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Mike Greenberg’s Got Your Number

“I have the best job of anybody I know, and I don’t have any intention of stopping any time soon.”

Derek Futterman

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Over his career in sports media, Mike Greenberg has hardly concealed his favorite teams on the air, most notably his fandom for the New York Jets. As “Gang Green” aims to make a change at quarterback in an effort to compete for a Super Bowl championship, the team seems confident in its chances to land Green Bay Packers quarterback and perennial Hall of Fame inductee Aaron Rodgers.

The Packers did not qualify for the NFL playoffs for the first time in three seasons last year, and it left Rodgers, who had previously pondered over remaining with the franchise, questioning whether it was prudent for him to remain a Packer, request a trade, or retire.

In an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show last month, Rodgers detailed his decision-making process, which entailed a stay at Sky Cave Retreats in Southern Oregon isolated in complete darkness for four days and four nights. He entered the retreat envisioning making a decision to retire from football and emerged content with continuing to play football – and doing so for the New York Jets.

Greenberg has long been a proponent of Rodgers joining the Jets and pledged to embark on the darkness retreat himself if the situation manifested itself.

“I make no secret of the teams I root for,” Greenberg said. “I guess there are some people who think that’s not the right way to go about it, but I couldn’t imagine any other way to go about it. I cover sports because they’re fun. I cover sports because they’re games people play that bring people joy and entertainment.”

Throughout the entirety of his career, Rodgers has donned No. 12 and is statistically one of the greatest players to ever do so. Yet there are other prominent athletes both in and out of football who have called that number their own – including quarterbacks Joe Namath, Bob Griese, Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, and Tom Brady among others.

One day following Greenberg’s morning television show Get Up on ESPN, he was having a conversation with several others about these storied quarterbacks who wore the number, and then choosing who owned it.

“It was like a lightbulb went off over my head,” Greenberg said. “I’ve always wanted to write a sports book, and I’ve never had a good enough idea. Finally, I had a good enough idea.”

Shortly thereafter, Greenberg called content producer and researcher for Get Up, Paul “Hembo” Hembekides, and pitched him his book idea. After Hembekides agreed to perform research for the book that Greenberg would write, the two formally met to outline the concept and how they would approach the project.

Very quickly, though, Greenberg realized he was about to author a book about sports legends without several distinguished names – such as Serena Williams, Jack Nicklaus, and Jesse Owens – just because they did not wear jersey numbers. It felt wrong to omit athletes who played sports that did not assign numbers; therefore, the premise of the book had to undoubtedly change.

“We realized [that] we had to come up with a creative way to include all athletes in sports and assign numbers for them to own,” Greenberg said. “That process was a lot of fun, and I hope that people will enjoy reading that part of it.”

Greenberg offered the example of Hall of Fame center Wilt Chamberlain, who played 14 seasons in the NBA wearing the No. 13, yet is associated with the No. 100 since he famously set the league record for most points scored in a game. The feat still stands to this day and is known by most sports fans; therefore, it simply made more sense for Greenberg to assign Chamberlain that numeral as opposed to his actual uniform number.

The motivation to write the book was multifaceted in nature for Greenberg, who hosts different types of programs on a variety of platforms for ESPN. He never thought, however, that he would reach this point based on his assimilation into the industry. Yet his unwavering passion, combined with taking advantage of fortuitous opportunities, has brought him to the point of being one of ESPN’s longest-tenured and most recognizable personalities with no signs of slowing down.

From the time he was 5 years old, Greenberg remembers sitting in front of the television at his home and announcing football games, in part after his first idol Howard Cosell. Most conversations in his youth revolved around sports, with both of his parents and brother invested in the local teams. After attending Stuyvesant High School in New York, N.Y., Greenberg made the move to Evanston, Ill. as an undergraduate student at Northwestern University where he proceeded to study journalism.

