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WFAN Starts Its Next Chapter

“The good news about FAN is the brand is so strong. It has proven that it can survive any loss.”

Derek Futterman



WFAN New Programming Lineup 2023
WFAN Logo - Courtesy: Audacy

When Craig Carton began hosting his morning show on FOX Sports 1 last September, it opened the door to the possibility of his departure from WFAN. Carton had served a federal prison sentence for wire and securities fraud, and upon being released from imprisonment, returned to his former radio station, teaming up with Evan Roberts in afternoons. The duo quickly propelled their show to the top of the ratings, retaining a strong position throughout the lifespan of the Carton & Roberts show.

Carton, however, was not working under a contract for nine months as he ruminated on his broadcast future. On one hand, he had to worry about making restitution to those he previously afflicted, but he also wanted to make amends with his family, friends and colleagues. 

Although the ratings for his television show were low out of the gate, FOX Sports 1 ostensibly sees potential for growth – especially as Undisputed continues its two-month hiatus. Because of these factors, the network reportedly made Carton a more lucrative contract offer in exchange for media exclusivity. Outside of his podcast on gambling addiction titled Hello, My Name is Craig, Carton no longer works with Audacy and is now dedicated to his FOX Sports 1 show on a full-time basis.

“‘I was always a loyal watcher of his show, but now that we’re not doing the radio show anymore, do I still have to watch the show?,’” Roberts remembers asking Carton. “I find myself watching it less, but I still check in with him. What I love about him is that I think he knows so much about radio [and he] taught me not just working together, but even when he was doing mornings.”

Upon coming to the decision to leave WFAN last month, Carton made sure to thank everyone involved in helping to restore his career. The person, however, that he credits most for his comeback was Audacy New York Market President Chris Oliviero. A fixture at WFAN since the early 2000s, Oliviero visited Carton while he was incarcerated and promised that he would be there for him if he got everything back in order. The visit did not guarantee a job offer, but rather represented an assurance that his congeniality would always be there.

“To me, when people you know who become friends have problems or issues, you don’t abandon them; you don’t run from them,” Oliviero said. “It’s well-documented what he did, [and] it’s well-documented that he did his penance. Just like hopefully any good friend would do, you stay in touch with people, even when they’re down.”

Changes had to be made to maintain the quality of programming without Carton, widely considered an elite-level talent. Audacy’s Vice President of Programming at WFAN and CBS Sports Radio, Spike Eskin, knows these changes, which he instituted without advice from others, are something he will need to stand behind and justify to listeners if necessary. While dividing former midday tandem Brandon Tierney and Tiki Barber in different dayparts did not represent the station’s first choice, management ultimately came to a conclusion that it was the best path forward.

“I didn’t want to break up any shows, but ultimately we have to have the best shows,” Eskin said, admitting he was hesitant to separate Tierney and Barber, who were having success in middays. “If that means some uncomfortable moments now for us to win long term, that’s what we’ll do.”

Both Oliviero and Eskin affirm that the goal was not to replace Carton. Doing so is impossible. Instead, the station recognized that Roberts had significantly grown as a host to lead a new program and cultivate an organic, local sound.

“The good news about FAN is the brand is so strong. It has proven that it can survive any loss,” Oliviero said. “There’s been a lot of losses at this station over its history… but the station has always continued to succeed.”

Roberts’s new partner is Tiki Barber, giving WFAN the traditional broadcaster and ex-jock dynamic in afternoons. Evan & Tiki continues to be simulcast on SNY for its final two hours, an aspect of the day that Roberts says changes nothing except the branded microphone windscreens.

Evan Roberts

“The biggest adjustment I had – more so than even working with Tiki because I think it’s easy [since] we’re talking [and] we’re having fun – was [that] I switched seats,” Roberts said. “I went from a seat where I never saw the TV, never saw the camera [and] forgot we were on TV.

“Now, I’m going to sit where I can kind of see it in the corner of my eye, and I always try not to look because we’re not doing a TV show – we’re doing a radio show – and I think that’s what the people want.”

“I look at the camera,” Barber said, leading the show’s cast to erupt in laughter.

Barber, along with on-air contributor Shaun Morash and executive producer Tommy Lugauer gather in Roberts’ office before each show to review the rundown and determine the best approach. Adorned on the walls of the room, which was formerly Carton’s office, are photos of the Brooklyn Nets former “Big Three” of Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant, along with a blown-up X profile photo of New York Mets owner Steve Cohen. Surrounded by sports memorabilia, familiar mementos and a massage chair, the afternoon crew holds a daily pre-show meeting as the clock inches closer to 2 p.m.

“It was an opportunity that was presented to me,” Barber said of moving to afternoon drive. “I know that opportunities aren’t always perfect because I’ve been with [Brandon Tierney] for a decade-plus, but you better take them because they don’t come around often. It was a no-brainer for me.”

