A Conversation With Steve Gorman
Have you ever gone to a bar and bumped into somebody that was a great storyteller who also had a really interesting past? It’s entertaining to listen to a person like that. This description fits Steve Gorman incredibly well. Steve is a phenomenal storyteller who happens to have a slew of fascinating stories to share from his past.
Steve has told me many epic stories about his musical experiences during commercial breaks and following radio shows. Of course he shares a lot of these stories with his listeners while on the air too, as he’ll share in a book due next summer about his adventures as the drummer of the Black Crowes. The fusion of the sports and music worlds mixed with unique storytelling is something that is very rare in sports radio. It’s an approach that Steve applies very nicely.
“I’m a big believer in if you’re not in over your head, you don’t know how tall you are.” That was Steve’s philosophy when he was initially offered a weekday national show on FOX Sports Radio. After being thrown in the deep end, he’s still standing tall five years later.
Steve can be heard from 6-8pm ET on FSR and the iHeartRadio app. I keep listening for Steve to profess his hidden love for heavy metal music. It hasn’t happened yet, but you never know. There’s still hope. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: Would you rather listen to seven straight hours of heavy metal or watch the Yankees smoke the Orioles in a doubleheader?
Steve Gorman: Only because I’m so used to it and it wouldn’t feel that unusual, I think the Yankees smoking the Orioles. I’ve got a lifetime of painful experience being dominated by the Yankees, so it would actually go by quicker.
Noe: Okay. Now, does this signal a growing love for heavy metal in your eyes?
SG: It doesn’t. The signal for a growing love of heavy metal in my eyes — I don’t know what that would be. If I were signaling something from my eyes it would actually be Morse code saying, “Help me, get me out of here.” That’s what comes to mind. A hostage situation where I’m saying, “Yes, I love heavy metal,” but I’m truly being held against my will.
Noe: (laughs) That’s disappointing, but I understand where you’re coming from. How much was music and sports a part of your family life growing up?
SG: It was huge. I have five older brothers and four of my older brothers were big jocks and the fifth played guitar. You just look up to your older brothers. The ones who didn’t play music all had record collections. I think about my childhood and the idea of shooting hoops in the driveway — playing HORSE, or 21, one-on-one, two-on-two, or even three-on-three, but there’s a speaker out of someone’s bedroom window blasting music the whole time. That’s what it was like at my house.
You were usually doing something to keep your body moving with a ball and listening to music. Soccer and basketball were the sports that I played at school for my teams, but football in the backyard, tennis, baseball and whatever else there was to do at all times. We were just always doing something and there was always music on.
Noe: Would you say that you were bigger into sports or music growing up?
SG: It’s interesting. I love them both. I would sit and listen to records and not move for hours at a time. My greatest passion was absolutely for music, but there wasn’t a path for music that I could see. As a kid, you have Little League and everybody plays, but you don’t have Little League rock bands. I guess now you have the School of Rock if you live in a town with one and so the kids can actually think about being in a band.
Our culture has sports all wrapped up in it with your school, with your neighborhood, sports are something that is just part of daily life. I wanted to be in a band. Like early, I don’t remember there being a time where I didn’t think, “Man, I want to be a drummer in a rock ‘n’ roll band.” But at the same time when I was seven, you didn’t go to Little League to join a band. You went to Little League to play baseball.
There was a path to sports and there was a reality for sports. There was nothing like that that I was aware of to go play music. If you asked me what I wanted to do, I would have always said I want to be in a band. But that just didn’t seem like a realistic thing to me on any level where I could go play drums. I could go play any number of sports.
Noe: How did your sports radio career begin?
SG: It began in my mind in the late ‘90s. I had been a broadcasting major in college in the ‘80s [at Western Kentucky University]. When I was a college student, I thought I would just be a sportscaster. That was my first actual goal. I was a broadcasting major. I dropped out, bought a drum kit, and started a band. Then, took a long diversion, if you will, away from that thinking.
I never thought about broadcasting again once I bought a drum kit until I started listening to sports talk radio in the mid-to-late ‘90s as it was blowing up. I remember very specifically the first time I ever heard Jim Rome. I was in Atlanta — ‘96 or ‘97 probably — when he got on the air there. I remember I had read an article about him and his show in Sports Illustrated. It was talking about other markets had sports talk but this guy was going national. It focused on a few guys — there was Jim Rome and there was “Ferrall On The Bench” were the two shows that were on in Atlanta that I started listening to.
The jungle back then — I mean Jim Rome’s show was very different then than what it became as most shows do evolve greatly — but when I first heard it I thought there’s something there. That’s an interesting format. It’s creative. It’s unique, and I wonder if there’s a way to do a show like that but where you have a lot more music content. It was just a vague thought, but it was something that stayed in the back of my mind for years and years. I never thought to do anything about it. It would just occur to me as I would listen to the show.
When I moved to Nashville, I was here in 2004, and sometime around 2008 I was at preschool picking my daughter up and I was talking with one of the other dads [Willy Daunic]. He did the afternoon drive-time show on a local sports talk station here in Nashville. We just met and we we’re just shooting the shit. He said, “Hey, you should come in and do a segment with me sometime. Come in for an hour. You’re a sports fan. You’re in this big band and you’re funny. Come on in. It’ll be fun.” And I said, “Yeah sure, no problem.”
