Dave Tepper Just Keeps Going
” I got my first taste of it and it was exactly what I was looking for. It was spontaneous. It was live. It was fresh every time you’d hit the microphone. Off I went into the radio world, man.”
Some career paths are far from a straight line. Dave Tepper’s trail resembles Lombard Street, that crazy road in San Francisco. Although the journey has been unconventional, he prefers it that way. Dave started out as a stand-up comedian in Los Angeles. He was introduced to sports radio by fellow comic Jay Mohr, who used to cruise around in a Suburban with Dave and his Rottweiler Shirley while listening to Jim Rome. Come on, how many introductions to sports radio are as colorful as that?
To say Dave’s sports radio career started out rocky is an understatement. The Newport Beach native tells an epic story about not exactly receiving the red carpet treatment after moving to Austin, Texas for a gig. It’s seriously an all-time horror story. He stuck with it and after radio stops in Houston and Omaha, Dave is now the program director at Altitude Sports Radio 92.5 FM in Denver as well as the operations manager. From dissed to decision maker; it’s been quite the journey. Dave talks about covering more than just the Broncos in Denver, sticking a new antenna on a transmitter, and what he would say to the guy who inexplicably ghosted him. Enjoy!
BN: How long were you a stand-up comedian?
DT: A couple of years. I was doing the whole open mic thing. I did The Comedy Store, the Laugh Factory where you’d wait all day just trying to get on a list. I ended up getting an opportunity to be managed by the owner of the Laugh Factory, Jamie Masada. I was emceeing Friday and Saturday nights for some really big shows, bringing up big comics. You pretty much name it, there’s a good chance I probably brought them up on stage. I was also around a lot of comics I see right now that are successful. Bill Burr was a guy that I would just hang out with in lobbies. It was a good time.
Part of the reason I got into radio was I liked the idea of doing fresh material every night. I was so naïve. I didn’t realize that a lot of comics are like musicians; they hone their material. You work on a joke night after night after night. The owner had me doing that and I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do like a monologue on a nightly basis. I just really resisted his direction.
In that time a guy named Frazer Smith, who was a long-time radio veteran, he was emceeing shows with me. He’s a long-time comic, he’s still doing it. He got an opportunity to do a Saturday night show on KLSX, which was the Howard Stern L.A. station. It was a real talk kind of a format. He said hey, I can see you’re a little frustrated with how the comedy stuff is going. He said you wanna come in one Saturday night, just kind of be a sidekick, just be yourself, maybe do some sports poetry. He’s like how about you write a funny sports poem based on that week of sports and we’ll kind of do that. I did it once and I maybe did stand-up a couple more times after that at the most. That was how I got into radio. I got my first taste of it and it was exactly what I was looking for. It was spontaneous. It was live. It was fresh every time you’d hit the microphone. Off I went into the radio world, man.
BN: You’re into the technical aspect of the gig, knowing transmitters and things like that. Why does that interest you?
DT: It can really separate you when it comes to the skills that you have. Where now, here I am in Denver, I didn’t come here to do operations, but there was a need. Our chief engineer, Barry Thomas, who was one of the most respected in the business, when I got here he was on the back end of a fight with cancer. I didn’t know that. I remember when he told me, my stomach dropped. Number one for him of course and his family, but also from my time in Omaha I’m going oh my God, if you don’t have a good engineer this could be something. And it has been.
He passed six months into me being here in the first week of December 2018. Our GM, she hired a chief about six months later. It was a challenge. One of the biggest projects that we had here was putting together basically a new antenna on a new transmitter for our FM sports station. The chief engineer that they hired was struggling with putting that project together. My GM knew I had some background on how to deal with engineers, nothing like this, but I was basically the best thing that they had at the time to give it a shot.
I jumped in basically just because there was such a need for someone to go in and spend some time with the engineer, be a second kind of ear and eye on what that project was. That evolved into me really learning a tremendous amount about it. Even more about engineering, more than I really ever wanted to know, but I knew that someone needed to kind of learn it. We ended up parting ways with that engineer and in between him and the current engineer we have now, I was basically like the interim engineer. My God.
