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Jason McIntyre Could Talk Sports All Day

“I’ve always thought of myself as an alpha. I’m going to be the guy setting the agenda, leading the way.”

Derek Futterman



Throughout the last decade, the methods and means through which people consume content disseminated across different forms of media have undoubtedly changed. Jason McIntyre knows this pattern well, but like most others in the industry, is still trying to determine how to best utilize the power of evolution to facilitate effective cross-platform integration, likening it to a “million-dollar question” of sorts.

The paradigmatic shift was evident to him during his formative years in the industry when he worked as a writer for various newspapers and magazines. As the internet began to grow in the early 2000s, he distinctly recalls buying a domain with his name in it so he could ensure its ownership and began using it as a place to share his stories.

Essentially, he was looking to find new ways to market himself and built an online professional curriculum vitae, including his work with these outlets. As he began to rise in the industry, one of his colleagues with whom he was competing noticed what McIntyre was doing and decided to inform management.

McIntyre was subsequently called into a meeting with executives from the outlet and duly questioned regarding the practice. Once McIntyre told them the intent behind posting some of his stories on a personal website, they regarded how the internet was fairly new and that the legality of the practice was largely unknown.

“It was at this point when it hit me – ‘What am I doing here?,’” McIntyre remembers thinking. “‘These guys are archaic dinosaurs; this is the stone age. The internet is next.’”

By no means is McIntyre considered a scofflaw, nor did he look to take readership away from the outlet. Posting the stories was simply representative of self-promotion, marketing himself and cementing a repository of demo material for prospective employers to view. Looking back on the moment, it can be considered a turning point in his career, perhaps as the impetus of a focus on audiovisual content and its widespread promulgation.

Today, McIntyre is in his first year as co-host of the daily, national midday talk show The Herd featuring sports media personality Colin Cowherd. The program has been simulcast on FS1 after it had aired on select ancillary ESPN networks and consistently receives high levels of engagement across multiple platforms.

“Cowherd does three hours live on TV [and] you can also hear the show on the radio as it’s happening,” McIntyre said. “Oh by the way, his podcast is still a massive juggernaut – I think it’s top-five [or] top-10; I don’t even check the iTunes rankings. Then, oh, by the way, go look at YouTube – he’s still getting videos at 50-; 100-; 200-; 500,000 views…. People are consuming this at an incredible rate.”

McIntyre moved into the role after FOX Sports altered its programming lineup, resulting in Joy Taylor shifting to work alongside Emmanuel Acho and LeSean McCoy on a new program titled Speak. Before he had made the decision, McIntyre took a variety of factors into account – including his family, future aspirations, and the geography. When he and his wife visited Cowherd in Los Angeles, Calif. to have dinner, they quickly realized the area was right for them and a place McIntyre could continue to flourish as a bonafide industry professional.

Cowherd and McIntyre were not unfamiliar with one another though, as they previously worked together as commentators on Speak for Yourself, a talk show Cowherd formerly hosted with Jason Whitlock. Furthermore, when he was still with ESPN Radio in 2007, Cowherd urged his listeners to crash The Big Lead, a sports and media blog McIntyre started the previous year with David Lessa. In the end, the mission was successful and caused the website to go dark for nearly 48 hours.

At the time when the website was famously flooded with traffic, McIntyre was operating the venture anonymously – writing and editing stories in an attempt to craft his voice and grow the platform. It came when McIntyre affirms that the “www” preceding a URL stood for “wild, wild west” instead of “world wide web,” and amid a period where people could proffer content in exchange for ethos, rather than selecting content to consume based on ethos alone.

“To grow up and mature as anyone would do with social media, it’s fun to run an anonymous social media account – but ultimately if you want to make that next step and take the jump to lightspeed, you’ve got to put your name on it,” McIntyre said. “That’s when Richard Deitsch at Sports Illustrated said, ‘Hey, do you want to reveal yourself?,’ and I said, ‘Alright, sure.’ Obviously, the site gained way more credibility once that happened.”

Growing up, McIntyre was an athlete, playing everything from travel soccer to basketball, but he had a realization as an adolescent that he would not play professionally. This feeling was accentuated when he was the second person cut from his high school freshman basketball team despite having knowledge and passion for the sport. When he was in middle school, he would play a game with his friends in which they identified where NBA players went to college, testing their ostensibly boundless knowledge of the association.

At the suggestion of his parents, McIntyre called a local newspaper to ask to help out but ended up being told that he had to wait until he was 16 years old so he could legally operate a motor vehicle. Once he came of age, he began contributing to the outlet, doing whatever was asked of him including answering phones and assisting others.

