There are a lot of radio hosts that say they have great passion for sports and the broadcasting industry. There aren’t as many of those same hosts who actually show it. David Weiglein — better known as Carmichael Dave – isn’t one of these fake smooth talkers. The guy oozes passion for the Sacramento Kings and his sports radio gig. He doesn’t prove his enthusiasm solely through words. Carmichael Dave proves it through his many actions.
Carmichael is a suburb in Sacramento where Dave grew up. His stage name originates from the many times he called Sports 1140 KHTK as a kid. Dave was so fired up to participate as a teenager that he recorded his calls on a boombox. It was a drug to him. He now hosts a weekday show from 6-9am on the same station he grew up adoring — KHTK.
Dave details the highs and lows of getting fired and re-hired by his current employer. While out of work, he didn’t sit around twiddling his thumbs feeling sorry for himself. Not only did he start a podcast back then, Carmichael Dave raised money and commandeered a 27-foot RV. This dude ended up in New York City during a Board of Governors meeting as he fought for the Kings to remain in Sacramento. If that isn’t real, authentic, genuine passion, I don’t know what is. Enjoy.
Brian Noe: With you being a former caller, does that impact the way you engage with callers now because you understand what it’s like to be on the other end?
Carmichael Dave: One trillion percent. But radio is going away from calls in a lot of ways because of texting and emails. I think the lifeblood of sports radio is trying to create passion. You throw out as a host that bait and you’re trying to hook passion. Every single blinking hold light to me was like a biting fish. As somebody who had gone through it as a kid and as a young adult, I’m taking it very seriously. The radio is off, nobody can talk to me, and I’m shut in a room somewhere because I’m afraid the host is going to come to me at any point. I have taken the time to completely shut my life down so that I can call in unpaid on a radio show and contribute free content.
Sometimes that content sucks, we all know there are crappy callers, but it doesn’t matter. These people are taking time to contribute to your show. You better respect what they’re doing. When they get on the air, we may yell, we may scream, I may think the person’s a moron, but you’re damn straight I’m going to respect their time. You’re taking the time out of your life to participate in my show, I’m going to respect that and I’m going to talk to you.
BN: What helps you connect with your audience the most?
CD: My brand is like an anti-brand. I’m a kid from Carmichael that lucked his way into being able to work at the station he grew up listening to and covering the team that he adores more than anything, the Sacramento Kings. My name is local. Carmichael Dave doesn’t work in Houston. It doesn’t work in New York or L.A. It works in Sacramento and that’s it. I am bonded to this city.
Sacramento is not the first prize in the Price Is Right Showcase Showdown for the vacation. That’s not what we’re known for. It’s a stepping stone.
Think about some of the shittiest cities in the country like Detroit. Everybody thinks Detroit is shitty, right? Like you do not want to go to Detroit. That is a terrible city. But talk to people from Detroit. They’re like yeah D-Town what’s up? They are the most loyal people in the world. Same thing with Stockton here, which is like the Detroit of California. That’s their reputation. But they’re so loyal to where they’re from. That’s my brand.
This isn’t a cultivated character. I’m going to go at it with you. I’m very active on Twitter. I won’t say your mother’s a whore or anything, but in the end I’m a native Sacramentan. I’m born here, raised here, going to die here. We’re all kind of an extended dysfunctional family. If you want to say a brand, that’s my brand. It’s local.
BN: How did things unfold for you going from a caller to being on the air?
CD: The program director at the time was a guy named Mike Remy. He’s one of my big-time mentors. I had an internship when I was 17. The guy who was running the board, who was kind of in charge of everything, he opens the door and he goes “Alright, step into my office. I’ll give you the rundown.” His name was Steve Goss. He’s still there today. He’s our traffic director.
Well, his office was the bathroom. He just starts taking a leak while I’m sitting there at the sink. He says all right here’s what you do, here’s what you don’t do. He’s like turning around from the urinal talking to me. That was my first indoctrination into the inside of a radio building.
From there I did everything I could working for free. Mike Remy said hey dude check it out, you got to learn how to be on the air and you’re not going to get the time you need here right now. There’s a bunch of music stations in town. Go work at a music station, come back to me in a few months and we’ll see what we can do. So I went to this alternative rock station in town. I worked there about a year.
