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Jimmy Powers is Shocked & Honored

“When Jason called me and told me about it, I was just kind of dumbfounded, really. I was shocked and honored at the same time.”

Brian Noe

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Jimmy Powers

Barrett Sports Media presents the Mark Chernoff Award on an annual basis. It goes to a local program director that has basically been crushing it. Creativity, leadership and sustained success. Those are the words that comprise the foundation of the award. Those are also the descriptions that tell the story of Jimmy Powers, the PD of 14 years for 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit.

On Tuesday, March 21, Powers was presented with the prestigious honor at the 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles. It was a great moment for him, but being the center of attention is not exactly Powers’ comfort zone. He describes himself as someone that doesn’t seek the spotlight. Well, it was spotlight city when Powers was thrown into the deep end of the pool while giving a speech in front of some of the industry’s heaviest hitters. 

His message was succinct, but the appreciation Powers has for people that were instrumental in his development — Debbie Kenyon, Mike Thompson, Tom Bigby — was apparent. In our conversation just prior to the Summit, Powers revealed the best decision and the biggest mistake he’s made during his programming career. The Marietta, Georgia, native mentioned the peer that he admires the most in sports radio. We also saved some time to talk about the Detroit Lions, Georgia football and balancing birthday parties with networking. Enjoy!

Brian Noe: I read a quote this morning from Albert Einstein. It said “life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance you must keep moving”. I thought that was interesting; how do you keep moving as a programmer?

Jimmy Powers: I don’t think you have time to stop or stand still. As everything evolves in the industry and just different ways, I think you really don’t have time to sit still. I think it’s important to try to — and I know that sounds weird — it goes against what Einstein said. What does that guy know anyway, right?

BN: [Laughs]

JP: But he’s absolutely right. You can’t sit still and just sit back and wait, but at the same time, there are times when you have to carve out time, especially as a programmer, and step away from your desk. I have a thing that I do, I try to do it once a week, and that’s just hop in the car and drive around. Your commute is one thing, but a lot of times you’re taking calls. It’s important because we’re getting pulled in so many different directions that you don’t have time sometimes to actually listen to your station as a listener would. I try to carve out time and block off my calendar so I’m not taking phone calls or answering emails, and I’m just consuming the radio station to see what it sounds like from a consumer standpoint.

BN: Have you had a chance to attend the Summit before?

JP: No, this is actually my first time and the timing couldn’t be better. Obviously, I’m honored to be recognized. But this is the first year that it hasn’t coincided with — so I have two girls — and both of my daughters’ birthdays are in March. Ever since Jason put this together, it always fell on one of their birthdays or parties. I’m a family guy first and foremost. So when he told me the day, I wasn’t sure if I could do it or not. Then he told me the dates and it’s after all my daughter’s birthday party celebrations, all that fun stuff. This is the first year of all the years that it hasn’t coincided with something they have going on.

BN: That’s good. I’m glad the timing worked out where you don’t have to say “Sorry, girls, I’m getting a big award this year.”

JP: [Laughs] No kidding. They wouldn’t understand it. It’s all about them. They’re two girls and they’re young, so I’m glad it worked out for both of us.

BN: What does it mean to you to be honored with the Mark Chernoff Award that you’ll be receiving?

JP: I’m very grateful. Obviously, I don’t shoot for awards or anything like that. I just try to stay in my lane and focus on what’s important to me, and that’s creating good radio and generating ratings and revenue in the market. When Jason [Barrett] called me and told me about it, I was just kind of dumbfounded, really. I was shocked and honored at the same time. As I mentioned before, the fact that you put that in the mix in the same sentence with Chernoff and yeah, it’s pretty cool.

BN: What’s the best decision you’ve made over your programming career?

JP: Wow, great question. Damn, that’s good. I think taking the advice of your talent sometimes because as a programmer, we’re not always right. And I’m not going to claim to know everything and have all the right answers. I think being a good listener to talent, it doesn’t mean they’re always going to be right, but you’ve got to believe in those guys. I think the trust in talent because they may have a different finish line, or an end goal of what the topic may be. 

When we’re talking topics and things like that, it’s like “Well, wait a minute, they can have a payoff and really that hook at the end of it”. So it’s really trust in your talent and listening to them. Look, they’re better at that than I am when it comes to actually delivering those types of things. Just trust, I would say, having the trust in the people because let’s be honest, they wouldn’t be on the station if you didn’t trust in them anyway. I think just being a good listener and having trust in your talent.

