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The Goal Is Still in Focus For Andrés Cantor

“I understand that I am very, very lucky and blessed to have a job in something that I love to do. Not many people have that luxury.”

Derek Futterman

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Every four years, FIFA holds its World Cup tournament. Last year’s men’s tournament was held in Qatar and received high levels of viewership and engagement across the board, with the final game alone reaching 1.5 billion viewers worldwide. Andrés Cantor is tasked with bringing a large faction of those viewers a preponderance of the action throughout the tournament, something he has been doing since the early 90s.

With each game he announces, Cantor ensures he is providing his audience with an effusive, dynamic show of knowledge and passion, encapsulating the adrenaline of the showcase event and communicating it en masse.

“It’s 64 Super Bowls rolled into one month,” Cantor said. “If we get hyped here once a year with one Super Bowl, just imagine 64 of them in 28-29 days. That is the magic and the beauty of the World Cup; it has a worldwide appeal in every corner of the globe.”

Throughout his years working in sports media, Cantor has narrated and witnessed an interminable number of seminal moments in the history of the sport. Equipped with bilingual versatility and a goal call that penetrates cultural boundaries, he immerses himself and his audience in each match and looks forward to watching the next generation of illustrious soccer players take center stage. Calling the sport, however, was not Cantor’s modus operandi from the time he was young; instead, he wanted to be on the field playing the game imbued in every fiber of his being from a young age.

“I always say that most, if not all, sports reporters; anchors, etc. are frustrated athletes in their own sport that they cover,” Cantor expressed. “I would have given my life to play one minute of professional soccer somewhere. Since I couldn’t, I decided to do the next best thing, which is [to] call the games that I would have loved to play.”

To Cantor, working as a journalist was the means through which he would be able to be involved with professional soccer, and it was a career choice made difficult by assimilating to a new culture. Cantor grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and moved to the United States when he was a teenager and experienced various challenges in enduring a cultural shift. The culture he was used to involved going to watch his favorite soccer team (Boca Juniors) play on the weekends and then taking the field himself on weekends from dusk until dawn.

Although soccer is the No. 1 sport in terms of popularity around the world, it is not so in the United States; after all, the technical name of the sport is “fútbol” but it is referred to as “soccer” to prevent confusion with American football. The word itself is somewhat homonymic in that sense, as the only aspect of American football that involves one’s foot is in kicking field goals, points after touchdowns (PATs), punting, or kickoffs.

Additionally, Cantor faced the arduous task of learning a new language, something that was accentuated when he was determining how to go about calling games in English. He grew up the son of two parents – his mother, Alicia, a psychologist of Romanian descent; his father, David, a gastroenterologist of Argentinian descent; and his father’s parents fled Poland during the country’s occupation by the Nazis.

His parents made the decision to leave Argentina after growing frustrated with the government before the eventual coup d’état in 1976. The family found its way to San Marino, Calif., where his father worked at Huntington Memorial Hospital and his mother established her own psychology practice. Experiencing aspects of multiple cultures, in essence, was routine for Cantor; however, the change in lifestyle made him feel very much displaced early on. Through hard work and perseverance though, he was able to face this adversity and triumph, eventually becoming fully bilingual and adopting a sense of belonging.

“I was pretty miserable the first couple of years – first and foremost because I didn’t speak the language and I was coming from a totally different culture,” Cantor said. “….I went to school and it was fairly tough, but then over the years obviously once I started learning the language and being more used to the culture – like pretty much most immigrants, I became pretty acculturated and now I can probably say that I feel as much an American as I do an Argentinian.”

After graduating from San Marino High School, Cantor remained in the area by matriculating at the University of Southern California where he studied journalism. Although he was learning about the industry and receiving chances to hone his craft in the classroom, Cantor worked professionally as a correspondent for Editorial Atlántida, an influential magazine publisher in Argentina. El Grafíco, a prominent Argentinian sports magazine. Based out of Los Angeles, he wrote sports stories for the publication, along with covering boxing matches in Las Vegas, Nev.

