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We’re Casting The Avengers With Sports Radio Hosts

“It doesn’t matter how many times I ask him, JB will not finance a film studio, so we’re going to have to do this on the cheap”

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You know what has really hammered home just how strange 2020 is compared to typical summers? Covid-19’s resurgence halted all blockbuster movie releases.

The first true summer blockbuster was 1975’s Jaws. Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece hit theaters on June 20 of that year, and raked in cash. That kicked the door down for Tim Burton’s Batman to dominate the summer of 1989, Steven Spielberg to do it all again in 1993 with Jurassic Park, and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace to become an absolute phenomenon in the summer of 1999.

This summer we were supposed to get new Wonder Woman, a new Fast & Furious, and the movie adaptation of Disneyland’s The Jungle Cruise. That ain’t happening though. So, it is up to me to help.

It doesn’t matter how many times I ask him, JB will not finance a film studio, so we’re going to have to do this on the cheap using some of sports radio’s biggest names.

Over the last decade, if you hear the word “blockbuster,” there is only one film franchise you are thinking of. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has absolutely blotted out the sun in Hollywood. It used to be that you won an Oscar and used that to secure the role that would win you your next Oscar. Now, when an actor wins an Oscar, his agent is on the phone with Disney pitching him as the next savior of mankind.

What if the same was true in sports radio? What if you topped a ratings book or a BSM Top 20 list and the next logical step was getting fitted for a spandex suit and interviewing potential stunt doubles?

Look, if I said that I was going to find someone in sports radio to represent every single Avenger, we would be here all day. Instead, let’s focus on the six from the original movie. If we’re looking for the models of the characters at the center of some of the biggest movies of the 2010s (or any decade really), here are their sports radio counterparts.

SCOTT KAPLAN IS CAPTAIN AMERICA

Steve Rogers is the epitome of what America is supposed to mean. When he sees injustice, he doesn’t sit idly by. Even if it means opposing the wishes of the government and flag he serves, Captain America is going to do what he knows is right.

When The Mighty 1090 shut down, Scott Kaplan didn’t sit back and wait for someone to save him and his co-workers. Sure, others moved on and did what was best for them, but Kaplan knew he was the one to save the station, hell maybe the whole damn format!

Scott Kaplan took the bull by the horns, worked the phones, and is now a big part of the reason the station is set to be resurrected in San Diego next month as The Mightier 1090. He saw the chance to do what he thought was right and got it done without compromising his vision.

CARL DUKES IS IRON MAN

Tony Stark is really smart and he knows it. Tony Stark is really good at saving the world and he knows it. Every time the Avengers or S.H.I.E.L.D. make a plan that needs changing, Tony is the one they turn to for some guidance. In short, Tony knows his value and he isn’t afraid to tell you.

Carl Dukes is a smart dude that knows how to balance knowledge with laughter. He is the guy that CBS (and then Entercom) knew it had to hold on to even as everything else about 92.9 the Game in Atlanta was built, scrapped, thrown out, and rebuilt over and over again. The one thing Carl isn’t that Tony is is cocky. However, when I wrote a piece last month about the five local hosts that ESPN should give a national platform to, only one guy shot me a text asking why he wasn’t on the list, and then emailed me audio to show me he deserved a spot.

Look, I don’t take that as cockiness. Carl Dukes has the kind of confidence you need to survive uncertainty, whether in Atlanta radio or in a fight with Thanos. Plus, he has his face on a beer can and aluminum is the closest a radio personality can get to iron.

JIM TRABER IS THE HULK

Look, there is only one thing the Hulk knows how to do. You wouldn’t like Hulk when he is angry. Why? Because when Hulk is angry, Hulk smash!

Jim Traber is a bulldog. Anyone that listens to The Sports Animal in Oklahoma City knows the guy communicates in absolutes. And he sure as hell isn’t going to back down from a fight. All you have to do is ask Nick Collison or Steven Parker’s dad or Mike Stoops.

They all made Jim Traber angry. None of them liked Jim Traber when he was angry.

FRED TOUCHER IS THOR

We have seen Thor be so much in the MCU. He is a force from another world. He is a judge of who is and isn’t worthy to wield his weapon. He’s also uproariously funny. How do you find that guy in sports radio?

It’s simple. You look to Fred Toucher at the Sports Hub in Boston. He and his partner Rich Shertenlieb were a breath of fresh air on Boston sports radio. Rock radio was their Asgaard to most hosts’ typical background of the Boston Globe or the Boston Herald. The talent was apparent right away and right away Toucher & Rich gave every New England sports fan a new way of looking at sports radio.

