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Chip Caray Brings The First Family of Baseball Broadcasters Back to St. Louis

“I understand the culture; obviously my grandfather was there. If it wasn’t going to be Atlanta, what better place to go at my age and with my experience level and my family ties?”

Derek Futterman



It was the conclusion of a long night at the ballpark for Chip Caray as he rode home on the highway alongside his father. The Braves had won their game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on a walk-off home run, and Chip heard the voice of his father, Skip, both in the booth and later on the radio. While the moment may seem trivial at first glance, it turns out that was the moment when Chip distinctly recalls feeling exhorted to pursue sports media as a career. He remembers saying to his father that he wanted to call baseball games, an assertion to which he received no reply, as his father chose to keep his eyes fixed on the road after a long day’s work.

“We drove home in silence,” Caray recalls. “We sat down at his house at 1:00 in the morning, [and] he poured himself a cocktail [while] I had a bite to eat. He said, ‘Were you serious about what you said in the car?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Okay, we start tomorrow.’”

Despite the profession being firmly ingrained into his genealogy, Caray was never completely certain he would follow the lead of his father. After all, Skip had divorced his wife when Chip was young, and aside from occasional summer visitations, the two did not have the opportunity to bond. Chip knew of his father by watching him call games on TBS when the Braves played on the West Coast. Similarly, Chip never had a bonafide opportunity to connect with his grandfather, the legendary WGN broadcaster, Harry Caray. 

Chip Caray’s life has come full circle. He recently returned to his hometown as the new television voice of the St. Louis Cardinals. The path to get there, however, practically took him from coast to coast, and it was filled with memorable moments, fortuitous breaks and unparalleled excitement. His inability to hit a curveball motivated him to find another path to make it to the majors, and now he has become a fixture on the soundtrack of summer. 

“Like most of us who sit in our chairs, we all dreamed of being the guys between the white lines, but our physical abilities did not match our dreams,” Caray said, “I figured, ‘If I can’t play baseball, this is kind of a cool way to stay involved in the game.’”

Moving home to St. Louis and being the television play-by-play announcer for the Cardinals was always an aspiration, but not something he thought of as being entirely probable. His grandfather had been fired from that very same role in 1969, a decision the team’s ownership entity Amheuser-Busch claimed was based on a recommendation it received from its marketing division. Chip Caray, whose legal name is Harry Caray III, had been offered the job 32 years ago, but circumstances changed and Caray turned down the chance. 

Chip Caray was one of the few University of Georgia graduates who secured a job right out of college. It was on WMBB Channel 13 in Panama City Beach reporting on not only sports, but also news and weather. 

Caray was a beat reporter on news occurring on the beach, meaning that he was often in scorching heat with a 60-pound camera, a 25-pound tripod and a 30-pound tape deck in a coat and tie. The days were long and it was out of his comfort zone. He eventually became used to it and ultimately grew more versatile as a broadcaster. On weekends, he anchored sports for the station and felt like he had a head start thanks to the tutelage of his father, interest in the craft and experience gathered through internships.

After nearly six months in Panama City Beach, Caray’s demo tape got into the hands of management at WFMY Channel 2 in Greensboro, NC. The station hired him in early 1988. The area had a litany of ACC sports teams and hosted the ACC men’s basketball tournament each year, along with the Wyndham Golf Championship on the PGA Tour and NASCAR races in nearby Martinsville. 

The timing worked out for Caray because of the introduction of the Charlotte Hornets as an expansion franchise that fall, giving him the ability to attend and cover NBA games along with local high school basketball and football contests.

“That was really an entree to me in going from college to a small station where you just did a few things that were kind of cool, to a very competitive news and content-driven, fast-paced business where you’re one step away [from] being around the big leagues,” Caray said. “That just opened my eyes to basketball and pro sports in particular as someone who is on the air and not just working behind the camera.”

The National Basketball Association continued its expansion era the next year, welcoming the Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando Magic into the league. Pat Williams, who had worked in various areas of sports management, helped Jim Hewitt and his investment group win a spot in the league, and was named as the franchise’s first manager. Williams had previously worked with Caray’s father and knew the work of his grandfather, and made the decision to invite Chip to travel to Orlando, Fla. and discuss the job. Before he was hired by Williams to be the team’s first television broadcaster, Caray embarked on calling an eight-game round-robin basketball tournament alongside NBC Sports analyst Bucky Waters.

