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Brendan Tobin Wants Double The Championship Fun in Miami

“People always say that sports radio is driven by negativity. Maybe, but in my experience, I think most people want to come in to celebrate.”

Derek Futterman

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For just the second time in the team’s history, the Florida Panthers are advancing to the Stanley Cup Final – and in large part due to the play of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. He was having an excellent start to the year; that is, until he appeared on Tobin & Leroy on 560 WQAM, the flagship radio home of the Panthers.

Brendan Tobin, one of the show’s hosts, has a good relationship with Bobrovsky and booked him as a guest, but the interview can be traced back as a harbinger of strife and misfortune. It led Bobrovsky to lose playing time to journeyman goalie Alex Lyon, and caused fans of the midday radio program to speculate as to the legitimacy of considering Tobin to be a bonafide jinx.

Ever since that time, Tobin has conveyed his desire to have Bobrovsky on the show again, and does not believe interviewing him is a potential jinx. Yet his co-host, former NFL running back Leroy Hoard, along with many listeners have exhorted Tobin to keep him off the air until the team hoists the Stanley Cup.

“The audience is getting really, really mad at me because I want to go interview him,” Tobin said. “I don’t plan on interviewing him just as the bit of the show, but just teasing them that I’m going to do it and then being mad at me has been kind of a funny side story and our own little thing with the Panthers run.”

Sports in the Miami area have drawn worldwide attention over the last two months, accentuated by the championship-caliber play of the Panthers and excitement surrounding the upcoming Stanley Cup Final. Virtually no one in the hockey landscape expected the team to be there, especially competing as the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed. The Panthers ended up delivering the upset of the playoffs by knocking out the record-setting Boston Bruins, and have continued to shock the world in the games thereafter.

When the Panthers clinched a Stanley Cup Final berth on the strength of a last-second game-winning goal by forward Matthew Tkachuk, the Miami Heat were up three games to one in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics. There was conversation among basketball pundits as to whether the eighth-seeded Heat, led by Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, would be able to close out the series. While the Heat would generally dominate the parlance of conversation on Tobin’s sports radio show (80% Heat; 20% Panthers, as he puts it), his team decided to spend a majority of its time discussing the Panthers’ success that day. 

“People always say that sports radio is driven by negativity. Maybe, but in my experience, I think most people want to come in to celebrate,” Tobin said. “I think most people like to come in and they want to be part of the party.”

For the first 18 years of his career, Tobin brought energy to 790 The Ticket in Miami, a station where he landed an internship by pestering its program director and showcasing his eager alacrity to take the mic. Tobin had an infatuation with sports radio from a young age, especially through watching his uncle, John Tobin, work in the industry. 

John Tobin had been a host on WPDH and PYX 106, rock radio stations in upstate New York, and ultimately chose to switch formats and co-hosted an afternoon sports talk show with Freddie Coleman.

“I was kind of like a pseudo-intern if you will and [I] just laughed every day,” Brendan Tobin said of watching his uncle. “It just seemed like an amazing, fun way to make a living.”

Tobin attended Barry University and immediately joined WBRY, the campus radio station. The exposure to industry-standard equipment and invaluable repetitions prepared him well by the time he landed his coveted internship with 790 The Ticket, during which he assisted its morning drive host Sid Rosenberg.

“It was such a wild experience because he’s such a big personality, and you kind of could just see how a big ensemble show could work because he likes involving everybody in the show,” Tobin said of Rosenberg. “He [liked] talking to the intern and [gave] me hell my first days. He liked talking to his producer. He liked having interesting guests on, so that was a real eye-opening experience.”

For a stretch spanning over a decade, Tobin was producing morning shows and had the chance to work with Jonathan Zaslow on 790 The Ticket. Over the years, Zaslow had a variety of co-hosts – including Joy Taylor, Marc Hochman and Amber Wilson – and always brought his energy and creativity to the airwaves with input from Tobin and others from the station. When Hochman served as program director of 790 The Ticket, he recognized Tobin’s talent and gave him an opportunity to fill in as a host.

