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Dan McDowell Is More Than a ‘Tiny Slice’ of The Ticket’s Success

Dan McDowell has been a big reason why The Ticket in Dallas has done so well in his twenty-plus years on the air and it all started with a P.O. Box in Cleveland.

Tyler McComas

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Dan McDowell

Finding yourself in a career rut isn’t a question of if but rather when, in the sports radio business. How you get out of those ruts, can ultimately determine the path your career takes. Dan McDowell found himself in a rut in the mid-90’s while hopping around small stations in Ohio. He wanted something bigger and more exciting but he was struggling to find a way to make it happen. McDowell’s plan was simple: send radio reel tapes and resumes to any attractive openings he found across the country. And he sent a lot. The problem was that he rarely received any interest back, or even a response.

There came a point where McDowell started to wonder if he was going about things the right way. He then came to the realization he didn’t really know what a great resume looked like or what a great demo tape sounded like. How was he supposed to improve his situation if he wasn’t exactly sure what to send to a Program Director? McDowell thought of a way to see how other broadcasters were doing it. And he came up with a brilliant idea. 

“I would go to Radio.com back then and look at the ads for the things I wanted,” said McDowell. “Some of the addresses just had P.O. Boxes. My mom had a P.O. Box in Cleveland, so I wrote an ad, describing exactly what I wanted, sports talk, mid-market, blah,blah,blah, send tape and resume to this P.O. Box.”

McDowell got around 100 tapes sent to his mom’s P.O. Box from people across the country, including some from hosts he was familiar with. He got to look at every resume and listen to all the tapes to see exactly what people were doing. Granted, McDowell humbly says he doesn’t know if this idea helped him out in the end, but it gave him the access to really see what the competition looked like and what it was doing. 

“I would just try to set myself apart with little things,” McDowell said. “Like, perhaps, since you would send a cassette tape, maybe I had hand written something on it. I saw some people had really nice pre-printed things on them instead. I would try to do that, just to make it look more professional. Even some things people were putting on their resume that I didn’t think was worthy to put on a resume. Oh, this guy is putting that on there? Yeah, I’ll put my high school play-by-play experience on there.”

Mixed with some luck and great timing, McDowell’s intuition helped him get out of his career rut and into a major market. The only potential issue was that he spent the majority of his career working in small Ohio towns such as Athens, Marietta and Zanesville. The big break was in Dallas and he had no ties to the city. That’s when Bruce Gilbert came in. 

To tell the story of Gilbert’s incredible impact on McDowell, you first have to know how the two initially met one another. McDowell was working in Dayton and was actively trying to leave the market. He had a friend working in Cleveland that knew this, so he contacted him about a recent job opportunity he was turned down from, but had an amazing experience with the PD. 

“He said, I didn’t get this job opening in Dallas, but the PD called me,” McDowell said. “Bruce listened to my friend’s tape and gave him some tips on how he could improve. My buddy said, hey, you might not get the job, but at least you’ll get feedback.”

McDowell sent a resume and reel to Gilbert, in hopes of nothing more than to get feedback from a major market PD. The thing was, Gilbert liked what he heard and requested McDowell to send more. He wanted to hear an entire hour of his show in Dayton. Not long after, the two were in negotiations to bring McDowell to Dallas to host at 1310-AM The Ticket. 

The year was 1999 and The Ticket was celebrating five years on the air. If the job opportunity in a market like Dallas wasn’t intimidating enough, working at a station that had built up some longevity certainly was. The station was really starting to hit its stride and create an identity when McDowell walked through the doors for the first time. He was paired up with Bob Sturm and BaD Radio began. But like any new show, especially with a host without any ties to the city, it took a while before the audience accepted him. 

“I think that took probably a decade,” McDowell said. “Well, I don’t know if that’s true, but I was not accepted right away. Bob could tell you that. We used to call it a List of 100. I’m talking about people at the station and other media members in Dallas. There were at least 100 people that thought they should be sitting next to Bob and not me, because I was just some guy out in Dayton that nobody knew or heard of. I had been to two hockey games my whole life and the Stars were in the middle of a Stanley Cup run. Email was the main source of communication and I got my fair share of negativity. It took a while, for sure.”

Regardless of how McDowell felt the audience wasn’t embracing him during those early years, he never doubted for a second the support he got from Gilbert. Routinely, McDowell and Sturm were told by Gilbert they belonged at The Ticket and should be proud of what they’ve accomplished. Even during airchecks, which had always been awkward for McDowell in his previous jobs. Gilbert came with advice but also incredible optimism for how the show was doing. There was a genuine belief from Gilbert in the success of the show. 

