From a small newspaper to what is now a sports media empire, Barstool’s meteoric rise is without precedent and Kevin Clancy is a big reason why. As many brands pull back and emphasize sticking to sports, Barstool continues to push their goal post.
In recent years, the peanut gallery has made multiple attempts at canceling Barstool and some of their various personalities. But the brand plays on. Cultural sensitivities rightfully shift as society progresses, but the course correction can sometimes go too far.
Barstool’s imperfections create a stronger connection with their fan base and Clancy exemplifies that. Known to Stoolies as KFC Barstool, Clancy took an unlikely route to the entertainment business. Joining Barstool in his early 20s, fans have watched KFC grow as an adult and as a content creator. From accountant to blogger to podcaster to a multi-faceted entertainer, KFC has been vital to Barstool becoming the $450 million brand they are today.
BC: You went to Fordham for finance, did you know about WFUV or have any interest in broadcast journalism?
KFC: I didn’t know much about the station until after I got there, but I did work for WFUV. By sophomore year I was bored on campus, so I sought out radio, not even realizing I was about to go up against the cream of the crop.
I got a job with the station that summer covering the Staten Island Yankees and the Brooklyn Cyclones. It was supposed to be a group of people, but for whatever reason everyone I signed up with dropped out or wasn’t reliable and I ended up covering both teams. I also did some updates and co-hosted the sports show on WFUV a few times. It was my first foray into sports media and creating content.
BC: Did you view radio as a potential career?
KFC: The way it was laid out to me was, ‘you can work in sports radio here and hopefully get to The Fan or ESPN New York and maybe you can be an update person and if you work hard and you’re really talented and a million things break right, maybe you can get on-air!’
Cool! But it just felt like such a long shot, especially hearing it from WFUV, a station that had so many success stories, they never gave me any indication that I could be that next person. A lot of my friends were getting into finance, making good money. So I went the traditional road and got a job in accounting for Deloitte.
BC: How did you get started blogging?
KFC: Within a year of starting at Deloitte I realized how much I hated it and how bad I was at it. [Laughs] And my friend Gil, who worked there introduced me to a few blogs. Shortly after, I decided to start my own as a fun creative outlet. Whether or not I realized it, the little bit I did at the radio station, I learned I was a little more creative than I thought I was.
It was ’08 when I started the website For Sure Not, a phrase my group of friends always said. It wasn’t huge, I probably had about 1,000 unique views a day, but people seemed to find it funny.
BC: How did the small blog transition to a career with Barstool?
KFC: Dave started looking for writers to expand Barstool in ’09. But at that point I was only writing for six months, I was also making good money at Deloitte. Dave had the job down to me and Kmarko, and I was concerned about the pay cut so he decided to offer both of us the job, which let me keep my day job at Deloitte. It was perfect.
For about two and a half years I was living this double life. Nobody at Deloitte knew I was blogging, none of the readers knew I had a day job. Eventually, my work got so bad at Deloitte, I was progressively getting worse, my managers wrote me up, they suggested going to a different department, but somehow I made it through multiple rounds of layoffs which I felt guilty about. I honestly think it took them so long to fire me because they liked me. But I dug my heels in, waited for that severance package, and moved to Barstool full-time.
BC: In terms of creating content, is it hard to sort through everything? In sports radio your focus is sports, in local sports radio it gets even more specific, but you have free reign to talk about whatever you want, is that a good thing or is it hard to filter?
KFC: It’s a good thing. I would hate doing just straight sports radio where I have to talk about the seventh-inning bullpen decisions of a manager. I like the wide-open slate. About a year into it, I realized my gut reaction to things is met with enough people who agree with me, hate me, or just find me interesting. I never really had to think hard about my take or angle, it was always just my gut reaction to things that generated interest and once you realize that, you don’t have to think much, you just let it fly.
BC: Is it harder to have that gut reaction mentality as society pushes for more political correctness? And has your content had to change since getting to Barstool because of that?
KFC: It’s changed. But I’ve also changed. Barstool has seen me grow through my adult life. They’ve seen me go from being single in Manhattan, to getting married, having kids, getting divorced, they’ve watched me succeed, watched me fail. There’s stuff I said in 2010 that absolutely would not fly today, but I’ve also grown enough as a person that I’m not sitting around itching to say those things.
