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Howard Simon Just Wants To See Somebody Win

“I can’t stand losing. I’m tired of it.”

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The people of Buffalo are tired of losing. The Music City Miracle, 47 Wide Right, No Goal, those are just a few of the agonizing moments that have kept the Bills from winning a Super Bowl and the Sabres from a Stanley Cup. But there’s a belief in sports radio that the teams you cover need to be either really good or really bad, since both create storylines. It’s the mediocre seasons that causes the fans and listeners to lose interest. 

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But not every show host believes in that theory. Howard Simon, co-host of Howard and Jeremy on WGR 550 in Buffalo is one of those that doesn’t. Much like his listeners, he’s tired of losing. Though the rest of the country might look at Buffalo affectionately with all the sports misery they’ve suffered, a 17-year playoff drought for the Bills doesn’t equal a giant payoff for local sports radio. 

“I really don’t know who says that,” said Simon. “If it’s a sports talk show host I’d love to meet them because I can’t stand losing. I’m tired of it. I kind of kid here, but maybe Boston sports talk show hosts are bored? I have no idea. I would much rather talk about winning teams. The early 90s around here with the Bills were fantastic. 

“Nobody wanted to talk about a playoff drought from 2000 to 2017. We got tired of it and we got tired of being reminded about it. We got tired of bringing it up every year at training camp. Coaches and GM’s getting fired every three years, quarterbacks changing, that sucks. Sure it gives us great shows and quarterback discussions are always fascinating when there’s a controversy, but no, I don’t think it bonded anyone together. If anything we get tweets every now and then from people who feel sorry for us because we have to talk about the Bills and Sabres. I kind of look at us as therapeutic, like a communal psychiatrist. We’re just like a bartender. You go to the bar, you get a drink and you spell your woes to them about how bad your teams are. We allow people to vent and cheer. If you need someone to be with you in your time of need as a sports fan, we’re there. Because we’re going through all the sports stuff with them.”

Simon has been with WGR since 2004, which serves as the flagship for both the Bills and Sabres. In this Q&A we cover if Bills fans are as crazy on the radio as they seem on the internet, how the station handles training camp and a whole lot more. 

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TM: So you’re the flagship of the Bills. Obviously, the recent past hasn’t been easy for this team. Are you able to accurately describe the pain that fans are feeling and be critical about decisions made by ownership on the air? 

HS: If you’re wondering if we’re given a directive to go easy because were the flagship, no. In fact, quite honestly, there’s been more bad than good here. During the Bills’ drought, if we thought a coach was bad, we said they should fire him. If we thought a GM was bad, we said they should fire him. If they had a draft pick we didn’t like, we’d be outspoken about it. We just always speak our opinion.

That’s the nice thing about our bosses, they’ve never once said to us that we can’t say things because were the flagship and our contract is almost up. Last year‘s hockey season was one of the worst in franchise history, so we’re not going on the air to sugarcoat that. We said the coach should be fired and he was. If the team is really bad, we’ll say they’re bad. Fans are smart and they see through that stuff. It comes down to credibility and you have to have it at the end of the day.

TM: So when the Sabres are bad, I’m going to guess you find yourself going deeper on the Bills earlier than normal. When that’s the case, is it tougher to keep it fresh since you don’t have a hockey team to steal the big stories of the day during the winter?

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HS: Well, yes, but the good news is we’ve had a lot of practice. There’s been plenty of hockey seasons that crapped out January 1st or February 1st. The thing I think around here, and this is getting back to how passionate people are around here about football, it’s become a 12 month a year thing. More than any other sport, as soon as you get done with the season you start talking about the combine in February. Right after that, you talk about the free agency period. Right after that, you dive into a month and a half of NFL Draft. After that, you dive into rookie minicamp, OTA‘s and mandatory camps. So usually there’s always something to talk about with football. It’s not really hard for us, if the Sabres are playing well, that’s great. But if not we have to get a little creative.

TM: Is there a third-biggest team in town? 

HS: Honestly there’s no clear-cut answer. It really is a Bills and Sabres town. We don’t consider ourselves a satellite Toronto market. I guess if you want to pick baseball there’s more Yankees fans in Buffalo than any other Major League Baseball team. From a basketball standpoint it’s a mixed bag. This would not be considered a secondary Raptors market. It’s very Bills NFL and Sabres NHL centric.

