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Meet the Market Managers: Dave Fleck, KSE Denver

“I think you create a culture. That’s what’s important to me – creating a culture where we want to win. We want to be the best.”

Demetri Ravanos

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MTMM Fleck

One day at a time. One month at a time. One book at a time. That is how Dave Fleck helped Altitude Sports Radio get to the level of success it enjoys now.

Of course, being the flagship station of the Denver Avalanche built a nice base for what happened last week, because the station is also the flagship of the Denver Nuggets. Market conditions, sometimes, work just as effectively as any talent or promotion ever could.

In this week’s Meet the Market Managers column, presented by Point to Point Marketing, Fleck talks about how small ideas can turn into great sales success, the amount of work and the kind of expectations that come with taking money from sportsbooks, and why it is important for a GM and a PD to gel.

Demetri Ravanos: Let’s start by talking about the last week. Obviously, a huge deal for you guys in Denver. Take me through the lead-up to and what we’re all the moving parts between programing and sales were to make sure that not only did you have full coverage of the Nuggets in their celebration, but also that on the sales side, you were able to take full advantage of that moment. 

Dave Fleck: Luckily Demetri, it’s been two years. We had good practice last year with our Avalanche and their Stanley Cup and the culmination of award-winning, great coverage last year for our Avalanche. So fortunately, we had just been through it several months earlier, but our team did a fantastic job – our radio team in addition to the team on the court. It’s a lot of moving parts that come down quickly.                 

Once you hit the Western Conference Finals, it really transcends your average and typical sports fan and just becomes something the entire community embraces. Sweeping the Lakers, they’ve been our nemesis for many years in trying to get over that hump, that was a big step. You could feel the excitement around the city, not just with the Lakers, but going in, even though we were a number one seed, as a bit of an underdog to the Suns. The community, the entire city just got so excited and could see kind of what the future might bring to us in the form of a championship. So it was it was a lot going on.                

Our team did a fantastic job from the coverage standpoint. We’re very fortunate in that we’ve got a lot of crossover talent with our RSN, Altitude Sports Television. Two of our morning show guys, Vic Lombardi and Marc Moser, are doing television for Altitude. Chris Dempsey, who’s on middays has been a Nuggets anchor for many years. Scott Hastings does color analysis for television. So, we’re very fortunate to be with the team and very fortunate to have ownership that owns both the team and the radio station. I think that that puts us in a position to really bring the best content that we possibly can to the community. Our guys were on their game. They were topical, they were fun, and they were entertaining. Listeners want that kind of behind-the-velvet-rope experience. When you have talent that travels with the team and are closely connected, you get those stories and you get the content that people want. I think our team delivers it in an entertaining way. 

DR: One of the things that I’ve heard from multiple people about Denver sports radio is that fans there were conditioned for a very specific type of sports talk – a professional host sets up a former Bronco. You guys bucked that trend a while ago, and now obviously, the timing couldn’t be better to have people involved in so many other sports.               

How have listeners reacted? Did it take time for them to get used to something different, or did you guys find that entertainment is entertainment, and if it was good, the listeners were going to be there? 

DF: I think the listeners were there. Once they found us, they were entertained. We never had much of an issue with time spent listening, Demetri. It was all about building more cume. That tells me that once people found us, they really enjoyed a few things. One is that it is entertaining and another is that we talk about all sports – not even just the teams that we’re the flagship for.           

We cover high school, we talk soccer, golf, college football, and college athletics. We talk about it all, whether it’s Air Force Academy, CU, and CSU. Certainly there’s plenty to talk about up at CU. We pride ourselves on talking all sports but, you know, it’s this is an NFL town.                 

The Broncos have a rich history and we certainly talk Broncos in an entertaining fashion and have hired talent that can do that. Certainly, the Avalanche and Nuggets, the city of Denver and the region have been nuts over the two teams that we are fortunate enough to be the flagship for. 

DR: So given that for so long sports talk in the town was Broncos-focused to the point that those two teams you just mentioned rarely got the kind of spotlight that you guys have been able to give them, did you find that you guys are talking to a different segment of the sports talk demographic? Are you guys skewing a little bit younger than you might expect a sports station in Denver to? 

