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Brandon Gaudin Is A Familiar Voice In a New Place

“Everybody on the outside that looks at this job… always says, ‘Man, that must be so cool. You’re getting to live out your dream.”

Derek Futterman



The Atlanta Braves are a storied organization and an epitome of sustained success, consistently fielding a championship team and creating a stellar sports and entertainment experience for fans. For the last 46 years, Braves fans watched games on television and heard a member of the Caray family broadcasting games – Skip from 1976 until his death in 2008; and Chip from 2005 until 2022. On March 30, Braves fans will notice a new commentary voice in Brandon Gaudin, living out his childhood dream amid the team’s quest for a championship.

Throughout one’s professional career, there are unforgettable moments where a person can vividly recall where they were and the details of what happened. Some people experience more of these moments than others which are firmly etched into the subconscious, the connotation thereof notwithstanding. For Gaudin, his latest moment came approximately two weeks ago when he received the job offer to serve as the television play-by-play voice of the Atlanta Braves.

Gaudin’s journey to reach this point took him across the United States, finding opportunities and adequately performing his role while always possessing a growth mindset. It all began with a trip to Atlanta, Ga. to visit his aunt and uncle to attend Game 5 of the 1991 World Series at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Tom Glavine started the game for Atlanta and a triple by second baseman Mark Lemke ultimately put the contest out of reach – Braves 14, Twins 5.

“When I left the park that night with my foam tomahawk in my hand, I was head over heels,” Gaudin said. “That night, I didn’t know I was going to be a broadcaster for my career, but I knew that I wanted to be a part of Braves baseball.”

Cognizant that games were televised, Gaudin began fervently watching the team in the evenings on TBS featuring the broadcast crew of Chip Caray, Don Sutton, Joe Simpson and Pete Van Wieren. He learned an interminable amount of information about the franchise, including, of course, the 1995 squad that captured a World Series championship. In fact, Gaudin can still recite every starting lineup for the Atlanta Braves from 1991 to 1999.

At the age of 13, Gaudin penned a letter to Caray asking him for advice on how to become a broadcaster and to adequately stay composed during a big moment. He explained his fandom, divulged some of the games he had attended and mentioned how everyone in his family thought he should try working in sports media. A few months later, Gaudin received a reply from Caray where he recommended publications to read and subjects to study. Additionally, he implored him to learn how to manage his voice and expand his lexicon through reading.

“He was really the most influential person, even though I was so young, in my broadcasting career,” Gaudin said of Caray. “When I was calling baseball games to start out [at] college, everything that I knew I had learned from him really from just watching countless Braves games on TBS.”

With a vast portfolio, Gaudin attended the MLB Winter Meetings resolute in his quest to land a broadcasting job. For $500 a month, he became the new play-by-play announcer and media relations director for the Orem Owlz, a former Pioneer League-affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels. Even though the team played an abbreviated, 76-game season over an 80-day span, Gaudin and other broadcasters knew it would be a grind. By the end of the season, which consisted of bus rides through the intermountain west surrounding Orem, Utah and fast-food meals galore, Gaudin remained hungry to do more.

“I think that minor league season and getting a start there was fitting because baseball was my love and my passion,” Gaudin said. “….It opened my eyes that I was on the right track.”

Gaudin continued broadcasting baseball at the University of Evansville, along with serving as the voice of its basketball team and general manager of its student-run radio station WUEV-FM. Before that though, he remained home to help care for his father who had suffered a serious heart attack days after the conclusion of the Orem Owlz baseball season. “Thankfully, he’s still here; he didn’t pass, but it was very serious and there was about a five or six-month recovery,” Gaudin said.

In August 2010, Gaudin returned to his alma mater to become the new play-by-play voice of the Butler University Bulldogs men’s basketball team. Broadcasting a sport with a rapid tempo, Gaudin made sure to be concise and comprehensive in his storytelling. Moreover, he sought to pace himself and refrain from expounding on all of his ideas, leaving time for his analyst to chime in. Simultaneously, this shift provided him a chance to effectively call significant plays with proper verve and subsequent extolment.

“I think when you listen to the greats and the ones who really have had a lot of success in the industry, that’s a big key of just making it a comfortable listen and not over-talking for the viewers at home,” Gaudin said. “….Let the crowd and the game dictate the level of excitement in your voice, and I think that’s a key to success for any broadcaster.”

