It’s still college football season, right?
I ask, because like so many others in the business, it feels like an eternity waiting for the bowl game to arrive for the local team. If the main focus of your show is covering a college football team that’s playing in a bowl, it means the last time they stepped on the field was either late November or early December. That feels like a lifetime when the team isn’t playing again until late December or early January.
During this time, it’s hard to replicate the flow and success you had with the college football season in September, October and November. The news cycle coming from each program becomes increasingly slow and you find yourself begging for any quotes or injury information leading up to the bowl game.
The real challenge is choosing how to spend the entire month of December. Do you give a hardcore breakdown of the matchup each day? Kind of hard to do that when information is sparse leading up to the bowl week. Plus, things can become really stale if you spend four whole weeks constantly using the same points to talk about the same game. Do you ignore the game entirely until the week of? Well, that doesn’t make sense either, especially if you’re in a college football market that craves it every day.
So what do you do?
The new early National Signing Day on December 19th helps out with football coverage, but recruiting on the radio is also not for everyone. Trent Condon has seen this problem before. Covering both Iowa and Iowa State in Des Moines, there’s no local pro teams that can be used as a buffer while you wait for the bowl game. The Hawkeyes and Cyclones are always topic No. 1. Especially when both football teams are in postseason play.
When I contacted Condon, I had no idea he was in the middle of a transition we see so many times with hosts in the month of December. He hasn’t done a show in a few weeks, because he accepted an on-air position with 1460 KXNO and is waiting for his first day back behind the mic. It’s the station he’s always strived to be at in the state of Iowa and I couldn’t be happier for him. So, that means the point of this article stayed with how you keep your listeners engaged throughout the long game-less drought of December in a college football market, but also how you can stay fresh while in a job transition.
Starting January 2nd, will be Miller and Condon on 1460 KXNO, every weekday from 10:00 a.m. to noon. Luckily, the duo won’t have to worry about filling hours during the lull of no football games, but being in the market for 15 years, Condon still has an idea on how to handle such things.
TM: Since there’s such a long stretch since both Iowa and Iowa State have played their last game, how do you keep the momentum of college football season going during the month of December when neither team is playing games?
TC: Really, the best news for both programs is that the basketball teams look to have taken a big step forward. What Iowa did in New York City, beating UConn and a ranked Oregon team to win their tournament, as well as Iowa State winning a couple of games in Maui despite having injuries and suspensions. Both teams missed the NCAA Tournament last year and it looks like both will be back there. Because of that, it has helped build a bridge and has brought us the opportunity to really cover the basketball teams before we get to the bowl games.
TM: How much did you initially start talking about Iowa State vs. Washington State and Iowa vs. Mississippi State after the games were announced? Did you hit on them big, take a break and plan to come back to it? Or has it been full-coverage for the last three weeks?
TC: It’s funny, because you have your initial thoughts. For Washington State, it’s Mike Leach and they throw the football around. There wasn’t a deep dive into things, but more of an overview with things. Same thing with Mississippi State, really good defense with couple of guys that are first-round talent. You just give the overview without going with a real deep dive in.
I think here in the next week is when you really start to get into the matchups and go even deeper into things with the X’s and O’s. I think that’s how you try do it because you don’t want to do everything right away, but you do want to keep filtering things in throughout. Another good component has been the excitement from the Iowa State perspective. The Alamo Bowl is not a New Year’s Six game but this is the biggest bowl Iowa State has played in since the Peach Bowl in the 1970’s. The excitement that has gone along with that, including the way that fan base travels, how many people that are making the long trip, that’s also been a huge talking point, the excitement of this fan base and how pumped up they are.
TM: Building on that, have you found that the conversations over the air have also been about the bowl destinations themselves? Like talking about San Antonio and Tampa Bay and what’s to do in those cities during bowl week?
TC: I know right away on our drive-time show, the director for the Alamo Bowl was on. I’ve heard various people on the show that are from San Antonio and cover the Big 12. That’s something that’s being done to help the fans. But that talk really has been bigger for San Antonio than Tampa Bay, because it’s the first time Iowa State has ever been to the Alamo Bowl and Iowa has been to the Outback Bowl like four times in the past 11 years. If you’re an Iowa fan and go to bowl games, you’ve probably been to Tampa before. It’s really been more about San Antonio from that aspect.
