When there is a problem, you can either sit on the sideline or get involved. Similar to his NFL career, Boston radio host Christian Fauria is not only on the field, the guy is in the trenches battling to find a solution. When his eldest son was diagnosed with diabetes in 2019, Fauria went to work. He put together 25 for 25K. The goal was to raise at least $25,000 to benefit the American Diabetes Association by broadcasting live for 25 hours straight on WEEI.
Fauria’s latest radiothon occurred last week on Nov. 16 and 17. He was able to generate over $250,000 this year. Not only has Fauria been able to multiply his original goal of 25K tenfold, the former NFL tight end has ambitious goals to multiply the latest amount as well. Again, you can either let a problem continue, or you can push and push to help things get better.
In addition to his son, Fauria shares a great story of why he ultimately decided to get involved. He also talks about a silver lining related to diabetes and the origin of doneski. (If you don’t laugh, something is wrong.) Fauria also talks about his drive-time radio show with Lou Merloni and Meghan Ottolini, as well as how not caring has improved his sports radio career. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: Broadcasting for 25 hours straight. How do you feel going into it and also when it’s over?
Christian Fauria: I’ll tell you going into it, I just treat it as a normal day. There is no way to prep for it. The key is just to keep the energy up. Part of that is making sure that you have good guests on, especially late in the night. People who I think are interesting to talk to, topics that I think are fun, stuff that’s different than your normal football or sports topics. That’s what I try to incorporate into the 25 hours because if I have a lag in topics, then that’s when I tend to get disinterested. Listen, I get disinterested in terrible topics on a normal day, but when I’m sleepless it’s even worse. I protect myself that way.
Post-show is always a problem because I always feel worse than I think. It always takes me an irritatingly long time to overcome from it. Last year, I actually did 28 hours. I got sick, I lost my voice, I didn’t recover for almost two weeks. This time, I said okay, I’m going to do things differently during the show, so that my recovery post-show will be a little bit better. I didn’t eat a bunch of crap like I usually did. I drank a ton of water. When it was over, my voice was kind of dead, but it wasn’t totally gone. I was able to keep up with that. Then when I got home, I fell asleep right away. My wife tweeted out a picture of myself literally passed out on the couch. My kids were complaining about how they heard me snoring from downstairs. People were hearing me snoring upstairs. I was 1,000% comatose afterwards.
BN: It’s kind of like a marathon in a way. If you were pushing your limits even more, what’s the most amount of radio hours you think you could do before just hitting the floor?
CF: Well, I think last year 28 was a lot. It was too much. The first year I did it, it was 25 hours, so at 3 o’clock I left. Last year when I did it, it was a little bit different. It wasn’t really handled the right way. I really ended up going from 2pm on a Wednesday afternoon to 6pm Thursday. That’s just with two people. It was a disaster. I shouldn’t have done it, but I didn’t have any choice.
Again, the most important thing is keeping the energy level up. I think that’s the biggest thing I forget about that affects me. Keeping your energy high, being engaged, staying focused, driving the show by yourself from 10pm till 6am is a lot of work, man. You’re just fried. When I left the other day, I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I didn’t want to speak to anybody. I just wanted to get the hell out of there because I was just so tired. Sleep deprivation will do that to you.
BN: Oh, I totally believe you, man. I want to try it as an experiment. I would love to know how that feels.
CF: It felt like shit. How ‘bout that?
BN: [Laughs] I can imagine. How has diabetes affected your family personally?
CF: If you live with a kid or somebody with diabetes, it’s not like cancer where somebody’s in the hospital all the time. I feel like it’s different. With diabetes, we’re just constantly talking about it. How are your numbers? How do you feel? When you’re going out to eat or if you’re making dinner, I think we are all conscious of what we’re making.
Do I want to make it easy on my son? If I want to make it easy on my son, I cook a lot of protein. There’s lots of broccoli, so a real healthy meal. Dessert is something clean or something that he can eat where he can manage it easily. The pastas and the pizzas are a lot harder to manage, and to recover from as opposed to chicken and broccoli and steak. Staying away from a lot of complex carbs, sugars, all those things. It definitely affects us. But again, it’s no big deal, we just deal with it, we move on.
BN: What’s something important that you’ve learned about diabetes that you didn’t know before your son was diagnosed with it?
CF: I think what I’ve learned is just what I feel is like an unbelievable burden, and a sense of responsibility and discipline that comes with being a diabetic. You always have to be aware of what’s going on with your body. Always. When you wake up, before you go to bed, during a workout, it really is a constant battle to stay ahead of the numbers or to make sure that they’re at a safe zone. I think the kids especially who deal with it, I’ve learned are just so much more mature than other kids because they are single-handedly responsible for keeping themselves alive. I think there’s a sense of maturity and responsibility that the other kids have no idea about.
