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Phyllis in Mulga: The Best Caller in Sports Radio History

“Phyllis was as authentic as it gets.”

Demetri Ravanos



It feels weird to start a column about the impact a single person made on sports radio with a Mt. Rushmore comparison. The practice is played out and wholly unoriginal, but if you are going to contextualize what “Phyllis in Mulga” was to The Paul Finebaum Show audience, you need to turn to one of our strangest national monuments. 

Who is on the Mt. Rushmore of sports radio callers? Honestly, I do not know or care. What I know is that if there is such a Mt. Rushmore, to properly credit Phyllis, who passed away last week, you would have to carve her face on the moon.

Phyllis Chapple-Perkins wasn’t the most frequent caller to the show but she made an impression. Finebaum told me that he remembers her first phone call to the show in 1993.

“I said something critical of Gene Stallings,” he said. “What got her was he had helped her son and they were friends. Then, we got to know each other. She still screamed and hollered but we became close friends.”

In hindsight, it seems appropriate that it was defending a championship winning football coach at Alabama that put her on Finebaum’s radar in the first place. It was the very same thing that made her name known to people across the country 21 years later.

We’ll call it “The Cow Turd Call.” Phyllis could not let Colin Cowherd’s insistence that Nick Saban’s dynasty at Alabama was beginning to crumble following the 2014 season, when the team finished 12-2, stand. 

She was on the phone in the next segment to deliver a rant that spread like wildfire. It didn’t just go viral on YouTube and other social media platforms. This call popped up on SportsCenter, Pardon the Interruption, and dozens of other shows across the ESPN networks.

First of all, hey Cow Turd [ESPN’s Colin Cowherd], you better shut your freakin’ mouth. You understand me, you little weasel? Let’s have a bowl game of our own, we could call it the Cow Turd Bowl….

Alabama won 12 games, Paul. They won the SEC Championship, that was a great feat. I don’t care what anybody thinks. Cow Turd or anybody else, I don’t care what they think. Alabama was good this year! Alabama played their hearts out. They won 12 freakin’ games. You can’t take that away from them Paul. My God, yes, they aren’t going to vie for the national championship. They lost last night, but I’m proud. I’m proud of every single game they won this year…. A few games cannot make the SEC look bad. You hear me Cow Turd?

“Phyllis from Mulga” on the Paul Finebaum show 1/3/2015

That call is all some people know about The Paul Finebaum Show. Case in point, a prominent figure in the sports media has talked about the call several times on air. When I asked if they wanted to participate in this little tribute, I was told that it didn’t feel right. That call was all they knew about Phyllis in Mulga. Her voice and disgust with Colin Cowherd had brought this person tremendous joy, but to say that they knew where she stood in the pantheon of Finebaum callers would be a lie.

To Finebaum though, that isn’t even the most memorable moment involving Phyllis. Paul says that actually came in 1999.

“She had used a profane word in a sentence and it upset a lot of people. So we suspended her. People didn’t like that either,” he explained in an email. “So we decided to have a trial. We billed it as trial of century. She had a former US attorney representing her. We had another attorney on the other side prosecuting. I was judge. I ruled that she had violated policy and we gave her a lifetime ban. The next day I overturned it to time served.”

Matt Fishman led the charge to get Finebaum on a national platform. He brought the show to SiriusXM in 2010. While Phyllis’s name was not mentioned specifically, Fish told me that she was a good representative of what he found attractive about the show.

“Paul is amazing at orchestrating the conversations and making these ‘characters’ feel special,” he told me. “When The Paul Finebaum Show went national on SiriusXM, it was important for me to not try to change the show. We took the show for exactly what it sounded like. How unique it was. So, the “characters” are a big part of the show. Sorry to see some of them pass throughout the years. Phyllis was one of the best. She will definitely be missed.”

Greg Sankey, commissioner of the SEC, echoed the same sentiments. When I asked about Phyllis, he said that she was part of what the conference value about Finebaum and his show.

“Paul has created a unique community of callers to his show that provides information and entertainment I believe is unlike any other daily talk show on television [and radio].  He has a group of regular callers that create their own persona through their on-air relationship with Paul.  And then there is another population of first-time callers who dial in from all over the country, proving the national interest in SEC sports. The callers to Paul’s show provide a very unique daily experience.”

