How exactly will JR Smith be greeted in Cleveland when the Cavs host the Warriors in Game 3 of the NBA Finals? I’m picturing the scene in The Hangover when Zach Galifianakis isn’t sure if he should clap as his friends unknowingly volunteer to demonstrate the effects of a stun gun. The Cleveland home crowd might feel similarly confused on Wednesday night for a much different reason.
Smith committed one of the all-time boo boos in NBA Finals history last Thursday. With the score tied at 107 apiece, Smith grabbed a rebound with 4.7 seconds remaining. The only problem was that the score being tied was news to JR. He dribbled out 3.5 seconds of the remaining time before a desperation shot by George Hill was blocked by Draymond Green. The Cavs lost in overtime 124-114. Ouch.
Following the loss, Smith only made his mental error worse by committing — that’s right — another mental error. Instead of telling the truth about the end of regulation in Game 1, he decided to see if the entire world was born a day prior. JR said that he knew the score was tied and that he was just creating enough space between himself and Kevin Durant. Yeah, and I’m actually Oprah Winfrey.
Smith changed his story two days later. “After thinking about it a lot after the last 24 hours and however long it’s been since the game was over, I can’t say I was sure of anything at that point,” he said. This actually translates to, “I guess you guys aren’t dumb enough to believe my ridiculous lie.”
This is a good lesson for sports radio hosts. Make sure you’re sitting down for this, but sometimes we make mistakes too. I know, it’s shocking. It’s a wise approach to simply own those screw ups. Don’t make excuses and come up with crazy lies. Just admit that you made a mistake and move on. Nobody likes to have their intelligence insulted. When that happens, some people believe it provides clearance and incentive to be even more ruthless. You want to cool those engines down, not rev them up.
What works even better than admitting a mistake is finding ways to laugh at yourself. I’ll never forget something a friend and former co-worker, Bruce Jacobs, once said during the Manti Te’o fiasco. When the former Notre Dame linebacker’s girlfriend turned out to be as real as my eight-car garage, Bruce said “Te’o should laugh at himself. Don’t go on Katie Couric and have a serious conversation, show up on David Letterman and do a Top Ten List. Beating the critics to the punch takes most of the fun out of it for them.”
It’s like the rap battle at the end of 8 Mile when Eminem makes fun of himself. The other rapper has no idea what to say next. Imagine instead if Eminem’s verse was filled with lies about the cars he drove, houses he lived in, and women that all loved him. That other rapper would’ve eaten him alive. Then where would the universe be?
I realize that JR Smith is still smack dab in the middle of the NBA Finals and can’t make fun of himself like he’s hosting a roast on Comedy Central. Fans hate when players on a losing team laugh while on the bench in the closing minutes. JR rattling off 20 one-liners about his epic mistake would be received much worse.
A little self-deprecation can go a long way though. Smith could’ve taken a lot of the enjoyment away from the people that are lambasting him. I like the approach of Smith saying something like, “Man, I picked the worst time ever to be inducted into the Shaqtin’ a Fool Hall of Fame. But honestly, I feel sick about it. I have to be better going forward because my team deserves it.”
We get the best of both worlds — some comic relief with Smith laughing at himself, followed by the goal of making up for his colossal mistake. Look, I don’t care how tough you think you are. If you were given the loudest ovation of any player in Game 2 pregame introductions while on the road, and also heard M-V-P chants at the free throw line like JR did, you wouldn’t feel great about it. I’d try to lighten that load as much as possible when appropriate.
Laughing at yourself is a valuable tool to have. Think about Charles Barkley. One of the main reasons he’s a megastar is that he possesses a great ability to make fun of himself. Barkley doesn’t take himself too seriously. He has slid a donut from his forehead to his mouth without using any hands before. He laughs at his horrible golf swing. He doesn’t get defensive if someone cracks on his weight. He isn’t sensitive about his lack of athleticism while doing yoga poses or, well, anything athletic whatsoever.
There is something endearing about a person that has thick skin and can laugh at themselves. It’s disarming and makes us feel good. And when we feel good, we mostly start showing those people support and acceptance instead of tearing them down.