There will never be another time like the 2010’s Barstool, but there’s a lot more on the line now and we see the potential to grow something massive. If that means having to soften a joke or skip a topic, I’m OK with that. If you’re truly funny, you can find a way to get your joke and point across in a manner that doesn’t become offensive. The people who complain that humor’s dead, I just don’t think they’re funny enough.
BC: Fair or not, Barstool has at times been labeled misogynistic and not racially inclusive. Those are hard labels to shed, how has Barstool pushed through at a time where we see the country forcing change on things as minimally divisive as Aunt Jemima?
KFC: We were independent for so long. With everyone who came on board, whether it was the Chernin Group, Penn or Erika Nardini, Dave would always say, ‘we’re gonna do things our way and if you want to change that, then it’s not going to work.’ That was always made clear. And if we lost an advertiser, it was always on to the next one.
Personally, people have tried to so-called “cancel” me three or four times now. But if your fanbase is bigger than the mob, it’s hard to get canceled. The mob can tell people to stop listening, but if my fans are still using our product and making clients happy, then we come out on the right side of the ledger. People know my intent. You know I never say anything to hurt anyone, the intent is always humor. I’m an equal opportunity offender, I make fun of everybody, every group and also self-deprecation, I make fun of myself as well.
My latest one was when the comments I made in 2016 about Kaepernick came back up. And I had no problem copping to it. It sounded stupid, it was the first day of it and I was uninformed. I didn’t know the scope of what Kaepernick was doing, I didn’t realize who he was and what was going on so I said I’m sorry. It’s hard to cancel someone if they’re like, ‘yea you’re right, that was wrong.’ Stand up for yourself, but cop to it when you’re wrong.
BC: What about all the charity you guys do, and not only people at Barstool, but the Stoolies willingness to jump in and contribute to any cause.
KFC: The best fans in the world. They’re the best and the worst. [Laughs] Because there are cliques in Barstool, some people are the darlings who can do no wrong and other people get a lot of hate. I’m pretty polarizing so I get plenty of hate. They can hate me 364 days a year, but the one time something tragic happens like a police officer or firefighter dies, they come rallying in. It’s like a family, we can be at each other’s throats, but we always ride for each other.
BC: Can you compare Stoolies and Kirk Minihane’s Minifans? Are they one and the same?
KFC: I would imagine there’s a Venn Diagram of sorts. There’s an intersecting middle and then the extreme sides of both that absolutely hate each other. For the most part, they’re more similar than not. The Minifans are like a subset or an extreme group of Stoolies. Kirk would be Dave and the Minifans are the Stoolies. They’re similar to 2009, ‘10, ‘11 Stoolies where it’s new to them, they’re crazy and passionate. Stoolies have been doing it for a decade plus now, they’re passionate, but they’re not quite as vocal and crazy about everything.
BC: Do you remember the Twitter handle @KeepCancrClassy?
KFC: Yea, of course, from the Mets game.
BC: That’s my best friend’s wife!
KFC: Oh Amazing! That was a funny one because they were sitting for hours in a rain delay, we saw it happening on a whim, it was a shitty situation, let’s help out.
We only raised a few grand, but it was a fun moment that happened quickly. I still follow her on social media and watch her going through the fight. It breaks my heart because she’s so transparent about her bad days with chemo. The other day she was talking about how devastating it is for the immunocompromised to be on lockdown while other people can go out, and my heart was just breaking for her. I like to keep following everyone we crossed paths with charity-wise.
BC: Barstool content has gone through a huge transformation in the last year since partnering with Penn National. They’ve loaded up on betting content, but you’ve mostly steered clear of that.
KFC: It’s one world I don’t really dabble in and they don’t want people to try and force or fake interest, they want authentic gamblers. So I’ve taken it upon myself to keep providing non-gambling content for people. Dave and Dan (Big Cat) have made it their focus and rightfully so, there’s so much money to be made and we’re only at the ground floor. But the company sold for $450 million and a good portion of that was based on the humor and pop culture and everything we’ve always done. There’s a huge fan base that still wants the original old school content and I’m happy to provide that.
BC: The first time I ever heard of you was on Boomer and Carton, and over the years you’ve been a guest on WFAN a lot. There’s been a lot of change at WFAN recently, did you have any discussions about joining the station full-time?
