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Chuck Oliver Is Distracting People In Traffic

“Oh dude, the beginning of the week, my shirt is tucked in, pressed collar. By about Thursday, I look like I just killed a bear with a knife.”

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You might enjoy P.F. Chang’s. Chances are, however, that the restaurant doesn’t play a role in you eventually hosting a syndicated radio show. It is part of Chuck Oliver’s story though. The Auburn grad hosts a syndicated college football show year-round throughout the South, as well as an afternoon drive show on 680 The Fan in Atlanta. That’s right; two separate shows, six hours a day, five days a week. Fire up the Keurig and let her rip.

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Chuck isn’t one to complain. He knows his career is a blessing. Chuck loves what he does, but the former high school football coach also talks about the demands of working 13 to 14-hour days. Keeping a tight schedule is essential just like his PhD in coffee. Chuck talks about having an understanding partner, why he eludes Twitter trolls like Barry Sanders used to sidestep defenders, and the need for bike horns. Enjoy!

Brian Noe: Are you originally from Atlanta?

Chuck Oliver: Essentially. I was born in Houston, but six months in my parents moved to Atlanta. I was born in December of ’67 and then the summer of ’68 my dad got a job in Atlanta. I was the youngest of four kids, so the Vista Cruiser station wagon with the fake wood grain panels on the side, it left Houston and landed in Atlanta. Except for college, this is where I’ve been.

BN: Have you been a college football junkie from the get-go?

CO: I was a baseball fan actually more than anything growing up. My first Major League game was the Braves home opener against the Astros in April of ’77. I was a third grader. My dad and I went to Opening Day every year after that. Literally it was every single night with the Braves on Ted Turner’s satellite. I’m running down to the driveway every morning trying to get the paper before my dad so I can read the box scores and everything. I was a huge baseball fan.

College football, I actually grew up with no allegiance to anybody because neither of my parents went to college. Pepper Rodgers was the head coach at Georgia Tech. I would watch the Pepper Rodgers Show on Sunday mornings because nobody was on TV. You would have two or maybe three games on a Saturday. Most of them were regional. You’d have Texas and Oklahoma playing, USC and Notre Dame playing. If you lived in Lawrenceville, Georgia you may get Maryland and Wake Forest. It was a totally different challenge to be a college football fan. I’d watch the Pepper Rodgers Show on Sunday and catch up on Georgia Tech football. That was kind of the environment; you had to watch those coaches shows just to see anything.

BN: How did you start your syndicated college football show?

CO: A guy named Chad Scott was a producer for me way back in the day at 790 The Zone in Atlanta. I had a conversation with him at a P.F. Chang’s parking lot in 2008. He said every day that you don’t do the Chuck Oliver Show, you’re throwing money into the trash can. I ended up switching jobs. I was at 790 The Zone, which was a tremendous station; it should have been legendary. I was afternoon drive there, which was a pretty nice patch of radio real estate to have, but it was just one station in Atlanta. I went and met with David Dickey when my contract had a provision in it where I could get out with no non-compete, no anything. I had about a 30-day window and I was like well let’s jump on this.

I met with David Dickey in September of ‘08. He said “I’m David Dickey”. I said “I’m Chuck Oliver; I want my own syndicated college football show”.

He laughed. And by the way, he was right to laugh about that. You tell me, how many dudes in the South have had the idea that hey, we’re going to put together a syndicated show and just talk college football? I would bet you a couple of hundred have even tried it. That’s the reason I left afternoon drive at 790 and went to middays at 680. I was like I didn’t care about that; that’s the local play. Then six years later, David Dickey pushed the Staples button on this and made the syndicated thing happen. I started with one affiliate and now seven years later it’s two hours a day, nine states, and I think next week we add our 55th stick just outside of Knoxville. 

BN: Do you cover the SEC exclusively?

