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Dan McNeil Q&A Part 2: It Was Going To Be Uncomfortable

“I didn’t want to be around people. I was not feeling anything. There was a joylessness in almost everything.”

Matt Fishman

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In part two of my Q&A with Chicago Sports Radio veteran Dan McNeil, Dan talks about his second stint at The Score, dealing with mental health issues and his eight year run at ESPN 1000. You’ll read about the intriguing maneuvering it took to get his show at ESPN. Plus, you’ll hear inside details of the building of “Mac, Jurko, and Harry” and the show’s early growing pains. It’s all here in Part 2 of my three-part Q&A with Dan McNeil. 

The Danny Mac Show on the Score (June 2009-June 2014)

Fishman: You return to the Score after more than eight years away at ESPN 1000…how did it feel? 

McNeil: It was a very awkward return. I had decent relationships with some of the guys there, still, but I think they were very casual relationships. I think there was a mutual feeling with a few people that if we didn’t work together again that would be ok with everybody. There was a lot of tension already at the station.

Before Matt (Spiegel) and I jumped back in, there was a long period of dissention among the ranks. I can’t give an opinion on it because I wasn’t there to absorb all the toxicity, but the combination of North, Murphy, Mulligan and Boers made for a very volatile cocktail. As there always is, there’s some petty jealousies and we’re all insecure to varying degrees, but based on the descriptions of those who experienced it, I came back at a time when the morale was probably as low as it ever had been in station history.

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Matt (Spiegel) was not warmly received. The fact that Mitch (Score Ops Manager/PD Mitch Rosen) gave me a voice in Spiegel’s hiring didn’t help the situation. Mitch also gave me a voice in one of the producers. That didn’t agree with several people. I get that. People who are in-house have every reason to expect that they will be examined, but I also had a track record of making some pretty good recommendations both for co-hosts and producers. I’d submit Jurko as one of those, and god damn, look at the guys who have produced my shows over the years who I’ve hand picked–there’s some pretty talented mother f**kers on that list. If the fact that I was given that freedom was disruptive for some people, I really don’t give a shit, Colonel Jessup. I earned that. I f**king earned that!

They just didn’t give me that. Had Terry Boers flopped in ‘92 and John Jurkovic flopped I wouldn’t have been given a voice, but I did get a voice. I was proven right with Matt (Spiegel) but he was not well received. So it was an awkward return.

Leaving the house at 7 o’clock in the morning to go to work didn’t agree with me. I felt we had a pretty good vibe on the show. Matt and I pretty much right out of the shoot I felt pretty comfortable with and after awhile as a unit we gelled. I told Matt at the beginning I typically look at these things as “let’s do five years together!” I think after five years is a lot of times a good time to reinvent yourself. And that’s what I decided to do. 

The first two and half years were very good. The last (with Spiegel) was a struggle. I made it more of a struggle than I needed it to be, because I was not taking very good care of myself. I was not participating in a mental health program that somebody with as many issues as I have needs to.

Fish: I think you have to include the talent on the major decisions of co-host and producer when you’re putting that team together. Otherwise I think you’re asking for failure. 

Mac: When I took some time off, Fish, I thought a lot about this– and I had a lot of time off in the last five or six years. I enjoyed civilian life way more than most of us would. It’s incredible how among any form of entertainment that you can imagine–the movies, music, whatever–radio people and sports talk radio performers have less control of their product than any motherf**ker trying to sell a f**kin’ act. I had shows blown up that none of us wanted blown up. Many others have had shows blown up. 

Howard (Stern) is a hero to me because he’s the only motherf**ker who went out there and won. A lot of us have been paid well and it’s a rush and you do a lot of cool things. If you’re lucky you see a lot of the country and someone else pays for it–and that’s all great, but when you examine the absence of power for people who have achieved a high level of competency in their craft it’s remarkable how we’re all just f**king pawns on a chess board. Howard has been able to go out there and pick his own crew and say “f**k you!” to management for 25 years. 

