As his 25-year run of hosting overnight, mid-day and afternoon drive shows on WFAN Radio in New York was winding down, Joe Benigno knew that what his future would include. It would include spending more time with his family, playing a lot of golf, watching his beloved sports teams and maybe, under the right circumstances, dipping his feet back into the sports radio waters from time to time.
But did he ever think about hosting a podcast?
“I never really did,” said Benigno who hosted his final show with sidekick Evan Roberts on November 6th, 2020.
But as Benigno settled into retirement, his daughter Erin put it in his brain that maybe he should do a podcast so that he could continue to share his thoughts and feelings about sports.
“My daughter told me that this was something I should do,” said Benigno. “Once football started, I said you know what maybe I should be doing this so at least I have my weekly say on the Jets.”
And that’s how the Oh The Pain podcast was born with the first episode dropping on Sunday September 12th, 2021, after the Jets’ season opening 19-14 loss in Carolina.
Like he always said on WFAN and the tradition carries on with his podcast…
“Oh the pain!!!”.
“I like doing it,” said Benigno. “It’s basically just giving me something to do and maybe make a little extra money and that’s pretty much what it’s all about. I like the fact that I’m not working for somebody. I like the fact that I don’t have to deal with any of the corporate garbage. You’re basically your own boss and you can say whatever you want.”
The podcast, which he does from home, drops every Monday and is available from Apple, Spotify and Amazon. So far, Benigno’s new venture has been a huge success recently surpassing 262,000 downloads. The Monday podcast is audio only and is all Joe with his thoughts and takes, but from time to time he’ll do a second podcast later in the week with an interview and that show is done with video via Zoom.
With the help of his wife Terry who handles a lot of the technical aspects of the podcast, Joe has spoken to a number of former Jets including Wesley Walker, Erik McMillan, Tony Richardson and Bruce Harper.
“I like the interviews,” said Benigno. “I’ve been able to do a lot of different people.”
Once in a while, Benigno takes the show on the road hosting “Oh The Pain” from local establishments like Hackensack Brewing Company and SideBar in Hackensack, New Jersey. There have been four remote podcasts so far with the episodes dropping either that night right after the show or the following morning. Benigno has hosted three of the podcasts with former WFAN host John Jastremski and one with current WFAN host Kim Jones.
For Benigno, it’s another way of staying connected with his fans.
“It’s been fun to do that,” said Benigno of the live shows. “It’s a great venue to do it. The turnout was good. People seem to be into and it’s a lot of fun.”
Life is good for Benigno these days.
He’s enjoying retirement and the podcast keeps him involved with sports. Schlepping from his New Jersey home into Lower Manhattan to go to work at WFAN every day became a bit tedious and tiresome for Benigno.
WFAN was a big part of his life for a long time, but now he certainly enjoys “working” from home or close to home.
“I don’t miss doing the (WFAN) show,” said Benigno. “I don’t miss working. I certainly don’t miss going into the city anymore and the commute after 25 years of that crap.”
Since his retirement, Benigno has popped up on WFAN a few times including some guest spots on Roberts’ Saturday solo show as well as on Tiki and Tierney. He’s also filled in a couple of days last summer for Craig Carton during afternoon drive creating a brief reunion of Joe and Evan. But aside from those few walks down memory lane, Benigno has kept his distance from WFAN.
Kind of like when he worked there.
“Do I listen to the station?” said Benigno. “I do not. Even when I was working there, I never listened. The only time I ever listened to the station was when they had the Mets. Occasionally, I’ll listen to a Yankees game, but I really don’t listen to it at all.”
But for 25 years, New York area sports fans tuned in every day (originally overnights) to hear what Benigno had to say about a game or a big story from local sports. An awful Jets loss made his solo monologues overnight and even his reaction when he moved to middays and afternoon drive must-listen radio.
So that begs the question…
Have there been days when something has happened and he wishes he had a radio show to do?
“Probably not,” admitted Benigno. “Maybe if the Jets ever got to a Super Bowl. I think that if that happened, there’s enough going on with me and I know enough people that I’m sure I would get my say.”
He may not be doing a weekday sports talk show anymore, but Benigno still has his thoughts and takes on his favorite teams.
Let’s start with the Mets who are in first place in the National League East…
“You gotta be thrilled,” said Benigno. “The fundamentals, running the bases, driving in runs with two out. Of all the moves they made, the number one move was hiring Buck Showalter as the manager.”
What about the Jets?
“I love what they did in the draft,” said Benigno. “All of the off-season moves have been terrific.”
Joe is thrilled about the Rangers getting to the Stanley Cup Playoffs…
“I like (Head Coach Gerard) Gallant,” said Benigno. “He’s a tough guy. (Goalie Igor Shesterkin may be the best goalie in the league. They got a lot of firepower.”
And finally…the Knicks…
“The Knicks are a disaster,” said Benigno. “How is it possible that Jim Dolan owns the Rangers and the Knicks and you got the Rangers who are run like a top-flight organization and you got the Knicks who are run like dog poop?”
While he’s enjoying retirement and not actually “working”, Benigno has not closed the door on a potential return to radio.
But if that should happen, it would have to be on his terms.
“I wouldn’t rule it completely out ever working again,” said Benigno. “I don’t see me ever working at the ‘FAN again but depending on the scenario, I guess it’s possible that I would do that again. If it was something where it was me and Evan doing something again and only if it involved Evan would I probably do something at the ‘FAN again.”
But right now, Oh The Pain is the focus for Benigno and that means connecting with his listeners in different ways like the podcast’s website (www.ohthepainpodcast.com) and social media accounts (Twitter @JoeBenigno_real and Instagram @the_real_JoeBenigno).
The industry is certainly changing and evolving.
“It seems that way,” said Benigno. “It’s not the same anymore.”
But Joe Benigno certainly hasn’t changed. He’s still the passionate sports fan who was a phone caller to WFAN as “Joe from Saddle River” who went to the Connecticut School of Broadcasting before getting hired at the ‘FAN. He had a long and amazing career at the first all-sports radio station in the country and now he’s having success with his very popular podcast.
One thing is for certain…if the Jets ever do get to a Super Bowl and dare, I say if they would actually win, the celebration wouldn’t be complete without a reaction from Joe Benigno!
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.