Some of his assignments included following Diego Maradona, widely regarded as the world’s top soccer player at the time, and attending the 1982 and 1986 FIFA World Cup tournaments in Spain and Mexico, respectively – the latter of which Maradona led Argentina to a championship. Through it all, he worked hand in hand with editor, and eventual magazine director, Ernesto Cherquis Bialo, who started at the outlet himself as an intern in 1963. Cantor also covered select events alongside him, including the 1984 Olympics held in Los Angeles, Calif., all while gaining exposure, credibility, and unparalleled industry wherewithal.

Another part of his correspondent role was covering entertainment for the magazine Gente, affording him experience in an area where he did not have as much experience. In fact, he had the chance to interview economist Milton Friedman, actor Laurence Tureaud — better known as “Mr. T” — and author Ray Bradbury. Cantor was frequently on the road to report on and cover pertinent events, growing accustomed to eloquent storytelling through the written word.

“I was very, very fortunate that while I was being taught how to become a journalist, I was on the road doing all of this,” he said. “I guess that was a double whammy for my career – going to school and, at the same time, practicing exactly what they were teaching me.”

The repeated cycle of instruction and implementation set Cantor apart from other prospective journalists, giving him an inherent advantage upon his graduation. While his work was not primarily focused on soccer, he maintained his alacrity for the sport throughout his time in college and consumed games on the radio. From the time he was young, the commentator whom he most frequently listened to was José Maria Muñoz; in fact, Cantor recalls that Muñoz, at one point, had a 90% share of the radio audience in Argentina. Listening to him call the games inspired Cantor to work to find his voice and develop a style to call his own, amalgamating tradition and innovation.

“It was a very different style of doing play-by-play back in the day,” Cantor said of Muñoz. “My friends [and I] would go out and play soccer and we would repeat phrases that he used in his radio broadcasts.”

Combined with his experience as a writer, Cantor utilized his passion and knowledge of soccer to land an audition with Univision in 1987. At that point, he had never entered a television studio and knew he was taking a risk shifting his career at 23 years old; nonetheless, it was a chance to focus on soccer on a full time basis. Cantor was expeditiously hired in the first quarter of that year and covered myriad events leading up to his first FIFA World Cup on television in 1990, including the 1988 Seoul Olympics. The early repetitions allowed him to gain a foothold as a play-by-play announcer and communicate with a large viewing audience.

“I guess I had already found my voice as a play-by-play announcer and just kept on growing professionally year by year,” Cantor said. “There’s not, obviously, one broadcast where 30+ years later, you don’t get goosebumps when you’re at a big event. Now, it’s obviously a little bit easier than it was way back in the day.”

In his early days of calling the FIFA World Cup, Cantor quickly rose to prominence when his elongated goal call caught the attention of sports fans and media consumers around the United States. Following the 1994 FIFA World Cup, Cantor was invited to appear on a variety of talk shows, including The Late Show with David Letterman and Live with Regis and Kathie Lee. This all took place during a time before social media; therefore, becoming “viral,” as it is oft-referred, was ostensibly harder to achieve.

Cantor was the only play-by-play announcer for Univision, meaning he was calling all of the tournament’s matches from mid-June to mid-July, and it is a remarkable feat of which he remains unsure as to just how he pulled off.

“I literally was exhausted, and I had five or six different outlets at our studios that came to interview me because of the success of the World Cup broadcasts we were having,” Cantor elucidated. “We put Univision on the map, literally. We were blowing away our competition, which I believe was ABC, and everybody was talking about Univision’s coverage and everyone was talking about my style.”

The style Cantor exudes on each broadcast renders him unique among the paradigmatic role play-by-play announcers execute. While he is usually paired with an analyst when calling soccer games, Cantor interprets the game and expresses his opinions, challenging his partner to expand his viewpoints and broaden the scope of what is being discussed.

“I’m very passionate about every single game that I do,” Cantor said. “I cannot make them better if they’re not good games, but I try to have people on the edge of their seats while they’re watching the television.”

