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How ESPN Radio Has Evolved

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Summer is in full swing, but the season of #HotTakes is quickly cooling off.

Colin Cowherd — already with one foot in the Fox Sports life-raft — fell into steaming, shark-infested waters following the type of xenophobic, bigoted comments about Dominicans that were only a couple doors down from Trump-ian levels of boorishness.

Not surprisingly, ESPN brass ensured those words would be Cowherd’s unceremonious swan song at the network, relieving the lightning rod from storm duty in Bristol. The man who carried mid-mornings by himself on ESPN for a dozen years — no small task, it should be noted — vanished in a cumulonimbus of his own neoconservative foolishness.

While the 10–1 a.m. Eastern block will never be the same, and many would argue that’s a good thing, a rich arsenal of talent is waiting in the wings to pounce on the coveted time-slot. More importantly, however, Cowherd’s unceremonious departure is but another in a series a surprising shifts from sports talk’s blustery past to its brilliant future. In fact, the afternoon, evening and weekend cruise directors aboard the Dread Pirate ESPN Radio are more intelligent, nuanced and cultured than ever — a gradual movement that dates back over half a decade.

Which begs the question: Has any of this been by design?

When the Scott Van Pelt Show debuted in 2009, it represented a gentle breeze that stemmed the hot air bloviating from sports radio for over a generation. With silly segments like “Seven Seconds” and “Pulse of the Nation” interspersed between heartfelt interviews and always, always “One Big Thing,” Scott Van Pelt and — after cycling through a couple capable co-pilots before meeting his match — Ryen Russillo perfectly balanced an inclusive, enlightening dialogue with a snarky tone. It helped that in Scott and Ryen, ESPN had the two backward-hat jokesters shooting spitballs in the back of class who also just happened to be secret bookworms who aced every test.

As that show grew in popularity — particularly among the coveted 18–34 demographic that appreciated sabermetrics and Aqua Teen Hunger Force with equal fervor — SVP & Russillo (as the show was renamed) stood in stark contrast to the “rack ‘em” mongols that elevated Jim Rome into the Kublai Khan of the afternoon sports talk “Jungle.”

With the Duke rapping Wu-Tang and Stanford Steve asking “Who’s the Nerd?”, the two developed a din that was effortlessly brilliant and casually profound. Since SVP left the show earlier this year, the chocolate-baritone Russillo, a veteran late-night radio voice, College Gameday air-traffic controller and NBA salary cap-savant, has carried the torch with a deft touch and a workhorse mentality.

And Russillo isn’t the only friendly voice that cut his teeth soundtracking sleepless nights whose star is rapidly rising.

Freddie Coleman has graduated into quite the mainstay at the Four-Letter, a sturdy pundit with a yeoman’s soul and an everyman’s heart who has carved out a sub-genre somewhere approaching “Quiet Storm Sports Talk.” Coleman may be a warm, welcoming overnight host, but he’s no overnight success. He’s spent a dozen years at ESPN refining his hypnotic voice, understated opinions, subtle enthusiasm, and whip-smart takes.

It’s tough to imagine a polar opposite of Coleman being equally likable, but if anyone pulls off the trick, it’s Highly Questionable Dan Le Batard — the converted Miami columnist, DLHQ O.G., and part-time PTI carpet-bomber who is among the most creative, zany and intelligent minds in sports. Le Batard has never written a check with his hurricane-force loudmouth that his mind couldn’t cash or hasn’t been cosigned by damn near every respected mind in the industry. He combines Caddyshack-era Rodney Dangerfield with Moneyball-era Michael Lewis, hosting the wildest, smartest frat party on radio.

And yet, Le Batard’s Highly Questionable co-host and recent Miami transplant Bomani Jones may be the single most emblematic embodiment of the ESPN Radio paradigm shift. Jones, who’s “The Right Time” sizzles from 9–11 p.m. Eastern, famously admits he’s been fired from almost every job he’s ever had. It sure as hell wasn’t for a lack of talent or hard work.