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Fish: At what point did you realize that you weren’t taking care of your mental health? Was it while you were working with Spiegel? Was there a seminal moment? 

Mac: It was very specific. It was in the summer of 2011. The two years of foolishly letting the behaviors and attitudes of others affect my disposition–which is absolutely hideous to let others rent that space for free. I went off my psych med, Lamictal, without consulting my doctor. I had a lot of success with that product. It’s not an antidepressant it’s kind of a mood stabilizer. It’s prescribed to people who are depressive, some people with anxiety–and I’m both of those.

I went off of it and within a month my world got black and white. I was playing free golf with three lifelong friends and I birdied the first hole. While walking back to the cart on a gorgeous summer day I remember saying to myself, “Thank God there are only 17 more of these f**king holes so I can go home, be alone, and watch Goodfellas.” I withdrew from even the things I enjoyed the most. Except for my sons and a few very close friends and my wife, I didn’t want to be around people. I was not feeling anything. There was a joylessness in almost everything. 

The climate at the station I let get to me more than I should have. I should have focused on what was good and what was good was the vibe on the show–with Spiegs and Jay and Shep and Miska. Then Ben Finfer rejoined me which has always been some of the best radio I have done. 

So that was a rough time. I grinded it out without going back on my med and continuing to eat pain meds which dulled me. I like to stay active and I have a lot of pain and I used those things as an excuse to keep eating Narco. It was a pretty dark last couple of years. I didn’t want to be there (at The Score). I wanted to try something different anyway but the climate there and how little I was respecting my conditions wasn’t a good time.

But we did some killer stuff. I remember a lot of it with fondness. I mean the stuff we did with the Blackhawks–Spiegs and I went to Philly and Boston.

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In ‘13 when the Hawks were getting to the final against Boston I felt we were being a little too “hockey-ish” on the show. I learned from my mistakes in the 90s that hockey is not as center stage as other things in Chicago, but I said to myself I’m probably walking very soon. This is my way to thank the Hawks fans who loved me all the years. F**k the ratings. If I want to talk to Mike Emrick for an hour, I will and we did. We ended up out of the money (ratings bonuses) that book and I didn’t give a shit. 

I ended up leaving in the summer of ‘14 after the Hawks got popped by the Kings in the Western Conference Finals.  If they had made it to the Final, I was going to work without a contract and finish the Hawks run but I wasn’t gonna come back. I was pretty specific with Mitch (Rosen) about that. People remember it as my summer of discontent. Spiegel calls it “The Summer of Uncertainty.” I corrected him on that and said “remember when I walked in that June and gave anyone parting gifts?” 

Mitch called me right before I crossed the border (into Canada) and lost cell service. He said, “We gotta work this out.” I said, “Mitch, it has been a month and I want to try something different. What’s there to work out?”

So when I got back from Canada in mid August I met with him and Rod (Zimmermann, CBS Radio Market Manager for Chicago at the time) as a courtesy. They offered me a lot of money–more than they had offered me in the middle of June. It was a fair-enough deal. There was no indecisiveness that summer. Without another job offer I said thank you, politely, but I’m going to try something different. 

Mac, Jurko and Harry (May 2001-Jan 2009)

Fish: It seemed to me like an interesting mix–you, Jurko and Harry. Can you talk about the grouping, how it all came together, and the early days of the show?  

Mac: Mitch and I started talking about it right before I resigned from The Score. Bob Snyder was the GM of ESPN 1000 at the time. He was pretty committed to Bill Simonson and Lou Canellis, but Mitch told me he would work him (Snyder) and I decided I would roll dice in October of ‘00. I resigned from The Score with a “maybe” that Mitch would have a spot for me once Simonson and Canellis continued to struggle against The Score.