DF: We are doing well with the 18 to 34-year-old segment. I think our talent is part of that. You’ve got Bret Kane that anchors the morning show with Vic and Mos. I think Bret brings in that younger audience. In midday, certainly Chris Dempsey’s a veteran in the business but he’s partnered with Alex Rajaniemi, “Raj”, who is a young man that is a sports encyclopedia. Then. from an entertainment standpoint, Matt McChesney, former CU Buffalo football player, former Bronco and NFL player, brings an entertainment side and a characteristic that that is is unique to Matt McChesney.               

I don’t know that we’re actively saying we want to go younger. For me, I just want us to be entertaining, whether you’re you’re 22 or 52. I’m 56 and I’m a sports talk junkie. I just love being entertained and I love hearing about all the different sports.              

I think you create a culture. That’s what’s important to me – creating a culture where we want to win. We want to be the best. Everybody just rolls up their sleeves and works hard and a lot of people wear a lot of different hats at the station and everybody’s willing to jump in and do whatever they can.                    

You know, you’ve got Andy Lindhal in afternoon drive, who was a long-time Broncos sideline reporter. He knows the nuances of training camp, so he can help get us in good positions, get us interviews with former players, and things of that nature. It’s a team effort. You know, it’s not just Kevin Shockey, our program director, and myself and management. It’s all the talent creating a culture where they speak up. “How do we win?” “What’s the best thing for this radio station so that we can entertain, entertain our listeners?” 

DR: So I want to ask you about Kevin, because it was around this time last year that you started that search for a new program director. I wonder if going into it you had a concrete idea of what it was you were looking for. I mean, KSE is obviously a very different business than a lot of radio ownership groups are. Is there anything in that search that you knew you needed that might surprise even people in the business? 

DF: I was looking for somebody with good energy – good, positive energy. It didn’t necessarily have to come with a wealth of experience in sports talk, although Kevin was an assistant program director at KJR in Seattle for a long time. I knew relatively from the first time that I met him on a Teams call like this. I just felt really good about his energy. Candidly, he had big shoes to fill from the person that was in here before, because I trusted that person and he did a lot.         

Kevin is very different from what we had here before. His energy level is different. Our former program director was a little bit more methodical and Kevin is excited and always comes in with fresh ideas.                     

I just wanted somebody that I could gel with and we could have an open dialog. You know, I certainly have thoughts, but they’re not always right. And I wanted somebody that was comfortable to say, “Hey, what about this instead? I know you, I know you like it this way, but can we try this this way.” And I like that about him. He speaks up, speaks his mind, and we come to a quick consensus on most of our decision-making.                      

At the end of the day, it’s his station to program, and I want him to have the autonomy to do that. 

DR: I want to go back to the idea that KSE is not your typical radio business. I think anybody that has never worked for a station like that, they have a preconceived notion of what it means to be the station owned by the team. What are the realities? What are the realities of not only expectations for your air staff but for you as well when it comes to coverage or advertising those four teams that Kroenke owns?

DF : We’re, as I said, incredibly fortunate. I was with Fox Sports prior to Mr. Kroenke starting Altitude Television, and a group of us came over when Altitude was launched. Then he buys the radio stations and it is unique. I don’t know, maybe there’s one or two other sports entities in the country. You can look at Toronto and maybe MSG with their television network, that is team owned. So we are unique and that while we’re the flagship we’re also owned by the company that owns the teams.                     

I want our talent to be real. I want them to be honest. If they need to critique the team, coaches, players, whatever, they can do that, but they need to be fair. I would say that not just about our teams, but really any team in the market. I don’t want us going out and attacking the Rockies because they’re having a tough season. We can critique, but I don’t want anybody to get nasty. Just call it how it is. You don’t need to bad-mouth ownership. You can point out some challenges that other teams are having in the market.              

I certainly don’t want name-calling or doing things like that to our teams, because we are owned by the Kroenkes, but we can certainly be fair and critique and bring up the challenges that our teams have. So it’s a balance, but I would expect us to respect those boundaries of any ownership, whether it’s Kroenke or any other team. 

DR: You guys have a sales promotion sales partnership that I really like because as simple as it is, I am guessing it involved every department. It’s the “Ska Friday” you guys do on the afternoon show. I made it’s named for a brewing company that sponsors it. The idea is simple – stupid, terrible ska music. They play it out of breaks.                  

Again, simple, but I would imagine that’s the kind of thing that Andy Lindahl, Nate Kreckman and their producer all have to be a part of, maybe not from conception, but on a weekly basis, certainly to make work. 