“He’s meant everything,” McDowell said. “He was amazing and he’s still amazing. He’s still the greatest. We wouldn’t have survived with anyone else. Bob and I were outsiders. The Ticket was already a thing. The station had been on air for five years and it was so intimidating. Bruce kept telling us we belonged here. That meant so much to me. The guy that matters believed in us.”

Behind Gilbert’s steadfast belief, the show started to pick up steam. In McDowell’s mind, two things in particular helped fuel the rise. First, was the famous on-air spat with ESPN College Football Analyst Lee Corso. In the early 2000’s Corso was on the air with BaD Radio and he didn’t particularly care for McDowell’s sarcasm. So much, that Corso called him a jerk on the air and left the interview after just a couple of minutes. The Ticket listeners made Corso the butt of the joke and even went as far to create signs with references to the interview, which were brought to College Gameday locations in the following years. The incident had an enormous effect on McDowell gaining the approval of listeners. 

Second, was the approval he gained with the popular afternoon show on the station, The Hardline

“Those guys really started to embrace us as a show that could do bits and be funny,” McDowell said. That and the Lee Corso incident, in my head, that was a big turning point for a lot of the listeners and I got a lot of good, positive feedback. I’ve always thought that was a key moment.”

BaD Radio never turned back after that. For several years, they helped grow the identity of The Ticket, which was sports takes but with incredible comedy and bits. But at some point, one way or another, every great radio show comes to an end. BaD Radio was no exception. A massive shakeup at The Ticket happened in 2020 after Mike Rhyner surprisingly announced his retirement. Sturm was sent to afternoons to co-host The Hardline with Corby Davidson and replace Rhyner. This left McDowell with a new partner. A situation he hadn’t been in for over 20 years. 

“I was very scared in the beginning,” McDowell said. “Bob and I had great chemistry and we were friends, both on and off the air. Then it was, well maybe the only reason we ever had any following was Bob? I didn’t really believe that, but maybe people will just revolt against this. The great thing is Jake (Kemp) and I had already been working together for 10 years. He was the producer and the main fill-in host. That made it a lot easier.”

McDowell, Kemp and the other voices of The Hang Zone let the show organically morph into its own identity. What was a scary new venture at first for McDowell is now something he’s incredibly happy with. In a way, it’s even given him the passion and stamina to continue to do sports radio for several more years. 

“It was a revitalized type thing,” McDowell said. “I wonder if that’s the case for Bob, too. When you do something for 20 years in a row, not that it was stale, but there’s a newness I like. It’s kind of a re-energized type thing.”

It’s a new time slot with a new co-host and a new show name, but the past two years have been enjoyable for McDowell. He doesn’t show any signs of wanting to leave The Ticket anytime soon. That would be a fitting story for someone that has played such a key role in The Ticket’s success over the years. McDowell would be quick to tell you the credit needs to mostly go to guys like Rhyner, Davidson, Sturm and others, but you can’t downplay what he’s meant to Dallas sports radio. One could make an argument The Ticket has the most well-known identity in sports radio. McDowell helped build that. 

“I’m happy to just be a tiny slice of it,” McDowell said. “The credit goes to the guys that started it. I credit Bruce and his support, but being in the middle of those guys when it was already a legendary station when it was just five years old, helped us succeed. That The Ticket is thought of in that way, and that I’m here as a piece of it, is great.”

BSM Writers

The NFL Hopes You’re Lazy Enough to Pay Them $5

“This app reportedly doesn’t even have any original content of it’s own. NFL Films produces content for ESPN+, HBO Max, Peacock, Tubi, Epix, Paramount Plus, and Prime Video. It has also reportedly had discussions about producing content for Netflix. Unless they plan to bring all of those shows in-house, what kind of shows could NFL Films produce for NFL Plus that you couldn’t already find on all of those other apps?”

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NFL Streaming

Corporate goodwill is a hard thing to ask for. It’s not something that is a requirement for any entity to engage in. But it can go a long way in establishing a deeper bond for the future. According to Sports Business Journal, NFL owners are contemplating launching a streaming service for the league.

The app would feature podcasts, content created by teams and radio content. It’s unknown where the podcast content will come from but one can assume it’ll include the various podcasts the NFL produces with iHeartRadio. Team content that is expected to be featured could come from videos and audio that is already posted on team websites and social media platforms such as YouTube.

