From the time she was young, Lisa Kerney considered herself to be a jock. Growing up in Leawood, Kan. as one of five children, Kerney was raised in a household where sports and competition were relatively quotidian and always in the stream of consciousness. After all, her mother was a marathon runner and her father played college basketball at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, so athletics were entrenched in their DNA.
She and her siblings were captivated by the game of football though and it quickly became a part of their Sunday routine after church and yard work. Once Kerney viewed several live game broadcasts and forms of studio programming including SportsCenter on ESPN, she recognized that she wanted to one day be on the other side of the screen.
“At some point when I was 6 or 7 years old, it kind of clicked for me that I was like: ‘Oh wait, I can actually live out these stories and be the one to share [them] with sports fans around the world’,” Kerney recalled. “I became committed to being a sports broadcaster when I was very little and truly had blinders on; I never came up with a Plan B.”
Kerney frequently used her four siblings, other family members, and friends as mock interview subjects throughout her childhood, immediately trying to hone her craft before she had any real-world experience. At the same time though, Kerney played basketball at Saint Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, Kan., and ultimately chose to attend Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. to study broadcast communications and play on the school’s basketball team on a scholarship.
While her primary focus was always to build a career in sports media, playing sports enhanced her abilities as a broadcaster and afforded her perspectives that could have otherwise been left unrealized.
“Being part of a team is such a gift,” she said. “You learn so much not only about yourself but about how to work with others. You learn how to push your limits; you learn how to collaborate; you learn how to communicate. All of these things are critical skills in life.”
Balancing studies and athletic commitments can often be difficult for college students, but Kerney embraced working hard rather than loathing it. By her senior year, she was the team captain of the Lynn University Fighting Knights and was named the school’s scholar-athlete of the year. At the same time, she worked as an intern at Metro Sports, giving her professional exposure to sports media before she graduated with honors.
“I thrived because I really learned how to lean into hard work as well through sports and it became such a part of my fabric,” Kerney expressed. “If I’m not working hard, it doesn’t feel like I’m doing it right.”
Kerney’s first job out of college was at local television station KXLF in Butte, Montana; she started in September 2004 working as a sports reporter and anchor. One year later, she was selected as the best sports reporter and best television personality at the Montana Standard People’s Choice Awards, representing monumental achievements for Kerney as she sought to break into the industry.
Entering that first job in market No. 296, she took the opportunity seriously and tried to be authentic with her audience by being herself on-camera rather than adopting a television persona.
“I just learned early on that it was okay to be me,” Kerney said. “Not only that as I grew that it was okay to be me, but it was the best way for me to grow and succeed to just be the same on-camera as I am off-camera.”
As she experienced success early in her career, Kerney was quick to hire an agent and explored opportunities to continue to report on sports in a larger market. After nearly taking a job in San Diego and interviewing for a role in Austin, she was informed by her agent of a chance to join KING-TV in Seattle, which turned out to be the perfect fit.
Working in a major sports city for the first time in her career, she noticed a stark contrast in the culture and its associated expectations, requiring her to intensify her efforts to progress as a reporter. It was early in her tenure when she conjectured that she had a lot to learn if she wanted to keep her position at the station and responded by making connections with colleagues and being inquisitive, looking to maintain a positive growth trajectory.
“I had no idea how much work I had to do on me because I was just living it up; I was living my dream job even when I was in Montana – and little did I know it was very different in Seattle because the expectations were so high,” she said. “All of a sudden you were so visible. I really took a step back when I got to Seattle…. [but] I just started asking a ton and ton of questions and really invested in making myself better.”
After hosting Northwest Sports Tonight featuring local, collegiate, and professional coverage of sporting events and athletes, along with anchoring weekend sports coverage, Kerney came to the east coast for the first time in her career. She began her time in the New York metropolitan area in Secaucus, N.J. working at MLB Network as a sports contributor and reporter for nearly a year before transitioning to work directly in “The Big Apple,” the number one media market in the world, with CBS 2.
Beginning her shift at 4:30 a.m., Kerney was the sports anchor on CBS 2 News This Morning, recapping the previous day’s action and previewing what was forthcoming in the day ahead. Once that show ended at 7:00 a.m., she walked across the studio to host Live From the Couch – a morning show grounded in entertainment news.