When he was named as the new radio voice of Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets football, men’s basketball and baseball, Gaudin officially made the move to Atlanta where he resides today.

During that time, he not only honed his craft but took a further liking to the city itself. One year later, he joined Westwood One to call select NFL games and part of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, sharpening his play-by-play skills on the aural medium.

Presently, he estimates his duties only account for about 3 to 5% of his total work, but nonetheless looks to remain involved in radio because of the unique aspects of the medium.

“There’s just something so pure, and it throws you back to the old days, about calling a game on the radio where the listener’s completely vulnerable to your words,” Gaudin explained. “On television, they’ve got the pictures. I always say on TV [that] you’re helping put the game in high-definition, but they can see what’s going on. On radio, they’re completely vulnerable to what you’re saying because they don’t have the pictures.”

The Madden NFL franchise has redefined sports video gaming since its advent in 1988, providing fans with a way to participate in the game with genuine plays and NFL rosters. Over its 35-year history, a select few broadcasters have had the opportunity to provide play-by-play commentary in the game, including Pat Summerall, Al Michaels, Tom Hammond, Gus Johnson and Jim Nantz.

For Madden NFL 17, those involved in the game’s development looked to change direction and bring in an up-and-coming broadcaster to fill the role. Much to his surprise, Gaudin was contacted on LinkedIn by a producer at EA Sports who had heard him call a Georgia Tech play featured on ESPN’s SportsCenter, and proceeded to invite him for an audition. After he auditioned, Gaudin was optimistic and considered himself a “dark-horse candidate” to be the voice of a video game he had played with his friends while growing up. One month later, he received the phone call of a lifetime shortly before playing pickup basketball with friends at a gym.

“It was one of the coolest feelings you could ever experience,” he said. “They asked, ‘Are you interested still?,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I would love to do it.’ To continue to do that almost eight years later, it’s been a really, really neat journey.”

Joined by analyst Charles Davis, Gaudin records various lines each year that are programmed to be implemented in the video game. Oftentimes, courses of dialogue could span multiple years, requiring consistent intonation and prosody to achieve a smooth, consistent sound. Even though they do not call live NFL games together, Davis has become an important figure in Gaudin’s broadcasting career, guiding him and being there for advice.

“Over the last seven years, I’ve truly spent more time in-person and on the phone with Charles than anybody else outside of my family,” Gaudin said. “He’s become a close friend, and he’s just been such a good mentor and given me wisdom and advice on everything career-related [and] personal-related. He’s just been in my corner and a lifelong friend.”

Gaudin expects to continue his role with the Madden NFL franchise, along with balancing several other jobs. Since 2016, Gaudin has broadcast football, basketball and baseball on the Big Ten Network, demonstrating his adept versatility as a play-by-play announcer. Additionally, he broadcasts MLB, NFL and NCAA basketball and football games on FOX Sports, and is often asked by viewers whether or not he finds it difficult changing from one sport to the next.

“There are nuances to each that you have to be aware of that kind of change how you broadcast the game,” he explained, “but ultimately, the core of what you’re doing and how you’re conversing with your analyst and how you’re weaving in stories; that all stays the same. I didn’t realize that, I would say, as much 10 years ago than I do now that it is transferable sport-to-sport.”

Caray had served as a play-by-play voice of the Atlanta Braves for the last 20 seasons across various mediums, but he grew up around St. Louis and the Cardinals, making the opening in their television booth that much more appealing. Additionally, both his grandfather Harry and father Skip served as Cardinals broadcasters during their careers, giving him a chance to continue the family’s legacy with the franchise.

“Chip reminded me a lot of his dad who I grew up listening to for all those years,” Gaudin said. “He certainly inherited a lot of the same phrases and things his dad did. For me, it was always kind of nostalgic listening to Chip because I felt like I was kind of listening to Skip through him.”

In departing from the Braves, the play-by-play role Gaudin had coveted from the time he was young suddenly became open. Gaudin, though, had experienced a shift in his thinking over his career centered on remaining in the present rather than hypothesizing about the future. In spite of this, he understood it was a chance he could not pass up and visited Truist Park, the home of the Braves, to be interviewed.