BN: What’s the biggest mistake that you made throughout your career that you might have learned a lot from?

JP: I would say not taking risks sometimes, trying to play it safe. Nothing’s really bit me in the ass if you will, and excuse my French. I think sometimes we can take more risks because we’re not going to bat a thousand. I think there’s opportunities sometimes that you miss and you didn’t jump on because there is a small window of certain things that you could do. That’s playing off topics and stories and things like that. I think just at times not taking a risk.

BN: There are titles for these Q&As. I can just see it now, Jimmy Powers Hasn’t Been Bitten in the Ass. I love that title.

JP: [Laughs] Well, I have, trust me I’ve got plenty of situations personally and professionally, but not devastating in the professional world. You do have to calculate risk because here’s the thing, as we all know, what we do is under the microscope. It’s not like a normal job where if you make a mistake, there’s three people, or maybe two people, even one person knows about it. If we make a mistake, everybody knows about it. It’s in the media, the listeners know, so you do have to kind of assess the risk factor. But you also have to take risks at times.

BN: What would those risks be pertaining to?

JP: It’s slippery, right? Depending on your relationships, and I think of topics and coaching situations, and strictly for format reasons, you have partnerships with teams and clients even. Sometimes there’s a fine line you can walk it up to, and it’s obviously my job to make sure the talent doesn’t take it over that line. It’s really pushing the envelope when performance of teams, things like that, where the fans aren’t dumb. Especially in our market, Detroit’s a great sports town and the fans are passionate. They want winners. They’ve had success in some sports, but not all of them. Not letting the teams off the hook sometimes. A lot of the times, it may not be the coaching staff, it could be ownership.

That’s the risk, you have to be careful because trying to be transparent on the air and really assess the situation and why something happened, that’s where you have to walk a fine line to not overstep the boundaries because of partnerships and things like that. We have all four pro sports teams. It’s a juggling act of being overly critical, but yet extremely fair, because that’s how we approach any topic that maybe doesn’t sit well with teams.

BN: Is that a little bit like dating four girls at the same time?

JP: [Laughs] Well, that’s a loaded question. Not really. Obviously because they’re seasonal, there’s a little bit of overlap. We have great relationships with the teams. They understand that based on the time of the season, when things happen, we can’t avoid it. They understand that it’s a juggling act for us, andwhat’s top of mind that particular day is what’s going to get airtime, if you will.

BN: I’m really interested in what it’s like managing relationships with pro organizations because I don’t have experience with that. There are a lot of people in sports radio that just don’t deal with situations like that and have no idea what it’s like. How would you describe what it’s like, the good and the bad of trying to maintain those relationships?

JP: Well, for the most part it’s just like any other relationship. You’ve got to have trust in one another. You’ve got to have a cordial relationship; it doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything. Trust me, we go round and round with all the teams at some point in the calendar year because of things that my guys say on the air. But again, I use the word fair, nothing’s personal so you just have to be fair.

If it’s all on the field of play, or things that are just not going well, the teams aren’t going to be happy a lot of times. But it works the other way too, the understanding from the team perspective that performance does dictate what we talk about. My counterparts with the teams understand that this isn’t personal, we’re all fans and we want the teams to do well, so when they’re not doing well and we have to come after them for performance on the field, that’s where you have to be measured. We’re going to butt heads and disagree, but at the end of the day, we have the conversation between both parties. As long as we’re responsible on the air, then I can defend my guys and say “Look, I’m sorry you disagree with us but it’s what we have to talk about.”

BN: Are you kind of like an agent? You’re the buffer between the two sides: talent and the organizations?

JP: Yeah, I never thought of it that way. I guess in a way, for sure. Yeah, I would say that’s a fair way of looking at it. I always defend our guys if we’re playing within the rules that are set. Then just on the flip side of that, there’s times when there’s something off the field that has been really, really concerning that we have stayed away from. And you know how talent is, they have resources and they know things that happen off the field that may not be quite made public, and we know for a fact that happened, but again, out of being responsible, we avoid bringing that up because it’s not the right thing to do.

BN: If you could magically make all the teams successful in your area, which two teams would do the most for your station’s ratings?