Fred Toucher isn’t afraid to tell you who is and isn’t worthy to wield his weapon. His feuds include John Dennis, Kirk Minihane, Chip Alexander, Kyle Bailey, and more.

MICHELLE SMALLMON IS HAWKEYE

Hawkeye isn’t the first name you think of when you think of the Avengers. He doesn’t have any out of this world powers. He is just a guy that is really good at what he does, so good in fact that super humans feel safer with him around.

Michelle Smallmon just got a show with her name on it last month, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t been a force in this industry for a long time. She made 101 ESPN’s the Fast Lane better as the show’s producer. She was a part of the Bernie Miklasz Show during the three straight years it spent atop the BSM list of Top 20 Mid Market Morning Shows. During her time at ESPN, she made both Jorge Sedano and Ryan Russillo better as their producer.

Maybe Michelle Smallmon doesn’t have super powers, but she has been really good at what she does for a while and she has a history of people that are better than 99% of everyone else in this business feeling better when she is around. It’s no wonder 101 ESPN turned to her when launching St. Louis’s newest morning show Karraker & Smallmon.

MAGGIE GRAY IS BLACK WIDOW

Natasha Romanoff didn’t begin her ass-kicking career with plans to be a super hero. In addition to being tough as nails, her training as a gymnast and an assassin gave her the ability to go places and get people other Avengers couldn’t.

Maggie Gray didn’t come to New York with her eyes on WFAN. First it was Sports Illustrated’s digital operation, then it was CBS Sports Radio. She has covered so many sports, she can pretty much go wherever she wants in conversation.

Even her time at WFAN has been a bit of a roller coaster ride, but she continues to step up and get whatever job that is asked of her done. And in terms of going where others can’t, just think back to her legendary rant about JD & the Straight Shot frontman and alleged New York Knicks fan James Dolan’s song about Harvey Weinstein. The disgust and anger was so personal and had clearly been percolating in a way that made it clear that only Gray could pull that off.

Let’s wrap this up like I’m a sales rep and you’re my biggest client. I am gonna do a bonus one for you as a thank you for sticking with me!

MIKE FRANCESA IS NICK FURY

Mike Francesa deserves so much credit for keeping sports radio going and turning it into the industry it is today. Also, I bet he’d look bad ass with an eyepatch.

BSM Writers

Mike Tirico Has ‘Never Pretended to Be Friends’ With Athletes

“I like having a healthy relationship where if I need something, I can ask whether it’s for on-air or for background and build trust.”

Ricky Keeler

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Mike Tirico has been covering sports on network television for 32 years. Over those 3+ decades, he has made it a point to not be so close with the athletes he covers in whichever sport he is broadcasting.

Tirico was a guest on the most recent episode of the GOLF’s Subpar podcast with Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz. While Tirico knows he is not doing extensive journalism work, he wants to make sure that he can be able to ask the hard questions if he has to any athlete.

“I never pretend to be friends with the athletes I cover. I like having a healthy relationship where if I need something, I can ask whether it’s for on-air or for background and build trust. I’m not in a position where I’m working for Outside the Lines at my old place, ESPN. It’s not a knock. It’s just you’re not in a position where you have to do these journalistic-type interviews all the time, but there are times you have to ask hard questions. I always try to keep a little bit of a buffer or a distance.”

The context of that question came when Tirico was asked about how good of a relationship he has with Tiger Woods.

“It’s good….If I reach out, he will usually get back to me. He’s been really good and really nice along the way.”

As for broadcasting sports in this day and age of social media, Tirico believes that it can make a broadcaster better whether or not the complaint from someone on Twitter is real or not.

“It makes us better because you know that people are going to catch you. If something is artificial or not, real or not, embraced or not, it forces you to be better at what you do.”

For that same reason, Tirico thinks that LIV Golf is going to make the PGA Tour have to be better going forward because now they have another tour to go up against.

“I think LIV Golf, and we all have our own opinions on it, is going to force the PGA Tour to be better. Competition is good. Checks and balances are really good.”

Even though Tirico doesn’t feel nervous about many broadcasts anymore, there was one event in the last decade where the nerves kicked in when he was hosting his first Olympics at NBC.

“The only time in the last 10 years that I’ve been nervous was coming on for the first time hosting the Olympics because Bob Costas has done that since most of us have been alive and most people had never seen anyone but Bob Costas host the Olympics in primetime…2 minutes before, I’m like ‘should I be this? Should I have fun?’ and then the minute before, I cracked a joke in the studio.”

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BSM Writers

Kyle Brandt’s Rant a Reminder to Consider the Messenger

This doesn’t mean Brandt is wrong or even that he is being told to echo the NFL’s position, it’s to note that he took a very powerful stance on a very powerful platform and they both matter.

