It’s tempting to gather all the baseball saboteurs, owners and players alike, for a funeral service. We could spread the sport’s ashes across the heavenly ballfields at Malibu Bluffs Park, just off Pacific Coast Highway, a sensory delight that somehow has remained undiscovered by incurable romantics. Then a Little Leaguer would come by and rip a pitch over the fence, sending the ball, beautifully and innocently, toward the only visual in sight: the waters of the Pacific Ocean.
This would be our way of finding peace, just as we felt some relief upon hearing the FBI’s conclusion that Bubba Wallace was not the victim of a hate crime. Yes, in Nascar, a crew might create a “garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose’’ and leave it in a Talladega Superspeedway stall for months, long before the circuit’s only black driver showed up in Garage No. 4 for a race. Sometimes, a rope is simply a rope and not a targeted racist prop. Just the same, even in tortured and debilitated baseball, hope still can breathe through gritted teeth.
The reason we can’t entomb this sport quite yet is that Little Leaguer himself. While the rest of us are vomiting, holding our noses and wishing the game would go away and never return, there are kids who can’t wait for an abbreviated, mad-dash, 60-game season, even if it symbolizes the labor strife that ultimately will doom an industry bent on self-destruction.
Thus, we peel our dead skunk off the road and try to make the best of the stench. The compromise is a mere Band-Aid, holding back streams of blood that will explode in an inevitable lockout — a work stoppage this ailing enterprise cannot afford without dire, long-term consequences. And given the persistent fury of the coronavirus, it’s likely the season will be canceled before any October postseason, the appropriate abrupt ending for a devalued, bastardized alternative. Yet through the labor animosity and health dangers, the players must try anyway to stage the finest, coolest show possible. They are the only hope in salvaging what still can be a breathtaking game, despite the scandals and 3 1/2-hour slogs, when they are free of management-imposed migraines and obstacles.
They must revert to being kids on a Little League diamond, hoping to impress anyone who might be watching. Because that’s where baseball finds itself now, drowning in public apathy and disgust after prioritizing a lengthy labor fight in a country pummeled by a pandemic, racial unrest and rampant joblessness. The electric stars — Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Gerrit Cole, Aaron Judge, Bryce Harper — will have to save what’s left of a game that once energized America but now only brings grief and yawns. Don’t tell me about hating the Astros, A-Rod and J. Lo buying the Mets and the Dodgers’ promising chances of finally winning it all.
There is only one story line: Can baseball, on the edge of the abyss, miraculously keep players safe from a raging virus and still convince folks to give a damn and watch spectator-less games on TV? The answers will be no and no, but there’s no use in dwelling on the obvious when all it does is infuriate us.
“It’s absolute death for this industry to keep acting as it has been. Both sides,’’ tweeted pitcher Trevor Bauer, the defining truthteller of this crisis. “We’re driving the bus straight off the cliff. How is this good for anyone involved? COVID-19 already presented a lose-lose-lose situation and we’ve somehow found a way to make it worse. Incredible.”
Repulsive, actually. But if the umpire shouts “Play Ball’’ in late July — rather, holds up a cue card while wearing a facial covering — the players must entertain us with quality performances and nightly thrills as they never have before. Or, they still could be viewed as villains in what has become the real battleground for owners and the Players Association: the public-relations game. At present, owners are seen as the bad guys, for a change, after they foolishly tried to claim baseball wasn’t a profitable business. Yet if the players are half-hearted about resuming the season — or, in some cases, don’t want to suit up — America’s jobless masses will turn on them.
It’s mortally unfair, I know, to make players and their families assume the dreadful virus risks. Make no mistake, there will be positive tests, scads of them, starting next week when they’re due to report to home stadiums for a bizarre form of summer training. Unlike the NBA, Major League Baseball has abandoned thoughts of a medical bubble, instead allowing players a return to relative daily normalcy: they’ll stay at their residences when teams are at home, travel to the ballpark, then hop on charter flights for road trips and stay in hotels within geographically friendly divisional pods. Still, this is madness. Despite 100-plus pages of health and safety protocols, the plan is fraught with peril. There will be mass gatherings every day in more than two dozen MLB markets, many of which are COVID-19 hotspots, including recent surges in Florida, Texas, California and Arizona — homes to 10 of the 30 teams. Players, support staff and all others on site will be susceptible to contracting the virus and spreading it in their homes and communities.
No? Just the other day, after a spate of positive tests throughout the sport, MLB shut down all 30 facilities in Florida and Arizona for Hazmat deep-cleaning. The Philadelphia Phillies, for instance, now have counted 12 positive tests among players and staffers. If the protocol included daily coronavirus testing, there might be a modicum of confidence. But the tests are being administered “multiple times a week,’’ whatever that means, through a lab based in Utah, a state with no direct connection to MLB. When a player tests positive, his team will continue to play games while he is quarantined.
