Radio and television personalities have a few responsibilities to their viewers/listeners that are very critical. Yes, they need to inform you. Letting the audience know the latest information going on with the game they are covering. These folks also have a job to entertain, to keep an audience when a game is a blowout and to help the casual fan enjoy what they’re seeing or hearing. This applies to play-by-play announcers, booth analysts, studio hosts, and studio analysts. It takes a special skill to be able to keep tabs on a game and find ways to keep it light when the moment calls for it.
After careful consideration, I’ve constructed a list of the top 5 current personalities (play-by-play, game analyst, studio host and studio analyst) that are currently working. Entertaining can mean a few things among the people on this list. Humor is obviously one of the criteria. In the case of the play-by-play announcers here, the way they are able to work laughs into the broadcast without compromising it is critical. As far as the analysts go, it’s all about personality. I think you’ll understand better as we document the folks on this list. Remember also, this is a list of those currently working in the industry.
He is perhaps one of the most enthusiastic of the play-by-play announcers out there. His voice screams excitement, without screaming at you. Harlan is a wordsmith. He can weave in some of his catchphrases, right in the flow of the broadcast, but the point still makes it across the airwaves.
Whether it’s LeBron James dunking on someone, “with no regard for human life” or a play in a Ravens game featuring Lamar Jackson, where he escaped trouble. For that escape he was rewarded with a patented OHHHHH and a “HE IS HOUDINI!” I love his calls because while they are up there in excitement, Harlan always, forgive the sports cliché here, stays within himself. It’s not over the top.
Another reason he’s on this list is his ability to improvise, overcome and adapt. Like this gem from a year or so ago, during a Monday Night Football radio broadcast, when a runaway cat got loose on the field.
“Oh, and there a cat, a cat black has taken the field. A black cat is running from the 20 to the nearside the 10, from the 39 of Dallas here is a short throw down the middle caught by Engram. Caught at the 35 to the 30, now the cat running the other way and so is Ingram at the 25 near the 24-yard line of the Dallas Cowboys. It’s a catch-run of 15. Now the cat is stopped at the 50 … he’s at the eight … now he is at the five … he’s walking to the three, he’s at the two… and the cat is in the CDW Red Zone… now a policeman, a state trooper is on the field- AND THE CAT RUNS IN THE END ZONE! THAT IS A TOUCHDOWN!”
Gold, I tell you, gold!
Uecker is as much a part of Brewers lore as Bernie Brewer, who goes down a slide into a beer mug when Milwaukee homers. The guy has had an extraordinary run, not just in baseball, but in movies and television as well.
For those too young to remember, Uecker made numerous appearances on ‘The Tonight Show’ with Johnny Carson, who nicknamed Uecker ‘Mr. Baseball”. He starred in his own sitcom in the 80’s called ‘Mr. Belvedere’ and appeared in memorable commercials for Miller Lite beer. In one ad he exclaimed, ‘I must be in the front row’ a line uttered by many at baseball games. Of course, he is well known for his role in the movie ‘Major League’ where he plays baseball announcer Harry Doyle.
Uecker’s announcing style is not much different than ‘Doyle’s’, in that he always seems up beat. But it’s the stories that he tells, most are self-deprecating in nature, referring mainly to his playing career which wasn’t as spectacular as his post-baseball career. Here’s one from his Hall of Fame induction speech on July 27, 2003.
“My two boys are just like me,” Uecker told a crowd. “In their championship Little League game, one of them struck out three times and the other one had an error allowing the winning run to score. They lost the championship, and I couldn’t have been more proud. I remember the people as we walked through the parking lot throwing eggs and rotten stuff at our car. What a beautiful day.”
Uecker is beloved in his hometown of Milwaukee where he was recently celebrated for 50 years behind the microphone. At the ceremony he did have a thought for the final giveaway that would include his likeness.
“My last bobblehead, this is what I want,” Uecker said. “It’s going to be a box, the top will open, I will get up, and do my get up, get up, get out of here, and back down, close the cover and that’s it. That’s the way I want to go.”
Uecker is a baseball treasure.
The debate has been raging now for about 20 years. Was Charles Barkley a better player or broadcaster? If you watch him regularly on ‘Inside the NBA’ on TNT, you’ll likely vote for the latter choice. He’s about as real and as entertaining as it gets on television. That statement isn’t just limited to basketball either.
The former Philadelphia 76er, Phoenix Sun and Houston Rocket, played for 16 seasons in the NBA. He was an NBA MVP, 11-time All-Star and a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, enshrined in 2006. While most know him for the career on the hardwood, some know him better for sitting behind the desk on set with, Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal.