When he was working with Univision, Cantor was calling games in Spanish, and it remains the primary language in which he commentates. Whereas he is able to express his thoughts both in Spanish and English, Cantor was brought on by NBC Sports to broadcast soccer games at the 2000 Sydney Olympics in English – an effort by the network to capture the exaltation he brought to the broadcasts of the FIFA World Cup.

Initially, Cantor was processing his thoughts about the game in Spanish and translating them in real-time to be spoken in English, a burdensome task wherefore following the game became less facile. Because of this, he started thinking about the game in English, omitting the translation, and settled in.

“When you do play-by-play in Spanish, your mind is going so fast because I need to be seeing the action [while] anticipating the next play [and] where the ball is going to go,” Cantor said. “I can’t be caught off guard, so I have to have a 360-degree [view] of what is going on.”

During that same year, Cantor left Univision to work with Telemundo, a network owned by Sony and Liberty Media. It should be noted that the network was subsequently purchased by NBC (before the merger that created “NBCUniversal”) in October 2001, and is currently part of NBC Sports’ Telemundo Deportes headquartered in Miami.

The transition was made easier because of the fact that Univision had moved on from many of its prominent on-air talent, and Cantor was essentially the last of them to make the move to Telemundo. He was offered the chance to remain at Univision, but made a prudential decision in transitioning, albeit taking a risk in joining an entity that did not have rights to the FIFA World Cup. While Telemundo did not broadcast the tournament until 2018, Cantor continued calling the games on Fútbol de Primera, a radio network created by Cantor and Alejandro Gutman in 1989.

The radio network offers a wide variety of programming pertaining to soccer and has broadcast a countless number of worldwide soccer events in addition to the World Cup, such as Serie A, the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and games for the Mexican national football team. Its programming, which includes Cantor’s daily show titled Fútbol de Primera, is disseminated to over 100 radio stations across the United States, and Cantor also contributes to the business operations of the entity. Calling games on the radio catalyzed a change in the way Cantor commentates in terms of being able to carry out his role.

“Radio takes an even bigger physical toll on [me] because you have to go into sixth gear,” Cantor said. “On television, I’m in fifth gear – the only reason I’m in fifth gear, not in sixth, is because I have to describe things that I assume people are not watching on radio. It’s lots of fun, but it’s very, very demanding as well.”

As Cantor views the landscape of sports talk radio, he has discerned a notable change in that there is less of an emphasis placed on providing up-to-the-minute scores and news. Cantor’s show initially started as a half-hour informational program broadcast on Sundays to circulate information to listeners.

Today, the audience can effectively discover information through digital platforms; therefore, the focus of the show needed to be shifted to bring people what they could not get anywhere else. As a result, the shows revolve around discussion and verbalization of opinion, distributed across multiple audiovisual outlets through the implementation of effective cross-platform integration.

“It’s funny [and] it’s light,” Cantor said. “We try to be up to speed with the way people are consuming everything nowadays media-wise. We have definitely adapted throughout the years.”

Last year, Argentina won its first World Cup championship since 1986 – and it was an especially fulfilling moment for Cantor who grew up in the country cheering on the team. In the 2014 FIFA World Cup, held in Brazil, Argentina lost to Germany in the final game, a particularly difficult moment for those in the country.

Cantor did not believe the team was built to win the tournament in 2018, likening the country’s performance to a “disaster,” but this time around, he felt differently. When the team dropped the opening match to Saudi Arabia, he began to have second thoughts about being enamored with the team and was behind the microphone for a pivotal matchup against Mexico that kept the team’s championship hopes alive.

After defeating Croatia to advance to battle France in the championship game, Cantor was trying to keep his composure and provide his audience with an objective call while observing a moment he had been waiting for; that is, until France tied the contest late in overtime, leading to a penalty shootout. Everything was on the line in Lionel Messi’s final World Cup, and his teammate Gonzalo Montiel buried the goal to secure the victory, leading to jubilation and an impassioned moment for Cantor.

“I came through because I always owe my audience my best call, and that was probably as good as it gets even though I was dying inside,” Cantor said. “This time, I was very happy inside and outside as well. It was 36 years in the making for that magic moment…. You couldn’t write a better script for that World Cup to end the way it ended.”