While a large majority of aspiring sports media professionals often participate in student media outlets and other extracurricular activities, Greenberg partook in none of it. His studies at the prestigious Medill School of Journalism represented the bulk of his experience, and he continues to regret not immersing himself in the school newspaper (The Daily Northwestern) and radio station (WNUR).

Instead, he was more focused on fostering a social life and his work in the classroom and is aware of how lucky he is that the recursivity did not prove precarious in his ability to build a sustainable career. Today, he reflects back on that experience and renders it a warning to others as to what not to do in order to effectuate a viable portfolio to gain genuine experience and the necessary repetitions to land a job in this competitive field.

“You should do the opposite of what I did,” Greenberg advises. “….There’s so much opportunity now with podcasting and all sorts of other outlets that [students] should absolutely be taking advantage of all that, and I absolutely should have been too. Sometimes I’m embarrassed at how little of that I actually did until I got out of school.”

Upon his graduation from Northwestern University, Greenberg joined WMAQ-AM, a station broadcasting in the news format, where he served as a sports anchor and reporter. Over the preceding decade, the station had experimented with a variety of formats, including country and talk, and eventually moved to an all-sports format complete with new call letters by 2000.

Those new call letters – W-S-C-R – began on a different frequency (AM 820), and Greenberg immediately started working behind the scenes hoping to be afforded a chance to cover Chicago sports teams. The situation benefited him in that the station did not hire a full-time anchor to deliver sports updates on the air, giving Greenberg a chance to appear on the air and divulge the latest scores and information about sports teams to an inquisitive audience.

A few months later, the station moved George Ofman into the studio to deliver these updates regularly, someone with whom Greenberg is friendly to this day. Before he was working out of the studio, Ofman had been on-site covering sports teams as a reporter, appearing across programming to discuss news, conduct interviews and draw conclusions based on what he had observed.

With his move to the studio came an opening to serve as a reporter, something station management decided to give Greenberg, who had long been imploring for a way to be around the teams. At the age of 24, Greenberg was covering the defending NBA champion Chicago Bulls featuring superstars Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, witnessing the team’s quest for a second consecutive championship.

By the time the summer came around, Greenberg was working from Platteville, Wis. covering the Chicago Bears’ training camp, a team that was led by head coach Mike Ditka and quarterback Jim Harbaugh. A few years later, Greenberg augmented his presence in media by writing a weekly column for the Copley News Service, and also began working in television reporting for SportsChannel Chicago, and, eventually, Chicagoland Television (CLTV).

With little to no previous experience reporting, Greenberg was cognizant that he had been bestowed a prime circumstance to cultivate his growth in sports media and jumpstart his career. From covering the World Series and the Super Bowl to appearing on television and radio as a trusted voice in the No. 3 media market in the country, he ensured he worked hard and stood out within the media landscape.

“I don’t even know how to begin to explain all the ways that [it] shaped me,” Greenberg said. “It’s where I learned everything; it was the reason that I was able to go to ESPN; it was the reason I was ready when I got there…. That was an incredibly fortunate series of circumstances that befell me, and it changed my life completely.”

As a beat reporter, Greenberg was around the teams for most days over the span of four years, through which the Bulls captured two NBA championships. In watching Michael Jordan from his perspective, Greenberg drew a connection between his work as a journalist and Jordan’s as a basketball player in what it took to achieve “greatness.” Years after his retirement, Jordan remains a prominent figure and firmly rooted in basketball vernacular, and the debate as to who is the greatest player in league history continues to be amplified.

Contentious, yet astute debate is a hallmark of sports talk, whether it be between hosts on the radio or fans attending a game. It is the basis on which Greenberg authored his newest book, as there is a legitimate conversation to be had over who owns a number, especially when comparing athletes across different sports in different eras.

“No. 21 – should it be Tim Duncan; should it be Deion Sanders; should it be Roberto Clemente?,” Greenberg said. “I gave my opinion. I’m sure many people will agree and others will disagree, and that’s where the debate comes in.”

