Marc Hochman Has The Life & Career He Didn’t Know He Wanted
“I’ve never had a better radio experience than me, Crowder and Solana. If I take a day off, I kind of feel bummed. I love spending the four hours with those guys.”
When you love what you do, it shows. When you love the people you work with, it shows even more. Sports radio host Marc Hochman loves his job at Audacy Miami. He also enjoys being around his on-air partner so much, that he considers him to be family. Marc hosts afternoons on 560 The Joe and 790 The Ticket with former Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder. When I tell you that Marc speaks highly of Channing, it doesn’t do it justice. Marc says the radio pairing is a match made in heaven and the greatest experience he’s ever had. That’s quite the statement considering Marc’s resume.
Originally from the suburbs of Chicago in Highland Park, Illinois, Marc made his way to Florida in 1987 when he first attended the University of Miami. The town grew on him like a new variety of cottage cheese. (That’s foreshadowing.) He became buddies with Dan Le Batard while at school. The friendship helped pull Marc away from music radio and into the world of sports talk.
Marc talks about the most impactful rule that Le Batard broke, the mantra of his show, and the biggest reason why he’s bummed when he misses a day of work. Marc is highly entertaining and a great dude. The conversation below showcases both. Enjoy.
BN: Who are the teams you grew up rooting for and still root for?
MH: I grew up rooting for all the Chicago teams, not the Cubs though, the White Sox. I was a White Sox fan. I was the rare north suburbs White Sox fan. But Bears, Bulls; we had season tickets to the Bears, season tickets to the Bulls. My dad gave up the season tickets to the Bulls the year before MJ got there because he was tired of watching them lose. I was a Blackhawks fan.
After I’d been in Miami a while, I went to see the White Sox play the Marlins and I found myself rooting for the Marlins. I kind of realized like whoa, it just kind of happened. Over the course of time, I do not root for any Chicago teams. I’ve been in Miami so much longer than I was ever in Chicago that I am a Miami fan through and through — Heat, Dolphins, Hurricanes obviously, Panthers, Marlins.
BN: Did your dad ever complain through the years about ‘I never should’ve given up those season tickets’ before MJ got there?
MH: [Laughs] Yeah, we used to ride him pretty hard on that. Everybody has got some sports mistakes; leaving a game early before a miraculous comeback, skipping a game that they could have gone to that turned out to be a memorable game. Yeah, old Papa Hochman had a memorable sports mistake giving up his Bulls season tickets just before MJ was there.
Brian Noe: After you graduated college, how did you get your start in sports radio?
Marc Hochman: I worked at the University of Miami radio station all four years that I went to school there. I was a music DJ for the most part. That’s what I planned on going into. After I graduated in 1991, I sent out cassette tapes because that’s what we did back in 1991. I sent them to all the different radio stations that I could find in phone books and the library. I got a job offer at a tiny, little radio station in a tiny, little town on Lake Okeechobee. I went to be a music DJ from 6 to midnight at WBGF in Belle Glade, Florida. Gradually I made my way to the West Palm Beach radio market as a CHR DJ. I loved playing music and doing the nightclub appearances. That was my dream gig.
I didn’t get into sports radio until 2004 when one of my best friends from college, Dan Le Batard, took this afternoon drive job at a startup radio station in Miami. He called me and said I need an executive producer. I was a music DJ. I said to him I don’t do sports radio. I don’t do talk radio. I do music. He said I’m not going to do the typical sports show. I’m going to do the conversations you and I have been having on our phones since college. This is not going to be anything you’ll ever recognize. That was 17 years ago and I have worked in Miami sports radio for 17 years straight.
BN: Isn’t it funny how that idea is pretty simplistic, but it was groundbreaking to be like, I’m going to talk like a dude and talk how I normally talk on the air, instead of being the typical radio guy.
MH: What Dan did on the air in Miami changed all of sports radio forevermore. Sports radio in Miami was Hank Goldberg. Hank Goldberg was “I give you my opinion, and if you disagree with my opinion, you’re a jagoff”. He used to say that on the air all the time. If you’d call into Hank’s show — it was just callers — and you didn’t agree with him, you were a jagoff. Half the time he’d hang up on you. That’s where you got your information. You trusted the expert who was Hank Goldberg or Eddie K in Miami sports radio. Dan was so completely different. It was jarring to me when we started doing the show.
He would say on the air, wow sorry, listeners, that was a terrible interview. Off the air, I would say to him, you don’t acknowledge that you did a bad interview. He would say well why not? And I didn’t have an answer. I don’t know. You just don’t. And he said but do you think the interview went poorly? And I’d say yeah. And he goes, I think the interview went poorly too, and you know the listeners know that it went poorly. They’re listening. So why should we pretend that we’re great at everything? Why don’t we embrace just having fun and being human? It was so revelatory to me.