I had done radio interviews throughout the entire ‘90s with the Black Crowes. I would go to radio stations all the time — to rock stations — and if they had a sports talk station I’d say, “Hey, can I go sit in with those guys too?” I just always wanted to do that.
So anyway, I did an hour locally here with the afternoon show and the program director [Brad Willis] came in and said, “Man that was great! You sounded good. You’re really funny. We could do a weekly segment with you if you wanted it. I could sponsor it and probably give you a couple of hundred bucks a week.”
My answer, even at the time it was just kind of a joke, but you always gotta see what you can get away with, I said, “You know, actually I’d rather just have my own show.” He looked at me and he goes, “What is it?” I said, “Musicians talking about sports.” He laughed and he goes, “Okay, well, let’s get lunch tomorrow and talk about it.” Literally two weeks later I was on the air.
Noe: That’s awesome, man. (laughs) That’s a great story.
SG: And I’ve been on a million radio shows that I can tell you this — it was a Sunday night. He said, “Just come in and do Sunday nights from like 8 to 9. Just take one hour and just feel it out.” Me and my buddy Brandon [Gnetz] — I convinced him to do it with me — we went in on a Sunday night and we wrote a ton of bits together ahead of time. We wrote enough content to, right now, would be a week of radio. We had so much material and I just basically sat there and read it really fast trying to sound calm. I’m sure if I heard it now it would be the worst thing ever.
We went in there and I thought it was a cool thing and it was going to be fun. The first time I heard myself say the words Steve Gorman Sports, all I could think was, “What the hell did I just get myself into?” It’s one thing to go sit in on someone else’s show and it’s another when they say, “Okay, you’re on,” and it’s your show and you really don’t know what you’re doing.
As I said it was Sunday night at 8pm, which is not exactly high ratings drive time, so I don’t know that anybody heard it. We just started doing that on Sundays. The band was working a lot. Through the summer of ‘08 through 2009 and into 2010, I would just get Sunday nights for an hour and sometimes two hours, just whenever I wanted to. Whenever I was home and had time to do it, they would just give me the time. The thinking was always I’m going to be off the road one day.
The PD of the station there [Brad Willis] — he’s still a friend of mine — he just said, “Look, man, just picture it like a batting cage. You’re just going in and taking cracks. You’re just swinging the bat. That’s all you do. If this is something you ever want to commit to, you’ll figure it out.” He was super supportive. He thought it was kind of great that I didn’t know what I was doing because chances are you’re going to find something kind of unique that way.
The Crowes took ‘11 and ‘12 off so I had two years I knew I was going to be home. In 2011, that first station I was ever at, which is called The Zone here in Nashville, they had no time for me. I went to the PD and he said, “Man, I’d love to give you some time, but I have nothing. There’s another station that just switched formats so there’s a little competition in town at a station called The Game. Go see if they have time.”
I went out and met the PD there [Troy Hanson] and he put me on nights the summer of 2011. I started doing 10-to-midnight five nights a week on The Game. Then after six months, I moved to the afternoons for just one hour, but that’s what I was doing for all of ‘11 and ‘12 and then about the first half of 2013.
Noe: What was your reaction when Fox Sports Radio initially offered you that weekday gig to host national shows?
SG: Oh, I couldn’t even believe it. I had been on the air here on a daily show for about a year and a half. I was just getting ready to go out on tour with the Black Crowes in 2013. I got a call from Bruce Gilbert at FOX Sports Radio who had heard about the show and listened to it online a couple of times. You know Bruce, Brian, and he was like, “What is this? Is this a hobby? Is this a real career move? I’m intrigued. It’s just very different.” We just had a long conversation. We had a long talk about my vision for the show and what kind of show I’d like to do and he thought it was cool.
That was all very good, but I was on the road all year. In the fall of 2013 in August or September, he said, “Hey man, when the tour stops in December, if you want I can put you on weekends on FOX Sports Radio.” I was thrilled. I was like holy crap. Like, “How many stations would you put me on?” I thought he was going to say seven. He goes, “No, the whole network. It’s like 230 stations.” I just couldn’t believe it.
When you’re a young band and you’re making your first record, you’re listening to your favorite bands’ records and you’re envisioning yourself, “Can we get as good as my favorite bands? Can we get as great?” I hadn’t really taken radio in the same way as seriously just because the show was so unlike anything else. I didn’t have anything to really compare it to. To hear a guy like Bruce — for him to be that interested and say I’ll put you on weekends, that was like, oh man, I got to really get a little more serious about this because I’ll get exposed real fast for just kind of winging it if you will.
I think I was a little over nervous. We were working hard, but again I just didn’t feel we knew what we were doing. I look back now and be like, “Yeah, we knew exactly what we were doing,” but it was just way more than I would’ve expected. Then again it’s not that unusual, that’s kind of how radio works. At the same time, one guy came to see The Black Crowes in New York in 1988 and said, “Do you want to make a record?” All of a sudden we’re making a record.
I mean things do happen quickly. It’s not about the finished product. It’s about does somebody see talent? Does somebody see potential? I put things into that framework so I could make more sense of it. I compared it to the music world just so I could get a sense of context.
For the fall of 2013, I was anticipating getting on weekends in 2014 as a starting point. I went into the holidays thinking this would be great, man. We had decided to wait until football season ended just because if I had been on the air on a Saturday or a Sunday, all you’re doing is updating scores like, “Hey, Steve Gorman Sports, from South Bend, Notre Dame just scored again.” You’re just doing that kind of a show on the weekends. That’s just different. I thought if a bunch of program directors are going to hear the show they should probably hear something more like what we want it to be.