KFC: No, I never got approached. And part of me was waiting for that. But they try to keep it pretty PC so maybe I wasn’t viewed as a fit. I think it could be a cool second, third or final act if I move on from Barstool. I’d love to try my hand at that because I grew up on it, so it would be cool to formally be part of The Fan.
BC: What do you think about the decision to pair Evan Roberts and Craig Carton?
KFC: They’re both so talented that it will be successful no matter what, it’s not the pairing that would ordinarily go together, it’s more circumstantial with Joe Benigno wanting to retire. And I know both of them, but I’m also just a fan, so I’m interested to hear how it works.
BC: They keep talking about Evan playing off Carton the way Boomer did, but Evan’s nothing like Boomer, I hope he can be himself.
KFC: You can’t try to recreate any show, let alone a show of that magnitude. Boomer and Carton was lightning in a bottle, the perfect set of hosts and producers, you can’t try to match that, you need to do your own show.
BC: I think it’s fair to categorize you as one of the founding fathers of the modern Barstool, but even though you’ve helped build the brand, this is still Dave’s baby. Does that ever make you want to branch off and build something of your own?
KFC: If I do need to move on or we all go our separate ways, I’d love to build something on my own and take what I’ve learned from Dave and combine it with things I would have done differently. My dream is to replicate what they’ve done on the West Coast with podcasts and comedy. There are a ton of great comics out there who go on each other’s podcasts to cross-promote and they all have Joe Rogan being the godfather who grows the network. I’m not a fraction of what Joe Rogan is, but I would love to play that role in New York.
BC: Have you tried stand-up?
KFC: I did open for Josh Wolf, a West Coast comic and kind of a mentor. He pushed me to do it at a New York show and that was my first and only foray into stand-up comedy
BC: Do you like the live audience?
KFC: I get a rush, but it’s pretty nerve-racking. Comedy is truly a 10,000 hours thing, people starting at 16 are breaking in at 32. I’m 36, it’s daunting to think I might not be anything until I’m 50! There’s also a lot more on the line because my fans and followers will have expectations of me, I can’t get on stage and bomb. I wish I had the self confidence to just say f–k it and go through the fire, but it’s nerve-racking.
BC: What type of content do fans mostly associate you with?
KFC: I think Barstool fans see me as the podcast guy. Pardon My Take is obviously the most successful show, but within the hardcore Stoolie world, Dan and Dave are video, Kmarko is the writer and I was doing podcasts. The newest wrinkle to my career is this Instagram show, One Minute Man. I’m starting to get people on the street who recognize me as the One Minute Man which is weird because I was always known as KFC. To see people who might not know I do anything else is crazy because those videos are like the tenth thing I do in a day. But it might end up being my most successful piece of content.
BC: Why do you think it’s caught on so quickly, is it because it’s fast-paced and short? Is it the platform or just that it’s funny content?
KFC: It’s a combination. I get a lot of people who think the videos are funny, but for better or worse I also get people who say that’s where they get their news and learn what’s going on in the pop culture world, sports, politics. If you’re going to happy hour or standing around the water cooler or whatever, these are the topics people are talking about. Hopefully people find it funny, it’s short-form, just two or three minutes and that’s the way the world is moving.
BC: Were you always comfortable talking about your personal life? Whether it’s marital problems or a group trying to cancel you, you remain transparent. I think about radio stations, if there’s an issue with an employee, management’s first thought is to try and hide it and bury it even though it might be a news story elsewhere.
KFC: It’s kind of bullshit right?
BC: But you don’t, Barstool doesn’t, and I feel like listeners and fans can appreciate transparency.
KFC: I don’t know any other way to do it. Part of me wishes I did keep it a little more personal. I never anticipated going through marital problems, getting divorced, I certainly never anticipated having a scandal on my hands. It might be tough on my kids and maybe I’d still be married if I didn’t approach my job with Barstool the way I do. But I’ve taken plenty of shots at people or even just talked about people who were in similar positions to make them part of my content. When I f–ked up, I couldn’t not talk about it.
Being in front of a microphone is also my version of therapy. I look at some people here who play a character, or only talk about certain things, but I have this compulsion to tell the truth. The day I got back on radio after everything blew up with my marriage, Sirius told us it was the most listeners we ever had. That’s sick and weird and I wish it wasn’t that way, but people want to watch the train wreck.
BC: It might be hard at times, but don’t you think that transparency is part of what built a strong connection with your fans?
