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A Conversation With Steve Gorman

Brian Noe

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Have you ever gone to a bar and bumped into somebody that was a great storyteller who also had a really interesting past? It’s entertaining to listen to a person like that. This description fits Steve Gorman incredibly well. Steve is a phenomenal storyteller who happens to have a slew of fascinating stories to share from his past.

Steve has told me many epic stories about his musical experiences during commercial breaks and following radio shows. Of course he shares a lot of these stories with his listeners while on the air too, as he’ll share in a book due next summer about his adventures as the drummer of the Black Crowes. The fusion of the sports and music worlds mixed with unique storytelling is something that is very rare in sports radio. It’s an approach that Steve applies very nicely.

“I’m a big believer in if you’re not in over your head, you don’t know how tall you are.” That was Steve’s philosophy when he was initially offered a weekday national show on FOX Sports Radio. After being thrown in the deep end, he’s still standing tall five years later. 

Steve can be heard from 6-8pm ET on FSR and the iHeartRadio app. I keep listening for Steve to profess his hidden love for heavy metal music. It hasn’t happened yet, but you never know. There’s still hope. Enjoy!

Brian Noe: Would you rather listen to seven straight hours of heavy metal or watch the Yankees smoke the Orioles in a doubleheader?

Steve Gorman: Only because I’m so used to it and it wouldn’t feel that unusual, I think the Yankees smoking the Orioles. I’ve got a lifetime of painful experience being dominated by the Yankees, so it would actually go by quicker.

Noe: Okay. Now, does this signal a growing love for heavy metal in your eyes?

SG: It doesn’t. The signal for a growing love of heavy metal in my eyes — I don’t know what that would be. If I were signaling something from my eyes it would actually be Morse code saying, “Help me, get me out of here.” That’s what comes to mind. A hostage situation where I’m saying, “Yes, I love heavy metal,” but I’m truly being held against my will.

Noe: (laughs) That’s disappointing, but I understand where you’re coming from. How much was music and sports a part of your family life growing up?

SG: It was huge. I have five older brothers and four of my older brothers were big jocks and the fifth played guitar. You just look up to your older brothers. The ones who didn’t play music all had record collections. I think about my childhood and the idea of shooting hoops in the driveway — playing HORSE, or 21, one-on-one, two-on-two, or even three-on-three, but there’s a speaker out of someone’s bedroom window blasting music the whole time. That’s what it was like at my house.

You were usually doing something to keep your body moving with a ball and listening to music. Soccer and basketball were the sports that I played at school for my teams, but football in the backyard, tennis, baseball and whatever else there was to do at all times. We were just always doing something and there was always music on.

Noe: Would you say that you were bigger into sports or music growing up?

SG: It’s interesting. I love them both. I would sit and listen to records and not move for hours at a time. My greatest passion was absolutely for music, but there wasn’t a path for music that I could see. As a kid, you have Little League and everybody plays, but you don’t have Little League rock bands. I guess now you have the School of Rock if you live in a town with one and so the kids can actually think about being in a band.

Our culture has sports all wrapped up in it with your school, with your neighborhood, sports are something that is just part of daily life. I wanted to be in a band. Like early, I don’t remember there being a time where I didn’t think, “Man, I want to be a drummer in a rock ‘n’ roll band.” But at the same time when I was seven, you didn’t go to Little League to join a band. You went to Little League to play baseball. 

There was a path to sports and there was a reality for sports. There was nothing like that that I was aware of to go play music. If you asked me what I wanted to do, I would have always said I want to be in a band. But that just didn’t seem like a realistic thing to me on any level where I could go play drums. I could go play any number of sports.

Noe: How did your sports radio career begin?

SG: It began in my mind in the late ‘90s. I had been a broadcasting major in college in the ‘80s [at Western Kentucky University]. When I was a college student, I thought I would just be a sportscaster. That was my first actual goal. I was a broadcasting major. I dropped out, bought a drum kit, and started a band. Then, took a long diversion, if you will, away from that thinking.

I never thought about broadcasting again once I bought a drum kit until I started listening to sports talk radio in the mid-to-late ‘90s as it was blowing up. I remember very specifically the first time I ever heard Jim Rome. I was in Atlanta — ‘96 or ‘97 probably — when he got on the air there. I remember I had read an article about him and his show in Sports Illustrated. It was talking about other markets had sports talk but this guy was going national. It focused on a few guys — there was Jim Rome and there was “Ferrall On The Bench” were the two shows that were on in Atlanta that I started listening to.

The jungle back then — I mean Jim Rome’s show was very different then than what it became as most shows do evolve greatly — but when I first heard it I thought there’s something there. That’s an interesting format. It’s creative. It’s unique, and I wonder if there’s a way to do a show like that but where you have a lot more music content. It was just a vague thought, but it was something that stayed in the back of my mind for years and years. I never thought to do anything about it. It would just occur to me as I would listen to the show.

When I moved to Nashville, I was here in 2004, and sometime around 2008 I was at preschool picking my daughter up and I was talking with one of the other dads [Willy Daunic]. He did the afternoon drive-time show on a local sports talk station here in Nashville. We just met and we we’re just shooting the shit. He said, “Hey, you should come in and do a segment with me sometime. Come in for an hour. You’re a sports fan. You’re in this big band and you’re funny. Come on in. It’ll be fun.” And I said, “Yeah sure, no problem.”

I had done radio interviews throughout the entire ‘90s with the Black Crowes. I would go to radio stations all the time — to rock stations — and if they had a sports talk station I’d say, “Hey, can I go sit in with those guys too?” I just always wanted to do that.

So anyway, I did an hour locally here with the afternoon show and the program director [Brad Willis] came in and said, “Man that was great! You sounded good. You’re really funny. We could do a weekly segment with you if you wanted it. I could sponsor it and probably give you a couple of hundred bucks a week.”