Only in a quack’s wildest fantasy can this possibly work. At worst, it would be a health disaster that destroys the sport forever and forces the so-called commissioner, Rob Manfred, to walk away in shame. “What happens when we all get it?’’ Brewers pitcher Brett Anderson tweeted.
As millennials and Gen Zers, baseball players aren’t prime candidates to follow protocols. They’ll refrain from high-fives and hugs, but they’re going to chew tobacco, munch on sunflower seeds and spit. And they’ll be eating at restaurants, going out at night and possibly not wearing masks, despite MLB pleas to stay at home or in their hotel rooms. Hopefully, they won’t be as stupid as tennis star Novak Djokovic. It’s still unfathomable that the world’s top-ranked player threw a wild dance party and practiced no social distancing during exhibitions he organized in Serbia and Croatia, which led to Djokovic, his wife and three other players testing positive for COVID-19. Also testing positive at the Novak Bash: Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic, whose return to the U.S. is delayed as he tries to secure two negative tests within 24 hours in Serbia. This as the NBA tries to explain to leery players why Disney employees, who would be working inside the Florida bubble, aren’t subjected to the same testing demands as players and personnel in a state nearing 100,000 infections.
It’s these blasé, devil-may-care attitudes that will derail sports amid a pandemic. “Unfortunately, this virus is still present, and it is a new reality that we are still learning to cope and live with,’’ Djokovic finally admitted in a statement. “I am hoping things will ease with time so we can all resume lives the way they were.’’
Don’t count on it, Joker. Don’t count on it, ballplayers. Whether any sports season has a chance of finality depends on the selflessness and diligence of athletes to obey protocols. Yet there was Tom Brady, ignoring the warning of the NFL’s medical director and continuing to practice with Tampa Bay teammates in a private workout, even after two Buccaneers players and an assistant coach tested positive last week. Congratulations to Brady and Djokovic for joining the COVIDIOT Hall of Shame.
Will I watch the start of the truncated baseball season? Sure, if only for the surrealism. But if America wasn’t watching much baseball before the pandemic, why would attention spans be heightened for Desperation Ball? This is a sport built on tradition, statistics and historical perspective. Wedging in 60 games out of necessity — remember, the Washington Nationals were 19-31 after 50 games before rallying to win the Series — won’t whet the appetite of the baseball diehard, much less people simply looking for a fresh diversion during a tense summer.
What’s crazy is, a reasonably high level of baseball will be played next month — in front of spectators, no less. In Massachusetts, the Futures Collegiate Baseball League will open gates July 2 for a 39-game schedule involving six teams. I know what you’re thinking because I’m thinking it.
You’d rather accept the risk of sneezing, maskless fans and watch the Brockton Rox play the Worcester Bravehearts — in person — than sit in the safety of your home and watch a major-league game on TV. That’s how much joy has been sucked away by feuding adults. But for now, at least, why not take a long, deep breath and let Mike Trout swing a bat?
Before you know it, such a treat might vanish for eons.
Jay Mariotti, called “the most impacting Chicago sportswriter of the past quarter-century,’’ writes a weekly media column for Barrett Sports Media and regular sports columns for Substack while appearing on some of the 1,678,498 podcasts in production today. He’s an accomplished columnist, TV panelist and radio talk host. Living in Los Angeles, he gravitated by osmosis to film projects. Compensation for this column is donated to the Chicago Sun-Times Charity Trust.
Doug Karsch is Ready to Call First Michigan/Ohio State Game
“The magnitude of the position is intimidating, but when we actually got on the air to do it, it just felt like Jon and I doing a show where there wasn’t a script.”
On Saturday, the Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes will square off in their 117th matchup in history – and the stakes are arguably higher than ever before. Both teams enter the game 11-0 for the first time since 2006, and the winner of the game will clinch a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game and likely the NCAA College Football Playoff, and Doug Karsch will be there for all the action.
Now in his first season as the team’s play-by-play announcer, Karsch will be given an opportunity to call a high stakes matchup on Saturday for a team he followed from his early days as a sports fan in Ann Arbor.
“Michigan vs. Ohio State just was built up to this mythical sort of proportion,” recalled Karsch. “As a kid it just really sucked me in and really became such a big part of growing up.”
Karsch and his family lived two-and-a-half blocks away from Michigan Stadium and frequently attended the team’s home games. When they could not make the game, they would listen to play-by-play announcer Bob Ufer call the games, known for his iconic style and panache he brought to each broadcast.
Although he grew up a fan of the University of Michigan’s football team, Karsch attended college at rival Michigan State University where he earned his degree in communications. Throughout his time in college, he utilized the resources on campus and in the Detroit metropolitan area to effectively build a career for himself in sports media. Karsch was focused on discovering and maximizing opportunities off campus as much as possible, hence why he interned at three different places while in school.
