The BSM Summit is coming up on February 26-27, and the two day conference presents a great opportunity for the sports radio industry to share, collaborate and even steal ideas from other minds. Who better to steal from than the talent themselves, the people who are implementing new ideas on a daily basis?
On-air hosts are naturally creative and engaging. It’s what makes them successful and worthy of learning from. Creativity is a big part of staying fresh and introducing new ideas to help one grow. Engaging people helps create additional listening, whether it’s to a radio show or a speaker at a conference. Whenever you’re learning, it’s helpful to have a creative, engaging teacher.
I spoke to Maggie Gray from WFAN, Chris Carlin of 98.7 ESPN New York, SiriusXM’s Adam Schein and Brandon Tierney from CBS Sports Radio about the BSM Summit and their abilities to share ideas and industry knowledge. Four successful sports media members, each with passion for the industry and a desire to see it grow.
Brandon Contes: You’ll be speaking in two weeks at the BSM Summit, a conference which brings together a large number of industry people, especially programming executives. How important do you think it is to have talent involved in helping advance that initiative, because let’s face it, you guys are engaging personalities, and when you speak people listen.
Maggie Gray: We all have the same goal. We want radio to thrive and we realize how much potential this industry still has to give especially from the on-air side. You feel the connection you have with the audience. Keeping that connection, finding new audiences and keeping radio relevant, keeping radio part of peoples’ everyday lives, no matter if you’re on the talent side, executive, agent – we all have the same goal, serve the audience and grow the audience.
This is what we do. We entertain people. We also get a charge out of doing things in front of a live audience because for the most part we’re in a studio looking at each other. It’s great to get in front of people in the industry to talk about the future of radio. Most of us are in this business we’re radio geeks, so we all have this love for radio and audio. Getting in a room with people who share that is great.
Chris Carlin: My constant thought is to get better and when you get that level of talent in one room it’s invaluable because we don’t get exposed enough to how others think about the industry, their shows and how they attack them. I’m a guy that wants to attack his weaknesses as a talk show host and get better every day. Stealing ideas from people is not the worst thing in the world [Laughs] and when you assemble these minds in this environment to exchange ideas, it’s going to give you an opportunity to get better.
Adam Schein: I think the entire experience is going to be amazing. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve seen clips from the previous Summits and every time I watched, I learned something. The healthy exchange of ideas, how people execute and prepare, what works in different markets in sports radio in 2020 to capture people’s attention. It’s a great opportunity.
I saw clips of Colin Cowherd and Jim Rome last year and I look forward to exchanging my ideas and visions of how I execute everyday on Schein on Sports and what goes into the show, how I prepare for it. And I look forward to listening to other people, to hear how they go about their business. I’ve had this circled on my calendar for awhile now.
Brandon Tierney: It’s a great way to exchange ideas, network, build our individual brands and champion what I believe is the most intimate, absolute best medium of them all, radio and audio content.
It’s great to see different talents with different styles from different networks on the same stage simultaneously. You get an interesting cross section and exchanging of ideas, a unique template if you will. It grows our business, and it’s advantageous to everybody, not just people who program stations, but those who are deeply entrenched and mid-career. The goal is to evolve and be proactive, and from my point of view, my goal is to be better tomorrow than I was today. When you get in a room like this, you increase your chances to do that.
BC: Creativity is essential for a talent to be successful. So too is having the opportunity to collaborate. That can have a great impact on building chemistry and a great show. How important is it for people to be around others to expand their thinking?
MG: I truly believe there are no stupid questions. One of my favorite things about the job are the brainstorming sessions before our show. We call it the spitball. I love that part. I love the collaboration of ideas because you just don’t know what’s going to hit. Someone can say a word or half of an idea and then it goes from there and turns into something great. I think the more collaboration you can get the better a show is going to be.
CC: You have to take swings. It’s funny, I’m driven by a fear of failure to begin with, but when it comes to being on-air, I’m not afraid to fail. You have to be willing to evolve and take chances. There have been plenty of times where I’ve done something on-air and it didn’t work. You can tell if something needs to be tweaked or if it’s never going to work. If you’re just doing a show and talking about sports, you have to find ways to separate yourself. You have to figure out how to do something different. I want to be the guy that gives you the aspect or idea of a story that you haven’t thought about yet. Different has to be good and so does taking chances.
