As the “Laurence Holmes Show” was wrapping up, Chris Tannehill (Tanney) stepped into the control room to take his seat at the soundboard in preparation for the “Parkins & Spiegel Show” to begin at the top of the hour.
He reached over to the right of the board and grabbed what looked to be an old Folgers coffee container plastered with stickers from musical artists. With COVID-19 still very prevalent, Tannehill pulled out his own set of headphones and foam mic cover to place over the microphone as midday audio producer Herb Lawrence removed his and the two swapped positions.
Hosts Danny Parkins and Matt Spiegel joined Holmes live on the air as the trio transitioned out of the midday show and into the afternoon drive time.
“When we come back, we’ll have Tanney’s open,” Parkins said as he sent the show to commercial break.
Approximately four minutes later, the “Parkins and Spiegel Show” officially began, the same way it does every day, drawing listeners in with an open only Tannehill could produce.
A Chicago native, Tannehill grew up listening to The Score as a kid, so when the opportunity to intern with his favorite local radio station presented itself, he jumped on it. Tannehill began as an intern in May of 2007 before earning a part-time position doing White Sox baseball five months later.
In 2012, Tannehill was hired to replace Jason Goff as the audio producer on “Boers and Bernstein.” He worked with Terry Boers and Dan Bernstein until 2017 when Goff took over for Boers after he retired. He ran the board for “Bernstein and Goff” from 2017-18, for “McNeil and Parkins” from 2018-20, and now for “Parkins and Spiegel.”
“Maybe I’m the reason why there’s so many changing faces on the afternoons now that I think about it,” Tannehill said sarcastically with a chuckle.
But at a station with an unusual amount of turnover over the last few years, Tannehill has been the constant of afternoons at The Score for the better part of the last decade.
“Hosts have their choice of what executive producer they want and what sound guy they want,” said Shane Riordan who has been the executive producer of the “Parkins and Spiegel Show” in an official capacity for the last two months. “Every host that’s come into that timeslot has said ‘Chris Tannehill is obviously my choice, of course I don’t want to make a change, there’s no one else better.’”
Ask around at The Score and you’ll quickly get a sense of why Tannehill is so coveted.
“He’s the audio overlord,” said Riordan.
“Chris is an artist, a producer, a storyteller,” said Mitch Rosen, longtime program director at The Score. “I would purely consider him a radio production creative genius.”
“His talents and skillset and timing and feel is undeniable,” said Spiegel.
“This guy could work for Howard Stern, he could work for Dan Patrick,” said Parkins. “I’ve literally never heard a better audio producer in radio.”
Tannehill is quiet, yet witty. Confident, yet humble. He’s not someone you’ll ever hear boasting about his skills or accomplishments but instead will let his work do the talking.
It’s common for audio producers to put together a montage or open for special guests they have on their shows. What’s uncommon, is putting together an open for the start of every single show, something that Tannehill does daily for the “Parkins and Spiegel Show.”
“The open, he’s just a savant at it,” said Parkins. “People tune in at 2 p.m. to the afternoon on The Score to hear Tanney’s opens, like it’s a thing.”
According to Tannehill, putting together an open is pretty routine at this point and typically only takes him 20 minutes. He then spends the morning finding good content for the show and topics he can build off of.
While Tannehill’s opens have become a staple, his work goes far beyond that. When someone retires, is traded away or gets fired, he’s ready with a career retrospective package, often set to the theme song from “Goodfellas.” For any guest that is brought onto the show, Tannehill has an extremely well-thought-out production package ready to roll.
“The ultimate compliments are when there’s a guest on, whether it’s a celebrity or a journalist, and the first thing you hear from them when they are welcomed on the air is ‘man that was a hell of an open,’ or ‘holy cow, what I just heard, that’s incredible,’” said Rosen. “And that’s Chris Tannehill.”
“There have been many times where a guest will notice something that’s been played and it will immediately make them feel more comfortable,” said Spiegel. “It does some of the work that the host is usually supposed to do which is to get the guests comfortable and feeling like we care right away.”
