John Michael Vincent, better known as JMV, has developed quite the following as a sports radio host in Indianapolis. As I see it, there are three main reasons for his success; talent, connections, and time. The first part is obvious; the guy has the chops. JMV is skilled and gets radio. As far as connections, I don’t mean that he knows big wigs in high places; I’m talking about connecting with his audience. The Fan’s afternoon guy isn’t hiding in the dressing room before he performs. He’s practically in the parking lot doing keg stands with his listeners before he hits the stage. He’s one of them.
Time is also important. JMV, who’s actual name is John Michael Gliva, simply has time for people. If you bump into someone who is short with you, I doubt you’ll walk away feeling valued. JMV has a welcoming charm and makes you feel like he has all day for you if needed. That type of vibe can’t be forced or faked. It’s just who JMV is. A lot of hosts enjoy speaking to people through a microphone. Many aren’t as eager to speak in person. JMV enjoys doing both a great deal.
Owensburg, Indiana — a town of only 300 people — is where JMV is originally from. He told me that listening to the few radio stations they had when he was young made a connection with him and that he always wants to make a connection with people because of that. It shows. JMV talks about the origin of his nickname and a unique future goal. He also tells great stories about royally ticking off Adam Schefter, being blackballed from ESPN, and hilariously missing out on a big scoop. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: How did the nickname JMV come about?
John Michael Vincent: I was on with a guy named Mark Patrick who actually for a long period of time did both FOX Sports Radio in the morning nationally and MLB Network nationally. He was big time in this market doing local TV. I started with two other guys and then I think within six months I was their producer at Sports Radio 1260 WNDE back in 2000. I was going by John Michael, which is my first and middle name. Mark tagged me with John Michael Vincent. My role on the show was to play the illegitimate son of the former, now deceased actor Jan-Michael Vincent. In the mid-‘70s Jan-Michael Vincent was huge as an actor and then he resurfaced in the ‘80s on the show Airwolf. That was my name, John Michael Vincent. Then it ultimately got shortened to JMV. A lot of people bristle in radio — I want to go by my own name blah, blah, blah — but when you’re with a guy like Mark, you just kind of take it. I have to give him credit, man, because we rode that out and now JMV is my name. That’s how it all started. I was the illegitimate son as his producer of the actor Jan-Michael Vincent.
BN: What’s the most important asset for a host to have in Indianapolis?
JMV: Ultimately it’s relatability. Especially in Indianapolis — I’m assuming you get this all over the map, probably even in the larger markets like New York, Boston, Philly — around here it is relatability. It’s like I walk among the folks. I’m one of them. I’ve never wanted to do national radio probably because I understand my limitations. But also because around here it’s important to folks. If we didn’t communicate with them, if we didn’t have our shows here, nobody else would really give a crap about them around here. When Andrew Luck quits on the team they do, but for the most part no one really cares about the Colts. And we do. That’s why love local radio is so important.
I always try to explain to folks who wanted me to be more like hey, listen to these national shows, and listen to this great tease, and listen to what they do, and I say bullshit. Because people around here, I’ve got to talk with them. I’ve got to have them on. I’m out with them. I can’t disappear behind the curtain like you do nationally. Then you just kind of restart your three hours the next day.
I see these people out and I embrace when they go hey, what you said about Frank Reich was accurate or inaccurate, and what you said about Chris Ballard I don’t really believe, or I’m with you on that. You can’t disappear behind a curtain on a daily basis as you do nationally. I’ve always had a great deal of respect for that. I guess that’s just because I love where I am and I love what I do. I think that’s what people around here really do embrace overall; it’s just you being yourself and this kind of is me. I don’t change to go on the radio. It’s just me all the time. I think people especially around here embrace that.
BN: I think sometimes for younger broadcasters, it takes a bit to just be yourself. You feel like you’re on stage or need to be a souped-up version, then you realize, I just need to be me. Were you always yourself, or did there come a time where you’re like man, I need to stop being a version of what I think people want and just be me?
JMV: Yeah, you know what, it’s funny. This is what I found out; it’s nothing about anybody else that hosts a show, but I think listening to other shows and their content is detrimental to you and yours. Especially when I come on around three o’clock, and before me you’ve got two local shows on our station, or you can listen to a lot of stuff nationally, Brian. I think what it does is it will interfere in your dome with your content and your thought. It enters into your psyche and because you might be talking, it may be something that you say. I don’t want to use or plagiarize anybody else’s take. I want everything to be as completely original in thought from my head as possible. I’ve always tried to do it that way.