KFC: No doubt, authenticity is key. Some people here are funnier than me, some of the personas are outlandish and hilarious, but what I pride myself most on is being a real dude. And I can’t tell you how many times people would hear me talking about having a real job, and talk about things that happen when you get married or have kids and they tell me ‘I used to think you were exaggerating about this, but now I’m realizing, you were telling the truth.’ [Laughs]
It’s the truth as I see it. I’m sure there are some “old takes exposed” in there, but these are my thoughts and experiences. There are a lot of people who went through what I did, but it’s always nice to know you’re not alone and we can help each other through it. It’s a weird internet family, we’re strangers, but we still help each other.
BC: Last two questions, how is working with Dave? Do you talk a lot?
KFC: Not so much anymore because of the gambling stuff. That’s Dan’s forte, so Dave and Dan are doing a lot of work together. Dave said it recently on his show, if it wasn’t Penn that bought Barstool and it was some sort of a comedic conglomerate, maybe me and him would be doing more work together.
Everybody at Barstool has always been professionally cool. I don’t think anyone would categorize it as true best friends. I’ve always had this romantic view of how it could’ve been like Entourage where we’re all best buds and family, but it was never that because as much as we’re similar, we’re different. We coexist professionally, there are times we butt heads and go at it. It makes great entertainment, it doesn’t always make for great friendships, but that’s not what we’re here for.
BC: And how about the decision to hire Erika Nardini and what she has meant to the company?
KFC: I just signed her birthday card and I said, ‘from the bottom of my heart, and on behalf of my whole family – thank you.’ Barstool was going to succeed, but we would have never jumped to the next level, this multi-hundred-million-dollar company without her. We interviewed a ton of candidates and there was always something missing. When we interviewed Erika, we all knew she was the one. Not only did she not disappoint, but she over-delivered. Took a bunch of idiots, a circus and somehow got it to be a half-billion-dollar company. How this thing made it here is a VH1 story for the ages.
Brandon Contes is a former reporter for BSM, now working for Awful Announcing. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonContes or reach him by email at Brandon.Contes@gmail.com.
John Mamola Didn’t Overthink New WDAE Lineup
“I don’t go book-to-book my talent, I just don’t. I think the more and more you dive into ratings, the more and more you overthink things.”
Just over one month ago, WDAE in Tampa Bay reshuffled its daily line-up. The iHeartMedia station, programmed by John Mamola, moved the Ronnie and TKras program from mornings to afternoons and moved the midday Pat and Aaron show into mornings, while creating a new midday show centered around Jay Recher and producer-turned-host Zac Blobner.
The station let previous host Ian Beckles go as part of the reshuffling.
Barrett Sports Media caught up with Mamola this week to talk about the new line-up, the Tampa Bay market, the importance of developing from within and much more.
(Some of the answers have been edited for brevity and clarity)
BSM: It’s been just over a month since these changes took hold, what would you say is the overall response to them?
JM: Overall, really positive. We lost a really important piece and a pillar of the station in Ian Beckles, but with the moves that we did make, it was overall a pretty positive response from the listeners.
BSM: This wasn’t just creating one new show and calling it a day, this was moving multiple shows into new dayparts. How do you as a programmer get multiple hosts on board with re-arranging their schedules in that manner?
JM: My morning show went into afternoons so they didn’t have to wake up early, so they were very open and welcome to that. As for the original midday show, I knew they were early risers, so moving to mornings didn’t really affect their sleep schedules. And then my midday show, which is the new one, putting those two together is just a combination of some very young, hungry guys that always want new opportunity and are always looking to capitalize on opportunity.
So I wouldn’t say necessarily the convincing was the hard part because it just made a lot of sense for the people involved. The guys in the morning didn’t have to wake up early. The guys in the mornings are early risers anyway, and you get two young, hungry guys to take care of that opportunity so the convincing part was quite easy.
BSM: I got to know Zac Blobner a little bit on the Producers Podcast. He was highlighted a few episodes back and I thought really highly of him. Why was this the right time to get him into a full-time on-air role?
JM: Zac’s been doing some on-air stuff for on the weekends for a number of years. He had his own show and then we tried him out with a couple people on staff on Saturday mornings. That just didn’t necessarily work out but he has hosted a fantasy football show, which we actually air Orlando and in Miami as well as Tampa, live for the last five years.