My answer, even at the time it was just kind of a joke, but you always gotta see what you can get away with, I said, “You know, actually I’d rather just have my own show.” He looked at me and he goes, “What is it?” I said, “Musicians talking about sports.” He laughed and he goes, “Okay, well, let’s get lunch tomorrow and talk about it.” Literally two weeks later I was on the air.

Noe: That’s awesome, man. (laughs) That’s a great story.

SG: And I’ve been on a million radio shows that I can tell you this — it was a Sunday night. He said, “Just come in and do Sunday nights from like 8 to 9. Just take one hour and just feel it out.” Me and my buddy Brandon [Gnetz] — I convinced him to do it with me — we went in on a Sunday night and we wrote a ton of bits together ahead of time. We wrote enough content to, right now, would be a week of radio. We had so much material and I just basically sat there and read it really fast trying to sound calm. I’m sure if I heard it now it would be the worst thing ever.

We went in there and I thought it was a cool thing and it was going to be fun. The first time I heard myself say the words Steve Gorman Sports, all I could think was, “What the hell did I just get myself into?” It’s one thing to go sit in on someone else’s show and it’s another when they say, “Okay, you’re on,” and it’s your show and you really don’t know what you’re doing.

As I said it was Sunday night at 8pm, which is not exactly high ratings drive time, so I don’t know that anybody heard it. We just started doing that on Sundays. The band was working a lot. Through the summer of ‘08 through 2009 and into 2010, I would just get Sunday nights for an hour and sometimes two hours, just whenever I wanted to. Whenever I was home and had time to do it, they would just give me the time. The thinking was always I’m going to be off the road one day.

The PD of the station there [Brad Willis] — he’s still a friend of mine — he just said, “Look, man, just picture it like a batting cage. You’re just going in and taking cracks. You’re just swinging the bat. That’s all you do. If this is something you ever want to commit to, you’ll figure it out.” He was super supportive. He thought it was kind of great that I didn’t know what I was doing because chances are you’re going to find something kind of unique that way. 

The Crowes took ‘11 and ‘12 off so I had two years I knew I was going to be home. In 2011, that first station I was ever at, which is called The Zone here in Nashville, they had no time for me. I went to the PD and he said, “Man, I’d love to give you some time, but I have nothing. There’s another station that just switched formats so there’s a little competition in town at a station called The Game. Go see if they have time.”

I went out and met the PD there [Troy Hanson] and he put me on nights the summer of 2011. I started doing 10-to-midnight five nights a week on The Game. Then after six months, I moved to the afternoons for just one hour, but that’s what I was doing for all of ‘11 and ‘12 and then about the first half of 2013.

Noe: What was your reaction when Fox Sports Radio initially offered you that weekday gig to host national shows?

SG: Oh, I couldn’t even believe it. I had been on the air here on a daily show for about a year and a half. I was just getting ready to go out on tour with the Black Crowes in 2013. I got a call from Bruce Gilbert at FOX Sports Radio who had heard about the show and listened to it online a couple of times. You know Bruce, Brian, and he was like, “What is this? Is this a hobby? Is this a real career move? I’m intrigued. It’s just very different.” We just had a long conversation. We had a long talk about my vision for the show and what kind of show I’d like to do and he thought it was cool.

That was all very good, but I was on the road all year. In the fall of 2013 in August or September, he said, “Hey man, when the tour stops in December, if you want I can put you on weekends on FOX Sports Radio.” I was thrilled. I was like holy crap. Like, “How many stations would you put me on?” I thought he was going to say seven. He goes, “No, the whole network. It’s like 230 stations.” I just couldn’t believe it.


When you’re a young band and you’re making your first record, you’re listening to your favorite bands’ records and you’re envisioning yourself, “Can we get as good as my favorite bands? Can we get as great?” I hadn’t really taken radio in the same way as seriously just because the show was so unlike anything else. I didn’t have anything to really compare it to. To hear a guy like Bruce — for him to be that interested and say I’ll put you on weekends, that was like, oh man, I got to really get a little more serious about this because I’ll get exposed real fast for just kind of winging it if you will.

I think I was a little over nervous. We were working hard, but again I just didn’t feel we knew what we were doing. I look back now and be like, “Yeah, we knew exactly what we were doing,” but it was just way more than I would’ve expected. Then again it’s not that unusual, that’s kind of how radio works. At the same time, one guy came to see The Black Crowes in New York in 1988 and said, “Do you want to make a record?” All of a sudden we’re making a record. 

I mean things do happen quickly. It’s not about the finished product. It’s about does somebody see talent? Does somebody see potential? I put things into that framework so I could make more sense of it. I compared it to the music world just so I could get a sense of context.

For the fall of 2013, I was anticipating getting on weekends in 2014 as a starting point. I went into the holidays thinking this would be great, man. We had decided to wait until football season ended just because if I had been on the air on a Saturday or a Sunday, all you’re doing is updating scores like, “Hey, Steve Gorman Sports, from South Bend, Notre Dame just scored again.” You’re just doing that kind of a show on the weekends. That’s just different. I thought if a bunch of program directors are going to hear the show they should probably hear something more like what we want it to be. 

We decided let’s wait till February. The week after the Super Bowl, I’ll hop on the weekend. Well, that was the plan. Then on December 24th, Christmas Eve, we’ve got the kids there excited, got the tree all up, wrapping presents. The phone rings and Bruce says, “Look, I don’t have time to explain to you what’s happened. Grease fire just got put out at FOX Sports Radio, but are you ready to do five days a week the first week of January?” I said, “What are you talking about?” He goes, “3-6 Eastern, Monday through Friday, are you up for it?” 

I knew in the back of my mind that there’s no way in hell I’m up for that, so of course my answer was, “Yes, absolutely. Let’s go.” I’m a big believer in if you’re not in over your head, you don’t know how tall you are.

