On the football field and in the sports media landscape, changes have occurred since Kordell Stewart roamed the sidelines. A new archetype – the mobile quarterback – has been created, showcasing the style of many young stars in the league today, such as Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes, and Josh Allen.
The mobile quarterback, however, was not readily accepted in the mid-90s when Stewart entered the league. Stewart was drafted in the second round by the Pittsburgh Steelers as the 60th-overall pick after a successful college career at the University of Colorado. Stewart always wanted to be a full-time quarterback in the NFL but had plenty of people and entities doubting him, making it difficult for him to win the starting job.
Entering the 1997 season though, the Steelers moved on from Mike Tomczak as the starting quarterback and gave the role to Stewart, allowing him to fully display his talents on the field regularly for the first time.
“The media has their way of creating narratives – ones that fit their narrative,” Stewart said. “It’s not the narrative, but it’s their narrative and causes the followers to buy into that narrative.”
Stewart was quickly referred to as “Slash,” a nickname given to him by the team’s color commentator Myron Cope. The name referred to the slash punctuation mark (“/”) placed between the different positions he could play (quarterback/wide receiver/running back) and highlighted his unique and extraordinary versatility on the gridiron.
His talent on the field helped the Steelers reach both the AFC Championship Game in 1997 and allowed them to return to it in 2001. Stewart was a Pro Bowl selection in that 2001 season, posting 3,109 passing yards and 14 passing touchdowns along with 537 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns en route to a 13-3 overall record.
“I like to look at [it] as saying that I’ve been blessed with a tremendous amount of talent,” Stewart explained. “I don’t want to be, if you will, suppressed in how I move [or] think because of someone else’s inability to identify all in which I can do on the field and even in the media. You have to have that someone who has confidence in you to give you that chance on their platform or [have] it in yourself.”
Stewart put that versatility on display in the world of sports media when he began appearing across ESPN programming in 2009 on shows such as First Take, NFL Live, College Football Live and Mike and Mike in the Morning. Additionally, Stewart worked as a sideline reporter for the network’s coverage of the United Football League airing on the then-Versus Network, interviewing athletes, coaches and other personnel throughout the game and working alongside Doug Flutie, Anita Marks and Dave Sims.
By October 2012 though, Stewart made the move to 92.9 The Game in Atlanta to host GameTime, an afternoon drive show with Carl Dukes. He remained with the station for 19 months, amicably leaving in May 2014, but learned a considerable amount of what it took to be a radio host during that time.
Working for Terry Foxx, the station’s program director, who is now the director of program and audience at 90.9 KUT in Austin, a considerable differentiator of the program was in Stewart’s perspectives and opinions as a former professional football player, and the ethos it garnered.
“Transparency was always my thing and still is,” Stewart said. “You give [the listeners] the inside scoop – your experience – which I think they have a tendency to like a lot. It’s not like you’re just talking; it’s connecting them to a moment that maybe they can remember [or] they can research.”
Being succinct in the points you make as a host was another aspect of the job that Stewart learned from Foxx, largely due to the preponderance of listeners tuning in from behind the wheel of their cars. Obviously since Stewart’s move out of radio, the landscape of audio consumption has considerably shifted towards digitally-based platforms, including on-demand listening and podcasting; however, the same principles apply when trying to keep listeners engaged, especially with the amount of choices readily available to them.
Nonetheless, the concept of utilizing resets, albeit trite in essence, remains a fundamental part of attracting and retaining listeners when imbued with cognizant and concise dialogue.
“It’s kind of like rebooting the system when having the conversation within 30 seconds on speaking about something,” Stewart said. “It’s a technique. It’s not easy, but you have to put yourself in the listener’s position. If you can do that, then you can do some good radio and good podcasting without having to look at the replay of the show.”
The nature of that dialogue for radio programs, according to Stewart, cannot be too recondite in scope, for it is imperative that you tailor the extent in which you discuss something to the general acuity and intellect of the audience. Being aware of his audience as early as his days on the gridiron, Stewart has found ways to both connect and relate to them from the perspective of a former starting NFL quarterback, and it has led him towards opportunities and success across multiple broadcast platforms.
