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Through Several Changes, Dan Bernstein Remains Chicago Radio Royalty

“I think there are artistic merits about whether or not a show is good. that is different [from] whether or not a show is making money.”

Derek Futterman




From the moment Dan Bernstein arrived at Duke University in the fall of 1987, his intent was to become a lawyer. By the spring of 1987, he recognized that his goal had changed, aligning with his nascent love for sports and media. Hardly negligent in exploring opportunities on campus, Bernstein inquired about joining Cable 13, which was the first student-run and student-owned college television station in the United States. Once he was added to the talent roster, he formed a group of friends and was eager to have opportunities to cover events on and around campus as a journalist.

With its robust basketball program, Duke University attracted the attention of more than just college media outlets though, as there were, and remain, plenty of local and national writers and broadcasters on-site to cover Blue Devils basketball, lead at the time by its famed head coach Mike Krzyzewski (“Coach K”). Bernstein was quickly enamored with sports media and decided to dismiss his case of becoming a lawyer to build a career in it, preferably as a play-by-play announcer.

When he was young, Bernstein grew up as a sports fan and was familiar with sports broadcasting. However, sports talk radio as a format had not yet evolved into what it is today.

As a result, he never seriously considered it as a viable career profession, instead intending to study law. Yet once Bernstein discovered play-by-play, he began investing his time into improving his craft as an announcer and served in that role for both the basketball and football team during his time at the school.

Moreover, he had his first chance to participate in studio coverage as the Duke University Sports Center host, filling in for then-host and Duke basketball player Billy King (who would go on to be an NBA assistant coach and general manager). Working alongside the show’s producer, Bernstein honed his skills by contributing to the broadcast wherever he could in roles varying from voicing highlights to booking interviews.

“We had so much fun and so much access – starting to get press passes for the first time and being in and around professionals doing it – that it made me think about pursuing it more and pursuing some internships in the ensuing years and building out my work in the summers,” Bernstein said. “….[I] eventually [decided] that I would give it a shot when all was said and done with college because it seemed a hell of a lot more fun than being a lawyer.”

Throughout his time as an undergraduate student majoring in English, Bernstein looked for external opportunities to enhance his involvement with the on-campus television station and eventual foray into sports media. The first of those roles was public address announcing for the Madison Muskies, the then-Class A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, giving him access to the press box and the ability to make observations about working in professional sports.

The next summer though, Bernstein shifted his focus when he accepted an internship at WBBM-TV, the CBS affiliate in Chicago: his first time working in a major market.

Working in news media rather than sports media differs in the subject matter being covered. However, many of the roles within that sector of the industry are quite analogous to those in the other. While he ultimately ended up in sports media, Bernstein always tried to stay informed on what was going on in the world and still does to this day, possessing a cognizance of its profound importance.

Having experience in both news and sports makes him a well-rounded and versatile broadcaster who, when the moment calls for it, is able to seamlessly make the transition from talking about sports to delivering and analyzing breaking news.

“There’s no such thing as sports writing; there’s no such thing as sports broadcasting,” Bernstein said. “There’s writing [and] there is broadcasting. The same skills one would use to cover a local school board meeting and ask questions to the people involved [are] the same skills one would use to have opinions or do analysis of government for the very same skills…. The idea of coverage in media and all of what we do – anybody who is good at it should be able to cover any aspect of it no matter what it is.”

Bernstein occasionally makes guest appearances on national news networks such as CNN and MSNBC to offer his opinion on topics unrelated to sports. Although he has not worked in news media since his internship with WBBM-TV, the experience it provided him was invaluable in shaping him into a multi-faceted broadcaster and commentator.

“In polarized times, the danger of segmenting the audience is always present,” expressed Bernstein, “but I still think that smart people can have discussions where larger contexts are understood if not necessarily addressed directly.”

Over his remaining years in school, Bernstein landed a sports internship at WTVD-TV, an ABC affiliate in Durham, N.C. where he had the opportunity to work behind the scenes for much of its sports coverage, such as broadcast-style writing, gathering and editing highlights and sometimes being able to conduct interviews. The station covered various college sports in the area, along with the Durham Bulls.