I remember saying to him, “How long do I have to suck before you fire me?” (laughs) I need some time. I’ve never done it on this scale. I said, “When do you look at the ratings?” He goes, “You don’t understand how this works. It takes about a year, a year and a half for a show to really find itself.” I thought he was going to say you have six weeks. You know what I mean? That’s just how little I know about radio. 

I really thought he’d go, “Hey, if it’s not working by April, we’ll cut you loose.” I fully anticipated him saying that. He goes, “You know it takes about a year,” and the second he said that, I was like, “Okay. I’m in, man. Let’s do this. Let’s go.” It turned out we started about a month later. It was the end of January when the show launched.

Noe: When you started the show and the first few months went by, did you get any brushback or feel a vibe like, “Why the hell is this musician doing a sports talk show?”

SG: Yeah, not that I was hearing it, I just could see it on Twitter. People are online tweeting about it. Bitter people are weighing in on what a bunch of bullshit this is. To Bruce’s credit — when I first talked to Bruce and we were having our very first get-to-know-you conversation, I think the things I said — I was just being very honest. He said, “What’s your favorite show?” I said I listen to Colin Cowherd every day. He goes, “Really? Why?” I said because it reminds me of what I don’t want to do, or what I don’t want to be. He loved that answer.

He said, “You know I talk to people every day who say, ‘I’m the next Colin Cowherd.’” I was like, “Oh my God. No.” I think his show is great, but I’m just all over the place. I can’t think that way. I’m not that linear of a thinker. Sports to me is all about — I look at it like music. It’s about passion, and it’s being a fan, and it’s just the funny stories that surround it.

I’m not an expert. I know a lot about sports. I know a lot more than a lot of people, but for people that do this — I’m going to say this about you, Brian Noe, I look at a guy like you in this industry and I think, you can break down things on a micro level in a way that I never could, and that I frankly never was interested in doing. I just always wanted to create a show that was just kind of my sensibility. It worked out I had a great opportunity to do that.

Then I brought my cousin [Jeffrey Gorman] along as a co-host. We tend to have a very natural rapport that plays into itself. I just never saw myself as an expert on anything. I just am very curious. I know what I like and I know what I don’t like. I know what I think is real and I know what I think is bullshit. I just saw an avenue for something that could be a little creative and unique. Here we are now in our fifth year and it’s still going well.

Noe: What do you love and hate the most about sports talk radio?

SG: In general? You don’t mean my experience, you mean just something in general? 

Noe: You could take it either way. You could take it as it applies specifically to you and doing a show, or just in general what the format is like.

SG: Well, I’ll answer it both ways. As far as the format goes, I don’t care for — I say things that I really believe. I obviously know, especially if the subject goes off of sports, I say things that get a reaction from people. I can tell you this completely truthfully. That’s not why I say it. I’m not interested in clickbait. It’s not my personality to be like, “Listen to me and look at me over here.” That’s a weird thing for a radio host to say, but I have opinions on all sorts of things that are to me completely reasonable.

I understand that other people might not agree, but the point is I tell you what I think. I’m certainly open to hearing any other opinion and thought process, but I’m not interested in conversation that is just designed to inflame people. I don’t have any time to think about how can I stick it to the people who think one way by thinking another way, or by presenting something else. If I’m talking about it, I’m telling you what I really think.

I also have no problem the next day going, “Oh, man, I was totally wrong. You know what I just realized?” I want my show to sound more like conversations that I have with friends all the time. In my life I talk about politics. I talk about religion. I talk about movies and food. To me everything in conversation is valid. I just love conversation. I like just shooting the shit with people. And that’s the kind of show I’m looking for.

I don’t look for the hot buttons. I don’t like to create hot buttons. The other point is I’m just not good at that. It’s not my forte. For the people who live to do that sort of thing that, they’re good at it. It works for them. All I can say to them is congratulations. Good for you. It’s not interesting to me. I don’t like the mindset behind that.

That said, I’m also very aware that I come at this from a very different place than a lot of people in this medium. Most of the guys that do this, this is something they wanted to do, and the only thing they wanted to do for a really long time. I sort of slid into it on a local level. There’s not a lot of cities where a guy can go to the PD at a hugely successful sports talk station and say, “Hey, it’s musicians talking sports,” and they say, “Hey, cool,” but this is Nashville. Every other person on the street is the guitar player. It makes sense here. I understand there’s a lot to my situation that some things just fell into place that very likely wouldn’t have if I were anywhere else at any given time. That’s just how it goes.

I say I’m very lucky, which means I had an opportunity and I made sure I took advantage of it. That’s what luck is. It’s preparation meets opportunity. You’ve got to make your own luck. 

There were opportunities before that I wasn’t ready for and it didn’t pan out. You could call me unlucky if you wanted. Luck is hitting the scratch-off ticket for 10 bucks. When I say I got lucky in radio, it’s not like I wasn’t doing the work. It’s not like I don’t still do the work, but I was lucky that the guy who heard me was in a position to do something about it. I was lucky that his bosses said, “Yeah, we’ll take a flyer on this guy.”

Self-made people don’t exist. You need help no matter what you do unless you literally invent a new chemical. If you can invent a new molecule then okay, maybe you’re a self-made success, but otherwise you just need a lot of help. That’s been my experience.

Noe: Who are some musicians you know that are either big sports fans or active listeners of sports radio?

SG: Oh, I know a ton. I’ve said for years every band has at least one big sports fan in it. Pretty much any band I’ve ever met. The guys from Oasis are massive soccer fans. A couple of the guys in Wilco are ginormous basketball and football fans. The guys in Hootie and the Blowfish — I’m just thinking about different types of bands — were all huge sports fans. Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers were massive basketball and soccer fans. Mike Mills, the bass player in REM, University of Georgia and all Atlanta sports teams. Obsessive. There’s just so many.