Three years into his tenure at ESPN, Greenberg began hosting a national radio show alongside Mike Golic, appropriately named Mike & Mike, and it quickly became a hit with listeners and one of the most successful programs of all time.

Before that though, Greenberg had joined the network in 1996 where he anchored programming on the new ESPNEWS channel and eventually was named as a host of the heralded show SportsCenter. Through his formative years on national television, Greenberg meticulously focused on applying and refining what he had learned from reporting in a local market to doing so on a national scale.

Looking back on the day he signed his contract to work for ESPN, the network is hardly recognizable. Although its main focus remains and has always been bringing consumers the latest news, information and opinions about their favorite players and teams, the execution of that goal has shifted with evolutions in technology and dynamic consumption patterns.

When I got to the network, the internet was a brand-new phenomenon,” Greenberg said. “Everything is different and we have adapted and evolved as every industry has with all of the changes in technology. There are a lot of ways that everything has changed, but that’s overwhelmingly the biggest one, and it remains overwhelmingly the biggest challenge going forward – to make sure that we are staying on top of what our audience wants.”

Greenberg co-hosted Mike & Mike with Golic from 2000 until 2017, making it one of the longest-running sports talk radio shows in history. As the show received positive feedback among listeners, it was added to the ESPNEWS television lineup in 2004 and continued to air on ESPN2 until its final episode.

Additionally, Golic and Greenberg contributed across ESPN programming, including serving as the lead broadcast team for the Arena Football League and calling an annual Monday Night Football game with former Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka for three years.

Before they began working together, Golic had been hosting The Bruno-Golic Morning Show with sports commentator Tony Bruno for a year; however, the host position became open when Bruno resigned from the network for what was reported as “irreconcilable differences” between him and ESPN Radio management.

The change required Golic and Greenberg to quickly develop chemistry, something that is never guaranteed in creating sports radio shows and composing a sound that would allure listeners in various different marketplaces with broad rooting interests.

“If there’s more than one host, then those people need to have chemistry, and that’s a very elusive quality,” Greenberg said. “It’s usually not something you know until you try, which is why a lot of things don’t ever really get off the ground because it’s not until they actually start doing the show that you realize, ‘You know what? These people really aren’t meant to be together.’”

When Mike & Mike ended, Greenberg ceased hosting a sports radio show and instead began working on the network’s primary channel as the host of Get Up, a new morning show originally featuring Greenberg, Michelle Beadle, and Jalen Rose. The show currently features Greenberg and a rotating panel of analysts, and it recently set viewership records for its most-watched January on record by averaging 445,000 viewers.

Moreover, Get Up combined with First Take, hosted by Molly Qerim featuring Stephen A. Smith, accumulated 100 million views on YouTube, up 2% from the previous year. As the host of a morning program on ESPN, Greenberg views his role as being a facilitator, someone who renders comfort in his guests and accentuates the qualities that allow them to adequately inform and entertain the audience.

“It’s a really fun challenge because we have so many different people,” Greenberg said. “Every day, basically, is a different show. My job is to get to know all these people who are coming on and know how to put them in a position to be the best they can be.”

Greenberg is equipped with a similar task, albeit with a recurring cast, on NBA Countdown, a show that precedes the NBA on ESPN predicated on previewing matchups and discussing the news around the league. Featuring a panel of the aforementioned Rose and Smith, along with longtime sports journalist and co-host of Pardon the Interruption, Michael Wilbon, Greenberg holds himself responsible for eliciting compendious responses from his analysts that precipitate additional conversation and/or spark debate.

Although he never got to the point where he could succeed Walt “Clyde” Frazier as the starting point guard for the New York Knicks, Greenberg in essence plays the position and assists his panelists, and occasionally knocks down a three-point basket by expressing his opinions.

“I try to produce the show from the chair, which is to say [that] I’m trying to think about what is the best for the show in its entirety,” Greenberg said. “….I think all hosts have one thing or another that they’re good at, [and] I think if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s bringing out the best in all the people who are around me.”

