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.
Meet The Market Managers: Ryan Hatch, Bonneville International Phoenix
“Our pitch is that these brands have a connection to the market. That works for us, and that works because it’s emotional. It works because it’s local. It works because of the creative messaging behind it.”
For as long as I have known Ryan Hatch, he has been a good friend, encouraging me to take advantage of each opportunity put in front of me. When someone treats you that way, you cannot be anything but thrilled when you see them do the same thing.
Late last year, Ryan was elevated from a programming executive role with Bonneville to become Market Manager of the company’s Phoenix cluster. He is now overseeing every aspect of a building that he has worked in for a long time.
I thought it would be fun to visit with him to see what has changed. The last time I profiled him, he was serving as PD of Arizona Sports 98.7. The last time we profiled Bonneville Phoenix for this series, it was Scott Sutherland in the Market Manager’s chair. So, what has changed?
In this conversation, presented by Point to Point Marketing, Ryan and I discuss the changing nature of our business, retaining great talent, and supporting the person who’s tasked with filling your former position and leading the programming team forward. When a company is ahead of the curve with its digital strategy and generating strong ratings and revenue, what’s next?
Demetri Ravanos: So how has the transition gone moving from programming into the market manager’s seat? We’re a little over six months into the change. How steep has the learning curve been?
Ryan Hatch: You know what? It’s been fantastic. And I have to give so much credit to Scott Sutherland, who was in the chair before me, and others within the company for really preparing me for this moment. But it’s not just a transition from programming. I would think even if I came up through the sales, marketing or finance side there would be a curve.
I’m learning new things every single day and loving it. So whether it’s six months or six years in this chair or more, I hope that I can always say that.
I love the job. I love the market. Obviously, you know, I’ve been here for such a long time and it’s the best chair to be in. I’m thrilled.
DR: You mentioned Scott and I started thinking about this after you and I set a time to talk. There’s this advantageous environment of education there, right? Because Scott is still in the area. He held your job before. You’re obviously in the building and that’s got to be advantageous for Sean Thompson. How much do those conversations take place day-to-day? There seems to be an opportunity for everybody to learn and build on the person that came before them because they can just walk down the hall and ask.
RH: Absolutely it can be advantageous because you’ve got institutional knowledge. Every person that’s been in your chair before can certainly provide important information to help expedite the onboarding process.
The other side of it is making sure that there are clear boundaries. I can speak with Sean Thompson coming in on the programming side. My goal is to empower him and embolden Sean to take this brand to a different level with new ideas and thoughts.
I’d been in that chair for so long, we were certainly ready for somebody new to come in with a new perspective and new experiences, and Sean’s done a wonderful job doing that. I think if you talk to Scott, he would probably say something similar. So when you ask the question, “is it advantageous?”, the answer is unquestionable. Yes, it is. At the same time, you have to really be clear on where those boundaries are, how much you want to give and share, and how much you want to let that person learn and experience it on their own as they’re creating their new environment, if that makes sense.
DR: So with those boundaries, are there things you see Sean putting into place that make you think, “Oh man, that’s really cool. I kind of miss programing at this moment”?
RH: Well, the irony is in asking that question, I think today is actually his 90th day on the job. So we’re still in the basic stages of him taking that chair.
He’s full of ideas, full of energy. I can’t wait to see so much of it come to fruition. But again, when you’re only three months in, you’re doing a lot of listening and a lot of learning before you dig in to start making change. I expect that to come, but he walked into a position with a great on-air staff, fantastic talent, an unbelievable digital team, with a great marketing and promotional support team behind him as well.
I’ll tell you what I’m most excited about is what’s going to happen this fall. After the listening and the learning is done, we’ll be starting to really build some exciting plans into the NFL season around the Cardinals and the NFL. We’re also hosting the Super Bowl in February of ’23 as well. So we’ve got a great big build coming here in Arizona.
