If you overheard a serious conversation while in the toy department, it would probably sound ridiculous. If you only heard serious conversations in the toy department of life — meaning sports — that would also be absurd. Steve Covino and Rich Davis are two radio veterans that believe sports discussions are supposed to be fun. It’s hard to argue with them. If it doesn’t make sense to be somber next to LEGO sets or action figures, why would it be a good idea to be joyless when discussing Aaron Rodgers or the AFC East?
Fun works. It’s a big reason why Inside the NBA keeps stacking Emmys. It’s partially why Peyton and Eli Manning received stellar reviews for their Monday Night Football telecast. It’s also why Covino & Rich continues to grow. You don’t end up on major platforms like SiriusXM, SNY, ESPN, and FOX Sports Radio just because you have good hair, although that doesn’t hurt. You end up in those places because you have a formula that works.
Prioritizing fun has served Covino & Rich well. The duo has been hosting shows together for nearly 17 years. They now have a brand new show that airs Sunday evenings on FOX Sports Radio. The East Coasters — Covino is from Union, New Jersey and Rich is from Long Island — discuss how their friendship is rare in the industry. They also touch on cussing, Covino’s DJ skills, celebrity interviews, and Chubb touches. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: How far back do you guys go?
Rich Davis: We started doing our radio show together at SiriusXM at the very end of ’04. We debuted around Super Bowl ’05. That was the Super Bowl where Donovan McNabb ran out of steam versus the Patriots. That was sort of the beginning of Covino & Rich.
Steve Covino: We were friends before that. That’s how it sort of started. We both worked in terrestrial radio but at competing radio stations. I worked at K-Rock New York and Rich was the nighttime hottie at Z100. Then we became friends through mutual friends. We would hang out and go to the bars and talk sports.
Actually, that was the first thing we bonded over. ‘You like baseball? So do I.’ That sort of thing. He was a Mets guy. I was a Yankees guy. The yin to my yang in a lot of ways. We both ended up at SiriusXM. He was doing the pop radio stuff and I was doing the rock radio stuff. Then we just said yo, let’s do this talk show. We started doing this talk show together and here we are.
Rich: Hold on, backpedal for a second, Brian, because I have to tell you, when I first met Covino he was DJing part-time at a bar in Hoboken called O’Donoghue’s.
Covino: That was my side hustle.
Rich: I remember we’d go there and hang and drink on Thursday nights. I’m like who’s this DJ guy? He wouldn’t mix songs; in between the songs he would just play sound effects of like ‘El Covino.’ I’m like he’s playing radio drops at a bar? [Laughs]
Covino: I like to say I was ahead of the game, Brian; a shameless self-promoter from the start.
Rich: We had mutual friends and I remember Covino was going through a breakup; one of his girlfriends dumped him for an athlete actually.
Noe: Was it McNabb?
Covino: [Laughs] No, actually I was going through a really crappy streak. Rich was there at the perfect time to help me through it. I lost an ex-girlfriend to a New Jersey Net who shall not be named. And then my next girlfriend I lost to a New York Ranger who will not be named. And I was just some dude starting out in radio. I was so down in the dumps and that’s when I met Rich and he changed my life.
Noe: What led to you guys doing a show together?
Rich: We got together to do radio at SiriusXM because Sirius had a partnership with Maxim. They were like hey, we’re looking for shows to talk about sports, women, relationships, lifestyle, movies, TV. You know, just guy talk.
Covino: That was in our wheelhouse.
Rich: Covino and I said yo, this is what we do when we’re hanging out. We both know radio so we pitched it and that was almost 17 years ago now. They would send us out to Home Run Derbys, Super Bowls, All-Star Games. We were the guys that could cover sports but also the lifestyle side of it. Like hey guys, go to the EA Madden party and talk to a lot of these guys on the red carpet about their sneakers, their relationships, about the non-on-the-field stuff.
I remember this clearly; we were at a Super Bowl and Tim Tebow was the hot shit at the moment. This is when everyone on Earth was talking about Tim Tebow. We got an interview with him. A guy named Brad Como at SNY in New York watched us interview Tebow. We just had a really fun interview with him. We got back to New York and Brad Como and Curt Gowdy Jr. at SNY were like yo, we like what you guys do. Let’s talk.
