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Under The Radar – January 23, 2018

Jason Barrett

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Most sports radio stations are preparing for next week’s buildup to the Super Bowl. Some are invading Minneapolis to operate on radio row. Others are avoiding the cold and working out of their home studios. Although that may be the focus, it doesn’t mean the news wheel stops spinning. If you’d like to be included in this column in the future, send your information via email to JBarrett@hvy.tcp.mybluehost.me. Now here’s the latest activity in sports media circles.

Bad news to report out of Chicago. Cumulus Media has opted out of their multi-year agreements with the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls. Each team has aired their games on WLS AM 890. Cumulus filed for bankruptcy and as part of the process, have chosen to return a number of Chicago stations to their previous owner Merlin Media. How this will affect the Bulls and White Sox radio partnerships is unclear at this time.

Elsewhere in the windy city, 670 The Score‘s Danny Parkins is trying to make a difference. The Score midday host turned the Chicago Bulls draft night decision of selling off Jordan Bell to the Golden State Warriors into a positive. Parkins had a number of shirts customized with the text “3.5 Million” added on the back. That amount signifies what the Bulls received back for the talented rookie. The shirts are being sold for charity with a portion of the profits going to benefit Feed My Starving Children.

An interesting piece of news was shared in an article last week on the Sports Business Journal‘s website. John Ourand reported that ESPN is cutting back on travel to Minneapolis this year. The network is reportedly reducing the amount of ESPN Radio shows sent to the Super Bowl host city to provide coverage leading up to the Super Bowl.

Well wishes go out to Sports Radio WIP‘s Joe DeCamara. The Philadelphia midday host recently missed a number of shows due to being hospitalized with internal organ issues. DeCamara has since returned to hosting his daily program with Jon Ritchie. With the Eagles Super Bowl bound, DeCamara would have likely had doctors working on him during commercial breaks to make sure he was able to operate behind a microphone over these next two weeks.

101 ESPN afternoon host and former major league baseball pitcher Brad Thompson is earning a little more air time on St. Louis Cardinals television broadcasts this season according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Thompson is expected to work as the team’s color analyst alongside play by play man Dan McLaughlin for 15 games. Regular analyst Al Hrabosky is reducing his workload for the 2018 season. Tim McCarver and Ricky Horton will also continue contributing as analysts to Cardinals telecasts.

SiriusXM‘s PGA Tour channel has announced a few additions. John Cook, an 11-time winner on the PGA Tour, and golf analysts and former collegiate golfers Angela Garcia and Hally Leadbetter have signed on to host shows on the channel. Cook will be heard every Tuesday 7p-8p ET. Garcia and Leadbetter will host a show together every Monday 8p-9p ET.

After 15 years on the Dayton sports scene, Mark Neal has chosen to leave WING-AM ESPN 1410. Neal told the Dayton Daily News that he and his wife have decided to take different career directions, which will pull him him away from the radio station he’s spent the past 18 years at.

A tip of the cap to San Jose Sharks radio voice Dan Rusanowsky. The exceptional Bay Area play by play man recently called his 2,000th regular season Sharks contest.

Also out of the Bay Area, Martin Gallegos has announced he’s signed on full-time as the Oakland A’s beat reporter for the Bay Area News Group (Mercury News/East Bay Times.)

Last but not least, Michael Bish has landed a show on FOX Sports Radio 1340 in Richmond, Virginia. The program is scheduled to debut in February!

Sports Radio News

Toucher and Rich: Dennis Eckersley’s Retirement a “Huge Loss”

“When Eckersley got in there (the booth),” Shertenlieb started, “he was great. It made all of them better when Dennis Eckersley was around. It’s going to be a huge loss.”

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Dennis Eckersley

On Monday, Dennis Eckersley announced that he was going to retire from the Boston Red Sox television booth at the end of this season. The current NESN analyst is leaving after twenty years on the air with the team.

The news broke during Toucher and Rich on 98.5 the Sports Hub and it gave show co-host Rich Shertenlieb a chance to mention the news and praise the departing personality.

“When Eckersley got in there (the booth),” Shertenlieb started, “he was great. It made all of them better when Dennis Eckersley was around. It’s going to be a huge loss.”

