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Norm Hitzges is Making The Most of His Last Week at 1310 The Ticket

“These guys have become incredibly good friends. I’m gonna miss them. I’m gonna miss competing. But I’ve come to be at peace with it. I’m content.”

Brian Noe

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A photo of Norm Hitzges
Courtesy: KDFW

Forty-eight consecutive years. That’s how long Texas Radio Hall of Famer, Norm Hitzges, has done sports talk in Dallas. He’s accumulated quite the following over nearly half a century. But refreshingly, Hitzges sounds like a guy who’s had a career that’s lasted 48 days. He’s humble, appreciative and thankful for the people he’s connected with and for his lengthy run on the air.

It’s fitting that after 23 years at legendary Dallas-Fort Worth station The Ticket, Hitzges will retire on June 23. Think about that; outside of his 23 years at The Ticket, Hitzges still has another 25 years of on-air experience in the metroplex. It’s been an amazing ride.

Hitzges has covered a lot of ground in his broadcasting career. Now he wants to cover even more territory traveling the world. We also chat about expecting the unexpected during an emotional final week at the station, how the possibility of unretiring doesn’t exist, and what his mom and dad might’ve said about his outstanding career. Enjoy!

Brian Noe: What do you think you’re going to miss most about not being on the air every day?

Norm Hitzges: I’m going to miss the daily rush of preparing for a show. It’s wonderful to work. I love this work. I’m going to miss this work so. I’m going to miss my show mates and my radio station mates, but I’m going to miss the rush of being on the air every day. And without trying to sound too highfalutin, trying to create something.

BN: Do you think it’s a little bit like an athlete? I think of a guy like Tom Brady who’s been at it for so long. A lot of athletes talk about trying to replace that rush of competing. Do you feel like you can relate to that, as you’re moving away from something that has given you a rush for so long?

NH: Oh, yeah. Years ago, I read the poem To An Athlete Dying Young. And that athletes are amongst the few people on Earth that have to die twice. Once, when they can’t be who they’ve always been, and then once with the rest of us. This has been a phenomenal run. I have loved this city and love these people. I don’t know if anybody’s ever had 48 continuous years on the air doing sports talk in one major city. I am so blessed. I’m just so blessed to have had a voice in this wonderful city for all these years. I’m going to miss it like Tom Brady is going to miss playing quarterback. You miss that rush.

BN: Why does it feel like now is the right time for you to step away?

NH: At nearly 79 years old, I still have my health. I have a wife that loves to travel, which is a passion of mine. And she’s good at it. When we travel, my wife’s bag isn’t very big, Brian. [Laughs] We go. It’s not that I was being kept from traveling at all by this job, but now we’ll be able to do things almost on the spur of the moment. If something happens where airline ticket prices suddenly drop on a certain route or things like that. There’ll also be time to just relax and say we got nothing to do this week. And by the way in September, I am going to start a podcast. And it’s going to be five days a week called Just Wondering.

BN: What are you going to cover on that podcast?

NH: Well, mostly sports, but lots of other stuff. American life, big questions, little questions, things you wonder about in life.

BN: What are your biggest passions outside of watching and covering sports?

NH: Well, I have the great fortune to have married a woman and married into a family with two spectacular boys. Besides that family, I think my biggest passion in life is travel. We were trying to figure out just a few minutes ago how many countries we’ve been to. Mary, she’s a professional photographer, so she brings back real memories of these trips. I think it’s probably near 30 countries we’ve been to. That’s something we’re going to do. Podcast, hang out with friends. I now am free to have breakfast with anybody during the week. [Laughs]

BN: It’s quite the change. What countries have you pinpointed that you’d like to see?

NH: We’ve already traveled a lot. A lot. But there are some places. Let’s rattle off a very short list.Spain. Portugal.I want to see if I can get up the mountain in Rwanda to go to the silverback gorillas.I’d like to go to the jungles of Borneo before the jungles of Borneo don’t exist anymore, if you know what I mean.

There’s a little country on the west coast of Africa called Gabon.Back more than a decade ago, they decided they’d turn, I don’t know, a fifth or sixth of their country into national parks. They’ve got no oil, they’ve got no uranium, they’ve got no diamonds. What they’ve got is Gabon. It’s beautiful. The people who run Gabon have tried to convincetheir citizens, don’t cut down trees in the jungle. Learn to cook, learn to drive, learn to translate, learn to guide. Learn all those things that a tourist industry has.I’ve wanted to go to Gabon now for several years and we are going to make that happen.

