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Wizards Delivering Radio Party

Jason Barrett

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“In some ways I feel like a bartender,” Dave Johnson mused before a recent Wizards game. “I used to always wonder how bartenders could remember what somebody’s drink is, what everybody’s story is. Now I’m starting to get it.”

Johnson, the play-by-place voice for Washington’s wackiest sports broadcast, then launched into a play-by-play of a different sort, one about the lives of his regulars. David from Las Vegas was traveling that week, and would be in the upper Midwest. Noah was in Hawaii. Donald Paul Raymond was observing Lent. Stef in Virginia Beach was with her kids, Brandon and Lauren. Jen would be doing a puzzle. Tracy and Michael were over in section 203. Mathew M. had gotten his cousin Chico involved. Dan and Tony were in Austin.

“I can tell you when somebody’s been away, how old they are,” Johnson continued. “If you want to spend the next three hours I can keep going down the list, tell you everybody’s life story.”

Such a claim might be normal for a talk-show host; it’s probably less typical for an NBA play-by-play man. But Johnson’s broadcast has transformed in recent years from a mere description of the action to what he and color analyst Glenn Consor now call the “Radio Party,” a frenetic, interactive bit of madness that sometimes feels more like a family reunion than a basketball game.

Johnson greets individual listeners by name coming in and out of commercial breaks, dozens and dozens of regulars. They send tweets to Johnson before and during games, apologizing if they’re “checking in” late and telling him where they’re tuning in from. Listeners inside the arena grab Johnson’s co-host, Glenn Consor, during his halftime bathroom breaks to talk about what they’ve just witnessed. Johnson and Consor turn in their section 216 perch and wave to farflung sections of Verizon Center, where individual listeners have tweeted their greetings. Listeners mail them cookies and alcohol, coasters and cufflinks. And Johnson recognizes the whole absurd gang, one by one, during his broadcast.

“Johnny, checking in from the UPS truck,” Johnson said during a recent game. “We promise to try to deliver a win.”

“You know where David is tonight: listening from Colby, Kansas,” he said later.

“Fred’s listening in Miami, is heading to Jamaica in the morning,” he said still later.

“Tyrone wants to wish his son a happy 21st birthday,” Consor added.

“Timothy Lawson is back with us, El Capitan,” Johnson said, and on and on it goes. Last spring, an intern counted nearly a thousand Twitter users who tweeted into the “Radio Party” during a playoff game.

“They turned a totally passive activity into something that’s really interactive, and kind of created a community of Wizards fans and listeners,” said Chris Kinard, the sports director for WNEW, which airs Wizards broadcasts. “Everyone wants to hear their name on the radio. It’s a pretty simple concept. That’s been the case since radio started. The audience usually has no role in play-by-play activity other than just listening to it, and now they’re getting shouted out on the radio.”

That’s what led Kinard to tweet to Johnson, getting a kick out of hearing his own name during a game. That’s what makes my daughter listen to Wizards broadcasts, gawking in amazement when family members are mentioned. That’s why Gloria Mamaed, a 48-year old from Reston, wore earbuds to her office holiday party, and again during her family’s Christmas brunch, so she could still be a part of the Radio Party. (“It’s like we’re there. we’re all watching together,” she said.) That’s why Rob Embrey, a 46-year old from McLean, now listens to the vast majority of Wizards broadcasts from his new home in Southern California.

“It’s a weird phenomenon,” said Embrey, who appeared on air with Johnson and Consor during a road game against the Lakers. “It’s a personal touch. It makes you feel more involved, and it’s gotten us involved with each other. We all follow each other on Twitter, we interact with each other. There’s a camaraderie that comes out of it, a family-ness, as corny as that sounds.”

Johnson is careful not to mix the Radio Party with his play-by-play call; he talks to his listeners before the game and during halftime, going to commercial and coming out of timeouts. He keeps Twitter open on his laptop during the game, glancing at it during breaks, replying to some listeners and retweeting others. He reads their comments and advice, and consoles them when things go poorly — “We’ll get through this,” he said, during a recent blowout. “Hang in there gang.” And because of all that, he doesn’t rest for a single second during a broadcast.

“You know, it probably makes you a little bit more exhausted,” Johnson said. “But I think in some ways it energizes me, because again, it really does feel like you’re throwing a party.”

And he feels like it’s working. WNEW’s ratings on weekday nights among adults ages 25-54 have more than doubled since November, although some of that is surely due to the team’s success. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban caught the spirit during a broadcast last spring: “Listening to wizards radio on nba on Sirius,” Cuban tweeted. “Vintage bananas. Hashtag hashtag! Love it.”