Back in the day I would sit there and prepare for the show and Jim Rome would be on in the background. I’m not suggesting I wanted to sound like Jim Rome but inevitably your takes kind of have a bit of a Jim Rome feel and you don’t want that, man. I realized it was okay to F up. I realized that it’s okay because people go oh yeah, well that’s JMV, he F’s up all the time. Hashtag JMV SUX. He sucks. I guess that’s part of the overall radio acceptance that you strive for. I think they’re accepting me as I am and that I’m going to be flawed.
I try to go in when I start at three o’clock as fresh as possible without listening to all this other stuff, or listening to the ESPN guys in the morning on TV stirring stuff up with hot takes. I don’t want to be hot-take guy. I want to be me. I want to be me with my own content. This is what I think or this is what I’ve heard. It takes a little bit of time to realize that it’s not somebody else that people want; it’s you that people want. It’s your take that people want. Like it or loathe it, that’s what they’re looking for when they tune in. I’ve always tried to give that.
When you’re early in your career, you’re searching for what makes you confident. You see these guys that are benefiting, that are good, and are loved on the radio especially because of what they’re doing with their content. Thus, you feel that maybe you should add a little bit of a twist of your own to that, but it’s really unnecessary because people are looking for you; your content, your originality, you as a person. There are so many different outlets and avenues that you can soak up stuff and then ultimately end up parroting some of this content on the air and that’s not at all what I ever wanted to do. It takes a little bit of time to realize that.
BN: How did the whole JMV SUX phenomenon come about?
JMV: It’s kind of funny. It just started with social media; hashtag JMV SUX. I had a golf outing last Monday; the JMV SUX But His Larceny Bourbon Golf Outing Doesn’t. Probably it started like this; a lot of people telling me I suck. Once I embraced that I suck, and people tell me that, it almost diffuses them. Like if people out there, Brian, really think I suck, and they go you know what JMV, you’re take about the Colts, it sucks and so do you. Oh yeah, really? Well they make shirts with JMV SUX on the shirt. Come up with something new. It kind of diffuses that a little bit. I can’t lie. It’s fun to play with it. I don’t mind. I’ve never really minded it.
It’s funny; you think you’re not affected by what people say or what people tweet, but it’s impossible in the early stages of your career. Especially with the revolution of social media and the way that it was over the course of my career, it’s impossible not to feel chafed or be thin-skinned at times.
This has helped to relieve a lot of that pressure. It’s helped not to care what people say. In the process it’s something that people have embraced. I’ve got a closet full of JMV SUX t-shirts. The first one that was ever made was a Run DMC Raising Hell type of album cover that said JMV SUX instead. It kind of took off from there. It started with me diffusing anger and crap that was said to me and then just kind of rolled into something that people liked so I just went with it myself.
BN: Is there anything that you haven’t done in your career that you would still like to do?
JMV: I would. Yes, I’m glad you brought that up. I would love to do a show on Sirius to where you can — I don’t mean cuss, I don’t need to cuss or anything — but kind of broaden it just a little bit. I would also love to do a music show on Sirius. I think that would be great.
When COVID first started, I started a live call-in music show on our sister station B105.7 that I do every Saturday night. It’s called the JMV Takeover. Literally, I do this every Saturday night live from six until midnight. I have zero playlist. They just turn it over to me to play either what I want or whatever the callers want to hear. That kind of scratches the itch that I had because I love music radio a great deal. I thought it was fun. Any interaction at all with fans and listeners is always pretty cool.
I would love to bring back nationwide, more of what I discovered on Saturday around here being able to utilize the live listener and the caller and putting that together. Even though I know that’s not how that works on SiriusXM on any of their music formats. But to me I think it would be fun to do. With my knowledge of the ‘80s and ‘90s, I could do that. So maybe SiriusXM for sports, SiriusXM for music, maybe sometime how about a SiriusXM sports and music mixture too. I just don’t know if any of that crap would ever work to be honest with you.
