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Marc Bertrand Has Fought Like Hell

We’ve had a great run. We’re fully aware of how great this has been and how lucky we’ve been to have this run of success.”

Brian Noe



Marc Bertrand

Laurence Fishburne’s character, Morpheus, once said in The Matrix, “You take the blue pill – the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” Marc Bertrand is a successful sports radio host in Boston. Although he can’t dodge bullets and contort his body at lightning speed like Matrix characters, he once faced a similar choice.

Take the blue pill and remain at WEEI, the heritage station he had dreamed of working for as he commuted to college. Take the red pill and work at the Sports Hub, an upstart with potential but lots of unknowns. Marc chose the red pill, and the rabbit hole has been way better than he ever imagined.

For the past 14 years, 98.5 The Sports Hub has been Marc’s radio home. He’s hosted middays with Scott Zolak for eight years now. Marc talks about how much it means to him to be recognized by his peers as the number one midday show in a major market. He also talks about his humble beginnings in the industry and the lengths he went to for real opportunities. Marc is an awesome storyteller. He describes the meaning behind his nickname and shares funny stories about Deion Sanders and Mary Lou Retton. Enjoy!

Brian Noe: How was everything in Phoenix for Super Bowl week?

Marc Bertrand: Well, it was my first time back since the pandemic. The last time we were there was Miami right before this mess began. My impression of it was that it was back in a big way. It’s changed for sure; it’s not all radio anymore. It made me a little bit sad when I came down the escalator at the convention center and saw that a sign said Media Row and not Radio Row. But it’s great. It was lively. There were a ton of big names in the room, which is great to see. It looks healthy, is what it is.

It’s changed a little bit. There’s social media people there. It’s not all radio, like I said, there’s TV in there. I’m just glad that it’s a big deal still, that there are outlets that still want to be there and be a part of it. It is my absolute favorite part of this job is doing radio row. It’s the thing I look forward to every single year in this job is going and doing that week. I was happy to be back and I’m happy to see that it’s still a pretty good event.

BN: Do you have any funny stories from all those times being on Radio Row?

MB: Here’s probably the funniest one. Going back to the Super Bowl in Houston when the Patriots were there to take on the Falcons, we managed to get Deion Sanders on our show. Deion Sanders didn’t do a lot of radio hits, but he came on our show. Zo talked with him about getting picked off by Deion twice in an interview. And in that interview, he decided midway through that he was done with the interview because he saw Antonio Brown walk by. So he just got up and dropped the headset on the table in the middle of the interview and walked away. And that was the end of our interview. [Laughs] There have been weird things like that happen.

I also love, I think it was that same year, Hardy [Rob Poole], who’s on our show, met a childhood idol of his in Mary Lou Retton, which is the last person you’d expect to see on Radio Row. He told her a story about how he went to a shopping mall in suburban Detroit 25, 30 years ago to meet her when he was a kid, and how they were reunited and she just loved the story. They got these great pictures together hugging. It’s just sort of the funny stuff like that happens. Some of the guests, you don’t have to try too hard and their presence can be funny.

BN: That’s funny, man. I love both stories, but you couldn’t script that any better where Deion’s like ‘Oh, it’s AB, I’m outta here’. That is just hilarious to me.

MB: Yeah, and then it ended. It was like there goes Deion Sanders, the greatest cornerback that ever lived.

BN: [Laughs] Thanks for the time, Deion.

MB: And when he was on, he was funny. He was engaging. He was great to talk to and then when he decided it was time to get up and go see a friend, that was it. The interview was over and he left us without even a goodbye.

BN: That’s great, man. What did you think about the way the game played out?

MB: I liked the end result because I was rooting for Patrick Mahomes. I think he’s the most marketable, most likable player in the sport. I like the Chiefs and I like the fact that they’ve got a great quarterback. I believe in quarterbacks. It’s sort of a thing that I have. Having watched Tom Brady for two decades with the Patriots be the reason why they won so many games, I just sort of believe in that way of doing business, having great quarterbacks.

The game itself had a bunch of points. Points scored in different ways, a defensive score, a long punt return, there was a lot to like about that game. I’m not the least bit angry about the holding call at the end of the game. I have no issue with the call. I think the Chiefs took it to the Eagles in the second half and the Eagles couldn’t get a stop. At the end of the night, the better quarterback, you let him hang around, he’s going to win a game. That’s how it played out.