“It was back in the day where I’d have to send some samples to the program director,” Tobin said. “I remember the first thing that he told me after my first show was, ‘You’ve got some game.’ And so that was better than, ‘You suck.’”

Tobin eventually found a home in morning drive with Hoard on 790 The Ticket beginning in 2016. The duo discovered it had instant chemistry and duly gained a foothold on the local airwaves. Through their partnership, Tobin established a distinctive hosting style centered around exuding passion. Hoard brings his playing acumen, along with an ample network including celebrities, athletes, billionaires and other prominent figures. Tobin says Hoard is “the life of the party” when he is off the air, a stark contrast to what happens when the show starts.

Indeed, it is Tobin who takes center stage and personifies what being a zealous sports fan sounds like. His personality is rich with idiosyncrasies and hallmarks that captivate consumers and play a part in ensuring the longevity of the show.

“Think about the lunatic fan with his wild theories, and he always has to hone that in,” Tobin said. “I think that’s what the audience likes about us. We’re an odd couple. We’ve got a little bit of a gap in age and experience. We come from different walks of life, and I just think it’s made magic for us since we’ve been put together.”

Being able to develop a conspicuous, interesting and vibrant sound in today’s saturated media ecosystem is a challenge unto itself, and Tobin knows how difficult it is to appeal to different generations of listeners. There is a faction of consumers that listens for the entirety of the show each day even as it has gone through monumental changes – most notably being aired on a new station at a new time of day.

In the fall of 2022, Audacy flipped the format of 790 The Ticket, leaving the local area with five teams and three sports radio stations. Because of this, Tobin and Hoard’s show was moved to 560 WQAM. They were in the midday time slot on their new station, a move that proved beneficial for Tobin. He is now part of his childrens’ morning routines and helps send them off to school, and in turn, avoids considerable traffic on his way to work.

Since moving to 560 WQAM, Tobin has communicated with morning drive host Joe Rose on a daily basis, and he has heard his perspectives on the market and changing state of sports media. Even though he had listened to the station in his youth, the move felt somewhat unusual. After all, Tobin had been with 790 The Game for his entire career, and he admits that he was a bit apprehensive about the transition.

“You’ve got a bit of a hermit life when you’re doing morning drive,” Tobin said. “You don’t interact with people as much, and I do think that with being in the middle of the day over at 560, it’s been a nice, healthier change.”

An additional positive aspect of the move is in the evolution of audience engagement. Whether it is through reviewing a text line, watching chat rooms on the program’s YouTube and Twitch video simulcasts, viewing social media platforms or answering phone calls, the group of people contacting Tobin have promptly come to understand the nature of the show. Moreover, they are aware of how to make contributions to guide or conceive pertinent discussion.

“They almost build their own personalities,” Tobin said. “We know who the guys are who are going to roast us, make fat jokes about me [or] make dumb jokes about me. All that stuff is very, very interesting, and a lot of the time, they’ve got news before I do because they’re on their computers and hitting us up with stuff.”

Yet the surfeit of methods for audiences to communicate with hosts creates somewhat of a content vortex. Largely in part from the success of the Panthers and Heat, Tobin finds he has constantly been tapped into local sports with little ability to step away and take a break.

“My wife was joking with me the other day; she’s like, ‘I can’t wait for the Heat to… win the championship so I can get you back’ because it’s been nonstop [between] the Panthers and Heat,” Tobin expressed. “I’ve been just interacting with fans, it feels like more than family over the last two weeks.”

While a preponderance of listeners come from the local marketplace, they remain tuned into national outlets to watch live game broadcasts and shoulder programming. When ESPN’s analytics department gave the Miami Heat a 3% chance to reach the NBA Finals against the Celtics, fans pushed back on social media. Tobin is never shy to criticize the “Worldwide Leader” on the radio, nor does he abstain from calling out other media outlets for various reasons throughout the course of the year. 