I just knew if I didn’t learn this stuff then we didn’t have anyone else. We have a contract guy who helps out in town, but he wasn’t able to help out all the time. Look, I don’t know the ins and outs of a transmitter site, and I don’t want to know. I don’t want to be an engineer. There were times I’m like man, when the station would be off the air, if we had to switch it to a backup, my stomach dropped every time. There’s so much stuff inside these systems that you just know if you hit the wrong thing, my God. But fortunately, it didn’t happen.
I took copious notes. The amount of engineering notes that I have now, it looks like Egyptian writing. Half the stuff you don’t even know what it is. But I was able to follow it enough to be able to keep it together until now we have ourselves a really solid chief engineer again.
I say all that because trust me there are times when I am literally responsible for switching over radio stations, and I think back to my days of sitting there on the stage at the Laugh Factory, like oh my God you guys, we’re really at a point where you’ve got some former comic who’s basically just an old sports fan, who spent many years as a talk show host, and is now literally piecing together switching over to a backup to stay on the air. Boy, we must be desperate. But you do what you have to do for your radio station and for your cluster. That’s why I took a lot of this stuff on.
BN: Denver sports talk was all Broncos for so long. Your station is owned by Stan Kroenke, so you’re going to talk about the Nuggets and Avs as well. Were you worried about those expectations when you first got to town, knowing what you did about the market?
DT: I was curious because obviously, you listen to a market before you come into it. You listen to the competition. I know Armen Williams pretty well. He’s become a radio buddy of mine from back when I was in Houston. He was in Albany. He and I stayed in touch when I was in Omaha and he was here. I’ve listened to our competitor. I knew what they were. At the time there was also another outlet, Orange and Blue 760; they were very heavy on the Broncos. If you have radio stations where the majority of their content is focused on the Broncos, in order to compete you need to be able to be in that space.
I asked in this process early on, our general manager as well as the executives at Kroenke Sports Entertainment, are you guys comfortable with that? If this is just meant to be a hardcore Kroenke-owned sports-driven station where you’re just going all-in on the Avs, the Nuggets, and the Rapids, let me know that. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t still be interested. This is a great city and a great market but the ratings out here are obviously dictating that there is a heavy Broncos interest. That’s why the competitors are doing it. I believe in order to compete out here you do have to serve up a certain amount of that. Because if you completely go away from that, I think you’re seeking a different mission.
To their credit they said no, we want to be a full-service sports radio station out here. Of course they love our teams and it’s very important that we talk about them. We’re fortunate because all three of those teams are competitive so it makes it even easier. Our competition right now is finding ways to get into that space as much as they can too because there is an interest for it. People do want to talk about good teams.
It wasn’t a concern; it was something that I had to know because, as you know, Nielsen is not cheap. My belief was if we’re paying to play this contest, the strategy is going to need to involve some football and some Broncos talk in there. They agreed. They said we don’t disagree that you have to mix that in too. I had their support with that.
My philosophy behind sports radio was basically look, we’re going to get to everything that’s relevant if you go with the vision that I want to bring you guys. I don’t think if it doesn’t include Broncos and NFL, it’s going to make things all that easy.
People forget too, not you, but we are an NFL group with Kroenke and the LA Rams. He is an NFL owner. We are an NFL company. We may not be an NFL company here in Denver obviously, but this company very much understands the value of the NFL, which I think certainly helps make sure that we get some of that content in there.
BN: Correct me if I’m wrong, it was you or another guy. There was a job I want to say in Austin. The guy drives all the way over there and then he couldn’t get ahold of the dude that said he had the job. Is that you or is that somebody else?
DT: [Laughs] Oh my God, I hope that’s not somebody else because it absolutely happened to me. I pray to God it doesn’t happen to anyone else. Wow, you heard that story?
BN: Yeah, I think you did an interview with Jason Barrett a while ago. I randomly thought of that story and I’m like I think it was Dave, but I’m not positive.
