Kayce Smith Has Never Had More Freedom
“A lot of times when people say they hate Barstool, I can guarantee they’ve never actually consumed what we do.”
Barstool Sports star Kayce Smith signed an extension with the sports and entertainment media hub, announcing the news alongside Dave Portnoy early this year. The announcement of Smith’s future with the online powerhouse has been met with excitement (of all ways, shapes, and forms) from Barstool’s fanbase and crew, alike.
Smith was an immediate favorite with fans and the innovative content creators, producers, directors and fellow hosts/analysts that she works with. The Stoolie team have become some of the best follows on social media and most relatable personalities in the industry as they follow the blueprint laid out by Dave Portnoy. That is transparency.
She’s also been one of the most dynamic and wonderful people I’ve had the pleasure of working with since her TexAgs days. The star that you hear daily on Clancy and Carribis with Kayce Smith shines just as brightly off the air which is a depreciating asset.
I spoke with the Texas native and Barstool Babe for a Q&A about her experience in sports media, finding the perfect fit with her career and what she thinks about her Barstool colleagues.
Chrissy Paradis: With a résumé including ESPN/SEC Network, SB Nation, Gridiron Now, NBC Sports, now Barstool—Your journey has involved a lot of hard work in stakes environments in various capacities- what advice have you learned in your career that has been most helpful?
Kayce Smith: I think the best advice I can give is that when you’re pursuing a job, the worst thing you can hear is “no.” And more importantly, that doesn’t mean you will always hear “no.” This industry can be brutal to crack into and a lot of people give up if an opportunity doesn’t come immediately or if it’s not exactly what they envisioned doing.
If this is your dream, it’s worth the grind. You may have to take a different job to get your foot in the door, but you never know where that door will lead you. And always be yourself. That’s how you stand out. Nobody wants a clone of something that already exists.
CP: You also hosted a podcast with Johnny Manziel—what was it like working with a Heisman Trophy Winner from your alma mater?
KS: It was a total full circle moment for me. My first job out of college was covering A&M for TexAgs and it happened to be Johnny’s Heisman year, which as you can imagine was WILD. Actually, my only ESPN audition was a live TV hit talking about covering him on the local level. He won the trophy, I got the job and then we did a podcast together and became friends. Very cool career storyline.
CP: Dave Portnoy said “Barstool is the best place in media at building stars and building personalities. If you are funny, interesting and opinionated we let you flourish. Kayce is all of the above.” Which I couldn’t agree more with, and in terms of highlighting talented men and women, Barstool truly offers a variety of shows/columns/podcasts including Chicks In The Office, and your shows, Clancy & Carrabis with Kayce Smith & Unnecessary Roughness. What do you want people to know about Barstool?
KS: If you can’t find content that entertains you on our platforms, I’m convinced that you just can’t be entertained. Between the blogs, the podcasts, video and radio shows…. there is something for EVERYBODY. A lot of times when people say they hate Barstool, I can guarantee they’ve never actually consumed what we do. Oh and also, as a woman in this company, I feel very safe and have never been treated better. So that whole “Barstool treats their women employees poorly” narrative is just flat out incorrect.
CP: What are some highlights from your time working with the team at Barstool Sports?
KS: By far my favorite moment is my first live College Football Show in 2018. We were on the road at Michigan for the Wisconsin game and when I walked up on stage and saw the gigantic crowd cheering for us, I realized I was exactly where I wanted to be.
Our fans are INSANE and honestly, those live shows give us life. Getting to sit next to Dave, Dan and Brandon every week – and be the one who gets to host the entire thing – is a dream come true. It mixes my TV background with the Barstool flavor covering my favorite sport… and maybe a beer or two thrown on us.
CP:I know that you‘re great friends with ESPN’s Laura Rutledge outside of work—There is a stereotype about women not necessarily being supportive of other women, given the competition in the sports broadcasting industry. How has Laura been as an ally/resource in your career?
KS: Laura and I became FAST friends. Sure we were both trying to climb the same ladder at the time, but it’s not like there’s only ONE job for women in sports. There are plenty of jobs!! I’ve never understood why people play into that stereotype.
The way I see it is why wouldn’t I want to become close to someone who loves the same things that I do and is in the same industry and understands what I go through on a day-to-day basis?? Fun fact that not many people know: when I left ESPN, Laura was my biggest cheerleader and it was actually her idea to start my own radio show which ended up landing me a job with NBC Sports in Boston. I’m forever thankful for her and she’s absolutely KILLING it at ESPN. I’m so proud of her and vice versa.