Cantor will be commentating the FIFA Women’s World Cup, marking the first time in Hispanic television history where all games will be televised on Telemundo and its sister network, Universo, along with NBC’s OTT streaming service, Peacock. The tournament, which will be hosted by Australia and New Zealand, will feature 32 countries as the United States aims to win its third consecutive title.

As women’s sports continue to grow in prestige and viewership around the world, Cantor eagerly anticipates promulgating the stars of the game and doing what he can to catalyze the growth of the sport. The quadrennial action commences on Thursday, July 20, and finishes on Sunday, Aug. 20.

“[It] should be very interesting to see how far the rest of the world has progressed in women’s soccer,” Cantor said. “It is going to be the first time that the World Cup is hosted by two different countries, at least at the women’s level, which is going to be very interesting. We will pay attention to the Latin American teams and Spain – the Spanish-speaking teams that will participate – and obviously Brazil as well to see how far they can get.”

Whether it is being bilingual or being able to perform an assortment of roles at a high level, versatility is a fundamental quality to garner in sports media. Despite being an established veteran in the industry, Cantor looks to learn how to apply new technologies to his work and remain at the forefront of innovation. He advises aspiring professionals with the “goooaaalll” of fostering careers in the ever-competitive niche of sports media to be proactive and find methods to apply what they have learned.

It is essential to have the knowledge and a willingness to learn and improve one’s craft to succeed in the business, and while much of that can be taught, passion is somewhat enigmatic and comes from within. Ultimately, it makes a big difference, and Cantor is grateful to fulfill his through broadcasting.

“I understand that I am very, very lucky and blessed to have a job in something that I love to do,” Cantor said. “Not many people have that luxury; many people just have jobs because they need to have a paycheck at the end of the week and they do something that they don’t like to do.”

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BSM Writers

Rich Shertenlieb Enters New Era on WZLX: No Fred Toucher, No Music, No Guarantees

“It’s worked for me in the past and there’s no secret sauce. It’s just try to be entertaining every morning and work your ass off to do it right.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Rich Shertenlieb and WZLX logo in Boston
Boston photo: courtesy of Getty Images

It’s a time of change and transition for rock radio listeners in Boston. WZLX rolled out its new morning show last week featuring local icon Rich Shertenlieb. It’s not only a new adventure for the former Sports Hub morning man. It’s also the start of a new era for the station.

Kevin Karlson, the anchor of the station’s previous morning show, died in his sleep in October. It ended a nearly 20-year run on WZLX for Karlson, McKenzie & Heather. Pete McKenzie and Heather Ford carried on, but earlier this month, they were let go.

“I definitely have big shoes to fill,” Shertenlieb says of his new gig. “Kenny Young, who was a member of the previous show, I got to know him pretty well over these last couple of months. He is now our producer, and he couldn’t be more valuable to the show. He has been an awesome bridge between what was and what is now, and I love the guy to death. He is one of the more skilled people in radio when it comes to being a jack of all trades and it’s awesome that he’s there.”

After seventeen years together, Shertenlieb split from his radio partner Fred Toucher in November. They held down morning drive at 98.5 The Sports Hub since the station’s launch in 2009. The duo was an institution in Boston and their ratings proved it over and over again. 

There has to be a juicy story there, right? I mean, who walks away from that kind of success without a concrete reason? 

Speculation will continue to run rampant. After all, each twist and turn during the final days of Toucher & Rich were covered pretty extensively on this site and others. According to Shertenlieb though, no one ever crossed a red line. There is no moment when he realized the partnership could not be saved. He was just ready for something new.

“I mean, listen, it’s kind of boring because it’s not as scandalous as people might think that it is,” he says. “You only get a couple of times in your career to be able to reevaluate what you’re doing. I would sign long term contracts for about five years. And so, you only get about once every five years to sit and say, ‘I got a chance to try to do something else.’ When your contract comes up, you ask yourself a few questions. It’s like, ‘Do I still absolutely love what I’m doing?’ and ‘Do I absolutely love where I’m doing it?’ And finally, ‘Is there another step I’d want to take?’ If any of those questions have any kind of doubt or cloud, then you owe it to yourself to at least explore what’s out there. And that’s what I did.”