“It was basically a live audition to see if I could do it,” Caray said. “Bucky Waters said, ‘Well that was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed working with you. How many years have you done basketball because I haven’t run into yet?’ I winked and nodded and gave him kind of a sheepish grin and said, ‘Well, actually Mr. Waters, these are the first eight games I’ve ever done.’ His jaw dropped, and I started laughing.”

Caray was initially awful at calling Magic games amid an 18-win season. Much like Caray, the team quickly improved, thanks in part to the development of Shaquille O’Neal, Horace Grant and Penny Hardaway, and qualified for the playoffs for four consecutive seasons. Nonetheless, Caray had promptly landed a heralded position as a broadcaster and enjoyed surprising his father with the news.

Caray enjoyed his time calling basketball games, but worked to find a way to make it to Major League Baseball. Following a year of calling Class AA Orlando baseball, Caray was added to the Atlanta Braves radio broadcast team, giving him a chance to work with his father for the first time. In May 1991, Chip, Skip and Harry called a game between the Chicago Cubs and the Atlanta Braves from the press box at Wrigley Field, marking the first time three generations of a family all broadcast the same game.

While Harry was calling the game over WGN both on television and on the radio, Skip and Chip were broadcast on TBS and WSB Radio respectively, and the circumstance caught the allure of baseball fans and reporters alike. The family all met at Harry Caray’s home to have dinner the night before the game, and went to one of his restaurants in Chicago following the game to reminisce on what they had just achieved. The Braves ended up defeating the Cubs by a final score of 5-3, but it was evident the outcome of the matchup did not matter as much as it normally would to Chip, even though he states that he did not appreciate the moment as much as he should have.

“For my dad, I think it was great because his son followed in his footsteps [in] trying to make his own way,” Caray said. “It was very difficult having the same name and all. Seeing the pride that Harry had for the first time [and] being honored for being a patriarch more than a Hall of Fame broadcaster was really kind of cool. It went by in a blur.”

He continued his rise in the industry when he was named the play-by-play announcer for the Seattle Mariners in 1993, and he performed the role for select games since he still lived in Orlando. Each year, there were several occurrences when Caray would fly from Orlando to Seattle, call a Mariners game and then return on a red-eye flight that night. He immensely enjoyed his time working with Dave Niehaus, the famed voice of the Mariners. Additionally, the move allowed Chip to establish a voice for himself on the other side of the country and watch the play of stars including Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson and Jay Buhner.

“From a professional standpoint, it was one of the best things I ever did,” Caray said. “It allowed me to get out from under the shadow of my dad – and I mean that in the most loving of ways – because our business is a personality-driven one. I had to go figure out who I was and who I wasn’t on my own.”

Niehaus taught Caray the importance of preparation, but in the broader sense of the term. Although it is necessary to know about the athletes, their backgrounds and statistics, it is essential a broadcast team cultivates a working chemistry. While games usually attract viewers, sometimes it is the broadcasters who end up being the main attraction, especially for teams that are not expected to win.

Harry Caray was an ostensible part of that lure for Chicago Cubs fans, bringing his incomparable style and passion for the team to the North Side of Chicago. Chip Caray had just concluded his time broadcasting the Orlando Magic and was also working as a studio host and broadcaster for MLB on FOX games when he received the offer of a lifetime. It was not only a chance to call games for the Chicago Cubs, but to do it partnered with his grandfather, a man who Chip says “just wasn’t prepared or equipped to be a hands-on parent or grandparent.”

Much of the excitement about accepting the offer to join the Cubs was not only to hear his grandfather’s stories about watching Jackie Robinson and Stan Musial play; it was more about learning about the elder Caray’s life. He was curious to discover how his grandfather got involved in sports media, how he met his wife, what his father was like as a child, and the mistakes he made to improve as a broadcaster. 

Harry Caray collapsed while enjoying a meal on Valentine’s Day at a restaurant with his wife. He was rushed to a nearby hospital and passed away four days later from complications due to a heart attack and accompanying brain damage. The outcome was devastating for Caray’s family, the Cubs organization and the sports world at large – and it redefined what Chip’s days with the Cubs would look like just days before the start of Spring Training in 1998.

“The reality of it hit me when I was going up the stairs to the press box,” Caray said. “I walked down the hallway past the place where the guy that plays the organ sat; and then the visiting GM booth, the visiting TV booth, the visiting radio booth;,and boom, there’s the TV booth. 