“I listened to a talk show on AM 1050 WTKA out of Ann Arbor and I called the show on occasion,” Karsch said. “One day I just called and said, ‘Hey, do you have any internships?,’ and they said, ‘Yes.’ I kind of hung around that radio station until they actually had an emergency and I got to fill in as a host.”
Karsch strongly believes in internships as a way to gain a footing into the industry, and coordinated the 97.1 The Ticket internship program when it was still in operation. By standing out as an intern, young professionals are able to assimilate into the industry and make valuable connections that will help position them well in the future.
“To me, it’s kind of a way to sneak in but the problem is you can never know when the job is going to open up and the timing has to be right,” Karsch said. “We have really good interns that didn’t get hired and really good interns that did…. Find the place you want to work [and] see if you can volunteer for school credit or otherwise.”
Aside from working in radio, Karsch interned at two television stations – WEYI in Clio, Mich. and WJRT ABC12 in Flint, Mich. – places where Karsch refined his craft and learned from experienced mentors, including former WJRT sports director Ed Phelps. Upon his graduation from the university in 1992, he continued working professionally with WEYI-TV and two years later, began expanding his on-air presence as the sports director at the station now branded as Sports Talk 1050 WTKA.
“I can’t emphasize enough how internships give you great experience,” Karsch said. “I tell people all the time that are looking to break into the business to do as many internships as you can. My experience was the smaller the station, the more they need you to do and the more practical experience you get and the more [likely] that they will hire you.”
It was at WTKA where Karsch first had the opportunity to cover Michigan Wolverines football, including when the team won the national championship in 1997.
“Getting to cover the 1997 national championship team was a blast,” Karsch recalled. “I actually had a phone line installed right outside of the Michigan locker room and was on the air live interviewing people as they came in and out following that national championship season.”
Karsch was working at the station in the early days of the internet; that is, before it was a steady, reliable medium by which to conduct research and gather information. As a result, his preparation for a radio show involved reading several different newspapers and other articles about certain subjects in order to be ready for any question a caller might ask him on the air.
“In radio, it was more about what you knew than anything, and I kind of liked that,” Karsch said. “I liked that you had to do your homework and you had to be prepared for anything.”
While he was at a Michigan Wolverines basketball game, Karsch remembers being approached by someone who told him of the impending launch of Team 1270, a new AM sports station in Detroit. Before officially taking the air, the station had secured the broadcast rights to both the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings and was considering a significant expansion in its sports coverage.
“I loved college sports more than any of the pro sports at the time, yet there was pretty good money I couldn’t say no to,” Karsch said. “They basically said, ‘We just want you to do you. Do whatever show you’re doing in Ann Arbor; do it in Detroit,’ and that’s what I did.”
Shortly thereafter, Karsch was paired with Scott “The Gator” Anderson on Karsch and Anderson, a program airing middays from 10:00 AM-2:00 PM. As the show approaches 20 years on the air, experiencing sustained success and longevity has come with having a keen awareness of the sports landscape in “The Motor City,” and the blend between college and professional teams.
“I think it’s an underrated sports market,” Karsch said of Detroit. “I think the people care about all four pro teams and we have two major universities that the fanbases love in Michigan and Michigan State.”
Regarding topic selection, a preponderance of listeners tune in for football talk, something that former 94WIP program director and sports radio consultant Tom Bigby told staff during a visit to Detroit. He suggested the station move to an open line format where more of the programming is based on callers than guests, and once the move was made, the impetus for callers to express themselves came at virtually any mention of Detroit Lions football.
After all, the listeners are, in essence, customers, and as the enduring 20th century business adage goes: “The customer is always right.”
“When we bring up the Lions, the phones explode,” Karsch expressed. “It has kind of always been the case since we went to the format. College football does get traction [and] Tigers baseball does get a lot of traction when they’re playing. Mostly we just listen to the audience, watch the feedback that comes in with texts and tweets and follow those leads more than anything else.”
The interactions between Karsch and Anderson are entertaining parts of the show that keep listeners tuning in, especially during debates. During his consulting visit, Bigby told the staff that it was not their job to win every argument; rather, it was incumbent on them to start them all. In working with Anderson, Karsch is aware of the topics that garner strong opinions and passion on the air, and will try to position his co-host to experience success in those moments.
“He has knowledge and does his homework as well, but there are times where I just need to sit back and let him go – and I’m perfectly fine with it because people love him and he gets rolling,” Karsch said of his co-host. “He’s definitely the funny personality on the show.”
It all attributes back to Karsch’s prudence and perception about what makes good sports talk radio. When he was working for a television station as a videographer early in his career, he has a distinct memory of traveling in a news truck and listening to sports talk radio with a sports reporter. Suddenly, the reporter started asking Karsch questions pertaining to how he would handle certain topics or callers on the show, giving him the ability to refine his craft in a completely different setting.