BN: Even though it’s a lot to deal with, do you think in some ways there’s a silver lining where it does mature some younger kids and prepare them for adult decisions later in life?
CF: Absolutely. For every negative thing, there’s always some sort of bright side I think that you can take from it, whether you’d like to admit it or not. There’s always some sort of good news that you can take away from it. I do think that is an obvious effect of that, is you’re just forced to be an adult. Even going out drinking, it just forces you to be a lot more responsible and careful with your decisions. It doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time, you just need to be real mindful of how things affect you and affect your body, which undoubtedly affect your mood. Not that I want anyone to have it or learn the hard way, but if you’re asking me the benefits of it, that would be a shrapnel effect.
BN: I saw a video where you were talking about one of the reasons that you decided to get involved with this charity work was a couple arguing in line when the guy needed insulin and couldn’t afford it. Can you tell me about that?
CF: Yeah, it’s a true story. It’s still to me ultimately the most impactful aspect of this event. I was just in line, my son was upstairs. The doctor gave him a bunch of prescriptions. I went in line at Mass General and it was packed. This couple was in front of me. They were bickering back and forth about the cost of insulin. The guy said that he can’t afford it. The girl was pleading with him to stay in line and at least just ask the pharmacist. He was basically irritatingly responding to her like I’ve done this before, I know what’s going to happen.
She kept pleading and he kept getting irritated with her because it’s almost like she didn’t get it. She kept saying you’ll die if you don’t get it, and he said, well, what do you want me to do? So they just left the line and actually exited the hospital. I went after them and gave him my prescriptions. I think everything was for free. I was completely covered with my insulin, with all the devices that he needs for it.
I just thought wow, what a disparity. What a major issue because what if someone just can’t afford their insulin? You wouldn’t think that would be the case. I have this disease, it’s not going away. The only way I can keep myself alive is to take insulin, and the only way to get it is with money. If you don’t have insurance, how do you pay for it?
I think that was the thing that hit me the most, that really made me do something about it. It still is the main story that I tell that most people go, wow. That happens more than you think. I think that’s the reality of it; some people will ration their insulin. They will take old insulin. That is very dangerous. They will just change their entire diet. They will take insulin from a different country.
The challenges are severe, and more severe than I think that people want to admit. Especially during times where bacon is a lot of dollars and gas is through the roof, you just really need to make a financial decision based on your entire life, and insulin can’t be one of them. One of the things you shouldn’t have to worry about is insulin. You just shouldn’t have to worry about it. You should wake up in the morning knowing that you’re going to have plenty of it and it will be readily available for you, and you won’t have to barter or bargain or plead to have it. That’s what bugs me.
BN: What is your ultimate goal for this event to turn into?
CF: My goal is to have it be a national event. I left this event saying to myself this is a million dollar yearly event all day long. It just is. We’ll reach that. Not only do I think it’s a local, regional event, I also think it has national implications. I don’t know why this philosophy cannot be copied and duplicated in other cities, especially WEEI that has a foothold, and these bigger cities that have sports shows or radio shows. If we can somehow implement this whole plan on a yearly basis, we should be able to do $5 million a year if we have the same support here at Boston that we could get in other cities.
I’d want the same event going on in New York City, in Philadelphia, in Miami, in Chicago, in Dallas, in Denver, in Los Angeles, in Seattle. I want to hit those markets. I feel like there’s a real opportunity to simulcast this event on a yearly basis. Each city has its own Christian Fauria that is doing the 25 hours. It doesn’t have to be Christian Fauria, it can be Christine Fauria; it doesn’t matter who you are. You just have to have the personality and the desire to do it. Then the sponsorships and the support will come.
BN: That’s cool, man. I saw two t-shirts online; you were wearing Doneski and Lou was wearing Just Suck A Little. What’s the backstory with those shirts?
CF: The second year we did it, we partnered up with a t-shirt company. One of the things that I’m known for saying is doneski. It’s in reference to Zdeno Chara getting hurt years ago in a playoff game. I had said through my inside sources that he was doneski for the playoffs. It ended up backfiring on me, but everyone still says it. So we made Doneski shirts.
For Lou, whenever he was referencing the Red Sox when they were having a rough stretch, he would say just suck a little and you’ll be fine. Instead of being really crappy, if you just sucked a little. That’s where those came from. We stopped making those shirts because I think Lou didn’t want to wear his anymore. Kids were wearing them to parties and trying to give the wrong message to girls.
BN: [Laughs] I got it, man.
CF: Yeah, we stopped doing that one. Out of context was kind of the problem there.
BN: Yeah, that’s what I think about my Zach Wilson bet on Sunday. If he just sucked a little against the Patriots, maybe I had a chance to hit the over on his passing yards, you know?