We decided let’s wait till February. The week after the Super Bowl, I’ll hop on the weekend. Well, that was the plan. Then on December 24th, Christmas Eve, we’ve got the kids there excited, got the tree all up, wrapping presents. The phone rings and Bruce says, “Look, I don’t have time to explain to you what’s happened. Grease fire just got put out at FOX Sports Radio, but are you ready to do five days a week the first week of January?” I said, “What are you talking about?” He goes, “3-6 Eastern, Monday through Friday, are you up for it?”
I knew in the back of my mind that there’s no way in hell I’m up for that, so of course my answer was, “Yes, absolutely. Let’s go.” I’m a big believer in if you’re not in over your head, you don’t know how tall you are.
I remember saying to him, “How long do I have to suck before you fire me?” (laughs) I need some time. I’ve never done it on this scale. I said, “When do you look at the ratings?” He goes, “You don’t understand how this works. It takes about a year, a year and a half for a show to really find itself.” I thought he was going to say you have six weeks. You know what I mean? That’s just how little I know about radio.
I really thought he’d go, “Hey, if it’s not working by April, we’ll cut you loose.” I fully anticipated him saying that. He goes, “You know it takes about a year,” and the second he said that, I was like, “Okay. I’m in, man. Let’s do this. Let’s go.” It turned out we started about a month later. It was the end of January when the show launched.
Noe: When you started the show and the first few months went by, did you get any brushback or feel a vibe like, “Why the hell is this musician doing a sports talk show?”
SG: Yeah, not that I was hearing it, I just could see it on Twitter. People are online tweeting about it. Bitter people are weighing in on what a bunch of bullshit this is. To Bruce’s credit — when I first talked to Bruce and we were having our very first get-to-know-you conversation, I think the things I said — I was just being very honest. He said, “What’s your favorite show?” I said I listen to Colin Cowherd every day. He goes, “Really? Why?” I said because it reminds me of what I don’t want to do, or what I don’t want to be. He loved that answer.
He said, “You know I talk to people every day who say, ‘I’m the next Colin Cowherd.’” I was like, “Oh my God. No.” I think his show is great, but I’m just all over the place. I can’t think that way. I’m not that linear of a thinker. Sports to me is all about — I look at it like music. It’s about passion, and it’s being a fan, and it’s just the funny stories that surround it.
I’m not an expert. I know a lot about sports. I know a lot more than a lot of people, but for people that do this — I’m going to say this about you, Brian Noe, I look at a guy like you in this industry and I think, you can break down things on a micro level in a way that I never could, and that I frankly never was interested in doing. I just always wanted to create a show that was just kind of my sensibility. It worked out I had a great opportunity to do that.
Then I brought my cousin [Jeffrey Gorman] along as a co-host. We tend to have a very natural rapport that plays into itself. I just never saw myself as an expert on anything. I just am very curious. I know what I like and I know what I don’t like. I know what I think is real and I know what I think is bullshit. I just saw an avenue for something that could be a little creative and unique. Here we are now in our fifth year and it’s still going well.
Noe: What do you love and hate the most about sports talk radio?
SG: In general? You don’t mean my experience, you mean just something in general?
Noe: You could take it either way. You could take it as it applies specifically to you and doing a show, or just in general what the format is like.
SG: Well, I’ll answer it both ways. As far as the format goes, I don’t care for — I say things that I really believe. I obviously know, especially if the subject goes off of sports, I say things that get a reaction from people. I can tell you this completely truthfully. That’s not why I say it. I’m not interested in clickbait. It’s not my personality to be like, “Listen to me and look at me over here.” That’s a weird thing for a radio host to say, but I have opinions on all sorts of things that are to me completely reasonable.
I understand that other people might not agree, but the point is I tell you what I think. I’m certainly open to hearing any other opinion and thought process, but I’m not interested in conversation that is just designed to inflame people. I don’t have any time to think about how can I stick it to the people who think one way by thinking another way, or by presenting something else. If I’m talking about it, I’m telling you what I really think.
I also have no problem the next day going, “Oh, man, I was totally wrong. You know what I just realized?” I want my show to sound more like conversations that I have with friends all the time. In my life I talk about politics. I talk about religion. I talk about movies and food. To me everything in conversation is valid. I just love conversation. I like just shooting the shit with people. And that’s the kind of show I’m looking for.
I don’t look for the hot buttons. I don’t like to create hot buttons. The other point is I’m just not good at that. It’s not my forte. For the people who live to do that sort of thing that, they’re good at it. It works for them. All I can say to them is congratulations. Good for you. It’s not interesting to me. I don’t like the mindset behind that.
That said, I’m also very aware that I come at this from a very different place than a lot of people in this medium. Most of the guys that do this, this is something they wanted to do, and the only thing they wanted to do for a really long time. I sort of slid into it on a local level. There’s not a lot of cities where a guy can go to the PD at a hugely successful sports talk station and say, “Hey, it’s musicians talking sports,” and they say, “Hey, cool,” but this is Nashville. Every other person on the street is the guitar player. It makes sense here. I understand there’s a lot to my situation that some things just fell into place that very likely wouldn’t have if I were anywhere else at any given time. That’s just how it goes.
