Memory is funny. It can be difficult to recall small events in our lives that occurred last week, yesterday or even a few hours ago. Our memories can shift without our permission, painting a picture of an experience that might be different than what other people remember. Memories shape who we are, how we think, and even what we value. The cruel universal reality is that it’s our darkest moments we tend to remember the clearest.
One can argue memory’s greatest ally is time – not the enemy it appears to be. Like a Zamboni to ice, time has a way of healing certain scars from our past, and in the process can turn pain into wisdom. It also has a way of preserving our happiest moments through the decades.
58-year-old Dan Rusanowsky is a man not short on happy memories – and many are tied his 40 year career calling hockey games. He can tell you in great detail about the time the Sharks snapped a 17-game losing streak in Winnipeg on Valentine’s Day 1993.
“After the game,” he smiles “they raised a garbage can in the visitor’s locker room like it was the Stanley Cup.”
His memory is well organized and cataloged. Ask him for a San Jose Sharks story and the Connecticut native would respond with “What season?”
Just about every high point in his professional career is tied to a hockey game on some level. Unfortunately, the same can be said for a very low point in his personal life.
Ask him where his love for hockey began, and Rusanowsky doesn’t hesitate.
Herman Solomon, the brother of Rusanowsky’s mother, sparked Dan’s passion for the sport at a very young age. The two were regulars at New Haven Nighthawk home games and spent plenty of time watching the nearby Yale Bulldogs on the ice. To this day, Rusanowsky continues to honor his uncle’s influence.
“I still mention him every game,” beams the proud nephew. “I would always refer to him as the unofficial statistician of the broadcast, so much so that people have asked me if he’s actually on the payroll.”
Long before young Rusanowsky found himself in front of a microphone, he found himself on the stage. He was never far away from the opening of a new play – portraying Captain Hook in Peter Pan and the title role in a Charlie Brown Christmas production. His enthusiasm for acting faded a bit as he entered high school – but Rusanowsky still values his experience as a thespian.
“What I do professionally is, and always has been, performance art. I’m presenting my audience with the images only I can see. Every game is a performance of sorts.”
Rusanowsky’s reverence for his profession is clear, and it started with what he calls the “romantic” crackle of the radio dial. From his home in Milford, he recalls hearing Penguins broadcasts, Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs via Hamilton, and even the Montreal Canadians.
“The whole thing was in French so I couldn’t understand a word,” chuckles Rusanowsky. “Every once in a while they would mention a name though, so I recognized the names!”
Understanding he wanted to pursue a career in his two passions – hockey and radio – Rusanowsky set off for college at St. Lawrence University, roughly 5 hours north of Milford.
St. Lawrence was attractive to Rusanowsky on a couple of levels. For one, it was a small school, a size that would afford him personal relationships with his professors, and two, the Saints played D1 hockey.
“My freshman year I went in there, not really with any clue what I was doing, and I introduced myself to their play by play man, Bob Vilas, and pretty much said I was interested in pursuing this as a career.”
To Rusanowsky’s shock, it just so happened they were in need of a fill in play by play announcer later that season. Vilas told the 18-year-old to watch some games from the booth and record some practice tapes. In time, Rusanowsky could feel Vilas’ confidence growing in him, but even he couldn’t have predicted what happened next.
With the Saints games being delivered on the local NPR station, Vilas didn’t have the luxury of commercial breaks during intermissions.
“One game in that first season he came up to me and said ‘Dan, here’s your interview subject, I’ll be back in 5 minutes, you’re on in 30 seconds,’ just like that I was on the air for the first time ever.”
Rusanowsky still remembers the man he interviewed – Tom Burke, a hockey writer – but he wouldn’t give himself high marks for the conversation.
“I don’t have that tape. I wish I did! I’m sure it was just about the worst interview in the history of radio!”
While the thought of the tape might be cringe-worthy, he looks at that experience as a seminal moment. Not only was it his on air debut, but he was given a challenge he wasn’t prepared for and didn’t back down.
“In this job,” Rusanowsky explains, “what you expect is often not what happens. You have to be prepared for the unexpected and find a way to make it work.”
