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Tony Gwynn Jr. Made His Own Name in San Diego

“People got a chance to see that I wasn’t my father and [that] I had a personality.”

Derek Futterman



Tony Gwynn Jr.
Courtesy: Nelvin C. Cepeda, The San Diego Union-Tribune

The San Diego Padres have called Petco Park home since 2004, three years after the retirement of the franchise’s most accomplished player: Tony Gwynn. Within the park grounds, there is a statue of Gwynn, listing all of his career statistics and paying homage to the 15-time All-Star. After his career, he was the head coach at San Diego State University for 12 seasons, and also worked as a broadcaster for ESPN and Fox Sports San Diego.

Looking down on the field from the press level one spring day, Gwynn saw a Padres player donning a jersey with his last name on it. It was at that moment when Padres fans were formally introduced to Tony Gwynn Jr. – the major leaguer – after an early-season trade in 2009. In fact, Gwynn broke the news to his son that he was being traded from the Milwaukee Brewers to the San Diego Padres. On the same day, Gwynn Jr. ended up scoring the winning run for the Friars, marking a special moment for the family. Yet he knew the San Diego community long beforehand and was familiar with the Padres’ fanbase.

When the junior Gwynn was young, he accompanied his father at Jack Murphy Stadium and was able to consume the game from a unique vantage point. When he was not at the ballpark, he would either watch the games on television or listen on the radio. As the years passed by, his love of sports broadened to more than just baseball, and he was simultaneously becoming more proficient in its vernacular. Sports media fascinated him.

“I didn’t necessarily know that I would want to do it when I got older,” Gwynn said, “but as I got close to retirement, I knew I wanted to be involved in the game of baseball. I also knew that my knowledge that I had gained over time and just being so interested in all sports could end up in different avenues.”

Gwynn’s father was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 2007 – his first year of eligibility. Seventy-thousand fans made the trip to Cooperstown, N.Y. and listened as they accepted baseball’s highest honor. Throughout the speech, Gwynn Sr. emphasized various lessons he taught his son and passed onto the sport as a whole regarding work ethic and overcoming challenges. Now, that son is looking to cement his own legacy as a broadcaster and be one of the best in the industry.

While Gwynn Jr. had the chance to interact with broadcast icons including Vin Scully, the conversations took place before becoming fully immersed in sports media. As the son of a superstar athlete, Gwynn was afforded unparalleled access and developed an innate knack for the game. Through interacting and listening to radio voices such as Jon Miller, Gwynn had somewhat of a basis to cultivate his own style; however, it was unbeknownst to “America’s Finest City.”

“I think on the broadcasting side, my baseball internal voice was built on listening to the games on the radio,” Gwynn said. “There wasn’t as much television time as there is now, so I was always intrigued [by] that element.”

Instead, Gwynn started his broadcast career nearly two hours north in Los Angeles as part of the DodgerTalk postgame show on AM 570 LA Sports. After departing the Padres as a player in 2010, Gwynn played two seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team’s archrival. 

“In LA, they don’t necessarily want you to sugarcoat it. They want you to be on the team when it’s not doing things specifically,” Gwynn said. “That was initially difficult – when you’re fresh out of the game criticizing dudes you know worked their tail off is not a comfortable place to be. Learning how to manage that, I think, was a huge help starting in that market in particular.”

Aside from determining the best way to discuss the game, Gwynn also learned about the business side of sports media and how to responsibly carry out his role. 

“I remember my first time just being too candid about a specific sponsor and then after we went to break, [they] said, ‘Hey, you can’t do that,’” Gwynn remembered. “It was a silly mistake, but it was one that I learned early.”

Following the 2016 season, Gwynn Jr. returned to San Diego and took on a similar role his father had held. The next season, he split his time between FOX Sports San Diego on its pregame and postgame show, and joined Jesse Agler as a color commentator for select games on 94.9 KBZT-FM, an alternative station serving as the team’s flagship home.

The city was recovering from losing its football team to Los Angeles, and others perceived its fans as disloyal. Where many saw a glaring deficiency, Gwynn saw an opportunity to help reshape the sound of sports talk in the area – coinciding with the launch of 97.3 The Fan.

