Every morning for ten years, Craig Carton lived his dream by entertaining New York on the number one sports radio station in the country.
But on September 6th, 2017, Carton’s WFAN dream turned to a nightmare when the popular radio host was arrested on charges of wire and securities fraud amid accusations of running a multi-million dollar Ponzi-like scheme. No listener could have anticipated the prior day being the last time Carton would tell New Yorkers to “stay classy.”
One week later, when Carton resigned from WFAN due to legal uncertainty, it was hard to envision a scenario where he’d return to the airwaves anytime soon. For the next two months Carton remained silent but then started to make his comeback by launching a weekly podcast in November. Suppressing all of his energy and desire to create a radio show for eleven weeks was like trying to recork a bottle of champagne. Even with his legal situation far from being resolved, Carton wanted to stay relevant with the public.
Now, back on the air daily, Carton’s new show on the FNTSY Sports Network still features his free-flowing, high-energy personality. Listening and talking to Craig, he recognizes the severity of his situation, but also appears improbably comfortable with the looming trial, refusing to let it get in the way of the day at hand.
Joined by Michelle Serpico and Corey Parson, Carton and Friends, broadcasts live on the FNTSY Sports Network weekdays from 9a-1p ET from Studio 34, located inside Rock & Reilly’s on West 35th Street.
BC: We’ll start with Carton and Friends, what do you think of your first month back hosting a daily show?
CC: I like the fact that I’m doing a show again on a regular basis because I missed doing it for sure. I miss the immediate connection with the hometown audience, the local listener, so that’s been a period of adjustment to where I know we have a lot of people listening, but it’s not the same relationship as far as them being able to interact with me in the same manner. So I miss that for sure, but I do love the fact that I get to come in everyday and do what I do, because for a long time I wasn’t able to.
BC: Did you know Corey and Michelle prior to this?
CC: No, I had actually never met them.
BC: How did you get paired up with them?
CC: When they first sought to bring me in, one of my deals with the company was that I have to pick who was in the room with me and I didn’t want to be alone. Too much of me or too much of anyone isn’t a good thing.
I casually met everyone and watched some of the shows they had here and thought it would be great to have Michelle on the show because she isn’t a sports person. I didn’t want to have a woman in that role who felt the need to prove how much sports she knew, I wanted someone that doesn’t care about sports the way we do, because I felt it would be easier to play off of that.
And I loved Corey’s New York sensibility, plus he looks and sounds different than I do. While I wasn’t going to find a Boomer, I needed someone who would be different than me and I thought that dynamic would be pretty good.
BC: Assembling a successful three-person show isn’t exactly easy. You have a big personality, and you’ll take the show in a lot of unplanned directions, not to mention the audience is of course going to tune in to hear you specifically, yet you’re still trying to introduce additional voices to make the show more interesting and entertaining. How do you develop that on-air chemistry with two other hosts? Is there a conscious effort to tone it down and involve them or do you approach it with the mindset that the audience is tuning in for you and it’s up to them to catch up?
CC: I think it’s more that than anything else, which sounds really selfish and egotistical, but I’m the show. What they bring to the table and do very well, considering we’ve never met or worked together, is they know when to pick their spots.
It can be tough for them to find their own voice because I’m nonstop, but for me, I need to give them that opportunity to chime in, so I’ve created a segment for Michelle where she can lead a story or topic and then it will come back to me to respond to it. I wanted her to be able to introduce those topics. Corey is on the other side of the room where he has his own section and he comes to the table with his perspective, but the show is only going to get better with time. I think today it would be the best show on radio anyway and it will get even better.
BC: How about the difference of doing a local show vs. a national show. You’re now developing topics that aren’t necessarily focused on New York sports.
CC: I still do the same show I did with Boomer at FAN. Obviously I have two different people sitting with me, one’s far better looking for sure and that’s Corey, Michelle is a… ::Laughs:: I’m teasing
Look, I still do the same show. When I open, I’m talking New York, I’m talking Yankees, Mets, whatever it is and I will never stop doing that. Once I get through that, I’m more aware of national stories that I otherwise wouldn’t have been aware of from a talk concept. I want to be sure that if there’s a major or interesting national story that I might not have gotten to on the FAN, I always get to it now. So the mentality of doing the show hasn’t changed, I’m just adding more to it than I otherwise would have.
BC: Did you know what the FNTSY Sports Network was a year ago?
CC: Yes, they came to me for the last five years wanting to work with me from a fantasy and gaming standpoint and I’ve known the owner, Lou, for a longtime, but because I was on the FAN the timing was never right. Then all of a sudden I was affordable ::Laughs::
BC: When you were on WFAN, you didn’t talk much about fantasy sports and you still don’t even though you’re on a channel named the FNTSY Sports Network. Do you think the platform fits what you do?
CC: You’re right, I don’t talk about it and I won’t. There’s been an explosion of fantasy sports interest for sure, but the great thing that Lou, the owner of Sports Grid, saw was you need to entertain people. Some people may have heard of the network because of fantasy, but I’ve brought a lot more attention to the network for sure.
At the end of the day as long as I’m entertaining people, those fantasy listeners will stay and listen because I’m entertaining them and the hope for the network is that all of the new people I bring in will stay for everything else so they can monetize the services and expertise they offer. The Sports Grid concept is to get out of the niche of just fantasy and I clearly do that for them.
BC: Let’s spend a minute on terrestrial radio vs. your current platform…many people listen to a host like Mike Francesa because 660 or 101.9 is on the dial and part of their daily routine. When it comes to regular radio there aren’t many options. If someone is looking for a podcast, or to stream something via an app, they have an endless amount of choices. How do you convince listeners to come to you and tune in consistently?
CC: From a podcast standpoint, people come to you because they want you specifically. Then you hope people will also accidentally find you. The people that want you will listen to you longer than the average radio show because they sought you out, whether that’s me or anybody else.
Listen, I desperately miss being on terrestrial radio. I’m happy to say we’ve been approached by a syndication company so the Tuesday after Memorial Day we’ll be on across the country on terrestrial radio, but obviously I miss being on the FAN for sure. The difference is, like you said, the FAN has a built in audience. There are people that wake up with the station on and they don’t turn it off. It doesn’t matter what’s on, they listen to the FAN, just like people will listen to Z100, HOT 97 or something else. There are people that will never turn the dial. My job is to get people to find FNTSY Sports Network and stay there and so far so good with that.
BC: You mentioned adding a syndication deal for the show. Will part of that include your program airing in New York?
CC: We were approached by a New York radio station and I said no to the deal because I didn’t like it. Out of the gate we won’t be, but there is a lot of interest in me being back on a radio station in New York.
BC: Will the show time change?
CC: It might change, that’s possible, but it would only be an hour difference here or there. We’ll have an announcement within a week or so.
BC: You started a podcast in November when you began to get back behind the microphone. Was the goal at that point to just to have your voice heard or own your own platform or use it as a stepping stone to join a ready-made brand?
CC: I didn’t do anything for two months and I was driving myself crazy. I did the podcast, not knowing who would listen or how many people would download it. It was more medicine for my brain. It gave me the ability to express opinions on some topics. Remember, when you’re doing a podcast you’re doing it alone in a room, there’s no audience while you’re talking. The audience comes after you’ve recorded it. So that was new to me. I had never done that before.
It’s interesting being alone with your thoughts and saying those thoughts out loud. Most people, if you’re alone in your apartment talking to yourself, you’re not saying those words out loud. I was now saying words out loud, recording them and hoping that people would want to hear them so it was very weird. I was blessed that it became very popular pretty quickly, but it was never what I wanted to be doing. I also thought, there are tons of people talking about sports, so I started doing other things.
