Phil Inzinga didn’t think it would work, but he really needed it to. The idea of hosting a sports radio show seemed crazy, maybe even borderline insane, but there was no way he could turn down the opportunity. Inzinga wasn’t a sports radio listener, nor did he have an extensive knowledge about sports. To be frank, he was limited in both of those areas when Larry Bastida, former GM of WWLS The Sports Animal in Oklahoma City, approached him about being a co-host in morning drive.
Inzinga’s radio credentials weren’t a question, he had been on the air in multiple markets across the country. But all of those stops were doing either country, contemporary hits or rock radio. Not a single minute of his career had been spent doing sports.
“To me, at the time, sports radio wasn’t good or bad, I was kind of indifferent to it,” said Inzinga. “But did I ever think in a million years I would be working in sports radio? The answer is no.”
Aside from his talent behind the mic, one thing that was very attractive to the Sports Animal was the special chemistry Inzinga had with his co-host Ron Benton, who goes by Spinozi on the radio. The duo had the type of chemistry each show strives for. Within minutes of listening to their show on Bob FM, a classic rock station, you knew their connection was different. Not only did they click, but they actually got along. Now that The Sports Animal had an opening in its morning drive slot, the station wanted a piece of it.
The initial plan was simple. Spinozi was brought over first to co-host with Carey Murdock and Curtis Fitzpatrick, to make sure the trio clicked.
“All the while, every morning, Curtis would come over and say, you know you’re next,” Inzinga said. “You’re coming with Spinozi. I said, Curtis, that’s a horrible idea.”
Unlike Inzinga, Spinozi had a background in sports radio, during his time in Baltimore. Talking sports was second nature to him.
“Once they brought Spinozi over I think the plan had always been to bring me with him but they wanted to make sure the chemistry was right between those three guys first,” Inzinga said. “I think they knew I was going to be fine, as far as chemistry and radio stuff.”
Though he was unsure on how he was going to adapt to talking sports every morning, Inzinga knew the path to success was to continue to be who he is and not try to be the sports guy he wasn’t. It was a new format, but his goal was to be the same funny, entertaining host he had always been.
“We kind of had a deal where we said, ok, we’ll give this a try, because I really didn’t think it would work,” Inzinga said. “We’re going to give it a try but we’re not going to change who we are or try to fill the roles of the previous two members of the show. We were going to do what we do on a sports radio show.”
Now, the challenging part was about to begin. Sure, Inzinga and Spinozi had an undeniably great chemistry, but they had to figure out how to mesh and connect with Murdock and Fitzpatrick on a similar level. Finding chemistry with two hosts can be tough enough, but a four-man show, where half of the hosts have limited sports radio experience? This was a huge gamble.
“The funny thing is, I’d say within 25 minutes of the first show, we just knew it was going to work,” Inzinga said. “We just knew it. Everybody got along and that’s really rare.”
There were two major factors that contributed to the seamless transition of Inzinga and Spinozi joining The Morning Animals. One, was the fact that everyone involved with the show was all-in on making it work. Nobody disagreed with bringing on two guys that were doing classic rock radio, nor did anyone disagree with retaining Murdock and Fitzpatrick. It was truly a team effort to make this bold decision work.
“But sometimes that’s not enough,” Inzinga said. “We got very lucky with the chemistry and it was one of those things where we all hit it off right away. The cool thing about our show is we’ll fight and argue on the air but it’s never personal. It’s always about the show and we’ve always been able to work things out. But chemistry is the biggest part of that show.”
The second biggest factor, and the most important one, is the fact that each host knows his role and never has a big enough ego to disrupt the flow of the show. As rare as that is, it’s what makes The Morning Animals as successful as it is. Inzinga plays that role perfectly. He may not have the extensive sports knowledge Murdock or Fitzpatrick has, but he also doesn’t pretend that he does. His role is to be funny and bring the entertainment aspect to the show, which he does perfectly. He never thought in a million years he’d do sports radio, but now, you can’t have The Morning Animals without Inzinga.
“Everybody knows their role on our show and that’s incredibly important,” Inzinga said. “ It’s very established characters, I use the term character, they’re not really characters, it’s us being ourselves, but the personalities are very defined. You know which guys are talking. There’s no ego involved, literally, our thought is we just want the show to sound great, because if that happens, then we all will be good.”
Inzinga has been a part of The Morning Animals since 2013 and has seen his show near the top of the BSM Top 20 for best morning show multiple times. He doesn’t plan to slow down anytime soon, but he also doesn’t ever envision himself turning into a hot-take sports guy. There’s really no need to when he’s surrounded by the co-hosts he currently has.
“I’ve got three guys, three alpha males, who are incredibly knowledgeable about sports,” Inzinga said. “That’s why it’s so great for me because I don’t have to be as knowledgeable as they are. I clearly have to know who’s playing who on what day, but as far as the meat and potatoes and intricacies of sports, that’s what the fellas do. What I do is kind of the showbiz aspect to it to make sure we transition in and out of breaks cleanly. There’s comedic elements to most of what we do. We want to make a show where you may not be the most sports savvy person, but you can certainly tune in and understand what we’re talking about.”
What listeners may not know is Inzinga is way more involved with the show than just being the funny co-host who talks about whether it’s ok to eat rotisserie chicken in the car. Essentially, he’s the maestro of the show, doubling as the executive producer. It seems to be a trend in radio that one of the co-hosts is also the producer and running the board. It works, yes, but it’s a cost-cutting measure that many hosts aren’t necessarily a fan of. Inzinga enjoys being the executive producer and co-host of his show, but doesn’t necessarily want every show to move in that direction.
“We have a really lucky situation with four co-hosts and a producer on top of me producing,” Inzinga said. “When I’m driving the show I have a guy to cut up audio while I’m on the air. That’s our guy Q-tip. We love him and we’ve gotten lucky two times in a row with producers, before him we had Michael Doughty, who’s just amazing. Do I think it’s in the future, yeah, it probably is. The more they can cut costs the happier corporate radio is. Once you lose something you barely get it back. Yeah I think it unfortunately might be the future, and it’s something you can definitely do, but I don’t like it. I like shows that sound big and fun and funny.”
I couldn’t agree more with Inzinga. Make me laugh, be relatable and don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s like these guys have that painted on a wall in the studio, because they seem to achieve those three things every show. That’s what makes them such an easily likeable show. Also, it’s easy to like a show when you can tell all of the hosts like each other.
“Spinozi, I love that he’s been living a beer commercial since I’ve known him,” laughed Inzinga. “He’s literally living the life and that’s not an exaggeration. He’s living the life of a 90’s beer commercial and it hasn’t stopped.
“I love Carey’s vinyl collecting,” continued Inzinga. “I love all the stuff he does that’s not sports related. He’s such a quirky guy and I love the quirks. He’s a single guy with a disposable income like you would not believe. He’s living a very fun life.”
“Curtis keeps the show honest and professional,” added Spinozi. “He’s like an encyclopedia or a walking, talking sports almanac. And Curtis can be surprisingly funny when he wants to be.”
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.