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Ryan Hatch Is Competing With Your Wife

“We know our mission. We are Arizona Sports, and our mission is to super serve the local sports fan with entertaining and interesting conversations about the biggest local stories of the day.”

Demetri Ravanos

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I like Ryan Hatch and was really bummed that our schedules didn’t allow us to catch up more at the BSM Summit in LA last month. The program director of Arizona Sports 98.7 was part of a panel featuring both local and national programmers discussing the idea of approaching their jobs from an outside perspective. How do we improve the product by thinking about radio from a listener’s perspective?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4veo3C6QYDI

“It was fun, and listen, if we are not having these conversations, and not just having these conversations and then going back to our own work and old routines. We need to really be exchanging and listening to these ideas, otherwise we’re screwed,” Ryan told me over the phone.

We first got to know each other in the spring of 2017 when I applied for an opening on his mid-day show. He liked my creativity. I liked how much he and Bonneville emphasized a multi-platform approach to content creation. In the end, I am guessing the fact that I have never even been to Arizona is what hurt my chances of landing the job.

Either way, if you’re a content creator, it is hard not to be impressed by what Arizona Sports 98.7 is. It’s on the air, online, and dominant on social media. It may have started off as a way to create more advertising opportunities in the Phoenix market, but Ryan says that being everywhere is a necessity for any radio brand in 2019.

Our conversation included thoughts on Phoenix’s transplant community, Kliff Kingsbury, and why he doesn’t want his listeners to answer the phone when their wives call. We started out by talking about that panel from the BSM Summit and why programmers need to rethink how they approach competition.

RYAN HATCH: Where it all starts is understanding that we’re all in this fierce battle for attention. The first big thought that I think everyone can rally around is quit thinking you’re competing with the station across the street. You’re not. You’re competing with any other form of content or distraction. I’m competing against whether or not the guy listening in his car on the way home is going to take the phone call from his wife.

DEMETRI RAVANOS: On stage at the Summit you talked about trying to think beyond Nielsen ratings when we are trying to determine what success is for a show and a station. Is it easier to get talent to think beyond those numbers or to get sales staff to think beyond the numbers when you talk about what the reach of the Arizona Sports brand is?

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RH: That’s a good question. I would say…boy, that’s tough.

DR: Well, like with your staff, to be at Arizona Sports, you have to be good at a lot of things. You have to be a good host. You have to be a good writer. So, I think those guys get the same ego boost when you see either ratings or click numbers.

At the same time though, the sales staff is always looking for new opportunities to sell their product. I can’t imagine they are reluctant to look beyond just ratings numbers when showing a client what Arizona Sports can offer them.

RH: I want to be completely honest and accurate. I don’t know that there is a really big difference. Let me give you a couple of examples.

Number one, from the content side, we’re lucky to have unbelievable talent. We have consistently high, strong ratings. We’re lucky to be in a dominant position in a major market. That is a credit to our talent – hosts, producers, board ops, promotions team, I mean everybody does that.

At the same time, one of the big changes I have seen is in behavior. We share regular, in-the-moment data, whether it be streams, clicks, or engagement statistics across multiple digital platforms. We share those regularly with our team and are constantly analyzing those. We spend a hell of a lot more time looking at our digital metrics than we do at Nielsen because Nielsen numbers only come out once-per-month.

The digital numbers are better numbers anyway. They are more representative of the larger market than boiling it down to a couple hundred male 25-54 meters that are available, so in our building, our content guys take so much pride in the overall success of the brand and the astronomical growth we have seen of ArizonaSports.com, the Arizona Sports app, our podcasts and other digital pieces. Our staff is all in, and all we want is growth.

On the other side, I’ll tell you that the majority of the business on our sales side is local. It’s local direct.

To go into a local business, wherever it might be and say “Look, we’re in a strong position in ratings, but let me tell you, ratings come and go. That’s not what you’re buying here. You’re buying a strong brand association, association to incredible talent, and a very qualified, hard to reach audience. Now, let me give you our total audience story!”

Someone at the Summit talked about total line reporting and I said on stage we need to talk less about total line reporting and talk more about total audience impact.

What we’re sharing is our ratings story, our online story, our database story, our social story. We’re even sharing SMS/text and app notification story. That’s six of about nine different buckets you can pull from. They certainly aren’t mutually exclusive, but they show the overall strength and the strength of the brand story.