Prior to interning with WTVD-TV, Bernstein had taken it upon himself to find a way to get experience in a broadcast booth, whether that be as a play-by-play announcer or color commentator. Working alongside Craig Wallin, the radio voice of the then-Class A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox known as the South Bend White Sox, Bernstein was able to go behind the microphone and be on the radio call.

As an aspiring broadcaster, he looked up to former Los Angeles Dodgers play-by-play announcer Vin Scully and used him as inspiration to attempt to develop an on-air style, but doing that was more difficult than he originally surmised.

Once he was able to establish a distinctive style and continued to get more opportunities to practice calling games, Bernstein worked with multiple sports franchises over the ensuing years. His initial play-by-play career began as a baseball broadcaster for both minor league affiliates of the Kansas City Royals and Chicago Cubs.

Additionally, he served as the play-by-play voice of the Raleigh Bullfrogs of the Global Basketball Association, along with the Rockford Lightning in the Continental Basketball Association. These experiences calling different sports allowed Bernstein to get a broader view of play-by-play announcing and enhanced his ability to be a storyteller, especially within the parameters of aural mediums such as radio. Later in his career, he served as the voice of DePaul Blue Demons men’s basketball and the Chicago Rush of the Arena Football League.

“Play-by-play is the ultimate form of journalism in that you are describing what you see as you see it and then providing context,” Bernstein said. “It depends if you are working with a partner or working with a two-person booth if the job is different. There is an immediacy to an encapsulated event that is different [from] showing up and talking about anything and everything.”

In 1995, Bernstein joined WSCR (“670 The Score”) as a reporter and anchor, but he had noticed the station long before that when it first launched on the 820 AM signal. At the time, Bernstein was working in nearby Rockford, Ill. and recognized the launch of a radio station broadcasting in the sports talk format akin to WFAN in New York – both of which were owned by the Infinity Broadcasting Corporation.

Once he joined the station, he was immediately thrust into action covering the Chicago Bulls’ three consecutive league championships from 1996 to 1998, the second time the franchise achieved this feat in the decade. Today, he still writes about sports as 670 The Score’s senior columnist

“I just thought ‘Wow, how cool is this? They talk [about] Chicago sports all day, every day,’ and it was just kind of a novelty,” Bernstein said. “Falling in there to that reporters’ opportunity having a foot in the door and being able to move back to my hometown – I would like to say that there was some grand plan to want to be a sports talk host but I never really had the opportunity to want to do it until I was doing it.”

Four years after joining 670 The Score, Bernstein became a full-time on-air host and was paired with Chicago Sun-Times columnist Terry Boers on the eponymous radio program Boers and Bernstein. The show was centered around various recurring segments, some of which involved callers, and the frequent disagreements the hosts would have both internally and externally.

Additionally, the hosts did impersonations of figures in Chicago sports, including broadcasters Steve Stone and Len Kasper.

The show lasted for nearly 17 years before Boers’ departure from the station and was the longest-running sports talk radio show in the city of Chicago, achieving success in the ratings over the years across multiple dayparts. Both hosts closely followed Chicago sports teams and came to the studio each day with topics they believed would be entertaining and engaging for the listening audience to hear about.

“I think if anything we tried to balance the inherent absurdity of sports talk with, at times, the seriousness of sports talk on its merits,” Bernstein said. “It’s something that I think our partnership was forged in a way that we both felt strongly on where that line was and when it was time to be serious and when it was time to be ridiculous, understanding the very nature of the enterprise could in and of itself be ridiculous.”

Bernstein was aware of his role as a host to focus on the on-air content and what would keep people coming back to listen to the show again as regular consumers. His hosting style, as he puts it, is something he is not able to accurately delineate; instead, he simply speaks when the on-air light turns red and stops when it turns off.

Instead, it is ultimately the role of producers and programmers to closely follow the ratings to ensure the profitability of the show and the listeners to define his hosting style.

“I think there are artistic merits about whether or not a show is good. that is different [from] whether or not a show is making money,” Bernstein explained. “Ultimately our success or failure, especially at a publicly-traded company, is going to be judged by that. Whether or not I think a show was entertaining or good or funny or important or clever will often be entirely independent of any of the objective metrics that would measure it.”

