During the golden age of the 1950’s, it was Ray Charles’ soul music which dominated the radio. But Saturdays were reserved solely for college football.
And somewhere in this golden age, sports broadcasting icon George Blaha found a soulful voice of his own.
For the better part of the last four decades, that voice has come to represent years of Spartan football history — and just as many years of Detroit Pistons history.
But in all the years of uttering “Touchdown, MSU” or “Count that baby and a foul” it never gets old for Blaha, and there’s nothing else he’d rather be doing.
“I always wanted to be a broadcaster in a city that had hardworking, blue collar people and I am very, very fortunate to be a broadcaster in the Detroit area and in the state of Michigan because we have those kinds of people here,” Blaha said.
In 2002, Blaha was named an honorary alumnus of MSU. The honor was Blaha’s third alumnus achievement, as he received his bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Notre Dame and his MBA from the University of Michigan.
His father, Vernon, was a doctor and stressed the importance of higher education, so Blaha attended prestigious schools. However, his dream of becoming a play-by-play broadcaster was always his number one priority.
“One thing you don’t want is somebody unhappy at their work,” Blaha said. “You can’t very well be successful that way.
“I think it was Vin Scully, in my opinion the greatest play-by-play announcers of my lifetime, who said ‘broadcasting is a great example of the old adage that says, find something that you love to do and if you can do that at your profession then you will never have to work a day in your life.’”
Blaha said his decision to attend U-M came down to a “coin flip” by his family.
“Notre Dame, on the other hand, was a very conscious decision,” he said, adding that it stemmed from his mother being raised Irish Catholic and her father loving the Irish.
But before the Fighting Irish or the Wolverines, Blaha unknowingly started where he would finish. In 1953, Blaha was in attendance when a school by the name of Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science played its first football game as a member of the Big Ten at the University of Iowa.
“Of course, I had no idea what a watershed moment that would be for me career-wise, but I knew that it was a big game and my dad was very kind to take me to the game,” Blaha said.
MSU won the game, 21-7, and would go on to win the Rose Bowl that year.
Since that day, Blaha has watched more than 400 MSU football games and the number of Pistons games he has broadcasted is upward of 3,000.
“And it really doesn’t feel like work to me, although there is a lot of preparation that goes into every broadcast,” Blaha said. “If I didn’t find it interesting and did not truly enjoy it then I might realize how labor intensive it is, but it really has all been a labor of love.”
The Spartan brand has been engraved into Blaha’s legacy, and along the way, the players he has watched have grown to be some of his best friends. Among them is 1979 NCAA National Champion and former MSU basketball star Greg Kelser, who today broadcasts alongside Blaha as the Pistons’ color commentator.
“It’s always exciting to have the opportunity to sit down and call a game, number one, but then to know that I am doing it with a person who has been at this for so long, yet I have not been able to. … I don’t think anyone could ever say they have seen a diminishing of his passion,” Kelser said.
To read the rest of this article visit The State where it was originally published
16.9% of All Sports Radio Listeners Are Streaming
The news comes as Nielsen reported that 11.3% of all radio listenership comes thru a stream, up from 6.9% in May of 2020.
According to Nielsen, sports radio stations are the third-most streamed spoken word format, just behind Talk/Personality and News/Talk/Info. The trend is continuing to show that streaming is on the uptick.
The survey found that in May 2022, 16.9% of sports talk radio’s audience tunes in via the station’s online stream. That news comes as Nielson reported that 11.3% of all radio listenership comes thru a stream, up from 6.9% in May of 2020.
Nielsen notes that in the 45 PPM markets they are grabbing data from and the 4,800+ stations that stream in those markets, just 30% of them are encoded. That encoding allows for Nielsen to accurately measure the streams. They used the listener data from 1,500 stations across the U.S., in their latest report, AM/FM Radio Streaming Growth in PPM Markets.
The survey also showed that streaming levels differ widely by radio format. Spoken word formats display strong streaming listenership (Talk/Personality: 31.2%, News/Talk/Info: 19.1%, All Sports: 16.9%). In fact, Nielsen found that 1/3 of all AM/FM streaming in PPM markets is to spoken word formats.
New Study Finds Listeners to MLB on Radio Are Willing to Spend
More than one third (34%) of the respondents recently purchased clothing/apparel that features their favorite team… 27% have visited a ballpark in the past year. That compares to only 19% of the average MLB fan base has made an apparel purchase to support their team while just 11% have gone to a game in person in that same time span.
When it comes to advertiser’s attempting to reach an affluent and engaged audience, sports talk radio might have a whale on their hands. Major League Baseball play-by-play features an audience that has money and has no problems spending it.
In a recent MRI-Simmons study, data shows that consumers who listen to MLB broadcasts on the radio are the perfect audience for sports marketers. According to the analysis, done by Katz Radio Group, nearly two thirds (62%) of those surveyed consider themselves “super fans” of baseball. That number is 58% higher than the average.
Those “super fans” are willing to spend to support their team, as well. More than one third (34%) of the respondents recently purchased clothing/apparel that features their favorite team. Those fans are also far more willing to make the trip to see their team. The study found that 27% have visited a ballpark in the past year. That compares to only 19% of the average MLB fan base has made an apparel purchase to support their team while just 11% have gone to a game in person in that same time span.
The news continues getting better for advertisers. Continued analysis reveals that 66% of listeners are currently employed and have a median household income greater than $106,000.
Listeners to MLB games on the radio are also 34% more likely to place a sports bet and 106% more likely to be a participant in fantasy baseball.
Jeff Dean Signs Off At ESPN Tucson for The Final Time
Dean said on Facebook: “…the years of burning the candle at both ends has taken a dire toll on my health and for the first time in my life, I’m going to put myself and my livelihood first”
Fans will no longer be able to tune into ESPN Tucson and hear Jeff Dean hosting his show. Friday morning was his last show, according to his Facebook and Twitter pages.
The Jeff Dean Show had been airing from 7-9a MT weekday mornings. Dean took to social media to relay the news and the reason behind him stepping away from the microphone. Dean said on Facebook:
“This morning I signed off from my radio show on ESPN Tucson for the final time. I have been devoting too much of my life and my time to working multiple jobs…the years of burning the candle at both ends has taken a dire toll on my health and for the first time in my life, I’m going to put myself and my livelihood first”
Dean went on to emphasize that he isn’t stepping away from ESPN Tucson, he’s just taking himself off the air. He also added that “gladly, I will be continuing my position as PA announcer of University of Arizona Football and Men’s basketball.”
Dean would also go onto Twitter to add even further context for his self-removal from the ESPN Tucson airwaves. He added, “It’s not a decision I arrived at hastily, as it’s been a 6 month mental grind to make the ultimate decision that had to be made, and I’m not particularly happy about it, but I have to put my health first, we all do, and make sure we’re around long enough to enjoy life”.
Dean had been ESPN Tucson’s morning host since November 2019.