DT: Oh my God. Yes, when I was trying to figure out my next step, I couldn’t get into L.A. sports radio. It just wasn’t meant to be. 1300 The Zone was the flagship for the Longhorns. When the Aggies still played Texas the day after Thanksgiving, I reached out to them and I said hey, I’m coming to Austin. I’m just a young dude. I have a little bit of experience at KLSX; I’m trying to get into sports radio. I’m coming out, can we meet up? The PD said sure. So we did. He was great. He gave me a tour of their old facility. He drove me to the new facility they were building out, a gorgeous layout of a place. The guy says to me yeah, if you want to come out here I’ll get you some hours doing promotions and I’ll get you an opportunity on weekends doing some fill-in stuff.
I remember flying out there and picking out an apartment. I say to the guy hey, I’m coming out to look for an apartment. Is this still happening? Yeah, it’s absolutely happening. Let me know when you get here. Okay. All right man, I found an apartment. I’m going to take it. Are we still good? Yeah, we’re still good. All right, I’m quitting my job out here in L.A. at KABC. I was doing that and I was driving around movie scripts at the time for Jerry Zucker. It was okay. It wasn’t a bad life. He was like yeah, come on out, promotions hours, we’ll get you going on weekends. I said okay. Off we went.
I packed up my U-Haul. My dad helped drive me out. He drove the U-Haul; I had my truck. I get to Austin, Texas and the guy would never return a phone call. He never returned a call. I remember going and sitting up in that lobby and being like hey, is so-and-so here? They’re like who’s asking? I told them and they’d come back up and say yeah, he’s busy. I’d be like okay, can I wait? Ehh, we’d rather not, he’ll reach out.
I remember going to some of their live events. Kevin Dunn and Chad Hastings had an afternoon drive show; they’re still doing it out there. I remember thinking am I crazy? I was losing my mind, man. I’m deep in the heart of Texas knowing nobody but my wife and some of her friends because she went to UT. My family’s like you idiot, I told you. What have you done with your life? I was losing it. I’m like I don’t know, but I’m out here for a reason.
I was like did this even happen? I’m like checking emails and like yeah, he says come on. I went out to one of their events and I said hey, is so-and-so here? They’re like well no, he’s not here, but why are you asking? I was like I’m supposed to be out here for a job with you guys and I cannot get ahold of this PD. They said oh, are you that guy that moved from San Diego? I was like, yeah kind of, Southern California. He goes yeah, we heard about you. We heard that you were somebody from Southern California with some radio experience and might be helping out on the weekends.
I’m like all right, so I’m not insane. Yeah, that’s me. I’m like where is your boss? He’s like he’s not out here at the remote, but we’ll tell him that you’re looking for him. I’m like great. Never ever calls me. Never once. I just kind of accepted, like look I’ve got a year lease here. I love this city. I still love it. I believe I’m here for a reason, I just have faith in that. I guess I just need to figure out my radio resume.
BN: What did you do once it was obvious your initial plan didn’t work?
DT: My wife who was my girlfriend at the time, she found this random hosting for a news talk station that was looking for an unpaid intern for their morning show. I’m like well this is talk so I applied for that. I go in to interview and a guy named Jon Madani is looking at my resume like how in the world did you get here? What’s the deal? I gave him a little bit of the background. He goes well, what if I told you that we were going to be flipping this station to sports in a month? And we’re looking for people to get their foot in the door. There are no sports people in this building for the most part. You could be coming in here at just the right time. If you’re worth a darn, it could be nothing but opportunity here for you.
I said man, I will take whatever you’ve got. I started working with their morning show. I was there when it flipped and I was really one of the closest things to a sports guy that they had. Off I went. The host Paul Pryor broke his hip. I remember getting a call 15 minutes before the show, it’s Jon Madani going hey, you ready? I’m like what do you mean? He goes Paul can’t come in. He had a co-host named the Rug Man who was a sports guy out of Cincinnati. This crazy, long-haired dude. It was Pryor and the Rug Man.