TM: Bills Mafia videos during tailgates have really taken a life of their own. Does that craziness shine through on the call line?

HS: I grew up in New York so I listened to New York talk radio when I was growing up. I worked in Toledo and listened to Detroit talk radio when I was there, so in terms of craziness, I don’t think anybody would top New York or even Philadelphia. I think the fans here are mostly like other fans, they are very passionate. Maybe it’s a little bit different here because we’re talking about a city that has two major professional teams as opposed to New York City having eight, Philadelphia having at least one in every single pro league, Boston has a bunch, but there’s no MLB or NBA team here. So maybe the fever is a little higher.

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Maybe the intensity and pressure is a little greater on the Bills and Sabres because you don’t have a third and fourth professional team to help you out if you’re struggling. In terms of the people that are calling our station, you get your occasional crazy caller but I think that happens in every talk market in the country. People aren’t calling us as they’re jumping into a table. They’re passionate fans and I think they enjoy the crazy fans label they get but it’s not like crackpot is calling all the time.

TM: With Bills training camp being in Pittsford, New York (A little over an hour from Buffalo) how are your shows covering training camp? 

HS: We have a Bills beat reporter and he’s also the sideline reporter on the broadcast, so he’s out here. When the Bills are there, he’s out there. As far as the shows, it depends what their practice schedule is. If they’re practicing in the afternoon, the afternoon show will do their show live from camp. We have seven shows here from camp. Seven morning practices during the week so we’re here for those seven shows.

TM: Though it may cost money and a few more resources, how important is it for your station to be on-site during those opportunities? 

HS: Yeah I like it, I really do. I can only speak for me but I like seeing practice. Our beat reporter is great and now with Twitter and the Internet you can read reports from every single media person or blog member who’s out here. But I just think it sounds really good. If a fan is listening and the morning show comes on and they say, “hey, good morning we’re at Bills Training Camp,” it just sounds good. I think that always sounds appealing to the fan. We’re out where the stories are.

When we’re out here, we get players on as well as national media guests that are here. It’s very active and I feel more connected when we’re out at training camp. It’s just cool and beneficial to say, hey, here’s what the offensive line looks like today, or here’s what Josh Allen look like today. Things like that, Cole Beasley look very good today. Ed Oliver is knocking offensive lineman over. It just sounds good.

TM: Being in western New York and on the border in Canada, is Buffalo a really unique place to do sports radio, in terms of, yeah, you’re in New York but the teams in NYC are six hours away? 

HS: Yeah we’re around 400 miles away from New York City. It’s funny, I think sometimes when players get drafted by Buffalo teams they think they’re in a suburb of New York City. Then they get here and realize it’s this far away and don’t realize it. In terms of location, I like it and think it’s a good location.

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You have the teams here, but in terms of what’s around us, Cleveland is three hours away, Pittsburgh is 3 1/2 hours away, Toronto is two hours, we’re in an area where there’s a lot of other professional teams and cities around us. That might also be a reason why we have a mishmash in the fan base, because there are so many cities within reach that you can be attached to their teams.

TM: Speaking of players being mistaken where Buffalo is, has there been anyone more famous than Marshawn Lynch for doing that? What was the fan reaction to that? 

HS: He’s not the only one. I can’t give you any names off the top of my head but it seems like it’s happened to more football players than hockey players. There have been plenty of rookies that come here, and when you talk to them, they were planning on going to see a Broadway Show or even to hangout in Manhattan. You then have to explain to them that they can, but it’s an hour plane flight. Marshawn is probably the highest profile guy to do it, but he’s far from the only one that’s made that mistake.

TM: The Bills are No. 1 and rest of the NFL storylines are No. 2 at this point in the year for you. So does that leave any room to talk college football? Does there need to be a guy like Khalil Mack playing for the University of Buffalo for you to even mention them? 

HS: We have not talked a lot of college football, because, quite honestly, for most of UB’s 20-ish years at the FBS level they’ve struggled. As it turns out, yeah, Khalil Mack made people more aware of UB but they need to win more games. Our college football talk is more geared towards watching guys who we think we’re going to be talking about come NFL Draft talk. Like, when we knew the Bills were going to draft a quarterback two years ago, we went all in every weekend watching Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen. I’ll watch college football because I’m a big fan, but our conversations tend to sway more to “hey, the Bills need a wide receiver and you’ll never guess which one I watched this weekend.” We still incorporate college football talk into Bills talk.