Covino: Sports should be fun. You guys make it fun. You’re covering something different. You’re not making it boring and X’s and O’s and stats. We’re getting to see a different side of these guys; can you do that here at SNY? We’re like hell yeah, we’d love to.
Noe: You guys obviously had chemistry for years before you were on the air. Where did you grow the most once you started doing a show together even though you had that off-the-air chemistry?
Covino: I think SNY was a big step for us, to be honest, because that took us from radio to television. And it was live in Times Square. We got the SNY opportunity in 2013. We were on there for two-plus years. I think the pressure, the excitement, going live from New York City in our home city, talking all things New York sports; I think that was a big growing moment for us. Dealing with teleprompters and just having to react live and deal with that every day was big for our growth.
Rich: Covino loves to point out a great thought, which is we were young guys at the time so we never even thought failing was an option. It’s probably a great way to go into things. Now as an adult you overanalyze shit all the time, but back then we didn’t even think that this could go wrong.
Covino: We really didn’t.
Rich: We very quickly realized when they put together shows, we seemed to get along on and off the air like brothers. We’d fight and people were like are you guys mad at each other? No, it’s just what we do. We very quickly realized that we had chemistry while other people’s chemistry wasn’t developing.
Covino: It happened organically though because we were really friends. Other shows most of the time are just two random people that are put together. The chemistry is never going to be real. If someone is fighting, it’s kind of hard to move on from that the next day. We were in it from the start. This is what we do, this is how we fight, and this is how we get along at the same time. That’s sort of how it started.
Rich: And we always had the same goals. A lot of times people will link up and be made co-hosts in the sports world and the news world, and egos come into play. It’s like who gets the lead chair? Who opens the breaks? Whose name is first? These are things that we were like let’s just fuckin’ win. We weren’t like is it Covino & Rich or Rich & Covino? Who cares? All right fine, Covino & Rich. Who’s going to open the breaks? All right Rich, you come out of commercials. Fine, who cares? We kept that throughout our whole career so far and still to this day. Neither one of us will ever let those types of things get in the way. We have the same goals.
Noe: TV is quick; you’re moving, moving. Radio is kind of like living in the South; it’s just a slower pace. Do you ever feel like man, this radio segment is taking forever compared to doing TV?
Rich: No, but I feel that way when I hear other people’s radio shows. [Laughs] Sometimes I’ll hear other people and I’m like, damn they have zero excitement level. Covino and I, sometimes people say man, their energy is too high; I don’t feel like you can have enough energy. I really don’t. I feel like anytime I listen to radio, podcasts, or anything, the minute I hear some monotone shit, I’m checked out.
Covino: You’ve got three hours, or two hours with commercials to bring it. If you’re not bringing it, why am I listening? That’s how I feel.
Rich: Yeah, I feel like whether it’s a comedian’s podcast or a top-40 morning show, if they’re not having fun and laughing and busting chops, to me, that bores me.
Covino: And people that take sports too seriously; that bores me too. Sports are fun. Let’s have fun. Let’s have fun and share some laughs. It doesn’t have to be boring. It doesn’t have to be serious and that’s sort of our goal, the goofier the better sometimes. Just try to keep it lighthearted and remind ourselves, this is fun. It’s supposed to be fun.
Noe: How did the opportunity with FOX Sports Radio come about for you guys?
Rich: Our buddy, who became our super agent, Shaun Wyman, who works at Maxx Sports now was a listener of our radio show. Over a decade ago, we met Shaun at a Super Bowl party and he’s like “Covino and Rich, I listen to you guys. I work at ESPN. Here’s my card.”
Covino: He handed me a business card and I was like you know what, I got to keep ahold of this one. This one looks important.
Rich: He’s like I work in the talent department. I used to be a producer. We became friends with Shaun. His whole thing was like, I’m going to get you guys on ESPN. I was like well that’s awfully ambitious, but I’m with it.
Covino: As he climbed the ranks, he got into more meetings, kept pushing us, and eventually that got us onto ESPN Radio.