Authenticity is an essential trait for radio broadcasters to have in today’s era and it is something Bernstein unequivocally demonstrates as a sports talk radio show host. Part of that comes in his preparation for shows, nearly all of which are done without writing down notes or key points beforehand, and reacting in the moment to dialogue being had or relevant and topical events.

“The only notes I’ve ever started a show with would be a general one-word or two-word phrase for a segment just so I know what to tease going into the segment,” Bernstein revealed. “Everything else just comes right out.”

Mitch Rosen has been a consistent presence, colleague and friend of Bernstein’s who was central in making programming decisions as program director of 670 The Score. Rosen remains with the station as its PD but has since added director of operations duties for the BetQL Network.

Having known each other for an extended period of time, there are several factors that remain critical in Rosen and Bernstein maintaining a productive and professional relationship.

“Communication – I think on a friendship level – and on a professional level of being able to speak frankly and being able to be aware of everything that’s going on and never having too much of an ego, being able to take criticism and always knowing that our dialogue can go in both directions,” Bernstein said. “That’s not just for me, I think that’s for all the hosts. I can’t individually speak for everybody, but I know that his style is one that is very talent-friendly and is aware of some of the unique idiosyncrasies that the people who do what we do can tend to have.”

Boers’ departure from 670 The Score in late 2016 resulted in Bernstein having to pair with a new co-host for the first time during his tenure at the station. Jason Goff, who was the longtime producer of Boers and Bernstein, took over as the co-host of the program, resulting in a change in the dynamic of the show. After all, the goal of the new program was not to replicate Boers and Bernstein; rather it was to craft its own sound and type of coaction that would generate informative and entertaining sports talk radio.

“Every show has its own feel [and] its own characteristic, and I don’t think any partnership should ever try to chase what any other show did – especially because all of these creative endeavors are so specific to a time and a place,” Bernstein said. “You couldn’t do the Boers and Bernstein show now; it would be canceled after the first segment. Any individual show that we did would be a scandal because the rules are different now.”

In November 2017, 670 The Score – which was under ownership by CBS Radio – along with several other stations under that umbrella were purchased by Entercom (renamed “Audacy”) in a merger deal worth approximately $1.7 billion. Experienced radio executive Jimmy de Castro was subsequently announced as the new market manager and senior vice president of Entercom Chicago, meaning that he would oversee the company’s seven Chicago-based radio stations.

De Castro sought to consolidate operations by making more efficient use of office space and the advertising workforce, along with revamping programming on 670 The Score to ensure it would continue to both innovate and sustain its success. Part of that decision involved overhauling Bernstein’s program by terminating Goff and having Bernstein briefly host shows solo until Goff’s replacement was found.

Connor McKnight, a sports broadcaster who also received his undergraduate degree majoring in English, albeit at the University of Wisconsin, was chosen to be Bernstein’s new co-host, officially forming Bernstein and McKnight. McKnight had a previous stint working at 670 The Score after he won a talent search competition but left to work with WLS-AM as the host of Chicago White Sox pregame and postgame coverage. The duo worked together for just over two years before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in layoffs of several Entercom employees including McKnight.

During the nine months in which Bernstein was without a co-host, the world grappled with the reality of a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic and did everything possible to try to quickly cease its spread. Sports leagues initially came to a halt as basketball and hockey were on the cusp of their playoffs and baseball was nearly set to break spring training and begin the season. For nearly a month beginning in mid-April 2020, Michael Jordan reemerged into the spotlight with the premiere of the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “The Last Dance.” During the summer months, many sports leagues finally returned to finish their respective seasons in bubble formats without fans in attendance.

Sports talk radio had changed as well, superficially in terms of topic selection but also regarding how it would reach listeners, many of whom were not traveling nearly as much as before. As the industry innovated and redoubled its efforts to prioritize the evolution of digital platforms, 670 The Score announced the addition of Leila Rahimi, the first time the station named a woman as a weekday daytime host.

Rahimi, who joined the station in January 2021 after being laid off by NBC Sports Chicago, worked with Bernstein on the Bernstein and Rahimi show. Rahimi was known on the program due to her previous weekly appearances on Wednesdays and the new duo experienced success in the ratings, achieving a 5.9 share among the men aged 25-54 listener demographic in the Nielsen summer 2021 ratings book.