I say I’m very lucky, which means I had an opportunity and I made sure I took advantage of it. That’s what luck is. It’s preparation meets opportunity. You’ve got to make your own luck.
There were opportunities before that I wasn’t ready for and it didn’t pan out. You could call me unlucky if you wanted. Luck is hitting the scratch-off ticket for 10 bucks. When I say I got lucky in radio, it’s not like I wasn’t doing the work. It’s not like I don’t still do the work, but I was lucky that the guy who heard me was in a position to do something about it. I was lucky that his bosses said, “Yeah, we’ll take a flyer on this guy.”
Self-made people don’t exist. You need help no matter what you do unless you literally invent a new chemical. If you can invent a new molecule then okay, maybe you’re a self-made success, but otherwise you just need a lot of help. That’s been my experience.
Noe: Who are some musicians you know that are either big sports fans or active listeners of sports radio?
SG: Oh, I know a ton. I’ve said for years every band has at least one big sports fan in it. Pretty much any band I’ve ever met. The guys from Oasis are massive soccer fans. A couple of the guys in Wilco are ginormous basketball and football fans. The guys in Hootie and the Blowfish — I’m just thinking about different types of bands — were all huge sports fans. Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers were massive basketball and soccer fans. Mike Mills, the bass player in REM, University of Georgia and all Atlanta sports teams. Obsessive. There’s just so many.
For that matter, Robert Plant is a partial owner of a soccer team in England. There’s all kinds of sports fans in all kinds of music. As far as who listens, I don’t know. In the Black Crowes, the singer in our band, Chris Robinson, is a huge sports fan. I mean massive sports fan. That image, people just don’t think that makes sense because he’s a front man, completely stoned all the time, whatever you think of him, but he played sports growing up. He’s a huge basketball, football, and soccer fan. He likes everything. He likes baseball at times. We’ve been to a million games together all over the place.
Noe: What has been your single favorite moment in music and your single favorite moment in sports radio?
SG: Wow. I mean single favorite moment in music is impossible. I could give you a different answer every day for the rest of my life. There’s some serious highlights. The first time Jimmy Page jumped onstage and sat in with the Black Crowes was pretty mind-blowing. And mind-blowing because people say, “Oh, it was like a dream come true,” and it’s beyond that because it never occurred to me to dream it. At no point did I think, “Man, maybe one day we’ll play with Jimmy Page.” That just didn’t even occur to me as a possibility.
That led to playing with him whole lot. That led to a whole tour and a live album. That very first time we were in Paris in early 1995 and he turned up at the gig and we said, “Do you want to sit in for the encore?” He said yes. Just that moment, the anticipation like, “Wait a minute. He’s going to do this?” I’ll never, ever, ever forget that.
It’s funny because we met him two weeks earlier in London for the first time. We played the Royal Albert Hall and we met Jimmy Page because we had already known Robert Plant. We had toured with him. So, Robert came to the gig and brought Jimmy along. We walk offstage. Jimmy walks in. “Oh, man, good to meet you. How are you?” He’s like, “Oh, I loved it. I love the band. It was great.” Like, “Oh my God! Jimmy Page!” As far as guitar players go, there’s nowhere else to go on the list. He’s one of the pinnacle guys.
This is late January of ‘95. As it turns out it’s the night of the Super Bowl — Niners and Chargers. We’re in London so the game is starting London time at like midnight. We held a room at the Albert Hall and it had some TVs. We had an after-show party to watch the Super Bowl and Jimmy Page was there. The first night we ever hung out with Page the Super Bowl was on and we were standing there and he was talking about the first time he ever saw an American football game. He met Joe Montana once and this, and that, and the other. He’s telling stories and I’m watching the Super Bowl and I’m like, well this is just all the pieces of my brain nice and neat all in one moment. I’m watching the Super Bowl with the two guys from Led Zeppelin like, “Holy shit.”
It was funny because a year to the day later, we we’re with Page and Plant at an after-show party watching the Super Bowl in Brazil. We had two straight Super Bowls with those guys out of the country. Those moments are always pretty cool.
Favorite moment in sports talk was probably — I’ve had Ringo Starr on my show a few times and I know him. I say we’re friends. I’m one of more than a million young drummers that loves to drum and love drums because of Ringo Starr. He’s very sweet to me and very friendly. We’re not exactly pen pals, but the fact that we’ve met and we have a good rapport, that is my dream. I was such a Beatles fan growing up. I just revere him so much.
To be on the radio with Ringo and he’s telling me stories in the ‘70s of how he always loved the Dallas Cowboys. He was watching the Cowboys once and just decided, “I’m going to live in Dallas.” So, he just on a lark flew to Dallas and bought a cowboy hat and looked at ranches for a whole day, and then decided, “Nah, I’ll go back to LA,” and just flew right back to LA. At no point did he mention, I think it was obvious, he was high as a kite and barely remembers it, but the point of the story was he likes the Dallas Cowboys. For me, Steve Gorman Sports gets no better than Ringo Starr talking about the Dallas Cowboys in the 1970s.
Noe: I love it. That’s great. Which would drive you crazier; would it be a whole month without playing drums once, or a whole month without doing a single sports talk show?
