Josh Innes has been off the radio for nine months. This follows a career featuring stints in Afternoon Drive at WIP in Philadelphia and Morning Drive at Sports Talk 790 in Houston. He’s very active on Twitter and has his own podcast “The Josh Innes Show.” I caught up with him earlier this week to talk about what he’s learned from those experiences and what’s next for him. You can check out his podcast and latest information at: https://joshinnesshow.com/
Matt Fishman: You tweeted around Thanksgiving about how thankful you were this year to no longer be in a toxic work environment and you have added perspective. Can you elaborate on this?
Josh Innes: I was working at iHeart in Houston and I had been from October 2016 until March of this year. There were moments that were good, but ultimately it wasn’t an ideal situation for me. It wasn’t what I thought it was gonna be. There were a lot of times I wondered why that particular station hired me because I didn’t know if they really wanted me to do what I do. There were always a lot of problems it that way. It wasn’t by a lack of effort of trying to see things their way. We just had a philosophical difference.
I like to create waves and bring attention to the medium. I think that’s good for everything. Whereas I think where it was kinda a lay low, don’t bother anybody, don’t upset the broadcast partners. Let me put it this way I would go to work sometimes and my boss would sit my down in his office and tell me, “By the way no one at the radio station likes you.”
It was just a really bad situation mentally. I wasn’t having very much fun. I worked my ass off and spent a lot of my own money trying to make the show successful. It was just a really catty kind of place. I think management, at times, tried to pit people against each other. They enjoyed that in a weird way. It was really just not a good situation.
While it’s unfortunate that I don’t have a job at the moment, I feel fortunate that now that I’ve had time to step back for the past 8-9 months, I can say it’s probably for the best because that wasn’t a good situation for me. It probably wasn’t a good situation for me mentally. There were just so many things about that situation that were toxic so now that I look back on it, I’m glad that time in my life is over.
MF: How does this new perspective change you going into the next conversation you have with a radio station?
JI: I can say this. There are things I’ve learned everywhere I’ve been and you take things you’ve learned at all these stops and you hope that it improves you as a person. While it was a toxic situation there, that station was really sales heavy and you learned how to focus on things that made the station more money.
Same as when I left WIP, sometimes they felt that I was so driven by ratings that I kind of ignored the sales part of it. When I came here (Houston) I focused on making things happen. I was down in sales everyday working on ideas to make the station more money.
How to handle certain intra-office situations. There was a guy there who worked for the Rockets–he was one of their broadcasters. One time I was wearing a t-shirt for another team and he took a picture of me in the shirt and said this is for the Rockets knowing that this would upset the Rockets and I would get a call from my boss about it. I just went out and tried to destroy that guy because I felt that he was completely out of line. By trying to destroy that guy it probably pissed off some of his sales buddies to me and they didn’t sell me as much. Did I need to do that, I didn’t. You learn from that and move forward.
When you are out of it for nine months and your phone doesn’t ring it changes your perspective as well. You get humbled when your phone doesn’t ring and you look back at things that you could’ve handled situations better.
MF: Do you feel like your phone hasn’t been ringing as much because you get let go by WIP and then in Houston and people think “this guy must be toxic” and the phone doesn’t ring?
JI: Recently the phone has started to ring more, but to answer your question, I do think if people don’t know you and if all they know is what they read about you from certain situations they can think that. It’s incumbent upon me to change that. I just have to have the opportunity to do it. Anytime I talk to anyone in management I tell them that my situation is different because you mature a little bit and being out nine months that the opportunities aren’t always going to be there. There were times hey maybe I’ll never have that big job again and I will be known as the guy who blew it. I was the guy who had these big gigs and I pissed it all away.
There is a certain element of being humbled that plays to my benefit because they’ll be getting a different guy in the sense that I think I know how to handle situations better than I used to. Going back to our initial point that when I got fired here or fired there my phone rings, you just assume what you are doing is 100% right because people are always looking to hire you. When it doesn’t happen that way anymore you kinda think, “maybe there’s something that I need to change, something I need to do differently.”