The show spent the rest of the segment talking about what Eckersley offered that made him so unique. That’s when Matt McCarthy, fill-in for Fred Toucher, said that Eckersley was exactly what you wanted in an analyst.

“You want someone that’s going to give you an opinion,” McCarthy said. “Eck gave you an opinion. He’ll be missed.”

McCarthy also pointed out that this is the latest major shakeup that has happened to the television broadcast in recent years.

“There’s no doubt this is a blow,” McCarthy added. “This is a tremendous loss to that Red Sox broadcast to which has taken a lot of hits over the years with the loss of Jerry Remy, the decision to move on from Don Orsillo and now Dennis Eckersley retiring… they are going to have to find an entertainer in there. Matt McCarthy

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The Musers Mock Jim Nantz’s Farewell To Nick Faldo

“I’m telling you, Jim, he made it worse with his funeral director voice,” said co-host George Dunham.

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Nick Faldo

On Sunday, CBS Golf analyst Nick Faldo called his final tournament with CBS after sixteen years with the network. He was poised in the tower above the 18th green with Jim Nantz as he said his final goodbyes. It was an emotional moment that The Musers on The Ticket in Dallas had to comment on.

In the message, Faldo clearly has an issue getting thru the moment while Nantz tries to comfort his friend and buy him some time to regain his composure. However, The Musers thought it wasn’t helpful at all.

“I’m telling you, Jim, he made it worse with his funeral director voice,” said co-host George Dunham. “It sounded like he was going to say, ‘now, it’s time to send you to your happy place’. When he said that and when Nick said, in tears, ‘I’m ready,’ that made it sound like Jim was putting him to sleep.”

“(Australian accent) Go ahead and smother me, Jim,” Gordon Keith quipped, “go ahead and take that pillow over there and choke me out right now.”

“Nick are you ready for us to unplug the life support machine?” asked Dunham.

“Yeah, kick that thing right out the wall, mate.”

Dunham would later say, “I don’t think that any famous broadcaster has ever signed off in tears, proclaiming ‘I’m ready, I’m ready'”.

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Sports Radio News

Keyshawn Johnson: ‘I Don’t Like Sunday Night Baseball Putting Mics on Players’

“I’ve got an IFB in my ear and I’m trying to pay attention to the game and I’ve got air traffic control talking to me. There’s no way you can tell me that doesn’t affect you.”

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Most people seem to really like Sunday Night Baseball adding mics to players in the field this season. Fans and critics alike have commended ESPN for giving fans access that they have never had before. But don’t expect Keyshawn Johnson to join that praise chorus anytime soon.

“I don’t like the interaction with broadcast teams talking to players during the game, in the field,” he said on Monday morning’s edition of Keyshawn, JWill and Max.

The ESPN Radio morning man is convinced that eventually, the in-game conversations are going to cause a costly error.

Freddie Coleman, who was filling in for both Jay Williams and Max Kellerman, played a clip from Sunday night’s game for Johnson. In the clip, listeners could hear the Padres’ newly acquired slugger Juan Soto pleading with a ball hit by Cody Bellinger to stay in the park during the team’s 0-4 shutout loss to the Dodgers.

“I don’t like that as a player,” Johnson said. “I know the fans love it.”

He said that when he sees players mic’d up and answering a question during the game, he is constantly worried about how it will affect what happens on the field. He said he felt some empathy for the fielder on the mic once the ball is put into play, because if it comes that fielder’s way and he is distracted, the instant reaction from the crowd will be to question the player’s effort or ability rather than ask if the distraction is worth it.

Coleman pointed out that there is some very famous video of Keyshawn Johnson during his playing career mic’d up on the sidelines. Johnson defended NFL Films, saying that getting live sound of a game is very different than what Major League Baseball is making players do.

“That’s different than interacting with Karl Ravech and company in the booth. I’ve got an IFB in my ear and I’m trying to pay attention to the game and I’ve got air traffic control talking to me. There’s no way you can tell me that doesn’t affect you.”

The closing months of the regular season as playoff races start to take shape are not the ideal times for networks to be having conversations with guys in the middle of the field. That doesn’t mean it is never good content. Keyshawn Johnson said that as a viewer, he would welcome in-game interviews during Spring Training and the All-Star Game. He just has trouble believing players are happy to participate.

“It’s cool. I’m not mad that it’s being done. I just wouldn’t like it as a player,” he said.

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