Working alongside John Elliott and Carolina Bermudez, Kerney and the team welcomed actors, authors, and other guests who typically appear on morning programs such as Today and Good Morning America. Moreover, the show would also have lifestyle segments, such as those illustrating beauty secrets and demonstrating cooking tips, for their viewers to enjoy and learn from.
“It was a great departure for me because I was able to extend myself and really kind of put a toe in the entertainment world,” Kerney expressed. “….As much fun as that was, my heart and soul has always been in sports. It was a short-lived show and a ton of fun but I was ready to move off of that morning shift.”
When she was growing up in Leanwood, Kan., Kerney was mesmerized by the thought of one day working in sports media, specifically at ESPN as a SportsCenter anchor. Whether it was Hannah Storm, Robin Roberts, Linda Cohn, or others, Kerney found herself inspired and motivated to succeed whenever she watched women working in the industry.
“That is such a gift that I took for granted for a really long time because I thought in my world that women were always a part of the sports world,” Kerney expressed. “….Growing up being able to watch them and be such professionals and so well-versed in their craft and be able to go toe-to-toe with men and be able to deliver sports equally. It was something important for me to see as a young girl.”
Before landing her dream job as a SportsCenter anchor at ESPN, Kerney had previously turned the network down two times – largely because the timing did not work out. From the first time she began to consume sports content though, being a part of the ESPN team was something Kerney long desired, even telling adults as a child that she sought to work for the network. Despite not being taken seriously by some of her peers when younger, Kerney focused on achieving that goal from the day her interest was piqued and did so when she officially signed on with the network in February 2014.
“I don’t think we can say enough about SportsCenter because you have every single element of sports television in [each episode],” Kerney said. “You have highlights; you have interviews; you have breaking news and also each SportsCenter [during] each time of the day is completely different. We have our pre-production meetings and we map out the whole show, but at any point, if breaking news comes in, you just throw those scripts away and you’re just basically ad-libbing and moving on the fly and pivoting and taking interviews from across the country.”
Aside from anchoring the network’s signature program, Kerney also penetrated into the podcasting space as the host of ESPN’s first internally-produced podcast called Stay Curious with Lisa Kerney. Once she began working in her hosting role and became a regular voice on the network, she was given the opportunity to host Fantasy Football Now on Sunday mornings throughout the National Football League season.
One of the first subjects taught to students in science classes is Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of motion – the law of inertia – which states that an object will sustain motion at a constant speed unless acted upon by an outside force. As her momentum trended upward at ESPN, Kerney became hesitant to decline any new opportunities presented to her, essentially removing the word ‘No’ from her lexicon.
Yet as she tried to raise a family with four young children and routinely drove 73 miles from her home to work at ESPN’s primary campus in Bristol, Conn., she found that accelerating her career and maintaining her work-life balance was unsustainable.
“As much as I wanted to give to ESPN and wanted to continue – and I had a contract on the table that I walked away from which a lot of people are like, ‘How do you do that?’ – it was a time in my life where I bet on myself and bet on my future,” Kerney said. “Sure enough, I get into an industry where betting is the next thing in sports.”
Kerney interviewed to join FanDuel in 2018, a time when the sportsbook was exploring opportunities to grow within sports media and working to turn its vision of launching its own network and OTT streaming platform into a reality. Following her initial conversation with Executive Producer and Vice President of TV Kevin Grigsby, Kerney was captivated by what was written on the company’s whiteboard and signed on to be a host of the platform’s first sports betting program called More Ways to Win.
Five years later, Kerney’s show is a central part of the recently-launched FanDuel TV, which includes shows featuring Kay Adams, Michelle Beadle, Shams Charania, Pat McAfee, and Bill Simmons.
“We’re so proud at FanDuel because we’ve positioned ourselves in a way to play a significant role in the changing landscape,” Kerney said. “We’ve had our show and we’re the core of a sports betting network in More Ways to Win, and I’m grateful to be able to host our show.”
The linear and digital network evolved out of TVG Network, an affiliate of FanDuel, and is available on multiple dissemination platforms including social media outlets and the FanDuel Sportsbook mobile application. According to Kerney, the network has various pieces of news to share regarding content development in the fourth quarter and into the start of the new year: one of which is the launch of a new NBA show called Run It Back featuring Beadle and Charania, along with Chandler Parsons and Eddie Gonzalez.