Two years into hosting Get Up, Greenberg made his return to the national radio airwaves by adding a new solo program titled #Greeny. The show airs from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. EST and brings consumers the perspectives and opinions of Greenberg; in basketball terms, he is essentially scoring more than he is passing.

On this show, Greenberg is front and center – after all, the show is eponymously named after his pseudonym “Greeny,” – and he proffers his erudite perspectives on sports, the history of which he learned through his avidity for learning. It is the second reason he decided to write his fifth book and the first that primarily focuses on the progression of sports history and everything he has learned over the years.

“I loved reading sports history books; it’s where I learned everything I know about sports,” Greenberg said. “What I’m hoping is that people who read this, whether they agree or disagree with the choices that we made, will learn [something about] every one of the sports legends in this book.”

Greenberg is in the midst of recovering from a cardiac ablation, a type of heart surgery utilized to correct problems pertaining to the rhythm of his heartbeat. Furthermore, there have been instances over the last year where he has been criticized for being absent from his radio show, with McAfee addressing his audience and entreating him to get back into the studio.

Despite balancing many different roles with ESPN, Greenberg has no plans of altering his schedule and considers himself extremely fortunate to be in his position. He and Golic were inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters’ Broadcasting Hall of Fame, along with the National Radio Hall of Fame, and Greenberg himself is a member of the Medill Hall of Achievement at Northwestern University.

Through it all, he wants to remain at the forefront of innovation and seek new ways to reach and expand the audience, the way in which they consume the programming notwithstanding.

“The way I watched sports when I was in my 20s is totally different [from] the way my son and my nephews and others that I watch with consume it,” Greenberg said. “I’ve got to make sure I’m on top of that or I’m going to get left behind. That’s the biggest challenge for me and for all of us in the industry, and I think that will continue to be for the foreseeable future.”

From the very beginning, Greenberg’s goal was to find a way to remain immersed in sports since he did not have the athletic wherewithal to pursue a professional career. Now, he is the lead host of two national television shows, a national radio show, and the network’s coverage of the NBA Finals and the NFL Draft. He hopes his career as a versatile professional inspires others and promulgates captivating ways to ruminate on sports and be distinctive amid a crowded media ecosystem.

“It’s a miracle that this has happened to me,” Greenberg said. “I do it because I love it, to be completely honest with you. I have the best job of anybody I know, and I don’t have any intention of stopping any time soon.”

Got Your Number: The Greatest Sports Legends and the Numbers They Own is available wherever you get your books and is split into 100 short chapters delineating the choices Greenberg and Hembekides settled on, along with the context for each selection. The book is largely sold out, with a select few hardcover copies available at the moment, and is the encapsulation of Greenberg’s enamorment towards professional sports and its ensuing culture.

“Babe Ruth; Muhammad Ali; you name it,” Greenberg expressed. “That’s what the book is. It’s a combination of sports debate and sports history. It’s sort of a new beginning for me, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

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Give Me Less College GameDay, More Game

“If you cut out all of Desmond Howard’s and Kirk Herbstreit’s fake laughter, you probably only have 90 minutes of content stretched out to twice that length.”

Demetri Ravanos

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The fate of Pat McAfee, as it relates to College GameDay, is uncertain. McAfee has his pride and almost certainly didn’t enjoy being nitpicked by fans for every little thing last season. The show does not absolutely have to have him, but I do think he is more of a net positive than negative for the show. Plus, as I have written before, the network put an awful lot of effort into building rapport between him and Nick Saban last year. It’s hard to imagine ESPN doesn’t find a way to ensure they are working together this season.

McAfee’s drama is what has fans and industry types speculating on the future of College GameDay right now, but there’s something else I have been thinking about lately. Let’s give McAfee a break. Lord knows he has spent enough time as the focus of everyone’s College GameDay criticisms for the last two years.