“I know by doing this we’re trending younger, we’re getting more women involved,” Johnson said. “I think we break the stereotypes. People are connecting. But we’re having a blast, that’s the bottom line.”

It’s why Johnson now feels like a bartender, sympathizing with fans who are distraught, keeping up with their vacations, tracking teenage listeners as they go off to college, following his regulars in their careers. He said he’s never experienced anything quite like this during his 30-year broadcasting career, and he said the interaction has brought a new energy to his play-by-play.

“I really believe strongly that radio is the most personal of mediums,” he said. “We invade your personal space, whether I’m in your car or I’m in your ear phones. I just think it’s amazing — radio is the oldest of the mediums, yet in some ways it’s the most adaptable.”

So Johnson will keep his Radio Party going, greeting Anna on her way home from a fundraiser, and Stephen on his way to Atlanta, and Ryan in Fargo, and Sammy in the 400-level, and everyone else who checks in.

“Remember,” he told his listeners moments before a recent game began. “United we tweet; divided we wind up on Myspace.”

Credit to the Washington Post who originally published this article

Sports Radio News

Brian Mitchell: Chris Simms Is ‘Becoming a Doofus’

Jordan Bondurant

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Brian Mitchell doesn’t have time for outrageous takes on Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts.

On 106.7 The Fan in D.C. from Radio Row on Wednesday, Mitchell reacted to recent comments from Chris Simms, who said while Hurts is a big part of Philly’s success, the quarterback position has been set up to be “one of the easier quarterback jobs in the sport.”

“Right now he’s becoming a doofus in my eyes,” Mitchell said to co-host J.P. Finlay. “He just likes to say stuff.”

Mitchell added that the reason the Eagles QB job looks easy is because of the play of Hurts.

“Jalen Hurts makes it look easy. I don’t think playing quarterback for the Eagles is an easy job,” he said. “Because the quarterback has so much stuff to worry about and things to do. Jalen has become better, and the reason I think a lot of those other guys have a lot of easiness is because Jalen Hurts is the one taking the snaps.”

Finlay said if the position was one of the easiest in the league, why did back-up Gardner Minshew not play as well in his two starts?

“If it’s easy to do something, then anybody should be able to do it, right?” Finlay said. “If it’s easy to be quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles, Gardner Minshew did two starts. He completed 58 percent of his passes, with three touchdowns and three picks. That doesn’t sound easy.”

“I guarantee you, for his football team, all the things he does, he’s as important as anybody out there,” Mitchell responded.

Mitchell said folks like Simms coming up with these kinds of takes about Hurts comes down to not giving credit where credit is due.

“When you have to nitpick with every little thing, you’re basically telling us how damn good the dude really is,” Mitchell said. “We nitpick so much at little things because we don’t want to give him credit for what he does right.”

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Rob Bradford Truly Believes Baseball Isn’t Boring

“I’ve been able to get a wide variety of people and honestly, it’s been a blast to do.”

Brady Farkas

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Look. It’s not all about the Super Bowl right now. Did you forget that pitchers and catchers report to spring training next week? And did you forget that the World Baseball Classic is back this year – for the first time since 2017? Baseball is just days away from turning its calendar to 2023 and the Baseball Isn’t Boring podcast is here to help you get in the mood. The podcast, hosted by Rob Bradford of WEEI, officially launched in October of 2022 through Audacy’s national platform, but it’s set to pick up major traction this season, launching episodes each weekday with some of your favorite players, managers, coaches, front office executives and media members.

“Every single weekday at 6:00 AM, the plan is to have something up,” Bradford told BSM this week. “And it’s challenging because I don’t have a built-in co-host and a lot of this is guest-driven but we’ve done it for about three months, and there hasn’t really been any days where I’ve had to mail it in.

“I’ve been able to get a wide variety of people and honestly, it’s been a blast to do. To talk to Joey Votto about chess or actor D.B. Sweeney about playing Shoeless Joe Jackson (in Eight Men Out), or executives, or managers, or players. It’s been a lot of fun,” Bradford said.

The podcast is just the latest explosion of the “Baseball Isn’t Boring” movement.

It’s the brainchild of Bradford and former Red Sox-turned-Dodgers-turned White Sox reliever Joe Kelly. Bradford has been the Site Editor of WEEI.com and has covered the Red Sox for more than a decade. His relationship with Kelly helped them form this partnership which has morphed into the podcast – and a book, which is set to come out on February 28th.

“Joe Kelly and I knew we wanted to do a book, and we knew that the premise of the book was going to be making people understand how good baseball is and all the things that are good about baseball and entertaining about baseball, all of that,” Bradford said.

While baseball was mired in labor strife during the lockout last offseason, Bradford and Kelly knew they had to get the ball rolling on the project.

