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Q & A with Ryan Porth

Brian Noe

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It isn’t every day that you bump into a 27-year-old program director in a top-30 market. Ryan Porth is a name to know in the sports talk radio business. He’s the PD of ESPN Radio 102.5 The Game and 94.9 Game 2 in Nashville, TN.

Ryan’s career path is uncommon. He earned a big promotion in the span of 10 days, one which typically takes years to achieve. I had a chance to connect with him and discuss his unique career path, future goals and his thoughts on the best and worst parts of sports talk radio.

Q: What was it about the sports talk radio business that initially interested you in pursuing it?

RP: When I was born and raised in Cincinnati, the voice of the Cincinnati Reds, Marty Brennaman, was an idol of mine. I used to play imaginary baseball in the backyard and act like I was Marty Brennaman. So as a little kid, I always wanted to be the radio voice of the Cincinnati Reds and that desire to work in sports broadcasting stayed with me through middle school and high school. I always knew it was what I wanted to do.

A few years after high school, I got a part-time job here at ESPN 102.5 The Game. That was July of 2012. Five years later I’m the damn Program Director of this thing. It’s crazy to think about. To have a job like this at my age, I pinch myself every day. To be working in the industry that I’ve dreamed of working in my entire life is a real blessing.

Q: Having started at The Game and worked your way up, does that impact the way you look at talent? For example, do you prefer seeing homegrown talent get a promotion rather than taking a look at options outside of your market?

RP: Being here for so long, I’ve seen many people move up the ranks — and it’s mostly been with producers — but I do believe in the theory of promoting from within if you can. You know their strengths. You know their weaknesses. You know everything about them. You can put them in the best position possible to maximize their strengths. That’s one risk with someone out of the market – you don’t know them as well on a personal level.

I’m very fortunate that since I was hired as Program Director, in the last 10+ months I haven’t had to make a change on the air with our lineup. All the guys that I inherited for the live shows from the morning show to the midday show to the afternoon show offer something a little different, and it’s been a pleasure working with them.

I think promoting from within is a trendy way to go. That isn’t to suggest that I won’t consider someone out of the market, but with your on-air talent, you want them to have the backstory knowledge of the Titans, and the Preds, and the Vols and everything that’s a hot-button issue in this town. In Nashville, it’s important to know the history of sports in this town. That goes with any town and radio station. I’m lucky to have a really good staff on board.

Q: It was crazy with the Preds last year. I went to a couple of those watch parties. Broadway street was completely shut down. It was a really, really cool thing. Could you see an MLB or NBA team in Nashville? How big of an impact do you think it’d make in the city and on the sports talk radio scene?

RP: If Major League Baseball or the NBA were to come here, it would only benefit our business in terms of having even more things to talk about. For where the city of Nashville is right now, I think having two pro sports teams with the Titans and the Preds, plus Nashville SC and the Nashville Sounds, is kind of a perfect mix. But with 80 to 100 people moving to Nashville every day, I can see in a decade or two it expanding to meeting a Philadelphia or Detroit in terms of having all the pro sports teams in town and being a hotbed for sports even more than it is now.

Q: Knowing the dynamics of this city, which do you think would make a bigger impact here, the NBA or MLB?

RP: I think Major League Baseball would make a bigger impact because of the timing in which the sport is played. The NBA would be going up against the Preds and I don’t know how successful a team would be here especially with Memphis right down the road. The Grizzlies are kind of viewed as Tennessee’s NBA team.

However, with Major League Baseball — while you do have the Braves, and the Reds, and the Cardinals within a stone’s throw of Nashville — I can envision an American League team working here in the future when the city grows more. I think Nashville in 10 to 20 years will be in a much better position for MLB than it is now.

Q: I hear a lot of negativity about sports talk radio. With all of the bellyaching of ‘this sucks’ and ‘they talk too much this’ and ‘they do too much that,’ what do you think is really, really good about sports talk radio right now?

RP: Whether it’s a negative topic or a positive one, connecting with fans is the most important thing in sports talk radio in my mind. Whether Butch Jones is on the hot seat or the Nashville Predators are going to the Stanley Cup Final, you want to have that connection with the fans.