DR: So let’s talk a little bit about the future and where things can go, not just for Phoenix, but for Bonneville overall. I told you this a million times. What has always impressed me about the company, even before you and I got to know each other, was that you guys were so ahead of the curve on recognizing the value of digital content. Arizona Sports is not a radio station, it is a brand.
I wonder now that you are in the market manager’s chair, how you look at all of the money from these different companies being put into podcasts. I mean, the deals being made to turn podcasts into TV shows or movies, do you ever think about what is possible or maybe what the next evolution for the digital side of Bonneville could or should be?
RH: Well, I think as a company, and not to speak for Tanya Vea, who’s in a new EVP position helping oversee a lot of our content initiatives, we’re opening up a mechanism for local ideas to be funneled up to a team led by our VP of Podcasting, Sheryl Worsley. The idea is to be able to support a local that might scale on a national level and help it achieve that potential. I think that we’re very aggressive. I think that we’re also very strategic in the podcasting world.
There’s a blessing and a curse there. The blessing is that that audience is expanding rapidly and the revenue’s been following, you know, slowly, but still following in that direction. The downside is how much time and energy and creativity a lot of our best talent have.
Do we want to put our talk show hosts, who are spending 4 hours a day creating live broadcast content, at the forefront of that effort? How many more hours a day of creative juice do they have left for a podcast or a passion project? It could be something that might not be entirely complimentary to the brand.
I think you have to be smart and strategic and understand how big of a bed it is you want to make. I think we’re being strategic about it and making the best decision for each individual circumstance.
DR: So what about from a broadcast angle? As podcasting continues to grow and becomes the kind of thing that sellers see as easier to get clients involved with, what are the things that terrestrial radio is going to have to do to secure its own future?
RH: Well, speaking on behalf of our properties here, where we’re all local news and all local sports. Really, that’s our business. I don’t think that there’s anything that can replicate the power of live, in the moment, information-based content. And that is the value proposition that broadcast has.
Now, will that traditional radio audience continue to decline and find other venues? Potentially. I mean, that’s just natural, and I think that we’ve seen that accelerate through the pandemic. That doesn’t take away from the importance though.
If you look at Bonneville Phoenix, whether it’s Arizona Sports or KTAR, our streaming numbers are way, way up. Our monthly app users are way, way up. Our smart speaker usage is way, way up. And I think too many times we categorize one as digital and one as radio. I look at it more through the lens of what is a live broadcast and what is driven by more destination-based, story-based, topic-based choices. That’s a different experience and you can serve both.
DR: What is your view of having that live content accessed by both radios and streaming devices? When you’re a programmer, I think it is it is easier to say, “Look, people are coming to this content. This is good content. That is what matters.” But now that you’re the market manager, I know you are a real advocate for total line reporting, but now the ratings take on this whole different meaning to you than they did before. What is your view of the right path forward to paint that picture easily and accurately for advertisers about just how powerful these brands are, whether it’s Arizona Sports or KTAR?
RH: Thank goodness we have fantastic sales management and account executives on the streets telling that story and big brands to back them up with that unique content that our stations are delivering. And as I’ve told you in different settings over the years Demetri, Nielsen is one of many tools that tell that story. When we’re on the streets talking to a potential advertiser, and understand that our game is not as national or our market is not as regional, we are hyper-locally focused. In Phoenix, Arizona, that’s a lot of small to medium-sized businesses. So when we can walk in and share a total audience report that gives a glimpse of Nielsen, which we know is antiquated and really, really needs to be reformed and updated. You’ve got to bring your Google Analytics and your Triton numbers. You have so many other tools to use to evaluate how our content is being delivered and consumed. You’ve got to paint that entire total audience story, and I will tell you that it’s a story that is very well received in Phoenix with our products.
DR: Maybe this is more of a question for your sales staff, but is it a matter of walking potential advertisers and current advertisers through each individual number, or do you find a way to synthesize it down into a simple illustration of how many people are listening to your content every day?