MF: I saw that you did a couple of shows last week at the ESPN station in Memphis. How did that go? How did it feel?
JI: I loved it. Memphis is one of my favorite places. My dad had worked there in the late 80s. It’s funny, I had just randomly texted the PD at that station, Brad Carson, and I told him how fortunate he is for that being such a great market. It’s a small enough town but not too small where it’s syndicated all day. I have always wanted to be on the air in Memphis at least for a day because my dad was on the radio there. When I was growing up I went to Memphis a lot, I like the Grizzlies and I felt like I kinda knew the town. It was cool. It’s weird not being in the city as I did the shows from Houston. It was fun! I had a really good time doing it. Brad is a really great guy and made it a great experience.
MF: Do you think that’s something you’ll be doing more of, especially with the holiday season right around the corner?
JI: I would hope so. I am available to do whatever. I know a lot of people on your site are program directors. I can be available anytime you need me and I can find the studio to do it from. It’s kinda neat. You never know what market you would do a fill in at. If people will have me on their stations. I think that’s good because I know that people have questions about me.
One thing I get from PDs is “I never question your talent we just question how things will work at this place and this situation.” My guess is that if you’d ask Brad Carson he would tell you that it was a very easy thing. Just to give him a compliment–he’s fantastic to work with. It was a great experience. I hope it leads to other opportunities.
MF: Speaking of other opportunities, the Fanatic in Philadelphia just fired their PD Eric Johnson. What does it mean potentially for you and what does it mean for Philadelphia sports radio?
JI: I don’t know. I can tell you that Eric is a very nice guy. I feel like they could find themselves in a position to get closer to WIP. My guess would be they want to get into a position where they could just be closer. I would certainly answer the phone if The Fanatic called. I certainly think I could add to what they do there. Now people will say “You had that big radio fight with the afternoon guy.” That’s a radio fight. When you’re a competitor you’re in a radio fight. If you’re on the same team you have a common goal to beat the competition–WIP. If the Fanatic were to call me I would say “What do you want me to do? Let’s make something happen and go beat WIP!”
People assume because you talk about this guy, this guy, this guy that you could never work with them. When I was in Houston we went after the (other stations) shows. They didn’t take it as a joke. It really upset them. After I got fired I reached out to them. I was trying to make radio interesting. We’re in Houston there are three sports stations that combine for a four-share.
If the Fanatic were to call me and ask me if I could reconcile with Mike Missanelli. Here’s what I would say. Mike has obviously accomplished a lot in that market. He basically launched that station. He’s the Angelo (Cataldi) of 97.5. If you look at it, the one constant there has been Mike. I can respect that. As a radio guy I can respect that. I beat him for awhile, he came back and beat me for awhile. We had a really good battle there. But if the Fanatic would pick up the phone and ask if I would have an issue working with Mike Missanelli. Hell no!! The guy has been there for a decade. The guy has done great things ratings-wise. He’s basically their bell cow financially and ratings-wise. I just want to go somewhere and be part of a team and kick some ass. I don’t know what they’re going to do at the Fanatic. I haven’t talked to them but I’d be all about it and I’d go in there and say, “Hey Mike give me a hug and let’s go figure this thing out.”
If Joe Bell from the Fanatic were to pick up the phone and call me and say, “Josh Innes come to Philadelphia we want to make something happen, but we need to make it work in the building.” I’d say “Get Missanelli on the phone or get me in person with him and I’ll tell him I admire the stuff he’s done it was just a stupid radio war and let’s go out there and beat the shit out of WIP.”
MF: When you were on the air in Houston was there a lot of pressure to be easy on the teams?