For me, the goal was to be very calculated about how I came back. So I do a podcast and I get through that. The podcast leads to the deal with Twitch.TV so then I’m doing a video show. Do that well and make sure it goes OK, and that leads to this opportunity with FNTSY Sports Network. It’s been step by step to what I hope is an ultimate return back to what I was doing eight months ago.
BC: With the podcast, did you write things down or rehearse them?
CC: Never, can’t do it.
BC: The reason I ask is it sounded very different from the radio show. Part of it is because, as you said, you’re just sitting there talking to yourself, but it came across as if it was something you were reading. You didn’t sound like yourself the first time I listened to it, and I thought maybe you were being held back by legal restraints and someone was telling you everything needed to planned out or approved.
CC: Sure, no, that wasn’t the case. I didn’t love the podcast. People seemed to like it if you base it on downloads.
Listen, ten years on one radio station is a lot of time, so do I have a core audience that loves me and wants to hear what I have to say? Yes. Thankfully they showed up in droves for that podcast, but I would definitely prefer not to do a podcast. ::Laughs::
BC: So for the two months that you weren’t doing anything, I’m sure it had to drive you crazy listening and reading all of the feedback about your legal situation. There had to be a part of you which wanted to preach your innocence, but beyond that, for someone who is creative and been successful and has done a high profile show every day for the past decade in the #1 media market, all of a sudden it’s gone, and you’re being suppressed and not able to entertain the way you were used to. How frustrating was that for you?
CC: It was extraordinarily difficult to not have that creative outlet. I was a pain in everyone’s ass in my inner-circle, my family. I became really good at wood-working. I can build stuff really well now. I’d be happy to show you some stuff. ::Laughs::
I thought for a minute I was going to be like Harrison Ford and become a word class wood shop guy.
BC: That’s true? You actually took up woodworking?
CC: I’ve contemplated building and selling custom wood stuff.
I was going stir-crazy. Yea I wanted to shout out my innocence and I have a lot that I want to show the world. It was extraordinarily frustrating not to be able to do that. Not having that daily outlet was much tougher than I thought it would be and I missed it dearly.
BC: Recently you had a caller bring up Mike Francesa and it transitioned into you talking about your arrest. I would think that whether you’re innocent, or however confident you are that you’re innocent, it’s almost irrelevant because of what you have looming over you. The fact that you’re able to do a daily show, veer off and talk about the arrest, then get right back into the mode of being an entertainer is impressive to say the least and something that I don’t know if a lot of people can do.
CC: You have to compartmentalize a lot mentally. I have to make sure that I don’t go halfcocked and say things that I shouldn’t be talking about, but I’m never going to shy away from the truth. I’m never going to shy away from exalting my innocence. I can’t get into the details of it of course, but I’m never going to stop preaching that and yea, it’s hard, there’s a very fine line of what can you say, what can’t you say and beyond that, what should you say and what shouldn’t you say.
I have a very serious legal matter that’s still there and although I’m doing my brand of radio…which is irreverent, entertaining and in your face…I have not shied away from talking about these silly New York radio wars and all of that stuff. But I’m also very cognizant of the fact that on October 29th I’m going to be wearing a jacket and tie sitting in a court room where 12 men and women are going to hear facts about my life and have to make a determination on what I did and what I didn’t do and that’s very daunting. I’m uber aware of it of course, and I take it very seriously. It’s extraordinary frustrating that for a guy that makes his living communicating and telling it like it is, I’m not able to do that right now.
BC: Do you think you’re different on-air today than you were a year ago?
CC: Not different, but I think I’m better. I think doing this show is making me better.
BC: I don’t think you sound different, which I think is surprising. The show is obviously different, but your approach hasn’t changed much.
CC: I think the show on FAN is more different than the show I do today. I think if you heard both shows today and didn’t know what was going on, you would point to my show as the show you’ve heard for the last ten years as opposed to the show on the FAN today.
BC: Have you listened to Boomer and Gio?
I mean I’m typically taking my kids to school all day everyday ::Laughs::
(referring to Francesa saying he never listened to Boomer and Carton)
I listen, of course, how could I not listen to it. Yes, I listen.
BC: Do you like it?
CC: No! No…
Giannotti was put in a great position for the opportunity and I called him before he started to wish him well. I have no axe to grind with Gregg. He was offered a job, Imus was fired and I was offered a job. It’s a great opportunity and he has the chance now to make the most of it and be the morning guy at the FAN if they’re successful, for a longtime. I don’t root against him, but I think our show was obviously much better.
It’s a very weird, awkward situation for me to listen to it, but I think that show has become two guys talking about sports and that’s not the show I did. That doesn’t mean it’s right or wrong, it’s just not the show I did and it’s not the show I would do. If they’re successful then they don’t have anything to worry about and if they’re not successful then I think like any other person in radio…they have something to worry about…not just with me, but with anybody. They have Yankee and Met baseball, the NFL Draft, Odell…they should be number one.
BC: One of the biggest differences of that show is also the biggest similarity…and that’s Boomer. Once you left he took on a stronger leadership role. He went through a few months working with different hosts where he began to focus more on sports and dominate the conversation, quarterbacking a program in a way that he didn’t have to while you were there. Now that he has Gio, he hasn’t yet reverted back to the co-host that he was while it was Boomer and Carton. Have you noticed that?
CC: I think that’s carried over for sure and that’s the awkward part of starting a new show and new relationships. Boomer had to take over a lot of the type A hosting duties of a show, the mechanics of a show. While Gregg can do that very well, he’s a professional at it, that dynamic of the show is still very different and everyone will compare that to what we did and while it’s not a fair comparison, it’s a real comparison. That doesn’t mean they’re doing a bad show, they’re not, the show is good, it’s fine, it will be okay.
I always viewed what Boomer and I did as something special in radio and I take great pride in that. I know this will be viewed as me being cocky and I don’t mean it to be, but if you look at the great morning shows historically, I think you can go Imus, Howard Stern, Opie and Anthony, and us…as far as dominant morning radio shows. We were not at the level Howard Stern was at and I’m not making that comparison, but we were a dominant morning show and there was something very special about our relationship and how the audience would react and connect with us and you can’t replicate that. Every station is searching for that. Z100 has it with Elvis Duran, he’s probably the biggest morning show guy in NY now and I thought we were it for a decade, but there is no longer a dominant morning show in New York City. We were the last one and god-willing, I will be the next one.
BC: You were getting back into radio and looking for a platform at the same time FAN was looking to replace you, did you ever just talk to them about returning?
CC: I was not actively looking for a job. I never went to FAN and said hey you know my case, I’m available the next year or two or whatever, I wasn’t actively looking. I was content doing what I was doing, staying somewhat relevant by doing something and keeping my name out there. My fear, the insecurity of what I do for a living is that if I disappear for eight months, or until my trial was over and my case was figured out, that people would forget about me. That’s the insecurity of what we do. It was important for me to do something, just so every now and then, whether it’s saying something on Twitter or doing a show, people would remember oh right…there’s Craig.
BC: Are you confident that this relationship with FNTSY Sports Network can last awhile or is this a temporary stop until you get back to a major terrestrial station?
CC: Listen, I want to be back on a major station, but if that’s through the FNTSY Sports Network, I’m cool with it. I’m very loyal and they were very good to me when a lot of people approached me about doing different things, but they put a piece of paper in front of me with a signature on it so I’m loyal to that.