BN: Tom Brady is known as the GOAT. On his Pro Football Reference page, it says he’s also known as the Pharaoh. I’ve never heard one person refer to him as the Pharaoh. Have you guys ever done that?

MB: I’ve never referred to him as the Pharaoh and I have no idea where that started.

BN: [Laughs] I don’t either.

MB: No idea.

BN: None either. I’ve never heard it one time. How about your nickname though? Beetle — how did that come about?

MB: So Tony Mazz (Tony Massarotti), going back to 2009 when we first launched the station, decided that he needed a nickname for me. I wish there was a good story behind it, but Mazz tried out a handful of nicknames over the course of the week. For some reason that one stuck, and I don’t even really know how it started. At one point, we had a producer who said he thought it started from the Beetle Bailey cartoon, going back I don’t know how many decades ago that comic strip was.

It was one of about three or four nicknames that Tony Mazz tried out one week as like a running joke that he needed to establish a nickname for me, and that one was the one that stuck. It took a little bit of time, but he called me that enough times that it lasted. Now it’s become a nickname that almost everybody listener-wise calls me. It just sort of stuck. I don’t know why. I mean, it’s terrible, I wish I had a cool story. I wish it were actually based on something. But it most definitely isn’t.

BN: I actually think it’s better that way. I love that story. Do you remember the two or three other nicknames that were in the running?

MB: I don’t, but they all were B’s. They were all B nicknames to have the alliteration with Bertrand. I wish I could recall; we’re going back 14 years ago now. I don’t remember, but it was so contrived, and so forced that I can’t believe that it stuck. I really can’t.

BN: You just signed a new extension, how does that feel to you?

MB: It feels great. To still be in the same place that I was 14 years ago when we started the station, it’s home, it’s my radio home. It’s where I’ve worked for the overwhelming majority of my adult life. And so, it’s great. It feels great to have the security of a new deal. It’s comfortable, is what it is to come to work every day and know all the people you work with and know who they are and know what they’re about.

Now on middays with Zo and Hardy, we’ve been together for eight years. That’s a really sort of comfortable situation that there’s not working through any newness. We’re still doing it, man. It feels great to still be doing it and still be doing it at a sports station that is still doing so well. We’ve had a great run. We’re fully aware of how great this has been and how lucky we’ve been to have this run of success.

BN: Is Zo any different off the air than he is on the air?

MB: I would say that on the air he’s subdued from what he is in real life. [Laughs] And so yes, he’s slightly different off the air in that he might be just a tad bit crazier, and I say that with all the love in my heart because Zo’s a fun guy to be around at any given moment. It’s sort of funny, because on trips to radio row and trips to the Super Bowl site every year, you spend a lot of time with your co-hosts. You sort of live with them for a week.

We got to the airport last Friday night coming back to town from Phoenix and we all went our separate ways. It’s sort of like, oh, what are you doing tomorrow? They sort of become like members of your family. I spend more time with Zo and talking to Zo than I do my own wife and children. For the most part he is the same guy, but I would say he could be a little bit more wild and a little bit more fun when he’s off the air.

BN: Your show was just named the top major market midday show on the Barrett Sports Media Top 20. When you get recognition like that, being number one in your daypart, what’s your reaction to that?

MB: Oh, it’s awesome. It’s still a thrill, don’t get me wrong. We love it. We watched out for it last week when it dropped that morning to see if we won again. I love that it’s people that we work with in the industry, which I think is the best kind of recognition. People that do this job, people that are managers in this job, people that really understand programming and understand radio.

I think that’s the thing that makes it probably the most rewarding that it’s recognition from within the industry, people who have a clue. It’s not some fan contest or listener contest, it’s people that understand the job. That is why we’re still really happy to get that respect. I can’t thank the people enough that thought we were worthy of their vote. It’s great. I don’t know any other way to put it other than we love the fact that we’re number one again.

BN: Getting recognized by people in the industry, does it cause you to reflect on the beginning of your path and how you initially started out?

MB: I totally agree with that. I do think it’s, for me, really rewarding to say I went from doing updates on weekends, to now having a show that my name is on, and is being recognized not only by people here in Boston but people across the country. To be number one in anything in the country is huge. So yeah, I do, I definitely have reflected on that. Especially with having won it more than once, which is remarkable. If it had happened once, it would have been a big deal. For it to now happen three times, I’m over the moon for it. It’s unbelievable. I think there’s definitely some reflecting.