TM: What about travel-wise for the station? How do you decide what bowl game to cover and be on-site at?
TC: Well, our drive time show is kind of split between Cyclone and Hawkeye coverage. Chris Williams, who runs Cyclone Fanatic, he obviously is with the Iowa State side of things and will be with them in San Antonio. Ross Peterson, who hosts a show that’s been on for decades after Iowa football games, he has the Hawkeye perspective on the show. Those guys kind of split things that way, and because of that, one guy can go to one place, the other can go to the other.
Another thing, is that if you really wanted to and had the budget to do it, you could go from Des Moines to San Antonio to Tampa Bay and back home to make it work. There’s enough days in between to make that work. If you have the budget, of course.
TM: Give us a preview on your new show and what’s going to happen
TC: I’m making the transition over to 1460 KXNO, the longest standing all-sports station here in Des Moines and really, the most well-known sports station in Iowa. I’ll be hosting a daily program from 10 a.m. to noon with Ken Miller. Ken was the one that helped bring sports talk radio to Des Moines. Over 25 years ago, many people in this market laughed at him. You’re going to talk about sports? You’re going to do it at a local level? Those were things he heard.
It has ballooned since then. When he came in here and started this, people didn’t think it would last. Here we are 25 years later and not only has it lasted, but it’s thrived in this market. When I started in this market 15 years ago, KXNO was the ultimate destination. This was the place you wanted to go and be in this state. They have the most listeners, but more importantly, they understand sports and what it takes to succeed.
Ken and I have worked together before and I love it. We’re very simple guys that just want to talk about sports. We’re never going to talk politics or break down the latest craft beer. That’s just not us. We’re hardcore sports and that’s what we bring. I know that’s not for everyone but that’s ok. We’re going to put sports at the forefront of everything we do.
TM: Has it been very long since you did your last show?
TC: It was the last Friday in November. It’s been tough being off that long. We had the Iowa-Iowa State basketball game and at the end there was pushing and shoving going on. I wanted to talk about it! I was sitting there at home one night last week watching an NFL game and someone went for 2 points. I ended up going on a 10-minute tirade while sitting on the couch with my wife and she told me, “You have to stop. You just have to stop. You need to go do a podcast or something.”
Well, I’ve been doing that and Ken (Miller) and I got together last week and did one. I do some Hawkeye podcast with a few of my friends, so there’s a few things that I do to keep myself in the flow of things but I miss flipping on a microphone every day and getting to talk. At my old station, I was on five hours a day. You go from being on five hours a day to none, and you find out how much you miss it. I’m just happy to talk to you right now!
TM: I’m sure you’re not the only host going through this transition of being on the sideline while waiting to join your new station after the new year. Is podcasting the best way to stay fresh during a time like this?
TC: Yeah, I think that’s a perfect way to do it. Especially if you have the ability to do it at the station that you’re about to be a part of, like I have going right now. Because of that, people are still listening to you, even though it’s not going out over the radio.
People think it’s easy to just pop on a microphone and talk about sports. There’s a lot more that goes into it than just that. I didn’t do anything for 10 days when it pertains to talking about sports. When I got back to doing the podcast, it took a couple of times to get revved back up and into it again.
Absolutely, keep yourself involved and engaged to stay fresh. I found myself, a couple of nights, flipping off a college basketball game involving a Big 12 team because it was boring. It wasn’t that big of a deal, but I know I can’t do that for a whole month. You can’t shut yourself out from sports completely, because you’ll come back and be lost. You can’t do that.
Tyler McComas is a columnist for BSM and a sports radio talk show host in Norman, OK where he hosts afternoon drive for SportsTalk 1400. You can find him on Twitter @Tyler_McComas or you can email him at TylerMcComas08@yahoo.com.