Eventually, he had the chance to write stories and saw his name on bylines, leading him to conjecture working at The Washington Post and eventually, the Los Angeles Times covering the Los Angeles Lakers, right out of college.

Upon matriculating at James Madison University though, things began to change. Although he was studying to attain a journalism degree, he quickly realized that media was on the verge of enduring significant innovation across the board, prioritizing interactive elements, engagement and dynamic content.

“I got into a fantasy college basketball league through some random dudes from a chatroom I was in talking about sports,” McIntyre said. “You kept your stats [and] I was all-in. The internet just changed so much, and the idea that I would want to work for a newspaper started to slowly fade.”

Nonetheless, McIntyre interned at the Greensboro News and Record, and then received an offer from The Washington Post to cover high school sports on a part-time basis. Despite talking about working for the national outlet years prior, he declined and opted to stay local by working in Passaic County, N.J. at The Herald News. One year into that role, its sports section merged with The Bergen Record to reduce operating costs, and McIntyre eventually began to freelance for ESPN and CBS Sports’ websites.

Just before March Madness commenced in 2006, McIntyre launched The Big Lead and was operating it on the side of other jobs, including working as an editor at Us Weekly. As time went on and the website began to amass a legion of followers, McIntyre added staff members to ensure it was able to produce enough content to keep pace with demand.

Additionally, he ceded his anonymity once it became evident to him that he would need to do so for the website to continue to grow, and then went on to sell the operation to Fantasy Sports Venture in 2010, reportedly for seven figures. Two years later, that company sold the website to Gannett with McIntyre remaining critical to the platform amid both transactions.

“Selling the website was pretty cool,” McIntyre remarked. “It was written about in The New York Times. My parents have it framed. Hell, I have it framed in my house; it’s pretty exciting.”

The move to radio started upon filling in on NBC Sports Radio on Independence Day, leading someone from Creative Artists Agency (CAA) to reach out and ask if he had representation. McIntyre did not at the time, and was subsequently contacted by two other agents in a three-week span. He ultimately settled on the agent who reached out to him first, and felt that operating in this sense gave him more opportunities.

McIntyre was shocked to learn that Yahoo! Sports was interested in the content he produced and asked him to host a national internet radio show to be distributed to SiriusXM and other radio stations eponymously-named The Jason McIntyre Show. He had launched a podcast through The Big Lead by the same name in 2013, welcoming guests including Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, then-CBS Sports host Doug Gottlieb and NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport. Beginning in early 2015, the radio show began and was broadcast on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. EST, bringing listeners the latest news and opinions.

“I love sports,” McIntyre explained. “I could easily talk about sports for three hours. Once that started, it essentially kind of took off.”

Nine months later, McIntyre joined FOX Sports Radio where he hosted a Saturday sports talk show titled The Big Lead, largely functioning as a way to preview weekend action and interview guests in the industry. Moreover, he filled in for various high-profile hosts, including Gottlieb, Dan Patrick, and Chris Broussard, and began to establish a unique and distinctive hosting style.

“I’ve always thought of myself as an alpha,” McIntyre said. “I’m going to be the guy setting the agenda, leading the way. I’m going to have topics nobody else is going to have. I was never like, ‘I’m going to work with a guy,’ but obviously you have to work well with others.”

In the time between being removed from Speak for Yourself to being named co-host of The Herd, the alteration of the media landscape was hastened amid the COVID-19 global pandemic. Whether it was appearing on select television shows; hosting his Saturday radio show; contributing to gambling content; or helping FOX Sports expand its digital footprint, McIntyre was ostensibly itinerant while continuing his work with The Big Lead website.

Moreover, he worked with TVG Network (today known as FanDuel TV) providing analysis on the studio show More Ways to Win hosted by Lisa Kerney.

“I’m kind of limbo,” McIntyre said of that time. “I’m going on all the shows as a fill-in which is fine [and] I start doing a lot of digital stuff which I had already done because it’s in my contract.”

Producing the gambling content, in particular, helped boost the popularity of sports betting, especially as states gained regulatory power over its legality. Although California has yet to legalize sports betting, its base of sports fans are familiar with related content, which is very much momentary because of the dynamic nature of the niche.

“It is literally there for a day and then nobody cares the day after,” McIntyre said. “Nobody’s going back and looking at what you said about a game that’s now done. That part is difficult; it just doesn’t have a long tail.”

