John Sterling Isn’t Going To Quit Telling Stories
“I’ve been able to find something for the home run calls and it’s fun, but it’s not the end of the world. People get so excited about everything, it’s just a zany thing to do on the games.”
At 81-years old most people would gladly settle into retirement, but Yankees radio voice John Sterling chose the opposite route. Instead, he’s adding a job. Sterling recently launched a podcast, Pinstripes and Bright Lights on RADIO.COM.
One of the best broadcasters in the country for his ability to tell a story, Sterling flips the microphone on to share an interesting memory, anecdote or behind-the-scenes look at America’s pastime for the podcast. His unique and colorful style endeared Sterling to Yankees fans as his voice became synonymous with the club.
Having been in the booth for every inning of every Yankees game in the last three decades, Sterling certainly will never run low on material for his podcast. The iconic voice of the Bronx Bombers called a remarkable 5,060 consecutive games for the Yankees before taking a few days off earlier this year, but even at the age of 81, Sterling has no plans of slowing down.
Brandon Contes: Let’s start with the podcast, Pinstripes and Bright Lights, was this your idea or was it something Entercom presented to you?
John Sterling: Actually, it was two outside producers from Boston who came to me with the idea of doing a podcast. I’m not an internet kind of guy, but they explained what they wanted and I said sure! Frankly, they do all the work, they produce it, they sell it and they style it. All I do is give them content.
Last year I did maybe 10 stories, long stories. One story was about Joe DiMaggio, one was about Ted Williams, another about Willie Mays and so on. They put this package together, Pinstripes and Bright Lights and I hope it attracts a lot of listeners and that we’ll continue it for a while.
BC: You mentioned long stories, but the episodes are quick, which personally, I love. I look for podcasts that are in the 10 to 20 minute range, because no matter what I’m doing or where I’m going, even if I’m going around the corner, by the time I grab my wallet and keys, get in the car and go, I always have time for a 10 to 15 minute podcast. If it’s an hour long, I have to find time for it. Was the timeframe by design?
JS: I don’t really plan anything, I live by the seat of my pants and I broadcast by the seat of my pants. I told these stories and I didn’t time them, I don’t do any of those things, I’m not a stat guy if you ever hear me call a game.
I’ll use the DiMaggio story as an example. In 1949, Casey Stengel’s first year, DiMaggio missed the first 65 games because of a heel injury and it was a very dramatic story that I’ll shorten for this interview.
One beautiful late June morning, DiMaggio woke up in his suite in a Midtown hotel, and he had been wearing a carpet slipper on his bad heel because he couldn’t put any pressure on it. He stepped out of bed and nothing happened, he didn’t feel anything, he couldn’t believe it, he walked around the suite and didn’t feel any pain. The Yankees were playing an exhibition game that night, a Thursday, and then they were heading to Boston for a three-game series.
And this of course is Joe DiMaggio now. He called them and said, ‘I need pitchers to throw to me and I need kids to shag.’ As the story goes, he went to Yankee Stadium and hit until his hands bled and he told the Yankees I’m ready to go to Boston tomorrow. The Yankees left that night and he flew up the next day and walked into the clubhouse at Fenway Park telling Stengel I’m ready to go.
You’ll have to listen to Bright Lights and Pinstripes for the rest, but it was a tremendous weekend for DiMaggio and the Yankees. The Yankees won the pennant by one game and the final two games of the year were against Boston at Yankee Stadium. They won Saturday to tie Boston and they won Sunday to win. That was the first of Stengel’s and the Yankees’ five straight World Series Championships. It’s a pretty good story, at least I’d like to think so.
BC: Were these all stories you already knew of and chose to share on your own, or were they suggested and given to you by the producers of the podcast?
JS: I had read about all of them, certainly, but nothing is written down. I don’t know what that proves, but I just do them from the top of my head and I hope they work.
BC: You’re a fantastic story teller. Whether you’re doing a game, or the podcast, or just talking to me right now. And I know you introduce the podcast by saying ‘hello fans’ as if you’re talking to a group, but when I’m listening, it feels like you’re talking to me one-on-one. I think that’s true for the way you and Suzyn Waltman call a game together also. The way you engage with each other, there’s an easiness to it. It’s such a great way to build that unique connection with fans whether it’s through a game broadcast or your podcast. So it might only be a 10 minute long podcast, but it resonates with listeners.