For that matter, Robert Plant is a partial owner of a soccer team in England. There’s all kinds of sports fans in all kinds of music. As far as who listens, I don’t know. In the Black Crowes, the singer in our band, Chris Robinson, is a huge sports fan. I mean massive sports fan. That image, people just don’t think that makes sense because he’s a front man, completely stoned all the time, whatever you think of him, but he played sports growing up. He’s a huge basketball, football, and soccer fan. He likes everything. He likes baseball at times. We’ve been to a million games together all over the place.

Noe: What has been your single favorite moment in music and your single favorite moment in sports radio?

SG: Wow. I mean single favorite moment in music is impossible. I could give you a different answer every day for the rest of my life. There’s some serious highlights. The first time Jimmy Page jumped onstage and sat in with the Black Crowes was pretty mind-blowing. And mind-blowing because people say, “Oh, it was like a dream come true,” and it’s beyond that because it never occurred to me to dream it. At no point did I think, “Man, maybe one day we’ll play with Jimmy Page.” That just didn’t even occur to me as a possibility.

That led to playing with him whole lot. That led to a whole tour and a live album. That very first time we were in Paris in early 1995 and he turned up at the gig and we said, “Do you want to sit in for the encore?” He said yes. Just that moment, the anticipation like, “Wait a minute. He’s going to do this?” I’ll never, ever, ever forget that.

It’s funny because we met him two weeks earlier in London for the first time. We played the Royal Albert Hall and we met Jimmy Page because we had already known Robert Plant. We had toured with him. So, Robert came to the gig and brought Jimmy along. We walk offstage. Jimmy walks in. “Oh, man, good to meet you. How are you?” He’s like, “Oh, I loved it. I love the band. It was great.” Like, “Oh my God! Jimmy Page!” As far as guitar players go, there’s nowhere else to go on the list. He’s one of the pinnacle guys.

This is late January of ‘95. As it turns out it’s the night of the Super Bowl — Niners and Chargers. We’re in London so the game is starting London time at like midnight. We held a room at the Albert Hall and it had some TVs. We had an after-show party to watch the Super Bowl and Jimmy Page was there. The first night we ever hung out with Page the Super Bowl was on and we were standing there and he was talking about the first time he ever saw an American football game. He met Joe Montana once and this, and that, and the other. He’s telling stories and I’m watching the Super Bowl and I’m like, well this is just all the pieces of my brain nice and neat all in one moment. I’m watching the Super Bowl with the two guys from Led Zeppelin like, “Holy shit.”

It was funny because a year to the day later, we we’re with Page and Plant at an after-show party watching the Super Bowl in Brazil. We had two straight Super Bowls with those guys out of the country. Those moments are always pretty cool.

Favorite moment in sports talk was probably — I’ve had Ringo Starr on my show a few times and I know him. I say we’re friends. I’m one of more than a million young drummers that loves to drum and love drums because of Ringo Starr. He’s very sweet to me and very friendly. We’re not exactly pen pals, but the fact that we’ve met and we have a good rapport, that is my dream. I was such a Beatles fan growing up. I just revere him so much.

To be on the radio with Ringo and he’s telling me stories in the ‘70s of how he always loved the Dallas Cowboys. He was watching the Cowboys once and just decided, “I’m going to live in Dallas.” So, he just on a lark flew to Dallas and bought a cowboy hat and looked at ranches for a whole day, and then decided, “Nah, I’ll go back to LA,” and just flew right back to LA. At no point did he mention, I think it was obvious, he was high as a kite and barely remembers it, but the point of the story was he likes the Dallas Cowboys. For me, Steve Gorman Sports gets no better than Ringo Starr talking about the Dallas Cowboys in the 1970s.

Noe: I love it. That’s great. Which would drive you crazier; would it be a whole month without playing drums once, or a whole month without doing a single sports talk show?

SG: Without music for sure. I haven’t been playing shows much at all. I’m going to be busy next year on the road and I’m dying to do that. The last few years I have played the fewest shows ever since 1987. I’ve been barely gigging at all, but it was good. It helps to take a long break. I’ve never done it before. I think it has been a good thing.

I have to hit something every now and then. I have to sit at a kit and at least play for five minutes — that’s me. Not doing the show, not talking about sports or doing Steve Gorman Sports — if I took a month off maybe it would drive me crazy, but it’s been awhile since I’ve had a month off that too. Right now I’d say it’s much harder to think about not drumming.

Noe: What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started doing Steve Gorman Sports on FOX?

SG: Momentum. Keep going forward. It’s storytelling and it’s getting your opinion across. When I first started, I had some subconscious concerns. Once I was able to identify them, they went away pretty quickly. Like you referenced — what about people who were bagging you for, “Where did this guy come from?” I felt like I had to prove I belonged. I didn’t want it to look like I was just handed a gig because I’m a guy in a band.

Now, that’s not how radio works. Nobody would’ve ever given me a sports talk show because I’m a good drummer. That’s crazy. But like I said, I was in over my head and you start to think crazy things when you’re there. It’s not like the Black Crowes were at their commercial peak in 2013. It’s not like we were the biggest band in the country. It’s not like someone gave Dave Grohl a radio show. He’s like a household name. I’m the drummer in a band that has a cult audience and a cult following but that was about it by the time 2013 rolled around.

I shouldn’t have had that concern, but I think I did. I was really freaked out making sure I never misspoke. On yesterday’s show, I said something about the Lakers and I said they’re the winningest franchise as far as titles go in NBA history. As soon as I said it, I went, “No, they’re not. Boston has 17, the Lakers have 16.” But it was too late.