CP: Who else has had a significant influence on your career, as a whole?
KS: Gabe Bock at TexAgs has been one of the most important people to me – not only for my career but in my personal life as well. He gave me my first shot on radio when I graduated college and has helped me create a brand that I never would’ve known I wanted. I always thought being a sideline reporter was my end goal, but Gabe helped me fall in love with radio and I’ve clearly never looked back. The show I did in Boston was three hours long, five days a week. Without my radio background, there’s zero chance that I could’ve succeeded the way that I did. Radio is something I think everybody in sports should do at some point in your career. If you can talk for hours on air about sports and be interesting/entertaining, I think you can make it anywhere.
CP: With a beginning in college sports, was it difficult to make the choice to transition into covering all sports, especially in the middle of Patriots Nation?
KS: It actually wasn’t because I took on the challenge head on and treated it like I was going back to school and studied like CRAZY. I fell in love with Boston immediately. I spent my days listening to local radio, reading every book I could and leaning on my coworkers. It’s the best sports city in the world and it’s not close. I just wish they liked college football a little more!
CP: Working in a predominantly male industry, in a predominately male demographic at Barstool, what’s the biggest misconception(s) that you’ve seen/heard about Barstool that you would like to set straight?
KS: I mentioned it earlier, but anyone who thinks that Barstool treats women who work here poorly is just flat out wrong. I know we can’t change everybody’s minds – nor do we try to – but I promise being a woman at this company is not what the headlines tell you it is. I’ve never had more freedom to create content AND been treated with more respect than I have here.
Sure there are certain things that have been said in the past that I definitely don’t agree with, but as far as how I’m treated, I have no complaints. I love these guys and I’ll defend them until kingdom come, both as coworkers and friends. Erika Nardini has been an unbelievable piece of that as well. She’s amazing to work for and is just flat out a boss at everything she does.
CP: What would people be most surprised to know about you?
KS: I grew up playing the harp! I started taking lessons in kindergarten and have played dozens of weddings and parties. Weird hidden talent of mine.
CP: Co-worker word association: one to four words, whatever comes to your mind first, about the following Barstool teammates…
KS: Best In The Game
CP: Dave Portnoy?
KS: Unapologetically authentic
CP: KFC / Kevin Clancy?
KS: A MISERABLE sports fan (but incredibly talented)
CP: Jared Carrabis?
KS: One of a kind
CP: Brandon Walker?
KS: A hilarious walking encyclopedia
KS:My idiot best friend (but really… a weird, super creative brain)
CP: What’s your favorite thing about Barstool listeners/fans?
KS: How ridiculously diehard they are! We get recognized everywhere we go. It still seems weird when I’m walking on the streets of Manhattan and someone stops me. I’ve always said that Dave is a cult leader because of the following we have. We are basically a reality TV show at this point and that’s not something we take for granted.
CP: What’s your favorite thing about being a part of the Barstool team?
KS: The freedom to do and say whatever I want. Dave and Erika don’t put rules on us as personalities. They also don’t care if we publicly disagree with them, which is incredibly rare. Where else can you argue with the CEO or President of the company you work for without being worried about losing your job?? We are a gigantic, f***ed up family and I love being a part of it.
Chrissy Paradis is a BNM columnist and veteran sports radio producer. She’s worked in Las Vegas, Washington DC, Raleigh and Hartford helping personalities such as Rob Dibble, Tim Brando, Steve Cofield, Adam Gold and Joe Ovies. You can contact her on Twitter @ChrissyParadis or by email at Chrissy.Paradis@gmail.com.
Is There Still a Place for Baseball Talk on National Sports Shows?
“Its struggle has been the same since the beginning of television. There is too much baseball for any regular season baseball game or story to have national significance.”
Last week at the BSM Summit, I hosted a panel focused on air checks. I wish I could say we covered the topic thoroughly, but we got derailed a lot, and you know what? That is okay. It felt like real air checks that I have been on both sides of in my career.
Rob Parker of The Odd Couple on FOX Sports Radio was the talent. He heard thoughts on his show from his boss, Scott Shapiro, and from his former boss, legendary WFAN programmer Mark Chernoff.