Barkley definitely keeps it real and entertaining. His opinions are without filter and his personality is endearing. He plays along well with everyone on the panel and even when he’s on a different show, hilarity usually ensues. Just like when he appeared on the inaugural Manningcast a few weeks ago.
When Peyton Manning asked, “Hey Charles, you ever get booed at home? Never happened to you, right?” Barkley quickly responded, “I played in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That was a regularity.” “You were lucky, Peyton. Everybody liked you. Eli knows what it’s like to get booed at home.”
Barkley appeared on the debut edition of ‘The NHL on TNT’ pregame show with Wayne Gretzky. The former NBA star is a big NHL fan and threw shout-outs to ‘his’ Tampa Bay Lightning on the show. But nothing was better than watching ‘The Great One’ shoot hockey pucks and arguably one of the biggest goalies ever on live television. Barkley learned how to hold a goalie stick with his blocker hand and learned what the ‘5’ hole was. He was able to stop 1 of Gretzky’s five shots.
Later in the evening, video surfaced of Gretzky in a hockey fight with Minnesota’s Neil Broten. Upon seeing Gretzky beaten in the fight Barkley yelled, ‘you lost to a guy with a perm? Are you serious?’ Remember it was the 80’s so the hairstyle of choice for many was the ‘perm’. Great stuff.
Barkley on air is charming and acts like a big kid, which is a lot of fun for everyone.
Who knew that Peyton Manning was such a fun-loving personality when he played in the NFL? We got a glimpse of it as he was getting ready to finish up his great career as a quarterback for the Colts and Broncos. Peyton became that ‘geeky guy next door’ spokesman for several companies and left us with some memorable lines from his commercials.
As a spokesman for Nationwide Insurance he had the ad where everything he said was in the tune of ‘Nationwide is on your side’. Like “Chicken Parm you taste so good…” or “that’s a first rate queso dip.” He was also known for a legendary Mastercard commercial where he plays a ‘fan’ of people doing every day tasks. Lines like ‘Cut that meat, cut that meat’ and ‘Charlie you’re my favorite accountant, come on you’re on my fantasy team’. Manning was seen leaning over a railing like some young fans that are seeking autographs from their favorite players.
The work he and his brother Eli are doing on the “Manning MegaCast” during some Monday Night Football games is fantastic. He and Eli are funny and play off of each other well. Peyton is genuinely entertaining and not afraid to put himself out there for ridicule. Eli continues to make fun of Peyton’s forehead and it’s all good. Peyton relies on his perceived personality to take advantage of most situations. People saw him as this, ‘buttoned up’ athlete, but now he’s a must-watch whenever he appears on his own show or any other for that matter.
Manning is almost like a ‘dad joke’ waiting to happen.
Then there is the granddaddy of them all, Bill Walton. Half the time I’m not even sure what the heck he is talking about, but I guess that makes it entertaining, right? Walton can be a play-by-play announcer’s worst nightmare, except most of, if not all of them, get it. They understand that Walton stands out in the crowd. I guess, literally (6’10”) and figuratively.
His rants are epic. They usually have nothing to do with the game he’s calling, whether it be basketball or baseball. Yes, he got a chance to call a baseball game in August of 2019. The White Sox and the Angels played in Anaheim and what ensued was the stuff of legends.
After a James McCann grand slam, he exclaimed, ‘What a fantastic turn of events if you love the White Sox, and I’m falling in love by the breath.’ Then after Mike Trout took Lucas Giolito deep,
‘That’s Trout? Swimming upstream, avoiding all the flies and sending one ricocheting through the universe,’ Walton said. Then there was the Walton everybody knows and loves, just stringing together words. ‘Woodstock. 50 years. ’79. Full moon. Waterfall. Exploding volcanoes. Baseball. White Sox. Angels. Summertime. No rain on the horizon. Greg Gumbel. Sam Smith. David Axelrod. Wow.’ Walton exclaimed. Ok, sure.
During the typical game called by Walton, there will likely be just as much discussion about non-basketball topics than basketball topics. Walton’s rants can drive some fans crazy, but most viewers love them. Take for example a game between Colorado and Oregon in February of 2020. Mark Jackson joined Dave Pasch and Walton on the call. Going to break, Walton exclaimed, ‘Get me some grass!’. I mean Buffaloes do graze on grass, but the double entendre works so well here. It continued after the break.
Jackson politely asked, ‘You said ‘Get me some grass.’ What kind of grass do you want?’ Walton replied quickly ‘I want Oregon grass! In Oregon, when you live here… what you do all the time is you cut firewood & you cut the grass. And then you gotta get rid of both of those, so you use them all.’
