There’s a common expression in radio that you never know who’s listening. The twist is that the saying only applies to the audience. If you consider an expression that applies to the person speaking into the microphone, it might go something like this: you never know exactly what the host you’re listening to is dealing with. This thought applies to Andy Sweeney in Indianapolis. He’s the new host of The Wake Up Call with KB and Andy on 93.5 & 107.5 The Fan.
The guy started a new show in a new market last August while buying a new house, commuting from Louisville, and also welcoming a child into the world who was born five weeks premature.
Andy Sweeney does a great job of letting the audience know about his life. But until you’re in the same position of entertaining an audience while your life is chaotic, it’s not as easy as some hosts make it seem. The job is more than talking about a rookie QB or a contract dispute, it’s about juggling the stress of things like high blood pressure and the ICU.
Life is smoother for Andy Sweeney now that things are much more normal with his baby and the move is completed. He can focus on making his morning show with Kevin Bowen the best it can be. Andy talks about changing markets, switching from coach to player, and reveals who his guardian radio angel is in Indianapolis. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: What was the process like for you coming from Louisville and ending up in Indy?
Andy Sweeney: Boy, I’ll tell you, it was a difficult process. I had been doing sports radio in Louisville since 2006, and I’d seen just about everything. I started out doing producing and board up stuff and high school stuff and everything else, kind of working my way up through different companies that took over, different affiliates and everything else, to getting to where I was doing an afternoon show and being a PD and being over a staff and over a station, and then inevitably, two stations. That was going great.
Then when the Indy thing presented itself, as you know, The Fan, I described it as such a mighty station with what they’ve done and what they’ve accomplished and the people they’ve had. So many good hosts, and so many popular shows. That opportunity arose, and heck, it was in the morning. I had known of KB. It’s corny to say, but it was just too good of an opportunity to pass up, for sure.
BN: How about forming a relationship with your new partner? How’s that been going with you and KB?
AS: I think it’s been going good. That’s something I did a lot of. I did shows with five, six different guys in Louisville. Then also on top of it, being a part of the hiring process and everything. All the different local programs that we were doing. I was doing shows with so many people and different hosts and different co-hosts that at first, I was like, it’s not going to be that bad. But it’s always, I won’t say difficult because KB’s the best, but it’s always like one of those things, are people going to like you? It’s like a balance of how do you be yourself type of thing but also fitting in with the very popular model that they have.
That’s been the fun part over the first couple months is, hey, how am I going to bring my personality to a model that’s working really, really well already? KB is the best. He’s worked in this market for so long. He knows everybody, he knows everything. That’s been easier than probably other places where people kind of look and say what’s the new guy all about? Everyone here has been fantastic.
BN: When you’re new at a station like The Fan in Indy, what were you hoping to accomplish initially?
AS: So I started there officially a week before I went on the air. I went on with the different shows. I went on with the guys in the morning, obviously when Jake [Query] was in there out at Colts camp. I went on middays with you. We talked heavy metal. [Laughs] And then I went on with JMV at a big client party. That was the first thing for me.
It’s like two-pronged. It was, okay, I don’t want to look like I’m the arrogant, new guy. It was absorbing the many different layers of people that they had over here and learning the ins and outs of that. Then secondly, I think it goes back to being who you are but also feeling out the audience. There was a lot of, for me, almost tentatively feeling out the audience. At first I was like, am I going to be tentative here or am I going to kind of bust through the wall and show some personality? And not throw everything at them at once, but help grow a show with two different personalities and two different people.
BN: The ratings expectations were just different when you were in Louisville compared to where you are now. The Fan delivers big numbers. What does that mean to you with how you approach everything and the expectations differing now?
AS: Yeah, there are two different situations. There’s no doubt about that. That is the stressful part, I would imagine. And that is, on top of it, the fulfilling, slash, it pays off type of conversation as well. Moving here, I told my wife it’s a different market with different expectations in certain ways. No doubt. Listen, I’m proud of everything. The programming, man, what we grew in Louisville is ridiculous, the hours of live programming there. But it is different with what you’re talking about. That’s, I won’t say the gamble, but that’s the fun part is, hey, let’s test and let’s see if we can do this at a level where all of those things matter.
BN: Which player has been the most interesting guy for you to talk about so far?