DF: Absolutely, and it was from conception. Buy-in from the talent is really important. It started on the sales end. Nate even did kind of an audition dance because he thought he thought that is what they wanted. You know what? He owned it. He wanted to move the needle for the client.                 

I will tell you whether it’s Ska Brewing or any of our other advertisers, I try not to get too caught up in the monthly ratings. Certainly, it’s part of what we do and it’s the currency that we trade on. We are having great success with those ratings currently, but it’s one book at a time. We’ve seen great development with that, but I don’t let that be the be-all and end-all. For me, Demetri, it’s do we get results.                        

If our revenue continues to grow month in and month out and our advertisers continue to stick with us and every month continue to spend their advertising dollars with us, then that means we’re working for them. We’re getting results for them. When I see the kind of growth that we’ve had from a revenue standpoint, not just our own growth year to year, but just in comparison to the marketplace, what we’re doing specifically from a local revenue standpoint, it makes me really proud of the sales team and the on-air staff and the promotions staff and the engineering staff. Everybody’s working together to put out the best possible product that we can. It’s getting results for advertisers and they’re going to continue to renew with us month in and month out. That’s what excites me most, because while the ratings are growing and we’re building that cume, and I’m thankful that we’re the flagship of world championship teams, I also know that it’s the hard work that this team is doing day-in and day-out, putting out great content, coming up with superb sales ideas to put in front of clients and a promotions department that fulfills it.              

I put us up against anybody in the market with how we facilitate and implement our promotions and ad campaigns. So if the revenue is growing, that means we’re doing something right for our advertisers. 

DR: So speaking of doing something right for your advertisers, Colorado was in the first wave of states to legalize sports betting once it was left up to states. I remember listening to not only you guys around that time, but other stations in the marker as well. Every sportsbook in the world was buying those stations at that time. I do have to ask, because I think this is really interesting as more and more states legalize and people are a little bit more methodical about those buys, how did you approach that advertising as a company?                        

The Colorado market exploded. There had to be some things either initially or over time you that you thought about. Did you put any guideline in place, both for advertisers and sellers to make sure that the advertisers’ message wasn’t getting lost amongst so much competition? 

DF: Yeah, I think we’ve done a really good job of giving each of those gaming companies something they can hang their hat on. That speaks to creativity within the sales department and the production group and cutting out a little piece of something that those gaming companies can own.                    

Colorado is very fortunate as an entire media market to be one of the early ones to approve gaming. I’m especially proud of our group our ad sellers, and I guess I’m fortunate in coming with my background, coming in from the sponsorship and television side and the arena sponsorship. You know, you get accustomed to asking for those larger dollars than maybe you typically would on the radio side.                

We saw this category coming in and we knew it was it was flush with cash. So how do we do the best job that we can for those gaming companies as well as for our organization? I mean, everybody wants an endorser, but there’s only so many on-air talents that you can have or producers to endorse a product. Early on, we set specific parameters and thresholds that those gaming companies had to meet and we were very successful in holding that line.                  

You get a lot of sellers that say, “Oh, my gosh, we’ve got to take this deal!”. Well, no, we don’t have to take this deal. We can wait and we can see what else comes in. If they want multiple endorsers, then they have to pay for that. Just because they’re coming in and spending a decent amount of money doesn’t mean they just get carte blanche on the number of endorsers. If they wanted special promotions, then we would create those for them. But it came with a specific spending parameter that they had to meet. Fast forward to 2020 coming out of COVID, it was great to have that happen here in the state.               

As more states come online, that category starts shrinking. A lot of players were in that category initially. Some have been bought out, some just folded up shop and it’s consolidated a little bit. So through that consolidation and as that category matures, you change your strategy and your parameters. I’m still really happy with what we’ve done in that category from both from a revenue standpoint and more importantly, how we work for each of those companies to have success with what we can offer, whether that is specific promotions, tying them into certain endorsers, or coming up with something unique for them.                       

I’ll give you an example. We’ve got Betsafe here, which is a great supporter of ours. They like to educate, so we come up with an idea for betting tips. You know, “what does ‘the money line’ mean?” and “what is an ‘over/under’?”. We’re looking at different betting terminology that that the average person may not understand and explaining that to them and using 15 second ads to just share that knowledge. We’re not recreating the wheel, but it’s coming up with different ideas for each gaming company. We need to move the needle for them and generate activations for each of those apps. 

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Tricia Whitaker Will Find The Story That Matters

“My role is to really bring the viewers down to that level of the dugout and into the clubhouse.”

