There seems to be a happy tone on Chicago sports radio these days. That’s purely an outsider’s perspective, but it makes a lot of sense when you factor in that the White Sox are the most exciting team in baseball, the Cubs are arguably the most surprising and glass-half-empty-turned-half-full team at the moment, and to top it all off, the Bears drafted Justin Fields.
David Haugh, co-host of Mully and Haugh at 670 The Score, is easily one of the most qualified media personalities to speak on the subject. He’s been on the local beat since 2003, coming to the city as a writer working for the Chicago Tribune. During that time he’s seen all the incredible ups and inconceivable downs that sports fans in the city have experienced.
“It feels very resurgent,” said Haugh. “When the Bears drafted Justin Fields they hit reset on their organization in a way they hadn’t done in a long time. Justin Fields gives them hope and it coincides with the Cubs and White Sox both being good. The Bulls have new management, people have been waiting on that for a while, and the Blackhawks are young and interesting. We are blessed in Chicago to have a sports landscape that is full of possibilities. Everyone loves possibilities.”
These days, Haugh is fully focused on his radio show. He left the Tribune in January of 2020 after trying his hand at both hosting a morning radio show and being a columnist for two years. As you can imagine, balancing both was incredibly difficult. But in the end he chose radio. It wasn’t because he doesn’t love to write. It was more of a decision of where the two industries were headed.
“In 2018 when The Score came to me with an opportunity to do mornings, it was a combination of, one, I’ve done enough radio to know how to do it, and secondly, it was a good time given the newspaper industry realities,” he said. “I just felt like the right move to make.”
But the adjustment wasn’t so easy in the beginning. By nature, many sportswriters are night owls, seeing as they’re routinely at evening games and always rushing to meet late-night deadlines. David Haugh was in that group of writers walking from the ballpark to his car well after the 9 to 5’ers in the city had already gone to bed. Going from that lifestyle to waking up in the wee hours of the morning to do a radio show was a challenge.
“The hours changing was a pretty dramatic lifestyle adjustment,” he said. “I can’t say that I initially embraced it, because if you do one job for so long you can become a night owl. So my body clock had to be totally readjusted. As far as responsibilities it was hard to write several times a week the first year or so. As a professional you think you’re capable of so much you continue to try to do everything, at some point it just wasn’t feasible. Ultimately it came to the point where it was time to give radio my full attention and 100 percent commitment. That adjustment took a while but I think I’m used to it now.”
It took adjustment but it was something David Haugh could control. Replacing a 26-year veteran at the station, well, maybe not so much. Being hired to fill Brian Hanley’s seat in morning drive was tough in more ways than one. For starters, the listeners had been accustomed to his voice for so many years. Secondly, the two were great friends.
“I think the way I approached it was the way that I have always approached everything, which is I’m not trying to deny what he accomplished at The Score, it was tremendous,” said Haugh. “He’s a Score legend. In some ways I was replacing that and I respected all that he brought to the Chicago media scene, both on the air and in print. Brian was a friend and there are people that continue to be loyal to him to this day. And that’s great. It just speaks to how much he connected with the audience and I was respectful of that.
“I didn’t campaign for the job and I didn’t do anything except take advantage of an opportunity. I always tried to be as respectful of Brian as possible and his place in Score history. He’s as classy as they come.”
Luckily, with all the challenges that came with the morning drive seat, one of the best program directors the industry has ever seen came along with it too. Mitch Rosen was exactly what Haugh needed to adjust to his new role. If not for Rosen, Haugh probably isn’t doing sports radio today, but The Score PD saw and heard something he knew would work well in mornings next to Mike “Mully “Mulligan.
“The only reason I felt comfortable moving from the Chicago Tribune is because Mitch made me feel like it was doable and because we connected at a lot of different levels,” Haugh said. “I’ve never had a boss more attentive to the needs, personally and professionally, like Mitch. What he’s done is that he’ll offer constructive criticism or points or tips since I’m not a radio guy. I’m not going to pretend that I’m trained in radio. He’s been very good from a technical aspect and he’s been tremendously supportive.
“But what I like most, I think, is that this is what’s going on at The Score overall, Mitch is as positive of a person as you’re ever going to work for or work with. This can be a toxic industry and a very soul sucking experience if you’re in the wrong department or the wrong station. He works tirelessly to create an environment where positivity thrives. That’s important.”
Mully and Haugh came in this year as the No.9 Major Market Morning Show in the BSM rankings. A hat tip is deserved for several people involved. One goes to David Haugh for the commitment he’s made to be great in radio. Another goes to Rosen for making the move to turn a former columnist into a successful drive-time radio host. And the last one goes to Mully, who hit the ground running with his new partner.
“Mully and I used to be competitors,” Haugh said. “My first experience with Mully was probably going at it and trying to get the last question in at some Bears press conference. We would compete and we developed a respect for one another and then became friends. What I like about it is we tend to see the sports world the same way.”
What a time to host in Chicago. The White Sox could win the pennant. The Cubs could win the pennant. God help the city if the North and South siders meet in a seven-game series to decide the World Series. It’s going to be an incredible summer in Chicago. For a guy like Hough that’s seen so many of them, it’s cool to hear the giddiness in his voice about how special these next few months could be.
He’s already a Chicago legend for his written words. Soon, he’ll be one because of his spoken words.
“It’s a privilege,” David Haugh said. “It really is every day. I was asked this year to do a Saturday morning baseball show, which has been a Score staple for 25 years. I host with Bruce Levine on Saturday mornings. Nothing revealed how much passion there is in Chicago than on Friday during the re-opening of Wrigley Field. It was a re-opening of a ballpark and a city being re-invigorated by what happened during the Anthony Rizzo homer and the Cubs victory. This is one of those special types of seasons. We have two first place teams that engage you on a nightly basis.”
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.