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Scott Van Pelt Believes Doing Radio Made Him A Better Broadcaster

“Anyone on radio can talk about sports. What you get to share there is who you are, what you think, what matters to you.”

Ricky Keeler

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Scott Van Pelt is in his eighth year of hosting the late night SportsCenter with SVP on ESPN and it’s a show that he never thought would actually happen, but ESPN believed he can host SportsCenter a little bit differently and it has allowed him to connect with his audience and be more personal: 

Van Pelt was a guest on The Dave Pasch Podcast this week and he mentioned the idea for the new SportsCenter came when Van Pelt had a conversation with then ESPN executive John Wildhack and then ESPN president John Skipper about bringing what he did with Ryen Russillo on SVP & Russillo on ESPN Radio to television:

“The conversation was just kind of an organic what do you want to do sort of a thing? I said it would be pretty cool to take the idea of radio and bring it to SportsCenter and have it a little bit less structured, but not just entirely abandon the notion of who won the games and what were the cool things that happened.

“It was the type of thing where I never thought they would do it. SportsCenter, as you know, has always been this sacred sort of a brand. The idea that they give me the keys to the car so to speak and let me go where I wanted, I just didn’t think it would happen. To John’s [Wildhack’s] credit, he said to use the car analogy, I don’t want you to stay in the middle lane. Treat it like there is a lot of lanes that you can explore and see what works and what doesn’t. It was just kind of born out of the idea that maybe it could work.”

Van Pelt did mention that being on radio helped him because he wants his audience to get to know him as a person.

“Enormously because what you learn in radio, which I’ve said was the hardest thing that I did and I don’t know what else can be harder in this field because it requires hours and hours and hours of interesting conversation and it’s everyday. Russillo helped me massively. I’ve always credited him for saying ok, we’ll talk about Bears-Patriots in the A block, but what’s the topic? What’s interesting about the topic? Narrowing that down.

“Anyone on radio can talk about sports. What you get to share there is who you are, what you think, what matters to you. I don’t mind being vulnerable and sharing, it’s part of my life. The highs and lows, talking about losing our dog Otis this past spring. You are going to bare your soul. I sat on television and bawled about my dog. I was at a Maryland football game this weekend and strangers come up to me and they say the thing you did about your dog, that thing you say about Otis, they know his name.

“When you share yourself the way Mike & Mike did in the mornings about their children and watching their kids grow up and sharing that part of their lives, if you are willing, to the audience gets to know you as a human and not just some person on television and they care about your life if you are willing to share it. Undoubtedly, that part has helped.”

While Van Pelt thinks it’s easier than ever to have a show, he thinks it’s even harder to connect with an audience:

“I think people recognize that I like sports. I tell them where I’m from. They know I’m a Terp…That coupled with having done SportsCenter for a long time, getting to sit alongside Neil Everett and Stuart Scott, you have all these different ways that you can connect to an audience. Radio is the one that made it really personal and that’s been a huge, huge help because now it’s harder than ever. It’s easier than ever to have a show, harder than ever to connect with people because there’s so many of them to sort of choose from.”

Jason Barrett Podcast

Jason Barrett Podcast: Jeff Smulyan, Never Ride a Roller Coaster Upside Down

Jason Barrett

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There would be no sports radio if not for Jeff Smulyan. He takes JB through the triumphs and disappointments of his career and explains why he is sharing so many stories in a new book, Never Ride a Roller Coaster Upside Down. To pick up your copy, click here.

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Sports Radio News

Zolak & Bertrand: Kirk Herbstreit’s Comments A Wake Up Call For Patriots Fans

“Next time you feel like they shouldn’t be booing them, there’s someone from a national perspective – who has been calling games now in the NFL for at least all of this year – but is very familiar with the league and all the different cities and he’s been in college environments for a decade plus, and said their fans aren’t angry enough.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Zolak and Bertrand

Things appeared to come to a head for the New England Patriots and their fans last week as the team fell to the Buffalo Bills 24-10.

Many fans of the Patriots with the loss seem to have accepted the fact that the glory days of the franchise are officially over. Thursday Night Football analyst Kirk Herbstreit even noted that it was off-putting that fans near his broadcast vantage point were fine with the Pats coming out on the losing end.

“I just felt the sense of acceptance of where they are,” Herbstreit said during a Friday appearance on The Pat McAfee Show. “It really shocked me. I’m just so used to the Patriots’ 20 years of excellence, and not just the NFL in all of professional sports. And to see their fan base just like, we suck, whatever, game’s over, like early they were like that.”

On Zolak & Bertrand Monday, co-host Scott Zolak disagreed with Herbstreit’s take.

“I don’t know what you want from a fan base to do after that when the game’s over, and the place starts to dump out,” he said. “The game was well in hand.”

Zolak’s cohort Marc Bertrand felt differently, praising Herbstreit for offering that sort of perspective.

“Next time you feel like they shouldn’t be booing them, there’s someone from a national perspective – who has been calling games now in the NFL for at least all of this year – but is very familiar with the league and all the different cities and he’s been in college environments for a decade plus, and said their fans aren’t angry enough,” Bertrand said. “They let ’em off the hook.”

Bertrand felt like Patriots fans had every right to be pissed off with the product the team put on the field last week and have done so far this season. Especially when people are paying top dollar for admission to games.

“That product doesn’t match those prices last Thursday night,” he said, continuing to agree with what Herbstreit said. “You don’t hear that a lot around here. So I thought it was a nice change up.”

Zolak and Bertrand both seemed to determine that perhaps it was a case of fans being too nice and being willing to accept failure from head coach Bill Belichick and his staff.

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Sports Radio News

Paul Finebaum: ‘I’ve Been Accused Of Giving Up Objectivity For Nick Saban’

“I’ve been a flag waiver for Nick Saban since the day he got there.”

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People not from the state of Alabama may not realize that there was a time when there was no more vocal critic of the football team than Paul Finebaum. On Monday morning, he told Cole Cubelic of JOX 94.5 in Birmingham that his perspective began to change in January 2007.

“I’ve been a flag waiver for Nick Saban since the day he got there,” Finebaum admitted.

To be fair to Finebaum, Saban and the Crimson Tide have won five national championships and eight SEC championships since his arrival. It has been way easier to wave the flag than find fault.

Paul Finebaum says that some people don’t see it as that simple though and he has had to learn to accept some criticism.

“I’ve been accused of losing all my objectivity and focus to support Saban,” he said. “I believe in that because I believe he has completely transformed that school into what it is today.”

Acknowledging that Saban has been a game changer not just for Alabama football, but for the university itself, doesn’t mean that Paul Finebaum never has anything critical to say about the coach and his team. In fact, he told Cubelic that he was really put off by the way Saban campaigned for Alabama to be included in the upcoming College Football Playoff.

“For a coach of Nick Saban’s intellect to go on national television and use the point spread as a reason for entrance, when he was a big favorite in the two games he lost, he was an overwhelming favorite at Texas, the game where he needed a last-second field goal, and probably was the game that cost him the birth in a TCU head-to-head comparison.”

Saban appeared on multiple television shows and halftime shows stating that if you put Alabama up against any of the other teams in consideration for the final two spots, they would be the favorites. Finebaum thought it was a step too far.

“I want to make it clear,” he said. “I understand Nick Saban standing up for his program. I’ve hear people say ‘well, every coach would do that’. Well, you know what? I didn’t see Ryan Day doing that. I didn’t see Josh Heupel doing that. I saw Nick Saban doing that and I think that is what was so startling to me.”

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