JS: I began like everyone else. I had a very formal upbringing in broadcasting and I started in a really small town at a small station, and I worked my way up. But when you go on the air that’s what you’re supposed to do, you’re supposed to envision that you’re talking to one person and that’s how I’ve envisioned it since the beginning as Boy Disc Jockey. So thank you for saying it because that’s what you’re supposed to do.
BC: You welcome fan engagement with letters on the podcast, do you think you’ll ever include a guest?
JS: I don’t think we’ll have guests, we certainly haven’t spoken about that. I will read a letter, or two or three and answer them on air. Then I’ll go into whatever story I have that day and I hope that it will be interesting. If I was driving, and I heard someone tell a really good story about these different people, I would be interested, so I really hope the listening audience is.
BC: Did you grow up a Yankees fan?
JS: Actually I did, but I do want to say this. I broadcasted the Braves before the Yankees. Well, I wouldn’t care who I’m broadcasting, when you work for a team and you’re investing your career in that team, you want the team to win! Why? Because you have more listeners, you have better ratings and the station can charge more for advertising, so it’s more financially successful.
The old line its good for business – well – it’s good for business! I never dreamed I could get the Yankee job and here it is, 31 years later and they have a terrific team and it’s been a heck of a year. The Yankees are a hugely successful franchise and I’m glad to be part of it.
BC: Your consecutive games streak was 5,060 games with the Yankees? But it goes back even before that with Atlanta, correct?
JS: I was a little run down near the All-Star break and the London trip didn’t do me any good, so I was persuaded by my program director Mark Chernoff to take some games off. He kept saying to me, ‘I don’t want you to get sick and be out for a long time.’ So I took four games off and they dovetailed with the All-Star break, which gave me four more days off. That’s the only games I’ve missed in 38 years. With the Atlanta Hawks and Braves I had five years doing them together, I was doing about 220 games a year!
I got to the Yankees in ‘89 and didn’t miss any games until this year’s All-Star break, so I’m proud of it, but I also never really cared about the streak.
BC: Were you surprised how many others did care?
JS: Yes! Oh my goodness, I couldn’t believe the reaction, people thought I was dying, but yes, I was surprised.
I missed two games in my first year with the Yankees, when I had to lay my sister to rest so I don’t consider that missing two games, those days were for a death in the family. Those are the only games I missed in 38 years, from my first Hawks game beginning in November 1981, until this All-Star break. But you know what? When you think about it, it’s not important. I’m not getting anything out of it and it’s amazing how many people cared about it which is wonderful. But I never went to work every day thinking, ‘Oh, I’m adding one more to the streak,’ I never thought about it. I was healthy and that was my job, so I went to broadcast the game.
Also, I go to the game because I love the games, I get into the games. So it was very easy for me to go and do a baseball game or basketball game, or even college football and college basketball, I get a big kick out of them.
BC: Obviously you love going to games, I love going to games, but I’m 31 years old and I think about the amount of hours you put into a broadcast and the amount of travel that you have to do throughout the entire season. It seems a little daunting.
JS: Yes, that’s the toughest part of it, without question. And it’s even tougher being with the Yankees because baseball doesn’t give the Yankees a lot of getaway day games and as a result, we keep getting into these cities at four in the morning. I call it Yankee time. And I would say that’s the tough part of the job. I also don’t go to sleep right away, it takes me a while to unwind after a flight, so I go to bed even later than other people. That’s the tough part, of the job.
BC: You did 30 straight years without missing a game which means you were never able to listen to a Yankee call on the radio or sit back and watch them live on television. So when you did take a few days off, did you get to do that?
JS: I sure did, I didn’t want to listen on the radio because I didn’t want to have to answer what I thought of the people who replaced me, who I understand did a really great job. At home I have two big screens on the wall of my bedroom side by side, so I actually watched the games without sound, I would watch the Yankee game on one screen and the Mets game, on the other screen and I really enjoyed it.
People would ask, ‘Did it bother you missing games?’ No, I never had any problem in missing those games. I have a host of friends in the business who do the same thing. Tom Hamilton in Cleveland, Denny Matthews in Kansas City, Michael Kay of course on YES, Howie Rose on Mets radio and Gary Cohen on television, they all miss games and they’ve been telling me, ‘John, you gotta take time off, you have to take games off,’ which is now an accepted thing and I never did it until this year. I can’t say it bothered me at all.
BC: So will you schedule games off next season?