He’s like you need to jump in with the Rug Man and don’t screw up our morning show. I jumped in. I did it once. I did all right. Paul came back and then a couple of weeks later because of his hip injury he like fell in the shower and he was never able to come back. They said in the meantime why don’t you try Tepper and the Rug Man in the morning and see what you can do. Within months man, I’m doing morning drive in Austin, Texas after that. I guess you can’t tell the story without it being a little bit long. I wouldn’t change a thing.
BN: Wow, man. Did you ever run into that guy that didn’t return your calls?
DT: No, never. Never once.
BN: What would you have said back then if you bumped into him, and what you would say to him right now?
DT: What happened? You know? What happened? I always believe that there’s another side to it. I know the guy remembers doing it. In the moment when I was younger, I’m sure I would have had a lot of angst in my voice. If I saw him now — and he’s still around — I’d probably thank him. It was a lesson in perseverance that I would probably not wish upon others, but one that really tested my faith and my instincts and what I was trying to do. It really made me dig deep. It really, really tested how bad do you want it? But I mean it; I’m grateful for it. I wouldn’t change it a bit because it’s helped make me a lot of who I am. I know that I’m in this for a reason and that good things are ahead even when things can be a bit tough and aren’t going your way. I’d ask him hey man, what happened? But I would thank him for it.
I read the Phil Knight book Shoe Dog, the Nike book. He’s got this great thing when he was young and just started coming up with this whole concept, it was just keep going. Don’t stop; just keep going. That’s kind of what it felt like then. This is a mess. This is crazy. But something just told me, just keep going.
That’s something where I read that book a couple of years ago, it’s really stuck with me because I remember feeling that way then, and that’s how I feel now in this current adventure that I’m running here in Denver, which I believe is for a reason. It’s tough. It’s tough to start a station out against such a really respectful competitor, but I believe we’re all here for a reason and you just keep going.
Brian Noe is a columnist for BSM and an on-air host heard nationwide on FOX Sports Radio’s Countdown To Kickoff. Previous roles include stops in Portland, OR, Albany, NY and Fresno, CA. You can follow him on Twitter @TheNoeShow or email him at email@example.com.
Is There Still a Place for Baseball Talk on National Sports Shows?
“Its struggle has been the same since the beginning of television. There is too much baseball for any regular season baseball game or story to have national significance.”
Last week at the BSM Summit, I hosted a panel focused on air checks. I wish I could say we covered the topic thoroughly, but we got derailed a lot, and you know what? That is okay. It felt like real air checks that I have been on both sides of in my career.
Rob Parker of The Odd Couple on FOX Sports Radio was the talent. He heard thoughts on his show from his boss, Scott Shapiro, and from his former boss, legendary WFAN programmer Mark Chernoff.
Baseball was the topic that caused one of our derailments on the panel. If you know Rob, you know he is passionate about Major League Baseball. He cited download numbers that show The Odd Couple’s time-shifted audience responds to baseball talk. To him, that proves there is not just room for it on nationally syndicated shows, but that there is a sizable audience that wants it.
Chernoff disagrees. He says baseball is a regional sport. Sure, there are regions that love it and local sports talk stations will dedicate full hours to discussing their home team’s games and roster. National shows need to cast a wide net though, and baseball doesn’t do that.
Personally, I agree with Chernoff. I told Parker on stage that “I hear baseball talk and I am f***ing gone.” The reason for that, I think, is exactly what Chernoff said. I grew up in Alabama (no baseball team). I live in North Carolina (no baseball team). Where baseball is big, it is huge, but it isn’t big in most of the country.
Now, I will add this. I used to LOVE baseball. It is the sport I played in high school. The Yankees’ logo was on the groom’s cake at my wedding. Then I had kids.
Forget 162 games. Even five games didn’t fit into my lifestyle. Maybe somewhere deep down, I still have feelings for the sport, but they are buried by years of neglect and active shunning.