CO: I’m of the opinion if the customers want hamburgers, give them hamburgers. And that really is the SEC. Now, granted the flagship is in Atlanta and we go from Lexington down to Ocala, over the Baton Rouge and Fayetteville. That’s basically our footprint, our circle.

If you’ve got 55 stations in that footprint, the majority of it each day is probably 80 to 85 percent SEC. I’m going to say it’s 15 to 20 percent maybe ACC. But let’s be honest. That’s Clemson — not this year — but we talk some ACC. That means you talk Florida State, Clemson, Miami, Virginia Tech maybe, and North Carolina with Mack. You don’t talk NC State. Dave Doeren is therapy for terminal insomniacs. That’s just not how the conversation is going to carry the day. It’s almost exclusively SEC.

I don’t claim to be anything superior here at all. I’m talking college football in the South. It’s supposed to work. But we don’t get dropped. Rush Limbaugh would be picked up and dropped. Dave Ramsey has been picked up and dropped sometimes. For the most part we don’t get dropped when we get picked up. It’s just a really, really nice compliment. We’re in Alabama and Tennessee and Mississippi talking college football so it works, but the response has been really, really nice.

BN: What’s your schedule like on a daily basis?

CO: I’m on from 11-1 on the syndicated show. Then there’s an hour break. Then I do the afternoon drive show on 680 The Fan in Atlanta from 2-6. It’s a full day and it’s extremely unusual. I get that. In fact our sales manager when I started, he used to be in Cincinnati, and he said we had a host that tried this, it lasted three months. It’s not easy. But I also understand the blessing is the opportunity. I’m just trying to maximize the opportunity and be thankful for it. Again I’m not playing all shucks; it’s a full day. I’m out of bed every morning at five. At 5:15 I have coffee and I’m at my computer already prepping at 5:15 and I get off at six. But I’m not complaining. Like I said that’s a heck of an opportunity, so I’m just trying to show up and do a decent job.

Chuck Oliver, the Fan college football guru, gabs six hours a day on two  different shows
Courtesy: Atlanta Journal Constitution

BN: A lot of broadcasters don’t want to talk about how it’s mentally demanding and tires you out, because you’re not digging ditches or doing physical labor. But just the mental focus it takes, do you feel it on a Thursday or Friday when you’ve been doing it all week?

CO: Oh dude, the beginning of the week, my shirt is tucked in, pressed collar. By about Thursday, I look like I just killed a bear with a knife. As we go through the week there’s this deterioration. I don’t want to complain and I’m not, I’m just saying that the physical part of it, it literally is 13 to 14 hours a day. I was asked to do Atlanta Braves watch parties. From six to nine I was out. That’s part of it. The blessing is going out to a bar for a paid appearance. That’s awesome. Today I woke up at five and I’ll be getting home about 9:30. I ain’t complaining; I’m just saying it’s a full day and I’ve been doing it for seven years.

I’ll be honest, Brian, it’s doable. My daily schedule is like a Jenga tower. If I take out the wrong thing — I’ll be candid — you and I were texting back and forth and it got down to like we were negotiating at a fair or something. I was like 9:14, and you were like 9:16, and I was like all right 9:15. It fit perfectly in there. I just have to be really regimented and disciplined and scheduled to get it all done. The thing is that would be the same for anybody that was doing these two jobs. I’ve just evolved over time and started drinking coffee. I didn’t drink coffee when I started the job. I have my schedule laid out and as long as there’s no real big curveball, I can handle it. It’s been seven years and it’s fine.

BN: What’s your go-to coffee and how many cups are we talking here?

CO: All right, brother, I’ve got the Keurig. I actually wrote that thing off. I was like this is a business expense. I go all the way on strength, two of the three bars on temperature, and I use Don Francisco’s hazelnut coffee pots. Can I give you a hack? Everybody start doing this immediately. The only dietary thing I do is I don’t have any added sugar ever. I eat everything else all day long, whatever I want, no added sugar ever. What I add to my coffee instead of half and half; heavy whipping cream. It turns it into a hazelnut latte with zero sugar in it. I have two or three of those every single morning. You wake up, it’s like walking dead, then after three of those, man, you are ready to roll. That’s what I do. Heavy whipping cream, people. Start that. It’s a treat.

