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Andy Sweeney is on a Wild New Ride in Indianapolis

“It has been the most ridiculous three months. It’s been fun, but it’s been absolutely wild.”

Brian Noe

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A photo of Andy Sweekeny and the 107.5 THe Fan logo
(Photo: Andy Sweeney)

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.

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Ryan Clark is Ready for ‘The Pivot’ to Grow with Channing Crowder, Fred Taylor and Fanatics

“We want to be a place where you can just be yourself and you can love yourself and truly tell your story and show people who you are.”

Derek Futterman

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Ryan Clark
Courtesy: The Pivot

Answering a call from Emmy Award-winning producer Alicia Zubikowsi, Ryan Clark learned of a potential new media venture in a niche space. Zubikowski had produced the I Am Athlete podcast for nearly two years, which rapidly proliferated in size, scope and prominence. A financial dispute among the colleagues, however, led to the departures of Channing Crowder and Fred Taylor from the roster, along with Zubikowski, and they branched out on their own to actualize a new vision. After speaking with Zubikowski, Clark met with Crowder virtually and evinced compatibility that compelled him to become involved in the project.

Less than two years later, The Pivot Podcast has quickly amassed notoriety and prestige within sports media. The athlete-driven podcast contains weekly conversations with contemporaries and luminaries alike, to talk sports, music and entertainment. Clark, Crowder and Taylor possess an evident rapport and retains the audience while encouraging prospective listeners to hear the genuine endeavor.

“We felt like there was some synergy there, we thought we could do some good things and we decided to give it a try,” Clark said. “I had already been doing my own podcast that I was funding myself, editing myself and cutting promos myself just because I understood what the space was and I knew that that’s where a lot of media was going, and at the time I didn’t have a partnership or anyone kind of showing me the way, but I was like, ‘These people have already been successful.’”

Since its launch in the winter of 2022, The Pivot Podcast has amassed over 158 million views and 870,000 subscribers on YouTube alone. The show has welcomed guests across a variety of professions, some of whom have included Caleb Williams, Snoop Dogg, Gayle King and Travis Kelce. During its time in circulation, it has made an indelible impact on the landscape and recently agreed to a multi-year partnership with Fanatics.

Through the deal, The Pivot Podcast will feature Fanatics’ verticals surrounding commerce, betting, collectibles and events, and the Fanatics Sportsbook garnering the title of the “official sportsbook” of the show. Additionally, the program will be part of company events such as Fanatics Fest NYC and its annual Super Bowl party.

“Luckily for us, it’s been such a blessing,” Clark said. “Some of the stories we’ve been able to tell, the people we’ve been able to work with and have as guests on the show, and then obviously now having an opportunity to partner with Fanatics and be a part of Michael Rubin’s team and sort of head their media division, especially when you’re speaking of Alicia and what she’ll be able to do, it just makes so much sense.”

Fanatics itself had inked some deals in the sports media space over the last year, including agreements with Bleacher Report and Overtime, but they were largely under the aegis of merchandising and/or live events. The company also hired Ed Hartman as its chief strategy officer in media, trying to discover content that fits various key business sectors. For The Pivot, retaining creative control and autonomy over the content was essential and being involved in other ventures added more value to the proposition.

“To be a part of those things and bringing those things to the world, but also an opportunity to showcase the athletes and entertainers that are part of the Fanatics family – and I think that’s a different and a bigger opportunity than any podcast has ever had with any partnership, and that is why it was important for us to find the right partnership,” Clark said. “And if I’m being honest, our producer has turned down multiple deals saying that she believed that this was the one before this was ever even a thing that Michael Rubin was talking about.”

Reaching this point required hard work, consistency and confidence that The Pivot would ultimately resonate with audiences and establish a rapport in the space. Luckily for Clark, he had a viable fallback plan in that he was working at ESPN as an NFL analyst, a role he had positioned himself to attain while he was still an active player.