I want to know how much longer the show intends to stay at three hours. That’s too much pregame show. If you cut out all of Desmond Howard’s and Kirk Herbstreit’s fake laughter, you probably only have 90 minutes of content stretched out to twice that length.

College football is one of my favorite things in the world. It’s an easy thing to say when Bama is your alma matter, but I don’t just watch the Crimson Tide. I watch EVERYTHING on a Saturday and I still don’t think I get enough.

So I have a radical two-part proposal. In the morning, I need less GameDay and more games. I think the average fan would be just fine with a one-hour pregame show, but I don’t expect ESPN to cut a valuable property down that severely. Instead, let’s settle on a two-hour show. The party can still start at 9 am, just stop at 11 instead of noon.

For that last hour? Start an East Coast game an hour earlier. It shouldn’t be hard for the network that controls all of the SEC and ACC inventory. Just be fair about it. Make sure all of the home teams are in the Eastern time zone and none of the visitors are from the West Coast or Rocky Mountains.

Think of the list of teams that gives you access to: Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Tennessee from the SEC, the entire ACC outside of the three new additions, and Cincinnati, West Virginia and UCF in the Big 12. 

Even if ESPN wanted to accommodate playoff contenders like Georgia and Tennessee, there’s still a rich inventory of games they could offer at 11 am. Syracuse vs. Georgia Tech will probably be a top 25 matchup, but it is Power Four conference football. Plus, those are schools that should be happy to be on TV at all, so if you are offering them a spotlight time slot on ESPN, who are they to complain? You can swap those names for just about anyone in the ACC or Big 12 and it still works.

There’s a big difference between star power and mass appeal. McAfee and Saban have star power. Football has mass appeal. GameDay cannot deliver the numbers live football can.

On top of that reality, there’s the fact that it’s a decided advantage ESPN has over it’s top competitor. FOX may have the most valuable league in college sports, but they have spent years branding their coverage around the noon hour. Big Noon Kickoff, Big Noon Saturday. That network could not make the same move to 11 am kickoffs without spending huge money on a new marketing campaign. 

Now, let’s talk about part two of this idea. Take Rece Davis, Saban and Howard and give me a meaningful, insightful recap show after the final game of the night on ESPN comes to an end. That, I think, would have even more value to fans than GameDay.

The NFL is and always will be king, but there is a very large population that isn’t ready to jump into fantasy advice the second we wake up on Sunday. Pro games don’t kick off until 1 pm on the East Coast. Why can’t we keep the college conversation going until like 10 am?

College Football Final is fine, but it isn’t at all dynamic. Think of it this way, that replay that’s looped on ESPNU Sunday mornings, if you’re just flipping around, are you more likely to stop if you see Dan Mullen offering an opinion or Nick Saban?

Ultimately, I don’t expect the decision makers at ESPN will consider my idea. Maybe they will, but they’ll dismiss it. It’s always easier to stick with business as usual, and to be fair, the current way of doing things has been very profitable for them, so who the hell am I, right?

However, this is sort of a continuation of the piece I wrote last week about how the network is approaching negotiations with Stephen A. Smith. If you’re building a media company for the future, you have to focus on getting more meaningful games on TV more often. They are the only things that truly move the needle. Football will always be more valuable than football talk.

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Seller to Seller: Sales Meeting

That passion can get you meetings, it can get you sales, it can get you referrals and it can make you rich.

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Graphic for a Seller to Seller feature

C’mon in everyone. Hope your week is off to a great start and you are excited for this week’s sales meeting. Chances are, you’ve already taken advantage of our topic today, which is technology. Some of you probably took out your phone today, looked at the weather forecast to figure out what to wear, or maybe you pulled up the Starbucks app and ordered your morning coffee, which you then paid for with Apple pay.