So I leave The Score and finally Bob Snyder warms up. I had to use (Mike) Greenberg to get to Len Weiner (ESPN Network PD at the time) in Bristol to backdoor my way into Chicago. I needed an ally in Bristol. Greenberg set up a meeting with Len Weiner and me at Super Bowl 35 in Tampa. (Dan remembers the game like it was yesterday saying, “SB 35 Ravens over the Giants, Ray Lewis the Super Bowl MVP. Only Super Bowl with back to back kick returns for touchdowns–Dixon and Lewis. You can look it up!”)

I go down there on a recruiting trip and Len Weiner and I chew the fat for three hours talking radio after the “Mike and Mike Show” and fell in love. I started doing weekends out there to prove to the network that I’m not a crazy man for walking away from 200k at The Score with a rep for being a rabble rouser and that I’m worth hiring. 

Eventually when (Ron) Gleason got fired by The Score I used that to pry my way in at ESPN. I said, “The guy who is taking over wants to hire me back.” I told Len that. There was some grains of truth of that because (Jeff) Schwartz was taking over. Schwartz might have taken me back. I saw it as an opportunity to play a card that I may not have had, and I played it and immediately Bristol put the pressure on Snyder to hire me.

So “Mac, Jurko, and Harry” is born and Snyder wants to keep some of the station’s DNA intact. He puts Harry (Teinowitz) on the show with me and Jurko and I had never considered a 3-man weave for a show in my life. Immediately I curled up and thought it was going to be uncomfortable, in particular because I knew Harry was going to be more of a shooting guard than he was hired to be. He was described to me by the suits as a “tip-in” guy. The funny guy. The occasional guy.

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Well we know Harry. Harry grew into a role more like that, but initially, especially when Jurko started slow, Harry pounced on an opportunity to be more or a presence than I was comfortable with. So in those first few years we really suffered a LOT of growing pains as a show.

Fish: So when did it turn the corner from “growing pains” to when the show was really cooking?

Mac: It took Teinowitz several years to let this more of a desire to have a playground than a classroom sink in for me. I think Harry taught me after a number of months to lighten it up a little bit and I agreed that the easiest way to make people feel like they are welcomed warmly is to create a saloon atmosphere–so that’s what we started to call it. And while we had a lot of tension and fights, it was a place where people felt compelled to hang out.

They weren’t going to be lectured to. It wasn’t going to be “The Sermon on the Mount.” We weren’t going to tackle issues that were polarizing for half of a show like steroids or anything that got us too far away from an opportunity to laugh. We’ve decided to plant the flag in the ground that we were going to be the goofball show. 

Fish: So you weren’t going to get into Race issues and you’re not getting into the Steroid issues..

Mac: (Jumping in) No, No, we’re not getting into politics and we’re also going to get into other forms of entertainment and make casual sports fans feel welcomed. And eventually, women even came around to that show.

Fish: So you get cooking on that show and you’re a few months away from the end of a contract and you get pulled off the air? Were you surprised by that move? 

Mac: I wasn’t surprised. When we were told in December that we weren’t going to the Super Bowl I sort of sniffed it out. Advertising dollars were drying up because of the market. Everybody was taking hits. I mean it was a f**king depression in ‘08.

They decide they’re not sending us to the Super Bowl. I was not our literal union steward, that was Bruce (Levine), but when programming  had issues, the one who took those issues to management, Jim Pastor(GM) and Justin Craig(PD), was me. That meant being a dick to Justin. None of it was personal because I truly like him as a guy but he came in replacing (Jeff) Schwartz, shoving ESPN programming down our throats. Mandating things. In essence telling us, “Forget everything you’ve been doing. This is how we’re gonna do it. I’m gonna mold you into another “Mike and Mike.”

Now Justin did a lot of good things, too. He had an interview coach come in and do a seminar with us. My jaw dropped at how much we needed that. I’ve told Mitch how much we need that at the Score. He came in and did a three hour presentation on interviewing and I wish I would have had that seminar in 1992.