During his career, he had worked on 93.7 The Fan hosting a radio show from a hibachi restaurant in Pittsburgh and also appeared on local television. Clark played 13 years in the NFL as a safety and won a Super Bowl championship as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2008 season.

Although Clark had been told as a player that he had a chance to thrive in sports media, his formative years in the business broadened his understanding of the landscape and how to achieve success. Upon retiring from the NFL, he signed a multi-year agreement with ESPN to appear on NFL Live, SportsCenter, ESPN Radio shows and additional network programming.

Over the last several years, he has been a consistent part of NFL Live. Clark explained that the show contains underdogs who have crafted chemistry that has coalesced into an on-air product and meaningful friendships. Laura Rutledge, Dan Orlovsky, Marcus Spears, Mina Kimes and Adam Schefter work with Clark and blend their football knowledge and expertise with entertainment.

“I could see how much work they all put into their craft, and I respected that, and then once you get that respect and you start to work together, now you get to know the people,” Clark said. “You get to know about their kids, you get to know about their home life, you get to know about what makes them tick and what makes them themselves, and then we care about each other.”

As members of the show watch NFL games every week, they remain in constant communication through a group chat. Additionally, Clark ensures that he is actively listening to what his colleagues say on the air so he can disseminate informed, substantive opinions that play a part in the overall product.

“The smartest of analysts understand what they have to be on each show based on who they’re working with,” Clark said. “I think you just also have to be versatile enough to do that. You have to know when you’re on NFL Live, that show is so heavy X and O; that show is so heavy, ‘Let’s educate – let’s talk about the things that are important in ball, even if they aren’t the most popular things.’”

Starting last season, Clark was added to Monday Night Countdown as a studio analyst as part of a revamped iteration of the program hosted by Scott Van Pelt. Joining Clark as analysts on the show were his NFL Live colleague Marcus Spears and incumbent analyst Robert Griffin III. While there were some memorable moments both in studio and on site throughout the year though, Clark felt that the show struggled to capture an essence on the air.

“I think the show is just hard because it’s sort of like rolled over the entire infrastructure and changed the people, and it happened so late that I don’t think we ever got an opportunity to find our voices on that show, and we tried to work through that throughout the season,” Clark said. “….I think last year was a learning experience where if I’m being really honest, we did bad TV sometimes, which was new for me because I felt like I haven’t done bad TV in a very long time, and it was embarrassing for me because I put so much time into it.”

Former Philadelphia Eagles center and Super Bowl champion Jason Kelce is joining the show and was formally introduced this week. During a charity golf outing this offseason, Clark had a chance to meet Kelce and learn more about him as a person while also answering questions about ESPN and the sports media business.

“I told him to be himself because being himself is what got him here,” Clark said. “He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer in my opinion, so he has so much knowledge, experience and wisdom that people will crave, and he can give it to them uniquely with his personality, with his honesty [and] with the openness and vulnerability about who he is. Other than that, he’s going to have to learn.”

Akin to Clark hosting The Pivot and working at ESPN, Kelce hosts the New Heights podcast with his brother, and will now be joining Monday Night Countdown on ESPN. Clark anticipates that Kelce will be a huge addition, referring to him as the “hottest free agent ever,” and hopes to grant him longform chances to express himself on the air. Being on the show for a second season, however, nearly was not a reality for Clark amid an expiring contract at ESPN.

“I was gone,” Clark said. “I wasn’t considering – I was done. Normally they extend your contract until it gets done most times. I was out – my contract had ended.”

Clark took part in discussions with other people in the business, some of which included having his own show and organizations starting networks around him. Throughout the process, he was cognizant about the relationships and memories he had built at ESPN and was appreciative for various personalities speaking up for him, including Mike Greenberg and Stephen A. Smith. In the end, Clark signed a multi-year extension with the network that implemented a raise and additional responsibility while also continuing his other projects.

“Obviously my family is the NFL Live crew,” Clark said. “Scott Van Pelt and I probably share one of the most memorable nights in television when Damar Hamlin went down. And so those relationships were things that I didn’t want to leave unless there was a good enough reason to leave, and I don’t think that’s just money.”

