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Independent Nation: Union Broadcasting

“If there’s a big decision to be made on policy or logistics – a small group gets together to discuss and we’re putting a plan in place. It takes almost no time.”

Jack Ferris



It’s a time zone and roughly 500 hundred miles that separate Kansas City and Louisville.  That and more than a couple cultural differences.

“Kansas City has a little bit of everything,” explains Sandy Cohen, Union Broadcasting Director of Sales. “NFL, MLB, MLS, roughly half a dozen BIG XII schools within 2 and a half hours, not to mention an SEC presence with Missouri.”

As a result, tune into SportsRadio 810 WHB at any time and you’re likely to hear anything from a Chiefs Xs and Os discussion to Royals bullpen depth to Coach Klieman’s recruiting class in Manhattan.

Sandy Cohen

“As far as Louisville’s culture,” Cohen continues, “that’s a town made up of two types of sports fans – Cardinals and Wildcats.”

Naturally, the types of businesses that partner up with Union and ESPN 680 in Louisville are a little bit different than those that work with WHB.

“In Louisville we work with a lot of bars and restaurants,” explained Cohen before educating me on the illustrious history of pizza in Derby City. “In Kansas City there’s more car dealerships, mortgage companies and investment firms working with us.”

Two stations in two cities with two different kinds of clients.  From a dealership in western Kansas to a pizzeria in northern Kentucky – one thing all Union Broadcasting clients have in common during these uncertain times is the unwavering support of Sandy Cohen and his team.

With just two stations to preside over, those who work in sales for Union Broadcasting view their accounts as much more than monthly revenue makers.  

“There’s friendships everywhere.  Real friendships.  We’ve been to weddings, they’ve been to our weddings.  Kids birthday parties, you name it.”

Cohen points to those bonds as paramount during this time.

Looking back to March 11, the evening the NBA shut down, which led to roughly 72 hours of postponements, suspensions and cancellations – Union sprung into action.

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“That’s really the best part of being a small company,” claims the Union Vice President. “If there’s a big decision to be made on policy or logistics –  a small group gets together to discuss and we’re putting a plan in place.  It takes almost no time.”

Concerned first with the health of their staff, that week the decision makers put a plan into place to make sure everyone was able to work from home.  Once that hurdle was cleared, all attention was focused on the clients.

“That following Monday, no one wanted to immediately withdraw their business, no one really knew what this was at that point,” remembers Cohen. “The big word that week was ‘Pause.’  So, we hit the pause button with whoever wanted to just wait until we all knew more.”

Generally, the handbook of account management says when a client wants to cancel you do whatever you can to convince them to stay on.  If that’s the rule, COVID is, without question, the exception.  If partners wanted to take a step back, Union wasn’t getting in their way.

“This is unlike anything any of us have ever seen.  No one was prepared for something like this, how could anyone be?”

Cohen audibly reaches for a file on his desk.

“I’ll tell you what though, I’ve been taking detailed notes.  If and when this happens again we’ll be ready,” he promises.

So what seems to be working?  In Union’s case it seems to be flexibility.  Two different markets with two vastly different books calls for different accommodations.

“In Louisville, every morning we’re highlighting a different local business as part of the show.  We’re telling people what they need to do to support that particular bar or restaurant- whatever the case may be.  We seem to be getting a good response there.”

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Head west for 7 and a half hours (switching from I-64 to I-70 around St Louis) and you’ll find things to be working a little differently for Union in Kansas City.

“We have a strong social media presence with WHB so we’re offering a lot of digital messaging for clients out here – curbside pick up information, anything they want.”

With a quarter down and 3 to play, 2020 has already proven to be a brutal year – unless of course you’re a Chiefs fan.  If that’s the case, things were looking pretty bright just two months ago, and Cohen and his production team are doing their best to call upon those happy experiences that already seem so old.

“What we’re doing is encouraging business owners to record their favorite sports memories – obviously a lot revolve around the Super Bowl.  We have them email it in, our guys in production clean it up, maybe add a music bed and in less than 24 hours we’ve turned around a personalized ad ready for air.  It’s actually been a pretty good time for little innovations like that.”

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Another bright spot Cohen points to is the implementation of facetime and zoom for client calls that would otherwise just be on the phone.

“There’s something about being face to face with our partners that is comforting for us and them.  Even when we have sales meetings, it’s so much better seeing human faces.  That’s definitely been a bright spot.”

Cohen wouldn’t say that navigating these uncharted waters has been easy, especially without land on the horizon.  There is, however, an immense comfort in knowing we’re all in the ship together.  Louisville, Kansas City, and beyond.

“We’re gonna make it through this.  I have no doubt.”

BSM Writers

Mike Tirico Has ‘Never Pretended to Be Friends’ With Athletes

“I like having a healthy relationship where if I need something, I can ask whether it’s for on-air or for background and build trust.”

Ricky Keeler



Mike Tirico has been covering sports on network television for 32 years. Over those 3+ decades, he has made it a point to not be so close with the athletes he covers in whichever sport he is broadcasting.

Tirico was a guest on the most recent episode of the GOLF’s Subpar podcast with Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz. While Tirico knows he is not doing extensive journalism work, he wants to make sure that he can be able to ask the hard questions if he has to any athlete.

“I never pretend to be friends with the athletes I cover. I like having a healthy relationship where if I need something, I can ask whether it’s for on-air or for background and build trust. I’m not in a position where I’m working for Outside the Lines at my old place, ESPN. It’s not a knock. It’s just you’re not in a position where you have to do these journalistic-type interviews all the time, but there are times you have to ask hard questions. I always try to keep a little bit of a buffer or a distance.”

