Think of the people you admire the most in sports media and you’ll notice something similar between almost all of them. Colin Cowherd is known for his radio show on Fox Sports Radio, but he also has his own podcast network. Michael Kay has a drive-time afternoon show in New York City, but he’s also the television play-by-play voice of the Yankees. Dan LeBatard went from a great columnist to a great radio host. You get the idea, several well-known talents have more than one sports media gig.
That realization hit Carrington Harrison around five years ago. It was at that time, he felt the urge to create something outside of his radio show at 610 Sports in Kansas City.
“Nobody who you would deem to be at the height of this profession only does a radio show,” He said. “They either write or have a podcast, they do something else. I think most people in our profession look at Bill Simmons as being the standard, especially in multi-platform kind of stuff. He basically had the idea of 30 For 30. I love movies and I love documentaries. It just felt like something I should try.”
So he did.
During the height of Covid-19 he made the decision to create a documentary about the history of high school basketball in Kansas City. The 93-minute film From Paseo to Pembroke is an authentic retrospective on the golden age of high school basketball in the city. The film covers the years from 1988 to 1998.
“I didn’t think that anybody had compiled the history of high school basketball in Kansas City,” Harrison said. “I did a lot of reading and talking to different people and nobody had tried to do it. When Covid happened I noticed that so many people were trying to learn how to do something new, whether it was video editing or Twitch, whatever it is. I felt like people were trying to make the most of their time. I had a lot of free time because I wasn’t watching sports, all I was doing was watching a lot of movies at home. It just kind of came together.”
The documentary has been showing in select theaters throughout Kansas City and the local reviews have been fantastic. Shawn Edwards of Fox4 News gave it four out of five popcorn bags and said it’s “basically the KC version of ESPN’s The Last Dance.”
The inspiration for the idea to make a documentary came from multiple places, including The Morning Show, a streaming television series on Apple TV. In the show, Steve Carell plays a character named Mitch Kessler, who was fired amidst a sexual misconduct scandal that spanned 15 years during his time as a morning anchor at one of the biggest TV networks in the country. During the first season, Kessler mentions how nothing they do truly matters. Nobody goes back and watches old shows, it’s all about the present. It was something that really stuck with Carrington Harrison when he watched that particular episode.
“I really thought about that with my career. Nobody goes back to listen to old interviews or old tapes, sports news is always moving forward. I tried to think of something that would last and I felt like this was something that could stick. You know, something that people could show their kids. That was a big motivating factor for me. I felt it was our story and I felt like I was the right person to do it.
“I knew enough people in the story, I either knew them personally or I knew the person that knew the person. That made it easy and kind of like anything else, once you tell people what you’re doing, they’re much more inclined to want to help you. Especially something of this magnitude.”
Carrington Harrison was kind enough to share the documentary with me before I wrote this story. I’ve been to Kansas City a handful of times in my life, and have a pretty good understanding of the city, but to say I have any ties to the area would be inaccurate. But that didn’t negatively impact my feelings on the documentary. In fact, I was surprised when I found myself rooting for schools such as Raytown South to win the state title in 1990, even though I had never even heard of the high school.
It’s incredibly well done and I would urge any basketball fan to watch the documentary. That’s coming from someone who has no bias to the area.
In all, 53 people were interviewed for the documentary. That’s where Harrison spent the majority of his time with the documentary. He was also very hands-on in the editing process. What really helped speed up the process was the help of Spectrum Sports. Most of the film is shown through archived footage, so the process of sorting through 10 years of video would have taken an eternity. Luckily, Harrison had help.
“The people at Spectrum Sports were actually really, really helpful,” Harrison said. “There’s a guy named Shawn Beldin, he’s kind of the keeper of all the footage. One day I went up there and they had a sheet of all the games. It was, oh, this game is interesting and this game is interesting, they were super helpful with that. It made it to where the heavy lifting was done already.”
Carrington Harrison is already one of the most popular sports radio hosts in Kansas City, but this will undoubtedly add to the likeability factor he’s already built up with the locals. There’s no denying the effort he’s put in to give back to Kansas City and this venture could turn out to be his most memorable one. Harrison isn’t leaving the radio dial anytime soon, but creating a documentary that’s been this successful may be the start of a new passion.
