Some people are scared to say something unpopular. FOX Sports Radio and FS1 host Jason McIntyre is not one of these people. His style doesn’t resemble a conservative play-caller in football. It’s more like the rapper Bone Crusher repeating, “I ain’t never scared,” from his 2003 hit song. Jason doesn’t operate a dink-and-dunk offense on the sports radio airwaves. He slings it, takes chances, and is aggressive. He’s a fearless host that will gladly face the listeners he riles up.
There is often a misperception that a strongly opinionated and unapologetic host has to be a bit of a wild card — a loose cannon comparable to a rabid dog. This definitely isn’t the case with Jason. He’s a very nice guy who is also incredibly smart. It isn’t a requirement to be a jerk in order to produce strong stances. Jason is like a pitcher delivering some sweet chin music to a hitter only to then tip his cap and wish his competition a nice day.
As the previous owner of The Big Lead, Jason points out some interesting parallels between the sports blog and sports radio. He also talks about his days of owning the site anonymously. As a guy who has already accomplished a lot and loves to challenge himself to reach new heights, it’ll be fun to keep track of what Jason accomplishes next. Enjoy.
Brian Noe: What gives you the most enjoyment as a sports broadcaster?
Jason McIntyre: One of the big things in our industry, you know this, you have to be fearless. You can’t care what people are going to say about your take or your opinion. It does feel good when you’re out on a limb, out on the ledge saying something like, listen, I don’t want to be in the Odell Beckham business. If I were the Giants I would trade him. And all these Giants fans — “You’re an idiot! He’s so good.”
What happens like two months later? They trade him. Now the Browns after one year, “I don’t know we might move on.” Now the recent Odell Beckham mishap. It’s like come on; you couldn’t see these things coming from a mile away? But people are kind of nervous and scared to go out and say something unpopular.
I had the same thing with Baker Mayfield. His rookie year, I’ll never forget they were playing the Jets and they win the game. Baker was tremendous, he comes off the field and what’s he doing? He’s looking at his cell phone. Huge win. That’s the first thing you’re doing before you do any interviews? You’re looking at your cell phone.
I had been saying this guy’s out there. He likes to read social media and favorite comments by people. He’s favorited stuff I’ve said on FOX Sports Radio. He uses that as ammunition. You’ve got to have that inner drive to be better, not I want to get back at Joe in Milwaukee who said this about me. I just think that’s the wrong attitude. He’s so into the social media, it kind of scares me. What happened to Baker Mayfield this year? He was atrocious. I’m not picking on the Cleveland Browns here or anything. I’m just saying the idea of being fearless and going out there on the ledge all alone on an island and turning out to be right, it feels like you’re in a good place, like you’re not afraid of anything.
BN: What’s the biggest challenge for you as a broadcaster?
JM: One of the issues that I’ve found — and again I’m pretty new to this stuff. I’ve only been in radio for I think four years. I did one year at Yahoo! Sports Radio and then my agent parlayed that into FOX. Then I came out to do the TV stuff for FS1. I would say the one thing is just being consistent across the board. If one day I’ve got to do a video for FOX on NFL picks, the next day I’m going on Lock It In, then I’m going on the radio, you kind of change your mind. It’s tough to be like, yes, I think this is going to be the score on Tuesday. Then new information comes out like injuries. Oh, I kind of changed my mind a little bit. Then you see by Saturday morning, hey, all the money is on one side. Whoa, maybe I need to change my mind.
I guess it’s a good thing because I’m not afraid to admit I was wrong. You’re going to be wrong a lot. I’m on the wrong side of this. There’s new information presented to me. You know that as a host. You might do your Portland show and talk about breaking news and then boom within the next five days a whole new narrative emerges and you go on your radio show on FOX and you say, listen, I got it wrong the first time. There’s nothing wrong with that. I think the biggest challenge is being consistent. A lot of guys, they don’t want to admit when they’re wrong. Me? I have no problem.
BN: Which is better — to come right out with honesty and say, I really don’t know how this game is going to play out, or just pick a side and almost make yourself believe that’s the way it’s going to go?
JM: Yeah, that’s a tough one because you can’t do a segment on TV where you just come on and say I have no idea. You can’t. They’ll just be like, all right, well we’ll find someone who can. That’s the reality. You have to have an opinion. That’s why you’re here. You got to this place because you are fearless. You’re not worried about being wrong and you have interesting opinions that are going to make people think.
