South Florida’s sports radio landscape, marked by turnover and tumult all summer, is on the verge of undergoing its most seismic change yet:
At ESPN’s urging, Dan Le Batard is expected to move to the 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. slot, replacing Fox-bound Colin Cowherd, provided ESPN Radio agrees to contractual terms with Le Batard’s on-air partner, Jon Weiner.
Though Le Batard is on board with the move, the network must still negotiate with Weiner, known to most of the country as Stugotz. Le Batard naturally wants his friend to be taken care of, so that small hurdle remains.
ESPN President John Skipper is a big fan of Le Batard and the top ESPN executives all advocated his move to mornings, partly because more affiliates carry ESPN Radio from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (morning drive on the West Coast) than from 4 to 7 p.m.
There has been no decision on whether Fusion television will continue simulcasting Le Batard’s show; discussions are ongoing.
Presuming the deal gets done — and all parties are declining comment — here are the wide-ranging ramifications:
### Though no final decision has been made, former Miami Herald sports writers Ethan J. Skolnick (most recently of Bleacher Report) and Israel Gutierrez (who works for ESPN) are considered top candidates to fill Le Batard’s afternoon slot locally on 104.3 The Ticket but not nationally on ESPN Radio.
Under that scenario, there would be some consideration to adding a third person in a traffic-cop type host role, but that decision hasn’t been made. Chris Wittyngham and Josh Friedman would be capable options for that position, but station management prefers not to break them up, which seems sensible because of their strong chemistry.
Adam Kuperstein, who would like to resume doing local radio after being dropped by WQAM-560, cannot do a late afternoon show because of NBC-6 commitments. Friedman, Brian London and Eric Reed would be internal options.
The program would run from either 3 to 7 p.m. or 4 to 7 p.m. There is some thought being given to airing a “Best of Le Batard” show, with highlights of his morning program, from 3 to 4 p.m.
Even a taped Le Batard hour probably would be a stronger lead-in to Skolnick and Gutierrez (should they land the gig) than a live show hosted by someone else.
Over the past three years, Skolnick has appeared regularly during the 1 to 3 p.m. slot with Reed and former NFL player Leroy Hoard. Gutierrez appears twice a week on The Ticket’s morning show with Jonathan Zaslow and Joy Taylor.
### Le Batard and Weiner have expressed a willingness to do a “local hour” from 9 to 10 a.m., similar to their current 3-4 p.m. hour that airs only The Ticket.
Joe Rose has been the most competitive of any WQAM host in the ratings battle against The Ticket, with Rose and Zaslow/Taylor each winning multiple ratings books against the other over the past few months. A Le Batard hour at 9 a.m. might draw some listeners from the final hour of Rose.
### Wittyngham and Friedman, who shifted to mornings following Cowherd’s departure last month, likely would return to 7 to 10 p.m., unless the station decides to shift them to afternoon drive.
### Bomani Jones, who hosts a 9-11 p.m. show on ESPN Radio, is the front-runner to replace Le Batard nationally from 4 to 7 p.m. But The Ticket — which has a marketing partnership with The Miami Herald — prefers to air local programming during those hours.
ESPN Radio is expected to ask The Ticket to air an additional ESPN program besides Le Batard’s, but the station’s contract doesn’t explicitly require that.
At some point, The Ticket might air ESPN Radio on one of its signals (790 AM) and local programming, plus Le Batard, on the other (104.3 FM).
### Marc Hochman, whose WQAM show recently moved up an hour (to 2 p.m.) and added Channing Crowder, would no longer be competing with Le Batard, whose program Hochman previously produced. Le Batard generates the market’s highest sports-talk ratings.
Le Batard’s shift to mornings could give the personable Hochman a chance to make inroads in the ratings, though a potential Skolnick/Gutierrez pairing also would have wide appeal and name recognition inside the market.
### One other notable local media change that has nothing to do with Le Batard: Former UM All-American safety Bennie Blades will be WQAM-560’s new analyst on Hurricanes postgame shows, replacing Duane Starks, who has been working as a Baltimore Ravens scouting intern.
Those UM postgame shows have increasingly become a vent-and-bash-the-coaches session after losses and even after unimpressive wins. Blades was critical of UM coaching in an interview with Kuperstein last week. Randal Hill, who’s running for U.S. Congress, will remain WQAM’s pre-game analyst.
Credit to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald who broke this story and published this article
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.”
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.
NBC Sports Names Al Michaels To Emeritus Role
The partnership will keep Michaels on for the Olympics and NBC’s NFL playoff coverage.
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.
Thom Brennaman Continues to Search for a Second Chance
Brennaman has been searching for a broadcasting gig since he spoke a homophobic slur in August 2020 on a Cincinnati Reds broadcast.
The last time Thom Brennaman sported the microphone for a major broadcast was August 19, 2020. It was game that featured a doubleheader between the Cincinnati Reds and the Kanasas City Royals and in between the two, Brennaman blurted a homophobic slur that has thus far kept him off radio and television.
Brennaman has struggled to find his footing since that error. Recently, Brennaman recorded an episode of Tell Me A Story I Don’t Know, a podcast hosted George Ofman. That episode was available Tuesday and in it, Ofman asks where Brennaman thinks he’ll be in six months.
Brennaman said, “I have no idea. I really don’t. There were a couple of times I thought that maybe somebody out there was going to give me a chance to broadcast again and then this same thing comes up again.”
Brennaman sounded baffled that he’s still searching for work, citing other influential local leaders and what they opined in the days after the incident. “You know what you find out George, the guy who’s considered to be the leading voice of the LGBT community here in Cincinnati, he’s a big executive with Johnson and Johnson, a guy named Ryan Messer. He had written, and I had never met Ryan Messer at this point in time, like two days after what I said, he wrote a letter to the editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer, local paper, that Thom Brennaman should not be fired. There is room for growth here in so many areas and a great opportunity for him, for the gay community, for the Reds, for our society.”
Brennaman added that the two met as well as did Brennaman with other leaders in the LGBT community at the time. “I reached out to the guy and made contact with him and he’s the guy who’s house we went to that I made reference to earlier in listening to a bunch of the stories with some gay leaders. But anyway, I said ‘if you have people there – and I know you do – that are gay that work there, I would put up the amount of hours that I have spent in the gay community in some form or fashion over the last year against anybody you have that works in that office that’s gay’.”
Despite his efforts, the broadcasting veteran is dismayed that it’s failed to sway opinion, “it’s almost like in some cases it just falls on deaf ears.”
Regardless of where he is at now, he’s confident that eventually he’ll be afforded another opportunity. “But I ‘d like to think there’s somebody out there – and there will be and all it takes is one – is just to say ‘you know what, this was a mistake. Here’s the documentation of what the guy’s tried to do since then. We’re going to take a chance – answer some tough questions – and take a chance and get him back in the booth.”
And if another opportunity doesn’t present itself? “If it doesn’t happen, it’s not going to be the end of my life.”