In a one-hour meeting, Gaudin conversed with Bally Sports South/Southeast Executive Producer James Shapiro and Senior Vice President and General Manager Jeff Genthner to discuss his interest in the role and career path. He then proceeded to meet with Atlanta Braves President and CEO Derek Schiller and General Manager and President of Baseball Operations Alex Anthopoulos where he learned more about the direction and vision of the organization. Implicitly, their presence communicated a sentiment about the franchise seldom substantiated across professional sports.

“The fact that the president and general manager of this club want to talk to the candidates for an announcing position says a lot about where the franchise is and how they view their television crew because that wouldn’t happen everywhere,” Gaudin said. “I’ve been in some of those meetings and that’s pretty rare to get two of the top people in the organization that want to sit down and chat with you.”

As a local broadcaster, Gaudin knows it is incumbent on him to render the broadcast towards Braves fans. Over the last few years, the team has signed young players to long-term contracts including catcher Sean Murphy; infielders Matt Olson, Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley; outfielder Michael Harris; and starting pitcher Spencer Strider. These core players will suit up for the Braves for many years to come, giving fans the chance to learn about them over the next decade.

The differentiating factor will be in informing viewers about the opponent, an aspect of the broadcast Gaudin is used to from doing national games. He thoroughly enjoys researching and reporting on players, personnel and organizations, conveying that information to the fans – albeit at more of a “30,000-foot view.”

“Certainly the first year as I’m getting into this, even though I’ve done MLB [for] the last couple of years, you’ve got to get that groove of kind of learning who is where and the stories behind each player,” Gaudin said. “The prep will be more in year one than in subsequent years, and I know that and every broadcaster that has reached out to me has told me that.”

An ostensible advantage Gaudin may have in entering the position at this time will be adjusting to rule change, instituted with the intent to expedite pace of play and increase offense. A pitch clock, for example, will be implemented into games this season – 15 seconds with the bases empty; 20 seconds with runners on base – necessitating brevity in commentary. Additionally, the league has limited defensive shifts, requiring two infielders to play on either side of second base, along with introducing bigger bases to prevent injuries and encourage more steals.

“With the pitch clock being quicker and these pitchers having to deliver maybe 3-4 seconds faster in-between pitches than normal, you’re going to have to be more aware of your storytelling and pacing than before,” Gaudin said. “Three-to-four seconds may not sound like a lot, but if you’re trying to finish up a point before the next pitch… you’re going to have to tidy things up a little bit.”

From the moment he received the call with the life-altering news on Feb. 7, Gaudin has been working diligently to prepare for the upcoming season. Whether it is watching previous games, reading articles or compiling information on the team, he hopes to be as prepared as possible by his first broadcast on March 23 in North Port, Fla. in a spring training matchup against the rival New York Mets. In addition to his preparation, he will be broadcasting college basketball in both the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament, along with the first and second rounds of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, making him quite busy in the next few months.

What should make the upcoming season more facile for Gaudin is that the Braves are expected to compete for a World Series championship. In his meeting with Schiller and Anthopolous though, he stated that he would aim to bring passion and enthusiasm for the team regardless of their on-field play. The team has won the National League East division title for five consecutive seasons including a World Series championship in 2021, giving him flashbacks to his childhood.

“Certainly it is an exciting time to be taking over this job because of the success that the Braves have had,” Gaudin said. “It truly reminds me of a lot of what they had going in the ‘90s when I became a fan of the team when they were just rattling off title after title after title, and they had just this bevy of talent that was in the hopper and was going to be in the hopper for a long time.”

Gaudin recognizes that a combination of hard work, talent and luck has placed him in the positions he garners as a play-by-play announcer locally, nationally and digitally. With each broadcast, he tries to perform his job to the best of his ability and carries the intent of steadily improving. He is appreciative of every chance to step behind the microphone and deliver the action to fans by intuitively watching the game and collaborating with his analyst – an amalgamation of information and entertainment.

“It’s what I call a candy-store job,” Gaudin said. “Everybody on the outside that looks at this job… always says, ‘Man, that must be so cool. You’re getting to live out your dream. I would love to be able to do that.’ When you hear those comments, it just reminds you [that] yeah, you’re pretty fortunate to do this for a living.”