“I think of myself as an air traffic controller whose job it is to keep [the show] from crashing down,” Karch said. “It’s a tightrope, [and] you could always fall off, but every day you never know where it’s going to go; the challenge is always different.”
Over the nearly two decades hosting Karsch and Anderson at the station, which is currently branded as 97.1 The Ticket following the move to the FM band in 2007, the Detroit sports area has helped grow superstars and, in return, won several major sports championships.
“I think some markets skew so heavily towards one of the teams, but I do think in Detroit we’re fortunate to have interest in sports year round,” Karsch said. “There are times here sports stories on a given day just aren’t going to carry the day, so we kind of have to branch out and push out what’s interesting to the average Detroiter if it’s not a sports story.”
Karsch has been working directly with Michigan Wolverines radio broadcast for 16 years, initially hosting the pregame tailgate show, halftime show and postgame show. Additionally, he used to host the Wolverines sports magazine show and also contributed to the University of Michigan’s athletics department website, giving him additional exposure to the brand.
“There’s a familiarity,” Karsch said. “Whether we were in the press box or outside the stadium – it varied just [by] being at all the games [and it] got me accustomed to it.”
Before being named the new play-by-play announcer for Michigan Wolverines football, Karsch worked as a sideline reporter on the radio broadcasts, enterprising stories and shifting the central focuses of his preparation. Yet there are similarities between both roles, evinced by Dan Miller, play-by-play announcer for the Detroit Lions, who gave Karsch sound advice.
“He told me, ‘You’re going to walk into the booth with a bucket filled with information, and when the game is over, that bucket is going to be 95% still filled because you just don’t have to get everything out; otherwise you’re kind of forcing it and it’s awkward,’” Karsch said.
“I caught on a couple of occasions this year where I fell into that trap a little bit, but he’s right. You have to almost prepare for every player on the field on either team to be the star and then when that guy makes a huge play, you hope to have some relevant information to add to their story in that moment of time.”
When Karsch landed the play-by-play job, he was elated and enthusiastic for the start of the college football season. Now as the regular season nears its conclusion, Karsch feels he and color commentator and former offensive tackle Jon Jansen have rekindled their chemistry from when they hosted the pregame tailgate show and called the 2014 Quick Lane Bowl together.
“The magnitude of the position is intimidating, but when we actually got on the air to do it, it just felt like Jon and I doing a show where there wasn’t a script,” Karsch said. “It was Jon and I just doing our thing where the script was the game playing out in front of us.”
Jansen was a captain on the 1997 national championship team and has been able to make connections between being a member of that group and watching this year’s football team attempt to achieve similar levels of success. Michigan recently faced the Illinois Fighting Illini and trailed going into the fourth quarter for the first time all season. The matchup was ultimately decided by a field goal set up by a large punt return by Ronnie Bell, drawing similarities to the National Championship Game in 1997.
“Michigan had to come up with a fourth quarter drive, and he’s telling stories about that day and how much that was a hurdle [for] the team… to overcome when they didn’t have their best day,” Karch said. “….He was connecting dots from the eras that I think a lot of people can appreciate.”
Preparing for a football broadcast is similar to preparing for a radio show in that the goal is keeping people interested in listening and coming back for more. It all comes down to efficiently articulating information and using vivid imagery to tell stories that give listeners the ability to depict a game without seeing it.
“Doing a game in some ways is easier because a majority of the time is just filled describing what you’re seeing in front of you,” Karsch explained, “whereas talk radio is four hours of freelance but being ready to react to what the audience wants to talk about. You don’t have a whole lot of time doing a game to go back and find something that you missed, so you better be prepared for almost everything.”
As he prepares to take the microphone at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Karsch will aim to have his best broadcast of the season. It comes in a game surrounded by various storylines that will all coalesce at kickoff and could very likely determine the outcome of the 2022 Michigan Wolverines season.
Last week’s game against Illinois was Karsch’s first genuine opportunity as the voice of the Wolverines to call a fourth quarter finish at a time when “the game takes over.” Now he is even more prepared for the adrenaline rush in calling a game filled with profound significance and traditional pomp and circumstance – one that may turn out to rival the previous “Game of the Century.”
“The audience needs you to make sure that you’re not missing any details,” Karsch said. “Everything was ratcheted up – my intensity was ratcheted up – I think Jon’s was next level and when it is over you really do exhale. I learned a lot about those moments and then I went back and listened to it [and] I heard a few things I could have done better. I imagine it’s going to be 60 minutes of that feeling this Saturday.”