Despite the success, though, she always had a desire to return to working in television. In April 2022, Rahimi broke another boundary by becoming the lead sports anchor on NBC5 Chicago, the first time a woman would hold that role. While she no longer hosts on the station full-time, she does make weekly appearances on the new Bernstein and Holmes show for “Leila Wednesdays.”

“Her contribution to the show remains very, very strong and her importance to the brand of the Bernstein and Holmes show is still tremendously important,” Bernstein expressed. “….I want what is absolutely best for her and it turns out that we were able to have our cake and eat it too to be able to continue doing a dynamic radio show with her involved in it.”

Over their careers, both Dan Bernstein and Laurence Holmes have experienced sustained levels of success as sports talk radio hosts. His fourth partner in seven years since the departure of Boers, Holmes was hosting nighttime shows solo on 670 The Score before being added to middays, initially a source of stress for him.

Since they began working together in June, the show has been well-received by listeners, being voted as the best daytime sports radio show in a recent survey by The Athletic. The fit has been “natural from the very start,” according to Bernstein, who described the dynamic of two hosts with vast experience hosting programs solo akin to the sport he covered on the hardwood early in his reporting days

“It’s the equivalent of having a backcourt with two guards who can play on-the-ball or off-the-ball and are equally comfortable understanding when someone else is better off with the ball or when you’re better off with the ball and initiating the offense,” he said. “I’ve worked with Laurence for years in so many different capacities and we have such a long and shared history that it has come naturally in a way that doesn’t surprise me at all.”

Being able to gauge the interest level regarding certain topics among Chicago sports fans has changed in the sense that there is more synergy between people taking place on social media platforms. Even though social media was not yet developed when Bernstein began hosting in 1999, he has been able to adapt and use the platform to his advantage; in fact, he was voted in the aforementioned survey by The Athletic as the top sports-related Twitter user to follow regarding Chicago sports. Not everything on one’s social media feed, though, should be solely related to sports as it fails to put larger events into context.

“Follow accounts that are funny, informative and interesting,” Bernstein suggested, “and I think importantly – and I think this has been a significant thread to all the shows that we’ve done – where we may not be talking about the world outside of sports [but] it is critical to be aware of everything else that matters so much more. Without a larger context regarding everything that’s happening in the world, the sports become elevated to a level of significance it doesn’t really deserve.”

For aspiring broadcasters looking to work within sports media, Bernstein reminds them not to limit their options to just that; instead, it is better to be versatile and have the ability to work in different areas of media altogether. From the moment you begin in the industry at any level though, it is essential one holds themself to a standard by recognizing their own ability and areas in which they can make improvements by emulating strong broadcasters and frequently critiquing oneself. Aside from the craft though, there is a piece of advice Bernstein gives to those beginning in an industry where it can be difficult to build and maintain a steady career.

“Take care of your parents, especially in the early stages of this business,” he said. “Without supportive, loving parents – and sometimes without supportive, loving parents with enough disposable income to get you through some of the lean times – you’re already at a major disadvantage. The best thing you can have are people who are helping you and rooting for you as well.”

BSM Writers

Is There Still a Place for Baseball Talk on National Sports Shows?

“Its struggle has been the same since the beginning of television. There is too much baseball for any regular season baseball game or story to have national significance.”

Demetri Ravanos




Last week at the BSM Summit, I hosted a panel focused on air checks. I wish I could say we covered the topic thoroughly, but we got derailed a lot, and you know what? That is okay. It felt like real air checks that I have been on both sides of in my career. 

Rob Parker of The Odd Couple on FOX Sports Radio was the talent. He heard thoughts on his show from his boss, Scott Shapiro, and from his former boss, legendary WFAN boss Mark Chernoff. 

Baseball was the topic that caused one of our derailments on the panel. If you know Rob, you know he is passionate about Major League Baseball. He cited download numbers that show The Odd Couple’s time-shifted audience responds to baseball talk. To him, that proves there is not just room for it on nationally syndicated shows, but that there is a sizable audience that wants it.

Chernoff disagrees. He says baseball is a regional sport. Sure, there are regions that love it and local sports talk stations will dedicate full hours to discussing their home team’s games and roster. National shows need to cast a wide net though, and baseball doesn’t do that.