Baseball was the topic that caused one of our derailments on the panel. If you know Rob, you know he is passionate about Major League Baseball. He cited download numbers that show The Odd Couple’s time-shifted audience responds to baseball talk. To him, that proves there is not just room for it on nationally syndicated shows, but that there is a sizable audience that wants it.
Chernoff disagrees. He says baseball is a regional sport. Sure, there are regions that love it and local sports talk stations will dedicate full hours to discussing their home team’s games and roster. National shows need to cast a wide net though, and baseball doesn’t do that.
Personally, I agree with Chernoff. I told Parker on stage that “I hear baseball talk and I am f***ing gone.” The reason for that, I think, is exactly what Chernoff said. I grew up in Alabama (no baseball team). I live in North Carolina (no baseball team). Where baseball is big, it is huge, but it isn’t big in most of the country.
Now, I will add this. I used to LOVE baseball. It is the sport I played in high school. The Yankees’ logo was on the groom’s cake at my wedding. Then I had kids.
Forget 162 games. Even five games didn’t fit into my lifestyle. Maybe somewhere deep down, I still have feelings for the sport, but they are buried by years of neglect and active shunning.
Its struggle has been the same since the beginning of television. There is too much baseball for any regular season baseball game or story to have national significance.
Me, and millions of sports talk listeners like me, look at baseball like a toddler looks at broccoli. You probably aren’t lying when you tell us how much you love it, but damn it! WE WANT CHICKEN FINGERS!
A new Major League Baseball season starts Thursday and I thought this topic was worth exploring. I asked three nationally syndicated hosts to weigh in. When is baseball right for their show and how do they use those conversations? Here is what they had to say.
FREDDIE COLEMAN (Freddie & Fitzsimmons on ESPN Radio) – “MLB can still be talked nationally IF there’s that one player like Aaron Judge or Shohei Ohtani can attract the casual fan. MLB has definitely become more local because of the absence of that SUPER player and/or villainous team. I wonder if the pace of play will help bring in the younger fans that they need, but the sport NEEDS that defining star that is must-see TV.”
JONAS KNOX (2 Pros & a Cup of Joe on FOX Sports Radio) – “While football is king for me in sports radio, I look at baseball like most other sports. I’m not opposed to talking about it, as long as I have an angle or opinion that I am confident I can deliver in an entertaining manner. A couple of times of any given year, there are stories in baseball that are big picture topics that are obvious national discussions.
“I think it’s my job to never close the door on any topic/discussion (except politics because I don’t know anything about it).
“But also, if I’m going to discuss a localized story in baseball or any other sport for that matter – I better have an entertaining/informed angle on it. Otherwise, I’ve let down the listener and that is unacceptable. If they give you their time, you better not waste it.”
MAGGIE GRAY (Maggie & Perloff on CBS Sports Radio) – “While I was on WFAN there was almost no amount of minutia that was too small when it came to the Mets and Yankees. On Maggie and Perloff, our baseball topics have to be more centered around issues that can be universal. For example, ’Is Shohei Ohtani the face of the sport? Is Ohtani pitching and hitting more impressive than two sport athletes like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders? Do you consider Aaron Judge the single-season homerun king or Barry Bonds?’ Any baseball fan or sports fan can have an opinion about those topics, so we find they get great engagement from our audience.”
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.
Who Can Sports Fans Trust Once Twitter Ditches Legacy Verified Blue Checks?
The potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.
As of April 1, Twitter will finally make a dreaded change that many will view as an April Fools’ prank. Unfortunately, it won’t be a joke to any user who cares about legitimacy and truth.
Last week, Twitter officially announced that verified blue checkmarks will be removed from accounts that have not signed up for a Twitter Blue subscription. Previously, accounts whose identity had been verified were allowed to keep their blue checks when Twitter Blue was implemented.
But shortly after Elon Musk purchased Twitter and became the social media company’s CEO, he stated his intention to use verification as a revenue source. Users would have to pay $8 per month (or $84 annually) for a Twitter Blue subscription and blue checkmark verification. Paying for blue checks immediately set off red flags among users who learned to depend on verified accounts for accredited identities and trusted information.
The entire concept of verification and blue checks was simple and effective. Users and accounts bearing the blue checkmark were legitimate. These people and organizations were who they said they were.
As an example, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has faced criticism for how he framed domestic violence and sexual misconduct involving star NFL players, and deservedly so. But fans and media know Schefter’s tweets are really coming from him because his account is verified.