You’re not going to make everyone happy in this industry, and a listener doesn’t have to agree with everything that a host has to say. But if a host can connect with the listener and make them understand where they’re coming from with their opinions, it makes for great radio. We’re also fortunate at ESPN 102.5 The Game to have two popular former Titans figures – wideout Derrick Mason and GM Floyd Reese – who can take fans behind the curtain on their experiences in the NFL and provide unique insight the listener can’t get elsewhere.

In the social media world that we live in now, it’s a different world than it was 10-15 years ago. You can get a lot of people’s opinions right there on Twitter and Facebook, but the medium of radio is still powerful. The mic that our hosts turn on every day is still powerful and the way that sports talk radio hosts can connect with listeners as they drive to work or lunch, with hosts wearing their emotions on their sleeves as if they’re a fan themselves, is one of many positive things about sports radio right now.

Q: What do you think could be better about sports talk radio?

RP: The one thing that I think people can fall victim to is hot-take radio. I think it only works for so long. Not only in sports talk radio but with TV, it can be a little overbearing at times. That’s something that a lot of listeners or viewers would appreciate seeing or hearing less of. We’ve got an afternoon host, Jared Stillman, that has a lot of opinions about everything in Nashville, but I wouldn’t consider him among the hot-take sports talk radio hosts. He’s just a Nashvillian that wears his emotions on his sleeve. I think those are the type of things that make sports talk radio great. Having a hot take just to have a hot take on something in the sports world, and doing that too much over time, can wear on the consumer.

Q: When you target new talent or hear a host for the first time, what characteristics appeal to you most?

RP: I’m a diehard Cincinnati Reds fan. I remember turning on ESPN 1530 after Game 5 of the 2012 National League Division Series. Mo Egger, who’s one of my favorites in this country in terms of talking sports, said something along the lines of, “I’m paid to know what to say, but I don’t know what to say right now.” It was real emotion, expressing exactly what the entire Reds fanbase was feeling at that time. If a sports talk radio host can connect with listeners and fans in that way, that is one of the best qualities in a host.

You have to be compelling and discuss topics that will make the listeners think, whether they agree or disagree. I think likability is another really good quality for radio hosts. Especially in the south where Southern hospitality is a real thing. Nashville is a different market from anywhere up north where it’s a heritage sports town. Everything is a little bit more laid back in Nashville and having some likability is an important trait in radio hosts. You don’t necessarily need them to like you, but you need them to like listening to you, and enjoy listening to you, because you obviously want to keep them listening. You don’t want to scare listeners away, because they may not come back.

Q: Likability and relatability are important everywhere, but might be even more important in Nashville. Do you think that what separates a good host from an excellent host can range based on the region they’re working in?

RP: I think so. A good host can handle the x’s and o’s of sports talk radio well. They can tease well. They can set up topics well. They can interact with callers well, but an excellent host has to have those intangibles of connecting and forming a relationship with the listeners without actually knowing them on a personal level. Making a listener feel like they’re in the studio with them, or sitting at the bar with them listening to your hosts share what they’re passionate about – those things help put you over the top as an on-air personality in my opinion.

Q: Some topics these days can be divisive. That can damage a host’s likability and relatability. Whether it’s the anthem protests or the sign at the Red Sox game, “racism is as American as baseball,” do you have a certain tactic or approach with your on-air staff about do’s and don’ts when addressing those subjects?

RP: I’m pretty lucky to have a lineup of hosts that know the right and wrong of what to say in those situations. When it comes to political stuff like that, no radio station wants their hosts to say something that will hurt the credibility or likability of a host or the radio station as a whole. But at the same time, giving hosts that freedom of speech when it’s necessary, when it’s valid, I think is important as a Program Director.

A lot of people use sports to escape from some of the crazy happenings going on in our country. There’s a good chance they have no desire to hear about politics when flipping on a sports radio station. So that’s what we try to offer our listener in times like those – talking about the Preds or Titans, or sports in general, to provide that escape.