JS: No. No I’ll go and see how I feel that’s all.
BC: Was that the same time Michael Kay was out?
JS: Michael’s surgery was just after the games I missed.
He missed four or five weeks and as a matter of fact, I had the same surgery back in 1980, so I told him – here I am, fine. You have to learn how to use your voice, I hurt my voice because I was doing a three-hour daily talk show and Nets basketball and Islanders hockey and Morgan State football, my goodness it was a lot. I had the operation and got a few ideas on how to use my voice correctly and I haven’t hurt it since. I told Michael, imagine in 40 years how they must have improved the technique, so you’re going to be great. And of course, he came back great.
BC: Do you think about the Hall of Fame at all? Being the voice of the Yankees for so long, the streak, the home run calls and their popularity, is that something you think about?
JS: Well, it’s brought up all the time. I don’t think I’ll ever get in. I remember Harry Caray, before he got in, he never thought he would make it because his style was so different and I kind of think the same way of myself. They seem to bring in people who have a different style than I have. If it ever happened, I’ll be very happy, but if not, I’m fine.
BC: I think the uniqueness is what makes you so popular and generational. People that were listening when they were in grade school are now in their 40s and their kids are listening. You’re one of the sounds of summer and I think the uniqueness of what you bring to a broadcast helps build that connection I mentioned earlier.
JS: Well, I wish you were voting!
BC: Do you remember which of your creative homerun calls came first? Was it Bern baby Bern?
JS: It was without question Bernie Williams, but I had done this for other athletes in other sports. I had one with Dominique Wilkins on the Hawks, he would do something great and I would say ‘Dominique is Magnifique’ and it caught on, he loved it. I do everything by the seat of my pants, I’m not thinking these things out. One day when Bernie did something great, I said, Bern baby Bern. It caught on, he loved it and then there was Bernie goes Boom. [Laughs]
It was never meant to be for every player. But it turned into that, I’m very proud and happy about it, but it’s become as they say, a cottage industry so now I’m supposed to do something for everyone and I try.
BC: What do you think led to that becoming the case? Was it radio shows replaying them? Or the internet and the way everything gets shared on social media?
JS: The answer is yes!
BC: Is there pressure now that you need to create one for every player?
JS: I don’t know if its pressure, I don’t think they’re going to put me up in a tree if I don’t come through. [Laughs] But yeah when the Yankees acquire a new player in the offseason, people start wondering about the call, so we try to find something, some are very good and some aren’t.
BC: Did you have calls in your back pocket for Bryce Harper and Manny Machado?
JS: [Long Pause] I did not. [Laughs]
I thought the Yankees were right in not going after them and tying up all that money in one player. Brian Cashman has had the best year that any GM has ever had. That’s why the Yankees have survived with the incredible injuries, not just the number of injuries, but injuries to their biggest and best players. The things Brian has done are sensational, whether it’s Gio Urshela, Mike Tauchman or Cameron Maybin. I’ve been able to find something for the home run calls and it’s fun, but it’s not the end of the world. People get so excited about everything, it’s just a zany thing to do on the games.
BC: Were you surprised how quickly the Yankees were able to rebuild in the last few years? It looked like they were headed for a down period and it just never got that bad before they built championship aspirations again.
JS: Even when they really weren’t very good, Joe Girardi did a phenomenal job, he was winning games in the mid-80s. So when they were having their down year, they were still over .500 and they were very competitive teams. Then Brian Cashman made these great trades and Judge came up through the farm system, and Gleyber Torres was traded for. Gary Sanchez also came up through the farm system and they’ve built up a terrific ball club.
BC: As the voice of the Yankees, do the playoffs still generate extra excitement? Or because the Yankees were there so many times, are you immune to the added energy and new expectations?
JS: Oh no, you react to the game. I’m really good at that, I react to the game that day. A couple of years ago, the Yankees went to the ALCS, and lost in seven to Houston, the eventual champion. The Yankees played six playoff games at home that year and the new Stadium was just as loud as the old Yankee Stadium, it was thrilling, absolutely thrilling.
BC: Some TV play-by-play voices have joined the local radio call for the playoffs. Kay being on ESPN and the Yankees on WFAN make the hypothetical even harder, but has Michael ever expressed an interest in doing that? Joining you and Suzyn for a few innings during the playoffs?
