When you listen to Chris Kroeger, you’re instantly drawn in by his passion, enthusiasm, and the high energy of James Brown’s “Living in America” which kicks off each hour of the show. The use of audio highlights gives you a sense of what’s topical each day, and once Kroeger’s voice penetrates the airwaves following the production open, it’s easy to detect how much he enjoys his job.
The program’s design comes from the brain of Program Director DJ Stout. It includes featuring rotating co-hosts to give the show an opportunity to feature different voices/specialists during different time periods that play to each individual’s strengths. On any given day a Charlotte sports radio listener who tunes in may be treated to the insights and opinions of former Panthers Wide Receiver Muhsin Muhammad, former NFL Linebacker and Charlotte native Omar Gaither, former Panthers and Hornets beat reporter Stan Olson, John Kilgo, and others.
I originally wrote about Chris this past October, where I identified him as one of 15 talents who people may not know but should. What I was impressed by then and now, is how much fun he has on the air, and how open he is about his fandom for his local market teams. He’s wise beyond his years and in a business where there’s debate constantly over whether you need to introduce lifestyle and entertainment subjects into a sports show to have success, Chris proves that a passion, love, and knowledge of sports, can be enough to win with.
The other aspect of his work that stands out is his activity and interaction with fans on social media. He takes the audience inside the show by letting them see the playlist of songs that will be used for bumper music each day. He takes a negative local story such as the Tar Heels losing the national championship game to Villanova, and has fun with it by switching his Twitter profile to the “Crying Jordan” photo.
That type of self-deprecation, and a willingness to provide an invitation to the audience into his program and life, is a big reason why he’s hitting all the rights notes with Charlotte sports radio fans.
I recently caught up with Chris to pick his brain on a number of subjects pertaining to the broadcasting business. I also wanted to get a better sense of his upbringing, and a deeper understanding of what fuels him as a sports talk radio performer. I think you’ll enjoy this conversation and I encourage you to check out 610 The Fan’s Audio On-Demand section and give his show a listen.
Q: Which broadcasters did you listen to growing up that influenced your decision to pursue a career in the sports radio business?
A: I was always a big fan of Dan Patrick, Keith Olbermann, Kenny Mayne, Stu Scott and Steve Levy on ESPN growing up. Back then, it was appointment viewing to watch SportsCenter and either catch up on the highlights of the day or see how those guys would put a spin on something, even though you knew the result.
Q: Where did you get your start and how did you end up at 610 The Fan?
A: I actually started at another sports talk station in town (they shall remain nameless) and actually flipped formats from music to sports. I was 23, fresh out of college and willing to do anything and everything. I booked guests, produced the show, handled all production for the station, cut spots, handled co-hosting duties occasionally and worked a lot of 12-14 hour days for about 10 months while making next-to-nothing (thanks to mom and dad letting me crash at their place rent-free).
I also did some part-time work with IMG College which led to becoming a full-time producer, host and utility PxP guy. I did that for about 3 years in Winston-Salem, working with all the Pac-12 properties (Arizona, ASU, Cal, Oregon, UCLA, UW, WSU and Texas) on their radio broadcasts.
Being from Charlotte, once I saw the afternoon slot open up a few years ago, I sent in my resume and aircheck and got a phone call back, an opportunity to try out and as they say, the rest is history.
Q: What do you consider the toughest part of hosting a 4-hour afternoon show?
A: Since we rotate different co-hosts, the hardest part is bringing the energy every single day. While I know the personalities we have coming in, I have to be the consistent one. That also means bending my desires and interests in show topics to what fits their strengths and desires. I always have to be trying to pull the best out of them while handling myself too.
Q: How do prepare, and who else is involved in your program’s creative process?
A: It’s usually myself and Producer Tony. Tony has produced this format for years, so he’s got a great feel for what a co-host can offer every day and how to take advantage of it. We’ll bat ideas back and forth and often gauge other talent around the station on what they think will play that given day.
Q: What importance do you place on the show’s ratings, and how often do you and your Program Director (DJ Stout) work on the show together?