Other people would approach me with deals that didn’t always follow through. FNTSY actually signed the paper. If we can grow this and get it on terrestrial radio in New York City, that’s great…and if we can’t…we can’t, but the future will determine that. The results of my case will determine that, and I’m very comfortable with the fact that when I’m exonerated I will have opportunities and Sports Grid and FNTSY Sports Network will be the first company that has a shot at that opportunity.
BC: How much do you miss the competitive nature of being on terrestrial radio? Not only the radio wars in terms of the fun you had with Francesa’s show, but also competing with Hot 97? If you were on the air in New York right now you’d also be going up against Sid Rosenberg who took over mornings on WABC with Bernard McGuirk.
CC: Well it wouldn’t be a competition…but I loved it.
One of the things that moved me in radio was I wanted to be the most listened to show at the FAN and the most listened to show in the marketplace. Those are two very different things that we were able to achieve. Not competing, battling and getting involved in that back and forth, which I always thought was fun, yea I miss the hell out of that. That’s why I’ve kind of invoked myself into it a little with Mike and Chris and CMB at the FAN and with that troll…Rosenberg with Don and…what’s his name over there? Michael Kay.
To me, radio is much like being an athlete. The magnifying glass is on you, and everyone has ears and it’s either good or it’s not good and of the ones that are good, which is the best one? I think Michael Kay has not done what he should do when he had the opportunity and when I resigned at FAN, there was a huge opening for a lot of people to come take it and nobody took it.
BC: One of the biggest things I expected to be different with your radio show is, regardless of how confident you are that you’re innocent, the public perception from a large percentage of your listeners is that you have a gambling problem. I would have thought you would make gambling a lesser part of your show than you did in the past, but you went the other way and actually make it a focal point. Do you think you need to work to build your credibility or do you view it as, people are interested in it, so we’re talking about it?
CC: People have an interest in it. Sports wagering is about to be legalized by the United States Supreme Court, (it since has been legalized) being that my listeners are going to be doing it, if I shied away from it as a topic I wouldn’t be keeping it real with the audience or a representative voice of how they live their lives.
I’m obviously very sensitive and aware of what people say about me and the accusations that have been made against me. All I can say is…one of the toughest things is when people make accusations about you that aren’t based on anything factual, it’s very hurtful and not being able to respond to those accusations is even worse.
I will do that in the court of law on October 29th and I look forward to that. I wish the case was tomorrow. I would love to have my legitimate tangible story out there for everybody to see and the way I always viewed it is, when I’m able to tell the whole story and you and the public can see everything, make your determination on who I am then.
There’s a great quote that I put on my Twitter account… “Accusations fit on a bumper sticker; the truth takes longer” and I live by that now. I’m accused of stuff every day of the week, on Twitter, on social media I’m called every name in the book. People make assumptions as to what they think I did and what I’m accused of doing, but no one has heard the entire story. You can accuse all you want, attack me all you want from a social media standpoint, but let’s wait until the whole story comes out and when it does comes out…if you, meaning the people that want to attack me, feel like you have the grounds to keep doing so, then go ahead. My feeling is that once my story is told, everyone will feel very different about me.
BC: Have you thought about leaving Twitter altogether?
CC: Yea, and for months I didn’t look at it at all. You can drive yourself crazy looking at it. Every so often there are people that I feel cross the line. I can take a joke, but some people cross the line and I have actually found them and called their places of employment. I’ve called their families and everyone of them backed down as soon as I did it because they can’t handle what I deal with on a daily basis.
BC: I’ve seen you respond to some of them, or retweet with a comment and they come right back with ‘I was just kidding Craigy, I’m a big fan and I’m rooting for you,’ but they clearly never expected you to actually respond.
CC: Right, they’ll say I’m a big fan and hoping for the best. I hate Twitter, I hate social media, I hate every aspect of it because it’s like guys with beer muscles. Everyone knows where I live now, everyone knows where I work, if you hate me that much, why are you following me? If I say good morning, there are five guys telling me to go F myself, they wait for me to say something. That mentality, I never understood it. if I hate you I’m not following you because I don’t care what you have to say.
It will be nice to prove all those people wrong.
BC: With your current situation, are you ever concerned about saying something that could get you into more trouble, or hurt your legal situation?
CC: Listen, I don’t talk about my case, other than the overview of I proclaim my innocence and always will. No one is ever going to trick me into talking about it, so I’m not worried about making the mistake of talking about it. I will not get into the specifics of my case, everything else…I don’t see why I wouldn’t talk about anything else.
BC: What about outside your case, with the current climate, radio hosts are often apologizing, you don’t have much of a filter and you might not be trying to offend someone, but it can still happen. Do you try to be conscious about that?
CC: There are people that are sensitive about everything. During the course of my career I have said things I wished I could take back and I had apologized for, but that was prior to joining the FAN. I’d like to consider myself a mature broadcaster and not once during my FAN career do I think I had to apologize to a group of people. Actually, I think chiropractors once. I think I had a thing with chiropractors where I agreed I wouldn’t call them quacks anymore.
But I’m not worried about it because I don’t do it, that doesn’t mean you won’t be offended by an opinion, but I don’t think I ever cross the line of offending a group of people. I don’t think anyone could accuse me of that today or in the last ten years.
BC: Who is your target audience on FNTSY?
CC: We go after young men. At WFAN it was men 25-54, but even with that, talk radio appeals to an older part of that demo for sure. Doing what I’ve done with Twitch and FNTSY Sports Network has arbitrarily made me younger. I mean I play Fortnite…we’re about to do a marathon where I play Fortnite live on-air until I win…that could take a long time…so doing the Twitch.tv deal and the FNTSY deal has knocked a few years off me. I’m more relatable to an 18 year old than I was a year ago.
BC: Is that something you wanted to do? Does relating to a younger audience fit your personality?
CC: Yea, I’m a kid at the end of the day. As a parent, I always thought the day my kids can beat me at video games will be the day I officially cross whatever that line of getting old is, and they beat me at everything now so I need to practice as much Fortnite as possible. I can still get them in Madden, but they kill me in these new games.
BC: What were your thoughts on Mike Francesa returning to WFAN?
CC: It’s a smart move for the radio station. CMB wasn’t working. I have no idea the financial part of it, I would imagine he will bill more. I got the sense that the station, although they did fine in the ratings, there was no buzz about WFAN anymore. I think Mike and I kind of brought that factor of what’s going to happen today? So it reenergized the listening audience. I’m sure it pissed everybody off inside the building from an on-air perspective, but listen…we’re in show business right? If he’s not getting it done he’ll get replaced. If the midday guys aren’t getting it done, they’ll get replaced. If I wasn’t getting it done I would have been replaced, so I think he’s probably good for the station overall. If Mike Francesa decided he wanted to do sports talk in New York, the only place that should ever be done at is WFAN.
BC: Were you surprised how quickly he came back?
BC: Were you surprised he actually retired, especially after you left?
CC: As the story goes he asked for a lot of money. When you do talk radio for a living, there are not a lot of other things you want to do, or that you’re good at, but if you’re good at talk radio it’s special. I’m not surprised he missed it. I’m not surprised he wanted to comment on the stories of the day, and I’m not surprised he wanted to come back. I’m also not surprised at the lack of interest in hiring him at the financial level he wanted. Mike made a lot of money. I made a lot of money talking on the radio and if I could get back there, of course…why wouldn’t I want to go back? So I get the mentality of wanting to return.
