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Jon Marks Is Ready For The Next Chapter Of WIP

“We take the games personally, we take our teams personally and sports radio is something we’ve grown up with and we love it.”

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The world is your oyster. It’s a familiar saying that means you can do anything in life. Just be sure to take the opportunities offered to you. For Jon Marks, his oyster just happened to be an entire radio station. 

A fresh graduate out of Temple University in Philadelphia, he found himself interning at SportsTalk 950, shortly after the station’s launch in 2005. He was doing anything and everything inside the station. That meant duties that ranged from putting music in the system for hosts to use coming back from breaks to producing promos and much more. He did everything a full-time employee would do without getting paid a dime. But to Marks, it was a heck of a deal. He had an entire radio station to play with. He would’ve paid the station out of his own pocket just to be there. 

Jon Marks's Podcast Credits & Interviews | Podchaser

The new start-up station had a limited staff. There were only a couple hosts, one full-time producer and just a few part-timers. Though he was just an intern, Marks was, for the most part, more qualified than the part timers because of his experience with digital audio at Temple. 

“I knew it would pay off on the backend,” said Marks. “But I wasn’t really thinking about it at that point. It was all just amazing.”

Marks couldn’t have been more right about his non-paying gig working to his benefit. Today, he’s the afternoon drive host at 94 WIP in Philly alongside Ike Reese. A reason he’s had the success he’s had is because of those early, hands-on years playing with a radio station. 

Things are going extremely well for Marks at WIP and his show is enjoying well-earned success, but it’s the beginning of a new era for one of the most popular sports radio stations on the East Coast.

Spike Eskin left the station last summer to take over for Mark Chernoff at WFAN in New York, which ushered in Rod Lakin as the new brand manager. Then, longtime morning radio host and Philadelphia legend Angelo Cataldi said he was going to retire at the end of 2022. 

“The question I always got about Angelo was, is he ever going to retire,” said Marks. “The answer I always gave was, yeah, I’ll believe it when I see it. He may go until he’s 80. We heard some stuff and it looked like it was going to happen and then he announced it. So I wasn’t shocked when he announced it.

“Rod Lakin was hired last year and he’s going to fill a big role. Angelo has done this for over 30 years and his show and his ratings speak for themselves. I feel like Spike, when he took over WIP, he rebuilt the lineup past Angelo. When you have a quarterback on your team, it’s easier to rebuild the defense, rebuild the wide receiving corps, fix the offensive line, etc. Angelo is more or less the quarterback at the station so it’ll be a little bit more difficult to rebuild it. But I feel great. Our staff is great, the show I’m working with Ike and my producer Jack Fritz, we’re feeling really good about our show. The midday show is successful and it’s as good of a midday show as the city has had in a long time.”

To Marks, Lakin’s initial impression has been a good one. What’s impressed him the most about the new brand manager is the fact Lakin uprooted his family during a pandemic from Phoenix, when he probably could have stayed for the rest of his career, but wanted the challenge of working in a city like Philadelphia. 

“That takes balls to do that,” Marks said. “We take the games personally, we take our teams personally and sports radio is something we’ve grown up with and we love it. It really impressed me it was something he was looking to do.”

Rod Lakin

Lakin will help Marks reach his next level of success, but it was Eskin who helped him get the role he enjoys today. When Chris Carlin left WIP in 2017 to join WFAN in New York, the Eagles were in the middle of a run to the Super Bowl. Eskin decided to replace Carlin with Marks in afternoon drive alongside Ike Reese, right when the NFL season was really starting to heat up. The Eagles went on to win a title and Marks reaped the benefits of being in afternoon drive in a city that just won its first Super Bowl. 

But before any of that, it was Eskin that really made the decision easier for Marks to leave 97.5 The Fanatic and join WIP across town. Marks believed in what Eskin was doing and thought Eskin could help evolve him as a host. 

“I couldn’t have been more right,” Marks said. “He’s a big part of the success in my career. I remember when Chris Carlin went to New York, he told me this was one of the reasons he wanted me to be here, just in case something happens, I would be ready to go.