Its struggle has been the same since the beginning of television. There is too much baseball for any regular season baseball game or story to have national significance.
Me, and millions of sports talk listeners like me, look at baseball like a toddler looks at broccoli. You probably aren’t lying when you tell us how much you love it, but damn it! WE WANT CHICKEN FINGERS!
A new Major League Baseball season starts Thursday and I thought this topic was worth exploring. I asked three nationally syndicated hosts to weigh in. When is baseball right for their show and how do they use those conversations? Here is what they had to say.
FREDDIE COLEMAN (Freddie & Fitzsimmons on ESPN Radio) – “MLB can still be talked nationally IF there’s that one player like Aaron Judge or Shohei Ohtani can attract the casual fan. MLB has definitely become more local because of the absence of that SUPER player and/or villainous team. I wonder if the pace of play will help bring in the younger fans that they need, but the sport NEEDS that defining star that is must-see TV.”
JONAS KNOX (2 Pros & a Cup of Joe on FOX Sports Radio) – “While football is king for me in sports radio, I look at baseball like most other sports. I’m not opposed to talking about it, as long as I have an angle or opinion that I am confident I can deliver in an entertaining manner. A couple of times of any given year, there are stories in baseball that are big picture topics that are obvious national discussions.
“I think it’s my job to never close the door on any topic/discussion (except politics because I don’t know anything about it).
“But also, if I’m going to discuss a localized story in baseball or any other sport for that matter – I better have an entertaining/informed angle on it. Otherwise, I’ve let down the listener and that is unacceptable. If they give you their time, you better not waste it.”
MAGGIE GRAY (Maggie & Perloff on CBS Sports Radio) – “While I was on WFAN there was almost no amount of minutia that was too small when it came to the Mets and Yankees. On Maggie and Perloff, our baseball topics have to be more centered around issues that can be universal. For example, ’Is Shohei Ohtani the face of the sport? Is Ohtani pitching and hitting more impressive than two sport athletes like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders? Do you consider Aaron Judge the single-season homerun king or Barry Bonds?’ Any baseball fan or sports fan can have an opinion about those topics, so we find they get great engagement from our audience.”
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.
Who Can Sports Fans Trust Once Twitter Ditches Legacy Verified Blue Checks?
The potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.
As of April 1, Twitter will finally make a dreaded change that many will view as an April Fools’ prank. Unfortunately, it won’t be a joke to any user who cares about legitimacy and truth.
Last week, Twitter officially announced that verified blue checkmarks will be removed from accounts that have not signed up for a Twitter Blue subscription. Previously, accounts whose identity had been verified were allowed to keep their blue checks when Twitter Blue was implemented.
But shortly after Elon Musk purchased Twitter and became the social media company’s CEO, he stated his intention to use verification as a revenue source. Users would have to pay $8 per month (or $84 annually) for a Twitter Blue subscription and blue checkmark verification. Paying for blue checks immediately set off red flags among users who learned to depend on verified accounts for accredited identities and trusted information.
The entire concept of verification and blue checks was simple and effective. Users and accounts bearing the blue checkmark were legitimate. These people and organizations were who they said they were.
As an example, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has faced criticism for how he framed domestic violence and sexual misconduct involving star NFL players, and deservedly so. But fans and media know Schefter’s tweets are really coming from him because his account is verified.
Furthermore, Twitter took the additional step of clarifying that accounts such as Schefter’s were verified before Twitter Blue was implemented. He didn’t pay eight dollars for that blue checkmark.
The need for verification is never more vital than when fake accounts are created to deceive users. Such accounts will put “Adam Schefter” as their Twitter name, even if their handle is something like “@TuaNeedsHelp.” Or worse, some fake accounts will create a handle with letters that look similar. So “@AdarnSchefter” with an “rn” in place of the “m,” fools some people, especially at a quick glance when people are trying to push news out as fast as possible.