Then eventually I went back to KHTK in ‘01. I got my first break doing backup sports updates for Jason Ross. Jason was doing updates for our afternoon drive host Grant Napear who is also the play-by-play TV voice for the Kings. I grew up absolutely idolizing this dude. He was the alpha and the omega to me. I’m 23 or 24. I called him Mr. Napear. I don’t know what that first update sounded like, but I know Grant will often say that I was like this scared little bunny. He actually told me at one point hey speak up. I did backup updates for four years.
Then one day Mike Remy hired somebody else to do a show from 9 to midnight. That dude lasted a year. His name was Tim Montemayor. He got a job at KMOX in St. Louis and quit that day. I get a call at 4pm. I had a 104-degree temperature. I had strep throat. I was lying in bed but I recognized Mike Remy’s phone number. He said hey I need you to fill in for Tim. He’s no longer with us. The show starts in five hours. It’s at a Hooters for a live remote. So with strep throat and a 104-degree fever and Hooters girls being shoveled in and out of my broadcast, that was the first time I ever hosted a show. Two weeks later they let me keep the spot. I did 9 to midnight for the next six years.
BN: Man, only a few hours to prepare — you’re on location so that’s a whole different animal — what do you remember most about that first show?
CD: I just shit my pants in front of Hooters girls because I was scared to death. I was on right after a Kings-Timberwolves game and thank God it was a win. But I didn’t know enough to know anything. I had never hosted a show. I had never, ever done anything but a sports update on the station and here I am soloing for three hours.
During that broadcast, after I got through all the schematics and phone numbers and stuff, all of a sudden I heard that telltale white noise in my ear again and I was a caller. I was on the air and it was time to dance. All the times that I had spent calling in on Grant Napear’s show or Scott Ferrall’s show or any of these radio shows I called as a kid, instead of having a five-minute phone call it was now a three-hour phone call with commercial breaks. It just kicks in. You’re either able to do it or you’re not. I certainly wasn’t great. I was far from perfect, but I did it well enough to get called back the next day.
It’s always been like that. I’ve always had that attitude that I’m really on a day-to-day contract. What I did today doesn’t matter now. It’s what I do tomorrow that matters. I don’t think I’m ever going to get rid of that attitude. That’s the attitude I had from the very first day I did a show.
BN: What led to you being fired and how tough of a situation was that for you?
CD: The Sacramento Kings had announced that the ownership had come to a deal and they were going to sell the team and move to Seattle. You’ve got to understand again I’m a native Sacramentan. There’s nothing else here, at least at the time. It was the only professional team. I became very vocal as a fan and used my platform as much as I could to speak out against ownership and against the move.
I’ll never forget it; it was a meeting with the bosses in our corporate office. I remember the market manager at the time saying we no longer need you and thank you for your service basically. I was just unbelievably crushed. I just got fired. I didn’t do anything wrong, but ultimately what I did is the powers that be within and outside of the station thought I was being a little bit too noisy and a little bit too much of a nuisance.
At the time I had my brand new wife and I had a two- and a one-year-old child. My wife had not yet gone back to work. I was the sole breadwinner and I got fired in part for speaking out about the Kings.
I started a podcast in my garage. The local magazine here did a cool little front-page cover photo with me in a Kings jersey, wearing handcuffs that were broken to symbolize being free to speak freely. I did a podcast in my garage for a few months where I was basically bringing in a thousand bucks a month in sponsorships, which just barely kept the roof over our head while I was getting unemployment.
In a sense me getting fired from KHTK took me from the idea I always had that I was a caller who was lucky to be there who had a seat at the kids’ table at Thanksgiving and not the adults’ table. When I came back I had kind of proven to myself that even without this station I was able to make some waves and had a voice. The people in Sacramento had my back. They saved my life. They saved my job. When I came back it was like I grew up. I was an adult now. I knew I belonged here and I’ve never looked back. That was almost eight years ago.
BN: The day you got fired compared to the day you returned — how did those completely different experiences impact the way you look at the business?
CD: When I left I thought I’d never work in radio again. I thought that was over. I was going to have to go wear a suit and tie. What happened was…necessity is the mother of invention. It allowed me to spend time on the Kings saga that I couldn’t have before. It allowed me to free myself from the politics that were attached to me — because the Kings and KHTK were partners — and really be an independent voice. It allowed me to rally with the city itself.