BN: What’s something that you’ve carried over to sports radio from your days of owning The Big Lead?
JM: The best part of owning a website was you could see every 10 minutes, every 30 minutes, every hour what posts work and what doesn’t. You pretty quickly realize that, hey man, the NFL is super popular. It’s number one. The NBA is number two and then there is a huge drop off. There’s just not as much interest in terms of debatability or topics in baseball. There just isn’t. Now obviously the Houston Astros are a phenomenal story right now. I think that has potential, but I’m curious to see whether or not it drives traffic or if it’s a social media story.
I’m sure you’ve seen, Brian, there’s a colossal difference between what works on TV, what works on radio, what works on the internet, and then there’s social media. Because you know social media skews very left. People are easily outraged at anything. All these people would get worked up on social media, but then when it came to clicking on these stories, they didn’t. We saw a disconnect between stories that you have to read and social media where you can be flippant and have comments. I thought that was fascinating.
BN: How did you get your start in the beginning of your career?
JM: So I got out of college — this was of course before social media had popped — I get out of college and I wanted to work at a newspaper. My dream all along had been I want to cover the Lakers for a newspaper. I would have season tickets also, which made no sense, but that’s when you’re a little kid and you think, oh, Magic Johnson’s awesome and you want to be there. I got into newspapers and then about three years in I was on the staff with Adrian Wojnarowski and a couple other guys at the Bergen Record. It was just like wait a sec; this newspaper thing is starting to hit some walls here. The internet is starting to pop.
I’ll never forget I had a moment where I decided — let me buy my URL JasonMcIntyre.com. I’ll put my resume on there and my clips so I can get noticed around the country. I put that out there and one of my colleagues on staff sees it and reports me to the top guy. I get called into a glass office at the Bergen Record, “Jason, I don’t know if this is legal. You’re republishing our stories.”
I said how different is this than clipping out my stories from the newspaper and sending it to somebody? I’m not making any money off of this. What are you talking about? I realized at that point these are some old folks in the newspaper industry. They don’t get the internet. I need to get out of here.
I had left for a better job at Us Weekly magazine and lived in New York City. Within two years I started The Big Lead. It’s hard work. It’s luck. It’s a combination of a lot of factors. Everything lined up perfectly. My girlfriend at the time, who’s now my wife, had a good job so I was able to not make any money off the website for a good year after quitting my job. It was just like “This is where I want to be. This is perfect.” Then the next thing you know the website leads to TV and FS1 and the radio. It was a springboard to me being in sports and all this fun stuff.
BN: What were your big breaks while you were still running The Big Lead
JM: The big one was when Colin Cowherd was at ESPN. I don’t necessarily remember what was written, but it was something on The Big Lead. This was when it was anonymous by the way. Nobody knew I was running it. He read something and he’s like, wouldn’t it be great if we could just blow this website up? It just so happens that it was his first day replacing Tony Kornheiser and he had a lot of new listeners. All of these listeners went to the website and it was like a mom-and-pop shop back then. Our server was like in Romania for $27 a month. Super cheap, because I’m not spending tons of money. I didn’t really spend anything out of pocket to start the website. The website basically blew up. It was knocked offline.
NPR reached out to me and was like, hey, we want to interview you. “I’m like can I do it anonymously?” They’re like “No, you have to put your name on it.” I was like, “All right, I can’t talk to you guys.” But they still wrote about it. Then the ESPN ombudsman wrote about it and Cowherd got reprimanded. That was the one big one that kind of put me on the map.
The one after that was Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch, who I’m sure you know him, does a lot in the media. He did the unmasking of me when I was ready to put my name on it. Once I started making money I was like, okay, I’ll put my name on it. I revealed that I was the guy behind it. Sports Illustrated wrote about it, which was very cool. Then I guess the third one would be when it sold. It was written about in The New York Times. My parents clipped it and framed it and all that fun stuff. That I think got the eyeballs of TV. I met with FOX, which turned into FS1 and then it went from there.
BN: Why were you so careful about not revealing that you were the guy running it?