Tim Brando spent years making appearances on The Paul Finebaum Show. All of those iconic voices – Phyllis, Legend, I-Man, Tammy – have all let him have it a time or two. 

“At times Paul’s callers were so effective & impactful ya thought he grabbed them out of central casting,” he told me in a text. “Phyllis, like Tammy, who tragically died a couple of years ago, was of that ilk. She has no filter, but a huge heart!”

The aforementioned Tammy was killed in a car crash in 2018. Her calls about Auburn were as synonymous with the show as Phyllis’s about Alabama.

Laura Rutledge attended her funeral along with Finebaum, who spoke at that affair, and will likely speak at Phyllis’s memorial too. Rutledge said that her time on the SEC Network and working so closely with Finebaum during her stint hosting SEC Nation, gave her a deep appreciation for his audience.

“Phyllis was the quintessential Finebaum caller,” she told me. “Full of personality, passion and fandom she was everything that has made the show great for all these years. What a fantastic woman. She will be dearly missed.”

Maybe you had to actually be in Alabama to really get to know Phyllis. She was invited on shows by Cari Champion and Jemele Hill after her Cow Turd call went viral, but it was the voices in her home area that had the pleasure of getting to know her.

Ryan Haney, who has been the program director of JOX 94.5 since long before it was on the FM dial, told me that the Phyllis he knew wasn’t all that different from the one we heard on the radio. He also couldn’t help but point out that she always created great radio!

“Phyllis was as authentic as it gets. Her calls were as genuine as the person she was. It didn’t matter who cheered for, when Phyllis called – you stopped, you listened and you even learned something new.”

In the sports radio world, the only person that knew Phyllis Chapple-Perkins as well as Paul Finebaum was Pat Smith. Now the co-host of 3 Man Front on JOX 94.5, Smith served as the director of The Paul Finebaum Radio Network. He is responsible for getting the show on in places like Tallassee, Albertville, Eutaw and a bunch of other small towns you’ve never heard of if you haven’t spent significant time in the state.

Smith mourns Phyllis, but he also mourns for all of the people that lost her. Chief amongst them are her immediate family, but her influence spread far and wide, both thanks to the radio show and thanks to her inclination for helping whenever and however she could.

“Many will remember her devotion to Alabama Football, but I’ll forever think of her as the woman who provided comfort to her area when it was struck by devastating tornadoes,” Smith told me. “Phyllis was genuine and that intensity for all things Alabama was incredible. No matter where Paul and I went nationally, folks knew of Phyllis and her love for the Tide. She was always gracious to travel with us statewide and do anything for us and the show. She was the original who all others after, tried to emulate. It was a privilege to have known Phyllis on and off air for over 25 years.”

The people that knew Phyllis Chapple-Perkins got to appreciate both sides of her and each was just as authentic as the other. Smith said that when a gift showed up in the nursery for he and his wife when their first child was born in 1998, he was touched, but not surprised to learn it was from Phyllis. 

“Thats the way she was, but make no mistake,” Smith said. “She was ready to pounce on anyone who disrespected her Tide.”

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One Question About Stuart Scott’s 30 for 30: What Took So Long?

“Whether it was references or catchphrases or just his general vibe, Stuart Scott was can’t miss TV.”

Demetri Ravanos



Stuart Scott

There haven’t been many celebrity deaths that have truly left me in tears. I am a Nirvana super fan, and I remember exactly where I was when I found out about Kurt Cobain’s suicide, but I don’t remember breaking down. I can only remember three celebrity deaths that left me feeling true, uncontainable sadness: Robin Williams, Tom Petty and Stuart Scott.

So many documentaries and episodes of television have been made about the life, times, and deaths of Williams and Petty. They are icons. Their respective deaths left millions of fans in mourning. 

Scott’s impact is no less significant, particularly in the sports media world. I am happy to hear that he is finally getting his due with a life and career retrospective as part of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series.

I hated school as a kid. Each morning felt like a march from the courthouse to the bus that would take me to prison. I loved sports and loved to laugh. Scott and Rich Eisen felt like my last little bit of joy before I was dragged to Hell each weekday morning. That’s why he meant so much to me.