JS: No, not to me anyway. And Michael would tell me before anyone else. Michael knows how it works. If you do television, you wind up not doing the playoffs because they’re all on national TV. They do allow home radio and if they didn’t I would be very unhappy, I don’t want them to play these big games in the playoffs without my broadcasting them and Suzyn feels the same way.
BC: How do you view the rest of your career? Is it a goal of yours to retire on your own? Some professional athletes have retired as an All-Star, others say they’ll play until their uniform is ripped off.
JS: At the present time, I have four kids in college so I have to work. [Laughs]
When that’s over, I’ll think about it, but I’ll take it year by year. I don’t want to go on-air if I can’t do it, but I honestly don’t know. I can’t imagine retiring, but I guess there will be a day when I just – even Vin Scully finally retired and he was 88 or 89, so I have some years left.
Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.
Brandon Contes is a former reporter for BSM, now working for Awful Announcing. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonContes or reach him by email at Brandon.Contes@gmail.com.
Coaches & News Conferences Don’t Have To Be So Boring
“It is a recent phenomenon that the public even sees a full news conference. Now that they do, though, they get to see how the sausage is made…and it’s pretty boring.”
I couldn’t possibly count how many news conferences I have watched or attended in my career. It would be like counting each individual pine tree you pass while driving a two lane country road. Eventually, every tree and news conference looks the same. You would just end up losing count and interest.
Most news conferences contain ten times the recommended daily amount of cliches and safe answers. There’s the occasional oasis in the desert of “one game at a time” answers that restores faith in the existence of a non-cookie cutter news conference. Often, those hopes are quickly reeled back in by the coach that would rather have his teeth pulled out one by one than show even an iota of personality in an answer.
I get that the purpose of a news conference is to get the answers to the pertinent questions facing a coach or his team at that given moment. The view inside a news conference that the general public is given is rare. It is like a live look-in at the accounting firm’s weekly staff meeting (and, often just as exciting).
It is a recent phenomenon that the public even sees a full news conference. Now that they do, though, they get to see how the sausage is made…and it’s pretty boring. The fan of the team gets to see how the quote of their coach is edited down from the 90 second soliloquy to the 20 second “money quote”.
Here’s the thing; there is no law mandating every question has to be the boring, run of the mill roster spot question. The reason they are is that most of these news conferences are a race against time by media members that cover the team on a daily basis to gather as much information as possible. It is a race against time because the head coach will not stand at the podium all day. He’d rather be anywhere else.
It is in that environment that a member of the media risks raising the ire of their colleagues by asking a coach if they could be one movie character in all of history, who would they choose? Can you imagine Bill Belichick, unlikely as it may be, explaining why he’d choose to be Michale Corleone from The Godfather? Instead, he is mumbling a non-answer on any variety of positional battles in Patriots practice.
Last week in the news conferences leading up to Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament game against Providence, Wildcats coach John Calipari was asked about not taking the North Carolina State job because of bad Raleigh, North Carolina pizza. The story, originally told by former Calipari assistant Josh Pastner, was relayed by WSJS’s Josh Graham. The ensuing answer, far from a knee slapper, showed some personality from Calipari. He informed the reporter the pizza was from Mellow Mushroom and it was not why he passed on the Wolfpack.
Calipari is a guy not afraid to show a little personality, in fact, he is a very big personality. It is not uncommon to see a news conference clip from him that is beyond the normally mind numbing coach speak. This is the guy that had a press conference interrupted once by Temple coach John Chaney trying to fist fight him. It would be nice to randomly see that from other coaches across sports.
Imagine if we discovered most coaches were actually funny people who didn’t mind not being robots 24/7? It would be like dropping a rock in your driveway only to have it break into pieces revealing gold dust on the inside. We could inadvertently stumble into a whole new realm of news conferences. I mean, the breakdown down of the two deep at the offensive guard spots might not get discussed in excruciating detail but, maybe, we find Andy Reid’s go to burger patty seasoning.
What we may discover is that our audience actually likes that kind of thing. It doesn’t mean Reid, or any other coach, never gets to tell us it is one week at a time and they’ve moved on from last week’s game. There will be plenty of that kind of talk, it is in their DNA. We could only hope the fun stuff gets seasoned in.
It will take a member of the media that doesn’t mind ruffling the feathers of some of the old school writers who wear mustard stained shirts and Sansabelt slacks. Those guys devour the coach speak of the week one two deep. They’ll ostracize the media member who “doesn’t take this seriously enough”. Deep down inside, though, I think they’ll give it a laugh, heck they may even use it in their content. When that day comes, you’ll thank me for this idea. Then you can go right back to the battle for the back-up spot at the left corner.