TM: You’ve been around the market for several years so you must like the area and your gig. But what do you like most about doing sports radio in Buffalo? 

HS: (Laughs) It’s a bad time to ask that question, we’ve been in a real bad stretch. I’ve been a sports fan for over 40 years so I like talking about sports and watching the games, as well as talking other people about it too. It’s really cool to connect with the fans. Having been here for 30 years it’s a great place to live and it’s a great fan base. The sports fans are really good, they’re knowledgeable and passionate. They can be critical when they need to be, but they’re not over the edge crazy. It’s a fan base that I think really appreciates the work we put in and the product we put out.

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Honestly I think we enjoy doing the show because we realize how much people enjoy listening to the station. The one thing I would say, I would just love to see someone win around here because the fans have put up with a lot of really rough years of football and hockey. No Stanley Cup. No Lombardi Trophy. They really do deserve it here and I hope to live to see the day when someone wins a championship. If that happens the city would go absolutely crazy.

BSM Writers

Jonas Knox Has Unique Chemistry With His New Partners

“The fact Brady and LaVar have accomplished as much as they have and can still laugh at themselves, and want to do that type of radio and have fun, that excites me.”

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Andrea Knox was so excited she could hardly stand it. If you understood the special mother-son bond she shared with her son Jonas, you’d better understand the magnitude of the situation. 

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Listening to the radio with his mom was a huge part of Jonas Knox’s childhood. The two routinely spent long hours in the car together, meaning the radio was always playing. Most of the time it was on sports radio, which is where Knox’s passion for the business was ignited at a young age. He even called sports radio stations as a kid. The thought of being on the radio was cool, but the added element of sports talk blew his mind. He was hooked. 

So when Andrea came to Jonas and claimed she had just heard his name on the radio, it was a huge deal to both of them. Shortly after, they were both back in their nearly-daily routine of listening to radio in the car together when she heard the familiar sound. 

“We were in the car that day and the commercial came on and she said, it’s this commercial!” Knox said.  “When I’m listening to it, what they said was, join us, it was like a teaser for a show and she thought they said Jonas. What always stuck out to me about that moment was I wasn’t upset they didn’t say my name, it was the fact that she was so excited about the possibility of them saying my name on the radio. It just meant so much to her.”

It brings Knox to tears when he thinks about how he recently got to call his mother and tell her he was hired as a permanent co-host of the new morning show on Fox Sports Radio. It was one of the best moments of his life. While on the phone with his mother, Knox kept using the word ‘we’ because his mother was his inspiration in radio. 

“My mom is my hero,” said Knox. “I get emotional talking about her, because she’s my best friend and she’s had a really, really tough go of it. She’s had the type of life where she didn’t really get to do what she wanted to do. She got dealt really bad luck and really bad cards. Getting to spend every single day with her and the opportunity to tell her that, hey, we did it, it was really special and it just meant a lot to me.”

Being the co-host of 2 Pros and a Cup of Joe with Brady Quinn and LaVar Arrington is a far cry from being the rat mascot at Chuck E Cheese, a telemarketer, working security, or any of the other odd jobs he’s had in his life. This is exactly the opportunity he’s been waiting for. It’s why he initially joined Fox Sports Radio as a weekend overnight editor, even though he had on-air experience and Annie Zidarevich told him the job meant he was at the end of the bench. It’s why he did overnight shows on the network for six years. It’s why he’s never called in sick or turned down any shift. He wanted to make himself available to any potential opportunity that opened. 

It’s also why he took the fill-in shifts for the morning show while Fox Sports Radio looked for Clay Travis’ replacement. For him it was a no-brainer to enter himself into the same chair he wanted as a full-time role. He had been doing a fantastic job for weeks, but there was never a time when he got his hopes up. In fact, he had the perspective that even if it didn’t work out, he still had the opportunity to do a dream job.

“I never had any expectations,” Knox said. “I never got my hopes up. With radio, right when you think you have everything figured out, something happens and you go, wow, I didn’t see that coming. I just learned a long time ago, don’t worry whether or not you’re going to get kicked in the nuts, just try to cover up as well as you can, and then when it happens, just hope it doesn’t hurt as much as the last time. That’s the way I look at it.”