Everything changed, though, when The Big Lead was sold by Gannett to Minute Media in March 2019, which resulted in the bifurcation of the staff including McIntyre. In July 2020, McIntyre pivoted to begin hosting a podcast titled Straight Fire with Jason McIntyre, adopting an approach similar to his radio show except with more freedom to be himself and be completely authentic with his audience free of Federal Communications Commission standards.

The podcast, which has a new episode published on a near-daily basis, has performed well across audio platforms and given consumers another way to find McIntyre amid today’s crowded media environment. The experience of listening to a podcast, he states, differs from other forms of media largely because of the mechanisms fueling consumption.

“A lot of people listen while they’re running [or] walking their dog and the earbud is right in their ear,” McIntyre said of his podcast. “That’s different [from] the TV experience which can be on in the background. [With] the radio, you’re driving; you’re paying attention to a million things. I just feel like the intimacy of podcasts is something you don’t get anywhere else.”

Combining his podcast with a regular role on The Herd has helped burgeon his career, but present contrasts in terms of the way the shows are produced and distributed. With his podcast produced and distributed by iHeartMedia, he has flexibility to determine topics and welcome on guests as contributors.

Conversely, the visual component of The Herd equals in importance to being compelling and engaging aurally, rendering the show multitiered in terms of its production.

“If you’re walking by the screen, the graphics; the charts; the rankings – it just visually is appealing,” McIntyre said. “I must get at least two to three random people every single day [who say], ‘Dude, I walked by the bar and this show just looks visually-appealing.’”

McIntyre still participates in sports in spite of not playing professionally, including suiting up for pickup basketball at a gym and participating in a tennis league. There have been occurrences where he sporadically begins to talk about sports with other gym members, most recently regarding the New York Jets working to acquire quarterback Aaron Rodgers from the Green Bay Packers.

The same is applicable to Cowherd, as McIntyre has heard through friends that he will start talking to people about sports at gyms, parks and other public locations. Through their time co-hosting the show, they have been able to foster chemistry and transform it into favorable ratings.

“He’s exactly like you see on air, and I know that sounds crazy,” McIntyre said of Cowherd. “Between commercials, he’ll have a random rant and just come over and we’ll start talking and just fire off 5 minutes and I’m like, ‘This guy’s just nonstop.’”

In cultivating on-air synergy conducive to success, McIntyre feels he and Cowherd are able to discern gray areas and stimulate deeper, comprehensive thinking elicited through their interactions. One reason for listening to sports talk radio is for entertainment; however, appealing to the complete base of listeners requires finding points to display erudition and circuitous pedagogical instruction within their deft communication abilities.

“We can go back-and-forth a little bit at each other without it feeling personal, and we can disagree,” McIntyre said. “Reasonable minds can disagree. On the internet, everybody has to disagree; you’re either right or you’re wrong.”

Don Martin and Scott Shapiro oversee FOX Sports Radio and its programming, and have worked hard to compile a powerful on-air lineup at all hours of the day. McIntyre believes he has heard them joke about how it arguably compares to the 1927 New York Yankees starting lineup nicknamed “Murderers’ Row.”

That compilation of hitters, which went on to sweep consecutive World Series championships, featured impactful hitters such as George Herman “Babe” Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Earle Combs and Tony Lazzeri among others. Today, the FOX Sports Radio consists of McIntyre and Cowherd, along with Dan Patrick, Doug Gottlieb, Chris Broussard and Rob Parker, all of whom are considered at or near the top of the industry.

“They’ve got home run hitters all day,” McIntyre said. “ESPN seems to have punted on radio which is a little bit of a surprise. They just don’t seem to take it as seriously as they did say five or 10 years ago. CBS: I’m not entirely sure where they are. I don’t know; you tell me. Is FOX dominating now or what?”

Aside from it being his profession, McIntyre considers sports themselves as an outlet for which to find enjoyment. Discussing aspects of the games he is passionate about enhances his ability and motivation to succeed as a host, and he continues to attempt to follow the leagues and its players as closely as possible.

“[If] you tell me that the NCAA tournament is on, I’m hunkering down with multiple televisions in my house and just devouring all of it,” McIntyre said. “[If] the World Cup is on, I’m waking up at whatever time I need to [in order] to watch Saudi Arabia vs. Argentina. It’s one of those things; I really love sports.”

At the moment, McIntyre is not thinking too much about the future, instead trying to enjoy the journey as opposed to solely focusing on his final destination. Yet he acknowledges that he has always been a person thinking about how he can improve and aggrandize his content, underscoring his commitment to the craft. He does enjoy his new job working with Cowherd and finds that they have been able to have compelling discussions.

