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Your Dime, Your Dance Floor: In Memory Of Chet Coppock

“I hope during this difficult time his family can look at the influence he has had on other people’s lives.”

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When I was growing up, there were no sports talk radio stations in Chicago. There were stations that had sports shows but mainly at night or on the weekends. There was one show that we could hear every day – Coppock on Sports. The host, Chet Coppock, was larger than life. Every guest introduction was scripted and sounded like it had been written for a movie trailer. All the biggest and best guests were on his show.

To those of us growing up in Chicago during that time (late 80s and early 90s), Chet and COS was the shit. Chet Coppock died yesterday (April 17th) due to injuries sustained in a car crash in Hilton Head, South Carolina at the age of 70. 

Rather than pontificating further about Chet, his legacy, and the impact he has had on sports talk radio, I thought it would be best to hear from the people who worked with him throughout his career. I’ll start with two of the biggest on-air talents to come from the “Chet Stable”–Dan McNeil and David Kaplan. I spoke to both by phone today:

Dan McNeil Afternoon host The Score/Chicago: 

“Chet was the Godfather of Sports Talk in Chicago before sports radio mushroomed beginning with the arrival of The Score in 1992. There was Chet. He spoke his own language and it was colorful. You knew someone had made the top echelon of Chet’s guests when he gave them the three-name treatment–like Michael Keller Ditka and Michael Jeffrey Jordan.”

I always felt that Chet had a little Ted Knight in him from the Mary Tyler Moore Show. He had this booming voice and spoke from the diaphragm. He was also a large man. Well over six feet tall and he was hard to miss coming out of a Cadillac with dealer plates in his full length fur coat. 

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Chet was without question the most influential person in my career. In the winter of 1988 he scraped me off the street to produce his show on The Loop. I had been let go by the newspaper I was working at and contemplating getting my teaching degree so I could teach High School and coach football. 

Not only did Chet give me the opportunity to produce his show, but he gave me a chance to fill-in as the host on the nights he was off. In no way did I have the skills at that time to follow the legendary “Steve and Garry” on The Loop. But Chet gave me the chance. Plus he gave me the moniker “Dangerous Dan McNeil.” He was one of a kind.

We had our battles. After I moved to the Score in 1992, we ended up going head-to-head with Chet in 1994. (Terry) Boers and I KO’d Chet and his show had only a 0.8 rating. Chet had taught me all about self promotion. In ‘92 when I left his show to go to The Score he left me a shitty voicemail telling me to “get ready for a 0.8.” Needless to say I had saved it and played it when we knocked him out of afternoons. 

Chet and I made amends about 12 years ago and I took him to see the Rolling Stones. I’ve talked to him from time to time and he seemed to be at peace with where he was. Not in the middle of the action anymore but on the periphery. He definitely enjoyed one of his final gigs–working with the Chicago Blackhawks and their alumni. 

My favorite “Chetism” was what he called Old Comiskey Park. He didn’t call it “Comiskey Park” or “Sox Park” He instead called it “The Old Roman’s Diamond Palace.” I had no idea what it meant but it was certainly unique and I got a kick out of it. 

One of my favorite “blooper” memories was when I had booked Byron Sanders, the running back at Northwestern, to be on Chet’s show. Somehow Chet got it in his head that we had Lions superstar RB Barry Sanders on the show.

So Chet goes through his big buildup/lead up which led into his first question which he presumed was for Barry. Barry says, “Hey Chet, this is Barry’s brother Byron from Northwestern.” Without missing a beat, Chet, who was not the world’s greatest ad-libber says, “Well Byron, if Barry were here on the phone how do you think he’d answer that?” 

David Kaplan, ESPN 1000/Chicago 

“I would not be in this business without Chet’s kindness and generosity. No Chance! I’ve never taken a class in radio or broadcasting in my life. Here I was this washed-up basketball coach who decided to start a basketball recruiting newsletter. I printed out the first edition and sent a few copies to Chet hoping for some publicity for the newsletter. That week I get a message on my answering machine, “David, this is Chet Coppock. I got your newsletter here and I’d like to see what kind of chops you have. So come on our show tonight and let’s talk basketball recruiting.”

Then there was one huge moment in 1989 and I remember it was a Tuesday night because it was two days before the start of the NCAA Tournament. One of my best friends in the world is Kevin O’Neill who was an assistant coach at Arizona at the time. He calls me and tells me that Michigan Coach Bill Frieder is going to be the next coach at Arizona State. The story didn’t make sense because Michigan had a great team and a shot to win the national championship. So I had to confirm the story.