AS: You always want your show to be fresh, and have creative ideas provided. You try to surround yourself with incredibly bright and creative people. I love talking about the product of radio. I always like discussing ideas of what works and what fits my personality and speaking with people at SiriusXM like Steve Cohen, Eric Spitz, Steve Torre, Bill Zimmerman and Jason Dixon who is amazing when it comes to feedback and different things to try. Positive reinforcement can also go a long way, ‘this works, keep doing it!’ Those are the kinds of things that resonate and I always enjoy talking about the product, I’m a junkie for that stuff.
BC: How do you see the role of a program director? Do you want them to serve as a coach and mentor or focus on business and what time to run a contest?
AS: You always want a program director who is the ultimate sounding board. Someone you can talk to about the show, about an interview, idea, someone you can talk about life with. Being a coach and mentor in addition to everything else. I’m lucky to have that on a lot of levels at SiriusXM. We have great people and great radio people and that’s vital to our success.
Eric Spitz years ago changed my life and shaped how I do a radio show with the POKE scale on how to judge every show. Passion, Opinion, Knowledge, Entertainment and you can’t lose sight of all four in terms of criteria for a daily show. And to me, entertainment’s at the top of the charts. Being able to tell a story, keeping people engaged, it’s all part of the deal and something I take pride in.
BT: The best program directors are equal parts professional manager or coach, but also psychologist. The best talents truly care about what we put out there, and what we attach our name to for public consumption. I don’t care who you are or how good you think you are, there’s vulnerability that comes with that. The presence of somebody who knows the business, but also knows what works and what doesn’t work, you need an honest assessment. It doesn’t help anybody to just keep saying ‘great show.’
Not every show is great, not every segment is great, not every interview is effective. Some things are poorly constructed and some things are grand slams. If something doesn’t sound right or is short of the talent’s potential, they need to call you out on that. And some PD’s are married to the company more than the talent and that’s understandable, but you want to know if something takes a sideways turn, that the PD still has your back.
BC: How helpful was having a program director that was already on-air in the same market, like Spike Eskin in Philly?
CC: Having worked with Spike for just a year, I love how he thinks and I trust his instincts. I’m getting acquainted with Ryan Hurley now at ESPN and I really like talking about show philosophies with him and listening to the way he thinks.
Spike fascinated me from the first time I met him because we have the same goals, but he thinks differently than I do and gives an invaluable perspective. Eric Spitz has been that way for me in my career too. I’m always open to people who think differently because I can potentially learn from them. Constantly getting different ideas is exciting.
BC: What’s one area of weakness in the sports radio industry that you think needs to be addressed?
MG: Finding new audiences. Think about the NFL or NBA, they’re never satisfied even though they have massive audiences. I think radio stations should be the same way. There’s always a new set of ears to go after and keeping that aggressive growth mindset helps all of us. Still be true to your core audience, but find that future audience, become part of their lives and be 360 about it. It’s so important for radio stations to be where their audience is. It’s not just radio and the person in the car, it’s about being part of their everyday lives, being available online and streaming to make sure they don’t have to go searching for you.
CC: I’m still trying to figure out where we’re going to fit in the future in the digital space. Smart speakers have been a major advance, but I want to know what others think about the slice of the pie that sports media and entertainment has moving into the future. As an industry we may have had 65% of that pie before, it’s gone down a little bit and how do we get that back? It’s difficult, but not impossible and I want to know what other people think about it. I heard 15-20 years ago radio is dying, we may have taken some hits, but it’s still around, it’s still popular and it still makes waves.