“I’ve been here almost five years at FanDuel and it feels like five minutes because of how fast our industry is growing and how quickly we’re changing,” Kerney expressed. “It’s thrilling to be a leader in this space.”
Kerney describes her hosting style as energetic and relatable, supplementing the analysis provided by betting experts and former players with her own commentary and ability to keep each show both dynamic and engaging. She is eagerly anticipating the show’s continued evolution and is cognizant in communicating her authenticity with viewers and aims to evoke genuine interest in sports betting.
“I’m just a sports fan that gets to talk about sports for a living,” Kerney said. “I’m grateful for every opportunity that I’m at the desk and am a point guard of our show. I don’t give out specific bets but I have really smart analysts and experts that are on the show with me.”
The show seeks to appeal to all audiences whether or not viewers have partaken in any form of sports betting. In essence, it serves a dual purpose of assimilating new customers to sports betting and the FanDuel Sportsbook while enriching the expertise of existing sports bettors and keeping them interested.
“We want to bring you along with the game; we want to bring you along with the terminology; we want to help you understand while giving you information to help you place your bets and what bets we think are going to play out in a certain way,” Kerney said. “A lot of times our experts and our analysts don’t agree and they explain why and that’s the fun part…. At the same time for seasoned bettors, you get really insightful information and statistics and really deep research that you wouldn’t get on other shows.”
Following a decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court in May 2018 in the court case Murphy v. NCAA that struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act – which prohibited sports betting in all states except Nevada – it has been delegated to states to adopt legislation officially legalizing it if they so choose. At the moment, more than 30 states have legalized some form of sports betting and many others are considering the measure including California, whose voters will decide the fate of two propositions this coming November regarding the practice.
“They’re coming fast; we see them falling so quickly,” Kerney said of states legalizing sports betting. “The regulation is so important not only for the safety of all of our players, but obviously the positives that come with each state legalizing and the taxing and where those tax dollars can go to help improve schools and roads and all those things.”
Nearly 20% of American adults say they have bet on sports sometime in the last year according to a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center. The National Football League, its teams, and its players encompass an ideal property for bettors to follow and gamble on, Kerney says, largely because of the existing popularity and wide variety of bets that can be made on any given play. From props to teasers to parlays, sportsbooks like FanDuel continue to pitch to fans the ability to go beyond the game and have a stake in the action – a sort of metadrama instilled within the manifestation of competition in live sports.
“Back in 2018, the way I described sports betting to people is [that] it’s truly like playing a game within a game within a game,” Kerney expressed. “It keeps you interested beyond the score; it keeps you interested beyond… who won, who lost and what [a team’s] record [is]… Our slogan is ‘Make Every Moment More’ because literally in every moment, you could have a bet riding which is really exciting to turn up your Sunday a notch.”
Social media is a new content avenue that has augmented the power of viewer choice, leaving it in the hands of the consumer pertaining to just when or where to immerse themselves in multimedia – and nearly all distribution platforms have adapted themselves to be accessible in this way. It was a change facilitated by evolving technologies and shifting psychographics within the marketplace, combined with meeting an immediate and symbiotic need to continue to connect with sports fans through a global pandemic amid the cessation of game competition.
More Ways to Win was initially distributed through local regional sports networks – usually in states that had legalized sports betting. The problem came in finding the show as since it was distributed on a wide array of networks, consumers sometimes ran into trouble locating where it was in their market. With content offerings on multiple platforms, consumers may opt to watch or listen to programming that they can more easily find; therefore, new and innovative platforms are emphasizing enhancing their ability to be found.
“When we started our show back in 2018, we had a great product but our challenge for a long time was distribution,” Kerney said. “….I would be putting out through the magic of social media; I kept posting like, ‘Hey, catch our show here,’ and then it would be a rundown of 30 different states and local markets and times. We were all over the place and it was not a streamlined process of how best to find our show and at the time our show, More Ways to Win, was the only forward-facing content FanDuel had from a linear perspective.”
While she was unable to comment on any specific future opportunities, Kerney alluded to chances to continue to hone her craft and try new things down the road. Having worked in sports media for nearly two decades, she remains curious and ambitious in her own career pursuits, along with helping to grow the reach and actualization of the full potential of FanDuel TV.