Most broadcasters have an avidity for the sports they call and keep a consistent pulse on its ceaseless news cycle. The motivating factor of being in sports media, however, differs between professionals; some want to ascend to national positions of eminence and prestige, while others are content with where they are.

Because of the scarcity of national broadcasting jobs, very few aspiring play-by-play announcers reach that point in their careers, let alone remain at it for an extended period of time. Gaudin is open to the idea of one day having a chance to call a Super Bowl or a World Series, but is not fixated on those goals and instead tries to live in the moment. For now, he looks forward to the first pitch of the Braves season and immerse himself in, as he put it, “the realization of a childhood dream.”

“If you get into it because you see the big dollars at the end possibly or being known and having your face on television, that will ultimately, likely, lead to you being upset because there’s so few that get to that spot,” Gaudin expressed. “The majority of us are just calling games because we really like the art of broadcasting and storytelling…. Just make sure that your heart is in it because if not, you might find out that you don’t like as much as you thought you did.”

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Meet the Podcasters: Mina Kimes, ESPN

“I think fans are smarter than ever now. Because football is such a big tent, you can find pockets of the audience with every level of knowledge and preference for analysis.”

Demetri Ravanos




As 2023 inches towards the finish line, so too does our Meet the Podcasters series. We have spoken with people that found success in the space after so many different journeys. Greg McElroy and Chris Jericho were championship-winning athletes. Mike Francesa and Adam the Bull dominated local radio. Bomani Jones made his name in the digital space. We end on a bonafide sports television superstar in Mina Kimes.

If you don’t believe that, just look at the deal she signed earlier this year. She gets to stay at ESPN and carve out time to work with Meadowlark Media. Those aren’t concessions given to someone their network thinks is easy to replace.

It can be tough to find time to chat as the holidays approach, so the conversation was short, but it covered a lot of ground. Why have analytics caught on with fans? Is it more fun to dissect success or to re-think failure? How do you watch a game when you have to not only understand what is happening, but figure out the best way to turn that explanation into analysis?

Obviously, I want to thank Mina and everyone else that made time to chat with me for this series. A big thank you goes to Point-to-Point Marketing as well for making these features possible. Last, but certainly not least, thanks to all of you that took the time to read even just one of these. I hope you learned a little something that you can take with you into 2024 to make your digital content more successful!

Demetri Ravanos: There is a big audience for what you do best and I sometimes wonder how much that surprises those of us that grew up in the media. Do you think the appetite for analytics and in-depth analysis is relatively new, or was the appetite always there without the right platform before the rise of digital media?

Mina Kimes: I think fans are smarter than ever now. Because football is such a big tent, you can find pockets of the audience with every level of knowledge and preference for analysis, but on the whole it really does seem to me that viewers and listeners are better informed than ever, which I’d attribute to the rise of fantasy football and the proliferation of websites and podcasts that talk about film, cap management, analytics, etc.

We see this trend playing out at NFL Live, where our nerdiest segments often capture a good deal of interest.

DR: What for you is more interesting – explaining why things aren’t as bleak as the performance may suggest (i.e., Bryce Young not having time or protection to really see what he is as a QB) or highlighting what makes the greats so great (Mahomes’ best throws, how Micah Parsons sheds blocks, etc.)?

MK: I love digging into great performances, but the first category is really compelling to me because it forces us to look beyond basic numbers and highlights (or lowlights!). That’s where I think the intersection of film and statistics is so useful – it allows us to dig deeper into tendencies and trends to explain why things are happening.

DR: When you are doing your weekend previews, what information do you prioritize? Is it storylines or is there a number or category that you try to make a staple of your analysis for everything?

MK: Once I’ve settled on which games I want to discuss, there are two things I try to zero in on: The strengths and weaknesses of each team, and how they match up.

I also make note of things I’ve observed recently (for example, if a team is leaning on a certain personnel group or formation) and then consider how it might impact the game.

DR: What about in setting those topics and discussions up? How do you watch and re-watch games, plays and moments to best understand what it is you are seeing and find the point you want to bring to the audience?

MK: When I’m watching the weekend’s games on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, I’m looking for interesting (good or bad!) plays, tendencies, and trends. For example, if I notice a QB is having success targeting a specific area of the field, I’ll make note of a few plays, grab the numbers later, and then, when I’m podcasting, consider how that might play out next week.