BN: How do you feel right now, just with having announced the upcoming retirement? What’s your sense after delivering that message?

NH: There was some apprehension before. There was some excitement before it. To be frank, there was some grief before it and still is to some degree. I mean, men in life look for an identity. I’ve been blessed to have a certain amount of identity from this job. And now I’m not going to have that identity anymore. But you know what? The station has been great to me. They’re being great to me.

I don’t know if you know the ratings from this city, but the Ticket dominates the city. Not just the other sports stations; number one in the city. Very few sports stations ever get to be number one in the city and stay there for a length of time. These guys have become incredibly good friends. I’m gonna miss them. I’m gonna miss competing. But to answer your question, I’ve come to be at peace with it. I’m content. The apprehension is not gone; it’s now sort of morphed into a celebration.

BN: What has changed about the Ticket from your first day there until now?

NH: Well, I would say I like it. Because I didn’t like it when I was transferred down there. [Laughs]

BN: [Laughs]

NH: It’s the same company. But I was doing sports talk on another station, and the station decided to do talk radio without sports. Don’t get me into discussing that decision. But I didn’t want to go. I wasn’t a particular fan of this station. But I didn’t understand the station. I didn’t understand how hard these people worked to create things. I was pretty much a straight arrow sports talk show host, and the Ticket made me a far better host over the years. Far better.

BN: What would you say are the ingredients of the Ticket that lead to it being so dominant in that area?

NH: I’d say there’s a kind of segment-to-segment unpredictability. You’re going to get real insight, real wackiness, real analysis, real life. We share our lives with our audience. We share some of the high points and the low points and some of the screw-up points, but we return to the base of being a sports talk station. That doesn’t change. If there is something pressing to talk about in the sports world, we just stay with it, man. But if there’s not, we may wander off into other things. Thought pieces. Funny stuff. Personal stuff. I think it’s the station’s ability to offer an incredible menu of things every day is what has attracted even just semi sports fans to tune into the station.

BN: What has been one of the most personal stories that you’ve shared with your audience at the Ticket?

NH: Oh, my God. My surgery to remove a tumor from my spine. My friend at the station, Grubes, called me when I was in recovery and taped an interview.

BN: Oh, man.

NH: [Laughs] I had no idea what I was saying. And the interview is proof of it. You think, who the hell calls somebody in the recovery room after intense surgery? Well, Grubes did. The Ticket does. [Laughs] If it had been bad, they wouldn’t have aired it. But it was just wacky. It sounded like I was on helium or something.

BN: That’s great. What would you say is your proudest accomplishment throughout your career?

NH: Twenty-two years ago at the suggestion of my producer, Mark Friedman, we started doing something called the Norm-athon for charity. Mark’s bright idea [laughs], was for me to do 24 hours of broadcasting. And I said what? There was a charity here, Austin Street Center for the homeless. They do spectacular work. That would become our charity. So, we do this for three, four years and we’re astounded.

The first year we made $48,000. The shelter was just, what are you kidding me? Somebody just put $48,000 into our revenue stream? Then we started raffling off a car. Ooo boy, that jumped it up some. Then we started raffling off two. And now every Norm-athon, we do three and we’re up to $9 million now in pure cash.

They just built a brand new 59,000 square foot building all one level. They will handle 500 or more people a night. They job train them. They counsel them. They have programs if they need that. But the most important thing is — I think we’re going to get to the heart of your question — this place understands the dignity of the human being. And it’s hard to imagine dignity in homeless people; you think that’s totally been squeezed out of them, that there’s no dignity left with sleeping on a heating grate when it’s cold outside. But they give it back to them.

This place does spectacular work and I think that’s what I’m proudest of, what we’ve become. Even now that I’m gone, I’m going to come back and do the Norm-athon for the station. I’m going to come back and do the NFL Draft. We were the first station to do the NFL Draft wall-to-wall in 1986. We did every pick, 12 rounds. Oh my God, Brian, 12-round NFL Draft. We still do it wall-to-wall. This past draft, I announced the 10,000th pick of our doing the draft. It was the No. 173 pick and it was somebody named Beal from Georgia. 

BN: [Laughs] Man, I just think of Mr. Irrelevant each year and that’s only like pick No. 260 or something. You’re on pick No. 10,000.

NH: [Laughs] Yeah, I’m not sure I knew all those people, I’ll tell you that, pal.

BN: Do you have any regrets now that you’re walking away from everyday radio?