In the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Tobin recalls hearing that the weather was affecting the New York Knicks against the Heat, a statement he viewed as incomprehensible since the games are played at indoor venues.

“I think Miami gets a bad reputation nationally [and] doesn’t really get a good voice from some of the big networks,” Tobin said. “I think the audience appreciates [the criticism] because I don’t necessarily think that they have that feeling of respect nationally, [and] I think that kind of goes back to the old Canes days. People in Miami love the ‘us against the world’ mentality.”

Tobin believes coverage of the Panthers and Heat at the national level “really sucks,” so he takes matters into his own hands. He’s in the Miami Heat locker room after every home game talking to the players and gathering their thoughts to implement into his show. Tobin also has created digital series on Instagram centered around documenting his experiences at games – on which he proffers and demonstrates his self-professed disproportionality towards decrypting vague messaging.

“That stuff I love diving into,” Tobin said, “especially when I have Leroy because I’ll overreact to everything and he’ll call me an idiot and say, ‘It’s stupid and nothing,’ but that’s just the vibe we go on with things.”

In March, Ford announced it would be removing AM radio in its internal combustion engines in 2024 after it found electric vehicles caused electromagnetic interference with the signal’s reception. Following pressure from lawmakers and the introduction of the bipartisan “AM for Every Vehicle Act,” Ford decided to reverse course. 

Even so, the threat of its elimination in motor vehicles is surely concerning. Tobin believes AM radio is habitual in and of itself, as it gives people a fast and free option to hear news, entertainment, sports and other content. Both the Panthers and the Heat call 560 WQAM their flagship station, and it is the place where many Miami sports fans heard their teams clinch championship berths.

“I do think the importance of it is that everybody has access to it,” Tobin said. “Even in this on-demand age where everybody can get access to everything, locally you’re happy to just kind of be in tune with, ‘Hey, this is going on in the market right now.’ That’s kind of the beauty of it, and I think that it has been cool that it’s been a run where we’ve had both teams on our station.”

Recognizing just what encompasses success as a radio host can be a difficult task since there are a wide array of determinants and external factors involved. Tobin recognizes how fortunate he has been to have the chance to disseminate his opinions to an audience and speak with prominent sports figures, including Pat Riley, Dwayne Wade and Dana White. 

He is not focused on making bombastic opinions that instantly appeal and gratify consumers at one glance, recognizing the usual levity of the subject matter at hand.

“We’re talking about sports,” Tobin articulated. “It’s not life and death. It’s not politics. It’s not this maddening life-and-death battle that everybody tries to make everything these days. We are in kind of a silly sauce department of life, and that’s kind of how I define it.”

As the Panthers and Heat both sit four wins away from achieving the ultimate glory, Tobin is remaining focused on bringing Miami sports fans the local coverage of the teams they desire while keeping them entertained and enamored with the content. 

“One of the things that I love about [the industry] is I do think that there are a lot of good people; a lot of talented people,” Tobin said. “I love the fact that now in today’s day and age, you don’t necessarily need a radio station to start building your audience and get good at this.”

For those looking to get into the industry, Tobin urges them to take advantage of technological advances and create their own opportunities with the intent to stand out and show prospective employers what they can bring to their organization. After all, he produced morning radio for over a decade and received a chance simply by being in the building and demonstrating his skills in other areas, including as an update anchor.

Now, Tobin has been hosting for the last seven years, and is just eager for that elusive championship. He and other Miami sports fans just might have double the fun if both teams can pull off what was initially regarded as a nearly impossible outcome.

“I’ve actually been really happy with the growth that we’ve had during these runs because I do think that winning does bring audience, and I do think that it brings people just discovering you,” Tobin expressed. “I’ve had so many people over these last four weeks just say, ‘I’ve never heard of you guys. I’m so happy that I have a place where I can go get some coverage of my favorite teams,’ because they don’t feel like they have that outlet necessarily.”