What’s helped make this process so turnkey over the years is Tannehill’s unique process for logging sound in which he saves every show he’s ever worked on in its entirety. Unbeknownst to many, Tannehill has a keen ability to recall specific moments and bring them back at just the right time.
“He’s able to turn things that nobody else would think to turn something into, into magic,” said Riordan. “He’s unreal.”
While he’s constantly pulling original audio clips to use throughout various shows, this process has allowed him to create longer montages for larger events that no one in the business can replicate.
Frank Thomas’ Hall of Fame induction, Vin Scully’s retirement and the Cubs’ World Series highlight just a few of the more in-depth pieces he’s put together. Depending on the project, Tannehill could spend up to a year working on it, adding bits and pieces every step of the way throughout a team’s season or playoff run.
“The Cubs one was very important to me even though I’m a White Sox fan,” said Tannehill. “I wanted to serve the base of Cubs fans as best as I could and sort of give them something to hold on to and to make that moment for them even better, something that would just be there forever for them to go back and listen to and remember when times were at their best as a Cubs fan.”
When it comes to the day-to-day, producing afternoon radio can be a challenge because each show prior has likely already talked about what you plan on discussing for the next four hours. Hosts have had time to voice their opinion on the day’s biggest topics and the best sound has already been used. However, according to Riordan, this isn’t an issue when working with Tannehill.
“He’s got audio somehow that nobody else has and he has an ear for what no one else here has,” said Riordan. “So, the fact that we can differentiate ourselves from all the other shows and put new spins on the audio that they’ve already played and talked about is largely due in part to his ability to find it, and to hear things in audio that other sound producers can’t hear.”
“He’s just always thinking out of the box and you hear audio on a show and you’re like ‘wow I didn’t know that existed’ or ‘how the heck did he do that,’” said Rosen.
Tannehill’s skills are unique in that, working on four different afternoon shows throughout the course of his career, he’s had to go through the process of building out a sound library for each show and catering the sound to the hosts and their specific tastes.
According to Parkins, Tannehill has been flawless when it comes to developing that rapport with his hosts while also making important journalistic decisions in terms of which pieces of sound he uses.
“I’m pretty Type-A when it comes to the show, a little overbearing at times, a little demanding at times, but not with him,” said Parkins. “He absolutely has a reason for cutting it where he cut it. There’s a purpose to it.”
“With Tannehill nothing is left to chance,” said Spiegel. “If it doesn’t have direct relevance, then the lyric has direct relevance, you know? He’ll use something lyrically that fits exactly what we’re talking about, nothing is by chance.”
There’s no doubt his attention to detail on the board elevates his show, but he’s also had a positive affect on other shows at The Score.
“I say this all the time, ‘Tanney is better at his job than any of us are at ours,’” said Parkins. “Like there’s no question about that.”
“Having somebody great on a team will make all the rest of the people great because they see that and are like ‘ok that’s something to shoot for,’” said Lawrence. “And even if you come up short, you’re still going to be exhausting your potential to the highest levels and that’s what I think Tanney does well for all the rest of us.”
Part of what has contributed to his success is his love for hip hop. He began producing hip hop during high school and college and spent time as a DJ, better known as Cosm Roks. Because of this, when he got to The Score, one of the people he tried to emulate his work off of was Jason Goff who ran the board for “Boers and Bernstein” at the time.
Goff, who is currently the Bulls pre- and postgame show host on NBC Sports Chicago, made an effort to work more of a hip hop influence into the bumpers he played, and Tannehill took notice. He eventually took over Goff’s position on the board and continued incorporating that style of music into his work.
“The idea is taking that to the next level, everything they learned, and building on that,” said Tannehill.
When Goff began getting part-time hosting shifts, Tannehill put together the first open for him as a host, integrating a song Goff was fond of at the time, Exhibit C by Jay Electronica.
