The most interesting people in radio typically have a lot of life experiences. Ian Beckles, an afternoon drive host on WDAE in Tampa, Florida, certainly qualifies as one of these people. The former offensive lineman had a nine-year NFL career — including seven with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He teamed up with Hall of Famers Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, and John Lynch. A native of Montreal, Beckles made his way from Canada to Bloomington where he graduated with a BS in business while playing his college ball at Indiana University. Beckles also opened Dignitary Cafe, which merges his passion of all things food with his growing knowledge of CBD products.
I feel like I practically need to rob a bank to compete with Ian’s life experiences.
Beckles drops by to discuss a wide range of topics. He touches on the retirement of Ron Diaz last December, his former partner who spent four decades on the Tampa airwaves. Beckles talks about his new on-air partner, Jay Recher, who moved from producer to co-host. The ambassador of all things tasty in Tampa Bay also speaks about fluffy radio, being yourself, Angelo Dundee, what fans know nothing about, and caps it off with an excellent Stevie Wonder comparison. Enjoy.
Brian Noe: How did you get your start in sports radio after your playing days?
Ian Beckles: I never even knew sports radio existed. When I played, and even afterward, I never listened to sports radio, not one time. I was at a gym with a young lady, Jayne Portnoy, who used to work for the Bucs. She said to me you’d be great in sports radio and they’re looking for somebody at 620. Once again I didn’t know what was going on. I went to 620. They had about 10 people in there looking to get a Sunday job for pregame. I won, I guess, because I got the job. I started my Sunday show with Sandy Penner. That one might have been 20 years ago. That turned into a Monday night show on 620, which kind of turned into me filling in for Chris Thomas and ultimately me taking over for Chris Thomas with Ron Diaz.
BN: How do you think your style has changed over the last two decades, if it even did?
IB: I’d like to believe that my style didn’t change, because I think when you’re behind the mic, you’re just doing yourself. That’s what I’m trying to do anyway. If I was to give somebody advice, I would say just be yourself. Some people get behind the mic and they want to change and make it more professional. I just open the mic and just talk like I’d be talking to my buddies and we’re having a cocktail.
I don’t think my style has changed. I really don’t. I’ve learned a lot because we talk about a lot of different sports and one of the things that you learn is that if you don’t know a whole lot about something, you don’t want to elaborate too much on it. If we’re talking about NASCAR, I’ll joke around and say I don’t know much about NASCAR. The worst thing to do is try to be smart when you don’t know anything, so I guess I just learned a lot of little lessons throughout the years.
BN: What did you enjoy most about working with Ron before he retired?
IB: What I enjoy the most working with Ron was what I learned. What’s funny is I think Ron and I survived together because we’re both professionals. A lot of people will say hey man, you and Ron, you guys hang out all the time like you’re best friends. Although Ron and I were friends and we respected each other, we didn’t hang out afterwards. We just respected when that mic came on, we’re going to put on the best product. I think the reason why it succeeded so much is that we were so different. I always tell people if you have a show with Tucker Carlson and Hannity, it might be too much, but you put Tucker Carlson and Anderson Cooper together, it’d be a great show. I think that’s what Ron and I did.
There’s going to be people that don’t like me, and the people that don’t like me, would like Ron. I think vice versa as well. There are certain times when you get into an argument, I know there’s people on the other side of the radio saying, don’t let up Ian, or don’t let up Ron. Sometimes there are no right answers. I thought it worked because we hit the whole spectrum.
For me, working with somebody who’s been in radio that long and was a pioneer, I’m a sponge. I was like that in the locker room as well. When Anthony Muñoz came in the locker room or one of those old-school guys, I listened to everything they said. I understand you got there for a reason. I got a chance to grow up with Brooks and Sapp and those guys, so we all learned together. But I’ve always learned to listen. I watch too. I watched a lot of things Ron did and a lot of things Ron said, and the way he said them. I think I adopted a lot, and hopefully in my older age young, young cats like Jay Recher and some of the other kids coming up can hear it and adopt it and hopefully learn from me. I thought about the other day, I’m becoming one of the elder statesmen because I’ve been on the air for a while now.
BN: What has it been like getting used to Jay who was a producer and now is your co-host?
IB: I didn’t have to. When Ron was out, me and Jay did the show. That happened probably a half-dozen times and every time we did the show, we were like “Oh my God, that was cool. That was relaxing.”
We were chill. Jay and I like each other; we hang out. Jay comes over here to watch sporting events. We hang out more than Ron and I used to. Once again it doesn’t make it a better show. But I never at any time questioned whether Jay and I would have good synergy because like I said we like each other. We challenge each other because the worst crap is fluffy radio. Nobody wants that. I think Jay is so strong-minded that he won’t allow that to happen. When the bosses came to me and they go “Do you want it to be Jay Recher?” I said it has to be Jay Recher. I go it has to be. That was it. I didn’t give them a choice. I think we made the right choice for sure.