DR: One of the big differences between podcasts and legacy media is that people listening to podcasts are actively choosing you and the topic you are talking about. Does that change the way you can discuss a game or a player versus on TV?

MK: I’d say the biggest difference isn’t topic selection, but time. On TV we only have a segment or less to hit on a matchup, whereas on my podcast, I’m often talking about the same games and players, but I have 15 minutes instead of five (and I’m one of two people chatting instead of four or five).

I will add that the topic selection process at NFL Live is very collaborative, though. We know which games we need to focus on, but the way we approach discussion is driven by our interests and observations.

DR: I am always interested in the different views on this. Podcast listeners overwhelmingly say they like video now. Is that a preference you understand or does it not make sense to you?

MK: It makes sense! Because the production quality has improved so much (the kind folks at Omaha Productions have been working with me to improve the look of my show for YouTube), many podcasts really don’t look very different from sports television.

If you’re already a listener, why wouldn’t you want to watch as well, especially since you have a convenient viewing device in your hand all day? I do think there will always be people who just listen, though, because their free time for consumption is relegated to commuting (or in my case, walking a dog!).

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

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Michelle Smallmon Didn’t Stumble Into Mornings on ESPN Radio

“The humanity and the relatability is what’s going to really bring people in.”

Derek Futterman



Michelle Smallmon
Courtesy: Missouri Athletic Club Connections

It all started with an accident. While vacuuming her apartment just two days before the first episode of her new national ESPN Radio program, Michelle Smallmon tripped over an air purifier cord. As a result of the maladroit blunder, she fell face first into her coffee table and hit the inside of her eye on a drinking glass.

When Smallmon looked into the mirror, she immediately saw that her eye was bleeding and swelling up and was in a state of disbelief, although she was not surprised that this happened to her because of her inherent clumsiness. The black eye that came out of all of this turned out to be an advantageous opportunity for the program, which opened its first hour on the air with this circumstance.

Smallmon works alongside Evan Cohen and Chris Canty weekday mornings on UnSportsmanLike, the new ESPN Radio morning show that leads off a refreshed national programming lineup. Since the program is also simulcast on ESPN2, there are cameras on inside the radio studio at the Seaport District-based radio studio, granting viewers of the premiere episode an opportunity to see Smallmon’s black eye for themselves. The incident, however, provided a means for the new hosting trio to introduce themselves and showcase their personalities in an atypical fashion by recalling a calamitous occurrence from the onset.

“We have to be ourselves,” Smallmon said. “People are coming for the sports, and hopefully with our opinions and our information and the knowledge that we provide, they’ll stick around, but they’re going to remember us for who we are. The humanity and the relatability is what’s going to really bring people in.”

Once the hosts of UnSportsmanLike were finalized, Smallmon met with Canty and Cohen to determine their collective philosophy for the program. At the crux of their conversation was how sports is supposed to be an enjoyable part of people’s days, making it important to be genuine with the audience and celebrate the festivities.

“I just think that audio provides a really great way for people to weave us throughout their day and it’s something that they can come back to, and I just feel like the audio space continues to grow,” Smallmon said. “So that is really exciting to me that there are so many different avenues for us to explore in the audio space.”

Smallmon and her colleagues understand that their program that was once anchored by Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg in the mornings for 18 years, who created a show that proved to be an enduring facet to sports radio as a whole. Today, UnSportsmanLike is competing for mindshare and attention span in a dynamic media ecosystem where people can consume various types of content by equipping myriad methodologies. The mission to serve the sports fan anytime, anywhere requires the hosts engage in deft preparation and fealty towards the audio vertical, never taking their positions for granted and understanding the privilege in being able to communicate en masse on the air.

“Any time anybody elects to listen to you, they are giving you a vote,” Smallmon said. “They’re choosing you [and] they are saying, ‘I want to spend a part of my precious time with you,’ and particularly in the mornings because we’re the first people that get the opportunity to talk about the games from the night before or to give our opinion on certain things.”

While Smallmon may have stumbled into an enthralling storyline to open the program and captivate the audience, she did just the opposite in landing a spot within the coveted morning drive daypart. Through years of indefatigable persistence and calculated risk-taking, she positioned herself to garner such a chance when the network was in the midst of developing a new lineup.