JI: I’m going to give credit to (Sportsradio) 610. I never felt that people at 610 went easy on the Texans, and they were the Texans’ station. Where I worked at 790 was more like romper room. There were times when I’d be critical of the Houston Rockets and I’d get a text from the Market Manager, not the PD, and this is one text I got in the middle of a show that pops into my mind saying “You’ve said enough. Let the callers handle it.” You paid me all this money to send me this text and let the callers “handle it?”
Here’s what I’d get all the time: my management would tell me all the time that the teams don’t like me. I get it would be nice if they did. Part of sports radio and appealing to a mass audience is saying what fans are thinking. You have to be able to be critical.
Here’s what our rule was: say whatever you want about the Texans but don’t do the same with the Rockets. One time I said the Rockets GM could get fired if they didn’t turn things around. Got a call from the boss who said “How do you know he’s going to get fired?” I said, “I don’t but it’s my opinion if they don’t turn it around after how they finished last year they’re probably in trouble.” The boss said, “Well we don’t want people on the air saying people could get fired because that’s a personal attack.”
By the way, it’s not wise to tell the talent that the teams hate them. How am I going to react to that? Am I going to get on the air and say these guys are great people. I never had this problem at 610/Houston or at WIP/Philadelphia. In Philadelphia, the PD Andy Bloom did such a good job of shielding me from anything the teams were complaining to him about. In Philly it’s expected that you get on the radio and dump on them after you lose to the two-win Dolphins. You can’t say enough bad shit about them when that happens. In Houston that’s not exactly the case.
MF: Given this experience, does this mean you would be more likely to go somewhere that allows you to be critical of the teams?
JI: I get that there are rules in certain cities and with certain teams. I’m not hell bent on being in this market or that market. I just want to be on the air, make a living and have fun doing it. Would I like to be in Chicago or back in Philly again or in Dallas? Sure I would. But if the station happens to be in Memphis, Kansas City or St. Louis and they dig what I do and want to pay me to do it, I’m interested.
MF:How do you like doing your podcast?
JI: I’m weird that I have to change things every month. The sponsors don’t seem to mind and it’s a little looser. Sometimes I’ll do it at night. Sometimes after consuming many beers on a Sunday. We’ll see where it goes. I’ll continue to do it when I get a job. You can do a lot of things in a podcast that if you did it on the radio they might tell you to pump the breaks.
MF: What do you think of the current state of sports radio and its future?
JI: It might not be what it was 7-8 years ago where you lost a lot of classic rock stations that became sports talk on FM. To me, sports talk radio is the best format for someone who wants to talk and entertain. It’s the closest to guy-talk you’re gonna get. It’s the closest to what Howard Stern, Opie and Anthony and Mancow were doing 20 years ago. Depending on the market and the daypart of course.
20 years ago everyone was looking for the next Jim Rome. Now everyone is trying to find the next Colin Cowherd. What I don’t like is when I can listen to a guy and he’s about to go into one of these “Cowherdian” comparisons and I can almost tell you before he says it what the comparison will be. The other issue is a lot of young guys not finding their own voice. The art of creating your own thing is taking a little bit from everyone, learning the market and making sure everyone doesn’t sound the same.
I think you need to have more visionary programmers out there. You’ve got Armen Williams in Houston, Gavin (Spittle) who is one of the best and Mike Thomas, who’s going to Chicago, who is brilliant and Andy Bloom-Brilliant. You’ve got a really good group of guys who came from rock or hot-talk who know entertainment. Those are the type of guys who will keep it going.
Plus you need to put me on the radio. Or it will die.
Matt Fishman is a former columnist for BSM. The current PD of ESPN Cleveland has a lengthy resume in sports radio programming. His career stops include SiriusXM, 670 The Score in Chicago, and 610 Sports in Kansas City. You can follow him on Twitter @FatMishman20 or you can email him at FishmanSolutions@gmail.com.
John Mamola Didn’t Overthink New WDAE Lineup
“I don’t go book-to-book my talent, I just don’t. I think the more and more you dive into ratings, the more and more you overthink things.”
