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Sweeny Murti Combined His Passions at WFAN

Derek Futterman



From the time he was young, Sweeny Murti had a penchant for baseball and, by the time he was in junior high school, radio. He was able to find a way to combine his two passions by working in sports media, reporting on the New York Yankees on WFAN for the last 22 seasons as the station’s official beat reporter.

Murti, 52, announced his departure from the radio station last Friday, officially ending a chapter of his career as he seeks to figure out just what comes next. Sports radio, though, was never Murti’s goal because it is something that was nonexistent until later in his teenage years – although he was covering sports for his high school on its radio station WMSS-FM.

Murti learned the game of baseball by listening to Philadelphia Phillies games and had a profound amount of respect for the team broadcasters, including Harry Kalas, Andy Musser, Chris Wheeler, and Richie Ashburn. He later had an opportunity to work with the organization as a pregame and postgame show host in 1999, sparking his interest to aim to report on baseball regularly for WFAN. Getting to New York – the largest media market in the United States – took persistence and hard work, staying grounded in the day-to-day while continuously improving his craft and advocating his interests to executives.

“I listened to Phillies games growing up on radio and the announcers were just as big [of] people to me as the players,” Murti said. “Those were the guys that were in my house every night.”

Murti joined his junior high school radio station at the age of 12 and gained interest in broadcasting sports. He subsequently began to work with sports director John Wilsbach. Through his time at the radio station, Wilsbach knew Murti’s older brother (who was also working at the broadcast outlet) and helped mentor Murti, teaching him how to broadcast games by letting him shadow various sporting events.

By the time he was in ninth grade, Murti was the station’s sports director and was regularly broadcasting high school football and basketball games. He recognized the palpability of pursuing a career in sports media at this point and, consequently, matriculated at Penn State University to study broadcast journalism.

Unlike many college students seeking to work in media though, Murti’s involvement with campus media outlets, specifically in radio, was minimal. Because of his relationship with Wilsbach, he became connected with Scott Geesey, a talk show host on 1390 WRSC-AM.

Through Geesey, Murti began to converse with that outlet’s sports director Jerry Fisher, the son of legendary Penn State Nittany Lions’ football broadcaster and associate athletic director Fran Fisher. After just one meeting with Fisher, Murti was hired as a part-time assistant, giving him exposure to a professional radio station in his freshman year of college.

“I did a lot of scoreboard updates and a lot of production shifts and DJ shifts,” Murti said. “By that fall, I was doing Friday night high school football scoreboard shows and covering some games, and working on our massive Saturday football coverage on pregame and postgame shows for Penn State football…. We spent a lot of our time talking about sports, and I spent a lot of it thinking about talking about sports and how it was going to translate into my radio career.”

In the summer before his senior year, Murti relocated to New York and worked as an intern at WFAN, the inaugural radio station in the sports talk format that had just launched four years earlier. Over the nearly three months, he worked from the outlet’s Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens and demonstrated a strong work ethic.

In his mind, everyone at the station had an immense base of knowledge when it came to sports and displaying your own expertise would not impress the personnel. Although he was interning at a growing media outlet with hosts including Mike Francesa, Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo, Don Imus, and Steve Somers, Murti remained optimistic there would be an on-air role for him one day and quickly adjusted to life in “the Big Apple.”

“It’s a pretty big leap and I’d never spent more than a couple of days in New York; now I’m spending the whole summer in New York,” Murti said. “I wasn’t overwhelmed; I knew I’d already been doing a lot of things in radio so this was [at] a much bigger scale, obviously. I was comfortable and I think I was confident in what I could do.”

Following this experience, Murti returned to Penn State University for his senior year with a new perspective on sports radio. Once he graduated, he began working as a reporter at WHP 580 and as a sports anchor at the Radio PA Network. Before he returned to New York as a full-time producer at WFAN exactly one year later in 1993, he received a valuable piece of advice from news director Bill Richardson. It reminded Murti of a principle critical to the success of athletes, managers and reporters alike and continues to guide him to this day.

“The advice he left me with was, ‘It’s only radio. If you screw it up, just come back and do it again tomorrow,’” Murti recalled. “I’ve never forgotten it [and] some version of that pops into my head quite often. I think I amended that a little bit to say, ‘Listen, let me just do the job today and I’ll figure out how to do it again tomorrow.’”