“I turn left, open the door, the windows are open at Wrigley. There’s his booth, his seat, his microphone, his partner, his crew, his producer, his director, his team and his talent, and I’ve got to sit in that chair and try to find a way to make this my own thing on the fly. Obviously, it was an extremely emotional day not just for me, but for my entire family.”

The team ended up winning 90 games that season, highlighted by the outstanding play of outfielder Sammy Sosa, who hit 66 home runs, falling short in a legendary battle with the Cardinals’ Mark McGwire for the single season home run record. The adjustment period took time, and Caray is grateful for his partner Steve Stone and producer Arne Harris for showing him the ropes and helping him become acclimated to the sports climate of Chicago.

“You can’t understand the provincial nature of Chicago unless you’ve experienced it,” Caray said. “The White Sox fans hate you because you’re a Cubs fan and the Cubs fans don’t really pay a whole lot of attention to the White Sox fans because you work for the Cubs. Harry had worked in both places and in some corners, they thought he was a traitor for going to the Cubs. For me, it was really, really challenging to go from the understudy to all of a sudden, the guy who has to try to fill these unfillable shoes.”

After a six-year stint with the Cubs, Caray reunited with his father on TBS where he called baseball games at the national level and locally for the Atlanta Braves. In working with his father, Caray found that they had an instinctive chemistry, never once talking over one another in the broadcast booth. Whether it was traveling on the road or calling games at home, the time to bond with his father over their love of baseball was invaluable to Caray. In 2007, Skip began to experience health complications, and he ended up passing away in his sleep the next year in the midst of his 33rd season calling games. 

“As a son in the latter years of his life quite obviously, there was nothing more rewarding for me than to go down to the lobby and pick up his suitcase or to bring him a cup of coffee or, after a game, have a drink with him as an adult,” Caray said. “The last month before he passed away, I’d take him to his doctor’s office visits and pick up his dry cleaning. All things that people that don’t do what we do probably take for granted.”

Indeed, Caray is fully aware that working in sports media takes sacrificing myriad irreplaceable moments with family and friends. It is part of the reason why he felt compelled to make the move home to St. Louis after broadcasting Braves games on Bally Sports South from 2010 until 2022. 

He wishes the circumstances through which the job became available were different though, as longtime team broadcaster Dan McLaughlin had been placed on leave after his third arrest for driving while intoxicated and ultimately stepped away from the job.

Caray and McLaughlin are close friends and had discussed working together on St. Louis Cardinals broadcasters at one point in their careers. While it is entirely plausible that the pairing could one day happen, Caray knows that announcers are merely placeholders tasked with discerning and elaborately translating the action on the field into comprehensive statements. 

Caray is in the midst of familiarizing himself with the St. Louis Cardinals and becoming a voice the fans know and trust, a task arguably made more difficult because of just how synonymous he was with the Braves. After all, he was the voice who called the career of Hall of Fame third baseman Chipper Jones, the team’s multiple division titles and journey to a World Series championship in 2021. Leaving all of that personal history was a particularly difficult decision. Atlanta had become home for Caray. In fact, he told people he intended to finish his career with the team.

The Cardinals job was in his hometown though, and it is a position his grandfather held over the span of 24 years. It was always intriguing for Chip, but he never thought it would be attainable. That made the job nearly impossible to pass up when it was offered to him. 

“This is one of the prime, if not the best job in baseball,” Caray said. “I understand the culture; obviously my grandfather was there. If it wasn’t going to be Atlanta, what better place to go at my age and with my experience level and my family ties?”

Bally Sports Midwest is Caray’s new home, and he hopes St. Louis his final destination. He is not the only one keeping the Caray legacy alive in broadcasting though. He has identical twin sons Chris and Stefan. They are 22-years-old and calling games in Class AA with big league aspirations. There’s plenty of interest in baseball from his son Tristan and daughter Summerlyn too. The sport has truly become a family affair for the Carays and Chip cannot wait for the fourth generation to break into the show.

“This is a game that my grandfather fell in love with. Now I love it, my sons love it,” Caray said. “I have the love and support of my family…They let me chase my dream too, and in exchange, I’ve been able to provide a lifestyle beyond even our wildest dreams and for that, I’m proud.”

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Meet The Podcasters – John Middlekauff, The Volume

“I worked in college football and I worked in the NFL, and the reality is you talk about it in those buildings like a fan would talk. ‘Is this player better than the other player?’ ‘This coach sucks.’ I mean, you have the same conversations.”