When Don Martin and Scott Shapiro called him to tell him the news, he had a similar outlook. In fact, he expected the worst news possible. 

“I was waiting for the worst possible news,” Knox said. “I’ve been laid off in radio before, where you think, hey, they want to talk to me after the show must be about a raise, or it must be about our ratings and then they tell you something completely different.

“But when they told me the news I was just floored. I was very emotional. I broke down and cried. I just sobbed. It’s just been such an effed up journey and just kept thinking about all the crap I had to go through, both personally and professionally. You kind of get to a point where you think, maybe you’re just never going to get your shot. I was OK with it because I’ve always been very grateful for anything, whether it’s getting to fill-in, doing a show on the weekends, whatever it was I was really thankful. But you always wonder if you’re going to get your chance at that level and to finally hear you got it was really, really emotional.”

2 Pros and a Cup of Joe | iHeartRadio

2 Pros and a Cup of Joe is on the air every weekday morning from 6am to 9am EST on Fox Sports Radio and the reviews are already incredible. A big reason why is the chemistry Knox, Quinn and Arrington had already developed before the new show made its debut. Martin and Shapiro didn’t just throw a show together and hoped it would work, they took their time and made sure there was going to be the chemistry to make it work. 

“Brady and I have been doing a show on Sunday nights for years,” Knox said. “I don’t even know whose idea it was to put us together, because we had never met or even talked before. Once we started I think Brady realized I don’t like to do the X’s and O’s, I know everything, type of radio. I just think there’s too many people that try to do that. Once he saw that, wow, you can really let loose on the radio and sound like a couple of guys playing grab ass at a bar, that’s when we really started to take off and it’s been a blast to work with him.

“We have a unique chemistry and when LaVar started doing shows with us I didn’t know how it was going to go and I was worried for LaVar, because Brady and I are psychos and some of the things we want to talk about are crazy. We always needle each other and it’s one inside joke after another on the air, but it didn’t take very long for us to find out that LaVar was one of us too. We had gotten these practice shows together and by the time Scott and Don called me and I knew the show was going to be with those guys I knew it would be fine. Just based on the shows we had done, I just thought the opportunity to work with those guys was incredible. I love both of those guys.” 

In an industry full of egos, Knox doesn’t have one. All he cares about is being genuine and relatable, while having fun. That’s why he’s so excited about his new show. Even with two former NFL players it won’t be an X’s and O’s show where everyone cares about who’s right. It’s going to be loose and fun. 

“Just having fun, honestly,” Knox said regarding what he’s most excited about. “And I know that sounds like a pretty bland answer but I think sometimes people in our business take themselves a little too seriously. I always use the analogy of working weekend overnights. I have heard all the jokes for years, oh, that’s why you’re working weekends, or, that’s why you work with the drunks. I hear all that stuff all the time and I tell people I have no ego. In the backyard of life, I’m the pile of dog crap in the corner of the yard. That’s the way I look at it. We’re doing sports radio. Let’s have fun. The fact Brady and LaVar have accomplished as much as they have and can still laugh at themselves, and want to do that type of radio and have fun, that excites me.”

There’s so many things Knox is grateful and excited for with the new opportunity. But the chance to do morning radio is another that he’s excited about. It’s always been his favorite time slot, because of the opportunity it gives to help start someone’s day. Knox has had plenty of jobs he dreaded going to, just like many people on their morning commute, so the opportunity to give them just a little bit of laughter, entertainment and joy is fulfilling. 

Jonas Knox: Wiki, Bio, Height, Family, Girlfriend, Career, Net Worth

If you can’t root for Knox in this role, you probably can’t root for anyone in sports radio. He’s done everything he’s been asked, he’s done the shifts nobody else wanted and he’s worked his butt off at every opportunity. And through it all, he’s been an incredible person that wants to help other people. He’s a radio success story. 

“We have the best behind the scenes crew anywhere,” Knox said.”The people behind the scenes that don’t get any of the attention, any of the love or any of the shine, I know for me personally, if not for them, I wouldn’t be anywhere close to the position I am right now. That goes from up top to Don and Scott to the technical producers, the editors, the anchors, I just think it’s important to mention that those people are the best in the business. I hope they get the respect they deserve.”

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5 Sports TV Minds Explain Why We Love The Manningcast

“Yes, it’s an in-motion experiment but it’s working because the production team at ESPN is being allowed to create a live studio show, something ESPN does very very well.”