Murti always sought to be a voice on the air and was placed out of his element in his role as a producer. Through working with established on-air hosts and reporters, including Steve Somers, Suzyn Waldman, Howie Rose, and Ian Eagle, Murti gained an understanding of the responsibility garnered upon them. In order to succeed in the marketplace, the hosts had to be informative and entertaining to sports fans, overseeing a place where fans could express their emotions and convey their opinions about the teams and players they cared about.

“I learned what kind of preparation it takes [and] what kind of personality it takes,” Murti said. “I was a good on-air personality, I thought, when I was in high school and college. This was just a different world; a different level that I was learning and soaking in.”

While Murti did not feel apprehensive about working in the New York-metropolitan area, he was unsure about producing on a full-time basis, leading him to have several conversations with executive producer Eric Spitz.

Nonetheless, Murti absorbed a large amount of information and picked up on intricacies related to producing and stood out. As a result, he was afforded the opportunity to travel with Spitz and his crew at Westwood One Radio to the Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996. That experience, quite simply, changed everything, as Murti realized he had the ability to transition from being a producer into a bonafide reporter.

“I got done with those couple of weeks and realized, ‘Wow, I can do what those guys are doing,’” Murti articulated. “It wasn’t, ‘I’m better than that guy.’ I [just] somehow thought this was a different level of something that was higher than me, and after working with them and being around them and helping them do these things, I realized I would be able to do that job just as well as they were because that’s the kind of confidence I had and I knew I’d be prepared for that.”

One year later, Murti joined SportsRadio 94 WIP in Philadelphia to become a full-time sports anchor and had the chance to regularly go on-air. After working at the station for a year, he returned to WFAN and was placed on the air, albeit in a part-time role, doing overnight updates. He also returned to the Summer Olympics in 2000, this time in Sydney, Australia, working with Westwood One Radio as a reporter.

Leading up to the World Series between the New York Mets and New York Yankees in that same year, WFAN reshuffled its midday show. Russ Salzberg and Steve Somers were moved out of the 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. slot in exchange for Jody McDonald and Suzyn Waldman. Because of Waldman’s new role hosting middays and doing television work with the Yankees, her role as the station’s beat reporter for the team opened. Since Murti was working overnight shifts, he made sure to stay early into the morning one day to meet with Mark Chernoff, then-program director of WFAN (he would often arrive for work at approximately 6 a.m. each morning).

Once he made his intention known to Chernoff, he scribbled Murti’s name down on a pad of paper and had other people advocating for him to land the job around the station. Around the time of the Christmas party, Murti received the news that he had landed the job – very much representative of his dream role – and prepared for the upcoming spring training in Tampa. Waldman proved to be a vital resource for Murti to learn the role, accessible both by phone and at the ballpark.

“She helped me kind of work through the early stuff,” Murti said. “After a little while, I just tried to figure it out on my own. I wanted to lean on her to get myself going, but I didn’t want to constantly lean on her. I kind of wanted to see how I could figure it out myself at that point. It was great getting to figure it out with her to start and then kind of going off on my own.”

Murti had been on the air from the time he was in high school and was cognizant of his long-term goals. Combining his adoration for baseball and skillset in reporting was his ultimate intent – and he was fortunate that the timing worked out.

“Those jobs were kind of created,” Murti said. “I didn’t know they existed. I can’t tell you that was a goal; I just knew I wanted to be the play-by-play announcer for the Phillies when I was 13 years old. That was my goal but I didn’t go do Minor League Baseball play-by-play when I was 22. I came to FAN and moved on that track.”

Walking into the clubhouse for the first time in Tampa, Murti knew not to expect to immediately foster deep relationships with any of the players and uncover concealed stories. Instead, he focused on the long game, gradually cultivating dialogue and learning the vernacular to become familiar with the team. He expected this role to last much longer than one season and segmented the process by piecemeal.

“I think that I had the idea of hoping to get to do this for a while so let’s just take it slow,” he recalled. “Let’s just not try to talk to Derek Jeter, Paul O’Neill and Bernie Williams every day about something that’s going to make me be their confidant.”