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, he serves as the production manager for the New York Islanders Radio Network and lead sports producer at NY2C. He has also worked on live game broadcasts for the Long Island Nets and New York Riptide. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks and wrote for The Long Island Herald. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
Christian Fauria Is Making A Difference In Boston
“If you live with a kid or somebody with diabetes, it’s not like cancer where somebody’s in the hospital all the time. I feel like it’s different. We’re just constantly talking about it.”
When there is a problem, you can either sit on the sideline or get involved. Similar to his NFL career, Boston radio host Christian Fauria is not only on the field, the guy is in the trenches battling to find a solution. When his eldest son was diagnosed with diabetes in 2019, Fauria went to work. He put together 25 for 25K. The goal was to raise at least $25,000 to benefit the American Diabetes Association by broadcasting live for 25 hours straight on WEEI.
Fauria’s latest radiothon occurred last week on Nov. 16 and 17. He was able to generate over $250,000 this year. Not only has Fauria been able to multiply his original goal of 25K tenfold, the former NFL tight end has ambitious goals to multiply the latest amount as well. Again, you can either let a problem continue, or you can push and push to help things get better.
In addition to his son, Fauria shares a great story of why he ultimately decided to get involved. He also talks about a silver lining related to diabetes and the origin of doneski. (If you don’t laugh, something is wrong.) Fauria also talks about his drive-time radio show with Lou Merloni and Meghan Ottolini, as well as how not caring has improved his sports radio career. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: Broadcasting for 25 hours straight. How do you feel going into it and also when it’s over?
Christian Fauria: I’ll tell you going into it, I just treat it as a normal day. There is no way to prep for it. The key is just to keep the energy up. Part of that is making sure that you have good guests on, especially late in the night. People who I think are interesting to talk to, topics that I think are fun, stuff that’s different than your normal football or sports topics. That’s what I try to incorporate into the 25 hours because if I have a lag in topics, then that’s when I tend to get disinterested. Listen, I get disinterested in terrible topics on a normal day, but when I’m sleepless it’s even worse. I protect myself that way.
Post-show is always a problem because I always feel worse than I think. It always takes me an irritatingly long time to overcome from it. Last year, I actually did 28 hours. I got sick, I lost my voice, I didn’t recover for almost two weeks. This time, I said okay, I’m going to do things differently during the show, so that my recovery post-show will be a little bit better. I didn’t eat a bunch of crap like I usually did. I drank a ton of water. When it was over, my voice was kind of dead, but it wasn’t totally gone. I was able to keep up with that. Then when I got home, I fell asleep right away. My wife tweeted out a picture of myself literally passed out on the couch. My kids were complaining about how they heard me snoring from downstairs. People were hearing me snoring upstairs. I was 1,000% comatose afterwards.
BN: It’s kind of like a marathon in a way. If you were pushing your limits even more, what’s the most amount of radio hours you think you could do before just hitting the floor?
CF: Well, I think last year 28 was a lot. It was too much. The first year I did it, it was 25 hours, so at 3 o’clock I left. Last year when I did it, it was a little bit different. It wasn’t really handled the right way. I really ended up going from 2pm on a Wednesday afternoon to 6pm Thursday. That’s just with two people. It was a disaster. I shouldn’t have done it, but I didn’t have any choice.
Again, the most important thing is keeping the energy level up. I think that’s the biggest thing I forget about that affects me. Keeping your energy high, being engaged, staying focused, driving the show by yourself from 10pm till 6am is a lot of work, man. You’re just fried. When I left the other day, I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I didn’t want to speak to anybody. I just wanted to get the hell out of there because I was just so tired. Sleep deprivation will do that to you.
BN: Oh, I totally believe you, man. I want to try it as an experiment. I would love to know how that feels.
CF: It felt like shit. How ‘bout that?
BN: [Laughs] I can imagine. How has diabetes affected your family personally?
CF: If you live with a kid or somebody with diabetes, it’s not like cancer where somebody’s in the hospital all the time. I feel like it’s different. With diabetes, we’re just constantly talking about it. How are your numbers? How do you feel? When you’re going out to eat or if you’re making dinner, I think we are all conscious of what we’re making.
Do I want to make it easy on my son? If I want to make it easy on my son, I cook a lot of protein. There’s lots of broccoli, so a real healthy meal. Dessert is something clean or something that he can eat where he can manage it easily. The pastas and the pizzas are a lot harder to manage, and to recover from as opposed to chicken and broccoli and steak. Staying away from a lot of complex carbs, sugars, all those things. It definitely affects us. But again, it’s no big deal, we just deal with it, we move on.
BN: What’s something important that you’ve learned about diabetes that you didn’t know before your son was diagnosed with it?