“I’m always striving for something; always trying to push forward and do more,” McIntyre said. “Now, I’ve been part of TV shows; I’ve filled in; I’ve done all this. I don’t know what’s next for me. Is it having my own show? I don’t know.”

Even though sports radio today is, in some ways, unrecognizable from the programming from just one decade ago, McIntyre maintains a positive outlook on the future of the industry. Streaming services, podcasts and other on-demand content made available through OTT and FAST platforms certainly adjusts listenership, as it creates another area for the audience to invest their time of consumption, meaning that radio programs must pivot to retain and increase visibility.

“Maybe it’s the California air getting to me,” McIntyre said of his feelings towards the future of sports talk radio. “I’m not eating avocado toast regularly, but definitely I’m trying to be a little more positive. I’ve worked with enough negative people in this industry that that’s just not the way I want to live.”

As more people look to ingratiate themselves towards consumers and establish footholds in this competitive industry, it is fundamental for aspiring professionals to find a niche and work to distinguish themselves in that area. For McIntyre, it arguably came through launching The Big Lead, deviating from the outline of a typical path writers took to build their careers, and taking a calculated risk by remaining anonymous for several years.

Being able to talk in detail about a broad array of topics and having vast experience certainly improves the likelihood of succeeding in a marketplace that prioritizes versatility, along with establishing and keeping professional relationships. These factors have helped McIntyre construct a formidable career that took him from newspapers to magazines to web to radio to television, and with more potentially on the horizon as the years go on.

“It’s tough to just jump in as a generalist,” McIntyre said. “You’ve got to really drill down on something. I was able to drill down on media on the website; [I] got the media reading; and then I was able to supplement it with talking about the NBA and the draft and the NFL and all this stuff; controversial stories…. Once you own something, then you can pretty much own everything.”

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Matt McClearin is Not Just Filling a Void at The Ticket

“As much as I dreamt about this opportunity, it’s even more so than I probably could ever have dreamt.”

Derek Futterman



Matt McClearin
Courtesy: Matt McClearin

Norm Hitzges is considered an industry pioneer, helping establish morning sports talk radio in the Dallas area. Spending a total of 48 years in the format, he made an immense contribution to the field. When Hitzges officially retired in June, there were questions surrounding who would move into the midday slot on Sportsradio 96.7 and 1310 The Ticket to work alongside host Donovan Lewis. The station eventually made the decision to bring one of its own home in Matt McClearin, and he has excelled in the assignment since officially taking over in August.

McClearin, a Texas native who grew up listening to Hitzges and other programs on the outlet, is living his dream with the medium he set his sights on from the time he was young. Over the years, he had a chance to be around Hitzges and saw his elite level of preparation and congeniality firsthand.

“One of the kindest humans I think that I’ve ever met,” McClearin said of Hitzges, “especially in this business, and that says a lot, I think, about how to carry yourself. Even when you have success and get to a certain level, [knowing] the right way to treat people and the right way to go about your daily business.”

It is safe to say that Hitzges had an impact on everyone at The Ticket, and it is a legacy that McClearin hopes to further perpetuate. Every time he walks into the studios, it is not lost on him the magnitude of the assignment he has been entrusted with, and he remains focused and driven on realizing his full potential.

Reaching this point took endurance and patience, but the timing ultimately ended up working out in his best interest. Growing up in the metroplex, The Ticket was a fundamental part of the sports sound and represented McClearin’s innate ambition.

McClearin was selected by station management to work in paid positions for two years while attending Texas State University – production director and program director – which entailed 20 to 25 hours per week within the offices and studio. In addition to working on job-specific functions, he also used the time to perfect his editing skills and board operating procedures and gain on-air repetitions. By the time he graduated and sought to apply for a job, he surmised that possessing versatility would engender a larger swath of chances to become immersed in the craft.

“Originally, [I was] kind of practicing the craft as much as [I] could and learning as much as I could,” McClearin said. “I could increase [my] value, I think, of being able to walk into a radio station in Dallas in a Top 5 market and say, ‘I can run the board; I can do production [and] I can do on-air stuff,’ but not just talk.”

By happenstance, he learned that The Ticket was looking for a part-time sports anchor to fill in for various shows, leading him to send his demo reel to the outlet. After some conversations with station management, McClearin officially joined the team and became immersed in refining his on-air skillset with guidance from program director Jeff Catlin.

