Seth Harp knows what many sports radio hosts are going though right now. Harp was laid off by iHeart in January, after more than four years as a host and program director of WFXJ 97.3 The Game in Jacksonville.
Less than three months later, during a difficult time for sports radio and seemingly every industry during this global pandemic, Harp was able to land his next gig. Last Friday, Harp announced he was joining WRUF ESPN Gainesville as a weekday host and program director.
“I wanted to be the face of the layoff,” Harp told me about being let go from iHeart in January. “I wanted everyone to know I was available. On my way home from the layoff, I was already networking. I got home around 10:30am and I bet by the end of the day I sent 40-50 emails and made 200 different phone calls.”
It’s not an easy time for many sports radio hosts, both on-air and off. There are challenges in creating entertaining content without the support of live sports and there are certainly challenges in finding your next opportunity if you were recently laid off. With the coronavirus caused economic shutdown, there aren’t many advertising dollars available to radio stations, and subsequently, there aren’t many media companies looking to hire new talent.
Several times during our conversation, Harp referred back to how lucky he is, but landing a job in the current climate is also a testament to his drive and persistence. It should serve as a source of inspiration to others who may have recently lost a gig. It might take a few months, but other opportunities will be available.
Harp will be back on-air in the next couple of months, the date is TBD. “It will launch when I feel comfortable with everything else that’s going on,” Harp said while noting he doesn’t want to disrupt the station’s rhythm and peoples’ habits right now.
Without launching a show, there’s still plenty of work to be done in his new role as the station’s program director. Harp said he has a lot of big social media plans, some of which were learned at the 2020 BSM Summit, and they’ll start implementing those immediately.
I asked WRUF’s new leader what’s more difficult right now, hosting a show or serving as program director of a sports radio station while sports are suspended, and resources are scarce?
“The amount of creativity you need to have in your bones to make it work and make it sound good right now is enormous. Programming, I just have to make sure everybody’s on the same path and everybody understands what’s going on,” Harp said. “If you’re hosting right now, it’s the biggest challenge of your career because anybody can go through the motions as a host and get away with it, but to be really good at it, it’s a challenge.”
Still, there are challenges as a program director during unsettling times, to offer a sense of stability, reassuring the station will survive and making sure everybody isn’t constantly concerned about their standing. Harp is a great candidate to provide that confidence, because he’s able to speak from experience having just bounced back from a layoff.
“I’m almost like a beta test that we’ve figured out it works,” Harp said. “I was laid off, I interviewed for seven different jobs, most of them are now in hiring freezes for the foreseeable future. Gainesville was the exact opposite, they said we want you here now.”
Harp also referred back to what SVP of sports for Cumulus and Westwood One Bruce Gilbert said at the BSM Summit earlier this year, ‘every orchestra needs a maestro.’ “You need somebody that’s a stabilizing force through all of it,” Harp added. “We’re all in this together, but we’re all alone right now too.”
Dave Rothenberg Can’t Stand Hearing Kenny Albert Mispronounce ‘Raleigh’
“I would think a true professional, like somebody that cares about their craft, would get that kind of feedback and welcome it.”
Dave Rothenberg has a tiny bone to pick with Kenny Albert, and it’s over the way Kenny pronounces the Carolina Hurricanes’ home city.
Talking on his show on ESPN New York on Tuesday, Rothenberg, who spent three years working in Raleigh on 99.9 The Fan, said he wished someone would get in Albert’s ear and correct the way he’s been saying it adding that it has made him wish one of the top play-by-play voices in hockey wouldn’t be on the call for the playoff series between the Canes and New York Rangers.
“I would think a true professional, like somebody that cares about their craft, would get that kind of feedback and welcome it,” Rothenberg said.
Albert has been pronouncing the city’s name as “RAW-lee”. It is properly pronounced “RAH-lee”.
Co-host Rick DiPietro and the rest of the show crew thought Albert would take offense to the correction, especially since it’s such a minor thing, but Rothenberg thought that was ridiculous.
“See, no one can deal with tough love anymore,” Rothenberg said.
The New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes series shifts back to Raleigh on Thursday for Game 5. The series is tied 2-2.
NBC Sports Names Al Michaels To Emeritus Role
The partnership will keep Michaels on for the Olympics and NBC’s NFL playoff coverage.
NBC Sports, which had been the home of Al Michaels since 2006, will still feature the veteran broadcaster despite Michaels’ moving to Amazon for Thursday Night Football.