Despite having a successful morning show in St. Louis, Mo. on 101 ESPN that was finishing with high ratings and bolstering streams of revenue, Smallmon found herself yearning to live in a sprawling metropolis. Because of this, she started visiting her friends in New York City once per month and gradually became enamored with the locale, prompting her to meet with co-host Randy Karraker, program director Tommy Mattern and Hubbard Radio market manager John Kijowski to express her intent to leave the station.

“They have always been my biggest champions [and] they encouraged me every step of the way,” Smallmon said. “They were like, ‘This is going to be a tough transition for us because the show’s going so well, but we care about you as a person more than we do an employee, and if this is your dream and something you think you have to do, we’ve got your back.’ I will always and forever be indebted to them for not only finding a way to help me do that, but for supporting me and checking in with me every step of the way.”

When she was young, Smallmon frequently traveled to St. Louis with her father to attend sporting events, cherishing every chance she could to see a live game. Throughout her childhood, she watched football on television and remembers seeing sideline reporter Melissa Stark interview the players, prompting her to think about working in sports. Quotidian tasks were transformed into beacons of flourishing sports knowledge, catalyzed by her father’s creativity with abecedarian activities such as sorting and folding laundry.

Yet Smallmon concentrated in premedical studies at the University of Illinois, matriculating to try and become a dermatologist. Early on, she realized that she was not dedicated enough to pursue a profession in the field, resulting in a meeting with her advisor about her future plans. Upon being asked her ideal career path, Smallmon demonstrated interest in covering the basketball team with the goal of appearing on College GameDay as a features reporter in the future.

Amid an economic crash, Smallmon was able to land a job as a production assistant at KSDK, a local television station with which she had interned as a college student. Smallmon worked on the outlet’s morning show, Today in St. Louis, arriving at the studios around 3:30 a.m. every day to prepare and execute the broadcast.

Although her shift ended at 2 p.m., she would put in extra effort to stay later and interact with sportscaster Frank Cusamano and sports director Rene Knott, volunteering her time and trying to be productive. In displaying her aspiration to work in sports, she was eventually offered a position in the department, which first started with shooting and editing high school events.

“Most of the work that was done in sports was leading up to the 5 and 6 o’clock newscast until they took a big break before 10 p.m.,” Smallmon said. “I would use that time to just absorb as much as I could, watch the guys at work and try to make myself useful.”

Drawing inspiration from the aforementioned Stark, Smallmon had seen various women working and thriving in sports television; however, this was not the case in the sports radio format. Despite being familiar with the medium, she had never considered going on the air until Knott asked her to be a co-host of his new weekend show on 101 ESPN.

After some time, she received a note from an executive inquiring if she would be interested in applying for an open producer position available at the outlet. Even though she applied thinking she would not receive the job – a thought compounded when she discovered the producer role was for the program hosted by Bernie Miklasz – Smallmon made it to the final round of interviews. Speaking with Miklasz directly, he articulated that while he thought she was a good fit for the role, the other candidate had more qualifications and previous experience.

“I looked at him and I said, ‘Well, if that person is as great as you say that they are and have this much experience, they will have no problem finding another job when you hire me to be your producer,’” Smallmon averred. “I left there and I was like, ‘Man, I blew that.’”

Much to her surprise, Smallmon was hired and ended up working with Miklasz in the role for three years. In speaking with him and observing how he interacted with other people, she learned industry nuances and esoterica that made her even more adept at the role. Smallmon was eventually moved to The Fast Lane in the afternoons with Randy Karraker, D’Marco Farr and Brad Thompson, possessing a mentality of how to best position the show for sustained growth and success.

Smallmon took her skills to ESPN Radio in 2015 when she moved to Bristol, Conn. to work as a producer. The first stint with the network prepared her to excel on UnSportsmanLike, collaborating with hosts such as Ryen Russillo, Danny Kannel and Jorge Sedano, but she always felt a magnetic pull back towards St. Louis. Once Russillo was officially slated to leave ESPN, Smallmon was in talks with the company about different paths she could take and weighing her options. In the eleventh hour, Smallmon received a fortuitous call from Miklasz, who conveyed that he was thinking about changing up his show and wanted to know if she had any interest in co-hosting the program.