What leaving also showed me again, when I returned it was because the people here supported what I did. They supported me and they let their voices be heard. We banded together and it created this bond between myself and this base of listeners and fans where I’m forever indebted to them. I am merely one of them who happens to have a platform and a microphone. When I go to ball games I don’t dress in a suit and tie, dude. I wear a Kings jersey. I’m not a journalist. I’m a fan with a microphone. I’m here to represent the fans. I’m not here for any political bullshit. It’s always, always, always listeners first, Kings fans first.
When I came back it gave me humility. It gave me, not paranoia, but it gave me an understanding that this is a fleeting business. The moment that you sell out, the moment that you stop respecting the people that listen to your station, the moment that you take for granted the fact that you have an audience — with Spotify and Apple Music and streaming services and everything else — for someone to tune in to terrestrial radio and listen to you whether live or on-demand, that is such an insane compliment and an amazing responsibility.
BN: However many more years you have left in radio, what do you want it to look like?
CD: I think the first thing I’d say is that I don’t think I’m much longer for this business. I’ve done what I want to do. Radio is changing. I don’t want this to sound like an old guy fighting the new wave, but what works now are quick-hitter, minute-half sound bits and little video bits. What works now is having two guys at a microphone screaming at each other and throwing out these outlandish takes that they don’t believe. Then you put the video clip of them on Twitter yelling at each other. Then everybody on Twitter yells at each other. Meanwhile you throw in a 30-second commercial for Purina dog food and that’s how you make your money. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to be a part of argue radio.
I expect I’ll have another two, three, four years in the business at most doing what I do. I’d like to be able to broadcast on my last day. I don’t want to do one of those things where I was fired on a Thursday, there was no show on Friday, and then my replacement is there on a Monday. I’d actually like to go on the air and be trusted enough by my radio station to thank the station and thank the listeners and actually say goodbye. Then I want to go do some real stuff.
BN: Do you have something specific in mind that you want to do whenever you hang up your headphones?
CD: Yeah, I’m going to be the mayor of Sacramento when I get out. I’ve spent years watching and studying people on all levels. When the whole fight for the Kings thing happened I got to know a lot of people here locally, politically. Whether it’s our current mayor Darrell Steinberg, I was very close to Kevin Johnson before him, a lot of our city council members — I see what they do.
What I want to do is take the love and energy I have for Sacramento and the insane growth pattern it has shown since that turning point in 2013 where we have a new arena, Major League Soccer, businesses are coming out here, the Bay Area silicon sector is beginning to expand out here, things are happening in my city that we couldn’t have even dreamt about 20 years ago.
I want to be a part of taking that into the next generation. To spend my life selling the city, getting new business to come here, making it affordable for our current residents, and being able to literally go out there and speak to people each and every day that have problems in this city. Instead of it being a problem with our starting lineup, it’s a problem with the bus system or a library or their school — and really be able to make a solid impact.
I know it sounds silly, but someone’s going to pull this article in some weird Google search in 10 years and you’re going to see me saying I’ll be the mayor of Sacramento at some point in my life. Not out of a sense of ego, but simply out of a sense of duty and out of a sense of wanting to give every part of my being back to the city that gave me so much.
Brian Noe is a columnist for BSM and an on-air host heard nationwide each weekend on FOX Sports Radio. Previous roles include stops in Portland, OR, Albany, NY and Fresno, CA. You can follow him on Twitter @TheNoeShow or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Defense Of Colin Cowherd
“How did we get to this place where there are sites and Twitter accounts going through The Herd with a fine-toothed comb to create content out of ‘oh my god, look at this!’?”
I don’t understand what it is about Colin Cowherd that gets under some people’s skin to the point that they feel everything the guy says is worth being mocked. I don’t always agree with a lot of his opinions myself, but rarely do I hear one of his takes and think I need to build content around how stupid the guy is.
Cowherd has certainly had his share of misses. There were some highlights to his constant harping on Baker Mayfield but personally, I thought the bit got boring quickly and that the host was only shooting about 25% on those segments.
Cowherd has said some objectionable things. I thought Danny O’Neil was dead on in pointing out that the FOX Sports Radio host sounded like LIV Golf’s PR department last month. It doesn’t matter if he claims he used the wrong words or if his language was clunky, he deserved all of the criticism he got in 2015 when he said that baseball couldn’t be that hard of a sport to understand because a third of the league is from the Dominican Republic.