Rich: And all the people there, Shaun sold us to Rob Savinelli at the time, Amanda Gifford, all the folks at ESPN.
Covino: They bought into it.
Rich: Traug [Keller] when he was there. There were people there that really felt what Shaun was pushing and really had our back. They said let’s do this. Shaun Wyman got us into ESPN, then because of budget and COVID and all that, our contract wasn’t renewed. We were waiting for our next opportunity and Scott Shapiro at FOX was well aware of what we did. I was not aware of how much he knew about us.
Covino: He gets it, which is awesome.
Rich: He gets our style of humor. He gets what we do. Our first phone call with Scott was super satisfying when you’re talking to someone that knows what you do where you don’t really have to sell as much. We said listen man, we’re going to deliver for you because more than anything, Covino and I want to win. We want to show you that you’re making a good decision.
Covino: People play harder with a chip on their shoulder and although we have a great time, we’re not doing it for the fun; we’re doing it to win. We have a chip on our shoulders.
Rich: And I like this opportunity because I like to think that this is step one in my mind.
Noe: You guys keep it organic and the conversation is going to go where it goes, but after a full day of ball on Sunday, does it feel weird at all to digress and talk about Jolly Ranchers or something random?
Rich: You know what, sometimes I feel like you need to break it up a little bit. I can sometimes get sports burnout, but on a Sunday night I’m still so in that zone that there really just isn’t enough football on Sunday. People want to keep talking about it. We will dive into those dumb things. If we had more time Sunday, Covino saw an empty Red Vines in the garbage can. We were going to have a Red Vines, Twizzlers argument. But we didn’t get to it because Aaron Rodgers provided too much.
Covino: Anytime we can be relatable and tie it into a real-life scenario and try to give personal examples, we’re going to jump at that opportunity. That’s where we shine the brightest.
Rich: Like how Sam Darnold’s full on shit. When Sam Darnold says he doesn’t care that he beat the Jets; that’s like showing up somewhere with your hot new girlfriend looking all slick in front of your ex. Oh, I don’t care; of course you care. Even Robby Anderson, you don’t think after the game they were like, that was f***ing awesome. You don’t think they loved that? The two former Jets connected for a 57-yard touchdown. Come on.
Covino: That’s like us saying we don’t want to beat ESPN and show them we told you so. Anytime we can make it relatable, that’s what we’re going to do.
Noe: Do you ever get confused between being on SiriusXM where it’s uncensored, and another platform where cussing isn’t allowed?
Covino: That’s so funny, man. We’re really, really good at that.
Rich: Well now you jinxed us.
Covino: I know, right? We’ve been pretty great at that because we’ve been uncensored for almost 17 years, saying whatever the hell we want, talking about whatever we want. No censorship whatsoever. But I think Rich and his background, I give him credit here, his background in pop radio keeps him on his toes all the time. He’s able to put a different hat on. And me honestly it’s just a matter of reminding myself where I am and wearing that different hat. Like alright, I’m not doing this satellite radio thing where I can say whatever, I’m on FOX Sports Radio now. Every once in a while, I think there are things you can play with. Some guy called our show on Sunday and said something about Nick Chubb and touches and he kept on talking about Chubb touches. You can’t help but at least acknowledge the Chubb touches.
Rich: I don’t know; how many Chubb touches do you think are appropriate?
Covino: There’s a nice way to dance around it and make it fun and acknowledge that I can’t ignore that he said Chubb touches 10 times. Like I said when you wear different hats, although we’re guys just hanging out talking sports, we’re also parents. We have to keep that in mind that there are kids in the car and there are families listening.
Noe: Your background of interviewing celebrities is a little bit of a different world, but you can take that and apply it to the sports world. What has your music background helped you with as sports hosts?
Rich: It’s funny you would say that because I was just thinking about this recently. Everyone’s doing Zoom interviews. It’s the standard now. Howard Stern, Rogan, all these people, everyone’s doing Zoom interviews. I was like we’ve interviewed everyone I could possibly imagine and the relationships we’ve made over the years in mainstream music, television, actors, actresses; do we have that infiltrate FOX Sports Radio in a fun way? Would it be cool if we were like Guy Fieri, come hang with us Sunday night on FOX Sports Radio?