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Here at Barrett Sports Media, we clearly have Manningcast fever. And look, we aren’t the only news outlet covering the media industry that has mined Peyton and Eli Manning for all the content we can. We have looked at the show from a broadcaster’s perspective. We have looked at it from a fan’s perspective. We have gawked at the ratings growth. We have asked how fair this whole endeavor is to Steve Levy, Brian Griese, and Louis Riddick.

One thing we have not done yet is ask accomplished television professionals for their thoughts. Why has this broadcast, which can be hard to follow at times, captured the imagination of football fans? How has it gone from something we were unsure about to truly must-see TV for the sports audience?

Peyton Manning takes hilarious shot at New England Patriots during 'Monday  Night Football'
Courtesy: ESPN

I asked five TV pro’s what it is that they see when they watch Peyton, Eli and their cavalcade of guests. Is the Manningcast connecting with hardcore football fans that crave the Xs and Os or is it connecting with more casual fans that enjoy the comedy of Peyton wearing a helmet three sizes too small and Eli shooting the camera the double bird? This is wildly different from a traditional TV booth.

Allan Flowers is a coordinating producer for NFL Network. He’s spent three decades in the industry, and works for a network that lives and breathes football 24/7. Perhaps even more importantly, Allan has the benefit of working on one of the most well received shows in recent memory, one that football fans can’t get enough of, NFL Redzone.

I wanted to pick his brain on traditional TV booths. When the Manningcast first premiered, so many people wanted to tie it to a traditional broadcast and figure out what it means for the future. It raised questions about ESPN’s longterm plans for Peyton Manning, Monday Night Football, and the pros and cons connected to offering two versions of the same game on different channels.

“I can definitely see Peyton in a traditional booth. He is the one constantly talking football on the ‘Manningcast’. Eli mixes football with jabs at his older brother,” Flowers told me when I asked if what he has seen through the first three weeks makes him think that the brothers could be a future fit in a more traditional broadcast booth. “I think the traditional broadcast needs to change anyway. It’s the same formulaic booth that we have seen for decades. That’s why there is an appetite for something like this. As opportunities continue to open for more diverse people (e.g. younger analysts, female analysts, female and black play by play announcers), I think you will see tone of the traditional broadcast booth change regardless. ABC tried comedian Dennis Miller in the booth decades ago. I would not be surprised to see something like that happen again in the future, only if that person is relatable and appears to know football. As for what Eli & Peyton are doing, I think it’s great. They have a connection which is paramount to a great booth. There is a rawness to it that appears fresh (for now). I think their broadcast is still evolving. I’ve noticed some small changes each week. The guests have been great. Nothing but A list people. Why they are taking a break until Week 7 seems odd, but it’s an interesting watch.”

I spoke with a TV executive with experience at multiple networks that wished to remain anonymous. He told me that the Manningcast is the “perfect combination of personality and authority.”

He also said that there is no sense in thinking about Peyton and Eli’s futures as broadcasters. The deal between ESPN and Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions, which produces the broadcast, isn’t about securing Peyton Manning to be the future analyst on the traditional Monday Night Football broadcast.

Disney isn’t looking at Peyton Manning as part of ESPN. They are looking at him as Mickey Mouse or Iron Man or Baby Yoda. He is another of Disney’s mega-brands that is talked about on investor calls and upfront presentations. To that end, ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro is smart enough to stay out of the way. He invested in Omaha Productions and is going to let the content it provides grow the way Peyton Manning wants it to.

Patrick Crakes is a former Vice President at FOX Sports and InVivo Media Group. He now runs Crakes Media Consulting. He isn’t sure that ESPN is entirely hands off. Peyton and Eli Manning are important enough that the network wants to keep them happy, but they are also smart enough to know the goal is to put on the best show possible.

“I think it’s pretty obvious that both Peyton and Eli are allowing ESPN to produce them at a very high level. This show clearly has a run-down, producers and directors are speaking live to both of them and the show evolves on-air every week in real time. Yes, it’s an in-motion experiment but it’s working because the production team at ESPN is being allowed to create a live studio show, something ESPN does very very well.”

Flowers agrees. He can’t see ESPN letting the Mannings fly blind. In fact, he had some thoughts on what kind of coaching he would give the brothers to improve on what we have already seen.