“It just felt like all of the cards were falling into place at the right time for me to make that move, and I’m a person that likes to take chances and challenge myself, and I don’t ever want to live with regrets,” Smallmon said. “I thought, ‘Maybe hosting and being on the air is not going to be for me; maybe it’s always going to be production, but I’d like to know.’”

Once she returned, Miklasz offered to change the name of the program to incorporate Smallmon, an entreaty that she declined because of fear that it would disrupt what was a known entity to listeners in the locale. Upon his exit from the station two years later, Smallmon started hosting with Randy Karraker, who implored her to add her name. Even though she never sought out to find the spotlight, she capitulated to the request once her co-host explained why it was important as not only an identifying factor, but also as the first female to be a full-time host on the station.

“I would hear from so many female sports fans across the area and parents whose daughters listened to the show and whose daughters paid attention to the show because someone who looked like them occupied that seat,” Smallmon said. “I really realized how important it was for me to establish myself in that way.”

As Smallmon made the move from St. Louis to New York City, her parents surmised she was recklessly upending her life. Subletting an apartment from a mutual friend in the city, she was working under a usages deal at ESPN Radio where she would deliver overnight updates and host SportsCenter All Night. Smallmon was grateful for the support of her parents and asked them to give her a year, during which she would work hard to land a full-time job in the city. Three hundred and sixty-six days later, Smallmon took to the air with a black eye to commence UnSportsmanLike, officially meeting her end of the bargain.

“It’s hard to explain to people how strange our job is,” Smallmon said. “The three of us sit in a windowless room and talk to one another for four-plus hours a day, so just by nature of spending that much intimate time with someone, you get to know them really well really fast.”

The workday for the morning episode begins the day prior several hours after the conclusion of the previous broadcast, independently reading articles, following sports news and reviewing games. In the preceding afternoon, the program holds a content call where everyone pitches ideas before an early rundown is sent out and added to throughout the day.

While the game of the night is on, Smallmon is in constant communication with her thoughts before getting sleep and preparing for an early wake-up call. There is a pre-show meeting to review the rundown before the four-hour morning show begins at 6 a.m. As soon as the on-air light is extinguished, the process starts again so the hosts are ready for it to illuminate again in 20 hours.

“It’s really a full-time commitment, especially during football season, to do a job like this,” Smallmon said, “but when you’re lucky enough to get the opportunity to host a show of this magnitude, you’ve kind of got to make it your life in a lot of ways.”

When she takes her seat behind the microphone in the morning, Smallmon believes that two of the most talented people she has ever worked with are sitting by her side. In her view, she needs to be at the same level as them on the program and effectuates that through her preparation and by bringing different perspectives to the air.

“I have zigged and zagged and occupied different roles throughout my time,” Smallmon said. “It’s really just been surprising opportunities that I have emerged and that I’ve really been grateful to have and that I want to take advantage of, but I don’t really think about the future and my motivation is not really driven by what’s next; it’s driven by the present.

For now, Smallmon is focused on attaining success in New York City and hopes to participate in the program for as long as possible. Down the road though, she knows that her career will entail a second return to St. Louis when she wants to be back in the community she loves and closer to her family. The gratitude she has in being able to regard the city as home is conspicuous and authentic, and those in the locale continue to listen to her on 101 ESPN for two hours each morning ahead of the station’s local morning program.

“My only goal right now is to make UnSportsmanLike the best show that it possibly can be, and if that is the case, hopefully we have an amazing run with the show,” Smallmon said. “That’s the goal is to make it as amazing as it possibly can be and ride that wave for as long as we possibly can.”

Smallmon never envisioned herself working in radio but now finds herself as a trusted voice in the mornings on a simulcast program within the network’s on-air lineup. Through it all, she has remained true to herself while exhibiting an evident commitment and passion for the craft, valuing every chance she has to go on the air.

“People will always say things to me like, ‘Oh, are you going to be the next Erin Andrews?,’ or things of that nature,” Smallmon explained. “And I say, ‘No, I’m going to be the first and only Michelle Smallmon,’ because the edge that I have over everybody else is that I’m me. There’s nobody else that’s me, and so if I can just be myself and be authentic every day and do that, anybody else can.”