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.
RSNs’ Demise Could Make Baseball Even Less Competitive
How many fans would have to buy a $20/month package to equal $60 million/year in local TV revenue?
Baseball fans should consider being careful what they wish for regarding the seemingly inevitable demise of regional sports networks (RSNs).
Yes, Diamond Sports Group’s recent filing for bankruptcy puts the television broadcast agreements that Bally Sports Networks have with 14 Major League Baseball teams in possible jeopardy. Many fans of those 14 clubs — which include the St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers, Milwaukee Brewers, and Minnesota Twins — are hoping this development frees up local TV rights to be picked up by a streaming platform.
Currently, fans in those 14 markets who cut the cord with cable and satellite providers have been unable to watch their favorite teams locally because of Diamond’s failure to work out carriage deals with popular streaming outlets like YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV. And many of them aren’t interested in subscribing to Bally Sports’ own streaming package for $19.99 per month. Especially if they just want to watch baseball for six months and have no use for local NBA and NHL coverage. (A few of those markets don’t have a local NBA or NHL team, either.)
Amid the bankruptcy proceedings, Diamond is attempting to get out of broadcast agreements with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres, and Cleveland Guardians. Those four clubs cost Diamond more in rights fees than they generate in cable contracts and ad revenues. MLB intends to pick up the broadcast packages for those teams and stream those games for free if that happens.
Fans of the other 10 teams tied to Bally Sports deals are hoping for a similar outcome. Though that would be highly unlikely, Diamond apparently is not close to an agreement with MLB that would help the company get out of bankruptcy, as it has with the NBA and NHL. Furthermore, Diamond is arguing that MLB has no interest in such a deal, preferring to take back streaming rights for those 14 teams.
Yet would that really be the best development for MLB in terms of competitive balance? Baseball has long struggled with a significant financial disparity between large-market teams and those in mid-sized or small markets. According to Spotrac, the New York Mets will have the highest payroll for the 2023 season at $355 million. At the very bottom of the league, the Oakland Athletics’ payroll is a fraction (11 percent, to be exact) of the Mets’ at $40 million.
But the gap between teams playing in large media markets (and thus getting significant revenue from local TV contracts) versus small market clubs is nearly as vast. The Los Angeles Dodgers reportedly earn $239 million per year from their local TV contract, while the Pittsburgh Pirates get $60 million.
The Pirates are also one of three MLB teams who have a TV deal with AT&T SportsNet. Warner Bros. Discovery recently announced its intentions to transfer ownership of those RSNs to their respective teams and leagues. If a deal can’t be made, WBD will likely enter bankruptcy proceedings for the RSNs. So add the Pirates, Colorado Rockies, and Houston Astros to the team whose local broadcasts could be taken over by MLB.
But would the Pirates still get $60 million in local TV revenue under such an arrangement? Teams with local cable contracts were able to draw enormous fees by being part of a larger overall package in which even non-sports fans were paying fees for RSNs.
However, if these networks are no longer part of a cable bundle, can their broadcasts come anywhere close to matching those revenues from streaming packages? As The Ringer’s Bryan Curtis asked on The Press Box podcast, how many Pirates fans would have to pay $20 a month (or more) to generate $60 million per year? Even if RSNs began to feature sports betting broadcasts, would that draw enough revenue to make up the shortfall?
The Pirates aren’t competitive as it is, finishing last in the National League Central division in 2022 with a 62-100 record (31 games behind the first-place Cardinals). Pittsburgh also had the lowest payroll in the NL at $59 million. How does taking away $60 million — which essentially covers the Pirates’ player payroll — improve any chance of contending?
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told the Wall Street Journal, “I think we can get into a mode where we are better able to say to fans: You can watch baseball on whatever platform you want to watch it.”
Manfred and MLB will also have to address the sport’s restrictive local market blackout rules to make game broadcasts as accessible as the commissioner envisions. Many baseball fans and observers likely know that Iowa, for example, is blacked out from six teams (Cubs, Twins, Brewers, White Sox, Royals, and Cardinals) locally. An MLB.TV subscription isn’t of much use in that region.
Reportedly, MLB is working on that very goal. But current TV contracts and local media rights deals create a ball of yarn that could take years to untangle. In the meantime, baseball’s elite teams could separate themselves even further from those less fortunate — or without lucrative local TV rights deals.