“I’m competitive as hell, and not only with people around me but with myself to just get better and better every day,” Kerney said. “Now having FanDuel TV, a new challenge for us at FanDuel, this has really been the highlight of my career – getting to step out of my comfort zone and expand in ways that I haven’t yet. The best is yet to come for sure.”
Being able to step outside one’s comfort zone can often be difficult to embark upon and subsequently achieve for aspiring professionals. Coping with feelings of discomfort though is usually essential in finding one’s niche and effectuating vertical movement in the industry. One of those sources of uneasiness is small-market television and the thought of moving away to a great unknown. Young journalists, sometimes oblivious of the value starting in a small market garners, can feel crestfallen and apprehensive towards opportunities in those locales – which is why Kerney tries to disseminate a positive message to those she encounters.
“Small market TV is such a gift when you’re just starting out,” Kerney said. “Go to the small markets; be in markets that are barely visible. You can mess up; you can ask questions; it’s not going to stay with you. You can really get reps that are so valuable before you move on and really build your confidence.”
Working in smaller markets though should not preclude journalists from taking the job any less seriously than they would if they were in larger markets. Usually, the experience and connections made in smaller markets prove to be valuable as time goes on; therefore, it is imperative the job is viewed in the same light and executed as such.
“Hard work and sacrifice are non-negotiable in this business,” Kerney said. “We work holidays; we work crazy nights and mornings… constantly running on very little sleep. It’s hard work; it’s sacrifice.”
While Kerney has had the opportunity to interview athletes widely regarded as elite including Aaron Judge and LeBron James, she affirms that it is the broadcast teams with whom she has worked that have made her career invaluable. She looks forward to what the future holds both at FanDuel TV and in other opportunities not yet divulged, along with continuing to raise her four children with her husband and former two-time NFL Pro Bowl defensive end Patrick Kerney.
“We’re just getting started and that’s very true,” Kerney said. “Now that I’ve been in the industry for almost two decades, I have perspectives and a voice that is valued and respected. It is allowing me other opportunities that I can’t share right this second, but you’re going to see me outside [of] the TV box very soon.”
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, he serves as the production manager for the New York Islanders Radio Network and lead sports producer at NY2C. He has also worked on live game broadcasts for the Long Island Nets and New York Riptide. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks and wrote for The Long Island Herald. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
John Mamola Didn’t Overthink New WDAE Lineup
“I don’t go book-to-book my talent, I just don’t. I think the more and more you dive into ratings, the more and more you overthink things.”
Just over one month ago, WDAE in Tampa Bay reshuffled its daily line-up. The iHeartMedia station, programmed by John Mamola, moved the Ronnie and TKras program from mornings to afternoons and moved the midday Pat and Aaron show into mornings, while creating a new midday show centered around Jay Recher and producer-turned-host Zac Blobner.
The station let previous host Ian Beckles go as part of the reshuffling.
Barrett Sports Media caught up with Mamola this week to talk about the new line-up, the Tampa Bay market, the importance of developing from within and much more.
(Some of the answers have been edited for brevity and clarity)
BSM: It’s been just over a month since these changes took hold, what would you say is the overall response to them?
JM: Overall, really positive. We lost a really important piece and a pillar of the station in Ian Beckles, but with the moves that we did make, it was overall a pretty positive response from the listeners.
BSM: This wasn’t just creating one new show and calling it a day, this was moving multiple shows into new dayparts. How do you as a programmer get multiple hosts on board with re-arranging their schedules in that manner?
JM: My morning show went into afternoons so they didn’t have to wake up early, so they were very open and welcome to that. As for the original midday show, I knew they were early risers, so moving to mornings didn’t really affect their sleep schedules. And then my midday show, which is the new one, putting those two together is just a combination of some very young, hungry guys that always want new opportunity and are always looking to capitalize on opportunity.
So I wouldn’t say necessarily the convincing was the hard part because it just made a lot of sense for the people involved. The guys in the morning didn’t have to wake up early. The guys in the mornings are early risers anyway, and you get two young, hungry guys to take care of that opportunity so the convincing part was quite easy.
BSM: I got to know Zac Blobner a little bit on the Producers Podcast. He was highlighted a few episodes back and I thought really highly of him. Why was this the right time to get him into a full-time on-air role?