NH: Regrets? I don’t think so. I have wishes. I wish my mom or dad could have seen this run, but they’ve long passed away more than 20 years now. 

I think the small things, we all have regrets. There’s always regret built into some things you do. But, you know, I think my answer is no. I think this has been a really good run. A happy run. I’m happy it’s ending with a kind of celebration at our station.

BN: What do you think your mom and dad, if they were here today, would tell you about the run you’ve had?

NH: My mom worked six days a week standing on her feet in a laundry eight hours a day. My dad worked six nights a week standing on his feet bartending till one in the morning. My dad never made more than $250 a week in his life. I think they’d be astounded that their little boy, who all they probably ever hoped for him would be to come back and be the assistant parts manager at Weimer Chevrolet. [Laughs] I don’t think they could have ever imagined this. I just don’t think they could.

They were such fine folks. Now, my mom didn’t know how the world worked, Brian. She never learned to drive a car. She never knew who the vice president of the United States was. She never voted. She just didn’t know how it worked. But I think she’d be wide-eyed.

BN: If we go back to Tom Brady, there are so many people asking him, are you coming back? Are you going to come out of retirement? Do you think you will face similar questions?

NH: Well, it’ll be easy to answer them. No. [Laughs] In fact, as soon as they announced this, the rumors started that I was going to come back at another station in Dallas. No. Brian, you can put that down in capital letters. NO. I mean, I’ll do some projects for the Ticket and fill in at times on the Ticket. But no. I want to have this time to spend with Mary, to spend traveling. I can’t tell you that I won’t miss this fiercely ‘cause I will. But I’m not coming back for it. If I were ever coming back for it, I would have never left.

BN: What do you think that last show is going to be like for you?

NH: Unbelievably emotional. I know it’s going to be emotional for Donnie, my partner, and Sean, my producer. DJ who does the tickers, and Tyler who’s our technical director. You form such a bond when you’re on a show like that. It’s hard for the bond to stop happening. There’s going to be a lot of emotion that last day. We’re saving it for just what we want to do. And that can be anything.

BN: Are you going to try to make it more of a celebration, something happier?

NH: Oh, God, yes. The celebration’s already started. Guys on the show, other shows have had me on and we were just at Summer Bash. A good portion of the conversation was about me. [Laughs] It’s going to be a fantastic final week. I know it. I know my friends on the other shows, and I know somewhat how they’re going to react. Now, might I get pranked a time or two? Oh, yeah. It wouldn’t be the Ticket if I didn’t get pranked a time or two.

BN: [Laughs] Oh, man, yeah. Probably some that you can see from 100 miles away. And there are others that you will never know about until it’s time.

NH: These people are brilliant at hoarding audio. I can’t imagine some of the horror moments they’re going to bring back.

BN: That’s great. Well, hey, man, I hope you have a fantastic final week and really enjoy it. And then life beyond the daily radio show, I hope that’s amazing for you too, Norm.

NH: Thanks, Brian. Thank you. That’s really nice of you. Really nice of you. I’ve been really blessed.

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Meet the Bettors: Todd Fuhrman, CBS Sports HQ and Bet the Board

“To say that every sports bettor, even inside the audience that we’ve cultivated over the years, is looking for the exact same thing, I think would be a little bit foolish from my perspective.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Even before sports gambling was everywhere, the people that watched FOX and ESPN and listened to their local sports radio station probably had heard the name Todd Fuhrman. He has been one of the constants in the gaming space, making time for anyone that wanted to talk about it with him.

You can find his content all over the place. His podcast has been going strong for a decade, he’s on CBS Sports HQ and is a prolific user of X. That availability is valuable, because Todd has a perspective and an expertise not many can offer.

In our conversation for the Meet the Bettors series presented by Point to Point Marketing, we touch on what that experience can mean for the people trying to protect their sport, how the digital video audience compares to the digital audio audience, and the growing value of soccer. Enjoy!

Demetri Ravanos: How have you seen your audience change since PASPA? Do you have to do a little more educating now? I mean, there was a time when you were talking to just the hard cores, and now the practice of sports gambling is way more accessible. 

Todd Fuhrman: I think our audience has kind of grown with us. I mean, we’ve been doing Bet The Board since around 2014, and we kind of dipped our toes into the water, not sure what the appetite was going to be for that particular audience. The biggest thing for us is we kind of treat it like a field position game. We may have started in the shadow of our own end zone and gradually had to move the ball down the field. Not to the point that we wanted to intimidate our listeners or make them feel uncomfortable, but as our handicapping has become a little bit more transparent in some of our methodologies, it’s passing some of those things along to a listenership group and an audience in general. I’m not overly religious, but we just don’t want to feed. We want to teach them to fish more than what you’re seeing and a lot of the content space.           