Covino: You know what’s cool about that and what we’ve learned through the years is even though Guy Fieri is known for FlavortownUSA and being on the Food Network, the guy loves sports. These guys love talking sports. Or they played sports growing up. It could be the most random people. We had Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins on our show. He wants to talk about baseball. He’s sick of talking about Siamese Dream. He wants to talk about the Cubs. You realize that there are a lot of people in the world of entertainment that are known for something, but deep down they like sports like anyone else and love to talk about it.
Rich: I remember Ty Burrell from Modern Family. Phil Dunphy, he was more excited to talk about the Mets with me than talk about Modern Family.
Covino: That’s when you really see these people open up because now they’re just being real about some stuff they’re really passionate about and you’re seeing a different side of them. You’re not getting that canned answer about their project coming up. When guests can enhance the conversation, we have a lot of fun talking to them. It’s just fan stuff. We’re not trying to out-knowledge each other. That’s what I feel sports radio and sports broadcasting has become. And to me that’s not fun.
Noe: For someone who’s new to Covino & Rich, if they wanted to check you out on FOX Sports Radio, what are they going to hear that will appeal to them?
Rich: We’re well aware that we’ve lived in a little bubble known as SiriusXM. That’s not a bad thing. SiriusXM is a great company; we still both work there, but we know that it’s a bubble. If they’ve got 30, 40 million subscribers, that’s still 10 percent of the population. There’s still 90 percent of people in America that don’t know of us because of the numbers. I think what we deliver that’s different; I guess you would say the fun conversation. If you want buddies talking about life and sports and entertainment in a fun way, check us out.
Covino: Fun is definitely the word. They were calling it Football Sunday, we’re like no, it’s Football Funday. We’re here to have fun. But from a fan perspective. Again, not claiming to be the expert. I’m just trying to relate and be as real as possible and call it as I see it. And I think we fit perfectly in the pocket where we can relate to the older sports fans with our old-school references, but still relate to a younger audience with social media. I feel we’re fluent in both languages being right there in the middle of both generations. We’re here to bring the fun and bring the laughs and bring the energy that so many people leave at home I guess, or just don’t have anymore.
Rich: Yeah, I think a couple of our takes on Sunday were so silly and stupid. I love that Covino’s take on Aaron Rodgers is that not dying his beard or hair just makes him look even worse. The fact that you came on and you’re like yo, dude’s got to use Just For Men. That was Covino’s big takeaway. If you can play like shit and look that bad on the field, it’s not helping you that you look like a washed out Negan from Walking Dead at the postgame.
Covino: Yeah, in a young man’s game when you already talked about retirement, and you come in looking like that, it doesn’t help the case. So yeah, we’re coming from a fan perspective. There’s no filter. There’s ballbusting and we’re going to bring all that, everything we’ve been doing for the past 17 years to FOX Sports Radio every weekend. Just anything that we can do to make it relatable and fun, that’s what our goal is to do.
790 The Ticket Was Something Special And Stugotz Knows It
“I had programmers calling me saying this is the best local lineup that they’ve ever seen, that they’ve ever heard.”
When I was making the transition from the rock world to talk radio, there was one show I looked at as a guide. I got laid off from 96 Rock in Raleigh, NC in the summer of 2011. That was the beginning of my flirtations with streaming and podcasts, which is how I stumbled onto The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on 790 The Ticket out of Miami.
Coming from a format that I felt out of place in at times, I instantly latched onto a show that reveled in pointing out how out of place it was in its own format. It became a daily listen for me, which opened me up to hearing other voices on the station like Jonathan Zaslow, Joy Taylor, Brian London, Brendan Tobin, Brett Romberg and others.
There were unique thinkers and passionate sports fans in every day part on 790 The Ticket. What set the station apart though is that I never heard anyone that sounded uncomfortable when the conversation turned to something that wasn’t a Dolphins’ loss or LeBron’s stat line. They talked sports the way normal human beings talk about sports. It was part of their lives, not the only thing they paid attention to.