“Neither of them know when a commercial timeout is coming, which seems odd since they played the game for so long. It’s very awkward when they have a guest and they ask them to tell a story right before a punt. Then they have to cut the guest off and get to the break. I would also engage the guests in more of their football talk. If it’s a player, see if they all see the same thing. What defense would you call here. If it’s not a player, teach the guest what Peyton/Eli is seeing. There are times when the guest doesn’t know what to do, which seems uncomfortable. It was great when they had LeBron James guess the next play and he was right. More of that will make the booth connectivity better. I think they have the ability to telestrate their own plays. If not, they should. I’m also curious if the button-down collared shirt are the only shirts they own.”

Logan Swaim is the Head of Content for Colin Cowherd’s The Volume podcast network. Prior to diving into the world of audio and social video, Swaim spent decades in TV including serving as an Executive Producer for Good Morning Football on the NFL Network, and also with DAZN, and NBC Sports. Swaim told me that at it’s core, the Manningcast isn’t an original idea. It’s the next evolution in megacasts and second screens. It just happens to be considerably better than anything that has come before it in that realm.

“They have the cheat code with Peyton and Eli – two likable, entertaining, and authentic personalities. But they’ve smartly created a show where all the bells and whistles are made only to accentuate what makes the talent interesting. The pre-planned segments are all intended to make fun of the hosts, like Peyton reading a list of all the stuff they messed up last week. It feels partly like watching a game at a bar and partly like Inside the NBA.”

Eli Manning Hilariously Tried To Do Dak Prescott's Hip-Thrust During Manning -Cast on MNF (VIDEO) | Total Pro Sports
Courtesy: ESPN

Eric Weinberger is a former sports media executive and executive producer at the NFL Network now running his own company. He described the Manningcast to me as “part Ted Lasso, part Beavis & Butthead“. I love a good Beavis and Butthead reference, so I asked him to explain a little more. He said “the broadcast comes with some rough edges that make it more charming,” although he did have additional suggestions of what he might add.

“You want it to feel ‘clunky,’ seem less polished. That is what is appealing about this production.” Weinberger told me. “Maybe I would try a little local radio game play-by-play every once in a while to break up the Mannings ever present voices and give them a breather.”

We have to wait three weeks for another Manningcast. The brothers will not return until Week 7, when the Saints play in Seattle. That has to be a bummer for ESPN executives, who have watched the audience for Peyton and Eli grow each of the three weeks it has been on air, even when games seem irrelevant. I asked that TV executive that didn’t want to be identified what he would do to keep the momentum going both on TV and on social media.

He said nothing was off the table. You have Peyton and Eli film vignettes that can be used to lead into the traditional ESPN broadcast, you have them breakdown a series or play for SportsCenter, and anything else you can think of. Right now, you put as much of the Mannings as you can on TV.

“Pay them more money and have them do more games,” he said was the lesson for the next contract.

Any good idea will have its imitators. Like every major pro sport, television is a copycat league. Allan Flowers had a series of suggestions for what he could see this spawning in terms of alternate broadcasts. He suggested tight end Zach Ertz and his wife Julie, a member of the US Women’s National Soccer Team, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, even Charles Barkley and Phil Mickelson.

Weinberger also expects to see copycats. He just doesn’t expect them to be as good as the Manningcast.

“Secondary screen viewing can work for all sports. Football really lends itself to multiple opportunities, as there are so many complexities with specialty positions and moving parts. The dynamic the two brothers have though is unique and special, always has been.”

Swaim says at the end of the day, what makes the Manningcast special is the broad appeal. There is no right answer to “who is the target audience?” and that means everyone can find something to like about it.

“It seems like it’s found a way to appeal to two different audiences – hardcore football fans and the social media audience. There is plenty of ‘ball’ talk where they nerd out and talk about Football Film Room terms. And then there are hilarious conversations where Gronk is talking about his dog and McAfee is telling amazing stories about roulette. They have pulled off the delicate balance of serving two distinct audiences.”

Remember the 2000 Presidential Election? There were polls leading up to November that asked people that planned to vote for George W. Bush how they arrived at their decision. A significant number of those that responded said that Al Gore seemed more qualified to be President of the United States, but Bush was more relatable – the kind of guy you want to have a beer with.