Those missteps and eyebrow-raising moments have never been the majority of his content though. How did we get to this place where there are sites and Twitter accounts going through The Herd with a fine-toothed comb to create content out of “oh my god, look at this!”?
A few years ago, Dan Le Batard said something to the effect of the best thing he can say about Colin Cowherd is that he is never boring and if you are not in this business, you do not get what a compliment that is.
That’s the truth, man. It is so hard to talk into the ether for three hours and keep people engaged, but Cowherd finds a way to do it with consistency.
The creativity that requires is what has created a really strange environment where you have sites trying to pass off pointing and laughing at Cowherd as content. This jumped out to me with a piece that Awful Announcing published on Thursday about Cowherd’s take that Aaron Rodgers needs a wife.
Look, I don’t think every single one of Cowherd’s analogies or societal observations is dead on, but to point this one out as absurd is, frankly, absurd!
This isn’t Cowherd saying that John Wall coming out and doing the Dougie is proof that he is a loser. This isn’t him saying that adults in backward hats look like doofuses (although, to be fair to Colin, where is the lie in that one?).
“Behind every successful man is a strong woman” is a take as old as success itself. It may not be a particularly original observation, but it hardly deserves the scrutiny of a 450-word think piece.
On top of that, he is right about Aaron Rodgers. The guy has zero personality and is merely trying on quirks to hold our attention. Saying that the league MVP would benefit from someone in his life holding a mirror up to him and pointing that out is hardly controversial.
Colin Cowherd is brash. He has strong opinions. He will acknowledge when there is a scoreboard or a record to show that he got a game or record pick wrong, but he will rarely say his opinion about a person or situation is wrong. That can piss people off. I get it.
You know that Twitter account Funhouse? The handle is @BackAftaThis?
It was created to spotlight the truly insane moments Mike Francesa delivered on air. There was a time when the standard was ‘The Sports Pop’e giving the proverbial finger to a recently deceased Stan Lee, falling asleep on air, or vehemently denying that a microphone captured his fart.
Now the feed is turning to “Hey Colin Cowherd doesn’t take phone calls!”. Whatever the motivation is for turning on Cowherd like that, it really shows a dip in the ability to entertain. How is it even content to point out that Colin Cowherd doesn’t indulge in the single most boring part of sports radio?
I will be the first to admit that I am not the world’s biggest fan of The Herd. Solo hosts will almost never be my thing. No matter their energy level, a single person talking for a 10-12 minute stretch feels more like a lecture than entertainment to me. I got scolded enough as a kid by parents and teachers.
School is a good analogy here because that is sort of what this feels like. The self-appointed cool kids identified their target long ago and are going to mock him for anything he does. It doesn’t matter if they carry lunch boxes too, Colin looks like a baby because he has a lunch box.
Colin Cowherd doesn’t need me to defend him. He can point to his FOX paycheck, his followers, or the backing for The Volume as evidence that he is doing something right. I am merely doing what these sites think they are doing when Colin is in their crosshairs – pointing out a lame excuse for content that has no real value.
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.
Even After Radio Hall of Fame Honor, Suzyn Waldman Looks Forward
WFAN recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, but that’s not something that Waldman spends too much time reflecting on.
Yankees radio broadcaster Suzyn Waldman was at Citi Field on July 26th getting ready to broadcast a Subway Series game between the Yankees and Mets. A day earlier, Waldman was elected to the Radio Hall of Fame and sometimes that type of attention can, admittedly, make her feel a bit uncomfortable.
“At first, I was really embarrassed because I’m not good at this,” said Waldman. “I don’t take compliments well and I don’t take awards well. I just don’t. The first time it got to me…that I actually thought it was pretty cool, there were two little boys at Citi Field…
Those two little boys, with photos of Waldman in hand, saw her on the field and asked her a question.
“They asked me to sign “Suzyn Waldman Radio Hall of Fame 2022” and I did,” said Waldman. “I just smiled and then more little boys asked me to do that.”
Waldman, along with “Broadway” Bill Lee, Carol Miller, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, Ellen K, Jeff Smulyan, Lon Helton, Marv Dyson, and Walt “Baby” Love, make up the Class of 2022 for the Radio Hall of Fame and will be inducted at a ceremony on November 1st at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago.