JP: Oh, my God, without a doubt, the Lions. If the Lions won the Super Bowl, put it this way, if the Lions even made it to the NFC Championship game, I mean, this town would go absolutely bonkers. Keep in mind they’ve only won one playoff game in 50 years. And they haven’t had a home playoff game, I don’t think in their lifetime. Without a doubt, if they ever made it to the Super Bowl, there’d be a parade from Southern Michigan all the way up to the U.P., which is about eight hours away. There’d be a parade that would run forever and it would be amazing. And then second would be the Tigers, no doubt about it. Their last World Series, they made it in ’12, got swept by the Giants. But the last title was in ‘84, so it’s been, what, 40 years?

BN: It’s hard to believe because I’m from South Bend, Indiana, and Notre Dame football’s last championship was ‘88. Metallica’s Black album was ‘91. It feels like “Ehh, it wasn’t that long ago”. No, that was a long freakin time ago. You start thinking Notre Dame and the Tigers, that’s was a long time ago, man.

JP: And with the history and then just a tradition, then you’re like, wow, that’s been a long time. Hey, trust me, I know the feeling, I’m a Georgia fan. It was 40+ years, and they finally won the one two years ago. Then it’s been a nice little run since, so I know what you mean. As a kid, I’ll never forget the championship in ‘80, but man, you’re just like “Wow, that was a long time ago”. Then thankfully, they’ve turned the page on it. Yeah, things are good right now down there.

BN: Oh yeah, you’re living the good life right now.

JP: [Laughs] Hey, but as we all know that can dry up and be another 40 years in no time.

BN: That’s right, can be. What would you say is the toughest part of your job?

JP: I think buying time. I think there’s so many things that go on now that it’s a time issue. Just prioritizing the things that are important without neglecting the little things too, which can be conversations with people that are on staff. It’s just managing enough time. I’m a big fan of mentoring the new guys that are just getting in the business because we’ve all been there. Unfortunately, that sometimes gets neglected because of other things that are pressing and comes across as like you don’t care. I try not to make that come across that way, but it’s reality and it’s just not fair. I just think it’s a time thing just because so many different things are on your plate these days.

BN: What would you say is the most enjoyable part of your job?

JP: Sit back, listen to the radio station. When these guys are clicking, when there’s things going on in the market and these guys are having fun, but yet they’re dialed into what matters. And look, they’re not always right. But when they’re clicking, you can hear it coming through the speakers. I think that’s just very enjoyable because you know that if you’re entertained by it, hopefully everybody else is as well. So I just think when things happen and we’re on it, it’s really enjoyable because you can just sit back and listen to what’s going on.

BN: Of your peers in sports radio, who do you admire the most?

JP: Well, Mike Thomas was one that, obviously his role has changed, his ability to do what he has done in Boston and BZ. I think with his background too from where he came from, and what he did, and the success that he had, he’s one that I really admire. Just phenomenal with what he did. Obviously, just because his role has changed, but yeah, he’s definitely one most recently. Then, my mentor, who’s retired now was obviously somebody that I’m fond of and thought highly of, but the most recent would be, obviously, Mike Thomas.

BN: As you give your speech when you receive the Mark Chernoff Award, you’re going to be giving your speech in front of some of these people in the industry that you admire a lot. Have you worked on the speech, or are you just going to wing it when you get up there?

JP: You know, I’m not one for speeches. I’m sure it’ll be brief, to the point. Yeah, I absolutely will give some shout-outs, no doubt about it. But it’ll be probably something I think about on the way out there. It won’t be finely tuned, but hopefully, it comes across well and I get my point across.

BN: Yeah, it’s funny. It’s kind of like a fish out of water, where, you’re a programmer. And now all of a sudden, for a little bit of time, you’re an on-air guy when you receive that award.

JP: [Laughs] And there’s a reason why I’m not on air, right? I’m not a guy that really likes the spotlight. It’s really an uncomfortable situation for me. It’s not something I want, the spotlight on me, I want it tobe on the guys. So yeah, it’s a little like you said, fish out of water for sure.

BN: I know this is your first time at the Summit, but I’m sure you’ve gone to other conferences and certainly networked and all of that. For someone in sports radio that’s wanting to progress their career, especially for someone that’s young, why would you say it’s important to be there?

JP: Oh, my God, I think just to hear the different panelists, speakers. Having, like you said, been to other conferences, I date back to the Rick Scott days, the networking is invaluable. I think the people that are there have hundreds of years of experience and can speak to things that these guys are unaware of, and kind of fine-tune skill sets and things like that, the takeaways from it. But I think the biggest thing is the relationship building. That’s the biggest thing. That’s what I’m looking forward to.

