It’s radio. This is a common expression used to describe the uncertainty and unpredictable nature of the radio industry. It’s a phrase used to describe a radio gig that suddenly ends. Unfortunately, it occurs far too often in this business. It happened in late September for Jonathan Zaslow. The Miami sports radio host found out that he was being let go after 18 years and that 790 The Ticket was switching to a Spanish-language talk station.
As you can imagine, the news wasn’t awesome for Zaslow that day. But the guy has rebounded big time. He’s launched the Zaslow Show 2.0 podcast and a YouTube channel while oozing positivity. His upbeat approach is impressive. At first during our chat, I sounded like, “Hey man, I’m sorry your dog died.” That sympathy was met with Tony Robbins-like, motivational speaker excitement from Zaslow. It was pretty cool to hear.
Zaslow talks about his run at the Ticket coming to an end and the exciting new chapter in his career. We also chat about Eddie Vedder, watching the Miami Heat as a fan, and when a host is the most popular. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: Were you caught off guard by getting let go?
Jonathan Zaslow: Yeah, totally off guard. I was actually at QAM for the past year, and the previous 17 years before that I was at 790 The Ticket. Last original employee of 790 The Ticket; I have that moniker. Yeah, I was very surprised about all of it. I was told right after a show that essentially this is my last day, so I was very surprised. Obviously, everyone found out a few days later when 790 The Ticket changed format. I guess I got stuck in the middle of that because you can only have so many shows throughout the day.
So yeah, I was totally caught off guard. I did an Instagram Live a few days later. I told everybody — and I mean this — I’m not mad. I know most of the time when someone gets laid off you’re really mad and maybe even someone in my situation — I was there 18 years, it was the first and only job I’ve ever had out of college.
With that said, everyone hears 18 years; 18 years in radio, that doesn’t even make sense. I’m really grateful. I was obviously disappointed but not mad. I was treated really well when I was there, the whole 18 years. There were several different ownerships throughout that span; I always felt I was treated really well.
I told my wife later that day, it was always going to end like this. That’s the way it goes when you’re in radio, right? I shouldn’t have lasted 18 years, nobody lasts 18 years. It was always going to end like this. It was just a matter of when. I also told her that this is the path I chose. I chose radio. I chose being in this business and this is what happens sometimes, so, not mad. Yes, I was caught off guard. Obviously, disappointed at the time, but I got nothing bad to say.
BN: You have the right attitude. You could easily have some bad feelings, but I don’t think that does you any good if you did.
JZ: People were angry. I get the tweets and even text messages. People I know or what have you. I told everyone I said listen, I’m flattered that you’re mad, but if you do have all that angry energy, then all you have to do is you take that energy and you apply it to the next thing that I’m doing.
Now at this point, everybody knows I got Zaslow Show 2.0. It’s available everywhere you get your podcasts. I didn’t necessarily know that at the time when I said that to people, but I was like you just take all that angry and disappointed energy that you have, and if you really feel that way, you’re just going to apply it to the next thing that I do, and everyone’s going to be happy.
BN: [Quarterback] Ryan Tannehill of all people comes to mind because when the Titans lost to the Bengals in the playoffs, he said it put him in a dark place. After 18 years for you, it’s sort of like a big playoff loss to get let go. How long did it take you to get over it, where you’re focused on the next thing instead of looking backwards?
JZ: Well, the first thing that you think about in my position is I got a wife and two kids. Like I said, 18 years, and I’ve never had to see what’s next. So I got a wife and two kids, and the first thing I’m thinking about is, shit, I got real responsibilities. That was the part where you’re trying to figure out, all right, what am I going to do next? I got to do something, I’ve got real responsibilities here, I’ve got people counting on me.
I got a lot of phone calls that day. I talked for a long time. Dan Le Batard, Jorge Sedano, Evan Cohen, Joy Taylor, Amber Wilson, my former co-hosts, those two. We really talked extensively because I’m tight with all those people. The information they were giving me; I kind of was able to formulate a plan by talking to all these people. They really made me feel good.
You know what I kind of felt like? You’ve seen the movie Private Parts, Howard Stern. I’m a big Howard Stern fan. I kind of felt like when Howard got fired from WNBC, and he’s all upset, and his agent comes in his office with a bottle of champagne. He goes, are you crazy? This is the greatest thing that could’ve happened. We’re celebrating. This is the best day of your career.
Now, I didn’t necessarily feel it was the best day of my career because it was a really shitty feeling that day, but I felt like after talking to all those people, they really made me feel like, yeah, everything’s going to wind up being all right for you.
BN: What were some of the things that Le Batard, Joy, Amber or anybody else, told you that helped you feel positive about the whole thing?