His impact can be felt everywhere in our business. Countless black men and women who work in sports media will tell you about the impact they felt seeing someone who looked and talked like them. A generation of broadcasters, regardless of race, will tell you about how they connected to someone who embraced the idea that this is fun and unserious. 

Whether it was references or catchphrases or just his general vibe, Stuart Scott was can’t-miss TV. The fact that he was, revolutionized sports television.

Because of his influence, we were introduced to new faces. The whole style of highlight shows changed. Dan Patrick and Keith Olberman moved it away from a newscast and closer to a watercolor conversation. Scott pushed the genre closer to a block party.

ESPN has been careful about which broadcasters become the subject of a 30 for 30 documentary. Some of that has to do with drawing the line between sports and sports media. Some of it has to do with ESPN not being keen to turn a critical eye on itself. I mean, what other explanation could there be for why we have never gotten a documentary on the aforementioned Patrick and Olberman years

Scott clears whatever bar there is though. His story is one of social impact and industry dominance. On top of that, the way ESPN and its charity partner, The V Foundation, stood behind Scott during his battle with cancer, allows the company to give the story the Disney Princess treatment and erase any flaws or animosity that may have ever existed. That part isn’t necessary, but since ESPN is owned by Disney, it’s a nice bonus.

For a certain generation, this documentary will be a look back at the glory days of ESPN. The cultural dominance the brand enjoyed in the 90s could have come to an end after Keith Olberman’s exit and the end of Sunday night’s “Big Show,” but Scott’s rivalry with Dan Patrick (real or perceived) was an important part of extending that relevance. I mean, you could find boxer shorts in Disney World with “booyah” and “en fuego” scrawled across the ass at that time. 

Rich Eisen will surely figure prominently in the film. How could he not? He and Scott became the SportsCenter’s new gold standard. Their friendship and chemistry were real. They dealt with each other offscreen with no filter and the onscreen product was better for it. To this day, Eisen gets emotional when talking about his friend.

No one who dies at 49 lived a full life. How could they? There is so much left to do and give. But Stuart Scott packed a lot of life and made a lot of impact in his short time on Earth. 

Maybe you need the benefit of time for a 30 for 30 documentary to make a real impact. Scott died in January 2015. By the time the documentary comes out, a decade will have passed. As someone who was 15 years old when I discovered his voice and remained a fan until his dying day, I have one question. Why did we have to wait so long to get this movie? 

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Seller to Seller: Sandy Cohen, Union Broadcasting

“You are putting people together and you are seen as a connector. People love being connected with other people, and we like to do that with local business owners.”



Graphic for Seller to Seller with Sandy Cohen

In last week’s Seller to Seller feature I had asked several sellers what the hardest part was of selling sports media right now. One of the replies was, “Prospecting, I feel like the number of categories willing to spend what they need to is dwindling.” That response prompted my old foe, Union Broadcasting partner and vice president of sales Sandy Cohen, to reach out to talk further about the topic.

Sandy and Union Broadcasting have been in the game since 1998 in Kansas City where they have Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Kansas City. They also have ESPN Louisville and ESPN Wichita and Cohen oversees sales for all of the properties. I competed against them in Kansas City as the GSM for 610 Sports and learned how well-respected Sandy and his team are in the advertising and business communities as well as how good of a job they do when it comes to servicing clients and building relationships.

Sandy said when he read last week’s piece, a thought kept running through his mind, which was that as an industry, sports media needs more people on the street and a next generation of sellers. He had some great insights on the topic as well as Union Broadcasting had been in a hiring mode recently in Kansas City and he wound up hiring three people with a year or less of experience in the workforce.

When we spoke, I first asked him if we need more or if we need better. As any good salesman would do, he asked for it all. “Yes! We need more, better,” he replied. “I think there’s benefits all the way around. You can increase your sales with more people, and you can energize your existing sales team by hiring brand new salespeople.”

Cohen said they put a full-court-press on recruitment and ran ads on air, on their stream, on their website and all of their social channels. I wondered if people were still excited to work in sports media sales and if they had a solid response.