Waldman, born in the Boston suburb of Newton, Massachusetts, was the first voice heard on WFAN in New York when the station launched on July 1st, 1987. She started as an update anchor before becoming a beat reporter for the Yankees and Knicks and the co-host of WFAN’s
mid-day talk show. In the mid 1990s, Waldman did some television play-by-play for Yankees games on WPIX and in 2002 she became the clubhouse reporter for Yankees telecasts when the YES Network launched.
This is Waldman’s 36th season covering the Yankees and her 18th in the radio booth, a run that started in 2005 when she became the first female full-time Major League Baseball broadcaster.
She decided to take a look at the names that are currently in the Hall of Fame, specifically individuals that she will forever be listed next to.
“Some of the W’s are Orson Wells and Walter Winchell…people that changed the industry,” said Waldman. “I get a little embarrassed…I’m not good at this but I’m really happy.”
Waldman has also changed the industry.
She may have smiled when those two little boys asked her to sign those photos, but Waldman can also take a lot of pride in the fact that she has been a trailblazer in the broadcasting business and an inspiration to a lot of young girls who aspire, not only to be sportscasters but those who want to have a career in broadcasting.
Like the young woman who just started working at a New York television station who approached Waldman at the Subway Series and just wanted to meet her.
“She stopped me and was shaking,” said Waldman. “The greatest thing is that all of these young women that are out there.”
Waldman pointed out that there are seven women that she can think of off the top of her head that are currently doing minor league baseball play-by-play and that there have been young female sports writers that have come up to her to share their stories about how she inspired them.
For many years, young boys were inspired to be sportscasters by watching and listening to the likes of Marv Albert, Al Michaels, Vin Scully, Bob Costas, and Joe Buck but now there are female sportscasters, like Waldman, who have broken down barriers and are giving young girls a good reason to follow their dreams.
“When I’ve met them, they’ve said to me I was in my car with my Mom and Dad when I was a very little girl and they were listening to Yankee games and there you were,” said Waldman. “These young women never knew this was something that they couldn’t do because I was there and we’re in the third generation of that now. It’s taken longer than I thought.”
There have certainly been some challenges along the way in terms of women getting opportunities in sports broadcasting.
Waldman thinks back to 1994 when she became the first woman to do a national television baseball broadcast when she did a game for The Baseball Network. With that milestone came a ton of interviews that she had to do with media outlets around the country including Philadelphia.
It was during an interview with a former Philadelphia Eagle on a radio talk show when Waldman received a unique backhanded compliment that she will always remember.
“I’ve listened to you a lot and I don’t like you,” Waldman recalls the former Eagle said. “I don’t like women in sports…I don’t like to listen to you but I was watching the game with my 8-year-old daughter and she was watching and I looked at her and thought this is something she’s never going to know that she cannot do because there you are.”
Throughout her career, Waldman has experienced the highest of highs in broadcasting but has also been on the receiving end of insults and cruel intentions from people who then tend to have a short memory.
And many of these people were co-workers.
“First people laugh at you, then they make your life miserable and then they go ‘oh yeah that’s the way it is’ like it’s always been like that but it’s not always been like this,” said Waldman.
It hasn’t always been easy for women in broadcasting and as Waldman — along with many others — can attest to nothing is perfect today. But it’s mind-boggling to think about what Waldman had to endure when WFAN went on the air in 1987.
She remembers how badly she was treated by some of her colleagues.
“I think about those first terrible days at ‘FAN,” said Waldman. “I had been in theatre all my life and it was either you get the part or you don’t. They either like you or they don’t. You don’t have people at your own station backstabbing you and people at your own station changing your tapes to make you look like an idiot.”
There was also this feeling that some players were not all that comfortable with Waldman being in the clubhouse and locker room. That was nothing compared to some of the other nonsense that Waldman had to endure.
“The stuff with players is very overblown,” said Waldman. “It’s much worse when you know that somebody out there is trying to kill you because you have a Boston accent and you’re trying to talk about the New York Yankees. That’s worse and it’s also worse when the people
that you work with don’t talk to you and think that you’re a joke and the people at your own station put you down for years and years and years.”
While all of this was happening, Waldman had one very important person in her corner: Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who passed away in 2010.
The two had a special relationship and he certainly would have relished the moment when Suzyn was elected to the Hall of Fame.