Clark started hosting Inside the NFL last season on The CW, a storied sports franchise that presents highlights, analysis and interviews every week during the NFL season. After spending approximately four decades on HBO and subsequent years on Showtime and Paramount+, the program moved to broadcast television for the first time. Clark conceptualizes his role as a point guard who is able to score when necessary and successfully facilitate his colleagues Jay Cutler, Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, Chris Long and The Pivot co-host Channing Crowder.

“I think that was the hardest adjustment with Inside the NFL initially was like, ‘Okay, how do I set these guys up for success while still doing something I’m really good at, which is analyzing football?,’” Clark said, “and it’s taken some time to really sort of find a space for it, but I think I did find that on Inside the NFL.”

In working on The Pivot, Clark built relationships organically through conversations surrounding strategy, content creation and lifestyle. One episode in particular that stands out to him is when the show interviewed former NBA forward Michael Beasley where he opened up about his mental health struggles and hardships he has endured throughout his life. Furthermore, he talked about struggling to find the right people and explained that everyone stole from him except his kids. Clark, Crowder and Taylor sympathized with Beasley and offered him assistance, underscoring the unscripted, genuine nature of the show.

“Everybody wants The Rock to be able to come on their show and talk about his battles with depression, but we also want Kevin Hart to be able to come on the show and invite him to nudist camp too,” Clark said. “We want to be a place where you can just be yourself and you can love yourself and truly tell your story and show people who you are. And I don’t necessarily know if it’s distinctive in effort or goal; I think it’s been distinctive in execution, which, in the end, is what we deliver to people.”

Through the new partnership with Fanatics, Clark looks forward to continuing to take part in candid conversations and storytelling on The Pivot while continuing to thrive in his work with ESPN and The CW. As someone who attained a successful NFL career after signing as an undrafted free agent, he maintains a mentality built on an indefatigable work ethic and resolute dedication towards his professional endeavors. Once the show signed the partnership with Fanatics, it had an opportunity to interview Tom Brady, who discussed topics including his experience being the subject of a Netflix roast and the lessons he learned playing in the NFL.

“Not everybody understands Tom Brady, right?,” Clark said. “Who knows that story? Who has ever lived that, ‘I’m the greatest to ever do something’? But everybody has understood what it’s like to struggle; what it’s like to doubt yourself, right? And so we bring them that story, and in bringing them that story, we talk about the things that Fanatics is doing and the ways that they are now moving in the sports world.”

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Christopher ‘Mad Dog’ Russo Making the Most of His Resurgence with the Help of ESPN

Far from a close-minded fuddy-duddy. He is an open-minded observer of sports, one of the greatest of all time.

John Molori

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Screengrab of First Take on ESPN with Chris Russo
Screengrab from ESPN/First Take

The true essence of Christopher ‘Mad Dog’ Russo, Version 2024 can be found in the open to the May 15 edition of First Take on ESPN.

In the aftermath of the Knicks defeating the Pacers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, superstar showstopper Stephen A. Smith opened the program with an emotionally joyous soliloquy lauding his favorite New York basketball team. Smith was jubilant, ebullient, and thrilled.

The segment ended with Smith walking over to panelists Russo and Kendrick Perkins and hugging them in glee. After the show’s open, the Knick rapture continued, that is, until “Mad Dog” was let out of the kennel.

Russo brought things back down to earth, predicting that Indiana would win Game 6 of the series. He then went through a mental historical timeline of the Knicks choking in playoff games at home. This level of historic context is largely lost on modern sports fans, many of whom believe that nothing existed before LeBron James or Tom Brady.

Russo’s beautiful dose of reality ticked off the jovial Smith but set the discourse on a more levelheaded road. Russo is a talking history book, and let’s face it, not everybody likes history class. The difference, however, is that Christopher Russo lived this history, and indeed, made history himself. A 2022 National Radio Hall of Fame inductee, he has uniquely entertained sports fans for more than four decades, becoming one of the most memorable and imitated personalities ever.