“It’s made it a little bit easier that the folks here in San Diego have to focus really only on one major sports [team] and their college teams,” Gwynn said of the Chargers’ departure. “I think because of that, it’s almost kind of directed everybody’s attention in one direction, whereas when the Chargers were here and you had the Padres, there was always kind of diversions going on.”

Gwynn joined the station from its inception in April 2018 after it reformatted from a talk, comedy and music format, and has been working with Chris Ello in afternoons ever since. As a co-host on Gwynn & Chris, his goal is to tap into the conversation in the area, which spans both locally and nationally. During the baseball season, the Padres are the primary topic, and while some people may think he loathes the offseason, he embraces it and uses it as an opportunity to expand the discussion.

“There was a period of time where everybody was pissed at the Chargers, but everybody also loves football,” Gwynn said. “In some ways, I enjoy that part of the year just as much because doing the analyst side on the radio and talking about it from April to October, I like the change-up. We definitely do our part come the end of baseball season to really show our diversity in terms of our knowledge of sports.”

The natural progression of the program is a fundamental aspect of maintaining the show’s appeal – especially after finishing with a 9.0 share at the top of the most recent ratings book. While ratings and advertising revenue are critical to engendering success, the fiscal markers do not encompass the definition in its entirety. 

“When people can turn on the radio and tune in and they can hear a conversation that they would be having with their friends, I think ultimately is just as important as those ratings,” Gwynn said. “They’re one in the same – if you have those types of conversations consistently, you have the ratings that you’re looking for.”

Gwynn was not the full-time radio analyst for Padres games until the start of last season – which have been broadcast on 97.3 The Fan since 2018 – creating a complicated situation involving balancing his commitments with the outlet. In traveling with the team, he needs to prepare for both the program and baseball game every day throughout the season. There is overlap between the two since the Padres are a frequent topic of discussion on the radio show, and Gwynn feels the job became more facile upon finding a rhythm. When he first arrived in San Diego as a broadcaster though, there was somewhat of a learning curve to become acclimated to his new role. 

“I think in some ways when I first started out, [I] kind of [had] that kind of just ‘eyes wide open,’ and [I was] so naïve to things that you don’t even necessarily pick up,” Gwynn said. “To me, coming to work and talking [about] sports was just fun.”

The impetus to continue the delicate balance is embedded within his intrinsic enamorment towards sports. Being a former player and the son of a Hall of Famer, he has a deft understanding of all things baseball. Some of these perspectives, however, can be incomprehensible to the average listener, hence why he works at expressing these complex points in a lucid manner. It is something Gwynn’s father was able to discern and accomplish as a player and broadcaster.

“If there’s a gift that I did get from him, it certainly has been being able to explain some of the more nuanced parts of the game in a way that the common man who’s never played can understand,” Gwynn said of his father. “I think that’s important, especially as we get into so many more analytical, data-driven statistics that are difficult to understand if you haven’t played. Part of my job is being able to break those things down and give our fans a way to keep up with the game as it’s evolving right now.”

Gwynn does not consider himself to have an ego on the radio. Even so, he tries not to limit future opportunities on television regularly. He also sees the value in having his radio show syndicated on a national platform, bringing San Diego sports talk to speakers across the nation. 

“I genuinely love sports, and I don’t see that changing any time soon,” Gwynn said. “That’s my motivation – I think as long as I continue to have that feeling, I could probably do this job for a very, very, very long time.”

Despite being a former member of the Padres and frequently appearing near the organization, working in sports media has allowed Gwynn to further establish his own identity. Over the years, many baseball fans saw him solely as the son of “Mr. Padre,” diminishing the anomalies that render him unique and a true savant of the game. As a sports radio host and color commentator, he has had the opportunity to routinely speak for himself.

“People got a chance to recognize outside of baseball that I know my stuff when it comes to sports,” Gwynn said. “I think that kind of allowed for there to be a space where people weren’t viewing me as Tony Gwynn’s son, and I think part of that also is the fact that I played eight years in the big leagues. People got a chance to see that I wasn’t my father and [that] I had a personality.”