I really have done all that I ever wanted to do, man. People always say, well you know what, you’re not good enough to be national, which I’m sure is the case. But legitimately this was my goal. Coming from the town where I came from there is not a lot of opportunity to ever be able to reach a goal like this so I always look back on that and feel good about it certainly. I made a lot of friends. I love going out and hanging out with people. I love doing live remotes. I do about two or three of those a week. I love trying to produce live, local radio and keep that alive because I think in a lot of ways we see that across the radio landscape disappearing.
BN: Why were you blackballed from ESPN on radio row because of a mistake you made with Adam Schefter?
JMV: Well, it’s twofold. When Schefter was back on the NFL Network, they would reach out to WNDE and he would come on. He wasn’t the best interview. Maybe it was because I wasn’t the best interviewer when I first started. I don’t know. But we never really liked one another except they always kept pushing him.
I was at the combine when it was still at Lucas Oil Stadium. The whole radio row was set up inside the concourse. It was in February, cold, late, about six o’clock, and I was kind of sick. I had a promotions guy come over and go hey, Adam Schefter’s over there, you want me to go ask him to come on? I go man, I just don’t feel like dealing with this right now. Nah, he’s always giving me short answers and I just didn’t think it was going to be worth the time or the effort. I said don’t worry about it. I go to the can. I walk out of the bathroom and Schefter is sitting in the seat right across from where I’m sitting. I went ahh, dang it. So I come over there and I go okay, it’s all good.
As I was asking questions, he just answered in really short form; like five words or less. Then it got even lower than that and I could tell the dude didn’t want to be here. The fact that he didn’t want to be here, and I didn’t want him there, resonated to me at the moment. So I said I’m going to make him sit here as long as possible. I started asking some of the most ridiculous questions ever to kind of be a jerk. It was wrong of me, but I was sick and I was pissy and that was my reaction. I think literally at the end of the conversation I asked him his favorite color. That’s how bad it got. It absolutely devolved into that. He didn’t like that and that’s fine.
I think afterwards Jim Irsay had tweeted something and then Schefter had sent a barb back to him, retweeted it. I sent out a tweet that said hey, you’re great at what you do, but this is yet another reason why a lot of people think you’re a smarmy ass or something like that. I shouldn’t have done it. I regretted it. He got pissed; went up the chain at ESPN and they got pissed. They called my bosses. They got pissed.
So fast forward to the Super Bowl when it was here. I’m on radio row and all of these ESPN guys are telling my producer who’s now the voice of the Colts, Matt Taylor, that they weren’t allowed to come on with me because I was a dick to Schefter. [Laughs] So I got blackballed. Nobody from ESPN during the Super Bowl week came on with me.
To close the story out, a friend of mine here works for the FOX affiliate. This was another combine. He had to take Adam from downtown to the FOX studios. I guess the entire way — this was like two years later — ripped me nonstop. Talked about how big of a jerk I was and how I was the worst interviewer ever. They really like him around here? He’s awful. Stuff like that. He ripped me for 30 minutes, I mean a new ass, which I absolutely deserved. He didn’t realize this guy was a really good friend of mine. [Laughs]
There was a long time I never talked about it, but I think we’re pretty much down the road now to where I can bring it up. It’s one of the best stories ever because it was two years later and I would have thought that guy wouldn’t have given a damn about anything I would have said. But clearly he did. I will stand by the fact that the guy in an interview situation was a jerk to me and that’s fine. But that was a moment of truth for me in social media going hey, you got to handle this better than that. It was all me. You’ve got to take the blame and move on a little bit, so I owned it.
BN: What’s the story with you not breaking the news that the Colts would be featured on Hard Knocks?
JMV: Yeah, social media is overwhelming for me. I’m getting messages in 19 different directions. Sometimes I go man, I’m not looking at that. I’ve got two different Facebook pages and Twitter, I’m doing YouTube Live and all this. I missed it. A friend of mine, he’s a good friend named Sean Patrick Turley, had sent me a message on Facebook back in early September and said hey, I’ve got a cameraman friend of mine that says Hard Knocks is coming to the Colts in midseason. I didn’t even see it. Then when the news broke, I was surprised. Sean sent a tweet like hey numbnuts, I told you this two weeks ago. I go where? I don’t see it. Then I looked through and of course it was devoured by other messages that I had not opened and there it was right there. So yeah, it was my breaking story and I completely screwed the pooch on it right there.