Derek Futterman

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Tricia Whitaker FNB
Courtesy: Apple

When St. Louis Cardinals designated hitter Albert Pujols hit his 700th career home run in his final season in the majors last September, the baseball world erupted in mass jubilation. Although the milestone achievement occurred during a road game, the fans still showered one of the sport’s quintessential athletes with praise as they witnessed the fourth player enter this exclusive pinnacle of power hitters. For fans watching from afar, they were treated with crisp, vivid footage of the moment since the matchup was exclusive to Apple TV+ as a part of its Friday Night Baseball slate of games.

The game broadcast featured field reporter Tricia Whitaker, who had just joined the Apple TV+ presentations to begin the second half of the season. Being there as one of the voices tasked with keeping viewers informed and captivated by the action was a special experience that she will never forget. 

“You’re talking about the best cameras in the entire world capturing one of the most iconic players ever,” Whitaker said. “I thought the call was amazing; I thought the quality of the shots was amazing [and] I’l never forget that broadcast, ever, because it was so cool.”

Whitaker grew up in Bloomington, Ind. and would journey to Wrigley Field with her father once per summer to watch the Chicago Cubs. Through those games, she realized that a ballpark was her ideal future workplace.

“We just didn’t have a ton of money, [so] I would sit in the nosebleeds with him once a summer and that was the biggest treat in the world,” Whitaker said. “I just realized that I loved telling stories and I loved sports, so I decided to do that.”

Whitaker’s journey in the industry genuinely began as an undergraduate student at Indiana University Bloomington where she adopted a mindset to seize any opportunities offered to her. Despite having no knowledge or previous reporting experience, she accepted a role to cover a tennis match and quickly started preparing. After one of her professors saw her nascent media acumen, they recommended she audition for the university’s student television station to hone her skills. Whitaker earned a spot and began covering Indiana Hoosiers basketball and football for the show Hoosier Sports Night. From there, she simply kept on accepting anything in her purview.

“Your best asset is your availability, so I basically just said ‘Yes’ to everything,” Whitaker articulated.

Once it became time to search for a full-time position, her experience and tenacity helped her land a role at WBAY-TV in Green Bay as a sports reporter and anchor. After two football seasons working there, Whitaker relocated closer to home to report for WTTV-TV Channel 4 in Indianapolis. The time was valuable for her to cultivate new relationships with those around the industry while strengthening existing ones, serving as a foundational aspect of her reporting. 

“If they don’t trust you to tell their stories, they’re not going to talk to you,” Whitaker said. “You have to be able to have a good relationship with the players; with the coaches and everybody involved.”

At the same time, Whitaker felt compelled to make a lasting contribution to Indiana University through teaching and inspiring the next generation of journalists. She is now an adjunct professor for the IU Media School and wants her students to know how integral it is to make themselves available while being open and willing to try new things to make inroads into the profession. 

“There’s always a story to be told, so even if it’s a random event that you don’t think anyone’s paying attention to, there’s people there; there’s human stories and their stories matter,” Whitaker said. “That’s what I always try to tell my students is [to] just find that story that makes people interested in it and find that story that matters.”

Over the years working in these dual roles, Whitaker became more skilled in her position and proceeded to audition to join the Tampa Bay Rays’ broadcast crew on Bally Sports Sun as a field reporter. When she received news that she had landed the coveted job, she remembers starting to cry in her closet while trying to organize her clothes. After all, Whitaker had just learned that she would get to perform the role she idolized when she was young. The access her role gives her to the players and coaches on the field is not taken for granted.

“I’ll interview hitting coaches about a guy’s hands and where they’ve moved and about his stance,” Whitaker said. “….In the next hit, I’ll tell a story about a guy who drinks a smoothie every day before the game and he feels [that] putting spinach in it has really made a difference or something like that. My reporting style is pretty much all of it, but I do like to do the human interest stories more than I like to do anything else because I think that’s unique.”

After each Rays win, Whitaker takes the field and interviews one of the players on the team. Earlier in the season, she remembers speaking with Rays outfielder Jose Siri after he drove in three runs against the Detroit Tigers; however, the broadcast was not on Bally Sports Sun. Instead, she was doing the interview for Friday Night Baseball on Apple TV+, a national broadcast property the company pays MLB an estimated $85 million annually to carry. Going into the interview, Whitaker knew that she would need to appeal to more than just Rays fans and appropriately started the conversation by asking about the game.