“To be able to not just play the game but to articulate it and give it to a fan base that’s willing and eager to get the inside scoop about the game and just [what] sports in general is about and what it takes per se to be a professional… was what I liked and loved to do,” Stewart said. “It became really easy to transition from playing the game to actually doing commentary.”
Stewart made the transition towards digital when he departed 92.9 The Game to join TuneIn, an internet radio platform accessible to listeners on mobile devices, computers, and on other technologies. Joined by Brian Webber, Stewart co-hosted the weekday program NFL No Huddle from 4 to 7 p.m. to discuss sports and entertainment. Just over a year after the show’s 2015 debut, the show added a podcast to its weekly content, allowing it to reach a broader audience and adapt to the digital age.
It was also during this time when Stewart took two summer classes at the University of Colorado to finish earning his communications degree, which he had started in the ‘90s before joining the NFL but came up three credits short. He was motivated to complete his degree to set an example for his son and also make his late-father proud. While returning to study at the university, he was able to broadcast his show remotely from the college campus.
With his communications degree in hand and experience working in both terrestrial and internet radio, Stewart was approached by the Bleav content network to take his talents to the podcasting space. The network, which was founded by Bron Heussenstamm, has sought to produce premium content for all types of sports fans. It has shows for each NFL and college football team with a host and at least one former player, along with those that cover the game at large including Stewart’s podcast titled On The Edge with Slash.
The platform also has shows pertaining to Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League among other sports entities and produces over 1,000 hours of new content per month. This content is distributed both on Bleav’s platforms, along with SiriusXM, SportsMap Radio, and TuneIn, giving it the potential to find large groups of listeners and a chance to continue to expand.
“All of the parties that are connected in some capacity have a chance to be a part of it,” expressed Stewart. “You end up finding yourself being able to have some fun with it and know that you just want to be mindful that everyone’s listening.”
Stewart officially joined Bleav last month and described his podcast as one that will be “tough but fair” keeping with his belief in transparency. Being “on the edge” describes the trajectory of his career, according to Stewart, largely due to his desire to become a quarterback after initially joining the Steelers out of the draft and playing largely as a wide receiver. Now, he hopes to apply that same mindset in order to craft a podcast sound that stands out among the multitude of others available to consumers today.
“When I say ‘tough but fair,’ I’m going to apply it in a way that’s not going to be so diplomatic and politically-correct if you will in following the narrative of what everyone is talking about,” Stewart said. “I’m going to talk about the truth of what it is I see; what I think is fair or not fair; good or not good, and I don’t care who it is.”
Stewart hosts the podcast with Joe Ceraulo and together, the duo seeks to improve the show with each new episode. Moving from working in radio to podcasting, many of the same principles apply and Stewart does not recognize there to be too many differences between either medium.
Yet podcasts are continuing to gain more popularity in terms of aural content and can reach more people than terrestrial radio, even though many stations are now producing original podcasts and/or putting full-length shows or smaller segments on-demand as podcasts.
“Radio was the wave at one time [but you had to] make sure you have enough towers in the air so you get enough reception so it can go as far as it can go with enough satellites,” Stewart said. “[With] podcasting, I can reach anywhere…. Podcasting is the new wave now – it’s the hot ticket today – but radio will always exist; I don’t think it will ever leave.”
In addition to his regular podcast, Stewart recently joined a new sports betting podcast with Ceraulo and sports handicapper Brandon Lang titled Bleav Me. The movement of sports betting into sports media has been quite pronounced in the last year, not only because of the legalization of sports betting in certain states around the country, but also because of genuine fan interest in it and the new revenue streams created from various sportsbooks.
Now, the implementation of sports betting into all types of programming, whether it be studio shows or live game broadcasts, and also the creation of new programming with it as the central topic, is becoming something more commonplace by the day.