SG: Without music for sure. I haven’t been playing shows much at all. I’m going to be busy next year on the road and I’m dying to do that. The last few years I have played the fewest shows ever since 1987. I’ve been barely gigging at all, but it was good. It helps to take a long break. I’ve never done it before. I think it has been a good thing.
I have to hit something every now and then. I have to sit at a kit and at least play for five minutes — that’s me. Not doing the show, not talking about sports or doing Steve Gorman Sports — if I took a month off maybe it would drive me crazy, but it’s been awhile since I’ve had a month off that too. Right now I’d say it’s much harder to think about not drumming.
Noe: What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started doing Steve Gorman Sports on FOX?
SG: Momentum. Keep going forward. It’s storytelling and it’s getting your opinion across. When I first started, I had some subconscious concerns. Once I was able to identify them, they went away pretty quickly. Like you referenced — what about people who were bagging you for, “Where did this guy come from?” I felt like I had to prove I belonged. I didn’t want it to look like I was just handed a gig because I’m a guy in a band.
Now, that’s not how radio works. Nobody would’ve ever given me a sports talk show because I’m a good drummer. That’s crazy. But like I said, I was in over my head and you start to think crazy things when you’re there. It’s not like the Black Crowes were at their commercial peak in 2013. It’s not like we were the biggest band in the country. It’s not like someone gave Dave Grohl a radio show. He’s like a household name. I’m the drummer in a band that has a cult audience and a cult following but that was about it by the time 2013 rolled around.
I shouldn’t have had that concern, but I think I did. I was really freaked out making sure I never misspoke. On yesterday’s show, I said something about the Lakers and I said they’re the winningest franchise as far as titles go in NBA history. As soon as I said it, I went, “No, they’re not. Boston has 17, the Lakers have 16.” But it was too late.
Four years ago I would have stopped myself and said, “Hang on, hang on, hang on, I have that backwards. Boston has one more title.” But in the context it didn’t matter so I kept rolling with it. Some guy immediately tweets in, “Dude, you’re wrong.” I tweeted back, “Yeah, I know. Brain fart.” You know what I mean? It’s like I don’t care. If I’m going to talk for two hours, I’m going to get my words messed up. I’m going to say something that’s either incorrect or just completely the opposite of what I actually think because sometimes my mouth moves faster than my brain.
I’m terrible with pronouncing names. I can say Luka Donchich, Luka Donkick, Luka Donchick, Luka Donkich. I can say that six different ways in the course of one show. Talking to you right now, I know it’s Doncic, but when I’m on the air I’ll mispronounce names with the best of them. It’s just part of me and I used to really, really sweat those things and now I realize that it honestly doesn’t matter.
If the energy is up, if Jeffrey and I are legitimately engaging and listening to each other and moving it forward, that’s the goal. The goal is for two hours, someone’s driving home or sitting at their desk, people are just hanging out with us. That’s what I’m going for. I want people to feel like they can relate to us on some level.
I know that for a lot of listeners right out of the gate — drummer in a rock band, he did that for 25 years, now he’s doing this — you can certainly present the case that people don’t relate to my life. I have traveled and been in dozens and dozens of countries. I’ve played thousands of shows and met all these famous people and yada yada yada, but I don’t see myself as that guy. I’m a sports fan. I’m a music fan.
I’m just presenting my take on things along with my cousin who sees very few things the same way I do. Part of the reason I really wanted Jeffrey wasn’t just because we had a good rapport, but our brains operate nothing alike. I thought that would make for a more compelling show — to have two people who aren’t direct opposites by design.
You listen to Mike and Mike and no disrespect, they had a tremendous run and they were a huge part of the sports talk landscape, but those characters were well-honed and rehearsed. The nebbishy, nerdy stats guy and the big dumb jock. You listen to that show once and you get it. “Oh, I see what they’re doing.”
To their credit they made that work wildly successfully. I didn’t think of me and Jeffrey, we didn’t do it like that, we’re just naturally who we are. We’re very, very different people. But again we’re family and we have a lifelong rapport, so I thought it would work.
Noe: 10 years from now, do you have an idea of where you’ll be or a goal of where you want to be, and do those things match up or not?
SG: It’s funny because we’re in our fifth year now, and I really now am thinking in those ways. For the first six months I’m just thinking to myself, “Just don’t suck today. Let’s just don’t suck.” Then six months in, it’s like, “Hey, we’re consistently not sucking. Now let’s get consistently good.” Then you get consistently good.
Then you get to a point where right now our worst show right now is still a pretty good show. There’s days when for whatever reason we just don’t click together. You have days where life gets in the way. That’s just everyone’s life. You can be distracted by events that in the grand scheme of things are far more important than Thursday’s show. Illnesses, and I’m talking about family things and real life big issues that keep the show from being great.
Even then, the thing that happens is in due time, if you have a show where something’s off, most of the listeners aren’t aware of it anymore. That’s the same way it is with a rock band.
The Black Crowes, if you saw us in 1990, you might have seen a show where you went, “They’re not very good.” By 1991, after we played for 12 straight months and definitely by 1992, 400 gigs later our worst show was still a pretty damn good show. We can tell the nights when it wasn’t perfect, but the fans can’t.
That’s where the radio show got after a certain amount of time. Now I am looking at other things. It’s funny, I told you when I met Chris Broussard a couple of months ago in LA for the first time. He said, “Man, you ever think about doing TV? I said, “No, I’m in Nashville.” Because to me, I was always going to be a touring musician and be doing this radio show at the same time.