So his on-air persona – he was a huge part of the morning show and the success of the Ronnie and TKras Show for their run in mornings. So if we were to elevate someone from inside, it just seemed like he was the right guy to elevate, and to pair with Jay Recher. It’s two young, hungry guys and they play well off each other. Some of the best highlights of my day are just sitting in their pre-show meetings with them and their producer Jon Dugas and just listening to how they collaborate together as a threesome on how to attack content, what sound to use, and what guests to book.
Really, it’s three producers in one room all talking about how to collaborate and do a show. Zac has earned the opportunity, just like Pat Donovan who was a producer first. Aaron Jacobson was a producer at first. It was Zac’s time and he’s done a tremendous job with it so far, albeit it’s only a month, but I totally expect it to be a very high ceiling for that show and for Zac in particular.
BSM: Some programmers believe on developing and promoting from within and some programmers believe in always looking for a splashy hire from the outside. Why is developing talent and promoting from within important to you and WDAE?
JM: I think it’s vital for every brand to have a good bench and to continue to find different ways to utilize that bench. Maybe not on the Monday through Friday, but definitely on the weekends in some capacity. And if not there, then on the digital product. You bring in certain guys to push everyone else. Zac was one of those guys. Jay Recher was one of those guys. Pat Donovan was one of those guys. Ronnie and TKras were two of those guys. I like to bring in guys that have a goal and want to push everyone to be better, not just themselves, but push everyone to be better. We have a tremendous team atmosphere on WDAE and we’ve had it for a number of years.
And when you do a lot of change, like we did about a month ago, you don’t want to keep it too foreign. You want to keep it with somebody that the audience knows and the audience has grown to know. Because the minute you start bringing in out of town people that nobody’s ever heard of or you start going to syndication instead of staying live and local, you start to lose your cume, and you start to lose that branding.
We like to put out as much as we can with whatever we have and I think having good, driven people in the hiring process, albeit I’ve hired a little young over my time here, it’s continued to push the narrative that we are continually growing from within and this was just the latest step of that. I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon.
BSM: When you have new shows and shows in different dayparts, are you mentioning things like ratings and revenue to them? Or do you just tell them to build the shows and worry about it later?
JM: I don’t go book-to-book my talent, I just don’t. I think the more and more you dive into ratings, the more and more you overthink things. It’s important, but it’s not the biggest thing. For me, it’s the sound of the show. If the show sounds like it’s got energy, if it sounds like it’s progressing, if it sounds like we’re creating more attention by what we’re saying and we’re developing as talents and as a station, you feel it. You don’t need to see the numbers. The numbers are the numbers.
The system is great when it’s great but when it’s terrible, it’s still flawed. You know? I mean, Neilson ratings only get you so far but If I start seeing stream numbers go up, which I’ve seen, that’s a positive. If I see digital traffic or social media growth or something like that, that’s a metric I can track. Today I went to the gas station and they had our sports station on. If I can hear that, that means we’re doing something right. I don’t look book-to-book. I think PDs that dive into numbers and analytics and, and clocks…. Look, if you put out entertaining stuff, they’ll stick with you. And it starts with giving that confidence to your talent. And that’s how I program.
Brady Farkas is a sports radio professional with 5+ years of experience as a Program Director, On-Air Personality, Assistant Program Director and Producer in Burlington, VT and Albany, NY. He’s well versed in content creation, developing ideas to generate ratings and revenue, working in a team environment, and improving and growing digital content thru the use of social media, audio/video, and station websites. His primary goal is to host a daily sports talk program for a company/station that is dedicated to serving sports fans. You can find him on Twitter @WDEVRadioBrady and reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brock Huard Believes The Third Time’s The Charm For Brock and Salk
“If I was a radio consultant, there’s two muscles you have to build constantly. A is listening and B is curiosity.”
It just felt right for Brock Huard when he stepped back behind the mic at Seattle Sports 710. On September 6th, he returned to the airwaves with longtime partner Mike Salk in morning drive. It’s been almost three months since Huard returned to radio, but it still feels as right as it did that early September morning. That’s because the business is in his blood.
“Once radio is in your blood, it doesn’t leave,” said Huard.
If you talk sports radio with Huard for any length of time, you won’t question his love or intelligence about the industry. He truly loves and understands the business. When you have a former player that has an incredible amount of passion for sports radio, you really have something. Seattle Sports 710 really has something with Huard and his return to the airwaves made locals in the Pacific Northwest very happy.
