As media changes, so too do the approaches of some of the most talented voices. Phil Mackey has never been afraid to lean into a topic and micro-target an audience. It is how he and Judd Zulgad have built Purple Daily into the success that it is.
What started out as a podcast spinoff of a radio show has turned into the flagship of a forward thinking local media brand that was built to survive the ups and downs of not just the industry, but of the world in general. That is why after the pandemic and the uncertainty that changed Hubbard Radio’s plans for Skor North in 2020, Purple Daily is still going strong.
In today’s column as part of our Meet the Podcasters series with Point to Point Marketing, Phil Mackey touches on what has worked for he and Zulgad and what he has learned doesn’t really work for anyone.
Demetri Ravanos: Now that Purple Daily is solely a podcast, what is the difference in the ceiling for the show versus when it was on both radio and podcast and you still had to think of it in terms of radio?
Phil Mackey: Purple Daily is a lot bigger than any of our radio audiences in any of our show time slots in the thirteen years I’ve been doing daily radio. And that is not an indictment on radio, it’s a credit to the power of podcasting.
I think, when we set out five years ago now, in 2018, Hubbard Radio made the decision that we need to create something for the next 10 to 15 years that isn’t AM radio exclusive. We can still use AM radio as a tool, but we need to build something for the next 10 to 15 years that has a growth trajectory as opposed to something that’s declining. We sat in a room, a bunch of us, numerous different times trying to figure out what does the model look like, trying to project what could the audiences look like.
I would say that I’m a pretty big dreamer when it comes to just what’s possible building audiences and what we can do in local and national media. What we’ve built five years later has blown away any of our expectations or projections.
Back in 2018, when we were trying to figure out what is the ceiling for this. So it’s been awesome, man. I think it’s been 18 straight months Purple Daly has charted among Apple’s top 15 national football podcasts. So that’s a team specific niche that continues month after month to hit top 15 on the Apple charts. It’s been as high as seventh multiple times in the past year and a half, too. So the fact that it’s punching with some of these big national podcasts, it just shows you if you commit to this platform and you commit to podcasting and YouTube and social media, and you commit to a powerful niche, which in our case is passionate Vikings fans, and you do it well or well enough, They will repay you by building a community for you.
That’s kind of what’s happened. We put this out there and the fans have responded by making a community.
DR: So that actually leads into my next question. Certainly there are passionate Jaguars and Texans out there, but there does have to be something advantageous about this particular fan base. Outside of Cleveland, I don’t know a lot of fan bases with the prolonged misery and paranoia of Vikings fans.
PM: Oh, yes. I think it’s a little bit like Cubs fans in some ways. The identity of Vikings fans is one of misery and it’s just generations of grandpa down to dad or mom down to the kids lamenting their era of Vikings football. You know, if you grew up in the seventies and it’s like, ‘Oh man, you weren’t around when we blew four Super Bowls.’ It’s literally like a therapy session for fans to get together, whether it’s on a podcast or whether it’s just over beers or at a stadium.
So yeah, I think when you have that sort of checkered history as a sports team, and I don’t know how well known nationally Minnesota sports’ current playoff futility is, but like, the Twins haven’t won a playoff game in 18 straight tries. The Vikings, I think I saw a graphic somewhere on social media that showed all of the NFL franchises and how many division titles they’ve won. Then the next column was how many Super Bowl championships they have. The Vikings are like top three in Division Championships, but they’re the only team in the top ten that has never won a Super Bowl.
The power of that misery and coping combined with people wanting to commiserate together and be part of a community. And then we are just sort of like the bar that they meet at, you know? That’s what Purple Daily is – the bar where we lament all of our Vikings misery together.We’re just sort of the organizers of this big giant therapy session.
DR: Is the goal of every episode to entertain, or in the publishing schedule does each day have a different goal in mind for you and Judd when you’re putting the show together?
PM: So kind of both. It is a 365 day per year show, and so we do make sure, especially from like, May 10th until training camp starts, we do have specific benchmarks and bits and pillars that we like to hit on. They kind of change seasonally. During the season there’s a lot more of them. There are sometimes multiple shows per day. So we do have, like a radio show, we do have planned bits, benchmarks, segments, guests or whatever it may be.
In terms of like an overarching macro theme, we start every single show by telling people specifically what the show is and why we’re here. “This is Purple Daily. It’s daily Vikings entertainment, and we just want the Vikings to win a Super Bowl before we die.”