Rusanowsky made it work, and a Hall of Fame broadcast career was born. By his Junior year, he became the voice of the Saints, a title he didn’t want to lose on account of graduation after his senior year, so he enrolled in grad school at nearby Clarkson University. He knew the next logical step towards his ultimate dream of landing in the NHL was a position in the American Hockey League. He would check religiously, and finally – one day after his graduation from Clarkson – he got an offer from the New Haven Nighthawks. His hometown AHL club.
He was thrilled for the opportunity, but his paycheck left a lot to be desired.
“When I got the job in June I weighed 175 lbs. The next time I stepped on the scale was when I was home for Christmas in December – I was 148 lbs.”
The radio veteran laughs today when talking about his early days in the industry, as he grinded his teeth through so much uncertainty. He recalls looking forward to road trips because he could pocket a little extra per diem cash. One thing he never did was look too far ahead, and he believes that made all the difference in his career ascension.
“You can’t be that guy always looking for the next job. You have to focus on being the best you can be wherever you are.”
In his five years with the Nighthawks, Rusanowsky was responsible for promoting the club and selling season tickets – a side of the business that interested him greatly. For the first time in his life, Rusanowsky was learning about the business side of his craft. Understanding the intersection of art and commerce. It’s that layered knowledge of the radio business that would serve him greatly in his next position.
By the late 1980s Dan was approaching 30. He knew in the next couple years, if he wanted a to buy a house or settle down with a family, he’d have to consider a career shift. He couldn’t accomplish his personal goals on an AHL salary. Before he walked out of the booth entirely, he knew the NHL was expanding with a franchise in the Bay Area – a region of the world as foreign to the Connecticut kid as another country entirely. Always a realist, Rusanowsky understood his chances of becoming the radio voice of the San Jose Sharks was slim, but he submitted his tape to the powers that be regardless.
“I mailed in my tape and they asked for another one, that was a good sign. I sent another tape and they asked to fly me out for an in-person interview, that was a very good sign. I fly out to meet everyone and they tell me I’m one of a couple different people they’re considering, that’s a great sign.”
Dan is not lost for words when you ask him about his uncle Solomon, Bob Vilas, and about a dozen other individuals who he credits with the rise of his career. However, when you ask him about the moment he was offered an NHL radio announcing job, he’s efficient and humble.
“They offered me the job and I said yes almost before they could finish asking.”
The San Jose Sharks played their first two seasons roughly an hour north of San Jose in the Cow Palace just south of San Francisco. The venue was a bit of relic, even 30 years ago, but that certainly didn’t bother their 30-year-old radio play by play man.
“I look back at the Cow Palace years and remember a lot of fun times,” he offers with a grin, as if to say he can’t begin to tell me half the stories he has locked away.
“We definitely did our fair share of losing though.”
During their second season, the Sharks lost a staggering 17 consecutive games and earned just 24 points in the standings. It was clear after two seasons, the shine of the new NHL franchise was wearing off in the Bay Area.
“A new team is like a new baby,” Rusanowsky explains. “The first year, everyone wants to come and see the baby, then the 2nd year you get less visitors. Well, our circumstances were such that in year 3, despite losing so much in year 2, we had a renewed energy around the team when we finally moved to San Jose. San Jose is interesting in that it’s bigger than San Francisco, but it’s very much in the shadow of San Francisco. This was the first team of the major four leagues who said ‘we want to be in San Jose, we want San Jose in our name,’ and the community around here really embraced us for that.”
In their first season in San Jose and third in existence, the Sharks made their first postseason appearance. Soon thereafter, the new franchise was much more than a novelty in the league – they were regularly playing meaningful hockey in late spring and the entire Bay Area was taking notice.
Personally, Dan couldn’t have been happier. He had met his wife in his new adapted city and not only was he an NHL play by play man – he had called every game in franchise history. That streak, unfortunately, came to an unexpected end on November 25, 2000.
Like they so often are, Dan finds the details leading up to this particular bad memory very easy to recall.