Yet she also knew that it was “Salsa Night” at Comerica Park in Detroit and thanks to her work with the regional network, was cognizant of the fact that Siri likes to dance in the dugout. As a result, she concluded the interview with a request for Siri to demonstrate his salsa dancing skills, something that made an ordinary conversation stand out.

“I tried to personalize it a little bit to help people get to know Jose Siri a little bit better because I think that’s important,” Whitaker said. “….You make sure you talk about baseball, but then you add a little flair to it; add a little personality to it. Everybody loves salsa, right?”

The Apple broadcasts require Whitaker to prepare as she executes her role with the Rays, keeping her wholly invested and consumed by baseball. There are occasions where she is afforded the luxury of reporting on Rays games for her Friday night assignment, but they are rare. Therefore, she needs to become familiar with two teams by reviewing statistics, reading local reporting and conversing with those involved. She keeps her notes on her cell phone and makes lists of what she is going to do during the day to keep herself organized and focused.

Throughout the week, Whitaker actively prepares for the Friday night matchup and meets with her producer to contribute her ideas and learn about the macro vision of the broadcast. The Apple broadcast, aside from using high-caliber technology, also regularly equips microphones to place on players that allow viewers to hear what is transpiring on the field. Whitaker, along with play-by-play announcer Alex Faust and color commentator Ryan Spilborghs, coordinate with the production team throughout the game to present an insightful and compelling final product.

There was criticism of the Apple TV+ live game baseball broadcasts during its inaugural season, but the noise continues to diminish in its sophomore campaign. Whitaker views her role as accruing a confluence of stories about the game and more insightful looks at the personalities on the field. Before each contest, she interviews a player in the dugout and asks questions that put the season in context, granting a comprehensive understanding about a subset of their journey.

“We try to get their thoughts on the season so far at the plate, but also try to get to know them on a personal level,” Whitaker said. “My role is to really bring the viewers down to that level of the dugout and into the clubhouse.”

It is considerably more facile to execute such a task before the game than it is during gameplay because of the introduction of the pitch clock. While it has undoubtedly sped up the game and made the product more appealing for fans of all ages, its actualization threatened the viability of unique aspects of baseball broadcasts. The Apple TV+ crew may work together once per week, but over a 162-game season spanning parts of seven months, there is a perdurable bond and unyielding chemistry evident therein.

“Everybody on that crew – and I seriously mean this – is so supportive no matter who you are as long as you do your job well,” Whitaker said. “They don’t even think about the fact that I’m a female in sports [and] they just support me. They help me take constructive criticism because they care and because they truly see me as an equal.”

Whitaker has had the chance to report from Wrigley Field with Apple TV+ and vividly remembers her experience of stepping inside as a media member for the first time. It was a surreal full-circle moment that has been the result of years of determination and persistence to make it to the major leagues.

“I walked into Wrigley and I started to tear up because I remember when my dad and I used to go there and I was 12 years old,” Whitaker stated. “If you would have told me at 12 years old [that] I would be doing a national game at Wrigley, I would have told you [that] you were lying because I just wouldn’t have thought that was a possibility.”

Although Whitaker is receptive to potentially hosting regular sports programming in the future, she has found the joy in her roles with both the Tampa Bay Rays and Apple TV+. Being able to experience historic moments, including Pujols’ milestone home run, and then diving deeper into the situation makes the countless flights, hotel stays and lack of a genuine respite worthwhile. She hopes to continue seamlessly fulfilling her responsibility this Friday night when the New York Mets face the Philadelphia Phillies at 6:30 p.m. EST/3:30 p.m. PST, exclusively on Apple TV+.

“There’s always a story to be told, and if you’re good at your job, you’re going to find that story even on a day where you’re like, ‘Oh gosh, there’s nothing going on,’” Whitaker said. “I take that pretty seriously.”

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Radio Advertising Can be the Secret Weapon For In-House Digital Marketers

“The trend of businesses gaining digital marketing proficiency presents a unique opportunity for YOU.”

Jeff Caves

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SECRET WEAPON
Courtesy: ETSY

Remember when in-house marketers were primarily focused on traditional media and needed help navigating the digital and social media landscape? Well, the tables are turning! 

The rise of digital-savvy in-house marketers is opening up exciting opportunities for radio ad salespeople. As local businesses increasingly invest in digital marketing, some are finding they need your expertise in radio advertising.