I think that’s where the biggest challenge has come in. What can we do differently from our side? As an individual that has been in and around this space for a lot longer, how do I kind of differentiate the perspective that I bring to sports gambling content than an Instagram influencer who is just making picks, spending thirty seconds trying to offer up a seven-team single game parlay on a Tuesday in the middle of July for Getaway Day in Major League Baseball?

DR: So, I’m glad you brought up Bet the Board, because one of the things that I think is interesting about sports gambling content in the podcast space is your listeners have chosen to seek this out and make the effort to come back over and over again. I wonder if that is the same as your audience at CBS Sports HQ, because it’s not a traditional TV network where people are going to just stumble on it. Do you find the audience is people that are choosing and seeking out Todd Fuhrman’s content on there? 

TR: That’s a great question. I think you’re exactly right that you get gamblers coming in with different aptitude and appetites for what they’re looking to accomplish in this space. You know, on some platforms, whether it’s CBS or some of the radio shows that I’ll do across the country, it’s more “okay, you know, we kind of had a lead on this particular game. Let’s hear what Todd’s perspective is,” and “Can you push us right or left in terms of how we want to try and go about investing in a particular game?” Whereas Bet the Board in the podcast space is a little bit more longform. It’s more about trying to teach our listenership there the perspective on it, kind of peel back the curtain on some of those underlying analytics and insinuate, “Hey, here’s where we think this game is going to go from projecting the betting market. Here’s where we’ve actually bet some of these games, and here’s what we’re looking for.”           

So for me, selfishly, as a content creator, it’s given me an opportunity and an avenue to try and have a voice to get to a variety of different sports bettors that are looking for very different things, whether it’s picks on one end of the spectrum, or it’s learning how to handicap and trying to get an eagle-eye view on the perspective that it takes for folks that may want to get into this in a little bit more serious capacity. 

DR: You mentioned those influencers that are just posting their thirty-second “here is every pick in my parlay today” for your audience. Do you think there’s any value in that? I mean, are there people that just want the picks, or do you find your audience really want to understand why it is you’re on the side that you are? 

TR: No, I think there’s always people that want to kind of have their fast-food drive thru experience. When it comes to sports betting, they don’t want to necessarily know how the meal is made. They just hope that it tastes good. It’s, “You know, if I can get a quick pick in and three hours later, I can have more money in my account than I started with, that’s a successful endeavor.”           

The challenge, continuing along that fast food parallel, is that over time, that’s not going to be a meal that sustains you or keeps you in a good spot from a nutrition standpoint. You have to be able to kind of see through the trees and get a better perspective on the forest in terms of what you’re learning.            

To say that every sports bettor, even inside the audience that we’ve cultivated over the years, is looking for the exact same thing, I think would be a little bit foolish from my perspective. It’s always about trying to find that balancing act, to be able to not intimidate some of the newer bettors that are there, but at the same time provide a conduit for folks that have a passing interest in sports betting that may want to take it a little bit more seriously. Who can they lean from in a space where, unfortunately, as you know all too well, there are a lot of voices that are given a lot bigger platforms that I wouldn’t necessarily say should be trusted voices in the space? 

DR: Let’s talk about the traditional broadcaster’s relationship with gambling. You were part of FOX Bet Live. Not only is the show gone now, FOX Bet is gone. ESPN shuttered its studio on the Las Vegas Strip. Barstool sort of rethought its relationship with a gambling partner. Do you think some media companies may have bet too big or bet too foolishly on gambling content initially? 

TR: No, I wouldn’t say foolishly. Credit to ESPN and when they started working with Caesars and had an opportunity to build this set right there on Las Vegas Boulevard. They had a vision for what their brand was going to become. I’m not sure that they anticipated there was going to be an opportunity years down the road to be able to partner with Penn and be able to skin their own sportsbook that’s forged some opportunities. And as we’ve seen, they’re having their own challenges from a branding standpoint, playing catch up with the DraftKings and FanDuels of the world. At the same time, it just made a lot more sense to bring their production in-house to Bristol, more so than keeping something out here on an island, especially with a competing property, rather than moving to potentially what would have been the M Resort as the Penn stronghold out here in Las Vegas.          