“We had lots of choices, I was pleased,” Cohen said. He told me they went through a few rounds before inviting some candidates in to make presentations in their conference room. “We looked at how they prepared, how they dressed, did they make eye contact, and did they use props or anything to stand out. Lastly, did they follow up with a thank you and stay in touch throughout the process.”

We talked about what types of things he looks for when screening candidates and he said, “I think they have to have a passion and an interest in sports, be a go-getter with a lot of good energy. I think they need to be money motivated and a self-starter, detail oriented with solid communications skills…If they’re not going to pay attention to the details, they’re not going to make a very good salesperson.”

We agreed that after you go through the difficult process of recruitment and then eventually hiring the new sales talent, the real work begins as now you have to make sure they get trained as best as possible.

As for the training process Cohen uses, he said, “It’s a combination of two things. We have our own in-house training system. We have everything mapped out, what the first two weeks look like, day by day, and then at the end of each day there is a recap. Then it continues, but not as structured as the first two weeks.

“We also use P1 Learning through the Missouri Broadcasters Association which is several weeks and is done in bite-sized pieces. They have homework and video calls and assignments they do to really learn the basics.” Cohen said a couple of the new hires had finished at the top of their P1 Learning class.

“It’s nice because it’s an outside voice, I like the way it is structured, and they go through everything. Beyond that, it is a lot of hands-on attention with new sellers, ongoing training, goal setting, lead distribution, and following up with them on how they are making their contacts. It’s talking to them and seeing what they are experiencing and how we can work on those and that works hand in hand with the formal training.”

I was also curious about the role the other sellers on the team play in training of new hires. Cohen said he is fortunate as he has a lot of senior sellers who are willing to help when called upon.

“We’ve got several veteran sellers who have been with us for 20-plus years,” he said. “So, while they are very busy with their own stuff, they recognize that at some point in their career somebody did that for them as well. They will let the new hires shadow them on calls or spend time with them one on one answering questions.”

Cohen hopes that as an industry, sports media makes a commitment to network with area colleges to form relationships with the professors in business schools or journalism schools to have a chance at some of the top talent coming out of college. “We need to have a presence in these classes and try and be in line when kids are graduating,” he said. “We can bring up the level of interest…it requires a lot of work. But we have to find a way to train new sellers and spend a lot of time with them.”

Of course, once the training wheels are off, at some point the new hires have to perform. We talked about the benchmarks of time as to when you should expect to know what you need to know about a new hire. “In the case of somebody who is fairly new…in six months, are they making progress? One year is definitely a benchmark. I think based on activity, new business, work ethic and habits you have observed you will know…It’s effort and activity and you can teach the nuances of what it means to be a solid individual in our industry.”

As mentioned previously, Sandy and his team are exceptional when it comes to having strong relationships with their clients, built through a quality product but also from the amount of time they spend with their clients and connecting them to one another.

“I just think at its core, what we do is fun,” Cohen said. “Some of the days are going to be long if you’re working all day and then taking someone to a sporting event or whatever it may be. We have always felt like entertainment is what sets us apart and one of the most important aspects of what we do.

“I just think if you’re doing business with someone, why shouldn’t you go and have some fun with them, too? You can certainly just hand them some tickets, but there’s nothing better than experiencing an event or planning a party for a group of clients so that they can all network together. You are putting people together and you are seen as a connector. People love being connected with other people, and we like to do that with local business owners…it becomes almost a club where they all work together because they met at one of our social events.”

Cohen said they try and have at least one significant quarterly entertainment event where they bring large groups of people together in addition to connecting one on one at a sporting event. A couple of recent examples of the larger events included a movie preview where a partnership with a local theater allowed for pre-show fellowship, followed by interaction with a talent who would host the event and then an opportunity for the group to see a movie before it has come out to the public.

Another example was a bus trip to Lawrence, Kansas for a KU-Oklahoma State basketball game which included a behind-the-scenes tour at Allen Fieldhouse. The team broadcasters showed the group the locker rooms and other areas that are not open to the public, followed by a KU chalk-talk and VIP treatment for the game.

In summing it up, Cohen said, “Whenever we can bring groups together like that and have a good time, that’s what we do.”