Look at the outpouring of love for the station on Thursday. Hosts, producers and programmers from across the country took to social media to eulogize the station when the news broke that it would cease to exist the following week.
I can’t say for sure that all of those people felt the same way I did about the station and I cannot say whether or not it was for the same reasons. What I can say is 790 The Ticket had an influence that stretched far beyond South Florida.
Jon Weiner, better known as “Stugotz” to fans of the The Dan Le Batard Show, helped start the station in 2004. He told me that it didn’t take long for him to learn just how much The Ticket’s approach was making an impression on everyone in sports radio.
“I had programmers calling me saying this is the best local lineup that they’ve ever seen or heard,” he said in a phone call on Sunday. “I had people from out of market who had secure jobs at places that weren’t startups sending resumes and tapes because they wanted to be part of it. So yeah, we were aware and it is what we were going for. We got there pretty quickly and we were aware of the impact, not just in South Florida, but throughout the country.”
Last week, Brian “The Beast” London said his internal alarm bells first went off when he heard the Miami Heat were giving up their relationship with 790 the Ticket. The station and the team had been partners since 2008. He said in a YouTube video that it was hard to imagine the team’s games being heard anywhere else.
I asked Stugotz if he had the same feeling when he heard that news. He said in hindsight, he realized it was the beginning of the end, but he didn’t really get a sense something was up until Jonathan Zaslow was let go.
“[Zaslow] had been there since basically day one with us. And so I just kind of figured, yeah, between the Heat and then that I felt, okay, you don’t make a move like that unless there’s going to be some sort of seismic change. Otherwise, there’d be no reason to let him go. That was the moment I was like ‘okay, 790 is likely going away.'”
His feelings are no secret. He took to social media immediately on Thursday and said that the news that 790 The Ticket would soon be going away filled him with both sadness and pride. What Stugotz told me in our phone call was that he realizes that the station lasted about 15 years longer than it should have.
When the station was sold to Lincoln Financial Media, he was not expecting that company to want to keep a sports station. Senior Vice President Dennis Collins surprised him.
“The company saw so much potential in what we had built, both from a lineup and a sales perspective that they kept it going and that’s why it lasted all the way to 2022. We got it up and going and were responsible for the first three or four years, but Dennis saw the growth potential with the lineup we put together. That made me feel great because I had a pit in my stomach like ‘Oh, man, this thing we started is going to go away. It’s going to be three, four years and gone.’ And he said, ‘No, we love it. We want to keep it going’. So that was a huge compliment to everyone.”
Stugotz described the original owner of 790 The Ticket as a “young, good looking real estate mogul driving around in Lamborghinis.” That certainly helped the image of the station when it launched, but it is also a phenomenon that was very of the moment. It’s not 2004 anymore. Lamborghini-owning real estate moguls aren’t chomping at the bit to pour money into radio stations.
The conditions may be similar to what Stugotz and his partners saw in 2004. You could look at the radio landscape in Miami and see a way that a new challenger could fit in the sports radio scene. But what are the chances it actually happens?
“It’s a great question,” Stugotz said. “So just to go back to that time, two sports radio stations were popping up in every market. I’m not certain if that’s still the case anymore just because of podcasting and the way the way younger people are consuming media through Tik Tok, Snapchat, and other things that aren’t AM radio.”
He is quick to commend Audacy, the current owners of the 790 AM frequency. Dan Le Batard and Jorge Sedano were part of his early lineups at 790 The Ticket because Stugotz recognized the Cuban-American community in Miami was not being served in the sports space in 2004, just like it isn’t being properly served in the news/talk space right now. That’s why there’s room for the conservative-leaning brand Radio Libre in Miami and other markets are likely paying attention.
“It seems like a good plan, and I know it’s something that the Spanish population should have and deserves to have and probably was not being catered to correctly. So, yeah, I could see there’s a warning sign to some other sports radio stations or news stations in other markets where the Hispanic population is great. Absolutely!”
It is a shame that 790 The Ticket is no more and it is concerning that a station with its legacy and influence can simply disappear. But if we are being real, it isn’t the first station of its kind to suffer that fate and it won’t be the last.