That is just one example of MANY that are out there if you search the internet. It’s awesome that his bosses at ESPN let him be himself. Remember, it’s Walton’s World and we’re just living in it.
That’s my list, hope it entertained you, as much as these five people entertain you and me, every time they open their mics.
Adam The Bull Is Giving Cleveland Something It’s Never Had Before
“It was only more recently that I was like why do I have to only be a radio guy?”
After spending 22 years on the radio, Adam “The Bull” Gerstenhaber was ready for a new adventure. In fact, the former co-host of Bull and Fox on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland did not have a new job lined up when he signed off from his 11-year radio home last month.
“I was already leaving without having a new project,” admitted Gerstenhaber during a recent phone interview with BSM. “I left before I knew for sure I had a ‘next project’.”
Gerstenhaber was preparing for his final show with co-host Dustin Fox on April 1st when he was contacted by an executive producer for TEGNA, a company that was developing a Cleveland sports television show on YouTube. The executive producer, who had just found out that Bull was a free agent, made it clear that he wanted Bull to be a part of the new project.
It all came together very quickly.
“Let’s talk on Monday,” Gerstenhaber told the executive producer. “And within a week they signed me up.”
The Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show on YouTube featuring Gerstenhaber, former ESPN personality Jay Crawford, 92.3 The Fan’s Garrett Bush, and rotating hosts to make up a four-person round-table show, made its debut last Monday. The show, which airs weekdays from 11am to 1pm, features passionate Cleveland sports talk, live guests, either in-studio or via Zoom, as well as interaction from the audience through social media.
“I’m very excited,” said Gerstenhaber. “It’s a definite adjustment for me after 22 years on radio doing television. For the last 11 years, I’ve been doing a radio show with just one other host and I was the lead guy doing most of the talking and now I’m on a show with three other people and it’s such an adjustment. So far, I’m having a ball.”
And so far, the reaction to the show has been very positive.
A big reason why is that it’s something that Cleveland didn’t have and really never had, unlike a city like New York, where there are local radio shows that are simulcast on regional sports channels.
“There’s nothing like that in Cleveland,” said Gerstenhaber. “And there was certainly nothing like this with a panel. Cleveland is such a massive sports town and now people that don’t live in Cleveland that are maybe retired in Florida or Arizona, now they actually have a TV show that they can watch that’s Cleveland-centric.”
The new venture certainly represents a big change in what Bull has been used to in his radio career. He’s enjoying the freedom of not having to follow a hard clock for this show. In fact, there have already been some occasions where the show has been able to go a little longer than scheduled because they have the flexibility to do that on YouTube.
Doing a show on YouTube gives the panel a great opportunity to go deep into topics and spend some quality time with guests. And while there is no cursing on the show at the moment, there could be the potential for that down the road.
Don’t expect the show is going to become X-rated or anything like that, but the objective is to be able to capture the spirit and emotion of being a sports fan and host.
“It’s something we may do in the future,” said Gerstenhaber. “Not curse just to curse but it gives us the option if we get fired up. It is allowed because there’s no restrictions there. The company doesn’t want us to do it at the moment.”
There’s also been the shift for Gerstenhaber from being the “point guard” on his old radio show, driving the conversation and doing most of the talking, to now taking a step back and having Crawford distributing the ball on the television show.
For a guy called “The Bull”, that will take some getting used to.
“Jay is a pro’s pro,” said Gerstenhaber. “He’s the point guard for this but he’s also part of the conversation. I’m not used to not being the point guard so I have to adjust to that. I think it’s gone pretty well and the chemistry is pretty good and with time we’ll get used to the flow of it.”
Gerstenhaber’s move from sports radio to an internet television show is a perfect example of how the industry is changing. A good portion of the listening and viewing audience these days, especially those in the younger demographic, are not necessarily watching traditional television or listening to terrestrial radio. For a lot of sports fans, watching and listening on a mobile device or a computer has become a very important way of life.
The desire to adapt, along with a shorter workday, was very enticing to him.
“It was only more recently that I was like why do I have to only be a radio guy?” wondered Gerstenhaber. “There were things about my job that I was unhappy about. I was doing a five-hour radio show. It’s too long. That’s crazy. Nobody should be doing a five-hour radio show at this point.”
Broadcasting on the internet has arrived and it’s not just a couple of sports fans doing a show from their garage anymore. The business has evolved to the point where the technology has provided more opportunities for those who have already enjoyed success in the industry and are looking for new challenges.
Kind of like Adam The Bull!