Demetri Ravanos



Meet the Podcasters John Middlekauff

John Middlekauff is in the right business at the right time. America has never wanted more football talk and what stands out are educated people with unique points of view.

Before his media career began, John was a scout, first in the college football world and then for the Philadelphia Eagles. His insight on the game is informed by experiences on multiple levels. It is no surprise that Colin Cowherd saw Middlekauff as the perfect addition to his podcast network.

Our conversation focuses on the value of authenticity, why it’s good not to be beholden to a team or business and what conversations he has learned his audience wants to participate in. He even answers my question about what is wrong with the Carolina Panthers in the bleakest, most disheartening way possible.

Demetri Ravanos: Can there ever be too much NFL content out there? 

John Middlekauff: Oh, yeah. I mean, it’s obviously as big as it’s ever been. I think the key is to not just regurgitate. Everyone’s watching the games. Clearly, there are a lot of different NFL podcasts. Everyone talks about the NFL. Every show talks about the NFL because clearly, there is a demand for it. It’s somewhat supply and demand.                     

I’m 38 years old. When I was a kid, baseball was still huge in the early mid-’90s – Cal Ripken, Barry Bonds, [Ken] Griffey Jr. That kind of dipped through Michael Jordan taking the NBA, which was as big as any league, right at his peak. They’ve ebbed and flowed, and obviously, the NFL’s passed them. Now, the NFL was big in the ’90s, but it’s gone to a different stratosphere the last, I’d say 20 years, the [Tom] Brady and Peyton Manning kind of era.

For the foreseeable future, I think, who knows? I mean you can never predict 20 years ahead, but for the next this next decade it feels like it’s going to maintain pretty consistently. So, I would say as of right now, probably not. 

DR: As you know, podcasts in general have opened up the door for all kinds of different content. You come at it with an experience that not a lot of people talking about the NFL have with the league. You think about something like the ManningCast, the fact that Pro Football Focus is able to sustain itself with subscriptions. It seems like the appetite for the type of NFL content that the average person wants has certainly changed.

JM: Well, my whole thing is just to try to talk about it like a fan would. I worked in college football and I worked in the NFL, and the reality is you talk about it in those buildings like a fan would talk. “Is this player better than the other player?” “This coach sucks.” I mean, you have the same conversations. You just might be having him with a guy that could fire the offensive coordinator or has the potential to trade the player you’re talking about, but you have the same conversation as the five guys that watch their favorite team at the bar or in their home have. You just have closer access to the people who make the decisions.

I actually kind of pride myself. I don’t get that nerdy on stuff. There are a lot of podcasts that get much more nerdy and analytical on football. I just kind of talk about it like I’ve always talked about it, like I did in the NFL and like I did when I worked with Jason [Barrett] on radio. 

You’ve got to make it entertaining, but I just try to talk about it like the fan would. Luckily, that’s just how I talk about it, so it’s been pretty easy for me so far.

DR: What kind of conversations do people want to have with you on social media? Is it just more fan talk or do you find that people do want to figure out, “What is the life of the scout like? What was that experience like for you?”

JM: We have talked about that from time to time, but I think it’s much more specific on, “What the f*** is up with this coach?,” right? “What’s what’s going on with our team?” Or maybe something bigger picture, like, “What should our general manager do? Should our coach get fired? Is this guy really a top player? Who should we draft?” Stuff like that; it’s more on that angle.                       

No one gives a shit on a daily basis how many players you write up on the road or when you write those reports. I don’t spend any time talking about that really at all unless I get asked and then we will talk about it.

DR: Well, since you since you brought up that that’s the way you talk, I told you I’m here in North Carolina. What the f*** is up with Frank Reich, man? He can’t be this bad at the job, right?

JM: That’s a good example, you know? I mean, working with Colin [Cowherd], it’s such a big, national audience that you get people from all over. Really, the Internet has made it so you’ll get, “Hey, I’m stationed over in Germany and I’m a big Panther fan” or, “Hey, I’m in Australia. I’m a diehard Seahawks fan,” which is cool. It shows you the power. Listen, social media and all this stuff can drive us all nuts and you wish it didn’t exist, but then there are also the positives of it, especially in the business we’re in.                      

I would say that the one thing I have definitely taken away from Colin is, “You’re going to be wrong on stuff. Just move on.” Colin’s big thing was like, “I’m not in the credit business. You’re right and wrong. Who cares? Just be entertaining.”