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Kyle Brandt

This week, a massive announcement was made in the National Football League regarding the immediate future of Deshaun Watson. Judge Sue L. Robinson recommended a six -game suspension with no additional monetary fine for the quarterback. While the NFL mulls what it will say further, most others didn’t, including a really prominent personality: Kyle Brandt.

Brandt, a co-host on Good Morning Football, reacted like a lot of people did upon hearing the decision: forcefully. On Monday, Brandt denounced the decision to limit Watson’s suspension to six games, saying in part, “…I look at six and I find it very light. I hope it doesn’t stay that way personally. I think that Deshaun Watson leveraged his status as an NFL player against women. In my opinion. And I think it happened more than one time and I think it was was in closed doors in small rooms against women who were probably intimidated. And it pisses me off to even talk about it. And frankly it pisses me off to see the number six. And I don’t think it’s going to stay that way and I hope it doesn’t.”

Those words resonated. Once they were said, the clip was grabbed from the show and then distributed on Brandt’s Twitter account which reaches 333,000+ followers and on his Instagram which speaks to 96,000+ followers. That video has been seen over two million times. Viral, they say. Here it is if you did happen to miss it. Passionate stuff from Brandt.

If you believe in the message, it’s an easy to like, retweet or share idea. It’s not a hot take, frankly, because there is a large section of those that have been following this story that agree. Deshaun Watson is settling cases because people believe he did something bad. Something bad enough that judge did seem fit to point it out and recommend what is generally speaking, a strong suspension. The only problem here is the platform hosting the message.

This is not a Kyle Brandt-bashing piece. He isn’t the platform. If anything, he’s the vessel of this message he wants out. He also, very likely, feels exactly the way he said he did in the above tweeted video. In fact, the next day, Tuesday, Brandt doubled down on his opinion. The newer video was viewed over 400,000 times. You can check it out right below these words.

The distinction needs to be noted that the message Brandt is delivering, is the NFL’s message. It is what Roger Goodell wants to be the prevailing wisdom regarding how we feel about the current state of Watson’s suspension. That message is being amplified by a very popular co-host, on a very popular morning television show that is seen by a lot of people and that is owned by the National Football League.

Again, I am here waving to you wildly to say that I have no reason to believe that Brandt is being told this particular messaging needs to be voiced. But, I do know that the NFL has until Thursday to appeal the decision. Three days is a lot of time to gather data on whether or not the public might support you appealing for more games, something that the league most certainly will look into judging by their statement released shortly after the ruling.

I also know that the NFL was seeking a much longer suspension as well as a hefty fine to be issued to Watson. The NFL has taken a lot of hits for how it has handled players violating league rules and the player conduct policy. No matter which case you look at, comparing it to the one previous or the one right after is an exercise is madness. The one common theme seems to be is that when the NFL feels like it is delving out punishment, it wants to be severe, no matter the consistency. Remember, Tom Brady was a short ‘yes’ answer away from appealing his case to the Supreme Court. The NFL isn’t particularly interested in just letting things go.

It is well within the realm of possibility that the NFL is getting what it rarely gets: an overwhelming opinion that actually sides with it in terms of punishment. For the majority of the modern cases I can remember, more fans than not disagreed with the NFL’s stance on a case. This time, they might have the court of public opinion on their side. I hear far more ‘kick him outs’ in reference to Watson than I do ‘no suspensions’.

We might have the perfect storm for the NFL in terms of support and Kyle Brandt’s message lines up exactly with the leagues desires, no matter how they may have gotten there. Both want more punishment for the Cleveland quarterback. Brandt can hope, the NFL can fight.

This doesn’t mean Brandt is wrong or even that he is being told to echo the NFL’s position, it’s to note that he took a very powerful stance on a very powerful platform and they both matter.

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BSM Writers

Producers Podcast Episode 6: Jackson Safon, The Volume

Brady Farkas

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Jackson Safon has produced for a number of high profile digital networks. Now, as a freelancer, The Volume has put its faith in him to get the most out of Draymond Green, and CC Sabathia and Ryan Ruocco have trusted him to make R2C2 the best it can be.

iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-producers-podcast/id1630978079

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/2XBTp3PnrBvGv2n4Y19tCE?si=c84eee71512e49a5

iHeart: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/269-the-producers-podcast-98564690/

Google: https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9mZWVkcy5ibHVicnJ5LmNvbS9mZWVkcy9wcm9kdWNlcnNwb2QueG1s?sa=X&ved=0CAMQ4aUDahcKEwiQpvak__P4AhUAAAAAHQAAAAAQRw

Amazon: https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/241160ba-ad26-4297-a37a-107dfb10b462/the-producers-podcast 

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