“He’s very hands-on [by], early on, giving you a lot of constructive criticism and helping you to learn the ins and outs and proper formatics and how to set up each segment correctly,” McClearin said of Catlin. “Doing things like that and having those opportunities [are things] I always enjoyed.”

McClearin eventually began working as a pregame and postgame studio host for Dallas Stars broadcasts. Moreover, he would attend Dallas Cowboys games and collect audio from the players and coaches to edit and send back to the radio station to be used across its programming.

Working hard and going the extra mile helped separate McClearin from his competition both inside and outside of the radio station, ultimately earning him a weekend show with Scot Harrison. His candid assessments of the local teams and ability to delegate on the show, indifferent towards whether or not he is the center of attention, have rendered his hosting abilities conducive to success.

“I’m just a big believer in being who you are and being real and presenting that on the air,” McClearin said, “so no matter what you’re going through or what’s different about you, there are listeners out there that can connect with that and understand that you’re being real.”

The program remained a fixture on the weekends before both hosts were offered the chance to become part of the weekday programming lineup, following sports radio luminary Paul Finebaum. This opening, however, would require McClearin and Harrison to pick up and move to Birmingham so they could broadcast from the studios of Jox 94.5.

Both hosts eventually agreed and spent the next three-and-a-half years on the outlet, growing a new audience and becoming an indispensable part of the evenings in the area. There are certain instances in any business that are fugacious and unexpected in nature though, and the show cancellation in 2016 was an example of such.

McClearin returned to Dallas to work as a part-time radio host on ESPN Radio 103.3 FM, an extraordinary circumstance in that he was in the same building he used to work in with The Ticket. The station was operating under a local marketing agreement (LMA) with Cumulus Media and competing with the very outlet they were sharing the building with, cultivating a professional atmosphere mired by the ratings. The onset of the global pandemic caused the station to shutter.

“It was one of those things where you’ve just got to believe in what you’re doing and believe that there’s an appeal to what you’re doing,” McClearin said. “You get hired for a reason, and you continue to perform and try to grow what we were doing at the time.”

Catlin continued to serve as a mentor for McClearin during his years away from The Ticket, a venerable radio professional who has helped further build the outlet into a local powerhouse. The station frequently posts stellar ratings each quarter, representing a place where McClearin feels he can grow his brand and show to unrealized heights.

“The goal is to be No. 1 in the ratings in our [demographic] and to continue that,” McClearin said. “That’s something that I think drives me every day. When you’re not No. 1, you want to know, ‘Okay, well why aren’t we No. 1?,’ and when you get to that point, the question then becomes, ‘Okay, well how do we maintain this and continue to go and be better and bigger than what we were the previous month?’”

Before he ultimately returned to The Ticket to work with Lewis in the midday time slot, there was a bit of irony in that he, once again, called Birmingham home. When McClearin’s original program was canceled, he felt as if he had assimilated into the city and found his niche. He was disappointed in the outcome and always thought of the area in a favorable light, which then led to his phone ringing with a call from program director Ryan Haney.

As fortune would have it, Haney asked McClearin if he would be interested in returning to the station to host a solo program as part of a refreshed local lineup. Without hesitation, he conveyed that he would be interested in making a comeback in the locale, a full-circle moment filled with feelings of both satisfaction and gratitude.

“I never thought that I would go back to Alabama, much less work for the same station that, five years prior, had made the decision to let, at the time, Scot Harrison and I go,” McClearin said. “….I never wanted to leave in the first place, [so] I was really, really happy and I’m very fortunate that Ryan believed in me and gave me that opportunity to come back.”

The dynamic of the show differed the second time around in that he was the primary host, yet he also had help from John Saber and Conrad Van Order. Being around the Birmingham audience for a second time gave him more chances to talk about college football, basketball and other sports topics dominating the local and national scene.

Moving from one marketplace more focused on professional teams to one that was dominated by college sports, he furthered his abilities and worked to finish at the top of the ratings.

“I say the things that I actually believe in and I talk about the things that I really do to where, yes, sometimes I think I probably do some weird things and I’m a different type of person, but that’s just my personality and I have my quirks and my eccentricities,” McClearin said. “Again, I think if I present that and that is me, then the audience understands that and I think it comes across that way.”

Just as he thought during his initial stint in Birmingham, McClearin was prepared to stay in the marketplace for the long haul and try to further cement his name in the radio airwaves. Being able to reconnect with the audience and discuss meaningful, impactful topics was validating and worthwhile for him, and he was especially steadfast to the outlet. After all, he never had a particular interest in voyaging to television and still, to this day, concentrates his efforts on growing and maintaining the sports radio format.