It’s the same thing for FOX.  I gave my bosses there, Charlie Dixon, Eric Shanks and everybody else, a ton of credit that they believed in this space. They were probably ahead of its time trying to be able to get sports betting in the national discourse, being able to take advantage on FOX Sports Live, even with the launch of FS1, when we did some of our College Football Friday segments, Clay Travis, myself, Andy Roddick, and Charissa Thompson. I think given everything that’s going on at FOX, it lost its way in their ecosystem.           

Who knows? If they didn’t have the major litigation with the Flutter Group, there’s a very good chance that our daily TV show would have still been doing extremely well and thriving.

DR: Okay, so along those lines on that show, when it launched, Clay was beginning his, hard lean into politics, Cousin Sal was better known as a comedian. Both of those guys were well-educated gamblers, but I wonder what sort of responsibility you had or was conveyed to you in terms of being the gambling gravitas on the show. 

TR: You know, that was the big thing. And I think that was a major selling point for me when they pitched me the concept. It was described from Charlie Dixon’s standpoint, that he more or less wanted to create a panel on that show that felt like a blackjack table. He could bring people in with very different perspectives. They could have a healthy dialog, and everybody was more or less typecast in a particular role.           

So you had me on one end of the spectrum, who had come up through the ranks as an oddsmaker, had learned how things worked in a casino with that professional perspective on things. You had Clay on the opposite end of the spectrum. We used to joke with him all the time. “Clay, did you even look at the rundown more than three minutes before you came on air or spend more than 37 seconds making your picks?” And he was able to fill that kind of heel role. Then in the middle, you had Sal that was kind of a combination of both, that took the perspective of a more recreational better, but was still someone who was in this space day in and day out. Then it was throwing us all, more or less, in a blender.           

You know, I couldn’t have been more excited to continue working with Clay, who I’d known for years before, and to create the chemistry not just with Sal, but also Rachel [Bonetta] as a tremendous host. She could take and could dish it out and wear it as well as anybody that I could have imagined in that particular role, trying to corral two rather large personalities. 

DR: As younger generations reshape the way we consume content, could you see those bigger networks in the sports space, FS1, the ESPN channels, could you see them lean more into gambling and carrying international games in the middle of the day, as opposed to studio shows? 

TR: 100%. And I think you’ve seen a number of companies, whether it’s FOX, when we did way back when I want to say it was the Florida State/Auburn national championship, more on a second screen viewing. It was a lot more of the college football personalities they had there. I tried to add a little bit of gambling perspective, but it was in and out. You look at ESPN and the way they’ve gone into betcasts, even Turner, right now, is trying to foray into that. And I think everybody is trying to find that perfect sauce and recipe to be able to maximize some of those live events, like you mentioned, and take advantage of an audience that you know may want to watch as a casual fan or may want to watch with an investment interest. How can you kind of weave those experiences together seamlessly?           

In my opinion, I think it’s easier said than done, because you don’t want to try and be too pedantic and talk down to the audience, but at the same time, you want people to feel like they’re getting a different perspective and value added than they’d be getting from a more traditional viewing of whatever the sporting event may be, should it be international soccer, tennis, or anything else taking place on foreign shores, especially during the day. 

DR: What sport do the ratings or other metrics not do a great job of reflecting how popular it is with gamblers? 

TR: You know what? That’s a great question. When you look at the way things have gone, we know that age old thought processes, the church is more or less built for Easter Sunday, which is the NFL. It will always be the primary driver.           

I’ve sat in meetings countless times with executives that wanted to try and take away some of our sportsbook space. And I guess they’ve done that at Caesars over the years saying, “look, you guys only fill this thing up for 20 Sundays a year” and we go, “yeah, that’s exactly where the energy comes from.” So those 20 Sundays a year, no one is surrounding a blackjack table.         

I think when you look at what’s growing, to your point, hitting on international sports has been huge because of those opportunities and the void the international soccer can fill, throughout the course of a sporting day. It doesn’t just start at 7 eastern like the more traditional stick and ball sports here. So having access to be able to watch La Liga Serie A, and the English Premier League on various streaming platforms, I think soccer continues to be that rising star.           

It’s just a question of which books will feel more and more comfortable, how they’ll gradually ramp up and increase those betting venues? I don’t want to speak for every book, and I don’t have numbers in front of me, but a lot of the operators here from the more traditional side have said that typically you’ll get more of a parlay driven audience that wants to bet the biggest brands in that sport more so than some of the single game betting. I think on that level, anytime you can create those household names, international superstars that are playing at 11:55 in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon in November, it’s going to always be an attractive proposition for network partners and for the sports books as well. 