A: Honestly, and this might sound bad, I don’t put a ton of weight into that stuff. That’s not to say that I don’t care or am not interested in the ratings and what they say, but I’m more of a macro guy. Especially since I’m still young and learning in the industry.
I try to take care of a lot of the day-to-day things on and off the air that I think are important to putting on a great show, and I trust that everything else will fall in line because of it. My Program Director (DJ Stout) and I meet every few weeks to make tweaks and discuss what’s working and what’s not.
A: Have fun. I’m a high-energy guy in the first place so it comes naturally, but if we’re having fun, the listener most likely is too.
Q: On a daily basis, how many topics do you try to introduce to the audience?
A: It depends on the season. During the slower times of the year (post-NFL and summer months), I try to throw a lot the listener’s way to keep them engaged, and keep the show moving. Being caller-driven, once football season rolls around, we can roll with less topics, and allow the show to take off.
Q: Which subjects do you focus on most? Are there areas you try to stay away from, and if so, why?
A: I’ve grown up in an era where Charlotte has shifted from being a college sports town to a pro sports town, specifically a Panthers town. Panthers, Hornets, college football and college basketball drive the ship and approximately in that order.
I enjoy the larger issues in sports: contracts, feuds, coaching/player dynamics, team building, etc. Anyone can break down a box score, but I enjoy the deeper discussions that exist in the sports world. I don’t mind some controversial topics when they pop up, whether it’s race, cultural, crime, etc. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I think the larger social topics that exist in sports are fascinating.
Q: How much value do you place on callers being a part of the show? Why do/don’t they matter to you?
A: We are a caller-driven show and station. Callers are a big part what we do for two reasons: 1) good, consistent callers build a community around the show 2) awful callers generate more show content and fodder, which can generate more calls.
Q: When it comes to guests, how many do you try to secure for each day’s program? How do you decide who gets booked? And what is it you’re looking to gain out of each conversation?
A: When it comes to guests, there’s no magic number. Mondays/Fridays during the NFL season are often pretty wide open, most times just one per show maximum. During the middle of the week, 2-3 is a normal number.
I think interviewing is my greatest strength, so I love having great guests, but they need to be just that, great. I want perspective from guests. They need to offer something to our audience that either I or my co-hosts can’t provide. Otherwise, what’s the point?
A sound bite isn’t what we’re after from a guest. We want stories, expertise, and a way to put into context the things we’re discussing on the show. For booking, my producer often comes to me with what he’s thinking and I’ll often shoot back with who I think would be great on a given topic. We work together.
Q: Looking at the world of sports radio today, what’s one area that you feel is getting worse and how can it be improved?
A: I think things are stale. I firmly believe Dan Le Batard has the best show going and it’s a perfect example of not being afraid to try things and fail miserably live on the air. And it’s that failure and embracing it that I think makes the show. If they screw up, don’t sweep it under the rug. Throw it into the massive stew that is the show.
They’ve found a way to take the intrinsic hate that exists around sports talk and media in general to become part of the show itself. They talk about music, TV, life, movies, things real people care about. At the end of the day, our demo is men. We all care about things outside of sports, so why not bring that stuff into the conversation every day?
I think this format is saturated with complacency and impatience. Try some things out, see if it takes root. I don’t think there are enough PD’s and talent out there willing to do that.
Q: For someone who’s considering this career path, what advice can you pass along to help them avoid mistakes and be successful?
A: The best advice I could give someone is be willing to say “yes” and then know when the time comes to say “no.” I did anything and everything I could to get my foot in the door, gain experience and build a resume. With today’s media landscape, being diversified is as important as ever. I think that was a huge part of getting to where I am and hopefully where I’m still going.
On the other side, you do have to know and trust when you’ve earned your shot. I reached that point a few years ago and was determined to not settle with my career. I think it’s vital for people in the industry to know when they are ready and to not listen to the doubters or the things holding them back. Taking a job or gig isn’t as important as taking the right one.
Doug Gottlieb, Nick Wright Feud Over College Sports NIL Issues
“Gottlieb caught wind of Wright’s rant and let his disapproval be known.”
FOX Sports hosts Doug Gottlieb and Nick Wright definitely do not see eye-to-eye when it comes to money going to college athletes.