As the media business changes and leaves sports stations vulnerable to something cheaper and with broader appeal, 790 The Ticket and stations like it should be touted as examples of how to rise above the noise and make an impact. Stugotz and his partners looked around in 2004 and said “we can be different and we can do this better” and that’s exactly what they did.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.
Chris Simms And His Self-Professed ‘Big Mouth’ Enjoying Life At NBC
“One of the things that I worried about was that I came from Bleacher Report and is NBC going to try to curtail my personality a little bit…sometimes I like to swear on my podcast and do stuff like that and they’ve really allowed me to be me which I really appreciate.”
To be a good football analyst, one certainly has to know and love the sport but you also can’t be afraid to use the most important tool that you have to do the job. Chris Simms has all of those attributes and NBC lets him use them to the best of his abilities.
“I love football and I love X’s and O’s and I got a big mouth so it’s a great combination,” said Simms. “Between my podcast, Pro Football Talk with Mike Florio, and Sunday Night Football, I get plenty of time to talk and get my studies out there.”
There’s no doubt that Chris inherited that self-professed big mouth from his father, former NFL quarterback and longtime NFL on CBS analyst, Phil Simms.
So, the question had to be asked…does Chris have a bigger mouth than his father?
“Yeah, I probably do,” admitted the younger Simms. “That’s a big mouth to overcome, but I think I probably got him beat in that department.”
Chris Simms set out to follow in his father’s footsteps on the field and played quarterback for Ramapo High School in New Jersey where he earned a pair of All-State honors. After graduating high school in 1999, Simms moved on to play quarterback at the University of Texas where he posted a 26-6 career record as a starter and was the team MVP during his senior season in 2002.
Simms was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the third round of the 2002 NFL Draft and he would guide the Bucs to a playoff berth in 2005. He would also go on to play for the Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos completing a seven-year NFL playing career. He spent one season as an assistant coach with the New England Patriots before taking his talents to the world of broadcasting.
He started with FOX Sports as a college football announcer in 2013 and then joined Bleacher Report in 2014 while also serving as a color commentator for the NFL on CBS.
And then in 2017, Simms joined NBC Sports where he has certainly found a home.
“I couldn’t be happier,” said Simms. “It’s a great company to work for. Just good people all around. They’ve given me the platform to be me. One of the things that I worried about was that I came from Bleacher Report and is NBC going to try to curtail my personality a little bit…sometimes I like to swear on my podcast and do stuff like that and they’ve really allowed me to be me which I really appreciate.”
Simms wears many different suits at NBC Sports, most notably his role as a studio analyst on Football Night in America leading into Sunday Night Football. He’s also a part of the SNF post-game show Sunday Night Football Final on Peacock, Pro Football Talk with Mike Florio, and Chris Simms Unbuttoned, a streaming/digital show that is also a podcast multiple days a week.
But the most eyeballs are on him during Football Night in America, the most watched studio show in sports.
“I grew up wanting to play in these games more than be the guy in the studio but this is like the second-best thing,” said Simms. “I was kind of that kid at 4 or 5 (years old) who could tell you every player in the NFL, their number and all that type of stuff. It’s the NFL on the biggest stage. It’s such a well-done show. I get to be there with Maria Taylor along with Tony Dungy, and Jason Garrett, and Mike Florio, and Matthew Berry. We got a great team and it makes Sunday fun.”
From the “it takes one to know one” category, Simms has also made a name for himself with his ranking of NFL quarterbacks. He’s very diligent when it comes to watching the live action and also in his film study and his top-40 rankings have become a hot topic within the business and around the office coolers.
Simms is well aware that his rankings have become a lightning rod of discussion.
“It all kind of started organically just because I would make statements,” said Simms. “People were like ‘Why don’t you start making a list?’ It’s a really hard thing to do. It offends a lot of people and I hate that. I root for all of these guys and I say on my podcast all the time I hope this guy proves me wrong. I hope he shits on me and shows me that I was wrong. It’s certainly not personal. One of the things I pride myself on is studying and immersing myself in the game all of the time.”