“It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The New Jersey Devils were in town and I had just spent the morning at practice getting some interviews done for that night. My routine for home games was generally always mornings with the team, then I’d go home to work in my office before coming back for the game. That day, I was invited to a new restaurant my friends had just opened up, so I thought I’d stop by for a quick lunch, that’s the only reason I was at that particular intersection on that particular day.”
Rusanowsky pauses slightly, as if to apologize for the upcoming hole in his story.
“I don’t remember the impact, of course, but a driver ran a red light – hit my driver’s side door and I woke up in the hospital.”
The then-39-year-old suffered a number of injuries, most notably a fractured femur and a ruptured diaphragm, the second of which would’ve been life threatening if not quickly identified by a specialist that day. That night, the San Jose Sharks played their first game in franchise history without Dan Rusanowsky in attendance. He would spend the next week in the hospital and would not return to the booth for 27 games. It was a dark time for Silicon Valley’s adopted son and his wife, but it’s an experience in which he realized he belonged in San Jose.
“The reception I got from the team, from the fans and from the community was overwhelming. It truly was. When I was healthy enough to return to work, I was presented with four long panels covered in get well messages from fans. Those are still in my house, and they’re not going anywhere.”
Like his panels, Rusanowsky doesn’t seem to be going anywhere either. Last season he called his 2,000th regular season game for the Sharks. He also has the incredibly rare distinction of calling every playoff game in franchise history – including the 2016 run to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Six years ago the East Coaster was immortalized in the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame. Ask him about it and he’s quick to share the honor with his fellow inductees. He points to his nearly 20 year working relationship with KFOX, the terrestrial station that has carried Rusanowsky’s Shark network since 2000. On paper, Dan has done just about all one can hope to do in the world of sports broadcasting, but he’s still as enthusiastic as ever to go to work every day.
“It’s a unique lifestyle, doing what I do. It’s also an honor and a privilege to be broadcasting in the National Hockey League. Working in sports and sports broadcasting is as rewarding now as it’s ever been I believe.
“You look at a market like the Bay Area – there’s people from all walks of life, from all different backgrounds. There’s different groups of people who may disagree on any number of topics – but the one thing we can all see eye to eye on is sports. If our local teams win, we all win, and we can share that together. If we can share that together, I think that opens up a lot of other things we can do together.”
Jack Ferris writes feature stories for BSM and serves as an update anchor for iHeart Radio in San Francisco and as a freelance contributor for the PAC-12 Network. Previously he has worked as a sports anchor for KXLY-TV in Spokane and as the co-host of the Don West Show on KPQ in Central Washington. You can find him on Twitter @JFerris714 or reach him by email at FerrisJack54@gmail.com.
790 The Ticket Was Something Special And Stugotz Knows It
“I had programmers calling me saying this is the best local lineup that they’ve ever seen, that they’ve ever heard.”
When I was making the transition from the rock world to talk radio, there was one show I looked at as a guide. I got laid off from 96 Rock in Raleigh, NC in the summer of 2011. That was the beginning of my flirtations with streaming and podcasts, which is how I stumbled onto The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on 790 The Ticket out of Miami.
Coming from a format that I felt out of place in at times, I instantly latched onto a show that reveled in pointing out how out of place it was in its own format. It became a daily listen for me, which opened me up to hearing other voices on the station like Jonathan Zaslow, Joy Taylor, Brian London, Brendan Tobin, Brett Romberg and others.
There were unique thinkers and passionate sports fans in every day part on 790 The Ticket. What set the station apart though is that I never heard anyone that sounded uncomfortable when the conversation turned to something that wasn’t a Dolphins’ loss or LeBron’s stat line. They talked sports the way normal human beings talk about sports. It was part of their lives, not the only thing they paid attention to.
Look at the outpouring of love for the station on Thursday. Hosts, producers and programmers from across the country took to social media to eulogize the station when the news broke that it would cease to exist the following week.
I can’t say for sure that all of those people felt the same way I did about the station and I cannot say whether or not it was for the same reasons. What I can say is 790 The Ticket had an influence that stretched far beyond South Florida.