Even though Gwynn and Agler work on the radio broadcast, they noticed what transpired regarding the team’s television broadcasts. Earlier in the summer, Bally Sports San Diego’s parent company, Diamond Sports Group, neglected to pay the team its media rights fee on schedule. After a month-long grace period without payment, Major League Baseball assumed control of the media rights, seemingly the first example of Diamond Sports Group selectively rejecting a contract under Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

While the scenario merely eschewed the radio broadcast in terms of sheer cume, it epitomizes the fleeting stability of traditional, local broadcasting and makes a search for the best path forward rather ambiguous.

“For a long time now even before I got into radio, people have been telling us that radio was dying – and here we are 10 years later [where] radio’s still going strong,” Gwynn said. “You can make a point that it’s actually gotten stronger in that time. I don’t worry about it as much, [but] certainly as the unfortunate situation with Bally happened, you knew that there could be more listeners.”

Following a 2022 season where the team was just three wins away from a World Series appearance, the Padres have had a frustrating 2023 campaign. The return of Fernando Tatís Jr., who was suspended for using a performance-enhancing drug, along with the acquisition of Xander Bogaerts altered a batting order anchored by Manny Machado, Juan Soto and Jake Cronenworth. 

While the lineup is one of the league’s best on paper, it has fallen short of expectations and classified the Padres among the most disappointing teams in the National League. Any quality broadcaster needs to know how to deliver criticism devoid of impetuous attacks, and Gwynn has diligently ensured he stays within those boundaries.

When Gwynn first began playing baseball, there was a stigma pertaining to athletes with asthma, which he suffers from, being able to compete at a high level. By the end of his career, that narrative was silenced – and his son, who also deals with the lung disease, continued to play with that fortitude. Gwynn passed away four years after his Hall of Fame induction following a protracted battle with parotid cancer. It was a devastating moment for the Gwynn family, fans of the San Diego Padres, the baseball community and the world spanning beyond sports.

Once the public learned of his death, they laid flowers in front of his statue behind the ballpark, granting the community a place to mourn and gather. Oftentimes fans at the ballpark use the statue as a meeting place, exuding reverence for Gwynn and cognizance that he is their franchise player. Today, Gwynn Jr. is a national ambassador for the American Lung Association and a member of its leadership board in San Diego, through which he uses his platform to inform others of the significance of lung health.

“I think that is a super important thing, especially for the underserved communities out there,” Gwynn said. “A lot of it is access – when you get the information out to those communities, they can make better choices from there.”

Gwynn is not eligible to join his father in Cooperstown, but he is on a trajectory to be among baseball immortality – something that could, perhaps, come as a future recipient of the distinguished Ford C. Frick Award. The honor is typically bestowed upon a play-by-play announcer, but it does not define the parameters of what it considers to be a broadcaster. Tim McCarver was the last analyst to be given the distinction in 2012, and Gwynn hopes he is not the last.

Heeding his father’s advice from the time he was young, remaining prepared, adaptable and equipped with a fervor for the craft has served Gwynn well. In spite of the success, he resists becoming complacent and yearns to improve with every broadcast whether that is at the ballpark or in the studio. Sports media is continuously getting to know Gwynn, and he is determined to further emerge in the content ecosystem and, ultimately, leave an indelible legacy.

“Wouldn’t that be something to get into the Hall of Fame as an analyst on the baseball side?,” Gwynn said. “I think that’d be pretty cool.”

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Matt McClearin is Not Just Filling a Void at The Ticket

“As much as I dreamt about this opportunity, it’s even more so than I probably could ever have dreamt.”

Derek Futterman



Matt McClearin
Courtesy: Matt McClearin

Norm Hitzges is considered an industry pioneer, helping establish morning sports talk radio in the Dallas area. Spending a total of 48 years in the format, he made an immense contribution to the field. When Hitzges officially retired in June, there were questions surrounding who would move into the midday slot on Sportsradio 96.7 and 1310 The Ticket to work alongside host Donovan Lewis. The station eventually made the decision to bring one of its own home in Matt McClearin, and he has excelled in the assignment since officially taking over in August.