RH: It’s not a numbers game. It’s not getting into detail about how many tens of thousands of listeners we have on one platform and how many on another and how many views or clicks on websites. Our pitch is that these brands have a connection to the market. That works for us, and that works because it’s emotional. It works because it’s local. It works because of the creative messaging behind it. When you have something that works for your advertisers, they’re not going to be coming in and scrutinizing the numbers left and right.
Now, you have to deliver to the audience, and we have significant audiences. In fact, I’ll tell you right now, combining everything together. And it’s not apples to apples, because these are all different channels. But our audience is here in Phoenix between our websites, our apps, and our radio distribution. Our audiences have never been better. I mean, that’s a wonderful and easy story to tell.
DR: Play-by-play is obviously a big part of what you do on Arizona Sports. You and I have talked before about the landscape of Phoenix sports, and I think you’ve described it as, because Phoenix is a transplant market, you find yourself talking about everyone’s second favorite team.
So how does that play with advertisers? Do they buy into the idea that this is a unifying thing or is there some concern that it is too much of a transplant market for the value returned by play-by-play doesn’t match the cost to advertise in that space?
RH: Our original franchise, the Phoenix Suns, while, they had a disappointing end of the season, it couldn’t have been more galvanizing. That is the one team that has been here for 50-plus years. That orange blood does run deep. The Cardinals have had their moments. The Diamondbacks have the only championship in the major sports here, but that was back in 2001.
I’ll answer that question in a couple of ways. Number one, we are catering to the fans and to the super fans, but we try to create content that is going to be accessible and interesting for those that would claim that any of the franchises are their second favorite team in a given league. When you move into a market and you head to the office or nowadays maybe it’s a Zoom call, you still want to be able to have a conversation about something that’s relevant. You want a shared experience with your coworker or a neighbor, somebody at school when you’re hanging out waiting to up the kids. So often that conversation is sports.
We have a fantastic sports market. Now, where’s the passion level? Is it as high as a Boston or Philadelphia? Of course not and we’re not going to act like it is. But at the end of the day, what does an advertiser look for? They’re looking for an audience and they’re looking for something exclusive to put their message on. That’s what we’re able to offer with our play-by-play. On top of that, what’s become more and more important to us in our model, especially on the digital side over the years, is the access to those decision-makers, to the coaches, the exclusive access to the general managers with weekly calls, and things like player shows.
There’s so much more that you can offer beyond just the game itself that makes these partnerships great for our business and the advertising community.
DR: So coming out of what is being called The Great Resignation, what are you experiencing as a market manager and what are your other hiring managers experiencing? What are the new challenges of recruiting, whether it is sales or programing, any kind of talent in an environment like this?
RH: Well, let’s add to that and talk about inflationary pressures as well. I mean, there are so many factors at play right now, and I think it’s as tough as I can ever remember it.
What we’re doing here at Bonneville Phoenix is really leaning into our culture and making sure that we’re an employer of choice because we have a culture that people want to be a part of. It’s a good team environment full of hungry people that want to succeed not just for themselves. So the more hungry, humble, and smart people we find, the better off we’re going to be.
Now, that doesn’t mean that we haven’t lost. There’s been a dramatic shuffle. Right now, I can say that we’re close to a full boat, but that wasn’t the case a month ago. There are so many different forces at play right now. It is a difficult environment. Our news side alone faces unique challenges. News itself has been under attack for multiple years. Don’t you think that burns people out?
Absolutely I have concerns, but what can we control? Well, we can focus on executing the vision that Bonneville has provided. It’s built on passionate people and innovation. It is about creating a culture people want to be a part of.
DR: We’ve heard a lot about burnout when people talk about why they leave a job in any industry. We hear about work-life balance. You’re responsible for the entire building, so what are you telling your managers on the sales and programming side about creating an environment for employees that respects that those are real and valid concerns while still maintaining the level of expectation of quality for Arizona Sports and KTAR.
RH: We’re still committed to the highest standards, and we always will be. And we found that certain parts of the business can work pretty effectively from home, while other parts of the business really can’t. I will tell you, on the content side working from home, we did it when we had to. We did it, I would say fairly effectively for a few extended periods. But overall, in a local news and local sports environment that really is driven by the breaking news, the need to work together in a space is real. You just can’t do things as quickly or as effectively or as creatively if you’re separated. You just can’t.