Marty Smith Loves The ‘Pinch Me’ Moments
“I don’t look at it as a talent-based platform. I don’t look at it as a results-based platform. I look at it as a platform that was built and sustained through the way I treat other people, through the work ethic that I believe that I have and through the passion that I know I have.”
I tell this story all the time. It is told for laughs, but it is absolutely true. Marty Smith once gave me a giant box of beef jerky.
I was in Charlotte visiting him and Ryan McGee on the set of Marty & McGee as part of a larger feature I was doing on the SEC Network. We spent probably 3 hours together that day. It was a lot of fun. The last thing I watched the duo shoot was a promo for Old Trapper Beef Jerky, the presenting sponsor of their show.
As they finished, I shook their hands and told them I had to get on the road. That is when Smith presented me with a box of twelve bags of Old Trapper and told me, in as sincere a voice as you can imagine, that he wanted me to have it.
“I mean, listen, if you give a man beef jerky, by God, you like him,” Smith said to me when I reminded him of that story earlier this week. “That’s redneck currency right there, bud.”
There just aren’t a lot of people in this business like Marty Smith. ESPN definitely knows it too. That is why the network finds every opportunity it can to use him to tell the stories of the events and people it covers.
Last week, he spent Monday and Tuesday with the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens. He got a day back home in Charlotte before he headed to Atlanta for the SEC Network’s coverage of the SEC Championship Game on Thursday. Saturday, after his duties for SEC Nation and College GameDay were done, he hit the road for Tuscaloosa to interview Nick Saban and be ready for ESPN’s coverage of the reveal of the final College Football Playoff rankings.
As if that isn’t enough, this week he heads to New York. It will be the second time ESPN will use him to conduct interviews and tell stories during the telecast of the Heisman Trophy presentation. It’s an assignment that Marty Smith still cannot believe is his.
“I’ve had a ton of pinch-me moments, but in the last five, six years, seven years, there are two that kind of stand out above the rest. One was when Mike McQuaid asked me to be part of his team to cover The Masters. The other was last year when my dear longtime friend Kate Jackson, who is the coordinating producer over the Heisman broadcast, asked me to be a part of her Heisman broadcast team and interview the coaches, players and families of the finalists,” Smith says. “You know, brother, I’ve been watching the Heisman Trophy my whole life.”
We talk about what the broadcast around the Heisman Trophy presentation is and how it differs from being on the sideline for a game. He is quick to point out that on a game day, the old adage “brevity is king” is a reality. In New York though, he will have more time to work with. He plans not to just fill it, but to use it.
Marty’s interest in his subjects’ backgrounds and their emotions is sincere. It is part of a larger philosophy. He respects that everyone has a story to tell and appreciates the opportunity to be the one that gets to tell it, so he is going to do all he can to make sure the people he is talking to know it and know that they matter to him. That means putting in the time to be respectful of his subject’s time.
“When I’m interviewing these players or coaches before a game, I want to interview them, and I’m saying not on camera, but when I’m doing the record. I want to get as thorough as I can get. Then you take all of that and you try to pare it down into a very small window. It’s not easy. I mean, look, most of the time you come home with reams of notes that never even sniff air.”
Marty Smith has always been a unique presence. As his profile has grown and he shows up on TV more often and in more places, more people question who this guy really is.
That is par for the course though, right? Someone with a unique presence sees their star rise and out come the naysayers ready to question how authentic the new object of our affections really is.
For me, there is a moment that defines Marty Smith, at least in this aspect. I cannot remember the year or the situation, but he was on The Dan Le Batard Show, back when it was on ESPN Radio. Smith was telling Dan about friends of his that are stars in the country music world and Dan asked what it is like when they are hanging out backstage before one of these guys goes out to perform.
I cannot remember Smith’s exact answer, but a word he used stood out to me. He said it was just buddies having a cold beer and “fellowshippin'”.
I told Marty about this memory of him and said that I am not accusing him of being inauthentic or his persona on television being an act, but I was curious if he was concious of the words he chooses. Even if the version we get of Marty Smith on TV is the same one we would get if we were part of the fellowshippin’, does he think about how he wants people to think about him?