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Desmond Howard Unnecessarily Threw Pete Thamel Under the Bus on College GameDay

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A photo of Desmond Howard

College football fans can be a crazy bunch, most of them are crazy in the sense they are doing stupid things that give you a good laugh but, every fan base has a lunatic fringe. Each fan base is more than willing to point out the lunatic fringe in the fanbase of their rivals but often are slow to acknowledge their own offenders. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist in any program that has any significant fanbase. The lunatic fringe affected College GameDay Saturday, and Desmond Howard didn’t help the situation.

As a fan, you can accept it as true or bury your head and assume you are the one singular program that has somehow avoided having a fringe lunacy.

Michigan is certainly a significant football program with a massive fanbase. Just the sheer number of Michigan fans tells you there is going to be a larger than normal number of fans that might fall into the category of “fringe lunatic”, it is just how the odds work.

That suggestion was made by ESPN during Saturday’s College GameDay which originated from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Just in case you are completely unaware of the biggest story in college football this season, during Saturday’s Ohio State-Michigan game, Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh was serving the final game of an agreed upon Big Ten Conference suspension. The game also happened to be the biggest game of the season so far, a virtual play-in game for the College Football Playoff.

The suspension of Harbaugh was the result of allegations that Michigan staffer Connor Stalions was running an “off the books” sign stealing operation and that Stalions was a little too closely connected with Harbaugh for the Big Ten’s comfort.

Stories like these only become mainstream by reporting and ESPN’s Pete Thamel was on the frontlines of that reporting. It should be said that, just because something is reported by ESPN, FOX, or CBS, doesn’t automatically make it true. Likewise, just because something reported about your team may not paint them in the best possible light, it doesn’t make it untrue. That was the gray area ESPN’s College GameDay found themselves in Saturday; one of their top college football reporters in the very midst of the fans that are upset with his reporting.

Thamel joins GameDay on site every week, normally delivering the breaking news on injuries and coaching changes, fairly normal stuff. He delivers his reports, not on stage, but among the actual team fans who are gathered behind the set for all the cameras to see.

Except Saturday when Thamel was not among the masses but inside the more controlled confines of Michigan Stadium.

Honestly, Thamel being inside the stadium, rather than among the crowd, would not have seemed at all odd to me until Michigan’s Heisman Trophy winner and GameDay analyst Desmond Howard made it awkward in this exchange:

Howard: “We’ve been doing this 12, 13 weeks and Pete’s always been in the crowd giving his reports, I’m like, ‘What the Hell’s Pete in the stadium for?’ That kind of just threw me all off, I’m like, ‘Put your big boy pants on and do it in the crowd like you normally do it.’”

Rece Davis: “He’s got some from the lunatic fringe, some ‘friends’. We’re just taking care of him.”

Howard: “We’ve got security. We’ll be ok. These guys are nice out here. These are nice fans. They’re not going to do anything.”

Davis: “It only takes one. That’s all.”

Howard: “He’ll be ok. Put the big boy pants on.”

I have no idea how many credible threats Thamel has received but there was, apparently, enough concern for ESPN to move him into an area that could be more easily secured.

Desmond Howard, though, seemed upset that ESPN doing that painted the fan base of his old school in a very negative light. I would make the case that even the most ardent GameDay viewers wouldn’t think it odd that Thamel was inside the stadium rather than among the crowd. Howard’s insistence on Pete not wearing his “big boy pants” only drew further attention to the fact Thamel was not in his normal spot.

Desmond Howard came off sounding like he was under some sort of pressure, personally created or applied from Michigan interests, to point out there was no reason Thamel should have any concern about Michigan fans. In doing so, Howard came off as something he’s never been accused of being, a poor teammate. The best way to handle the situation for ESPN would be to completely ignore the fact there was a change in Thamel’s location. In the event ESPN thinks anyone would notice, highly unlikely as it may be, just create a simple cover story.

To Thamel’s credit, he seemed content to not be the focus of this addition to the story, it was only Howard’s awkward interaction that brought it to light. It was completely unnecessary and only made everyone involved look a little worse.

In his NFL career, Desmond Howard averaged only one fumble per season, Saturday in Ann Arbor, he added another.

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