“Now anytime I hear it I think of a bad show getting ready to start, which is what I was doing back in the early days,” Goff said with a laugh. “Or I think of Chris. We’ve got that special bond because of that Exhibit C and Jay Electronica song.”
Coupling his use of hip hop with his vast knowledge and feel for not just sports, but pop culture, movies and TV, Tannehill has learned to use his artistic side to build a relationship with his audience.
“What people remember about the show is benchmark bits, funny moments, and if you keep those in rotation enough then people feel like they have this relationship with the show,” said Tannehill.
“His ability to retain and speak in show references is unparalleled,” said Riordan. “There are tens of thousands of Chicago radio listeners, or just Chicagoans who don’t even listen to the radio, that speak in references that Chris Tannehill created.”
The next step in Tannehill’s career came in February 2020 when he joined Lawrence as a co-host on the “Locked on Sox” podcast. Lawrence initially began the venture solo, but since Tannehill joined, the two have hosted nearly 200 episodes together and have seen a steady climb in the number of listeners.
“He’s too modest to say those things and I’ve said it in shows, like, the show has gone from good to great, because of Chris Tannehill, not because of me,” said Lawrence. “I’m Good. Chris Tannehill and myself makes it great because Chris Tannehill takes me up to those levels.”
What started as a fun side project for the two best friends and lifelong Sox fans, has quickly grown into something that’s benefitted both in their work at The Score.
“I’m not always comfortable with the on-air part of it, but I wanted to do something that would sort of make me uncomfortable,” said Tannehill. “And I was like okay, I want to get better at that element because that’s going to immediately translate to being better with Parkins and Spiegel.
“[Parkins] and [Spiegel] have kind of empowered me to be more of a voice, so the podcast has helped in that regard to just be a little more articulate.”
Beyond the voice Tannehill continues working to develop on-air, the one he’s already established within the walls of The Score has had a profound impact on those he’s worked directly with.
“When you look across that glass or through that glass you want to make sure that you feel like you got teammates and he was always the dude who made sure I was in the right place for whatever the segment or whatever the show needed,” said Goff. “He always made sure I was cool. So, on top of being technically proficient, he was also always a calming force for me.”
“He’s a guy that you want on your team, and you know that what he does on an everyday basis is just incredible and I respect the hell out of him,” said Rosen.
Each day, at the end of every show, Parkins signs off by thanking guests, producers, Spiegel and, of course, Tannehill, uttering a statement that he believes couldn’t be truer.
“Chris Tannehill makes us sound better than we really are each and every day.”
Kate Constable is a daily news writer for BSM. She has worked on-air and behind the scenes for a number of media outlets including Stadium, NBC Sports Chicago, KAAL and KARE television, and The Daily Iowan. You can find her on Twitter @KateConstable.
NBC Must Develop a Real No. 2 NFL Crew for Playoffs
Is the network’s only other option Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett?
Several years ago, the NFL objected to NBC wanting to employ Mike Tirico as the lead play-by-play voice for its Thursday Night Football broadcasts. The league preferred Al Michaels because he was NBC’s No. 1 NFL play-by-play announcer and wanted the TNF telecasts to carry the same prestige as Sunday Night Football.
Following the network’s heavily-criticized broadcast of Saturday’s Wild Card playoff game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL may want to impose its authority again and insist that a top-tier broadcast team call the action of an important postseason game.
The consensus among fans and media watching Saturday’s broadcast was that Michaels and analyst Tony Dungy were surprisingly low-energy for an NFL playoff game, let alone one that became so exciting with Jacksonville rallying from a 27-0 deficit for a 31-30 victory on a last-second field goal.
Such a lackluster broadcast led to questions of whether or not Michaels was now past his prime after a season of calling subpar TNF games for Amazon and what initially appeared to be another snoozer when the Jaguars fell behind by 27 points. Pairing him with Dungy, who was a studio analyst all season, certainly didn’t help.