When the show got picked up, the Black Crowes were scheduled to be on tour for all of 2015. I was going to be doing the show from the road. That was always another unique feature. It didn’t happen. The band ended up breaking up, but when Trigger Hippy went out in ‘14 and ‘15, I was still doing the show from the road. Then when Trigger Hippy is out next year, I’ll be doing that again.
I always wanted to establish a daily radio show on the road, being on the road the whole time. Once I’m in a position where I’m doing that, that’s going to open up a lot of other opportunities for a lot of digital content, a lot of video content. There’s a lot of ideas that I was really prepared to utilize in 2015. When FOX Sports Radio picked up it was like, “Okay, you’re in Nashville. We’ll be in Nashville for 2015. You get a year under your belt. Then we hit the road full time with the radio show.” It was going to be radio show in the day, rock show at night. Kind of my dream world.
The Black Crowes broke up as a classic frontman singer narcissism crazy band situation developed, and the band had to end. That was taken off the table. That threw a big wrench in the overall plan, but now I’m starting to see it again. I don’t mean this to sound bad, but the original vision was that it was not just a radio show, but it was a radio show on the road. That part of it is still my number one goal. By getting on the road, it’s going to open up a lot more opportunities for different types of content.
You have to already be doing it before you can then figure out how to pitch it to make it something big. Be that it’s an online series or whatever it is. You kind of have to get it going yourself before anybody can possibly understand what you’re trying to do. You have to show people what it is before you can sell it.
You’ve got to just get out and do it. I knew that I could talk about doing a radio show or I could just go do a radio show. When I started doing nights in 2011 here in town — I was doing 10-to-midnight — I did it for six months before I made one penny. Two hours a night, five days a week for free, but I knew that’s what it takes. No one’s going to give you a damn thing. You just have to show that you want to go out there and do it. So that’s how I did it.
Brian Noe is a columnist for BSM and an on-air host heard nationwide on FOX Sports Radio’s Countdown To Kickoff. Previous roles include stops in Portland, OR, Albany, NY and Fresno, CA. You can follow him on Twitter @TheNoeShow or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is There Still a Place for Baseball Talk on National Sports Shows?
“Its struggle has been the same since the beginning of television. There is too much baseball for any regular season baseball game or story to have national significance.”
Last week at the BSM Summit, I hosted a panel focused on air checks. I wish I could say we covered the topic thoroughly, but we got derailed a lot, and you know what? That is okay. It felt like real air checks that I have been on both sides of in my career.
Rob Parker of The Odd Couple on FOX Sports Radio was the talent. He heard thoughts on his show from his boss, Scott Shapiro, and from his former boss, legendary WFAN programmer Mark Chernoff.
Baseball was the topic that caused one of our derailments on the panel. If you know Rob, you know he is passionate about Major League Baseball. He cited download numbers that show The Odd Couple’s time-shifted audience responds to baseball talk. To him, that proves there is not just room for it on nationally syndicated shows, but that there is a sizable audience that wants it.
Chernoff disagrees. He says baseball is a regional sport. Sure, there are regions that love it and local sports talk stations will dedicate full hours to discussing their home team’s games and roster. National shows need to cast a wide net though, and baseball doesn’t do that.
Personally, I agree with Chernoff. I told Parker on stage that “I hear baseball talk and I am f***ing gone.” The reason for that, I think, is exactly what Chernoff said. I grew up in Alabama (no baseball team). I live in North Carolina (no baseball team). Where baseball is big, it is huge, but it isn’t big in most of the country.
Now, I will add this. I used to LOVE baseball. It is the sport I played in high school. The Yankees’ logo was on the groom’s cake at my wedding. Then I had kids.
Forget 162 games. Even five games didn’t fit into my lifestyle. Maybe somewhere deep down, I still have feelings for the sport, but they are buried by years of neglect and active shunning.
Its struggle has been the same since the beginning of television. There is too much baseball for any regular season baseball game or story to have national significance.
Me, and millions of sports talk listeners like me, look at baseball like a toddler looks at broccoli. You probably aren’t lying when you tell us how much you love it, but damn it! WE WANT CHICKEN FINGERS!
A new Major League Baseball season starts Thursday and I thought this topic was worth exploring. I asked three nationally syndicated hosts to weigh in. When is baseball right for their show and how do they use those conversations? Here is what they had to say.
FREDDIE COLEMAN (Freddie & Fitzsimmons on ESPN Radio) – “MLB can still be talked nationally IF there’s that one player like Aaron Judge or Shohei Ohtani can attract the casual fan. MLB has definitely become more local because of the absence of that SUPER player and/or villainous team. I wonder if the pace of play will help bring in the younger fans that they need, but the sport NEEDS that defining star that is must-see TV.”
JONAS KNOX (2 Pros & a Cup of Joe on FOX Sports Radio) – “While football is king for me in sports radio, I look at baseball like most other sports. I’m not opposed to talking about it, as long as I have an angle or opinion that I am confident I can deliver in an entertaining manner. A couple of times of any given year, there are stories in baseball that are big picture topics that are obvious national discussions.
“I think it’s my job to never close the door on any topic/discussion (except politics because I don’t know anything about it).
“But also, if I’m going to discuss a localized story in baseball or any other sport for that matter – I better have an entertaining/informed angle on it. Otherwise, I’ve let down the listener and that is unacceptable. If they give you their time, you better not waste it.”