DR: I think you have a really interesting perspective. You’ve been a college athlete. Now that you’re in the gambling space, I wonder if anyone has asked for your guidance or your thoughts on how you handle Charlie Baker talking about wanting to limit props on NCAA athletes

TR: You know, they haven’t, and it’s an opportunity, quite honestly, that I would be more than happy to embrace and talk to the powers that be if they wanted someone that they could lean on. You know, I have a particular perspective, having been an athlete and knowing some of the trials and tribulations that an athlete can go through if they’re not properly educated on exactly what can transpire in the sports betting space, but to try and figure out the perfect solution for all parties involved from these sportsbook operators to protect their assets, to protect the students, and to protect the universities.           

I think oftentimes when we look at the NCAA, they kind of want to say that everything is done in black and white. There are so many shades of gray that pertain to this particular aspect. When you see more and more players, not just at the collegiate level, but also at the professional level, that are engaging in sports betting in various capacity, the biggest question that I have is are the players associations or university educating the teams accordingly? I can tell you flat out, when I was a college athlete, Division III and there were never numbers set on our games, one of the first team meetings we had, you had to sign a waiver that said you weren’t going to bet. As a Division III athlete, you look at it and go, no one’s coming to us. I mean, they’re not setting the lines on NESCAC football or hockey games where people want information from me, but it’s a very different discussion to be having with these power conferences, especially on the football side. If you happen to be in and around a college campus and you’re getting information, there are things that are a little bit different. It’s one of the areas that I’ve kind of pushed for, at least in my circles. I think you need a much more uniform injury report across collegiate sports and for the institutions and coaches that are hiding behind HIPAA. You know, that’s great in theory to sit in your ivory tower and say all that about athlete privacy, but in reality, my opinion is that if you make that information transparent, much like you have in the NFL, it keeps the wrong people from nosing around campuses, and spending time on social media feeds of 17 and 18 year olds trying to glean a little bit of an edge.           

Sports bettors are going to do everything they possibly can to get an edge. More often than not, there’s nothing wrong with it. But if you make that information readily available, it can take one potential element out of the equation entirely. 

DR I don’t know that I agree with you that people are not waiting with bated breath to find out the lines on Trinity Bantams hockey games, but I understand where you’re going. 

TR: [laughing] Hey, look, it was funny. I talked to one of the broadcasting crews back then, and one of the guys kind of joking, not knowing my background at all, asked “what would you think that a number would be on this kind of game?” And I go, “Look, you can’t figure out what’s going on with some of these games.” But yeah, that Trinity Bantams at Wesleyan as a travel partner game on a Tuesday night in Hartford, was not drawing a ton of money on the side or total at any particular juncture, other than, us betting a couple of beers on Wesleyan.           

It’s definitely wild, honestly, to see the evolution of the sports betting space over the years and how much has changed. We’d just like to see some of the decision makers be more open to comprehensive dialog and discussion to bring on independent parties and to get some perspective on how some of these things work, rather than pretending that they have all the answers when it’s still very much in the infancy of its development. 

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

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Charles Barkley Is Simply Irreplaceable

Needed: One former NBA Hall of Fame player. Need to have a personality that is larger than life. Can’t be afraid to laugh at himself or have fun with his fellow panelists.

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Screengrab of Charles Barkley on Inside the NBA
Screengrab: Inside the NBA/TNT

Hopefully we find out it’s not true. Maybe it’s a business decision or an attempt to get a better deal elsewhere. Let’s hope that’s the case, because there will be an emptiness on my television screen if there’s no Charles Barkley to entertain. The “Round Mound of Rebound” shocked us all last week by saying after next season, “No matter what happens, next year is going to be my last year on television.” It can’t be real.

Barkley hinted at this a couple of years ago at the All-Star Game, when he spoke on a conference call. Via the Dallas Morning News’ Brad Townsend, Barkley said he has 2 years left on his contract “and that’s probably going to be it for me.” Barkley continued, “It’s been a great, great thing. I love Ernie, Kenny, Shaq and everybody we work with. But I just don’t feel the need to work until the day I die. I don’t, man. I’ll be 61 years old if I finish out my contract. And I don’t want to die on TV. I want to die on the golf course or somewhere fishing. I don’t want to be sitting inside over [by] fat-ass Shaq [waiting] to drop dead.”