(WFAN listeners know Carton and Francesa did not have the warmest relationship and choosing to view Francesa’s return from a business standpoint might seem surprising. Recently on “Carton and Friends,” Craig stated he appreciated Francesa choosing not to talk about his arrest when he easily could have piled on. Carton even told the audience he left Francesa a hand written note thanking him for not giving an opinion about his arrest.)
CC: I listened to a little bit of it yea. I made the comment when I started my show, that my goal was to prove that a woman, a white guy and a black guy could do an entertaining show ::Laughs:: and I think we’ve already proved that.
It’s a hard mix of people they put in there. You have everyone wanting to be the sports authority, and there isn’t a lot of room for all three voices. I think the biggest mistake they made were the amount of guests they brought on. If you have three people in the room talking sports, you don’t need a Daily News writer. I thought it didn’t allow them to develop and grow, which they have a chance to do now. I would say no guests, you three do a show and figure out your roles and the only way to truly do that is on the radio and maybe they’ll find it. Everyone that’s pissed that they got demoted…they have two hours of prime New York radio real estate, figure it out.
BC: It’s still early, but it sounded at times like they were concerned about giving everyone equal time, whereas with your show everyone recognized you were going to dominate the conversation…and the same thing would happen during an interview, they would take turns asking questions which made it difficult to develop a good back and forth.
CC: Yea it wasn’t natural. It wasn’t like the way you and I would talk at a bar and by the way it’s okay to interrupt one another, just don’t step on each other all the time. It was always you have to get your question in, then I have to get my question in, but with Boomer…if I was in the zone or Boomer was, the other guy would shut up during an interview. I might go five minutes straight if it’s good. That show had a lot of pressure on them, and I don’t know how much of a chance it had to make it.
The other thing I can’t stand are these shows that yell at you all day. I don’t get that part of it, stop yelling at me…I get yelled at at home, I don’t want to be yelled at. That seems to be a popular model today, two people yelling at each other about sports. Maybe that works on TV for a half hour, but I don’t think the radio audience wants to tune into you and me yelling at each other.
BC: Do you still keep in touch with anyone from the Boomer and Carton Show?
CC: I talk to all the guys that I was on the show with. We don’t talk every day, but we stay in touch. Boomer and I played golf together a couple weeks ago. I went to the Mikey Strong charity event which was important to me and I wanted to be at, it was about Mikey and the Reeve Foundation and nobody else, but the fact that it was important to me and they recognized that and extended the invitation to me…it meant the world to me.
So for the people that don’t think I get along with everybody…I do. I get along with the company. I get along with the show. I get along with the radio station and I think they would all say the same thing.
CC: Yea, I dream about it all the time. I don’t know when it will happen, or if…that’s out of my control, but yea, I dream about it every day of the week. I love what I’m doing now. I enjoy working for this company, but I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t think about it every day, because I do. And now that Mike came back who knows? ::Laughs::
Maybe Mike actually, in a very strange way, paved the way for my return one day in the future, who knows…
BC: It is interesting that since you left, FAN has hired five hosts; Gio, Carlin, Maggie, Bart and now Mike, but you weren’t one of those hires and more surprisingly Sid wasn’t one of those hires.
CC: Yea, well I think Sid is doing just fine over at WABC. There is nothing expected of him there…the station has no ratings, you just do a show and go home I guess, but we’ll see, should be interesting.
BC: Before I let you go, I’m not doing my job if I don’t ask you this…what are you benching these days?
CC: Thank you! I’m up to 280! Does it look like it? ::Laughs::
BC: It’s hard to tell with that jacket
CC: I hide it well, all good. ::Laughs::
Brandon Contes is a former reporter for BSM, now working for Awful Announcing. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonContes or reach him by email at Brandon.Contes@gmail.com.
Programmers Offer Ideas To Refresh The ManningCast in Year 3
Matt Edgar, Matt Fishman, Parker Hills, Q Meyers, Jimmy Powers and Kraig Riley share their thoughts.
Monday night brought the second season of The ManningCast to a close. ESPN’s alternate broadcast of Monday Night Football featuring Peyton and Eli Manning remains a trail blazer. Plenty of other networks and other sports have tried to copy the formula. It just never seems to work as well. There is something about these guys, their chemistry, and their view of football that just works.
Still, the ManningCast missed that feeling of freshness this year. It’s nobody’s fault. We had expectations. That is very different from 2021, when this was a wild, new concept.
The circumstances at ESPN have changed too. In 2021, the network was looking for a crew that could capture the big game feel of the Monday night slot, because it didn’t have it on the main broadcast. Now, it has Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, arguably the two voices most identified with big NFL games. That means the Mannings have to do more than just provide a star-powered alternative to the main broadcast.
Going into 2023, the ManningCast will be facing a problem that is pretty common in radio. How do you improve something that works? Reinvention isn’t necessary for the broadcast, but a recalibration would certainly raise the ceiling.
“Disney isn’t looking at Peyton Manning as part of ESPN,” I wrote in 2021. “They are looking at him as Mickey Mouse or Iron Man or Baby Yoda. He is another of Disney’s mega-brands that is talked about on investor calls and upfront presentations.”
With that kind of commitment from the network in mind, I asked six radio program directors to answer two questions.
1. Going into year 3, how has your view of the ManningCast changed since its debut?
Matt Edgar (680 The Fan in Atlanta) – I view the ManningCast as the standard of all alternate game broadcasts, nothing really comes close.
Matt Fishman (850 ESPN in Cleveland) – The real challenge is how to be more interesting and entertaining each week. The first year was a great novelty. A real breath of fresh air, especially with some underwhelming games.
Now that ESPN MNF’s main broadcast is the powerhouse of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, you need to be bigger and more unique to get people to check it out.
Parker Hillis (Sports Radio 610 in Houston) – Early on I was skeptical of the ManningCast. I wanted a “two guys hanging out at the bar talking football” vibe that was less formal and more fun. What I got in the beginning was not that. The broadcasts leaned heavily into Peyton’s football IQ, diving way too deep into X and O analysis in real-time and providing more of a distraction than a benefit. The production and pacing felt clunky and awkward, another distraction. And most frustratingly, I didn’t get anything out of Peyton and Eli’s personalities.
Somewhere along the way, as the concept has been refined and Peyton and Eli clearly have gotten more comfortable, they’ve gotten there. Two goofy football nerds with incredible insight and experience seamlessly meshing smart analysis with real football fandom. They’re inviting me in to watch the game with them, not telling me what I need to know about what’s going on, and that is something I can get into and really enjoy.
Q Myers (ESPN Las Vegas & Raider Nation Radio in Las Vegas) – For me personally it hasn’t changed much. I find it entertaining but only in a small serving size. I might pop on for an interview with a guest that I really want to hear from but then tune out. I really enjoy the game being the bigger feature, and I realize for a lot of the games that aren’t that great this could help out a bit.
Jimmy Powers (97.1 The Ticket in Detroit) – It hasn’t really. I’ve enjoyed it from the beginning and thought it was genius when it debuted! I think it has given many sports fans an alternative option to the traditional broadcast, which allows them to get a better understanding of what is going on. In my opinion, the knowledge and entertainment value they bring to the viewer is excellent!
Kraig Riley (93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh) – My view has changed in that, as much as I loved it when it debuted, I questioned the long-term sustainability given how driven it was by the guests they welcomed in. I always wanted more of the Peyton-Eli brotherly relationship part of it. Their breakdowns of the game were good and so were the guests, but what were they going to do to add to that? Since they’ve shown more of their personalities, it stands out more in a way that separates itself from just watching the standard broadcast of the game.
