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Chicago Got Silvy Strong And Marc Silverman Got Back To Work

Throughout his entire treatment process, Silvy was honest with fans and listeners about where his health was at. In return, he received an overwhelming flood of support. It was a response he never could have anticipated and certainly wasn’t one he was looking for, yet he was blown away by the amount of encouragement and inspiration it brought him.

Kate Constable

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Chicago Tribune

When COVID-19 caused the world to shut down in March of 2020, there was no playbook as to what the next year would look like.

Add a cancer diagnosis to that, and life just got a whole lot scarier.

As the entire country blindly navigated how to work from home, socialize over Zoom, and rely on each other for support, Marc “Silvy” Silverman, co-host of the Waddle and Silvy Show on ESPN Chicago, was sitting in a doctor’s office awaiting news that would change his life.

Feder: ESPN 1000's Marc Silverman reveals cancer diagnosis
Daily Herald

On April 3, 2020, Silvy was told the three words no one ever wants to hear: You have cancer. Thirteen days later, he received word that the exact type of cancer he would be batting was non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Having been with ESPN Chicago for more than 20 years, it was ironic that the first person he told at the station was the person he knew the least. New market manager Mike Thomas had only been at the station for six months when Silvy came to him with the news.

“Mike knew right away, and it was an interesting way to sort of, you know handle some things with a new boss,” said Silvy.

“From the very start he was like ‘I’m going to beat this. I’m going to figure out what I need to do, how I need to do it, and, you know, this thing is not going to get me,’” said Thomas. “He just had an amazing attitude from the very start of it.”

While much of the nation had already shut down and people began to work from home, Silvy was one of the few ESPN Chicago employees who continued to work out of the State Street headquarters. However, upon his diagnosis came a newly compromised immune system which forced him to set up a makeshift studio inside his basement. It would become his new workspace.

For most of us, spending 2020 confined to our homes was a difficult adjustment to say the least. For Silvy, being forced to stay home throughout the pandemic might have saved his life.

“The silver lining was that the entire country was working from home and if it wasn’t during a pandemic, I would have pushed myself and my body to go up and back downtown,” said Silvy, who lives approximately 30 miles from downtown Chicago. “I probably would have commuted. I probably would have been in the office. I probably would have taxed my body more, just from not being in my own home.

“But because of the pandemic, because it was normal for even radio hosts to work from home, that helped me in the big picture to get through this and keep my body probably from getting too rundown.”

Despite multiple rounds of chemotherapy and an immunotherapy clinical trial, Silvy never showed signs of being rundown. The only days he didn’t work throughout the whole process were the days surrounding his treatment.

Headstrong: Marc Silverman Beating Cancer During A Pandemic | RSN
NBC Sports Chicago

“The dude showed up for work every single freaking day,” said Silvy’s co-host and former Chicago Bear Tom Waddle. “I have had my ass whipped by a lot of big people in the NFL and I consider myself a fairly tough individual. I don’t think I could have handled it the way he handled it both mentally and physically.”

Working from home provided Silvy a sense of normalcy and allowed him to focus his energy on something other than the fact that he had cancer. What also made his circumstances seem more normal was his decision to share his diagnosis on air.

“His openness and his willingness to let everybody in has always been one of his characteristics,” said Waddle. “He doesn’t keep this private life over here and his public persona over there. They’re one and the same with regard to how he approaches his job and I think that in a lot of ways that made this fight a little bit easier for him because there was no change.”

While Silvy has always been very candid with his audience regarding his personal life, his decision to share his cancer diagnosis stemmed from much more.

“I know it was really important for him to kind of give back because guys like Eddie Olczyk, and we’ve had others in the office, who have had experiences or family members that have gone through difficult situations,” said Waddle.

In 2017, Eddie Olczyk, who calls Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago, announced to viewers that he was diagnosed with colon cancer. According to Silvy, he remembers paying close attention as Olczyk shared updates throughout his cancer journey.