Q: How do you balance big national stories with your local content? Is there a specific message you relay to your staff?

RP: In the last year, we’ve had the the Chicago Cubs win a World Series. That was a huge national story that our hosts talked about. Maybe not at length, but they talked about them winning it all. While there are Cubs fans in Nashville, they’re not considered a local team at all. But that was a huge story in sports and when those things happen, I think it’s important to talk about them.

At the same time, if there are other storylines going on nationally that we can relate to locally — for instance, if Jon Gruden says that Jameis Winston should be an NFL MVP candidate. Having our hosts take that and frame it in a way where they’re saying, “Jameis Winston, if he’s an NFL MVP candidate, then why isn’t Marcus Mariota?” Just doing things like that — finding that local connection where it can still be a good listen for the people who are tuning in just for local news or local sports talk.

There are so many outlets now where you can get national talk. We’ve got 102.5 The Game, but we’ve also got 94.9 Game 2, and 94.9 Game 2 is mostly the ESPN Radio syndicated lineup. So, we’ve got Mike & Mike in the Morning, and Russillo, and Le Batard, and Paul Finebaum in the afternoon. All of them talk about national storylines. Finding a way to connect the two — local and national — to bridge that gap, is an important thing for our local hosts to do.

Q: In Nashville, you’re up against 104.5 The Zone. Some view it as a huge challenge or a mountain that you’ve got to climb. What are the opportunities that it presents from where you guys are and how you’re going head-to-head with an opponent in the same town?

RP: I think the opportunity for us is the fact that we have a little bit of a different strategy in terms of on air. 104.5 The Zone, while they do talk their fair share of sports, they also like to dip into pop culture, entertainment, and things of that nature. For the listener that wants deep sports talk, they know they can come to 102.5 and we’re going to be talking about the local teams. We’re going to be talking about the Preds. We’re going to be talking about the Titans. We’re going to be talking about the Vols and anything else that is hot in this town. That’s our identity.

We don’t pump ourselves as Nashville’s Best Sports Talk just because it’s a catchy line. It’s something that we all believe in. We truly believe we deliver the best sports talk in this town. When it’s Preds, we have the best Preds talk. When it’s the Titans, we have the best Titans talk. When it’s the Vols, we have the best Vols talk. That’s something that we pride ourselves on. Their model has been successful for them and I respect them for that. At the same time, there are many listeners out there that just want sports talk and that’s what we try to deliver to them on a daily basis.

Q: Having transitioned from APD to PD, when you look back, what’s the biggest area of your personal growth that you’re most proud of?

RP: Well, it was a very quick transition. August 15th last year was my first day as Assistant Program Director. Then on August 26th, I became the interim Program Director. So, I had a grand total of 10 days under my belt as an Assistant Program Director. We were going through a lineup change at that time and I was the EP of our afternoon show, Jared & The GM. During those 10 days I didn’t have any time to learn how to be an Assistant Program Director.

I was put in a position where I went from Executive Producer of the afternoon show, and within two weeks I was steering the ship. It was a scary few weeks stepping into a role where I was learning everything on the fly. Fortunately, I had a great support staff and still do to this day. As a 27-year-old Program Director, I still learn things every single day. Hopefully, a year from now, I’m in an even better position in terms of knowing little nuances of how to be a PD. I feel like I’m light years ahead of where I was at this time last year when I was just worried about keeping us on the air.

I’d say the biggest thing in transition that I’ve had to learn is how to interact with each of our talent. Every single cat is skinned a different way. Learning how to handle the on-air talent, push their buttons and try to get the best out of them is something that I’ve had to learn very quickly. Luckily, as someone who was in the building for 4+ years before the change, I think I benefited because I knew most of our on-air talent already. I wasn’t a brand new PD at a brand new station. I’d say talent coaching and interaction are the biggest things for a Program Director to tackle and I’ve tried to make that a big focus of mine over the past year.

Q: What are your future goals in sports talk radio?