AS: I think there is a wonderful place for callers in sports radio and I know there are a lot of differing opinions on that. I’m a big believer in using callers wisely in sports talk radio. Going back to when sports radio was invented, WFAN, 1987, two-way sports talk. I think a lot of places have completely lost sight of that. There’s a way for me as a solo host to be passionate, opinionated, knowledgeable, entertaining, have my own show while implementing callers that make the show better, make me better, make for entertainment. Producers and call-screening is a big part of it. I know not everyone in the industry thinks the same way which is healthy, but I’m adamant that phone calls are a big part of sports talk radio.
You have to be able to attract great telephone calls, it’s a skill. If you do it right, it enhances the nature of a sports radio show.
BT: The challenge is always growing the medium in a forward direction. Major League Baseball’s obstacle is pace of play and appealing to a younger generation and they’ve worked on addressing that. In basketball, you see the evolution of the three-point shot as the sport grows. In golf, pace of play has also permeated the conversation.
We can’t look at radio and just say there are a few national networks doing well, there are a few elite local programs doing well, it has to be bigger than that. It needs to be bigger than just CBS, ESPN, FOX, or SiriusXM. It has to be bigger than just WFAN, WEEI, KNBR or The Ticket in Dallas. It needs a true vision and there can’t be complacency because it’s evolving quickly. You need smart people to lead it in the right direction, more importantly you need passionate people.
Adam Schein, Brandon Tierney, Chris Carlin and Maggie Gray will be appearing at the 2020 BSM Summit on February 26-27 in New York City. For tickets visit BSMSummit.com.
Brandon Contes is a former reporter for BSM, now working for Awful Announcing. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonContes or reach him by email at Brandon.Contes@gmail.com.
Adam Hawk Knew Life Outside Radio Was Possible
The funny thing about radio is you may leave it but it takes time for it to leave you. Meaning, your daily routines in the business don’t just go away the day after you walk out of the studio for the final time.
Waking up at a normal time the day after the Super Bowl was another pleasant reminder to Adam Hawk that his life wasn’t consumed by the grind of radio. For the previous 15 years, watching the Super Bowl meant the stress of constantly taking notes, and trying to create content for everything that was happening, all while facing the inevitability of waking up at 4 a.m. the next day to prep for the biggest The Jim Rome Show of the year.
But not this year. Instead, Hawk spent the night with family and friends and even indulged in a few drinks, all while watching a classic finish between the Rams and Bengals. It was his first Super Bowl in several years where he wasn’t an executive producer of a nationally syndicated radio show. And he loved the change of pace.
However, that feeling is in no way indicative of what his time on The Jim Rome Show was like. It’s just the opposite. Hawk left the show in late July of 2021 because he wanted a different lifestyle than what radio could offer. He was always passionate about creating the best show possible daily and doing it with a group of coworkers he calls close friends, but he wanted a less demanding lifestyle.
“I feel like I’ve lived a couple of lifetimes since leaving The Jim Rome Show and radio in general,” said Hawk. “It’s just been a completely different lifestyle. I’ve been super busy with my own business, working another job for a golf association, and then two kids. I filled up my schedule and I felt a sense of freedom that I hadn’t felt in a long time before. That’s not necessarily indicative of The Jim Rome Show, that’s just radio. You’re always chasing content and glued to your phone and TV. Just to have that away from me, it’s felt like five years, in a good way, not a bad way.”
The funny thing about radio is you may leave it but it takes time for it to leave you. Your daily routines in the business don’t just go away the day after you walk out of the studio for the final time. If you’re used to waking up at 4 a.m. like Hawk was every weekday, you’re bound to find yourself waking up at the same time for several days after.
“The two things I couldn’t shake right away were, my body clock was still waking me up at 4 in the morning,” laughed Hawk. “The show started at 9 a.m. but we were showing up at 5 a.m. I also couldn’t shake the feeling of whenever I would see sports on television, the idea that I needed to form an opinion about what I’m seeing and then turn it into content. When it sunk in that I didn’t have to do that anymore, it was a massive relief.”
Deleting Twitter has also been a massive relief for Hawk. Like so many others in radio, it used to consume his everyday life. It never allowed him to leave work at his actual workplace. Work was always on the screen of his iPhone even at home. So when he decided to leave radio, he couldn’t wait to delete Twitter. Sure, it was odd at first, but he swears by a lifestyle that isn’t controlled by an app.