Plenty of baseball fans have been duped over the years by fake accounts using a zero instead of an “o” or a capital “I” instead of a lowercase “l” to resemble Fox Sports and The Athletic reporter Ken Rosenthal. That trick didn’t get me. But when I covered Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report 10 years ago, I did fall for a fake Jim Salisbury account that reported the Philadelphia Phillies traded Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants. Capital “I,” not lowercase “l” in “Salisbury.” Pence was, in fact, traded to the Giants two days later, but that didn’t make my goof any less embarrassing. I should’ve looked for the blue checkmark!
But after April 1, that signifier won’t matter. Legacy blue checkmarks will be removed from accounts that haven’t paid for Twitter Blue. Some accounts that were previously verified might purchase a subscription to maintain that blue check. But those that were deemed legitimate prior to Musk taking over Twitter likely won’t. (There are also rumors that Twitter is considering a feature that would allow Twitter Blue subscribers to hide their blue check and avoid revealing that purchase.)
That could be even more true for media organizations, which are being told to pay $1000 per month for verification. Do you think ESPN, the New York Times, or the Washington Post will pay $12,000 for a blue check?
We’ve already seen the problems that paying for verification can cause. Shortly after Twitter Blue launched, accounts pretending to be legacy verified users could be created. A fake Adam Schefter account tweeted that the Las Vegas Raiders had fired head coach Josh McDaniels. Users who saw the “Adam Schefter” Twitter name went with the news without looking more closely at the “@AdamSchefterNOT” handle. But there was a blue checkmark next to the name this time!
The same thing occurred with a fake LeBron James account tweeting that the NBA superstar had requested a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers. There was a “@KINGJamez” handle, but a “LeBron James” Twitter name with a blue check next to it.
Whether it’s because fans and media have become more discerning or Twitter has done good work cracking down on such fake accounts, there haven’t been many outrageous examples of deliberate deception since last November. But the potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.
If that seems like an overstatement, it’s a very real possibility that there will be an erosion of trust among Twitter users. Media and fans may have to take a breath before quickly tweeting and retweeting news from accounts that may or may not be credible. False news and phony statements could spread quickly and go viral across social media.
Even worse, Musk has announced that only verified Twitter Blue accounts will be seen in your “For You” timeline as of April 15. (He can’t claim it’s an April Fools’ Day joke on that date.)
Obviously, that carries far more serious real-world implications beyond sports. Forget about a fake Shams Charania account tweeting that Luka Dončić wants to be traded to the Lakers. It’s not difficult to imagine a fake Joe Biden account declaring war on Russia and some people believing it’s true because of the blue checkmark.
We may be nearing the end of Twitter being a reliable news-gathering tool. If the accounts tweeting out news can’t be trusted, where’s the value? Reporters and newsmakers may end up going to other social media platforms to break stories and carry the viability of verification.
When Fox Sports’ website infamously pivoted to video in 2017, Ken Rosenthal posted his MLB reporting on Facebook prior to joining The Athletic. Hello, Instagram. Will someone take their following and reputation to a fledgling platform like Mastodon, Post, Spoutible, or BlueSky, even if it means a lesser outlet?
If and when that happens, Twitter could still be a community but not nearly as much fun. Not when it becomes a matter of trust that breaks up the party.
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s a Lesson For Us All in Florida Atlantic’s Elite 8 Broadcast Struggle
“It is a ton of faith our industry has been forced to place in a single mode of delivery.”
Ken LaVicka and Kevin Harlan probably don’t have a ton in common. Both of them were announcing an Elite Eight game over the weekend, that is one thing tying them together, but their experiences were wildly different. Harlan is on CBS with a production crew numbering in the dozens making certain all goes smoothly. LaVicka, the voice of the Florida Atlantic Owls, is a production crew himself, making certain those listening in South Florida heard the Owls punch their Final Four ticket. At least, that was LaVicka’s plan.
The Florida Atlantic Owls are going to the Men’s Final Four. Even while typing that sentence, it still seems odd to say. Do you know how many college basketball teams are thinking “how can Florida Atlantic make the Final Four and we can’t?” These are the types of stories that make the NCAA Tournament what it is. There is, literally, no barrier stopping any team from this tournament going on the run of their life and making it all the way.