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Ryan Clark is Ready for ‘The Pivot’ to Grow with Channing Crowder, Fred Taylor and Fanatics

“We want to be a place where you can just be yourself and you can love yourself and truly tell your story and show people who you are.”

Derek Futterman

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Ryan Clark
Courtesy: The Pivot

Answering a call from Emmy Award-winning producer Alicia Zubikowsi, Ryan Clark learned of a potential new media venture in a niche space. Zubikowski had produced the I Am Athlete podcast for nearly two years, which rapidly proliferated in size, scope and prominence. A financial dispute among the colleagues, however, led to the departures of Channing Crowder and Fred Taylor from the roster, along with Zubikowski, and they branched out on their own to actualize a new vision. After speaking with Zubikowski, Clark met with Crowder virtually and evinced compatibility that compelled him to become involved in the project.

Less than two years later, The Pivot Podcast has quickly amassed notoriety and prestige within sports media. The athlete-driven podcast contains weekly conversations with contemporaries and luminaries alike, to talk sports, music and entertainment. Clark, Crowder and Taylor possess an evident rapport and retains the audience while encouraging prospective listeners to hear the genuine endeavor.

“We felt like there was some synergy there, we thought we could do some good things and we decided to give it a try,” Clark said. “I had already been doing my own podcast that I was funding myself, editing myself and cutting promos myself just because I understood what the space was and I knew that that’s where a lot of media was going, and at the time I didn’t have a partnership or anyone kind of showing me the way, but I was like, ‘These people have already been successful.’”

Since its launch in the winter of 2022, The Pivot Podcast has amassed over 158 million views and 870,000 subscribers on YouTube alone. The show has welcomed guests across a variety of professions, some of whom have included Caleb Williams, Snoop Dogg, Gayle King and Travis Kelce. During its time in circulation, it has made an indelible impact on the landscape and recently agreed to a multi-year partnership with Fanatics.

Through the deal, The Pivot Podcast will feature Fanatics’ verticals surrounding commerce, betting, collectibles and events, and the Fanatics Sportsbook garnering the title of the “official sportsbook” of the show. Additionally, the program will be part of company events such as Fanatics Fest NYC and its annual Super Bowl party.

“Luckily for us, it’s been such a blessing,” Clark said. “Some of the stories we’ve been able to tell, the people we’ve been able to work with and have as guests on the show, and then obviously now having an opportunity to partner with Fanatics and be a part of Michael Rubin’s team and sort of head their media division, especially when you’re speaking of Alicia and what she’ll be able to do, it just makes so much sense.”

Fanatics itself had inked some deals in the sports media space over the last year, including agreements with Bleacher Report and Overtime, but they were largely under the aegis of merchandising and/or live events. The company also hired Ed Hartman as its chief strategy officer in media, trying to discover content that fits various key business sectors. For The Pivot, retaining creative control and autonomy over the content was essential and being involved in other ventures added more value to the proposition.

“To be a part of those things and bringing those things to the world, but also an opportunity to showcase the athletes and entertainers that are part of the Fanatics family – and I think that’s a different and a bigger opportunity than any podcast has ever had with any partnership, and that is why it was important for us to find the right partnership,” Clark said. “And if I’m being honest, our producer has turned down multiple deals saying that she believed that this was the one before this was ever even a thing that Michael Rubin was talking about.”

Reaching this point required hard work, consistency and confidence that The Pivot would ultimately resonate with audiences and establish a rapport in the space. Luckily for Clark, he had a viable fallback plan in that he was working at ESPN as an NFL analyst, a role he had positioned himself to attain while he was still an active player.

During his career, he had worked on 93.7 The Fan hosting a radio show from a hibachi restaurant in Pittsburgh and also appeared on local television. Clark played 13 years in the NFL as a safety and won a Super Bowl championship as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2008 season.