JM: Zac’s been doing some on-air stuff for on the weekends for a number of years. He had his own show and then we tried him out with a couple people on staff on Saturday mornings. That just didn’t necessarily work out but he has hosted a fantasy football show, which we actually air Orlando and in Miami as well as Tampa, live for the last five years.
So his on-air persona – he was a huge part of the morning show and the success of the Ronnie and TKras Show for their run in mornings. So if we were to elevate someone from inside, it just seemed like he was the right guy to elevate, and to pair with Jay Recher. It’s two young, hungry guys and they play well off each other. Some of the best highlights of my day are just sitting in their pre-show meetings with them and their producer Jon Dugas and just listening to how they collaborate together as a threesome on how to attack content, what sound to use, and what guests to book.
Really, it’s three producers in one room all talking about how to collaborate and do a show. Zac has earned the opportunity, just like Pat Donovan who was a producer first. Aaron Jacobson was a producer at first. It was Zac’s time and he’s done a tremendous job with it so far, albeit it’s only a month, but I totally expect it to be a very high ceiling for that show and for Zac in particular.
BSM: Some programmers believe on developing and promoting from within and some programmers believe in always looking for a splashy hire from the outside. Why is developing talent and promoting from within important to you and WDAE?
JM: I think it’s vital for every brand to have a good bench and to continue to find different ways to utilize that bench. Maybe not on the Monday through Friday, but definitely on the weekends in some capacity. And if not there, then on the digital product. You bring in certain guys to push everyone else. Zac was one of those guys. Jay Recher was one of those guys. Pat Donovan was one of those guys. Ronnie and TKras were two of those guys. I like to bring in guys that have a goal and want to push everyone to be better, not just themselves, but push everyone to be better. We have a tremendous team atmosphere on WDAE and we’ve had it for a number of years.
And when you do a lot of change, like we did about a month ago, you don’t want to keep it too foreign. You want to keep it with somebody that the audience knows and the audience has grown to know. Because the minute you start bringing in out of town people that nobody’s ever heard of or you start going to syndication instead of staying live and local, you start to lose your cume, and you start to lose that branding.
We like to put out as much as we can with whatever we have and I think having good, driven people in the hiring process, albeit I’ve hired a little young over my time here, it’s continued to push the narrative that we are continually growing from within and this was just the latest step of that. I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon.
BSM: When you have new shows and shows in different dayparts, are you mentioning things like ratings and revenue to them? Or do you just tell them to build the shows and worry about it later?
JM: I don’t go book-to-book my talent, I just don’t. I think the more and more you dive into ratings, the more and more you overthink things. It’s important, but it’s not the biggest thing. For me, it’s the sound of the show. If the show sounds like it’s got energy, if it sounds like it’s progressing, if it sounds like we’re creating more attention by what we’re saying and we’re developing as talents and as a station, you feel it. You don’t need to see the numbers. The numbers are the numbers.
The system is great when it’s great but when it’s terrible, it’s still flawed. You know? I mean, Neilson ratings only get you so far but If I start seeing stream numbers go up, which I’ve seen, that’s a positive. If I see digital traffic or social media growth or something like that, that’s a metric I can track. Today I went to the gas station and they had our sports station on. If I can hear that, that means we’re doing something right. I don’t look book-to-book. I think PDs that dive into numbers and analytics and, and clocks…. Look, if you put out entertaining stuff, they’ll stick with you. And it starts with giving that confidence to your talent. And that’s how I program.
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.
Brock Huard Believes The Third Time’s The Charm For Brock and Salk
“If I was a radio consultant, there’s two muscles you have to build constantly. A is listening and B is curiosity.”
It just felt right for Brock Huard when he stepped back behind the mic at Seattle Sports 710. On September 6th, he returned to the airwaves with longtime partner Mike Salk in morning drive. It’s been almost three months since Huard returned to radio, but it still feels as right as it did that early September morning. That’s because the business is in his blood.
“Once radio is in your blood, it doesn’t leave,” said Huard.
If you talk sports radio with Huard for any length of time, you won’t question his love or intelligence about the industry. He truly loves and understands the business. When you have a former player that has an incredible amount of passion for sports radio, you really have something. Seattle Sports 710 really has something with Huard and his return to the airwaves made locals in the Pacific Northwest very happy.