Just over one month ago, WDAE in Tampa Bay reshuffled its daily line-up. The iHeartMedia station, programmed by John Mamola, moved the Ronnie and TKras program from mornings to afternoons and moved the midday Pat and Aaron show into mornings, while creating a new midday show centered around Jay Recher and producer-turned-host Zac Blobner.
The station let previous host Ian Beckles go as part of the reshuffling.
Barrett Sports Media caught up with Mamola this week to talk about the new line-up, the Tampa Bay market, the importance of developing from within and much more.
(Some of the answers have been edited for brevity and clarity)
BSM: It’s been just over a month since these changes took hold, what would you say is the overall response to them?
JM: Overall, really positive. We lost a really important piece and a pillar of the station in Ian Beckles, but with the moves that we did make, it was overall a pretty positive response from the listeners.
BSM: This wasn’t just creating one new show and calling it a day, this was moving multiple shows into new dayparts. How do you as a programmer get multiple hosts on board with re-arranging their schedules in that manner?
JM: My morning show went into afternoons so they didn’t have to wake up early, so they were very open and welcome to that. As for the original midday show, I knew they were early risers, so moving to mornings didn’t really affect their sleep schedules. And then my midday show, which is the new one, putting those two together is just a combination of some very young, hungry guys that always want new opportunity and are always looking to capitalize on opportunity.
So I wouldn’t say necessarily the convincing was the hard part because it just made a lot of sense for the people involved. The guys in the morning didn’t have to wake up early. The guys in the mornings are early risers anyway, and you get two young, hungry guys to take care of that opportunity so the convincing part was quite easy.
BSM: I got to know Zac Blobner a little bit on the Producers Podcast. He was highlighted a few episodes back and I thought really highly of him. Why was this the right time to get him into a full-time on-air role?
JM: Zac’s been doing some on-air stuff for on the weekends for a number of years. He had his own show and then we tried him out with a couple people on staff on Saturday mornings. That just didn’t necessarily work out but he has hosted a fantasy football show, which we actually air Orlando and in Miami as well as Tampa, live for the last five years.
So his on-air persona – he was a huge part of the morning show and the success of the Ronnie and TKras Show for their run in mornings. So if we were to elevate someone from inside, it just seemed like he was the right guy to elevate, and to pair with Jay Recher. It’s two young, hungry guys and they play well off each other. Some of the best highlights of my day are just sitting in their pre-show meetings with them and their producer Jon Dugas and just listening to how they collaborate together as a threesome on how to attack content, what sound to use, and what guests to book.
Really, it’s three producers in one room all talking about how to collaborate and do a show. Zac has earned the opportunity, just like Pat Donovan who was a producer first. Aaron Jacobson was a producer at first. It was Zac’s time and he’s done a tremendous job with it so far, albeit it’s only a month, but I totally expect it to be a very high ceiling for that show and for Zac in particular.
BSM: Some programmers believe on developing and promoting from within and some programmers believe in always looking for a splashy hire from the outside. Why is developing talent and promoting from within important to you and WDAE?
JM: I think it’s vital for every brand to have a good bench and to continue to find different ways to utilize that bench. Maybe not on the Monday through Friday, but definitely on the weekends in some capacity. And if not there, then on the digital product. You bring in certain guys to push everyone else. Zac was one of those guys. Jay Recher was one of those guys. Pat Donovan was one of those guys. Ronnie and TKras were two of those guys. I like to bring in guys that have a goal and want to push everyone to be better, not just themselves, but push everyone to be better. We have a tremendous team atmosphere on WDAE and we’ve had it for a number of years.
And when you do a lot of change, like we did about a month ago, you don’t want to keep it too foreign. You want to keep it with somebody that the audience knows and the audience has grown to know. Because the minute you start bringing in out of town people that nobody’s ever heard of or you start going to syndication instead of staying live and local, you start to lose your cume, and you start to lose that branding.