He is quick to note that is isn’t an act at all. What you see when you see Marty Smith isn’t a persona he cooked up when he decided he was going into television. That is just his personality.
“It is a lifelong field from where I’m from to where I am,” he says of what we see on TV. “It is relationships made that pinched my clay and remolded who I was to who I am and reshaped me as a person.”
Anyone from The South can tell you that there is no one monolithic “South”. The gregarious, larger-than-life personalities in Louisiana may not always feel real to people from the more reserved and anglo-influenced South Carolina. The Southern accent I got from growing up in Alabama sounds nothing like the Southern accents I live near now in North Carolina.
Marty Smith is from Pearisburg, Virginia just outside of Blacksburg. Surely that informs who he is, but he is also shaped by the wealth of conversations he has had and the characters he has met from his professional life.
“At our company, you have to work really hard to not only make it, but to sustain it. I try hard to do that every day,” he says. “I’m sure I’ve said it before, man. I don’t look at it as a talent-based platform. I don’t look at it as a results-based platform. I look at it as a platform that was built and sustained through the way I treat other people, through the work ethic that I believe that I have and through the passion that I know I have. You piece all of those different things together, and along with opportunity you can do something special, and I’m trying to do that every day.”
The Marty Smith you see on TV is the guy that will hand you a box of beef jerky just because you had a great conversation. He is the guy you see in that viral video from a few years back giving a young reporter advice and encouragement.
You can be confused by Marty Smith. You can have your questions about him and his motivations. They aren’t going to change him though. It took too long for him to become who he is to start second-guessing it now.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.
Another World Cup Run Ends And There’s Still No Soccer Fever In The USA
“We get fired up once every four years, sing the anthem, wear American flag t-shirts, then go back to our daily lives, forgetting about the sport that was attached to the patriotism.”
Soccer fever? Hardly. Not in the United States at least. The US Men’s National Team lost in the round of 16 against the Netherlands 3-1 last Saturday. The ratings are in. And the ratings are revealing.
An average of 12.97 million viewers tuned in to see the Netherlands-United States World Cup match on FOX. Before you say, “Hey, not bad,” consider the fact that the ratings are down from eight years ago when 13.44 million viewers watched the USMNT lose to Belgium in the knockout stage on ESPN.
Even more damning are the ratings of the USMNT’s initial match in the 2022 World Cup against Wales, an unhealthy 8.31 million viewers.
Let me get this straight; fans waited, waited, and waited some more to finally see the USMNT in World Cup action, and the first game in eight years drew 8.31 million viewers? Really?
There were 5.5 million viewers across TV and digital that watched the NFL Network’s telecast of the New York Giants-Green Bay Packers game in London. That was a Week 5 game in the NFL compared to the World freaking Cup. Network television (FOX) compared to cable TV (NFL Network). And the ratings are comparable? Come on, US Soccer. Y’all gotta do better than this.
*Mini rant alert — it drives me crazy when soccer in this country is consistently compared to soccer in this country. The promoters of the sport paint an obnoxiously rosy picture of the growing popularity by comparing US soccer now to US soccer then. It’s a joke.
It would be like comparing Nebraska’s 4-8 record in college football this year, to Nebraska’s 3-9 record last year. “Hey, things are looking up!” Never mind the fact that the Cornhuskers are significantly trailing several teams in its conference and many other teams across the country. That’s US soccer in a nutshell. Don’t compare it to other leagues and sports that are crushing it, just say we’re up 10% from last year. Ridiculous.
*Mini rant continuing alert — the Michigan-Ohio State game drew 17 million viewers last month. The New York Giants-Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving drew 42 million viewers. Those are regular-season matchups compared to the biggest stage soccer has to offer. But go ahead and just compare US soccer to itself.
And no, the edge you might feel in my words isn’t born out of fear that soccer will somehow surpass the popularity of football. That would be like Mike Tyson being scared that the Stanford Tree mascot could beat him up. US soccer isn’t a threat, it’s a light breeze. I just hate a bad argument. And many soccer apologists have been making bad arguments on the behalf of US soccer for years. *Mini rant over
The World Cup didn’t prove that American fans are invested in soccer. It proved that we love a big event. It’s the same recipe every four years with the Olympics.