I’ve heard great things from cohorts that have been out there, and they rave about it. But at the same time getting back and face-to-face and seeing some of these guys I haven’t seen in years. I talk to themover the phone, but to see them in person again, and just the sidebar conversations, and the takeaways can be enormous for especially a young person that may not know many people, but they get a chance to meet these guys. I think it’s extremely valuable.

BN: This might sound like a loaded question, I swear it is not. The day you get your award and make your speech, if afterward you could ask one person who will be at the Summit to grab dinner with you, who would you choose and why would you choose them?

JP: Well, from what I just saw, probably Al Michaels. Yeah, for sure. Just obviously he’s a legend. He’s one of the best that has ever done the job. The Miracle on Ice thing is just one of those that always will be in our historical aspect of one of the greatest sports accomplishments ever. So I think the stories from that guy would be amazing. I think that would be probably the top of the list.

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Meet the Market Managers: David Yadgaroff, Audacy Philadelphia

“It’s hard to replace somebody as iconic as Angelo, who really lived and breathed his role, setting the agenda for the Philadelphia sports fan.”

Demetri Ravanos

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David Yadgaroff doesn’t talk just to hear himself speak. He gets to the point and he does it quickly, whether he is telling you what he is thinking or he is answering your questions. That fact is evidenced by the length of this week’s entry to the Meet the Market Managers series presented by Point-to-Point Marketing.

It has been a wild ride for WIP over the last 18 months. Yadgaroff had to find a new PD, figure out the best way to send off the station’s iconic morning host, and launch new shows in two different day parts. In the middle of it all were World Series and Super Bowl runs to deal with, too.

Yadgaroff discusses all of it. He also makes time to weigh in on how he addresses Audacy’s stock issues with his staff, the climate of political advertising, and the best practices he has found for making sure advertisers are making the most of digital products.

Demetri Ravanos: Tell me about life since Angelo Cataldi retired. What has changed in terms of the atmosphere in the building? 

David Yadgaroff: It’s a great question. It’s hard to replace somebody as iconic as Angelo, who really lived and breathed his role, setting the agenda for the Philadelphia sports fan. But we’re really proud of what Joe (DeCamara), Jon (Ritchie), James (Seltzer), and Rhea (Hughes) have done in the morning to deliver a show that’s fresh and new, but also lives up to the expectation that Angelo set.              

The addition of Hugh Douglas to midday with Joe Giglio has been very fun, too, because Hugh is a great character and teammate, and fun around the office, as well as very compelling and entertaining radio. 

DR: So I do want to circle back on Jon and Joe here in just a second, but I do wonder, because Angelo had sort of made some hints before he officially announced his retirement. At the time you were looking for a new program director, was his decision about when to call that a career something that ever came up as you were searching for Spike’s successor? Is it something candidates wanted to know about? 

DY: Yeah, absolutely. Angelo was a great partner and expressed his interest in retiring. At that time, Spike had got promoted to New York, so we discussed the radio station as a whole. Angelo, obviously his brand was so closely tied to ours and ours so closely tied to his, he said that he’d do whatever we needed at the radio station to make the transition smooth. That is how we ended up with that last year where Angelo took Wednesdays off to give him a little bit of rest and peace as he finished out his agreement. Then, obviously, he wanted to remain on until the Eagles’ season finally ended, so we had the gift of having Angelo with us until February. 

DR: Let’s circle back on Joe and Jon. They are obviously known commodities to WIP’s advertisers. The job of getting that particular population on board with those guys moving into mornings, it’s very different than getting listeners on board, right? So many of your advertisers are going to be on in multiple dayparts, whereas the listeners may only come in on their drive to work or on their drive home from work. I would imagine on the business side, this was a pretty smooth transition. 

DY: Very smooth. We retained the vast majority of the legacy morning show advertisers, as well as retaining the advertisers that came from middays to mornings. The fresh perspective and excitement about the radio station helped drive more sales as well.                   

You think about the last 12 months of the radio station, Angelo is talking about his farewell, we’re doing a lot of fun stunts about that time, the Phillies postseason, the Eagles postseason, the farewell event, and officially the beginning of a new show that already was a fan favorite. Really, we are very fortunate to have been at the forefront of the sports media narrative in Philadelphia for quite some time. 

DR: The elephant in the room when it comes to Audacy right now is what’s going on with the company’s stock price. I know you cannot give me specific answers, but I do wonder, as somebody that is charged with leading a cluster, you have so many people that you are responsible for. Do you find yourself having conversations where you’re talking to someone that assumes you have more answers than you actually do right now? 