The most impactful rule that Dan broke was acknowledging on-air when something wasn’t very good. No host would every admit a segment, an interview, or a bit was bad because they thought that would chip away at their standing of being the expert voice on the radio who listeners went to for the correct opinion. Dan broke that rule from the first show. He let the audience in on what we were doing. The audience became an active participant in the show. Instead of, “I’m the expert host, and you’re the lowly listener,” it became, “I’m the guy with the mic, but we’re all gonna do this show together.”
Thank God the original owners of the station had patience because it was jarring for listeners. It was jarring for salespeople and anyone who had anything to do with talk radio. But because they had the patience to let us work the show out and find its footing, it literally launched him into superstardom and changed I think the course of sports talk radio.
BN: What is the most impactful rule that you break on your show?
MH: The most impactful rule we break on our show is we believe in fun first, then sports. Our four hours on the air are meant to be fun. So many people in radio love to throw the term “wacky morning show” around as if it’s an insult. We embrace that. Crowder and I love being your “wacky morning show in the afternoon.” I’d much prefer to make you laugh so hard that you cry, over breaking news about who the Dolphins are going to draft with their first pick. Entertain first is our mantra.
BN: I don’t know how I became a die-hard Dolphins fan, but I have been since I was a kid. So I’ve listened to you and Channing. You guys do a very entertaining show. It makes me think of Le Batard. What do you think your show might sound like if not for Dan?
MH: Oh my God, I wouldn’t be doing a sports talk show if it wasn’t for him. I really wouldn’t. I’d be playing Rihanna, or I guess at 51 years old I wouldn’t. I’d be on an oldies station playing the Eagles. But I really wouldn’t be doing it because I didn’t like sports radio. It didn’t appeal to me until he started doing it. I absolutely would not have been doing it. My show with Channing is very similar to the original incarnation of the Le Batard show because that was the show that he and I had done on our phones and in our off-campus apartment. He’s Cheesecake Factory and I’m Grand Lux. It’s very similar. You go in and you see a lot of the same entrees.
BN: What’s your reaction to a show that’s constructed to be serious?
MH: I don’t have a problem necessarily with people that do a serious sports talk show or a serious talk show in general because that’s their style. I don’t listen to it because I don’t like that. Channing and I, we always laugh when texts come in and they say, “I can’t listen to you guys anymore, all you do is laugh.” Channing and I will look at each other and we go, is that supposed to be an insult? Who doesn’t love laughing? I love laughing. I love cutting up for four hours a day. I love hanging out with people and insults fly, and stories are told, and laughs are constantly being had. I don’t understand the people that tune in to hear a radio show and want to hear serious takes and opinions that are hard-nosed — like no. That’s not what I want to do.
The show is not for everyone. Dan’s show isn’t for everyone. Howard Stern’s show is not for everyone. Pat McAfee’s show is not for everyone. I don’t listen to serious sports talkers. I don’t mind anyone who does a show — if you’re paid to do a show, you do the show that you want to do. If it works, you’ll do it for a long time. If it doesn’t work, you’ll have to figure out a new route. But I could never do a show like that. It’s just not my personality. I wouldn’t talk that way with my friends. I like to laugh. I like to be around people that like to laugh and so those are the people that we try to attract to the show.
BN: Sometimes athletes that get into sports radio are pretty serious. They’ve been serious about their sport and now they’re serious about their new job. Did Channing not have that vibe from the get-go?
MH: Channing loves trash talking, laughing, finding an offbeat route to take with a story. What I love about radio and what I love about our show, is taking up for something in a very serious fashion that doesn’t deserve serious talk. I love talking seriously about the Mount Rushmore of cheese. The passion that we bring to the Mount Rushmore of cheese is the passion that many sports talkers bring to Marino or Montana, Brady or Mahomes. That’s the fun part of our show. But Channing is like that. That’s his personality.
Our radio pairing was a match made in heaven. I can’t even begin to tell you how lucky I feel every day that Crowder is my radio partner. I don’t know how much you listen to the show but Alejandro Solana, who’s our executive producer, this is the greatest experience that I’ve ever had. And again I worked on Dan’s show. We had a lot of fun and great cast members; I’ve never had a better radio experience than me, Crowder and Solana. If I take a day off, I kind of feel bummed. I love spending the four hours with those guys.
BN: That’s awesome, man. I’m happy for you. Did you know it was going to be special like that from the beginning?
MH: No, I was a little trepidatious because Channing is a big dude, and he’s used to knocking people’s heads off. I am super sarcastic, and I get under people’s skin, and I can’t control my mouth. If he had reacted poorly in the first few weeks of the show and exerted his dominance over me, it would have been a disaster. But he let me know early on, you say whatever you want, insult me, joke about me, joke about my career, joke about anything. I’m going to do the same to you, but we’re going to be laughing the whole way through it. Over the five years, a genuine friendship has developed. He was at my son’s bar mitzvah. He’s just a big part of my life. He’s family.
