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Day Spent With: The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz

“What a beautiful gift to have the ability to make something that is about you; your imaginations; your principles and have it reach and imprint someone else.”

Derek Futterman

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Day Spent With – The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz

We’ve reached the end of BSM’s ‘Day Spent With‘ series. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these pieces as much as we’ve enjoyed creating them for you. I want to thank all of the brands, companies, and professionals who made time for Derek Futterman during the past two months. None of these projects work without help from a lot of quality people.

Our goal from the start of this series was to shine a light on what a day entails inside each workplace. Whether folks work in radio, digital, television, voiceover/imaging, media buying or management, consistent success can not be achieved if all departments aren’t working in sync. Fortunately, we’ve got a lot of good ones continuing to raise the bar across the sports media industry.

To close things out, we sent Derek to South Beach to spend a full day with The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. My thanks to Dan, and the entire crew for making time for us. I also want to thank Bimal Kapadia for putting the wheels in motion. We don’t travel a lot for projects, but when this idea came up, I thought it’d be a great way to put a bow on an awesome series. I’m sure as you read the piece, you’ll agree that it offers a great peek into life on the pirate ship. I just hope Derek didn’t bring home an eye patch or lose a hand in the process.

Jason Barrett

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A loud bell rings two minutes before the top of the hour, signifying to all those within the facilities that the show is about to begin. This tone, albeit fleeting in its duration, has a resonance that rings true throughout the entirety of The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, but it is hardly the catalyst for the natural energy and congeniality exhibited inside the studio walls. There is a calculated verve and mental calmness that permeates the space combined with an inherent awareness of the expectations and commitment to its audience.

Although there are elements of improvisation and joviality within the three-and-a-half hour show, hosts and contributors do not simply enter the studio without a plan. Personnel arrive at the Meadowlark Media studios in Miami in two waves with a cognizance of news across a variety of topics. In an office space with the Port of Miami and Kaseya Center visible in the distance, the cast brainstorms potential talking points and informs those involved in audio and video production of any content they might need. Of course, part of the job is also remaining prepared for a deviation off script depending on the discussion percolating or breaking news off which to react.

Co-hosts Dan Le Batard and Jon “Stugotz” Weiner have been working together for nearly two decades, first at 790 The Ticket in Miami. The local version of the show quickly flourished through its blend of sports and other worldly discussion. There have been several different permutations over the years. Consistent through it all is knowing and accepting their roles, and embracing the sublime to the ridiculous, while enjoying content selection freedom.

“I would say that we’re following our curiosities, so I want the show to have range, but I’m going to say [it is] a sports show in costume; a sports show in disguise,” Le Batard said. “I want it to be about other things and it also has sports, but I don’t want it to be limited as a sports show.”

Le Batard and his team do not hesitate to address divisive issues head on, adopting a direct approach rather than espousing their opinions in a indirect manner. There is both deliberate and indirect self-effacing comedy within the show, which begins with a “Local Hour” broadcast streamed live on YouTube weekday mornings at 9am ET.

Consumers wait for the countdown to commence to showtime, which is set to a pulsating theme song with its wide array of cast members engaging in different activities around the facility. Conversely, Weiner is stuck in Miami traffic trying to arrive at the studio on time and dashes through the door to arrive just on time. Abstaining from the pre-show meeting, however, is usually part of the plan in how he executes his infamous “Stugotz” character that has been cultivated for nearly two decades.

“In terms of what’s going to be thrown at me, I really have no idea, and there are many, many times I don’t know what my response is going to be to some of the topics of the day until it’s actually asked to me by Dan,” Weiner said. “I’d rather just not know where I’m going to go and just go with my gut.”

On this particular version of the program, Weiner is not in the studio and in the midst of taking vacation. Miami Herald sports columnist Greg Cote is live for his weekly appearance on the program in a tradition that has become a favorite among colleagues and listeners. Le Batard opens on a somber note, discussing the sudden collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, disclosing that the program was not going to show the video of the incident.

Cote believed that the video should be shown one time just as it is any calamity, prompting Le Batard to explain his opinion on how the footage will likely be promulgated by the internet. The program then moves on to discuss Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, who had his properties raided by authorities as part of a federal investigation pertaining to sexual assault, sex trafficking, firearms and illegal narcotics.

Over the years, industry professionals have frequently associated the word ‘pontificate’ with Le Batard, referring to how he expresses himself and often spans beyond sports. During his time at ESPN, the program had to clear certain creative elements or segment ideas with upper management. Many people began to foresee a split between Le Batard and ESPN approaching, and that resolution was eventually reached. Le Batard thinks critically and objectively about different topics, outlining his opinions about various matters on the air, and he always desired the ability to possess more creative control.