Jon Weiner, better known as “Stugotz” to fans of the The Dan Le Batard Show, helped start the station in 2004. He told me that it didn’t take long for him to learn just how much The Ticket’s approach was making an impression on everyone in sports radio.
“I had programmers calling me saying this is the best local lineup that they’ve ever seen or heard,” he said in a phone call on Sunday. “I had people from out of market who had secure jobs at places that weren’t startups sending resumes and tapes because they wanted to be part of it. So yeah, we were aware and it is what we were going for. We got there pretty quickly and we were aware of the impact, not just in South Florida, but throughout the country.”
Last week, Brian “The Beast” London said his internal alarm bells first went off when he heard the Miami Heat were giving up their relationship with 790 the Ticket. The station and the team had been partners since 2008. He said in a YouTube video that it was hard to imagine the team’s games being heard anywhere else.
I asked Stugotz if he had the same feeling when he heard that news. He said in hindsight, he realized it was the beginning of the end, but he didn’t really get a sense something was up until Jonathan Zaslow was let go.
“[Zaslow] had been there since basically day one with us. And so I just kind of figured, yeah, between the Heat and then that I felt, okay, you don’t make a move like that unless there’s going to be some sort of seismic change. Otherwise, there’d be no reason to let him go. That was the moment I was like ‘okay, 790 is likely going away.'”
His feelings are no secret. He took to social media immediately on Thursday and said that the news that 790 The Ticket would soon be going away filled him with both sadness and pride. What Stugotz told me in our phone call was that he realizes that the station lasted about 15 years longer than it should have.
When the station was sold to Lincoln Financial Media, he was not expecting that company to want to keep a sports station. Senior Vice President Dennis Collins surprised him.
“The company saw so much potential in what we had built, both from a lineup and a sales perspective that they kept it going and that’s why it lasted all the way to 2022. We got it up and going and were responsible for the first three or four years, but Dennis saw the growth potential with the lineup we put together. That made me feel great because I had a pit in my stomach like ‘Oh, man, this thing we started is going to go away. It’s going to be three, four years and gone.’ And he said, ‘No, we love it. We want to keep it going’. So that was a huge compliment to everyone.”
Stugotz described the original owner of 790 The Ticket as a “young, good looking real estate mogul driving around in Lamborghinis.” That certainly helped the image of the station when it launched, but it is also a phenomenon that was very of the moment. It’s not 2004 anymore. Lamborghini-owning real estate moguls aren’t chomping at the bit to pour money into radio stations.
The conditions may be similar to what Stugotz and his partners saw in 2004. You could look at the radio landscape in Miami and see a way that a new challenger could fit in the sports radio scene. But what are the chances it actually happens?
“It’s a great question,” Stugotz said. “So just to go back to that time, two sports radio stations were popping up in every market. I’m not certain if that’s still the case anymore just because of podcasting and the way the way younger people are consuming media through Tik Tok, Snapchat, and other things that aren’t AM radio.”
He is quick to commend Audacy, the current owners of the 790 AM frequency. Dan Le Batard and Jorge Sedano were part of his early lineups at 790 The Ticket because Stugotz recognized the Cuban-American community in Miami was not being served in the sports space in 2004, just like it isn’t being properly served in the news/talk space right now. That’s why there’s room for the conservative-leaning brand Radio Libre in Miami and other markets are likely paying attention.
“It seems like a good plan, and I know it’s something that the Spanish population should have and deserves to have and probably was not being catered to correctly. So, yeah, I could see there’s a warning sign to some other sports radio stations or news stations in other markets where the Hispanic population is great. Absolutely!”
It is a shame that 790 The Ticket is no more and it is concerning that a station with its legacy and influence can simply disappear. But if we are being real, it isn’t the first station of its kind to suffer that fate and it won’t be the last.
As the media business changes and leaves sports stations vulnerable to something cheaper and with broader appeal, 790 The Ticket and stations like it should be touted as examples of how to rise above the noise and make an impact. Stugotz and his partners looked around in 2004 and said “we can be different and we can do this better” and that’s exactly what they did.