Although Clark had been told as a player that he had a chance to thrive in sports media, his formative years in the business broadened his understanding of the landscape and how to achieve success. Upon retiring from the NFL, he signed a multi-year agreement with ESPN to appear on NFL Live, SportsCenter, ESPN Radio shows and additional network programming.

Over the last several years, he has been a consistent part of NFL Live. Clark explained that the show contains underdogs who have crafted chemistry that has coalesced into an on-air product and meaningful friendships. Laura Rutledge, Dan Orlovsky, Marcus Spears, Mina Kimes and Adam Schefter work with Clark and blend their football knowledge and expertise with entertainment.

“I could see how much work they all put into their craft, and I respected that, and then once you get that respect and you start to work together, now you get to know the people,” Clark said. “You get to know about their kids, you get to know about their home life, you get to know about what makes them tick and what makes them themselves, and then we care about each other.”

As members of the show watch NFL games every week, they remain in constant communication through a group chat. Additionally, Clark ensures that he is actively listening to what his colleagues say on the air so he can disseminate informed, substantive opinions that play a part in the overall product.

“The smartest of analysts understand what they have to be on each show based on who they’re working with,” Clark said. “I think you just also have to be versatile enough to do that. You have to know when you’re on NFL Live, that show is so heavy X and O; that show is so heavy, ‘Let’s educate – let’s talk about the things that are important in ball, even if they aren’t the most popular things.’”

Starting last season, Clark was added to Monday Night Countdown as a studio analyst as part of a revamped iteration of the program hosted by Scott Van Pelt. Joining Clark as analysts on the show were his NFL Live colleague Marcus Spears and incumbent analyst Robert Griffin III. While there were some memorable moments both in studio and on site throughout the year though, Clark felt that the show struggled to capture an essence on the air.

“I think the show is just hard because it’s sort of like rolled over the entire infrastructure and changed the people, and it happened so late that I don’t think we ever got an opportunity to find our voices on that show, and we tried to work through that throughout the season,” Clark said. “….I think last year was a learning experience where if I’m being really honest, we did bad TV sometimes, which was new for me because I felt like I haven’t done bad TV in a very long time, and it was embarrassing for me because I put so much time into it.”

Former Philadelphia Eagles center and Super Bowl champion Jason Kelce is joining the show and was formally introduced this week. During a charity golf outing this offseason, Clark had a chance to meet Kelce and learn more about him as a person while also answering questions about ESPN and the sports media business.

“I told him to be himself because being himself is what got him here,” Clark said. “He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer in my opinion, so he has so much knowledge, experience and wisdom that people will crave, and he can give it to them uniquely with his personality, with his honesty [and] with the openness and vulnerability about who he is. Other than that, he’s going to have to learn.”

Akin to Clark hosting The Pivot and working at ESPN, Kelce hosts the New Heights podcast with his brother, and will now be joining Monday Night Countdown on ESPN. Clark anticipates that Kelce will be a huge addition, referring to him as the “hottest free agent ever,” and hopes to grant him longform chances to express himself on the air. Being on the show for a second season, however, nearly was not a reality for Clark amid an expiring contract at ESPN.

“I was gone,” Clark said. “I wasn’t considering – I was done. Normally they extend your contract until it gets done most times. I was out – my contract had ended.”

Clark took part in discussions with other people in the business, some of which included having his own show and organizations starting networks around him. Throughout the process, he was cognizant about the relationships and memories he had built at ESPN and was appreciative for various personalities speaking up for him, including Mike Greenberg and Stephen A. Smith. In the end, Clark signed a multi-year extension with the network that implemented a raise and additional responsibility while also continuing his other projects.

“Obviously my family is the NFL Live crew,” Clark said. “Scott Van Pelt and I probably share one of the most memorable nights in television when Damar Hamlin went down. And so those relationships were things that I didn’t want to leave unless there was a good enough reason to leave, and I don’t think that’s just money.”