“Our show is just meant as an audio experience in a family-like environment, creating laughter and weirdness and pretending like it doesn’t know a lot of people are watching,” Le Batard said. “That needs to be protected, and we’ve thrown a lot of change at it.”

In the last several years alone, the program has enacted alterations in its process pertaining to the studio, cast members, clock, visual elements and start time. At the same time, Le Batard’s brother, David, was battling brain cancer and later passed away, but he did not want to give his audience the vulnerability associated with the hardship. Le Batard considers the creative process to be sacred and values the intimacy of their communication medium.

“I allow our most passionate fans to have strong opinions that make me reconsider mine,” Le Batard said. “I like a community that has sparks in it even if we get accused of being an echo chamber, but I would say that over the last couple of years, I have found fewer and fewer spaces where the criticism is constructive enough to be heard over all of the poisonous devices [and] rhetoric that is now internet spaces that are covered in acid and fire.”

When radio show producer Chris Cote was included in layoffs at ESPN in November 2020 without Le Batard’s knowledge, Le Batard immediately re-hired him as his assistant and offered to pay his salary. For Cote, the act was unsurprising because of Le Batard’s loyalty to his staff members and something he believed precipitated his exit from ESPN.

“That was an interesting time,” Cote recalled. “I would say I’ve made the joke on the air before that people like to blame me and say I’m the reason we left ESPN. I think what happened with me was the final straw that led to the divorce.”

Cote knew Le Batard from the time he was young since he worked with his father, Greg, at the Miami Herald. During those visits though, he did not realize Le Batard could one day be his boss. He now views it as funny that things ended up unfolding in this manner. Le Batard hosted this edition of the show with Greg Cote, someone he originally wanted as his partner on the air.

“If he and I had chosen to do the show with 20 years of reps, it would have felt like Larry David and the late Richard Lewis,” Le Batard said. “It would have been a chemistry because our friendship is real. It’s not borne of television; it’s not borne of broadcasting.”

“My dad brings that special sauce that Stugotz brings to the show where we’re talking about sports and then he says something, and the next thing we know, we’re spending 10 minutes just making fun of something he said,” Cote added. “My dad is like the gift that never stops giving. He’s just a gold mine for random stuff that has nothing to do with the conversation we’re trying to have, and he’s a content factory.”

The character of ‘Stugotz’ is not as much acting as it is an exaggerated version of who Weiner genuinely is in his life. On the show, he tries to represent how most people consume sports, affirming that Le Batard does it in a different manner. Part of his inspiration came from Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo, longtime radio host at WFAN and SiriusXM. Weiner believes that things clicked when he started to mock him rather than try and successfully facsimile his approach.

Part of the allure and mystique around ‘Stugotz’ is in his absences and fans not knowing when he will be on the show. As time has progressed, the character has appeared on other programs such as the God Bless Football and STUpodity podcasts, but he has long been synonymous as Le Batard’s sidekick who is relatable and intriguing. When he is missing from the program, the show rebrands its graphics to read “The Dan Le Batard Show without Stugotz” and plays off the aura of the personality.

“I wish it was my idea, I’m upset that it wasn’t my idea and this is the first I’m finding out about it,” Weiner said. “You’re telling me they do this every time I’m not there? Well two things – it shows, (a), how much attention I’m paying to the show when I’m not there, which is slightly less than I am when I am there, and No. 2 is my reaction to it. Me laughing is what makes our show our show. I’m pissed that I didn’t come up with the idea; I am proud of them for coming up with that idea and executing it. It’s laugh-out-loud funny.”

Le Batard and Stugotz broadcast their show facing a pane of transparent glass, behind which lies an addendum to the studio space. Chris Cote is part of the group within the “Shipping Container,” a room containing different producers and contributors who operate audio equipment, coordinate guest appearances and frequently contribute to the conversation. Both areas are adorned with artwork and sports memorabilia from the city of Miami. Mike Ryan (Ruiz) has been part of this labyrinth for several years, especially when he served as the show’s executive producer. In the present moment, this role is filled by several different personnel who rotate depending on schedule and show needs.

“The best shows are when there’s a lot of creative energy bouncing off one another [and] a lot of workshopping because this is basically a writers’ room where we trade off ideas and we try to figure out, ‘Who’s the best vessel for this joke?,’” Ryan said. “Sometimes we feed it to one of the talents; sometimes someone else says it here.”

Joining Ryan in the Shipping Container during this show were Billy Gil, JuJu Gotti and Anthony Calatayud. The live-streamed “Local Hour” is packed with topics and news the show discussed beforehand. Every hour of the program averages approximately 40 minutes on the podcast side and contains two breaks, each with a two-minute duration. Once the hour ends, Le Batard and the staff usually take a 15-minute intermission before resuming the show.

