From a small newspaper to what is now a sports media empire, Barstool’s meteoric rise is without precedent and Kevin Clancy is a big reason why. As many brands pull back and emphasize sticking to sports, Barstool continues to push their goal post.
In recent years, the peanut gallery has made multiple attempts at canceling Barstool and some of their various personalities. But the brand plays on. Cultural sensitivities rightfully shift as society progresses, but the course correction can sometimes go too far.
Barstool’s imperfections create a stronger connection with their fan base and Clancy exemplifies that. Known to Stoolies as KFC Barstool, Clancy took an unlikely route to the entertainment business. Joining Barstool in his early 20s, fans have watched KFC grow as an adult and as a content creator. From accountant to blogger to podcaster to a multi-faceted entertainer, KFC has been vital to Barstool becoming the $450 million brand they are today.
BC: You went to Fordham for finance, did you know about WFUV or have any interest in broadcast journalism?
KFC: I didn’t know much about the station until after I got there, but I did work for WFUV. By sophomore year I was bored on campus, so I sought out radio, not even realizing I was about to go up against the cream of the crop.
I got a job with the station that summer covering the Staten Island Yankees and the Brooklyn Cyclones. It was supposed to be a group of people, but for whatever reason everyone I signed up with dropped out or wasn’t reliable and I ended up covering both teams. I also did some updates and co-hosted the sports show on WFUV a few times. It was my first foray into sports media and creating content.
BC: Did you view radio as a potential career?
KFC: The way it was laid out to me was, ‘you can work in sports radio here and hopefully get to The Fan or ESPN New York and maybe you can be an update person and if you work hard and you’re really talented and a million things break right, maybe you can get on-air!’
Cool! But it just felt like such a long shot, especially hearing it from WFUV, a station that had so many success stories, they never gave me any indication that I could be that next person. A lot of my friends were getting into finance, making good money. So I went the traditional road and got a job in accounting for Deloitte.
BC: How did you get started blogging?
KFC: Within a year of starting at Deloitte I realized how much I hated it and how bad I was at it. [Laughs] And my friend Gil, who worked there introduced me to a few blogs. Shortly after, I decided to start my own as a fun creative outlet. Whether or not I realized it, the little bit I did at the radio station, I learned I was a little more creative than I thought I was.
It was ’08 when I started the website For Sure Not, a phrase my group of friends always said. It wasn’t huge, I probably had about 1,000 unique views a day, but people seemed to find it funny.
BC: How did the small blog transition to a career with Barstool?
KFC: Dave started looking for writers to expand Barstool in ’09. But at that point I was only writing for six months, I was also making good money at Deloitte. Dave had the job down to me and Kmarko, and I was concerned about the pay cut so he decided to offer both of us the job, which let me keep my day job at Deloitte. It was perfect.
For about two and a half years I was living this double life. Nobody at Deloitte knew I was blogging, none of the readers knew I had a day job. Eventually, my work got so bad at Deloitte, I was progressively getting worse, my managers wrote me up, they suggested going to a different department, but somehow I made it through multiple rounds of layoffs which I felt guilty about. I honestly think it took them so long to fire me because they liked me. But I dug my heels in, waited for that severance package, and moved to Barstool full-time.
BC: In terms of creating content, is it hard to sort through everything? In sports radio your focus is sports, in local sports radio it gets even more specific, but you have free reign to talk about whatever you want, is that a good thing or is it hard to filter?
KFC: It’s a good thing. I would hate doing just straight sports radio where I have to talk about the seventh-inning bullpen decisions of a manager. I like the wide-open slate. About a year into it, I realized my gut reaction to things is met with enough people who agree with me, hate me, or just find me interesting. I never really had to think hard about my take or angle, it was always just my gut reaction to things that generated interest and once you realize that, you don’t have to think much, you just let it fly.
BC: Is it harder to have that gut reaction mentality as society pushes for more political correctness? And has your content had to change since getting to Barstool because of that?
KFC: It’s changed. But I’ve also changed. Barstool has seen me grow through my adult life. They’ve seen me go from being single in Manhattan, to getting married, having kids, getting divorced, they’ve watched me succeed, watched me fail. There’s stuff I said in 2010 that absolutely would not fly today, but I’ve also grown enough as a person that I’m not sitting around itching to say those things.
There will never be another time like the 2010’s Barstool, but there’s a lot more on the line now and we see the potential to grow something massive. If that means having to soften a joke or skip a topic, I’m OK with that. If you’re truly funny, you can find a way to get your joke and point across in a manner that doesn’t become offensive. The people who complain that humor’s dead, I just don’t think they’re funny enough.
BC: Fair or not, Barstool has at times been labeled misogynistic and not racially inclusive. Those are hard labels to shed, how has Barstool pushed through at a time where we see the country forcing change on things as minimally divisive as Aunt Jemima?
KFC: We were independent for so long. With everyone who came on board, whether it was the Chernin Group, Penn or Erika Nardini, Dave would always say, ‘we’re gonna do things our way and if you want to change that, then it’s not going to work.’ That was always made clear. And if we lost an advertiser, it was always on to the next one.