RP: The dream of being the radio voice of the Cincinnati Reds will always be there. If I’m 60 years old and haven’t been the radio voice of the Reds, I think I would still love to do that. Obviously the path that I’ve gone down in radio may not lead to that and I’m okay with it.

To be honest, I have no idea where this whole thing is gonna take me. I’ve been appreciative just to have 5+ years in this business in this building — to develop relationships and friendships that I’ll have forever. If something comes up nationally in the future, then I’m sure I’d consider it. If something suited my strengths well outside of radio, maybe I’d consider that too. But I love Nashville. I may be biased, but it’s the best city in the country to live in. It’s home and I don’t really want to change that.

I just take it day by day and see where each one takes me. Hopefully I can continue to add to what I’ve built during my last five years in this business.

BSM Writers

The NFL Hopes You’re Lazy Enough to Pay Them $5

“This app reportedly doesn’t even have any original content of it’s own. NFL Films produces content for ESPN+, HBO Max, Peacock, Tubi, Epix, Paramount Plus, and Prime Video. It has also reportedly had discussions about producing content for Netflix. Unless they plan to bring all of those shows in-house, what kind of shows could NFL Films produce for NFL Plus that you couldn’t already find on all of those other apps?”

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NFL Streaming

Corporate goodwill is a hard thing to ask for. It’s not something that is a requirement for any entity to engage in. But it can go a long way in establishing a deeper bond for the future. According to Sports Business Journal, NFL owners are contemplating launching a streaming service for the league.

The app would feature podcasts, content created by teams and radio content. It’s unknown where the podcast content will come from but one can assume it’ll include the various podcasts the NFL produces with iHeartRadio. Team content that is expected to be featured could come from videos and audio that is already posted on team websites and social media platforms such as YouTube.

Various organizations across the league have expanded their YouTube efforts over the last couple of years as the Google-owned site has slowly set itself apart as a leading source for viewership. My hometown team, the Baltimore Ravens, for example promotes a talk show with cornerback Marlon Humphrey where he interviews players and other key figures from the team about their lives and careers and how they got to where they are today.

The most important part of this app will be NFL games itself. On Sunday afternoons, whatever games are airing in the specific location you’re in while using the app, those are the games you have access to watch. If you’re in Baltimore and a Ravens game is airing on CBS while the Commanders are on Fox, those are the games the app will offer. If you’re in Boston and a Patriots game is on CBS while a Giants game is on Fox – you won’t have access to the Ravens game airing on CBS in Baltimore or the Commanders game on Fox in Baltimore even if that’s where you normally live. These games used to be a part of a deal with Yahoo Sports and Verizon – who distributed them on their apps for free.

JohnWallStreet of Sportico notes, “longer term, the existence of a league-owned streaming platform should help ensure broadcast rights continue to climb.” But at the end of the day, how does this help the fan? The increase of broadcast rights is going to end up costing viewers in the long run through their cable bill.

ESPN costs almost $10 per cable customer. The app, as of now, isn’t offering anything special and is an aggregation of podcasts, games and videos that fans can already get for free. If you want to listen to an NFL podcast – you can go to Spotify, Apple Podcasts and various other podcast hosting platforms. If you want to watch content from your favorite teams, you can go to their website or their social media platforms. And if you want to watch games, you can authenticate your cable subscriptions and watch them for free through your cable company’s app or CBS’ app or the Fox Sports app.

It’s nothing more than a money grab. Games are already expensive to go to as it is. Gas prices have reached astronomical highs. Watching content has become extremely costly and it’s debatable whether buying streaming services is cheaper or more expensive than the cable bundle. And now the NFL wants to add more stress and more expenses to their viewers who just desire an escape from the hardships of life through their love of a beautiful game? It seems wrong and a bit cruel to me.

The beauty of paying for content apps is that you’re going to gain access to something that is original and unique from everything else in the ecosystem. When House of Cards first premiered on Netflix, it was marketed as a political thriller of the likes we had never seen and it lived up to its expectations for the most part. The critically-acclaimed series led viewers to explore other shows on the app that were similarly a more explicit and unique journey from what had been seen on television before.