So if you’re a seller you can go into a business and say “You get access to radio to tell a great story, which is effective to driving sales. You also get access to a large, targeted, local online audience. You also have access to put a pre-roll spot on a podcast if that is what is right for you. We’ve got like six or seven other channels to access on our platforms for you to access.”

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That is a heck of a stronger story for the sales staff than “Hey, here are our ratings for the last three months.”

DR: You are one of the first stations I can remember taking a multi-platform approach to content seriously. What was the evolution from being just an AM signal, a traditional sports station to the full Arizona Sports brand?

RH: Up until January 1, 2007, KTAR was this massive, full-service news/talk/sports station. It was on AM on a huge signal covering all of Maricopa County and a huge chunk of the Southwest.

What research and audience analysis said was that the news audience was never fully satisfied, because so often when they were driving home at 5 o’clock or 4:30, they want their traffic and want to be up to date on the day’s biggest news story. But what happens? The Diamondbacks are at the Marlins or the Suns are in New York and that game is on in the middle of the day out here. It just wasn’t a complete experience for them.

On the other side you had the sports fans. They wanted more of this. We had an evening show that was outside of the traditional “news all day” format. It was play-by-play and this evening show at night. The sports audience said “We need more of this! We have major teams in every sport. This is Phoenix, Arizona!”

So our company made an aggressive play. Bonneville was one of the first to move news/talk to FM, so we made the decision an investment to fully serve both audiences – news/talk on FM and sports on AM. It became News Talk 92.3 KTAR FM and Sports 620 KTAR AM.

When PPM came in, we realized sports talk was doing very well, but we were hitting a ceiling. AM is a very limited, aging audience. It was almost exclusively a male audience.

We had a decision to make. Can we move this thing to FM? If so, I knew I didn’t want a website that just looked like an advertisement for the radio station.

There was an opportunity to take a strong, almost category-closing position on ArizonaSports.com. It gave us global reach. So, we actually launched that before the station moved. We went through the process of debating “do we want to lose the equity of almost 90 years of KTAR?” and “how do we build a brand that is separate and can stand on its own?”.

We changed the name in November 2011. It was Arizona Sports 620 AM. Then it was 2014 we felt the ceiling again. It was an incredibly difficult decision to move to FM, because we had to flip an incredibly successful Adult Hits station, 98.7 the Peak. They had a great staff. But at that point we believed the future was in unique, great local content both on radio and online. Bonneville believed the Peak’s future in a hyper-competitive music side of the industry didn’t compare to the potential for Arizona Sports and its growth.

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After nine months of a simulcast, 620 became a full-time ESPN affiliate. That gave us a great flanking station to cover all local sports and take full advantage of all of our play-by-play relationships.

DR: So 620 is a full ESPN feed, but it has its own PD in Rodney Lakin. What are his duties, and what does your relationship entail in terms of how Arizona Sports’ programming needs effect 620?

RH: In addition to being PD of ESPN 620, Rod is also the APD of Arizona Sports. ESPN is a full ESPN, but we air over 400 local play-by-play broadcasts and obviously have a ton of spillover games that fall onto ESPN along with some ancillary team based local programming. And that doesn’t include any of the ESPN national offerings.

While ESPN duties keep him busy, the majority of his time and energy is Arizona Sports focused handling a lot of the day to day work with hosts and producers. With my responsibilities with the KTAR News brand and oversight of all of our digital and social content, Rod is an unbelievable wingman. 

DR: Since ArizonaSports.com launched before the change over, was there any selling of the staff that had to be done to determine who was on board, or was the idea that we are not just doing traditional AM sports talk always baked into the concept even in the Sports 620 days?

RH: Well, we knew we couldn’t have two KTARs. KTAR is news. We needed a stand alone brand to own the sports position. As we explained it to anyone, internally and externally, everyone embraced it.

Once we got to FM and had access to the larger audiences, our digital growth exploded right along with it. We put more resources into the digital space.

Back in 2007 we had one person on the Arizona Sports staff dedicated to the website alone. Now we have three digital-focused employees plus additional shared employees that cross over driving sports content for both websites.

DR: So when you talk about Phoenix’s sports hierarchy now, what is it? All of those teams are old enough to have established fanbases at this point, but it is a city that people move to from all over the country. So, what is the hierarchy of what you are covering on air from day to day?

RH: It is a fascinating market. When 73% of the population was born elsewhere and most of the teams are relatively new in the last 30 years it can be a bit of an immature sports market. But it’s an event town. There are so many competitive options.

The NFL, like most places, is king, but I will say that this is a Suns town. When there is a story, like last year with the Suns getting the number one pick, this town turned orange very quickly.