Brock & Salk haven’t had to deal with the challenges that new shows experience in the first few months. They’re not trying to establish a chemistry and flow together. They’ve had it after doing a show together twice before, plus a podcast the two hosted together.
“He and I had still done the podcast together for the last couple of years, and had a number of conversations over that time about how fun that hour and a half was, each and every week,” said Huard. “We never really missed a podcast and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. Had we not done that podcast for two years, I don’t know if we would have come back for a third iteration. The third time has been the charm on this iteration.”
What makes the show isn’t just Huard being a former athlete or Salk being a very dynamic and experienced host. The two share an incredible chemistry that shines through on the air. However, Huard thinks there’s one reason in particular that the two mesh so well on air.
“Because we listen,” said Huard. “That’s number one. I will listen to so many radio shows when I’m on the road and I’m like, this is bad radio. And you can tell hosts aren’t listening to one another, they’re just waiting for their time to talk and they fill and it’s terrible.
“If I was a radio consultant, there’s two muscles you have to build constantly. A is listening and B is curiosity. I think for 14 years he’s still genuinely curious about me and how my mind works, world views, ideology and sports views. After 14 years, I’m equally interested in how he thinks and it’s very different than me.
“It was hard to be able to listen and respect one another, because we come from two totally different world views, in many ways. But at the same time, when you do, and you’re curious to listen to the other side and what they have to say, you create unique content.
“He and I used to have to build these big show sheets when we started and we still have structure and everyday there’s still show sheets, but a consultant by the name of Rick Scott told me this early on, he said you know your show will be good, when you don’t get to half of the stuff on your show sheet. And he was absolutely right 14 years ago.”
Co-hosting morning drive at Seattle Sports 710 isn’t the only gig Huard has in sports media. He’s also a college football analyst for FOX. He’ll be on the call Friday night for the Pac-12 Championship game between USC and Utah. But everything ties back to radio for Huard and a recent experience on an airplane made him realize it again.
“I was sitting next to this very smart gentleman the other day on my trip home from college football, and he was crushing crossword puzzles like I’ve never seen before,” said Huard. “He’s a very successful attorney and you could see for him, that was such a tool to keep his mind sharp. For me, radio is the same thing. It’s been the best training ground for everything I do with media, especially television.
“If you can do live radio and equip your mind to listen and strengthen that listening muscle, while also creating content, it’s a pretty good active tool. It keeps my mind sharp and plays to my mind’s strengths, I think, with just how wackado I can be between my ears at times. If you have a tremendous partner that helps shape you, like Salk is to me, then it’s just addictive and gets in your blood and doesn’t leave.”
As it relates to radio, being a college football analyst has its perks, because of the access it gives Huard. Every week before calling a game, he gets production meetings with head coaches, which gives him insight that others may not have. It also awards Huard the opportunity to create relationships with coaches. But how much of what’s said does he feel like he can use on the game broadcast or his radio show?
“99.9 percent is used on the air, on the show and sometimes I gain insight and share it with coaches that I know to encourage them,” said Huard. “It baffles me how many times I will hear from my peers, oh, I hate these coaches meetings. I don’t get anything out of them. And I’m like, God bless you. I will have a career for the rest of my life if that’s the way you approach it. It’s the most valuable real estate we have. It’s a forum that nobody else has.
“Yeah, they have press conferences, but if you build true trust and relationship and confidence, they want to tell you their story. They want to share their team. I can’t tell you how many times content from those meetings comes to life in my sit downs with Pete Carroll or Jerry Dipoto, GM of the Mariners or Scott Servais, or on the air or off the air.”
Huard has an insight to college football that few in the Pacific Northwest has, but that doesn’t mean he and Salk will jam pack content from that sport into the show. The duo knows that Seattle cares about. Sure, there’s an interest for college football, but not anywhere near the hunger from Seahawks and Mariners content.
For example, Huard called the TCU vs. Baylor game two weeks ago, which featured one of the best endings in college football this year, when the Horned Frogs nailed a field goal as time expired. The call of the moment was spectacular and could be the shining moment of the season for a TCU team that looks destined for the College Football Playoff. On the Monday after, Huard and Salk made it a part of the show, but never had the intention of making it the majority of the show.