Dungy was as basic as a game analyst could be, typically narrating replays viewers could see for themselves while adding little insight. Worst of all, he demonstrated no enthusiasm for the action, leaving Michaels to fill most of the airtime. The veteran broadcaster showed that he can no longer carry a broadcast by himself. He needs the energy and back-and-forth that Cris Collinsworth or Kirk Herbstreit provide.
So how did NBC get here?
Most football fans know that the network’s top broadcast team is Tirico on play-by-play alongside analyst Cris Collinsworth. But they had their own assignment during Super Wild Card Weekend, calling Sunday night’s Ravens-Bengals match-up. With the postseason field expanding from 12 to 14 teams, resulting in six games being played on Wild Card weekend, NBC was awarded one of the additional playoff broadcasts.
Thus, another broadcast team was needed for that second Wild Card game. Fortunately, NBC had a renowned play-by-play man already in place. Michaels finished out his final season as SNF‘s lead voice by calling Super Bowl LVI, part of a powerful one-two combination for NBC Sports coming toward the end of its 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics coverage.
Ending his legendary career with a Super Bowl broadcast would’ve been a wonderful final note for Michaels. That appeared to be a natural path when Tirico moved from ESPN to NBC in 2016. Network executives admitted that a succession plan was in mind for Tirico to take over SNF eventually. At the time, Michaels also likely thought he would retire by then.
But when confronted with the possibility of retirement, Michaels realized he wasn’t interested. He was still enjoying broadcasting the NFL. His skills were still sharp. And perhaps most importantly, he was in demand. Amazon wanted Michaels as the lead voice for its Thursday Night Football broadcasts, bringing instant credibility to a streaming venture that drew some skepticism. ESPN considered him as its Monday Night Football play-by-play man.
As it turned out, ESPN made a bold move for MNF, swiping Fox’s No. 1 NFL crew of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. That left Amazon for Michaels, and the streaming giant paid him a commensurate salary with the top broadcasters in the industry as part of his three-year contract.
Yet Michaels wasn’t done with NBC either. After his agreement with Amazon became official, NBC announced that its relationship with Michaels would continue in an “emeritus” role allowing him to broadcast the network’s Olympics coverage and that additional Wild Card playoff telecast.
NBC can’t have been happy that most of the social media chatter afterward focused on the broadcast, rather than the game result. Especially when the discussion centered on how poorly Michaels and Dungy performed in what turned out to be a thrilling playoff game. That’s a pairing that the NFL probably doesn’t want to see again.
Michaels will likely call at least one more Wild Card playoff game for NBC since he intends to work on the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics. He’s also under contract with Amazon for another two seasons unless he decides to retire before that deal expires. So perhaps the simple solution is keeping Dungy out of the broadcast booth and giving Michaels a better partner.
But can NBC drop in another analyst who hasn’t worked with Michaels all season? Anyone would arguably be an improvement over Dungy. Is it at all possible for Herbstreit to be hired on for a one-off playoff broadcast, thus ensuring that the broadcast team will have some on-air familiarity and chemistry?
Otherwise, NBC’s only other option may be its Notre Dame broadcast team of Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett. (The network tried that last season with Tirico and Drew Brees, only for Brees to wilt under the harsher NFL playoff spotlight.)
The pair also called USFL broadcasts for the network, so at least there would be familiarity rather than trying to figure each other out during a telecast. Yet Collinsworth and Garrett aren’t terribly popular with viewers. And as with Brees, that crew will face intense scrutiny with a larger playoff audience.
Unfortunately, NBC appears to be stuck here. Unless the new Big Ten broadcast team of Noah Eagle and Todd Blackledge gets a shot. That might be the best option! Other than Notre Dame or USFL games, where are the other opportunities for NBC to develop a No. 2 NFL broadcast team? No one wants to put Al Michaels through Chris Simms in the broadcast booth, right?
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at email@example.com.
Al Michaels Has Options But He Has To Make a Choice
“It does all of us in the sports industry well to remember 99% of our audience would gladly trade places with us.”