If you’ve ever made a bunch of bad predictions as a radio host — and please don’t act as if you haven’t — don’t go on the air and start talking about your predictions being right if this or that happened. Have some fun with it. Laugh about how awful you did. Jokingly compare those terrible picks to other terrible things in life to see which is worse. If you can’t laugh at yourself in life, someone else will laugh at you much louder.
Whether it’s a bad play in sports or a bad comment on the air, what’s done is done. It’s all about how you handle each mistake going forward. Own it, and when appropriate, make fun of yourself about it. Many hosts fall into the trap of only thinking about what’s good for them. Be constantly aware of what’s good for the show. When you look at it that way, you’ll see that being the occasional butt of a joke is actually the best option.
Sweeny Murti Combined His Passions at WFAN
From the time he was young, Sweeny Murti had a penchant for baseball and, by the time he was in junior high school, radio. He was able to find a way to combine his two passions by working in sports media, reporting on the New York Yankees on WFAN for the last 22 seasons as the station’s official beat reporter.
Murti, 52, announced his departure from the radio station last Friday, officially ending a chapter of his career as he seeks to figure out just what comes next. Sports radio, though, was never Murti’s goal because it is something that was nonexistent until later in his teenage years – although he was covering sports for his high school on its radio station WMSS-FM.
Murti learned the game of baseball by listening to Philadelphia Phillies games and had a profound amount of respect for the team broadcasters, including Harry Kalas, Andy Musser, Chris Wheeler, and Richie Ashburn. He later had an opportunity to work with the organization as a pregame and postgame show host in 1999, sparking his interest to aim to report on baseball regularly for WFAN. Getting to New York – the largest media market in the United States – took persistence and hard work, staying grounded in the day-to-day while continuously improving his craft and advocating his interests to executives.
“I listened to Phillies games growing up on radio and the announcers were just as big [of] people to me as the players,” Murti said. “Those were the guys that were in my house every night.”
Murti joined his junior high school radio station at the age of 12 and gained interest in broadcasting sports. He subsequently began to work with sports director John Wilsbach. Through his time at the radio station, Wilsbach knew Murti’s older brother (who was also working at the broadcast outlet) and helped mentor Murti, teaching him how to broadcast games by letting him shadow various sporting events.
By the time he was in ninth grade, Murti was the station’s sports director and was regularly broadcasting high school football and basketball games. He recognized the palpability of pursuing a career in sports media at this point and, consequently, matriculated at Penn State University to study broadcast journalism.
Unlike many college students seeking to work in media though, Murti’s involvement with campus media outlets, specifically in radio, was minimal. Because of his relationship with Wilsbach, he became connected with Scott Geesey, a talk show host on 1390 WRSC-AM.
Through Geesey, Murti began to converse with that outlet’s sports director Jerry Fisher, the son of legendary Penn State Nittany Lions’ football broadcaster and associate athletic director Fran Fisher. After just one meeting with Fisher, Murti was hired as a part-time assistant, giving him exposure to a professional radio station in his freshman year of college.
“I did a lot of scoreboard updates and a lot of production shifts and DJ shifts,” Murti said. “By that fall, I was doing Friday night high school football scoreboard shows and covering some games, and working on our massive Saturday football coverage on pregame and postgame shows for Penn State football…. We spent a lot of our time talking about sports, and I spent a lot of it thinking about talking about sports and how it was going to translate into my radio career.”
In the summer before his senior year, Murti relocated to New York and worked as an intern at WFAN, the inaugural radio station in the sports talk format that had just launched four years earlier. Over the nearly three months, he worked from the outlet’s Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens and demonstrated a strong work ethic.
In his mind, everyone at the station had an immense base of knowledge when it came to sports and displaying your own expertise would not impress the personnel. Although he was interning at a growing media outlet with hosts including Mike Francesa, Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo, Don Imus, and Steve Somers, Murti remained optimistic there would be an on-air role for him one day and quickly adjusted to life in “the Big Apple.”
