Sports Radio News
Smallmon Appreciates Her Climb To ESPN Radio
Tony and Robin Smallmon weren’t surprised when their sports-minded only child Michelle landed a job four years ago on 101 ESPN radio in St. Louis. She was producing a show and doing on-air banter with the likes of the former St. Louis Rams’ player D’Marco Farr, sportscaster Randy Karraker and veteran sports writer Bernie Miklasz.
But when Michelle got the call this summer to move to “The Mothership,” ESPN’s network headquarters in Bristol, Conn., the family response was divided.
“My dad was very excited and my mom started sobbing,” said Michelle. No more Sunday family dinners together. “She thinks I’m never coming home.”
Michelle spent the past four years with 101 ESPN in St. Louis, where she produced and did some on-air work on the “Bernie Miklasz Show” and “The Fast Lane” with Karraker, Farr and former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Brad Thompson.
“I was very happy here,” she said. But when the opportunity arose to interview for a job in Bristol, she took it. She started in July and eventually settled into producing a weekday evening radio show called “Jorge & Jen.” It debuted in late September, but is currently not airing in St. Louis. It can be heard on www.espnradio.com, the ESPN app, SiriusXM, Apple iTunes, Slacker Radio and TuneIn.
“When I got there, I was not assigned (to a show). I was supposed to take ‘College GameDay.’ But they thought I would be better served with a Monday through Friday show. It’s a much more prominent position.”
A graduate of the University of Illinois with a degree in broadcast journalism, her first job out of college was entry level, as a production assistant with KSDK-TV.
“I always wanted to write. I wanted to be a sports writer,” Michelle said.
But she liked to talk sports, too — “I’m a Chatty Cathy” — so she found herself having off-air conversations with KSDK sportscaster Frank Cusamano and sports director Rene Knott. When Knott started doing a weekly sports wrap-up show, he asked her to sit in and make some comments, Michelle said. She also was handling remote production on the sidelines at Rams games.
A fan of sportswriter Bernie Miklasz, she took note when ESPN radio came to St. Louis and he got his own show. Then Bernie’s producer moved on.
“I had never produced radio, but I wanted to work with Bernie,” Michelle said. “I thought I would always be in TV. … When I got the call, plans change and you roll with it.”
He took a chance with her, she said, as producer of “The Bernie Miklasz Show,” then “The Fast Lane.” Sitting in the booth running the shows, the hosts would throw her questions or ask for comments, and in 2014, she began hosting the weekly “Rams Playmakers” show, featuring in-depth interviews with various players.
“I was dealt the best hand of cards with Bernie,” she said. “He’s been my biggest supporter and champion.”
Bernie said he knew she was the one for him “about five minutes into the interview. … She was so smart and witty and vibrant. … And she knows sports. She loves sports. She understood how much our teams and athletes mean to the community,” he said. “That combination of knowledge, spark and sincerity was just what I wanted. She had no experience producing but I didn’t care. The mechanics of producing can be taught and learned. But you can’t teach someone to have flair. You can’t install an abundant personality.”
D’Marco showed her what acceptance is all about.
“One of the best guys ever. He treated me like one of the guys,” she said. “He said, ‘I forget you’re a girl sometimes.’ My gender isn’t in play.”
But Bernie says being a woman still comes into play.
“To be honest it bothers me that she doesn’t have her own radio show. She would be better at it than 75 percent of the people that host sports talk radio. She is a rare talent,” he said. “It infuriates me how the sports media industry still has a way of putting women into a certain slot. … Michelle can hang with any guy in terms of sports knowledge. She can hang with any guy in dishing out zingers and taking shots. When she produced my show she had a chance to contribute on-air, and listeners loved her. Men liked her. Women liked her. She earned across-the-board respect. She is a wonderful producer, but she should be a star. She’s that good.”
For now, her job in Bristol involves behind-the-scenes production and on-air skills to keep the show moving and on time.
Michelle says she’s very organized, a necessary skill for a producer. “You have to be very Type A and have your ducks in a row, to have everything set up in advance,” she said of getting a show ready for broadcast. “You have to be just as prepared or better prepared than the host.”
Which means long before she dons the big headset and sits down to run the show, she spends hours doing research, setting up guest bookings and web development. She frequents Twitter and Instagram, too.
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Sports Radio News
Chris Russo: Immediacy of News Has Hurt Sports Radio
“I mean, if something happens tonight at 7:00 that’s huge, by the time I get out of here 3:00 tomorrow afternoon, people may you might want to hear my take on it.”
Sports radio has changed since the heyday of Mike & the Mad Dog. It was something Chris Russo reflected on this week during an appearance on the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast.
Host Jimmy Traina, who grew up listening to Russo and Mike Francesa on WFAN in New York, said that he does not hear as much sports as he used to on sports radio. On Mike & The Mad Dog, talk about subjects outside of sports was a rare treat. Now, those subjects are part of every show every day.
Russo says he has noticed the same thing. Some of that is about the crowded market place for sports talk and athlete and team-owned media limiting opportunities to land headlining guests. Chris Russo says there is another reality that should be acknowledged with sports radio.
“I think a little something to do with it is there may be less, quote unquote, big time sports guys who are big fans doing the shows,” he said. “You’ll remember, I’m a big fan. Mike was a big fan. You’re a big fan. A lot of guys hosting shows across America right now, they like sports, but they don’t live it like some of us do.”
Traina noted that another factor is the changing pace of information. In the 90s, New Yorkers relied on Mike & the Mad Dog for the full story of the previous night’s game or details that had developed on a bigger story. Now, everyone has the internet at their finger tips and on their phones.