“I don’t know whether there was a sixth sense like I paid extra attention to it, and I always marveled to myself, ‘this dude is so candid, this dude is so strong,’” said Silvy. “And I couldn’t believe how much he was sharing, and I always remember that, and it always stood out to me.”

His decision to be candid with his audience also came from the longstanding support the station has shown for the V Foundation. Each year during Jimmy V Week, Waddle and Silvy spend time on-air talking about the V Foundation and raising money for cancer research. During this time, they opened up phone lines for people to call into the show and tell their story of how they’ve been affected by the disease.

“A lot of people have always said to us, ‘those are some of the most amazing shows because they’re raw, they’re emotional, and it’s real-life,’” said Silvy. “And I couldn’t sit there going through what I was going through after asking people on my show to share their experiences on how they’ve dealt with cancer.”

Throughout his entire treatment process, Silvy was honest with fans and listeners about where his health was at. In return, he received an overwhelming flood of support. It was a response he never could have anticipated and certainly wasn’t one he was looking for, yet he was blown away by the amount of encouragement and inspiration it brought him.

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“The one line I always remember from someone who was a survivor who said to me ‘You don’t know this until you go through this, but you have a village behind you,’” said Silvy. “And you’ve always heard that term ‘it takes a village,’ but you don’t realize that until you’ve gone through it, because then you’re like holy s—t, this is a village behind me.”

That village came in many different forms.

Local apparel company, Obvious Shirts, came to Silvy with the idea of creating and selling shirts to raise money for him. While he loved the idea, Silvy told them he didn’t want the money going to him but instead wanted to donate it all to the V Foundation.

“I was on not only the chemo but immunotherapy as well because of advancements in medicine, and because of all the money raised for different cancer charities, I was a beneficiary of this sort of stuff,” said Silvy. “I want to make sure that other people are even greater beneficiaries down the road.”

There were two different shirt designs with “Silvy Strong” plastered across the front of each. The most popular featured a drawing by Silvy’s son Mason who was five at the time.

“He gained a lot of support and inspiration from so many people that were willing to reach out,” said Waddle. “And I think sharing his experience, you know, he drew from all those people that were wearing the Silvy Strong shirts or people that would just send a text.”

Fans began using the hashtag #SilvyStrong on Twitter and ESPN Chicago started a social media campaign to help promote the sale of the shirts. Followers who traveled during the summer were asked to take a picture in their Silvy Strong shirts and post it on social media.

“We got [pictures] from all over the place,” said Thomas. “People were at the Grand Canyon, on an island and everywhere else wearing their Silvy Strong shirts. It was pretty amazing.”

To date, the sale of “Silvy Strong” shirts has raised approximately $43,000 for the V Foundation.

According to Silvy, he has always been a huge advocate for mental health, and going through this process made him even more aware of how important that aspect was to recovery. He sought guidance from a few different places. One being from Imerman Angels, a company that randomly matches you with a mentor who went through your exact same type of cancer. He also went to the Cancer Wellness Center in Northbrook.

But much of what made it possible to keep a positive attitude throughout the scariest time of his life was the support of the community.

“You know people sort of fueled me; I’ve never been more grateful,” said Silvy. “That was the word that I used the most. The appreciation for people, some of the stuff that you read, it lifts your spirits and you understand that your show means something to somebody and that they’re rooting for you and helping you get through your day.

“It’s just an incredible feeling and without the support that I had from my teammates, or the fans or my bosses in management, I never could have gone through this.”

On September 25, Silvy was given the news he had long waited for. He was officially in full remission.

His return to the studio was halted by COVID-19 restrictions, yet his April 12, 2021, State Street homecoming was worth the wait.

The small number of colleagues who were back in the office lined the halls as Silvy entered on a fake red carpet surrounded by balloons and decorations.

“It was a celebration,” said Thomas. “We were happy and it was hard to hold back the tears and all of the things that you would expect, still a little bit different just because of COVID, but that was an awesome day to have him back here.”