AS: Jonathan Taylor has to be it. Jonathan Taylor, for the better part of my entire time here had not spoken publicly at all. It had been a few things on social media, along with a few things from his agent on social media, but it was just a soap opera. [Laughs] Just an NFL soap opera of humble guy gone bad because of an agent, mixed in with nobody pays running backs, mixed in with just Jim Irsay and his bus and his Twitter account, mixed in with all the Chris Ballard stuff. Then you throw in the media stuff on top of it, people taking shots, just to have him eventually get paid 24 hours before the season.
I’d like to say Anthony Richardson, but he just hasn’t been healthy enough. That is story one, but if you’re asking me most interesting player, it’s not close, it’s Jonathan Taylor. In fact, second most would be Zaire Franklin. Seventh-round guy. This guy could lead the NFL in tackles and break some records and be in a situation where a seventh-round guy can make some nice money in the NFL.
BN: Would you say Jim Irsay is your sports radio guardian angel? He just fires up Twitter or does something random and you’re like, Jim, you came through again, man.
AS: Dude, that’s the thing. Even with the Taylor stuff, there’s a lot of people’s like, yeah, just want the story to be over. I’m like, I don’t. [Laughs] You guys might want this. No, Anthony Richardson being injured, that’s not good for anybody. That’s just terrible for everything. But a contract dispute involving a player, an agent, a GM, and an owner in Jim Irsay that doesn’t mind saying what he’s thinking. Heck, he said what he’s thinking when they signed Taylor; he said, ahh, that’s a little bit earlier than I wanted to. He is the guardian angel. He lords over all of us, there’s no doubt.
BN: How do you describe coming from the PD role and coaching talent, to now you turn around as the on-air guy and you’re being coached? Is that a little bit of a trip for you to experience both sides of the fence?
AS: Yeah, it is. There’s no doubt about it. But I would say on top of it, that was something that I was yearning for as well. So while, yes, it is different, it is interesting, on top of it, it’s also challenging and it’s a totally different way of looking at something else. It’s not totally like learning how to ride a bike again, or learning how to walk again, but there’s tendencies there. There’s parts of that that are absolutely true. That’s one of the things I wanted. And it’s one of the things, quite frankly, I’m getting. Yeah, for sure, that’s what I was looking for.
BN: How much of your personality and background have you shared with your new audience?
AS: Yeah, I would say over 75%. I made either the best, the worst, somewhere in between life decisions all in a row. Me and my wife were expecting when I took this job, which meant we were going to have to sell a house along with buying a house in Indianapolis, along with starting a morning show and the expectations and excitement that we’ve already talked about. A new job, first baby, new house are things that we did all within weeks.
We moved into a house in September, I believe it was Sunday, September 11. And we had a five-week premature baby on that Tuesday, I believe the 13th. And this is a few weeks where I was on the job living back and forth between Indianapolis and Louisville. So we decided to make all the crazy life decisions when we were nearly 40 years old, having our first child. [Laughs]
BN: Wow, man, what’s been the feedback from the listeners with all that stuff?
AS: You know what? It’s the best thing. It’s seriously the best thing because the relationship sometimes between sports media and the general public can be nasty. We get that. Being able to rile up people is a huge talent and absolutely is something that is valuable. But when you walk in and you’re like, hey, I’m the new guy, and I’m living on Mass Ave. in Indy in an Airbnb. My wife is very pregnant, and we’re going to sell a house, and we’re going to buy a house. And oh, by the way, I’m starting a whole new show with a whole new everything. It has been the most ridiculous three months. It’s been fun, but it’s been absolutely wild.
BN: Have things gotten a little bit more normal?
AS: Yeah, he’s been home for about two weeks and he’s doing fantastic. But being five weeks premature, we were in the ICU for almost three weeks, back and forth. So it was like, off the air, grab the wife, go to the hospital for the better part of three weeks. My wife had high blood pressure. The next thing that happened, they were like, yeah, we’re inducing you, basically. That was on a Tuesday, and it all happened on a Wednesday. [Laughs] So I’m the new guy, hey, I’m having a baby and I have a new house.
BN: Those three weeks had to be so stressful. What impact did that have on you when you were on the air going through all of that?
AS: Oh, it’s two things. Ultimately, I don’t know if it — I don’t want to say stunted — but if it kind of messed with me a little bit on the air to start. I don’t know. There’s a possibility that it did. I do know, I told JMV and these guys, they’d hit me up and be like, oh, we don’t want to talk about you. No, talk about it. I’m on the air; this is what sports talk radio is about, is them connecting with me.