Personally, I agree with Chernoff. I told Parker on stage that “I hear baseball talk and I am f***ing gone.” The reason for that, I think, is exactly what Chernoff said. I grew up in Alabama (no baseball team). I live in North Carolina (no baseball team). Where baseball is big, it is huge, but it isn’t big in most of the country. 

Now, I will add this. I used to LOVE baseball. It is the sport I played in high school. The Yankees’ logo was on the groom’s cake at my wedding. Then I had kids. Forget 162 games. Even five games didn’t fit into my lifestyle. Maybe somewhere deep down, I still have feelings for the sport, but they are buried by years of neglect and actively shunning the sport.

Its struggle has been the same since the beginning of television. There is too much baseball for any regular season baseball game or story to have national significance. 

Me, and millions of sports talk listeners like me, look at baseball like a toddler looks at broccoli. You probably aren’t lying when you tell us how much you love it, but damn it! WE WANT CHICKEN FINGERS!

A new Major League Baseball season starts Thursday and I thought this topic was worth exploring. I asked three nationally syndicated hosts to weigh in. When is baseball right for their show and how do they use those conversations? Here is what they had to say.

FREDDIE COLEMAN (Freddie & Fitzsimmons on ESPN Radio) – “MLB can still be talked nationally IF there’s that one player like Aaron Judge or Shohei Ohtani can attract the casual fan.  MLB has definitely become more local because of the absence of that SUPER player and/or villainous team.  I wonder if the pace of play will help bring in the younger fans that they need, but the sport NEEDS that defining star that is must-see TV.”

JONAS KNOX (2 Pros & a Cup of Joe on FOX Sports Radio) – “While football is king for me in sports radio, I look at baseball like most other sports. I’m not opposed to talking about it, as long as I have an angle or opinion that I am confident I can deliver in an entertaining manner. A couple of times of any given year, there are stories in baseball that are big picture topics that are obvious national discussions. 

“I think it’s my job to never close the door on any topic/discussion (except politics because I don’t know anything about it).

“But also, if I’m going to discuss a localized story in baseball or any other sport for that matter – I better have an entertaining/informed angle on it. Otherwise, I’ve let down the listener and that is unacceptable. If they give you their time, you better not waste it.”

MAGGIE GRAY (Maggie & Perloff on CBS Sports Radio) – “While I was on WFAN there was almost no amount of minutia that was too small when it came to the Mets and Yankees. On Maggie and Perloff, our baseball topics have to be more centered around issues that can be universal. For example, ’Is Shohei Ohtani the face of the sport? Is Ohtani pitching and hitting more impressive than two sport athletes like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders? Do you consider Aaron Judge the single-season homerun king or Barry Bonds?’ Any baseball fan or sports fan can have an opinion about those topics, so we find they get great engagement from our audience.”

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Who Can Sports Fans Trust Once Twitter Ditches Legacy Verified Blue Checks?

The potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.

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As of April 1, Twitter will finally make a dreaded change that many will view as an April Fools’ prank. Unfortunately, it won’t be a joke to any user who cares about legitimacy and truth.

Last week, Twitter officially announced that verified blue checkmarks will be removed from accounts that have not signed up for a Twitter Blue subscription. Previously, accounts whose identity had been verified were allowed to keep their blue checks when Twitter Blue was implemented.

But shortly after Elon Musk purchased Twitter and became the social media company’s CEO, he stated his intention to use verification as a revenue source. Users would have to pay $8 per month (or $84 annually) for a Twitter Blue subscription and blue checkmark verification. Paying for blue checks immediately set off red flags among users who learned to depend on verified accounts for accredited identities and trusted information.

The entire concept of verification and blue checks was simple and effective. Users and accounts bearing the blue checkmark were legitimate. These people and organizations were who they said they were.

As an example, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has faced criticism for how he framed domestic violence and sexual misconduct involving star NFL players, and deservedly so. But fans and media know Schefter’s tweets are really coming from him because his account is verified.

Furthermore, Twitter took the additional step of clarifying that accounts such as Schefter’s were verified before Twitter Blue was implemented. He didn’t pay eight dollars for that blue checkmark.


