Rick Radzik oozes Boston. You can feel his authenticity when you talk to him. Rick is from Quincy, or as the locals call it Quinzy, which is just outside of downtown.
Before working his way up to become the program director at 98.5 The Sports Hub, Rick’s career began at WEEI. He interned at the all-news station back in 1986. After graduating from Emerson College and completing his internship, Rick landed a gig at EEI in the tape operations department. He made around $11,000 at the time.
Although the money wasn’t great, the benefits were really cool. Rick routinely got to watch the ‘80s Celtics practice for two hours and then grab sound from Bird and McHale. It led to bigger opportunities, like being an assistant associate producer for the Celtics broadcast. He then transitioned to being the executive producer of the Boston Bruins broadcast on WEEI. Rick left that station in ’94 to remain with the Bruins at WBZ. A decade and a half later, he took a leap of faith and joined The Sports Hub.
In our conversation, Rick talked about Mike Thomas being back in town as Audacy’s SVP and market manager. There is a Brady/Belichick dynamic between the two; a lot of success together and a lot of respect, but they now find themselves on opposite sidelines. He also was gracious enough to discuss his wife, Liesl, who passed away three years ago and had a huge impact on his life and career. Rick also gave his thoughts on Tony Massarotti joining the Red Sox broadcast, and wondered if he could ever do what many in the sports radio industry have done. Enjoy the column!
Brian Noe: When the Hub was first launched, would you have ever thought it would reach the level it’s at right now?
Rick Radzik: No, I thought I’d be in a different profession by 2011. I’m kind of joking. We just all felt we could do okay. I think being on the FM signal was what a lot of people may have underestimated at the time. There weren’t a lot of sports talk stations around the country on the FM signal. That really helped us. I think the way we presented it was a little bit different at the beginning. At the time a little bit younger, a little more music, different sound.
We had the Patriots, which obviously having one of the franchises helped. And we got the Bruins. We were in a good spot to launch. But EEI became such a monster; those 2003, 2004 Red Sox-Yankees, Patriots Super Bowls. A couple of stations tried to take them on; they were all AM stations with smaller signals. This was the first time that an established FM signal with some established talent was going to give it a shot.
I didn’t think we’d do as well as quickly as we did is really what I mean when I say I didn’t think it would last. We elevated more quickly than we thought. We were fortunate to have some championships thrown in there and some awesome storylines that continue today with guys like Brady and Belichick and the personalities of the teams and the passion that the fan base has. It all just kind of fell into place. I think we just came at the right time when people were looking for a little bit of a change. I think we were able to provide it for them.
BN: You guys have monster ratings. When you gauge success — is it being number one, is it getting a certain share in the market — what is your idea of success?
RR: Yeah, I think it’s all those things obviously because I think that’s what sells the station. I think what we do is important because it’s entertainment and I think people look for entertainment. We try not to take ourselves too seriously. We’re very appreciative of the ratings and that people listen.
I think what I’m most proud of though honestly, Brian, is a lot of our guys have really been here since the launch. We haven’t had much turnover with the on-air talent. A couple of people moved around like Bertrand started with Felger & Mazz. The nights changed, middays changed a little bit. But other than that, guys still really, really want to put on a good product every day.
We’re going to be coming up on year 13 of our launch in August, and guys I don’t think really get satisfied. They might look at the ratings and I’m sure the easy thing to do is be like well, we really don’t have to do much, but it’s not that way. I think that’s a testament to them. Doing a show four hours a day, five days a week, you’re in there with the same guys and the same crew, it can get a little tedious. [Laughs] You can get sick of each other. But they overcome all of those things by wanting to put out good content.
I think that one of the things that I try to stress is being humble. Look, it can change at any time. You never know, the audience could always go somewhere else, or something else comes along like we did and they just go to another avenue. A lot of these things weren’t around when we started; there wasn’t podcasting and different platforms that people can put their content out on. It was the radio and you’d read the paper. There are many more people doing it today. Within that, you find those pockets of creativity and people that break out. We deal with that too. We just try to keep up with everything that’s going on around us.
BN: Mike Thomas, Mark Hannon and yourself played key roles in building the Hub into what it is today. Mike left for Chicago, but has since returned to lead Audacy Boston, which owns and operates WEEI. What’s your reaction to him being back in Boston except working across the street this time?
RR: I think the position was attractive to Mike. He didn’t come back as the program director. I think the title of being the market manager was appealing. I think he really enjoyed his time in Boston when he was here. I know Mike has moved around a lot coming up through the industry. He did have a long stay here in Boston. I wasn’t shocked.