I still marvel every time I am watching my home cable system, through my phone, with a beautifully clear picture. I am old enough to remember my family having a small television in our kitchen with rabbit ears and sometimes you would have to smack the side of it to hope the picture got better. Now, I can whip out my phone, pull up anything I want in the universe to watch and see it clearly, even on an airplane.

Technology is great. Except for when it comes to sales.

Now don’t get me wrong. There are things about technology that have helped those of us in sales greatly. No more recording the ad on a reel and driving it over to the other station or ad agency that needs it. Just get it in your email and send it on over, or you can even text it over.

The problem is, like a lot of things when it comes to electronic forms of communication, too much gets lost when you are not face-to-face, and the worst part is the person on the other end can’t tell at all if you are passionate about what it is that you are selling. And that has been a huge negative when it comes to trying to communicate with people through email and text or by sliding into their DMs.

The biggest challenge most sellers face is setting appointments with new prospects. We used to call it cold calling but somehow a lot of places let the ‘calling’ part slip away and it became a game of how many emails and LinkedIn messages you could send in a day. And as we all know, the chance you have of someone getting back to you about a first-time meeting through one of those channels is slim. So, why waste the time?

Some would argue that people do not want to be cold called any longer and they would prefer you reach out to them electronically. Of course, that is because it’s easier for them to ignore you or say no to the meeting without actually talking to you. Which, when you think about it, is the exact opposite of what we as sellers want. We want to be in front of them.

So, this is where it gets challenging, but also where we separate the good sellers and the great sellers, or more importantly, the ones who make ok money and the ones who make big money. It is clearly much, much harder today to get that yes to that first meeting. So, we have to work that much harder to get it. And if you want to be successful in this industry, you have to be putting yourself in positions to be in front of people as often as possible.

Whether it is a networking group, Chamber of Commerce event, stopping into businesses, going to games and events or any other way you can be in front of a group of people, if you aren’t doing these sorts of things on a regular basis, you are missing out on a ton of new relationship opportunities.

If you have determined that you are going to meet your financial goals by emailing and sending LinkedIn messages all day, it is going to be a short career for you, and you might want to start looking up new ways to season your Ramen noodles. This is a people business and not many people stop by the studio or office to say hello and ask if anyone is in that can sell them some advertising.

The biggest part of this is the passion with which you sell your product. I believe that you have to have that passion to really make it big in the sports media sales business, and let’s face it, that is why most of us are in the business in the first place. We love it. Many of us eat, sleep and breathe sports. That passion comes out when you talk about what you do and how you can help a local business with the tools and resources you have at your disposal using sports radio as the catalyst. That passion can get you meetings, it can get you sales, it can get you referrals and it can make you rich.

Let people see it. Make a promise to yourself that you’re going to do x number of things every month to increase your time in front of the business community in your area. That is where you will make new connections.

Sales managers, I would encourage you to ask your team weekly in one-on-ones about this time and figure out who is putting in the work to really go out and make new relationships and who is doing the equivalent of ‘sitting by the fax machine waiting for orders.’

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Suzyn Waldman and WFAN Had a Lot to Prove 37 Years Ago

When Suzyn Waldman became the first voice ever heard on WFAN on July 1st, 1987, there weren’t too many people who thought that the radio station would have sustainability.

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Photo of New York Yankees broadcaster Suzyn Waldman
Screengrab: Newsday TV on YouTube

On July 1st, 1987, Suzyn Waldman was about to be the first voice heard on WFAN in New York, the first all-sports radio station ever.  As she settled in to do her first update, a moment that is played back every year when WFAN celebrates its birthday, Waldman could not help but look over on the other side of the glass into another studio and see people holding hands and crying.

It was the staff of WHN, the radio station that WFAN was replacing at 1050 on the AM dial.

“I’ll never forget this as long as I live,” said Waldman who has been in the Yankees radio booth since 2005. 

“I looked through the glass and all of a sudden it dawned on me that when I opened my mouth, they would cease to exist and it really hit me just by doing that.  People were crying and that picture is something that has stayed with me forever.”