CF: I know. Everyone should use that in life. If you just suck a little, you’ll be fine. You don’t have to be perfect; just don’t be a total disaster.
BN: As an NFL player, you learned by observing. Not everything is taught. You do the same thing in radio. What’s something from Merloni that you’ve learned just by observing what he does?
CF: Well, I would say most people learn by failing, not by succeeding. To me, I feel like even in football and in life, you can learn by failing. I have learned absolutely nothing from Lou. He has taught me nothing. He is just some bow-legged kid from Framingham that just got lucky with baseball skills, and suddenly got drafted to play for the Red Sox, and he was best friends with Nomar Garciaparra. [Laughs]
BN: [Laughs] Okay, so you’re more of a trial-and-error guy, what’s something that you’ve learned through error in radio that has helped you become better?
CF: Oh, my gosh. Geez, where do I start? The most important thing I’ve learned, if I was to teach a class, I would say first of all, you have to know what you’re talking about. That’s the first thing. You gotta have the knowledge. You have to put the work in to know what you’re talking about because nothing’s worse than getting pantsed on live radio or on live TV. Some caller calls up and says blah, blah, blah, and you go, oh crap, I missed that part. I think that’s the first aspect.
Two, which I think is actually more important, is your personality. I just feel like if you’re just who you are, and you don’t try to be somebody else, and you back it up with knowledge, I think you will perform. I think personality is honestly the most important thing. You become stronger if you have the knowledge of what you’re talking about. Even if you mess up, your personality just backs it up. It’s like, well, you know, I was wrong, my bad. I know at the beginning of my career, I was really trying to be somebody who I wasn’t and I was real conscious of just trying to please everybody. When I stopped giving a shit is when I started doing a better job.
BN: Wow, that’s such a good quote, man. It’s like the Howard Stern thing from the movie Private Parts. That’s really when he started to become a legend was when he just stopped caring and stopped trying to be the perfect version.
CF: Yeah, I think that’s true. I’ve put my foot in my mouth multiple times. I’ve had a lot of embarrassing moments. My whole thing is if you’re worried about what people say, then you actually care too much about their opinion. That’s the other aspect; I just don’t care. I don’t think you can in radio because we are constantly being chirped out. We are constantly being yelled at. People are constantly making fun of us and nasty stuff. Real nasty, like nothing pleasant. You wouldn’t want your mom reading those things. A lot of people when they first get into radio, I don’t think they’re really aware of how mean and nasty people can be. I just never take it personal. I just look at it, I mute that person and I go about my day.
BN: When you think about the people that have helped you along the way, who are some of the people that have helped you become better?
CF: I would say my biggest asset is my wife to be honest with you. I would easily say she’s my biggest asset as far as her criticism, her praise, her support and her 30,000-foot view advice when it comes to everything. She listens. She gives her advice. I’m very stubborn; sometimes I don’t want to listen to it, but she’s been my greatest asset like hands down. Hands down my greatest asset.
Lou and Glenn [Ordway] were both in the business before me and of both those guys have been great. I would say even Joe Zarbano. I would say it would be my wife and then Joe Zarbano who was my producer, then was my program director, now works at Encore. He and I used to spend a lot of time just talking over things, be yourself, how many times I say you know, like, those types of things. That would be it.
Listen, if you like the guys you work with, they’re going to support you on a daily basis just by being there. But I never sat down with Glenn and Glenn said, okay, when you do this, you have to talk like that. No, Glenn’s advice was always be yourself. Lou’s advice was just be yourself. The philosophy is really simple; if you can just be yourself — knowledge, personality, success. That’s the way it works.
BN: What does Mego bring to the show since she joined you guys?
CF: She’s brought a lot. I’m a big trust guy. If I don’t trust you, I’m not opening up to you. I’m not interacting with you. It just doesn’t work for me. I was apprehensive at first because I just didn’t really know anything about her. We had worked with her once a day for I don’t know, maybe a season. But I will easily say she’s the best addition to that entire station in the last five years. Easily.
BN: It’s a silly thought, but you know those corporate events that have the trust fall? It’s a big thing in radio too; you have to trust the people around you. That’s such a great point, I never thought of it like that.
CF: I just feel like radio is more personal. We’re talking about our personal lives. We’re teasing each other a lot. My wife will tell you I’m very sensitive and I’m very needy with a lot of things. If I’m teasing you, it’s usually a sign that I like you. An even better sign, if you’re willing to tease me back. I feel like that’s trust. Listen, my teasing is not coming from a real angry, aggressive position. My teasing is based on love and respect. Like with Lou, it was easy with Lou right away. I can rip Lou for anything and he knows I love him and I think he’s great. And vice versa. The goal is we just want to have a good show. So even if I’m yelling my brains out at Lou and in the moment I’m pissed off, when the light goes off, he and I are good.