During the 2016 summer games in Rio, when swimmer Michael Phelps was in the pool for what turned out to be his final outing in an Olympic competition, the ratings peaked at 32.7 million viewers. Phelps helped Team USA win gold in the men’s 100-meter relay and then rode off into the sunset.
We don’t really care about swimming. When’s the last time you asked a friend, “You heading out tonight?” and the response was, “Are you crazy? The Pan Pacific Championships are on.”
Whether it’s the Olympics or World Cup, Americans care about the overall event much more than the individual sport. We get fired up once every four years, sing the anthem, wear American flag t-shirts, then go back to our daily lives, forgetting about the sport that was attached to the patriotism.
Ask yourself this, at the height of US swimming’s popularity, would you have paid $14.99 per month to watch non-Olympic events? Me either. US soccer isn’t exactly on fire following its showing in the 2022 World Cup, so the timing isn’t awesome to introduce a paywall for the sport’s top league in this country.
Apple and Major League Soccer have announced that MLS Season Pass will launch soon. I know you’re excited, but try to stay composed. Yes, MLS Season Pass will launch on February 1, 2023. It’s a 10-year partnership between MLS and Apple that features every live MLS regular-season match, the playoffs, and the League’s Cup.
Have I died and gone to heaven?
It’ll run you $14.99 per month or $99 per season on the Apple TV app. For Apple TV+ subscribers — make sure you’re sitting down for this, you lucky people — it’s $12.99 per month or $79 per season. If you don’t have US soccer fever right now, I doubt you’re running out to throw down cash on a product you aren’t passionate about.
Now if the USMNT won the 2022 World Cup, cha-ching. The popularity of US soccer would definitely grow in a major way. Even if they had a strong showing while reaching the quarterfinals, the momentum would be much greater. But a 3-1 loss to the Netherlands in the group of 16? Nope. This isn’t it. I don’t expect much more than some tumbleweed rolling by instead of cash registers heating up for MLS Season Pass.
Colorado Hiring Deion Sanders Will Be Constant Gift for College Football Media
“If Coach Prime achieves the same sort of success that he did with the Tigers, he will be far more than a curiosity. Sanders will be a disruptor.”
Deion Sanders quickly made it clear why the University of Colorado chose him to be its next head football coach.
Coming off a weekend in which the four College Football Playoff teams were announced and all of the other bowl-eligible teams accepted their invitations, Colorado — which went 1-11 this past season — made news for hiring Sanders, the former NFL star who was phenomenally successful at Jackson State.
The media that covers college football and sports as a whole should be thrilled that the Buffaloes program decided to take a big leap for attention and notoriety. Sanders is a bold, risky hire. But he’s also been successful in virtually every venture he’s taken. “Primetime” had a Hall of Fame NFL career and also played Major League Baseball. And he’s a master at drawing attention to himself.
During his first meeting with his new team, Sanders made sure to mention that he has Louis Vuitton luggage to make the point that some of his Jackson State players are coming with him to Boulder — including his son, quarterback Shadeur Sanders. Nick Saban and Kirby Smart probably don’t cite luxury fashion when explaining to their players that they’ll have to compete for starting positions.
Coach Prime will not be boring to cover. (That self-appointed “Coach Prime” title, which was on his name plate at his introductory press conference, is a big clue there.) He never has been. This is a man who said during the 1989 NFL Draft, after being selected No. 5 overall by the Atlanta Falcons, that if the Detroit Lions had selected him at No. 3, he “would’ve asked for so much money, they’d have had to put me on layaway.”
Even if he doesn’t win as much as Colorado hopes, Sanders will pursue top talent — players who want to perform on a larger stage than the FCS-level Jackson State allows — and impact athletes will be attracted to him. He got the No. 1 recruit in the nation, cornerback and wide receiver Travis Hunter, to play for him. (Hunter is following his coach to Boulder.) Now that Sanders is at an FBS school in a Power 5 conference, more stars will surely come.