“But after the Super Bowl was over and after that calmed down, he brought me to his office around April or May, he said, listen, I just want you to know the show you’re doing right now is not good enough. I know you work hard and everything else, but it’s not good enough for me. Here’s what I need you to do and here’s where you need improvement. I really appreciated it. It was the first time a program director really told me how it was. He didn’t beat around the bush, and without that, I don’t know if we would’ve had the same amount of success as a show. Spike has some work to do and he’s got some big shoes to fill but he will do it. I know he will. He’s too talented and too smart of a radio guy not to.”

Marks is extremely talented, but he’s also been lucky to surround himself with other talented people. That includes his co-host, former Eagles linebacker Ike Reese. According to Marks, if you didn’t know Reese played for the Eagles, you would think he’s just a radio guy. That’s because the former player immediately embraced the business and even hosted a solo show at night from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. 

“Doing four hours, especially in the dead of summer, and the baseball team stinks and there’s nothing going on, it’s not easy,” said Marks. “I think the fact Ike embraced it and became a radio guy, he’s just not a former athlete that’s on the radio. Ike really is a radio guy, so he gets what we’re doing and he understands it. He also had great energy, relatable, likable, funny and an overall good dude. You put all of those things together and it makes for a good show. It works very well for both of us.”

Eagles fuel Sportsradio 94 WIP to best ratings ever; Jon Marks and Ike  Reese topple Mike Missanelli - Philadelphia Business Journal

Though Marks is truly living his dream as an afternoon drive host in a city he always wanted to stay in, he’s more than just the Philly guy that talks Eagles, Phillies, Sixers and the other teams in town. Each Sunday morning, he gets to showcase that on CBS Sports Radio from 2-6 am. He’s been doing the shift since September after previously doing a 10 am to 2 pm shift on Sunday’s for nine months. 

He enjoyed the previous shift, however, with his time slot, it meant he was preempted by local programming on several stations across the country. That rarely happens to him now he’s on from 2-6 am. 

“Yes, that time slot has less listeners, but I’m not preempted by other stations, so I can talk to people all over the place,” Marks said. “Instead of solely focusing on Philadelphia like I do on WIP, I get to stretch my legs a little bit and I can talk about college football, some NFL stuff or even regular life talk, because on overnights, you have a little bit of a different crowd out there. It’s been really cool. I get a pretty good amount of phone calls. I’ve seen people that have had trouble getting guests in time slots like this, so I’ll record an interview on Friday with something that I know won’t be time sensitive and I’ll have that for interviews. It’s a dream to be working on WIP and it’s really cool to be doing a national radio show.”

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BSM Writers

Nothing Is Easy In the Cold, Not Even Broadcasting

The elements can wreak havoc with the way you call a game. Your mouth isn’t in sync with your brain and you wonder if the torture will ever end!

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No matter what you may think, doing play-by-play for any sport is a difficult thing. The great ones make it look easy, but it’s not. Prep work dominates things leading up to the broadcast, getting notes, nuggets and entertaining tidbits take up time. Then once you’re prepped, some stadiums are better than others to broadcast. Some booths are easier to work than others.

Then there’s the forgotten element, the weather.

How will you handle inclement weather of any kind? Warmth, rain, snow and oh yeah, the dreaded freezing temperature. Before we get into it, here are a few of the less-than-ideal conditions my fellow broadcasters have had to deal with over the years. 

THE FOG BOWL

During the 1988 playoffs between the Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles, a dense fog rolled onto the field during the game, making it nearly impossible to play or see. Numerous players complained they couldn’t see 10 yards in front of them. Both teams were forced to use their running game because receivers couldn’t see long passes. The broadcast was called by Verne Lundquist and Terry Bradshaw on CBS. 

“We couldn’t see anything—absolutely nothing,” CBS-TV play-by-play broadcaster Verne Lundquist told the Associated Press. “We had to look at the TV just like everyone else.” Lundquist’s color man, Terry Bradshaw, told viewers the game should have been suspended.