“It was really an important moment for him to be able to come back to work,” said Waddle. “I know he felt the support of the entire Good Karma Brand. I know he felt the strength coming from everybody, and I think it kind of was a milestone for him and it was an achievement.”

Silvy’s return brought a new perspective to everyone at ESPN Chicago.

“It becomes a reminder for all of us to enjoy ourselves,” said Waddle. “It’s great to be all worked up about what the Cubs or Sox are doing and shouldn’t take you away from being emotional about that, but at the end of the day when the work is over, it’s been a nice reminder that there are more important things in life than who’s going to hit leadoff for the White Sox.”

For Silvy, it signified a fresh start and the release of a huge mental burden he had been carrying.

“I felt like I was a freshman starting high school, or a freshman so happy to be on a college campus for the first time,” said Silvy. “It was like that back-to-school day where you have the butterflies.”

Most importantly, it was an opportunity to return to normal. To return to radio the way it should be, being able to look Waddle in the eye while complaininging about the Cubs and Sox. And to return to the place where he first connected with all the listeners who gave him the strength to get through the most difficult year of his life.

BSM Writers

Chris Broussard Is No Longer Just A ‘Basketball Guy’

“There’s no doubt that gets attached to you and that can be good because you’re seen as an ‘expert’ in one sport which is great.”

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After embarking on a career in sports, Chris Broussard made a name for himself as a writer, specifically as it pertains to covering the NBA. Whether it was covering the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, covering the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets for The New York Times, or doing television hits for ESPN, Broussard had always, whether it was justified or not, been pigeon-holed as a “basketball guy”.

That was the perception then, but today, the reality is different.

“There’s no doubt that gets attached to you and that can be good because you’re seen as an ‘expert’ in one sport which is great,” said Broussard, the co-host of First Things First on FS1 and the co-host of The Odd Couple on FOX Sports Radio. 

“But what was good for me was that at ESPN, I had done First Take with Skip Bayless a lot.  There were a few years where it was a rotation and I was in that rotation. That enabled me to at least do the other sports.” 

Broussard has certainly made a seamless transition from print to electronic media.

After joining The New York Times in 1998, Broussard started to get television exposure doing local hits and then appearances on the various ESPN platforms would soon follow. He joined ESPN full-time in 2004 as a writer for ESPN The Magazine, but that also included regular guest appearances and fill-in hosting opportunities on shows like First Take and the opportunity to be a co-host for NBA Countdown for the 2010-11 season.

With that gig came the opportunity to work with Michael Wilbon, Jon Barry, and his childhood hero Magic Johnson.

“I think that may be have been the pinnacle because Magic is Magic,” said Broussard. “He was my favorite player until Jordan came along and (with Wilbon and Barry), we just had great chemistry.”

After one season, Broussard and Barry were replaced by Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose. A few years later, Broussard would make the move that would bring him to the next chapter of his career.

In 2016, Broussard left what amounted to being just a reporters role at ESPN for a new opportunity at FS1 where he would also be an analyst as well as a regular panelist for shows like Undisputed, The Herd with Colin Cowherd, First Things First and Lock It In.  In 2018, he began co-hosting The Odd Couple radio show with Rob Parker on FOX Sports Radio.

And then in August of 2021, Broussard was named the full-time co-host of First Things First, something that almost had happened when the network first launched.

“When they asked me to come on as a full-time co-host, it was great and maybe a long time coming,” said Broussard. “I know when Jamie Horowitz first brought all the people over from ESPN to be on FS1 in 2016, he was considering doing a show where Nick Wright and I were the co-hosts.”

Broussard now co-hosts the show with Wright and Kevin Wildes.

“I thought that I really just fit right in with the chemistry and it’s just been a great trio,” said Broussard. 

Born in Baton Rouge, Broussard and his family also lived in Cincinnati, Indiana, Syracuse, Iowa, and Cleveland.  He was a star football and basketball player for Holy Name High School in Parma Heights, Ohio and went on to play basketball for Oberlin College, an NCAA Division III school in Ohio.