“My brain just doesn’t think like that in those three-minute little quips that you do,” McClearin said. “TV is just so much more structured and short than radio, where we can have a 15-minute segment and have a real conversation.”

The only way McClearin was going to leave the station was if The Ticket came along, and sure enough, an opening became available concurrent with Hitzges’ retirement. While he enjoyed his time in Birmingham, he doubled down on his commitment to the Dallas-Fort Worth marketplace for the long run in making this move and conceding a solo program for a new co-host.

“When I got the call and went through the process with Jeff Catlin, [it] was a little bit surreal because it truly is a dream coming true,” McClearin said. “I found out that they’re going to put me with Donovan Lewis is kind of when Norm Hitzges decided to retire and I was going to walk in, [and] it’s really such a new show. Donovan and Norm had had such success for a while.”

As soon as McClearin took the air with Lewis for the first time, he felt an instant connection. Just a few months into the program, both hosts know there is plenty of room for growth and consistent improvement to create enthralling and proprietary content that will amplify cume and serve the community.

“We both are just two people, I think, that really care about the listener [and] what we’re putting together each and every day to make it the best that we can,” McClearin said. “So far, it’s been really easy and it’s been just – as much as I dreamt about this opportunity, it’s even more so than I probably could ever have dreamt.”

The Ticket is in competition with 105.3 The Fan in the Dallas-Fort Worth marketplace, along with other media outlets across various platforms. Whereas the Birmingham market releases its ratings through quarterly diaries, Dallas has monthly figures through PPM, but he makes sure the influx of quantitative data does not command his mindset.

“We can all see the ratings that the two main sports stations here have – they’re very healthy ratings and I think there’s a real hunger,” McClearin said. “A lot of that is football-driven – the Cowboys, nationally, are crazy relevant. All the [networks with] NBC and ABC and FOX and everybody; they always want to put them on because the Cowboys drive the needle. Well, they also drive the needle in Dallas very, very much so.”

Understanding and capitalizing on the reach and relevance of the Cowboys helps these local programs gain further traction. Arriving unprepared equates to marketplace malfeasance.

“Prep is very important to me, and I like to try to come into the pre-show meeting that I have with Donovan and our producer Travis every day with my own ideas, but also, ‘Okay, Donnie, what do you think?,’ and then, ‘Travis, what do you think about that?,’” McClearin said. “From that and our own individual prep, we kind of do the show prep together [to present] the in-depth segments that we roll out.”

The majority of content focuses on the Cowboys since they are the team that exhorts the most interest in the area, but there are plenty of other storylines within the landscape. The Texas Rangers are headed to the Major League Baseball postseason for the first time since 2016, while the Dallas Mavericks organization enters its first full season with superstar guard tandem Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving. Sometimes, sports fans do not want to solely listen to discussions about the teams themselves but rather hear about other pertinent topics in which they may be interested.

“I like to call them, I guess, lifestyle segments because I don’t think anybody, even the most passionate sports fan, only does sports in their life,” McClearin said. “We all have relationships and we have TV shows that we like to watch, and we went to the store and [some] random thing happened. We incorporate that, I think, into the show, and I think that’s The Ticket itself. It’s a very real station that has real conversations with a focus on sports.”

Everything throughout McClearin’s professional journey has centered on reaching this moment, and he wants to maximize the opportunity he has earned by bringing his best to the air on a daily basis.

From the onset, he knew where he wanted to end up and took the necessary steps to get there, even if it meant enduring some difficult setbacks. By taking advantage of every opportunity in his purview, he has made it in front of the microphone, and he has no plans on going anywhere at any time soon.

“I want to continue to grow the audience and have as many people enjoy doing what I love to do as possible,” McClearin said. “I get a lot of motivation from that [and] just the excitement of driving into the station every day and the excitement of when that light comes on and it’s time for the show. It’s like being on stage to me; it’s almost like you just get kind of high off of that feeling, and I love it.”

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3 Questions to Ask Before Booking a Guest

Nobody has more passion for your show than you do. Be very careful who you invite to share that passion.

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In my formative years of sports talk, the legendary Rush Limbaugh was at the absolute height of his popularity. Limbaugh had a very simple formula, nobody could argue against the success of that formula. Each hour was pretty much the same; a monologue or two, a sound bite, a few phone callers, and lengthy reactions to those calls. One thing that was absent was a guest, Limbaugh almost never had a guest on his show.

He was once asked about that and maintained there isn’t a guest that has the same passion for his show as he does so, why hand the show over to someone without that passion? It is an intriguing and thought-provoking strategy.