The other part that I reflect on when something like that happens is all the people that go into that. It’s easy for Zo and me and Hardy to be the faces of the show and to be the guys who sort of get this credit and recognition. But we’ve got so many people that help us do our job. Our producer, Tom Morgan, he took over for Jim Louth two years ago. Jim Louth has now moved on to be our APD. Tom Morgan stepped up and has been fantastic is his first time as an executive producer. I can’t tell you how great he has been over the last couple of years since taking the job, and taking on more responsibility, and how much that guy helps us every day.

Tyler Milliken, who’s also on our show, these guys put in more hours and more work to make us look good. I think about those guys and how much they do to make this show happen every single day. I don’t know that I could do it all myself. Zo couldn’t do it all himself. The support we get from our two producers, just always actively involved, as is Rick Radzik, who I know does get credit. They put his name in the story. We have so much great support behind the scenes across the board that make it possible to be in this position.

BN: I’m curious what you would have been more surprised by, if someone had told you when you were a weekend update anchor that you would have risen to the position that you’re currently in, or if someone had told you when the Sports Hub launched, that it would turn out to be the ratings juggernaut that it is, which would have surprised you more?

MB: Oh, that is a talk radio host question right there; the very difficult either/or. I can tell you this, I dreamed of being a host in this market. They didn’t call it manifesting when I was in college, but I used to drive by on my way from where I grew up in Quincy, Massachusetts, back and forth to college at UMass Amherst. I used to drive by on the Mass Pike, the New Balance building where WEEI used to be when I was in college. I used to drive by it with my girlfriend, now my wife, and I would say I’m going to work there someday. I used to say that. And she was like, okay, fine, whatever, you’re going to work there. I used to say, I’m going to work there someday. That’s where I want to be. I’m going to work there.

Then I got an internship there in college and even did updates on weekends. That’s what I dreamed up. That’s just something that was in my mind was being a host on the best radio station in the market for sports. I did not dream when the Sports Hub started that it was going to be the monster that it turned into. I was going to the Sports Hub if I’m being honest in 2009, because it represented an opportunity, and it represented more hours of work, and a little bit more money. At the time, that was really important, working part time, very little guaranteed money, guaranteed role, guaranteed anything.

There were people in my own family that said, what are you doing? You’re on the air at the station you always wanted to be on, and now after a year and a half you’re gonna walk out the door for the upstart? You must be crazy. Maybe I was a little crazy. Maybe it was a little shortsighted, but I thought it was going to be a good opportunity.

I fought like hell to get the job. They were focused on who their hosts were going to be filling out the dayparts with the major headliners and the names; I was just looking for an update job. I badgered Mike Thomas until he gave me the job, and sat in the lobby at the radio station without an appointment, telling the receptionist that I did have an appointment with Mike Thomas, and sat it out, and waited for hours until he agreed to come out and talk to me.

I look back on it now and say, there’s no way I could’ve predicted this. I could not have predicted that the station was going to be this successful, or that I personally was going to be this successful, but it all worked out in the end. It’s worked out better than I could have ever imagined.

BN: Man, that’s an amazing story. When you initially began at the Sports Hub, maybe you thought more long term, but if I were in those shoes, I would’ve been thinking more about the here and now. Did you make a decision thinking of the next 10, 15 years?

MB: No, absolutely not. I was not thinking about the next five years; I was thinking about the next year or two. What could I do in the next year or two to make myself a better candidate for whatever that next job might be? That to me was the thing I was thinking about was the opportunity to get on the air more, the opportunity to do more. That’s what it represented. That’s what I was most concerned with was having more reps.

That’s one of the things that really was different in the beginning for the Sports Hub, is everybody was on board, everybody was really eager to do well, everybody was eager to sort of have David slay Goliath. That’s what we were in it for, was this massive challenge and how it wasn’t going to happen without people really putting in the work. I was lucky because I got the chance. I got on the air and had the chance and was given an opportunity and got a whole heck of a lot better along the way, which I don’t think I would’ve ever received had I stayed doing the weekend updates on EEI.

BN: When you think about your future, considering the way you had to battle in the beginning to get opportunities and to move up to where you are, do you think that causes you to think more about what’s now instead of what’s next?

MB: I think the job makes you so busy with the here and now that sometimes it’s really hard to think beyond tomorrow’s show, or this week’s shows. That’s a little bit different as you get older because when I started at the Sports Hub, I was 24. I now have the show to take care of every day. That is a lot more time consuming than being an update anchor or a weekend guy.

