Tony and Robin Smallmon weren’t surprised when their sports-minded only child Michelle landed a job four years ago on 101 ESPN radio in St. Louis. She was producing a show and doing on-air banter with the likes of the former St. Louis Rams’ player D’Marco Farr, sportscaster Randy Karraker and veteran sports writer Bernie Miklasz.
But when Michelle got the call this summer to move to “The Mothership,” ESPN’s network headquarters in Bristol, Conn., the family response was divided.
“My dad was very excited and my mom started sobbing,” said Michelle. No more Sunday family dinners together. “She thinks I’m never coming home.”
Michelle spent the past four years with 101 ESPN in St. Louis, where she produced and did some on-air work on the “Bernie Miklasz Show” and “The Fast Lane” with Karraker, Farr and former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Brad Thompson.
“I was very happy here,” she said. But when the opportunity arose to interview for a job in Bristol, she took it. She started in July and eventually settled into producing a weekday evening radio show called “Jorge & Jen.” It debuted in late September, but is currently not airing in St. Louis. It can be heard on www.espnradio.com, the ESPN app, SiriusXM, Apple iTunes, Slacker Radio and TuneIn.
“When I got there, I was not assigned (to a show). I was supposed to take ‘College GameDay.’ But they thought I would be better served with a Monday through Friday show. It’s a much more prominent position.”
A graduate of the University of Illinois with a degree in broadcast journalism, her first job out of college was entry level, as a production assistant with KSDK-TV.
“I always wanted to write. I wanted to be a sports writer,” Michelle said.
But she liked to talk sports, too — “I’m a Chatty Cathy” — so she found herself having off-air conversations with KSDK sportscaster Frank Cusamano and sports director Rene Knott. When Knott started doing a weekly sports wrap-up show, he asked her to sit in and make some comments, Michelle said. She also was handling remote production on the sidelines at Rams games.
A fan of sportswriter Bernie Miklasz, she took note when ESPN radio came to St. Louis and he got his own show. Then Bernie’s producer moved on.
“I had never produced radio, but I wanted to work with Bernie,” Michelle said. “I thought I would always be in TV. … When I got the call, plans change and you roll with it.”
He took a chance with her, she said, as producer of “The Bernie Miklasz Show,” then “The Fast Lane.” Sitting in the booth running the shows, the hosts would throw her questions or ask for comments, and in 2014, she began hosting the weekly “Rams Playmakers” show, featuring in-depth interviews with various players.
“I was dealt the best hand of cards with Bernie,” she said. “He’s been my biggest supporter and champion.”
Bernie said he knew she was the one for him “about five minutes into the interview. … She was so smart and witty and vibrant. … And she knows sports. She loves sports. She understood how much our teams and athletes mean to the community,” he said. “That combination of knowledge, spark and sincerity was just what I wanted. She had no experience producing but I didn’t care. The mechanics of producing can be taught and learned. But you can’t teach someone to have flair. You can’t install an abundant personality.”
D’Marco showed her what acceptance is all about.
“One of the best guys ever. He treated me like one of the guys,” she said. “He said, ‘I forget you’re a girl sometimes.’ My gender isn’t in play.”
But Bernie says being a woman still comes into play.
“To be honest it bothers me that she doesn’t have her own radio show. She would be better at it than 75 percent of the people that host sports talk radio. She is a rare talent,” he said. “It infuriates me how the sports media industry still has a way of putting women into a certain slot. … Michelle can hang with any guy in terms of sports knowledge. She can hang with any guy in dishing out zingers and taking shots. When she produced my show she had a chance to contribute on-air, and listeners loved her. Men liked her. Women liked her. She earned across-the-board respect. She is a wonderful producer, but she should be a star. She’s that good.”
For now, her job in Bristol involves behind-the-scenes production and on-air skills to keep the show moving and on time.
Michelle says she’s very organized, a necessary skill for a producer. “You have to be very Type A and have your ducks in a row, to have everything set up in advance,” she said of getting a show ready for broadcast. “You have to be just as prepared or better prepared than the host.”
Which means long before she dons the big headset and sits down to run the show, she spends hours doing research, setting up guest bookings and web development. She frequents Twitter and Instagram, too.
Tony Bruno Relives Favorite Moments With Angelo Cataldi on 94 WIP
“I loved every day. We did stuff that put Sports Radio in Philly on the map and I’m proud of that.”
Tony Bruno has been a staple of the sports radio business for decades. Bruno is from Philadelphia and was teamed up in the early nineties with a duo still dominating the local airwaves there today, Angelo Cataldi and Al Morganti. The three reunited Thursday morning on 94 WIP to remember the glory days of their partnership and friendship.
One of the first moments Cataldi asked Bruno if he remembered was the update he did from a tree outside of their studio and the answer was an emphatic yes.