Furthermore, Twitter took the additional step of clarifying that accounts such as Schefter’s were verified before Twitter Blue was implemented. He didn’t pay eight dollars for that blue checkmark.
The need for verification is never more vital than when fake accounts are created to deceive users. Such accounts will put “Adam Schefter” as their Twitter name, even if their handle is something like “@TuaNeedsHelp.” Or worse, some fake accounts will create a handle with letters that look similar. So “@AdarnSchefter” with an “rn” in place of the “m,” fools some people, especially at a quick glance when people are trying to push news out as fast as possible.
Plenty of baseball fans have been duped over the years by fake accounts using a zero instead of an “o” or a capital “I” instead of a lowercase “l” to resemble Fox Sports and The Athletic reporter Ken Rosenthal. That trick didn’t get me. But when I covered Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report 10 years ago, I did fall for a fake Jim Salisbury account that reported the Philadelphia Phillies traded Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants. Capital “I,” not lowercase “l” in “Salisbury.” Pence was, in fact, traded to the Giants two days later, but that didn’t make my goof any less embarrassing. I should’ve looked for the blue checkmark!
But after April 1, that signifier won’t matter. Legacy blue checkmarks will be removed from accounts that haven’t paid for Twitter Blue. Some accounts that were previously verified might purchase a subscription to maintain that blue check. But those that were deemed legitimate prior to Musk taking over Twitter likely won’t. (There are also rumors that Twitter is considering a feature that would allow Twitter Blue subscribers to hide their blue check and avoid revealing that purchase.)
That could be even more true for media organizations, which are being told to pay $1000 per month for verification. Do you think ESPN, the New York Times, or the Washington Post will pay $12,000 for a blue check?
We’ve already seen the problems that paying for verification can cause. Shortly after Twitter Blue launched, accounts pretending to be legacy verified users could be created. A fake Adam Schefter account tweeted that the Las Vegas Raiders had fired head coach Josh McDaniels. Users who saw the “Adam Schefter” Twitter name went with the news without looking more closely at the “@AdamSchefterNOT” handle. But there was a blue checkmark next to the name this time!
The same thing occurred with a fake LeBron James account tweeting that the NBA superstar had requested a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers. There was a “@KINGJamez” handle, but a “LeBron James” Twitter name with a blue check next to it.
Whether it’s because fans and media have become more discerning or Twitter has done good work cracking down on such fake accounts, there haven’t been many outrageous examples of deliberate deception since last November. But the potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.
If that seems like an overstatement, it’s a very real possibility that there will be an erosion of trust among Twitter users. Media and fans may have to take a breath before quickly tweeting and retweeting news from accounts that may or may not be credible. False news and phony statements could spread quickly and go viral across social media.
Even worse, Musk has announced that only verified Twitter Blue accounts will be seen in your “For You” timeline as of April 15. (He can’t claim it’s an April Fools’ Day joke on that date.)
Obviously, that carries far more serious real-world implications beyond sports. Forget about a fake Shams Charania account tweeting that Luka Dončić wants to be traded to the Lakers. It’s not difficult to imagine a fake Joe Biden account declaring war on Russia and some people believing it’s true because of the blue checkmark.
We may be nearing the end of Twitter being a reliable news-gathering tool. If the accounts tweeting out news can’t be trusted, where’s the value? Reporters and newsmakers may end up going to other social media platforms to break stories and carry the viability of verification.
When Fox Sports’ website infamously pivoted to video in 2017, Ken Rosenthal posted his MLB reporting on Facebook prior to joining The Athletic. Hello, Instagram. Will someone take their following and reputation to a fledgling platform like Mastodon, Post, Spoutible, or BlueSky, even if it means a lesser outlet?
If and when that happens, Twitter could still be a community but not nearly as much fun. Not when it becomes a matter of trust that breaks up the party.
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.
There’s a Lesson For Us All in Florida Atlantic’s Elite 8 Broadcast Struggle
“It is a ton of faith our industry has been forced to place in a single mode of delivery.”
Ken LaVicka and Kevin Harlan probably don’t have a ton in common. Both of them were announcing an Elite Eight game over the weekend, that is one thing tying them together, but their experiences were wildly different. Harlan is on CBS with a production crew numbering in the dozens making certain all goes smoothly. LaVicka, the voice of the Florida Atlantic Owls, is a production crew himself, making certain those listening in South Florida heard the Owls punch their Final Four ticket. At least, that was LaVicka’s plan.