I’ll never forget a few years ago, Judd and I started getting backlash over why we’re being so negative. “The Vikings went to the playoffs last year and you guys are just being negative” and “why are you why are you so harsh on this team” from the people that may be new to the show or maybe didn’t listen to us on the radio. So we got together one day and we said, “Okay, let’s reflect on this. Are we being too negative?” If so, maybe we have to explain. Or maybe we’re not. But we just have to explain to the audience where our perspective comes from. So we literally opened a show one day and said, “Hey, we’ve been reading the comments on YouTube lately and we’ve been reading the comments on Apple, Spotify or whatever social media and we feel like we need to explain why we’re sometimes negative when it comes to our coverage of this team. It’s because they’ve done everything there is to do in 60 plus years as a franchise except win a Super Bowl. So we hold them to a standard. It’s it’s time after a half century plus to win a Super Bowl.” Once we sort of put that rallying cry on the top of the show, whether people agreed, disagreed, thought we were idiots for saying this or that, at the end of the day, we can all come together and say, “Hey, let’s forget about us disagreeing on Kirk Cousins or us disagreeing on the coach. We’re all here because we want the Vikings to win a Super Bowl before we die at some point.” I think it has clarified what the community is and and it probably helps explain why it’s become so powerful.
DR: You guys have leaned hard into social video for for as long as Skor North has been a brand, if not longer. When did you learn that made a real difference for not just how people consume the show, but how many people consume it?
PM: So, 2019 was kind of the first year of Skor North. We knew we still needed to produce a certain level of radio because ultimately, Hubbard Radio is a 100 year old broadcasting company, and that is our core business now with an eye on the future of building something digitally. So our plan going into the first year of Skor North was we don’t really know what’s going to stick and what’s not so let’s just capture as much video as possible. Let’s clip as much video as possible. Let’s put stuff out there and then let’s sort of gauge what works and what doesn’t.
The pandemic hits, everyone sort of feels the belt tightening, and we had to then after the first year and a half, really figure out what did we learn in the first year. What is working? How can we narrow our focus and really double down? And we found that in addition to podcasting, YouTube was the most powerful place for people to discover our content. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world behind Google, which obviously owns YouTube. When you do a radio segment, there’s not like a search function for your radio dial. You can’t like being you’re going to type in like, “I want to hear I want to hear Carolina Panthers talk in Charlotte right now.” You can’t type that into your car dashboard. Well, that’s the beauty of YouTube.
We wanted to make sure that if people are typing in Kirk Cousins or Vikings or whatever topic they wanted to hear, that they might have a chance to run into our content. We kind of learned through the first year, “Oh, some of this stuff is popping! I wonder why. Let’s look under the hood,” and you know, lo and behold, four or five years later, I believe YouTube is now the the biggest podcast consumption platform.
We can we can debate what is the best podcast business is in terms of video, audio, where you might get the best ad rates and all that stuff, but in terms of pure discovery and lean-in listening, YouTube has become a massive shopping mall for podcast listeners.
What we’ve learned is YouTube and podcasting as sort of one big entity for your full shows, and then wherever you can put clips so that people might stumble into something that you’re creating. Even that is sometimes like, you’re just at the mercy of the algorithm. But the more you can clip stuff, just play that game as much as you can.
DR: I notice you guys have not done a guest in a long, long time. There was a time I think podcasters viewed guests as part of the viral marketing plan. How important have you learned that is or is not?
PM: On a macro level, I think guests can be really important for podcasts looking to create discovery openings. If you see a guest that’s on a podcast that you’ve never heard of, but all you want to do is hear what so-and-so has to say, it can absolutely be a huge discovery tool.
I think we have found we’re probably guilty of not having enough guests on, to be honest with you. But we have found that just looking at analytics and just getting feedback from the audience, for whatever reason, people just like to hear us idiots blab about their favorite team, more than they want to hear an outsider. Now, we will bring on once or twice a year the Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell. We’ve kind of made a joke of he’s become a friend of the show now. He kind of he kind of understands the jokes and the vernacular and stuff. People will walk up to him at Home Depot, he says, and say, “Hey, just one before I die, coach” and he and he knows what that means.
Especially if you’re a headliner, that moves the needle and then we have some strategic contributors. Alex Boone is a former Viking. He played in the Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers. He does film breakdowns for us on YouTube. He still lives in Minnesota, so he’s a recurring guest that moves the needle. We have some other contributors that do a great job sort of covering the draft for us.
I guess we have just kind of found, for whatever reason, that if we’re leaning on guests as a crutch, we’re probably doing it wrong and we don’t really need to kill time in podcasting like you might if you’re doing 16 radio segments. So if a guest doesn’t meet the threshold of headline enough, entertaining enough or understands the fabric of the show enough, then we know that our audience would just rather listen to us argue about something.
DR: Anyone that has come from radio has an opinion about podcasters making a big deal our of doing a live show. I can’t tell you how many dudes I’ve heard go, “Oh, so you mean sports radio?”
Why do those things matter? How does a live show work with a podcast audience different than the way just turning on the radio would for that kind of experience?
PM: Man, there’s such a long conversation about the differences in radio and podcasting. I still love and appreciate live sports radio, even though I’m not really doing it anymore. Maybe at some point I will do live sports radio in some capacity again, but I think, if I could just be super candid as someone who literally spent 10 to 15 years doing live radio, now I would say 90% of what we do is more on-demand podcasting. We do some live streams and whatnot. But in radio, oftentimes if you’re being tasked with a three or four hour timeslot, I would venture to say if you were to ask almost any radio host in the country, even like Colin Cowherd, you probably don’t feel like you’re throwing your fastball for every single segment, every single day. Because you are you are trying to fill a certain amount of time and a certain amount of segments and a certain amount of the headlines.