Remember, this is 1989–no twitter, cell phones, or internet, but there was Northwest Airlines which had its main hub in Detroit. So I called them as Frieder. Sure enough, Frieder and his wife were on a 630am flight to Phoenix and the tickets were open ended–no return date was set. I also confirmed that the tickets had been paid for by ASU and not Frieder or his secretary. Boom I had a huge story.

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So I called Chet’s hotline and told the producer that I had to talk to Chet immediately. Chet picks up off the air and doesn’t believe the story. I tell him that I have the story confirmed and that I want to break it on his show. He agrees to put me on, with the caveat ‘If you’re wrong I’ll bury you in this town. Do you still want to come on?” I did and it was a huge story and helped me make a name for myself.”

Here are other memories from people who worked with Chet Coppock throughout the years:

  • Weezie Kramer, Chief Operating Officer, Entercom: “Chet was an original….in my mind he really invented the larger than life local sports personality. He was a head turner in his giant fur coat and always a fun listen…He will be missed.”
  • Tony DiGiacomo, PD of WFNZ in Charlotte: “I cut my teeth in this business being Chet’s Executive Producer at Sporting News Radio with Coppock on Sports Saturday and Sunday evenings for the network in Chicago. I am shocked and saddened at his passing. He challenged me to not only be a great producer, but to let my imagination and personality run wild. That’s how you make it in this business. I’ll be raising his favorite drink, a diet coke today in his honor.”
  • Ron Gleason, PD WBBM AM, Newsradio: “Chet was Unique. He was sports talk before sports talk became a giant entity both in Chicago and across the country. His show was different. It wasn’t a caller-driven show. It was guest after guest and every guest was his “good buddy!” He had a ton of unique sayings: “Big Rock Candy Mountain”, “Your Dime-Your Dance Floor”, “The Straw that Stirs the Drink”(about his EP). My favorite memory was from back in my days covering live sporting events. He would arrive, usually late, to the old Chicago Stadium for a Bulls or Blackhawks game. He was wearing a full length fur coat and would wave to sections of the crowd upon his arrival. They would say something nice or derogatory and he would just wave. He was very flamboyant and quite unique.”
  • Matt Nahigian, PD 95.7 The Game in San Francisco: “Chet is the reason I am in this business. As a kid I wanted to work for Chet and be Chet. He was Chicago sports. One of the best days of my career was when I found out I got an internship and I would be working on his show. The first day I get to the Hancock Building he said hey kid nice to meet you now go to the top floor of the building and get me 12 diet cokes and 6 apples. That was the first thing I did every day. I have 1000 stories, but they can wait. Thank you Chet, for taking me in and showing me the way. I’ll never forget the days I spent with you”
Image result for chet coppock

In conclusion, I hope during this difficult time Chet’s family can look at the influence he has had on other people’s lives. He had a massive impact on sports radio, without really being a “major player” in what we would consider modern sports radio. Instead, he made his mark by influencing, pushing, and encouraging people who were passionate about our business.

Now in Chicago and all over the country there are PDs, talk show hosts, producers who are all in sports radio because of Chet. I never met him, never worked for him, but the influence of listening to his show during my formative high school years can never be understated. As Matt Nahigian aptly put it, we all “wanted to work for Chet and be Chet.” 

BSM Writers

Grant Cohn’s Trolling of Players is Unacceptable

After an altercation between Javon Kinlaw of the San Francisco 49ers and Grant Cohn, it became clear that Kinlaw was being trolled by a member of the media.

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Grant Cohn is a media member who writes for the FanNation 49ers blog on SI.com. He also talks about the team on his YouTube channel, which has over 48,000 subscribers as of noon Thursday. His father, Lowell, was a longtime columnist in the Bay Area.

Javon Kinlaw is a defensive lineman, whom the San Francisco 49ers drafted in the first round despite concerns about the durability of his knee. He played four games last season, his second in the league.

The two were involved in two confrontations this week. The first one occurred off to the side of the 49ers’ practice field. Kinlaw apparently cursed at Cohn and knocked his hat from atop his head. Later in the day, Kinlaw again swore at Cohn, this time after joining a live stream on Cohn’s YouTube channel. (Side note: I have never felt so freaking old as I did while typing that previous sentence.)

OK. That’s my attempt at an absolutely straightforward and objective summary of a situation that scares the hell out of me. Not because a player was mad at a member of the media. I’ve had it happen to me and I’ve seen it happen to others. It’s my opinion that this has been happening for as long as human beings have scrutinized the athletic efforts of other human beings.

What scared me was that I was seeing some version of the future of sports media. A future in which media members behaved like YouTube trolls, acting purposely ridiculous or antagonistic to initiate conflicts that could be turned into more conflicts that would could be gleefully recounted as content for the audience. I thought that because that’s pretty much what Cohn did:https://youtu.be/4Hf9sjBttFY

Cohn essentially bragged about the number of different things he said that may have prompted Kinlaw’s reaction, and you know what? It worked. Kinlaw got mad. He confronted Cohn. Twice. TMZ published a story about it. So did SFGate.com.