Personally, people have tried to so-called “cancel” me three or four times now. But if your fanbase is bigger than the mob, it’s hard to get canceled. The mob can tell people to stop listening, but if my fans are still using our product and making clients happy, then we come out on the right side of the ledger. People know my intent. You know I never say anything to hurt anyone, the intent is always humor. I’m an equal opportunity offender, I make fun of everybody, every group and also self-deprecation, I make fun of myself as well.
My latest one was when the comments I made in 2016 about Kaepernick came back up. And I had no problem copping to it. It sounded stupid, it was the first day of it and I was uninformed. I didn’t know the scope of what Kaepernick was doing, I didn’t realize who he was and what was going on so I said I’m sorry. It’s hard to cancel someone if they’re like, ‘yea you’re right, that was wrong.’ Stand up for yourself, but cop to it when you’re wrong.
BC: What about all the charity you guys do, and not only people at Barstool, but the Stoolies willingness to jump in and contribute to any cause.
KFC: The best fans in the world. They’re the best and the worst. [Laughs] Because there are cliques in Barstool, some people are the darlings who can do no wrong and other people get a lot of hate. I’m pretty polarizing so I get plenty of hate. They can hate me 364 days a year, but the one time something tragic happens like a police officer or firefighter dies, they come rallying in. It’s like a family, we can be at each other’s throats, but we always ride for each other.
BC: Can you compare Stoolies and Kirk Minihane’s Minifans? Are they one and the same?
KFC: I would imagine there’s a Venn Diagram of sorts. There’s an intersecting middle and then the extreme sides of both that absolutely hate each other. For the most part, they’re more similar than not. The Minifans are like a subset or an extreme group of Stoolies. Kirk would be Dave and the Minifans are the Stoolies. They’re similar to 2009, ‘10, ‘11 Stoolies where it’s new to them, they’re crazy and passionate. Stoolies have been doing it for a decade plus now, they’re passionate, but they’re not quite as vocal and crazy about everything.
BC: Do you remember the Twitter handle @KeepCancrClassy?
KFC: Yea, of course, from the Mets game.
BC: That’s my best friend’s wife!
KFC: Oh Amazing! That was a funny one because they were sitting for hours in a rain delay, we saw it happening on a whim, it was a shitty situation, let’s help out.
We only raised a few grand, but it was a fun moment that happened quickly. I still follow her on social media and watch her going through the fight. It breaks my heart because she’s so transparent about her bad days with chemo. The other day she was talking about how devastating it is for the immunocompromised to be on lockdown while other people can go out, and my heart was just breaking for her. I like to keep following everyone we crossed paths with charity-wise.
BC: Barstool content has gone through a huge transformation in the last year since partnering with Penn National. They’ve loaded up on betting content, but you’ve mostly steered clear of that.
KFC: It’s one world I don’t really dabble in and they don’t want people to try and force or fake interest, they want authentic gamblers. So I’ve taken it upon myself to keep providing non-gambling content for people. Dave and Dan (Big Cat) have made it their focus and rightfully so, there’s so much money to be made and we’re only at the ground floor. But the company sold for $450 million and a good portion of that was based on the humor and pop culture and everything we’ve always done. There’s a huge fan base that still wants the original old school content and I’m happy to provide that.
BC: The first time I ever heard of you was on Boomer and Carton, and over the years you’ve been a guest on WFAN a lot. There’s been a lot of change at WFAN recently, did you have any discussions about joining the station full-time?
KFC: No, I never got approached. And part of me was waiting for that. But they try to keep it pretty PC so maybe I wasn’t viewed as a fit. I think it could be a cool second, third or final act if I move on from Barstool. I’d love to try my hand at that because I grew up on it, so it would be cool to formally be part of The Fan.
BC: What do you think about the decision to pair Evan Roberts and Craig Carton?
KFC: They’re both so talented that it will be successful no matter what, it’s not the pairing that would ordinarily go together, it’s more circumstantial with Joe Benigno wanting to retire. And I know both of them, but I’m also just a fan, so I’m interested to hear how it works.
BC: They keep talking about Evan playing off Carton the way Boomer did, but Evan’s nothing like Boomer, I hope he can be himself.
KFC: You can’t try to recreate any show, let alone a show of that magnitude. Boomer and Carton was lightning in a bottle, the perfect set of hosts and producers, you can’t try to match that, you need to do your own show.
BC: I think it’s fair to categorize you as one of the founding fathers of the modern Barstool, but even though you’ve helped build the brand, this is still Dave’s baby. Does that ever make you want to branch off and build something of your own?
KFC: If I do need to move on or we all go our separate ways, I’d love to build something on my own and take what I’ve learned from Dave and combine it with things I would have done differently. My dream is to replicate what they’ve done on the West Coast with podcasts and comedy. There are a ton of great comics out there who go on each other’s podcasts to cross-promote and they all have Joe Rogan being the godfather who grows the network. I’m not a fraction of what Joe Rogan is, but I would love to play that role in New York.