“I think years ago, probably like many people in the radio business, we looked at internet and podcasts as like whatever…those guys aren’t professionals…they’re amateurs,” said Gerstenhaber. “But the game has changed.”
Gerstenhaber, Crawford and everyone associated with the “Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show” should not have much of a problem attracting the younger audience. That demographic is already accustomed to watching shows on YouTube and other streaming platforms. The challenge now is to get the more mature audience on board. There are certainly some obstacles there.
I know this from experience with trying to explain to my mother in Florida how she can hear me on the radio and watch me on television simply by using her tablet.
Bull can certainly relate to that.
“My mother is still trying to figure out how to watch the show live,” said Gerstenhaber with a chuckle. “The older fans struggle with that. A lot of my older fans here in Cleveland are like how do I watch it? For people that are under 40 and certainly people that under 30, watching a YouTube show is like okay I watch everything on my phone or device. It’s such a divide and obviously as the years go by, that group will increase.”
With the television show off and running, Gerstenhaber still has a passion for his roots and that’s the radio side of the business. In the next couple of weeks, “The Bull” is set to announce the launch of two podcasts, one daily and one weekly, that will begin next month. But he also hasn’t ruled out the possibility of returning to terrestrial radio at some point.
“I have not closed the door to radio,” said Gerstenhaber. “I still love radio. I would still, in the right set of circumstances, consider going back to radio but it would have to really be the perfect situation. I’m excited about (the television show) and right now I don’t want to do anything else but I’m certainly going to remain open-minded to radio if a really excellent opportunity came up.”
The landscape of the broadcasting industry, particularly when it comes to sports, has certainly changed over the years and continues to evolve. Adam Gerstenhaber certainly enjoyed a tremendous amount of success on the radio side, both in New York and in Cleveland, but now he has made the transition to something new with the YouTube television show and he’s committed to making it a success.
I Heard A Lot of Boring, Uncreative Sports Radio On Friday
“Sometimes your first idea is your best one. You don’t know that though if you stop thinking after one idea. That is what it feels like happens a lot the day after NFL schedules are released”
Maybe this one is on me for expecting better. Maybe I need to take my own advice and accept that there are times the sports radio audience just wants a little comfort food. Still, this is my column and I am going to complain because I listened to probably six different stations on Friday and all of them were doing the exact same thing.
The NFL schedule was released on Thursday night, so on Friday, regardless of daypart, every show seemingly felt obligated to have the same three conversations.
- How many games will the home team win?
- What does the number of primetime games we got mean for how much respect we have nationally?
- Why do the Lions still get to play on Thanksgiving?
Football is king. I get that. Concrete NFL news is always going to take priority. That is understandable. But where was even an ounce of creativity? Where was the desire to do better – not just better than the competition, but better than the other shows in your own building?
I listened to shows in markets from across the league. The conversations were the same regardless of size or history of success. Everyone that picked in the top 5 in last month’s draft is going to go 10-7. Every team that got less than 5 primetime games feels disrespected. It was all so boring.
Those of us in the industry don’t consume content the way listeners do. We all know that. Perhaps I am harping on something that is only a problem to me because I listen to sports talk radio for a living. If you don’t ever want to put more than the bare minimum of effort into your show, decide that is the reason for my reaction and go click on another article here.
Consider this though, maybe the fact that I listen to so much sports radio means I know how much quality there is in this industry. Maybe it means that I can spot someone talented that is phoning it in.
I want to be clear in my point. There is value in giving your record prediction for the home team. Listeners look at the people on the radio as experts. I will bet some futures bets in a lot of markets were made on Friday based on what the gambler heard coming through their speakers. All I want to get across is there is a way to have that conversation that isn’t taking two segments to go through each week one by one. I heard no less than three stations do that on Friday.
Sometimes your first idea is your best one. You don’t know that though if you stop thinking after one idea. That is what it feels like happens a lot the day after NFL schedules are released. It’s a very familiar rhythm: pick the wins, get a guest on to preview the week 1 opponent, take calls, texts and tweets with the listeners’ predictions.
I didn’t hear anyone ask their listeners to sell them on the over for wins. I didn’t hear anyone give me weeks that you could skip Red Zone because one matchup is just too damn good. I didn’t hear anyone go through the Sunday Night Football schedule and pick out the weeks to schedule dates because the matchup isn’t worth it.
Maybe none of those ideas are winners, and that is fine. They are literally three dumb ideas I pulled out of the air. But they are all ways to review the schedule that could potentially leave a smile on your listener’s face.