“Our audience is dominated by the Seahawks and Mariners,” said Huard. “That dominates 80 to 90 percent of our conversation. I would say lifestyle is probably the rest. For example, we played that highlight today four times over the course of the show. We rank things at the end of every show and it was my Top 5 games of my broadcast life in 14 years on the road and that was number 1.
“I often use conversations and things I learned from those games and players and relate them to the Seahawks and Mariners. Dave Aranda talked about living with expectations and how hard that is in our meeting on Friday. He said, you watch, TCU is going to have to live in an entirely different world, where you’re on the mountain top instead of climbing it. And then you relate that toward the Seahawks or the Rams this year.
“Inevitably, yes, those moments create content, either emotionally or football 101. Radio is all encompassing in that way. I never understand radio hosts who try to play it straight. I just don’t. I think it’s bad radio. You have to be willing to live your life and put your life out there, whether it’s good, bad or ugly. The more you do that, the more you attach yourself and connect with your audience.”
It feels like the third time is truly the charm for Huard and Salk. They listen, they have chemistry and the content is a refreshing mix of sports and lifestyle.
“He and I are not comedians,” said Huard. “We don’t play fake laugh tracks like others do. He and I will land way more on the analytical information side than maybe a consultant would tell us what morning radio people want. But I think where it cuts through is he and I put our lives out there. Our parenting success and failures. Relationship struggles, kids, sports, youth sports, that’s probably where we connect in a way that’s more lifestyle. That’s the word I would use.”
Tyler McComas is a columnist for BSM and a sports radio talk show host in Norman, OK where he hosts afternoon drive for SportsTalk 1400. You can find him on Twitter @Tyler_McComas or you can email him at TylerMcComas08@yahoo.com.
Chuck Swirsky Embodies ‘Always A Pleasure’
“I love working with Bill Wennington and each and every day I have the same enthusiasm of calling a Bulls game like I did as a five-year-old child calling games off a TV.”
It’s hard to imagine there are any more positive thinking people in the world than Chuck Swirsky. If you don’t believe me, just check out his daily tweets. Swirsky has a lot to be upbeat about, he’s doing what he’s always wanted to, and now he’s written a book.
“Always a Pleasure” is his creation, putting thoughts on paper, or iPad or whatever, about stories and people he’s encountered over the more than 40-years he’s been in the business.
The title is aptly accurate. Chuck is always a pleasure to be around and is one of the most supportive people I’ve ever met. He encourages those that need it. Swirsky always has time for people in the business and those trying to get into this crazy racket. I’ve seen and experienced it for myself, so trust me when I tell you, it’s the truth.
There are those that have worked multiple decades in play-by-play, and I’ll bet each and every one of them has been asked at some point, ‘hey, why don’t you write a book?’. Sounds easy enough, I’m sure. But when you really think about it, how can a person be expected to fit 40 plus years of work into a book that wouldn’t be the size of a dictionary?
More on that in a moment. I was wondering what makes someone in Swirsky’s position to write a book. So, I asked him. He outlined the main reason he decided to put pen to paper and tell some of his favorite stories and recall good memories.
“Over the past several years I was approached by several publishers and writers who were interested in detailing my journey in sports broadcasting, featuring my stops calling major college athletics and NBA basketball in addition to sports talk.” Swirsky told me. “I was reluctant to do so but a year ago I had a change of heart knowing 2022-23 Bulls season would be my 25th in the NBA, including my 2-thousandth NBA play-by-play game.”
Swirsky didn’t use a sportswriter or an author to tell his tale. “For years I have saved notes and decided to write the book myself, in my own words. I love my job. I have no desire to retire. I want to continue broadcasting Bulls game for many more years as long as my health and clarity allow me to do so.” he said.
“I love working with Bill Wennington and each and every day I have the same enthusiasm of calling a Bulls game like I did as a five-year-old child calling games off a TV. I have the utmost respect for the Reinsdorf family and our entire organization. I just felt this was the right time to write a book.”
I have followed Swirsky’s career closely and gotten to know him over the years. Growing up in Chicago, I was fortunate enough to hear him in his early days here, at the old WCFL (now ESPN 1000), where he became one of the pioneers of sports talk radio. He’s called games on radio and television.
For DePaul, Michigan, select White Sox games, the Raptors and now over the last nearly 2 decades, the Bulls. That’s a lot of experience and a lot of experiences for one person. It made ‘editing’ the book a little difficult.