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Ian Eagle Will Always Remember His First Final Four

“This time is allowing me to exhale a bit and truly appreciate the path.”

Avatar photo



Photo of Ian Eagle
Courtesy: For The Win

Over the course of his career, Ian Eagle has called what seems like a million basketball games.  His approach for all of those games, whether it was the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets, nationally televised NBA games, or college basketball games, has always been the same.  And when it came to taking over as the new play by play voice for the Final Four last week in Arizona, Eagle remained consistent with that approach.

Eagle subscribes to theory that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fit it”. 

“I recognized that I didn’t want to make sweeping changes to my approach because it was a bigger stage,” said Eagle.  “I wanted to be myself and do the games the way that I’ve done them for a number of years now and I think that comes with experience and maturity and muscle memory.  I do think that having done so many NCAA Tournaments put me in a very advantageous position of knowing what I was walking into.”

One part of that approach was to have fun.  It’s certainly a job that comes with a big responsibility because of the big stage and the number of eyeballs that are on you, but doing play by play is a lot of fun and a really cool job to have, no matter what sport or what level.

In Eagle’s case, he made sure that he was not only prepared for the job at hand, but he also made sure he was having a good time with his crew that included Bill Raftery, Grant Hill and Tracy Wolfson.

“We had a blast,” said Eagle.  “I made a conscious effort to remind myself to enjoy it.  Sometimes in life, we forget that it’s supposed to be fun, and it’s supposed to be joyous.  I had this sense of calm just before going on air for the Final Four.  I didn’t feel nerves.  I didn’t feel stressed.  I felt in the moment and comfortable and excited.”

This was a moment for Eagle that had been in the works for a few years and something that he certainly had been thinking about.  When it was first reported that legendary play by play announcer Jim Nantz would be winding down his long run as the voice of the Final Four, it had been suggested that Eagle was going to be the heir apparent.

In October of 2022, CBS and Turner Sports announced that the 2023 Final Four would be the final one for Nantz and that Eagle would take over in 2024.

For Eagle, it was big shoes to fill succeeding Nantz, but he knew the transition would be smooth and that his job was not to be Jim Nantz but to simply be Ian Eagle.

“I think because it was being discussed over the course of a few years, I never felt that level of enormity,” said Eagle.  “For me, it was recognizing that Jim was synonymous with this event and respecting the run that he was on.  It was incredible.  No one is ever going to match it so why think of it in those terms?  Just go do your job and be you.”

Perhaps this could be viewed as a “passing the baton moment,” but on the day before the national semifinals, a message came up on Eagle’s phone.

It was from Nantz.

“Yeah, he texted me on Friday,” said Eagle.  “We had a really nice exchange.  I think he was being very respectful with the job that I had to do.  There’s a high level of respect between the two of us.”

Even before the Final Four, Eagle had established himself as one of the great play-by-play voices in sports broadcasting.  From his days as a student at Syracuse University to his early days at WFAN in New York, to being the radio and television voice of the Nets and national NBA and NFL games, Eagle had already accomplished so much in this industry.

A premier event like the Final Four seemed like the appropriate next chapter of his career.

“It felt very much like the next step,” said Eagle.  “I think all of your experiences play a role in some way.  Even while you’re experiencing them, you have no idea how that’s going to affect you down the road.”

It has been quite a ride for Eagle, and it was a road that started as a producer at WFAN before that run morphed into an on-air role hosting and ultimately becoming the radio voice of the New York Jets.

The road to the top has to start somewhere and for Eagle it was at the nation’s first sports radio station.

“My time at ‘FAN…I learned so much,” said Eagle.  “I was around some of the most legendary figures in sports radio history and I benefited greatly from osmosis of being in this really unique situation that helped me when I got the next job and then the next job and then the next job.”

From hosting “Bagels and Baseball” on WFAN to doing play-by-play for the Final Four, it’s been quite a ride for Ian Eagle.

“It’s pretty wild if I take a step back and think about it but when you’re in the moment, you don’t necessarily reflect,” said Eagle. “This time is allowing me to exhale a bit and truly appreciate the path.”

And who knows where that path is going to take him next.

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