“I really enjoyed doing it,” Harrison said. “It was a different kind of challenge, where, in my day job, most of the things happen really fast. For example, the Chiefs play the Titans next week. You start on Monday and try to get a big Tennessee Titans guest and you know by Friday whether or not you’re going to get the guest.
“It’s kind of a quick turnaround and you have to replicate that 17 weeks. That’s not really how this works. It was really challenging and it took a lot of patience, which is a personal weakness of mine. It was one of those things where once I decided I wanted to do it, I talked to a lot of people who have done a documentary. They tell you what the experience is going to be like, but you don’t know until it’s done. It’s just exciting. It’s exciting to think you had a part in creating something like this. That part is really rewarding.”
If you’re interested in seeing the documentary, it sounds like you’re probably going to have multiple chances in the next few weeks. Again, coming from someone who has no ties or bias to the area, I would highly recommend this film. It’s informative. It’s entertaining. And it’ll make you feel something for schools and former players you have never heard of before.
“We’re trying to figure out the next step, but if I had to guess, I think it will be available on DVD, probably here in the next 10 days,” Harrison said. “I think it’ll also go on Amazon Prime in the next 21 days.”
Tyler McComas is a columnist for BSM and a sports radio talk show host in Norman, OK where he hosts afternoon drive for SportsTalk 1400. You can find him on Twitter @Tyler_McComas or you can email him at TylerMcComas08@yahoo.com.
Your Football Conversation Has To Be Different
I don’t know why any host would go with B- or C-material just for the sake of providing variety. That’s silly to me.
Rejoice! Ball is back, baby. Life is just better when football season is included; am I right? (That was a rhetorical question because I know I’m right in this case.) Like many people in this country, I’m all about the pigskin. Outside of my family and friends, there aren’t many things in life that I love more than BALL.
With all of that being established, a simple question still exists: is there such a thing as talking too much football on a sports radio show?
I think it isn’t as much what you’re talking about; it’s how you’re talking about it. For instance, it isn’t good enough to lazily say, “Ehh, we’ll start off by talking about the game last night.” Well, how are you going to talk about it? Do you have anything original, interesting or entertaining to say? Or are you just gonna start riffing like you’re in a jam band hoping to accidentally stumble onto something cool after six minutes of nothing?
Talking about football is like opening a new burger joint. Hang with me on this one. There are so many options — Burger King, McDonald’s, Five Guys, Wendy’s, In-N-Out, etc. — that you can’t expect to have great success if you open a run-of-the-mill burger joint of your own. Having an inferior product is going to produce an inferior result.
It comes down to whether a topic or angle will cause the show to stand out or blend in. Going knee-deep on a national show about the competition at left guard between two Buffalo Bills offensive lineman doesn’t stand out. You’ll get lost in the shuffle that way.
A show needs to constantly be entertaining and engaging. One way to check that box is with unique viewpoints. Don’t say what other shows are saying. Your burger joint (aka football conversation) needs to be different than the competition. Otherwise, why are you special?
Another way to stand out is with personality. It’s impossible to have unique angles with every single topic that’s presented. A lot of hosts recently pointed out that the Dallas Cowboys committed 17 penalties in their first preseason game against the Denver Broncos. But Stephen A. Smith said it differently than everybody else. That’s what it comes down to; either say things that other shows aren’t saying, or say them differently.
New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh made a comment recently that too much of anything is a bad thing. So back to the original question, is there such a thing as too much football talk on a sports radio show?
Variety is the spice of life, but quality is the spice of sports radio. If a show provides quality, listeners will keep coming back. It’s really that simple. Sure, hosts will hear “talk more this, talk more that” from time to time, but you know what’s funny about that? It means the listeners haven’t left. The show is providing enough quality for them to stick around. If the quality goes away, so will the audience.
It’s smart for hosts and programmers to think, “What’s our strongest stuff?” If that happens to be a bunch of football topics, great, roll with it. I don’t know why any host would go with B- or C-material just for the sake of providing variety. That’s silly to me.
Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick said something interesting last week while visiting Atlanta’s training camp. Vick was asked which team’s offense he’d like to run if he was still playing today. “The offense Tom Brady is running in Tampa,” Vick said. “Pass first.”