Clark started hosting Inside the NFL last season on The CW, a storied sports franchise that presents highlights, analysis and interviews every week during the NFL season. After spending approximately four decades on HBO and subsequent years on Showtime and Paramount+, the program moved to broadcast television for the first time. Clark conceptualizes his role as a point guard who is able to score when necessary and successfully facilitate his colleagues Jay Cutler, Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, Chris Long and The Pivot co-host Channing Crowder.

“I think that was the hardest adjustment with Inside the NFL initially was like, ‘Okay, how do I set these guys up for success while still doing something I’m really good at, which is analyzing football?,’” Clark said, “and it’s taken some time to really sort of find a space for it, but I think I did find that on Inside the NFL.”

In working on The Pivot, Clark built relationships organically through conversations surrounding strategy, content creation and lifestyle. One episode in particular that stands out to him is when the show interviewed former NBA forward Michael Beasley where he opened up about his mental health struggles and hardships he has endured throughout his life. Furthermore, he talked about struggling to find the right people and explained that everyone stole from him except his kids. Clark, Crowder and Taylor sympathized with Beasley and offered him assistance, underscoring the unscripted, genuine nature of the show.

“Everybody wants The Rock to be able to come on their show and talk about his battles with depression, but we also want Kevin Hart to be able to come on the show and invite him to nudist camp too,” Clark said. “We want to be a place where you can just be yourself and you can love yourself and truly tell your story and show people who you are. And I don’t necessarily know if it’s distinctive in effort or goal; I think it’s been distinctive in execution, which, in the end, is what we deliver to people.”

Through the new partnership with Fanatics, Clark looks forward to continuing to take part in candid conversations and storytelling on The Pivot while continuing to thrive in his work with ESPN and The CW. As someone who attained a successful NFL career after signing as an undrafted free agent, he maintains a mentality built on an indefatigable work ethic and resolute dedication towards his professional endeavors. Once the show signed the partnership with Fanatics, it had an opportunity to interview Tom Brady, who discussed topics including his experience being the subject of a Netflix roast and the lessons he learned playing in the NFL.

“Not everybody understands Tom Brady, right?,” Clark said. “Who knows that story? Who has ever lived that, ‘I’m the greatest to ever do something’? But everybody has understood what it’s like to struggle; what it’s like to doubt yourself, right? And so we bring them that story, and in bringing them that story, we talk about the things that Fanatics is doing and the ways that they are now moving in the sports world.”

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Christopher ‘Mad Dog’ Russo Making the Most of His Resurgence with the Help of ESPN

Far from a close-minded fuddy-duddy. He is an open-minded observer of sports, one of the greatest of all time.

John Molori

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Screengrab of First Take on ESPN with Chris Russo
Screengrab from ESPN/First Take

The true essence of Christopher ‘Mad Dog’ Russo, Version 2024 can be found in the open to the May 15 edition of First Take on ESPN.

In the aftermath of the Knicks defeating the Pacers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, superstar showstopper Stephen A. Smith opened the program with an emotionally joyous soliloquy lauding his favorite New York basketball team. Smith was jubilant, ebullient, and thrilled.

The segment ended with Smith walking over to panelists Russo and Kendrick Perkins and hugging them in glee. After the show’s open, the Knick rapture continued, that is, until “Mad Dog” was let out of the kennel.

Russo brought things back down to earth, predicting that Indiana would win Game 6 of the series. He then went through a mental historical timeline of the Knicks choking in playoff games at home. This level of historic context is largely lost on modern sports fans, many of whom believe that nothing existed before LeBron James or Tom Brady.

Russo’s beautiful dose of reality ticked off the jovial Smith but set the discourse on a more levelheaded road. Russo is a talking history book, and let’s face it, not everybody likes history class. The difference, however, is that Christopher Russo lived this history, and indeed, made history himself. A 2022 National Radio Hall of Fame inductee, he has uniquely entertained sports fans for more than four decades, becoming one of the most memorable and imitated personalities ever.