Why would I not tell them, hey, I’m starting a new job, leaving a job that I was at since 2006? And I have a baby and I have a new house in a neighborhood where some of you may live. It’s not the whole story, it’s not a bigger story than Anthony Richardson, but in a three-hour show, I have to show you that. You have to know that, otherwise, what are we doing here?
BN: There’s a random story that popped into my head. I was doing a fill-in show and the producer was all upset that his team had lost. The guy running the board was like, oh, you can tell he’s young. I said, what do you mean? He goes, look, man, I’ve got a wife, kids, a mortgage, the days of my weekend being ruined because my team lost are over. [Laughs] You might relate to that. Have you gone from banging the table about something sports-related earlier in your life to, it matters, but it’s not life or death now that I have some perspective in my life?
AS: There’s no doubt about it. I bought the NFL Sunday Ticket to watch the New York Giants and how are they doing this season? How’s that going? They’re one of the worst teams in the NFL. It’s weird, those sorts of things, people tell you that you should listen to them. It’s going to be different this way. It’s going to be different that way. You don’t believe them, and then it happens. It’s like, yeah, it is a little bit different this way. Losing 40-0 to the Cowboys is different now than it used to be seven years ago, eight years ago. It’s a little bit different.
BN: Oh, yeah, totally. How about future goals? I know you’re locked in and laser-focused on The Fan. What would you like to accomplish while you’ve just begun with KB there?
AS: I want to see how high we can take this. That’s what I want to see. I want to be the absolute top of whatever we can do. I want, when something is going on in the sports atmosphere, that people are putting us on and that is the place that they are locked in and they’re getting the absolute best, the absolute most content.
That’s going back to what we talked about earlier. The Fan is so strong and mighty anyway, it’s not like — which I’ve done in the past — having to grow from very few listeners and having to grow something and blossom something into that. It is known in the market, that this is the spot, let’s see what else we can do. Let’s see what other creative things we can do. And obviously, you know, it’s not just radio. It’s all sorts of different ways in reaching an audience and being multiple. If you need something on sports, boom, seven o’clock, you know where to go. Growing that and growing that idea, that’s really my next step with all this.
Michelle Smallmon Didn’t Stumble Into Mornings on ESPN Radio
“The humanity and the relatability is what’s going to really bring people in.”
It all started with an accident. While vacuuming her apartment just two days before the first episode of her new national ESPN Radio program, Michelle Smallmon tripped over an air purifier cord. As a result of the maladroit blunder, she fell face first into her coffee table and hit the inside of her eye on a drinking glass.
When Smallmon looked into the mirror, she immediately saw that her eye was bleeding and swelling up and was in a state of disbelief, although she was not surprised that this happened to her because of her inherent clumsiness. The black eye that came out of all of this turned out to be an advantageous opportunity for the program, which opened its first hour on the air with this circumstance.
Smallmon works alongside Evan Cohen and Chris Canty weekday mornings on UnSportsmanLike, the new ESPN Radio morning show that leads off a refreshed national programming lineup. Since the program is also simulcast on ESPN2, there are cameras on inside the radio studio at the Seaport District-based radio studio, granting viewers of the premiere episode an opportunity to see Smallmon’s black eye for themselves. The incident, however, provided a means for the new hosting trio to introduce themselves and showcase their personalities in an atypical fashion by recalling a calamitous occurrence from the onset.
“We have to be ourselves,” Smallmon said. “People are coming for the sports, and hopefully with our opinions and our information and the knowledge that we provide, they’ll stick around, but they’re going to remember us for who we are. The humanity and the relatability is what’s going to really bring people in.”
Once the hosts of UnSportsmanLike were finalized, Smallmon met with Canty and Cohen to determine their collective philosophy for the program. At the crux of their conversation was how sports is supposed to be an enjoyable part of people’s days, making it important to be genuine with the audience and celebrate the festivities.
“I just think that audio provides a really great way for people to weave us throughout their day and it’s something that they can come back to, and I just feel like the audio space continues to grow,” Smallmon said. “So that is really exciting to me that there are so many different avenues for us to explore in the audio space.”
Smallmon and her colleagues understand that their program that was once anchored by Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg in the mornings for 18 years, who created a show that proved to be an enduring facet to sports radio as a whole. Today, UnSportsmanLike is competing for mindshare and attention span in a dynamic media ecosystem where people can consume various types of content by equipping myriad methodologies. The mission to serve the sports fan anytime, anywhere requires the hosts engage in deft preparation and fealty towards the audio vertical, never taking their positions for granted and understanding the privilege in being able to communicate en masse on the air.