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Fish: What were the biggest things you took away from that interviewing seminar?

Mac: In key interviews, not regular contributors you talk to every week, but when you get a guy on you’ll only talk to 1-2 times a year, a key interview–ask short direct questions! People want to hear from him. I got the rest of the f**king show where I can give my opinion. I don’t need to give him my opinion. Get his opinion. Get him talking! It’s what he’s going to say. It’s not going to be some brilliant way I shape a question. It’s what I’m going to get him to talk about. So ask a short, direct question. The biggest offense that most of us make are the double barrel and triple barrel questions-where you give your guest complete control of the interview. He picks one of the questions to answer and talks for three minutes and you’ve lost the time for a good follow up question. 

In part three of my Q&A with Dan McNeil, Mac talks about the start of The Score in 1992, his partnership with Terry Boers and his longtime friendship with the late Doug Buffone. 

BSM Writers

Mike Silver Has An NFL Backstage Pass

“When you go through a career transition like that, let alone during a pandemic, you find out a referendum on all your relationships.”

Derek Futterman

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It was the 2010 NFL Draft and standout wide receiver Dez Bryant was eligible to be selected by a professional football team. As a journalist, Mike Silver has always looked to enterprise stories and wanted to be with Bryant when the moment he had been waiting for finally arrived.

Through a preexisting relationship with Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, he got in touch with Bryant and received permission to attend his draft celebration. Before being selected in the first round by the Dallas Cowboys, Bryant revealed to him that then-Miami Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland had asked him during the pre-draft process if his mother was a prostitute.

Once that information was published in Silver’s column, Ireland had to publicly apologize and was subsequently put under investigation by the team’s majority owner Stephen Ross.

“People were like, ‘How did you get that?,’ but I was very proud because really the way I got it was because Deion Sanders respected me enough based on things that had happened decades earlier and the way that I conducted myself that I was able to ultimately get to Dez,” Silver expressed. “That to me is a validation. I’ve nurtured relationships for years and years that have led to zero reporting and thought, ‘It’s okay; it’s just part of the process. It is what it is.’”

From the start, Silver was a believer in journalism and the power the profession had in divulging stories in pursuit of the truth. Born in San Francisco, Calif. and raised in Los Angeles, he would read The Los Angeles Times sports section for a half hour per day, observing the proclivities and vernacular of other writers. As a high school student, he co-authored a sports column in the Palisades Charter High School Tideline with current Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, gaining practical experience in journalism and cultivating professional relationships.

“I was the only Warriors fan in our school because I was born in San Francisco so he used to clown me for being a Warriors and 49ers fan like everyone else in our school – so I ended up having the last laugh,” Silver said. “By old standards, you’d say, ‘You can’t cover Steve Kerr. That’s your friend.’ I think in 2022 if I have to cover Steve Kerr, I’ll just be like, ‘You know what? Everyone knows we’re friends. I’m just going to be up front about it.’”

Silver attended the University of California, Berkeley where he earned his bachelor’s degree in mass communication and media studies. The school was not known for profound levels of success within its football and basketball programs, according to Silver; however, the student newspaper was a place to gain repetitions in covering sports and having finished work published, printed and distributed.

Towards the end of his time in college, Silver wrote stories that were published in The Los Angeles Times, the newspaper he grew up reading and from which he drew inspiration to become a journalist.

“We would tell the players we covered, ‘Hey, we’re trying to go to the pros too, and we’re not going to get jobs in this industry if we don’t write the truth,’” Silver said. “We were trying to break in as legitimate journalists and we definitely ruffled some feathers along the way.”

Once he graduated from school, Silver began his professional career writing for The Sacramento Union where he covered the San Francisco 49ers. Silver grew up as a football fan and was familiar with the team but always tried to find original, untold angles to differentiate his stories from others. Shortly thereafter, he transitioned to join The Santa Clara Press Democrat as a beat writer and used the time to further develop his writing and reporting skills. Five years later, he was in talks to land his dream job as a writer in Sports Illustrated, a prolific sports magazine focused on producing original content.

