before making the switch to CBS Sports Radio for the new show with Maggie Gray that launched this past January.

And so far, the move has worked out.

“I’m really happy,” said Perloff. “I think I’m really lucky because I went from a really fun and supportive place in the Dan Patrick Show and have now transitioned into what I would also call a very fun and supportive place at CBS Sports Radio/Audacy. I miss the DP Show but I love my new co-workers. (Vice President of Programming) Spike Eskin and (New York Market President) Chris Oliviero have been great. We get a lot of support and a lot of help from those guys and they’ve made the transition so much easier.”

When a new radio program begins, chemistry between the hosts is vital to the success of the growth and success of the show. In the case of Maggie & Perloff, they had an existing friendship from their time working together at Sports Illustrated. 

And that relationship is certainly evident to the listeners.

“I’m having a great time with Maggie,” said Perloff who was an editor and contributing writer at Sports Illustrated and SI.com. “We knew each other pretty well at Sports Illustrated. We’ve been friends for a while now. I have gotten to know her a lot better through the show. It took a couple of months to really find our rhythm and get the show to where we wanted to get it.”

There has been a fun and evolving dynamic to the on and off-air chemistry between the hosts.  Perloff is from Philadelphia and a die-hard Eagles fan while Gray is a fan of the Buffalo Bills.  The Eagles have the best record in the NFC at 11-1 while the Bills are among the best teams in the AFC at 9-3.

Perloff has come to understand just how much Gray loves the Bills and there is a chance that their two teams could meet come February 12th in Arizona for Super Bowl LVII.

“She’s a very passionate Buffalo Bills fan,” said Perloff.  “I always knew that, but to actually sit there on a daily basis and see her sweat out every detail about the Buffalo Bills has been a lot of fun.  We’re keeping our fingers crossed that we’re on a collision course for the Super Bowl and we’re already trying to figure out a Super Bowl bet.”

The easy wager to set up would involve food.

If the Bills win, Perloff would have to give Gray some Philly cheesesteaks.

If the Eagles win, Gray would have to furnish Perloff with some Buffalo Wings.

But it appears as if management wants there to be more at stake for the potential bet.

“Our boss wants us to do something more severe,” said Perloff. “The truth is I’m an Eagles fan so I’ve already won my Super Bowl. Maggie, on the other hand, has no idea what that feels like. I almost feel sorry for her because it’s tough being a Bills fan.

“We have a pretty big rivalry with our team because she’s a Mets fan and I’m a Phillies fan. We get along great expect for those areas.”

The Maggie & Perloff chemistry extends throughout the show and that includes producer Michael Samtur who has his own rooting interests.

Samtur is a fan of the New York Jets who are having a better-than-expected season.

“When the Jets win, I don’t want to see Mike on Monday mornings because he’s smiling so much,” said Perloff. “He’s an unbelievably cynical Jets fan…it’s hysterically funny.

“Mike is doing a great job. It’s really an all-hands-on deck show. I think we all sort of kind of wear each other’s hats at certain times.”

An added element to the show is that it is also simulcast on CBS Sports Network. If there’s one thing that Perloff learned from working with Dan Patrick — who also has a simulcast on television — is that the program is a radio show that just happens to have cameras in the studio. At the end of the day, it’s a radio show on television and not a television show on the radio.

“That’s also my philosophy,” said Perloff. “From a logistical standpoint, to do a good radio show you can’t really focus on the TV side of it. For us, the foundation of the base is to really focus on the radio show and the TV and video comes naturally after that.”

Perloff’s resume also includes writing and co-writing an assortment of magazine stories, books, and television shows while also hosting his own weekend show on NBC Sports Radio from 2016 to 2019. But it was working on The Dan Patrick Show where he learned an important aspect of being a talk show host that he continues to live by at CBS Sports Radio.

What he learned was that you just have to be yourself.

“Dan always wanted us to be authentic in the sense that don’t try to be someone you’re not,” said Perloff. “Don’t try to come up with hot takes just for the sake of hot takes. When you listen to Dan Patrick on the radio, you’re really hearing Dan. He’s not a radically different person off air.”

This is a huge time of the year for sports radio. 

The NFL’s regular season is winding down and college football is heading towards bowl season and the College Football Playoff. Throw in the NBA, college basketball, NHL, and the World Cup and there’s so much going on in the sports world to talk about. 

Perloff can’t get enough of it.

“I love it so much,” said Perloff. “College football is just huge right now. When we bring up a college football story, the phone lines just light up which I think is a reflection of the growing interest in that sport. This is the best time of the year. It’s incredible.”

As Maggie & Perloff head towards their first anniversary on the air, there are goals and expectations heading into 2023. The show has grown tremendously over the course of the first year and while that may have occurred faster than expected, the hope is that the trend continues.

“I’ve been a little surprised by how fast the audience has grown and our connection with the audience,” said Perloff. “One of the great things about The Dan Patrick Show was the community feel with the show and all of the listeners. That’s definitely growing with us and I’d like to see that really take off next year. It makes it so much more fun when you’re doing the show and everybody is along for the ride.”

It’s been a great ride so far and it should be interesting to see what happens if that ride includes an Andrew Perloff vs Maggie Gray Super Bowl matchup in February. It’s not even because the breakdown of Eagles vs Bills would be fascinating but the audience wants more.

That Super Bowl bet would certainly be intriguing.   

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