“It’s truly a joy to have a chance to be in this space because… this is the lay of the land now when it comes down to how this thing is created and made,” Stewart said of his move into podcasting. “….It’s fun. It gets you back out there in a different way and more of a modern way because not everyone can catch you on television but a lot of people can actually catch you through the media outlets to give you an opportunity to be heard.”
Bleav describes itself as an omnichannel content network for professionals and produces sports and entertainment content in the form of podcasts and other original programming. Stewart believes the platform is set up well for sustained success because of the talent it has brought on to produce compelling and appealing multiplatform content distributed to various outlets.
“If you give [the audience] good quality content that they can utilize in this space of podcasting and television if you will or live streaming, then the Bleav network is believable,” Stewart affirmed. “….I believe in the opportunity that they’ve given me and the platform that they’ve given me, and it’s my opportunity to show my style, who I am on the networks and give them as much as I can so those who are listening can believe me and believe in what I’m doing.”
Many athletes have moved into the sports media space over the years, and there are plenty of recent examples of athletes who have started in the industry while still remaining active players. According to Stewart, it takes believing in oneself to enter into the space and remaining true to your own experiences and opinions within the various mediated communication platforms.
Yet it is essential to remember that many fans want to continue to hear from their favorite players, especially when they retire, and working in media is one way for athletes to do that and preserve the connection to those fans.
“Back in the day it used to be about the helmet and not who the person was,” Stewart said. “….Now there’s a human element in this space because there’s more athletes getting involved with television, radio and podcasting. If [they] can believe in what they know and know what they believe in and give it to the audience, [fans] are going to love that player that they once loved.”
For Kordell Stewart, his journey in sports media is far from over as he seeks to grow his new podcasts with Bleav. Being able to genuinely be himself by discussing his career and displaying his versatility in media is his way of continuing to live up to his nickname “Slash,” as he uses his past experiences and exudes his passion for football to position himself to become a compelling listen to new consumers and expand his reach.
At the same time, he serves as a source of inspiration to the next generation of athletes and media professionals finding ways to amalgamate their talents in whatever endeavors they seek out – even if they are told by others to just stick to what they are best at.
“Sometimes when I’m out here working, those who are the bosses sometimes like for people to do what it is that they’re good at to allow that void or that space to be solidified so they can create more spaces,” Stewart said. “In my mind when I really think of it, it’s almost like they say ‘A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.’ If you can do more – the more, the merrier…. You don’t want to minimize yourself.”
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, Derek serves as a production manager, broadcaster, voiceover artist, technical director, audiovisual editor, and media engineer for Hofstra University’s WRHU. He has also worked on New York Islanders radio broadcasts. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @DerekFutterman.
790 The Ticket Was Something Special And Stugotz Knows It
“I had programmers calling me saying this is the best local lineup that they’ve ever seen, that they’ve ever heard.”
When I was making the transition from the rock world to talk radio, there was one show I looked at as a guide. I got laid off from 96 Rock in Raleigh, NC in the summer of 2011. That was the beginning of my flirtations with streaming and podcasts, which is how I stumbled onto The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on 790 The Ticket out of Miami.
Coming from a format that I felt out of place in at times, I instantly latched onto a show that reveled in pointing out how out of place it was in its own format. It became a daily listen for me, which opened me up to hearing other voices on the station like Jonathan Zaslow, Joy Taylor, Brian London, Brendan Tobin, Brett Romberg and others.
There were unique thinkers and passionate sports fans in every day part on 790 The Ticket. What set the station apart though is that I never heard anyone that sounded uncomfortable when the conversation turned to something that wasn’t a Dolphins’ loss or LeBron’s stat line. They talked sports the way normal human beings talk about sports. It was part of their lives, not the only thing they paid attention to.
Look at the outpouring of love for the station on Thursday. Hosts, producers and programmers from across the country took to social media to eulogize the station when the news broke that it would cease to exist the following week.
I can’t say for sure that all of those people felt the same way I did about the station and I cannot say whether or not it was for the same reasons. What I can say is 790 The Ticket had an influence that stretched far beyond South Florida.