Various organizations across the league have expanded their YouTube efforts over the last couple of years as the Google-owned site has slowly set itself apart as a leading source for viewership. My hometown team, the Baltimore Ravens, for example promotes a talk show with cornerback Marlon Humphrey where he interviews players and other key figures from the team about their lives and careers and how they got to where they are today.

The most important part of this app will be NFL games itself. On Sunday afternoons, whatever games are airing in the specific location you’re in while using the app, those are the games you have access to watch. If you’re in Baltimore and a Ravens game is airing on CBS while the Commanders are on Fox, those are the games the app will offer. If you’re in Boston and a Patriots game is on CBS while a Giants game is on Fox – you won’t have access to the Ravens game airing on CBS in Baltimore or the Commanders game on Fox in Baltimore even if that’s where you normally live. These games used to be a part of a deal with Yahoo Sports and Verizon – who distributed them on their apps for free.

JohnWallStreet of Sportico notes, “longer term, the existence of a league-owned streaming platform should help ensure broadcast rights continue to climb.” But at the end of the day, how does this help the fan? The increase of broadcast rights is going to end up costing viewers in the long run through their cable bill.

ESPN costs almost $10 per cable customer. The app, as of now, isn’t offering anything special and is an aggregation of podcasts, games and videos that fans can already get for free. If you want to listen to an NFL podcast – you can go to Spotify, Apple Podcasts and various other podcast hosting platforms. If you want to watch content from your favorite teams, you can go to their website or their social media platforms. And if you want to watch games, you can authenticate your cable subscriptions and watch them for free through your cable company’s app or CBS’ app or the Fox Sports app.

It’s nothing more than a money grab. Games are already expensive to go to as it is. Gas prices have reached astronomical highs. Watching content has become extremely costly and it’s debatable whether buying streaming services is cheaper or more expensive than the cable bundle. And now the NFL wants to add more stress and more expenses to their viewers who just desire an escape from the hardships of life through their love of a beautiful game? It seems wrong and a bit cruel to me.

The beauty of paying for content apps is that you’re going to gain access to something that is original and unique from everything else in the ecosystem. When House of Cards first premiered on Netflix, it was marketed as a political thriller of the likes we had never seen and it lived up to its expectations for the most part. The critically-acclaimed series led viewers to explore other shows on the app that were similarly a more explicit and unique journey from what had been seen on television before.

This app reportedly doesn’t even have any original content of it’s own. NFL Films produces content for ESPN+, HBO Max, Peacock, Tubi, Epix, Paramount Plus, and Prime Video. It has also reportedly had discussions about producing content for Netflix. Unless they plan to bring all of those shows in-house, what kind of shows could NFL Films produce for NFL Plus that you couldn’t already find on all of those other apps? Even YouTube has partnered with NFL Films to produce behind the scenes footage of games that is available for FREE.

If you’re going to force viewers to pay $5 to watch games on their phone, the least you could do is give fans access to speak with players and analysts before and after the games. Take NFL Network over the top so that we can wake up with Good Morning Football. Offer a way for fans to chat while games are being watched on the app. The ability to watch an All-22 feed of live games. A raw audio options of games. The ability to screencast. Even a live look at the highly paid booths who are calling the games.

Five bucks may seem small in the grand scheme of things but it is a rip-off especially when the content is available for free with a few extra searches. Goodwill and establishing a person to person online relationship with fans could go a long way for the NFL. It’s not going to work using these tactics though. And after facing such a long pandemic, offering it up for free just seems like the right thing to do.

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BSM Writers

Sports Talkers Podcast – Danny Parkins

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Danny Parkins opens up to Stephen Strom about why he is so passionate about defending Chicago. He also gives his best career advice and explains why a best friend is more important sometimes than an agent.

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BSM Writers

Marc Hochman is The Lebron James of Miami Sports Radio

The Hochman and Crowder Show with Solana isn’t like anything you’ll hear in most major markets. But they wear that distinction with a badge of honor. They’re not interested in breaking down why the offensive line can’t get a push on short-yardage situations, they want to make you laugh, regardless if it’s sports content or not. They’re perfectly Miami sports radio. 

Tyler McComas

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Marc Hochman

There’s 30 minutes to go until Marc Hochman’s summer vacation and he’s suddenly overcome with emotion. Instead of staring at the clock, he’s staring at an article from The Miami New Times, which has just named him Best Talk Radio Personality in its “Best of 2022” awards issue. It’s an incredible honor in a city that has several worthy candidates, including the man sitting right next to him, Channing Crowder. 