Show prep is so important, especially in a group setting. It is your chance to tell your partner, producer, or host that you know you can do better than the idea that has just been thrown out. Quit nodding in agreement and challenge each other! It may mean a little more work for you, but it means more reward for the listeners. And if the listeners know they can rely on you for quality, creative content, that leads to more reward for you.
And lay off the Lions. It’s Thanksgiving. You’re stuck at home. The NFL could give you Lions vs Jaguars and you’d watch.
Why You Should Be Making Great TikTok Content
“We’re specially trained in the world of TSL (time spent listening), and the longer people view your content on TikTok, the more the app rewards you by shoving your content into more and more feeds.”
It feels like there’s a new social media platform to pay attention to every other week. That makes it easy to overlook when one of them actually presents value to your brand. It wasn’t long ago that TikTok was primarily used by teenagers with the focus being silly dance trends filmed for video consumption with their friends and followers alike. Now, as the general public has become in tune with how this complicated app works, it’s grown far beyond that.
TikTok is now an app used by all types of demographics and unlike TikTok’s closely related cousins Instagram and Facebook, this app provides a certain type of nuance that I think people in our line of work can really excel in.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of how you can use TikTok to your advantage and how to make your videos catch on, I think it’s important to first mention why this matters for you. Now, if I’m being realistic, I’m sure there are some that have already stopped reading this or those that could scroll away fast enough when they saw the words TikTok. You might be thinking that this doesn’t fit your demo, or maybe that it’s a waste of time because productivity here won’t directly lead to an uptick in Nielsen ratings. But I’m not sure any social network directly leads to what we ultimately get judged on, and we aren’t always pumping out content directly to our core audience.
TikTok, like any other app you may use, is marketing. This is another free tool to let people out there know who you are and what you offer in this endless sea of content. And the beauty of TikTok is that it directly caters its algorithm to content creators just like us. Bottom line, if you are a personality in sports talk, there’s no reason you can’t be crushing it on TikTok right now. All it takes is a little direction, focus, consistency, and a plan.
Unlike Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter where you can throw a photo up with a caption and be done for the day, TikTok’s whole model is built on creative videos that keep users engaged for longer periods of time. This approach works. According to Oberlo, a social media stat tracking site, people spend more time per day on TikTok than any other popular social media application. 38 minutes per day!
This is where this is good news for us in talk radio. We’re specially trained in the world of TSL (time spent listening), and the longer people view your content on TikTok, the more the app rewards you by shoving your content into more and more feeds. TikTok’s algorithm doesn’t care how many followers you have, your level of credibility, or the production on your video. All ir cares about is 1) Is your content good. and 2) Are people watching it. 3) How long are they watching it. The more people watch and the longer they watch creates a snowball effect. Your videos views will skyrocket, sometimes within hours.
So, how do you create content that will catch on? It’s really not all that different than what you do every day. Create thought-provoking commentary that makes people think, argue, or stay till the end to get the info you teased up for them. I’ve found through my own trial and error that it’s best if you stay away from time-sensitive material, I’ve had more success the more evergreen my content is. That way, the shelf life expands beyond just that day or week. This is different for everyone and there’s no one-size-fits-all, but this is where I’ve seen the most success.
Also, put yourself out there, don’t be afraid to say something that people are going to vehemently disagree with. Again, it’s not unlike what we do every day. It’s one thing to get someone to listen, it’s another to get them to engage. Once they hit you in the comment section, you’ve got them hooked. Comments breed more views and on and on. But don’t just let those sit there, even the smallest interaction back like a shoulder shrug emoji can go a long way in creating more play for your video.
If you want to grow quickly, create a niche for yourself. The best content creators that I follow on TikTok all put out very similar content for most of their videos. This means, unlike Instagram where it’s great to show what a wildly interesting and eclectic person you are, TikTok users want to know what they’re getting the second your face pops up on that screen. So if you are the sports history guy, be the sports history guy all the time. If you are the top 5 list guy, be the top 5 list guy all the time, and on and on, you get the point.
Other simple tricks:
- Splice small videos together. Don’t shoot one long video.
- 90 seconds to 2 minutes is a sweet spot amount of time.
- Add a soft layer of background instrumental music (this feature is found in the app when you are putting the finishing touches on your video)
- Label your video across the screen at the start and time it out so that it disappears seconds later. This way a user gets an idea of what the content is immediately and then can focus on you delivering your message thereafter.
- Research trending hashtags, they are far more important than whatever you caption your video.
- Use closed captions so that people can follow your video without sound.
Finally, don’t be intimidated by it or snub your nose at it. Anything that helps your brand is worth doing and anything worth doing is worth doing well.