We like to put out as much as we can with whatever we have and I think having good, driven people in the hiring process, albeit I’ve hired a little young over my time here, it’s continued to push the narrative that we are continually growing from within and this was just the latest step of that. I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon.
BSM: When you have new shows and shows in different dayparts, are you mentioning things like ratings and revenue to them? Or do you just tell them to build the shows and worry about it later?
JM: I don’t go book-to-book my talent, I just don’t. I think the more and more you dive into ratings, the more and more you overthink things. It’s important, but it’s not the biggest thing. For me, it’s the sound of the show. If the show sounds like it’s got energy, if it sounds like it’s progressing, if it sounds like we’re creating more attention by what we’re saying and we’re developing as talents and as a station, you feel it. You don’t need to see the numbers. The numbers are the numbers.
The system is great when it’s great but when it’s terrible, it’s still flawed. You know? I mean, Neilson ratings only get you so far but If I start seeing stream numbers go up, which I’ve seen, that’s a positive. If I see digital traffic or social media growth or something like that, that’s a metric I can track. Today I went to the gas station and they had our sports station on. If I can hear that, that means we’re doing something right. I don’t look book-to-book. I think PDs that dive into numbers and analytics and, and clocks…. Look, if you put out entertaining stuff, they’ll stick with you. And it starts with giving that confidence to your talent. And that’s how I program.
Brady Farkas is a sports radio professional with 5+ years of experience as a Program Director, On-Air Personality, Assistant Program Director and Producer in Burlington, VT and Albany, NY. He’s well versed in content creation, developing ideas to generate ratings and revenue, working in a team environment, and improving and growing digital content thru the use of social media, audio/video, and station websites. His primary goal is to host a daily sports talk program for a company/station that is dedicated to serving sports fans. You can find him on Twitter @WDEVRadioBrady and reach him by email at email@example.com.
Brock Huard Believes The Third Time’s The Charm For Brock and Salk
“If I was a radio consultant, there’s two muscles you have to build constantly. A is listening and B is curiosity.”
It just felt right for Brock Huard when he stepped back behind the mic at Seattle Sports 710. On September 6th, he returned to the airwaves with longtime partner Mike Salk in morning drive. It’s been almost three months since Huard returned to radio, but it still feels as right as it did that early September morning. That’s because the business is in his blood.
“Once radio is in your blood, it doesn’t leave,” said Huard.
If you talk sports radio with Huard for any length of time, you won’t question his love or intelligence about the industry. He truly loves and understands the business. When you have a former player that has an incredible amount of passion for sports radio, you really have something. Seattle Sports 710 really has something with Huard and his return to the airwaves made locals in the Pacific Northwest very happy.
Brock & Salk haven’t had to deal with the challenges that new shows experience in the first few months. They’re not trying to establish a chemistry and flow together. They’ve had it after doing a show together twice before, plus a podcast the two hosted together.
“He and I had still done the podcast together for the last couple of years, and had a number of conversations over that time about how fun that hour and a half was, each and every week,” said Huard. “We never really missed a podcast and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. Had we not done that podcast for two years, I don’t know if we would have come back for a third iteration. The third time has been the charm on this iteration.”
What makes the show isn’t just Huard being a former athlete or Salk being a very dynamic and experienced host. The two share an incredible chemistry that shines through on the air. However, Huard thinks there’s one reason in particular that the two mesh so well on air.
“Because we listen,” said Huard. “That’s number one. I will listen to so many radio shows when I’m on the road and I’m like, this is bad radio. And you can tell hosts aren’t listening to one another, they’re just waiting for their time to talk and they fill and it’s terrible.
“If I was a radio consultant, there’s two muscles you have to build constantly. A is listening and B is curiosity. I think for 14 years he’s still genuinely curious about me and how my mind works, world views, ideology and sports views. After 14 years, I’m equally interested in how he thinks and it’s very different than me.