Sports Illustrated was released on Wednesdays and operated under the belief of trying to omit any stories that may have been reported in the days prior. The goal was to tell stories that were under the radar and would be impactful and memorable for its readers.

During a typical week, Silver would visit both the home and road teams in their own cities with the hopes of connecting with players and team personnel. After a game, he would go to the locker room, yet he would try to avoid doing one-on-one interviews since the content would likely be published elsewhere before the magazine was released.

Then, his writing process commenced and often went through the night, as Sports Illustrated had a 9 a.m. EST deadline the following morning. By taking the approach of enterprising stories, Silver quickly became one of the most venerated and trusted sportswriters in the country, composing over 70 cover stories for the publication.

With the advent of the internet though, journalism and communication was forever changed allowing for the free flow of information and ideas in a timely manner.

“Now I can arrogantly write to whatever length I want and every precious word of mine could be broadcast to the masses, but [back then] you better have it the exact length because it’s going on a page,” Silver said. “You’re maybe reading over a story 15 times or more to get it just right before the seven layers of editing kick in. You’re also leaving theoretically half of your great stuff on the cutting room table never to surface again or seldom.”

Nurturing a relationship built on trust and professionalism is hardly facile in nature, and it required enduring persistence and resolute determination to achieve for Silver. Through these relationships, he has been able to create both distinctive and original types of content. As innovations in technology engendered shifts in consumption patterns though, he decided to do what he originally perceived as being unthinkable and left Sports Illustrated after nearly 13 years.

“When I went there, I felt like we had 30 of the 35 best sportswriters in America and it was murderer’s row,” Silver said of Sports Illustrated. “I had a great, great experience there the whole time so I never thought I’d leave.”

After meeting with Yahoo Sports Executive Editor Dave Morgan and being given an offer with flexibility in the job and a promise of a lucrative salary, Silver knew it was simply too good to pass up. He opted to still write a column on Sundays to counterprogram Peter King at Sports Illustrated, who authored his own weekly “Monday Morning Quarterback” column.

Additionally, Silver agreed to write two additional branded columns per week in a quest to adapt to the digital age of media.

“I was trying to stay current and connect to an internet generation and keep up with the way that people were consuming their content at that time,” Silver said. “….We just had a spirit at Yahoo that we weren’t owned by anyone, we didn’t have a deal with the league and we were going to report the news in a very unfiltered way.”

An advent of the digital age in media has been the practice of writers appearing on television to present their information en masse, requiring changes in their delivery. Unlike in a written piece, reporting on television requires efficiently making key points and speaking in shorter phrases to allow the viewer to easily follow the discussion. Moreover, writers are sometimes presented with questions that may provoke deeper thought or analysis, and occasionally challenge their lines of reporting.

Silver never thought he would work in television, but as a part of his contract with NFL Media, he was writing columns and serving as an analyst on select NFL Network programming. In working on television on a league-owned entity, it forced him to step out of his comfort zone and pursue mastery of a new skill set.

“I never wanted to do TV voice and be cheesy and look like someone who was trained for the medium so my strategy was more to try to be myself on camera and see how that translated,” Silver articulated. “It seemed to work to some degree – and then obviously I picked up a lot of tricks of the trade and techniques and got better reps. Essentially, I think reporting is reporting [and] information is information.”

Moving into television, a medium with sports coverage that is, at its core, nonlinear due to the potential for breaking news and unexpected occurrences, changed the manner in which the information was presented and/or prioritized on the air. In a column, Silver’s goal was to find original angles and obtain anecdotes and quotes to implement into the storytelling. Now on television, sources were still used largely on the condition of deep background, meaning no individual or group could be attributed to the information in any way.