McClearin, a Texas native who grew up listening to Hitzges and other programs on the outlet, is living his dream with the medium he set his sights on from the time he was young. Over the years, he had a chance to be around Hitzges and saw his elite level of preparation and congeniality firsthand.

“One of the kindest humans I think that I’ve ever met,” McClearin said of Hitzges, “especially in this business, and that says a lot, I think, about how to carry yourself. Even when you have success and get to a certain level, [knowing] the right way to treat people and the right way to go about your daily business.”

It is safe to say that Hitzges had an impact on everyone at The Ticket, and it is a legacy that McClearin hopes to further perpetuate. Every time he walks into the studios, it is not lost on him the magnitude of the assignment he has been entrusted with, and he remains focused and driven on realizing his full potential.

Reaching this point took endurance and patience, but the timing ultimately ended up working out in his best interest. Growing up in the metroplex, The Ticket was a fundamental part of the sports sound and represented McClearin’s innate ambition.

McClearin was selected by station management to work in paid positions for two years while attending Texas State University – production director and program director – which entailed 20 to 25 hours per week within the offices and studio. In addition to working on job-specific functions, he also used the time to perfect his editing skills and board operating procedures and gain on-air repetitions. By the time he graduated and sought to apply for a job, he surmised that possessing versatility would engender a larger swath of chances to become immersed in the craft.

“Originally, [I was] kind of practicing the craft as much as [I] could and learning as much as I could,” McClearin said. “I could increase [my] value, I think, of being able to walk into a radio station in Dallas in a Top 5 market and say, ‘I can run the board; I can do production [and] I can do on-air stuff,’ but not just talk.”

By happenstance, he learned that The Ticket was looking for a part-time sports anchor to fill in for various shows, leading him to send his demo reel to the outlet. After some conversations with station management, McClearin officially joined the team and became immersed in refining his on-air skillset with guidance from program director Jeff Catlin.

“He’s very hands-on [by], early on, giving you a lot of constructive criticism and helping you to learn the ins and outs and proper formatics and how to set up each segment correctly,” McClearin said of Catlin. “Doing things like that and having those opportunities [are things] I always enjoyed.”

McClearin eventually began working as a pregame and postgame studio host for Dallas Stars broadcasts. Moreover, he would attend Dallas Cowboys games and collect audio from the players and coaches to edit and send back to the radio station to be used across its programming.

Working hard and going the extra mile helped separate McClearin from his competition both inside and outside of the radio station, ultimately earning him a weekend show with Scot Harrison. His candid assessments of the local teams and ability to delegate on the show, indifferent towards whether or not he is the center of attention, have rendered his hosting abilities conducive to success.

“I’m just a big believer in being who you are and being real and presenting that on the air,” McClearin said, “so no matter what you’re going through or what’s different about you, there are listeners out there that can connect with that and understand that you’re being real.”

The program remained a fixture on the weekends before both hosts were offered the chance to become part of the weekday programming lineup, following sports radio luminary Paul Finebaum. This opening, however, would require McClearin and Harrison to pick up and move to Birmingham so they could broadcast from the studios of Jox 94.5.

Both hosts eventually agreed and spent the next three-and-a-half years on the outlet, growing a new audience and becoming an indispensable part of the evenings in the area. There are certain instances in any business that are fugacious and unexpected in nature though, and the show cancellation in 2016 was an example of such.

McClearin returned to Dallas to work as a part-time radio host on ESPN Radio 103.3 FM, an extraordinary circumstance in that he was in the same building he used to work in with The Ticket. The station was operating under a local marketing agreement (LMA) with Cumulus Media and competing with the very outlet they were sharing the building with, cultivating a professional atmosphere mired by the ratings. The onset of the global pandemic caused the station to shutter.

“It was one of those things where you’ve just got to believe in what you’re doing and believe that there’s an appeal to what you’re doing,” McClearin said. “You get hired for a reason, and you continue to perform and try to grow what we were doing at the time.”