“We have a show that is kind of imperceptible when Dan isn’t driving a show,” Ryan said. “It’s this amorphous ensemble, and the trick is to not let anybody really know that there is a perceived leader – that it’s all just a free-flowing conversation – and I think that that’s a delicate balance that comes with time and developing chemistry.”

Gil was responsible for executive producing this edition of the show, running the audio board and coordinating with the television producers. When Le Batard mentioned Alan Thicke, Gil sifted through audio archives to track down something related to the topic. Additionally, he was taking notes to denote different titles and descriptions for segments geared to be released in podcast form.

“A lot of times, we’re trying to come up with jokes for Stugotz,” Gil said. “There’ll be days where naturally just bits will form, so then we’re getting sound for the bits; having voices done for the bits; kind of putting that together so there’s opens [and] closes. If a top-five or something comes up naturally, figuring out the top five. There’s a lot of in-show production and things going on that if you’re listening, we’ve gotten away with people being like, ‘Oh wow, that’s a lot of prep,’ and it’s like, ‘It happened on the fly.’”

Le Batard and former ESPN president John Skipper founded Meadowlark Media in 2021, a content studio with a wide array of programming and partnerships spanning sports and entertainment. The move was liberating to many show members and has been built out through The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz and other programs available in both audio and video formats. Le Batard’s show in particular has significantly expanded the staff situated within its Shipping Container with young and dynamic talent.

JuJu Gotti, for example, landed the job as the show’s social media manager through a friendship he forged with Ryan. Gotti gained attention when he revealed to Mike Golic and Trey Wingo that he had a tattoo of Greg Cote and was later featured on the program. Even though he does not live in the area, Gotti travels to the city once every two weeks where he provides his opinions and monitors social media platforms. Later in the day, Gotti participates in several meetings with the Miami-based Meadowlark Media team and continues his other work.

“I look at it like it’s a blessing to wake up every day, so anything beyond that is triple exciting because the people who are in the Shipping Container with me [are] not necessarily bad people at all,” Gotti said. “I enjoy hanging with them and talking to them, so it feels wonderful.”

After working as a video producer for Sports Illustrated, Jessica Smetana joined Meadowlark Media in its early stages and is on the verge of her third year with the company. Growing up as a devoted fan of ESPN and Le Batard’s program, she understands that there are diversified interests and opinions. Smetana does not hesitate to present her perspectives on different matters, such as the demise of Sports Illustrated amid uncertainty towards its future with a change in publishers.

“I don’t want to regret not saying what’s on my mind a month from now when I see a bunch of my friends out of jobs,” Smetana explained, “so I think it just comes from not wanting to hold anything back when some of those topics come up.”

Meadowlark Media and DraftKings agreed to a distribution deal in 2021 where The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, along with programs across the “Le Batard & Friends Network” are disseminated to a variety of different outlets. Ninety minutes of Le Batard’s show airs live on DraftKings Network every day as part of a two-hour programming block, the final 30 minutes of which is a replay of selected material from earlier in the show.

Within the ensuing hours of the show, which includes interviews with journalists Jemele Hill and Tim Kurkjian, Le Batard poses interview questions to his guests surrounding current events and new projects. The show also welcomes Amin Elhassan to the studio, who occasionally fills in as a host while also growing his Oddball podcast.

Le Batard, Cote and Elhassan are in the main studio and speak with those in the “Shipping Container” through the glass. Weiner believes the wide array of voices and perspectives keeps the show young and relevant as he and Le Batard continue to grow older. In watching the show evolve over time, Le Batard evinces that the new cast members coerce the audience to face unpredictability and leads to the show deviating from doing things in the exact same ways as it had previously.

As the newest member of the program, Lucy Rohden splits her time between the Shipping Container and reporting around the country. She was recently in Iowa covering the first round of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament, including watching her alma mater Iowa Hawkeyes and star guard Caitlin Clark.

“I found that traveling and creating content on the road is what I enjoy doing most, and so if that means sacrificing time on the show to get to do that, that’s sort of worth it for me,” Rohden said. “But it’s still something I’m balancing and learning how to do, and it’s something that the show is also balancing and learning how to incorporate because they haven’t really had an on-the-road correspondent before, so it’s still a work in progress, but lots of caffeine.”

Smetana and Rohden are the only two women who are in the Shipping Container. They have developed a friendship while working together. When Rohden first joined the show, Smetana helped her assimilate into the program and a new city. Both realized how important it is to include women on the show, especially with the proliferation of women’s sports.

“It’s always disheartening for me when I’m watching a sports show and I’m looking for someone who looks like me or who I relate to,” Rohden said, “and so I think it’s really great for (1), just rounding out the show, and Jess is unbelievably funny and talented, and I believe I do the same.”