Each show has a unique approach to guests; the type that work, the length of the interview, the times they should be on. There is no cookie-cutter approach that works for every show in every market. I do think a strategy for a show as it relates to guests is absolutely crucial. Scheduling them without first answering a few “whys” would be a critical mistake. We only get so much time with each listener, few things can run them off like a bad one.

More on the “whys” in a moment but I first need to address what I believe to be a misconception. I often hear that a show is good because “it gets great guests”. That may be a plus for the listener but I refuse to believe it is what makes a show great.

Ultimately, a show is great because the entire production is entertaining. Guests are only part of what makes a show entertaining. Even two in an hour on a show still leaves the hosts having to fill the majority of the time. If they aren’t entertaining hosts, there isn’t a guest alive that makes the show good. All of that gets me to the “Whys”.

Why is this guest on?

There must be a reason to hand part of your show over to a guest. They must be extremely entertaining, covering a topic that is of great interest to your audience, or be someone you know beyond a shadow of a doubt your audience loves.

If you can get at least two of those three, you have a winner.

Otherwise, it feels like a segment filler and I think most audience members can spot a segment filler from miles away. I get it, I’ve done small market shows solo before and felt like I was the only one listening. I know the appeal of having someone to help fill a segment.

The truth is, it does more harm than good if it isn’t entertaining.

Why does this guest want to be on?

Every guest you have on has an ulterior motive. It is part of the transaction: They scratch your back and they get something out of it. The more they feel they get out of it, the more likely they are to give you a better interview.

Having someone who understands the value of a spot on your show will exponentially increase the interest and effort of that guest in their given segment. Simply put, if they’re not into it, the segment isn’t going to work.

I’ve seen shows chase the “big name guest” and the big name has very little interest in the interview. It shows. We once had a former athlete turned analyst on our show who was doing the interview on speakerphone while he was packing for a trip. He could not have been less interested in doing the interview and I still don’t know why he agreed. It was a show killer.

I don’t care how big the name is, if the big name just goes through the motions, it will be a failure.

Why is this YOUR guest?

Most topics you’ll discuss on a show have numerous possibilities tied to them. Rarely is there only one guest that can discuss that topic. Try finding the person who has the best chemistry with your show. Show chemistry matters when selecting hosts, I think it should matter just as much when selecting guests. It is likely your show has a unique personality of its own, lean into that when you are selecting guests.

As an example, my show is far more likely to discuss a player’s haircut rather than his NextGen Stats. When we have someone on, it is important to us that they understand that and isn’t thrown off by it. That is an understanding of the chemistry of the show and the importance of that to the audience. I think every booking has to be viewed through that prism.

Ultimately, I have always believed having no guest is far better than having a bad guest. If people are consuming your show, they already value your opinion and insight, don’t lend that audience trust to someone who will not value it to some extent. Rush Limbaugh may have taken it to extremes, he was good at that, and he was also correct in his assessment.

Nobody has more passion for your show than you do. Be very careful who you invite to share that passion.

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Gregg Giannotti is Living the Dream at WFAN

“I don’t take it for granted. I appreciate every show, every hour and every minute.”

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Gregg Giannotti
Courtesy: Audacy

When Gregg Giannotti was hired as an intern at WFAN in 2005, he had big dreams. His ultimate objective was to not just one day get on the air at the legendary all-sports radio station, but to occupy a portion of WFAN’s prime real estate. 

In radio industry terms that means morning drive, middays, or afternoon drive and the Long Island native would embark on a career path that has taken him to the co-host chair of the Boomer & Gio morning show on WFAN and simulcast on CBS Sports Network.

“You never really know if it’s going to happen,” said Giannotti. “When it does happen, it’s sort of a shock and it took me at least six months to a year to realize that I was actually doing it and then you want to make sure that you keep doing it because this business is very fickle.”

After graduating from the WFAN newsroom, Giannotti became a full-time employee in 2007, becoming a board op and then a producer, most notably for Joe & Evan, hosted by Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts. In 2008, he had his first opportunity to host a show on WFAN and then in 2010, he left New York to help launch 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh. After six months as the evening host, Giannotti was promoted to host the morning show, a program that became the top-rated sports show in town. 

After five years in Pittsburgh, Gregg Giannotti returned home to New York to co-host the morning show with Brian Jones on CBS Sports Radio, and then in 2017 he moved down the hall on the 10th floor of 345 Hudson Street in New York City when he was named to replace Craig Carton as co-host of WFAN’s morning show.