Catlin continued to serve as a mentor for McClearin during his years away from The Ticket, a venerable radio professional who has helped further build the outlet into a local powerhouse. The station frequently posts stellar ratings each quarter, representing a place where McClearin feels he can grow his brand and show to unrealized heights.

“The goal is to be No. 1 in the ratings in our [demographic] and to continue that,” McClearin said. “That’s something that I think drives me every day. When you’re not No. 1, you want to know, ‘Okay, well why aren’t we No. 1?,’ and when you get to that point, the question then becomes, ‘Okay, well how do we maintain this and continue to go and be better and bigger than what we were the previous month?’”

Before he ultimately returned to The Ticket to work with Lewis in the midday time slot, there was a bit of irony in that he, once again, called Birmingham home. When McClearin’s original program was canceled, he felt as if he had assimilated into the city and found his niche. He was disappointed in the outcome and always thought of the area in a favorable light, which then led to his phone ringing with a call from program director Ryan Haney.

As fortune would have it, Haney asked McClearin if he would be interested in returning to the station to host a solo program as part of a refreshed local lineup. Without hesitation, he conveyed that he would be interested in making a comeback in the locale, a full-circle moment filled with feelings of both satisfaction and gratitude.

“I never thought that I would go back to Alabama, much less work for the same station that, five years prior, had made the decision to let, at the time, Scot Harrison and I go,” McClearin said. “….I never wanted to leave in the first place, [so] I was really, really happy and I’m very fortunate that Ryan believed in me and gave me that opportunity to come back.”

The dynamic of the show differed the second time around in that he was the primary host, yet he also had help from John Saber and Conrad Van Order. Being around the Birmingham audience for a second time gave him more chances to talk about college football, basketball and other sports topics dominating the local and national scene.

Moving from one marketplace more focused on professional teams to one that was dominated by college sports, he furthered his abilities and worked to finish at the top of the ratings.

“I say the things that I actually believe in and I talk about the things that I really do to where, yes, sometimes I think I probably do some weird things and I’m a different type of person, but that’s just my personality and I have my quirks and my eccentricities,” McClearin said. “Again, I think if I present that and that is me, then the audience understands that and I think it comes across that way.”

Just as he thought during his initial stint in Birmingham, McClearin was prepared to stay in the marketplace for the long haul and try to further cement his name in the radio airwaves. Being able to reconnect with the audience and discuss meaningful, impactful topics was validating and worthwhile for him, and he was especially steadfast to the outlet. After all, he never had a particular interest in voyaging to television and still, to this day, concentrates his efforts on growing and maintaining the sports radio format.

“My brain just doesn’t think like that in those three-minute little quips that you do,” McClearin said. “TV is just so much more structured and short than radio, where we can have a 15-minute segment and have a real conversation.”

The only way McClearin was going to leave the station was if The Ticket came along, and sure enough, an opening became available concurrent with Hitzges’ retirement. While he enjoyed his time in Birmingham, he doubled down on his commitment to the Dallas-Fort Worth marketplace for the long run in making this move and conceding a solo program for a new co-host.

“When I got the call and went through the process with Jeff Catlin, [it] was a little bit surreal because it truly is a dream coming true,” McClearin said. “I found out that they’re going to put me with Donovan Lewis is kind of when Norm Hitzges decided to retire and I was going to walk in, [and] it’s really such a new show. Donovan and Norm had had such success for a while.”

As soon as McClearin took the air with Lewis for the first time, he felt an instant connection. Just a few months into the program, both hosts know there is plenty of room for growth and consistent improvement to create enthralling and proprietary content that will amplify cume and serve the community.

“We both are just two people, I think, that really care about the listener [and] what we’re putting together each and every day to make it the best that we can,” McClearin said. “So far, it’s been really easy and it’s been just – as much as I dreamt about this opportunity, it’s even more so than I probably could ever have dreamt.”