Believe it or not, his first love was not basketball.

“My favorite sport growing up was football,” said Broussard. “I played football through high school. I played basketball at Oberlin College but they recruited for me football and basketball. I even played baseball up until I was about 16 years old.” 

So much for being just a basketball guy, right?

After college, Broussard had a decision to make. He knew he wanted to be a sports reporter but wasn’t sure if it was going to be print or electronic media. When he was an intern at The Indianapolis Star, he spoke to people in the know about which direction to go.

“I was told that it’s just easier and there are more spots in print journalism than there are in television and radio,” said Broussard. “I chose print because I thought I had more opportunities.”

Broussard’s first taste of covering pro sports was in 1995 at the Akron Beacon Journal when he was a backup writer covering the Cleveland Indians who would go to the World Series for the first time since 1954. Then came covering the Cavaliers for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and then it was off to New York and a bit of culture shock for Broussard.

During his 2 ½ years covering the Cavaliers, Broussard typically wore a rugby shirt, jeans and sneakers at games. But he noticed that when the Knicks and Nets would come to Cleveland or when Broussard travelled to New York and New Jersey when the Cavaliers visited the Knicks and Nets, that the New York writers would typically wear suits and ties when covering the games.

So, when he interviewed for the job with The New York Times, Broussard had an important question for his future editor.

“I asked him when I was being interviewed for the job do they require that your writers dress up,” said Broussard. “He said no but they do generally in New York because they know television opportunities are there. So, when I started working at The New York Times, I started dressing up wearing a suit and tie or sportscoat and tie whenever I would cover games.  Ultimately that led to television.”

And the rest is history.

This coming week, Broussard will be busy co-hosting his shows from the Super Bowl in Arizona. It’s one thing to host a radio show or a television show from a studio but it’s really something special to do it from a live event, especially on the giant stage of the Super Bowl.

And this week, Broussard will be center stage in front of a lot of ears and eyeballs.

“It’s always great,” said Broussard. “FOX Sports Radio always has one of the biggest and best platforms on radio row. It’s always fun when you’re doing these live shows at the big events and you’ve got an audience, it really can kind of bring out the best in you. I’m excited about it both for TV and radio.”

Chris Broussard has certainly come a long way in his career in sports. 

From his days as an athlete in high school in college to getting his start as a write to a transformation into a radio and television personality, Broussard has worked hard to get to where he is today.

“I haven’t written a word since I went to Fox,” said Broussard. “I do feel fortunate that I’ve been able from morph from a writer into TV and radio. What you want to do in this business is stay relevant and you want an audience and a platform. There’s not that many people who get that opportunity to do it.”

He’s no longer just a “basketball guy”. He’s a “sports guy”.

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BSM Writers

Radio Row Is One of Sports Radio’s Worst Weeks

Radio Row is a great opportunity for hosts, PDs, and executives. But it isn’t an inherently great opportunity for your listeners.

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From strictly a listener’s perspective, sports radio the week of Super Bowl’s Radio Row is one of the worst weeks.

Before I was a sports radio programmer, I was a sports radio listener. And while I didn’t realize it at the time, I was listening to sports radio with a programmer’s mindset. And every year, I would spend the entire week listening to shows produced live — or pretending to be live — from Radio Row at the Super Bowl. And each year, I would wonder “What the hell is the point of this?”

And now, as a former sports radio programmer, I will sit this week and listen to shows produced live — or pretending to be live — from Radio Row at the Super Bowl. And each day, I will wonder “What the hell is the point of this?”

Who does it serve? Let’s take an in-depth look at that question.

It serves the NFL. Hundreds of media professionals are stationed at its largest event, talking about it, ensuring it stays at the forefront of the public consciousness and providing millions in value for its sponsors.

It serves NFL players. Both past and present. Dozens of current and former stars will flock to Radio Row to record dozens of interviews. They’ll be paid thousands of dollars to pitch their wares as often as possible while expanding their brands outside the cities in which they currently or formerly played.