The network announced that Michaels will still be a part of NBC Sports’ high-profile broadcasting properties including the Olympics and NFL Playoffs. Michaels’ last broadcast with the network had been Super Bowl LVI in February, his eleventh Super Bowl.
NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua said in a statement, “Revered by viewers and colleagues, Al has been the soundtrack for many of the greatest moments in sports television history. We are thrilled that he’s staying in the family and raising the stature of our events for years to come.”
“I’m looking forward to continuing my longtime NBC relationship while also launching the Thursday Night Football package on Amazon this fall. A special thanks to NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua and the folks at NBCUniversal for their help in making this happen,” Michaels said.
Michaels moved to Amazon Prime Video this season for their Thursday Night Football package. He will be paired with ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit. This season will mark his 37th NFL play-by-play campaign in primetime.
Following another historic broadcasting moment in which Michaels deftly demonstrated his expertise and versatility, he became just the second sportscaster in history to receive a News Emmy nomination for his coverage of the San Francisco earthquake during the 1989 World Series.
In addition to the 11 Super Bowls, Michaels has worked nine Olympics and called eight World Series.
In December 2020, Michaels was honored with the 2021 Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Michaels is one of only five distinguished broadcasters to be recognized with the baseball honor and the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Award (Dick Enberg, Lindsey Nelson, Jack Buck, and Curt Gowdy).
One of television’s most respected journalists, Michaels has covered more major sports events than any sportscaster, including 20 years as the play-by-play voice of Monday Night Football. He is the only commentator to call the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals and host the Stanley Cup Final for network television. In addition, Michaels called the classic 1985 championship boxing match between Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns and “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler.
Among his many accolades, Michaels has captured eight Emmy Awards – seven for Outstanding Sports Personality – Play-by-Play and one in 2011 for the Lifetime Achievement Award, and has three times (1980, 1983 and 1986) received the NSSA Award from the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association; he was inducted into the NSSA Hall of Fame in 1998. Michaels was named Sportscaster of the Year in 1996 by the American Sportscasters Association, and, in 1991, he was named Sportscaster of the Year by the Washington Journalism Review.
Thom Brennaman Continues to Search for a Second Chance
Brennaman has been searching for a broadcasting gig since he spoke a homophobic slur in August 2020 on a Cincinnati Reds broadcast.
The last time Thom Brennaman sported the microphone for a major broadcast was August 19, 2020. It was game that featured a doubleheader between the Cincinnati Reds and the Kanasas City Royals and in between the two, Brennaman blurted a homophobic slur that has thus far kept him off radio and television.
Brennaman has struggled to find his footing since that error. Recently, Brennaman recorded an episode of Tell Me A Story I Don’t Know, a podcast hosted George Ofman. That episode was available Tuesday and in it, Ofman asks where Brennaman thinks he’ll be in six months.
Brennaman said, “I have no idea. I really don’t. There were a couple of times I thought that maybe somebody out there was going to give me a chance to broadcast again and then this same thing comes up again.”
Brennaman sounded baffled that he’s still searching for work, citing other influential local leaders and what they opined in the days after the incident. “You know what you find out George, the guy who’s considered to be the leading voice of the LGBT community here in Cincinnati, he’s a big executive with Johnson and Johnson, a guy named Ryan Messer. He had written, and I had never met Ryan Messer at this point in time, like two days after what I said, he wrote a letter to the editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer, local paper, that Thom Brennaman should not be fired. There is room for growth here in so many areas and a great opportunity for him, for the gay community, for the Reds, for our society.”
Brennaman added that the two met as well as did Brennaman with other leaders in the LGBT community at the time. “I reached out to the guy and made contact with him and he’s the guy who’s house we went to that I made reference to earlier in listening to a bunch of the stories with some gay leaders. But anyway, I said ‘if you have people there – and I know you do – that are gay that work there, I would put up the amount of hours that I have spent in the gay community in some form or fashion over the last year against anybody you have that works in that office that’s gay’.”
Despite his efforts, the broadcasting veteran is dismayed that it’s failed to sway opinion, “it’s almost like in some cases it just falls on deaf ears.”
Regardless of where he is at now, he’s confident that eventually he’ll be afforded another opportunity. “But I ‘d like to think there’s somebody out there – and there will be and all it takes is one – is just to say ‘you know what, this was a mistake. Here’s the documentation of what the guy’s tried to do since then. We’re going to take a chance – answer some tough questions – and take a chance and get him back in the booth.”
And if another opportunity doesn’t present itself? “If it doesn’t happen, it’s not going to be the end of my life.”