I love the write-up that you guys had. I mean really it does fit the persona because if somebody is going to miss a massive scoop like that, it’s going to be my dumbass. Seriously. Much like the Schefter thing, I own it. I take the blame and I move on from it. I retweeted that every time. I loved the headline. We got a big laugh out of it around here too. I don’t know if my bosses laughed or not, but whatever. It was funny and it was absolutely me. It could not be more me than that was right there.
This whole thing is kind of me. There’s no faking. I couldn’t fake this level of hillbillish ineptitude. Instead of faking it, I just kind of roll with it. You play with the team that you have. You use the tools that you have and if you only have one or two tools, you use those. That’s essentially been the focus of my career to this point right now; using my lack of tools.
Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?
How many times have you heard this sentence uttered at conferences or in one of the trades; radio has to do a better job of telling its story. Sounds reasonable enough right? After all, your brands and companies stand a better chance of being more consumed and invested in the more that others know about them.
But what specifically about your brand’s story matters to those listening or spending money on it? Which outlets are you supposed to share that news with to grow your listenership and advertising? And who is telling the story? Is it someone who works for your company and has a motive to advance a professional agenda, or someone who’s independent and may point out a few holes in your strategy, execution, and results?
As professionals working in the media business, we’re supposed to be experts in the field of communications. But are we? We’re good at relaying news when it makes us look good or highlights a competitor coming up short. How do we respond though when the story isn’t told the we want it to? Better yet, how many times do sports/news talk brands relay information that isn’t tied to quarterly ratings, revenue or a new contract being signed? We like to celebrate the numbers that matter to us and our teams, but we don’t spend much time thinking about if those numbers matter to the right groups – the audience and the advertisers.
Having covered the sports and news media business for the past seven years, and published nearly eighteen thousand pieces of content, you’d be stunned if you saw how many nuggets of information get sent to us from industry folks looking for publicity vs. having to chase people down for details or read things on social media or listen to or watch shows to promote relevant material. Spoiler alert, most of what we produce comes from digging. There are a handful of outlets and PR folks who are great, and five or six PD’s who do an excellent job consistently promoting news or cool things associated with their brands and people. Some talent are good too at sharing content or tips that our website may have an interest in.
Whether I give the green light to publish the material or not, I appreciate that folks look for ways to keep their brands and shows on everyone’s radar. Brand leaders and marketing directors should be battling daily in my opinion for recognition anywhere and everywhere it’s available. If nobody is talking about your brand then you have to give them a reason to.
I’m writing this column today because I just spent a day in New York City at the Disney Upfront, which was attended by a few thousand advertising professionals. Though I’d have preferred a greater focus on ESPN than what was offered, I understand that a company the size of Disney with so many rich content offerings is going to have to condense things or they’d literally need a full week of Upfronts to cover it all. They’re also trying to reach buyers and advertising professionals who have interests in more than just sports.
What stood out to me while I was in attendance was how much detail went into putting on a show to inform, entertain, and engage advertising professionals. Disney understands the value of telling its story to the right crowd, and they rolled out the heavy hitters for it. There was a strong mix of stars, executives, promotion of upcoming shows, breaking news about network deals, access to the people responsible for bringing advertising to life, and of course, free drinks. It was easy for everyone in the room to gain an understanding of the company’s culture, vision, success, and plans to capture more market share.
As I sat in my seat, I wondered ‘why doesn’t radio do this on a local level‘? I’m not talking about entertaining clients in a suite, having a business dinner for a small group of clients or inviting business owners and agency reps to the office for a rollout of forthcoming plans. I’m talking about creating an annual event that showcases the power of a cluster, the stars who are connected to the company’s various brands, unveiling new shows, promotions and deals, and using the event as a driver to attract more business.
Too often I see our industry rely on things that have worked in the past. We assume that if it worked before there’s no need to reinvent the wheel for the client. Sometimes that’s even true. Maybe the advertiser likes to keep things simple and communicate by phone, email or in-person lunch meetings. Maybe a creative powerpoint presentation is all you need to get them to say yes. If it’s working and you feel that’s the best way forward to close business, continue with that approach. There’s more than one way to reach the finish line.