Despite both being employed by the same company, Gottlieb, who is never afraid to voice his opinion, fired back at Wright Friday regarding his take on college football’s NIL rule in the wake of Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s claiming Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher “brought” his recruits.
On Wright’s morning show, First Things First, the colorful broadcaster had a two minute rant about how he’s happy that schools are finding workarounds under the new NIL rules implemented by the NCAA to pay the players for their name, image and likeness. He said the universities have been taking advantage of college athletes, particularly black student athletes from rough backgrounds, for years and now that the tide has shifted, people are freaking out.
“The general sports public wants extra regulations and extra rules, is keeping their thumbs on college football and basketball players because their is an undeniable and always has been an incredibly uncomfortable racial context of the guys,” Wright said. “It’s mostly young black men from mostly really tough circumstances, generating billions of dollars. Who’s sharing in that?” Wright asked.
“An overwhelmingly white administration, an overwhelmingly white coaching staff, and an overwhelmingly white non-revenue sports. How do we pay for the tennis team and golf team, ah men’s football and basketball. What do they get? A scholarship. Be happy, we pulled you out the hood. Maybe you’ll have a better life if somehow you make the league or do something with your education.”
Gottlieb caught wind of Wright’s rant and let his disapproval be known. That resulted in a back and forth between the two sports personalities on Twitter.
Gottlieb continued, claiming the NIL rule puts exceedingly high expectations on the student-athletes before ever stepping on campus and are given something without having to “earn it.”
“The sad part is this push to pay SAs before they have even played a game, taken a class or assimilated to a school sets them up for failure in their post sports career. If you have been given before you earn, where is the motivation when you get to the real world?”
Wright then took a shot at Gottlieb, saying it always feels good that his take is the complete opposite of Gottlieb’s.
The dialogue continued with Gottlieb throwing shots at Wright, calling his take “embarrassing” and mentioning how he failed to point out the educational imbalance in society during his take. Wright asked Gottlieb what are some of the other “fake racism” takes that he claims are out in the media.
Gottlieb is no stranger to conflict with his FOX Sports colleagues. Troy Aikman called his opinion on Andrew Luck’s retirement “total bullshit” in a tweet from 2019. More recently, Gottlieb got into it with Speak for Yourself co-host Emmanuel Acho after Gottlieb ripped his brother Sam’s “Top 5 QB list” on First Take. He also called out Skip Bayless for name-calling.
Bob Cousy: ‘JJ Redick Is Untalented Using Me To Get Attention On ESPN’
“People with less talent will always try to make a name for themselves by criticizing other people and hopefully getting some attention and perhaps increasing their credibility,” Cousy said.
Celtics legend Bob Cousy was not too happy with J.J. Redick dissing his game and credibility as an all-time great player.
During an appearance on First Take, Redick got into a fiery debate with Chris “Mad Dog” Russo about whether Chris Paul deserves to be mentioned among the best point guards in NBA history despite another disappointing exit from the playoffs. Russo claimed that Paul is “no Bob Cousy” which prompted Redick to retort, saying Cousy couldn’t even dribble with his left hand and called the players he played against, “plumbers” and “firemen.”
“Bob Cousy won championships when there were eight teams in the NBA and you had to win two playoff series,” Reddick said. “Let’s celebrate Bob Cousy in his era, but you can’t compare pre-1980 with the modern NBA.”
The 93-old Cousy made an appearance on SiriusXM Radio where he went scorched earth on Redick, basically calling the ESPN analyst “untalented” while listing some of the players that he went up against in his era.
“People with less talent will always try to make a name for themselves by criticizing other people and hopefully getting some attention and perhaps increasing their credibility,” Cousy said.
“So when you respond to something like this, you play into their hands. I won’t do that, but I will defend the firemen and the plumbers that he referenced. And I’ll just give you a few of the names of these firemen that I played with and against during those years. How about Bill Russell, the aforementioned, not too bad a player. Wilt Chamberlain, remember that guy? He wasn’t bad. I guess he must have fought fires as well. But in any event, Wilt Chamberlain.