After signing a 10-year contract extension, that included an opt-out if TV lost the NBA, Barkley seemed ready to continue to work. He told SiriusXM NBA Radio last month, “I don’t know what’s going to happen with Amazon, ESPN or if we lose it to NBC, so I’m not sure how to answer that question,” Barley said. “I just don’t know. Ernie would not go to another network – I’m damn sure about that. But I would listen; I would listen before I made any decisions.”

Could it be that the other networks involved in NBA coverage made their offers and Barkley wasn’t pleased with any of them? Or as I mentioned at the beginning, is he looking to cash in on ‘low’ offers from the others that may or may not want his services? It’s depressing to think that the boisterous Barkley won’t be part of it all going forward.

We, however, should be prepared if this is the truth and a decision that’s already been made by “Sir Charles”. So let me begin the process of properly saluting Barkley for nearly three decades of a job well done. Let’s coronate the King of the NBA studio shows and give him his due.

Barkley was one hell of a basketball player, he’s a Hall of Famer after all. He won the MVP in 1993. He went to the All-Star Game 11 times and had his #34 retired by the 76’ers and Suns. My point? As good as he was on the court, he’s even better off it. There aren’t many athletes of his caliber that fared as well if not better as an analyst than as a player. I’m sure there’s a young generation of fans who had to be told by a dad, older brother or uncle that Barkley was a great player in his day. It’s actually a compliment, because it means he’s transcending generations with his basketball knowledge and personality.

Let’s pick up on the personality that makes him one of the best to ever analyze. He’s ready, willing and able to be silly, outlandish and outside the box. The man is so confident in all that he does, he doesn’t care what it looks like, he goes with the flow. He can take it but can also dish it out with the best of them.  He has personality and its genuine. That makes him likable whether you agree with him or not. His humor is some of my favorite kind. Unintentional.

Barkley is probably the most honest analyst to ever analyze. He makes a point without tip toeing around things. If a play was bad, he tells you about it. If Charles disagrees with one of his fellow panelists on Inside the NBA, he lets them know about it. Not in the way someone like Stephen A. Smith would, because instead of screaming and carrying on, Barkley just makes his point. He may add some humor to the cause, to lighten the mood, but you know where he’s coming from. His credibility affords him the opportunity to drive something home, in a less combative way than most of the screaming heads on television these days.  

He’s probably one of the best teammates on a television show in history as well. Barkley is likely the most popular and well known of the group, yet he continues to ‘get along’ with everyone. As much as he ‘roasts’ his fellow panelists, you get the sense that there’s a great respect among the former players, who all played different positions in the pros. It’s a rare quality. I think Barkley realizes that the show is greater than the sum of its parts. That’s what makes the show so great. The consistency and respect make it work. 

The problem now is if in fact Barkley follows through on his retirement, his replacements are in a daunting position. It’s hard to be the guy to replace ‘the man’. They can’t be Barkley and if they try, it won’t work out all that well for them. I really haven’t seen anyone out there that can match what Barkley brings to a show or broadcast. Don’t get me wrong there are some very capable former NBA players that show some promise, but not to the extent of replacing Sir Charles. Jamaal Crawford, Vince Carter, Dennis Scott and Richard Jefferson are among the ‘next’ wave of quality analysts, but none are Barkley. JJ Redick is more suited to the game analyst chair than the studio analyst role in my opinion. Basically, what I’m saying here is, Barkley is not replaceable. He brings so much to the table and if anyone tried to copy or tried to be like him, they’d fail. Badly.

What would it take to actually replace him if you don’t believe he’s irreplaceable? Oh, not much. I can just see the ‘want ad’ now:

Needed: One former NBA Hall of Fame player. Need to have a personality that is larger than life. Can’t be afraid to laugh at himself or have fun with his fellow panelists. Must offer ‘takes’ that make people think and have opinions that you will stick with no matter what. Need to have a warm, inviting, non-broadcaster style that will sit well with all audiences, whether they agree with you or not.

Still don’t believe that he’s not replaceable? If you won’t take my word for it, how about that of a well-known and respected broadcaster? In a recent interview on Nothing Personal with David Samson, released earlier in the week, Bob Costas explained why he believes Barkley has the upper hand with TNT management in their ongoing dispute, which was punctuated by Barkley announcing his pending retirement over last weekend.

“Barkley, on a national basis, is as close to indispensable as anyone I can think of. And he knows that if he wants to, wherever basketball ends up, he can go,” Costas said. “Everyone will want him. It might not be the same as Inside the NBA … but he can go wherever he wants to go, and he will be welcome. And if somehow TNT retains the NBA, no one there is going to say, ‘screw him, we don’t like what he said, screw him.’”