July 25th marked one year since leaving the radio business. On that day, some reflection likely happened with Hawk on his decision. Though he’s still happy with the way he decided to take his professional career, you can bet there was a moment when he looked back at the great times he had on The Jim Rome Show. Those good memories that popped into his mind were the camaraderie he had with the rest of the staff. The days were everyone pulled together to accomplish something great. That happened a lot as an executive producer and those are the days he looks most fondly at over his 15-year career.
“I’ve also missed the invitation to be creative every day,” Hawk said. “Radio affords you the opportunity to be creative because every day you have to build a sandcastle, a wave is going to knock it down and you start all over again. The content changes and you have to start over every single day. There aren’t a lot of jobs where you start from zero every day.”
Hawk will always have a special legacy with The Jim Rome Show, seeing as he was the executive producer at the time Rome was elected to the Radio Hall of Fame in 2019. Not only was he there at the time of the highest honor in show history, but he pushed to make it happen. Hawk was even mentioned in Rome’s speech, which was one of the most surreal moments of his entire career.
“Jim had to stump for votes, which was kind of demeaning for a guy of his skill set, talent, and importance to the industry,” said Hawk. “But I can see how the Hall of Fame, in order to get some buzz going, would want to have these hosts ask their listeners to vote for them because at the very least it gets the hosts talking about it. We had to ask our listeners to vote and find a way to entice them to do so. We created this thing called The Box of Chaos, where we threw a bunch of things into this box, like, we’re going to do these things if we beat the hosts we were up against.”
“We were up against some conservative talk radio guys, where we had no shot, because they had this built-in fan base that’s so much bigger than even Jim Rome’s, but we ended up thanking the listeners and pulling some of that stuff out because they went so hard for us. The box of chaos was super, super fun and it ended with my good friend James Kelly, who works on the show, reading mean tweets about the size of his forehead and it was one of the funniest payoffs and one of the most fun couple of weeks. I got to work really hard on something I really believed in, which was Jim getting into The Hall of Fame. Ultimately it didn’t work, but he got in the next year on his own merit. I got name-checked by Jim Rome in his hall of fame speech which, as a kid, that’s something I would have never imagined. Radio was some of the best times of my life.”
There’s also the thrill and excitement of producing Smack-Off which is one of the most well-known sports radio features the business has ever seen. It’s a huge time for the show and likely a stressful time, as well.
“Every Smack-Off was a proud moment because there’s a lot of things going on behind the scenes in terms of producing that show,” said Hawk. “That show, in my opinion, is still the most important radio show of the year for our genre, because it’s been around for 30 years and it trends on Twitter and people take it very seriously. It was always a proud moment to produce those.”
Those memories were undoubtedly on Hawk’s mind when he started to consider leaving radio in 2020. He didn’t leave the business until 2021, but the pandemic contributed heavily to his decision. Hawk watched as so many people around him transitioned into a work life from home, where they could set their hours. He was envious of their ability to work remotely and reconnect with family and friends on a different level.
“I know people have Comrex setups and things like that, but you can’t do The Jim Rome Show from home,” Hawk said. “That’s not possible. I realized that I was in this business where it’s incredibly hard to get time off because content never stops. I think anyone in radio can attest to this. It’s stressful around Thanksgiving and Christmas to think about taking time off because everyone wants it but someone has to be on the air. There’s a lot of games during the holidays. It’s not a normal life. After 15 years of this, I finally thought, I want to trade this in for a normal life. Everyone is thinking, with us, this is the greatest gig in the world. And in some respects it is, but it’s not what the general public thinks. It’s not sitting courtside at Laker games. It’s not flying on private jets to the Super Bowl or being best friends with Odell Beckham Jr. it’s a lot of work and that content doesn’t produce itself.”
If Hawk was going to leave sports radio, he wanted to chase something he was passionate about. He found that in 2020 with a company that specializes in preserving the swanky style of a well-dressed golfer. Nation Golf is a clothing brand for golfers and a style that Hawk believes in wholeheartedly. He was immediately drawn to the business and knew it was a venture he wanted to chase.