Shertenlieb doesn’t hide from reality. It was scary to leave the familiarity behind. Even when apparent tension between he and Fred Toucher was impossible to hide, he never pinned blame for wondering what is next on the state of their relationship.

Listeners and social media followers did a lot of speculating about the show’s future in early 2023. Toucher missed extended time, first to deal with a vocal condition and then to focus on his mental health.  They wanted to know what was going on in the Beasley Media offices after Toucher took to Twitter to say no one from the show’s cast had reached out to check on him during his absence. 

Rich Shertenlieb says that the conversations were never that interesting. He didn’t think it had to be a catalyst for drastic action.

“There was no discussion about the future of the show. I think that there was confusion. The guys on the show, I think, were confused about why he was saying stuff about us that obviously, we’re all looking at each other and going, ‘Well, this isn’t true. Why is he saying that? I don’t know what was going on there.’ That part was definitely strange, but there weren’t any conversations about the future of the show at all.”

When the decision was made to leave Toucher & Rich, Shertenlieb says he knew instantly that it would mean leaving 98.5 The Sports Hub. It wasn’t about hard feelings. It was about on-air real estate.

Shertenlieb didn’t want to join an existing show. He wanted to start something new with him at the center. Maybe it would work. Maybe it wouldn’t. Either way, he was comfortable with the consequences of his name being the only one on the marquee. Without a major overhaul, that wasn’t possible at his current station.

“I don’t think that that would be fair to anybody. I think that to achieve that they’d have to move people around and stuff like that. I don’t think that that would be fair. I do think that in fairness to everybody else that I worked with, I would have to go do that on my own.”

WZLX, Shertenlieb’s new home, is owned by iHeartMedia. The company made it clear to the host that he was a priority. Bosses asked Shertenlieb who he wanted to work with and got those people on board. They presented him with the opportunity to launch a podcast network in the future. 

The company even acquiesced to Shertenlieb’s demand that the classic rock the station is known for disappear in morning drive.

“I’ve just looked around and I’ve seen that there’s really no morning show that is geared mostly towards guys that truly wins while also playing music. That’s the recipe that you have to go with, at least in mornings,” he says.

Music snobs aren’t totally left out of the new morning show. Shertenlieb loves rock music and makes it a part of the show’s regular discussions. He also notes that what is now considered “classic rock” is the music he grew up with and holds most dear, particularly Alice in Chains.

Listeners will hear Michael Hurley, who Shertenlieb calls “truly a gem” every day. Every host needs someone that gets all of his references and that’s what Hurley is for Shertenlieb. Throughout the week, former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson, Meadowlark Media host Charlotte Wilder and Mike Giardi of the Boston Sports Journal will all make appearances.

“I like having different personalities, you know, different walks of life and people who are experts in different things to be able to rotate,” Shertenlieb says. “The great thing about everybody that I picked, whether it be Ted Johnson or Mike Girardi or Charlotte Wilder, is that even if they didn’t talk about the one thing they’re known to be an expert on, I would still love talking to these people about everything else in their life, because they’re just that interesting.”

Every new show faces challenges when it launches and The Rich Shertenlieb Show is no exception. His former partner has poked fun, his former competitor has taken shots, but Rich Shertenlieb knows that no show gets to launched as a finished product. That only comes from years of building chemistry amongst the people in studio and the people listening.

He isn’t shy about admitting that there is no guarantee that he is going to leapfrog anyone in the ratings. Sure, he has the know-how given the success he helped propel The Sports Hub to in morning drive. He also has the advantage of joining a station that already performs well.

“It’s hard work and patience,” Shertenlieb says when asked if he has thought about how he will pull ahead of The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Hardy or anyone else. “It’s worked for me in the past and there’s no secret sauce. It’s just try to be entertaining every morning and work your ass off to do it right.”

Shertenlieb knows that, for many Bostonians, he and Fred Toucher will forever be linked. He doesn’t run from that. He says he never considered leaving Boston for a “fresh start” when he decided to strike out on his own.