Four years ago I would have stopped myself and said, “Hang on, hang on, hang on, I have that backwards. Boston has one more title.” But in the context it didn’t matter so I kept rolling with it. Some guy immediately tweets in, “Dude, you’re wrong.” I tweeted back, “Yeah, I know. Brain fart.” You know what I mean? It’s like I don’t care. If I’m going to talk for two hours, I’m going to get my words messed up. I’m going to say something that’s either incorrect or just completely the opposite of what I actually think because sometimes my mouth moves faster than my brain.

I’m terrible with pronouncing names. I can say Luka Donchich, Luka Donkick, Luka Donchick, Luka Donkich. I can say that six different ways in the course of one show. Talking to you right now, I know it’s Doncic, but when I’m on the air I’ll mispronounce names with the best of them. It’s just part of me and I used to really, really sweat those things and now I realize that it honestly doesn’t matter.

If the energy is up, if Jeffrey and I are legitimately engaging and listening to each other and moving it forward, that’s the goal. The goal is for two hours, someone’s driving home or sitting at their desk, people are just hanging out with us. That’s what I’m going for. I want people to feel like they can relate to us on some level.

I know that for a lot of listeners right out of the gate — drummer in a rock band, he did that for 25 years, now he’s doing this — you can certainly present the case that people don’t relate to my life. I have traveled and been in dozens and dozens of countries. I’ve played thousands of shows and met all these famous people and yada yada yada, but I don’t see myself as that guy. I’m a sports fan. I’m a music fan. 

I’m just presenting my take on things along with my cousin who sees very few things the same way I do. Part of the reason I really wanted Jeffrey wasn’t just because we had a good rapport, but our brains operate nothing alike. I thought that would make for a more compelling show — to have two people who aren’t direct opposites by design.

You listen to Mike and Mike and no disrespect, they had a tremendous run and they were a huge part of the sports talk landscape, but those characters were well-honed and rehearsed. The nebbishy, nerdy stats guy and the big dumb jock. You listen to that show once and you get it. “Oh, I see what they’re doing.” 

To their credit they made that work wildly successfully. I didn’t think of me and Jeffrey, we didn’t do it like that, we’re just naturally who we are. We’re very, very different people. But again we’re family and we have a lifelong rapport, so I thought it would work.

Noe: 10 years from now, do you have an idea of where you’ll be or a goal of where you want to be, and do those things match up or not?

SG: It’s funny because we’re in our fifth year now, and I really now am thinking in those ways. For the first six months I’m just thinking to myself, “Just don’t suck today. Let’s just don’t suck.” Then six months in, it’s like, “Hey, we’re consistently not sucking. Now let’s get consistently good.” Then you get consistently good.

Then you get to a point where right now our worst show right now is still a pretty good show. There’s days when for whatever reason we just don’t click together. You have days where life gets in the way. That’s just everyone’s life. You can be distracted by events that in the grand scheme of things are far more important than Thursday’s show. Illnesses, and I’m talking about family things and real life big issues that keep the show from being great.

Even then, the thing that happens is in due time, if you have a show where something’s off, most of the listeners aren’t aware of it anymore. That’s the same way it is with a rock band. 

The Black Crowes, if you saw us in 1990, you might have seen a show where you went, “They’re not very good.” By 1991, after we played for 12 straight months and definitely by 1992, 400 gigs later our worst show was still a pretty damn good show. We can tell the nights when it wasn’t perfect, but the fans can’t.

That’s where the radio show got after a certain amount of time. Now I am looking at other things. It’s funny, I told you when I met Chris Broussard a couple of months ago in LA for the first time. He said, “Man, you ever think about doing TV? I said, “No, I’m in Nashville.” Because to me, I was always going to be a touring musician and be doing this radio show at the same time.

When the show got picked up, the Black Crowes were scheduled to be on tour for all of 2015. I was going to be doing the show from the road. That was always another unique feature. It didn’t happen. The band ended up breaking up, but when Trigger Hippy went out in ‘14 and ‘15, I was still doing the show from the road. Then when Trigger Hippy is out next year, I’ll be doing that again.

I always wanted to establish a daily radio show on the road, being on the road the whole time. Once I’m in a position where I’m doing that, that’s going to open up a lot of other opportunities for a lot of digital content, a lot of video content. There’s a lot of ideas that I was really prepared to utilize in 2015. When FOX Sports Radio picked up it was like, “Okay, you’re in Nashville. We’ll be in Nashville for 2015. You get a year under your belt. Then we hit the road full time with the radio show.” It was going to be radio show in the day, rock show at night. Kind of my dream world.

The Black Crowes broke up as a classic frontman singer narcissism crazy band situation developed, and the band had to end. That was taken off the table. That threw a big wrench in the overall plan, but now I’m starting to see it again. I don’t mean this to sound bad, but the original vision was that it was not just a radio show, but it was a radio show on the road. That part of it is still my number one goal. By getting on the road, it’s going to open up a lot more opportunities for different types of content. 

You have to already be doing it before you can then figure out how to pitch it to make it something big. Be that it’s an online series or whatever it is. You kind of have to get it going yourself before anybody can possibly understand what you’re trying to do. You have to show people what it is before you can sell it.

You’ve got to just get out and do it. I knew that I could talk about doing a radio show or I could just go do a radio show. When I started doing nights in 2011 here in town — I was doing 10-to-midnight — I did it for six months before I made one penny. Two hours a night, five days a week for free, but I knew that’s what it takes. No one’s going to give you a damn thing. You just have to show that you want to go out there and do it. So that’s how I did it.

BSM Writers

In Defense Of Colin Cowherd

“How did we get to this place where there are sites and Twitter accounts going through The Herd with a fine-toothed comb to create content out of ‘oh my god, look at this!’?”

Demetri Ravanos

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I don’t understand what it is about Colin Cowherd that gets under some people’s skin to the point that they feel everything the guy says is worth being mocked. I don’t always agree with a lot of his opinions myself, but rarely do I hear one of his takes and think I need to build content around how stupid the guy is.