This is troll behavior. You know, the online pests who say or do something intended to provoke a reaction, and once they get that reaction, they recount and scrutinize that reaction with an eye toward triggering another reaction. Lather, rinse repeat. Increasingly, entire online media ecosystems consist of nothing more than people who don’t like each other talking about how much they don’t like one another.

I’m not going to pretend this is entirely new in sports media. Sports columnists have been known to make reputations with their willingness to be critical of the home team. A huge part of Skip Bayless’ brand is his unwavering insistence on highlighting Lebron James’ perceived flaws. Stephen A. Smith has engaged in public feuds with players, namely Kevin Durant.

I do see a difference between this and what Cohn did, though. The reaction Bayless and Smith are primarily concerned with is from their audience, not their subjects. The subjects may get mad, but that’s not the primary goal. At least I hope it’s not.

What happens if that is the primary goal? What if someone is offering opinions not because it’s what they really think, but because they want to provoke a response from the subject? Media careers have been built on less.

I don’t know if that’s the case with Cohn. I’ve never talked to him in my life, and even if I had, it’s impossible to know someone’s true intent. But in listening to everything he said AFTER the initial confrontation with Kinlaw, I’m not willing to assume that Cohn was operating in good faith. Here’s how Cohn described the initial confrontation with Kinlaw, which occurred as practice was beginning.

“In the training room, I saw Javon Kinlaw, who is the king of the training room,” Cohn said. “He’s usually in the training room.”

Cohn said the two locked eyes, but were separated by about 70 yards at the time. Kinlaw then walked across the field to where the reporters were gathered. He stood directly behind Cohn.

“So I turn, and I say, ‘Wassup, Mook Dawg?’ “ Cohn said, referencing the nickname on Kinlaw’s Instagram account. “And he doesn’t say anything. And I say, ‘Why are you looking at me like that, Javon?’ “

“And then he said, ‘What are you going to do about it you bitch-ass,’ and then he said one more word that I can’t say,” Cohn said. “And then I turned to face him, and I said, ‘Oh, it’s like that?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, it’s like that.’ And then he knocked the hat off my head.”

OK. Pause. In my experience, when your job is to publicly describe and critique the performance and attitudes of professional athletes, there will be times in which the athletes do not care for your description or your critique. Some of those who are displeased will make their objections known to you.

However, there are two things that are unusual here: First, the fact Kinlaw knocked the hat off Cohn’s head, which is unacceptable. Second, Cohn then posted a video on  YouTube to not only talk about what had happened, but state he had been so critical of Kinlaw for so long he wasn’t sure what specifically sparked Kinlaw’s anger.

“Javon, what are you upset about?” Cohn asked toward the end of  his video. “Is it the fact that I said you have an 80-year-old knee? Is it the fact that I said that you’re a terrible pass rusher and you’re just a two-down player? Is it the fact that I said the Niners shouldn’t have drafted you and should have taken Tristan Wirfs instead. Is it the fact that I said that you’re unprofessional and immature.

“It escapes me, which of the hundred negative things I’ve said about Javon Kinlaw the last couple of years, moved him to approach me in such a way, but you know what, I applaud Javon Kinlaw for coming to speak to me directly, and I ask you, what do you think Javon Kinlaw is mad about.”

Cohn was trolling Kinlaw. No other word for it.

That night, Cohn was conducting a live stream on YouTube, which Kinlaw joined, while apparently eating dinner, to make declarative statements about the size of Cohn’s genitalia — among other things.

Neither one looked particularly impressive. Not Kinlaw, who was profane and combative with a member of the media, at one point making a not-so-subtle threat. Not Cohn, who asked Kinlaw, “Do you think I’m scared of you, Javon?” He also said, “I don’t even know why you’re mad, Javon.”

I think Kinlaw would have been better off ignoring Cohn. If I was Kinlaw’s employer, I would probably prefer he not log into video livestreams to make testicular comparisons. But honestly, I don’t care about what Kinlaw did. At all. He’s not on a team I root for. He didn’t physically harm anyone. He used some bad words in public.

I am bothered not just by Cohn’s actions, but by some of the reactions to them because of what I think this type of behavior will do to an industry I have worked in for 25 years. Credentialed media members who behave like Cohn did this week make it harder for other media members who are acting in good faith. Preserving access for people like him diminishes what that access will provide for those who aren’t trying to use criticism to create conflict that will become content.

I think Cohn knew what he was doing. In his livestream, before Kinlaw joined, Cohn stated he was not scared because he knew — by virtue of his father’s history in the business — that if Kinlaw had touched him he would potentially be entitled monetary compensation.