Now, on the sales side, we want them on the streets. We want them out of the office, but there is a balance. So what are we asking our great sales managers to do? We’re asking them just to make sure that they are up to speed on where the activity is and that we’re doing all the jobs that need to be done. Do I ever see us going back to five days a week in the office? I don’t. I think that ship has sailed and I think that’s just fine. I think there’s some real benefit to that.
The way to make this all work is to empower our department heads to come up with a plan that’s going to work best for them, for their people, and deliver on what our expectations are for the business. And then as leaders, we have to understand that the plan is going to be evolving. It really is. This is not going to be decided on a new policy set. I think that we’re in a new world, probably for the rest of our lives.
Broadcasting Fills The Baseball Void For Keith Moreland
“When I got through… I wanted to do something with my life and I get that same feeling with broadcasting.”
Sports color analysts are more often than not former players. This has been a consistent norm across sports broadcasting at all levels. The analyst is there to add “color” to the play-by-play broadcaster’s metaphorical and verbal “drawing” of the game. For former MLB slugger and catcher, Keith Moreland, this was the surprise post-playing retirement career that has boosted him to a key figure in Austin media and national media alike.
Moreland played football and baseball at the University of Texas before making his way to the MLB for 12 years with key contributions to the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs in the 1980s.
Moreland reminisced on his decision to play baseball full time: “I thought I was going to be in the NFL, but Earl Campbell changed that. I had just played summer ball. We had won a championship and I missed the first few days of two-a-days. I hadn’t even had a physical yet and I’m in a scrimmage. I stepped up to this freshman running back and as he ducked his shoulder, one of his feet hit my chest and the other hit my face mask and he kept on truckin’. I got up and I thought ‘I could be a pretty good baseball player.’
So I told Coach Royal after practice I was going to focus on baseball and he asked ‘what took you so long? We were surprised you came back because we think you have a really good shot at playing professional baseball.'”
It was a good choice for Moreland. He was part of the 1973 College World Series winning Texas Longhorns baseball team. While at Texas Moreland hit .388 and became the all-time leader in hits for the College World Series. After being drafted by the Phillies in the 7th round of the 1975 draft, Moreland would go-on to play in the majors from 1978 to 1989.
“You go your whole life trying to get to play professionally. When I got through my opportunity to play in the big leagues, I wanted to do something with my life and I get that same feeling with broadcasting.”
Broadcasting was not the original retirement plan for Moreland. He first tried his luck at coaching with his first stop being his alma mater as an assistant for the Longhorns. At the time, Bill Schoening (a Philadelphia native and Phillies fan), was the radio play-by-play broadcaster. Schoening made Moreland a go-to for a pre-game interview and convinced him to come on talk shows. Schoening even convinced Moreland to practice live broadcasting skills by taking a recorder to games and listening back to them to learn.
“Bill was the guy who brought me onboard and I still have those tapes and I really learned from them, but I don’t want anyone else to ever hear them!” Moreland adds with a chuckle on how far he has come in over 25 years of broadcasting.
Moreland has been a key part of University of Texas radio broadcasts for baseball since the 1990s and has catapulted that broadcast experience to Texas high school football, Longhorn football radio and television broadcasts, ESPN, the Little League World Series, the Chicago Cubs and more since hanging up his cleats and picking up a microphone.
While his playing days are well behind him, Moreland still takes the spirit of his professional athlete background to his broadcasting:
“If you don’t bring energy to your broadcast, somebody’s gonna turn the game on and wonder ‘what’s wrong? Are they losing the game?’”, Moreland remarks, “So you have to come prepared and with energy for the broadcasts.”
Radio Partnerships With Offshore Sportsbooks Are Tempting
The rush to get sports betting advertising revenue offers an interesting risk to stations in states where the activity is illegal.