CF: I think what I’ve learned is just what I feel is like an unbelievable burden, and a sense of responsibility and discipline that comes with being a diabetic. You always have to be aware of what’s going on with your body. Always. When you wake up, before you go to bed, during a workout, it really is a constant battle to stay ahead of the numbers or to make sure that they’re at a safe zone. I think the kids especially who deal with it, I’ve learned are just so much more mature than other kids because they are single-handedly responsible for keeping themselves alive. I think there’s a sense of maturity and responsibility that the other kids have no idea about.
BN: Even though it’s a lot to deal with, do you think in some ways there’s a silver lining where it does mature some younger kids and prepare them for adult decisions later in life?
CF: Absolutely. For every negative thing, there’s always some sort of bright side I think that you can take from it, whether you’d like to admit it or not. There’s always some sort of good news that you can take away from it. I do think that is an obvious effect of that, is you’re just forced to be an adult. Even going out drinking, it just forces you to be a lot more responsible and careful with your decisions. It doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time, you just need to be real mindful of how things affect you and affect your body, which undoubtedly affect your mood. Not that I want anyone to have it or learn the hard way, but if you’re asking me the benefits of it, that would be a shrapnel effect.
BN: I saw a video where you were talking about one of the reasons that you decided to get involved with this charity work was a couple arguing in line when the guy needed insulin and couldn’t afford it. Can you tell me about that?
CF: Yeah, it’s a true story. It’s still to me ultimately the most impactful aspect of this event. I was just in line, my son was upstairs. The doctor gave him a bunch of prescriptions. I went in line at Mass General and it was packed. This couple was in front of me. They were bickering back and forth about the cost of insulin. The guy said that he can’t afford it. The girl was pleading with him to stay in line and at least just ask the pharmacist. He was basically irritatingly responding to her like I’ve done this before, I know what’s going to happen.
She kept pleading and he kept getting irritated with her because it’s almost like she didn’t get it. She kept saying you’ll die if you don’t get it, and he said, well, what do you want me to do? So they just left the line and actually exited the hospital. I went after them and gave him my prescriptions. I think everything was for free. I was completely covered with my insulin, with all the devices that he needs for it.
I just thought wow, what a disparity. What a major issue because what if someone just can’t afford their insulin? You wouldn’t think that would be the case. I have this disease, it’s not going away. The only way I can keep myself alive is to take insulin, and the only way to get it is with money. If you don’t have insurance, how do you pay for it?
I think that was the thing that hit me the most, that really made me do something about it. It still is the main story that I tell that most people go, wow. That happens more than you think. I think that’s the reality of it; some people will ration their insulin. They will take old insulin. That is very dangerous. They will just change their entire diet. They will take insulin from a different country.
The challenges are severe, and more severe than I think that people want to admit. Especially during times where bacon is a lot of dollars and gas is through the roof, you just really need to make a financial decision based on your entire life, and insulin can’t be one of them. One of the things you shouldn’t have to worry about is insulin. You just shouldn’t have to worry about it. You should wake up in the morning knowing that you’re going to have plenty of it and it will be readily available for you, and you won’t have to barter or bargain or plead to have it. That’s what bugs me.
BN: What is your ultimate goal for this event to turn into?
CF: My goal is to have it be a national event. I left this event saying to myself this is a million dollar yearly event all day long. It just is. We’ll reach that. Not only do I think it’s a local, regional event, I also think it has national implications. I don’t know why this philosophy cannot be copied and duplicated in other cities, especially WEEI that has a foothold, and these bigger cities that have sports shows or radio shows. If we can somehow implement this whole plan on a yearly basis, we should be able to do $5 million a year if we have the same support here at Boston that we could get in other cities.
I’d want the same event going on in New York City, in Philadelphia, in Miami, in Chicago, in Dallas, in Denver, in Los Angeles, in Seattle. I want to hit those markets. I feel like there’s a real opportunity to simulcast this event on a yearly basis. Each city has its own Christian Fauria that is doing the 25 hours. It doesn’t have to be Christian Fauria, it can be Christine Fauria; it doesn’t matter who you are. You just have to have the personality and the desire to do it. Then the sponsorships and the support will come.
BN: That’s cool, man. I saw two t-shirts online; you were wearing Doneski and Lou was wearing Just Suck A Little. What’s the backstory with those shirts?
CF: The second year we did it, we partnered up with a t-shirt company. One of the things that I’m known for saying is doneski. It’s in reference to Zdeno Chara getting hurt years ago in a playoff game. I had said through my inside sources that he was doneski for the playoffs. It ended up backfiring on me, but everyone still says it. So we made Doneski shirts.
For Lou, whenever he was referencing the Red Sox when they were having a rough stretch, he would say just suck a little and you’ll be fine. Instead of being really crappy, if you just sucked a little. That’s where those came from. We stopped making those shirts because I think Lou didn’t want to wear his anymore. Kids were wearing them to parties and trying to give the wrong message to girls.
BN: [Laughs] I got it, man.