It serves the sponsors of NFL players. Radio Row provides a one-stop-shop for sponsors to send their endorsers down a line of interviews to continually get in front of new audiences. Scale, baby!

It serves the hosts, PDs, and executives. You get a working vacation! It’s awesome! I live in the Midwest, and yesterday was one of a handful of days I’ve seen the sun since November. Being in Arizona in early February is phenomenal! Plus, you get to hob knob with celebrities, get your photos taken, go to awesome parties with extravagant hor dourves and open bars, and it’s fantastic. You deserve the little break Radio Row provides; better yet, it’s all on the company dime. You get some bonding with your co-workers, you get to network, and it really is an awesome opportunity.

But you know who isn’t served? Your listeners. At least, the vast majority of them. Because here’s the reality: While it’s really cool that you’re hanging out with other radio folks, and you’ll have a plethora of former and current players swinging by for interviews, your listeners really don’t care. It’s a harsh reality, but it’s the truth. While there’s a subset of listeners who are living vicariously through you — and that can’t be completely shortchanged, it’s a big deal — the overwhelming majority couldn’t be less invested in your Radio Row interviews.

Think of it from a listener’s viewpoint: Outside of the Bay Area, do you think anyone has thought “Man, I wonder who Kyle Juszczyk thinks is gonna win the Super Bowl?” I’ll tell you that, no, they haven’t thought that, and they don’t particularly care what he thinks. Furthermore, they definitely don’t care that he’s sponsored by Old Spice, which gives him the P-P-P-Power!™

And it would be fine if there was one interview here or there, but there are some shows — both local and national — that will completely fill out their rundowns with interviews with people your listeners don’t especially care about, ask questions that your listeners don’t especially care about, and end the interview by asking who they think wins Sunday, why they think that way, and allow them to pitch their boner pills or whatever else they’re schlepping. Every day. For five straight days. For two, three, four, or even five hours.

It stinks.

Self-serving isn’t bad as long as you recognize it’s self-serving. And that could be potentially the biggest issue. Now and then, you’ll get a host that is sanctimonious and pretends they’re doing the listener a favor by spending a week away from their family in a warm weather destination, rubbing elbows with some of the greatest players — both past and present — in the game. You’re not. You’re spending a week eating all the free food you can find, drinking all the free beer you can find, and taking pictures to post on your Instagram. And that’s fine, but don’t pretend like it’s something it isn’t. You can talk yourself into its importance, but it’s important to you.

Radio Row is a great opportunity for hosts, PDs, and executives. But it isn’t an inherently great opportunity for your listeners. You can turn it into one with thoughtful questions, a unique spin on the traditional interview, or avoiding the same boring questions your subject has been asked 1,000 times during the day, but you’ve gotta go the extra mile to accomplish that. And I hope that’s not something you lose sight of this week.

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BSM Writers

What Are The Right Social Media Answers For Sports Radio?

“What are the limits of social media for radio brands? Are there any?”

Demetri Ravanos

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Social media does not stand still. The platforms that matter today can fall out of favor with the general public in the blink of an eye. Conversely, the right feature or attention from the right people can catapult a site’s importance in the social pecking order.

How does a radio company determine what matters? Are all formats received similarly on social media or is sports radio such a unique animal that brands have to be much more deliberate in how resources are allocated? To answer these questions, I turned to some experts. 

Tom Izzo doesn’t exclude any platform when he is plotting WFAN’s social strategy. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter may each attract a different type of sports fan, but they all matter in building and serving the larger audience.

“There is sports radio audience on every social media platform, you just have to talk to them differently depending where you are,” he told me. “The language and audience on Twitter is different than the language and audience on Facebook, but there is audience everywhere.”

Audience is everywhere. That’s what is at the heart of the conundrum. How do you best utilize your assets in a landscape that isn’t just constantly changing? It’s also constantly growing!