I don’t ask much out of game announcers; get excited when appropriate, get the simple information correct, don’t get so caught up in your shtick you put yourself above the game. Al Michaels has been doing all those things well for the better part of half a century and few would argue that he’s not one of the best to ever do it. That doesn’t mean he can’t lose his fastball.
Before you read any longer, I am not here to say Al Michaels has lost his fastball. What I am here to say is Michaels has all too often this season seemed upset with and disinterested in the game he is calling. That isn’t entirely surprising when you consider some of the Thursday night action he called on Amazon Prime where the average margin of victory was almost nine points per game.
On top of that, the Amazon schedule had a dreadful two week stretch with Colts 12-9 win over the Broncos in Week Five and the Commanders 12-7 win over the Bears the next Thursday. It was in that Broncos-Colts game Michaels asked Herbstreit if a game “can be so bad it is good?” Herbstreit’s answer was “No”, by the way. It was the full 15 game schedule that Michaels told The Athletic’s media critic Richard Deitsch was like trying to sell a used car.
All of that is fine, the inaugural Amazon Prime season was not a smashing success. The streaming giant missed audience projections and will lose advertising revenue because of it. The lackluster schedule did not help that. But Michaels was given a second life; he was the NBC play-by-play announcer for the Saturday Night Wildcard Playoff game between the Chargers and Jaguars. It initially looked like Michaels might be the problem as five first half Jags turnovers had them in a 27-0 hole. But the home team staged a nearly unprecedented comeback for the win.
It was the performance by Michaels and, to a lesser degree, his analyst Tony Dungy that has led to criticism. Criticism might be too soft of a word, Michaels was roundly dragged for his lack of enthusiasm during the comeback and specifically on his call of the Jacksonville game winning field goal. The enthusiasm of the call of the game winner had a mid-3rd quarter of week four feel to it.
Me telling Al Michaels how to do play-by-play of an NFL game would be the equivalent of me telling a physicist how to split an atom. So, this isn’t just a Michaels criticism, few things bother me more than hearing a game announcer complain about the length or quality of a game as if he’d rather be anywhere else. It does all of us in the sports industry well to remember 99% of our audience would gladly trade places with us.
How many NFL viewers would sit in the seat Michaels, or any NFL announcer occupies, for free? They’d feel like they won the lottery if they also were getting the money those announcers are getting paid to be there. The guy that works a 12-hour Thursday construction shift just to get home and crack a beer for the NFL game probably doesn’t want to hear how tough that game is to announce.
On top of all of that, Michaels was given the gift of one of the wildest NFL Playoff comebacks you’ll ever see and, at times, sounded as if he was completely disinterested in being there. Pro tip: the best NFL announcer in those moments is Kevin Harlan (see: Miami at Baltimore from earlier this season. That has nothing to do with my lifelong Dolphins fandom). Michaels’ lack of enthusiasm was compounded by the exact opposite from Mike Tirico on the very same network for the Bengals-Ravens Wildcard game Sunday night.
Tirico, like Michaels, has a sterling resume of play-by-play accomplishments. The difference is Tirico sounded like he was having the time of his life on Sunday night.
To be fair, their two styles are different. Michaels has a very old school, Pat Summerall approach. Summerall, Vin Scully and Dick Enberg came along at a time when announcers were far more likely to let the pictures tell the story. More new school guys like Harlan and Tirico approach it differently.
Look, Al Michaels helped us believe in miracles. His place in the Sports Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame has long since been cemented. Being a hall of fame inductee doesn’t mean your style will forever be accepted by the masses. That leaves you with a few options; you can continue your style and accept or ignore the criticism or you can ride off into the sunset and enjoy the fruits of your decades of labor.
Al Michaels has what we all want; great options. He can choose any of them and be a winner in the game of life. It doesn’t matter if he enthusiastically embraces them, or not.