I feel like with Mego, it’s been a process with her. I feel like the more we go, the more comfortable she gets with introducing topics. Hey, I’ll do this segment. Knowing when to jump in, knowing when to tell us to shut up. She’s one of us. She fits in great with us. She just gets it. I think anyone who’s in radio will understand what that means.
BN: Oh, absolutely. No doubt. When you look to the future, in your broadcasting career or life in general, say over the next five years, what do you want it to look like?
CF: Well, I do have some big personal goals. I don’t know if I want to share those, but I do know that being in radio is great. I love it. Having one of the best shows in the city is a goal, and it will always be a goal. I think we’re starting to reel those guys in across the street. I feel like there should be some inherent fear that things have changed. We’re not your grandpa’s station anymore, they are. That’s my personal opinion. Do I still want to do TV? Of course. Do I still want to do all the things I’m doing? Absolutely. But I’m dug in for the long haul when it comes to making the show one of the best in the nation.
Julian Edelman Has Been FOX’s NFL Breakout Star
Edelman has an easy-going and free-wheeling nature about him. He’s a joy to watch, and he seldom wastes airtime with cliches and empty comments.
He was a key member of the NFL’s last true dynasty, a children’s book author, a regular talking head on NFL Network’s America’s Game anthology, an actor in the film 80 for Brady, and a multimedia favorite. And oh yeah, he is third all-time in the NFL for postseason receptions and was the MVP of Super Bowl LIII. He is Julian Edelman.
These days he answers to a new calling – a rising star on FOX’s excellent NFL commentator roster. Edelman, who retired in 2020 after 12 seasons as a wide receiver with the New England Patriots, has logged impressive recent stints on FS1’s The Herd with Colin Cowherd.
Edelman has been an unexpected jewel in FOX’s football crown, providing behind-the-scenes, players-only insight in a casual and humorous style. On a recent edition of The Herd, Edelman’s talent was on full display.
In a discussion about Patriots’ signal caller Mac Jones, Cowherd implied that it would have been easier for the Alabama QB if he had gone to a less intense environment with an offensive-minded head coach.
Edelman countered by referencing Josh Dobbs, who played great in his first start for the Vikings after being with the team for just a couple of days. Edelman stated, “If you’re a guy, you’re a guy,” meaning that good players adapt to any situation. He added, “This is the National Football League. If you don’t win, the quarterback and the head coach get the blame. This is a production business.”
One of the refreshing aspects of Edelman’s TV game is his candor. He was deeply rooted in the Patriot Way and benefitted from all it offered him, but he pulls no punches in talking about his former team.
He does not buy into the excuse that Mac Jones has had three different offensive coordinators in his three NFL seasons. Edelman stated that ex-Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels’ and current OC Bill O’Brien’s offensive schemes are essentially identical.
Edelman has an easy-going and free-wheeling nature about him. He’s a joy to watch, and he seldom wastes airtime with cliches and empty comments. He uses his strong connections to Tom Brady and other members of the NFL’s glitterati to his advantage, but he is not violating these friendships with kiss-and-tell BS.
In his young broadcasting career, Edelman has also embraced a rare quality among media personalities, namely, the courage to admit when he is wrong. He recently stated that he thought Texans’ quarterback CJ Stroud was going to be just another failed Ohio State quarterback joining the likes of Cardale Jones, Terrell Pryor, Troy Smith, and the late Dwayne Haskins.
Julian Edelman acknowledged his error and lauded Stroud for his performance and the Houston offensive staff for keeping it simple and allowing Stroud to flourish. He then made an accurate comparison between Stroud and Dak Prescott who had a similarly amazing rookie season in 2016. He also revealed that he and Tom Brady would sit and watch Prescott play during that season and marveled at his performance.
Such neat revelations have become commonplace for Edelman who also told Cowherd that Bill Belichick had different rules for different players. This goes against the accepted theory that Belichick coached all his players the same.
When asked about good and bad locker rooms, Edelman revealed that the 2009 Patriots had some “a-holes” on the team, “guys who had a lot of money and acted like they had a lot of money.”
He also regaled Cowherd with a funny story about former teammate and current ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi. During his rookie season, Edelman made repeated contact with Bruschi during a team drill. After the play, Bruschi got in Edelman’s face and said, “If you ever touch me again, I’ll cut your arm off, Rook!”
In a subsequent discussion, Edelman was asked about how NFL players view Thursday night games. He said that the goal for players is to just get through the game and try to get the win. He called having a Thursday night game a “baby bye week” because of the extra prep time gained for the next week. Baby bye week – new lingo from a new age analyst.
Speaking of language, Julian Edelman may have created another new football term. He called the NFL games after Thanksgiving “cream season,” when the cream rises to the top and when football season truly starts. Edelman told Cowherd that this is when coaches raise the intensity in the building.