BN: I’d assume your wife [Kristen] is pretty understanding about the demands of your job, right?

CO: Oh gosh, yeah. For instance I was in Charlotte for three days. I was in Houston for three nights for the World Series. In two weeks I’m going to Knoxville and blah, blah, blah. It’s a blessing, but it also is me taking off and heading on the road and saying I’m going to see Tennessee and Georgia play at Neyland. Well that’s great for me; she’s back here in Atlanta running the house and the dogs and oh yeah, trying to essentially be a PA. That’s what she’s pursuing while she’s doing everything else. 

She’s awesome though. You’re right, she has a big understanding of this. The cool part though is that I’ve told her when she graduates and when it’s all done in about four weeks, the world is her oyster as far as getting a job. With radio, you can do that job anywhere. Just give me a microphone and some power and I can broadcast in India. I’m ready to roll, man. I’m really looking forward to the next chapter and it being all about her.

BN: I’m curious how you’d describe Georgia fans this year. Are they braggadocious, we’re number one, or is it sort of like this could go south at any time?

CO: Georgia fans right now are occupying themselves with the Stetson Bennett, J.T. Daniels thing. Here’s the weird thing; they’re more boisterous and finger in the air if they’re like 9-1 than they are right now after beating Florida. It’s been weird. Going into the Clemson game, it was the height of anxiety. After they got into conference play, the South Carolina game, we all looked around and realized this is what the defense is. They looked at the schedule and were like Auburn ain’t beating us, Tennessee isn’t beating us, Vanderbilt’s not beating us, Florida’s not beating us. They already looked at the entire regular season and said there’s a really good chance we’re 12-0.

This is all in the course of about two months. I had two Georgia fans tell me I’m not going to Jacksonville. They canceled their plans and sold their tickets. I was like why? Quote, it’s not a big enough game this year. I almost needed a paper bag to breathe into. I couldn’t believe a Georgia fan telling me Jacksonville ain’t a big enough game. That’s what it is.

BN: There was some serious turnover during COVID at 680. Are you feeling good about where things stand now?

CO: Yeah, John Kincade is a very, very good friend of mine and played a huge role actually in me going over to 680. When John got canned, that was just awful, awful, awful. It’s tough because you look at John, you can’t do the job better than John does it. You can’t be more prepared. You can’t work harder. He has something to say. All right, he got fired. That was kind of an attention getter. That was Sheriff Justice kicking you in the butt against the side of the car. For John personally I knew that he’s a cat, he was going to land on his feet. Steak Shapiro and Mark Zinno the same sort of thing, they’re too good. Steak’s got his TV empire anyway.

It wasn’t necessarily just related to okay what happens to these individuals? Because I knew all of them were good and were going to land. It was just a tough commentary. I’ll say this about David Dickey, he is not knee-jerk. He does not react in the moment. Everything is very measured and thought out. If that was the decision he came to, I was like all right, this is another indication of how real this thing is. John is really good at his job. It was kind of jarring because that’s just not the kind of thing that has happened at DBC since I’ve been there. And it happens everywhere in the industry, but just not there.

680 the fan radio logo - 48in48



BN: Where do you think you would be right now if you stuck with coaching?

CO: I want to say coaching d-line somewhere. In fact I’m going to tell you right now honestly if you dropped me down onto a college coaching staff right now, I could coach technique. I could coach technique tomorrow. I would be almost useless with a game plan. I can break down film and tell you what’s going on, but I know zero. I know a thimble full as far as preparing for a modern offense. It’s just been too long.