DY: Let me give you the general vibe. We have a very robust business with six radio stations creating a lot of multi-platform content, selling a lot of advertising, and doing fun things. So for our staff on this side of the building, it’s business as usual. We’re having success in many metrics and marching right along. 

DR: The thing I wonder about that’s different for you than other Audacy stations is you literally share a space with Audacy Corporate.

DY: I run a culture of transparency and when things happen that are newsworthy, I make sure to address them. When things aren’t newsworthy, I try to reinforce our core business here, which is one that is very profitable and healthy. 

DR: So last year was extraordinary sports-wise in Philadelphia. Tell me a bit about the new opportunities that were created for WIP, whether we’re talking about interest from new potential clients or an influx of new listeners. 

DY: So WIP has the benefit of being the voice of the fan for decades. We talk a lot about the Eagles. Fans want to talk Eagles 52 weeks a year, and when the Eagles perform, there’s such enthusiasm and excitement. So, yes, I think we pick up new listeners and I know we pick up new advertisers to be part of that fun.               

The Phillies’ season sort of picked up suddenly at the end. It was a much more concentrated and exciting time that everybody just got into from an advertising standpoint, analyst standpoint, and fan standpoint. It was a lot of excitement in a very short period of time.

DR: Given how much Audacy has embraced digital products and where we are in terms of consumption these days, everybody is so used to on-demand content. Nobody works on a station or network’s timetable anymore. Have you found any advertisers that are more interested in the on-demand product than the traditional radio broadcast? 

DY: I don’t think there’s a general statement that describes everyone’s appetite. We focus our salespeople on trying to sell multi-platform campaigns through re-marketing. We find that the more things advertisers are invested in, the more connected they are with our business and the more success they have. All of our salespeople are cross-trained. Ultimately, we try to focus on what an advertiser needs and then make successful recommendations for them. There’s a lot of attention on WIP, so obviously they’re doing a nice job of that. 

DR: Let’s talk about that cross-training as it relates to the stations in the cluster. I recently read this piece that said we are already on pace to see political advertising for the 2024 election cycle surpass what we spent in 2020. Last year, you guys have these two contentious elections inside of Pennsylvania. When it comes to revenue generation, has the fracture between the two parties been relatively good for business in radio? I mean, do you find that people that candidates are advertising further and further out from election day now? 

DY: I think there’s two folds to that question. One is the TV advertising environment gets so toxic and nasty with political ads. It forces out transactional advertisers. That gives us the opportunity to put those advertisers on the radio. So that’s one part. The second part of it is, yes, candidates for PACs are spending more and they’re spending more frequently. 

DR: I would imagine that KYW and WPHT see most of those buys in your cluster, but what about WIP? How much are those PACs and candidates and those campaigns looking to a format to spread their message where maybe the listener is not engaged in the political conversation 24 hours a day? 

DY: I think the first thought is that stations like KYW and PHT do the best, but it really depends on the campaign and the issue and what their strategy is. I mean, there are some issues and campaigns that come down that they can only want to buy. WBEB And WOGL because they are looking for a suburban mom. So it really depends. I think political advertisers are a lot more strategic than they were years ago where they just bought news and news talk. 

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5 Candidates For Saudi Sports Investment After LIV Golf, PGA Merger

“Don’t get me wrong. I am not rooting for any of this.”

Demetri Ravanos

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The term sports washing gets thrown around a lot. It’s usually used accurately, but honestly, I think we give the practice more credit than it deserves. Was there ever a moment where you thought to yourself “The Saudi government can’t be all bad. Just look at LIV Golf!”? 

LIV Golf was kind of a failure in the sports-washing realm. The organization had plenty of money, but the ratings and rhetoric all told the same story: that shit was a joke.

Then came Tuesday. Money changed hands. PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan got his sweet deal and cushy new title and forgot his moral objections to Saudi blood money. Mike Francesa put it best: Saudi money is the future of golf.

Let’s play make-believe. Pretend you control the Saudi Public Investment Fund. You have just seen the narrative go from greedy, amoral golfers taking your blood money to now controlling everything about the sport on the professional level. 

Why would you stop? Wouldn’t it make sense to see where else you could inject your influence into American popular culture using sports?

Make-believe over. Did that thought make you uncomfortable? Me too, but I think it is a reality we have to prepare for. Here are five sports investments the SPIF could make next.

1. COLLEGE SPORTS

That second A in NCAA stands for association. In reality, college sports are a confederacy. It is a group of schools and conferences that are only willing to work as a collective because they see individual benefits.