“With TV, there was an element of, ‘Hey man, I’m just trying to sound smart when I talk about you guys,’ which is code for, ‘I don’t have to use your name when I say this stuff, but when I’m weighing on why you just traded for Trent Richardson, help me understand what’s really going on with the Indianapolis Colts at this moment,’” Silver explained. “That’s just a random example. I liked [television] more than I thought I would.”

Silver’s contract was not renewed at NFL Network in 2021, providing a stark change in his lifestyle and leaving him looking for a job in the midst of trying economic times. Through a relationship he had with sports radio host Colin Cowherd, he was given the opportunity to join his upstart podcast platform The Volume as a host. Cowherd eagerly recruited Silver to the platform following a lunch in which the topic came up naturally in conversation about future endeavors.

“When you go through a career transition like that, let alone during a pandemic, you find out a referendum on all your relationships and I have a lot of them from players, coaches, owners and GMs to media people and friends in other industries, etc.,” he explained. “Colin Cowherd is someone I’ll never, ever, ever forget or stop being grateful to…. We were kind of talking some stuff out and he was like, ‘Why don’t we do a show on my network?,’ and we started talking about what that would be. We left lunch… and about 10 minutes later he called me and said, ‘Okay, here’s what I think,’ and kind of continued it.”

Today, Silver is hosting an interview-based program called Open Mike featuring guests from the world of professional football. Recent guests on the program have included Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff, New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh and Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Marvin Jones. Prior to joining The Volume, Silver had hosted a podcast with his daughter called Pass It Down, which ultimately ran for over 50 episodes and gave him experience working within the medium.

“I’m sitting there spending an hour with [Las Vegas] Raiders GM Dave Ziegler or [Buffalo Bills] linebacker Von Miller or whoever we have on,” Silver said. “You’re not only getting to know that person; you’re watching the way I connect with that person and usually have a body of work with that person, and there’s a comfort level there too.”

John Marvel was Silver’s direct boss at NFL Media and a friend he kept in touch with for many years. Through various correspondences and the dynamic media landscape, they decided to start their own media venture called Backstage Media. The company has a first-look deal with Meadowlark Media – a company co-founded by John Skipper, who also serves as its chief executive officer. Skipper was formerly the president of ESPN and someone Silver wished he had worked for earlier in his career.

“I did not know John Skipper before I left NFL Network,” he said. “I didn’t particularly have a dream to [ever] work at ESPN. We’ve had conversations over the years – ESPN and I – and it never seemed like the perfect fit for me. Now that I know John Skipper, it’s like ‘I would have worked for that guy any time.’ He’s fantastic, [and] I’m just so pumped to be in business with him.”

The company, which focuses on producing documentaries and other unscripted programming through the intersection of sports, music and entertainment, has various projects in development. The idea was derived out of both of their penchants for storytelling and an attempt to utilize new platforms built for engagement within the modern-day media marketplace.

“We’re hoping that documentaries, docuseries [and] episodic podcasts – mostly unscripted – …will be kind of our wheelhouse,” Silver said. “….There’s about four big things that are [hopefully] close to being announced. One’s football; one’s boxing; one is basketball; and one is kind of a blend of some things. I feel like we have a pretty diverse set of interests.”

Joining The San Francisco Chronicle as a football reporter has been indicative of a full-circle moment for Silver, as he is once again around the San Francisco 49ers and writing columns about the team and other sports around the Bay Area at large. Today, he is working with Scott Ostler and Ann Kllion, and directly with Eric Branch on the outlet’s 49ers coverage. Through it all, he seeks to continue gaining access to places that the ordinary person would only be able to dream about in order to tell compelling and informative stories, no matter how they may be delivered or on what platform(s) to which it may be distributed.

“I’m old school in a lot of my mentality in terms of journalism and storytelling and all of that,” Silver said. “I think those things don’t go away. I think it’s journalism first; relationship first; access first; storytelling first; and you figure out the rest.”