He doesn’t wish Toucher or The Sports Hub any ill-will. He insists that the titillating scandal everyone wants to hear about doesn’t exist. He isn’t “over sports.” It was just time to do something new.

New adventure comes with risk and uncertainty. Rich Shertenlieb is willing to embrace it and live with whatever it becomes.

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Which Areas of Executive Performance Should Be Known in Media Companies?

“How do we know if a CEO, executive, market manager or PD is outperforming or underperforming?”

Jason Barrett

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I read a great piece on Monday from Front Office Sports, which reflected on the NBA’s financial growth under Commissioner Adam Silver. Since taking control in 2014, Silver has more than doubled the NBA’s annual revenue to $12 billion from $4.8 billion. The league also set an all-time regular-season attendance record this year, and grew NBA franchise values to an average of $3.85 billion, according to Forbes. The worth of an organization alone is up 75% from 2019.

If I asked you to judge the Commissioner of the NBA and whether or not he was doing a good job, would those three categories get your attention? Adam Silver isn’t perfect in other areas, but if you more than double league revenues, increase attendance and fan interest, and elevate the value of the league’s franchises, few are going to want a different voice.

But what about in media circles? How do we know if a CEO, executive, market manager or PD is making a difference? Shouldn’t we know if our markets/companies are growing in revenue and value, and increasing audience?

Radio program directors get judged by their brand’s ratings (quarterly and annually), but that doesn’t tell the complete story. What if the PD shrinks expenses 25% and stays flat? Isn’t that progress? How about if they possess digital skills and quadrupled the brand’s social media following, video viewing, newsletter signups, and podcast downloads but ratings dropped 10%. Is that a win or a loss? What if the company they work for lost the rights to a key property that drove ratings growth. Is that on them or their employer?

GM’s are tasked with boosting local market revenues, controlling expenses, and making smart business decisions. Most people inside of a cluster though have no idea if they’re on top of those things. They judge the GM based on an individual relationship, and trust the company’s judgment. The issue with that, sometimes company’s aren’t plugged in. Other times they know things that folks on the local level don’t. Regardless, little information is available to people in the building to show if the GM’s plan is working.

On the executive level, revenue growth, stock price (if public), investments in technology, continuing key relationships, forming new partnerships, recruitment, and company PR are all part of the company’s progress report. CEO’s earn credit and blame for the overall performance of the company, but wins and losses depend on people. You can blame and change them or the CEO when results are missed, but sometimes that’s a reflection of other factors. For instance, if the economy is weak, the individual and their ability to perform may not be the issue.

Examining company value over a 10-year period should be part of the evaluation process for executive leadership. But whether they’ve crushed it or laid an egg, few inside organizations know those details. Should it be? It’s easy to say yes, but radio isn’t the NBA. To expect similar progress is unrealistic. But to know how a company is growing or stalling beyond its stock price and year-to-year revenue would be helpful.

Aside from corporate leaders, many don’t know if their leaders are outperforming or underperforming expectations. We don’t look at enough areas of a position to determine if the right individual is in charge. For example, if your web traffic grew 10% but your social media audience declined 10% because article posts grew from 10 to 50 posts per day, is that a good or bad strategy? If a salesperson made budget because they got one big order from one client but did nothing else the rest of the month, is that acceptable? There should be multiple boxes to check to determine if someone is or isn’t successful in their position.

We should all be asking these questions, and challenging each other to help raise the bar. The best way to do that is through transparency. If everyone knows the score, the better equipped they are to make adjustments to win the game. That in turn inspires more confidence in those leading the company. Media folks are competitive by nature, and don’t like being tied to negative results. However, that also motivates people to perform better.

I’m not sure we’ll ever have information available the way it is with the Commissioner of the NBA. If we did, we’d know who the Adam Silver’s are in each group, and that would make our organizations stronger. Wouldn’t it be nice to see a boost in revenue, value and audience?