THE FREEZER BOWL

At -9 degrees Fahrenheit, the 1982 AFC Championship Game between the Cincinnati Bengals and San Diego Chargers proved to be the second-coldest game in NFL history. It was so cold that Bengals QB Ken Anderson suffered frost bite on his right ear. The temperature was not only -9 degrees, but the wind chill was measured at -58 degrees, by far the worst in league history.

THE ICE BOWL

The 1967 NFL Championship between the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys became known as the “Ice Bowl.” It remains the coldest game ever played in the NFL, at -15 degrees with a wind chill of -48 degrees. Lambeau Field’s turf-heating system actually malfunctioned before the game, leaving the turf rock-hard. Officials actually had to resort to calling out plays and penalties because when referee Norm Schachter blew his metal whistle, it actually froze to his lips.

The last two are examples of something topical since last week’s “Super Wild Card” game in Buffalo was played in extreme temperatures. At kickoff, it was 7 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind chill made the temperature feel like minus-5. A far cry from the above games, but come on, it was freezing cold out there. 

The CBS Sports NFL announcing team of Ian Eagle and Charles Davis said Saturday’s game between Buffalo and New England was the coldest work environment they’ve experienced during their broadcasting careers. 

“We kept the windows closed in the booth until one hour before kickoff,” Eagle told The Athletic. “When we finally opened them, I had a sense that it would be manageable. I was wrong. CBS rented some industrial heaters for the night, but unfortunately, they were no match for the Western New York frigid air. It really hit me in the third quarter. I started shivering and actually had a few moments where my jaw got locked up mid-sentence. It was by far the coldest I’ve ever been calling a game.”

Davis recalled two games he called at Lambeau Field that were similar, but not as bad as it was in Buffalo.

“It helped that the evening was relatively clear, and the winds minimal, but make no mistake about it, ‘the Almighty Hawk (wind)’ made its presence felt and I kept drawing on one thought — everyone involved was cold, and they were persevering,” Davis explained to Richard Deitsch.

“In addition, we were watching history be made in front of us by the Bills offense — seven drives, seven touchdowns, something that had never been done in the NFL playoffs. Beyond impressive, and it definitely helped us maintain focus. I’m not sure anyone would choose to do a game under those conditions, but there was definitely a sense of pride among our team that we all worked to the best of our abilities on a night that would test all of us.”

Davis said that there was no way not to think about his discomfort. He gave credit to the stage crew in the booth that helped to keep him and Ian Eagle warm. There was also a jacket involved, a familiar one given to Eagle during the game, leading to an excellent exchange between he and Davis just before the third quarter started. 

Charles Davis: Where did you get the jacket?

Ian Eagle: What jacket?

Davis: That!

Eagle: Oh, this? Yes, Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, you might have noticed, wore this a few weeks ago and it hit the internet by storm. Kurt saw that we had this assignment. Kurt now runs a program “Warner’s Warmers,” he just sends the jacket out to whoever needs it. I feel like, I want Jiffy Pop Popcorn. This thing is very warm. This is the same jacket. Kurt sent this to me. Let me tell you, not all heroes wear capes, they wear “Silver Bullet Puffers.”

Davis: Let’s talk about the game for a minute. Kurt, a brother would like a jacket too…

I’ve never really experienced calling a game in that extreme weather, especially after all the years I’ve called baseball games. But being in the Midwest, even those early days in April and sometimes into May, cold temps are a factor.

I think the coldest game I ever called was a game with the Cubs where the temperature at the start was about 31 degrees with a wind coming off the lake. We debated on whether or not to open the windows in the booth. One voted no, one voted yes, so the compromise was the window near the play-by-play guy was cracked open just a bit. Games just sound different with the windows closed. It’s not as clean. It sounds like you’re doing a game in a closet. But sometimes self-preservation comes first. The same goes for extremely warm weather too. 

