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This May Be Jason Martin’s Shot To Do Something Special

“In terms of giving up on the movies, television and all of that pro wrestling, which I worked in for 10 years, not going to happen. The reason I got the job It’s because I offered something unique.”

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Nashville hates you right now.

That was the sentiment Jason Martin heard from some listeners on what was supposed to be the most exciting week of his radio career. For eight, long years he worked tirelessly for the opportunity to host a daily show. Finally, Martin was given one of the most sought after shows in all of Nashville – mornings at 104.5 The Zone.

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Sports radio listeners seldom like change, especially if a show has been around for a long period of time. That was certainly the case in Nashville, after The Zone let Kevin Ingram and Mark Howard go after 16 years in morning drive. The duo had been a staple of the city’s morning commute for several years and the move was met, as it always is, with some resistance from the locals. Instead of being instantly accepted, Martin became the embodiment of change that nobody ever wants. 

“We’re replacing a show that was on the air for 16 years,” said Martin. “Very few shows get that kind of run and they were very beloved guys. They just became a part of people’s routine and both of them were great to me. It was bittersweet for me when I found out exactly what was happening. I knew they were going to be doing more with me but I didn’t know specifically what that was going to look like until the last second. It was kind of tough to deal with, because, those guys had become a routine for people… nobody likes change at the time and I was the embodiment of that change.”

Martin found the transition to be incredibly difficult in the infancy of the new show. He saw what people were saying, including a couple of fan articles that he didn’t read, but he was told expressed disappointment or anger. There was never a second to celebrate the moment he had worked so hard for. Instead, the position he had waited so long for, was sucking the life out of him. 

“Criticism always lasts in our minds. Affirmation doesn’t. Even if it’s a small amount of the former and a ton of the latter. It’s how humans are built unfortunately,” said Martin. “Sure, there’s always someone who’s not going to like your opinion, but not like this. It was just kind of like Nashville hates you. I’ve never thought that stuff bothered me until the last four weeks. It’s been a tough transition, especially, considering the first few weeks were just me doing solo radio for three hours. I’ve done solo radio for Fox and others, have my own show now for them… but it’s not where I think I’m best. I’ve always wanted a partner in crime. I was in a role where people already didn’t want to like me, and even if I was good, which I’m not saying I was, it really wasn’t going to matter.”

The old saying  is ‘tough times don’t last, but tough people do.’ Granted, hosting a morning radio show isn’t exactly suffering, but the negative attention was really starting to get to Martin, even to the point where he thought the industry might not be for him anymore. He was second guessing himself. But everything turned around once he started searching for his new co-host. 

Martin knew he wouldn’t have the final say on who his partner was going to be, but he confided in people he trusted in the market, hoping to at least point management in the direction of people he thought he’d work really well with. That’s when someone he trusted told him the name Ramon Foster. 

“Ramon’s name is the first one that came out from, probably, the guy I trust the most,” Martin said. “So I looked online and watched the 20 questions video (A Pittsburgh Steelers production) on him with my wife and as soon as it was over, she just looked at me and was like, you got to get him. It was so patently obvious so I went to our new program director the day after and said, hey, have you heard this guy? He had, because another person (the same one that had put him on Jason’s radar as a matter of fact) had mentioned it to him a few months before, but once I mentioned it, it really kind of made him say, ‘we really need to make this happen.’ He talked to him like a day later and revealed that he fell in love with him 30 seconds after they first started talking. That’s apparently the effect this guy has.”    

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Normally, it takes two hosts weeks or even months to find their groove with one another, But with Martin and Foster, it was found almost instantaneously. So much so, that Martin and his producer, Jonathan Shaffer, looked at each other after one of the first shows with Foster and said, wow, that’s one of the easiest shows we’ve ever done. 

“There’s just something about our flow,” Martin said. “Something about us in that room, where, today we sounded like we’ve been doing the show for months, not like we just started. I know when he’s going to stop talking, I know what his gesturing is and it’s just all about letting him be him and creating space to allow him to become a star. Him coming now, I mean, good Lord. Just in the last two days, yesterday, he was able to talk about his memories of playing against Von Miller and what Mike Tomlin said about him in the locker room. Then, Ryan Shazier retires. He played with him, so to open the third hour, I was like, hey, I don’t want to go into an emotional spot you don’t want to get into, but what do you wanna say about your teammate? He just let it all out over the microphone and I just sat back for about five minutes because I knew nobody was turning that off.”

To say Martin has a totally different feeling about the new show since Foster joined, is probably the understatement of the century. In fact, the talk now is more about the realization the show can turn into something truly special. 

“I just look at this and say, we have an opportunity,” Martin said. “Maybe the only opportunity that we may ever have, my producer said it this way, he goes, ‘this might be the only shot you and I ever have to do something special.’ During his 20+ years he said we have a chance to do something special. Ramon is a superstar in every way when it comes to preparation, caring about this job, being active and committed. He’s just awesome. I don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone more instantly likable. Guys and gals sometimes never find that magic partner. I think I hit a home run on our first swing. He’s a blessing.