Brock & Salk haven’t had to deal with the challenges that new shows experience in the first few months. They’re not trying to establish a chemistry and flow together. They’ve had it after doing a show together twice before, plus a podcast the two hosted together.
“He and I had still done the podcast together for the last couple of years, and had a number of conversations over that time about how fun that hour and a half was, each and every week,” said Huard. “We never really missed a podcast and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. Had we not done that podcast for two years, I don’t know if we would have come back for a third iteration. The third time has been the charm on this iteration.”
What makes the show isn’t just Huard being a former athlete or Salk being a very dynamic and experienced host. The two share an incredible chemistry that shines through on the air. However, Huard thinks there’s one reason in particular that the two mesh so well on air.
“Because we listen,” said Huard. “That’s number one. I will listen to so many radio shows when I’m on the road and I’m like, this is bad radio. And you can tell hosts aren’t listening to one another, they’re just waiting for their time to talk and they fill and it’s terrible.
“If I was a radio consultant, there’s two muscles you have to build constantly. A is listening and B is curiosity. I think for 14 years he’s still genuinely curious about me and how my mind works, world views, ideology and sports views. After 14 years, I’m equally interested in how he thinks and it’s very different than me.
“It was hard to be able to listen and respect one another, because we come from two totally different world views, in many ways. But at the same time, when you do, and you’re curious to listen to the other side and what they have to say, you create unique content.
“He and I used to have to build these big show sheets when we started and we still have structure and everyday there’s still show sheets, but a consultant by the name of Rick Scott told me this early on, he said you know your show will be good, when you don’t get to half of the stuff on your show sheet. And he was absolutely right 14 years ago.”
Co-hosting morning drive at Seattle Sports 710 isn’t the only gig Huard has in sports media. He’s also a college football analyst for FOX. He’ll be on the call Friday night for the Pac-12 Championship game between USC and Utah. But everything ties back to radio for Huard and a recent experience on an airplane made him realize it again.
“I was sitting next to this very smart gentleman the other day on my trip home from college football, and he was crushing crossword puzzles like I’ve never seen before,” said Huard. “He’s a very successful attorney and you could see for him, that was such a tool to keep his mind sharp. For me, radio is the same thing. It’s been the best training ground for everything I do with media, especially television.
“If you can do live radio and equip your mind to listen and strengthen that listening muscle, while also creating content, it’s a pretty good active tool. It keeps my mind sharp and plays to my mind’s strengths, I think, with just how wackado I can be between my ears at times. If you have a tremendous partner that helps shape you, like Salk is to me, then it’s just addictive and gets in your blood and doesn’t leave.”
As it relates to radio, being a college football analyst has its perks, because of the access it gives Huard. Every week before calling a game, he gets production meetings with head coaches, which gives him insight that others may not have. It also awards Huard the opportunity to create relationships with coaches. But how much of what’s said does he feel like he can use on the game broadcast or his radio show?
“99.9 percent is used on the air, on the show and sometimes I gain insight and share it with coaches that I know to encourage them,” said Huard. “It baffles me how many times I will hear from my peers, oh, I hate these coaches meetings. I don’t get anything out of them. And I’m like, God bless you. I will have a career for the rest of my life if that’s the way you approach it. It’s the most valuable real estate we have. It’s a forum that nobody else has.
“Yeah, they have press conferences, but if you build true trust and relationship and confidence, they want to tell you their story. They want to share their team. I can’t tell you how many times content from those meetings comes to life in my sit downs with Pete Carroll or Jerry Dipoto, GM of the Mariners or Scott Servais, or on the air or off the air.”
Huard has an insight to college football that few in the Pacific Northwest has, but that doesn’t mean he and Salk will jam pack content from that sport into the show. The duo knows that Seattle cares about. Sure, there’s an interest for college football, but not anywhere near the hunger from Seahawks and Mariners content.
For example, Huard called the TCU vs. Baylor game two weeks ago, which featured one of the best endings in college football this year, when the Horned Frogs nailed a field goal as time expired. The call of the moment was spectacular and could be the shining moment of the season for a TCU team that looks destined for the College Football Playoff. On the Monday after, Huard and Salk made it a part of the show, but never had the intention of making it the majority of the show.