Rumors of the most powerful college football programs breaking away from the NCAA to govern themselves have existed for years. You can understand why Ohio State might be salty that it makes the same amount from the Big Ten’s massive TV deals that Iowa does. Saudi money could expedite the process. 

Jay Bilas said earlier this year that he has heard a lot of grousing about the top schools in the top conferences wanting an alternative to the NCAA basketball tournament. If the SPIF could convince the likes of Kentucky, Duke, UConn and other bluebloods to bolt the NCAA, which tournament do you think broadcasters would be more interested in?

2. ESPN

Is Disney really interested in spinning off ESPN? If so, the Saudi government may not have a better opportunity to do a little sports washing. Say whatever you want about the quality of the programming or the future of traditional cable subscriptions, wherever sports fans go, ESPN establishes a presence and leads the conversation.

Buying ESPN would give Saudi Arabia influence over all of its partners. It would have prime advertising space to hock tourism and investment opportunities. 

Forget leagues or promotions. The biggest name in sports media makes for the biggest opportunity in sports washing.

3. FANDUEL

Whether you have ever placed a bet or not, the US is a nation that bets on sports now. Individual states get to make that call for themselves, and that is why buying the market leader amongst mobile sportsbooks offers the SPIF a serious opportunity for influence.

Fanduel is going to be involved in discussions to legalize sports gambling in every single state. If the Saudis bought a controlling share of the book and its parent company Flutter, it could feasibly lobby politicians and set policy. It’s something the Saudis know how to do. Just ask the Trump Administration and Jared Kushner

4. THE OLYMPICS

The International Olympic Committee is struggling to find countries and cities interested in hosting the games these days. The Internet has made everyone hip to the game. There is no way to justify the investment required to win an Olympic bid.

If Saudi Arabia wants to really use sports to reshape its age, why not buy the Olympics? Put the Winter Games in the same indoor facilities filled with synthetic snow and ice every four years. Put the Summer Games in the same sports village every four years. Make the whole endeavor an advertisement for Saudi Arabia.

5. SOCCER

This is the one that worries me the most, not because I am a soccer fan, but because there are so many different ways to do this. What if the SPIF poured billions into the MLS? Forget an aging Zlatan Ibrahimović or David Beckham. The SPIF could put enough money into the league to attract the likes of Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappé to come to the US right now while they are in their prime. 

The Saudis could revive the idea of a European Super League. NBC has proven that Americans are genuinely interested in international leagues so long as they are easy and free to access.

The SPIF could also follow the same model I suggested for the Olympics and just buy the World Cup. Let FIFA keep their name on it and reap all the other benefits and it is one hell of an investment.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not rooting for any of this. There are plenty of objectionable characters involved in sports already. It just seems like an inevitability.

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Adam Amin Will Broadcast Whatever is in Front of Him

“That’s always kind of the goal eventually – to have one of those positions and maybe get a chance to be the voice of a sport in America.”

Derek Futterman

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Adam Amin had never watched a game of water polo in his life, nor did he have any background information on how the sport was broadcast, let alone played. During his formative years in the industry though, eschewing opportunities to go on the air was simply not in his psyche. Amin wanted to stand out, and was willing to do anything it took to become familiar with a sport well enough to call it.

Three weeks after being asked about calling water polo, Amin was at Princeton University on the assignment. It came after considerable time spent reading about the sport, watching previous matches and having conversations with players, coaches and personnel. By the time he arrived, Amin felt like people could rely on him to deliver objective, factual coverage of the match.

“It forced me to expand my horizons and get out of a comfort zone and not just do football and basketball and baseball – the three sports I was most connected to,” Amin said. “You’ve got to learn how to do a lot of stuff because you want to show that you have those abilities, and you want to show that you can handle a lot of stuff not just to your employer, but to yourself.”

Through his years penetrating into sports media, Amin was watching others in the industry rapidly ascend. He put an immense amount of pressure on himself to avoid reaching a presumed nadir, especially one that proved insurmountable. Amin knew that he would need to prove himself with quality reps and a relentless work ethic.

Throughout his time at Valparaiso University, Amin became one of the country’s premier college broadcasters, and was duly named as a finalist for the prestigious Jim Nantz Award in 2009. With 250 games and two Indiana Collegiate Sportscaster of the Year honors in tow, Amin was ready to make the leap to the big leagues.