He created Mad Dog Sports Radio on SiriusXM in 2008 and headlines the channel with his popular Mad Dog Unleashed show. In addition, he hosts the daily High Heat program on MLB Network. Still, it is one of Russo’s earliest and most recent gigs that set him apart.

Beginning in 1989 and for the next 19 years, Russo and Mike Francesa hosted the landmark Mike and the Mad Dog afternoon driveshow on WFAN radio in New York. It was a ratings mammoth and ensconced Russo as a stone-cold sports media legend.

I am going to make the case that Russo’s latest incarnation as a First Take Wednesday regular is just as significant. It has exposed a whole new audience to the Russo experience. On a more basic level, it is just really special to see a classic radio guy like Russo welcomed into the most progressive and popular sports talk show on the air right now.

Kudos to Stephen A. Smith for making Russo a regular on his program. You can tell that Smith, author of an historically significant media career himself, truly respects those who came before him and blazed the trail. In fact, to a certain extent, Smith is a media offspring of Russo. They both possess riveting personalities, unquestioned bravery, and on-air dominance. Like or dislike, agree or disagree, these are two men who must be listened to and respected.

With Max Kellerman’s 2021 exit from First Take, I was doubtful as to what would happen to the program. My worst thought was that Smith would bring in a bevy of co-hosts who would bow to his greatness – like Jerry Jones’ Cowboys’ coaching hires since Jimmy Johnson. Thankfully, Smith went in the other direction. Russo has the same cache as Smith, so there is no hero worship. He says what he feels and talks straight – real talk in a colorful and exciting manner.

As the Knicks discussion continued, Smith wanted to tap into Russo’s New York sports sensibilities and emotion asking Russo if he felt Madison Square Garden shaking during the Knicks’ Game 5 win. It didn’t work. Russo responded that at 65 years-old, he has been in the Garden for many big games and then cautioned Smith to take it easy with the Knicks.

He again harkened back to New York’s less than sparkling history in big games and menacingly joked that it is his job to “spoil Stephen A’s fun.” Russo then spectacularly took the air out of the building with an ominous What If asking what the Knicks would do if it came down to a Game 7 and the game was tied with the clock winding down.

Russo is also self-deprecating. When host Molly Qerim asked him for a prediction on the Nuggets-Timberwolves series, Russo said that he predicted that the Bills would blow out the Giants in Super Bowl XXV – the famed Scott Norwood missed field goal game. Qerim, who does an excellent job in controlling Hurricane Christopher, acknowledged the obscure reference.

While Russo has a database of past stats and stars, he is not lost in history. In fact, on this edition of First Take, he made a bold statement that the Nuggets’ Nikola Jokić has the greatest offensive skill set of any center in the history of the NBA. These are not the words of a stodgy curmudgeon whose mind cannot be changed.

Russo is an astute observer of our games. He sees greatness and gives that greatness credit. Far from a close-minded fuddy-duddy. He is an open-minded observer of sports, one of the greatest of all time. His opinions are not to be chided. They are to be listened to and appreciated.

During First Take’s Quick Takes segment, Russo ably put his encyclopedic knowledge to use. The question posed was whether the Celtics or Lakers are the greatest franchise in NBA history. Russo’s analysis was spot on and long overdue. First, he discounted the Minneapolis Lakers’ five titles as part of the pro-Lakers argument. He also cited the Celtics’ overall dominance when the two franchises have met in the NBA Finals over the decades.

Lastly, he remarked that the Celtics have had four eras of greatness: Russell in the 1960s, Havlicek-Cowens in the 1970s, Bird in the 1980s, and Pierce-Garnett in the late 2000s, while the Lakers have only two: Magic-Abdul-Jabbar in the ‘80s and Shaq-Kobe in the 2000s. It was the best analysis of a longtime debate.