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.
Chris Simms And His Self-Professed ‘Big Mouth’ Enjoying Life At NBC
“One of the things that I worried about was that I came from Bleacher Report and is NBC going to try to curtail my personality a little bit…sometimes I like to swear on my podcast and do stuff like that and they’ve really allowed me to be me which I really appreciate.”
To be a good football analyst, one certainly has to know and love the sport but you also can’t be afraid to use the most important tool that you have to do the job. Chris Simms has all of those attributes and NBC lets him use them to the best of his abilities.
“I love football and I love X’s and O’s and I got a big mouth so it’s a great combination,” said Simms. “Between my podcast, Pro Football Talk with Mike Florio, and Sunday Night Football, I get plenty of time to talk and get my studies out there.”
There’s no doubt that Chris inherited that self-professed big mouth from his father, former NFL quarterback and longtime NFL on CBS analyst, Phil Simms.
So, the question had to be asked…does Chris have a bigger mouth than his father?
“Yeah, I probably do,” admitted the younger Simms. “That’s a big mouth to overcome, but I think I probably got him beat in that department.”
Chris Simms set out to follow in his father’s footsteps on the field and played quarterback for Ramapo High School in New Jersey where he earned a pair of All-State honors. After graduating high school in 1999, Simms moved on to play quarterback at the University of Texas where he posted a 26-6 career record as a starter and was the team MVP during his senior season in 2002.
Simms was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the third round of the 2002 NFL Draft and he would guide the Bucs to a playoff berth in 2005. He would also go on to play for the Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos completing a seven-year NFL playing career. He spent one season as an assistant coach with the New England Patriots before taking his talents to the world of broadcasting.
He started with FOX Sports as a college football announcer in 2013 and then joined Bleacher Report in 2014 while also serving as a color commentator for the NFL on CBS.
And then in 2017, Simms joined NBC Sports where he has certainly found a home.
“I couldn’t be happier,” said Simms. “It’s a great company to work for. Just good people all around. They’ve given me the platform to be me. One of the things that I worried about was that I came from Bleacher Report and is NBC going to try to curtail my personality a little bit…sometimes I like to swear on my podcast and do stuff like that and they’ve really allowed me to be me which I really appreciate.”
Simms wears many different suits at NBC Sports, most notably his role as a studio analyst on Football Night in America leading into Sunday Night Football. He’s also a part of the SNF post-game show Sunday Night Football Final on Peacock, Pro Football Talk with Mike Florio, and Chris Simms Unbuttoned, a streaming/digital show that is also a podcast multiple days a week.
But the most eyeballs are on him during Football Night in America, the most watched studio show in sports.
“I grew up wanting to play in these games more than be the guy in the studio but this is like the second-best thing,” said Simms. “I was kind of that kid at 4 or 5 (years old) who could tell you every player in the NFL, their number and all that type of stuff. It’s the NFL on the biggest stage. It’s such a well-done show. I get to be there with Maria Taylor along with Tony Dungy, and Jason Garrett, and Mike Florio, and Matthew Berry. We got a great team and it makes Sunday fun.”
From the “it takes one to know one” category, Simms has also made a name for himself with his ranking of NFL quarterbacks. He’s very diligent when it comes to watching the live action and also in his film study and his top-40 rankings have become a hot topic within the business and around the office coolers.
Simms is well aware that his rankings have become a lightning rod of discussion.
“It all kind of started organically just because I would make statements,” said Simms. “People were like ‘Why don’t you start making a list?’ It’s a really hard thing to do. It offends a lot of people and I hate that. I root for all of these guys and I say on my podcast all the time I hope this guy proves me wrong. I hope he shits on me and shows me that I was wrong. It’s certainly not personal. One of the things I pride myself on is studying and immersing myself in the game all of the time.”
Simms became a full-time employee of NBC Sports in 2019, but his first role with the network came in 2017 when he became a studio analyst for Notre Dame Football.