By now, it should be pretty apparent how problematic this whole thing is and yet on Thursday, a number of 49ers fans online were sticking up for Cohn as just doing his job. Dieter Kurtenbach, a Bay Area columnist, Tweeted: “Javon Kinlaw does not know that @GrantCohn was built for this.” Built for what? Winning Internet fights? Kurtenbach also deleted a Tweet in which he called Kinlaw “soft.”

Cohn’s father, Lowell, is a former columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle and Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. He promoted the first video his son made on Tuesday:

Sorry, I don’t find it funny because it’s another step down a path in which media members seek reactions at the expense of information. Where they look to make fun of players instead of learning about them. They’ll stop acting like journalists and start acting like the trolls who make their money by instigating a conflict, which they then film: “Jake Paul, reporting live from 49ers practice …”

If that’s the case, thank God I’m about to age out of this business, entirely. I’m 47 years old and I can’t believe there’s anyone in our industry who thinks what Cohn did this week is acceptable.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 75

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A new episode of Media Noise is all about reaction. Demetri reacts to the ManningCast’s big win at the Sports Emmys. Danny O’Neil reacts to people reacting to Colin Kaepernick’s workout in Las Vegas and Andy Masur reacts to John Skipper’s comments about Charles Barkley.

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BSM Writers

Bron Heussenstamm Blends Bleav Podcasts Advertising with SiriusXM

Bron Heussenstamm, the CEO of the Bleav Podcast Network says blending podcasting advertising with satellite radio’s reach is a victory for both sides.

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Last week, the Bleav (pronounced believe) Podcast Network announced a deal with SiriusXM to make all 32 NFL team-specific Bleav pods available on the SXM app. SXM can also air Bleav content on any of its sports channels. Each NFL Bleav show pairs a former player with a host to discuss team issues. Eric Davis, Lorenzo Neal, and Pac-Man Jones are amongst the former players Bleav has signed as talent.

I have hosted a Bleav podcast about Boise State football -the Kingdom of POD. I am usually provided 1-3 advertisers per episode by the network and get paid by the download. My subject matter is regional, so my take-home pay is usually under four figures. I have enjoyed the technical assistance and cross-promotion I receive and I enjoyed meeting Bleav CEO Bron Heussenstamm. Bron is Los Angeles-based, a USC graduate, and founded Bleav in 2018. We discussed the SXM deal, podcast advertising, and the future. 

Will the podcast advertisers be carried on the SXM distribution platform?

Yes, Bleav baked-in advertisements and hosts read ads are distributed across all platforms. This enables the host to do their show once through, making it as easy as possible for the hosts and consistent for the advertisers.

Bron Heussenstamm, CEO Bleav Podcast Network

How is advertising on Bleav different? 

We want to be more than a ‘host read ad’ or a ‘digital insert’ with our advertising partners. When companies work with Bleav shows and talent, those companies can receive our omnichannel of distribution points—podcast platforms, YouTube, socials, streamers, TV, radio, and more. This allows for consistent branding across all platforms: great talent presenting great companies to fans and consumers no matter where they consume content. 

What is the growth pattern for podcasts that you see? 

The industry trades have presented 400%-800% percent growth over the next ten years. Once the COVID fog lifted, we really saw these gains. Sports are always going to be at the forefront of culture. The increases in all sports sectors have certainly carried into the digital space. 

SXM has started with NFL shows but can also air more Bleav content – what does that look like? 

We’ve started with our NFL network of 32 team shows hosted by a former player. We’ve kept the door open for our NCAAB, NCAAF, MLB, NHL, Basketball, and Soccer networks. We’re happy for our hosts to be part of such a tremendous company and platform. SiriusXM can continue to amplify its voice and give fans the access and insight only a player can provide. 

The Interactive Advertising Bureau-IAB- says podcast revenue grew 72% last year to $1.4B and is expected to grow to $2B this year and double to $4B by 2024. Have you seen similar growth? What is driving the industry now, and what will be the primary cause of growth by 2024?  

There is a myriad of reasons for the growth. I‘ll lean into a couple. 

At Bleav, we launch and maximize the digital arm of industry leaders. The technology upgrades to allow hosts to have a world-class show — simulcast in both audio and video – from their home has led to an explosion of content. With this, the level of content creators has risen. Having a YouTube, RSS feed, podcast, and more is now part of the brand, right alongside Twitter and Instagram. 

If a company wants to advertise on Bleav in Chargers, we know exactly how many people heard Lorenzo Neal endorse their product. We can also safely assume they like the Chargers. The tracking of demo specifics for companies is huge. It’s a fantastic medium to present products to the right fans and consumers.

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