But it’s not just the honor that’s catching Hochman’s eye, it’s also the paragraph where the newspaper compares him to Lebron James. No, seriously. Compliments are nothing new for the Miami radio veteran, but being compared to one of the best basketball players of all-time is new territory. Part of the paragraph reads like this:

“His current domination of the afternoon drive simulcast on both WQAM and 790 The Ticket (WAXY) is akin to Lebron playing for the Lakers and Clippers simultaneously. Could he do it? Probably. Does Hochman do this daily? Yes. Advantage, Hochman.”

Talk about incredibly high praise for a sports radio host. Especially one in Miami where there’s still a lot of hard feelings towards Lebron. But the praise is accurate, because the Hochman and Crowder Show with Solana airs on two different Audacy stations every day. It’s an interesting dynamic, especially for a market the size of Miami/Fort Lauderdale. 

“We have a joke that if you don’t like what you’re hearing on 560, feel free to tune in on 790,” laughed Hochman. “But it’s fun and I think in some strange way it’s increased our audience. As crazy as it is to say in 2022, there are people who listen to a particular radio station and don’t ever change it. I do think being on both stations has expanded our audience. We have fun with it. The show is on for four hours on 560 WQAM and three hours on 790 The Ticket.”

It’s cool to see Hochman get this type of honor during his 10th year of being an afternoon host on 560 WQAM. Especially since he’s originally from Chicago, but has carved out an incredible career in a city he’s called home since the late 80s. It’s funny to think Hochman had no interest in sports radio in 2004 when his college friend Dan Le Batard offered him a job as an executive producer at a startup station in Miami. Now, 18 years later, he’s being voted as the best to do it in the city. 

“Everybody likes to be recognized for what they do,” said Hochman. “We get recognized all the time by the listeners, but when someone out of your orbits writes their opinion of what you’re doing, and it’s that glowing of an opinion, it’s great. I’ve been compared to Lebron before, but it’s always been my hairline. It was nice to be compared to him for another reason. That was super cool.”

The best part about all of this is how Hochman will use this as a funny bit on the show, because, above anything else, he’s instantly identified as someone who’s incredibly gifted at making people laugh on the air. There’s no doubt it will become a theme on the show, both with him and his co-hosts, Crowder and Solana. 

“The award came out about 30 minutes before I was leaving for my summer vacation, so I had about 30 minutes on the air to respond to it,” Hochman said. “So I’m sure it will become a bit on the show, I certainly will refer to myself as the Lebron James of sports talk radio in Miami. Although, there’s still some hard feelings here towards him.

That was the one part that jumped out, obviously, to me, Crowder and to Solana. I don’t think I’m Lebron James but Crowder said on the air that sometimes you have to acknowledge when you’re playing with greatness, and he said “I used to play defense with Jason Taylor and Junior Seau, now I’m doing radio and I will acknowledge greatness.”

With or without this honor, it’s pretty evident Hochman is the happiest he’s ever been in sports radio. He’s surrounded with two talented co-hosts, but the sentiment is that Hochman does an incredible job of putting both Solano and Crowder in situations to be the best versions of themselves on the air. However, Hochman sees it differently. 

“I think that’s more on the people around you,” he said. “If you have great teammates, they’re great. Crowder and Solana, those dudes, if you want to make a basketball comparison, we have ourselves a Big Three.

Solana is the best at what he does, Crowder is the absolute best radio partner I’ve had in my career. He’s so aware of what it takes to entertain but also has broadcast sensibilities at the same time. I actually think he’s the one that makes us sound better than what we really are. He has a really incredible knack for entertaining but also informing.”

The Hochman and Crowder Show with Solana isn’t like anything you’ll hear in most major markets. But they wear that distinction with a badge of honor. They’re not interested in breaking down why the offensive line can’t get a push on short-yardage situations, they want to make you laugh, regardless if it’s sports content or not. They’re perfectly Miami sports radio. 

“I would say Miami is the strangest sports radio market in the country,” said Hochman. “I grew up in Chicago so I’m intimately familiar with Chicago sports talk. Miami sports talk, which is Le Batard, who redefined what works. In Miami, that’s what it needed. It’s more guy talk than sports talk. We certainly can’t break down a third inning in a Marlins game and why a runner should have been running when he wasn’t, the way that New York, Philadelphia or Boston radio could.”

“That doesn’t work here. When Crowder and I go on the air everyday, we’ve always said, our goal is we want to laugh the majority of our four hours on the air. If we’re laughing, we assume the audience is laughing, as well. That’s our personality. We both like to laugh and have fun. I like to do it, no matter what is going on. That translates to the radio. Luckily, Miami is a sports radio market that embraces that, because I don’t think we could do a show any other way.”

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