It’s easy to do a raunchy show with no restrictions. Extremely talented hosts have done it on the years, arguably even some of the best, but you can really tell how gifted someone is at sports radio when they’re doing a clean show. That’s the opinion Scott Ferrall has, who’s probably more qualified than anyone to speak on the subject, seeing as he’s made his career doing both unrestricted radio with no rules and network shows that operate under strict guidelines.
There’s arguably nobody in sports radio that’s had the wild time Ferrall has had over his career. He’s done multiple shows at strip clubs, appeared on David Letterman twice and has even been in movies. He truly understands the entertainment aspect of sports radio.
Maybe he’s always had that in him, seeing as he looked up to Howard Cosell at a very young age. But his loud, opinionated, funny and entertaining persona has separated Ferrall from the rest of the pack since his early days in radio.
His journey has taken him from the Indiana basketball beat covering Bob Knight, to hosting on Howard 101 to calling games for an NHL team and a whole lot more. His journey should be both talked about and celebrated in equal sense.
Tyler McComas: So Howard Cosell is your idol growing up and then a major publication compares you to him. Can you even describe that feeling?
Scott Ferrall: I mean it was crazy that the Wall Street Journal said that. I’ll never forget it and I have it to this day in my house. It was the one thing that, I guess, mattered to me in media. I’ve had millions of stories written about the show and about my career – magazines, newspapers, everywhere. I respect all those, but that was the one that really stood out. When I woke up and saw that I was on the cover the Wall Street Journal with one of those dotted pictures that they used to be famous for and it said I was Generation X’s Howard Cosell I just really thought I had arrived.
TM: Did you ever get to meet him?
SF: No, I didn’t. But it’s strange, I always said on the show that the Monday Night Football booth they did, and everything he did, in sportscasting and boxing, his interview style, his smarts, he’s a genius. That’s what appealed to me. I thought he was smarter than everybody and I thought they were very entertaining.
I’ve always said they’ve never been able to replace him. Ever. They’ve been chasing that dragon since the day that ended. It’s never ever lived up to that. When they were in there, Gifford and Meredith and him in that booth, forget about it. That was it. Those are the ones that last forever, booths like that.
TM: Early in your career you’re covering IU hoops and Bob Knight. He’s never been nice to the media. Did that give you confidence that, man, if I can cover this guy I can interview anyone?
SF: That’s an interesting theory, because that’s pretty much the deal. I wanted to go be around Bob Knight as a kid. I wanted to be Howard Cosell and then I wanted to cover Bob Knight. I just felt like, what could be cooler than being around that guy?
I’ve always said that the guy had a huge influence in my life. Just a gigantic piece of me came from that guy. Being around him every single day for five years and covering that team seeing them win a national championship in New Orleans in the last game I ever covered, that was pretty special. I love him and I’m one of the few. He meant a lot to me and he always came on my show for all these years later. He called me ‘asshole’ for 35 years. He said, ‘I can’t believe somebody would marry you, asshole!’ and then, ‘I can’t believe they let you have kids, asshole!’. If he was your friend, he was a really good friend. If he was your enemy, I always said, you should probably move.
TM: Was there anything ever more thrilling than doing a show at a strip club?
SF: I worked at a lot of them. I have a couple of different stories I can throw at you. One of them was when we had a strip club golf tournament in the Bahamas and got raided by like The Federalis. They came crashing into the golf course and there was a lot of bad things going on. That was pretty wild.
Then I did the Playboy Pillow Fight, or something like that, in Indio and Palm Springs, California. That was just rather wet and naked. I’ve done shows like that over the years and they’ve always been pretty wild. That kind of stuff got me a reputation, then I ended up doing tons of stuff with Penthouse and then all of them when I worked with Howard Stern. There were a lot of porn stars and everything else. It’s strange, that’s like a wild ride.