Letters: Responding to Sen. Lieberman on 2000 and 2020 - WSJ
Courtesy: Gary Hershorn/Rueters

Crakes says the same logic can be used to explain the mass appeal of the Manningcast. Sure Peyton and Eli are smart, but it is their appeal as people, as characters, that draw audiences looking for different things out of an NFL broadcast.

“They don’t take themselves seriously and their genuine competitive love for the sport of football comes through via the dynamic of two brothers who respect and like each other. It’s for pretty much the entire audience. Everyone would like to have a beer and watch the game with them. That’s the key ingredinent.”

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Chris Carlin Doesn’t Want Any Caller To Be That Guy

” There are some calls that you get that don’t enrich the show and sometimes, it’s more fun to kind of make fun of it a little bit and try to entertain that way. It’s not a knock on the people personally.”

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We all know those sports radio callers – someone with a hot take that makes you want to flip the dial even for a split second. However, they do have the tendency to make us laugh every once-in-a-while. In his new series on Tik Tok called Sports Radio Callers: Don’t Be That Guy, ESPN Radio New York host and Rutgers football play-by-play broadcaster, Chris Carlin, tends to make light of some of the calls he receives on a daily basis.

He wants you to know that he isn’t making fun of anyone in particular. He has been in the business long enough to have plenty of inspiration to draw from.

It is very clear that Carlin values his listeners and while he may have a little fun with some calls, he is never afraid to make fun of himself and that is what makes any show he does an entertaining listen. Of course, we could also all probably relate to maybe being one of those callers when we started out calling into shows too, which he wasn’t shy about reliving when we spoke last week.

Ricky Keeler: Where did you come up with the idea to do these Tik Tok videos? Was there a particular call on your show that led to this? 

Chris Carlin: I wouldn’t say there was a particular call. There have been plenty over the years.  There is a genre of calls. It’s not just about the host, but it’s about the listener as well. There are some calls that you get that don’t enrich the show and sometimes, it’s more fun to kind of make fun of it a little bit and try to entertain that way. It’s not a knock on the people personally.

The way I look at it is nobody makes more fun of themselves than me. It’s just some types of calls are ones that I just think are entertaining in a not so informative way. 

I got the idea from watching a guy on Tik Tok named Scott Seiss, who is a stand-up comedian. He apparently used to work at IKEA and he talked about all the complaints of people at IKEA in that same way. He’d say what the complaint of the person is and then say his response in a very straightforward funny way and using that same kind of music. It just kind of struck me when I heard that, yeah, I can do that for sports radio callers, there’s no doubt.

RK: Is there a particular call or caller that the minute you hear them, you just know that’s a perfect Tik Tok video? 

CC: I wouldn’t say that. For instance, I did one where the caller is going to call up and say, it’s the same old Jets. You know, it’s lazy and it’s kind of like really? Where it came to I get it, you’ve been through all the pain in the world. We all understand. But, it is silly to come out and say something like that, but you know it’s going to come.

I started jotting down ideas a few weeks ago, putting them on Tik Tok about a month ago. I just completely made up names, so there’s not a direct one. So, it’d be like “Is it the same old Jets or is it the same old Tony from Freehold? It feels like you called and said the same thing before because you did last week. Here’s an idea for your next phone call. Have a point.”

Callers know, listeners know when they hear a call or make a point like that, we’re all rolling our eyes and it’s okay, listen, it’s part of the gig. It’s what you sign up for when you dial the phone that if you don’t bring a good, informed take or you don’t want to go after something I said, you could be fodder for the show. This was just something that I did separately to have some fun.

I actually had a caller bring it up to me like should you really be doing that? It is not a knock on our listeners at all. What it is is just kind of a parody and at the same time, nobody makes more fun of themselves than me.

RK: How would you describe to someone not from New York, what New York sports radio callers are like? 

CC: I think New York sports radio callers are very similar to callers all over the country. In every town, sports radio callers kind of have a knock against them and I think it’s unfair. As much as we are seen, not just callers, but hosts, like you just take the laziest take and you just do all that stuff. I think the majority of callers and the majority of hosts that are really bringing up good points and trying to illuminate in addition to bringing some heat to it. I think every market has their funny callers, their guys that you know what you’re going to get when they call.

RK: What has the reaction to this series been like from other people in the business? Are people able to enjoy it or do you hear feedback that you’re being too mean? 