Borrell Associates has released their latest Business Barometer, and included in the findings was a slight but noticeable shift favoring traditional forms of broadcast media. Let’s dive into how sports and news radio ad salespeople can leverage this shift to target businesses with proficient digital marketing people on board who may need to know more about the potential of radio advertising.

1. Digital-Marketing Trending UP!

Borrell Associates’ recent findings indicate that businesses are increasingly proficient in digital marketing. They are adeptly managing their websites and social media channels, driving results through online campaigns. However, this digital surge doesn’t necessarily translate to expertise in traditional media, such as radio. Hey, do you know a business like that? And make sure you know of an outsourced digital agency you can refer who can handle your clients’ digital and social media for very few dollars. You can help manage the rest of the budget! 

2. Target In-House Buyers

Make a list of businesses you know that have in-house people who are digital-oriented or younger owners who handle mostly digital advertising independently. Or, how about the in-house marketing person who only takes on marketing initiatives like events or sales promotion and knows nothing about advertising? Get ’em! 

3. We create demand

One of the unique selling points of radio is its ability to generate demand and send more customers to Google or your client’s website. Digital marketing can often direct buyers seeking a specific purchase but can’t create lasting impressions and build demand and loyalty like your station. Use this advantage to demonstrate how radio can reinforce the brand story and enhance the effectiveness of digital campaigns.

4. Surround the listener

Recognize that businesses with digital marketing expertise may want holistic solutions. Sell packages that combine digital and radio advertising. Include your streaming endorsements with social media and geo-fencing. They get it and will be impressed with reaching their target audience across multiple touchpoints.

5. Be the Teacher

Your prospects may be experts in digital marketing, but they might not fully understand the potential of radio advertising. Take on the role of an educator. Provide resources, case studies, and success stories that showcase how your station and radio have boosted digital-savvy businesses’ results.

6. 1+1=3 for Creativity

Collaboration is key when working with clients with a digital marketing team. Involve them in the creative process of writing and producing radio ads. Creativity could be their strength, and they will bring fresh perspectives to your production.

The trend of businesses gaining digital marketing proficiency presents a unique opportunity for YOU. Maybe your client is struggling with their digital strategy. Imagine that now they may be seeking you out to help them understand what they have already read about buying radio advertising. It’s time to adapt your approach and position radio as a complementary and powerful tool in the digital marketing person toolkit.

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Bill Parcells Shaped The Media By Giving Them Hell

“Parcells doesn’t belong in a studio chatting with a quarterback. He belongs in a temper tantrum screaming at a sportswriter.”

John Molori

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Bill Parcells
Courtesy: AP Photo

Two of the most talked about media stories of the past couple of weeks intersect in the form of one legendary NFL head coach – Bill Parcells. 

In the wake of Aaron Rodgers’ potentially season-ending Achilles injury in Week 1 of the NFL season, many media pundits harkened back to 1999 when then-Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde suffered a similar injury in the first game of the season. Like Rodgers, Testaverde was a veteran signal-caller looking to bring the long-suffering Jets to a Super Bowl. 

One week after Rodgers’ injury, Los Angeles Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley was in the media mechanism for an exchange with a reporter after his club fell to 0-2. Staley took issue with a query about whether the team’s monumental playoff collapse last season versus Jacksonville has carried over to their slow start this season. 

ESPN’s First Take included video of Staley’s comment on their September 19 show building it up as some rash, heated interaction between coach and press. It was not. In fact, Staley merely directly answered the question asserting this season has nothing to do with last season. 

Both of these headlines find common ground in the person of Bill Parcells. Parcells was the head coach of the Jets in 1999 when Testaverde’s season ended in that fateful game vs. New England. In addition, he was notorious for some truly vitriolic run-ins with post-game reporters. 

Forget about Staley or even the infamous press conference rants of Jim Mora (“Playoffs!?”), Herm Edwards (“You play to win the game!”), and Dennis Green (“Crown ‘em!”). To the media, Parcells was Armageddon, Three Mile Island, and Hurricane Katrina rolled into one. Never has there been a football character so inexplicably loved and despised. 

In New England, Parcells’s arrival as head coach of the Patriots in 1993 signaled the turnaround of the franchise, but fans refuse to vote him into the team’s Hall of Fame because of his unceremonious jump from to the Jets after the 1996 season. 