Evan Roberts and Tiki Barber
Evan Roberts and Tiki Barber form WFANs new weekday afternoon drive duo

The Major League Baseball trade deadline dominated the local sports discussion on the day of my visit to WFAN’s studios. The Mets and Yankees were under the microscope for what they would or wouldn’t do. Before Tuesday, the most notable move of the deadline was the Mets opting to trade three-time Cy Young Award-winner Max Scherzer to the Texas Rangers.

When the trade of Mets pitcher Justin Verlander was reported, the sound of glass breaking disrupted the conversation and effectively tore the show rundown to shreds. All eyes were on Roberts, an avid Mets fan known for his impassioned reactions and shrewd intellect, to see how he would feel about an inconspicuous shift in the direction of the organization. Upon finding out that the Mets were sending the Houston Astros $54.5 million in the deal, and in turn expediting the growth of its minor league system, it became obvious what the Mets had decided to do.

“It’s exciting to get young players – there is something exciting about that – but it’s depressing,” Roberts said, seconds after details of the trade were made public. “You don’t get the immediate satisfaction.”

Shaun Morash and Tommy Lugauer are situated in the control room during the show

After about three minutes passed, Roberts signaled to the control room to cut the commercials and return live on the air. He had just discovered that the Mets were receiving the Houston Astros’ top prospect, outfielder Drew Gilbert, as a part of the deal and wanted to divulge the news to the listeners. Several minutes later after conflicting reports, it was confirmed that another prized young prospect, outfielder Ryan Clifford, was also heading to Queens, something Roberts learned and reacted to in the moment.

“You never want to be gone too long,” Roberts said. “I know we have commercials, and I respect that, but then there’s also the trade just went down; we need to get back.”

The already-strong chemistry of the brand new show was evident, looking like a well-oiled machine that had worked together for years rather than mere weeks. 

“It’s hard to plan for a day like this because you simply don’t know what’s going to happen,” Barber added, “but it leads to organic reaction, which is, I think, the fun part about it.”

Even though the new afternoon show was facing its first genuine test of adapting to a fluid situation on the air, it did not phase anyone involved. Roberts and Barber are both engrossed in the New York sports scene and are adept to keenly ascertain the future implications these transactions may have. Morash and Lugauer also adequately pick their spots, providing their voices to the program and balancing it with their production responsibilities.

“I really believe that this is the first show that WFAN has had, and correct me if I’m wrong, where essentially every single fanbase is going to have a voice,” Morash said.

“….There is a voice in this room for every single fanbase, which is so unique and different, and you would think should be so common – but hasn’t been in the history of WFAN.”

Lugauer has also been involved in radio for over a decade, and is now hosting the “Bridge” program on nights where the station is not broadcasting a sporting event. When Carton returned to WFAN, it was Lugauer who was tabbed as the afternoon show’s producer. He gained extensive repetitions in overseeing a program with an effervescent, unpredictable talent.

“Working with Craig is like riding Space Mountain for the first time – you never know what’s coming next – so there’s a little bit more structure and I have a little more feel,” Lugauer expressed. “I always say [that] you can tell right away if a show has chemistry, and I knew from our first hour I was like, ‘We had that chemistry.’”

As Evan & Tiki prepared to take the air, Brandon Tierney and Sal Licata were in the final hour of their new midday show which, for now, is going by The Brandon Tierney and Sal Licata Show. The title, Tierney feels, is especially long-winded for a radio program and will, at some point, likely be shortened to BT & Sal.

“I get it [with] name recognition and I understand why we’re doing this from a management point of view,” Tierney said. “When you think BT & Sal, to me those are guys you want to hang out with.”

The volume of the midday show may, perhaps, be the greatest on the station and is a deviation from the sound of Tierney’s old program with Barber. Both hosts bring a joy and passion for more than New York sports to the air every weekday, cognizant of the honor it is to be featured hosts on a broadcast outlet with the cache and reputation of WFAN.

“Any spot on the FAN, to me, is a dream; to have your own show, but to be on in the middays in particular during the day – honestly, I can’t even describe it,” Licata said. “It’s something that I’ve always dreamt of, but I can’t even believe it’s actually become a reality.”

Licata enters middays after a stint hosting overnights on the station, a role he balanced with his on-air obligations at SNY. He could be seen regularly on Baseball Night in New York and frequently made contributions on Honda SportsNite. From there, he would traverse to WFAN and return home to go to bed between 5:30 or 6 a.m. Today, those hours are when he wakes up. Now his workday starts with radio and concludes with television.

“I’m still doing SNY, but most nights I’m home with my wife and I get to see my daughter before she goes to sleep,” Licata said. “It’s totally different – opposite hours – but I love it so far.”