He created Mad Dog Sports Radio on SiriusXM in 2008 and headlines the channel with his popular Mad Dog Unleashed show. In addition, he hosts the daily High Heat program on MLB Network. Still, it is one of Russo’s earliest and most recent gigs that set him apart.

Beginning in 1989 and for the next 19 years, Russo and Mike Francesa hosted the landmark Mike and the Mad Dog afternoon driveshow on WFAN radio in New York. It was a ratings mammoth and ensconced Russo as a stone-cold sports media legend.

I am going to make the case that Russo’s latest incarnation as a First Take Wednesday regular is just as significant. It has exposed a whole new audience to the Russo experience. On a more basic level, it is just really special to see a classic radio guy like Russo welcomed into the most progressive and popular sports talk show on the air right now.

Kudos to Stephen A. Smith for making Russo a regular on his program. You can tell that Smith, author of an historically significant media career himself, truly respects those who came before him and blazed the trail. In fact, to a certain extent, Smith is a media offspring of Russo. They both possess riveting personalities, unquestioned bravery, and on-air dominance. Like or dislike, agree or disagree, these are two men who must be listened to and respected.

With Max Kellerman’s 2021 exit from First Take, I was doubtful as to what would happen to the program. My worst thought was that Smith would bring in a bevy of co-hosts who would bow to his greatness – like Jerry Jones’ Cowboys’ coaching hires since Jimmy Johnson. Thankfully, Smith went in the other direction. Russo has the same cache as Smith, so there is no hero worship. He says what he feels and talks straight – real talk in a colorful and exciting manner.

As the Knicks discussion continued, Smith wanted to tap into Russo’s New York sports sensibilities and emotion asking Russo if he felt Madison Square Garden shaking during the Knicks’ Game 5 win. It didn’t work. Russo responded that at 65 years-old, he has been in the Garden for many big games and then cautioned Smith to take it easy with the Knicks.

He again harkened back to New York’s less than sparkling history in big games and menacingly joked that it is his job to “spoil Stephen A’s fun.” Russo then spectacularly took the air out of the building with an ominous What If asking what the Knicks would do if it came down to a Game 7 and the game was tied with the clock winding down.

Russo is also self-deprecating. When host Molly Qerim asked him for a prediction on the Nuggets-Timberwolves series, Russo said that he predicted that the Bills would blow out the Giants in Super Bowl XXV – the famed Scott Norwood missed field goal game. Qerim, who does an excellent job in controlling Hurricane Christopher, acknowledged the obscure reference.

While Russo has a database of past stats and stars, he is not lost in history. In fact, on this edition of First Take, he made a bold statement that the Nuggets’ Nikola Jokić has the greatest offensive skill set of any center in the history of the NBA. These are not the words of a stodgy curmudgeon whose mind cannot be changed.

Russo is an astute observer of our games. He sees greatness and gives that greatness credit. Far from a close-minded fuddy-duddy. He is an open-minded observer of sports, one of the greatest of all time. His opinions are not to be chided. They are to be listened to and appreciated.

During First Take’s Quick Takes segment, Russo ably put his encyclopedic knowledge to use. The question posed was whether the Celtics or Lakers are the greatest franchise in NBA history. Russo’s analysis was spot on and long overdue. First, he discounted the Minneapolis Lakers’ five titles as part of the pro-Lakers argument. He also cited the Celtics’ overall dominance when the two franchises have met in the NBA Finals over the decades.

Lastly, he remarked that the Celtics have had four eras of greatness: Russell in the 1960s, Havlicek-Cowens in the 1970s, Bird in the 1980s, and Pierce-Garnett in the late 2000s, while the Lakers have only two: Magic-Abdul-Jabbar in the ‘80s and Shaq-Kobe in the 2000s. It was the best analysis of a longtime debate.