The need for verification is never more vital than when fake accounts are created to deceive users. Such accounts will put “Adam Schefter” as their Twitter name, even if their handle is something like “@TuaNeedsHelp.” Or worse, some fake accounts will create a handle with letters that look similar. So “@AdarnSchefter” with an “rn” in place of the “m,” fools some people, especially at a quick glance when people are trying to push news out as fast as possible.

Plenty of baseball fans have been duped over the years by fake accounts using a zero instead of an “o” or a capital “I” instead of a lowercase “l” to resemble Fox Sports and The Athletic reporter Ken Rosenthal. That trick didn’t get me. But when I covered Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report 10 years ago, I did fall for a fake Jim Salisbury account that reported the Philadelphia Phillies traded Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants. Capital “I,” not lowercase “l” in “Salisbury.” Pence was, in fact, traded to the Giants two days later, but that didn’t make my goof any less embarrassing. I should’ve looked for the blue checkmark!

But after April 1, that signifier won’t matter. Legacy blue checkmarks will be removed from accounts that haven’t paid for Twitter Blue. Some accounts that were previously verified might purchase a subscription to maintain that blue check. But those that were deemed legitimate prior to Musk taking over Twitter likely won’t. (There are also rumors that Twitter is considering a feature that would allow Twitter Blue subscribers to hide their blue check and avoid revealing that purchase.)

That could be even more true for media organizations, which are being told to pay $1000 per month for verification. Do you think ESPN, the New York Times, or the Washington Post will pay $12,000 for a blue check?

We’ve already seen the problems that paying for verification can cause. Shortly after Twitter Blue launched, accounts pretending to be legacy verified users could be created. A fake Adam Schefter account tweeted that the Las Vegas Raiders had fired head coach Josh McDaniels. Users who saw the “Adam Schefter” Twitter name went with the news without looking more closely at the “@AdamSchefterNOT” handle. But there was a blue checkmark next to the name this time!

The same thing occurred with a fake LeBron James account tweeting that the NBA superstar had requested a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers. There was a “@KINGJamez” handle, but a “LeBron James” Twitter name with a blue check next to it.

Whether it’s because fans and media have become more discerning or Twitter has done good work cracking down on such fake accounts, there haven’t been many outrageous examples of deliberate deception since last November. But the potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.

If that seems like an overstatement, it’s a very real possibility that there will be an erosion of trust among Twitter users. Media and fans may have to take a breath before quickly tweeting and retweeting news from accounts that may or may not be credible. False news and phony statements could spread quickly and go viral across social media.

Even worse, Musk has announced that only verified Twitter Blue accounts will be seen in your “For You” timeline as of April 15. (He can’t claim it’s an April Fools’ Day joke on that date.)

Obviously, that carries far more serious real-world implications beyond sports. Forget about a fake Shams Charania account tweeting that Luka Dončić wants to be traded to the Lakers. It’s not difficult to imagine a fake Joe Biden account declaring war on Russia and some people believing it’s true because of the blue checkmark.

We may be nearing the end of Twitter being a reliable news-gathering tool. If the accounts tweeting out news can’t be trusted, where’s the value? Reporters and newsmakers may end up going to other social media platforms to break stories and carry the viability of verification.

When Fox Sports’ website infamously pivoted to video in 2017, Ken Rosenthal posted his MLB reporting on Facebook prior to joining The Athletic. Hello, Instagram. Will someone take their following and reputation to a fledgling platform like Mastodon, Post, Spoutible, or BlueSky, even if it means a lesser outlet?

If and when that happens, Twitter could still be a community but not nearly as much fun. Not when it becomes a matter of trust that breaks up the party.

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There’s a Lesson For Us All in Florida Atlantic’s Elite 8 Broadcast Struggle

“It is a ton of faith our industry has been forced to place in a single mode of delivery.”

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Ken LaVicka and Kevin Harlan probably don’t have a ton in common. Both of them were announcing an Elite Eight game over the weekend, that is one thing tying them together, but their experiences were wildly different. Harlan is on CBS with a production crew numbering in the dozens making certain all goes smoothly. LaVicka, the voice of the Florida Atlantic Owls, is a production crew himself, making certain those listening in South Florida heard the Owls punch their Final Four ticket. At least, that was LaVicka’s plan.