BN: As a former player, how often do you hear sports radio hosts that didn’t play professionally, say things that are incorrect?
IB: It happens a lot. I’ll give you an example, throughout the years there’s been a couple football players I’ve been very critical about, and they were Buccaneer players. Way back in the day it was Barrett Ruud. I was like you guys keep telling me this guy is good, but he’s running backwards to make tackles. Barrett Ruud would have 150 tackles in a season but we would be last at stopping the run and you’re a middle linebacker. They don’t go together. People were upset with me; “No, you’re wrong, you’re wrong.” And I go well, you know what, if you remember what I did for a living — do you know how much film I’ve watched? I feel like saying are you going to question Stevie Wonder on music because I don’t know very many people that have better credentials than I do to evaluate a middle linebacker. After that we had Gaines Adams. I go he can’t play. He just can’t play. He’s not strong enough. He’s not mean enough. He’s too nice. He’s just running around the edge and that didn’t work out. When Barrett Ruud left here, he never played good football. With Gaines Adams, may he rest in peace, he didn’t either.
The last one was Gerald McCoy. I go you guys keep on telling me how good this guy is. He doesn’t make any plays. He doesn’t get sacks. Our defense is last always and you guys keep on telling me he’s good. I go the second he leaves, Ndamukong Suh comes in here, I go see what happens. And what happens? Our defense got better immediately.
I don’t think, I know I see football different than everybody else because that’s all I did my whole life. Sometimes I want to stop people — it can sound pretentious at times — but I don’t care. Like I said if Stevie Wonder is going to teach me music, I’m going to listen. There’s times where I feel like saying just listen, because this is my thing. I wasn’t good in school. I wouldn’t cheat off me in school. But if we’re talking about football and inside line play, I’d be the one to cheat off of because I have a world of knowledge.
BN: Does the common fan and most of the media know the least about inside line play, which is your area of expertise?
IB: They know nothing actually. I’m starting to realize this with old age; football is a very complicated game. It’s way complicated because sometimes when I have people over here and we’re watching football — we may have Tony Mayberry here, a former teammate of mine, or Michael Clayton, or Shaun King, and we’re all talking football. I realize I don’t know what they’re talking about. I wasn’t in the wide receiver room. And God forbid I know anything about what a quarterback is doing.
When you hear the commentators speak sometimes, I realize even the commentators are speaking over the normal fans’ heads. Let me give you some common things, they’ll say he’s a 3-technique. I swear to God, ask the average person what a 3-technique is — and I’m talking about football fans — and they won’t know what it is.
They’ll say this is a two-gap defense. If you ask 10 football fans, one of them will know what the hell they’re talking about. But this is something they’ve been talking about forever, and they keep on hearing it, and they think they know what it is, but they have no idea. Football gets way more complicated than that. Inside play is not any more complicated than DB play or tight end play, it’s just different, that’s all. But football in general is very, very complicated.
BN: What’s good and bad about a lack of local competition for your radio station?
IB: Since I’ve been in radio there was another radio station that popped up 98-something The Fan, I believe it was. When they went away everybody was like, I bet you’re happy they went away. I go why would I be happy? Life is better when there’s competition. When people’s contracts are up in radio, your company has the ability to say, well where else are you going to go? There ain’t nowhere else to go. Obviously nobody wants to leave the Tampa Bay area, but everybody wants to get your going rate for what you’re worth. I wanted the other station to work. Listen we’ve crushed a lot of people throughout the time, so I don’t feel bad for everybody. We’ve been king for a while, and hopefully it stays that way.
BN: I love your Twitter profile, ‘Ambassador of all things tasty in Tampa Bay.’ What is it about food that interests you so much?
IB: When I talk about all things food, I mean from the ground up. I love restaurants. I love the experience of restaurants. I love just about every type of food. I love to cook. I love to get the best meats. It’s all important; just like everything else, if you want to be great at something, you’ve got to get great product. I’m cooking it with great pots. I’m searing meats and it’s just a passion of mine. I catch myself when I’m not watching sports, I’m watching YouTube videos of cooking, or grilling meats. Let me say the word foodie gets kicked around a lot. Whatever the hell that means, I’m substantially deeper than that. If some people go to restaurants once a week and they go to Bennigan’s and they say I’m a foodie, well okay, good for you. It’s just like this, the guy that thought he was a good football player until he came and hung out with us, and then you find out that maybe you’re not so good.
BN: How much do you talk about it on your show?
