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Mark Packer Q&A Part 1

Matt Fishman



I have to say that I have never had a Q&A or part of one that is one question and a 1400 word answer. That’s what makes Mark Packer the incredible talk show host that he is.


Pack or “Packman” as he’s called by his fans and friends is the most incredible storyteller I have ever come across in my 20+ years in radio. On the air or off the air Mark tells great stories. In this three part Q&A I’ll try to do these stories justice.

I caught up with Mark earlier this week between his two (yes-two) daily shows on SiriusXM. Mark hosts “ACC This Morning” with Wes Durham from 7-10am on SiriusXM’s ACC Channel 371 and “Off Campus” from 4-7pm solo on ESPNU on SiriusXM 84. 

Matt: I had always assumed since you’re Billy’s kid (Billy Packer) that you had always wanted to be in broadcasting and had always been in broadcasting.  Not until we worked together did I learn about how you ended up hosting a show in Charlotte. Can you tell us that story? 

Pack: I had ZERO interest in being a broadcaster, but I loved the business aspect of broadcasting. My background was really more in putting together networks, announcers, marketing plans, and sales opportunities. I loved all of that, but I never really had any interest in going on the radio or television. 

How I got on the radio full-time is such a fluke but it’s also a message of why you try to do as many things as you can and meet as many people as you can because you never know when that can come back full circle. What I meant by that is that in the early 90s I worked one year at the “Blockbuster Bowl” which was run by (Blockbuster CEO) Wayne Huizenga and Raycom Sports.  I really didn’t have a huge interest in being in the bowl business but I thought it would be kinda neat to do it. It was a great experience because I met so many incredible people.

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One of the people I met was Terry Hanson. Terry had been an executive with Turner for years and years and he was a big cheese with Raycom Sports at the time. Fast forward six or seven years and I get a phone call from Terry Hanson. I was in Charlotte and Terry was doing some consulting work for this new Sports Talk radio station–WFNZ in Charlotte.  Terry lines up this meeting for me with Mike Kellogg who was coming in from Legendary WEEI in Boston. Mike was leaving to start the WEEI of Charlotte.  Charlotte really desperately needed sports talk radio.

I show up at Mike Kellogg’s office and he’s not there. I’m sitting there in an empty office. Kellogg comes walking in a couple minutes late, typical Bostonian, he’s got his Dunkin Donuts Coffee in his hand talking 200 Miles an hour. Kellogg says, “Hey I understand you’re Mark Packer. I want you to meet Matt Pinto. Do you know Matt?” I say, “I have no idea who he is.” Matt at the time was the afternoon host. So he calls Matt in and he says “Oh great you guys get together. Pack I want you to come back later this afternoon and you and Matt do an hour together. And I gotta go.” And he gets up and walks out of the office. 

The meeting lasted four minutes and to this day might be the worst business meeting I’ve ever had EVER! Pinto looks at me and I look at him and Matt says, “Well I guess I’ll see you this afternoon at 3.” And he gets up and walks out. Now I’m still sitting in the office by myself. I’ve been there four minutes. I thought I was gonna have a marketing meeting talking about opportunities. Next thing I know, I’m supposed to come back later in the same day to go on the radio!!

So I get home and my wife says, “You just left. Surely you didn’t have the meeting already?” 

I said, “I did. It was the worst meeting I ever had.” 

She asked, “What are you gonna do?”

I said, “I guess I’m gonna go back and go on the radio.” 

She says, “What do you know about talking on the radio?” 

I said “Nothing.” 

She says, “What are you gonna talk about?” 

I said, “I have no earthly idea!”

I read all the sports pages and get online and have like five or six things I’ll talk about. I have no idea how this is gonna go. I head right back to the radio station later that afternoon. Nobody is there to greet me. I find this guy and he tells me where the studio is. So I head down there and Matt Pinto is there. Matt says, “Perfect timing. Put on your headset..3…2…1..” and we’re on the air!

And the next thing I know an hour goes by in about two minutes. Seriously, I couldn’t believe how fast the hour went by. So the hour’s up and Pinto looks at me and says “Hope you enjoyed it. Have a good day!” and I looked at the clock and I was having so much fun, I didn’t want to leave.

Now Pinto’s kicking me out and I get up and walk out. Like anybody else you want some feedback one way or the other that you either did a good job or you sucked and there was nobody there.

Now I’m really hot! I’m thinking ‘I’ve come to this radio station twice in one day. I had the worst business meeting that lasted four minutes. Now I come back and go on the air for an hour. There’s nobody here to say great job or terrible job.’ Now I walk to the car and I am LIVID!!!

So I get in the car and drive home. Well I’m thinking at least my wife is gonna say, “Hey, you did a great job honey!” And so I get home and ask her, “How did I do?” She said, “I wasn’t listening.” Now I’m really HOT!! 

Later that night Terry Hanson (the consultant) calls and I was so thrilled because I just want to rip into Terry for wasting my day. I tell him he’s out of his mind. I can’t believe I went to that stupid radio station twice today and I hang up. 


My wife was listening to it and says, “You’re an Idiot. How crazy can you be? Did you have a good time on the air?”

I said “I loved it! It was great!”

“And they’re calling you to offer you a job, right?” She says.

“I don’t want to get my time wasted”

She says, “He wouldn’t have called you back if they didn’t think you did a good job!”

A week goes by and Hanson calls me back and says, “Have you calmed down yet?” I said “yes”. “We want to offer you the job. To be on the air. We’re going to put you on the air from 12-3.” I took the job because I knew my wife was right. I was on with a guy by the name of Sandy Penner who they brought in from Philadelphia. We were Packman and Penner 12-3 for about six weeks. I could still do my sports marketing in the morning and afternoon and do the show in the middle of the day.

I get a phone call one night from the boss, Mike Kellogg. He tells me that Matt Pinto (afternoon host) is leaving to be the play by play man for the Dallas Mavericks. We’re going to do a national search. I thought, that’s fine–I had daycare figured out and had my work and show figured out. They did a national search for about a week. Then I got a phone call from Mike Kellogg in the middle of the night:

Kellogg: “Hey I wanted to let you know that we got our guy for the afternoon show!”

Packer: “That’s cool. I’m sure whoever he or she is will do a great job!”

Kellogg: “Don’t you want to know who it is?”

Packer: “I really don’t care. Whoever it is I’m sure they’ll do a great job and I look forward to working with them!”

Kellogg: “I think it’s important for you to know who it is.”

Packer: “You’re probably right. Who is it?”

Kellogg: “It’s you!”

Packer: “I’m not taking that job. You’re outta your damn mind. I’ve got my whole life figured out with the show from 12-3.”


Kellogg: “I don’t want to hear about it because on Monday you’re on the air from 3-7pm”

That was the start of “Primetime with the Packman” and that show exploded in ratings and syndication and the rest is history. When people say “How do you get into radio?” I always roll my eyes and say, “do you really want to hear this story?” because I have the most unconventional means to get into radio.

The point of all of it though is that you meet so many interesting people along the way you never know when that can help you open another door. Without the relationship with Terry Hanson and Raycom Sports at the Blockbuster Bowl six or seven years earlier, that would never have happened for me in radio. Never, ever, ever!

BSM Writers

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.”

Demetri Ravanos




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.”

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BSM Writers

Who Can Sports Fans Trust Once Twitter Ditches Legacy Verified Blue Checks?

The potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.

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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.

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BSM Writers

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.”

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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.

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Barrett Media Writers

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