I’m going to take it a step further. If they built the Mt. Rushmore of sports analysts, Barkley’s face would be in the George Washington spot. He’s that good. That means he’s a top four guy, keeping some good company. Also on that famous mountain in South Dakota would be Howard Cosell, John Madden and Dick Vitale. All were crucial in growing the sports they covered and becoming more famous in their ‘second’ lives than the first.

Cosell was a lawyer, journalist and radio show host before becoming extremely well known for his ‘hot takes’ on Monday Night Football. Madden of course was an NFL coach for the Raiders, and won a Superbowl title, before becoming an analyst on CBS, NBC and later Fox. He was best known as part of the duo of “Summerall and Madden”, along with Pat Summerall they called national games on CBS and Fox. Vitale was a former NCAA Basketball coach at Detroit-Mercy before hitting it big with his catchphrases and up beat analysis on ESPN.

I’m hoping that Barkley was only speaking out of frustration and that he will not follow through with his threat to retire after next season.  That would be terrible.

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Barrett Media Hires Jeff Lynn to Spearhead Music Radio Coverage

“Adding Jeff to our editorial team to spearhead our music radio coverage is important for building brand identity and trust across the industry.”

Jason Barrett

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Barrett Media is expanding its content focus starting on Monday July 15, 2024. I announced these plans on May 6, 2024. Since then, I’ve had many conversations to identify the right person to bring our vision to life. Music radio will be our first addition. Coverage of tech and podcasting will come next.

Making sure we’ve got our finger on the pulse of the music radio business is the first step. With over 11,000 stations nationwide playing music, and entertaining listeners, there’s no shortage of stories to tell. I maintain that coverage of the music radio industry isn’t sufficient. We’re not going to solve every problem and nail every story but we’re going to work our tails off to try and make things better.

So, how can you help us? Email [email protected] so we’re aware of your success, career related news, and how to reach you for future feature stories. Sharing our content on social media and telling folks about the website once it’s live is another easy way to offer support.

To avoid any confusion, we will not be writing daily news on artists and record label activity. It’s why I’ve continued to mention ‘music radio’ each time I promote this expansion. We’re looking to focus our coverage on broadcasters, brands, companies, ratings, content, etc.. Artists and music labels may become part of our coverage down the road, but that’s not our immediate focus.

Which leads me to today’s announcement regarding our Editor. I spoke with a lot of smart, talented people for this role. Adding someone with management experience, who has a passion to write, a can-do attitude, a love for the industry, and relationships across formats is very important. I’ve found that person, and hope you’ll join me in welcoming Jeff Lynn as Barrett Media’s first ever Music Radio Editor.

Jeff’s experience in the music radio business spans nearly 25 years. He’s been a program director for iHeart, Townsquare Media, NRG Media, and Rubber City Radio Group. Those opportunities led him to Milwaukee/Madison, WI, Cleveland/Akron, OH, Des Moines/Quad Cities, IA and Omaha, NE. All Access then hired him in 2022 to leave the programing world and serve as a Country Format Editor, and manager of the outlet’s Nashville Record promotions. He remained in that role until August 2023 when the outlet shut down.

“I am honored to join the team at Barrett Media to guide the brand’s Music Radio coverage”, said Jeff Lynn. “Radio has been a lifelong passion and pursuit of mine. To be able to tell stories of the great work being done by radio pros and broadcast groups is very exciting. They are stories that need to be told. I can’t wait to get started.”

Jeff Lynn with Jelly Roll

I added Ron Harrell, Robby Bridges, and Kevin Robinson as columnists two weeks ago. Bob Lawrence and Keith Berman then joined us this past Monday. We’re quickly assembling a talented stable of writers, and with Jeff on board as our Editor, we’re almost ready for prime time. The only thing left to do is hire a few features reporters. I’m planning to finalize those decisions next week.

Building this brand and making it a daily destination for music radio professionals will take time. It starts with adding talented people, covering the news, and creating interesting content consistently. If we do things right, I’m confident the industry’s support will follow. Time will tell if my instincts are right or wrong.

Jeff begins his new role with Barrett Media on July 1st. Adding him to our editorial team to spearhead our music radio coverage is important for both building brand identity and trust across the industry. I’m eager to work with him, and hope you’ll take a moment to say hello and offer your congratulations. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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