“Obviously women’s sports has exploded in the last five years and it continues to explode, and I think there’s still a huge number of really popular sports shows in the U.S. that don’t have any women on them, which I think is crazy,” Smetana added. “But I still think even though I’m on the show now, we obviously could still do better.”

Part of the allure of the program for Weiner is in the unknown of who will be in the Shipping Container on a given day. The show has several contributors and content creators who follow changing schedules, and many of them partake in other projects both related to and outside of Meadowlark Media. Roy Bellamy, for example, started working with the program as an intern at 790 The Ticket and has been involved through various iterations over the years.

During the show, Bellamy focuses on his work and carefully selects when he will speak. A passion for hockey has led him to create a new podcast, titled The Hockey Show, which he recently debuted with co-host David Dwork. While Bellamy reviews metrics and other performance-related information, being able to interact with the fans and hear their opinion on the show is meaningful and keeps him motivated.

“I would say there are a lot of people that come up to us on the street and tell us just how much their lives have been bettered or change or how they got through issues, such as the pandemic, just based on listening to our show,” Bellamy said, “so the impact is there, and the impact is felt and it’s huge.”

Unlike a preponderance of live radio shows, the program does not usually implement callers and instead reviews messages in chat rooms or on social media during the episode. Those in the studio and Shipping Container can communicate with one another through microphone talkback and/or between segments, allowing them to integrate different show components in real time. In Las Vegas, members of the show stayed afterwards for a meet-and-greet session with the audience, providing them a chance to thank their fans. The experience resonated with producer Anthony Calatayud, who recognizes how the show has withstood internal and external changes to realize widespread societal acceptance.

“I think the personal touch in the community that the show has created with people that don’t know each other from all different parts of the globe – that they’re able to sit down and be like, ‘Oh, you get the show? Perfect, I get the show too,’ and have a camaraderie about that is something that can’t be measured with numbers, with money or with anything like that,” Calatayud said. “I think the impact of that is lasting.”

As the show reaches its conclusion within its postgame hour, it continues its ‘March Sadness’ bracket by reviewing entries within the ‘Greg Cote division.’ Preceding this segment was a review of a basketball take from ESPN host Mike Greenberg and another version of ‘Back in My Day’ with Greg Cote.

Once everyone involved in the show emerges from the studio and subsequent control rooms, there are more meetings to be had throughout the day about new content ideas, initiatives and other business matters. Audio and video editors are simultaneously diligently working around the office to deliver the final product en masse. Jeremy Taché is the primary audio editor for the program and also contributes within the Shipping Container a few days per week.

“I have to stay focused on the show every day and plugged in, whether I’m on the air or not,” Taché outlined. “I also write our titles and descriptions for our podcast episodes, so I’m always kind of trying to think, ‘What are the biggest jokes? What are the ones that landed?’”

The Meadowlark Media facility in Miami has an additional production studio that is used to record various podcasts and other audiovisual content. There are days where the studios are packed with shows moving in and out, whereas other afternoons are relatively quiet in terms of new productions.

Meadowlark Media has offices in New York City as well, and signed deals with companies to continue moving into the content space. The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, for example, is available to stream on Max with the B/R Sports Add-On. All The Smoke Productions also agreed to a strategic content partnership with the company for its flagship podcast hosted by former NBA players Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson.

“We all dream-build over here at Meadowlark, and we’re hoping that it can go to really, really impressive places,” Ryan said. “I don’t mean to sound like we haven’t already accomplished some pretty impressive things so far. The company is growing in great ways, and adding All The Smoke, those are two really reputable talents that give us something in our locker that we didn’t really have before – players’ perspective and a real, true name that you can put up in the marquee there next to Dan’s show.”

Weiner believes that his time on the show is finite, asserting that he does not believe he or Le Batard will want to continue in their sixties. Projecting outward, they want to ensure they provide a professional working environment where employees can create and thrive in the job they want. There exists a possibility where they could one day take over the show, which will be moving to a new location in a few years. For now though, everyone involved is trying to enjoy the ride and help precipitate continued growth.

“I’ve always said the key to our show is Dan’s happiness,” Weiner conveyed. “He’s the straw that stirs the drink, and so in an odd way as frustrating as I can be and as frustrated as I make him, he’s a creature of habit, and having me next to him makes him more comfortable, and I think he would probably acknowledge that. Our staff knows how to produce me in a way that they don’t know how to produce anybody because they’ve been doing it for 20 years.”

“What a beautiful gift to have the ability to make something that is about you; your imaginations; your principles and have it reach and imprint someone else,” Le Batard said. “To be able to express yourself freely is something that my parents fled Cuba so that their kids would have the ability to be a writer in one case, and in the case of my late little brother, an artist. Freedom of expression and freedom in general is why I live in this country.”