“It’s a pretty big leap and I’d never spent more than a couple of days in New York; now I’m spending the whole summer in New York,” Murti said. “I wasn’t overwhelmed; I knew I’d already been doing a lot of things in radio so this was [at] a much bigger scale, obviously. I was comfortable and I think I was confident in what I could do.”
Following this experience, Murti returned to Penn State University for his senior year with a new perspective on sports radio. Once he graduated, he began working as a reporter at WHP 580 and as a sports anchor at the Radio PA Network. Before he returned to New York as a full-time producer at WFAN exactly one year later in 1992, he received a valuable piece of advice from news director Bill Richardson. It reminded Murti of a principle critical to the success of athletes, managers and reporters alike and continues to guide him to this day.
“The advice he left me with was, ‘It’s only radio. If you screw it up, just come back and do it again tomorrow,’” Murti recalled. “I’ve never forgotten it [and] some version of that pops into my head quite often. I think I amended that a little bit to say, ‘Listen, let me just do the job today and I’ll figure out how to do it again tomorrow.’”
Murti always sought to be a voice on the air and was placed out of his element in his role as a producer. Through working with established on-air hosts and reporters, including Steve Somers, Suzyn Waldman, Howie Rose, and Ian Eagle, Murti gained an understanding of the responsibility garnered upon them. In order to succeed in the marketplace, the hosts had to be informative and entertaining to sports fans, overseeing a place where fans could express their emotions and convey their opinions about the teams and players they cared about.
“I learned what kind of preparation it takes [and] what kind of personality it takes,” Murti said. “I was a good on-air personality, I thought, when I was in high school and college. This was just a different world; a different level that I was learning and soaking in.”
While Murti did not feel apprehensive about working in the New York-metropolitan area, he was unsure about producing on a full-time basis, leading him to have several conversations with executive producer Eric Spitz.
Nonetheless, Murti absorbed a large amount of information and picked up on intricacies related to producing and stood out. As a result, he was afforded the opportunity to travel with Spitz and his crew at Westwood One Radio to the Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996. That experience, quite simply, changed everything, as Murti realized he had the ability to transition from being a producer into a bonafide reporter.
“I got done with those couple of weeks and realized, ‘Wow, I can do what those guys are doing,’” Murti articulated. “It wasn’t, ‘I’m better than that guy.’ I [just] somehow thought this was a different level of something that was higher than me, and after working with them and being around them and helping them do these things, I realized I would be able to do that job just as well as they were because that’s the kind of confidence I had and I knew I’d be prepared for that.”
One year later, Murti joined SportsRadio 94 WIP in Philadelphia to become a full-time sports anchor and had the chance to regularly go on-air. After working at the station for a year, he returned to WFAN and was placed on the air, albeit in a part-time role, doing overnight updates. He also returned to the Summer Olympics in 2000, this time in Sydney, Australia, working with Westwood One Radio as a reporter.
Leading up to the World Series between the New York Mets and New York Yankees in that same year, WFAN reshuffled its midday show. Russ Salzberg and Steve Somers were moved out of the 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. slot in exchange for Jody McDonald and Suzyn Waldman. Because of Waldman’s new role hosting middays and doing television work with the Yankees, her role as the station’s beat reporter for the team opened. Since Murti was working overnight shifts, he made sure to stay early into the morning one day to meet with Mark Chernoff, then-program director of WFAN (he would often arrive for work at approximately 6 a.m. each morning).
Once he made his intention known to Chernoff, he scribbled Murti’s name down on a pad of paper and had other people advocating for him to land the job around the station. Around the time of the Christmas party, Murti received the news that he had landed the job – very much representative of his dream role – and prepared for the upcoming spring training in Tampa. Waldman proved to be a vital resource for Murti to learn the role, accessible both by phone and at the ballpark.
“She helped me kind of work through the early stuff,” Murti said. “After a little while, I just tried to figure it out on my own. I wanted to lean on her to get myself going, but I didn’t want to constantly lean on her. I kind of wanted to see how I could figure it out myself at that point. It was great getting to figure it out with her to start and then kind of going off on my own.”