Amin’s dedication to college mediums and pre-professional endeavors cemented his career path. In his early years, he received additional repetitions calling Minor League Baseball games for the Gary SouthShore RailCats and Joliet JackHammers, along with high school volleyball championships on FOX Sports Wisconsin. Amin also worked with Turner Sports on its broadcast of the Division II National Championship in basketball with Hall of Famer Gail Goodrich. Amin was industrious and steadfast in striving to attain success in sports media – traits he retains today – and is willing to embrace being uncomfortable.

“I kind of tried to approach everything like that and tried to approach it meticulously… even though I was a scared 23-year-old kid working with Hall of Fame-type people. It felt like I didn’t know what I was doing, but we approached it as meticulously as possible and as professionally as possible.”

Amin relocated to Spirit Lake, Iowa to be the sports director of KUOO Radio. The area contains an assortment of high school sports, and family members often turned to the station to listen to their childrens’ events. It required an adjustment to the way Amin called games, focusing more on documenting the action and less on implementing analysis or critical points of view.

Aside from learning about the managerial niche of the industry, Amin learned how to cover wrestling matches, setting him up to call the NCAA wrestling championships on ESPN once he joined the network in 2011. The move to a national outlet was a seminal career milestone, but one that may not have happened without the help of a mentor and trusted friend, Ian Eagle.

Eagle was running a sports broadcasting camp with NBC 4 New York reporter Bruce Beck at the time, and they took their campers to a Somerset Patriots Minor League Baseball game. Amin was the voice of the Patriots for two seasons, and he was asked by Eagle to speak to the campers about his job and sports media as a whole. He was eager for the chance, but felt apprehensive in determining what to discuss and how it was going to go. After embracing the discomfort though, Amin felt good about himself and shadowed Eagle at an NFL game, providing him with invaluable insight and understanding into the world of television. Eagle has also listened to Adam Amin’s tapes and provided feedback, acting as a bonafide resource and sounding board.

“There was just so much sound, real, applicable advice that you only get from people that have that type of experience, and I carried a lot of that for a long time,” Amin said. “Any time I needed something, I would call him and he would answer a question.”

In joining ESPN, Amin was prescient that being willing to strive for versatility would aggrandize the level of his future assignments. Through calling water polo, wrestling and volleyball, Amin was asked to broadcast sports leagues with larger profiles.

“I look at my colleagues and my contemporaries – for the most part, they’re all multi-sport people,” Amin said. “That’s kind of how I came up in this business. I imagine that’s how they came up in this business before me. They were just taught that you should do everything. Your job as a broadcaster is to broadcast whatever’s in front of you.”

Through the years, Amin was on the call for the Women’s Final Four, college football games and the NBA Playoffs, but much of his initial prime time experience came on ESPN Radio. Amin called NFL games on the platform, as well as on Sports USA Radio, over the span of eight years and familiarized himself with the flow of a broadcast. 

“Getting into that world of professional sports through radio, establishing contacts and then learning the sports themselves – the pacing and the speed of pro sports on the radio. You don’t really have a grasp of [that] until you get a chance to do it,” Amin expressed. “Radio, for me, was such an incredible training ground. It was where I learned how to fine-tune, and now all those lessons that I learned are still applicable even just doing, for the most part, TV today.”

Throughout his time at ESPN though, Amin felt extensive internal pressure regarding meeting his own goals. There was a metaphorical ticking clock in the back of his mind relating to the arc of his career, and he established checkpoints abound to ensure he was on the right track, at least how he defined it. 

Yet there are circumstances and situations outside of one’s control, and a part of sports media involves simply being in the right place at the right time. While he regrets adopting this mindset, he ponders whether or not he should have assuaged it and focused more on the fundamentals rather than the specific chances themselves. 

“Perfection is a good thing to strive for, but it’s a bad thing to hold in high regard because it’s not achievable,” Amin said. “That still bothers me to this day if I make those little mistakes, and I’m motivated to not make those little mistakes, but I also know that at some point, you have to have confidence in yourself and what you’re doing and the work that you put in.”

Amin ultimately exited ESPN at the conclusion of his contract in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and signed on to become the television voice of the Chicago Bulls. He grew up watching those great Bulls in the 1990s with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Now, he would be replacing the man who called five of the six championships during that era, Neil Funk, heightening expectations and only adding to the duress of being part of the soundtrack of his hometown team.

“There’s a lot of kids who grew up like me who loved the team and grew up rooting for them and would do anything to have this type of position,” Amin said. 