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BSM Writers

Seeking Solutions at the NAB Show

“ My hope is that I’ll leave Las Vegas this week, smarter, inspired, and more confident in where we’re headed.”

Jason Barrett

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Photo Credit: NAB Show 2024

I’m writing this while on a flight to Las Vegas for the NAB Show, where I’ll spend the next few days talking and listening to folks discuss the future of the media business. Curtis LeGeyt and his team do a fantastic job with this event. Technology will be on full display, relationships will be extended in hallways and restaurants, and ideas and insights will be shared on stage by many operating corporately, and in local markets.

I’ve always enjoyed attending and speaking at this show because I have access to more information than most. That doesn’t make my opinions or wisdom better, it just means it doesn’t come from one source. I’ll get to share some of my thoughts on Tuesday when I join Fred Jacobs, Mitch Rosen, Rod Lakin, John Mamola and Matt Nahigian for a session titled, “Changing The Game: Creating Unique Sports Radio Programming.” I’ll also be appearing with new RAB CEO Michael Hulvey on the ‘Radio on Main Street’ podcast.

I’m privileged to consult many brands across the country. Most of my focus is on radio, but that’s not the only space I’m in. There are groups I work with that you have no idea about. News is part of my mix too. My access to various companies allows me to stay educated and see things that others only read about.

Because I see and hear so much, and I study brands, content, and audience habits, it drives me crazy hearing folks preach the same things they did a decade ago. Some leaders view the industry through one company lens, and don’t take advantage of opportunities to attend and learn at places like the NAB Show. I’ve never understood that. Why stay the same when opportunities to get better exist? What you believe works and doesn’t isn’t often seen the same by others. This is especially true when comparing the big three (Audacy, Cumulus and iHeart) to smaller groups.

But this isn’t just an executive or corporate issue. It happens with programmers, talent and agents too. I hear a lot of the same complaints but don’t see a lot of proof of a better way forward. Whether it involves discovering talent, measurement, generating revenue, mastering social media, getting talent paid or using artificial intelligence, what are your solutions?

The media business is constantly evolving. Many new brands have emerged, and they see opportunity where traditional outlets don’t, especially in digital. Growing a brand and business requires more than playing the hits, chasing meters, and sharing posts on LinkedIn. It takes adding skills you don’t have, building programming for different platforms, growing revenue beyond traditional ways, and most importantly, getting out of your own way. If you don’t have all the answers, that’s ok. Acting like you do is a bigger issue.

We have never had more real estate to work with to connect audiences and advertisers. However, we don’t take full advantage of it because many aren’t masters of multiple spaces. We also create goals that sound good in conference rooms yet lack the strategy and insight to be executed. I hear this a lot when websites, podcasts, YouTube, social media and newsletters are mentioned.

Because I love this industry so much, I defend it frequently. Print outlets love to portray our business in a negative light. Even the trades prioritize coverage of revenue projections, stock prices, investments in technology, etc., things that matter less to listeners, viewers, content creators and programmers. With so much attention on the industry’s lack of growth, it often looks like we’re steering a ship towards a tsunami.

My hope is that I’ll leave the NAB Show, smarter, inspired, and more confident in where we’re headed. Optimism is sometimes hard to find in terrestrial outlets, but this is an exciting time for the media industry. Capitalizing requires new skills, a wider focus, creativity, and forward-thinking leaders. Let’s put our time and energy into identifying solutions rather than spewing the same old narratives.

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Thumbs Up

University of Florida: State of the art equipment, tons of space, on-site operations for the SEC Network, a weather network to cover the entire state of Florida, ownership of Gainesville’s leading sports radio station (WRUF), excellent hands-on training, and students who want to learn, and possess passion and desire to make a mark on the business. It was great to see so many invested on campus in the future of the industry. It’s easy to see why Florida’s track record of developing successful broadcasters is stellar.

Chris Oliviero: Audacy New York’s top boss has always had a sharp programming mind, and when faced with making moves to guide his brands forward, he’s often passed the test with flying colors. He’s doing it again with the naming of WFAN’s new program director. The news becomes official at 9am ET today. Once the name is revealed, I’ll update this space to provide proper attribution. The bottom line, WFAN made a great hire.

Dave Portnoy: Betting on sports often produces losses but Portnoy lately has been on a hot streak. The Barstool Sports owner hit last week on the NCAA Championship game, and again this weekend with the Masters. Over the past four months he’s generated over 5 million dollars in winnings. What’s next, Dave?

Thumbs Down:

NCAA Championship Game Start Time: I understand that the game between UConn and Purdue took place in Arizona, but there’s no reason for a national championship game to start at 9:20pm ET. Given how much TV networks pay, and taking into account the viewing habits of sports fans, losing audience on a Monday night over a late start time makes little business sense. Hopefully this gets figured out in the future.