In a debate about Bronny James and his NBA hopes, Russo again was the voice of reason giving a very realistic analysis of why he is not a top pro prospect. It is clear that Russo has nothing to prove, nobody to impress, and no apple to polish. He made his bones years ago, and his takes are refreshing and objective.

The cherry on top of Russo’s First Take sundae was his What Are You Mad About? segment. Viewers tuning into this part of the program are no doubt wondering who the hell, and at times, what the hell they are watching. Russo pushes the limits of his angst, heart rate, blood pressure, and decibel level picking apart several news items from the week in sports. At times, he closes his blurbs screaming to the heavens, “May God strike me down!”

In this particular segment, he went off on late NBA playoff start times, the intrigue surrounding the 2024 NFL schedule release, and his distaste towards the vulgar humor in the Tom Brady roast. Russo gets up close to the camera and goes off in a boisterous way. It is simultaneously fantastic and frightening.

In his last piece on the roast, Russo looked into the camera and yelled to Brady, “How stupid can you be!” This is the same question I will pose to anyone who dismisses Russo as an out of touch old guy. This cat is no curmudgeon. He is a killer. Elderly? No, epic. Bygone? How about straight up bad ass. That is Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo, Version 2024.

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How to Renegotiate Your Annual Sports Radio Advertising Contract

Reducing expenses within an annual radio agreement takes a strategic negotiation and budget management approach.

Jeff Caves

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Graphic that shows two people negotiating
Graphic Courtesy: Soject.com

If you are a small to medium-sized business, there is no doubt you are facing rising costs, and making ends meet is a top priority. Sometimes, that means cutting expenses on things you have committed to via contract, like a 2024 annual radio advertising agreement with level monthly payments. You are on the air each month and appreciate the value of advertising consistently. You understand the necessity to maintain a market presence within the budget you laid out last year. You negotiated a win-win contract and are happy with it. However, with your costs spiraling to deliver your services, cost-cutting measures have become critical for financial viability in the long term and better cash flow in the short term. You are now tasked with the need to reduce expenses wherever you can, and your sports radio advertising is next on the list. The station doesn’t want to lessen your committed budget. It’s time for strategic negotiation and decision-making. Here are some effective strategies to accomplish this objective while keeping your annual budget intact:

Pricing and Rates

Initiate negotiations on pricing and rates for ad spots with the radio station. They know where they have more demand than supply and could even make more money by freeing up some of your commercials to be sold to other clients, sometimes at higher rates. This is typically during the weekday drive time periods; you probably got an annual rate for your commitment. If the station is willing, you could move into off-peak nighttime buys or weekends. Off-peak hours typically come at a lower cost and can still reach a substantial audience, enabling you to stretch your budget further. Give the station 30 days to see if they can accomplish this, and if not, go to plan ‘B.’

Longer Commitments

Consider committing to a longer-term contract, like a multi-year agreement, to potentially lower your monthly cash commitment. Maybe you could move off $2,000 per month from July to December and move it to the first six months of 2025. Emphasize your dedication to maintaining a consistent advertising presence over time, which can incentivize the radio station to continue the partnership.

Frequency and Unit Length

If the station allows you to reduce the monthly budget, focus on maximizing frequency by strategically choosing the length of ad units. Instead of running only thirty and sixty-second ads, opt for :15 slots to increase frequency without exceeding your budget. Shorter units are more cost-effective per spot and can deliver well-known messages repeatedly.

Budget Reallocation and Trade

Explore avenues for reallocating funds within your annual budget to optimize expenses. For instance, negotiate a reduction in the monthly budget and allocate the saved funds to months where your cash flow is strongest. Having a payment schedule that matches your cash flow will give you the best chance to meet expenses. Furthermore, explore opportunities for service or trade to offset your monthly bill, leveraging resources you have already paid for that may match up well with what the station needs.

Reducing expenses within an annual radio agreement takes a strategic negotiation and budget management approach. Concentrating on pricing, rates, contract length, frequency, and budget reallocation can keep your station relationship intact, honor your contract, and increase cash flow.

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