I have far more responsibility in the job now than I did when I was 24, but I also have way more real life responsibility at 37 than I did then. I’m married now and I have three kids. The time to sit there and ponder anything beyond this week and what time is basketball practice for a nine year old, it’s just a busy life. It’s hard to think about anything beyond what I’m doing in the here and now.

I’m sure as time goes on, there could be chances for more opportunities to do something that is different from the show. Nothing in this job is permanent. Nothing. This is where I want to be. This is the show I want to be on, and when you get a new contract you don’t have to think about the what ifs. What if there is a change? What if they do go in a different direction? Things of that nature.

I often say, I’ll be doing sports radio here or nowhere. That’s what it comes down to. I would not want to work in another market because I just don’t know that I’d be invested enough. I care about the teams here and I care about the people here because it’s my friends, my family, it’s everything. I don’t know that I could do it somewhere else.

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Has Stephen A. Smith Outgrown First Take?

“Stephen A. Smith is irreplaceable at ESPN so long as the network wants to be in the First Take business. Smith is smart enough to know that won’t be forever.”

Demetri Ravanos



Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Stephen A. Smith has clearly outgrown First Take. He’ll never say it, because he knows the brand’s success depends on him. However, one look at The Stephen A. Smith Show and it is clear, this is a guy that doesn’t need to spend weekday mornings shouting about Jalen Brunson’s effective field goal percentage anymore. 

Think pieces have been written about what the podcast says about Smith’s ambitions. Plenty of radio hosts have had fun at the expense of the ESPN star’s proclivity for going off-script in ways that might make the Walt Disney Company uncomfortable. None of it has changed The Stephen A. Smith Show

The podcast has taught us that Stephen A. Smith can pull from deep knowledge about the Pixar Cars universe, he will defend his right to use R. Kelly’s music to set the mood, and we have learned that the man loves a big ol’ butt


Personally, I like this unabashedly horny, politically vague, and more well-rounded version of Smith than the one I see on ESPN. The guy yelling “How dare you” when Chris Russo tries to argue that some dude who handed the ball off 85% of the time is a better quarterback than Patrick Mahomes is not a human being. He may truly believe his point, but the conviction is goofy. The guy giving truly awful advice for microwaving fish feels real. He doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about but he is confident that he does.

I don’t claim to know what ESPN will or should do when Smith’s contract comes up for renewal. The First Take star has made it clear that he expects to be made the network’s highest paid talent. He’s certainly entitled to that opinion. He has the numbers to back it up, but the TV business has changed. ESPN is on its way to being a digital product, which will most certainly change its finances and priorities. 

If you’re paying the $30 or $40 per month that we expect ESPN to charge for its a la carte service, you’re not doing it for First Take. You’re not doing it for PTI or The Pat McAfee Show either. It’s all about the games. They are and will always be ESPN’s most valuable asset. I would imagine that in the coming years, the network will take a hard look at just how much anything else is actually worth.

Who from the “embrace debate” universe has crossover appeal? Probably no one. Games attract a large audience. Sports talk? That’s more of a niche. 

Everyone reading this has a very distinct feeling about Skip Bayless. Most of the world doesn’t though. Bayless has leaned hard into the act. It’s important to him to put on the best sports debate show TV has to offer. That’s a perfectly admirable goal, but the ceiling is pretty low. 

Most people aren’t going to go looking for something like that. If Bayless ever wants out of FS1, his options would be limited at best and possibly non-existent at worst.

Stephen A. Smith has big ambitions. He wants to act. He wants to host shows outside of the sports realm. He wants to produce. He may want to run for office. If ESPN determines it doesn’t need to pay over $10 million per year for the star of a show that is largely consumed on mute in airport bars, then he needs to prove he can do those things at a level that gets him paid.

Most of the comments about Smith’s podcast have to do with what it could make him in the eyes of ESPN. I think it is important to consider that as ESPN evolves, maybe no single show or talent will be particularly valuable to the network, at least not to the tune that it currently is. So we have to look at Smith explaining how to skirt the issue of lying to date about how well you can cook differently.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I read Brian Stelter’s Network of Lies, which is about the Dominion lawsuit against Fox News and the network firing Tucker Carlson. No matter how you feel politically, I recommend it, because it gives some great insight into how a network built on talking head shows operates.