A week later, Edelman was a panelist on FOX’s NFL Kickoff. It was clear that the show’s producers and host Charissa Thompson were tuned into Edelman’s Herd appearance as they made his cream season line a theme of discussion.
Edelman picked the Ravens and Niners as his current cream teams and entertained Thompson and his fellow panelists with a few dairy-related puns. He was funny, saying that both these teams could end up becoming butter teams – even better than cream.
Edelman is unafraid to ruffle feathers, even if those feathers reside in Foxboro, MA. In discussing last week’s Patriots-Giants game, he boldly tweeted and stated on NFL Kickoff that the Patriots would be better off losing that game in order to get a better 2024 draft position.
If Julian Edelman has any flaws, it is that at times his analysis RPMs run into the red. In his discussion of last week’s crucial Jaguars-Texans game, he was visibly pumped up and spoke far too quickly even stumbling on some commentary. He recovered well and simply needs to slow down, trust his knowledge, and calculate his pace.
Edelman has made such an immediate impact that NFL Kickoff has even given him his own segment. It is called “The Nest” and his based on his children’s book Flying High, the story of Jules, a football-playing squirrel who is small in stature but big on heart and enthusiasm. Sound familiar?
Julian Edelman was joined in the nest by panelists Charles Woodson and Peter Schrager and provided a pretty cool analysis of current NFL wide receivers. He based his opinions on four attributes: sociability, aggressiveness, activity level, and boldness. Along the way, Edelman provide some unique commentary on the likes of Davante Adams, Travis Kelce, A.J. Brown and Stefon Diggs.
There is a rhythm to Edelman’s conversation. He is comfortable with his career, comfortable with himself, and comfortable on air. As a player, Julian Edelman was an unexpected star, a guy who parlayed personality, hard work, and hustle into a fantastic career. He is doing the same in media dishing out knowledge his way – brash, all-out, and with total abandon.
John Molori is a weekly columnist for Barrett Sports Media. He has previously contributed to ESPNW, Patriots Football Weekly, Golf Content Network, Methuen Life Magazine, and wrote a syndicated Media Blitz column in the New England region, which was published by numerous outlets including The Boston Metro, Providence Journal, Lowell Sun, and the Eagle-Tribune. His career also includes fourteen years in television as a News and Sports Reporter, Host, Producer working for Continental Cablevision, MediaOne, and AT&T. He can be reached on Twitter @MoloriMedia.
Mike Breen is Ready For Whatever The NBA Season Brings
“I’ve had an amazing set of teammates my entire life.”
Every time a new basketball season is on the precipice, there is a certain kind of enigma that permeates the landscape. Although he has been on basketball broadcasts for nearly three decades, Mike Breen still feels added nerves before donning the headset to call the NBA Finals. Last season, ESPN’s lead play-by-play voice called the 100th NBA Finals game of his broadcast career. In doing so, Breen became just the third basketball announcer on radio or television to attain such a feat.
When he first joined the broadcasts on ABC in 2006, Breen was stepping into the play-by-play role previously held by Al Michaels, working alongside color commentator Hubie Brown. He never could have imagined that the conclusion of the 2023-24 season would mark his 19th time calling the best-of-seven championship series and attributes his success to the people around him.
“There’s not a stage anywhere in the world big enough to hold that many people because that’s how many people have really been there for me and supported me and guided me and at times chastised me because you need people to always tell you the truth,” Breen said. “I’ve had an amazing set of teammates my entire life.”
For the last 18 NBA Finals broadcasts, Breen has worked alongside color commentator Jeff Van Gundy, a former head coach of the New York Knicks. Mark Jackson served as a color commentator as well for 15 of these series, taking a three-year detour to work as head coach of the Golden State Warriors. The broadcast trio was widely regarded as one of the best in basketball and frequently lauded for the strong chemistry they possessed on the air. Over the offseason though, Van Gundy and Jackson were laid off by ESPN as a part of cost-cutting measures by The Walt Disney Company. The decision disappointed Breen because of the bond he and his colleagues fostered and shared.
“We spent so much time together and we felt we had something special, and we were hoping that it was going to last longer, but nothing in this business lasts forever and that’s part of the business, and you have to figure that out and you move on,” Breen said. “Now the way I look at it is I’m just so grateful and honored that I had all that time sitting next to those two for so many big games over the years, but it’s hard when it ends.”
Breen is currently working with Doris Burke and Doc Rivers on ESPN’s lead NBA broadcast team. Broadcasting the NBA Finals, let alone sporting events as a whole, was never in his mind though; that is, until he was told by family friend and former New York Tech radio staffer Tony Minecola to consider going into the industry as a sportscaster.
Recognizing that he would not succeed as a professional athlete because of a lack of skill or as a doctor because of a lack of passion, Breen chose to major in broadcast journalism at Fordham University, immediately joining the campus radio station. Over his four years matriculating at the institution, he prioritized versatility and contributed to sports, news, talk and music programming.