MAGGIE GRAY (Maggie & Perloff on CBS Sports Radio) – “While I was on WFAN there was almost no amount of minutia that was too small when it came to the Mets and Yankees. On Maggie and Perloff, our baseball topics have to be more centered around issues that can be universal. For example, ’Is Shohei Ohtani the face of the sport? Is Ohtani pitching and hitting more impressive than two sport athletes like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders? Do you consider Aaron Judge the single-season homerun king or Barry Bonds?’ Any baseball fan or sports fan can have an opinion about those topics, so we find they get great engagement from our audience.”
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.
Who Can Sports Fans Trust Once Twitter Ditches Legacy Verified Blue Checks?
The potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.
As of April 1, Twitter will finally make a dreaded change that many will view as an April Fools’ prank. Unfortunately, it won’t be a joke to any user who cares about legitimacy and truth.
Last week, Twitter officially announced that verified blue checkmarks will be removed from accounts that have not signed up for a Twitter Blue subscription. Previously, accounts whose identity had been verified were allowed to keep their blue checks when Twitter Blue was implemented.
But shortly after Elon Musk purchased Twitter and became the social media company’s CEO, he stated his intention to use verification as a revenue source. Users would have to pay $8 per month (or $84 annually) for a Twitter Blue subscription and blue checkmark verification. Paying for blue checks immediately set off red flags among users who learned to depend on verified accounts for accredited identities and trusted information.
The entire concept of verification and blue checks was simple and effective. Users and accounts bearing the blue checkmark were legitimate. These people and organizations were who they said they were.
As an example, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has faced criticism for how he framed domestic violence and sexual misconduct involving star NFL players, and deservedly so. But fans and media know Schefter’s tweets are really coming from him because his account is verified.
Furthermore, Twitter took the additional step of clarifying that accounts such as Schefter’s were verified before Twitter Blue was implemented. He didn’t pay eight dollars for that blue checkmark.
The need for verification is never more vital than when fake accounts are created to deceive users. Such accounts will put “Adam Schefter” as their Twitter name, even if their handle is something like “@TuaNeedsHelp.” Or worse, some fake accounts will create a handle with letters that look similar. So “@AdarnSchefter” with an “rn” in place of the “m,” fools some people, especially at a quick glance when people are trying to push news out as fast as possible.
Plenty of baseball fans have been duped over the years by fake accounts using a zero instead of an “o” or a capital “I” instead of a lowercase “l” to resemble Fox Sports and The Athletic reporter Ken Rosenthal. That trick didn’t get me. But when I covered Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report 10 years ago, I did fall for a fake Jim Salisbury account that reported the Philadelphia Phillies traded Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants. Capital “I,” not lowercase “l” in “Salisbury.” Pence was, in fact, traded to the Giants two days later, but that didn’t make my goof any less embarrassing. I should’ve looked for the blue checkmark!
But after April 1, that signifier won’t matter. Legacy blue checkmarks will be removed from accounts that haven’t paid for Twitter Blue. Some accounts that were previously verified might purchase a subscription to maintain that blue check. But those that were deemed legitimate prior to Musk taking over Twitter likely won’t. (There are also rumors that Twitter is considering a feature that would allow Twitter Blue subscribers to hide their blue check and avoid revealing that purchase.)
That could be even more true for media organizations, which are being told to pay $1000 per month for verification. Do you think ESPN, the New York Times, or the Washington Post will pay $12,000 for a blue check?
We’ve already seen the problems that paying for verification can cause. Shortly after Twitter Blue launched, accounts pretending to be legacy verified users could be created. A fake Adam Schefter account tweeted that the Las Vegas Raiders had fired head coach Josh McDaniels. Users who saw the “Adam Schefter” Twitter name went with the news without looking more closely at the “@AdamSchefterNOT” handle. But there was a blue checkmark next to the name this time!
The same thing occurred with a fake LeBron James account tweeting that the NBA superstar had requested a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers. There was a “@KINGJamez” handle, but a “LeBron James” Twitter name with a blue check next to it.
Whether it’s because fans and media have become more discerning or Twitter has done good work cracking down on such fake accounts, there haven’t been many outrageous examples of deliberate deception since last November. But the potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.
If that seems like an overstatement, it’s a very real possibility that there will be an erosion of trust among Twitter users. Media and fans may have to take a breath before quickly tweeting and retweeting news from accounts that may or may not be credible. False news and phony statements could spread quickly and go viral across social media.
Even worse, Musk has announced that only verified Twitter Blue accounts will be seen in your “For You” timeline as of April 15. (He can’t claim it’s an April Fools’ Day joke on that date.)
Obviously, that carries far more serious real-world implications beyond sports. Forget about a fake Shams Charania account tweeting that Luka Dončić wants to be traded to the Lakers. It’s not difficult to imagine a fake Joe Biden account declaring war on Russia and some people believing it’s true because of the blue checkmark.
We may be nearing the end of Twitter being a reliable news-gathering tool. If the accounts tweeting out news can’t be trusted, where’s the value? Reporters and newsmakers may end up going to other social media platforms to break stories and carry the viability of verification.
When Fox Sports’ website infamously pivoted to video in 2017, Ken Rosenthal posted his MLB reporting on Facebook prior to joining The Athletic. Hello, Instagram. Will someone take their following and reputation to a fledgling platform like Mastodon, Post, Spoutible, or BlueSky, even if it means a lesser outlet?