I love Bryce Young; I watched him at Alabama. Like most people over the last ten years, I end up watching a lot of Alabama games. I’m a California guy; he’s from California. It took about two preseason snaps to go, “Holy shit, he’s tiny.” Now, he’s always been the same size. But you watch him in the pros and he looks extra small, especially when his team is not good. And you go, “I don’t know if it’s going to work.”              

Clearly, the other two quarterbacks, C.J. Stroud, he’s got a really good coach in DeMeco [Ryans], but he just looks like a normal NFL quarterback. Anthony Richardson is like Cam Newton 2.0. So you compare him to little Bryce Young and you go “God, they might want a re-do on that one.”

DR: So not only am I in North Carolina, I’m an Alabama graduate. So like, this is particularly personal and painful to me.

JM: Do you agree? I mean, doesn’t he look really, really tiny?

DR: He does look really small, but I also look at the play-calling, and it seems pretty obvious to me that like, “Oh, this is not the dude Frank Reich wanted.” And I don’t think that Frank Reich is acting out or trying to sabotage Bryce. I just don’t think he has a lot of confidence in Bryce, and I don’t know that that’s necessarily fair, but I also think it’s pretty clear he never really had a plan for the guy.

JM: Well, if that’s true, then it’s all destined to blow up, and that’s the type of stuff we talk about, like when people aren’t aligned – you know, the head coach, the GM, the owner forces stuff, because that happens in a lot of industries. When the owner of the car dealership is mad at the guy who runs the day-to-day business no one outside cares, right? But in this business, those dynamics sink or swim whether you win or lose.                        

Now Carolina doesn’t have their picks. They trade away D.J. Moore. They’ve got no talent on offense. I don’t see how it gets better for a couple of years, right?

DR: I’m 100% with you on that. Alright, you mentioned Colin [Cowherd], so I do want to ask about what Colin has done with his podcast, and I don’t just mean at The Volume, I mean like his podcast feed for his radio show too. He’s slipping The Volume shows in there all the time. How much has that affected your own audience? Are you seeing real growth from week-to-week whenever you pop up in Colin’s feed? 

JM: What makes my show unique is I’ve been doing it well before The Volume started with Colin. I don’t remember the exact date; maybe late 2018 we were going full-time. So I’ve been doing the show and connected to that feed. Obviously it ramped up, I think, with the promotion through The Volume as he built the team around so many different elements. Before I would just do a podcast with no video element.

Obviously, YouTube is big. I go on with him right now during football season every Sunday and we get 150,000; 175,000 people watching a 40-minute show. So there are a lot of different elements that help there, but from the feed specifically? I mean, I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve been going on it now five years probably. It always helped. People would hit me up and say [they] “discovered [me] through him,” so that’s pretty awesome.

It’s like anything in life. You get an opportunity to get a new person listening. Most people in podcasts don’t have to the distribution and the power of being with one of the most powerful guys in the industry in sports, specifically football. It’s been freaking awesome. I take a lot of pride and put a lot of effort into every show I do, because I know that every show, more than likely is going to get new people for the for the first time.

DR: You just threw it out as an example, the amount of people listening when you and Colin do your Sunday show. How much are you paying attention to those numbers? How much are you seeking out the metrics versus how much are you making your decisions based off what is presented to you from the folks at The Volume?

JM: Yeah, we don’t really have those conversations, to be honest. Now, I’m a big market guy, I’m a 49er guy; Bay Area guy. I worked for the Eagles. We will talk all day about anything that’s interesting, right? If something crazy happens – someone gets fired – Matt Rhule gets fired. But I mean, the Cowboys and Niners play Sunday night. I’ve been in this business long enough. I was a consumer of radio. Back when I was in junior high, I used to listen to Jim Rome. I mean, I’ve been a sports talk radio guy since I was really young and KNBR was in its heyday. I know what works and what doesn’t. I’ve learned it over time but have a pretty good idea of what to attack and what not to attack.

DR: I know you were on sports radio in the Bay Area for a while. I know you’ve done some TV as well. Coming up in a more traditional media setting, are there things that you had to either unlearn or learn differently to become an effective podcaster? 

JM: It’s definitely different. On radio, there are breaks, right? This is a much different medium.

Also, there’s no rules of what I can say and not say. Now, I tend to probably swear on the higher end of people and I’ve learned that while I’m going to have a lot of people in their 20s, I’m also going to have people in their early 40s with young children listening in the car. I try to be cognizant of just being careful, but authenticity, I think, has been a big reason the show works and has had a lot of success. A reason we’re able to make money is because I’m not faking anything. Actually, a lot of our stuff is anti-fakes and frauds and phonies. That really works in 2023.                            