Simms became a full-time employee of NBC Sports in 2019, but his first role with the network came in 2017 when he became a studio analyst for Notre Dame Football.
Here’s a kid that grew up in North Jersey where there’s a ton of Notre Dame alumni and he’s standing on the sidelines at South Bend as part of Fighting Irish telecasts.
“Another special entity,” said Simms. “I used to get chills being out on the field every Saturday there. It gave me great experience in a different way with the halftime show and the pre-game show. One of the years I was kind of the third man in the booth but I was on the sideline. It gave me some reps on in-game stuff as well. I think most importantly what that did for me more than anything is that it opened up more eyes at NBC about me.”
And now Simms’ work has him in the discussion for a new potential opportunity down the road.
NBC, alongside FOX and CBS, has secured a seven-year media rights deal with the Big Ten Conference that will commence next season. NBC will air Big Ten Saturday Night, the first time that Big Ten Football will have a dedicated primetime broadcast on a national broadcast network. Peacock will stream an additional eight Big Ten games each season and NBC/Peacock will air the 2026 Big Ten Championship Game.
There have been rumblings that Simms could be involved in the coverage. Is he interested?
“I’m intrigued by it,” admitted Simms. “I’m very all NFL right now but broadcasting game is fun. It’s definitely something on my radar for sure. I do have some producers here in the building that are like ‘I’m going to tell the boss I want you to do some of the Big 10 games this year and what do you think about announcing?’ I’ve already had some people in my ear talking about it. It’s awesome for the company regardless. It just expands our football world. As far as me being involved, we’ll see.”
In a relatively short amount of time, Chris Simms has built up quite the broadcasting portfolio. From FOX to Bleacher Report and CBS to his current expanded role with NBC, Simms has established himself as one of the premier NFL analysts in the business and his podcast has given him the freedom to do something that he loves to do. Including putting his money where his mouth is.
Peter Schwartz has been involved in New York sports media for over three decades. Along the way he has worked for notable brands such as WFAN, CBS Sports Radio, WCBS 880, ESPN New York, and FOX News Radio. He has also worked as a play by play announcer for the New Yok Riptide, New York Dragons, New York Hitmen, Varsity Media and the Long Island Sports Network. You can find him on Twitter @SchwartzSports or email him at DragonsRadio@aol.com.
The Pat McAfee Alternate Broadcast Presents Unique Challenges
Alternate broadcasts are all the rage these days, and ESPN, in conjunction with Omaha Productions, debuted a new one this weekend as The Pat McAfee Show aired an alternate broadcast of the Clemson and North Carolina State game Saturday evening.
A few weeks ago, I wrote that Manningcast copy-cats were destined for failure. And while I don’t believe McAfee’s debut was a failure by any stretch of the imagination, I couldn’t help but notice it brings its own set of challenges.
First and foremost, College Football Primetime with The Pat McAfee Show — the world’s most convoluted way to say “The McAfeecast” — doesn’t really resemble the Manningcast. And rightfully so. I’m not sure there are two more polar opposite sports media brands than the Mannings and McAfee. The Mannings are funny, but not too funny and never “blue”, while often concerned about how finely quaffed their hair looks and whether the button-down shirt color matches with the Nordstrom quarter-zip they’ve donned. Meanwhile, McAfee wears his black tank-top, like usual, and put his best Pittsburgh-ese foot forward.
Even though the Mannings and McAfee are opposites doesn’t mean they can’t work together, however. The alternate broadcast was a win for Manning, a win for McAfee, a win for ESPN, and a win for viewers.
People love Pat McAfee. Plain and simple. For a multitude of reasons that we can get into in a later story, but let’s focus on that for a moment. It was a big portion of my column a few weeks ago. The Manningcast works because people like Peyton and Eli. The KayRodcast doesn’t work because people hate Michael Kay and Alex Rodriguez. It’s honestly, truly, that simple.
I think it benefitted the McAfeecast to debut with a smaller game, which seems counterintuitive because it was a matchup of top ten teams in primetime. But let’s be realistic, a number five versus number ten ACC game doesn’t hold the same weight as a number five versus number ten Big Ten or SEC game. And it helped McAfee and crew, because there are obvious kinks to work out.