CC: It’s been pretty positive because everybody knows who I am. People kind of know my personality and my personality is yeah, I’m going to deliver you some good takes and stuff like that, but I’m also not going to act like we’re splitting the atom here. It’s not a personal attack in any way. It’s just kind of a generic piece of advice. That’s why I titled it Don’t Be That Guy.

There are better ways to spend your time waiting on hold. When I would produce for Mike [Francesa] and Chris [“Mad Dog” Russo], I’d get callers who would call up and say “I want to talk about the Mets.” Okay, what do you want to say? “I think they’re pretty good.” Yeah, let me get you right on. It’s that kind of thing. The reaction I’ve gotten, it hasn’t been executives or anything, it’s mostly been colleagues and it’s all very much, they’re entertained by it. Some sports radio hosts are like thank god, somebody’s doing this, but more than anything, it’s just a tongue in cheek thing.

RK: The Yankees, Mets, Giants, and Jets are all struggling. In these situations, are the more ridiculous calls likely to happen or do these people always exist?

CC: They always exist. There are some weeks like this week if you’re calling up and saying Zach Wilson is not the answer, I’m going to hang up on you pretty quickly. That’s what this week has got the potential for. I’m pretty open-minded to a lot of takes, but it’s the takes that callers call up with that are not well-reasoned. Just too much of an emotional reaction right out of the gate that has actually nothing behind it. 

RK: Do you prefer to do these types of shows when all the teams are winning or does it give you more content when all the teams are not playing well? 

CC: It’s always better for business in general when teams are good. As far as this kind of content, I could do this year round. I just frankly haven’t had enough time. I’ve been working a lot of late hours recently and I just haven’t had enough time to do more of them. I’m going to try, but I also am very cognizant of I don’t want callers to think that I’m not evaluating their inputs to the show because there couldn’t be anything further from the truth. It’s just more of let’s not take ourselves too seriously here.

RK: If you could go back to a younger version of yourself, were you one of those callers? 

CC: I’ve been one of those callers. When I was in college, I called Steve Somers once. I was so nervous and I called up and said Hi, Chris, this is Steve and I made some inane points shortly thereafter. Steve had fun with me and I completely understood it because I was the guy that was on the other end of this. Frankly, if Steve was doing Tik Tok videos in the 90’s, I would have fully expected to make an appearance on one.

RK: Would you rather be a Tik Tok video or a drop on a radio show? 

CC: I think I’d rather be a Tik Tok video because there’s more opportunity for viral spreading now. I know I’m doing a lot of New York guys, but it’s callers in total. As I do more national stuff as I have been for the last couple of years really, I’ll start to expand it a little bit. I don’t see this going on and on because you don’t want to beat a bit to death. It’s just been something that has been fun to do and something that’s different and something that’s made me think differently. Everybody’s trying to make their own impressions in every kind of space and I am just trying to do my own version of that, but also not beat a joke to death, so to speak. 

RK: We’ve seen Twitter and Instagram used to help people in this industry. How do you feel Tik Tok can be a tool that hosts can use to work out content that maybe wouldn’t make the best sense for live radio? 

CC: I think it’s interesting. I think things that you don’t get to, you certainly could. We all want to think that we’re funny. I want to think that I’m funny. I don’t believe I am all that funny. I think it is an area where you can expand a little bit more into. Admittedly, I am not a guy who sits here and studies it and understands exactly what all the machinations of it are that different people are doing. This was just something that I was taking a whack at. Absolutely, it’s a genre or an app that people should be more involved in if they’re not. I think every bit now helps.

RK: For someone who is reading this piece and worrying about being one of those callers and they are a first-time caller, what advice would you give them? 

@thatguycarlin

Sports Radio Callers: Don’t Be That Guy Part 1 #sports #mlb #sportsradio #radio

♬ original sound – Chris Carlin601

CC: I would think out your point in advance. If you’re nervous, I would even jot a couple of things down. Not read it, but I’d jot a couple of things down. If you’re going to try to tell me that the Jets should give up on Zach Wilson already, you better come with plenty of facts to back it up. That’s probably the quickest way to become one right now.

I would say just make sure that what you want to say is adding to the show. For you, that’s giving me your well-thought out take. I don’t think it’s anything too crazy. Chances are I’m not going to call you out personally because this is never going to be a personal thing or anything that’s mean in any way. At least, I hope it doesn’t come across that way. I don’t think it does.” 

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