“I think about George Steinbrenner a lot,” said Waldman. “This is something that when I heard that…I remember thinking George would be so proud because he wanted this since ’88. I just wish he were here.”
Waldman certainly endeared herself to “The Boss” with her reporting but she also was the driving force behind the reconciliation of Steinbrenner and Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra. George had fired Yogi as Yankees manager 16 games into the 1985 season and the news was delivered to Berra, not by George, but by Steinbrenner advisor Clyde King.
Yogi vowed never to step foot into Yankee Stadium again, but a grudge that lasted almost 14 years ended in 1999 when Waldman facilitated a reunion between the two at the Yogi Berra Museum in New Jersey.
“I’m hoping that my thank you to him was the George and Yogi thing because I know he wanted that very badly,” said Waldman.
“Whatever I did to prove to him that I was serious about this…this is in ’87 and ’88…In 1988, I remember him saying to me ‘Waldman, one of these days I’m going to make a statement about women in sports. You’re it and I hope you can take it’ (the criticism). He knew what was coming. I didn’t know. But there was always George who said ‘if you can take it, you’re going to make it’.”
And made it she did.
And she has outlasted every single person on the original WFAN roster.
“I’m keenly aware that I was the first person they tried to fire and I’m the only one left which I think is hysterical actually that I outlived everybody,” said Waldman.
WFAN recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, but that’s not something that Waldman spends too much time reflecting on.
“I don’t think about it at all because once you start looking back, you’re not going forward,” said Waldman.
Waldman does think about covering the 1989 World Series between the A’s and Giants and her reporting on the earthquake that was a defining moment in her career. She has always been a great reporter and a storyteller, but that’s not how her WFAN career began. She started as an update anchor and she knew that if she was going to have an impact on how WFAN was going to evolve, it was not going to be reading the news…it was going to be going out in the field and reporting the news.
“I was doing updates which I despised and wasn’t very good at,” said Waldman.
She went to the program director at the time and talked about how WFAN had newspaper writers covering the local teams for the station and that it would be a better idea for her to go out and cover games and press conferences.
“Give me a tape recorder and let me go,” is what Waldman told the program director. “I was the first electronic beat writer. That’s how that started and they said ‘oh, this works’. The writers knew all of a sudden ‘uh oh she can put something on the air at 2 o’clock in the morning and I can’t’.”
And the rest is history. Radio Hall of Fame history.
But along the way, there was never that moment where she felt that everything was going to be okay.
Because it can all disappear in a New York minute.
“I’ve never had that moment,” said Waldman. “I see things going backward in a lot of ways for women. I’m very driven and I’m very aware that it can all be taken away in two seconds if some guy says that’s enough.”
During her storied career, Waldman has covered five Yankees World Series championships and there’s certainly the hope that they can contend for another title this year. She loves her job and the impact that she continues to make on young girls who now have that dream to be the next Suzyn Waldman.
But, is there something in the business that she still hopes to accomplish?
“This is a big world,” said Waldman. “There’s always something to do. Right now I like this a lot and there’s still more to do. There are more little girls…somewhere there’s a little girl out there who is talking into a tape recorder or whatever they use now and her father is telling her or someone is telling her you can’t do that you’re a little girl. That hasn’t stopped. Somewhere out there there’s somebody that needs to hear a female voice on Yankees radio.”
To steal the spirit of a line from Yankees play-by-play voice John Sterling, Suzyn Waldman’s longtime friend, and broadcast partner…“that’s a Radio Hall of Fame career, Suzyn!”
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.
No Winners in Pittsburgh vs Cleveland Radio War of Words
“As talk radio hosts, we often try to hold the moral high ground and if you’re going to hold that position, I can’t help but feel integrity has to outweigh popularity. “
For nearly 18 months, we’ve known the NFL would eventually have to confront the Deshaun Watson saga in an on-the-field manner, and that day came Monday. After his March trade to the Browns, we also could more than likely deduce another item: Cleveland radio hosts would feel one way, and Pittsburgh hosts would feel another.