“Absolutely, it’s one of the highlights of my life – other than interviewing four Presidents and every sports athlete in history – there’s no bigger moment than me climbing up in the tree, which was obstructing our view of William Penn and the city skyline. That’s what I do, I was a man of action. I’m not one of these guys that talks the talk, I climb the tree to do whatever is necessary.”
More frivolity followed when Cataldi harkened back to a segment of ‘Damsels in Distress’ and a time in which Bruno was sent on the street during a snowstorm to help shovel people out of their driveways. Bruno quickly recalled, “Man of the people. I should run for – I should of run for Governor of Pennsylvania or Senate or something.”
Bruno added that his favorite rant (and one that Cataldi loved too) wasn’t about the Cowboys or sports at all. “My favorite was my Infinity Broadcasting rant where I went on one day and even ripped our bosses, all the way up to the top of Infinity Broadcasting.” Cataldi cackled and praised Bruno’s rants more before being interrupted by Bruno saying, “yeah, my only regret is I never really ripped Al (Morganti) the way I should have ripped him. I let him of the hook so many times.”
An insightful moment came at the end of the call when Cataldi asked rhetorically if Bruno ever thought they (Cataldi & Morganti) would still be doing this thirty years later and then asked if Tony ever regretted leaving.
“It was a tough decision, Ang,” Bruno answered. “I was given an ultimatum. When I came to work with you guys, I loved every day. Every day we had fun. We did stuff that put Sports Radio in Philly on the map and I’m proud of that. It wasn’t one of those, ‘oh I got to go; I’m too big for these guys’. I even turned the ESPN job down a couple of times.
“My kids were still younger then, I didn’t want to move. I didn’t have to move. They said just come up here on weekends and that’s how ESPN Radio started. So I was doing weekends and Tom Bigby (Program Director) didn’t like that either, told me it wasn’t going to work. It was a philosophical thing. When he told me, ‘you should go because we are not going to pay you what they’re paying you,’ I said ok.
Cataldi began to sign off with Bruno with genuine thanks: “I got to tell you something Tone, we are indebted to you for the rest of our lives because we both learned so much from you and you are one of the great talents that radio has ever had.”
Dodgers Temporarily Pull Broadcasters Off Road
“If the broadcasters’ are not dealing with severe cases of Covid and they have cleared health and safety protocols, it appears the team is open to sending them back out on the road.”
When the Los Angeles Dodgers visit the East Coast later this week, the men that call the action on TV and radio will not be with them. The games will instead be broadcast on AM570 LA Sports and SportsNet LA from their respective studios.
“Due to a few members of the Dodgers’ broadcast team having recently tested positive for COVID-19, and out of an abundance of caution, the Dodgers have decided to not travel their broadcasters to upcoming games in Philadelphia and Washington,” the Dodgers announced in a statement. Similar to the 2020 and 2021 MLB seasons, the games will be broadcast from Los Angeles,” reads a statement on the team’s Twitter account.
No further details are available, so the severity and the number of cases remain unknown.
Last September, both members of the Dodgers’ television play-by-play crew were forced into quarantine. Joe Davis was the first to test positive, followed later that month by Orel Hershiser.
On Wednesday, manager Dave Roberts told the media that the Dodgers’ roster and coaching staff are not effected.
“There’s there’s no symptoms in the clubhouse. I think that as far as the upstairs, as an organization, we’re all just trying to be very cautious. But as far as in the clubhouse, coaches, training staff, nothing like that.”
If the broadcasters’ are not dealing with severe cases of Covid and they have cleared health and safety protocols, it appears the team is open to sending them back out on the road. 2022 was supposed to be a return to normal for the Dodgers and many other teams after not letting broadcasters travel in 2020 and 2021.
Pat McAfee: ‘No One Will Disrespect Jim Rome On My Show’
“That’s because you need to respect the f–king jungle.”
Jim Rome is a sports radio icon and Pat McAfee recognizes that.
On The Pat McAfee Show on Wednesday, McAfee was talking to co-host A.J. Hawk about how Rome trended recently on Twitter.
This happened after news of Tom Brady’s FOX Sports deal surfaced, and a list of the top paid sports media personalities was compiled. Rome came in behind Brady at number two making a reported $30 million a year, and many were surprised by that number. McAfee wasn’t.
“That’s because you need to respect the f–king jungle,” he said. “I have nothing but respect for Jim Rome.”
McAfee gave props to Rome, 57, saying he’s been doing sports talk probably longer than anyone. He’s one of the most widely distributed hosts in the country. Pat said he won’t tolerate anyone talking smack about the Smack-Off King.
“No disrespect will be said on this show of Jim Rome, ever,” he said. “Love that man.”