Firstly, there are entirely too many people on the screen. I’m going to have nice words to say about BostonConnr than the eight-and-a-half-year-old that went viral earlier this summer, but god love ya, your time to shine likely isn’t on primetime on ESPN. In my opinion, for the McAfeecast to really work in the future, a similar setup to the Manningcast with McAfee and A.J. Hawk being the prominent figures on screen is the best solution to the problem. I know McAfee believes in his boys. It’s one of his more endearing qualities, and is frankly part of the reason his show is so successful. But you’re reaching a different audience on ESPN2 on Saturday nights, and the reason the either tuned in or will stay is because of McAfee’s presence.
I didn’t get a great feel for McAfee’s thoughts or reactions on the game simply because you didn’t get a closeup of his face. The best moments of the Manningcast, outside of Eli flipping the double birds or Peyton saying “I can’t hear shit”, have been when the pair have been absolutely disgusted by a decision made by a coach or player and their face shows it without any words following up their reactions. And McAfee definitely holds that ability, and I wish I would have gotten a better sense of his facial reactions on-screen.
Also, and I know this is something McAfee can’t actually control, he had to be a bit more reserved on cable television. Part of the allure of The Pat McAfee Show is the — let’s call it extreme candor — with which he speaks. I believe that’s the scholarly way to write “he says f*** frequently”. And believe me, I subscribe to the theory that the FCC should allow hosts the ability to say obscenities 15 times per week, so I’m down for McAfee’s swearing. But you’re just simply never going to get that on ESPN2. You’re likely never going to get that if the broadcast aired on ESPN+, either. For a “family friendly” company Disney, those cards are just flat out never going to be on the table for McAfee.
One of the things McAfee is known for is his boundless energy, which felt lacking at times on Saturday, but it’s understandable. The man was on College GameDay earlier in the day, flew back to the studio to do the alternate broadcast after travelling the day before to get to Clemson to be on GameDay. I’m sure that takes a toll. On top of that, you’re doing something new for the first time, while trying to, essentially, heard cats on the screen, and you can be a little wiped out by the end of the night.
However, the goodwill McAfee has bought with fans over his extreme generosity was on display as the alternate broadcast donated more than $100,000 to Dabo Swinney’s charity, The Jimmy V Foundation, and the American Red Cross. It was a brilliant move for a debut broadcast, because it acts as a slight shield for criticism. How can you complain about something that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity?
The alternate broadcast, for the most part, avoided the biggest problem I have with the Manningcast. The interviews. I’ve never been watching Monday Night Football, or the Manningcast for that matter, and thought “Man, I wish they were talking to Tracy Morgan right now!” McAfee brought on Peyton Manning, for obvious reasons, and former NC State quarterback Phillip Rivers. That’s it. They didn’t rely on guests to carry them through down periods. The eight folks on screen did most of the heavy lifting, and for that, I thank them.
The McAfeecast was certainly different than any other alternate broadcast I’ve consumed. The crew shooting hoops for extra donations to charity during stoppages of play definitely kept things light and interesting. I couldn’t help but be invested in whether or not someone would bury three out of five threes during an injury timeout for more money for charity.
Speaking of injury timeouts, McAfee planned a giveaway and told fans to use a certain hashtag and when to screenshot or take a picture of their TV. Immediately following him saying “now!”, an injured player appeared on the screen, and he instantly shouted “No! Not now! No! We don’t want that, and we hope he’s ok”. It was a light-hearted, nearly hilarious moment that brought levity to the situation.
The highlight of the cast, however, was — in true McAfee style — picking up on things other broadcasters wouldn’t, like an angry fan. The entire crew shouting at the same time in this specific moment was spectacular television.
Overall, I thought the McAfeecast got off on the right foot. There is undeniably a market for an alternate broadcast based around the former NFL punter’s personality, and I look forward to seeing where the show goes from here.
Garrett Searight is the Editor of Barrett Sports Media and Barrett News Media. He previously was the Program Director and Afternoon Co-Host on 93.1 The Fan in Lima, OH. He is also a play-by-play announcer for TV and Radio broadcasts in Western Ohio.