Here’s a kid that grew up in North Jersey where there’s a ton of Notre Dame alumni and he’s standing on the sidelines at South Bend as part of Fighting Irish telecasts.
“Another special entity,” said Simms. “I used to get chills being out on the field every Saturday there. It gave me great experience in a different way with the halftime show and the pre-game show. One of the years I was kind of the third man in the booth but I was on the sideline. It gave me some reps on in-game stuff as well. I think most importantly what that did for me more than anything is that it opened up more eyes at NBC about me.”
And now Simms’ work has him in the discussion for a new potential opportunity down the road.
NBC, alongside FOX and CBS, has secured a seven-year media rights deal with the Big Ten Conference that will commence next season. NBC will air Big Ten Saturday Night, the first time that Big Ten Football will have a dedicated primetime broadcast on a national broadcast network. Peacock will stream an additional eight Big Ten games each season and NBC/Peacock will air the 2026 Big Ten Championship Game.
There have been rumblings that Simms could be involved in the coverage. Is he interested?
“I’m intrigued by it,” admitted Simms. “I’m very all NFL right now but broadcasting game is fun. It’s definitely something on my radar for sure. I do have some producers here in the building that are like ‘I’m going to tell the boss I want you to do some of the Big 10 games this year and what do you think about announcing?’ I’ve already had some people in my ear talking about it. It’s awesome for the company regardless. It just expands our football world. As far as me being involved, we’ll see.”
In a relatively short amount of time, Chris Simms has built up quite the broadcasting portfolio. From FOX to Bleacher Report and CBS to his current expanded role with NBC, Simms has established himself as one of the premier NFL analysts in the business and his podcast has given him the freedom to do something that he loves to do. Including putting his money where his mouth is.
Peter Schwartz has been involved in New York sports media for over three decades. Along the way he has worked for notable brands such as WFAN, CBS Sports Radio, WCBS 880, ESPN New York, and FOX News Radio. He has also worked as a play by play announcer for the New Yok Riptide, New York Dragons, New York Hitmen, Varsity Media and the Long Island Sports Network. You can find him on Twitter @SchwartzSports or email him at DragonsRadio@aol.com.
The Pat McAfee Alternate Broadcast Presents Unique Challenges
Alternate broadcasts are all the rage these days, and ESPN, in conjunction with Omaha Productions, debuted a new one this weekend as The Pat McAfee Show aired an alternate broadcast of the Clemson and North Carolina State game Saturday evening.
A few weeks ago, I wrote that Manningcast copy-cats were destined for failure. And while I don’t believe McAfee’s debut was a failure by any stretch of the imagination, I couldn’t help but notice it brings its own set of challenges.
First and foremost, College Football Primetime with The Pat McAfee Show — the world’s most convoluted way to say “The McAfeecast” — doesn’t really resemble the Manningcast. And rightfully so. I’m not sure there are two more polar opposite sports media brands than the Mannings and McAfee. The Mannings are funny, but not too funny and never “blue”, while often concerned about how finely quaffed their hair looks and whether the button-down shirt color matches with the Nordstrom quarter-zip they’ve donned. Meanwhile, McAfee wears his black tank-top, like usual, and put his best Pittsburgh-ese foot forward.
Even though the Mannings and McAfee are opposites doesn’t mean they can’t work together, however. The alternate broadcast was a win for Manning, a win for McAfee, a win for ESPN, and a win for viewers.
People love Pat McAfee. Plain and simple. For a multitude of reasons that we can get into in a later story, but let’s focus on that for a moment. It was a big portion of my column a few weeks ago. The Manningcast works because people like Peyton and Eli. The KayRodcast doesn’t work because people hate Michael Kay and Alex Rodriguez. It’s honestly, truly, that simple.
I think it benefitted the McAfeecast to debut with a smaller game, which seems counterintuitive because it was a matchup of top ten teams in primetime. But let’s be realistic, a number five versus number ten ACC game doesn’t hold the same weight as a number five versus number ten Big Ten or SEC game. And it helped McAfee and crew, because there are obvious kinks to work out.