But I believe that most people like being exposed to fresh ideas, and given a peak behind the curtain. The word ‘new’ excites people. Why do you think Apple introduces a new iPhone each year or two. We lose sight sometimes of how important our brands and people are to those not inside the walls of our offices. We forget that whether a client spends ten thousand or ten million dollars per year with our company, they still like to be entertained. When you allow business people to feel the excitement associated with your brand’s upcoming events, see the presentations on a screen, and hear from and interact with the stars involved in it, you make them feel more special. I think you stand a better chance of closing deals and building stronger relationships that way.
Given that many local clusters have relationships with hotels, theaters, teams, restaurants, etc. there’s no reason you can’t find a central location, and put together an advertiser appreciation day that makes partners feel valued. You don’t have to rent out Pier 36 like Disney or secure the field at a baseball stadium to make a strong impression. We show listeners they’re valued regularly by giving away tickets, cash, fan appreciation parties, etc. and guess what, it works! Yes there are expenses involved putting on events, and no manager wants to hear about spending money without feeling confident they’ll generate a return on investment. That said, taking calculated risks is essential to growing a business. Every day that goes by where you operate with a ‘relying on the past’ mindset, and refuse to invest in growth opportunities, is one that leaves open the door for others to make sure your future is less promising.
There are likely a few examples of groups doing a smaller scaled version of what I’m suggesting. If you’re doing this already, I’d love to hear about it. Hit me up through email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com. By and large though, I don’t see a lot of must-see, must-discuss events like this created that lead to a surplus of press, increased relationships, and most importantly, increased sales. Yet it can be done. Judging from some of the feedback I received yesterday talking to people in the room, it makes an impression, and it matters.
I don’t claim to know how many ad agency executives and buyers returned to the office from the Disney Upfront and reached out to sign new advertising deals with the company. What I am confident in is that Disney wouldn’t invest resources in creating this event nor would other national groups like NBC, FOX, CBS, WarnerMedia, etc. if they didn’t feel it was beneficial to their business. Rather than relying on ratings and revenue stories that serve our own interests, maybe we’d help ourselves more by allowing our partners and potential clients to experience what makes our brands special. It works with our listeners, and can work with advertisers too.
Brandon Kiley Doesn’t Pretend To Be Someone He’s Not
“There was a time where the audience probably said, this guy isn’t a St Louisan. But this is home for me now and I’ve adopted it.”
There must have been something about Brandon Kiley that everyone saw as a young aspiring sports radio host. Nick Wright saw enough to bring him to Houston at SportsRadio 610 as an intern for a summer. Will Palaszczuk saw enough to urge him to apply for his old job in Columbia, MO at KTGR. Ben Heisler saw enough to know he’d fit perfectly with Carrington Harrison in afternoon drive at 610 Sports in Kansas City.
Maybe you can chalk it up to Kiley being able to make such great contacts. Or maybe it’s just that he was supremely talented at a young age. Odds are it’s a combination of both. But he was destined to be a sports talk host somewhere, it just turns out he’s having success over the air in a city he never imagined he’d work in.
A Kansas City kid, Kiley knew at 16 years old he wanted to be a sports radio host. He was even more sure of it when he started doing college radio at Mizzou. But it was in Houston where he got his real taste of what sports radio was like.
“I went to 610 in Houston for the morning show with Nick Wright,” Kiley said. “He basically just assigned me as an extra producer. We had known about each other through Twitter and I had a little bit of a relationship with him beforehand. I think he knew I was willing and able to take on more tasks than a typical intern would usually do. Essentially, I became an extra guest booker, cut audio for them, and came up with topics at night. It was like he had an extra producer for the summer and it was my first real experience doing something like that.”
Imagine the confidence he left Houston with as he traveled back to Columbia for another year of college at Mizzou. Few, if any, on campus could have claimed the kind of summer Kiley just had. He parlayed that experience into a once-a-week show at KCOU, the student radio station. The following semester, he pitched the idea of doing a daily show
“I told them I’d take any time slot available,” Kiley said. “The one that I got was the very glamorous 6-7 am time slot. There weren’t a whole lot of college kids that wanted to wake up that early every morning. I ended up having a rotating cast of co-hosts and it ended up being super valuable because I learned how to work with a lot of types of personalities.”