The son of two college professors, with a degree from Clark-Atlanta and two Masters in economics from Claremont and UNC, Jones seems like an unlikely sports radio star … until you listen to him. He’s unflinchingly smart and you get the sense he’d be just as capable of winning a Nobel Prize as an Emmy. A new media savant who tweets with metronomic precision and frequency, Jones lights up the airways with some of the most reasoned, nuanced positions the sports world has to offer. His most profound segments — including some of the most electric commentary on race this side of Ta-Nehisi Coates — hum like an extended EDM buildup before he drops the beat and the mic and the hammer, often leading to viral notoriety for all the right reasons.

And for as bright as Jones’ evening star shines, the recently knighted beacons of ESPN’s Saturday and Sunday sports talk also radiate with Ivy League brilliance.

Alums (and recovering athletes) of Cornell and Duke, respectively, Sarah Spain and Prim Siripipat spit some of the most feverish game the industry. Spain & Prim made its maiden voyage this year and feels like the kind of polished, comfortable conversation that’s always existed and always will. It’s two women — yes, Fellas, women! — dominating the intersection of sports and pop culture with a wine-drinker’s sophistication and a beer-guzzler’s passion.

Following in the footsteps of the criminally under-appreciated Amy Lawrence, ESPN’s move to finally bring two strong female voices to radio together, where they can be judged by the caliber and charisma of their opinions, is a gift from the programming gods. It’s also a giant leap forward from the longstanding tradition of chauvinist executives typecasting women as sideline lawn ornaments. One can only expect (and cheer for) this show being the beginning of an unprecedented run.

Aside from the (perhaps intentionally) vanilla Mike and Mike morning monolith — which generates huge ratings and even larger profit margins — the ESPN Radio empire has been taken over seamlessly, smartly and soulfully by a new generation of on-air talent.

Someday, we might even look back and realize that the Golden Era of Sports Talk began auspiciously with a snarky Sportscenter anchor named Van Pelt, who kicked down the sports radio door and made it safe for smart people — particularly Millennials — without forcing them to turn the dial to NPR.

And with any luck, we will also look back at Colin Cowherd’s ousting as the final nail in the coffin of the who-wants-it-more “Embrace Debate” era — the end of predictable and lazy commentary tropes like “Count the Rings” and exhaustive explorations of the “Character Issues” that only African-American quarterbacks seem to develop.

With Russillo, Coleman, Le Batard, Jones, Spain and Siripipat, the voices of the Mothership’s next generation are reasoned, analytical, inclusive, hip, brilliant and diverse. (Indeed, only Russillo comes out of “White Male” radio host central casting, and even he comes across as atypical in the industry’s formulaic construct.) ESPN Radio is now stocked with fully-formed, eclectic, diverse people, with passions beyond X’s and O’s, and talents beyond seeing who can yell the loudest to prove their point.

Miraculously, what we may be hearing is a complete overhaul of over-the-air sports as we know it. The prophecies foretold may well have been right, after all. The revolution will not be televised. It’ll air on ESPN Radio.

Listen up.

Credit to The-Caludron.com who originally published this article

Sports Radio News

Parker Hillis Named Brand Manager of Sports Radio 610

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Goodbye snow and hello heat! Parker Hillis is headed to Houston. Audacy has announced that he will be the new brand manager for Sports Radio 610.

“Parker is a rising star,” Sarah Frazier, Senior Vice President and Market Manager of Audacy in Houston, said in a press release. “He has impressed us since day one with his innovative ideas, focus on talent coaching and work ethic. We’re thrilled to have him join our Audacy team.”

Hillis comes to the market from Denver. He has spent the last three years with Bonneville’s 104.3 The Fan. He started as the station’s executive producer before rising to APD earlier this year.

In announcing his exit from The Fan on his Facebook page, Hillis thanked Fan PD Raj Sharan for preparing him for this opportunity.

“His leadership and guidance set the stage for me to continue to grow and develop in this industry, one that I absolutely love,” Hillis wrote. “This is a special place, one that I am honored to have been a part of and so sad to leave.”