The elements can wreak havoc with the way you call a game. Your pen isn’t working all that well, and how do you score a game without taking your gloves off?  In those conditions, as Eagle was saying, your mouth isn’t in sync with your brain and you wonder if the torture will ever end! I know it sounds exaggerated but in the moment, its not. 

People sitting at home still want you to call the game. They are looking for the same information you would have given if it were 40 degrees instead of 40 below with the wind chill. It’s a big ask, but the broadcast crew has to find a way to adjust to the conditions and do what they are there to do. It helps when everyone understands that. It’s not to say that you can’t talk about the way things are in the booth or on the field from time to time. But don’t let it dominated the airtime, as tempting as it might be to do so. 

Just think, if you’re cold in the booth, what’s life like for the sideline reporter?

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BSM Writers

Ben And Woods Aren’t Doing a Show For One Person

“I guarantee you I’m the only sports talk radio show host in America that gets made fun of regularly for talking Sports on the show.”

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There’s no confusion about where their allegiances lie. And when it comes to being relatable to the audience, there’s few things Ben and Woods do better than buying season tickets at Petco Park, wearing Padres hats and cheering for the lone professional team in San Diego. 

Some hosts choose to never openly root for the teams they talk about on an everyday basis. Steven Woods and Ben Higgins strive to never hide who they are on the air. They’re Padres fans and they’re not afraid to show it. 

“I was in music radio before and sometimes it was hard to hide my disdain for some of the music that I played, so I just decided not to,” said Woods. “I just let it out there. People I think appreciate authenticity and if I didn’t like a song I’d tell you. But I still had to play it, right? With the Padres, it’s why I never sit in the press box, because I can’t cheer in there. I bought season tickets so that I can go and scream at the players like I want to. I think it resonates, because there’s fans listening in the car that want to see them do well too.”

“I do believe in journalistic integrity,” said Ben. “But to me that means you have to be honest. You have to be honest in your opinions and you can’t be afraid to be critical. No one is more critical of a team than their own fans. They are the most critical people of all. I don’t wanna be the fan that constantly criticizes, but at the same time, why would you listen to a show that is just relentlessly positive and gives you a white wash version of what’s not really reality? Every team has problems and it’s our job to point them out or nobody’s going to take you seriously.”

When you think of baseball towns, New York, Chicago and St. Louis are probably the three cities that immediately come to mind. But in a football world, San Diego has emerged as a new baseball town with the Chargers recently leaving for Los Angeles.

If you have any doubt that San Diego is now a baseball city, just listen to Ben and Woods on 97.3 The Fan from 5-9 am every weekday morning. The duo has no issues with doing three-plus hours of Padres talk, even during the offseason.

That’s not a new thing. Ben and Woods have always conducted the show the way it is now. They want to talk baseball, but they also want to hit off-topic content that will give the listener a chance to laugh on their way to work. 

That’s been the case since the show was at Mighty 1090. Ben and Woods were at the station as the morning show when it folded in 2019. That was an incredibly trying time for both talents. 

“It was pretty heartbreaking to be honest with you,” Woods said. “I had a brand new baby and the show was going great. We were on the rise and then it went away. It was shocking. It was also scary.  I think uncertain is the best word. We believed in our product and we knew there was a market for it and there was a station that just so happened to need a morning show. The timing was pretty serendipitous.”

“I had been a listener for 15 years before I ever worked at that station for the first time,” Ben said. “And then you get there and you feel like, wow, we’re here and then all the sudden it’s gone. It wasn’t overnight, at some point we lost the signal transmission then we went streaming and it was kind of a slow death over the last few weeks. Ultimately it just ended one day. It was a very strange thing. The fact we got picked up at 97.3 The Fan, got back on the air so quickly was really great.”

Sports radio show 'Ben and Woods' heads to 97.3 The Fan

Things are going extremely well for Ben and Woods at 97.3 The Fan. They’re thriving in morning drive with a unique show that’s different from any other in the market. Sure, they’ll talk about sports, but their focus is more on the overall entertainment of the show. 