“Still the best, in my judgment, small forward that ever played the game, a guy named Elgin Baylor. A couple of point guards that weren’t too shabby, my colleague who also had an award created [in his name], guy named Oscar Robertson, who was pound for pound the best player perhaps in the game.”
Chris Paul is a 12-time All-Star compared to Cousy’s 13 appearances.
One thing Paul and Bob Cousy do have in common is their aptitude for leadership. Cousy developed and started the NBA players union in 1954, being named its first president. Paul served in that same role from 2013-2021.
The two men also share similarities off the court. Cousy was a stanch anti-racist advocate during the civil rights era 50s and 60s, when it wasn’t all that popular to so. Paul has also spoke out on issues regarding race, working with commissioner Adam Silver to address some of the issues facing the black community.
Maybe the two have more in common than either Redick or Russo would like to admit.
Cole Cubelic: ‘A Lot Of Media Wasn’t Prepared To Talk About Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher’
“There were multiple other messages that were attempted to be delivered by Nick Saban two nights ago that I don’t think anybody paid attention to, and I’m wondering if Jimbo paid attention to them.”
The comments from Alabama football coach Nick Saban regarding other teams allegedly “buying” their players through the new rules pertaining to name, image and likeness (NIL) deals has set the college football world abuzz.
In his comments, Saban directly accused Texas A&M Head Coach and one of his former assistant coaches at Louisiana State University Jimbo Fisher of unreasonably using NIL deals to recruit college football players, and remarked that the system as a whole has created a fundamental disadvantage for certain programs. Additionally, he stated that Alabama has never tried to lure a player solely based on these deals; however, he left the door open to potentially having to adjust his recruitment strategy to align with the actions of his competitors around him.
Much of the college football world weighed in on the comments, but the voice everyone was waiting to hear was that of Jimbo Fisher, including McElroy and Cubic in the Morning on Jox 94.5 FM in Birmingham, Ala. On Friday morning, the program opened with show co-host Cole Cubelic reacting to the candid response given by Fisher in a news conference carried on multiple media outlets in which Fisher called Saban a “narcissist.”
“When we’ve had coaching feuds before, we’ve had guys go back and forth; we’ve had guys go at one another, sometimes in a little bit more of a subtle way; sometimes maybe a less-confrontational way,” Cubelic said. “Jimbo even said it yesterday – he’s not afraid of confrontation; he’s not worried about it.”
An aspect of what has made this discordance between two highly-accomplished and eminent coaches a story being followed across the college football landscape is the fact that it has taken place within the public sphere. When Saban appeared on SiriusXM Radio and apologized for singling out Texas A&M in his comments from earlier in the week, there was not much emotion involved, according to Cubelic. Fisher’s remarks in his press conference though, were of a completely different sentiment – and may have escalated the situation altogether.
“Debates often turn to arguments as soon as emotions become involved,” Cubelic said. “…Jimbo Fisher yesterday at 10 a.m. – that felt emotional; that felt personal, and that one had to dig deep. Jimbo Fisher said yesterday he doesn’t anticipate things are going to be repaired. I don’t see in a way that these two sort of get things back in line.”
“The bridge is burned both ways,” added show co-host Greg McElroy. “They’ll probably shake hands; do what they need to do pregame. But as far as any love lost? Nah, that’s a wrap.”
A part of this story that remains seminal when reporting or commenting on it is listening to the full extent of the comments from both Saban and Fisher on the situation so as to more effectively contextualize and comprehend the situation. Cubelic said that he did multiple interviews on different programs yesterday, and some of the interviewers, as he anticipated, had solely listened to portions of the comments, rendering them not completely prepared to have a truly pertinent discussion about the topic at hand.
“We said it here on the show yesterday morning — right out of the gate — people are going to take the Miami; the Jackson State; and the Texas A&M stuff, and they’re going to clip it and they’re going to play it and they’re going to read it and that’s all they’re going to pay attention to,” said Cubelic. “There were multiple other messages that were attempted to be delivered by Nick Saban two nights ago that I don’t think anybody paid attention to, and I’m wondering if Jimbo paid attention to them.”
Jimbo Fisher and the Texas A&M Aggies visit Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide on October 8 in a matchup that will sure to be a primary topic of discussion in the weeks and months leading to kickoff.