“Our audience is dominated by the Seahawks and Mariners,” said Huard. “That dominates 80 to 90 percent of our conversation. I would say lifestyle is probably the rest. For example, we played that highlight today four times over the course of the show. We rank things at the end of every show and it was my Top 5 games of my broadcast life in 14 years on the road and that was number 1.
“I often use conversations and things I learned from those games and players and relate them to the Seahawks and Mariners. Dave Aranda talked about living with expectations and how hard that is in our meeting on Friday. He said, you watch, TCU is going to have to live in an entirely different world, where you’re on the mountain top instead of climbing it. And then you relate that toward the Seahawks or the Rams this year.
“Inevitably, yes, those moments create content, either emotionally or football 101. Radio is all encompassing in that way. I never understand radio hosts who try to play it straight. I just don’t. I think it’s bad radio. You have to be willing to live your life and put your life out there, whether it’s good, bad or ugly. The more you do that, the more you attach yourself and connect with your audience.”
It feels like the third time is truly the charm for Huard and Salk. They listen, they have chemistry and the content is a refreshing mix of sports and lifestyle.
“He and I are not comedians,” said Huard. “We don’t play fake laugh tracks like others do. He and I will land way more on the analytical information side than maybe a consultant would tell us what morning radio people want. But I think where it cuts through is he and I put our lives out there. Our parenting success and failures. Relationship struggles, kids, sports, youth sports, that’s probably where we connect in a way that’s more lifestyle. That’s the word I would use.”
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.
Chuck Swirsky Embodies ‘Always A Pleasure’
“I love working with Bill Wennington and each and every day I have the same enthusiasm of calling a Bulls game like I did as a five-year-old child calling games off a TV.”
It’s hard to imagine there are any more positive thinking people in the world than Chuck Swirsky. If you don’t believe me, just check out his daily tweets. Swirsky has a lot to be upbeat about, he’s doing what he’s always wanted to, and now he’s written a book.
“Always a Pleasure” is his creation, putting thoughts on paper, or iPad or whatever, about stories and people he’s encountered over the more than 40-years he’s been in the business.
The title is aptly accurate. Chuck is always a pleasure to be around and is one of the most supportive people I’ve ever met. He encourages those that need it. Swirsky always has time for people in the business and those trying to get into this crazy racket. I’ve seen and experienced it for myself, so trust me when I tell you, it’s the truth.
There are those that have worked multiple decades in play-by-play, and I’ll bet each and every one of them has been asked at some point, ‘hey, why don’t you write a book?’. Sounds easy enough, I’m sure. But when you really think about it, how can a person be expected to fit 40 plus years of work into a book that wouldn’t be the size of a dictionary?
More on that in a moment. I was wondering what makes someone in Swirsky’s position to write a book. So, I asked him. He outlined the main reason he decided to put pen to paper and tell some of his favorite stories and recall good memories.
“Over the past several years I was approached by several publishers and writers who were interested in detailing my journey in sports broadcasting, featuring my stops calling major college athletics and NBA basketball in addition to sports talk.” Swirsky told me. “I was reluctant to do so but a year ago I had a change of heart knowing 2022-23 Bulls season would be my 25th in the NBA, including my 2-thousandth NBA play-by-play game.”
Swirsky didn’t use a sportswriter or an author to tell his tale. “For years I have saved notes and decided to write the book myself, in my own words. I love my job. I have no desire to retire. I want to continue broadcasting Bulls game for many more years as long as my health and clarity allow me to do so.” he said.
“I love working with Bill Wennington and each and every day I have the same enthusiasm of calling a Bulls game like I did as a five-year-old child calling games off a TV. I have the utmost respect for the Reinsdorf family and our entire organization. I just felt this was the right time to write a book.”
I have followed Swirsky’s career closely and gotten to know him over the years. Growing up in Chicago, I was fortunate enough to hear him in his early days here, at the old WCFL (now ESPN 1000), where he became one of the pioneers of sports talk radio. He’s called games on radio and television.
For DePaul, Michigan, select White Sox games, the Raptors and now over the last nearly 2 decades, the Bulls. That’s a lot of experience and a lot of experiences for one person. It made ‘editing’ the book a little difficult.