Ryan Brown is a columnist for Barrett Sports Media, and a co-host of the popular sports audio/video show ‘The Next Round’ formerly known as JOX Roundtable, which previously aired on WJOX in Birmingham. You can find him on Twitter @RyanBrownLive and follow his show @NextRoundLive.
Bernie Kosar Was the Victim of a Policy That Doesn’t Work Anymore
“The NFL has bigger fish to fry than Bernie Kosar. Hell, it has more pressing issues in Cleveland alone.”
One week ago, Bernie Kosar lost his job on the Browns Radio Network for placing the first legal sports bet in the state of Ohio. Kosar, just like Jets coach Miles Austin weeks earlier and Calvin Ridley last year, violated a league policy that forbids team employees from placing a bet on any NFL game.
The integrity of the games still matters. The belief that what we are all seeing is being fairly contested is what gives those of us that like to have a little vested interest in the outcome the desire to lay our money down in the first place. I get the league’s discomfort with a coach on the staff of a team in the middle of the playoff hunt making bets. I get its fear of the message it sends to have players making bets.
Roger Goodell and the 32 team owners are well within their rights to object to men that can potentially control the outcome of a game or postseason seeding doing anything that even appears to jeopardize its fairness. Even perceived impropriety can compromise the league’s tremendous value.
But Bernie Kosar doesn’t have that kind of influence on the outcome of a game. He is just a broadcaster and not even a game analyst. He is part of studio coverage.
I am far from the first to point this out, but in 2023, the NFL has three official sports betting partners. Just last week, it approved the first ever in-stadium sportsbook, which Fanatics is set to open inside of FedEx Field. If the NFL is comfortable enough with the reality that its fans like to bet to make those things a reality, then Kosar losing his gig is absurd. It is the result of nothing other than “well, that’s the way we’ve always done it” thinking.
Maybe Kosar was terrible on the radio and the team was looking for a reason to move on. I don’t live in Cleveland and I am not a Browns fan, so I have no idea.
How many times have we heard that NFL owners hired Goodell to “protect the shield”? I’m not even really sure what it means or when it applies anymore. If I had a vested interest in the public perception of the league, I know that I would want someone to do the PR math on this situation.
Bernie Kosar isn’t an addict that can’t watch a game without the high of winning or the emotional distress of losing everything at stake, at least not as far as we know. This was a bet made through an advertising partner, to benefit charity. He even said on his podcast this week that the purpose of making the bet was to generate some money for former players in need of help.
This is like Disney threatening daycare centers with lawsuits for painting Mickey Mouse on a classroom wall. The NFL has bigger fish to fry than Bernie Kosar. Hell, it has more pressing issues in Cleveland alone.
Surely you have seen Garrett Bush’s impassioned rant on the Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show about the obstacles facing Damar Hamlin because of how many hoops the NFL makes former players jump through in order to get some kind of pension.
On January 2, we were all united in our concern for a guy that hadn’t even completed his second full NFL season. We didn’t know if he was going to live, but if he did, we all knew that the NFL had done everything it needed to in order to protect itself from ever having to pay a dime for his medical care. Less than a week later, Bernie Kosar was fired for what amounted to a charity stunt that was meant to raise money and attention to very similar issues.
At both the league level and the team level, there was incompetence that lead to a man unnecessarily losing a gig and to the Browns and the NFL looking horribly out of touch with reality.
Are we acknowledging that people gamble or not? Are we acknowledging there are responsible ways to bet on football and are interested in generating revenue off of it or not? Because it doesn’t seem to me that the same league that just gave the thumbs up to open a sportsbook inside of a stadium is really that concerned with people that cannot affect the outcome of games betting on those games.
Has the NFL come out and said that it is going to cover every medical bill for everyone that has ever played the game? We know that this is a brutal game that leaves a physical and physiological impact on the men that played it. Why would we make it harder for someone that knows that pain to help others do something about it?
I feel awful for Bernie Kosar. Whether he needs the money or not, it is embarassing to be at the center of a controversy like this, particularly because in the NFL in 2023, there is no reason for a controversy like this to exist.
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.