Neither host is focused on individual accolades, instead collaborating and ensuring that the show finishes at the top of the ratings and has a legacy as the No. 1 program in the history of New York sports radio. While many people would say these goals are lofty, Tierney and Licata believe they have the rapport and the chemistry to realize their desired sublimity.

Brandon Tierney

“I offer no concessions and I put no boundaries and parameters on what we can be,” Tierney said. “I want people to, when they talk about us – when they talk about me and Sal and our union and our dynamic – I want them to say, ‘That is the show that I can’t miss. That is the show that I need to listen to.’”

While Tierney and Licata were not the ones on the air when Verlander was dealt from the Mets back to the Astros, there was plenty of conversation of rumblings beforehand – and a surfeit of people looking to chime in. Staffers were screening various audience members looking to make their voices heard about the topics at hand. In fact, the phones were illuminating behind the glass as the duo interacted with both first-time and frequent callers.

“Even if we do yell at them or disagree, I would treat them the same way that I would want to be treated as a caller too,” Licata said. “We talk about sports, no different.”

Brandon Tierney and Sal Licata bring fireworks to WFAN in middays from 10 am to 2 pm

The first episode of the midday show commenced with a roaring start despite the shortcomings of the local baseball teams, and the on-air chemistry of the duo was immediately palpable. Tierney and Licata trust one another and share the same goal of ascending the summit and setting the bar higher each day. They never take time on the air for granted or eschew the truth, even if it means they need to refine a previous opinion.

“I think Sal is that way where he’s not afraid to be wrong,” Tierney said. “It took me a while to learn, ‘Don’t be afraid to be wrong.’ What you say on Monday could change on Thursday – that’s the way of the world; it’s evolving, certainly as it pertains to sports.”

While the lineup has received positive feedback from listeners and management, having an established morning program before new midday and afternoon shows alleviates some of the pressure to immediately succeed. Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti provide a sense of stability at the start of the day and continue to dominate in the ratings books, a combination the station expects to permeate among the other programming.

“If people build habits and they continue those habits, it leads to success,” Oliviero said. “Having that known quantity with Boomer & Gio to start the day is an advantage.”

“From a leadership standpoint, it’s an opportunity for them as the big show; the successful show to help elevate everyone else, which they’ve done a good job of, and help shine a light on our new shows,” Eskin added. “They’ve been great – Boomer; Gio; Al; Jerry; Eddie have [all] been awesome.”

The entrance to WFAN features a collage of iconic figures in New York sports history

WFAN first launched in 1987 under the leadership of Emmis Communications founder and chief executive officer Jeff Smulyan. There are odes to the past throughout the outlet’s broadcast facility in lower Manhattan – including the notorious afternoon program Mike and the Mad Dog – and everyone in the building recognizes how fortunate they are to be working at such a venerated outlet. The station was previously located in the sub-basement of the Kaufman Astoria Studios before moving to the Hudson Square neighborhood in late 2009. Its location is a prime destination within a sprawling metropolis featuring fans of nearly every sports team.

When Eskin walked in for the first time, he tried not to think about the magnitude of the outlet. Growing up, he knew of WFAN but did not have much of an impression of it, instead remaining focused on sports in the Philadelphia area. As he opened the glass doors to enter the station for the first time in July of 2021, Eskin was implicitly marking the start of a new era of WFAN. Two years later, marking the start of a new era at WFAN is becoming a habit for him.

As Oliviero and Eskin oversee the revamped programming lineup, they are judging success based on a litany of quantitative and qualitative key performance indicators. They span beyond traditional measurements radio stations look at, including listenership, advertising volume and overall reach. Instead, these objectives are amalgamated with other factors and are all within a greater barometer of success.

“You’ve probably heard the two ‘Rs’ – it’s ratings and revenue – I try to add a third ‘R,’ which is ‘relevancy,’” Oliviero said. “For me, FAN’s success is those three ‘Rs’… and I would challenge anyone to name a sports media platform in market No. 1 in New York City that is more relevant than FAN. You won’t find one.”

“As long as we are proud of what is coming out of the speakers and we said that we worked as hard as we could and as smart as we could to make it good, then that’s all that matters to me,” Eskin added. “I am proud of that regardless of the result otherwise.”

WFAN is the broadcast home of the New York Yankees New York Giants and Brooklyn Nets

While Eskin is positioning the station for sustained success, he vows not to lose sight of the station’s storied past. From Pete Franklin to Mike Francesa and Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo; Suzyn Waldman to Ed Coleman; Don Imus to Steve Somers and many more, the call letters carry weight. 

“WFAN has had a very successful 35 years, and my goal is to set it up for the next 35,” Eskin said. “I likely won’t be here as long as Mark [Chernoff] was – I’ve never seen anybody put in more hours than Chernoff…. The goal is to respect our heritage [and] respect what the radio station means to people, but evolve it in a way that makes it successful moving forward.”

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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



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



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



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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