I think I would’ve been a little more surprised if he came back as the PD. But I think the title and overseeing the cluster for Boston, he’s so connected to here and the competition with WEEI. He’s a competitive guy so he’s going to want to do what he can to make things a little more difficult for us. I’m sure he’ll enjoy that. Let’s say the competition is good.
I had a great relationship with him. He was very supportive when Liesl was sick and all those things. I don’t really focus on it too much about him being there. I know some things probably will end up impacting us. I’m not surprised he’s back. I think that being a market manager is something he’s always wanted to do and to get a higher elevation with the management position. So, good luck to him.
BN: You mentioned your wife at the BSM Summit and you mentioned her just now. What was the impact that she had on your life and also your professional career?
RR: In this industry with the ups and the downs and the hours; when I was working with the Celtics at WEEI or WBZ, I was also doing some side work. I was a remote engineer for a lot of the visiting teams that would come in. It was just a part-time, extra money gig. I worked with all the great play-by-play people of the NBA, MLB and hockey for 25+ years. In this industry, there are no set hours. There are Saturdays, Sundays, nights. She was always, always supportive of just do what you gotta do and we’ll make it work here.
Then we got married and had the girls. The girls were younger so you try to manage all those things. She was never one to say don’t go for this, it was always just that’s important. And she heard all the complaints too, I can tell you that. [Laughs] That sounding board of just telling you when you want to bitch about something whether you work there or whatever. That was a great thing.
She was always very encouraging and in some cases, probably had more confidence in my ability to do something maybe at times than I did. It might have given that extra boost to say no, you should go for this, or you should maybe consider that APD job at The Sports Hub even though you’re in a really good spot at WBZ-AM. I don’t think I would’ve taken the job if she didn’t encourage it.
A friend of mine refurbished an old hotel down in Falmouth, Massachusetts, which is part of Cape Cod. He’s transformed it into a massive vacation home for kids with cancer. It’s got about 12 bedrooms and 20 rooms total. It’s got all these awesome things where once a week a kid with cancer and their family stay for a one-week, free vacation. It’s called Tommy’s Place. One of the bedrooms is dedicated to Liesl.
Part of her giving spirit that she had when she was here was recognized. Me and the girls and friends of mine and people here at The Sports Hub have a cornhole tournament for Liesl every year to raise money for Tommy’s Place. I’m running the Falmouth Road Race this year for Tommy’s Place. I’m going to be regretting that for about six months out.
You try to channel some of those things into things that help others, which is what Liesl was really all about. She spent her career as a social worker and doing meaningful things, unlike us in radio, who just do things to try to entertain people. It’s complicated, it’s different, it’s challenging, it’s all those things. But at the end of the day, if you can do some things in life to help others, she’s now connected with this place, so we’re connected to it. We try to keep the legacy going for the girls mainly to let them know their mother was a good person, which they know. That’s pretty important stuff to me.
BN: What did it mean to you to win the Mark Chernoff Award?
RR: It meant a lot and it probably meant more when I talked with Mark at the event. I hadn’t seen Mark in a long time. I think I realized when I went into this position, I really got an appreciation. I think I mentioned this; Mark working with Imus, Francesa, Mad Dog, the managing of the personalities is a lot of the position. He had a lot of high-level talent there with big egos and he was able to navigate through that. I probably didn’t appreciate that 10 years ago. It’s not until you actually do get into a position like that and you deal with them daily with talent and on-air and all that stuff, so I really appreciated that.
FAN really started it all. If it wasn’t for Mark and WFAN and the way they did it, who else is launching? If it didn’t work there it wasn’t going to work anywhere. He was the person behind the scenes who was kind of keeping the ship afloat when they got started and then managing all of that talent and putting all of that together into what they became. Yet you hear more about the guys that do it than someone like Mark, which I appreciate.
I think Mark is very, very respected within the industry obviously and he’s got a great legacy. I think that’s probably good enough for him. That’s more important to me. I never wanted to be on the air. I never had a desire to do it or anything like that. I think that’s what I appreciate about that award, just the appreciation I have for him and his legacy, and what he did at FAN was something I was really able to think about when I received it and thought about it more.
BN: What led to Tony Massarotti being on the Red Sox broadcast this year and how much do you think it will benefit The Sports Hub?
RR: Well, Toucher & Rich will find a lot of content in it. I know that.
BN: [Laughing] That’s right.
RR: There will be a lot of Mazz sound on there. If you go back and listen to T&R’s show from last Monday or Tuesday, it was kind of funny. I’m not totally sure who got the ball rolling on NESN for this, whether it came from the Red Sox ownership. Trust me, we were very surprised and Mazz was surprised because we haven’t really been the Red Sox’s best friend over the last 10, 11 years. We’re pretty tough on them, tough on ownership. I don’t know. I think that maybe when Jerry Remy passed, maybe they were looking for different ways to do it.