“I could have easily written another 100 pages featuring additional sports personalities and stories.” Swirsky said. “But I elected to highlight specifics of a timeline allowing the reader to understand that my quest to reach a childhood goal of broadcasting NBA basketball was met with challenges, setbacks and ultimately persevering through hard work, focus, passion and positivity.”
Writing books can be a way to look back on a career. Swirsky if far from done. He never really reflected on things, because he was always looking forward. But the retrospective allowed him to realize a few things along the way.
“I would say this. I am my own worst critic. I very seldom look back on my career. While I was writing “Always A Pleasure” I had to stop and truly reflect how blessed I am to be in the position where I am today. I never take it for granted. Never have. Never will.” Swirsky said. “Nothing is easy. It’s hard. This business can be exhilarating yet so difficult. I never get too high nor too low although I’m very sensitive and my insecurities get the best of me which is probably not a good thing , especially in radio-television.”
In looking back there’s bound to be a few lessons learned from the past. Swirsky did find a few things in writing the book that he remembered, educated him along the way. “I learned that anyone who applies themselves, making a commitment to work on their skill set, and their weaknesses through hard work, dedication, passion and purpose, can be successful.” he said.
“For example, not every professional athlete is going to hit .330. Let’s say another player is hitting .240. What is keeping him in the big leagues? Is it his glove, his ability to play multiple positions? His character in the locker-room? The same principle is in effect in our industry. Maximize your strengths and do it with a great attitude, humility and kindness.”
Swirsky’s book details his interactions with some very familiar people in the business and the sports world. “I have plenty of stories featuring some of the biggest names in sports ranging from Hall of Fame baseball star Willie Mays who many consider perhaps the greatest player of all time to Kobe Bryant who left our world way too soon.” he says. “When you’ve been a professional broadcaster for 46 years, one meets many, many players, coaches, executives, media and sports personalities along the way.”
The one thing you can say about Swrisky, is he is real. There’s no pretense or facade. A genuine human being that is interested in what people have to say. Athletes, coaches, broadcasters and yes, even fans. His book has been reviewed by some of the greats. Mike Breen, Chris Bosh and even Steph Curry. Here’s the 2-time NBA MVP’s take on Swirsky and the book.
Having known Chuck since my days as a still-developing youth player in Toronto, where my dad was a member of the Raptors, I can attest to the fact that his passion for people and basketball is deep and sincere.
Chuck’s unique desire to mentor young people, especially minorities and those of different cultures and backgrounds, will help inspire those who share the same dreams, dreams that enabled him to persevere to the top of his profession.
I’m proud of Chuck, and excited that others can become enlightened by his exciting broadcasting journey, which includes nearly 25 years in the NBA and, of course, a trio of Curry family members shooting from the stars, just like him.
A book written by someone as accomplished in this industry as Swirsky draws interest because of who he is. But the Bulls’ play-by-play man is always thinking of others and trying to help where he can, just like Curry said. Along with stories, he lends his knowledge and relates it to those who are already in broadcasting and those trying to get in.
“I’m hoping those in our industry who read the book even those outside the radio-tv, new media field will come away knowing that perseverance is a powerful resource to help withstand the emotional heartache of rejection, disappointment and loneliness.” said Swirsky. He adds, “I have experienced everything. The good. The bad. The ugly. I’m talking all levels. My message is to stay true to your core values. In this case, my foundation is built on respect, kindness, honesty, sincerity and selflessness.”
Given the opportunity to beam about the finished product, Swirsky in typical fashion, deflected any praise. Simply saying, “I am very humbled and appreciative of the professionalism of the book’s publisher, Eckhartz Press. They allowed me to be me. That’s all I wanted. Mission accomplished. I am grateful.”
The entire industry should be grateful for people like Swirsky. There are so few in the business who are as kind and caring as he is. There are just as few people that take interest in others, and help mentor the next generation like Chuck. Inspiring stories, a career chronicle and life lessons, “Always a Pleasure” is going to be on my must-read list for the holidays. Congrats “Swirsk” keep up the great work.
Andy Masur is a columnist for BSM and works for WGN Radio as an anchor and play-by-play announcer. He also teaches broadcasting at the Illinois Media School. During his career he has called games for the Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox. He can be found on Twitter @Andy_Masur1 or you can reach him by email at Andy@Andy-Masur.com.