At Fox News, where every host has the same opinions, the network is the star. Sure, people rise up and gain a following, but Stelter points out all of the presumed stars that have not hurt Fox by leaving and he theorizes Carlson will eventually be one of them.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot as I listen to Smith shout that he just needs a woman “to be a solid 7.” Has he read Network of Lies? Smith is friends with Sean Hannity. Has he had conversations about how valuable an opinionist is when he only preaches to those already converted? 

Stephen A. Smith is irreplaceable at ESPN so long as the network wants to be in the First Take business. Smith is smart enough to know that won’t be forever. Even if ratings for the show never slip, changing economics could force the network’s hand at some point. 

That is why Stephen A. Smith wants you to know how he feels about big, juicy booties. Maybe sports talk on television will have less value amidst television evolution, but talent that can entertain and make an audience pay attention never will. Smith is betting that he can make you care about what he has to say regardless of what he is talking about.

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Steve Czaban is Helping Mold Sports Radio’s Future at 97.3 The Game

“I’ve seen some really messed up stuff but I’ve seen good stuff as well and I’ve seen good stories.  I just try to lend that perspective…”

Avatar photo



Steve Czaban
Courtesy: 97.3 The Game

After a long run in Washington, DC, Steve Czaban made the move in May 2019 to host the morning show on 97.3 The Game in Milwaukee.  Being part of the Milwaukee/Wisconsin market was nothing new to Czaban as he held down a 30 to 45-minute feature on “Bob and Brian”, the number one FM show in the market for almost a quarter of a century.

The show became so successful that Czaban signed a contract extension in April of 2022 and the show continues to soar.

“The show has gone great,” said Czaban.  “We’re double the nearest sports radio competitor in town and we’re top five target demographic in men 25-54.  I really have been loving it.  It’s the best group of guys and just vibe that I’ve had a sports radio station pretty much in my career.  It’s been a very good situation for me.”

It’s not easy for a talk show host to transition to another market because you really have to have an intimate knowledge on the teams, the players and the fans in a town in order to have a fighting chance to be successful.  When Czaban made the move from DC to Milwaukee, the experience of dabbling in the market certainly helped him to talk about everything Packers, Bucks, Brewers and Wisconsin sports, but it’s not something that comes easy.

In fact, he wonders how other people can do it.

“I didn’t go into it cold,” said Czaban.  “I think if anyone in our business goes into a market cold, I don’t know how you do it because you just have to have a certain base of historic knowledge of this player, this team, this game, this moment and this incident to call upon to at least be fluent in the language of the local sports market.”

So, in order to have that fluency in a new market, you have to literally channel your inner Rodney Dangerfield and go “Back to School” and that means doing your homework to get you ready for your new gig.  You don’t just bag your bags, move to a new city, turn on the microphone and talk about the teams in town without knowing what you’re talking about.

Steve Czaban says there is a textbook for what to do, but it’s certainly a challenge.

“The advice would be if you’re a host and you’re entering a new market and you don’t really have any connection or history, then I would absolutely do a cram session,” said Czaban.  “Every night, flash cards, reading everything, watching YouTube highlights and at least for the first six months if now a year, make sure to tread lightly because there’s a good chance you’re going to walk into a rake if you start talking about “they should never have traded so and so.”  Well, there’s more to it.”

Czaban has spent his career trying to help young talent break into the industry and grow.  He’s had a knack for bringing new people along and educating them on the business and the highs and lows that come with it.

Sort of like a head coach developing quality assists who go on to become head coaches themselves.

“I don’t know what kind of a coaching tree I have,” said Czaban.  “But I do make sure to try to explain to the younger people around me like my producers and what not because I’ve seen so much in the industry.  I’ve seen some really messed up stuff but I’ve seen good stuff as well and I’ve seen good stories.  I just try to lend that perspective of having been in the circus for 30 plus years.”

Many of those years were spent as a host in Washington DC, Czaban certainly spent a lot of time talking about Washington Redskins/Football Team/Commanders owner Dan Snyder had his part in the fall of the once-proud franchise.  He still has his finger on the pulse of what’s going on in DC and how the sale of the team from Snyder to a group owned by Josh Harris had an affect on sports radio in Washington

Czaban says the sale and the fan reaction had a huge impact in a positive way.