“Any time anybody elects to listen to you, they are giving you a vote,” Smallmon said. “They’re choosing you [and] they are saying, ‘I want to spend a part of my precious time with you,’ and particularly in the mornings because we’re the first people that get the opportunity to talk about the games from the night before or to give our opinion on certain things.”
While Smallmon may have stumbled into an enthralling storyline to open the program and captivate the audience, she did just the opposite in landing a spot within the coveted morning drive daypart. Through years of indefatigable persistence and calculated risk-taking, she positioned herself to garner such a chance when the network was in the midst of developing a new lineup.
Despite having a successful morning show in St. Louis, Mo. on 101 ESPN that was finishing with high ratings and bolstering streams of revenue, Smallmon found herself yearning to live in a sprawling metropolis. Because of this, she started visiting her friends in New York City once per month and gradually became enamored with the locale, prompting her to meet with co-host Randy Karraker, program director Tommy Mattern and Hubbard Radio market manager John Kijowski to express her intent to leave the station.
“They have always been my biggest champions [and] they encouraged me every step of the way,” Smallmon said. “They were like, ‘This is going to be a tough transition for us because the show’s going so well, but we care about you as a person more than we do an employee, and if this is your dream and something you think you have to do, we’ve got your back.’ I will always and forever be indebted to them for not only finding a way to help me do that, but for supporting me and checking in with me every step of the way.”
When she was young, Smallmon frequently traveled to St. Louis with her father to attend sporting events, cherishing every chance she could to see a live game. Throughout her childhood, she watched football on television and remembers seeing sideline reporter Melissa Stark interview the players, prompting her to think about working in sports. Quotidian tasks were transformed into beacons of flourishing sports knowledge, catalyzed by her father’s creativity with abecedarian activities such as sorting and folding laundry.
Yet Smallmon concentrated in premedical studies at the University of Illinois, matriculating to try and become a dermatologist. Early on, she realized that she was not dedicated enough to pursue a profession in the field, resulting in a meeting with her advisor about her future plans. Upon being asked her ideal career path, Smallmon demonstrated interest in covering the basketball team with the goal of appearing on College GameDay as a features reporter in the future.
Amid an economic crash, Smallmon was able to land a job as a production assistant at KSDK, a local television station with which she had interned as a college student. Smallmon worked on the outlet’s morning show, Today in St. Louis, arriving at the studios around 3:30 a.m. every day to prepare and execute the broadcast.
Although her shift ended at 2 p.m., she would put in extra effort to stay later and interact with sportscaster Frank Cusamano and sports director Rene Knott, volunteering her time and trying to be productive. In displaying her aspiration to work in sports, she was eventually offered a position in the department, which first started with shooting and editing high school events.
“Most of the work that was done in sports was leading up to the 5 and 6 o’clock newscast until they took a big break before 10 p.m.,” Smallmon said. “I would use that time to just absorb as much as I could, watch the guys at work and try to make myself useful.”
Drawing inspiration from the aforementioned Stark, Smallmon had seen various women working and thriving in sports television; however, this was not the case in the sports radio format. Despite being familiar with the medium, she had never considered going on the air until Knott asked her to be a co-host of his new weekend show on 101 ESPN.
After some time, she received a note from an executive inquiring if she would be interested in applying for an open producer position available at the outlet. Even though she applied thinking she would not receive the job – a thought compounded when she discovered the producer role was for the program hosted by Bernie Miklasz – Smallmon made it to the final round of interviews. Speaking with Miklasz directly, he articulated that while he thought she was a good fit for the role, the other candidate had more qualifications and previous experience.
“I looked at him and I said, ‘Well, if that person is as great as you say that they are and have this much experience, they will have no problem finding another job when you hire me to be your producer,’” Smallmon averred. “I left there and I was like, ‘Man, I blew that.’”
Much to her surprise, Smallmon was hired and ended up working with Miklasz in the role for three years. In speaking with him and observing how he interacted with other people, she learned industry nuances and esoterica that made her even more adept at the role. Smallmon was eventually moved to The Fast Lane in the afternoons with Randy Karraker, D’Marco Farr and Brad Thompson, possessing a mentality of how to best position the show for sustained growth and success.