He excelled as a host and found his style behind the mic, and soon after, he got his first big break. In March of 2014, Will Palaszczuk contacted Kiley and told him he was taking another radio job outside the market. The two knew of each other, seeing as both were in Columbia and covering the same games in town. Palacsuk told Kiley he needed to apply for the spot he was leaving at KTGR.
“There was literally one sports station and one sports show in town and it was that one,” Kiley said. “I applied to him the previous semester and said, hey man, if you guys have anything available I would love to come work there. It just so happened he got a job elsewhere and he called me up and said, ‘Hey man, I don’t know what your plans are, I’m about to take another job and they’re going to post my job available. I don’t know if they’re going to make it a producer or co-host gig, but I think you should apply because I think you’d be good at it’. Will’s good work helped a ton in terms of me landing the gig. I graduated and told them I wanted to make it full-time.I was essentially a producer and co-host for the afternoon show. I never even applied anywhere outside of Columbia”
For two years, Kiley stayed at KTGR and covered the Missouri Tigers. He was fresh out of college and living in a college town doing what he loved in his early 20’s. It wasn’t a bad life. But one night in Columbia changed his entire professional career. It just so happened it occurred on the rooftop at Harpo’s, one of the most well-known establishments in town.
“My roommate at the time, we both worked at the radio station in Columbia,” said Kiley. “He worked at the hit music station and I worked at the sports station. We all went out one night at Harpo’s and he said, ‘Hey, I just want to let you guys know I’m getting out of radio and moving to Kansas City.’ I was like, oh shit, what am I going to do? Our lease was up in two months, so the timing worked out well and I was looking at Barrett Sports Media looking where I could go next.”
“My girlfriend at the time, now my wife, was from St. Louis and there was a job available there. I had always thought, that’s not a place I want to live, why would I ever want to live in St. Louis? They didn’t have a football team, it just didn’t seem like a great fit for me. But my buddy tells me he’s moving and I’m like, St, Louis it is! That night I ended up applying for the job and got a call back from Chris “Hoss” Neupert, who at the time was the PD here, and asked if I would be interviewed with him and Kevin Wheeler, whose show I would be producing.”
So off to St. Louis he goes. For three and a half years, Kiley embraces his new city and tries to work his way up at 101 ESPN.
But the Kansas City kid felt a pull back to his hometown. Oddly enough, Ben Heisler even reached out to tell him he was leaving the station to pursue another opportunity in sports. It felt like the perfect time to pursue his dream of doing sports radio at the station he grew up listening to.
“I’m from Kansas City and grew up listening to 610 Sports Radio,” Kiley said. “A guy I listened to growing up was Nick Wright. I also listened to a bunch of Carrington Harrison, Danny Parkins and Ben Heisler. Those guys had what I consider one of the best shows in Kansas City sports radio history. I got to know them through Twitter and Heisler sent me a text. He knows I’ve always been interested in moving to KC. He tells me he’s about to get out of radio and into more fantasy football stuff and his job is going to come open.
“I had applied for multiple other jobs in KC over the years and had never gotten any real consideration. When Heisler left, I knew Carrington and thought this might work out. I ended up getting in contact with their PD Steven Spector and it felt like a real opportunity. I got what I considered to be my dream job, producing in the afternoons and hosting a Saturday show at 610 Sports. I thought, what could there be more in life than this? This is the best.”
But life happened and he had to make a decision around three months after moving to Kansas City.
“2-3 months later it became clear, it was going to be difficult for my girlfriend, now wife, to move to Kansas City with all of the family ties she had in St. Louis,” said Kiley. “It was the decision of, do you stay in Kansas City and chase the dream or do we alter the dream, in terms of the job, and see if there’s anything in St. Louis?”
He never thought his best years and most successful years as a sports radio host would come in St. Louis but they have. It’s a city he loves and he’s worked hard in hopes it will love him back. But he’s also not going to pretend to be someone he’s not. Though it can sometimes be hard for St Louisans to accept someone that’s not from there, Kiley doesn’t act like he attended World Series games in 1982, listened to Jack Buck growing up or watched Kurt Warner at the Edward Jones Dome. He’s himself.
“That wasn’t my love and I can’t pretend that it was,” said Kiley. “Have there been times, especially early on where that was a potential issue for me? Yeah it was. There was a time where the audience probably said, this guy isn’t a St Louisan. But this is home for me now and I’ve adopted it. It does in a lot of ways remind me of Kansas City, where if you take the time to know what the soul of the city really is, in terms of sports, I think people can appreciate and respect it.”