AEW: Airing behind the scenes footage of an incident involving CM Punk made sense eight months ago. Doing it last week was pointless. Any momentum gained is tied to a talent no longer in the company, and having an arena full of people chanting a former talent’s name does little for anyone on the current roster. Just a strange decision that provided little upside.

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Eavesdropping: Masters Radio on SiriusXM

“And then there is the very best in the business at doing this, who is an even better teammate, the voice of the Masters, Mike Tirico.”

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Graphic for Eavesdropping feature with Masters Radio

A tradition unlike any other, indeed. It was yet another mesmerizing Masters tournament this past weekend when Scottie Scheffler took home his second green jacket. The weekend weather was perfect, and the golf was spectacular. I spent a lot of my weekend eavesdropping in on Masters Radio from SiriusXM.

Listening to golf on the radio is a bit sentimental for me. One of my best friends, Jay Randolph Jr., was a PGA Tour Radio broadcaster, and sadly we lost Jay to liver cancer in November 2022. He had worked with many of the voices I was listening to this weekend and in a weird way I felt very connected to him listening to the Masters on the radio versus hearing the audio from CBS.

I can’t say enough good things about the way the Masters is presented on radio. From tuning in early and hearing David Marr III setting the scene for the day along with Craig Stadler and Scott Simpson to hearing the starter introduce Tiger Woods to hearing the crew throughout the day as the leaders worked their way around the course, it was, in a word, masterful.

There are many voices you hear while listening and it’s obvious none of them would rather be anywhere else. That’s the overall feeling you walk away with when listening to the Masters Radio team – they love golf, they love this tournament, and they’re having the time of their lives painting the picture for the audience.

The knowledge of course, is off the charts. Whether it’s little nuggets of statistical information, historical facts or on-course reporters giving reads of a green, the Masters Radio team knows their golf and you walk away a smarter golf fan when listening to what they have to say.

As the players at the top of the leaderboard on Sunday began to tee off, around 2:15 p.m. CT, host Taylor Zarzour had a terrific introduction before turning things over to one of the best parts of Masters Radio, lead voice Mike Tirico.

As the Masters music played in the background, Zarzour said, “From the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, this is the Masters on SiriusXM. Why is it that we love this place so much? Maybe it’s because of its breathtaking beauty…maybe it’s the fellowship at Augusta National, without any electronic devices, you are your most present here. The conversation seems more meaningful. You are where your feet are.

“Or maybe, ‘YES SIR!’ the man that made that collection of words famous is Verne Lundquist, in one of his many calls we will never forget. Verne made it during what I think we love the most, the second nine on Sunday at Augusta. Today is his final assignment in an illustrious career. Wouldn’t it be fun if he had one more memorable call? If so, we will press play on it during this final round broadcast led by Jeremy Davis and his fabulous production team.

“On the air we have some Masters veterans as analysts. I wish you could see Johnson Wagner’s passion when an eagle was made. And if the Masters had an accent, Steve Melnyk would be speaking it. The best on-course commentators in golf are here with John Maginnes stationed at Amen Corner, Brian Katrek in the middle of holes 15 and 16, and the great Maureen Madill is headed over to 17.

“And then there is the very best in the business at doing this, who is an even better teammate, the voice of the Masters, Mike Tirico.”

I planned to write my own description, but I think Zarzour nailed it. Tirico did as well, saying, “Taylor, that’s awesome man, that sets the scene so perfectly and I think shapes the thoughts of so many of us as we drive into the property here on Sunday.”

While the broadcasters were all on their A-game, so too were the producers and sound engineers. As I said before, they don’t miss anything. Whether it be the sound of the club hitting the ball, the conversations between caddies and players, the atmosphere of the birds and the patrons, it is all blended exceptionally well. And when something big happens, the passion of the announcer’s voice along with the noise from the crowd is mixed perfectly.

The broadcasters gave every player at the top of the leaderboard their just do. The more you listened, the more you learned about Scottie Scheffler, Max Homa, Ludvig Aberg, Collin Morikawa and Bryson DeChambeau as they made their way around the course. You caught every step of their rounds with Maginnes, Katrek, Madill and Johnson Wagner walking the course with them. And nobody is better at giving you the storylines than Mike Tirico.

Tirico is one of those voices where if you hear it, you know the event is a big one. His voice leading the way on Masters Radio makes it sound even bigger than it is, if that is even possible. He not only gives exceptional commentary, but he is terrific bringing in the other broadcasters in and out of the conversation. And, as one can imagine, he is as prepared as possible, a virtual golf and Masters encyclopedia.

As the leaders got past ‘Amen Corner’ and the tournament started to reach its climax, you could feel the emotion through the microphones.