This app reportedly doesn’t even have any original content of it’s own. NFL Films produces content for ESPN+, HBO Max, Peacock, Tubi, Epix, Paramount Plus, and Prime Video. It has also reportedly had discussions about producing content for Netflix. Unless they plan to bring all of those shows in-house, what kind of shows could NFL Films produce for NFL Plus that you couldn’t already find on all of those other apps? Even YouTube has partnered with NFL Films to produce behind the scenes footage of games that is available for FREE.

If you’re going to force viewers to pay $5 to watch games on their phone, the least you could do is give fans access to speak with players and analysts before and after the games. Take NFL Network over the top so that we can wake up with Good Morning Football. Offer a way for fans to chat while games are being watched on the app. The ability to watch an All-22 feed of live games. A raw audio options of games. The ability to screencast. Even a live look at the highly paid booths who are calling the games.

Five bucks may seem small in the grand scheme of things but it is a rip-off especially when the content is available for free with a few extra searches. Goodwill and establishing a person to person online relationship with fans could go a long way for the NFL. It’s not going to work using these tactics though. And after facing such a long pandemic, offering it up for free just seems like the right thing to do.

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BSM Writers

Marc Hochman is The Lebron James of Miami Sports Radio

The Hochman and Crowder Show with Solana isn’t like anything you’ll hear in most major markets. But they wear that distinction with a badge of honor. They’re not interested in breaking down why the offensive line can’t get a push on short-yardage situations, they want to make you laugh, regardless if it’s sports content or not. They’re perfectly Miami sports radio. 

Tyler McComas

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Marc Hochman

There’s 30 minutes to go until Marc Hochman’s summer vacation and he’s suddenly overcome with emotion. Instead of staring at the clock, he’s staring at an article from The Miami New Times, which has just named him Best Talk Radio Personality in its “Best of 2022” awards issue. It’s an incredible honor in a city that has several worthy candidates, including the man sitting right next to him, Channing Crowder. 

But it’s not just the honor that’s catching Hochman’s eye, it’s also the paragraph where the newspaper compares him to Lebron James. No, seriously. Compliments are nothing new for the Miami radio veteran, but being compared to one of the best basketball players of all-time is new territory. Part of the paragraph reads like this:

“His current domination of the afternoon drive simulcast on both WQAM and 790 The Ticket (WAXY) is akin to Lebron playing for the Lakers and Clippers simultaneously. Could he do it? Probably. Does Hochman do this daily? Yes. Advantage, Hochman.”

Talk about incredibly high praise for a sports radio host. Especially one in Miami where there’s still a lot of hard feelings towards Lebron. But the praise is accurate, because the Hochman and Crowder Show with Solana airs on two different Audacy stations every day. It’s an interesting dynamic, especially for a market the size of Miami/Fort Lauderdale. 

“We have a joke that if you don’t like what you’re hearing on 560, feel free to tune in on 790,” laughed Hochman. “But it’s fun and I think in some strange way it’s increased our audience. As crazy as it is to say in 2022, there are people who listen to a particular radio station and don’t ever change it. I do think being on both stations has expanded our audience. We have fun with it. The show is on for four hours on 560 WQAM and three hours on 790 The Ticket.”

It’s cool to see Hochman get this type of honor during his 10th year of being an afternoon host on 560 WQAM. Especially since he’s originally from Chicago, but has carved out an incredible career in a city he’s called home since the late 80s. It’s funny to think Hochman had no interest in sports radio in 2004 when his college friend Dan Le Batard offered him a job as an executive producer at a startup station in Miami. Now, 18 years later, he’s being voted as the best to do it in the city. 

“Everybody likes to be recognized for what they do,” said Hochman. “We get recognized all the time by the listeners, but when someone out of your orbits writes their opinion of what you’re doing, and it’s that glowing of an opinion, it’s great. I’ve been compared to Lebron before, but it’s always been my hairline. It was nice to be compared to him for another reason. That was super cool.”