Jon Weiner, better known as “Stugotz” to fans of the The Dan Le Batard Show, helped start the station in 2004. He told me that it didn’t take long for him to learn just how much The Ticket’s approach was making an impression on everyone in sports radio.
“I had programmers calling me saying this is the best local lineup that they’ve ever seen or heard,” he said in a phone call on Sunday. “I had people from out of market who had secure jobs at places that weren’t startups sending resumes and tapes because they wanted to be part of it. So yeah, we were aware and it is what we were going for. We got there pretty quickly and we were aware of the impact, not just in South Florida, but throughout the country.”
Last week, Brian “The Beast” London said his internal alarm bells first went off when he heard the Miami Heat were giving up their relationship with 790 the Ticket. The station and the team had been partners since 2008. He said in a YouTube video that it was hard to imagine the team’s games being heard anywhere else.
I asked Stugotz if he had the same feeling when he heard that news. He said in hindsight, he realized it was the beginning of the end, but he didn’t really get a sense something was up until Jonathan Zaslow was let go.
“[Zaslow] had been there since basically day one with us. And so I just kind of figured, yeah, between the Heat and then that I felt, okay, you don’t make a move like that unless there’s going to be some sort of seismic change. Otherwise, there’d be no reason to let him go. That was the moment I was like ‘okay, 790 is likely going away.'”
His feelings are no secret. He took to social media immediately on Thursday and said that the news that 790 The Ticket would soon be going away filled him with both sadness and pride. What Stugotz told me in our phone call was that he realizes that the station lasted about 15 years longer than it should have.
When the station was sold to Lincoln Financial Media, he was not expecting that company to want to keep a sports station. Senior Vice President Dennis Collins surprised him.
“The company saw so much potential in what we had built, both from a lineup and a sales perspective that they kept it going and that’s why it lasted all the way to 2022. We got it up and going and were responsible for the first three or four years, but Dennis saw the growth potential with the lineup we put together. That made me feel great because I had a pit in my stomach like ‘Oh, man, this thing we started is going to go away. It’s going to be three, four years and gone.’ And he said, ‘No, we love it. We want to keep it going’. So that was a huge compliment to everyone.”
Stugotz described the original owner of 790 The Ticket as a “young, good looking real estate mogul driving around in Lamborghinis.” That certainly helped the image of the station when it launched, but it is also a phenomenon that was very of the moment. It’s not 2004 anymore. Lamborghini-owning real estate moguls aren’t chomping at the bit to pour money into radio stations.
The conditions may be similar to what Stugotz and his partners saw in 2004. You could look at the radio landscape in Miami and see a way that a new challenger could fit in the sports radio scene. But what are the chances it actually happens?
“It’s a great question,” Stugotz said. “So just to go back to that time, two sports radio stations were popping up in every market. I’m not certain if that’s still the case anymore just because of podcasting and the way the way younger people are consuming media through Tik Tok, Snapchat, and other things that aren’t AM radio.”
He is quick to commend Audacy, the current owners of the 790 AM frequency. Dan Le Batard and Jorge Sedano were part of his early lineups at 790 The Ticket because Stugotz recognized the Cuban-American community in Miami was not being served in the sports space in 2004, just like it isn’t being properly served in the news/talk space right now. That’s why there’s room for the conservative-leaning brand Radio Libre in Miami and other markets are likely paying attention.
“It seems like a good plan, and I know it’s something that the Spanish population should have and deserves to have and probably was not being catered to correctly. So, yeah, I could see there’s a warning sign to some other sports radio stations or news stations in other markets where the Hispanic population is great. Absolutely!”
It is a shame that 790 The Ticket is no more and it is concerning that a station with its legacy and influence can simply disappear. But if we are being real, it isn’t the first station of its kind to suffer that fate and it won’t be the last.
As the media business changes and leaves sports stations vulnerable to something cheaper and with broader appeal, 790 The Ticket and stations like it should be touted as examples of how to rise above the noise and make an impact. Stugotz and his partners looked around in 2004 and said “we can be different and we can do this better” and that’s exactly what they did.
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.