As Scottie Scheffler led by two and then hit his second shot on 14 to within two feet of the hole, Tirico had an excellent play-by-play call, followed by a very subtle response from Steve Melnyk, who simply said, “There’s a reason he’s No. 1.”

As Scheffler putted out and took a three-shot lead, Tirico added, “He’s that close to a second green jacket in three years.”

At that point in the broadcast, Zarzour took over and Tirico moved to a setup next to the 18th green and as he did Zarzour mentioned it was from there Tirico had called Tiger Woods’ win exactly five years prior.

As Tirico and Johnson Wagner take over the call from near the 18th green at around 5:25 CT, the leaders head to the 16th hole with Scheffler leading by three.

As analyst Steve Melnyk wrapped up his time in the booth, he praised Scheffler for his play and made a statement about second place finisher Ludvig Aberg saying, “Ludvig is the new young face of the golf world.”

Maureen Madill doubled down as she told Tirico that some of the younger golfers who challenged Scheffler this weekend were like a zoom call where they are waiting to come into a meeting. “I think Ludvig Aberg and Max Homa are in the major waiting room,” she said.

As Scheffler started to wrap up his second win at Augusta, Brian Katrek had the call of his putt on the 16th hole: “…On the way, up to the cup and in. There are no more questions, Scottie Scheffler can put one arm in the jacket right now. Birdie at 16, he is 11 under par and he leads by four.”

Tirico was bringing it all home as he described Scheffler and his caddie Ted Scott walking up the 18th fairway. “The crescendo builds as Scheffler gets close to the 18th green,” he said and then brilliantly went silent and let the crowd noise takeover.

As Scheffler pitched to within a few feet, Tirico said, “Scottie Scheffler’s gonna do it again.”

As Scheffler wrapped up his championship, Tirico said, “Scheffler, over the ball, shuffles the feet, Scottie Scheffler the putter back and in! Scottie, Scottie, he’s done it again. Scottie Scheffer, for the second time in three years is the Masters Champion.” He later added, “Only eighteen men now have won multiple Masters and the latest is Texan Scottie Scheffler.”

Golf on the radio is not easy. It’s made even more difficult when you are trying to blend together a number of voices and sounds to truly maximize the coverage. I can’t imagine it being done any better than the way Masters Radio on SiriusXM did it this weekend.

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Eavesdropping: Busted Open on SiriusXM

“If Cody would have won at WrestleMania 39 there would have been cheers. But what you got because of Cody’s victory last night was tears.”

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Graphic for Eavesdropping: Busted Open Radio

The day after the Super Bowl, it’s always fun to hear sports radio in the two towns which had teams in the game. In that same vein, I tuned into Busted Open on SiriusXM the day after WrestleMania weekend.

Host Dave LaGreca, who plays the role of the fan on the show, was joined live from WWE World by co-hosts Tommy Dreamer, Mark Henry and Bully Ray. The fan exhibit was not open to the public at the start of the show, but fans entered the picture after the first hour.

The first hour of this particular show went about as fast as a radio show can possibly move. As soon as the show started the hosts immediately got into making fun of Bully Ray, who had been a surprise guest-referee in a match during WrestleMania night two, for how he looked in the referee uniform.

“Allow me to be the very first to admit those stripes don’t look the best on me,” the WWE Hall of Famer replied to the jokes.

Mark Henry jumped in to say, “It was kind of just what WrestleMania needed. To have the ECW influence on the show, great representation for the brand and showing respect to Paul Heyman as well.” Heyman had been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame during the weekend and was celebrated not only for his WWE contributions but as the creator of ECW, which was based in Philadelphia, where he first worked with Bully Ray who was then known as Bubba Ray Dudley.

“I had people backstage in WWE telling me ‘We have never seen you smile that much in life ever,’ said Bully Ray “…I jumped at the opportunity. Too much fun.  Last night was the first WrestleMania that I got to appreciate…the level of stress that came with [when you are performing in the matches] you’re not able to take it all in…it’s really not fun because it’s so stressful.”

Bully Ray said he could feel the pop as he was introduced and really enjoyed getting to “smell the roses for the first time.”

LaGreca could no longer hold it in. He cut off the talk about his co-host participating in WrestleMania and moved on to the heart of the matter. In the main event the night before, Cody Rhodes had ended the run of Roman Reigns as the Undisputed Universal Champion after more than three and a half years. More importantly to the hosts and fans alike, the story of Cody Rhodes building to this moment was one they all agreed was one of the great moments in WrestleMania history.

Of course, WWE loves surprises and on the second night of this year’s WrestleMania, they had plenty in store. The Rock had already come back to be a part of the WrestleMania 40 storyline and then during the Sunday main event, John Cena and The Undertaker came out as surprises.