I think the ManningCast thing has maybe changed the way people might look at play-by-play going forward in the future. I know the women’s national championship, they had Taurasi and Bird doing that. Again, I think it’s just a different way to do it and thinking out of the box. It’s always easier to just go to the ex-player. Mazz is on one of the most popular shows. He’s very recognizable. He covered the Red Sox. Baseball is his thing. He has his baseball show here. He’s a very credible baseball voice and always has been.
I’ll tell you this, Bri, there was more interest in if Mazz was going to go to NESN or not, than there was with any of the other names that were thrown out there. Whether it was this player or that player might do it; everybody had an opinion on whether Mazz would be any good at this or not. That’s content. It was just interesting to me.
No one’s even commented on the other guys, it’s only about him. It’s great because half think he’ll be good and the other half think he’s going to be horrible. We’ll see how it goes for him. He’s done a couple already. He’s doing pretty good.
BN: For your future professionally, what would you want it to look like?
RR: I think when I started this job, two months later in March of 2020 the world shut down. Immediately this job didn’t become programming the station, it really became how do we even do this? And how do we create content? We can’t have people in the building and we have to set up remotes. Everything got reinvented.
For me, I think I’m finally feeling like this is a normal position of the job. I was here, but our hosts were broadcasting from home. Our play-by-play people were doing the road game in Seattle from the Gillette Stadium booth and our Celtics broadcasters are in Studio B and our Bruins broadcasters are watching monitors. It was crazy. It was just really figuring out how to get things on the air, never mind program the station.
I think for me it’s just really settling into the position and trying to maintain what we have. Keep the people that we have and continuing to evolve on various platforms. I think that’s where I’m at right now. I don’t think I ever thought I would be a PD. I’ve got to be honest. I worked with some real good ones at WEEI and at WBZ-AM and obviously here with Mike. I remember I used to kind of be like ugh, that looks like a lot of headaches. And it is. I think it’s more kind of seeing where it takes me. I have to tell you, did you interview Kevin Graham?
BN: I did. Yeah.
RR: I will say this — I don’t want to say the word is envious — I’m always impressed by these guys who’ve been in five or six or seven different cities. And they’ve really grinded, and they’re here and then they go there. I’ve pretty much just been where I’ve lived. It’s kind of fallen that way for me.
When I was APD at The Sports Hub I wasn’t really looking to say oh, I want to get to Cincinnati to be a PD. That’s why I never thought being a PD was probably in my future because I looked at all of these guys like man, these guys go all over the place.
It’s a funny thing; I’ve just been here. My family was rooted here. But I have so much appreciation for those guys that have done it in various cities and adding what they think would make for good programming in San Francisco and then being in Dallas two, three years later. In an odd way I guess what I’m saying is — not that I would leave Boston for anything — I always wondered like could I do that? Could I go to San Francisco where I know absolutely nobody and say no, this is how you have to do it? You have to do it like Felger. You’ve got to completely kick the shit out of these teams. [Laughs] You know? It’s just kind of interesting. I do wonder if that would ever work.
Kevin was here. I never met him, so I don’t know Kevin. But I read that article and I’m like oh wow, that’s amazing. Mike’s the same way. Mike was in San Diego. He was in Wisconsin, he was in Illinois, he’s in Boston, he’s in Chicago. Wow. And I’ve pretty much been in a 20-mile radius to where I grew up ever since I got in the business 34 years ago. [Laughs]
BN: [Laughs] The business is crazy like that. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten during your career?
RR: I got to say, Jim Pansullo, who was a guy that was a longtime newscaster here in the Boston area. He was very well-known back in the day. He was a neighbor of mine. He used to do the Celtics games with Johnny Most back in the ‘60s. He got me my first internship.
I’ll never forget what he said to me and I still use his line to this day. He said to me in this business it’s who you know to get in, and what you know to stay. I still remember that.
That piece of advice probably made the most sense to me as far as yes, I can help you get this ground-level job, but if you stink at it, I’m not going to be able to do anything for you. That still resonates with me today. That’s why when I try to talk to college kids or interns, I always want to try to be honest with them because somebody who said that to me in 1987 that I still remember, that means it really stuck with me. And I think it really does sum up this industry in a lot of ways.
Damon Amendolara: Why Does Tom Brady Want To Call Games?
“I was just always convinced Tom Brady had bigger fish to fry than calling Cowboys, Commanders on Thanksgiving.”