The Ticket is in competition with 105.3 The Fan in the Dallas-Fort Worth marketplace, along with other media outlets across various platforms. Whereas the Birmingham market releases its ratings through quarterly diaries, Dallas has monthly figures through PPM, but he makes sure the influx of quantitative data does not command his mindset.

“We can all see the ratings that the two main sports stations here have – they’re very healthy ratings and I think there’s a real hunger,” McClearin said. “A lot of that is football-driven – the Cowboys, nationally, are crazy relevant. All the [networks with] NBC and ABC and FOX and everybody; they always want to put them on because the Cowboys drive the needle. Well, they also drive the needle in Dallas very, very much so.”

Understanding and capitalizing on the reach and relevance of the Cowboys helps these local programs gain further traction. Arriving unprepared equates to marketplace malfeasance.

“Prep is very important to me, and I like to try to come into the pre-show meeting that I have with Donovan and our producer Travis every day with my own ideas, but also, ‘Okay, Donnie, what do you think?,’ and then, ‘Travis, what do you think about that?,’” McClearin said. “From that and our own individual prep, we kind of do the show prep together [to present] the in-depth segments that we roll out.”

The majority of content focuses on the Cowboys since they are the team that exhorts the most interest in the area, but there are plenty of other storylines within the landscape. The Texas Rangers are headed to the Major League Baseball postseason for the first time since 2016, while the Dallas Mavericks organization enters its first full season with superstar guard tandem Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving. Sometimes, sports fans do not want to solely listen to discussions about the teams themselves but rather hear about other pertinent topics in which they may be interested.

“I like to call them, I guess, lifestyle segments because I don’t think anybody, even the most passionate sports fan, only does sports in their life,” McClearin said. “We all have relationships and we have TV shows that we like to watch, and we went to the store and [some] random thing happened. We incorporate that, I think, into the show, and I think that’s The Ticket itself. It’s a very real station that has real conversations with a focus on sports.”

Everything throughout McClearin’s professional journey has centered on reaching this moment, and he wants to maximize the opportunity he has earned by bringing his best to the air on a daily basis.

From the onset, he knew where he wanted to end up and took the necessary steps to get there, even if it meant enduring some difficult setbacks. By taking advantage of every opportunity in his purview, he has made it in front of the microphone, and he has no plans on going anywhere at any time soon.

“I want to continue to grow the audience and have as many people enjoy doing what I love to do as possible,” McClearin said. “I get a lot of motivation from that [and] just the excitement of driving into the station every day and the excitement of when that light comes on and it’s time for the show. It’s like being on stage to me; it’s almost like you just get kind of high off of that feeling, and I love it.”

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3 Questions to Ask Before Booking a Guest

Nobody has more passion for your show than you do. Be very careful who you invite to share that passion.

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In my formative years of sports talk, the legendary Rush Limbaugh was at the absolute height of his popularity. Limbaugh had a very simple formula, nobody could argue against the success of that formula. Each hour was pretty much the same; a monologue or two, a sound bite, a few phone callers, and lengthy reactions to those calls. One thing that was absent was a guest, Limbaugh almost never had a guest on his show.

He was once asked about that and maintained there isn’t a guest that has the same passion for his show as he does so, why hand the show over to someone without that passion? It is an intriguing and thought-provoking strategy.

Each show has a unique approach to guests; the type that work, the length of the interview, the times they should be on. There is no cookie-cutter approach that works for every show in every market. I do think a strategy for a show as it relates to guests is absolutely crucial. Scheduling them without first answering a few “whys” would be a critical mistake. We only get so much time with each listener, few things can run them off like a bad one.

More on the “whys” in a moment but I first need to address what I believe to be a misconception. I often hear that a show is good because “it gets great guests”. That may be a plus for the listener but I refuse to believe it is what makes a show great.

Ultimately, a show is great because the entire production is entertaining. Guests are only part of what makes a show entertaining. Even two in an hour on a show still leaves the hosts having to fill the majority of the time. If they aren’t entertaining hosts, there isn’t a guest alive that makes the show good. All of that gets me to the “Whys”.

Why is this guest on?

There must be a reason to hand part of your show over to a guest. They must be extremely entertaining, covering a topic that is of great interest to your audience, or be someone you know beyond a shadow of a doubt your audience loves.