The answer stood out to me because throwing the ball isn’t what made Vick special with the Falcons. He was a decent passer and a dynamic runner. The run/pass blend made Vick a problem. I totally understand wanting to prove doubters wrong, but there are a lot of athletes that get away from what they do best while relying on something else that isn’t their specialty.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook is not an outside shooter. He’s brutal in that area. Yet Russ will keep firing threes at a 30% clip. Why? Attacking the rim and working the midrange is his game. You don’t see Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul bombing threes if they aren’t going in. He kills opponents with his midrange skills all day.
It’ll be interesting to see how Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa approaches this season. He’s received a steady diet of “can’t throw the deep ball.” Will he try to a fault to prove doubters wrong, or will he rely on what he does best? Beating defenders with timing and accuracy on shorter throws is where he finds the most success.
Working to improve your weaknesses makes sense, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of going away from your strengths. How is it any different in sports radio? If a host isn’t strong when it comes to talking basketball or baseball, it definitely makes sense to improve in those areas. But if that same host stands out by talking football, at some point it becomes like Westbrook jacking up threes if the host gets too far away from a bread-and-butter strength.
Former New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is the only player in the Baseball Hall of Fame that was unanimously elected. He relied on his cutter — a fastball that moved, a lot — about 85% of the time. Mo didn’t say, “Man, my four-seam fastball and changeup aren’t getting enough respect.” He rode that cutter all the way to Cooperstown and legendary status.
Rivera is a great example of how playing to your strengths is the best approach. He also shows that quality trumps variety every time. Let’s put it this way: if 85% of a sports radio show is football content, and the quality of that show is anywhere near Mo caliber, it’s destined to be a hit.
One of my buddies, Mike Zanchelli, has always been a hit with the ladies. I think he came out of the womb with at least 10 girls in the nursery showing interest in him. He had a simple dating philosophy: “Always. Leave them. Wanting. More.” That might work in dating, but I think it’s the opposite in sports radio. Most listeners don’t hear the entire show. If they’re in and out, wouldn’t you want them to hear your best stuff when they are tuned in?
That’s why I say screw variety. That’s why I wouldn’t worry about overserving your audience an all-you-can-eat BALL buffet. I think it’s much wiser to focus on producing a quality product regardless if it’s well rounded or not.
Brian Noe is a columnist for BSM and an on-air host heard nationwide each weekend on FOX Sports Radio. Previous roles include stops in Portland, OR, Albany, NY and Fresno, CA. You can follow him on Twitter @TheNoeShow or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ESPN Has Gone From Playing Checkers to Chess In Two Years
Those decisions make the future ones with the Pac-12, the Big 12, NBA and UFC fascinating to watch but what’s clear is that this ESPN strategy is different.
In the days after the Big Ten news leaked regarding some of the details of their upcoming media deals, I was hankering for more information. I wanted more insight as to the “why”. Why did the Big Ten leave such a long-lasting and prosperous relationship with ESPN. I just couldn’t imagine it and it’s why I wrote about it last week.
It was in that pursuit of knowledge that I tuned into a podcast favorite of mine, The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast. The show’s hosts are deep into the weeds of sports media with John Ourand at the Sports Business Journal and Andrew Marchand at the New York Post. It was Ourand who was dropping dimes of news on the Big Ten deal last week. I wanted to hear him dive deeper, and he did on the podcast. But it was a throwaway line that got my wheels churning.
“This is about the third or fourth deal in a row that ESPN, the free-spending ESPN, to me has shown some financial discipline” Ourand said. “They are showing a bit of financial discipline that I hadn’t seen certainly when John Skipper was there and pre-dating John Skipper.”
I had to keep digging and folks, it’s true. ESPN is essentially Jimmy Pitaro in the above quote, the Chairman of ESPN. Since taking the role in 2018, he was put into an interesting position of being in the middle of a lot of big money media rights deals that would be coming due for renegotiation soon. The rights fees for EVERYTHING were going to balloon wildly. But in the last two years, he has comfortably kept the astronomical rates somewhat within shouting distance.