The context of that question came when Tirico was asked about how good of a relationship he has with Tiger Woods.

“It’s good….If I reach out, he will usually get back to me. He’s been really good and really nice along the way.”

As for broadcasting sports in this day and age of social media, Tirico believes that it can make a broadcaster better whether or not the complaint from someone on Twitter is real or not.

“It makes us better because you know that people are going to catch you. If something is artificial or not, real or not, embraced or not, it forces you to be better at what you do.”

For that same reason, Tirico thinks that LIV Golf is going to make the PGA Tour have to be better going forward because now they have another tour to go up against.

“I think LIV Golf, and we all have our own opinions on it, is going to force the PGA Tour to be better. Competition is good. Checks and balances are really good.”

Even though Tirico doesn’t feel nervous about many broadcasts anymore, there was one event in the last decade where the nerves kicked in when he was hosting his first Olympics at NBC.

“The only time in the last 10 years that I’ve been nervous was coming on for the first time hosting the Olympics because Bob Costas has done that since most of us have been alive and most people had never seen anyone but Bob Costas host the Olympics in primetime…2 minutes before, I’m like ‘should I be this? Should I have fun?’ and then the minute before, I cracked a joke in the studio.”

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BSM Writers

Kyle Brandt’s Rant a Reminder to Consider the Messenger

This doesn’t mean Brandt is wrong or even that he is being told to echo the NFL’s position, it’s to note that he took a very powerful stance on a very powerful platform and they both matter.



Kyle Brandt

This week, a massive announcement was made in the National Football League regarding the immediate future of Deshaun Watson. Judge Sue L. Robinson recommended a six -game suspension with no additional monetary fine for the quarterback. While the NFL mulls what it will say further, most others didn’t, including a really prominent personality: Kyle Brandt.

Brandt, a co-host on Good Morning Football, reacted like a lot of people did upon hearing the decision: forcefully. On Monday, Brandt denounced the decision to limit Watson’s suspension to six games, saying in part, “…I look at six and I find it very light. I hope it doesn’t stay that way personally. I think that Deshaun Watson leveraged his status as an NFL player against women. In my opinion. And I think it happened more than one time and I think it was was in closed doors in small rooms against women who were probably intimidated. And it pisses me off to even talk about it. And frankly it pisses me off to see the number six. And I don’t think it’s going to stay that way and I hope it doesn’t.”

Those words resonated. Once they were said, the clip was grabbed from the show and then distributed on Brandt’s Twitter account which reaches 333,000+ followers and on his Instagram which speaks to 96,000+ followers. That video has been seen over two million times. Viral, they say. Here it is if you did happen to miss it. Passionate stuff from Brandt.

If you believe in the message, it’s an easy to like, retweet or share idea. It’s not a hot take, frankly, because there is a large section of those that have been following this story that agree. Deshaun Watson is settling cases because people believe he did something bad. Something bad enough that judge did seem fit to point it out and recommend what is generally speaking, a strong suspension. The only problem here is the platform hosting the message.

This is not a Kyle Brandt-bashing piece. He isn’t the platform. If anything, he’s the vessel of this message he wants out. He also, very likely, feels exactly the way he said he did in the above tweeted video. In fact, the next day, Tuesday, Brandt doubled down on his opinion. The newer video was viewed over 400,000 times. You can check it out right below these words.

The distinction needs to be noted that the message Brandt is delivering, is the NFL’s message. It is what Roger Goodell wants to be the prevailing wisdom regarding how we feel about the current state of Watson’s suspension. That message is being amplified by a very popular co-host, on a very popular morning television show that is seen by a lot of people and that is owned by the National Football League.

Again, I am here waving to you wildly to say that I have no reason to believe that Brandt is being told this particular messaging needs to be voiced. But, I do know that the NFL has until Thursday to appeal the decision. Three days is a lot of time to gather data on whether or not the public might support you appealing for more games, something that the league most certainly will look into judging by their statement released shortly after the ruling.

I also know that the NFL was seeking a much longer suspension as well as a hefty fine to be issued to Watson. The NFL has taken a lot of hits for how it has handled players violating league rules and the player conduct policy. No matter which case you look at, comparing it to the one previous or the one right after is an exercise is madness. The one common theme seems to be is that when the NFL feels like it is delving out punishment, it wants to be severe, no matter the consistency. Remember, Tom Brady was a short ‘yes’ answer away from appealing his case to the Supreme Court. The NFL isn’t particularly interested in just letting things go.

It is well within the realm of possibility that the NFL is getting what it rarely gets: an overwhelming opinion that actually sides with it in terms of punishment. For the majority of the modern cases I can remember, more fans than not disagreed with the NFL’s stance on a case. This time, they might have the court of public opinion on their side. I hear far more ‘kick him outs’ in reference to Watson than I do ‘no suspensions’.

We might have the perfect storm for the NFL in terms of support and Kyle Brandt’s message lines up exactly with the leagues desires, no matter how they may have gotten there. Both want more punishment for the Cleveland quarterback. Brandt can hope, the NFL can fight.

This doesn’t mean Brandt is wrong or even that he is being told to echo the NFL’s position, it’s to note that he took a very powerful stance on a very powerful platform and they both matter.

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BSM Writers

Producers Podcast Episode 6: Jackson Safon, The Volume

Brady Farkas



Jackson Safon has produced for a number of high profile digital networks. Now, as a freelancer, The Volume has put its faith in him to get the most out of Draymond Green, and CC Sabathia and Ryan Ruocco have trusted him to make R2C2 the best it can be.






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