BN: I see your Twitter header where you’re onstage at an improv night. Do you do stand-up at all?
MH: I did a couple nights of stand up. I used to have a character on the Le Batard show called Marc Hochman Sports Comic. It was just a super hacky comic that Dan and Stugotz would boo. It was just truly awful, awful jokes that really were only punched up by a rimshot. They were rimshot jokes that I would write. They were timely and topical for whatever was going on in sports. A stand-up comedian reached out to me and said I think you would do great on stage. And I’m a ham. I agreed to do a show at the Improv. He said he’d put it together.
I don’t ever like to embarrass myself. I do take a lot of pride in the content that I try to put out. So leading up to the show was so much angst and so many stomachaches and headaches because I really wanted it to go well.
It was the greatest night of my life. I killed on stage. I was supposed to do five minutes; I did 25 minutes. The audience came out, and I was afraid they were coming out to boo me, but they came out to embrace and laugh with me. It was the greatest night. But it had so much angst leading up to it, that I said I can never do this again. I’ve had a zillion offers to and I’ve never done it again.
BN: Going back to your time with Dan and knowing him so well, what are your thoughts on his fallout with ESPN, and what do you expect from him with Meadowlark?
MH: Dan has always marched to his own drum. He’s going to have phenomenal success would be my guess doing what he wants to do. I would say that over the course of the last 17 years has shown that he’s got a pretty good idea for what works and what doesn’t work on radio and in audio. I don’t think he’ll look back at all. I think he’s building a monster.
BN: Do you think this might ultimately be the best thing for him where things are headed?
MH: Oh, without question. His personality is — he wants to make decisions that he thinks are the right decisions creatively. He doesn’t want to worry about business ramifications. When you work for a major company like Disney, you’ve got to worry because they’re worried about ramifications. This is tailor-made for him to be able to create the content that he wants to create, when he wants to create it, with whom he wants to create it. He’s on the road to creating like I said a monster.
BN: Chicago is a hardcore sports town. When you linked up with Dan in Miami to do sports radio, did it feel like he was saying, hey man, I’m going to tell some jokes in church?
MH: Yeah, at the beginning of the show, that’s exactly what it was like because that’s all I knew. Growing up in Chicago, I did listen to some really big Chicago personalities that weren’t really sports talk. Steve Dahl was the guy that I listened to in Chicago. Then they had Kevin Matthews for a while. They liked sports but they were really talk shows more than anything. I didn’t get exposed to much sports talk really until I was in Miami and I listened to some Hank Goldberg and some Jim Mandich. It just wasn’t my cup of tea because it really wasn’t even my personality back then. But I know radio. And I knew what the rules were in radio.
When Dan started breaking every rule that I had ingrained in my head, I had interned at the CBS building in Chicago for B96. So I was around WBBM-AM, the most serious talk station that exists. I knew what the rules were supposed to be. When Dan started breaking every single rule, yeah I would break out into hives practically. I was like “Oh my God, we can’t do this! This is not how radio works!” That’s the story of most successful companies, right? The disruptors. Uber disrupted taxicabs. The disruptors are generally the ones that find the success when everyone has told them no, no, no, you can’t do it this way. Yeah, it was very jarring to me.
BN: What if management came to you guys and said we did all this research, we’ve got to be straight-laced and serious. How would you react to that?
MH: I don’t think I could do it. I just don’t think I could do it because it’s not my personality. If you try to force yourself to be serious on someone else, that’s not really going to work. I’ve had different program directors who have different likes and dislikes. I had a program director when Crowder and I first got together. We were on the topic that everyone has done over the last five years; is a hot dog a sandwich. This program director at the commercial break flung open the door and said are you done with that? Good. And slammed the door. I exploded. I ran down the hall and tore him a new one because first of all, I don’t want to be told that in the middle of a show. If you want to say that to me after the show or in an email, that’s fine. But he obviously had a very different idea of what radio could be or should be than I did. We coexisted for a couple of years. He’s not our program director anymore. But I can’t lose my sense of humor. That’s my personality. It’s just who I am.
BN: Do you have any specific goals going forward that you’d like to accomplish in the next few years?
MH: I marvel at the fun that we’re having on the air right now. We’ve had offers from other places. Bigger opportunities. I don’t think I want to do anything other than what I’m doing, for the rest of my time on radio. It’s been a 17-year run in Miami radio. I’m 51 years old and I love it. I love it every single day. I told you working with Crowder and Solana — I couldn’t have scripted a better radio existence than I have right now. There’s literally nothing that appeals to me other than doing what we’re doing right now.
Brian Noe is a columnist for BSM and an on-air host heard nationwide on FOX Sports Radio’s Countdown To Kickoff. Previous roles include stops in Portland, OR, Albany, NY and Fresno, CA. You can follow him on Twitter @TheNoeShow or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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.