2. As a programmer, what would you do to freshen up this brand next season?
Edgar – You don’t want to get gimmicky or clownish, but I’d love to see them talk with a mic’d up player, similar to what they do on Sunday Night Baseball. They obviously can’t speak with a player between the lines, but what about someone who is in the mix and actually playing, like a linebacker after the defense comes off the field?
Fishman – To me, the biggest “miss” is not having Eli and Peyton in the same place. It creates a certain sloppiness and a decent amount of talking over each other. Some of that gives it the casualness that’s appealing and some of it is just messy. It’s sort of like Zoom calls. They were fine when you needed them during the pandemic, but if you can do it in person, it’s better.
Hillis – It might not be “freshening it up”, but the biggest thing I would do to tweak the Manningcast is limit the interviews. Peyton and Eli can carry the broadcast with their personalities and knowledge alone.
Having big name guests from the NFL, the sports world, and pop culture makes for a great promotion piece to draw in a different audience, but at the end of the day, it’s distracting and pulls away from the game I’m watching and the brand of the broadcast itself. I want to connect with Peyton and Eli… that’s what the brand is built around, so give me more of them.
Myers – I think keeping it a little more tight as far as breakdowns and analysis from the two make it good. A lot of times when it gets off the rails it does tend to be funny, but I don’t feel like I learn a lot from it. It feels to me like a lot of the comedic side of things is forced at times, when it happens organically it just seems better. For example, with Peyton walking off after Maher missed his 3rd kick. That felt like what we all were doing at the time.
Powers – Since they only do a number of games, I would put the two of them together in the same room to view the games. You could still split the screens and have the same look – but it would prevent (or at least limit) the talking over each other because of the delay. That is especially a problem when they bring in 3rd person.
Riley – I would push for more of the content that stands out aside from the game and can be pushed on social. I think the original audience will always need more in order to continue engaging with them over the standard broadcast of the game. That audience knows their broadcast is different, but what about the audience that hasn’t engaged yet or has possibly disengaged?
Serve them up with some breakdowns of the game that only Peyton and Eli can provide. Give them the best clips of the interviews. But super-serve them on the entertainment and personality sides so that the audience knows they’re getting something more than just the game. They can consume that elsewhere.
The ManningCast is not in danger. It’s one of the most influential sports television products of the last 15 years. Even radio is trying to figure out a way to make it work. Edgar’s station, 680 The Fan, delivered a conversational alternate broadcast of the Peach Bowl this year.
Like anything else in pop culture though, the producers always have to think about what is next. How do you tempt fans to come back for more? It’s why we don’t see Spider-Man fight the same villain in every movie. When you know the parameters, the content has to be all killer and no filler just to move the needle.
But this is a product built around live sports. By nature, there is plenty of filler in a football game broadcast. That isn’t the Mannings’ fault, and most weeks, they find a way to make gold in those moments. Going into the 2023 football season though, the novelty of the ManningCast, and frankly of alternate broadcasts in general, will have worn off. Peyton and Eli don’t have to change everything, but re-evaluating where their show stands and where it could go wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.
Frank Frangie Exudes Jacksonville’s Enthusiasm for the Jaguars on 1010 XL
“You want to be very enthusiastic but that enthusiasm shouldn’t spill over in a way that it takes away from the accuracy and the crispness of the broadcast.”
A Saturday night in Jacksonville in the NFL Wild Card Round. Frank Frangie, the radio play-by-play voice of the Jacksonville Jaguars is on the edge of his seat. He is behind the microphone amid a sellout crowd of 70,250 people at TIAA Bank Stadium with both the game and the season on the line.
The Los Angeles Chargers, led by quarterback Justin Herbert, held a 27-7 lead after the first half – but thanks to spirited play by the Jacksonville Jaguars, that lead has been cut to just two points – the score is now 30-28. Riley Patterson, the kicker for the Jaguars, is playing in his first NFL playoff game and the season all comes down to whether or not he puts a 36-yard field goal attempt through the goal posts.
Frangie proceeds to deliver a call for the ages as the ball sails through and the field goal is marked “good.” At that moment, Jacksonville had secured its first playoff victory since 2017, setting up a second-round matchup against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Fans watching the game on NBC heard the familiar, credible voices of Tony Dungy providing color commentary and Al Michaels supplying the play-by-play announcing. Michaels recently completed his first season broadcasting Thursday Night Football streamed on Amazon Prime Video and returned to NBC to call this game as part of his emeritus role with the network.
Although he has narrated myriad exciting calls over his lengthy career, viewers identified a lack of enthusiasm and excitement from him and his partner, criticism Michaels later called “internet compost” in an interview with The New York Post. Instead, football fans turned to Frank Frangie and the Jacksonville Jaguars radio booth, imparting a more fanatical encapsulation of the moment.
“I do think there’s an accountability and an expectation to make sure you get it right, to make sure you’re crisp and clear [and] to make sure that [the] listener knows exactly what happened,” Frangie said. “You want to be very enthusiastic but that enthusiasm shouldn’t spill over in a way that it takes away from the accuracy and the crispness of the broadcast.”
While Frangie did not hear the NBC broadcast in real time, he knows the matter in which he performs his job vastly differs from that of Michaels. He recalls someone telling him that NBA play-by-play announcer Mike Breen — when calling a national game — sounds like he has money on both teams. As the Jaguars radio play-by-play announcer, Frangie aims to do the opposite.
“I’m rooting for one team,” he said. “I’m bummed when my team loses and I’m thrilled when my team wins. The job is to combine a crisp, accurate play call so the listener very clearly knows what’s going on and hopefully to blend in our natural enthusiasm because we are rooting for that team as hard as the listener is.”
During the time he was hosting radio shows at WQIK-AM and later WNZS-AM, Frangie began to experiment with contributing to live game broadcast coverage. Because of connections he made as a writer covering sports at the University of Florida for The Florida Times-Union and The Jacksonville Journal, he began working with the Florida Gators Radio Network as a pregame and postgame host.
Additionally, he started providing play-by-play of select athletic events on campus, giving him the opportunity to hone his skills and eventually begin hosting college broadcast coverage on regional sports networks.
1992 Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torretta recruited Frangie to join Touchdown Radio, a new broadcast network he founded to broadcast NCAA football games and other athletic events. Aside from owning the company, Torretta worked with Frangie on live game broadcasts as the color commentator – and the duo formed synergy through an understanding of each other’s roles
“Shame on me if I talk more than the guy who won the Heisman Trophy. He knows football way better than I do,” Frangie said. “It enabled me – I call the play, then lay out and let him be the star because he was the star.”
While he was calling college football games with Torretta, Frangie had helped launch 1010 XL, the area’s first local sports talk radio station. Since its inception in 2007, which was based on a vision by co-founder and general manager Steve Griffin, it has been recognized as a trusted voice in sports media.
“He’s the leader; he’s the founder,” Frangie said of Griffin, “but there’s a lot of us that have helped Steve grow this thing and I think there’s a real connection.”
Jacksonville has a population of approximately 954,000 people, according to the 2020 U.S. census, making it the 12th-most populous city in the country; yet the most recent Nielsen ratings rank it as the No. 43 media market. Despite it being considered a mid-market radio station, what is now 1010 XL/92.5 FM Jax Sports Radio has been able to appeal to its consumers on multiple platforms through live game broadcasts, talk shows, podcasts and other multimedia content.