The best part about all of this is how Hochman will use this as a funny bit on the show, because, above anything else, he’s instantly identified as someone who’s incredibly gifted at making people laugh on the air. There’s no doubt it will become a theme on the show, both with him and his co-hosts, Crowder and Solana. 

“The award came out about 30 minutes before I was leaving for my summer vacation, so I had about 30 minutes on the air to respond to it,” Hochman said. “So I’m sure it will become a bit on the show, I certainly will refer to myself as the Lebron James of sports talk radio in Miami. Although, there’s still some hard feelings here towards him.

That was the one part that jumped out, obviously, to me, Crowder and to Solana. I don’t think I’m Lebron James but Crowder said on the air that sometimes you have to acknowledge when you’re playing with greatness, and he said “I used to play defense with Jason Taylor and Junior Seau, now I’m doing radio and I will acknowledge greatness.”

With or without this honor, it’s pretty evident Hochman is the happiest he’s ever been in sports radio. He’s surrounded with two talented co-hosts, but the sentiment is that Hochman does an incredible job of putting both Solano and Crowder in situations to be the best versions of themselves on the air. However, Hochman sees it differently. 

“I think that’s more on the people around you,” he said. “If you have great teammates, they’re great. Crowder and Solana, those dudes, if you want to make a basketball comparison, we have ourselves a Big Three.

Solana is the best at what he does, Crowder is the absolute best radio partner I’ve had in my career. He’s so aware of what it takes to entertain but also has broadcast sensibilities at the same time. I actually think he’s the one that makes us sound better than what we really are. He has a really incredible knack for entertaining but also informing.”

The Hochman and Crowder Show with Solana isn’t like anything you’ll hear in most major markets. But they wear that distinction with a badge of honor. They’re not interested in breaking down why the offensive line can’t get a push on short-yardage situations, they want to make you laugh, regardless if it’s sports content or not. They’re perfectly Miami sports radio. 

“I would say Miami is the strangest sports radio market in the country,” said Hochman. “I grew up in Chicago so I’m intimately familiar with Chicago sports talk. Miami sports talk, which is Le Batard, who redefined what works. In Miami, that’s what it needed. It’s more guy talk than sports talk. We certainly can’t break down a third inning in a Marlins game and why a runner should have been running when he wasn’t, the way that New York, Philadelphia or Boston radio could.”

“That doesn’t work here. When Crowder and I go on the air everyday, we’ve always said, our goal is we want to laugh the majority of our four hours on the air. If we’re laughing, we assume the audience is laughing, as well. That’s our personality. We both like to laugh and have fun. I like to do it, no matter what is going on. That translates to the radio. Luckily, Miami is a sports radio market that embraces that, because I don’t think we could do a show any other way.”

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BSM Writers

Please Stop With the No Announcer Broadcast Shtick

“Perhaps the biggest issue I have is there’s nobody there to set the scene, or to build drama in key moments. Those big sequences in a game need a play-by-play announcer to let you know just how important this situation is to the game.”

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Tiger, Royals, Peacock

Enough already. Stop trying to make a splash. Stop trying to be so gimmicky. Just give this idea that’s been done before a rest. Permanently. Peacock recently broadcast a Sunday game between the Tigers and Royals with no announcers in the booth. There were reporters conducting interviews and showing fans different views of the ballpark, but there was no commentary. No play-by-play. No analyst. Been there. Done that. Now stop. 

This sounds like a publicity stunt. As if to say, ‘our baseball broadcasts on Peacock are struggling, so let’s get people talking about us, right?’ I guess to an extent it worked, because people were talking about it and I’m writing about it. 

Instead of traditional play-by-play and color analysis, the broadcast featured something “completely different,” as Sam Flood, NBC Sports executive producer puts it. There were reporters that took fans around Detroit’s Comerica Park, showing the game from different angles and vantage points.

“The whole idea of this is treating a game completely different. We’re going to take you out to the ballpark,” said Flood. “We just want to be the ultimate fan’s experience and spend it like anyone else. It’s an American holiday celebration weekend. We’re going to lean in and treat baseball like fans do.”