“When you leave college and you have tape résumés and experience of being on the air on a live 50,000-watt station, it really gives you a great perspective of what it’s like to be in the business,” Breen said. “It’s kind of a great way to figure out, ‘Okay, is this something you like? Is this something you have a chance to be good at?’”
Ed Ingles, the former sports director of WCBS 880, helped instantiate that mindset for Breen when he interned with him during his days in college. Aside from his delivery, Breen took notice of how he interacted with his colleagues and other people in the industry, always demonstrating professionalism and kindness. Ingles advised Breen to get out of his comfort zone, which proved to be invaluable when Breen started his first job out of school in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. at WEOK-AM/WPDH-FM.
In his first year with the outlet, he would frequently attend school board meetings and county legislative sessions in order to collect 45 seconds of sound for the morning anchor to use on their program. Whereas at a sporting event, the game is oftentimes the primary story, Breen had to review the agenda and listen to the meeting to have an understanding of what is essential to the story.
“If you can cover a school board meeting that you know nothing about and do a good job on it, then you can certainly cover an NBA basketball game and figure out the storylines and the narratives and all those types of things,” Breen said. “It really made me a better sportscaster. I wasn’t just a sportscaster; I was a broadcaster.”
Breen eventually began calling Dutchess County High School basketball games and serving as an analyst on Marist College basketball broadcasts, all while working as the morning news anchor for the radio outlet. In balancing various different roles at once, Breen found himself on the air for six days a week for an entire year. The strenuous workload allowed him to enhance his skillset and ingenuity and have the confidence that he could make a career in the profession.
Through a connection he had with a classmate at Fordham University, Breen landed a part-time producing job on Jack Spector’s sports talk program, SportsNight, on WNBC. The commitment was initially for one day per week, but as Breen’s workload at the outlet increased, he was able to leave Poughkeepsie and focus on working in New York City. There was a dearth of sports talk programming at the time; that is until the summer of 1987 when WFAN launched on 1050 AM and introduced a new format to the medium.
“We were all sitting around the radio at WNBC thinking, ‘Okay, here comes our competition on the air,’” Breen remembered. “We were laughing, saying, ‘Oh, this is never going to make it. There’s no way this is going to make it,’ and it turns out that it was just the start of something that would completely change the radio industry.”
Ironically enough, WFAN moved to WNBC’s 660 AM frequency when General Electric sold several of its stations to Emmis Communications as part of a multi-station deal. Even though the station had transitioned to a new format, Don Imus kept his morning show on the airwaves, which Breen had been a part of starting a year earlier. His segments were filled with sound effects and jokes, giving him exposure within the marketplace and allowing him to penetrate beyond his comfort zone of traditional sports broadcasting and reporting.
“It wasn’t just your normal sports update,” Breen said. “It was something where you had to use your personality; you had to use your sense of humor [and] you had to use your writing skills, and it showed a little versatility and that was important.”
MSG Networks hired Breen in 1992 as the New York Knicks radio play-by-play announcer, and he assimilated into the role while keeping his spot on Imus in the Morning. In addition to adjusting to the pace of the NBA, he also refined his approach to calling games on the radio as opposed to television. Throughout this process, Breen thought about Marist play-by-play announcer Dean Darling and how he had called the games when they worked together.
“There are very few people – and there certainly are exceptions – but there are very few people who are instantly really good on the air,” Breen said. “It takes a while to hone your skills to figure out how you want to broadcast things if you have a certain style, and that’s the No. 1 thing is to get repetitions.”
When Marv Albert pleaded guilty to assault and battery in 1997, Breen was suddenly promoted to fill the role as the television play-by-play announcer for the team. Having listened to Albert call games for many years growing up, Breen knew the importance of appealing to the local audience in the New York metropolitan area. Many of the local play-by-play announcers in the locale grew up around the city, and he affirms that the knowledge and passion is discernible to consumers. Breen met New York Yankees television play-by-play announcer and ESPN New York radio host Michael Kay, who was a fellow student at Fordham University at the time, and discussed sports and broadcasting with him.
“He would tell me, ‘Oh, I’d love to be the Yankees announcer,’ and I’d say, ‘I’d love to be the Knicks announcer,’ and we would laugh at each other [like] two fools,” Breen said. “But I think because we were both New Yorkers and we both understood the New York fan because we were and still are New York fans, I think perhaps it gave us an edge because we knew what it’s like to live in New York and root for the teams in New York, and I think, or at least I hope, the fans can feel that.”
Albert returned to the Knicks telecast in 2000, prompting Breen to move back to radio broadcasts and work with John Andariese. At the same time, he began doing work for NBC Sports, including calling NBA games with Bill Walton and announcing ski jumping at the Olympic Games. When Albert was removed from the television broadcasts for being too critical of the team, Breen returned to the position and has held the role ever since.