“It was hard to be able to listen and respect one another, because we come from two totally different world views, in many ways. But at the same time, when you do, and you’re curious to listen to the other side and what they have to say, you create unique content.
“He and I used to have to build these big show sheets when we started and we still have structure and everyday there’s still show sheets, but a consultant by the name of Rick Scott told me this early on, he said you know your show will be good, when you don’t get to half of the stuff on your show sheet. And he was absolutely right 14 years ago.”
Co-hosting morning drive at Seattle Sports 710 isn’t the only gig Huard has in sports media. He’s also a college football analyst for FOX. He’ll be on the call Friday night for the Pac-12 Championship game between USC and Utah. But everything ties back to radio for Huard and a recent experience on an airplane made him realize it again.
“I was sitting next to this very smart gentleman the other day on my trip home from college football, and he was crushing crossword puzzles like I’ve never seen before,” said Huard. “He’s a very successful attorney and you could see for him, that was such a tool to keep his mind sharp. For me, radio is the same thing. It’s been the best training ground for everything I do with media, especially television.
“If you can do live radio and equip your mind to listen and strengthen that listening muscle, while also creating content, it’s a pretty good active tool. It keeps my mind sharp and plays to my mind’s strengths, I think, with just how wackado I can be between my ears at times. If you have a tremendous partner that helps shape you, like Salk is to me, then it’s just addictive and gets in your blood and doesn’t leave.”
As it relates to radio, being a college football analyst has its perks, because of the access it gives Huard. Every week before calling a game, he gets production meetings with head coaches, which gives him insight that others may not have. It also awards Huard the opportunity to create relationships with coaches. But how much of what’s said does he feel like he can use on the game broadcast or his radio show?
“99.9 percent is used on the air, on the show and sometimes I gain insight and share it with coaches that I know to encourage them,” said Huard. “It baffles me how many times I will hear from my peers, oh, I hate these coaches meetings. I don’t get anything out of them. And I’m like, God bless you. I will have a career for the rest of my life if that’s the way you approach it. It’s the most valuable real estate we have. It’s a forum that nobody else has.
“Yeah, they have press conferences, but if you build true trust and relationship and confidence, they want to tell you their story. They want to share their team. I can’t tell you how many times content from those meetings comes to life in my sit downs with Pete Carroll or Jerry Dipoto, GM of the Mariners or Scott Servais, or on the air or off the air.”
Huard has an insight to college football that few in the Pacific Northwest has, but that doesn’t mean he and Salk will jam pack content from that sport into the show. The duo knows that Seattle cares about. Sure, there’s an interest for college football, but not anywhere near the hunger from Seahawks and Mariners content.
For example, Huard called the TCU vs. Baylor game two weeks ago, which featured one of the best endings in college football this year, when the Horned Frogs nailed a field goal as time expired. The call of the moment was spectacular and could be the shining moment of the season for a TCU team that looks destined for the College Football Playoff. On the Monday after, Huard and Salk made it a part of the show, but never had the intention of making it the majority of the show.
“Our audience is dominated by the Seahawks and Mariners,” said Huard. “That dominates 80 to 90 percent of our conversation. I would say lifestyle is probably the rest. For example, we played that highlight today four times over the course of the show. We rank things at the end of every show and it was my Top 5 games of my broadcast life in 14 years on the road and that was number 1.
“I often use conversations and things I learned from those games and players and relate them to the Seahawks and Mariners. Dave Aranda talked about living with expectations and how hard that is in our meeting on Friday. He said, you watch, TCU is going to have to live in an entirely different world, where you’re on the mountain top instead of climbing it. And then you relate that toward the Seahawks or the Rams this year.
“Inevitably, yes, those moments create content, either emotionally or football 101. Radio is all encompassing in that way. I never understand radio hosts who try to play it straight. I just don’t. I think it’s bad radio. You have to be willing to live your life and put your life out there, whether it’s good, bad or ugly. The more you do that, the more you attach yourself and connect with your audience.”