Murti had been on the air from the time he was in high school and was cognizant of his long-term goals. Combining his adoration for baseball and skillset in reporting was his ultimate intent – and he was fortunate that the timing worked out.
“Those jobs were kind of created,” Murti said. “I didn’t know they existed. I can’t tell you that was a goal; I just knew I wanted to be the play-by-play announcer for the Phillies when I was 13 years old. That was my goal but I didn’t go do Minor League Baseball play-by-play when I was 22. I came to FAN and moved on that track.”
Walking into the clubhouse for the first time in Tampa, Murti knew not to expect to immediately foster deep relationships with any of the players and uncover concealed stories. Instead, he focused on the long game, gradually cultivating dialogue and learning the vernacular to become familiar with the team. He expected this role to last much longer than one season and segmented the process by piecemeal.
“I think that I had the idea of hoping to get to do this for a while so let’s just take it slow,” he recalled. “Let’s just not try to talk to Derek Jeter, Paul O’Neill and Bernie Williams every day about something that’s going to make me be their confidant.”
Through performing his role, Murti observed the quotidian routines and habits of the great players – and the Yankees, coming off a stretch of four championships in five years, knew how to optimize their play to get results conducive to success. Murti was able to apply some of those lessons to his own craft as a journalist, keeping him focused and motivated to perform.
“The great ones put yesterday behind them very quickly whether they had a great game or a bad game,” Murti said. “That’s probably where watching Jeter up close really mattered because he was so good at that. He would be pissed off if he made outs or [if] they lost a game, but he wasn’t smashing water coolers like Paul O’Neill or throwing things. It was just, ‘Okay, listen, that’s over. Let’s focus on the next one.’”
Murti focused on both the trials and tribulations of the players, but always looked at the macro (team) rather than the micro (individuals). To him, the big picture was most important and taking each result in stride – just as a well-balanced team establishing and maintaining a winning culture aims to do. It helped him create a style – one that transferred from radio to television to writing. Murti endeavored in all three over his time as WFAN’s Yankees beat reporter, a job he exited last week.
Over his time as a reporter, Murti has contributed to programming on MLB Network, YES Network, and SNY among other networks. The production tactics and time constraints in television contrasted with radio – in fact, Murti likened it to being a cog part of a larger system to execute a play in football – and it gave him different methods in which to present his reports.
“The teammate aspect of what I used to do at FAN is definitely something I loved and appreciated,” Murti explained, “but there are a lot more moving parts to television that make you rely on other people’s help to make everything look and sound better.”
He also had the ability to live out his dream doing play-by-play announcing in a Major League Baseball game when filling in for Yankees’ radio voice John Sterling. With Waldman as his color commentator, Murti brought fans the action in the Yankees’ matchup against the Houston Astros as family and friends listened from his hometown. He did not view the assignment, for which he volunteered, as an audition; instead, it was more about embracing and making the most of a unique opportunity.
“I think I brought a lifetime of caring about being on the radio and loving watching baseball,” Murti said. “I think I bring that every night; I hope I brought [it] that night to a degree that satisfied everybody. It was just a thrill beyond belief.”
Whether it was watching the Yankees win the World Series in 2009; writing articles about the team and its players for WFAN’s website; or hosting various podcasts, Murti thoroughly enjoyed his time at the station. Just as the landscape of media has endured rapid evolution and realignment, the role of a beat reporter was analogously shifting – leading to Murti’s departure from WFAN last week.
“We tried for a long time to figure out how to evolve and create the different content that would click,” Murti said. “It just became harder to accomplish, I guess. I’m grateful that it lasted as long as it did.”
The nature of working in radio has drastically adapted amid a marketplace saturated with an overabundance of content and platforms on which to consume it. As a result, radio faces a maelstrom of competition from media outlets and, nowadays, independent creators disseminating their work. Yet it still remains a medium based on a communal aspect, representing and implementing the authentic voice of the fan as an outlet of both catharsis and jubilation.