Bully Ray gave a great description of what he was doing as the main event was happening. He said he was with Damian Priest, who had earlier in the evening won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, and while they didn’t plan to watch the main event live, when it started, they thought they needed to see it. “We ran through the halls and go out into the arena,” he said. “Guys, when the gong hit for The Undertaker, the both of us turned into 12-year-olds…we were jumping up and down…lost it, loved it.”

Mark Henry said, “We reacted the same way. I cannot imagine what that must’ve felt like in person.” Bully Ray replied, “When you can hear the pop in a stadium, you know the pop is big.”

LaGreca said, “There wasn’t a lot to get excited about with night number one, but night two was just hit, after hit, after hit. And that main event, with all the stories that played out and had a conclusion during that match…You couldn’t have played that out to a better conclusion than what we saw last night.”

The hosts then listened to an audio clip from the previous year, where the day after WrestleMania some fans, including LaGreca, were extremely disappointed that Cody Rhodes did not beat Roman Reigns and “finish his story” then. At the time, Bully Ray had said there was a bigger picture story WWE would build that would show Cody fighting hard times much like his father, ‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes had gone through. Mark Henry agreed.

LaGreca said he was “eating some crow” but then admitted it’s all part of it where the emotion gets so high, and he pointed out that people were actually crying when the main event ended.  “If Cody would have won at WrestleMania 39 there would have been cheers.  But what you got because of Codys victory last night was tears,” LaGreca said. “This is an end of one story, but more importantly the beginning of a new story.”

LaGreca came back from a break and reverted immediately back to what the difference was in Rhodes winning the title in 2024 versus having done it in 2023. “It went from a great moment…to maybe one of the greatest WrestleMania moments of all time last night,” he said.

There was strong insight given out by all of the former wrestlers at different times during the show, and they also pointed to things a casual fan may not have picked up on. One of those happened when you heard ring announcer Samantha Irvin get genuinely emotional in announcing Rhodes as the new champion.

“We’re not used to hearing emotion in a ring announcer’s voice, so Samantha Irvin brought something special and extra to the table in that announcement,” said Bully Ray.

Tommy Dreamer added, “It was the most perfect imperfection ever and it made that moment even more real…it was something that will be remembered through the annals of time.”

As the hosts continued to talk about the emotion of the night, Henry said, “It felt like WE won.” This gave Bully Ray the chance to sum it all up as he said, “The key word that you just said, WE. Cody made you feel like you were a part of his struggle. You were a part of his story.”

Henry went on to say, “I felt like last night, for the first time, that I could almost cry for Cody. I honestly felt emotional seeing him become the face of this new era, the ‘Triple H’ era….Wrestling is a feel business and if you don’t feel it then it’s not worth really putting on television. I felt that [last night] and I know every fan felt that.”

The hosts continued to give insight as they discussed a gift given to Cody Rhodes by WWE executives backstage and a spot where a table broke before it was supposed to and how smoothly the performers pivoted. Having Henry, Dreamer and Bully Ray on the show allows for a lot of this type of discussion where they can give perspective from having been in the ring.

Later LeGreca is asked if he would rank this WrestleMania up there with WrestleMania 17, widely considered the best of all time. LeGreca said if night number two stood on its own he would say it was better, but perhaps not if you consider both nights. The panel as a whole agreed it was definitely up there as one of the best and Henry noted it will be the highest grossing, so that is one way to judge which was the best.

“There were very few holes in that show,” Dreamer said.

While the first hour was rapid fire and had a ton of great reaction to all of the highlights of the night before, the show took a bit of a turn in the second hour. As the crowd became a part of the show it seemed to change the demeanor of the hosts a bit, especially LaGreca who seemed to be playing to the crowd rather than the listening audience. He yelled out “We did it!” talking about Cody Rhodes winning and then led a “Cody! Cody! Cody!” chant that didn’t go over well to those not on site.

Then there was a very strange guest appearance by WWE superstar Liv Morgan which seemed to bring the show to a halt. Later, Kevin Owens was live on the show and his appearance made a lot more sense as he participated in WrestleMania and had thoughts to share about others who performed and the storylines which were created. Owens helped bring the energy of the show back up and you could tell as a listener how passionate he is about wrestling and what took place during WrestleMania 40.

The programmer in me would remind the hosts not to do the show for their hardcore fans only, as they have to assume people are coming in and out of the show. They had incredible content in the first hour with really strong opinions from their experts, but there was never any resetting or going back to what was talked about, which I thought was a bit of a miss.

With that said, if you are a wrestling fan and you didn’t feed off the energy and excitement the hosts had for what they had witnessed the night before, something is wrong with you. Busted Open Radio was an excellent listen as a follow up to what was a memorable WresleMania weekend.

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