Smallmon took her skills to ESPN Radio in 2015 when she moved to Bristol, Conn. to work as a producer. The first stint with the network prepared her to excel on UnSportsmanLike, collaborating with hosts such as Ryen Russillo, Danny Kannel and Jorge Sedano, but she always felt a magnetic pull back towards St. Louis. Once Russillo was officially slated to leave ESPN, Smallmon was in talks with the company about different paths she could take and weighing her options. In the eleventh hour, Smallmon received a fortuitous call from Miklasz, who conveyed that he was thinking about changing up his show and wanted to know if she had any interest in co-hosting the program.
“It just felt like all of the cards were falling into place at the right time for me to make that move, and I’m a person that likes to take chances and challenge myself, and I don’t ever want to live with regrets,” Smallmon said. “I thought, ‘Maybe hosting and being on the air is not going to be for me; maybe it’s always going to be production, but I’d like to know.’”
Once she returned, Miklasz offered to change the name of the program to incorporate Smallmon, an entreaty that she declined because of fear that it would disrupt what was a known entity to listeners in the locale. Upon his exit from the station two years later, Smallmon started hosting with Randy Karraker, who implored her to add her name. Even though she never sought out to find the spotlight, she capitulated to the request once her co-host explained why it was important as not only an identifying factor, but also as the first female to be a full-time host on the station.
“I would hear from so many female sports fans across the area and parents whose daughters listened to the show and whose daughters paid attention to the show because someone who looked like them occupied that seat,” Smallmon said. “I really realized how important it was for me to establish myself in that way.”
As Smallmon made the move from St. Louis to New York City, her parents surmised she was recklessly upending her life. Subletting an apartment from a mutual friend in the city, she was working under a usages deal at ESPN Radio where she would deliver overnight updates and host SportsCenter All Night. Smallmon was grateful for the support of her parents and asked them to give her a year, during which she would work hard to land a full-time job in the city. Three hundred and sixty-six days later, Smallmon took to the air with a black eye to commence UnSportsmanLike, officially meeting her end of the bargain.
“It’s hard to explain to people how strange our job is,” Smallmon said. “The three of us sit in a windowless room and talk to one another for four-plus hours a day, so just by nature of spending that much intimate time with someone, you get to know them really well really fast.”
The workday for the morning episode begins the day prior several hours after the conclusion of the previous broadcast, independently reading articles, following sports news and reviewing games. In the preceding afternoon, the program holds a content call where everyone pitches ideas before an early rundown is sent out and added to throughout the day.
While the game of the night is on, Smallmon is in constant communication with her thoughts before getting sleep and preparing for an early wake-up call. There is a pre-show meeting to review the rundown before the four-hour morning show begins at 6 a.m. As soon as the on-air light is extinguished, the process starts again so the hosts are ready for it to illuminate again in 20 hours.
“It’s really a full-time commitment, especially during football season, to do a job like this,” Smallmon said, “but when you’re lucky enough to get the opportunity to host a show of this magnitude, you’ve kind of got to make it your life in a lot of ways.”
When she takes her seat behind the microphone in the morning, Smallmon believes that two of the most talented people she has ever worked with are sitting by her side. In her view, she needs to be at the same level as them on the program and effectuates that through her preparation and by bringing different perspectives to the air.
“I have zigged and zagged and occupied different roles throughout my time,” Smallmon said. “It’s really just been surprising opportunities that I have emerged and that I’ve really been grateful to have and that I want to take advantage of, but I don’t really think about the future and my motivation is not really driven by what’s next; it’s driven by the present.
For now, Smallmon is focused on attaining success in New York City and hopes to participate in the program for as long as possible. Down the road though, she knows that her career will entail a second return to St. Louis when she wants to be back in the community she loves and closer to her family. The gratitude she has in being able to regard the city as home is conspicuous and authentic, and those in the locale continue to listen to her on 101 ESPN for two hours each morning ahead of the station’s local morning program.
“My only goal right now is to make UnSportsmanLike the best show that it possibly can be, and if that is the case, hopefully we have an amazing run with the show,” Smallmon said. “That’s the goal is to make it as amazing as it possibly can be and ride that wave for as long as we possibly can.”
Smallmon never envisioned herself working in radio but now finds herself as a trusted voice in the mornings on a simulcast program within the network’s on-air lineup. Through it all, she has remained true to herself while exhibiting an evident commitment and passion for the craft, valuing every chance she has to go on the air.