“It’s morning drive, you’re there to entertain,” said Woods. “You do have to get really creative. We get very creative, because we have to. We take a lot of risks, more so than people would like. The way I look at it as no one remembers us talking about the NFL Playoffs. But they do remember the time we played a 17-minute Bob Dylan song in its entirety on the radio and sat through it. I remember that and always will. Nobody is ever going to say, ‘man, nobody breaks down the Tampa Bay Buccaneers like you guys’. But they’ll remember, ‘holy crap, you guys literally played a 17 minute Bob Dylan song it’s entirety’.”

“When we started it was 95 percent sports and I was afraid to do anything else,” Ben said. ”We started doing segments like Ben reads raps, there was a really good response and I started to warm up on OK we can branch out a little bit. Now, if there was a day we didn’t have a non-sports topic I would say that was a weird show.”

“Rest assured, Opening Day comes, we’re blowing out every bit we have, period,” Woods said ”We’re one of the few shows in town that has no problem doing 3 1/2 hours of just Padres talk. You have to be willing to make a fool of yourself a little bit. I always call it punting. It’s an easy thing to say, hey, the playoffs are this week let’s get the local beat writer on from every single team and we’ll interview them. Like anyone here gives a rats ass what the Packers beat writer has to say. There may be one guy, but I’m not doing a show for one guy.”

“I guarantee you I’m the only sports talk radio show host in America that gets made fun of regularly for talking Sports on the show,” laughed Ben. 

One of the reasons the show has the identity that it does, is because of Woods’ background in multiple formats of radio. No, he’s not a sports radio lifer, and in a way, it’s probably greatly benefitted the show. He’s taken his creativity from the music side and perfectly blended it with his love for sports. 

“I like sports radio more because there’s a lot more creativity,“ said Woods. “ I didn’t get to pick the music I got to play at all. Not even a little bit. I didn’t have a lot of chances to talk so for me, as a creative person, this is tremendous. We can do whatever we want and our bosses are pretty cool about giving us a lot of leeway. I’ve learned how audiences react. I’ve learned how to keep an audience. It’s energy, it’s being compelling, breaking balls, having fun. Guy’s driving to work in the mornings, he wants to get a snicker or a laugh, he’s not looking for breakdowns of defenses and things like that.”

Ben and Woods is much more than just the two hosts in the chair every weekday. The cool thing is that anyone that listens to the show knows that. Paul Reindl is the executive producer of the show and has a talent and relationship with the hosts that anyone would dream of. 

“He’s the worst,” laughed both Ben and Woods. “Paulie is great. We were able to get away this weekend and after we drank like 40 beers and whiskeys, I was like bro, I’m so proud of you and you’re so valuable to the show. But he’s an unsung hero behind the scenes. He has an uncanny ability to bring sound drops almost intuitively. He’s got pages and pages of drops we’ve collected over the years. He’s just an awesome producer.”

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BSM Writers

Sports Are Learning To Meet Gen Z Where They Are

“The crux of the issue is that Gen Z is the first generation of kids who are truly free to find their “thing” in a way previous generations never could thanks to modern connectivity.”

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Should sports radio be concerned about where audiences will come from in the future? It is an interesting question that we talk about here a lot. It is also something that the New York Times tackled indirectly last week.

A column from Joe Drape and Ken Belson declared this generation of kids “The eSports Generation” and went on to explain just how disconnected from traditional sports they really are.

An alarmist might ask if this is the beginning of the end of traditional sports leagues. Someone a little more level-headed, like Joe Ovies, may want to dive a little deeper to see what leagues are learning and how they are adapting.

Joe hosts The OG in afternoon drive at 99.9 The Fan in Raleigh. He is always interested in how changes in technology and consumption patterns effect sports and his audience. I saw him tweeting about the New York Times piece last week and asked if he would want to write a little something for us.

Enjoy!

Demetri Ravanos


“Meet your audience where they are.”

How many times have you heard that phrase in the last 5 years from a consultant, manager, or any number of Barrett Media posts as content consumption trends continue to spread out over a variety of platforms? Turns out the same applies for pro sports leagues, who are fearful that an entire generation of fans will be lost and their traditional business model will crater as a result.