JM: A couple things. Number one was I had the magazine job at Us Weekly. I didn’t think it would be a good look if posts were going up on the site as I’m sitting there in the office at Us Weekly or wherever I was reporting. I wasn’t really doing stuff while on the job. I would just wake up at 6am, listen to Howard Stern, and then set up like two or three posts. I would set them to post throughout the day. I was able to do both at the same time, which was nice.
The other aspect was I didn’t know where this was going. I think the fact that it was anonymous — there was like an air of mystery. Who the hell is this guy? Where is this guy getting his information? Of course you know how the media works, once you start writing about the media, they definitely want to be on your side because they’re afraid of you. I had all of these media guys reaching out to me trying to become friendly. I got to be friendly with some of them obviously. They would give tips and they would be like, oh, I heard this is happening at ESPN or at Sports Illustrated. Then that would become a story. Next thing you know it wasn’t just sports fans reading, it was the important people, the decision makers at magazines and TV and radio. I guess once you get the media and the fans it’s a big win.
BN: How did you become friends with Cowherd?
JM: Well it’s funny. After he did that whole blow-up thing, I guess maybe six months later was the Sports Illustrated reveal. Then six months later I had started doing interviews with media people, but more in-depth. I spent the day at the Big East Tournament with Jay Bilas and hung out with him. I was showing that I’m not just a guy who would do hot takes and media gossip, so I would do these longer form pieces.
I emailed ESPN for one of them. I was like, hey, can I come up and interview Cowherd? They reached out to Cowherd and Cowherd was like, “Oh yeah, that’s great.” Next thing you know I went up to Bristol for a night and hung out with Cowherd for the day. It was pretty incredible. I guess in a way he kind of liked or respected what I had built and that I was a normal guy.
Listen man, Brian you’re in radio, you meet some of these guys, and there are some strange individuals to say the least. I like to think of myself as a normal dude. I have a wife, kids, regular guy, and I guess he liked that and we just kind of got to be friendly.
BN: That’s cool, man. What would you consider to be your biggest strength and your biggest weakness as a sports radio host?
JM: I would say the strength we kind of covered a little bit, just a fearless mentality. I’m not afraid of anybody. If somebody’s going to come after me, whatever. Hey, you want to talk sports? That’s fine. Discuss other stuff? There’s no reason to be afraid of anyone. I’ve always had that mentality.
I play a lot of pickup basketball. I always want to guard the best guard on the other team. I want to challenge myself. I don’t want to guard some scrub. I’m not going to get better. Being fearless I think would be my biggest strength.
My weakness I guess I get too into sports sometimes if that’s possible. I know that’s kind of nerdy to say. I don’t like to focus on weaknesses. There are a lot of guys in the TV industry who basically are like, hey, this person can’t do this. My thought is who cares what they’re not good at? Focus on what they’re good at. It applies to sports. All these teams were like “I don’t want Lamar Jackson. He can’t do this.” The Baltimore Ravens said “No, no he can do this.” Then they basically built their franchise, their offense, around him and he’s the MVP of the league putting up historic stuff. I know they had a playoff stinker there, but he had like 500 yards of offense. I think that’s a mentality — don’t focus on the negatives, focus on what you do best and really hammer that and build off of it.
BN: What are some of your goals that you would really like to accomplish?
JM: Well we always want forward momentum in anything we do. I’ve been doing weekend radio for three or four years on FOX. I would love to have a five day a week show. I’ve been doing TV now at FS1 for three years. I’d love to have a daily show, but I’ve become a lot more patient. It could be living out here in L.A. I grew up in the Northeast. You may or may not know this, but in the Northeast you better be 15 minutes early if you want to be on time. Out here in L.A. it’s like you’re 30 minutes late, oh well, glad you showed up. You’re on time. It’s just totally different and a different speed.
I’ve gotten a lot better I think with just being patient and letting things come to you. You never want to force anything whether it’s a radio show you’re not ready for, or a TV show you’re not ready for because you’ve seen a lot of people really want things badly. They get it and what happens? It doesn’t end well for them quickly. I’m in no rush. I’m having fun. I’m learning practically every day from some of the best in the business. I’ll see Skip Bayless in the building and chat him up and learn something. I’ll see Cowherd. FOX has great executives. I love talking to Scott [Shapiro]. I had breakfast with Scott and Don [Martin] last year and learned a lot of stuff. I like those guys a lot. I’m just a sponge out here in the industry trying to get better every day as cheesy as that sounds.
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.