“I tend to be old-school in that my job is to accurately describe what’s going on and also set up my partners and give them space and the lead-ins to make them excel,” Breen said. “The personality stuff, I think that comes – I hate to use the cliché – but it comes organically in terms of you’re doing the game. If something calls for you to react that involves more personality than actually broadcasting, then you do it and you have to find that balance.”
Every time Breen takes the air, he hopes that the consumers are able to see that he is prepared, enamored with the sport and enjoys working alongside his colleagues. From his days on the Knicks’ radio broadcasts, Breen has been paired with Walt “Clyde” Frazier for 25 seasons and understands how venerated the two-time NBA champion is within the city.
As the only member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a player and a broadcaster, Frazier strikes a chord with basketball fans and brings his credibility and proficiency to the airwaves every season. In addition, he always arrives in his signature flamboyant outfits and intersperses astute rhymes to the cadence on the hardwood.
“He’s managed to stay true to who he is, yet develop this unique on-air style that very few people have had, but the bottom line is yeah, there’s style, but there’s so much substance to what he says,” Breen explained,” and I think Knick fans love him because he tells it like it is, but at the same time, you can feel his love for the franchise.”
Since joining the NBA on ESPN broadcast team in 2003, Breen has balanced his local responsibilities with calling games at the national level. Throughout the season, he logs a considerable number of traveling miles and always puts his family first when he is not working. In fact, the reason he stopped calling other sports was not only to recharge over the summer, but also to spend time with his children.
By being absorbed in the NBA during the year, the preparation for the different types of broadcasts often overlaps. One thing he cannot prepare for, however, is the occurrence of a buzzer-beater or game-saving block.
“For me, I’ve always felt at a big moment, less is more for a broadcaster because your voice is not made [for] those high-intensity calls to go for 20 seconds,” Breen said. “Your voice can crack; who knows what else could happen, but when you make a good, strong concise call at a big moment and then let the crowd take over, I think that’s always been, for me, the best way to go.”
Although he derived his signature three-point call of “Bang!” while sitting in the stands at Fordham Rams games as a student, he did not think it worked on the air. But by the time he was calling a weekly high school basketball game for SportsChannel America, he noticed that the maelstrom of amplified sound within the gyms drowned out his voice during consequential moments. As a result, he resorted back to the monosyllabic exclamation and has stuck with it ever since.
“I’ve just been very careful about not overusing it,” Breen said. “I try to save it for big moments because if I was yelling, ‘Bang!,’ on every three-pointer, it would lose its luster, I believe.”
Breen will call NBA games from a new venue next week in Las Vegas, Nevada – T-Mobile Arena – when the league’s inaugural In-Season Tournament reaches its conclusion and a champion is crowned. The Association introduced the single-elimination endeavor this year in an effort to further incentivize regular-season play and establish a new tradition.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that these In-Season Tournament games bring out a little extra in the players [and] in the fans, and we’re not even at the knockout round yet and this is only the first year,” Breen said. “….To have this kind of excitement in November and then early December, it’s a win-win for everybody.”
Despite the NBA still being in its first half of the season, Breen feels encouraged by the broadcasts he has participated in thus far with Doris Burke and Doc Rivers. After all, he had worked with Burke on the first NBA game she ever broadcast and could tell how talented she was. Moreover, he has been friends with Rivers for over 30 years and speculated that he would be a broadcaster when he was finished playing and coaching.
The network’s lead broadcasting team will embark on a new challenge ahead of their first NBA Playoffs working together next Saturday, Dec. 9 when they broadcast the championship game of the NBA In-Season Tournament on ABC at 8:30 p.m. EST/5:30 p.m. PST.
“It takes a while to get the on-air chemistry, and the three-person booth is not easy for the analyst because they have to figure out a way to still get all their points across with less time, and same thing for me and that’s part of it,” Breen said. “Everybody has to just find their niche, and so far they’ve been great. They’re not only great friends; they’re really talented broadcasters, and I’m really excited about the potential.”
Breen recently signed a four-year contract extension with ESPN that will keep him on the airwaves past the expiration of the network’s current media rights deal with the National Basketball Association. The rationale behind staying with the network had to do with the people at the company, avouching that it is a great place to work and how he is thrilled he will be allowed to stay longer.
“Clearly I’m hoping that they work out a deal and I’m fairly confident they will,” Breen said. “ESPN loves the NBA; the relationship between the league and ESPN has always been wonderful. So I’m rooting hard for them to say ‘Yes’ and sign on the dotted line.”