I’m down with meeting whoever, athletes, rock stars, entertainers, actors, actresses, whether they’re on the big screen, which I’ve done, I’ve done a couple of movies, that’s cool, or working with porn stars, I’ve done all that and I’m cool with it. But I know it’s something that probably my wife doesn’t dig that much or that I want my kids around, but it’s funny. I’ve always said that they wanted to bang my wife. So what’s the difference?
TM: So what’s that balance? At that time, you’re obviously who you were on the air. How’s balancing that with your family?
SF: Pretty much, when I stopped doing shows for Howard Stern on Howard 101 and I had to go back and do Vatican radio at CBS Sports radio, it was clean, family sports talk. I think at the time I did the filthiest show ever and it was repulsive and disgusting and absolutely kick ass. People dug it fast and hard. There were a lot of pranks flowing. I was just the craziest show ever. Then I had to go and do this really candy ass show but it was a good show.
The show had to be thought out, in terms of, I think it’s a lot harder to be smart and clean than it is to be dirty on the air. I mean it’s easy to just be filthy. Most people would love to do an uncensored, raw, completely no-rule show. And then they all started doing podcasts so now everybody does whatever they want. But radio, that doesn’t happen. On AM or FM radio it would never happen with the FCC and everything else. When I went to Howard 101 on satellite radio that was unheard of. Now everybody’s cussing so it’s no big deal. But you find out who’s good when you have to do a clean, family sports talk show, or any show for that matter, which has to be clean and sophisticated.
They didn’t want me doing anything dirty at CBS, they can barely handle suck or ass or anything like that. I did a completely different show so I say it all ended when I stop doing dirty for Howard. I love Howard and I always will. He’s the man, I look up to him, and it’s the greatest thing I ever did in my career. It was a blast. But it was too easy to do that raunchy style, and now I’m doing clean TV every day and radio, again.
TM: Most hosts only joke about it, but what’s it like when the FCC is really coming after you?
SF: Well, they went after me several times. Nothing ever materialized with any of it so I never really did anything that I felt was worthy of it. They tried to get me in Miami and that didn’t work. Then they tried to get me in New York and that didn’t work. After a while, they just realized I wasn’t doing anything that bad and I think when I went away and did satellite, they forgot about me. Then I came back and started doing it clean, while trying to be really sophisticated and smart. I think they got a whole new impression of me. I think they were all blown away, because I’ll be honest with you, when I got the gig to go back to CBS Sports Radio they were scared to death of me and they felt that I would last for about five minutes doing clean radio.
My goal was to blow them away. I won them over after about four years and then the last three years I rode that surfboard in deep barrels and it was fun. I got along with everybody and the bosses that didn’t originally want me there, wanted me to be there until the bitter end, when I left to go to SportsGrid. I had a great run there and they didn’t think it would happen. The suits that ran that place wanted no part of me. Chris Oliviero is the one that brought me in from Howard to CBS again. I had already left CBS once and they didn’t like me, so to get back there and win them over and be successful was capitalism at its finest.
TM: What’s a move you made in your career that you thought was risky at the time, but ended up being a great decision?
SF: I mean I guess going to do the hockey for the Atlanta Thrashers was very risky. I walked away from a lot of money to do it, but I loved hockey more than I love money. I’ve always said that I wanted to do it. It was an expansion team, it was pretty exciting and the whole thing was pretty cool how it evolved. The guy that basically ran the Olympics came to me and said, we’re trying to sell hockey in the south. I was really popular in Atlanta. I was gargantuan in Atlanta doing my show from 3 to 7. I owned Atlanta. Who can sell hockey to rednecks better than me? I think that’s why they gave me the shot.
They put me in a room and I called a game with no rosters or anything. I looked at the Blues and the Red Wings, that’s who was playing, and all I did was make everyone in the room’s jaw drop. I did a bunch of fights that were exaggerated, and I did it until I was like soaking wet sweating and they were just staring at me like I was going to drop dead or something. And then like 20 minutes later they gave me the gig.