“I could have easily written another 100 pages featuring additional sports personalities and stories.” Swirsky said. “But I elected to highlight specifics of a timeline allowing the reader to understand that my quest to reach a childhood goal of broadcasting NBA basketball was met with challenges, setbacks and ultimately persevering through hard work, focus, passion and positivity.”
Writing books can be a way to look back on a career. Swirsky if far from done. He never really reflected on things, because he was always looking forward. But the retrospective allowed him to realize a few things along the way.
“I would say this. I am my own worst critic. I very seldom look back on my career. While I was writing “Always A Pleasure” I had to stop and truly reflect how blessed I am to be in the position where I am today. I never take it for granted. Never have. Never will.” Swirsky said. “Nothing is easy. It’s hard. This business can be exhilarating yet so difficult. I never get too high nor too low although I’m very sensitive and my insecurities get the best of me which is probably not a good thing , especially in radio-television.”
In looking back there’s bound to be a few lessons learned from the past. Swirsky did find a few things in writing the book that he remembered, educated him along the way. “I learned that anyone who applies themselves, making a commitment to work on their skill set, and their weaknesses through hard work, dedication, passion and purpose, can be successful.” he said.
“For example, not every professional athlete is going to hit .330. Let’s say another player is hitting .240. What is keeping him in the big leagues? Is it his glove, his ability to play multiple positions? His character in the locker-room? The same principle is in effect in our industry. Maximize your strengths and do it with a great attitude, humility and kindness.”
Swirsky’s book details his interactions with some very familiar people in the business and the sports world. “I have plenty of stories featuring some of the biggest names in sports ranging from Hall of Fame baseball star Willie Mays who many consider perhaps the greatest player of all time to Kobe Bryant who left our world way too soon.” he says. “When you’ve been a professional broadcaster for 46 years, one meets many, many players, coaches, executives, media and sports personalities along the way.”
The one thing you can say about Swrisky, is he is real. There’s no pretense or facade. A genuine human being that is interested in what people have to say. Athletes, coaches, broadcasters and yes, even fans. His book has been reviewed by some of the greats. Mike Breen, Chris Bosh and even Steph Curry. Here’s the 2-time NBA MVP’s take on Swirsky and the book.
Having known Chuck since my days as a still-developing youth player in Toronto, where my dad was a member of the Raptors, I can attest to the fact that his passion for people and basketball is deep and sincere.
Chuck’s unique desire to mentor young people, especially minorities and those of different cultures and backgrounds, will help inspire those who share the same dreams, dreams that enabled him to persevere to the top of his profession.
I’m proud of Chuck, and excited that others can become enlightened by his exciting broadcasting journey, which includes nearly 25 years in the NBA and, of course, a trio of Curry family members shooting from the stars, just like him.
A book written by someone as accomplished in this industry as Swirsky draws interest because of who he is. But the Bulls’ play-by-play man is always thinking of others and trying to help where he can, just like Curry said. Along with stories, he lends his knowledge and relates it to those who are already in broadcasting and those trying to get in.
“I’m hoping those in our industry who read the book even those outside the radio-tv, new media field will come away knowing that perseverance is a powerful resource to help withstand the emotional heartache of rejection, disappointment and loneliness.” said Swirsky. He adds, “I have experienced everything. The good. The bad. The ugly. I’m talking all levels. My message is to stay true to your core values. In this case, my foundation is built on respect, kindness, honesty, sincerity and selflessness.”
Given the opportunity to beam about the finished product, Swirsky in typical fashion, deflected any praise. Simply saying, “I am very humbled and appreciative of the professionalism of the book’s publisher, Eckhartz Press. They allowed me to be me. That’s all I wanted. Mission accomplished. I am grateful.”
The entire industry should be grateful for people like Swirsky. There are so few in the business who are as kind and caring as he is. There are just as few people that take interest in others, and help mentor the next generation like Chuck. Inspiring stories, a career chronicle and life lessons, “Always a Pleasure” is going to be on my must-read list for the holidays. Congrats “Swirsk” keep up the great work.
Andy Masur is a columnist for BSM and works for WGN Radio as an anchor and play-by-play announcer. He also teaches broadcasting at the Illinois Media School. During his career he has called games for the Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox. He can be found on Twitter @Andy_Masur1 or you can reach him by email at Andy@Andy-Masur.com.