As for the future of the profession which has ostensibly become less defined because of the evolution of social media and communication, relationships and storytelling have truly become the differentiators. Silver aims to continue practicing what has allowed him to gain exclusive scoops in the industry and tell stories that would otherwise, perhaps, fly under the radar, but do so in a way that does not jeopardize his sources.

“I’m going to try to develop relationships and cultivate relationships where people trust me and give me a sense of what’s going on,” he said. “I’m going to try to get into places that you, as the consumer, couldn’t otherwise go and take you there, and I’m going to err on the side of the relationship as opposed to finding out one thing that could cause a splash that day on Twitter.”

Some athletes are hosting podcasts or writing columns to directly communicate with their fans, including Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green on The Volume, intensifying the quest for engagement and attraction. Yet Silver advises journalists looking to break into the industry not to get distracted in meeting certain metrics, instead adhering to best practices and reporting truthful information without ambiguity.

“Just don’t get undone by the noise,” Silver said. “Put your head down; hyperfocus; grind; tell good stories; do journalism and hopefully over the course of time, that will stand out. I’d still like to believe that.”

Covering professional sports, specifically football, generates a large amount of potential storylines on which journalists can report – and today, digital platforms give them the ability to cover them in different ways. While some scoops may requit a large article, others may be able to be told in 280 characters or less, such as a trade rumor or injury. The amount of information Silver and his colleagues uncovered working for a print publication and then had to omit because of space limitations underscores a key journalistic principle of efficient and truthful storytelling. In today’s media landscape, he hopes to be able to do that regardless of its means of dissemination.

“If you went back and just looked at our normal… feature or story off a game [and] the level we reported on a Wednesday and translated that to a Twitter generation, people would lose their minds about how much we found out and how much we reported with on-the-record quotes usually, and they’d be like, ‘He said what!?,” Silver said. “That’s all we knew and that’s [how] we did it…. I don’t think people understand how much the threshold has changed. It’s all good. The most important things hopefully haven’t changed.”

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BSM Writers

Video Simulcasts Are Now A Must Have For Sports Radio

All of these shows have done an amazing job of constantly communicating with their audiences to make sure they’re aware of changes coming their way. 

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Video simulcasts of sports talk radio and podcasts have gone up extraordinarily in quality as of late. The craft started as a novelty that very few participated in. ESPN and YES Network dominated the genre with their simulcasts of Mike and Mike in the Morning and Mike and the Mad Dog respectively. Slowly but surely other sports networks and RSN’s picked up the genre over time and it has now become a major component within sports coverage in the streaming world.

The most popular and prominent shows in the medium right now include The Dan Patrick Show, The Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz, The Pat McAfee Show, and The Rich Eisen Show. These four shows in particular have done an excellent job of independently producing and building out their video content to look visually appealing while also engage with the audience through graphics, pictures, stats on screen. In McAfee’s case, his company even entered into a rights agreement with the NFL for highlights.

Finding their shows can be difficult at times. Eisen’s show has moved from television to Peacock and to Roku Channel all within the span of a couple years. When LeBatard’s shipping container first began their live video voyage they didn’t have a consistent schedule. Patrick’s show has also leapt between RSNs, national networks, YouTube and its current home on Peacock. But all of these shows have done an amazing job of constantly communicating with their audiences to make sure they’re aware of changes coming their way. 

The video simulcasts have become so lucrative for these shows that they’ve found sponsors to advertise against what they’re offering and they ensure that they pay attention to the look of the show. Commercials that feel like television play during Patrick and Eisen’s shows. Logos are displayed during LeBatard’s broadcast and NFL Films vignettes that you would find on NFL Network air in the middle of McAfee’s broadcast.

McAfee’s show recently moved into a new studio in Indianapolis specifically built for them by FanDuel and just yesterday LeBatard announced they would be moving into their own state of the art studio in Miami that will help expand their creativity. Patrick’s show doesn’t even have guests call into their show anymore – most join via Zoom. Eisen’s guests are more often than not in studio. All of these shows also upload highlights relatively quickly to YouTube. They’re still audio-first but video is no longer secondary. It is 1A in terms of importance.