Chris Simms And His Self-Professed ‘Big Mouth’ Enjoying Life At NBC
“One of the things that I worried about was that I came from Bleacher Report and is NBC going to try to curtail my personality a little bit…sometimes I like to swear on my podcast and do stuff like that and they’ve really allowed me to be me which I really appreciate.”
To be a good football analyst, one certainly has to know and love the sport but you also can’t be afraid to use the most important tool that you have to do the job. Chris Simms has all of those attributes and NBC lets him use them to the best of his abilities.
“I love football and I love X’s and O’s and I got a big mouth so it’s a great combination,” said Simms. “Between my podcast, Pro Football Talk with Mike Florio, and Sunday Night Football, I get plenty of time to talk and get my studies out there.”
There’s no doubt that Chris inherited that self-professed big mouth from his father, former NFL quarterback and longtime NFL on CBS analyst, Phil Simms.
So, the question had to be asked…does Chris have a bigger mouth than his father?
“Yeah, I probably do,” admitted the younger Simms. “That’s a big mouth to overcome, but I think I probably got him beat in that department.”
Chris Simms set out to follow in his father’s footsteps on the field and played quarterback for Ramapo High School in New Jersey where he earned a pair of All-State honors. After graduating high school in 1999, Simms moved on to play quarterback at the University of Texas where he posted a 26-6 career record as a starter and was the team MVP during his senior season in 2002.
Simms was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the third round of the 2002 NFL Draft and he would guide the Bucs to a playoff berth in 2005. He would also go on to play for the Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos completing a seven-year NFL playing career. He spent one season as an assistant coach with the New England Patriots before taking his talents to the world of broadcasting.
He started with FOX Sports as a college football announcer in 2013 and then joined Bleacher Report in 2014 while also serving as a color commentator for the NFL on CBS.
And then in 2017, Simms joined NBC Sports where he has certainly found a home.
“I couldn’t be happier,” said Simms. “It’s a great company to work for. Just good people all around. They’ve given me the platform to be me. One of the things that I worried about was that I came from Bleacher Report and is NBC going to try to curtail my personality a little bit…sometimes I like to swear on my podcast and do stuff like that and they’ve really allowed me to be me which I really appreciate.”
Simms wears many different suits at NBC Sports, most notably his role as a studio analyst on Football Night in America leading into Sunday Night Football. He’s also a part of the SNF post-game show Sunday Night Football Final on Peacock, Pro Football Talk with Mike Florio, and Chris Simms Unbuttoned, a streaming/digital show that is also a podcast multiple days a week.
But the most eyeballs are on him during Football Night in America, the most watched studio show in sports.
“I grew up wanting to play in these games more than be the guy in the studio but this is like the second-best thing,” said Simms. “I was kind of that kid at 4 or 5 (years old) who could tell you every player in the NFL, their number and all that type of stuff. It’s the NFL on the biggest stage. It’s such a well-done show. I get to be there with Maria Taylor along with Tony Dungy, and Jason Garrett, and Mike Florio, and Matthew Berry. We got a great team and it makes Sunday fun.”
From the “it takes one to know one” category, Simms has also made a name for himself with his ranking of NFL quarterbacks. He’s very diligent when it comes to watching the live action and also in his film study and his top-40 rankings have become a hot topic within the business and around the office coolers.
Simms is well aware that his rankings have become a lightning rod of discussion.
“It all kind of started organically just because I would make statements,” said Simms. “People were like ‘Why don’t you start making a list?’ It’s a really hard thing to do. It offends a lot of people and I hate that. I root for all of these guys and I say on my podcast all the time I hope this guy proves me wrong. I hope he shits on me and shows me that I was wrong. It’s certainly not personal. One of the things I pride myself on is studying and immersing myself in the game all of the time.”
Simms became a full-time employee of NBC Sports in 2019, but his first role with the network came in 2017 when he became a studio analyst for Notre Dame Football.
Here’s a kid that grew up in North Jersey where there’s a ton of Notre Dame alumni and he’s standing on the sidelines at South Bend as part of Fighting Irish telecasts.