Lori Lewis has overseen social media strategy at an executive level for Cumulus, Westwood One, Jacobs Media and iHeart among others. Now she coaches companies on creating great content with her own company, Lori Lewis Media

She told me that the key for not just sports stations, but for any brand, is understanding what their audience prioritizes. That doesn’t mean it should be the brand’s only focus though.

“Obviously, for sports radio, it’s Twitter. But don’t sleep on short-form vertical video,” she said in an email. “When done right, you’ll see success (meaning converting views into new fans) with YouTube Shorts and/or Instagram Reels as well as playback videos on Facebook (those are visual replays from the audio show).”

Converting views into new fans was taken to a bit of an extreme in Nashville. 104.5 The Zone launched Zone TV in 2021. Will Boling took the lead in creating the product. He says that launching a proprietary video stream was never about moving away from other social platforms. It was about giving listeners more access to better content in more places.

“Our video platform affects a lot of our social strategy,” he said. “On Twitter, we don’t want to just be seen as a radio station, but as a media company. Our Twitter stream allows us to react to breaking news while also sharing our broadcast at the same time. And with Twitch’s video producer, we can create featured clips from shows whenever we want. That allows us to push video out of featured guests, funny callers and anything in between to promote our podcasts from each show too.”

Video matters so much more than ever before. It does not matter who you talk to or what platform it is you are talking about. The answer always comes back to using video to attract more eyeballs.

TikTok, our most controversial social video platform, is trying to figure out what its reach could be without the visuals. Last month the company announced that it would experiment with its version of podcasts – a mode on the app that would allow users to experience TikTok content as audio-only entertainment.

I asked all three of my experts what their initial impression of the story is. Only Izzo expressed reservations.

“Probably no need for us to be first anywhere if there isn’t any particular benefit to doing that,” he said. “We’ll watch and see what happens and if it turns out that people like consuming podcasts on TikTok we will certainly address that.”

That doesn’t mean WFAN hosts and bosses won’t keep a keen eye on the feature. I would anticipate that there may be some experimental posts that either don’t receive much of a push or perhaps never see the light of day at all.

Boling is adamant that any use of TikTok is a wise one for stations. He says anything set up with an algorithm that rewards creators for posting content the audience connects with is an asset that cannot be ignored.

“We use social media to push listeners to our YouTube channel because it’s an algorithm based platform. If we get someone to click on our page once, then our channel will get recommended to them the next time they get on YouTube. TikTok helps radio companies accomplish that and own every space in the digital market right now.”

Unsurprisingly, it’s Lori Lewis that approaches the feature in the most scientific way. Do TikTok podcasts represent a sort of new frontier for audio brands? Sure, but just like Grogu and the Mandalorian, you have to go there and poke around before you can figure out how it will work best for you.

“If TikTok expands to audio, how might you complement the mothership (The FM/AM stick) and build on the trust you’ve earned from your show? What’s a unique way to tap into new features? As social media evolves, so should our approach.”

What are the limits of social media for radio brands? Are there any? Since the onset of the pandemic, so much listening has shifted from terrestrial signals to digital streams. We have totally rethought what we are. Why should it stop with how our audience consumes our content? 

I asked Lewis if we are too narrow in thinking about how social media can serve us. Are we so focused on what is that we have not considered what could be? Can a brand have one identity on air and use social media to create something that does not mirror it, but instead compliments it?

“Depends on why you’re using social media,” she answered. “If you’re leveraging social media for increased awareness and building trust to drive more engagement during your show, it might not make sense to be different on social than on-air. But, if you’re a vanilla brand limited to creativity on-air, why not? Throw yourself out there. Show your real, relatable self (assuming it’s legal and appropriate, ha-ha). Relatability wins every time.”

Do we have to be deliberate in sports radio with how we allocate our social media resources? Yes, but that doesn’t mean there is a single correct answer. 

Strategy matters on air. It’s no different on social media. But in order to figure out the best strategy, you have to be open-minded and eager to play around with new offerings to determine what works.

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