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Remembering Bill Walton

An industry giant was lost yesterday. Bill Walton passed away at the age of 71 following a battle with cancer. He was beloved by the sports media industry, thanks to his infectious personality, and ability to crack a joke, call something out or share a gem that left you smarter. Many have greater stories to share than mine but this was my favorite because I lived it.

It’s a Saturday night just after midnight, and I’m producing GameNight on ESPN Radio. John Seibel is hosting with Michael Kim, and Bill Walton calls in as scheduled. We bump back from break with Higher by Creed because Seibel wants to share the news that the band broke up. We welcome Bill to the show after the quick Creed story and try to transition to NBA talk but Bill wants more details on Credence Clearwater Revival’s breakup. John explains that it’s Creed, but Bill is so focused on CCR, that soon he’s telling 5-minutes worth of CCR stories.

We try to reset a few times to get on track but Bill keeps finding ways to connect CCR to Seibel’s words. The entire studio is crying laughing, and I tell John in his ear ‘don’t even try to talk hoops, just go with this.’ We do 12 minutes of CCR talk, laughing so hard it hurt, and wondering ‘was that radio gold or a train wreck?’ That was the beauty of Bill Walton. He kept you on your toes, went to places few did, but always kept you laughing and wanting to engage. Sports media has lost a larger than life character, great analyst, and gem of a human being.

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KNBR Fallout

I stand by everything I wrote last week and credit Cumulus Media for taking quick action in San Francisco. Yet seeing someone hurt their career is still sad. Larry Blumhagen, Bruce Gilbert and Dave Milner will find a strong, capable leader to move KNBR forward but for Adam Copeland it’s a blown opportunity.

I’m done discussing this issue but I want to make one thing clear. This was about unprofessional PD behavior, and a lack of understanding of how ratings work. I saw tweets raise the issue of race, which was embarrassing, and irresponsible. Some people say and do foolish things when they’re backed into a corner. Going down the diversity lane with me might be the dumbest decision yet.

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Thumbs Up:

Charles Barkley: He hit the nail on the head when he reminded folks that WBD CEO David Zaslav likely pissed off NBA Commissioner Adam Silver when he said that Turner didn’t need the NBA. Those comments in 2022 were likely going to create a stir. Sure enough, TNT is now in jeopardy of losing a near three decade relationship with a popular sports league. Kudos to Barkley for calling out executives for dropping the ball on what should’ve been a layup.

SKOR North: The Timberwolves haven’t answered the bell against Dallas, but SKOR North was more than ready entering the series. After Anthony Edwards told Charles Barkley following a Game 7 win against Denver to ‘bring ya ass’ to Minnesota, the Hubbard Radio brand had digital billboards, merchandise, and a box truck out on the streets promoting its content, featuring the famous Edwards quote. T-Wolves fever and leaning into the moment quickly, helped SKOR’s ‘Flagrant Howls’ crack the top-10 podcast charts last week. Nice job.

Stephen A. Smith: Nice job by Mr. SAS Productions on Up For Debate: The Evolution of Sports Media. Covering decades of the media industry in under two hours is impossible, but I watched all three episodes and enjoyed it. The guest list was beyond impressive. I can nitpick sports radio’s role in elevating debate style discussions not getting enough focus, and Jamie Horowitz and Skip Bayless deserving to be featured heavily given their roles with the shift to debate content, but if you watch a show looking for holes to poke, you’ll find them, and miss out on being entertained. If you watch to learn more than you knew previously, you’ll find it to be pretty good.

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Thumbs Down

Sports Emmys: The on-stage show and social media execution of the event was fantastic. The access given to media covering the show though left little to be desired. BSM covered the show, and was surprised by the lack of organization for pulling people aside for conversations. There was also no press working area or seats to view the show. Instead, press had to watch the show on a small monitor in the very back of the room for almost four hours. Given how awesome the Sports Emmys are, hopefully the media covering the show are taken care of better at the 2025 event.

WFAN: A phone number change? Say it ain’t so! New York sports radio fans know WFAN’s phone number better then their own. They also tend to be resistant to change. But they’ll get over it. The only valid question is why make the change at all?