But the techniques have never changed. Alignments, stance, hand placement, footwork, leverage, it’s never changed. I can do that. And that was awesome. I loved it. Actually you know how I could coach? Here’s what I need, just two concessions, the offense only gets three formations and there’s no pre-snap motion. If you could make that a rule, I’m back in coaching tomorrow. I promise you. It was so much fun. It was just a tremendous experience.

I coached high school football for six years and even got a ring. That was kind of cool. Also there were kids on the defensive line when I was there that went to Troy State, one went to Auburn, we had several go to Cumberland and Maryville and various places. You see a kid that showed up who’s like I’m 14 and I’m a freshman, I’m just here to play high school ball, and then four years later you realize he’s about to be able to graduate from college without any student loan debt. It is a huge, huge deal, and so many of those kids, I just loved when they got their chance.

BN: I love your Twitter bio. Part of it says it’s not possible to troll me, I just don’t engage the negative on Twitter, ever. Why is that your approach?

CO: I have a co-worker of mine, Mark Zinno as a matter of fact, he gets out of bed every morning like he’s stepping into a boxing ring on Twitter. He’s like well these people said things about me. The way I said it, my studio is on the 4th floor and there’s a big floor-to-ceiling window about 12 feet away. I don’t sit anywhere near it. I said Mark here’s Twitter, there’s a thousand people on the sidewalk that have been yelling just rude, awful things to you for the past hour. He’s like really? I’m like no. Because you haven’t gone over and looked. I was like they might have been there just yelling the most vile, awful things for the past 60 minutes, but you don’t know that because you didn’t engage them. You sat in your chair 12 feet away. I was like I sit in my Twitter chair 12 feet away.

It’s really a different environment for me. I have some funny, really insightful, sometimes helpful folks on Twitter. That’s really what I try to limit my engagements to. Twitter is this dark alley that you step into it and then thousands of people jump out with sticks and just start beating on you. I’m just not going to do that. I don’t respond to anybody because again it’s not trolling unless you engage back and kind of shine a light on it yourself. You have to be complicit in this and I just don’t do it.

BN: Over the next five to 10 years what do you want your ideal radio schedule to look like?

CO: Gosh, the syndicated thing continues to kind of unfold on its own pretty steadily. We’ll pick up six to seven affiliates. People hear about it and over the year they add some. That’s kind of only been growing. I assume that that’ll keep going unless people lose taste for college football. I found a schedule that works. I believe that I’ll keep on rolling along until public taste changes and nobody likes college football in the South.

BN: How would you describe the difference between doing your 680 show with [Matt] Chernoff where it’s a two-man show, and your syndicated show, which is solo?

CO: Chuck and Chernoff is a traditional, like the wacky morning zoo with the bike horn and all that in the afternoon. We do a dumb show. It’s fun, but it’s dumb. We’re silly and we don’t take ourselves seriously. It is the anti — because college football is serious stuff — it is the anti-Chuck Oliver Show. It’s just a lot of fun. This is my professional life and I just hope they don’t catch on soon.

Chuck & Chernoff, Rude Awakening, Marc & Randy make Talkers Sports Talk  Heavy Hundred list

BN: It’s six hours on the air each day, you probably need the bike horn at the end of the day, right?

CO: Oh God, if it was six hours of brain surgery and the neighbor’s yard is so much better than mine and everything in between, no. It can’t be all serious issues all the time. We’ll go crazy. That’s the thing about the job actually I’ve said, my job is not important. I don’t fly the space shuttle for a living. But I’ve had so many people tell me that it’s important to them. When you’re in Atlanta traffic, which you average an hour and seven minutes a day in afternoon drive, here’s what people don’t want; they don’t want a statistical seminar on the Atlanta Braves matchup with the Astros. What they want is distract me in Atlanta traffic. That’s all they want, distract me. Make me not notice what’s going on in front of me. So we just try to distract people for a little bit while they’re in traffic.

Barrett Blogs

Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?

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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.

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BSM Writers

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.”

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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. 

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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?”

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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.”

What’s Next?

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.

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