But if Coach Prime achieves the same sort of success that he did with the Tigers — going 27-5 in three seasons, including a 12-0 campaign in 2022 — he will be far more than a curiosity. Sanders will be a disruptor. And he’ll get the attention that such figures typically draw from media and fans. According to the Denver Post‘s Sean Keeler, at least 400 people attended what felt more like a celebration than a press conference.
Coach Prime wasn’t going to just win the press conference, which is what any school and fanbase want when a new coach is introduced.
If Colorado wanted someone to sit at a podium, and give platitudes like “We want to win the Pac-12 and get to the College Football Playoff,” “We’re going to build a program with young men you’ll be proud of,” or “It’s time to restore Colorado to the football glory we remember,” Sanders isn’t the guy for that.
“Do I look like a man that worries about anything? Did you see the way I walked in here? Did you see the swagger that was with me?” Sanders said during his introductory presser. “Worry? Baby, I am too blessed to be stressed. I have never been one for peer pressure. I put pressure on peers. I never wanted to worry, I make people worry. I don’t get down like that. I am too darn confident. That is my natural odor.”
To no surprise, Sanders announced his presence in Boulder with authority. He had cameras following him as he met with Colorado players for the first time. How many other coaches would have recorded what many would see as a private moment for posterity and post it online?
Sanders caused a stir by putting his players on notice. He warned them he was coming, telling them they’ll be pushed so hard they might quit. He told them to enter the transfer portal and go someplace else if they don’t like what he and his staff are going to do.
That candor, that brutal honesty surprised many fans and media when they saw it Monday morning. For some, that message might have felt too familiar. How many in media — or many other industries — have worried about their job status when a new boss takes over? What may have seemed secure days earlier is now uncertain.
But how do we know other coaches haven’t said something similar when taking over at a new job and addressing their team? We just hadn’t seen it before. But Sanders has been in the media. He knows social media. He understands controlling his own message and telling his story.
Sanders also knows what kind of value he brings to any venture he takes on. How many people would have left an NFL Network gig for Barstool Sports? But Sanders went to where his star would shine, where he was the main show, where he could be Deion Sanders. Maybe he’ll have to turn that down just a bit at Colorado. But athletic director Rick George knows who he hired.
Colorado could have made a safer choice, including previous head coaches Tom Herman, Bronco Mendenhall, or Gary Patterson. A top assistant from one of this year’s Playoff contenders — such as Georgia’s Todd Monken, USC’s Alex Grinch, Alabama’s Bill O’Brien, or Michigan’s Sherrone Moore — could also have been an option.
But what fun would that have been? What kind of tremor would Colorado have created in the college football news cycle? How much attention would a more conventional hire have received? Yes, Sanders has to recruit and win. However, if the objective was to make Colorado football a talking point again, that’s been accomplished.
There could be some friction too. Sanders has already been criticized for being a champion of HBCUs, only to bolt for a mainstream Power 5 program when the opportunity opened. (To be fair, other columnists have defended the move.)
At Jackson State, Sanders tried to control local media when he didn’t like how reporters were addressing him or covering a story. Last year during Southwestern Athletic Conference Media Day, he balked at a Clarion-Ledger reporter addressing him as “Deion,” not “Coach,” insisting that Nick Saban would’ve been shown that respect. Earlier this season, Sanders admonished a school broadcaster (and assistant athletic director) for speaking to him more formally on camera than he did off-camera.
Will that fly among Boulder and Denver media, or the national college football press? It’s difficult to imagine. Maybe Sanders will ease back on his efforts to control reporters within a larger university environment, metropolitan area, and media market. But we’re also talking about Deion Sanders here. He doesn’t bend to outside forces. He makes them bend to him.
Sanders’ stint in Boulder — whether it lasts the five years of his contract and beyond, or less than that — will not be dull. There could be no better gift for the media covering Colorado football. Or college football, a sport already full of bold personalities, eccentric to unhinged fanbases, and outsized expectations. Coach Prime will fit right in.
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at email@example.com.