JZ: I think it was the fact that because I’ve been doing this so long, they really let me know that look, a lot of people out there know who you are at this point. There’s going to be other opportunities out there. They’re going to be opportunities that you never knew were opportunities. You’re feeling shitty, obviously, right when you get the news, but they really let me feel that I’ve been doing this long enough that everything’s going to wind up being okay. I think that was really it, that they were confident in my abilities.
Every version of the Zaslow Show has had success. I was doing Zaslow & Joy, then Zaslow & Romberg, then Zaslow, Romberg & Amber, then Zaslow & Amber. And now for the last year, just Zaslow Show. Every version has had at least some kind of success and the constant was me. The point being, which they were helping explain to me was, whatever you wind up doing next, it’s going to be the same thing.
Granted, people right now aren’t hearing me live on terrestrial radio. But so many of those people were hitting the subscribe button on the Zaslow Show podcast, just under the Audacy banner. What’s stopping them from doing the same thing right now? It’s just under the Zaslow Show 2.0 banner. It’s available in the exact same place they were getting it before be it iTunes, or Spotify, or iHeart, or Google, wherever. Joy and Amber especially, really led me to believe, whatever you do, the audience, they’re going to follow you. That made me feel good.
BN: Tell me about the new show, how many times a week are you doing it? What are some of the things that are different than what you were doing before?
JZ: I’m trying to keep it as similar as possible. I’m trying to bring over the same type of bits that I had before. I do big deal, not a big deal. I’m still doing that here every day. It’s how I’m closing out Zaslow Show 2.0. On Friday, I’m going to do big game, not a big game. Eventually get back into big movie, not a big movie. I’m trying to incorporate all my old bits still into the show now, but it’s the same show otherwise.
We’re focusing on Miami sports, but obviously hitting on all the major topics. We’re still talking about music. I love movies. I’m going to mix in pro wrestling. Some people were asking me earlier today, hey, are you going to start having some guests on? It’s obviously not as necessary, at least right now to have guests because I’m doing Monday through Friday, I’m pumping out an hour a day.
I don’t need guests in an hour. I could roll out of bed and do an hour. I’m of the understanding when it comes to podcast listening, I think people are consuming it in smaller doses. I think that seems like a good length for right now. We’ll eventually start doing interviews and uploading that onto the YouTube page.
Also I debuted last Saturday a wrestling show under the Zaslow Show 2.0 banner. The show is called It’s Still Real To Me. I’m really excited about that. I’ve been wanting to do a pro wrestling show for years now. It’s a passion of mine since I was a little boy. Not only is it such a huge industry, but it’s also turned into something that I’m not embarrassed anymore to admit that I love. There’s a place for it now for me to do a show. I’m really excited about that.
BN: What advice would you give to someone who’s currently on terrestrial radio? Like you said, you felt like you didn’t need to research this stuff because you had your job. Do you look at it differently now?
JZ: The one thing I would say is I wish that I was doing some of this extra stuff while I was still on terrestrial radio. I should have been doing all the extra stuff on Instagram, Twitter. I should’ve had a YouTube page years ago. I was so behind the eight ball in that regard. I don’t know, maybe I got complacent. I don’t know what it is, but I should have had a YouTube channel years ago and been uploading content where instead of starting it last week from scratch, I should have already been knee-deep into all of that. And I just wasn’t.
My advice would be no matter how comfortable you feel, no matter how entrenched you are in the local scene in your market, you got to be doing all of the extra stuff. There’s definitely no harm. Once you get the hang of it, it’s not as complicated as maybe I thought two months ago before I’d done any of that kind of stuff. I would say hey, you’re in a good spot on terrestrial radio? You should still be doing all the other extra stuff. It only helps your brand.
BN: What would you say to someone who pushes back and says, look man, I’m making good money. I do my three or four hour show right now. I don’t need to do all of this extra stuff.
JZ: That was me. I would say hey, listen, no matter how good a standing you’re in, look, my bosses always liked me. I had great relationships with everyone that I worked for. I had a show that was popular, and it could still end the way that it did for me. Things happen. It’s a business. I would say, just make sure you’re doing everything you can.
BN: What are your plans to grow the podcast?
JZ: I’m really grateful that when I announced Zaslow Show 2.0 is coming, I got a phone call immediately for a title sponsor. It’s a local law firm down here Anidjar & Levine. They’re accident attorneys. They wanted on board right away. I was so grateful and just super humbled that they wanted on board. I want you on board is what I told them. I was so grateful for that. I really think that gave me a boost of confidence too.
I got some time here to get my footing and establish the audience and all of that. I’m lucky that I have a built-in listenership. I just need to make them aware of what’s going on right now. But I think that really gave me a boost of confidence that there are people who are going to want to get behind the show. That’s the idea that I have the freedom here to do the show the way that I want, and hopefully I’ll have people supporting me.
BN: You hosted Miami Heat pregame, halftime and postgame shows for 12 years. What’s it like to watch the Heat now that things have changed?