As much as these simulcasts feel close to real TV, there are still some hijinks that fans have to get used to that aren’t the same as a regular TV broadcast. During LeBatard’s broadcast, a rolling loop of their own self produced album plays during breaks. While the songs are hilarious in nature, if you’re a weekly viewer of their simulcast it might get tiresome to hear every time there is a break.

A loop of some of the show’s greatest moments and some of the side projects Meadowlark Media produces might be more engaging and help reduce drop off rate. McAfee’s show also struggles with white balancing their cameras almost every telecast. At times in the middle of a conversation during the show, discoloration occurs before changing back to normal skin tones.

Patrick’s show has used the same set of graphics since it began simulcasting on NBC’s linear sports network years ago which could be a turnoff for younger viewers of the internet era who always want change in order to grab their attention. Eisen’s show has awkward interruptions happen in the middle of conversations because commercial breaks are different in length on terrestrial radio vs. streaming.

At the end of the day though, these shows are the epitome of what it means to have grit and guts to achieve your American dream. Although their productions are subsidized and/or licensed by big media platforms and sports books, their social media presence and the actual production of these shows was built on their own. During the first couple of weeks after LeBatard’s show left ESPN, the former columnist could often be heard teasing listeners that they were working on building a video enterprise and how difficult it was.

It’s hard to stand on your own in sports talk media without the backing of superpowers like ESPN, Fox, NBC, CBS and Turner who have been producing live broadcasts for decades. But these shows have found a way to do so in a new world that is tailored towards doing everything on your own. 

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BSM Writers

5 Ideas For December Sales Success

How much better will you enjoy Christmas and New Year knowing you have some presentations to make to prospects who want to roll into 2023 with a new idea?

Jeff Caves

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Now is the time to put your foot on the gas for a great start to 2023-not waiting til January. With Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day all falling on weekends, you can’t count on who will be at work the Friday or Monday around those holidays in December.

So, looking forward from here, you only have 15 or so days that you can count on your clients and prospects to be at work before the end of 2022. And, if they are at work, consider their motivation or lack of it before approaching them. But here are five ways to attack December.

Cutting a year-end deal

Make sure you go back from the potential start date of the schedule and allow for production, proposal, and acceptance. That usually means you need a week from when you present a year-end idea to when the schedule starts. So, aim to have all appointments booked by 12/9, so you can sell 2-week packages that begin Monday, 12/19. That will give you a sense of urgency and gives you five solid business days to sell your ass off starting Monday.

5-day sale

Make all your pricing and payment terms expire by Friday, 12/9. You can always extend if need be once they give a partial commitment. You want anybody involved in the decision to sign off and let you cut this deal! The idea here is to create urgency and work ahead.

Beat the bushes

Do you want to wake up on 1/2/23 with an empty pipeline? How much better will you enjoy Christmas and New Year knowing you have some presentations to make to prospects who want to roll into 2023 with a new idea? Don’t try to qualify these prospects over the phone. Do it in January when both of you are fresh but get that commitment NOW. Look for your new client avatar.

Be gracious

From now til the end of the year is also an excellent time to meet with your sales assistant, traffic manager, production person, or anybody who helps you at the station. Sit down with them face to face and see what you can do better to make their job easier. Give them some ideas on how they can help you as well. Mend some fences or make new friends; the reason tis the season. Surprise them with a Cheetos popcorn tin for less than $10. Please do it. You will be surprised by what you hear because this is a popular time of year for layoffs, transfers, and people taking new jobs.

Practice a new pitch

December is also a great time to record yourself doing a webinar and start planning to let your content do the talking. Wouldn’t it be nice if your 10-minute talk on how to make live reads work, how to buy radio, or why your audience buys the most widgets produced some warm leads? Practice and get going!

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Barrett Media Writers

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