If and when that happens, Twitter could still be a community but not nearly as much fun. Not when it becomes a matter of trust that breaks up the party.
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at email@example.com.
There’s a Lesson For Us All in Florida Atlantic’s Elite 8 Broadcast Struggle
“It is a ton of faith our industry has been forced to place in a single mode of delivery.”
Ken LaVicka and Kevin Harlan probably don’t have a ton in common. Both of them were announcing an Elite Eight game over the weekend, that is one thing tying them together, but their experiences were wildly different. Harlan is on CBS with a production crew numbering in the dozens making certain all goes smoothly. LaVicka, the voice of the Florida Atlantic Owls, is a production crew himself, making certain those listening in South Florida heard the Owls punch their Final Four ticket. At least, that was LaVicka’s plan.
The Florida Atlantic Owls are going to the Men’s Final Four. Even while typing that sentence, it still seems odd to say. Do you know how many college basketball teams are thinking “how can Florida Atlantic make the Final Four and we can’t?” These are the types of stories that make the NCAA Tournament what it is. There is, literally, no barrier stopping any team from this tournament going on the run of their life and making it all the way.
Everyone listening in South Florida almost missed the moment it all became real for the Owls. With :18.6 to go in Florida Atlantic’s Elite Eight game against Kansas State, the Madison Square Garden Ethernet service to the front row of media seating went completely dark.
It was on that row that Ken LaVicka was painting the picture back to South Florida. Well, he was until the internet died on him.
Nobody does a single show away from their home studio anymore without trying to avoid the nightmare of Ethernet failure. Gone are the days of phone lines and ISDN connections, all the audio and video is now sent back to the studio over the technological miracle that is the internet. It is a ton of faith our industry has been forced to place in a single mode of delivery.
Take that anxiety and multiply it by 1,000 when that Ethernet line is connected to a Comrex unit for the most important moment of your career. LaVicka had the great fortune of a Kansas State timeout to try something, anything, to save the day. In his quick thinking, he spun around and grabbed an ethernet cable from row two which, as it turns out, still had internet access flowing through it’s cables. That cable, though, was the equivalent of an iPhone charging cord; never as long as you need it to be.
One of LaVicka’s co-workers from ESPN West Palm held the Comrex unit close enough to the second row for the cable to make a connection and the day was saved. LaVicka was able to call the last :15 of the Florida Atlantic win and, presumably, get in all the necessary sponsorship mentions.
It was an exciting end to the FAU v. Kansas State game, a great defensive stop by the Owls to seal the victory. LaVicka told the NCAA’s Andy Katz he tried to channel his inner Jim Nantz to relay that excitement. The NCAA Tournament excitement started early this year. In the very first TV window 13 Seed Furman upset 4 Seed Virginia with a late three pointer by JP Pegues, who had been 0-for-15 from beyond the arc leading up to that shot. It is the type of play the NCAA Tournament is built upon.
It was called in the manner Kevin Harlan’s career was built upon. Harlan, alongside Stan Van Gundy and Dan Bonner, called the Virginia turnover leading to the made Furman basket with his trademark excitement before laying out for the crowd reaction. After a few seconds of crowd excitement he asked his analysts, and the world, “Did we just see what I think we saw? Wow!” Vintage Kevin Harlan.
One reason we are so aware of what Harlan said, and that he signaled his analysts to lay out for the crowd reaction, was a CBS Sports tweet with video of Harlan, Van Gundy and Bonner in a split screen over the play. It gave us a rare look at a pro in the middle of his craft. We got to see that Harlan reacts just like he sounds. The video has more than six million views and has been retweeted more than 6,000 times, a lot of people seem to like it.
Kevin Harlan is not in that group. Harlan appeared on Richard Deitsch’s Sports Media podcast after the video went public and said he was embarrassed by it. Harlan added he “begged” CBS not send the tweet out but to no avail. Harlan told Deitsch “I don’t know that I’m glad that they caught our expression, but I’m glad the game was on the air. I think I join a chorus of other announcers who do not like the camera.”
There’s a valuable announcer lesson from Harlan there; the audience is almost always there for the game, not you. Harlan went on to describe the broadcast booth to Deitsch as somewhat of a sacred place. He would prefer to let his words accompany the video of the action to tell the story. Kevin Harlan is as good as they come at his craft, if he thinks that way, there’s probably great value in that line of thought.
We can learn from LaVicka, as well. You work in this business long enough and you come to accept technical difficulties are as much a part of it as anything. They always seem to strike at the worst times, it is just in their nature. Those who can find a way to deal with them without everything melting down are those who can give their audience what they showed up for. Those who lose their mind and spend time complaining about them during the production simply give the audience information they don’t really care about.
The Final Four is an unlikely collection of teams; Miami, San Diego State, Connecticut and Florida Atlantic. You all had that in your brackets, right? Yep, the Florida Atlantic Owls are going to the Final Four and Ken LaVicka will be there for it. Now, if the internet will just hold out.
Ryan Brown is a columnist for Barrett Sports Media, and a co-host of the popular sports audio/video show ‘The Next Round’ formerly known as JOX Roundtable, which previously aired on WJOX in Birmingham. You can find him on Twitter @RyanBrownLive and follow his show @NextRoundLive.