“I’ve always been drawn to the timeless, aesthetic of yesteryear,” said Hawk. “You look at these old timers that are wearing these clean pressed shirts and slacks, you’re just like wow, they look as good today, as they did 50 or 60 years ago. It’s the pure definition of timeless. You turn on TV and watch the PGA Tour, nobody is dressing like that, they’re like NASCAR drivers covered in logos or clowns like Ricky Fowler in his bright Orange. There’s no style, charisma, or charm and I think when those guys see photos of themselves in 10 years they’re going to be embarrassed.
“I started looking immediately for vintage golf clothes and Zuckerberg is listening to everything you’re thinking so he put Nation Golf in front of me. I was like, holy s***, I can’t believe someone is doing this and I can buy it new, I don’t have to go to a thrift store. I can buy it new. I just got immediately sucked into it.”
Hawk noticed the Instagram following for Nation Golf was much lower than he thought it should be for a brand so cool. Something clicked for him at that moment. As the executive producer of a Hall of Fame radio show, he had confidence in his abilities to operate promotions and social media on a big-time level. He was curious if he could apply those skills and apply it to the business. He was out to see if he could do just that with Nation Golf so he reached out to founder and CEO Ryan Engle.
“I loved the logo, I loved the name, I loved the clothes and I ended up loving the guy,” Hawk said. “He told me he had taken it as far as it could possibly go on his own and it was the perfect time for me to come down and pitch him. He said, hey, Let’s play 18 holes together, if you’re not a serial killer, we can do this. And we did.”
Business for Nation Golf has gotten progressively better to the point it’s grown exponentially. But he never wanted to rely on The Jim Rome Show to help with the growth of the company, even when he was balancing both jobs daily. Rome was fully supportive of Hawk’s side hustle and only reminded him to ‘keep the main thing, the main thing.’
“I take a lot of pride in the fact I never used Jim’s platform to sell the company,” said Hawk. “I didn’t feed callers to him that were going to talk about it. I didn’t put emails in front of him that were going to talk about it. I tried to keep it as separate as possible. Even on my last day when Jim asked me on the air what was next, I did say ‘Hey, I don’t want to turn this into a commercial for what I’m doing next, but I am going to run my own business’. Didn’t even mention Nation Golf by name, because I felt like he had been sailing that giant yacht of a radio show for 30 years and I didn’t want to be the clown who’s about to jump off and pulling the parachute that has a giant logo of the company on it. That just wasn’t my thing.”
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.
Sports Talkers Podcast – Tim Kurkjian
Fresh off of his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Tim Kurkjian joins Stephen Strom to talk about his love for the sport and his appreciation of his place in it.
Stephen Strom can be heard hosting ‘The Sports Talkers Podcast’ for Barrett Sports Media. In addition to hosting here, Stephen works as a broadcasting assistant for the Miami Heat and color analyst for Nova Southeastern. Additional career experiences include working for SiriusXM, performing analyst duties for Princeton basketball, and hosting shows for TalkNorth.com. You can find him on Twitter @SStrom_.
A Great Catchphrase Can Make a Baseball Broadcast Iconic
Baseball has lent itself to some of the greatest ‘catchphrases’ to ever grace radio and television.
Baseball has lent itself to some of the greatest ‘catchphrases’ to ever grace radio and television. Some are clever and some are excellent. A few have been made into t-shirts. Many of those phrases are delivered back to the announcers when fans see them in public. These catchphrases can be for any play during a game. A great defensive play, a walk-off win, but mainly you hear them during a home run call. That’s where a lot of the ones used today are featured.
For example. “See. You. Later!” from Nationals television voice Bob Carpenter. When a Washington player hits one out, Carpenter gets very deliberate and articulate with the three-word phrase.
Hall of Famer Eric Nadel in Texas exclaims, “That ball is history!” when a Rangers player goes yard.
Michael Kay on the YES Network says, “Going back, at the track, at the wall… SSSEEYA!”, really drawing out the “s” sound.