Kiley doesn’t hold on to his Kansas City roots on the air, in terms of the topics he talks about. He’s a Chiefs fan and even writes for Arrowhead Pride, but he’s not going to talk a lot about the Chiefs in a city that doesn’t have an NFL team. He’s also a Mizzou grad and talks about the teams on Rock M Nation, but again, he’s rarely, if ever, going to do several segments a day on the Tigers. Instead, he knows the audience wants to hear about the Cardinals. Blues talk is clearly next in line. Everything else falls down the order if not off of it completely.
Kiley grew up watching baseball, so he can easily break down what issues the Cards’ offense may be having in the middle of May, but hockey was different. He didn’t grow up around the game and the transition to having in-depth conversations on the Blues was a more difficult task.
“When I came here the first time it was during the middle of a Blues’ playoff run. At that time I was just plopped into this thing, and I didn’t know shit about hockey. I had probably watched about 10 hockey games in my entire life. I’m looking at Kevin Wheeler like, I’ve got to be honest I don’t have a lot on hockey I’m going to be able to help you with. If you could help bring me along with it, that would be great. Over the years I’ve been able to take it in. I used to host a show with Jamie Rivers, who’s a former Blues player. If you told me five years ago I’d be able to do that, much less enjoy doing that, I would have said you’re out of your damn mind.”
Whereas most sports radio shows in football markets are searching for content to help fill segments, this is one of the sweetest times of the year for Kiley and everyone at 101 ESPN. The Blues are deep in the playoffs and the Major League Baseball season is underway. His show BK and Ferrario covers it all every weekday from 11 am – 2 pm.
Kiley never thought this would be his life, but he loves what he’s built in St.Louis and doesn’t give off the vibe he’s looking to leave anytime soon. He’s a great example of someone who didn’t pigeonhole himself into just one market. He was willing to look outside of his hometown and has found true success.
Will Middlebrooks Has Been The Breakout Star Of The Red Sox Season
“If I was going to work for an organization or a regional sports network, why not the Red Sox, for someone that I’m actually a fan of?”
The Boston Red Sox experience in 2022 is just different. In every way.
The team has struggled out of the gate. They certainly aren’t the team that was two wins away from the World Series last year.
Fenway Park doesn’t even accept cash anymore.
But it’s not just that the Red Sox are different on the field or at the ballpark – they are different on television too.
When loveable, longtime Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy died in October 2021 at the age of 68, we knew that consuming the Red Sox on TV would never be the same.
There is no replacing Jerry Remy. One person can’t do it. No way.
And the fans know it.
The bosses at the NESN know it too. They haven’t tried to replace Remy on the broadcasts with just one person.
In fact, they’ve brought in several new people to the broadcast team. A group of people just rotating in, giving viewers a different experience and a different perspective every night.
They’ve added former Red Sox players Kevin Youkilis and Kevin Millar to the broadcast booth roster. They’ve added Tony Massarotti of 98.5 The Sports Hub as well.
And in the pre- and post-game studio, they’ve taken a similar approach, which is an extension of previous years, mixing and matching host Tom Caron with a slew of former Red Sox players including Jim Rice, Tim Wakefield, Ellis Burks, Lenny DiNardo, and former Sox infielder Will Middlebrooks, who will be in the studio for about 40 games this season.
I think that NESN has found a formula that works. It’s been fun and informative – and different. In a year that serves as a constant reminder of what’s been lost as a viewer, it’s refreshing to realize that these broadcast teams are giving you something gained.
A star is born.
When I mentioned to Caron that I wanted to write a piece on Middlebrooks, he said: “He’s a rising star.”
And it’s easy to see why he feels that way.
Will Middlebrooks is young (33), accessible, opinionated, active on social media, and he has the playing resume to legitimize his point of view.
But it took some real coaxing to get into the business in the first place. After a devastating leg injury ended his playing career in 2019, Middlebrooks was unhappy.
“I sat around and sulked and was angry about it for about three months,” he said. “And my wife, Jenny (Dell), finally said, ‘You need to get off your butt and do something, find not just, work, but find something you’re passionate about again.’”