BC: Have you tried stand-up?
KFC: I did open for Josh Wolf, a West Coast comic and kind of a mentor. He pushed me to do it at a New York show and that was my first and only foray into stand-up comedy
BC: Do you like the live audience?
KFC: I get a rush, but it’s pretty nerve-racking. Comedy is truly a 10,000 hours thing, people starting at 16 are breaking in at 32. I’m 36, it’s daunting to think I might not be anything until I’m 50! There’s also a lot more on the line because my fans and followers will have expectations of me, I can’t get on stage and bomb. I wish I had the self confidence to just say f–k it and go through the fire, but it’s nerve-racking.
BC: What type of content do fans mostly associate you with?
KFC: I think Barstool fans see me as the podcast guy. Pardon My Take is obviously the most successful show, but within the hardcore Stoolie world, Dan and Dave are video, Kmarko is the writer and I was doing podcasts. The newest wrinkle to my career is this Instagram show, One Minute Man. I’m starting to get people on the street who recognize me as the One Minute Man which is weird because I was always known as KFC. To see people who might not know I do anything else is crazy because those videos are like the tenth thing I do in a day. But it might end up being my most successful piece of content.
BC: Why do you think it’s caught on so quickly, is it because it’s fast-paced and short? Is it the platform or just that it’s funny content?
KFC: It’s a combination. I get a lot of people who think the videos are funny, but for better or worse I also get people who say that’s where they get their news and learn what’s going on in the pop culture world, sports, politics. If you’re going to happy hour or standing around the water cooler or whatever, these are the topics people are talking about. Hopefully people find it funny, it’s short-form, just two or three minutes and that’s the way the world is moving.
BC: Were you always comfortable talking about your personal life? Whether it’s marital problems or a group trying to cancel you, you remain transparent. I think about radio stations, if there’s an issue with an employee, management’s first thought is to try and hide it and bury it even though it might be a news story elsewhere.
KFC: It’s kind of bullshit right?
BC: But you don’t, Barstool doesn’t, and I feel like listeners and fans can appreciate transparency.
KFC: I don’t know any other way to do it. Part of me wishes I did keep it a little more personal. I never anticipated going through marital problems, getting divorced, I certainly never anticipated having a scandal on my hands. It might be tough on my kids and maybe I’d still be married if I didn’t approach my job with Barstool the way I do. But I’ve taken plenty of shots at people or even just talked about people who were in similar positions to make them part of my content. When I f–ked up, I couldn’t not talk about it.
Being in front of a microphone is also my version of therapy. I look at some people here who play a character, or only talk about certain things, but I have this compulsion to tell the truth. The day I got back on radio after everything blew up with my marriage, Sirius told us it was the most listeners we ever had. That’s sick and weird and I wish it wasn’t that way, but people want to watch the train wreck.
BC: It might be hard at times, but don’t you think that transparency is part of what built a strong connection with your fans?
KFC: No doubt, authenticity is key. Some people here are funnier than me, some of the personas are outlandish and hilarious, but what I pride myself most on is being a real dude. And I can’t tell you how many times people would hear me talking about having a real job, and talk about things that happen when you get married or have kids and they tell me ‘I used to think you were exaggerating about this, but now I’m realizing, you were telling the truth.’ [Laughs]
It’s the truth as I see it. I’m sure there are some “old takes exposed” in there, but these are my thoughts and experiences. There are a lot of people who went through what I did, but it’s always nice to know you’re not alone and we can help each other through it. It’s a weird internet family, we’re strangers, but we still help each other.
BC: Last two questions, how is working with Dave? Do you talk a lot?
KFC: Not so much anymore because of the gambling stuff. That’s Dan’s forte, so Dave and Dan are doing a lot of work together. Dave said it recently on his show, if it wasn’t Penn that bought Barstool and it was some sort of a comedic conglomerate, maybe me and him would be doing more work together.
Everybody at Barstool has always been professionally cool. I don’t think anyone would categorize it as true best friends. I’ve always had this romantic view of how it could’ve been like Entourage where we’re all best buds and family, but it was never that because as much as we’re similar, we’re different. We coexist professionally, there are times we butt heads and go at it. It makes great entertainment, it doesn’t always make for great friendships, but that’s not what we’re here for.
BC: And how about the decision to hire Erika Nardini and what she has meant to the company?
KFC: I just signed her birthday card and I said, ‘from the bottom of my heart, and on behalf of my whole family – thank you.’ Barstool was going to succeed, but we would have never jumped to the next level, this multi-hundred-million-dollar company without her. We interviewed a ton of candidates and there was always something missing. When we interviewed Erika, we all knew she was the one. Not only did she not disappoint, but she over-delivered. Took a bunch of idiots, a circus and somehow got it to be a half-billion-dollar company. How this thing made it here is a VH1 story for the ages.
Brandon Contes is a former reporter for BSM, now working for Awful Announcing. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonContes or reach him by email at Brandon.Contes@gmail.com.
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.