“We started the ‘Baseball Isn’t Boring’ accounts with Cooper Leonard helping a ton and then we got down to spring training and we started handing out the t-shirts… The Red Sox players were wearing them all over the place… I think Kike Hernandez wore his every single day.

“Then Joe wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times stating our message and what we were talking about with baseball not being boring. ‘We should love the game. Let’s not forget about that through all the labor stuff.’ So we just kept it going and the more we talked about it, the more we understood how much meat on was on the bone when it came to that conversation.”

With Bradford being around the Red Sox, prominent players like Xander Bogaerts proudly displayed their t-shirts on social media, and Kelly, who was at White Sox spring training in Arizona, helped proliferate the message on the West Coast.

“Everybody wanted a t-shirt. Everybody liked the slogan. Everyone liked the logo,” Bradford said. “The first guy who put it on social media was (former Dodger) Justin Turner and that was because Joe gave him a t-shirt and Justin did this Instagram post where he showed up to spring training, got his equipment out of his trunk, and he is wearing this “Baseball Isn’t Boring” t-shirt. That was because Joe was handing them out to his buddies. It’s just an easy and fun conversation to be had.”

As he continues his work for WEEI, Bradford will continue to cover the Red Sox. He’ll make appearances on the station’s radio shows and write for the website, and he’ll stick with an additional Sox-based podcast called the Bradfo Sho but some of his priorities will change as a result of the national endeavor.

“I have to prioritize talking to people on other teams and other people when I get the opportunity to. “Obviously when the Red Sox play someone, I can talk to them,” Bradford said.

Bradford will be a part of nearly 20 spring training podcasts for WEEI but says on days when he has no Red Sox responsibilities he may take in some World Baseball Classic action.

“Am I going to cover the Red Sox like I did in 2008 when I joined WEEI? No. But you know what? No one covers it that way anymore. You pick the most interesting stuff and you lean into it. It’s not like you have to obsess over the minutiae as much as you used to,” he added.

The t-shirts are popular, the book is coming out, and the podcast is set to get bigger. But Bradford says there’s still much more good news to come.

“Audacy made a commitment to me and I’ve made a commitment to Audacy,” he said. “I think we have a pretty big announcement coming up in March about a partnership and I think we’re going to get into the gambling space at least one day with Jonathan Papelbon as our gambling expert.”

“There’s a lot of different things you can do and I think we’re just at the tip of the iceberg here.”

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Kevin Harlan: Play-by-Play Guy Most Important Thing on Radio, 4th on TV

Jordan Bondurant

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Kevin Harlan is set to make history on Sunday, calling his 13th consecutive Super Bowl.

Harlan, who is the voice of Monday Night Football on Westwood One on the radio and calls NFL games on TV for CBS, said on Bernstein & Holmes on 670 The Score it’s not lost on him what a privilege calling games like the Super Bowl is.

“When I put on that headset wherever I am, it’s a pretty special moment,” Harlan said. “And I never take it lightly and always think of the people that preceded me.”

Since Harlan has experience in both TV and radio, he was asked about the primary differences in calling NFL games. Kevin said the play-by-play voice isn’t the main priority on TV.

“On TV the play-by-play guy is the fourth most important thing on there,” he said. “It’s the picture – what the cameras are shooting – then the analyst, cause he’s gotta tell a lot of people and helps everybody in deciding why a play worked or didn’t. Then the graphics, then the replays and the bells and whistles, and all those fun things we see that they do in the truck. And then the play-by-play guy.”

Harlan meant no offense to his colleagues who have called games on television, but Kevin said he just understands where his position on the broadcast stands on TV versus radio.

“I’m there to accentuate the picture, accentuate the graphics and the statistics they put on the screen, set up the color analyst, give some pockets of space on television – let it breathe and give people a chance to digest what they’ve seen – what they just heard the analyst say,” he said. “Maybe try to digest the statistic or the graphic that’s been thrown up on the screen. They don’t want to overload them.

“On the radio, all you have for the listener is the theater of their imagination and their thoughts and their emotions,” Harlan added. “So the play-by-play guy on the radio is number one. So it’s all about pacing, delivery, word usage, reporting skill, and using the crowd as an orchestra if there’s a big play. But making sure that they’re constantly aware of score and time.”

Harlan has always found radio to be the dream industry to work in. He said there’s nothing quite like a radio broadcast.

“It’s the purest form of broadcasting,” he said. “It’s voice, it’s diction, it’s vocabulary, it’s pacing, it’s delivery, it’s reporting skill, it’s like every touch point that somebody in our business needs. Whereas in TV it’s a whole other set of skills.”

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