If you can get at least two of those three, you have a winner.

Otherwise, it feels like a segment filler and I think most audience members can spot a segment filler from miles away. I get it, I’ve done small market shows solo before and felt like I was the only one listening. I know the appeal of having someone to help fill a segment.

The truth is, it does more harm than good if it isn’t entertaining.

Why does this guest want to be on?

Every guest you have on has an ulterior motive. It is part of the transaction: They scratch your back and they get something out of it. The more they feel they get out of it, the more likely they are to give you a better interview.

Having someone who understands the value of a spot on your show will exponentially increase the interest and effort of that guest in their given segment. Simply put, if they’re not into it, the segment isn’t going to work.

I’ve seen shows chase the “big name guest” and the big name has very little interest in the interview. It shows. We once had a former athlete turned analyst on our show who was doing the interview on speakerphone while he was packing for a trip. He could not have been less interested in doing the interview and I still don’t know why he agreed. It was a show killer.

I don’t care how big the name is, if the big name just goes through the motions, it will be a failure.

Why is this YOUR guest?

Most topics you’ll discuss on a show have numerous possibilities tied to them. Rarely is there only one guest that can discuss that topic. Try finding the person who has the best chemistry with your show. Show chemistry matters when selecting hosts, I think it should matter just as much when selecting guests. It is likely your show has a unique personality of its own, lean into that when you are selecting guests.

As an example, my show is far more likely to discuss a player’s haircut rather than his NextGen Stats. When we have someone on, it is important to us that they understand that and isn’t thrown off by it. That is an understanding of the chemistry of the show and the importance of that to the audience. I think every booking has to be viewed through that prism.

Ultimately, I have always believed having no guest is far better than having a bad guest. If people are consuming your show, they already value your opinion and insight, don’t lend that audience trust to someone who will not value it to some extent. Rush Limbaugh may have taken it to extremes, he was good at that, and he was also correct in his assessment.

Nobody has more passion for your show than you do. Be very careful who you invite to share that passion.

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Gregg Giannotti is Living the Dream at WFAN

“I don’t take it for granted. I appreciate every show, every hour and every minute.”

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Gregg Giannotti
Courtesy: Audacy

When Gregg Giannotti was hired as an intern at WFAN in 2005, he had big dreams. His ultimate objective was to not just one day get on the air at the legendary all-sports radio station, but to occupy a portion of WFAN’s prime real estate. 

In radio industry terms that means morning drive, middays, or afternoon drive and the Long Island native would embark on a career path that has taken him to the co-host chair of the Boomer & Gio morning show on WFAN and simulcast on CBS Sports Network.

“You never really know if it’s going to happen,” said Giannotti. “When it does happen, it’s sort of a shock and it took me at least six months to a year to realize that I was actually doing it and then you want to make sure that you keep doing it because this business is very fickle.”

After graduating from the WFAN newsroom, Giannotti became a full-time employee in 2007, becoming a board op and then a producer, most notably for Joe & Evan, hosted by Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts. In 2008, he had his first opportunity to host a show on WFAN and then in 2010, he left New York to help launch 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh. After six months as the evening host, Giannotti was promoted to host the morning show, a program that became the top-rated sports show in town. 

After five years in Pittsburgh, Gregg Giannotti returned home to New York to co-host the morning show with Brian Jones on CBS Sports Radio, and then in 2017 he moved down the hall on the 10th floor of 345 Hudson Street in New York City when he was named to replace Craig Carton as co-host of WFAN’s morning show.

“The fact that now I’m sitting here in year six with Boomer and it’s so comfortable, it feels so good and we all trust one another and we all really enjoy seeing each other,” said Giannotti.  “After the tumultuous way that everything started, the cliché is that it’s a dream come true but it really is. This is all I ever wanted to do.”

And he’s doing it with people who have had a big impact on his life and his career.

The legendary Eddie Scozzare, who hired Giannotti as an intern, serves as Boomer & Gio’s board op and is best known for his ability to play the appropriate “drops” at just the right time.