Ahmed Fareed, MLB Sunday Leadoff host and in-game reporter was part of the game. He was joined by Bally Sports Detroit analyst Craig Monroe and NBC Sports’ Britney Eurton.

“One of our goals for the Peacock game has been to celebrate the game and the players and everything that makes the sport special. So, for this game that kind of gives us an opportunity to celebrate everything that makes baseball special off the field,” Fareed said.

Reaction to the stunt was mixed on social media. 

Those that did not enjoy the broadcast seemed to be turned off by the fact they couldn’t do what they normally do when watching a game. 

Other viewers weren’t fans of the reporters and who they were interviewing, instead of focusing on the baseball game. 

Some just didn’t seem overly impressed by the production, even if they didn’t realize the whole game would be without announcers. 

There were those that enjoyed the broadcast and liked the way the game ‘breathed’ with only the natural sounds of the game shining through. 

Others that were fans of the ‘experiment’ pointed out that the lack of constant talking was soothing. 

There were also viewers that felt like they were being taken behind the scenes, which was enjoyable for some. 

This is not the first time a network has tried the shtick, for lack of a better word. 

TNT attempted “players only” broadcasts a few years ago, experimenting with NBA alumni on the game broadcasts instead of a traditional play-by-play and analyst set up. The idea was to let those who once played, talk about those that are currently playing. It didn’t work. 

Late in the 1980 NFL season, NBC was looking for something to bring in some fans for a Dolphins/Jets game in Miami, so they went the ‘no announcer’ route. The plan was to have the PA announcer give a little more information after each play to help viewers on the telecast. The rest was just fan reaction at the old Orange Bowl. It was successful in bringing in curious viewers, but not something NBC deemed sustainable. 

It was the brain child of Don Ohlmeyer. He was the first producer of Monday Night Football, produced and directed three Olympics broadcasts, won 16 Emmy awards and is a member of the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame. Yet, that broadcaster-less game continues to follow him.

“All the stuff I’ve done in my career,” Ohlmeyer told ESPN in 2010, “and that’s what I’m going to be remembered for. It serves me right.”

One lesser motivation for Ohlmeyer in presenting a game without announcers was reportedly to send a message that he thought announcers talked too much during telecasts, sometimes speaking less to inform than to fill space with the obvious. He felt that intruded on compelling action.

The late Dick Enberg was the top football announcer back then, and while nervous that the game would be a success, he did learn a few things. He spoke to ESPN in a 2010 interview that the experiment helped him in the long run. 

“It improved me. Consciously, to this day, there are moments in every sport that I do when I kind of throw up my hands as if to say to myself and to my partner, ‘Let’s not talk. This moment is special, we don’t need to talk. Let’s let it play.’” That is a good lesson even today. Allow the game to breathe. 

Look, you already know where I stand on this, but let me make a case. I’m not exactly sure how no announcers on a broadcast really serves an audience. To me it’s quite the opposite. Many people have the telecast on, but aren’t paying attention to every pitch and count on the announcers to let them know what’s going on.

If you start watching in the bottom of the fourth inning and it’s a 3-2 ballgame, how did the game get to this point? There’s nobody there to recap it for you. Graphics only can say so much. 

Along those lines, there’s no explanation of confusing or controversial plays. How can such plays or instances be clarified? 

Part of what I enjoy about doing play-by-play and hearing when I’m watching a telecast are the interesting back stories. The trials and tribulations of the 30-year-old rookie finally getting a shot at the big-league level. I want to hear about a pitcher developing a cutter in the offseason to help his cause. It feels kind of empty when an opportunity to share good information is wasted because nobody is in the booth. 

Perhaps the biggest issue I have is there’s nobody there to set the scene, or to build drama in key moments. Those big sequences in a game need a play-by-play announcer to let you know just how important this situation is to the game. The telecast needs the words to support the picture and stress the enormity of what is happening at that time. It falls flat without it. 

In some ways, I’d like to encourage more networks to try this, because they will help to prove my point even more. These ‘gimmicky’ telecasts, just reinforce what some of us see as normal and necessary. We need the play-by-play and analysis to make the broadcast complete. 

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