If you’re not in tune to the “rivalry” between the two cities, that’s understandable. Both are former industrial cities looking for an identity in a post-industrial Midwest. Each thinks the other is a horrible place to live, with no real reasoning other than “at least we’re not them”. Of course, the folks in Pittsburgh point to six Super Bowl victories as reason for superiority.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when news started to leak that a Watson decision would come down Monday. I was sure, however, that anyone who decided to focus on what the NFL’s decision would mean for Watson and the Browns on the field was in a no-win situation. As a former host on a Cleveland Browns radio affiliate, I always found the situation difficult to talk about. Balancing the very serious allegations with what it means for Watson, the Browns, and the NFL always felt like a tight-rope walk destined for failure.
So I felt for 92.3 The Fan’s Ken Carman and Anthony Lima Monday morning, knowing they were in a delicate spot. They seemed to allude to similar feelings. “You’re putting me in an awkward situation here,” Carman told a caller after that caller chanted “Super Bowl! Super Browns!” moments after the suspension length was announced.
Naturally, 93.7 The Fan’s Andrew Fillipponi happened to turn on the radio just as that call happened. A nearly week-long war of words ensued between the two Audacy-owned stations.
Fillipponi used the opportunity to slam Cleveland callers and used it as justification to say the NFL was clearly in the wrong. Carman and Lima pointed out Fillipponi had tweeted three days earlier about how much love the city of Pittsburgh had for Ben Roethlisberger, a player with past sexual assault allegations in his own right.
Later in the week, the Cleveland duo defended fans from criticism they viewed as unfair from the national media. In response, Dorin Dickerson and Adam Crowley of the Pittsburgh morning show criticized Carman and Lima for taking that stance.
As an impartial observer, there’s one main takeaway I couldn’t shake. Both sides are wrong. Both sides are right. No one left the week looking good.
Let’s pretend the Pittsburgh Steelers had traded for Deshaun Watson on March 19th, and not the Browns. Can you envision a scenario where Cleveland radio hosts would defend the NFL for the “fairness” of the investigation and disciplinary process if he was only suspended for six games? Of course, you can’t, because that would be preposterous. At the same time, would Fillipponi, Dickerson, and other Pittsburgh hosts be criticizing their fans for wanting Watson’s autograph? Of course, you can’t, because that would be preposterous.
When you’re discussing “my team versus your team” or “my coach versus your coach” etc…, it’s ok to throw ration and logic to the side for the sake of entertaining radio. But when you’re dealing with an incredibly serious matter, in this case, an investigation into whether an NFL quarterback is a serial sexual predator, I don’t believe there’s room to throw ration and logic to the wind. The criticism of Carman and Lima from the Pittsburgh station is fair and frankly warranted. They tried their best, in my opinion, to be sensitive to a topic that warranted it, but fell short.
On the flip side, Carman and Lima are correct. Ben Roethlisberger was credibly accused of sexual assault. Twice. And their criticism of Fillipponi and Steelers fans is valid and frankly warranted.
You will often hear me say “it can be both” because so often today people try to make every situation black and white. In reality, there’s an awful lot of gray in our world. But, in this case, it can’t be both. It can’t be Deshaun Watson, and Browns fans by proxy, are horrible, awful, no good, downright rotten people, and Ben Roethlisberger is a beloved figure.
Pot, meet kettle.
I don’t know what Andrew Fillipponi said about Ben Roethlisberger’s sexual assault allegations in 2010. And if I’m wrong, I’ll be the first to admit it, but I’m guessing he sounded much more like Carman and Lima did this week, rather than the person criticizing hosts in another market for their lack of moral fiber. Judging by the tweet Carman and Lima used to point out Fillipponi’s hypocrisy, I have a hard time believing the Pittsburgh host had strong outrage about the Steelers bringing back the franchise QB.
Real courage comes from saying things your listeners might find unpopular. It’s also where real connections with your listeners are built. At the current time in our hyper-polarized climate, having the ability to say something someone might disagree with is a lost art. But it’s also the key to keeping credibility and building a reputation that you’ll say whatever you truly believe that endears you to your audience.
And in this case, on a day the NFL announced they now employ a player who — in the league’s view — is a serial sexual assaulter, to hear hosts describe a six-game suspension as “reasonable” felt unreasonable. As talk radio hosts, we often try to hold the moral high ground and if you’re going to hold that position, I can’t help but feel integrity has to outweigh popularity.
Garrett Searight is the Editor of Barrett Sports Media and Barrett News Media. He previously was the Program Director and Afternoon Co-Host on 93.1 The Fan in Lima, OH. He is also a play-by-play announcer for TV and Radio broadcasts in Western Ohio.