The New York Times recently highlighted what sports marketers are doing to win over Generation Z, which typically applies to kids born from 1997 to 2012. The Times hits the usual beats.

There’s a reference to Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, an esports star who is also a traditional sports fan, who the NFL hoped would be a Pied Piper for youth fandom. There are examples of MLB, famously stingy when it came to fans using their content on social media, now working with TikTok influencers. And of course, highlighting the NBA’s wide ranging approach to online engagement and their franchise run NBA 2K esports league. Most of the article was based on a recent SSRS/Luker on Trends report, which conducts regular surveys about sports and society.

The issue for pro sports leagues isn’t that Gen Z kids aren’t “passionate” enough about sports. It’s that Gen Z is more likely to admit they simply don’t like sports.

“Only 23 percent of Generation Z said they were passionate sports fans, compared with the 42 percent of millennials (defined as 26 to 41), 33 percent of Generation X (42 to 57) and 31 percent of baby boomers (57 to 76) who identified themselves as passionate. More striking was that 27 percent of Gen Zers said they disliked sports altogether, compared with just 7 percent of millennials, 5 percent of Gen Xers and 6 percent of boomers.”

The new york times, Jan. 12, 2022

Also factoring into the waning interest in sports from Gen Z is the dramatic decline of youth sports participation. There is a larger discussion to be had about the role of parents and specialization in this decline, but we can address that topic another day. As it relates to pro sports leagues today, the drop in youth participation absolutely impacts the level of interest in kids who might want to watch the best in the world of sports do their thing.

“Participation in youth sports was declining even before Covid-19: In 2018, only 38 percent of children ages 6 to 12 played team sports on a regular basis, down from 45 percent in 2008, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

In June 2020, the pandemic’s early days, 19 percent of parents with kids in youth sports said their child was not interested in playing sports, according to a survey conducted by The Aspen Institute’s Sports and Society Program. By September 2021, that figure was 28 percent.

On average, children play less than three years in a sport and quit by age 11, according to the survey. Why? Mostly, because it is not fun anymore.”

the New york times, Dec. 19th 2021

The crux of the issue is that Gen Z is the first generation of kids who are truly free to find their “thing” in a way previous generations never could thanks to modern connectivity. Meeting up on the playground or at a friend’s backyard for a pickup game has been replaced with meeting your friends on a Discord server and deciding if you’re going to play Halo or Call or Duty after school.

If you have kids in the age range that I do, none of this should be a surprise. You see it every day and don’t even think twice about it. But if you do stop and think about how frictionless it has become to be online all day with your friends, you start to realize the impact of never being bored or getting dragged to things by your parent because there were no other options.

Watching sports and going to sporting events isn’t frictionless. It’s a pain in the ass. Older generations deal with it because we don’t know any better, it’s just what we do. But Gen Z isn’t about to stop what they’re doing just to watch a game. Why would they? They can get the highlights later.

Gen Z is about dropping in and out of entertainment options whenever they feel like it. In other words, why would they sit around waiting for their favorite song to be played on the radio when they can easily pull it up on YouTube or Spotify.

Pro sports leagues can create all the social content and tout billions of views. They can tout engagement with Gen Z because a bunch of kids bought NFL related skins in Fortnite.

Awareness of their leagues isn’t the problem. It’s getting Gen Z to care enough to watch the game. Take my kids, who are fully aware of what’s going on in the world of sports, but getting them to sit down and actually watch the game is torture. Throw in the increasing cost to attend sporting events, I’ve started leaving them at home because it’s a waste of money given my 13-year-old is just gonna play Clash Royale in that $75 seat.

To be clear — I’m OK with my kids just not being into sports. It’s not like I didn’t try. It’s simply understanding we’ve transitioned to a world of niche communities. You can still thrive within those niche communities. Just look at sports talk radio as an example, where you’re not winning with cume, but with passion around sports. That’s what great sports talk radio stations sell. Pro sports leagues will be fine doing the same.

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