Cowherd has certainly had his share of misses. There were some highlights to his constant harping on Baker Mayfield but personally, I thought the bit got boring quickly and that the host was only shooting about 25% on those segments.

Cowherd has said some objectionable things. I thought Danny O’Neil was dead on in pointing out that the FOX Sports Radio host sounded like LIV Golf’s PR department last month. It doesn’t matter if he claims he used the wrong words or if his language was clunky, he deserved all of the criticism he got in 2015 when he said that baseball couldn’t be that hard of a sport to understand because a third of the league is from the Dominican Republic.

Those missteps and eyebrow-raising moments have never been the majority of his content though. How did we get to this place where there are sites and Twitter accounts going through The Herd with a fine-toothed comb to create content out of “oh my god, look at this!”?

A few years ago, Dan Le Batard said something to the effect of the best thing he can say about Colin Cowherd is that he is never boring and if you are not in this business, you do not get what a compliment that is.

That’s the truth, man. It is so hard to talk into the ether for three hours and keep people engaged, but Cowherd finds a way to do it with consistency.

The creativity that requires is what has created a really strange environment where you have sites trying to pass off pointing and laughing at Cowherd as content. This jumped out to me with a piece that Awful Announcing published on Thursday about Cowherd’s take that Aaron Rodgers needs a wife.

Look, I don’t think every single one of Cowherd’s analogies or societal observations is dead on, but to point this one out as absurd is, frankly, absurd!

This isn’t Cowherd saying that John Wall coming out and doing the Dougie is proof that he is a loser. This isn’t him saying that adults in backward hats look like doofuses (although, to be fair to Colin, where is the lie in that one?).

“Behind every successful man is a strong woman” is a take as old as success itself. It may not be a particularly original observation, but it hardly deserves the scrutiny of a 450-word think piece.

On top of that, he is right about Aaron Rodgers. The guy has zero personality and is merely trying on quirks to hold our attention. Saying that the league MVP would benefit from someone in his life holding a mirror up to him and pointing that out is hardly controversial.

Colin Cowherd is brash. He has strong opinions. He will acknowledge when there is a scoreboard or a record to show that he got a game or record pick wrong, but he will rarely say his opinion about a person or situation is wrong. That can piss people off. I get it.

You know that Twitter account Funhouse? The handle is @BackAftaThis?

It was created to spotlight the truly insane moments Mike Francesa delivered on air. There was a time when the standard was ‘The Sports Pop’e giving the proverbial finger to a recently deceased Stan Lee, falling asleep on air, or vehemently denying that a microphone captured his fart.

Now the feed is turning to “Hey Colin Cowherd doesn’t take phone calls!”. Whatever the motivation is for turning on Cowherd like that, it really shows a dip in the ability to entertain. How is it even content to point out that Colin Cowherd doesn’t indulge in the single most boring part of sports radio?

I will be the first to admit that I am not the world’s biggest fan of The Herd. Solo hosts will almost never be my thing. No matter their energy level, a single person talking for a 10-12 minute stretch feels more like a lecture than entertainment to me. I got scolded enough as a kid by parents and teachers.

School is a good analogy here because that is sort of what this feels like. The self-appointed cool kids identified their target long ago and are going to mock him for anything he does. It doesn’t matter if they carry lunch boxes too, Colin looks like a baby because he has a lunch box.

Colin Cowherd doesn’t need me to defend him. He can point to his FOX paycheck, his followers, or the backing for The Volume as evidence that he is doing something right. I am merely doing what these sites think they are doing when Colin is in their crosshairs – pointing out a lame excuse for content that has no real value.

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BSM Writers

Even After Radio Hall of Fame Honor, Suzyn Waldman Looks Forward

WFAN recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, but that’s not something that Waldman spends too much time reflecting on.

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Yankees radio broadcaster Suzyn Waldman was at Citi Field on July 26th getting ready to broadcast a Subway Series game between the Yankees and Mets. A day earlier, Waldman was elected to the Radio Hall of Fame and sometimes that type of attention can, admittedly, make her feel a bit uncomfortable.

“At first, I was really embarrassed because I’m not good at this,” said Waldman. “I don’t take compliments well and I don’t take awards well. I just don’t. The first time it got to me…that I actually thought it was pretty cool, there were two little boys at Citi Field…

Those two little boys, with photos of Waldman in hand, saw her on the field and asked her a question.

“They asked me to sign “Suzyn Waldman Radio Hall of Fame 2022” and I did,” said Waldman.  “I just smiled and then more little boys asked me to do that.”  

Waldman, along with “Broadway” Bill Lee, Carol Miller, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, Ellen K, Jeff Smulyan, Lon Helton, Marv Dyson, and Walt “Baby” Love, make up the Class of 2022 for the Radio Hall of Fame and will be inducted at a ceremony on November 1st at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago.

Waldman, born in the Boston suburb of Newton, Massachusetts, was the first voice heard on WFAN in New York when the station launched on July 1st, 1987. She started as an update anchor before becoming a beat reporter for the Yankees and Knicks and the co-host of WFAN’s
mid-day talk show. In the mid 1990s, Waldman did some television play-by-play for Yankees games on WPIX and in 2002 she became the clubhouse reporter for Yankees telecasts when the YES Network launched.

This is Waldman’s 36th season covering the Yankees and her 18th in the radio booth, a run that started in 2005 when she became the first female full-time Major League Baseball broadcaster.

She decided to take a look at the names that are currently in the Hall of Fame, specifically individuals that she will forever be listed next to.

“Some of the W’s are Orson Wells and Walter Winchell…people that changed the industry,” said Waldman. “I get a little embarrassed…I’m not good at this but I’m really happy.”

Waldman has also changed the industry.

She may have smiled when those two little boys asked her to sign those photos, but Waldman can also take a lot of pride in the fact that she has been a trailblazer in the broadcasting business and an inspiration to a lot of young girls who aspire, not only to be sportscasters but those who want to have a career in broadcasting.