Having local broadcasts liberated from RSNs sounds appealing to fans who ditched cable and currently can’t watch their teams on streaming platforms. But losing those revenues could prevent their favorite teams from funding competitive — or even respectable — payrolls. Be careful what you wish for, baseball fans. The team you get to watch may not be nearly as good.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disney Has One Logical Choice For The Future – Jimmy Pitaro
“If Bob Iger wants his next successor to come from the sports world, that is his guy. Hell, forget sports. Pitaro may be the best person available no matter how far and wide the search goes.”
Bob Iger’s latest tenure atop the Walt Disney Company fascinates me. The company begged him to come back to clean up the mess made by his handpicked successor, but it was made clear from the get-go that he has a very limited window to get this right and then go home. That is why, less than six months after Iger returned to Burbank, we are already hearing about who will be the next CEO of Disney.
There is reportedly a shortlist of candidates for the job and it is sports-heavy. Two of the four spots are occupied by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro. I see the value both men could bring to the job, but I think there is a clear frontrunner and obvious choice.
Jimmy Pitaro is already inside the Disney walls. He has already learned to operate within the Disney hierarchy. He has had to answer investors’ tough questions about budget and direction. If Bob Iger wants his next successor to come from the sports world, that is his guy. Hell, forget sports. Pitaro may be the best person available no matter how far and wide the search goes.
Adam Silver’s tenure as NBA Commissioner is the target of all sorts of criticism, mostly from people that don’t watch the NBA anyway. For all of the pissing and moaning about load management and player empowerment, people are still watching and the league is still as profitable as ever. By the metrics that matter to the people that matter (team owners), he is doing an excellent job.
On a recent episode of Meadowlark Media’s Sports Business, John Skipper made it clear that he loves Silver and thinks he would make an excellent CEO for the Walt Disney Company, but that is a totally different world from the one Silver is currently thriving in.
“My advice would be to stay at the NBA,” the Meadowlark Media boss said. “It’s not a public company. You don’t have to face shareholders. You do have to face 30 NBA owners, but you don’t have activist shareholders. And I think Adam is a committed NBA commissioner. He’s been for a long time.”
The public posturing of Ron DeSantis will always get attention, but it doesn’t always have to be taken seriously. The moment he threatened to dissolve the special district in Central Florida that Walt Disney World operates out of, legal scholars were quick to point out that the proposal would create a major burden on the state and its citizens that no politician wants to be responsible for.
DeSantis wanted his culture war. Disney wanted the problem to go away. The two sides quietly found a compromise that made it look like the governor didn’t lose while Disney got to go on basically with business as usual. That is the kind of corporate policy war whoever takes over for Bob Iger will have to be ready to wage.
Disney needs a salvager in that chair, someone who knows how to diagnose the problems of business relationships and find fixes that hurt each side just enough that both can say the other really took it on the chin. Pitaro is that guy.
Look at ESPN’s relationship with the NFL when he arrived versus where it is now. The company needs someone that makes stars and creators feel like this company is one that it can trust and one that they want to be in business with. Look at what Pitaro has done to bring the Manning Brothers, Pat McAfee, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman under the Disney umbrella while simultaneously finding ways to keep stars like Stephen A. Smith and Bomani Jones happy with non-exclusive deals that allow them to grow their profile with new opportunities outside of the company walls.
Most importantly, no segment of the Walt Disney Company and arguably, no network on basic cable, has had to answer as many questions about the future of distribution as often as ESPN. Jimmy Pitaro has been asked about a future where entertainment is driven solely by the needs of the audience so many times that he has undoubtedly thought about the ups and downs of the streaming landscape more than just about anyone else on Earth.
Bob Iger will be atop Disney through the end of the year and into 2024. This isn’t a decision that is being made tomorrow. Even when it is made, Iger doesn’t just get to write a name down on a piece of paper, slam down an “APPROVED” stamp and go home.
Everyone on that reported shortlist will be vetted by Iger, his confidants, members of the Disney board, and shareholders. Some may wince at the fact they have no idea how Jimmy Pitaro envisions running theme parks and a cruise line, but the reality is that no one checks all the boxes for any job as big as this one until they have been in it for a while.
When you know the perfect fit for a job doesn’t exist, you go looking for the person that is the best fit. I think Bob Iger and Disney have already found him in Bristol, CT.
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.