“I think Jacksonville has a ton of sports fans,” Frangie said. “I think sports really matter to the people of this city…. I would say 1010 XL might be – and I’m biased because I work there – the most important sports media entity that this city’s ever had.”
When the Jaguars arrived on the scene in 1995, it brought all sports fans in the area together by uniting them in their rooting interest in professional football. It also surely helped that the team advanced to the AFC championship game in its second year of existence and made the NFL playoffs for the next three years.
“The Jaguars galvanized everybody,” Frangie said. “Now all of a sudden there’s solidarity among the sports fans because everybody’s rooting for the Jaguars.”
The Jaguars, combined with the plethora of collegiate sports in the area, give radio hosts plenty to talk about over the course of any given day. The station will also discuss national news, but its main focus is on hyperlocal coverage while giving listeners unique, relatable perspectives regarding their favorite teams. Frangie expressed the Jaguars being, far and away, the most discussed topic over the airwaves – but aside from conversing about the team, the hosts also make it a point to be relatable and talk about their lives outside of sports.
“I think sports radio is about life,” Frangie said. “I think it’s about who you bumped into at the movies and ‘What’s your favorite burger?’ I think people like talking about the way they live their life and the way we live our lives.”
Broadcasting in afternoon drive means following three different shows (The Drill, Jaguars Today, and XL Primetime) from earlier dayparts, requiring Frangie and co-hosts Hays Carlyon and Lauren Brooks to bring fresh topics and opinions to the air. The Frangie Show not only seeks to inform its listeners with the latest news pertaining to Jacksonville sports but also looks to accentuate the medium’s factors of differentiation: entertainment, immediacy and relatability.
“My job is, ‘That guy’s had a long day at work. That guy’s tired. He hops in that car at 4:30 or 5 or whenever it is and he’s a sports fan,’” Frangie hypothesized. “‘When he turns that radio on, I need to entertain him. He needs to have fun, he needs to laugh, he needs to enjoy it, (and) he needs to look forward to the next time he’s turning it on.’ If I can keep him in that driveway a little bit longer because he’s enjoying himself… then I’ve kind of done my job.”
Aside from live game broadcasts and sports talk radio, 1010 XL/92.5 FM Jax Sports Radio has a selection of original podcasts – some of which are specialized – and video series available to watch on multiple platforms.
Moreover, all of its radio shows are available for replay on-demand as podcasts after the fact, giving listeners the chance to catch up on parts of the show they might have missed. Frangie has always been concerned about the format being replaced by podcasts but surmises it to be a larger issue for music-based formats, validated by the increased usage of music streaming services.
“I think there’s never going to be a time where someone doesn’t pop in the car, want to hit a button and hear [me] or whoever talk about sports,” Frangie said. “As long as it’s that way, we’re going to keep on doing it just the way we do it.”
From the moment Griffin and Frangie met to discuss launching 1010 XL/92.5 FM Jax Sports Radio in 2007, they knew they aspired to find a way to one day secure the Jacksonville Jaguars’ radio rights. At the time, the rights were held by WOKV and Brian Sexton, known as the “Voice of the Jaguars,” served as the team’s radio play-by-play announcer.
After a 30-page proposal geared towards helping the franchise grow its fanbase and sell more tickets, the rights were awarded to 1010 XL/92.5 FM Jax Sports Radio (WJXL) and Frangie was named as the new radio play-by-play announcer. He called the move “the most important assignment” of his career and has assimilated into the role, now covering the team in roles based on the balance of information and opinion.
Before this run, the last time the Jaguars had qualified for the NFL playoffs was in 2017 when the team fell just one win short of playing for its first-ever Super Bowl championship. The team has the potential to sustain its success with young stars such as quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne Jr. leading the charge. However, broadcasting games for the team over the last nine seasons — no matter the result — has never been burdensome for Frangie.
“Every time I go into that booth – and I mean this very sincerely – it’s the greatest privilege and the greatest honor of my career to sit in that booth and to call an NFL game for my hometown team,” he said. “That will never change [for] as long as I’m doing it.”
This year, though, the games have undoubtedly been more exciting largely due to the Jaguars’ inclination to come back from substantial deficits. The team is riding a six-game home winning streak and has trailed by nine points or more in the previous five contests. Defying the laws of probability and achieving what some may define as impossible is what has persuaded football fans everywhere to take notice of what is going on in Duval County.
“I’m a sports fan,” Frangie stated. “I just want to share the fan excitement with other fans. It’s been unbelievably fun; I can’t wait for the next game.”
Just as the team prepares for its game by drawing up new plays, analyzing film and undergoing physical treatment, the broadcasters never show up to the booth without having done their homework. For a typical Jaguars game, Frangie’s preparation largely consists of intricately learning about the opponent more so than the Jaguars since he follows the team each week.
From Monday to Wednesday, he is gathering information about the other team and ensures he knows how the depth chart is expected to look by game day. Simultaneously, he stays updated on everything occurring with the Jaguars, although he gains more team-specific information during his meeting with head coach Doug Pederson on Thursdays.
Frangie and his broadcast team also have their own meeting every Thursday to elaborate on the forthcoming broadcast, including probing potential storylines related to the game to discuss so they are ready to perform at a high level by the weekend.
“I know our team (and) I know their team a little bit better than I did at the beginning of the week,” Frangie said. “I think the hay’s in the barn by Friday night. By Friday night, if I’m not ready to call the game, then shame on me. There’s not a lot of work to do come Saturday. Most of it is Monday through Friday.”
As a radio play-by-play announcer, Frangie looks to accurately depict what is occurring on the field so listeners can paint a picture of the game in their minds. He also looks to entertain them and is assisted by color commentators Tony Boselli and Jeff Lageman, both of whom formerly played for the Jaguars and possess shrewd insights about the game of football. Frangie knows of their reputations and looks to accentuate their presence to help the broadcast, taking the same approach he previously adopted with Torretta.
“Shame on me if I don’t do everything I can to tee them up and get out of the way [to] let them do their thing,” Frangie said. “I think if you have that point-guard mentality – and that is, ‘Let the stars be stars,’ – then I think you can pull it off and hopefully that’s what we do.”
The fundamentals of play-by-play announcing do not change whether or not the team is competing in the playoffs; that is, in terms of preparation. There is no doubt, though, that the stakes are higher in these matchups and, in turn, a prevalence of heightened emotions are conveyed ranging from euphoric to apoplectic. It was exhibited on Saturday night during Patterson’s game-winning field goal and the video of the Jaguars’ radio call has since gone viral.
“When we called a winning kick last week, we’re jumping around in that broadcast booth and high-fiving… losing our minds – that’s what we do out there,” Frangie said. “We’re all such fans of the team and we’re all such fans of this city and so respectful and appreciative of the fans who have stayed with this team even in some hard times.”
Frangie has had a long career working in sports media both as a play-by-play announcer and radio host, helping to shape the sports landscape in Jacksonville, Fla. Whether it was covering the Florida Gators’ run to the Final Four in 1994; debating about the Jacksonville Jaguars on the radio; or calling game-winning touchdowns at the college and professional level, he is proud to be associated with the city, its teams and its fans. Moreover, he wants to be there to help aspiring industry professionals build careers and find their place in sports media.
“I like to watch some of the young people have the success that some of us that have done it for a while have,” he said. “I’d like to see 1010 XL continue to thrive; we’re very proud of our radio station and what Steve has built – the culture he has built at the radio station where we have sort of this family atmosphere.”
From his formative days in the industry, Frangie has always had a respect for the microphone and the power it garners. The crevasses and inner workings of the device that enable sound to be converted into mechanical energy have given him the chance to promulgate his voice at large and represent those in the area.