Tom Brady is headed to FOX. According to Damon Amendolara, there is no question who is getting the better end of that deal.
The network’s interest in Brady has been well-known for months. Still, CBS Sports Radio’s morning man cannot believe it is actually happening. He said Tuesday morning that he can’t understand why Brady would want to pursue a media career after his playign days end.
“I was just always convinced Tom Brady had bigger fish to fry than calling Cowboys, Commanders on Thanksgiving,” Amendolara said. “I just always felt like Brady’s post-playing career was going to be pushing nutrition, pushing TB12 brand, pushing his apparel brand and doing kind of elite media work.”
A media career for Tom Brady is something Amendolara said he assumed would happen off-camera. He pointed to the Religion of Sport production studio Brady co-owns as an example of what he would expect Brady to want to be involved in.
Broadcasters work more Sundays during the NFL season than players do. No matter how good the games are, Damon Amendolara said that it is a grind he could not believe Tom Brady was willing to sign up for.
“They’ll get the number one games, but you still gotta do 17 or 18 of them before you get to the playoffs and not every one of them is a sizzler.”
Ike Reese: ‘It’s Up To Us To Let Ray Didinger Stay Retired’
“I would imagine he’ll still watch a game still jotting down notes. There’s no way he’s gonna watch a game without doing his Ray Diddy thing.”
Ray Didinger is feeling a lot of love from his WIP colleagues after announcing his retirement on Sunday. He will still be on the station through the end of the month, but on Monday, nearly the entire full-time air staff of the radio station was paying tribute to him.
Jon Marks and Ike Reese took time out of their afternoon drive show on Monday to replay Didinger’s announcement. Marks said that it was “as thoughtful as everything that he does.” He doesn’t doubt that Didinger is at peace with the decision.
Reese joked that it was good to hear PD Rod Lakin was not responsible for this. He also said that he was happy to hear that this was not a health-related retirement. According to the former Eagles linebacker though, that means it would be really easy for Didinger to want to abandon his plans if given the chance.
“We obviously know how much Ray Didinger means to us. And this WIP family, just like the Comcast Sports family I’m sure, is important to him,” Ike Reese said. “I’d imagine he would have a tough time saying no. That is why you leave it up to us to don’t bother him. Don’t put him in that position. Let him enjoy retirement.”
He knows that it will be hard for Didinger to not stay ready for a media appearance diuring the football season.
“I would imagine he’ll still watch a game still jotting down notes. There’s no way he’s gonna watch a game without doing his Ray Diddy thing.”
Both Marks and Reese said they hope that they would not hear from Didinger until at least the 2023 Eagles season and that Ray and his wife use that time to fully enjoy their new freedom.
Jon Marks reminded everyone that Ray Didinger is still an author with products to sell. If they really miss him, they can always go to a book signing.
Mat Smith and Nate Jackson: ESPN Anger Over Nikola Jokic MVP ‘Is Garbage’
“He’s not as sexy as these other guys. But he does deserve the MVP, and shame on these guys to make it about them and their choices and their votes.”
Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic has won the NBA MVP award for the second consecutive season. Jokic secured the award ahead of Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid.
ESPN NBA analysts Brian Windhorst and Tim Legler got the attention of Mat Smith and Nate Jackson on 104.3 The Fan in Denver Monday. Both Legler and Windhorst felt like Embiid was the MVP and sounded downright offended that he was not named the winner.
Legler said Embiid carried the Sixers and had a firm grip on the award from early February through the end of the regular season.
But Smith, who was filling in for Chad Brown on Monday, argued that the same things could be said for Jokic, adding that Jokic did more with less star power on the Nuggets roster. He didn’t understand how Embiid was Legler’s clear choice over Jokic.
“There’s so many different reasons why that specifically is garbage from Legler,” Smith said.
Jackson said Jokic is the Rodney Dangerfield of NBA players and made the point that it’s a continuation of a trend. For what ever reason, the national media overlooks the 27-year-old Serbian superstar.
“They don’t pay attention to it, they’re quick to write off this guy because they don’t appreciate his style of play,” he said. “He’s not as sexy as these other guys. But he does deserve the MVP, and shame on these guys to make it about them and their choices and their votes.”
Windhorst explained he went with Embiid based on what advanced statistics were saying. Smith said Windhorst basically laid out why Jokic was most deserving of MVP.
“He just gave every reason why Jokic should win and said, ‘Well I voted for Embiid, and I’m not taking it back,'” Smith said. He added that it was puzzling why so many voters were against Jokic. “These guys don’t like Joker. He’s not likable nationally, and why that is I’m not sure.”