Amin quickly resumed broadcasting games nationally as well when he signed on with FOX Sports. There, he has had more of a fixated broadcast crew, allowing him to become familiar with his colleagues and establish an on-air chemistry. In continuing to broadcast games locally at the same time, he takes precedence after a majority of accomplished play-by-play announcers. The difference, in his opinion, is that he is still trying to find the ideal, winning formula in adjusting for each specific broadcast.

“The challenging part of it is still trying to balance a certain level of ‘homerism’ with still toeing this line of not neutrality,” Amin said. “I don’t think you’re ever truly neutral no matter what if you work for a team because you’re just connected and you want ‘your team’ to win. That’s a challenge, but I think it’s more of a challenge because not every fan is going to be in lockstep with how I call a game.”

Although he is the television voice of the Bulls, Amin does not hesitate to praise the opponents for outstanding feats or achievements on the court. He describes himself as someone who is easily impressed and excitable, but does his best to control the urge to exclaim and does so in moderation. In the end, Amin’s goal is to give viewers and listeners a vivid and accurate description that enables them to live vicariously and feel the highs and lows of a given contest.

At the same time, Amin wants to be an “easy listen,” which means recognizing his role in the broadcast and the charisma of his colleague, Bulls color commentator Stacey King. 

Aside from bringing the perspective of a former player, King has several sagacious and witty catchphrases used to enhance the broadcast and emphasize different aspects of the game. He is a voice Bulls fans have come to know and trust. Amin knows not to, nor does he desire to, overstep his bounds and take the spotlight. Neither man is the center of attraction, instead directing the viewers to recognize and celebrate the talent of the players on the court.

The same goes for when Amin is in the broadcast booth for FOX Sports calling the action on the gridiron. Amin, who is joined by color commentator Mark Schlereth and reporter Kristina Pink, has worked on NFL on FOX broadcasts for the last three seasons, and gradually became more comfortable in the role. 

While most sports fans and personalities were loathing the absence of fans at games during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amin used the unprecedented occurrence to his advantage. Because of this, he felt an alleviated sense of pressure and more freedom to experiment.

“It was so awkward – the silence; this weird, eerie silence at times,” Amin disclosed. “It helped us get closer – all the people I worked with – we became closer because of it because we were [all] in this kind of strange circumstance.”

Once fans were able to attend games again, Amin and his colleagues felt they had cultivated a strong chemistry that gave them the ability to broadcast the games in the way they best see fit. For instance, Amin tries to let Schlereth expound on points of analysis pertaining to the offensive line since he played there professionally.

Similarly for MLB on FOX national games, Amin pays attention to what his analyst A.J. Pierzynski does outside of the game. This year, Pierzynski began hosting a podcast called Foul Territory with Erik Kratz and Scott Braun. The show recently had a discussion about the race to 60 home runs between New York sluggers Aaron Judge and Pete Alonso, and Amin decided to talk about it, unscripted, on a recent live game broadcast.

“It’s just a nice way to get people comfortable, and that’s when you make your little jokes or you try to bring the personality out,” Amin said. “They’re much more open to that because they know they can trust you. They can trust that you’re not going to put them in a bad position. You’re not trying to make them look foolish or something. They know that you’re trying to make them shine, and that’s really, really, really important to me.”

Adam Amin considers himself fortunate to have compiled a laundry list of unforgettable moments in the industry and has lofty goals, which include calling the Super Bowl or the NBA Finals. He is thoroughly enjoying his current roles at the same time, normalizing his schedule with time to spend with family and friends, but never losing sight of what it took to get here.

“I’ve worked really hard to try to get to a point where I’ll maybe be in a position to call one of these big events down the line one day,” Amin said. “That’s always kind of the goal eventually – to have one of those positions and maybe get a chance to be the voice of a sport in America. That’s still a prestigious thing, and that’s still an important role.”

Some people delineate sports media as a gauntlet, and many parents advise progeny to take up more sustainable professions. There is a misnomer, however, attributed to just what persistence and unrelenting self-efficacy can engender, apropos to new technologies and unforeseen capabilities. Amin has taken full advantage of the landscape, and aims to perpetually redefine the height of his career apex.

“Everybody kind of creates their own path, and I think if you can stay centered in yourself and just try to focus on the things that are going to make the broadcast great and the show great so you and your teammates feel proud of what you do, that really goes a long way,” Amin said. “I know it sounds a little bit hackneyed or a little bit saccharin, but I really have come to believe that in the double-digit years I’ve done this at the national level.”

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