“They definitely had a surge,” said Czaban.  “I was very happy for everybody still on the air doing sports radio day to day at seeing the bad man run out of town who wrecked the franchise, lost the team, name, logo and soon to be history that he was finally gone.  I think it was definitely good but now with the Commanders being so bad, there’s hope with a new owner but there’s a lot of cleaning out that has to be done first.  I think the guys on sports radio are going to be very busy this next year or two.”

Transitioning to full-time hosting duties in Milwaukee a few years ago, Czaban saw the Aaron Rodgers era with the Packers wind down.  After the Packers traded Rodgers to the Jets this past off-season, the keys to the offense were transferred over to Jordan Love.  While there were some growing pains inside Lambeau Field at the start of the season, the Packers have rebounded.

Not everyone in town thought it was going to happen and some hosts patience ran thin…but not Czaban.  He had gone through too many lost seasons in Washington to realize that you just can’t throw in the towel until a season is done.

“There were guys on my show and on other shows (when the Packers were) at 2-5 they were like “season is over, they’re going nowhere” and they were event talking about draft position,” said Czaban. “I was the only guy saying whoa the season can be over when it’s over.  We have all the time in the world for that but it’s not over now.  Now, I kind of look pretty smart.”

Steve Czaban also looks very intelligent for being able to do something that not many people in the sports radio industry can do.  He was successful in one market for a very long time and has made the transition to a new market and is, once again, having success with a tremendous sports talk show.

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Brian Murphy is Preparing to Write His Next Chapter at KNBR After Layoffs Ended ‘Murph and Mac’

“I don’t want to say, ‘This too shall pass,’ or, ‘Time heals all wounds,’ but you’re only as good as your next ratings book.”

Derek Futterman



Brian Murphy
Courtesy: Brian Murphy on Instagram

After the morning show signed off at KNBR last Wednesday, co-host Brian Murphy was called into a meeting with Cumulus Media market manager Larry Blumhagen. Although there had been signs of potential changes, Murphy had partnered with Paul McCaffrey for nearly 18 years and survived all of the turmoil.

A simple look around the building represented proof of an alteration, evinced by reductions in the number of stations under its roof. A once powerful news station, KGO-AM, underwent a sudden format flip last year after nearly a century on the air. A few years earlier, alternative rock station KFOG was eliminated from the company’s portfolio as well. KNBR has weathered the storms, but not without alterations to the station’s programming department.

“I would say everything has shrunk,” Murphy expressed, “and that includes sending us on road trips or to Super Bowls, etc.”

Layoffs have reemphasized the importance of the quantitative bottom line, sometimes overshadowing the qualitative utility and widespread impact derived from talent and popular shows. It is partially why the deluge of palpable support after Murphy learned in a short meeting that McCaffrey was being laid off was surprising and reinvigorating. But first came an immediate, jarring feeling surrounding the decision.

“Truthfully numb,” Murphy said regarding his sentiment after learning what happened. “I guess it’s a cliché to say that people go into shock, but to know that Paulie and I wouldn’t be together was something that didn’t register. I mean, it registered, but it didn’t register until fully; the next 48 hours is when it really started to really hit.”

McCaffrey was one of seven laid off at KNBR that day. Morning show producer Erik Engle, former programmer Lee Hammer, host F.P. Santangelo and members of the outlet’s digital department lost their jobs as well. Even the long-running KNBR Tonight evening show, which aired for decades was canceled, and replaced with CBS Sports Radio programming. While Murphy always hoped that the morning show would continue in the iteration before the end of his contract, he is now facing a new reality without his longtime colleagues.

“I think what we were disappointed by was sort of an abrupt and premature end, particularly to our partnership, which I think we’ve learned from an incredible outpouring of social media is way more than we knew,” Murphy said. “We learned our partnership for whatever reason connected to a lot of people for a long time. It’s funny they say radio is dying, but radio sure is personal and effective in many ways baked on what we’re hearing from our listeners.”

During the next two days, Murphy was off the air and contemplating his future. There were moments where he thought about leaving KNBR. However, he knew that he had a contract to fulfill and a family to support. Additionally, the person that he was set to work with on Monday and beyond – Markus Boucher – had contributed to the morning show for nearly four years, rendering familiarity and comfortability.

“There’s a chance that Markus and I could do this for a long time; we’ll see how it goes,” Murphy said. “Maybe things go great and that would be awesome, and I’m definitely leaving that door open. For whatever reason, we recover from the pain of losing my partner for almost two decades and the next chapter works out.”