In 2021, Breen was honored as the recipient of the Curt Gowdy Media Electronic Media Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for his excellence as a broadcaster, one of the highest honors that can be bestowed upon a basketball announcer. Even with various accolades to his name though, Breen’s mission each year is to get better with every broadcast. Complacency and apathy are out of bounds as he lives out a lifelong dream and strives for an outstanding performance no matter the situation.
“You have days where you’re not feeling well; you’ve had a tough travel day; you’ve got issues going on in your life, but then you sit down at half court and they throw the ball up the opening tip,” Breen illustrated. “There’s an adrenaline there that has never gone away.”
Derek Futterman is a contributing editor and sports media reporter for Barrett Sports Media. Additionally, he has worked in a broad array of roles in multimedia production – including on live game broadcasts and audiovisual platforms – and in digital content development and management. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks, wrote for the Long Island Herald and served as lead sports producer at NY2C. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
How Radio Sellers Can Beat the ‘What’s In It For Me’ Question
We often get caught up in showcasing the bells and whistles of our stations—the audience reach, the sophisticated technology, and the awards we’ve earned — that we don’t answer essential questions.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of talking about technical features and company achievements with radio advertising prospects without considering the essential question: “What’s in it for me?” (WIFM) from the client’s perspective.
We often get caught up in showcasing the bells and whistles of our stations—the audience reach, the sophisticated technology, and the awards we’ve earned.
However, the heartbeat of successful sales isn’t just about these features, it’s about translating them into tangible benefits that directly address the needs and challenges of our potential clients. Here are some common pitfalls in our sales approaches and strategies to get prospects to listen to “WIFM”.
Focusing Solely on Product Features
We all sometimes get caught up in detailing our radio stations’ technical specs and features without translating those features into tangible benefits for the prospect. We love to point out that our all-sports station is on AM and simulcast on digital FM.
We need to connect them directly to the prospect’s needs or problems, which might result in a disconnect.
Instead, we could say that we reach two audiences for the price of one. 45-65-year-olds are on AM, and 25-44-year-olds are on FM. More bang for your buck!
Talking About Company Achievements
While our station won the “Best radio station in XYZ town” award from the local media, which might be impressive, prospects are often more concerned about how these accolades directly benefit them.
We need to bridge the gap between our survey win and how our listeners are proud of listening to the station and will trust the recommendations we give our listeners when it comes to buying from our prospect.
Not tailoring the pitch to suit the prospect’s specific needs or pain points is a huge miss. When we use generic, one-size-fits-all approaches, we miss the opportunity to highlight how their product or service addresses the prospect’s unique challenges or goals.
Don’t tell a car dealer he needs to sell more new cars when he wants more used sales and service business.
Failure to Listen Actively
Sometimes, we focus too much on delivering our deck without actively listening to the prospect’s concerns or desires.
Pay attention to the prospect’s feedback or cues, and maybe even ask them if anything has changed before you start the presentation.
Forget About “Across the Street”
Constantly highlighting how your station is superior to competitors without explaining how it benefits the prospect is counterproductive.
For example, if your station does a limited number of endorsements, tell the prospect they will stand out amongst the other advertisers better cause they are part of a select few live endorsements.
Prospects want to know why your idea is right for them, not just that it’s better than your competition.
What’s the ROI?
A sales pitch that doesn’t explicitly outline the return on investment (ROI) or demonstrate the value the prospect stands to gain falls short.
Running spots can outrun ‘turtle-like’ positive word of mouth or Google reviews, like the Roadrunner. Tell them that.
Too Much TSL or CPM talk
Using industry jargon without explaining its relevance to the prospect’s situation can create confusion or disinterest. Don’t pitch TSL. Tell them they can run fewer spots that have more impact. Your efficient CPM demonstrates that radio can compete with any ad medium and won’t waste money.
Communicate in a language that resonates with the prospect, making the benefits clear and understandable.
No Hit and Run
Our engagement doesn’t end with the initial pitch. Don’t forget to follow up and give them ongoing support and assistance to address any concerns or questions post-sale. By showing them you are in it for them, they will feel valued.
In the sports radio ad sales game, it’s not just about announcing your stats and shoutouts; it’s about hitting a home run with benefits that score with our clients. If our pitch doesn’t answer “What’s in it for me?” (WIFM), we might end up with the L.
So, dive into our clients’ playbook, check their needs, and deliver a play that makes them cheer for you and your station. Tackle the “WIFM” challenge head-on, and don’t worry about targeting so much.
Jeff Caves is a sales columnist for BSM working in radio, digital, hyper-local magazine, and sports sponsorship sales in DFW. He is credited with helping launch, build, and develop SPORTS RADIO The Ticket in Boise, Idaho, into the market’s top sports radio station. During his 26 year stay at KTIK, Caves hosted drive time, programmed the station, and excelled as a top seller. You can reach him by email at [email protected] or find him on Twitter @jeffcaves.