In a debate about Bronny James and his NBA hopes, Russo again was the voice of reason giving a very realistic analysis of why he is not a top pro prospect. It is clear that Russo has nothing to prove, nobody to impress, and no apple to polish. He made his bones years ago, and his takes are refreshing and objective.

The cherry on top of Russo’s First Take sundae was his What Are You Mad About? segment. Viewers tuning into this part of the program are no doubt wondering who the hell, and at times, what the hell they are watching. Russo pushes the limits of his angst, heart rate, blood pressure, and decibel level picking apart several news items from the week in sports. At times, he closes his blurbs screaming to the heavens, “May God strike me down!”

In this particular segment, he went off on late NBA playoff start times, the intrigue surrounding the 2024 NFL schedule release, and his distaste towards the vulgar humor in the Tom Brady roast. Russo gets up close to the camera and goes off in a boisterous way. It is simultaneously fantastic and frightening.

In his last piece on the roast, Russo looked into the camera and yelled to Brady, “How stupid can you be!” This is the same question I will pose to anyone who dismisses Russo as an out of touch old guy. This cat is no curmudgeon. He is a killer. Elderly? No, epic. Bygone? How about straight up bad ass. That is Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo, Version 2024.

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How to Renegotiate Your Annual Sports Radio Advertising Contract

Reducing expenses within an annual radio agreement takes a strategic negotiation and budget management approach.

Jeff Caves

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Graphic that shows two people negotiating
Graphic Courtesy: Soject.com

If you are a small to medium-sized business, there is no doubt you are facing rising costs, and making ends meet is a top priority. Sometimes, that means cutting expenses on things you have committed to via contract, like a 2024 annual radio advertising agreement with level monthly payments. You are on the air each month and appreciate the value of advertising consistently. You understand the necessity to maintain a market presence within the budget you laid out last year. You negotiated a win-win contract and are happy with it. However, with your costs spiraling to deliver your services, cost-cutting measures have become critical for financial viability in the long term and better cash flow in the short term. You are now tasked with the need to reduce expenses wherever you can, and your sports radio advertising is next on the list. The station doesn’t want to lessen your committed budget. It’s time for strategic negotiation and decision-making. Here are some effective strategies to accomplish this objective while keeping your annual budget intact:

Pricing and Rates

Initiate negotiations on pricing and rates for ad spots with the radio station. They know where they have more demand than supply and could even make more money by freeing up some of your commercials to be sold to other clients, sometimes at higher rates. This is typically during the weekday drive time periods; you probably got an annual rate for your commitment. If the station is willing, you could move into off-peak nighttime buys or weekends. Off-peak hours typically come at a lower cost and can still reach a substantial audience, enabling you to stretch your budget further. Give the station 30 days to see if they can accomplish this, and if not, go to plan ‘B.’

Longer Commitments

Consider committing to a longer-term contract, like a multi-year agreement, to potentially lower your monthly cash commitment. Maybe you could move off $2,000 per month from July to December and move it to the first six months of 2025. Emphasize your dedication to maintaining a consistent advertising presence over time, which can incentivize the radio station to continue the partnership.

Frequency and Unit Length

If the station allows you to reduce the monthly budget, focus on maximizing frequency by strategically choosing the length of ad units. Instead of running only thirty and sixty-second ads, opt for :15 slots to increase frequency without exceeding your budget. Shorter units are more cost-effective per spot and can deliver well-known messages repeatedly.

Budget Reallocation and Trade

Explore avenues for reallocating funds within your annual budget to optimize expenses. For instance, negotiate a reduction in the monthly budget and allocate the saved funds to months where your cash flow is strongest. Having a payment schedule that matches your cash flow will give you the best chance to meet expenses. Furthermore, explore opportunities for service or trade to offset your monthly bill, leveraging resources you have already paid for that may match up well with what the station needs.

Reducing expenses within an annual radio agreement takes a strategic negotiation and budget management approach. Concentrating on pricing, rates, contract length, frequency, and budget reallocation can keep your station relationship intact, honor your contract, and increase cash flow.

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