“Even though a lot is consumed individually through phones now and through social media, to hear the actual voices and the emotions in those voices – good or bad; high or low – it’s still something you can’t duplicate on social media,” Murti said. “You’ve got to come to the radio to be a part of that. That’s something I hope never goes away.”
The greatest compliment Murti could have ever received was a listener remaining in their car to finish hearing one of his reports – and he hopes to continue to be able to fuse baseball and journalism together in whatever his next role may be. Amid a post-WFAN world, he looks to continue bringing viewers the story and create new memories, utilizing his versatility to be an asset to any media brand.
“I enjoy lots of stuff,” Murti said. “I do enjoy writing and I hope I still get to do some of that. I enjoy the TV work; I love interviewing people and getting to tell those stories. It’s a really big thrill turning on a microphone, wherever that is, and telling people what’s happening. I hope I still get to do that.”
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.
FOX or Football? Tom Brady Doesn’t Have an Obvious Choice
“After Jayron Kearse picked Brady’s pass off in the end zone in the first quarter of Tampa Bay’s playoff loss to Dallas, it looked like the GOAT had resigned himself to just running out the clock and going home.”
What does the future hold for Tom Brady? No one can say they know for sure. I think we can all agree that after seven Super Bowl titles in 23 NFL seasons, he has more than earned a little time to make up his mind.
Most of us believe there are three options. He can return to Tampa, return to the NFL with a new team, or he can take the $375 million behind door number three and spend his future game days in the booth on FOX. Depending on how you feel about Brady’s 2022 season, there are either no bad options or only bad options.
Let me put all my cards on the table. I grew up a Buccaneers fan. While I don’t have any strong feelings about Tom Brady himself, I appreciate him bringing a second Super Bowl to Tampa.
Does that color my opinion when I say that I don’t think door number 3 is the answer? Maybe a little, but I’m not clamoring for him to return to the Bucs in 2023 either.
Broadcasting is a grind. The guys in the booth do as much prep for their jobs each week as the guys on the field. It’s not like being in FOX’s top NFL booth would be akin to a permanent vacation.
Tom Brady has always been an interesting case study. There haven’t been very many seasons where we looked at him and said “that is the best quarterback in the NFL,” yet there is no denying that he is the greatest to ever play the position. So, when I say this is the first year he really looked human on a football field, know that I know that statement is a bit wonky.
The Buccaneers are two years removed from winning the Super Bowl. They are a year removed from having the best regular season record in the league. This year, it looked like they won their division simply because, Jesus Christ! Someone had to.
Everything about Brady and the Bucs was joyless in 2022. He threw more tablets than touchdowns. After Jayron Kearse picked Brady’s pass off in the end zone in the first quarter of Tampa Bay’s playoff loss to Dallas, it looked like the GOAT had resigned himself to just running out the clock and going home.
Given what we know now about what was going on in Tom Brady’s personal life last year, doesn’t it paint his deal with FOX in a new context? Doesn’t it seem like it was more about trying not to be home and face reality than about feeling like he is passionate about analyzing games alongside Kevin Burkhardt in the future?
Maybe I am wrong. Like so many others that are the GOAT in their field, Tom Brady is pretty good at turning criticism into fuel. There has been no shortage of people calling his deal a trophy hire for FOX. Perhaps it isn’t an interest in broadcasting, but finding his next chance to prove the haters wrong that pushes him into the booth.
According to Jordan Schultz, Brady is not rushing into a decision. He is going to take a month to evaluate his options before deciding what he wants to do and where he wants to go.
That’s good. Maybe what he needs right now is some time to divorce himself from the grind. Just sit back and enjoy the press from the movie about the horny old ladies that follow you to the Super Bowl for a while.
The last image we have of Tom Brady on a football field is one of a man that is frustrated and tired. That cannot be the energy he brings into a broadcast booth. It isn’t fair to Kevin Burkhardt or the viewers.
One thing has been clear about Tom Brady the whole time he has been in the public eye. He is a competitor. He takes losing seriously and he takes it hard.