As the wave of sports gambling continues to wash over the United States, marketing budgets soar and advertisements flood radio and television airwaves. Offers of huge sign-on bonuses, “risk-free” wagers, and enhanced parlay odds seem to come from every direction as books like DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM fight over market share and battle one another for every new user they can possibly attract.
For those in states where sports betting is not yet legalized–or may never be–it is frustrating to see these advertisements and know that you cannot get in the action. However, as with any vice, anybody determined to partake will find ways to do so. Offshore sports books are one of the biggest ways. Companies such as Bovada and BetOnline continue to thrive even as more state-based online wagering options become available to Americans.
While five states–Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, and New York–have passed laws making it illegal for offshore books to take action from their residents, using an offshore book is perfectly legal for the rest of the country. While there are hurdles involved with funding for some institutions, there is no law that prevents someone in one of those other 45 states from opening an account with Bovada and wagering on whatever sporting events they offer. The United States government has tried multiple times to go after them, citing the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006, and have failed at every step, with the World Trade Organization citing that doing so would violate international trade agreements.
While gambling is becoming more and more accepted every day, and more states look to reap the financial windfall that comes with it, the ethical decisions made take on even more importance. One of the tougher questions involved with the gambling arms race is how to handle offers from offshore books to advertise with radio stations in a state where sports betting is not legalized.
Multiple stations in states without legalized gambling, such as Texas and Florida, have partnerships with BetOnline to advertise their services. Radio stations can take advantage of these relationships in three main ways: commercials, on-air reads, and the station’s websites. For example, Bovada’s affiliate program allows for revenue sharing based on people clicking advertisements on a partner’s website and signing up with a new deposit. This is also the case for podcasts, such as one in Kansas that advertises with Bovada despite sports gambling not being legal there until later in 2022.
People are going to gamble, and it’s legal to do so. In full disclosure, I myself have utilized Bovada’s services for a number of years, even after online sports wagering became legal in my state of Indiana. As such, advertising a service that is legal within the state seems perfectly fine in the business sense, and I totally understand why a media entity would choose to accept an offer from an offshore book. However, there are two major factors that make it an ethical dilemma, neither of which can be ignored.
First, Americans may find it easy to deposit money with a book such as Bovada or BetOnline, but much more difficult to get their money back. While the UIGEA hasn’t been successful in stopping these books from accepting money, it has made it difficult–near impossible, in fact–for American financial institutions to accept funds directly from these companies. Therefore, most payouts have to take place either via a courier service, with a check that can take weeks to arrive, or via a cryptocurrency payout. For those who are either unwilling or not tech-savvy enough to go this route, it means waiting sometimes up to a month to receive that money versus a couple days with a state-licensed service.
The other major concern is the lack of protections involved with gambling in a state where legislation has been passed. For example, the state of Indiana drew up laws and regulations for companies licensed to operate within its borders that included protections for how bets are graded, what changes can be made to lines and when they can take place, and how a “bad line” is handled. They also require a portion of the revenues be put towards resources for those dealing with gambling addiction or compulsion issues.
None of those safeguards exist with an offshore book. While the books have to adhere to certain regulations, it’s much more loosely enforced. I’ve lost track of the number of times a book like Bovada has made somewhat shady decisions on what bets to honor as “wins”, and how they handle wagers on what they deem to be “bad lines” where they posted a mistake and users capitalized on it. Furthermore, not a single dime of the monies received go towards helping those dealing with addiction, and there are few steps taken by the offshore books to look for compulsive or addictive behaviors.
As states look to move sports betting out of the shadows, the decision whether to take advertising dollars from offshore books seems to be an even larger gray area than ever before. Although it is perfectly legal to accept these funds when offered, it feels unethical to do so. There are moral obligations tied to accepting the money involved, especially given the lack of regulations and safeguards for players in addition to the limited resources for those who find themselves stuck in a situation they may struggle to escape. While it’s possible to take steps to educate listeners on these pitfalls, it simply feels irresponsible to encourage people to utilize these services given the risks involved, and the lack of protections in place.