“The Covid era means you’re getting 35-40% of the audience that you’re used to. People are just now starting to get back in their cars and the numbers might be starting to rise. We’re starting a show where the engagement level was down. That’s just how it’s been in a lot of local radio markets. We were able to get reps in without a full house. By the time people are really engaged and starting to come back, which, I’m starting to imagine is very near, we should be more polished. In our first two days together I felt more chemistry that I even thought possible, and we don’t even know each other yet.”

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Tyler McComas – You worked for Clay Travis at Outkick the Coverage for a while. What’s one thing you learned from him and implemented in your career?

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Jason Martin: One thing Clay does really well is there’s a lot of shows, especially on a national level, that feel they need 20 topics throughout the show. They’re going to run them down like it’s television and not going to let anything breathe. The beauty of radio is that you can let something breathe until it dies its own natural death. You can sense when it’s time to move on, but if people are reacting, whether it’s on social media, phone call or you just know that story matters, then you don’t get off of it.

What Clay will do is he would call me in the morning before each show and say, what’s important today? He would go over those two or three things and that would be our show. We would throw out a couple little things here and there, but instead of going 20 topics, we went three topics. One thing Clay does great, and always has, is he has a sense for what people want to hear. He knows what his audience wants and he feeds it to them and he’s articulate and unique in the way he presents it. He has a fearless nature to it, as well. That’s happened to me, in some regards, to just, I can’t try to please everybody, because if I start to do that, I’ll lose the people that do like me.

TM: You’ve done a lot of pop culture content in the past. Do you think you’ll do more of that on the radio show?

JM: In terms of giving up on the movies, television and all of that pro wrestling, which I worked in for 10 years, not going to happen. The reason I got the job It’s because I offered something unique. It’s like putting out a podcast, I’ve had people close to me say, how can I make my podcast work? I tell them that you just have to keep doing it. You have to outlast the other guys, because even if yours is the greatest television podcast anyone’s ever heard, there’s 7,000 other ones. How are they going to know who you are and how are they going to find you? It ends up being attrition. If I get away from pop-culture entirely, if I go away from something that gave me a different sounding voice, then why do they hire me? It’s like they drafted a running quarterback and told him not to run. But there has to be some balance.

TM: Was there a lightbulb that went off when you realized what the identity of the show was going to be?

JM: Jason Romano came on the show a couple of weeks ago with me, he’s got a new book, and one of the chapters talked about Pete Carroll coming in for the Bristol car wash. That day George Steinbrenner died. Everyone is having to change everything on the fly, there’s breaking news, and Romano is having to apologize to Carroll over and over again for getting bumped. Carroll just said, ‘Hey, hey, don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about it at all. I understand This is more important and if I don’t end up on the air today, it’s fine.’

The lesson Romano took away from that is the way to be a leader, and the way to be successful, is to realize you don’t have to be a thermometer, you can be the thermostat. Meaning you can set the temperature in the room. When we heard him say that on there, my producer comes in my ear, and I have the exact same thought, he said I think we just found the vision for the show.

TM: I’ve heard you talk about your producer a lot on this call. He sounds like he really knows what he’s doing. 

JM: It’s interesting, because I didn’t know him particularly well, his name is Jonathan Shaffer. He’s been a program director, I think four times and been in radio for over two decades. Throughout my radio career I’ve mostly worked with people, who have become, or been at the time, a close friend of mine. Two groomsman in my wedding were guys I worked in radio with. One of the things that presented was too much agreement on the radio. We got along and everything. We rarely disagreed and never really had any arguments, things like that. 

One of the things Shaffer told me very early was my job always is going to be to make you as comfortable as possible doing your job. Whatever that means, having audio ready, booking guests, keeping me aware of time, just taking as much off of my plate so I can focus on hosting the show. From there and I think the challenges of last month, dealing with audience, that either bailed and is coming back or had something to say that was mean behind their five Twitter followers, whatever it was that was bothersome, I’d go to him and say, hey man, I really hate Twitter. He’d say, don’t let them bother you.

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During the process of all this, as imperfect as it was, we discovered we can rely on each other. I realized I can trust this guy to know that he’s going to know exactly what I need and what the show needs to have success. Now we’re in a situation where, here comes the third piece, but the other two of us are already working in the right kind of tandem. He can play a piece of audio without telling me about it and I’ll know why he played it. Or why he’s coming back with this bumper music, or why he makes a certain suggestion, or why he puts out a certain poll on Twitter, and he’s like that. He’s just a guy that understands what radio is supposed to sound like, as well as how it supposed to be put together. I certainly feel incredibly blessed that he’s the guy that ends up producing the show, because Ramon will tell you the same thing, you can just tell this dude knows what he’s doing and he’s 1000% committed to making the show successful

BSM Writers

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.”

Demetri Ravanos

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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.”

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BSM Writers

Who Can Sports Fans Trust Once Twitter Ditches Legacy Verified Blue Checks?

The potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.

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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.

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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.

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BSM Writers

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.”

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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.

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