Like the young woman who just started working at a New York television station who approached Waldman at the Subway Series and just wanted to meet her.

“She stopped me and was shaking,” said Waldman. “The greatest thing is that all of these young women that are out there.”

Waldman pointed out that there are seven women that she can think of off the top of her head that are currently doing minor league baseball play-by-play and that there have been young female sports writers that have come up to her to share their stories about how she inspired them.

For many years, young boys were inspired to be sportscasters by watching and listening to the likes of Marv Albert, Al Michaels, Vin Scully, Bob Costas, and Joe Buck but now there are female sportscasters, like Waldman, who have broken down barriers and are giving young girls a good reason to follow their dreams.

“When I’ve met them, they’ve said to me I was in my car with my Mom and Dad when I was a very little girl and they were listening to Yankee games and there you were,” said Waldman. “These young women never knew this was something that they couldn’t do because I was there and we’re in the third generation of that now. It’s taken longer than I thought.”

There have certainly been some challenges along the way in terms of women getting opportunities in sports broadcasting.

Waldman thinks back to 1994 when she became the first woman to do a national television baseball broadcast when she did a game for The Baseball Network. With that milestone came a ton of interviews that she had to do with media outlets around the country including Philadelphia.

It was during an interview with a former Philadelphia Eagle on a radio talk show when Waldman received a unique backhanded compliment that she will always remember.

“I’ve listened to you a lot and I don’t like you,” Waldman recalls the former Eagle said. “I don’t like women in sports…I don’t like to listen to you but I was watching the game with my 8-year-old daughter and she was watching and I looked at her and thought this is something she’s never going to know that she cannot do because there you are.”

Throughout her career, Waldman has experienced the highest of highs in broadcasting but has also been on the receiving end of insults and cruel intentions from people who then tend to have a short memory.

And many of these people were co-workers.

“First people laugh at you, then they make your life miserable and then they go ‘oh yeah that’s the way it is’ like it’s always been like that but it’s not always been like this,” said Waldman. 

It hasn’t always been easy for women in broadcasting and as Waldman — along with many others — can attest to nothing is perfect today. But it’s mind-boggling to think about what Waldman had to endure when WFAN went on the air in 1987.

She remembers how badly she was treated by some of her colleagues.

“I think about those first terrible days at ‘FAN,” said Waldman. “I had been in theatre all my life and it was either you get the part or you don’t. They either like you or they don’t.  You don’t have people at your own station backstabbing you and people at your own station changing your tapes to make you look like an idiot.”

There was also this feeling that some players were not all that comfortable with Waldman being in the clubhouse and locker room. That was nothing compared to some of the other nonsense that Waldman had to endure.

“The stuff with players is very overblown,” said Waldman. “It’s much worse when you know that somebody out there is trying to kill you because you have a Boston accent and you’re trying to talk about the New York Yankees. That’s worse and it’s also worse when the people
that you work with don’t talk to you and think that you’re a joke and the people at your own station put you down for years and years and years.”

While all of this was happening, Waldman had one very important person in her corner: Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who passed away in 2010.

The two had a special relationship and he certainly would have relished the moment when Suzyn was elected to the Hall of Fame.

“I think about George Steinbrenner a lot,” said Waldman. “This is something that when I heard that…I remember thinking George would be so proud because he wanted this since ’88.  I just wish he were here.” 

Waldman certainly endeared herself to “The Boss” with her reporting but she also was the driving force behind the reconciliation of Steinbrenner and Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra. George had fired Yogi as Yankees manager 16 games into the 1985 season and the news was delivered to Berra, not by George, but by Steinbrenner advisor Clyde King.

Yogi vowed never to step foot into Yankee Stadium again, but a grudge that lasted almost 14 years ended in 1999 when Waldman facilitated a reunion between the two at the Yogi Berra Museum in New Jersey.

“I’m hoping that my thank you to him was the George and Yogi thing because I know he wanted that very badly,” said Waldman.

“Whatever I did to prove to him that I was serious about this…this is in ’87 and ’88…In 1988, I remember him saying to me ‘Waldman, one of these days I’m going to make a statement about women in sports.  You’re it and I hope you can take it’ (the criticism). He knew what was coming.  I didn’t know. But there was always George who said ‘if you can take it, you’re going to make it’.”

And made it she did.

And she has outlasted every single person on the original WFAN roster.

“I’m keenly aware that I was the first person they tried to fire and I’m the only one left which I think is hysterical actually that I outlived everybody,” said Waldman.

WFAN recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, but that’s not something that Waldman spends too much time reflecting on.

“I don’t think about it at all because once you start looking back, you’re not going forward,” said Waldman. 

Waldman does think about covering the 1989 World Series between the A’s and Giants and her reporting on the earthquake that was a defining moment in her career. She has always been a great reporter and a storyteller, but that’s not how her WFAN career began. She started as an update anchor and she knew that if she was going to have an impact on how WFAN was going to evolve, it was not going to be reading the news…it was going to be going out in the field and reporting the news.

“I was doing updates which I despised and wasn’t very good at,” said Waldman.

She went to the program director at the time and talked about how WFAN had newspaper writers covering the local teams for the station and that it would be a better idea for her to go out and cover games and press conferences.

“Give me a tape recorder and let me go,” is what Waldman told the program director. “I was the first electronic beat writer.  That’s how that started and they said ‘oh, this works’. The writers knew all of a sudden ‘uh oh she can put something on the air at 2 o’clock in the morning and I can’t’.”  

And the rest is history. Radio Hall of Fame history.

But along the way, there was never that moment where she felt that everything was going to be okay.

Because it can all disappear in a New York minute.

“I’ve never had that moment,” said Waldman. “I see things going backward in a lot of ways for women.  I’m very driven and I’m very aware that it can all be taken away in two seconds if some guy says that’s enough.” 