As the Jaguars continue their quest for a Super Bowl championship, Frangie aspires to personify the dedication and zeal of sports fans in the city of Jacksonville and, hopefully, call a moment where the team stands alone on top of the football world.
“We get to turn on that mic and whether I’m talking to fans of the team as a play-by-play guy or… talking to listeners driving around town; what a privilege that is,” Frangie said. “It’s not going to be perfect all the time. Work hard; never pass up an opportunity to work and always recognize what a privilege it is to do what we do.”
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, he serves as the production manager for the New York Islanders Radio Network and lead sports producer at NY2C. He has also worked on live game broadcasts for the Long Island Nets and New York Riptide. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks and wrote for The Long Island Herald. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
Chase McCabe Embraces the Player/Coach Mentality at 102.5 The Game
“I always used Mike Salk in Seattle as an example of that. I thought ‘if he can do both, why can’t I?’“
He’s referred to as “the suit” by some of his co-workers. It’s a playful way for hosts at 102.5 The Game in Nashville to describe their program director, Chase McCabe. But Chase isn’t only the PD; he’s also a host just like them. He puts on his headphones and does a weekday show from 9-11am with Michelle Knezovic. Then, he puts on his PD hat and morphs into his alter ego, the suit. (I think “the suit” sounds superhero-ish and should be accompanied by face paint and a car that can fly. Maybe that’s just me.)
In our conversation, Chase talks about the rewards and challenges of being a PD and radio host. He’s also open and honest about his thought process regarding job offers from other radio stations. We chat about the voice of the Nashville Predators, Pete Weber, returning to the air after dealing with a brain disorder. Chase also talks about being religious, which of his roles would be harder to give up, and how receiving a McDonald’s breakfast makes him love his station even more. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: So tell me about the changes to the lineup, and how everything’s going?
Chase McCabe: I think it’s been positive so far. It’s something that was not one of those decisions that was made overnight by any means. When I took over, I wanted to feature young and upcoming talent. We had that in Caroline Fenton and Michelle Knezovic, and now we can feature them even more. That was the thought process behind all of this.
I’ve also had this view that, I think you get more out of three-hour shows. It takes a special talent to go four hours and just keep up that same energy level. That’s why we left Jared (Stillman, the station’s afternoon host) at a four-hour show because that’s all he’s ever done in his career. But I think giving people more choices throughout the day was certainly a positive in all of this, and that’s what we’ve done.
Playing the ratings game, I think it’s going to give us a better chance to improve by having more choices throughout the day. I think it’s gone well. I’m excited about it. It’s an opportunity for me to be a player/coach, still be on the air, but only two hours a day, which is definitely helpful with my schedule. It gives me a chance to coach the young talent like Michelle as we go along. I think it’s been really good.
BN: What’s your general approach to handling both the PD side and the hosting duties that you have?
CM: It’s not easy. It’s funny, when I first started in this business, my goal was just to be a host. I had never even thought about programming. As I kind of grew into it, I was a producer. One of my mentors was my old PD. He really saw something and helped me go down that path. But I was always stubborn and wanted to do both. I always used Mike Salk in Seattle as an example of that. I thought ‘if he can do both, why can’t I?’ So it became one of those personal goals of just watch me.
Once I got to the point where I became PD, I decided ‘Well, I’m going to focus on that’. I’ve been APD, but it’s the first time being PD. I stepped off the air a little bit, made some appearances here and there as a fill in, and then when we made some changes, I went back on full time. I realized that it’s a lot, especially doing a four-hour show in the middays.
It’s just really hard to do, but I was disciplined. I’m still disciplined now about it. It’s a big thing of having your schedule, knowing what you need to get done, and now that I’m off the air at 11 AM, it’s a lot easier. I come in, I’m usually in the building by eight o’clock. I’ve prepped the night before for the show. I’ll make some changes depending on what may have happened overnight and in the morning. I jump on the air, it flies by, and then the PD hat goes back on.
It’s made things run a lot smoother because I can meet with clients, I can meet with my GM, I can meet with our partners, with the Predators. I can meet with talent and coach talent. It’s really been much easier to do it that way. It’s a balance, that’s for sure. I think it makes me a more effective PD to be able to practice what I preach. If I’m sitting here telling a member of our on-air team, hey, I need you to go to break on time, this is why. Then I’m turning around and doing it, they have an example of that’s how it should be done. The whole player/coach mentality is one that I have definitely embraced.
BN: Which do you think you would miss more if you had to give up one of those roles?
CM: That is a very good question. I think I’d miss programming. I never thought that I would say that. My goal for so long was being on the air. I had to really scratch and claw to get to that, and I love it, but I’ve realized that I’ve found a role I’m so natural at, and that is being a leader and being the PD, and being able to create.
That was one thing that I miss about producing. I never really loved producing until I wasn’t doing it anymore, and that was the creating. Create the sound of the station, writing promos, building promos, working on a show lineup, helping the show’s plan. That’s really fun for me. I think I’d miss being the PD or as they call me on the air, the suit.
BN: [Laughs] There you go. Do you have any crazy stories about juggling the two roles at the same time?
CM: Yeah, I’m really bad on if I see a text or I see an email. It’s like, oh, that’s really important. Even though it can probably wait a couple hours, I’ll start responding. There’s been times we’ve been on the air and I’m responding to an important email and they go, Chase, what do you think? I just kind of look up and I go, suit duty. [Laughs] Sorry. I’ve gotten better about that. That was really early on, but we all laugh about that.
The biggest thing that happened was honestly about a month ago. We’re in the middle of the show and the Titans fire their general manager. I’m the lead host and I go, we’ve got breaking news. The Titans have fired general manager Jon Robinson. I’m in host mode. I’m talking about getting people on the air to see what they know, and all this stuff.
Then this light bulb goes off. ‘Hey, you idiot, you need a breaking news promo on the air. You need to let this person know. I literally had to wear both hats. Luckily, I had two other hosts on the show with me. One of them is a former player in Derrick Mason, so they could run with it while I got our imaging director a script for the breaking news promo. We had that on the air pretty quick, and everybody that needed to know what was going on was informed. It’s one of those things where sometimes it’s just a reminder ‘hey, you wanted this. You got to wear both hats’. I’ve gotten very good at multitasking. Let’s just put it that way.
BN: I believe it, man, that’s the only way you can do it. What’s the cliff-notes version of your career path?
CM: I started here 11 years ago as an intern. The station had just flipped to sports three months earlier. I had gotten to know Willie Daunic — who ironically became my co-host — and wanted to intern with him. He was at another station. That changed and so he moved over here. I ended up interning with him on the afternoon show. I ended up getting hired about six months later to do part time on the weekends. I was still in college; I was still finishing up at MTSU. My boss had told me ‘Hey, when you walk across the stage, text me.’ So I did. He said ‘Hey, congrats, you got a full-time gig in radio.’ I was like whoa.
I started in overnights. I did overnights for close to a year. But that was honestly really, really crucial because I learned how to edit. I would edit a bunch of stuff from the day and I learned to do sports updates and cutting spots, and just a lot of the little things involved in a radio station. Then I produced various dayparts for several years, did some fill-in work on the air, did a weekend show.
During that time I had gotten a couple of opportunities to potentially go elsewhere and didn’t because ultimately, this was the best fit, and more opportunities would open up here. In 2019, I went full time on the air as part of our midday show while still being the assistant program director. I was promoted to assistant program director in 2017, I believe.