“People will always say things to me like, ‘Oh, are you going to be the next Erin Andrews?,’ or things of that nature,” Smallmon explained. “And I say, ‘No, I’m going to be the first and only Michelle Smallmon,’ because the edge that I have over everybody else is that I’m me. There’s nobody else that’s me, and so if I can just be myself and be authentic every day and do that, anybody else can.”
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.
Desmond Howard Unnecessarily Threw Pete Thamel Under the Bus on College GameDay
College football fans can be a crazy bunch, most of them are crazy in the sense they are doing stupid things that give you a good laugh but, every fan base has a lunatic fringe. Each fan base is more than willing to point out the lunatic fringe in the fanbase of their rivals but often are slow to acknowledge their own offenders. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist in any program that has any significant fanbase. The lunatic fringe affected College GameDay Saturday, and Desmond Howard didn’t help the situation.
As a fan, you can accept it as true or bury your head and assume you are the one singular program that has somehow avoided having a fringe lunacy.
Michigan is certainly a significant football program with a massive fanbase. Just the sheer number of Michigan fans tells you there is going to be a larger than normal number of fans that might fall into the category of “fringe lunatic”, it is just how the odds work.
That suggestion was made by ESPN during Saturday’s College GameDay which originated from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Just in case you are completely unaware of the biggest story in college football this season, during Saturday’s Ohio State-Michigan game, Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh was serving the final game of an agreed upon Big Ten Conference suspension. The game also happened to be the biggest game of the season so far, a virtual play-in game for the College Football Playoff.
The suspension of Harbaugh was the result of allegations that Michigan staffer Connor Stalions was running an “off the books” sign stealing operation and that Stalions was a little too closely connected with Harbaugh for the Big Ten’s comfort.
Stories like these only become mainstream by reporting and ESPN’s Pete Thamel was on the frontlines of that reporting. It should be said that, just because something is reported by ESPN, FOX, or CBS, doesn’t automatically make it true. Likewise, just because something reported about your team may not paint them in the best possible light, it doesn’t make it untrue. That was the gray area ESPN’s College GameDay found themselves in Saturday; one of their top college football reporters in the very midst of the fans that are upset with his reporting.
Thamel joins GameDay on site every week, normally delivering the breaking news on injuries and coaching changes, fairly normal stuff. He delivers his reports, not on stage, but among the actual team fans who are gathered behind the set for all the cameras to see.
Except Saturday when Thamel was not among the masses but inside the more controlled confines of Michigan Stadium.
Honestly, Thamel being inside the stadium, rather than among the crowd, would not have seemed at all odd to me until Michigan’s Heisman Trophy winner and GameDay analyst Desmond Howard made it awkward in this exchange:
Howard: “We’ve been doing this 12, 13 weeks and Pete’s always been in the crowd giving his reports, I’m like, ‘What the Hell’s Pete in the stadium for?’ That kind of just threw me all off, I’m like, ‘Put your big boy pants on and do it in the crowd like you normally do it.’”
Rece Davis: “He’s got some from the lunatic fringe, some ‘friends’. We’re just taking care of him.”
Howard: “We’ve got security. We’ll be ok. These guys are nice out here. These are nice fans. They’re not going to do anything.”
Davis: “It only takes one. That’s all.”
Howard: “He’ll be ok. Put the big boy pants on.”
I have no idea how many credible threats Thamel has received but there was, apparently, enough concern for ESPN to move him into an area that could be more easily secured.
Desmond Howard, though, seemed upset that ESPN doing that painted the fan base of his old school in a very negative light. I would make the case that even the most ardent GameDay viewers wouldn’t think it odd that Thamel was inside the stadium rather than among the crowd. Howard’s insistence on Pete not wearing his “big boy pants” only drew further attention to the fact Thamel was not in his normal spot.
Desmond Howard came off sounding like he was under some sort of pressure, personally created or applied from Michigan interests, to point out there was no reason Thamel should have any concern about Michigan fans. In doing so, Howard came off as something he’s never been accused of being, a poor teammate. The best way to handle the situation for ESPN would be to completely ignore the fact there was a change in Thamel’s location. In the event ESPN thinks anyone would notice, highly unlikely as it may be, just create a simple cover story.
To Thamel’s credit, he seemed content to not be the focus of this addition to the story, it was only Howard’s awkward interaction that brought it to light. It was completely unnecessary and only made everyone involved look a little worse.