When that happened, Parcells again grasped the media spotlight stating, “If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.” He was referring to new owner Bob Kraft taking final say personnel decisions away from Parcells.

Like him or not, Parcells, known as The Tuna, rejuvenated five NFL franchises. The New York Giants were a mishmash of Joe Pisarciks and Earnest Grays before Parcells turned them into two-time champions.

Patriot fans actually cheered for the likes of Hugh Millen and Eugene Chung until Parcells came to town and brought in players like Drew Bledsoe, Ty Law, Willie McGinest, Adam Vinatieri, and Tedy Bruschi, laying the foundation for a dynasty.

And the Jets? They were living off the fumes of Joe Namath’s Brut 33 until Bill Parcells constructed a team that went from 1-15 in 1996 under Rich Kotite to 9-7 and 12-4 in 1997 and 1998 respectively with Parcells. 

The Cowboys were 5-11 under Dave Campo in 2002. The next year, they went 10-6 with Parcells. Miami was 1-15 in 2007. The next year, with Parcells as executive VP of Football ops, they won the AFC East with an 11-5 record.

The Catholic church has its Apostle’s Creed. Those who follow the gospel of The Tuna have A Parcells Creed, and it goes as follows: I believe if a reporter asks Parcells if he outcoached a colleague, that reporter will be called a “dumb ass.” I believe that the media are “commies” and “subversive from within” as Parcells once labeled them.

I believe in using the media to denigrate young players to keep their egos in check. After Jets QB Glenn Foley had a solid preseason performance a few years back, the New York media surrounded the redheaded QB as if he had won the Super Bowl. 

Parcells walked right in front of Foley and sarcastically asked, “Do you mind if I get past Sonny Jurgensen over here,” referring to the similarly redheaded Redskin quarterbacking legend.

In 1995, when all of New England was agog over a rookie running back named Curtis Martin, Parcells slyly commented to the press, “Well, we’re not carving his bust for Canton just yet.” And of course, there was the late Terry Glenn. When asked how the former Patriot wideout was recovering from an injury, the Tuna spouted, “She’s doing just fine.”

Parcells’ stints as a studio analyst on ESPN, although insightful, seemed out of place. He would sit there, dressed in a dark blue suit talking strategy with fellow ESPN gabber Steve Young. Honestly, he looked like a rotund funeral director searching for someone to embalm.

Parcells doesn’t belong in a studio chatting with a quarterback. He belongs in a temper tantrum screaming at a sportswriter. 

I interviewed Boston media personality Steve DeOssie about Parcells. DeOssie was the defensive signal caller for the New York Giants (1989-93) when Parcells was the team’s head coach. He again played for Parcells in New England in 1994.

He told me, “Parcells realizes that the media is the enemy. Let’s face it, the media cannot do anything positive for a team, but they can put stuff out there that could lose a game. The bottom line with Parcells is whether it helps his team win.”

“He loves the camera and the camera loves him. He enjoys that part of the business. The media can spin it any way they want. Parcells does not suffer fools gladly and a lot of media types don’t like being called out in press conferences.”

Another Boston media legend also gave me his reflections of Parcells. Bob Lobel is the most revered sports anchor of all-time in New England. He stated, “I did a one-on-one interview with Parcells awhile back. He is so down to earth yet has this aura. It’s easy to be in awe of him.”

The national perspective is similar. When Troy Aikman was an analyst for FOX Sports, the current Monday Night Football color commentator credited Parcells with restacking the Cowboys’ roster and bringing winning back to Dallas.

When asked about playing for Parcells with the Jets, FS1’s Keyshawn Johnson offered, “He taught me how to do things, how to pay attention.” 

Even people whom Parcells fired maintain a respect for him. Sirius NFL Radio’s Pat Kirwan was the director of player administration for the Jets when Parcells arrived in 1997. 

Kirwan told me, “Parcells rebuilds a franchise from top to bottom. He evaluates everyone from the trainers to the doctors to the equipment guys. In 1997 when Bill came to the Jets, I knew I was qualified, but I also knew that Bill would let me go.”

In a September 12, 2023 story, New York Post reporter Brian Costello interviewed Parcells about the Rodgers injury. 

This master of media mind games famous for the quote, “You don’t get any medal for trying,” revealed his visceral core telling Costello, “You are charged with winning games under any circumstances … They’re not canceling the games. They’re not canceling them. You’re coaching them. It’s your job to get your team ready to play to the best of their ability.”

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