In 2023, KNBR has experienced two subpar quarterly ratings books. The decrease in performance has affected all dayparts on the outlet. Murphy knows that when the San Francisco Giants do well, it generally leads to KNBR succeeding. The station did improve in its summer and fall books for 2023, but there already were repercussions being felt.

“I just know that that happened and it damaged people’s perception of the station, but I don’t think it was an accurate reflection of all of our listenership at all; I just don’t,” Murphy said. “I know for a fact that we still had a huge audience, and it’s evident by what happened after the news; just so many people reacted and people in the demo too.”

Even though he knows it does not directly relate to his role as an on-air host, Murphy believes that the local advertising market was damaged because of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on the city. San Francisco was one of several major metroplexes that instituted strict health and safety protocols in an effort to slow the spread of the disease, which had an effect on sports talk radio consumption. With more people working remotely and fewer people commuting to the office, the transition to digital content and audio on-demand offerings has hastened in order to realize previous levels of engagement and keep the format alive.

“KNBR is going to have to weather this storm,” Murphy said, “and there’s this feeling of, I don’t want to say, ‘This too shall pass,’ or, ‘Time heals all wounds,’ but you’re only as good as your next ratings book.”

The station recently held an all-staff meeting to discuss its direction, which has been somewhat complicated by three program directors at the outlet over the last five years. Following the departures of Jeremiah Crowe and Kevin Graham, Adam Copeland took over the responsibilities last month. The layoffs took place two weeks into his tenure, causing some people to question how involved he was in the decisions and whether or not he advocated for the morning show.

“I think these things come from beyond San Francisco,” Murphy said. “Our headquarters are in Atlanta, and I think something this big – like I said, it wasn’t just Paulie Mac; it was seven people. Paulie Mac is personal for me, but that to me says, ‘Well, that’s obviously a big budget decision that’s being made at a level far above the San Francisco program director.’”

Although Copeland has minimal previous experience as a program director, Murphy is confident that he will be able to effectively lead the station through his energy, youth and passion for the medium. Copeland grew up listening to KNBR and worked at the station over the last several years as a producer and host, eventually earning a spot in afternoons alongside Tom Tolbert. Copeland remains in that time slot, pulling double duty for the radio station. His relatability and familiarity with the craft is something that Murphy views as an advantage.

“I think people are pretty excited that we have somebody who cares as much as Adam Copeland does about KNBR,” Murphy said, “I think if there’s anything to be optimistic about in 2024 that despite this ending to 2023, it’s that we have a program director who’s all-in on the station.”

Thinking about what comes beyond the immediate future though is not within Murphy’s mindset. At the moment, he feels it is too soon to determine if there will be a potential Murph & Mac reunion on a digital platform. Instead, he is focused on being able to continue to serve San Francisco sports fans without his longtime on-air partner. Murphy realizes how fortunate he was to have someone like McCaffrey by his side and valued both his consistency and dependability on a daily basis.

“Every single segment he was the same energetic, relentless, hilarious partner who only wanted what was good for the show – not what was good for him; not what was good for me – he only wanted what was good for the show,” Murphy said, “and it was such a lesson for this newspaper guy to learn, for lack of a better word, showbusiness.”

When Murphy entered the studio Monday to host his first show without McCaffrey, everything felt surreal to him on the air. There was ostensible tension in the room and from listeners about how he would address the news, and share his feelings with the audience. The program ended with a monologue from Murphy regarding McCaffrey, something that he is grateful Boucher did not raise objection to and that he was able to make his statement on the air.

“The 49ers had just destroyed the Philadelphia Eagles, which actually was a huge positive break for us because it allowed everything to happen Monday with the backdrop of great positivity because that was a huge game for the Niners and people were pretty jacked up about that game,” Murphy said. “So I opened the show by saying, ‘I know it’s corny, but that one was for Paulie.’”

The shock and surprise from McCaffrey being laid off is hardly evanescent, but Murphy is now thinking about how to optimize the morning program with Boucher. Predicting what may come next is an arduous task. Murphy considers himself fortunate to have had nearly 18 years hosting with McCaffrey, and he is now thinking about the next chapter of his time at KNBR while having reference for the enduring legacy of Murph & Mac.

“For whatever reason, I’ve never lost my absolute joy and passion for the sports world – sports content; sports stories; sports history; sports media – everything about it,” Murphy said. “And so every morning when my alarm goes off and my feet hit the floor, I’m like, ‘Let’s go! I’m stealing money. This isn’t work.’”

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