JZ: I went to a game for the first time as a fan in 12 years the other week. I saw the Heat play the Raptors. The Heat won. I remember the last time I was in the stands as a fan was the Heat’s home opener in 2010. It was the first year that LeBron was here. That’s the last game I went to as a fan. They beat the Magic that night. I used to be a season ticket holder; it was a 12-year span between going to games as a fan when I went last week. So that was weird.
I liked being able to watch the game with a drink in my hand. I enjoy that. I hadn’t done that in forever. That was fun. I liked being able to stand up and cheer and be into the game. Most importantly, believe it or not, it was the first time I’d ever been to a Heat game with my son.
That’s crazy. That’s wild. Matter of fact, the first game I’d ever watched with any of my sons was the bubble during COVID. We were broadcasting from home that time. That was the first time I ever even watched a game with my son.
But that game last week, it was the first time I’d ever been to a Heat game with my son; it was always my wife taking my two boys. I was able to take my son and his friends to the game. That was a really cool experience. I’m looking forward to doing that more.
BN: What is it about you just being so positive? I haven’t gotten one little tinge of I’m bent about this. This sucks. Why me? None of that. Why is it so positive for you throughout this whole thing?
JZ: I think I feel good about the reaction. When Amber Wilson started doing the show with me, she replaced Joy Taylor. Some listeners were like, you’re not as good as Joy, I miss Joy, when’s Joy coming back, that kind of deal. I would tell Amber, I said listen, you’re never as popular as you are when you leave. Like, you are never as popular. Look, Joy is fantastic, all right, I love that girl. But she was never more popular on my show than when she left. That’s when everyone gives you your flowers.
I got a little bit of that. [Laughs] It was the first time that I left, so I got a little bit of that where I was getting my flowers and everyone was making me feel good. I had never been more loved than now that I’m no longer around. I got a little bit of that and it made me feel good. I think it reinforced that I think I could do something on my own. I think there’s something there. I have a built-in audience.
Overall, people know who I am down here when it comes to sports talk. I grew up in South Florida listening to sports talk here, specifically 560 WQAM. The legends: Hank Goldberg who recently passed away, Jim Mandich who passed away several years ago. I grew up listening to these guys. Then eventually, I got to be one of those voices here in South Florida. I got to do that for a really long time. That part of my life is not going to go away. I’m really fortunate. I’m really grateful for all that.
BN: For the future, let’s say over the next five years, what would you ideally like to accomplish?
JZ: I’d like Zaslow Show 2.0 to be successful and I’d like to do more play-by-play. I was able to dip my toes into the water the last couple seasons filling in for Mike Inglis on occasion and filling in for Jason Jackson on occasion with the Heat. I did some play-by-play; I have a lot of room to grow, obviously, but I did it at the highest level in the NBA. I’d like to be able to do more of that. I’d like some opportunities there. We’ll see where that goes.
Doing shows nationally, I think there could be a place for me there. Maybe it’s NBA-based because that’s my bread and butter. Or maybe it’s just doing some version of the Zaslow Show. Who knows, maybe it’s getting back together with one of my former partners too, and doing something in that vein. I’d be open to that as well.
There’s a feeling also of excitement. I like the idea of something new. I’d like it a lot more to know that okay, there’s going to be something new and everything’s going to work out. I’d like to be able to add in the last part. I can’t add in the last part yet, but I like the idea of something new. There’s an exciting element to that.
BN: If you could pick any guests to be your first guest — wrestling, sports, anybody — who would be the person?
JZ: I do kind of feel like, all right, it can’t just be someone random. I’ve never talked to him before. I’m obviously a massive fan. I don’t know how this would happen. I got close one time years ago, it just didn’t work out. Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam. That’s like the white whale. I’m a massive Pearl Jam fan. Everybody knows that.
I saw them at the Garden two months ago. We flew up, me and my son, it was my 25th time seeing them; not that it’s a competition. But I would love to have Eddie Vedder. If Eddie Vedder were the first guest, if he’s out there, if he reads Barrett Sports Media, I would love to have you on. That’d be great.
BN: [Laughs] It’d be hilarious if that’s what clinched it. Eddie Vedder is just a huge reader of Barrett Sports Media.
JZ: That’s right. I know he’s a huge basketball fan. He’s a huge baseball fan. He loves the Chicago Cubs, Chicago Bulls. Maybe he also likes sports media, you know?
BN: [Laughs] For sure. Well, I’m happy for you, man. I’m excited for this new thing you got going on.
JZ: Thanks. Yeah, it’s fun so far. We’re only the first week in, but it’s fun. I feel a sense of accomplishment after it all uploads and everything. I did that. I edited it. I produced that. I added the music. I did that. I do feel a sense of accomplishment where my wife can say what did you do today? And it wasn’t just, caught up on my shows. I watched a little bit of Monday Night Raw. No, now I can actually say I accomplished something and it’s out there in the world for everyone to hear.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.