If you have twelve segments to fill, those are twelve headlines. Are you using guests purely as entertainment or are you using them to get from twelve open segments down to nine? In podcasting, I feel like that feeling goes away where it’s just less pressure. We know that Vikings content drives audience more than anything else, so we don’t necessarily feel pressure to also mix in some other topics. I’ll never forget one of the BSM Summits two or three years ago, I was moderating a panel and Carl Scott from Meadowlark Media was on it and I asked, how do you how do you cut through the noise of the current sports media landscape and get something that sort of stands above and without hesitation he said “niches get the riches.”
So many people launch a sports podcast thinking “we’ve got to talk about everything,” right? Okay. Well, there’s TV, radio, podcasting, and social media. If you’re just going to talk about everything, now you’re competing with Stephen A. Smith and you’re competing with Colin Cowherd. But if you just talk about like Jacksonville Jaguars football or you just talk about college quarterbacks, you’re probably going to have a better chance of standing out and being the big fish/small pond, and then you can kind of strategically go from there.
Sometimes on the radio, I know there’s been examples of radio stations that have said, “we’re only going to talk Denver Broncos football” or whatever it is, but there is a pressure to just sort of have a wide portfolio of what you’re going to talk about to try and hit as many people in that mass audience pool as you can. In podcasting, the deeper you can go and the more niche you can go oftentimes is the better play. So that’s like one of probably a million differences between radio and podcasting. But niches get the riches. I do believe in what what Carl said.
DR: So this might that actually might be the answer to my last question here. And it’s something that I think about a lot as the format matures. What are some of the wrong lessons you think podcasters can pick up from studying what made like the original stars of this format popular? The Joe Rogans, the Bill Simmons, the Marc Marons? What are some of the things that might have worked because the format itself was so new or maybe just because of who they are that cannot be copied and pasted for everyone?
PM: To use Joe Rogan and Bill Simmons specifically, see, those guys kind of can talk about anything they want because they’re Joe Rogan and Bill Simmons. So I think the mistake a lot of people make when they get into podcasting is they look at Joe Rogan and Bill Simmons and some of the other big time podcasts. They say, “oh, man, okay, I have to get a guest on every show and go and do an hour and a half with them and smoke a cigar with them and drink scotch,” whatever it is. It’s going to be really hard to replicate what those guys have done.
I think what we can learn from Bill Simmons is Bill Simmons started off as the Boston Sports Guy. He started off as a niche and he dominated that niche as a writer and then eventually started podcasting. And then the ESPN thing kind of broadened out for him. Even so, like. Bill doesn’t sit there now and talk about baseball for an hour and a half on his podcast. He’ll talk a little bit of baseball, especially if like the Red Sox are relevant. Bill talks basketball and Bill talks football. He might do a little segment on like the Stanley Cup Finals or something, but for him, he’s dominating niches. He’s dominating pop culture with The Ringer and even with his podcast, basketball and football. But he started off as Boston Sports Guy.
Joe Rogan started off as the UFC guy, right? That was his niche. Now we know who he is and now we can kind of go from there and he becomes this uber celebrity.
So many people want to start where those guys are now. “Oh, Joe Rogan interviews people and does three hour things and does psychedelics.” Those guys started by dominating a niche first, and then they and then they grew their brand over time. If we’re talking about a ten story building and those guys around the penthouse floor, you can’t start on the sixth floor. You just start on the first or second floor.
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.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at [email protected].
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.”
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.”
Derek Futterman is a contributing editor and sports media reporter for Barrett Sports Media. Additionally, he has worked in a broad array of roles in multimedia production – including on live game broadcasts and audiovisual platforms – and in digital content development and management. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks, wrote for the Long Island Herald and served as lead sports producer at NY2C. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
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.”
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.
Jeff Caves is a sales columnist for BSM working in radio, digital, hyper-local magazine, and sports sponsorship sales in DFW. He is credited with helping launch, build, and develop SPORTS RADIO The Ticket in Boise, Idaho, into the market’s top sports radio station. During his 26 year stay at KTIK, Caves hosted drive time, programmed the station, and excelled as a top seller. You can reach him by email at [email protected] or find him on Twitter @jeffcaves.
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.”
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.”
John Molori is a weekly columnist for Barrett Sports Media. He has previously contributed to ESPNW, Patriots Football Weekly, Golf Content Network, Methuen Life Magazine, and wrote a syndicated Media Blitz column in the New England region, which was published by numerous outlets including The Boston Metro, Providence Journal, Lowell Sun, and the Eagle-Tribune. His career also includes fourteen years in television as a News and Sports Reporter, Host, Producer working for Continental Cablevision, MediaOne, and AT&T. He can be reached on Twitter @MoloriMedia.
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