“Another special entity,” said Simms. “I used to get chills being out on the field every Saturday there. It gave me great experience in a different way with the halftime show and the pre-game show. One of the years I was kind of the third man in the booth but I was on the sideline. It gave me some reps on in-game stuff as well. I think most importantly what that did for me more than anything is that it opened up more eyes at NBC about me.”
And now Simms’ work has him in the discussion for a new potential opportunity down the road.
NBC, alongside FOX and CBS, has secured a seven-year media rights deal with the Big Ten Conference that will commence next season. NBC will air Big Ten Saturday Night, the first time that Big Ten Football will have a dedicated primetime broadcast on a national broadcast network. Peacock will stream an additional eight Big Ten games each season and NBC/Peacock will air the 2026 Big Ten Championship Game.
There have been rumblings that Simms could be involved in the coverage. Is he interested?
“I’m intrigued by it,” admitted Simms. “I’m very all NFL right now but broadcasting game is fun. It’s definitely something on my radar for sure. I do have some producers here in the building that are like ‘I’m going to tell the boss I want you to do some of the Big 10 games this year and what do you think about announcing?’ I’ve already had some people in my ear talking about it. It’s awesome for the company regardless. It just expands our football world. As far as me being involved, we’ll see.”
In a relatively short amount of time, Chris Simms has built up quite the broadcasting portfolio. From FOX to Bleacher Report and CBS to his current expanded role with NBC, Simms has established himself as one of the premier NFL analysts in the business and his podcast has given him the freedom to do something that he loves to do. Including putting his money where his mouth is.
Peter Schwartz has been involved in New York sports media for over three decades. Along the way he has worked for notable brands such as WFAN, CBS Sports Radio, WCBS 880, ESPN New York, and FOX News Radio. He has also worked as a play by play announcer for the New Yok Riptide, New York Dragons, New York Hitmen, Varsity Media and the Long Island Sports Network. You can find him on Twitter @SchwartzSports or email him at DragonsRadio@aol.com.
The Pat McAfee Alternate Broadcast Presents Unique Challenges
Alternate broadcasts are all the rage these days, and ESPN, in conjunction with Omaha Productions, debuted a new one this weekend as The Pat McAfee Show aired an alternate broadcast of the Clemson and North Carolina State game Saturday evening.
A few weeks ago, I wrote that Manningcast copy-cats were destined for failure. And while I don’t believe McAfee’s debut was a failure by any stretch of the imagination, I couldn’t help but notice it brings its own set of challenges.
First and foremost, College Football Primetime with The Pat McAfee Show — the world’s most convoluted way to say “The McAfeecast” — doesn’t really resemble the Manningcast. And rightfully so. I’m not sure there are two more polar opposite sports media brands than the Mannings and McAfee. The Mannings are funny, but not too funny and never “blue”, while often concerned about how finely quaffed their hair looks and whether the button-down shirt color matches with the Nordstrom quarter-zip they’ve donned. Meanwhile, McAfee wears his black tank-top, like usual, and put his best Pittsburgh-ese foot forward.
Even though the Mannings and McAfee are opposites doesn’t mean they can’t work together, however. The alternate broadcast was a win for Manning, a win for McAfee, a win for ESPN, and a win for viewers.
People love Pat McAfee. Plain and simple. For a multitude of reasons that we can get into in a later story, but let’s focus on that for a moment. It was a big portion of my column a few weeks ago. The Manningcast works because people like Peyton and Eli. The KayRodcast doesn’t work because people hate Michael Kay and Alex Rodriguez. It’s honestly, truly, that simple.
I think it benefitted the McAfeecast to debut with a smaller game, which seems counterintuitive because it was a matchup of top ten teams in primetime. But let’s be realistic, a number five versus number ten ACC game doesn’t hold the same weight as a number five versus number ten Big Ten or SEC game. And it helped McAfee and crew, because there are obvious kinks to work out.