It feels like the third time is truly the charm for Huard and Salk. They listen, they have chemistry and the content is a refreshing mix of sports and lifestyle.
“He and I are not comedians,” said Huard. “We don’t play fake laugh tracks like others do. He and I will land way more on the analytical information side than maybe a consultant would tell us what morning radio people want. But I think where it cuts through is he and I put our lives out there. Our parenting success and failures. Relationship struggles, kids, sports, youth sports, that’s probably where we connect in a way that’s more lifestyle. That’s the word I would use.”
Tyler McComas is a columnist for BSM and a sports radio talk show host in Norman, OK where he hosts afternoon drive for SportsTalk 1400. You can find him on Twitter @Tyler_McComas or you can email him at TylerMcComas08@yahoo.com.
Chuck Swirsky Embodies ‘Always A Pleasure’
“I love working with Bill Wennington and each and every day I have the same enthusiasm of calling a Bulls game like I did as a five-year-old child calling games off a TV.”
It’s hard to imagine there are any more positive thinking people in the world than Chuck Swirsky. If you don’t believe me, just check out his daily tweets. Swirsky has a lot to be upbeat about, he’s doing what he’s always wanted to, and now he’s written a book.
“Always a Pleasure” is his creation, putting thoughts on paper, or iPad or whatever, about stories and people he’s encountered over the more than 40-years he’s been in the business.
The title is aptly accurate. Chuck is always a pleasure to be around and is one of the most supportive people I’ve ever met. He encourages those that need it. Swirsky always has time for people in the business and those trying to get into this crazy racket. I’ve seen and experienced it for myself, so trust me when I tell you, it’s the truth.
There are those that have worked multiple decades in play-by-play, and I’ll bet each and every one of them has been asked at some point, ‘hey, why don’t you write a book?’. Sounds easy enough, I’m sure. But when you really think about it, how can a person be expected to fit 40 plus years of work into a book that wouldn’t be the size of a dictionary?
More on that in a moment. I was wondering what makes someone in Swirsky’s position to write a book. So, I asked him. He outlined the main reason he decided to put pen to paper and tell some of his favorite stories and recall good memories.
“Over the past several years I was approached by several publishers and writers who were interested in detailing my journey in sports broadcasting, featuring my stops calling major college athletics and NBA basketball in addition to sports talk.” Swirsky told me. “I was reluctant to do so but a year ago I had a change of heart knowing 2022-23 Bulls season would be my 25th in the NBA, including my 2-thousandth NBA play-by-play game.”
Swirsky didn’t use a sportswriter or an author to tell his tale. “For years I have saved notes and decided to write the book myself, in my own words. I love my job. I have no desire to retire. I want to continue broadcasting Bulls game for many more years as long as my health and clarity allow me to do so.” he said.
“I love working with Bill Wennington and each and every day I have the same enthusiasm of calling a Bulls game like I did as a five-year-old child calling games off a TV. I have the utmost respect for the Reinsdorf family and our entire organization. I just felt this was the right time to write a book.”
I have followed Swirsky’s career closely and gotten to know him over the years. Growing up in Chicago, I was fortunate enough to hear him in his early days here, at the old WCFL (now ESPN 1000), where he became one of the pioneers of sports talk radio. He’s called games on radio and television.
For DePaul, Michigan, select White Sox games, the Raptors and now over the last nearly 2 decades, the Bulls. That’s a lot of experience and a lot of experiences for one person. It made ‘editing’ the book a little difficult.
“I could have easily written another 100 pages featuring additional sports personalities and stories.” Swirsky said. “But I elected to highlight specifics of a timeline allowing the reader to understand that my quest to reach a childhood goal of broadcasting NBA basketball was met with challenges, setbacks and ultimately persevering through hard work, focus, passion and positivity.”
Writing books can be a way to look back on a career. Swirsky if far from done. He never really reflected on things, because he was always looking forward. But the retrospective allowed him to realize a few things along the way.