During her storied career, Waldman has covered five Yankees World Series championships and there’s certainly the hope that they can contend for another title this year. She loves her job and the impact that she continues to make on young girls who now have that dream to be the next Suzyn Waldman.

But, is there something in the business that she still hopes to accomplish?

“This is a big world,” said Waldman. “There’s always something to do. Right now I like this a lot and there’s still more to do. There are more little girls…somewhere there’s a little girl out there who is talking into a tape recorder or whatever they use now and her father is telling her or someone is telling her you can’t do that you’re a little girl. That hasn’t stopped. Somewhere out there there’s somebody that needs to hear a female voice on Yankees radio.”

To steal the spirit of a line from Yankees play-by-play voice John Sterling, Suzyn Waldman’s longtime friend, and broadcast partner…“that’s a Radio Hall of Fame career, Suzyn!”

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BSM Writers

No Winners in Pittsburgh vs Cleveland Radio War of Words

“As talk radio hosts, we often try to hold the moral high ground and if you’re going to hold that position, I can’t help but feel integrity has to outweigh popularity. “

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For nearly 18 months, we’ve known the NFL would eventually have to confront the Deshaun Watson saga in an on-the-field manner, and that day came Monday. After his March trade to the Browns, we also could more than likely deduce another item: Cleveland radio hosts would feel one way, and Pittsburgh hosts would feel another.

If you’re not in tune to the “rivalry” between the two cities, that’s understandable. Both are former industrial cities looking for an identity in a post-industrial Midwest. Each thinks the other is a horrible place to live, with no real reasoning other than “at least we’re not them”. Of course, the folks in Pittsburgh point to six Super Bowl victories as reason for superiority.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when news started to leak that a Watson decision would come down Monday. I was sure, however, that anyone who decided to focus on what the NFL’s decision would mean for Watson and the Browns on the field was in a no-win situation. As a former host on a Cleveland Browns radio affiliate, I always found the situation difficult to talk about. Balancing the very serious allegations with what it means for Watson, the Browns, and the NFL always felt like a tight-rope walk destined for failure.

So I felt for 92.3 The Fan’s Ken Carman and Anthony Lima Monday morning, knowing they were in a delicate spot. They seemed to allude to similar feelings. “You’re putting me in an awkward situation here,” Carman told a caller after that caller chanted “Super Bowl! Super Browns!” moments after the suspension length was announced.

Naturally, 93.7 The Fan’s Andrew Fillipponi happened to turn on the radio just as that call happened. A nearly week-long war of words ensued between the two Audacy-owned stations.

Fillipponi used the opportunity to slam Cleveland callers and used it as justification to say the NFL was clearly in the wrong. Carman and Lima pointed out Fillipponi had tweeted three days earlier about how much love the city of Pittsburgh had for Ben Roethlisberger, a player with past sexual assault allegations in his own right.

Later in the week, the Cleveland duo defended fans from criticism they viewed as unfair from the national media. In response, Dorin Dickerson and Adam Crowley of the Pittsburgh morning show criticized Carman and Lima for taking that stance.

Keeping up?

As an impartial observer, there’s one main takeaway I couldn’t shake. Both sides are wrong. Both sides are right. No one left the week looking good.

Let’s pretend the Pittsburgh Steelers had traded for Deshaun Watson on March 19th, and not the Browns. Can you envision a scenario where Cleveland radio hosts would defend the NFL for the “fairness” of the investigation and disciplinary process if he was only suspended for six games? Of course, you can’t, because that would be preposterous. At the same time, would Fillipponi, Dickerson, and other Pittsburgh hosts be criticizing their fans for wanting Watson’s autograph? Of course, you can’t, because that would be preposterous.

When you’re discussing “my team versus your team” or “my coach versus your coach” etc…, it’s ok to throw ration and logic to the side for the sake of entertaining radio. But when you’re dealing with an incredibly serious matter, in this case, an investigation into whether an NFL quarterback is a serial sexual predator, I don’t believe there’s room to throw ration and logic to the wind. The criticism of Carman and Lima from the Pittsburgh station is fair and frankly warranted. They tried their best, in my opinion, to be sensitive to a topic that warranted it, but fell short.

On the flip side, Carman and Lima are correct. Ben Roethlisberger was credibly accused of sexual assault. Twice. And their criticism of Fillipponi and Steelers fans is valid and frankly warranted.

You will often hear me say “it can be both” because so often today people try to make every situation black and white. In reality, there’s an awful lot of gray in our world. But, in this case, it can’t be both. It can’t be Deshaun Watson, and Browns fans by proxy, are horrible, awful, no good, downright rotten people, and Ben Roethlisberger is a beloved figure.

Pot, meet kettle.

I don’t know what Andrew Fillipponi said about Ben Roethlisberger’s sexual assault allegations in 2010. And if I’m wrong, I’ll be the first to admit it, but I’m guessing he sounded much more like Carman and Lima did this week, rather than the person criticizing hosts in another market for their lack of moral fiber. Judging by the tweet Carman and Lima used to point out Fillipponi’s hypocrisy, I have a hard time believing the Pittsburgh host had strong outrage about the Steelers bringing back the franchise QB.

Real courage comes from saying things your listeners might find unpopular. It’s also where real connections with your listeners are built. At the current time in our hyper-polarized climate, having the ability to say something someone might disagree with is a lost art. But it’s also the key to keeping credibility and building a reputation that you’ll say whatever you truly believe that endears you to your audience.

And in this case, on a day the NFL announced they now employ a player who — in the league’s view — is a serial sexual assaulter, to hear hosts describe a six-game suspension as “reasonable” felt unreasonable. As talk radio hosts, we often try to hold the moral high ground and if you’re going to hold that position, I can’t help but feel integrity has to outweigh popularity.

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