Sports Radio 610 began the process to find a new brand manager in February when Armen Williams announced he was leaving the role. Williams also came to Houston from Denver. He started his own business outside the radio industry.

“I’m excited to join the Sports Radio 610 team in Houston,” said Hillis. “The opportunity to direct and grow an already incredible Audacy brand is truly an honor.”

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Dave Rothenberg Can’t Stand Hearing Kenny Albert Mispronounce ‘Raleigh’

“I would think a true professional, like somebody that cares about their craft, would get that kind of feedback and welcome it.”

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Dave Rothenberg has a tiny bone to pick with Kenny Albert, and it’s over the way Kenny pronounces the Carolina Hurricanes’ home city.

Talking on his show on ESPN New York on Tuesday, Rothenberg, who spent three years working in Raleigh on 99.9 The Fan, said he wished someone would get in Albert’s ear and correct the way he’s been saying it adding that it has made him wish one of the top play-by-play voices in hockey wouldn’t be on the call for the playoff series between the Canes and New York Rangers.

“I would think a true professional, like somebody that cares about their craft, would get that kind of feedback and welcome it,” Rothenberg said.

Albert has been pronouncing the city’s name as “RAW-lee”. It is properly pronounced “RAH-lee”.

Co-host Rick DiPietro and the rest of the show crew thought Albert would take offense to the correction, especially since it’s such a minor thing, but Rothenberg thought that was ridiculous.

“See, no one can deal with tough love anymore,” Rothenberg said.

The New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes series shifts back to Raleigh on Thursday for Game 5. The series is tied 2-2.

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NBC Sports Names Al Michaels To Emeritus Role

The partnership will keep Michaels on for the Olympics and NBC’s NFL playoff coverage.

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Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

NBC Sports, which had been the home of Al Michaels since 2006, will still feature the veteran broadcaster despite Michaels’ moving to Amazon for Thursday Night Football.

The network announced that Michaels will still be a part of NBC Sports’ high-profile broadcasting properties including the Olympics and NFL Playoffs. Michaels’ last broadcast with the network had been Super Bowl LVI in February, his eleventh Super Bowl.

NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua said in a statement, “Revered by viewers and colleagues, Al has been the soundtrack for many of the greatest moments in sports television history. We are thrilled that he’s staying in the family and raising the stature of our events for years to come.”

“I’m looking forward to continuing my longtime NBC relationship while also launching the Thursday Night Football package on Amazon this fall. A special thanks to NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua and the folks at NBCUniversal for their help in making this happen,” Michaels said.

Michaels moved to Amazon Prime Video this season for their Thursday Night Football package. He will be paired with ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit. This season will mark his 37th NFL play-by-play campaign in primetime.

Following another historic broadcasting moment in which Michaels deftly demonstrated his expertise and versatility, he became just the second sportscaster in history to receive a News Emmy nomination for his coverage of the San Francisco earthquake during the 1989 World Series.

In addition to the 11 Super Bowls, Michaels has worked nine Olympics and called eight World Series.

In December 2020, Michaels was honored with the 2021 Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Michaels is one of only five distinguished broadcasters to be recognized with the baseball honor and the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Award (Dick Enberg, Lindsey Nelson, Jack Buck, and Curt Gowdy).

One of television’s most respected journalists, Michaels has covered more major sports events than any sportscaster, including 20 years as the play-by-play voice of Monday Night Football. He is the only commentator to call the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals and host the Stanley Cup Final for network television. In addition, Michaels called the classic 1985 championship boxing match between Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns and “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler.

Among his many accolades, Michaels has captured eight Emmy Awards – seven for Outstanding Sports Personality – Play-by-Play and one in 2011 for the Lifetime Achievement Award, and has three times (1980, 1983 and 1986) received the NSSA Award from the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association; he was inducted into the NSSA Hall of Fame in 1998. Michaels was named Sportscaster of the Year in 1996 by the American Sportscasters Association, and, in 1991, he was named Sportscaster of the Year by the Washington Journalism Review.

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