The Florida Atlantic Owls are going to the Men’s Final Four. Even while typing that sentence, it still seems odd to say. Do you know how many college basketball teams are thinking “how can Florida Atlantic make the Final Four and we can’t?” These are the types of stories that make the NCAA Tournament what it is. There is, literally, no barrier stopping any team from this tournament going on the run of their life and making it all the way.

Everyone listening in South Florida almost missed the moment it all became real for the Owls. With :18.6 to go in Florida Atlantic’s Elite Eight game against Kansas State, the Madison Square Garden Ethernet service to the front row of media seating went completely dark. 

It was on that row that Ken LaVicka was painting the picture back to South Florida. Well, he was until the internet died on him.

Nobody does a single show away from their home studio anymore without trying to avoid the nightmare of Ethernet failure. Gone are the days of phone lines and ISDN connections, all the audio and video is now sent back to the studio over the technological miracle that is the internet. It is a ton of faith our industry has been forced to place in a single mode of delivery.

Take that anxiety and multiply it by 1,000 when that Ethernet line is connected to a Comrex unit for the most important moment of your career. LaVicka had the great fortune of a Kansas State timeout to try something, anything, to save the day. In his quick thinking, he spun around and grabbed an ethernet cable from row two which, as it turns out, still had internet access flowing through it’s cables. That cable, though, was the equivalent of an iPhone charging cord; never as long as you need it to be.

One of LaVicka’s co-workers from ESPN West Palm held the Comrex unit close enough to the second row for the cable to make a connection and the day was saved. LaVicka was able to call the last :15 of the Florida Atlantic win and, presumably, get in all the necessary sponsorship mentions.

It was an exciting end to the FAU v. Kansas State game, a great defensive stop by the Owls to seal the victory. LaVicka told the NCAA’s Andy Katz he tried to channel his inner Jim Nantz to relay that excitement. The NCAA Tournament excitement started early this year. In the very first TV window 13 Seed Furman upset 4 Seed Virginia with a late three pointer by JP Pegues, who had been 0-for-15 from beyond the arc leading up to that shot. It is the type of play the NCAA Tournament is built upon.

It was called in the manner Kevin Harlan’s career was built upon. Harlan, alongside Stan Van Gundy and Dan Bonner, called the Virginia turnover leading to the made Furman basket with his trademark excitement before laying out for the crowd reaction. After a few seconds of crowd excitement he asked his analysts, and the world, “Did we just see what I think we saw? Wow!” Vintage Kevin Harlan.

One reason we are so aware of what Harlan said, and that he signaled his analysts to lay out for the crowd reaction, was a CBS Sports tweet with video of Harlan, Van Gundy and Bonner in a split screen over the play. It gave us a rare look at a pro in the middle of his craft. We got to see that Harlan reacts just like he sounds. The video has more than six million views and has been retweeted more than 6,000 times, a lot of people seem to like it.

Kevin Harlan is not in that group. Harlan appeared on Richard Deitsch’s Sports Media podcast after the video went public and said he was embarrassed by it. Harlan added he “begged” CBS not send the tweet out but to no avail. Harlan told Deitsch “I don’t know that I’m glad that they caught our expression, but I’m glad the game was on the air. I think I join a chorus of other announcers who do not like the camera.”

There’s a valuable announcer lesson from Harlan there; the audience is almost always there for the game, not you. Harlan went on to describe the broadcast booth to Deitsch as somewhat of a sacred place. He would prefer to let his words accompany the video of the action to tell the story. Kevin Harlan is as good as they come at his craft, if he thinks that way, there’s probably great value in that line of thought.

We can learn from LaVicka, as well. You work in this business long enough and you come to accept technical difficulties are as much a part of it as anything. They always seem to strike at the worst times, it is just in their nature. Those who can find a way to deal with them without everything melting down are those who can give their audience what they showed up for. Those who lose their mind and spend time complaining about them during the production simply give the audience information they don’t really care about.

The Final Four is an unlikely collection of teams; Miami, San Diego State, Connecticut and Florida Atlantic. You all had that in your brackets, right? Yep, the Florida Atlantic Owls are going to the Final Four and Ken LaVicka will be there for it. Now, if the internet will just hold out.

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