Firstly, there are entirely too many people on the screen. I’m going to have nice words to say about BostonConnr than the eight-and-a-half-year-old that went viral earlier this summer, but god love ya, your time to shine likely isn’t on primetime on ESPN. In my opinion, for the McAfeecast to really work in the future, a similar setup to the Manningcast with McAfee and A.J. Hawk being the prominent figures on screen is the best solution to the problem. I know McAfee believes in his boys. It’s one of his more endearing qualities, and is frankly part of the reason his show is so successful. But you’re reaching a different audience on ESPN2 on Saturday nights, and the reason the either tuned in or will stay is because of McAfee’s presence.
I didn’t get a great feel for McAfee’s thoughts or reactions on the game simply because you didn’t get a closeup of his face. The best moments of the Manningcast, outside of Eli flipping the double birds or Peyton saying “I can’t hear shit”, have been when the pair have been absolutely disgusted by a decision made by a coach or player and their face shows it without any words following up their reactions. And McAfee definitely holds that ability, and I wish I would have gotten a better sense of his facial reactions on-screen.
Also, and I know this is something McAfee can’t actually control, he had to be a bit more reserved on cable television. Part of the allure of The Pat McAfee Show is the — let’s call it extreme candor — with which he speaks. I believe that’s the scholarly way to write “he says f*** frequently”. And believe me, I subscribe to the theory that the FCC should allow hosts the ability to say obscenities 15 times per week, so I’m down for McAfee’s swearing. But you’re just simply never going to get that on ESPN2. You’re likely never going to get that if the broadcast aired on ESPN+, either. For a “family friendly” company Disney, those cards are just flat out never going to be on the table for McAfee.
One of the things McAfee is known for is his boundless energy, which felt lacking at times on Saturday, but it’s understandable. The man was on College GameDay earlier in the day, flew back to the studio to do the alternate broadcast after travelling the day before to get to Clemson to be on GameDay. I’m sure that takes a toll. On top of that, you’re doing something new for the first time, while trying to, essentially, heard cats on the screen, and you can be a little wiped out by the end of the night.
However, the goodwill McAfee has bought with fans over his extreme generosity was on display as the alternate broadcast donated more than $100,000 to Dabo Swinney’s charity, The Jimmy V Foundation, and the American Red Cross. It was a brilliant move for a debut broadcast, because it acts as a slight shield for criticism. How can you complain about something that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity?
The alternate broadcast, for the most part, avoided the biggest problem I have with the Manningcast. The interviews. I’ve never been watching Monday Night Football, or the Manningcast for that matter, and thought “Man, I wish they were talking to Tracy Morgan right now!” McAfee brought on Peyton Manning, for obvious reasons, and former NC State quarterback Phillip Rivers. That’s it. They didn’t rely on guests to carry them through down periods. The eight folks on screen did most of the heavy lifting, and for that, I thank them.
The McAfeecast was certainly different than any other alternate broadcast I’ve consumed. The crew shooting hoops for extra donations to charity during stoppages of play definitely kept things light and interesting. I couldn’t help but be invested in whether or not someone would bury three out of five threes during an injury timeout for more money for charity.
Speaking of injury timeouts, McAfee planned a giveaway and told fans to use a certain hashtag and when to screenshot or take a picture of their TV. Immediately following him saying “now!”, an injured player appeared on the screen, and he instantly shouted “No! Not now! No! We don’t want that, and we hope he’s ok”. It was a light-hearted, nearly hilarious moment that brought levity to the situation.
The highlight of the cast, however, was — in true McAfee style — picking up on things other broadcasters wouldn’t, like an angry fan. The entire crew shouting at the same time in this specific moment was spectacular television.
Overall, I thought the McAfeecast got off on the right foot. There is undeniably a market for an alternate broadcast based around the former NFL punter’s personality, and I look forward to seeing where the show goes from here.
Garrett Searight is the Editor of Barrett Sports Media and Barrett News Media. He previously was the Program Director and Afternoon Co-Host on 93.1 The Fan in Lima, OH. He is also a play-by-play announcer for TV and Radio broadcasts in Western Ohio.