Then when our former PD, Ryan Porth, left for Chicago, I remember thinking ‘Okay, I’m going to be interim.’ I go through this process, they’re going to interview a bunch of people and they did, they talked to a couple. Then I go in one day thinking ‘Alright, this is what the plan is going to be’, and they offered me the job. That was last year. The end of December 2021, I got my first PD gig and here I sit now.
A lot has happened in 11 years. I’ve been very lucky to be in the same place during that time. Anytime something comes along, I go back to our owner walking down the hallway. A quick story and one of the reasons why I love this place so much. When I was doing overnights, I would turn all the lights off because I was the only one in the building and just had a little lamp on. The owner flies a plane and he had landed late at night. He walks in at like 2:30 in the morning. The building is dark.
He walks in and he says ‘Why do you have all the lights off?’ I said ‘Well, I’m the only one here, it saves money. There’s no reason to have all these lights on with just me, so I figured we would just save money.’ He kind of looked at me and goes ‘Huh, okay, appreciate that.’ The next night, around the same time, I hear the door opening. He walks in and he’s got just a bag full of McDonald’s. He says ‘I wanted to bring you breakfast, I appreciate what you do.’ It was that day that I realized what kind of a man Bud Walters is. He’s been very good to me and that’s one reason why I’m here and I love what I do.
BN: That’s really cool, man. What’s your hometown?
BN: Wow, that’s crazy. You grew up in Nashville, went to MTSU, you started at 102.5 about 11 years ago, and you’ve been there the whole time?
CM: The whole time. It’s the only gig I’ve ever had.
BN: I don’t know the best way to ask it, but with other gigs offered, was there ever a time before you became the full-blown PD that you thought, man, maybe I should’ve jumped?
CM: I think it’s hard not to. That’s probably the best way to put it. But I’m religious. I believe in God. I know that everything happens for a reason. I think that I just kind of would look for signs to know the path I needed to take. There’s probably been three really legitimate opportunities that I’ve had to think really hard about. It’s like ‘Hey, this is going to be what you need to do.’ But the thing I come back to is, I want to finish what I started. My goals and my journey here matched up with the radio station, with the company, with Bud, with what they wanted to do. I know that I’ve been an integral part of that, literally, since the beginning that they started.
There are days where it’s like, man, maybe I should have, but then something really good will happen here and it reminds me of why I didn’t. I think that that’s why I just keep the faith. I may not be here forever. Odds are, I won’t. But I didn’t think I’d be here for 11 years at this point.
And I sure as hell didn’t think I’d be program director in 11 years when I started as an intern, but I am. It’s one of those things that I think too many times nowadays we keep thinking what’s next, what’s next, what’s next? When if you take it literally day-by-day, it’s going to work out well for you. That’s what I did. I was impatient at times, but I stuck with it and now I’m just blessed to be in this position where I’m at.
BN: Out of curiosity, which church do you go to over there?
CM: I’m not the best at going to church. I will admit that.
CM: It is one of my goals for this year to kind of get back into that. The thing that’s so tough is a lot of times Sunday mornings, we’re doing shows. We’re doing NFL shows and things. But there’s a couple of places that I’ve found that do some midweek services that I’ve tried to go to. It’s just hard to be consistent, but I’m working on it. I pray about everything and just kind of keep my relationship that way and also trying to just be a good person.
BN: That’s cool. I lived in Nashville for a couple of years and I went to a church called Cross Point.
CM: Yeah, I’ve been to Cross Point quite a bit. The Belonging is another one. Churches like that. I like a church that has a good band. That gets me into it.
BN: There ya go. We need a heavy metal band at one of these churches. I’d go there all the time.
CM: God bless Jesus!!
BN: [Laughs] That’s right. We need that, double bass and everything. Pete Weber, he has a brain disorder, but you’ve been able to continue featuring him on some pregame coverage and some of your other shows. How important was it for you to keep him a part of the broadcasts?
CM: Very, very important. As our imaging says, the voice of the Predators since day one, Pete Weber. That’s him. He was the first. When hockey started here, Pete Weber and Terry Crisp were the voices that you heard. They taught an entire generation about the sport of hockey. I don’t think people realize just some of the elbows that Pete has bumped. He was covering the Bills when they went to four straight Super Bowls with Jim Kelly. He’s been with the LA Kings, covered Gretzky. In fact, I did an interview for our pregame show today with Eddie Olczyk from TNT. The first thing he says is ‘Hey, tell Pete I’m thinking about him. Hope he’s doing well.’
It was important for him to know that, hey, you need to take care of you. I think sometimes you get to a point where it’s like ‘I gotta keep going.’ Sometimes you’ve got to just pump the brakes and take care of you. I wanted him to know that, hey, we got you, your spot is secure. That’s why I’ve filled in on pre and post because, Max Herz, our pre and post host has been doing play-by-play. He’s doing an excellent job filling in for Pete. It’s just important to know that it’s still Pete’s chair, we’re just keeping it warm for him.
I’ve enjoyed the segments with him because he tells stories. I’ve learned more about the team and some things that I didn’t know because he’s just a walking sports encyclopedia. It’s been really cool. Pete’s doing well, he hopes to be back in the booth in a couple of weeks and be better than ever. But like I said, it’s important to all of us for Pete to know that he is the voice of the Predators.
BN: What was that process like to come up with that type of arrangement where he would still be featured?
CM: I called him and I just said ‘Hey Petey, with you not traveling, why don’t you just plan to do that opening segment of pregame with me every time.’ He loved it. I know that’s meant a lot to him. He did an article with the Predators website and said that for him to just feel like he’s still involved on those road games was important. It was important to me because I wanted him to still be on our broadcasts, even if he couldn’t travel. Those segments have been a lot of fun. He had his procedure and he’s feeling great. We’ll pick him up here probably later this week before he returns to the booth.
BN: As far as your future, what do you see in the next five to 10 years? Or is it more day-to-day for you instead of any long-term visions?
CM: It’s a good question. I hope I still have all my hair. [Laughs] Who knows with this job. I’ve thought more about that. It’s kind of funny how this has worked for me; when I started as an intern, and then eventually got hired, I was like, all right, I’m going to do this for three years. After three years, then I’m going to evaluate and see where I’m at.
Then it became, well, if I want to be on the air, I have to move to a small market. I have to go back to go forward. I was going to do that. Finally one day, somebody told me, hey, you need to just slow down and take it one day at a time. Things are going to work out. You’re a hard worker. You do the right things. You’re not a jerk to people. You’ve got a lot of people in your corner. You need to just slow down. So that’s what I’ve done.
Now that I’m older — I’m 35 — I do think about the future and do I want to go to a bigger market? Do I want to climb my way up and be in operations or what have you? Those are things that I definitely think about. It has to be the right fit. That, I’ve learned, more than anything is not always easy to find. I do think I still have more of that day-at-a-time mentality while also knowing that, all right, if I ever had the opportunity to program a station in Atlanta or Dallas or something like that, I’d probably look at it.
I love creating and teaching, so however I can continue to do that, I will. But at the same time, building this station, I’ve been at it for a year. I feel like I’ve just gotten to the point where it feels like mine. Now what is it going to do? I think a lot more about the future than I used to. I know there will come a time where it’s like, I know.
They always say if you meet that special person, when you know, you know. I think I’ll know when it’s time to do something different. But that’s one thing that I’ve definitely tried to instill on our staff. I have a lot of young people that work here. Hey, be thankful. Appreciate the little things and keep working, and then the future is going to work itself out.