Everyone listening in South Florida almost missed the moment it all became real for the Owls. With :18.6 to go in Florida Atlantic’s Elite Eight game against Kansas State, the Madison Square Garden Ethernet service to the front row of media seating went completely dark.
It was on that row that Ken LaVicka was painting the picture back to South Florida. Well, he was until the internet died on him.
Nobody does a single show away from their home studio anymore without trying to avoid the nightmare of Ethernet failure. Gone are the days of phone lines and ISDN connections, all the audio and video is now sent back to the studio over the technological miracle that is the internet. It is a ton of faith our industry has been forced to place in a single mode of delivery.
Take that anxiety and multiply it by 1,000 when that Ethernet line is connected to a Comrex unit for the most important moment of your career. LaVicka had the great fortune of a Kansas State timeout to try something, anything, to save the day. In his quick thinking, he spun around and grabbed an ethernet cable from row two which, as it turns out, still had internet access flowing through it’s cables. That cable, though, was the equivalent of an iPhone charging cord; never as long as you need it to be.
One of LaVicka’s co-workers from ESPN West Palm held the Comrex unit close enough to the second row for the cable to make a connection and the day was saved. LaVicka was able to call the last :15 of the Florida Atlantic win and, presumably, get in all the necessary sponsorship mentions.
It was an exciting end to the FAU v. Kansas State game, a great defensive stop by the Owls to seal the victory. LaVicka told the NCAA’s Andy Katz he tried to channel his inner Jim Nantz to relay that excitement. The NCAA Tournament excitement started early this year. In the very first TV window 13 Seed Furman upset 4 Seed Virginia with a late three pointer by JP Pegues, who had been 0-for-15 from beyond the arc leading up to that shot. It is the type of play the NCAA Tournament is built upon.
It was called in the manner Kevin Harlan’s career was built upon. Harlan, alongside Stan Van Gundy and Dan Bonner, called the Virginia turnover leading to the made Furman basket with his trademark excitement before laying out for the crowd reaction. After a few seconds of crowd excitement he asked his analysts, and the world, “Did we just see what I think we saw? Wow!” Vintage Kevin Harlan.
One reason we are so aware of what Harlan said, and that he signaled his analysts to lay out for the crowd reaction, was a CBS Sports tweet with video of Harlan, Van Gundy and Bonner in a split screen over the play. It gave us a rare look at a pro in the middle of his craft. We got to see that Harlan reacts just like he sounds. The video has more than six million views and has been retweeted more than 6,000 times, a lot of people seem to like it.
Kevin Harlan is not in that group. Harlan appeared on Richard Deitsch’s Sports Media podcast after the video went public and said he was embarrassed by it. Harlan added he “begged” CBS not send the tweet out but to no avail. Harlan told Deitsch “I don’t know that I’m glad that they caught our expression, but I’m glad the game was on the air. I think I join a chorus of other announcers who do not like the camera.”
There’s a valuable announcer lesson from Harlan there; the audience is almost always there for the game, not you. Harlan went on to describe the broadcast booth to Deitsch as somewhat of a sacred place. He would prefer to let his words accompany the video of the action to tell the story. Kevin Harlan is as good as they come at his craft, if he thinks that way, there’s probably great value in that line of thought.
We can learn from LaVicka, as well. You work in this business long enough and you come to accept technical difficulties are as much a part of it as anything. They always seem to strike at the worst times, it is just in their nature. Those who can find a way to deal with them without everything melting down are those who can give their audience what they showed up for. Those who lose their mind and spend time complaining about them during the production simply give the audience information they don’t really care about.
The Final Four is an unlikely collection of teams; Miami, San Diego State, Connecticut and Florida Atlantic. You all had that in your brackets, right? Yep, the Florida Atlantic Owls are going to the Final Four and Ken LaVicka will be there for it. Now, if the internet will just hold out.
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.