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The Diamondbacks are having success and people care about them. I don’t want to make it sound like it is a bandwagon town, because it’s not. Between the weather and so many entertainment options, you really have to be special to stand out and get people’s attention.

You don’t have those multi-generational fanbases. I call us the home of everyone’s second favorite team. What you get is a Chicago Bears fan, an Atlanta Braves fan, and a New York Knicks fan. They’ve all moved here. They’ve all retained their loyalties to their favorite teams, but their second favorite team in that sport is the local team.

What are they going to go to work and talk about or what are they going to talk about at their kid’s soccer game on the weekend? They want to follow the local team so they can engage the people around them.

I think Phoenix is on the verge in the next five to ten years to becoming a more passionate sports market. The Cardinals came here in 1986, but just moved into their own stadium 12 years ago. That fanbase and its identity is just starting to emerge. The Suns do have multi-generational fans. The Diamondbacks, people here love baseball. I mean, jeez, there’s another distraction, Demetri. We have Spring Training here. Half of baseball is here.

There’s just so much going on in the market. But on FM, the brand speaks for itself. We don’t need some catchy positioning statement. We’re Arizona Sports.

Right now our listeners aren’t wrapped up in Tournament talk. They care about the Arizona Cardinals having the number one pick. They’re talking about the Kyler Murray vs. Josh Rosen discussion. They want to talk about the chances the Cardinals trade out or if they go with someone else entirely.

The listeners care a heck of a lot about the Suns and if they blow up the coaching staff again. They care about how the Diamondbacks are going to replace Paul Goldschmidt’s production.

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There’s a bubbling of energy around the Coyotes. If they make the playoffs we will look like one of the greatest hockey towns in the world. It is a team that has been on the verge of moving how many times?

We know our mission. We are Arizona Sports, and our mission is to super serve the local sports fan with entertaining and interesting conversations about the biggest local stories of the day.

DR: I grew up a Buccaneers fan, so I have experienced this myself. Is the fanbase more fired up now for the first pick in the draft or were you getting more interest from the Cardinals’ Super Bowl run?

RH: It’s the number one pick by far. Here’s why: there’s so much speculation and everyday that story changes. It’s not even close.

The lead up to the Super Bowl, there was so much passion and so much excitement, but that story is really week-to-week for about a month.

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When we knew the Cardinals had the top pick, and then the combine officially kicked things off, we had the cleanest lane to control the market place. It cannot get enough of this conversation. It’s not just everyday the story changes. It’s every hour. There’s always a new rumor.

Anecdotally we’re hearing it. We’re seeing it through our digital properties. We felt it a little bit last year with the Suns, because they had the number one pick. There was some discussion about DeAndre Ayton versus Luka Doncic and Marvin Bagley, but we’re talking about a franchise quarterback here.

We’re also talking about a guy they traded up for last year in Josh Rosen. The stories and the drama that come along with having the number one pick run multiple months before the draft. Then you have the halo afterwards. How does this person fit into the team? What other trades can they make? I have been here for most of the last 13 years. I have never seen an energy around the Cardinals like we’re seeing now with the number one pick.

I’ll put a cap on it like this. I was golfing in North Carolina last week. I was at the bar enjoying a beverage after the round and the NFL Network is on, and what is their lead story? The Cardinals and Kyler Murray and Josh Rosen. The table next to us? They were talking about the Cardinals. How often is it that Phoenix teams are part of the most discussed story in the country?

This story impacts the Cardinals, but every Giants fan wants to know what is going to happen. Same with Redskins fans. They need a quarterback. This story effects every team in the league and we are going to do everything we can to maximize that opportunity.

DR: Keep in mind I am coming at this one as a college football fanatic. I am not sure Kliff Kingsburry proved anything as a head coach at the college level. So is any of the excitement felt by having the first pick and a new era for the Cardinals on the horizon dampened by him being the head coach, or is Phoenix buying into the “he knows Sean McVay, so he’ll be great” narrative?

Image result for kliff kingsbury cardinals

RH: The excitement comes because of the incredible intrigue. It probably goes one of two ways; either he becomes the next great, young quarterback whisperer who can develop either Rosen or potentially Murray into a great player and build a high powered offensive attack, or he’s not the right guy and it was a stretch hire that didn’t pan out.

No matter what happens it’s going to be an amazing ride with super compelling storylines. We’ll know in a few years and obviously are hoping it’s the former and not the latter.

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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