He didn’t know at that time that he was passionate about media work, but Dell, who works for CBS Sports, volunteered him to do a show at CBS Sports HQ in Ft. Lauderdale, near where their family resides.
“She said, like it or not, you have a show in three days. You’re going to try it out, and if you’re good at it, they’re going to hire you,” he recounts of their conversation. “I was like, I don’t want to do it. I’m not ready to talk about baseball. I hate baseball right now. I just have such a bad taste in my mouth from everything that happened over the past year.”
But that didn’t deter Dell from pushing her husband to take the chance.
“She said, well, I don’t care. I already told them that said you would do it,” he says. “So she kind of threw me to the wolves, but for the best. And I went in and I gritted my teeth and just got it done and then talked baseball. I did it a couple of more times and they said, ‘Hey, you’re decent at this. We’re going to hire you on for a year!” “And here we are, I’m four years into it,” he joked.
And over those four years, Middlebrooks has ballooned into one of the most recognizable follows for baseball fans. In addition to working at NESN and CBS Sports, he’s also one-half of the Wake and Rake podcast, has appeared on ESPN Radio, has done color commentary for college baseball, and has more than 155,000 Twitter followers.
Resonating with Boston
When I ask Middlebrooks about landing the NESN gig for 2022, he beams through the phone. He says he wanted the challenge of working in Boston and he welcomed the opportunity to expand his media footprint.
It’s evident that he loves the Red Sox – and the city of Boston. How couldn’t he? He made his Major League debut with the organization, played parts of three seasons with the team, won a World Series with the Sox, and met his wife in the city.
“If I was going to work for an organization or a regional sports network, why not the Red Sox, for someone that I’m actually a fan of?” he said.
While it’s clear that Will loves Boston, and it’s clear why NESN loves him, what needs more unpacking is the attachment that the Red Sox fans have to him considering he spent just those three seasons there and doesn’t live in New England full-time.
Middlebrooks can’t quite figure out why the people of the region hold him so close, but he does have a good hypothesis.
“I think that if I left anything, it was people saying, ‘well, he played hard. He gave everything he had,’ he said. “And I know that’s really important in Boston, just the blue-collar mentality of ‘keep your head down, work, play as hard as you can, even if things aren’t going well, just bust your butt and be a good teammate and all that.’”
But there just may be something else at play.
“I think a lot maybe had to do with when the marathon bombings (2013) happened…I’m pretty outspoken on social media about that stuff and with my teammates, we all rallied around each other,” he said. “I think I was just lucky enough to be a part of a team that was really special to everybody in Boston. So they embraced me after that.”
The Family Dynamic
Dell has been in sports media for more than a decade as a host and sideline reporter for CBS and NESN before that. She knows the business and its nuances. She understands when and how to look at the camera and when and how to ask questions of athletes. She knows the expectations of her husband’s current employers. She’s undoubtedly a great resource to have.
But as Middlebrooks finds his own footing in the business, and as his star grows, what is that dynamic like? She has the answers to the tests already, but how does he balance using that resource versus figuring things out on his own?
“I’m very open to anything she has to say,” he said. “I’ll come out of my office, like, ‘Hey, that was pretty good!’ And she’s like, ‘Yeah, it was good…but…”
“She always has something, and at first it used to really annoy me, because I’m like, man, I thought I was doing really good,” he said. “And she’s like, ‘No, you are doing good. I’m just trying to help you get to that next level. There are just little things here and there that you don’t know.’ And as a competitor, it’s really frustrating. But you know, after a couple of minutes I walk away, I’m like, you know what? I’m really appreciative to have that access to someone that can help.”
At such a young age with such already vast experiences, it seems plausible that even bigger media steps could be in play for the former infielder. I asked him if he has a goal he’s working towards. Sunday Night Baseball? The MLB Network? Something else?
“One thing I’ve really learned is to not look too far down the road and kind of just live in the moment and enjoy the moment,” he said. “I’m really happy with being with with CBS and with NESN, and within that umbrella, of course, I would like to grow. Does that mean in the booth? Does that mean more games pre and post? Sure I’m up for anything where they want me, because what I’m doing right now, I feel like is a dream job outside of playing and I’m so happy with it.”
Middlebrooks has been on the NESN broadcasts all week and will continue through this weekend as the Red Sox host the Mariners in a four-game series.