“The fact that now I’m sitting here in year six with Boomer and it’s so comfortable, it feels so good and we all trust one another and we all really enjoy seeing each other,” said Giannotti.  “After the tumultuous way that everything started, the cliché is that it’s a dream come true but it really is. This is all I ever wanted to do.”

And he’s doing it with people who have had a big impact on his life and his career.

The legendary Eddie Scozzare, who hired Giannotti as an intern, serves as Boomer & Gio’s board op and is best known for his ability to play the appropriate “drops” at just the right time.

Morning show update anchor Jerry Recco, who will also fill in as host when Giannotti and/or Boomer are off, trained Gio in the newsroom during his internship.

Giannotti has always been a big fan of producer Al Dukes who has enjoyed a storied career and is a student of radio.

And then, of course, there’s his co-host, former NFL MVP and fellow native Long Islander Boomer Esiason.

When Gregg Giannotti joined the WFAN morning show, he had big shoes to fill in replacing Carton, whose arrest and prison sentence sent shockwaves through the station and the industry.

Boomer & Carton was a successful show for a decade and radio listeners can be creatures of habit. The audience loved the show and then, all of a sudden, there was someone new sitting next to Boomer.

When Giannotti took up residence in that chair vacated by Carton, he knew he had a huge responsibility.

“It was up to me to make sure that the audience didn’t leave and wanted to be a part of what we were doing,” said Giannotti. “You go from that day in 2017 where no one knew what their future was going to be and things were scary for a lot of people and their opportunities. You couldn’t have written a better script for the comeback story for Craig and how Boomer & Carton turned into Boomer & Gio and the radio station didn’t skip a beat in morning drive.”

Giannotti has been a smashing success because, as many people in the industry will tell you, he “gets it”. He has a clear understanding of what should go into a show, particularly a morning show, and that means knowing who your audience is.

Growing up on Long Island listening to WFAN certainly gave Giannotti a leg up on others who may have aspired to work at the nation’s first all-sports radio station.

“I grew up as one of those guys who would get in the car and have a miserable commute and put on WFAN,” said Giannotti. “What you try to do is to understand what your audience wants, what they’re expecting out of you, and in morning drive, you want to entertain. There’s a lot of times where you have to know the spot that you’re in and understand who you are and who your audience is.”

Being entertaining during a morning show is vitally important to being a success. The discussion is not always about sports and there are times during the year when the sports world, especially locally, could be going through a slow period. That’s when a morning show has to spend some time on pop culture, radio station drama, and politics and doing whatever needs to be done to keep the listeners engaged.

Gregg Giannotti was clearly born with the gift of gab and the ability to entertain, a trait that began in fourth grade when he started making fun of his teachers and doing something that he has been known for throughout his career…doing impressions.

“There’s an ability to entertain that I think some people have and some people don’t,” said Giannotti. “There’s an ability that some people are born with that can do it and some can’t.”

Clearly, Giannotti is in the category of those who can.

His long list of impersonations includes long-time legendary WFAN host Joe Benigno.

“Benigno is probably the easiest one,” said Giannotti. “It always gets a laugh and I think it’s the most authentic and the one that sounds the best so it’s definitely at the very top.”

Giannotti also gets everyone laughing with his impersonations of former WFAN hosts Mike Francesa and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo but at the top of the list now is a New York sports executive.

“My favorite, if I could just pick one, is when I do the Sean Marks, the GM of the Brooklyn Nets, and his Australian/New Zealand accent when he treats (WFAN host) Evan Roberts like a little kid,” said Giannotti.

There are different paths to being a success in the radio industry. With technology today, there are those who go down the road of being a YouTube sensation or hosting a podcast in order to get noticed.  For Gregg Giannotti, the choice was to leave New York for Pittsburgh and work his way back home.

He will always cherish his five years at 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh.

“It was the best thing that I ever could have done because I took that risk,” said Giannotti. “I really needed that in my career to get me to where I am now because it was essentially like going to college to learn how to deal with all of the major things you have to deal with when you’re doing big-time drive time radio. It was perfect. I could have stayed there if things didn’t work out the way they did with my wife being from there. I had dreams of getting back to New York that I couldn’t let die.” 

And those dreams have indeed come true for Gregg Giannotti with the success of Boomer & Gio on WFAN.

“I don’t take it for granted,” said Giannotti. “I appreciate every show, every hour, and every minute.”

To succeed, you have to dream big and follow the correct career path. You also have to have the talent to entertain. Gregg Giannotti has certainly checked all of those boxes and the results speak for themselves.

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