CF: Yeah, we stopped doing that one. Out of context was kind of the problem there.
BN: Yeah, that’s what I think about my Zach Wilson bet on Sunday. If he just sucked a little against the Patriots, maybe I had a chance to hit the over on his passing yards, you know?
CF: I know. Everyone should use that in life. If you just suck a little, you’ll be fine. You don’t have to be perfect; just don’t be a total disaster.
BN: As an NFL player, you learned by observing. Not everything is taught. You do the same thing in radio. What’s something from Merloni that you’ve learned just by observing what he does?
CF: Well, I would say most people learn by failing, not by succeeding. To me, I feel like even in football and in life, you can learn by failing. I have learned absolutely nothing from Lou. He has taught me nothing. He is just some bow-legged kid from Framingham that just got lucky with baseball skills, and suddenly got drafted to play for the Red Sox, and he was best friends with Nomar Garciaparra. [Laughs]
BN: [Laughs] Okay, so you’re more of a trial-and-error guy, what’s something that you’ve learned through error in radio that has helped you become better?
CF: Oh, my gosh. Geez, where do I start? The most important thing I’ve learned, if I was to teach a class, I would say first of all, you have to know what you’re talking about. That’s the first thing. You gotta have the knowledge. You have to put the work in to know what you’re talking about because nothing’s worse than getting pantsed on live radio or on live TV. Some caller calls up and says blah, blah, blah, and you go, oh crap, I missed that part. I think that’s the first aspect.
Two, which I think is actually more important, is your personality. I just feel like if you’re just who you are, and you don’t try to be somebody else, and you back it up with knowledge, I think you will perform. I think personality is honestly the most important thing. You become stronger if you have the knowledge of what you’re talking about. Even if you mess up, your personality just backs it up. It’s like, well, you know, I was wrong, my bad. I know at the beginning of my career, I was really trying to be somebody who I wasn’t and I was real conscious of just trying to please everybody. When I stopped giving a shit is when I started doing a better job.
BN: Wow, that’s such a good quote, man. It’s like the Howard Stern thing from the movie Private Parts. That’s really when he started to become a legend was when he just stopped caring and stopped trying to be the perfect version.
CF: Yeah, I think that’s true. I’ve put my foot in my mouth multiple times. I’ve had a lot of embarrassing moments. My whole thing is if you’re worried about what people say, then you actually care too much about their opinion. That’s the other aspect; I just don’t care. I don’t think you can in radio because we are constantly being chirped out. We are constantly being yelled at. People are constantly making fun of us and nasty stuff. Real nasty, like nothing pleasant. You wouldn’t want your mom reading those things. A lot of people when they first get into radio, I don’t think they’re really aware of how mean and nasty people can be. I just never take it personal. I just look at it, I mute that person and I go about my day.
BN: When you think about the people that have helped you along the way, who are some of the people that have helped you become better?
CF: I would say my biggest asset is my wife to be honest with you. I would easily say she’s my biggest asset as far as her criticism, her praise, her support and her 30,000-foot view advice when it comes to everything. She listens. She gives her advice. I’m very stubborn; sometimes I don’t want to listen to it, but she’s been my greatest asset like hands down. Hands down my greatest asset.
Lou and Glenn [Ordway] were both in the business before me and of both those guys have been great. I would say even Joe Zarbano. I would say it would be my wife and then Joe Zarbano who was my producer, then was my program director, now works at Encore. He and I used to spend a lot of time just talking over things, be yourself, how many times I say you know, like, those types of things. That would be it.
Listen, if you like the guys you work with, they’re going to support you on a daily basis just by being there. But I never sat down with Glenn and Glenn said, okay, when you do this, you have to talk like that. No, Glenn’s advice was always be yourself. Lou’s advice was just be yourself. The philosophy is really simple; if you can just be yourself — knowledge, personality, success. That’s the way it works.
BN: What does Mego bring to the show since she joined you guys?
CF: She’s brought a lot. I’m a big trust guy. If I don’t trust you, I’m not opening up to you. I’m not interacting with you. It just doesn’t work for me. I was apprehensive at first because I just didn’t really know anything about her. We had worked with her once a day for I don’t know, maybe a season. But I will easily say she’s the best addition to that entire station in the last five years. Easily.
BN: It’s a silly thought, but you know those corporate events that have the trust fall? It’s a big thing in radio too; you have to trust the people around you. That’s such a great point, I never thought of it like that.
CF: I just feel like radio is more personal. We’re talking about our personal lives. We’re teasing each other a lot. My wife will tell you I’m very sensitive and I’m very needy with a lot of things. If I’m teasing you, it’s usually a sign that I like you. An even better sign, if you’re willing to tease me back. I feel like that’s trust. Listen, my teasing is not coming from a real angry, aggressive position. My teasing is based on love and respect. Like with Lou, it was easy with Lou right away. I can rip Lou for anything and he knows I love him and I think he’s great. And vice versa. The goal is we just want to have a good show. So even if I’m yelling my brains out at Lou and in the moment I’m pissed off, when the light goes off, he and I are good.