The big one, the NFL media rights deal agreed to last March, saw ESPN pay a very strong 30% increase for the rights. However, other networks involved had to pay “double” as Ourand so succinctly put it. He also personally negotiated with FOX to bring in Troy Aikman and Joe Buck to make their Monday Night Football booth easily more recognizable and the best in the sport. ESPN in that deal, that did NOT include doubled rates, got more games, better games, and more schedule flexibility. ABC gets two Super Bowls in the deal too. Simply put, Jimmy Pitaro set up ESPN to get a Super Bowl itself, but for now his network will take full advantage of the ABC network broadcast when the time comes (2026, 2030).
The recent Big Ten deal was massive because the conference spent forty years with ESPN and decided to reward that loyalty with a massively overpriced mid-tier package. ESPN balked at the idea. In their back pocket lies a lot of college football media rights deals with a lot of conferences including one that will be a massively profitable venture, the SEC package. ESPN takes over the CBS package of the “top” conference game. Yes, it paid $3 billion for it, but it’s a scant $300 million annually. Sure, that’s over 5X what CBS was paying annually but CBS signed that deal in 1996! I need not tell you all of the advancements in our world since Bob Dole was a presidential nominee. ESPN now gets to cherry-pick the best game from the best conference and put the game anywhere they damn well please to maximize exposure.
The F1 media rights extension is massive because of two things: one, they got it cheap before the sport littered your timeline on weekend mornings and two, when they re-signed with F1 this summer they paid way less than other streaming networks were reportedly willing to pay. The brand, the savvy worked again. ESPN takes a small risk for a potentially exploding sport and much like CBS did with the SEC for 25 years, can make massive margins.
I can keep going, and I will with one more. Sports betting. The niche is growing like my lawn minutes after the summer rainstorm. Pitaro has said publicly that sports betting “has become a must-have” and he’s full-frontal correct. ESPN is in an odd spot with their clear lineage to Disney, but it’s obvious something massive is going to come soon with ESPN reportedly looking for a deal in the $3 billion neighborhood.
Pitaro has been positioning this company from a position of strength. He pays big money for big properties, but knows when he’s getting taken advantage of and most importantly, isn’t afraid to pull his brand’s name out of the deep end.
ESPN may have an issue with dwindling subscribers, but that’s an everyone problem. The difference is ESPN is constantly trying to get you from one network ship you think is sinking into another network life raft. If you want to leave cable or satellite and go streaming, you can. ESPN+ is there to pick up the pieces. Or Sling (with an ESPN bundle). Or YouTube TV (ESPN is there too). Or a myriad of other ways. They are positioned so well right now to be where you think you want to go. Jimmy Pitaro and ESPN have been amazing at doing whatever they can to keep you paying them monthly.
The network has been aggressive with media rights deals but these newer ones have been diligently maneuvered by Pitaro. It was a choice to essentially back the SEC for the next decade, and to put more money into the potential of F1. The effort was a conscious one to keep a tight-lipped mission to bolster Monday Night Football’s booth. It was an understated strategy to reinvest in the NHL. Those decisions make the future ones with the Pac-12, the Big 12, NBA and UFC fascinating to watch but what’s clear is that this ESPN strategy is different. The old adage of “pigs get fed, hogs get slaughtered” may have applied to the network under different leadership, but these aren’t eating pigs. These are boars.
Arky Shea serves as BSM’s evening editor, a daily news writer, and a weekly media columnist. He has previously worked for Outkick, 97.7 The Zone, 740 Sports Radio, and 730 The Ump where he held roles as the station’s program director, afternoon host, and producer. To connect, find Arky on Twitter @ArkyShea.
The Producers Podcast – Big Baby Dave, Jomboy Media
Big Baby Dave has his hands in everything for Jomboy Media. He joins Brady Farkas to talk about how he brings a unique sound to each show he works with.
Brady Farkas is a sports radio professional with 5+ years of experience as a Program Director, On-Air Personality, Assistant Program Director and Producer in Burlington, VT and Albany, NY. He’s well versed in content creation, developing ideas to generate ratings and revenue, working in a team environment, and improving and growing digital content thru the use of social media, audio/video, and station websites. His primary goal is to host a daily sports talk program for a company/station that is dedicated to serving sports fans. You can find him on Twitter @WDEVRadioBrady and reach him by email at email@example.com.