What people are seeking out is kind of people who aren’t afraid to say whatever they think. Because like I said, back to what we were talking about, about the fans, that’s just how people talk, right? There’s a way people talk about sports, and then you turn on TV and they’re just talking completely different because they’re afraid to offend someone or whatever. It’s not what my show kind of stands for.

DR: I know this is this is not football. This is baseball. But like you have the experience of working at a radio station [95.7 The Game in San Francisco] with a very sensitive play-by-play partner who wasn’t always putting the best product on the field. Certainly, that is a very different element of how you talk about something that people can see with their own arms. 

JM: Well, you know, we had the A’s, but we also had the Raiders, and I did the Raiders postgame show and I pissed them off a lot. After Jason had left, they wanted me gone. That was ultimately the best thing that ever happened to me. It led me here, and I pride myself on not being in business with teams. I’m not the type guy that can be a business with teams. I mean, it’s one thing if your team’s like the freakin’ Brady/Belichick Patriots in their prime. That’s pretty easy. But when you’re a lot like the Raiders, what do you say?                     

It’s really difficult and I think I’m a pretty good voice for people when things are going wrong because I have a lot of respect for how hard it is to play, right? It’s really hard. So I’m hesitant on just missed tackles and stuff like that. I don’t waste my time talking a bunch of shit about every single player, but I think coaching is something where I feel very, very comfortable letting it rip. You know, they’re making a ton of money and a lot of guys, I think, are kind of stealing.                                  

Luckily for the sport of football, the power of the coaches and the power of the coordinators is a thing that a lot of people talk about, which I love talking about, which makes for great just conversation, right? Especially during the season and after games – reacting to what should have happened and what didn’t – we talk a lot about that. 

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

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Taylor Swift Coverage Should Be a Reminder to Sports Radio

The conversation around Swift at NFL games goes back to radio 101.

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Taylor Swift Jets
Courtesy: Elsa, Getty Images

Taylor Swift has set the sports media world ablaze — for better or worse — with her appearances at a pair of NFL games in the last two weeks.

Make no mistake about it: complaining about the amount of coverage she is getting reeks of an inferiority complex.

We love sports. It’s why we do what we do, and why we chose the career field we did. And in our narrow view, no one should be able to come into our stratosphere and take the limelight away from the thing we love, right?


The coverage of Taylor Swift, whether it be from CBS, NBC, or your local sports radio stations, embodies Radio 101: Play. The. Hits.

You know what everyone outside of sports radio spent the summer talking about? Taylor Swift. You know what drives traffic on every single platform? Taylor Swift. You know who the most famous woman — maybe the most famous person — on the face of the planet is? Taylor Swift.

Taylor Swift content is the “Is Joe Flacco elite?”, “Is LeBron better than Michael?”, and “Give me your Mount Rushmore for (insert franchise here)” topics rolled into one. She drives traffic, reaction, engagement, and ratings. Isn’t that what we’re all trying to do?

We’re all after notoriety, publicity, and attention. To say you aren’t is disingenuous. Taylor Swift just happens to embody those things, and for the time being, is spending her free Sundays watching someone she may or may not actually be dating.

Many pundits have been preoccupied with the amount of coverage she has received. Of course the NFL is going to attach itself to her. Quite literally, she’s more famous than the league is. And the ever-hungry corporate beast that is the NFL is always looking for new ways to make fans. Do you know why the NFL let ESPN+ and Disney+ air an alternate broadcast featuring Toy Story characters? It wasn’t because they were bored! They’re (for lack of a better term) indoctrinating your kids to like football!

Of course sports radio hosts and stations are going to talk about her. She’s the most famous person in the world, and she’s dropped her legions of fans and followers at your doorstep. Now, is it likely that you’re going to end up growing a passionate Swifty following for your brand? Hell no.

But what does Radio 101 entail? Play the hits. Capture the moment. Talk about what everyone is talking about.

What is everyone talking about? Taylor Swift. What has a history of driving traffic, engagement, and reaction? Taylor Swift.

I understand if you’re sick of the content. Driving things into the ground until it’s pulverized into dust is what we do, like it or not. I also understand if you don’t want to talk about her, Travis Kelce, seeing her on the broadcasts, or anything to do with her. I totally get it.

But don’t stand in the way or bitch and moan about the people that do. They’re just doing what they’re supposed to do.

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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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