Next Monday, WFAN turns 37 years old, and it all started with these words that resonated with Waldman as she drove by Yankee Stadium on her way to work that day.  The old Yankee Stadium had a message board on both sides of “The House That Ruth Built” and that day the message would become part of WFAN history.

“The sign on the message board says, ‘Vintage Guidry’”, said Waldman as she delivered the first words ever heard on WFAN.   “I think I remember what I was wearing…a white blouse with a black skirt.”

But, unfortunately, that’s not all that Waldman remembers about that day.  Her broadcasting career featured some rocky moments early on and it started with what she heard seconds after that first update.

“What I heard through the other side of the glass was get that smart-ass bitch with the Boston accent off my air in afternoon drive,” recalls Waldman.

That first horrible experience did not deter Waldman who would go on to become a pioneer for women in sports broadcasting and a resume that would land her in the Radio Hall of Fame.  There were those at WFAN who tried to move Waldman to overnights with the hope that she would quit.

She wasn’t about to quit.  Instead, she built a career doing things that many of the male employees didn’t want to do.  She covered teams like the Yankees, Knicks and Devils and with that she made a little history.

“What I had to do for that was create my own job which was the beat reporter,” said Waldman. “I was the one who did that.  I took assignments that the guys didn’t want to do.  I did not have an easy time.  I was not going to be defeated because some man thought I was stupid because I was female.”

While there were those who tried to take down Waldman and ruin her career, she did have people in her corner including her family and Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

“The Boss” was initially tough on Waldman when she covered the Yankees but quickly grew into a big fan of hers.

Waldman isn’t so sure she would have enjoyed the career that she’s had without the support from Steinbrenner.

“My brother says I would have because I would have found a way,” said Waldman.  “I believed in what I was doing, and I was the one that was going to maybe make it safer for young girls to believe that they could do this or have some kind of career in sports.  George, except for my family, is the most important person in my life.”

In their early days, WFAN went through some growing pains.

They brought in a lot of on-air people from outside of New York and it really wasn’t until WFAN took over the 660 signal from WNBC on the AM dial that the station became a success.  By transforming from Sports Radio 1050 WFAN into Sports Radio 66 WFAN, the all-sports station assumed the iconic “Imus in the Morning” show from WNBC.  The station also created “Mike and the Mad Dog”, the most successful sports radio show in history, in afternoon drive and the rest, as they say, is history.

Waldman knew that WFAN could be a success before it started, but it had to be done the right way.

“Being the sports nut that I am and knowing that there were so many teams in New York,” said Waldman.  “What I did know was it was not going to work if they had national people.  Nobody in New York gives a damn about Nebraska football.”

It was during those early days doing updates at WFAN when Waldman would meet her longtime Yankees radio partner John Sterling.  One of the original hosts that WFAN had hired was legendary Cleveland sports talk host Pete Franklin to do afternoon drive.  But, Franklin’s arrival in New York was delayed because he had suffered a heart attack.

A number of people were brought into fill-in while Franklin recovered and one of them was Sterling, who retired from the Yankees radio booth earlier this season.

“I was John’s update person when he did a week at WFAN in 1987,” said Waldman.  “That’s how I met him.  We hit it off immediately.  I talk to him all the time and he’s very happy.”  

And now, as WFAN is set to turn 37 years old, Waldman is happy that the radio station continues to thrive even though the sports talk format may sound a bit different than it did in the early years.

“I’m not the demographic anymore,” said Waldman.  “It should change.  The times are very different.  I’m really glad I got to be at FAN when we were building something and I’m really proud of that.  Things change and the world changes and I have no problem with that.  It’s somebody else’s turn.”

When Suzyn Waldman became the first voice ever heard on WFAN on July 1st, 1987, there weren’t too many people who thought that the radio station would have sustainability.  There were also people who didn’t think that Suzyn Waldman should be on the air.

WFAN and Suzyn proved a lot of people wrong.

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