Firstly, there are entirely too many people on the screen. I’m going to have nice words to say about BostonConnr than the eight-and-a-half-year-old that went viral earlier this summer, but god love ya, your time to shine likely isn’t on primetime on ESPN. In my opinion, for the McAfeecast to really work in the future, a similar setup to the Manningcast with McAfee and A.J. Hawk being the prominent figures on screen is the best solution to the problem. I know McAfee believes in his boys. It’s one of his more endearing qualities, and is frankly part of the reason his show is so successful. But you’re reaching a different audience on ESPN2 on Saturday nights, and the reason the either tuned in or will stay is because of McAfee’s presence.
I didn’t get a great feel for McAfee’s thoughts or reactions on the game simply because you didn’t get a closeup of his face. The best moments of the Manningcast, outside of Eli flipping the double birds or Peyton saying “I can’t hear shit”, have been when the pair have been absolutely disgusted by a decision made by a coach or player and their face shows it without any words following up their reactions. And McAfee definitely holds that ability, and I wish I would have gotten a better sense of his facial reactions on-screen.
Also, and I know this is something McAfee can’t actually control, he had to be a bit more reserved on cable television. Part of the allure of The Pat McAfee Show is the — let’s call it extreme candor — with which he speaks. I believe that’s the scholarly way to write “he says f*** frequently”. And believe me, I subscribe to the theory that the FCC should allow hosts the ability to say obscenities 15 times per week, so I’m down for McAfee’s swearing. But you’re just simply never going to get that on ESPN2. You’re likely never going to get that if the broadcast aired on ESPN+, either. For a “family friendly” company Disney, those cards are just flat out never going to be on the table for McAfee.
One of the things McAfee is known for is his boundless energy, which felt lacking at times on Saturday, but it’s understandable. The man was on College GameDay earlier in the day, flew back to the studio to do the alternate broadcast after travelling the day before to get to Clemson to be on GameDay. I’m sure that takes a toll. On top of that, you’re doing something new for the first time, while trying to, essentially, heard cats on the screen, and you can be a little wiped out by the end of the night.
However, the goodwill McAfee has bought with fans over his extreme generosity was on display as the alternate broadcast donated more than $100,000 to Dabo Swinney’s charity, The Jimmy V Foundation, and the American Red Cross. It was a brilliant move for a debut broadcast, because it acts as a slight shield for criticism. How can you complain about something that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity?
The alternate broadcast, for the most part, avoided the biggest problem I have with the Manningcast. The interviews. I’ve never been watching Monday Night Football, or the Manningcast for that matter, and thought “Man, I wish they were talking to Tracy Morgan right now!” McAfee brought on Peyton Manning, for obvious reasons, and former NC State quarterback Phillip Rivers. That’s it. They didn’t rely on guests to carry them through down periods. The eight folks on screen did most of the heavy lifting, and for that, I thank them.
The McAfeecast was certainly different than any other alternate broadcast I’ve consumed. The crew shooting hoops for extra donations to charity during stoppages of play definitely kept things light and interesting. I couldn’t help but be invested in whether or not someone would bury three out of five threes during an injury timeout for more money for charity.
Speaking of injury timeouts, McAfee planned a giveaway and told fans to use a certain hashtag and when to screenshot or take a picture of their TV. Immediately following him saying “now!”, an injured player appeared on the screen, and he instantly shouted “No! Not now! No! We don’t want that, and we hope he’s ok”. It was a light-hearted, nearly hilarious moment that brought levity to the situation.
The highlight of the cast, however, was — in true McAfee style — picking up on things other broadcasters wouldn’t, like an angry fan. The entire crew shouting at the same time in this specific moment was spectacular television.
Overall, I thought the McAfeecast got off on the right foot. There is undeniably a market for an alternate broadcast based around the former NFL punter’s personality, and I look forward to seeing where the show goes from here.
Garrett Searight is the Editor of Barrett Sports Media and Barrett News Media. He previously was the Program Director and Afternoon Co-Host on 93.1 The Fan in Lima, OH. He is also a play-by-play announcer for TV and Radio broadcasts in Western Ohio.