Morning show update anchor Jerry Recco, who will also fill in as host when Giannotti and/or Boomer are off, trained Gio in the newsroom during his internship.

Giannotti has always been a big fan of producer Al Dukes who has enjoyed a storied career and is a student of radio.

And then, of course, there’s his co-host, former NFL MVP and fellow native Long Islander Boomer Esiason.

When Gregg Giannotti joined the WFAN morning show, he had big shoes to fill in replacing Carton, whose arrest and prison sentence sent shockwaves through the station and the industry.

Boomer & Carton was a successful show for a decade and radio listeners can be creatures of habit. The audience loved the show and then, all of a sudden, there was someone new sitting next to Boomer.

When Giannotti took up residence in that chair vacated by Carton, he knew he had a huge responsibility.

“It was up to me to make sure that the audience didn’t leave and wanted to be a part of what we were doing,” said Giannotti. “You go from that day in 2017 where no one knew what their future was going to be and things were scary for a lot of people and their opportunities. You couldn’t have written a better script for the comeback story for Craig and how Boomer & Carton turned into Boomer & Gio and the radio station didn’t skip a beat in morning drive.”

Giannotti has been a smashing success because, as many people in the industry will tell you, he “gets it”. He has a clear understanding of what should go into a show, particularly a morning show, and that means knowing who your audience is.

Growing up on Long Island listening to WFAN certainly gave Giannotti a leg up on others who may have aspired to work at the nation’s first all-sports radio station.

“I grew up as one of those guys who would get in the car and have a miserable commute and put on WFAN,” said Giannotti. “What you try to do is to understand what your audience wants, what they’re expecting out of you, and in morning drive, you want to entertain. There’s a lot of times where you have to know the spot that you’re in and understand who you are and who your audience is.”

Being entertaining during a morning show is vitally important to being a success. The discussion is not always about sports and there are times during the year when the sports world, especially locally, could be going through a slow period. That’s when a morning show has to spend some time on pop culture, radio station drama, and politics and doing whatever needs to be done to keep the listeners engaged.

Gregg Giannotti was clearly born with the gift of gab and the ability to entertain, a trait that began in fourth grade when he started making fun of his teachers and doing something that he has been known for throughout his career…doing impressions.

“There’s an ability to entertain that I think some people have and some people don’t,” said Giannotti. “There’s an ability that some people are born with that can do it and some can’t.”

Clearly, Giannotti is in the category of those who can.

His long list of impersonations includes long-time legendary WFAN host Joe Benigno.

“Benigno is probably the easiest one,” said Giannotti. “It always gets a laugh and I think it’s the most authentic and the one that sounds the best so it’s definitely at the very top.”

Giannotti also gets everyone laughing with his impersonations of former WFAN hosts Mike Francesa and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo but at the top of the list now is a New York sports executive.

“My favorite, if I could just pick one, is when I do the Sean Marks, the GM of the Brooklyn Nets, and his Australian/New Zealand accent when he treats (WFAN host) Evan Roberts like a little kid,” said Giannotti.

There are different paths to being a success in the radio industry. With technology today, there are those who go down the road of being a YouTube sensation or hosting a podcast in order to get noticed.  For Gregg Giannotti, the choice was to leave New York for Pittsburgh and work his way back home.

He will always cherish his five years at 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh.

“It was the best thing that I ever could have done because I took that risk,” said Giannotti. “I really needed that in my career to get me to where I am now because it was essentially like going to college to learn how to deal with all of the major things you have to deal with when you’re doing big-time drive time radio. It was perfect. I could have stayed there if things didn’t work out the way they did with my wife being from there. I had dreams of getting back to New York that I couldn’t let die.” 

And those dreams have indeed come true for Gregg Giannotti with the success of Boomer & Gio on WFAN.

“I don’t take it for granted,” said Giannotti. “I appreciate every show, every hour, and every minute.”

To succeed, you have to dream big and follow the correct career path. You also have to have the talent to entertain. Gregg Giannotti has certainly checked all of those boxes and the results speak for themselves.

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