IB: Well, we actually have a segment now that we can do once a month called Flavor of Tampa Bay. This is something that I’ve created a long time ago and I’ve had different shows called Flavor of Tampa Bay. Ray Lampe was one of my co-hosts for a while, Dr. BBQ. We’re going to go out of our way to talk about food because people really enjoy that. If there’s one thing about food it’s, I don’t care where you’re from, if you say I don’t like to eat, or I don’t enjoy food, well then I’m going to move on. I don’t really understand that. I’m sorry to hear that, but when you start talking about great restaurants and great ways to prepare food and stuff like that, their ears perk up because it’s something everybody loves. Not everybody loves sports, but everybody loves to eat good food. We definitely try to implement as much food talk in our show as possible.
BN: What would you say is your highest high in sports radio during your career?
IB: Oh boy, the highest high I would say it happens probably once a year where I’ll come in and they’ll say we’re interviewing whoever it may be. I’ll give you an example; we talk to Phil Esposito every week. I grew up hating Phil Esposito because I was Montreal Canadiens fan, but I also respected the hell out of who Phil Esposito was. Being from Montreal I tell my buddies back home I’m good friends with Phil Esposito; they’re like get outta here.
It’s the exposure. A couple of years ago, we’re interviewing Scotty Bowman or we’re interviewing Jack Nicklaus. And I’m like “Wow! I never thought in my career I’d ever talk to Jack Nicklaus or Scotty Bowman would know who I am.” I ran into Scotty Bowman at a hockey game and I told him who I was, and he said, “Oh I remember that, it was a great interview.” That’s the best. We’re talking about the best of the best.
I got a chance to become friends with Angelo Dundee. His son hit me up one time and he goes hey I’m Angelo Dundee’s son. And I go, the trainer? He goes yeah, he’d like to meet you, he’s a big fan of your show. Oh my — I was like, okay. So he says well meet him at Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza tomorrow. So I went to Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza. It’s the first I ever went there. I had a meeting with Angelo for about an hour — maybe the most likeable, personable, easygoing guy I’ve ever met. I came back on air the next day, talked about him, talked about Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, that became an endorsement for years, which is comical. But I became friends with Angelo Dundee.
Angelo Dundee is at my house on Sunday watching football and telling stories about hanging out with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King and Frank Sinatra. Nobody’s watching football, they’re just listening to Angelo Dundee’s stories. Some of the relationships that I got a chance to develop where you never thought that would happen. To make a long story short Angelo Dundee passed and his son asked Ron and myself to speak at his funeral. Twenty feet in front of me was Muhammad Ali. He’s staring at me as I’m speaking at Angelo Dundee’s funeral. Weird things can come about through sports radio, but weird good things.
BN: Is there anything goals wise that you would like to accomplish over the years coming up?
IB: Goals wise, I think I’ve already exceeded anything I thought was even possible in radio. Really a lot of my goals stem away from radio. I’ve done football, I’ve done radio, television, I have a cafe I just opened here in South Tampa. I want to become a spokesperson and a face for CBD products. I have some different people that I represent in this area, New Balance Tampa, Curaleaf, and Master Purveyors. I’m not a sports radio guy; I’m somebody who’s a marketer. I do a lot of different things; photo shoots and real fun things. I’ve never really worked. I’ve never dreaded going to work. I’ve been very, very blessed. Any more goals, it wouldn’t be straight sports radio; it’d just be in general and just building my brand. My brand is Dignitary and hopefully a year from now you’ll be seeing Dignitary everywhere.
BN: The CBD stuff, as a former player, how much does it work for you?
IB: I literally take CBD every single day in the morning, during the day, and listen, I’m an overweight old offensive lineman, and I pop up in the morning. I feel good. I look around, I see people limping around and I’m blessed. I feel better than 95 percent of them. Do I say it’s because of CBD? I don’t know, but it seems to be working for me.
Whatever equation I’m doing right now works because my body feels good, my mind is good. Listen if my mind goes, everybody is going to know. It’s not like some guys you hear were on the couch for three weeks. I can’t do that. I’ve got to get up in the morning and I go. I’ve got to be on all the time. I’ve got radio shows and I’ve got television appearances. I’ve got interviews like this. I’ve got podcasts, so I’ve got to be on. If it ever hits the fan, everybody’s going to know real, real quick.
CBD has been a blessing for me and there’s a lot of different ways you can take it. I would just suggest it to anybody who has any issues with pain, focus, the whole nine yards. Read up on CBD. People are very ignorant to CBD. They’re still saying does it get me high? No, it doesn’t get you high. The stuff you get at Theraleaf gets you high, not the stuff that you get here at Dignitary Cafe. We sell it in a lot of different forms, so come check it out.
BN: Do people know less about CBD or interior offensive line play?
IB: Ooo, that’s a good question. That’s a toss-up. [Laughs]
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.