I feel like with Mego, it’s been a process with her. I feel like the more we go, the more comfortable she gets with introducing topics. Hey, I’ll do this segment. Knowing when to jump in, knowing when to tell us to shut up. She’s one of us. She fits in great with us. She just gets it. I think anyone who’s in radio will understand what that means.
BN: Oh, absolutely. No doubt. When you look to the future, in your broadcasting career or life in general, say over the next five years, what do you want it to look like?
CF: Well, I do have some big personal goals. I don’t know if I want to share those, but I do know that being in radio is great. I love it. Having one of the best shows in the city is a goal, and it will always be a goal. I think we’re starting to reel those guys in across the street. I feel like there should be some inherent fear that things have changed. We’re not your grandpa’s station anymore, they are. That’s my personal opinion. Do I still want to do TV? Of course. Do I still want to do all the things I’m doing? Absolutely. But I’m dug in for the long haul when it comes to making the show one of the best in the nation.
Does FOX Need West Coast College Football Success?
“I think we are all looking forward to the twelve team playoff and I don’t know if it matters as much as it did in the last eight years.”
Don’t believe them. Don’t believe those people that try to sell you on the idea that a given sport is better if a given team in said sport is good. You know, college football is better when Notre Dame is good. Maybe they tell you college basketball is better when UCLA is good. Might they say the NFL is better when the Dallas Cowboys are good? Let me tell you, whoever the they is saying those things, they are wrong. FOX isn’t living or dying on it?
I am not here to tell you college football is better when USC is good. The Trojans are ninth all-time in FBS wins with 866 victories, they claim 11 National Championships and 39 conference championships. There is zero doubt they are among the elite, blue blooded programs of the college football world. With all of that said, USC hasn’t contributed to college football’s national championship discussion in more than 15 years. But, now Southern California is back and in College Football Playoff contention.
With only Notre Dame and a PAC 12 Conference Championship left to play, 10-1 USC is in excellent position to earn the first College Football Playoff bid in school history. The Trojans would be the third west coast team in the playoffs, 2014 Oregon played in the inaugural edition and 2016 Washington was the only other PAC 12 participant. It has now been five playoffs since a PAC 12 team has been in the top four.
That brings up the obvious question, how important is it for the health of the College Football Playoff to have west coast teams involved, especially one based in Los Angeles? L.A is, of course, the second largest media market in the nation. College football is well down the list of priorities in the City of Angels but having a team in the mix might help the overall national rating.
College Football has long been criticized for becoming too regional of a sport. The results thus far do lend themselves to that belief, the only team from outside the South to win a national championship was 2014 Ohio State. The SEC has twice had two teams among the four playoff teams and two of eight championship games matched Alabama and Georgia from the SEC.
So, does the College Football Playoff need West Coast teams for long term health? FOX is one of the rights holders for PAC 12 football and the main FOX college analyst, Joel Klatt, doesn’t think it is necessary. “I don’t know if it matters this year. This is like the last two years in an eight year term for a president,” Klatt told me on my show, The Next Round, “I think we are all looking forward to the twelve team playoff and I don’t know if it matters as much as it did in the last eight years.”
To Klatt’s point, the College Football Playoff seems to be screeching towards that twelve team format and a bigger media rights deal. That deal will almost certainly include multiple networks, not just ESPN/ABC, and will be worth significantly more money than the current deal. So, it is not as if the lack of a presence west of the Rockies has hurt the attractiveness of the College Football Playoff to the networks.
On the other hand, the playoffs have never reached the lofty ratings they had year one. Was the 2014 edition just ratings lightning in a bottle or has the regional nature of the product hurt those ratings? The 2014 semi finals did fall on New Year’s Day which meant the games were played in the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl which has proven to be the most successful schedule in terms of ratings success.
The college football lover in me couldn’t get enough of FOX’s Saturday night USC-UCLA telecast. There’s something about both teams wearing those classic home colors and playing in that historic stadium under the lights. They put on a great show, the show also would go on without them.
I want as many people as possible exposed to college football; it only makes the sport healthier. If that means more West Coast teams need to be in the playoffs, I hope they earn their way in. An expanded playoff will only make it easier. Until then, just keep telling people college football is better when your team is good
Ryan Brown is a columnist for Barrett Sports Media, and a co-host of the popular sports audio/video show ‘The Next Round’ formerly known as JOX Roundtable, which previously aired on WJOX in Birmingham. You can find him on Twitter @RyanBrownLive and follow his show @NextRoundLive.