The Florida Atlantic Owls are going to the Men’s Final Four. Even while typing that sentence, it still seems odd to say. Do you know how many college basketball teams are thinking “how can Florida Atlantic make the Final Four and we can’t?” These are the types of stories that make the NCAA Tournament what it is. There is, literally, no barrier stopping any team from this tournament going on the run of their life and making it all the way.
Everyone listening in South Florida almost missed the moment it all became real for the Owls. With :18.6 to go in Florida Atlantic’s Elite Eight game against Kansas State, the Madison Square Garden Ethernet service to the front row of media seating went completely dark.
It was on that row that Ken LaVicka was painting the picture back to South Florida. Well, he was until the internet died on him.
Nobody does a single show away from their home studio anymore without trying to avoid the nightmare of Ethernet failure. Gone are the days of phone lines and ISDN connections, all the audio and video is now sent back to the studio over the technological miracle that is the internet. It is a ton of faith our industry has been forced to place in a single mode of delivery.
Take that anxiety and multiply it by 1,000 when that Ethernet line is connected to a Comrex unit for the most important moment of your career. LaVicka had the great fortune of a Kansas State timeout to try something, anything, to save the day. In his quick thinking, he spun around and grabbed an ethernet cable from row two which, as it turns out, still had internet access flowing through it’s cables. That cable, though, was the equivalent of an iPhone charging cord; never as long as you need it to be.
One of LaVicka’s co-workers from ESPN West Palm held the Comrex unit close enough to the second row for the cable to make a connection and the day was saved. LaVicka was able to call the last :15 of the Florida Atlantic win and, presumably, get in all the necessary sponsorship mentions.
It was an exciting end to the FAU v. Kansas State game, a great defensive stop by the Owls to seal the victory. LaVicka told the NCAA’s Andy Katz he tried to channel his inner Jim Nantz to relay that excitement. The NCAA Tournament excitement started early this year. In the very first TV window 13 Seed Furman upset 4 Seed Virginia with a late three pointer by JP Pegues, who had been 0-for-15 from beyond the arc leading up to that shot. It is the type of play the NCAA Tournament is built upon.
It was called in the manner Kevin Harlan’s career was built upon. Harlan, alongside Stan Van Gundy and Dan Bonner, called the Virginia turnover leading to the made Furman basket with his trademark excitement before laying out for the crowd reaction. After a few seconds of crowd excitement he asked his analysts, and the world, “Did we just see what I think we saw? Wow!” Vintage Kevin Harlan.
One reason we are so aware of what Harlan said, and that he signaled his analysts to lay out for the crowd reaction, was a CBS Sports tweet with video of Harlan, Van Gundy and Bonner in a split screen over the play. It gave us a rare look at a pro in the middle of his craft. We got to see that Harlan reacts just like he sounds. The video has more than six million views and has been retweeted more than 6,000 times, a lot of people seem to like it.
Kevin Harlan is not in that group. Harlan appeared on Richard Deitsch’s Sports Media podcast after the video went public and said he was embarrassed by it. Harlan added he “begged” CBS not send the tweet out but to no avail. Harlan told Deitsch “I don’t know that I’m glad that they caught our expression, but I’m glad the game was on the air. I think I join a chorus of other announcers who do not like the camera.”
There’s a valuable announcer lesson from Harlan there; the audience is almost always there for the game, not you. Harlan went on to describe the broadcast booth to Deitsch as somewhat of a sacred place. He would prefer to let his words accompany the video of the action to tell the story. Kevin Harlan is as good as they come at his craft, if he thinks that way, there’s probably great value in that line of thought.
We can learn from LaVicka, as well. You work in this business long enough and you come to accept technical difficulties are as much a part of it as anything. They always seem to strike at the worst times, it is just in their nature. Those who can find a way to deal with them without everything melting down are those who can give their audience what they showed up for. Those who lose their mind and spend time complaining about them during the production simply give the audience information they don’t really care about.
The Final Four is an unlikely collection of teams; Miami, San Diego State, Connecticut and Florida Atlantic. You all had that in your brackets, right? Yep, the Florida Atlantic Owls are going to the Final Four and Ken LaVicka will be there for it. Now, if the internet will just hold out.
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.