A jubilant Tom Hamilton on Guardians radio, belts out, “Swing and a drive, deep to left, a “waaaaaay” back and it is gone!”, and the fans eat it up.
Pat Hughes on Cubs’ radio, “that ball has a chaaaance gone!”, building in an ‘out’ if you will incase the ball falls short of the fence. One of the more unique ones these days is from Pirates broadcaster Greg Brown, “Clear the deck! Cannonball coming (to the Allegheny)”, a very team centric phrase. Also, after a win, he “raises the Jolly Rodger!”
There are others, but it would take several columns to go through all of them. Growing up in Chicago, I was treated to many great announcers calling games. I remember some of their better home run calls. For Jack Brickhouse it was punctuated with a “HEY HEY!” on a Cubs home run. Harry Caray said, “it might be, it could be, it is! A home run! Holy Cow!”.
One of my favorite announcers as a kid was Vince Lloyd who paired with Lou Boudreau in the Cubs radio booth. Lloyd was known for “Holy mackerel!” He morphed into adding “It’s a bell-ringer!” after a fan sent the guys a cowbell to ring when a Cubs’ player hit a home run. That might have been a bit excessive, but I was a kid and loved it.
Fans throughout the years have been treated to some great phrases by equally great announcers. Here are a few of them, again knowing I left many of out. Many.
Dave Niehaus, Seattle Mariners – “Get out the rye bread and mustard, grandma, it is grand salami time!”, that was his signature call for a Mariners’ grand slam. His normal home run call was pretty good as well. “That ball is belted, deep to left field…and it will fly away!”, a great visual aid for those at home picturing the ball leaving the park.
Ernie Harwell, Detroit Tigers – “Called out for excessive window shopping.”, that was one of his calls for a strikeout. I like this one better though, “He stood there like a house on the side of the road.” How Midwest is that? Iconic.
Mel Allen, New York Yankees – “How about that!”, pretty simple, but relatable. That legend lived on thanks to “This Week in Baseball” back in the day.
Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, Chicago White Sox – “You can put it on the booooooard…. Yes.”
There was no greater “homer” as in hometown guy, than the Hawk. That was just his home run call. There was also “Can of Corn” for a routine catch, “Duck Snort” for a bloop hit and a long drive that went foul, “Right size, wrong shape”. Throw in “stretch!” and “Mercy!” Pretty good and natural sounding stuff.
Red Barber, Brooklyn Dodgers – His signature was just “Oh, doctor!” Simple yet effective.
Vin Scully, Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers – Vin didn’t have a catchphrase. He didn’t need one. Vin was the quintessential wordsmith and his use of the English language was better than any catchy saying. Setting the mood, the drama and the moment was what Vin did best. An amazingly talented broadcaster that was able to span generations and the country.
That’s a good spot to pick up. One of the best broadcasters in any sport anywhere, really didn’t have a catchphrase. There are many big-league announcers that don’t have one either. It’s not something to me, that’s a mandatory thing. I remember one well known announcer asking me when I first started with the Padres if I had a catchphrase. My answer was no. I thought he would tell me how important it was, but instead he said ‘good’. I asked why? He said a couple of things to me that I haven’t forgotten.
First this very talented announcer said something to the effect, it’s more important for you to establish yourself as a great game caller. He stressed this a couple of times. The meaning behind it, be good at what you were hired to do and worry about the rest of the flare later.
He also said if you have a signature home run call, it’s strange sometimes, because a homer in the first inning is different than a meaningful homer late in the game. I think the first point holds more water than the second. I mean if you’re not a good game caller, what’s the point of even having a catchphrase, right?
Like I said at the beginning, I don’t begrudge those that have their own phrases. Those that have made it to the upper echelons of the profession are already excellent game callers, so why not have one to use. I’ve got nothing against them, in fact, I got jealous of a few, wishing I was the one that came up with it!
I don’t think it’s imperative for up-and-coming broadcasters to have one just yet either. Instead, I would advise them to concentrate on doing a good broadcast first and foremost. That’s how you get noticed for the right reasons.
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.