At the end of the day I did it, it was a grind, I didn’t like it because of the sameness of it every day. The buses, the planes and the hotels. I guess I was just used to doing a show and I was crazy. At the time I was young and wild and I partied. The team sucked, they won like 11 games the whole year. So at the end, they didn’t want me to stay and I didn’t want to stay, either. Luckily for me it was a good deal. They paid me for four years and I only worked for one. I always say it’s the best job I ever had. I got paid a lot of money to do nothing.
TM: Have you listened to anyone where you say, hmm, he reminds me of a younger version of myself?
SF: Gabe Morency who I worked with at SportsGrid. When I met him the first time he was doing Hardcore in Toronto. It was like the satellite version of our SiriusXM. It was a hard-core, uncensored sports channel that they ran up there. He was doing a show up there with a whole lot of heavy metal, radical high-octane show and he had a gravelly voice like me and wild like me. He used to say he wanted to be me.
When I first met him, he was younger and a rock and roller. He was in a metal band and switched to do sports talk. At the time, when I first started, it was just me doing it, right. That’s how it evolved. And Jim Rome got into it and it kind of grew from there. Now there’s 5 million shows that are national here.
TM: Is anything off limits right now, when it comes to guests on the show?
SF: I try to get really cool people that people dig and they do something that matters. I had Tony Hawk on last week and we go back. He’s a magnificent dude. He’s a giant and a titan. Guys like him, who I have a relationship with, Thomas Dimitroff, the Falcons GM, coaches, players and GM’s around the league, a lot of play-by-play guys and analysts, great writers and actors, actresses and I love putting comedians on.
I’m constantly putting comedians on and I try to do it at least once a month, where we have a kick ass comedian on. We had Dan Soder on from Billions the other day. I bring back Howard guys. Every guy that I met Don Jamieson Gino Bisconte, all these comedians. I’m going wherever cool people are and try to get them on the show. I love getting unique guests. I love getting players right off the floor at the games. That’s what I like doing.
TM: Do you feel like your style over the years set you up to do a show during a pandemic with no sports?
SF: We’ve done it. I’ve been on every single day and we’ve been live doing the 4 to 6 Eastern on SportsGrid every day. I’ve had great guests on and we just dig for killer stories that we can turn into topics for the show. My guys get involved, I’ve always been a guy that supports others being involved in the show. I’ve done a lot of shows with the other SportsGrid hosts. The show isn’t just constantly doing the normal thing. It’s different doing the show from home every day and never leaving my crib. You would think I’d be in this plush penthouse in New York City and I’m sitting in my house with green screens and cameras, lighting, cable lines out of the room, it’s crazy. But we’ve just done it every day like normal.
TM: I can’t imagine a sports radio host being on Letterman these days. You were twice. How was that?
SF: Honestly, that was like floating. That’s how gigantic David Letterman is. When I got to do his show, for me, it was like I was floating and like it wasn’t even real. I couldn’t fathom that I was going on Letterman. And then, it wasn’t just once, it was twice. It’s funny, I’ve seen people go on there multiple times, way more than me, but for me, just once, was exotic and twice was just absolutely crazy. The fact that he would have me back on again was just absurd. I must’ve done something right.
I won’t deny that I was lit. When I went out there I was so nervous and so excited but so lit. Like absolutely lit. I went out there and was predicting who was going to win the title games, because it was around the Super Bowl, I started doing kicker windmills on stage. Dave was cracking up, the audience was roaring. I was whipping my leg a million miles an hour and I have no idea what I was doing. My leg could’ve flown off my body. And then the other time I did Letterman, and I thought I had the top the first time, I was wild, I did my thing and I made him laugh. Paul and him were going back-and-forth.
Second time I did it I announced that I was leaving radio to do the Thrashers gig and I stripped down all through different jerseys until I got to the point where the final thing I had on my body was a Thrashers jersey. That’s how I announced I was going to the NHL. I remember going off the stage on Letterman and my boss called me and fired me, I said, it’s a little late. I already signed with the hockey, but nice knowing you
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.