“I think the immediacy has hurt the guy doing a regular show,” Russio agreed. “I mean, if something happens tonight at 7:00 that’s huge, by the time I get out of here 3:00 tomorrow afternoon, people may you might want to hear my take on it. I’ll give them a take, but I’m not going to get 4 hours out of it.”
Takes have always been the lifeblood of sports radio. Russo said in an age where everyone has the basic information and fewer people live and breathe sports, radio was bound to change.
“They’re more guy talk. So they bounce around and they do culture as much as they do sports. They do Brady and his ex-wife, instead of talking about Brady and what he did against Green Bay.”
Another side effect of so much access to information is that even the most unique sports take doesn’t always stand out. Chris Russo noted that the only thing a radio show has that is truly unique now is the hosts themselves.
Listeners form a bond with the host and want to hear more about his or her life. He learned that last week when he posted a picture of his son Tim signing a contract to be an assistant basketball coach at the University of Northern Arizona.
“A lot of guys out there who listen on our radio show feel part of a unit. They feel part of a group. They feel part of the channel. They feel part of the crew,” he said. “So as a result, where are they going to get information about Timmy, getting a Northern Arizona job? I’m only one.”
Sports Radio News
Mike Mulligan: Jeff Van Gundy is Terrible & ‘That Broadcast is Bad’
“Unfortunately, my mind turned off when it was his voice.”
Mike Mulligan dislikes everything about Jeff Van Gundy. At the end of Thursday’s edition of Mully & Haugh, the 670 The Score morning man reacted with disgust to audio of the ABC analyst suggesting that an assist should be awarded to a player that passes to a teammate that is fouled if the teammate hits his free throws.
Dan Bernstein, who was in studio for the crossover segment, asked Mully if he really hates the suggestion or does he just hate that it is coming from Van Gundy.
“Unfortunately, my mind turned off when it was his voice,” Mully responded. “So, I don’t even know what we’re talking about.”
Others in the studio suggested that the disdain stems from the fact that Jeff Van Gundy was the coach of the Knicks, a team Mully hates. He disagreed.
“I think he’s terrible, and I think that broadcast is bad,” he said.
Bernstein noted that he is a huge fan of Stan Van Gundy’s work for TNT. He asked Mike Mulligan if his hate covers all of the Van Gundys or did it just apply to Jeff.
“Stan seems like a decent guy,” Mulligan answered. “I don’t adore his brother, but I do like his brother.”
Sports Radio News
Adam Silver: Networks Will Always Focus on Most Popular Players & Teams
“In fairness to them, the ‘Joker’ hasn’t been in the Finals before.”
The first two games of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets have attracted a larger than anticipated audience. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver shared with Dan Patrick that he has attended the first three NBA Finals games, and the atmosphere inside both arenas has been electrifying. The same seems to be true from the media angle with comparable ratings to last year’s matchup featuring the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors, a pleasantly surprising outcome marking sustainability and viability the league has worked to strengthen over the last decade.
“Probably after last night, we’re going to be up a little bit, which says a lot about the league that you have two midsize markets,” Silver said. “A popular team in Miami, and a Nuggets team that has never been in the Finals, and the fans are responding.”
Silver became the commissioner of the league in 2014, and since then has been a part of the league expanding its digital footprint. The NBA national media rights deal with The Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. Discovery expires at the conclusion of the 2024-25 season, and speculation has already begun as to which entities will bid to present league games.
Patrick asked Silver how the Association can do a better job in utilizing its national media rights to market superstar players in smaller markets. Prior to the NBA Finals, Nikola Jokić was a two-time recipient of the Most Valuable Player award and a five-time NBA All-Star, but was only ninth in social media views. Over the last 30 days, Jokić has skyrocketed to No. 1 on the list, drawing more than 300 million video views across the NBA’s social media platforms.
“We have some influence,” replied Silver. “It’s interesting. To the networks, they do focus on the teams and players that they think are going to be most popular. In fairness to them, the ‘Joker’ hasn’t been in the Finals before.”
On Wednesday, ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy appeared on The Dan Patrick Show and reiterated ideas he has previously stated about modernizing basketball. Some of these ideas included doing away with halftime, offensive goaltending and changing the rules on free throws. Silver heard these remarks before appearing with Patrick on Thursday, and responded to the inquiry with intrigue regarding halftime.
“When we’ve looked to shorten it a bit – because I think you know we changed the format of the last two minutes a couple of years ago to speed the game along – and I think we forget sometimes that the guys really do need the break,” Silver said. “Put aside the programming at halftime; the commercials… maybe you could shorten it slightly. But I think it is meaningful to the players in addition to the coaching that goes on at halftime, [plus] the opportunity to get a breather.”
Silver also commented on the recent merger between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Golf, which has come under scrutiny because of human rights violations in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) owns a majority stake in LIV Golf, and has made lucrative offers to external golfers in an attempt to lure them to the entity. Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, along with several other golfers, took the money, and PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan is coming off as hypocritical after making remarks about how the deal comes off to families of survivors of the September 11 attacks. Silver divulged how the fund has not tried to make an offer for an NBA team; yet even so, the league only permits individuals to buy teams at the moment.
“When the Saudis invest in sports, it gets outsized attention,” Silver said. “I don’t want to complain about that because we want to get outsized attention. On the other hand, somebody could go down the list – they are investors in some of our largest American corporations. Some of the most well-known brands have investments from them…. With a sport like basketball, our Finals are distributed virtually everywhere in the world where the sport is played. It’s an opportunity to bring people together.”