“I would say this. I am my own worst critic. I very seldom look back on my career. While I was writing “Always A Pleasure” I had to stop and truly reflect how blessed I am to be in the position where I am today. I never take it for granted. Never have. Never will.” Swirsky said. “Nothing is easy. It’s hard. This business can be exhilarating yet so difficult. I never get too high nor too low although I’m very sensitive and my insecurities get the best of me which is probably not a good thing , especially in radio-television.”
In looking back there’s bound to be a few lessons learned from the past. Swirsky did find a few things in writing the book that he remembered, educated him along the way. “I learned that anyone who applies themselves, making a commitment to work on their skill set, and their weaknesses through hard work, dedication, passion and purpose, can be successful.” he said.
“For example, not every professional athlete is going to hit .330. Let’s say another player is hitting .240. What is keeping him in the big leagues? Is it his glove, his ability to play multiple positions? His character in the locker-room? The same principle is in effect in our industry. Maximize your strengths and do it with a great attitude, humility and kindness.”
Swirsky’s book details his interactions with some very familiar people in the business and the sports world. “I have plenty of stories featuring some of the biggest names in sports ranging from Hall of Fame baseball star Willie Mays who many consider perhaps the greatest player of all time to Kobe Bryant who left our world way too soon.” he says. “When you’ve been a professional broadcaster for 46 years, one meets many, many players, coaches, executives, media and sports personalities along the way.”
The one thing you can say about Swrisky, is he is real. There’s no pretense or facade. A genuine human being that is interested in what people have to say. Athletes, coaches, broadcasters and yes, even fans. His book has been reviewed by some of the greats. Mike Breen, Chris Bosh and even Steph Curry. Here’s the 2-time NBA MVP’s take on Swirsky and the book.
Having known Chuck since my days as a still-developing youth player in Toronto, where my dad was a member of the Raptors, I can attest to the fact that his passion for people and basketball is deep and sincere.
Chuck’s unique desire to mentor young people, especially minorities and those of different cultures and backgrounds, will help inspire those who share the same dreams, dreams that enabled him to persevere to the top of his profession.
I’m proud of Chuck, and excited that others can become enlightened by his exciting broadcasting journey, which includes nearly 25 years in the NBA and, of course, a trio of Curry family members shooting from the stars, just like him.
A book written by someone as accomplished in this industry as Swirsky draws interest because of who he is. But the Bulls’ play-by-play man is always thinking of others and trying to help where he can, just like Curry said. Along with stories, he lends his knowledge and relates it to those who are already in broadcasting and those trying to get in.
“I’m hoping those in our industry who read the book even those outside the radio-tv, new media field will come away knowing that perseverance is a powerful resource to help withstand the emotional heartache of rejection, disappointment and loneliness.” said Swirsky. He adds, “I have experienced everything. The good. The bad. The ugly. I’m talking all levels. My message is to stay true to your core values. In this case, my foundation is built on respect, kindness, honesty, sincerity and selflessness.”
Given the opportunity to beam about the finished product, Swirsky in typical fashion, deflected any praise. Simply saying, “I am very humbled and appreciative of the professionalism of the book’s publisher, Eckhartz Press. They allowed me to be me. That’s all I wanted. Mission accomplished. I am grateful.”
The entire industry should be grateful for people like Swirsky. There are so few in the business who are as kind and caring as he is. There are just as few people that take interest in others, and help mentor the next generation like Chuck. Inspiring stories, a career chronicle and life lessons, “Always a Pleasure” is going to be on my must-read list for the holidays. Congrats “Swirsk” keep up the great work.
Andy Masur is a columnist for BSM and works for WGN Radio as an anchor and play-by-play announcer. He also teaches broadcasting at the Illinois Media School. During his career he has called games for the Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox. He can be found on Twitter @Andy_Masur1 or you can reach him by email at Andy@Andy-Masur.com.