In his NFL career, Desmond Howard averaged only one fumble per season, Saturday in Ann Arbor, he added another.
Ryan Brown is a columnist for Barrett Sports Media, and a co-host of the popular sports audio/video show ‘The Next Round’ formerly known as JOX Roundtable, which previously aired on WJOX in Birmingham. You can find him on Twitter @RyanBrownLive and follow his show @NextRoundLive.
Nick Wright, Danny Parkins, Andrew Fillipponi and Omar Raja Join The 2024 BSM Summit Lineup
All four of these men are extremely talented and accomplished, and I’m grateful to each of them for making time to be with us.
The buildup to the 2024 BSM Summit continues with our next speakers announcement. Media professionals looking to attend March’s show can secure seats at BSMSummit.com. We’ve already announced Jeff Smulyan, Mark Chernoff, Don Martin, Bruce Gilbert, Scott Sutherland, Chris Oliviero, Scott Shapiro, Spike Eskin, Mitch Rosen, Paul Mason, Bonnie Bernstein and Damon Amendolara will be part of the event. We’ll have additional big names to reveal in the weeks and months ahead too so stay tuned for more.
Before I get into the latest group of speakers, I want to pass along some Barrett Media news.
First, when you log on to BSM and BNM on Monday December 4th, you’ll notice both sites operating with a new, cleaner look. We pump out a lot of daily content on our websites but finding all of it can be intimidating. We’re hoping the modifications make it easier to find and digest our content and look forward to your feedback on what we roll out next week.
Secondly, I’ve spent months going through a process to identify an Executive Editor for Barrett Media. The type of leader I’ve been looking for different from what exists at some online publications. I’ve spoken to a lot of smart, talented people during this process, many who I know could make us better. However, there is only one job available. Fortunately after going through an extensive search, I’ve identified someone who I’m interested in teaming with to help take Barrett Media to the next level. I hope to announce that hire and the addition of a number of new writers next week. I think our readers, partners and clients will like what’s on the horizon.
Third, we have opened up voting on the Barrett News Media Top 20 of 2023. The deadline to cast votes for News/Talk PD’s is next Monday December 4th. We will present the News/Talk radio format’s collective feedback December 11-15 and December 18 on BarrettNewsMedia.com.
There’s other stuff on the way as well, but I’ll save the rest for next week. Let’s dive now into the latest additions to the Summit.
It is my pleasure to announce the additions of Nick Wright of FS1, Danny Parkins of 670 The Score in Chicago, Andrew Fillipponi of 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, and Omar Raja of ESPN to the 2024 BSM Summit speaker lineup. All four of these men are extremely talented and accomplished, and I’m grateful to each of them for making time to be with us.
Starting with Omar Raja, the work he did building House of Highlights into a powerhouse social brand is well documented. He now serves as a commentator for ESPN’s digital and social content, which includes being the leading voice behind ESPN’s SportsCenter Instagram account, and providing strategic social programming across ESPN’s social platforms. It’s not every day industry professionals gain an opportunity to learn from one of the industry’s top social media minds, so I’m hoping to see a lot of folks present when he shares his wisdom at the Summit.
Shifting from digital to on-air talent, one session I know many will be present for will include three personalities who have been highly successful in each of their careers, and share a lifelong bond through the friendships they formed while attending Syracuse University together. Nick Wright, Andrew Fillipponi, and Danny Parkins are three of the best in the business today, and all three will be on stage together to discuss their individual paths, their differing approaches to content creation, measuring and managing success, and much more. Having Damon Amendolara, another Syracuse graduate who’s been highly successful on the air, guide the session should make it even more interesting and entertaining for all in the room.
With these latest four individuals added to the lineup we’ve now secured sixteen top speakers for March’s show. I’m hoping to reveal the next group of participants in a few weeks. Once we get past the holidays I’ll start revealing the awards winners and a few executives who will be part of the conference.
I want to thank Steve Stone Voiceovers, Good Karma Brands, Bonneville International, Silver Tribe Media, Premiere Networks and the Motor Racing Network for returning as sponsors of the 2024 BSM Summit. If your group would like to explore a sponsorship opportunity for the show or review website or newsletter options for 2024, email Stephanie Eads at [email protected] to receive a copy of our advertising decks.
That’s the latest for now. More to come in December.
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at [email protected].