Through performing his role, Murti observed the quotidian routines and habits of the great players – and the Yankees, coming off a stretch of four championships in five years, knew how to optimize their play to get results conducive to success. Murti was able to apply some of those lessons to his own craft as a journalist, keeping him focused and motivated to perform.

“The great ones put yesterday behind them very quickly whether they had a great game or a bad game,” Murti said. “That’s probably where watching Jeter up close really mattered because he was so good at that. He would be pissed off if he made outs or [if] they lost a game, but he wasn’t smashing water coolers like Paul O’Neill or throwing things. It was just, ‘Okay, listen, that’s over. Let’s focus on the next one.’”

Murti focused on both the trials and tribulations of the players, but always looked at the macro (team) rather than the micro (individuals). To him, the big picture was most important and taking each result in stride – just as a well-balanced team establishing and maintaining a winning culture aims to do. It helped him create a style – one that transferred from radio to television to writing. Murti endeavored in all three over his time as WFAN’s Yankees beat reporter, a job he exited last week.

Over his time as a reporter, Murti has contributed to programming on MLB Network, YES Network, and SNY among other networks. The production tactics and time constraints in television contrasted with radio – in fact, Murti likened it to being a cog part of a larger system to execute a play in football – and it gave him different methods in which to present his reports.

“The teammate aspect of what I used to do at FAN is definitely something I loved and appreciated,” Murti explained, “but there are a lot more moving parts to television that make you rely on other people’s help to make everything look and sound better.”

He also had the ability to live out his dream doing play-by-play announcing in a Major League Baseball game when filling in for Yankees’ radio voice John Sterling. With Waldman as his color commentator, Murti brought fans the action in the Yankees’ matchup against the Houston Astros as family and friends listened from his hometown. He did not view the assignment, for which he volunteered, as an audition; instead, it was more about embracing and making the most of a unique opportunity.

“I think I brought a lifetime of caring about being on the radio and loving watching baseball,” Murti said. “I think I bring that every night; I hope I brought [it] that night to a degree that satisfied everybody. It was just a thrill beyond belief.”

Whether it was watching the Yankees win the World Series in 2009; writing articles about the team and its players for WFAN’s website; or hosting various podcasts, Murti thoroughly enjoyed his time at the station. Just as the landscape of media has endured rapid evolution and realignment, the role of a beat reporter was analogously shifting – leading to Murti’s departure from WFAN last week.

“We tried for a long time to figure out how to evolve and create the different content that would click,” Murti said. “It just became harder to accomplish, I guess. I’m grateful that it lasted as long as it did.”

The nature of working in radio has drastically adapted amid a marketplace saturated with an overabundance of content and platforms on which to consume it. As a result, radio faces a maelstrom of competition from media outlets and, nowadays, independent creators disseminating their work. Yet it still remains a medium based on a communal aspect, representing and implementing the authentic voice of the fan as an outlet of both catharsis and jubilation.

“Even though a lot is consumed individually through phones now and through social media, to hear the actual voices and the emotions in those voices – good or bad; high or low – it’s still something you can’t duplicate on social media,” Murti said. “You’ve got to come to the radio to be a part of that. That’s something I hope never goes away.”

The greatest compliment Murti could have ever received was a listener remaining in their car to finish hearing one of his reports – and he hopes to continue to be able to fuse baseball and journalism together in whatever his next role may be. Amid a post-WFAN world, he looks to continue bringing viewers the story and create new memories, utilizing his versatility to be an asset to any media brand.

“I enjoy lots of stuff,” Murti said. “I do enjoy writing and I hope I still get to do some of that. I enjoy the TV work; I love interviewing people and getting to tell those stories. It’s a really big thrill turning on a microphone, wherever that is, and telling people what’s happening. I hope I still get to do that.”

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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.

John Molori



A photo of Julian Edelman
(Photo: Julian Edelman)

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.

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Mike Breen is Ready For Whatever The NBA Season Brings

“I’ve had an amazing set of teammates my entire life.”

Derek Futterman



Mike Breen
Courtesy: Phil Ellsworth, ESPN Images

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.”

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BSM Writers

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.

Jeff Caves



A photo of a sales meeting

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.

Generic Pitches

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.

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