My untrained eye tells me that he is not capable of being the quarterback we have known since the 2001 season. Going back for a 24th season seems like a bad idea, but if he is resigning himself to television instead of coming at it with enthusiasm, FOX is not going to be happy with its investment.
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.
Ryan Edwards Snagged ‘Dream Job’ With KOA Sports Zoo
To see some of the greats that have been on in Denver in that time slot and to have an opportunity to really show what I’m capable of is a really cool opportunity.”
For Ryan Edwards, it’s a dream come true.
Originally from New Mexico, Edwards was already a Denver Broncos fan because of his father when he moved to Colorado in 1998. The Colorado State alum began his sports radio career in the Denver market back in 2009 but now he has made his way to radio estate that he has been trying to get to for quite some time.
He is now part of the KOA Sports Zoo weekdays from 3:00-6:00 PM MT.
“I’m really excited about it,” said Edwards. “It’s been a dream of mine to work in afternoon drive. To see some of the greats that have been on in Denver in that time slot and to have an opportunity to really show what I’m capable of is a really cool opportunity especially with Dave Logan and Alfred Williams, two radio legends.”
Edwards had been co-hosting Broncos Country Tonight on KOA with Benjamin Allbright since 2019 after working nights for a couple of years at Orange and Blue 760 co-hosting First and Ten at 10. There’s certainly a difference in host a show at night as opposed to the responsibility that comes with being part of an afternoon drive program.
While this is a dream job for Edwards, he’s going to miss what he’s leaving in the evenings.
“You have a lot of freedom (at night) to kind of experiment with different topics and with certain bits,” said Edwards who began his career at 104.3 FM The Fan in 2009 and also spent some time at Mile High Sports Radio.
“I’m going to miss working with who has been my radio partner for the last three years. We really developed a lot of chemistry and we built up Broncos Country Tonight as a brand for the market.”
And now Edwards becomes a third voice in afternoon drive where he hopes to bring what he calls a “fans perspective” to the program.
Edwards adopted all of the local sports teams when he moved to Colorado so he has a perspective on those franchises that the listeners can relate to.
“(Logan and Williams are) football guys and most of the time they look at things from a football perspective,” said Edwards.
“Sometimes the football guys don’t get it right. Sometimes, they have an opinion on something but it doesn’t encompass everybody’s perspective including the fans which makes up so much of any team’s base. The way I view radio and media in general is a conduit to the fans and you’re a conduit to the team. I’m going to try to be the voice for the fans on that show.”
There’s a different dynamic to hosting a talk show when there’s one host as opposed to two hosts. But now, the Sports Zoo is going to have three voices and that presents a challenge in how the flow of the show is going to work between Logan, Williams, and now Edwards.
It’s going to be the very definition of a “work in progress” and the topic of discussion will play a role in the flow of traffic.
“There will be times where (Logan and Williams) are going to be going back and forth because they’re very passionate,” said Edwards. “So, it’s been a bit of a fluid thing but it’s three voices and just using our background as perspective to break down every single topic.”
And Edwards will certainly be able to bring his own unique contributions to the discussion on the Broncos, Avalanche, Nuggets, and Rockies. From his experience, both as a fan and as a reporter, Edwards will be able to bring a lot to the table because he has cheered for and has covered all of the teams in town in various ways.
“I think it helps (being a fan) because it gives you some history and background and you know the people you’re talking to,” said Edwards. “I’ve covered all of these teams, I’ve been to their practices, I’ve been to their games and covered them for a long time. I’ve had a lot of history with these teams beyond just the Broncos.”
Sometimes, dreams do come true.
For Ryan Edwards, the dream of hosting afternoon drive in Denver has come to fruition and he’s doing it with two legends that he has admired for a long time.
Peter Schwartz has been involved in New York sports media for over three decades. Along the way he has worked for notable brands such as WFAN, CBS Sports Radio, WCBS 880, ESPN New York, and FOX News Radio. He has also worked as a play by play announcer for the New Yok Riptide, New York Dragons, New York Hitmen, Varsity Media and the Long Island Sports Network. You can find him on Twitter @SchwartzSports or email him at DragonsRadio@aol.com.