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Barrett Media is interviewing potential writers to contribute to our expanded music radio industry coverage. Our brand relaunch takes place Monday July 15th. If you’ve programmed or hosted on music radio stations, enjoy writing, and have views and insights to share on the industry, email a resume and writing sample to [email protected]. Please do not DM on LinkedIn or social platforms. I won’t be answering messages through there.

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Steve Fifer Adds Local Programming Back to 1250 The Fan in Milwaukee

“I don’t think it’s an impossible dream to think we can be right back in this battle again.”

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Photo of Steve Fifer and a logo for 1250 The Fan
Photo Courtesy: Steve Fifer LinkedIn Profile

In August of 2022, local shows at 1250 The Fan in Milwaukee were discontinued in favor of national programming from CBS Sports Radio, now called Infinity Sports Network.  Steve Fifer has been with the station since the launch in January 2005 and while other hosts looked for hosting opportunities elsewhere, he stayed on becoming the station’s Assistant Program Director.  He learned the ropes on how the management side works, hosted local podcasts like “Curd and Long,” “Green and Growing” and “Spare/Time Bowling Show” and also did some fill-in hosting on stations in other markets.

While Fifer missed local shows, he had zero intentions of leaving the radio station.

“There were days along the way when big things would happen locally where it’s like man, I wish I had a talk show today,” said Fifer.  “I was asked before if I would want to leave and I didn’t want to leave.  I love the people who work in this building.  I had no inclination at any point to leave this building or go anywhere.”

That loyalty and patience has paid off for Fifer because a little over two years later, local programming is back.

This past March, Fifer helped turn the clock back just a little when he started hosting Milwaukee Bucks postgame shows on “The Fan” and the reaction was overwhelming.

“It was like the old days,” said Fifer.  “It was huge.  It was absolutely over the top huge. It gave me a lot of hope for the future going forward that a lot of the people who were listening before were right back in it again and a lot of social media right back in it again.” 

And then, the station announced the launch of Wisconsin Sports Daily, a live and local show weekdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. hosted by Fifer.  It didn’t take long for the station’s loyal listeners from the past to return and also offer Fifer some feedback on what the show should sound like.

“Everybody came with their ideas and opinions of what was missing in the market, what this show needs to be about and so forth,” said Fifer.  “It’s been a very positive experience for sure.”

And so has the experience learning the business side over the last 2 ½ years.  Fifer has worked closely with several Audacy executives including Mitch Rosen, Operations Director and Brand Manager of 670 The Score in Chicago and the Vice President of the BetQL Network.  While The Fan continued to carry national programming, Fifer was absorbing the business side of the industry like a sponge.

A lot of that knowledge came from Rosen.

“He’s taught me a lot about the business,” said Fifer.  “I’ve learned a lot from him as far as just more of the professional side of how to be a programmer, how to work with talent, how to work with producers and how to work with people outside of the company.  The last year and a half to two years, even though there hasn’t been local programming, I’ve learned a lot and grown a lot and matured a lot and I’m ready for the next step.”

And now that The Fan has taken those first couple of steps back into the local game with the Bucks postgame shows and now Wisconsin Sports Daily, perhaps it’s time to go “Back to the Future” and bring back some more local programming.

Is it possible?

Not only is it possible, it’s the vision.

“That’s the hope and the plan is to eventually over the course of time is to eventually get this thing back to close to where it was as far as doing more local programming,” said Fifer.  “That’s going to be a process.  It’s going to probably be baby steps here over the course of time to try and work its way back up again.  Hopefully, at some point in the future, we’re able to do that.”

That vision is not just to restore local programming to The Fan, but the vision also includes returning the station to dominance in a crowded Milwaukee sports radio landscape.

The Fan is one of four sports talk stations in town and the goal would eventually be to be on top.

“I don’t think it’s an impossible dream to think we can be right back in this battle again,” said Fifer.  “I think we will be and eventually be back to being number one again in this market.”

Steve Fifer has been a loyal soldier to Audacy and The Fan in Milwaukee.  He could have left when the station went national, but he stayed and now there is excitement over the return of a local show and what could lie ahead down the road.

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