Connect with us
blank

BSM Writers

For Sandy Clough, Retirement Is Just The Beginning

“The best thing for me in radio and in talk radio was working with a person I connected to,” Clough said.

Avatar photo

Published

on

blank

One of Denver’s most notable pundits, Sandy Clough, grew up in the suburbs of Westchester County on the sounds of the aggressive, often-combative talk shows taking place just south in “The Big Apple.” 40 years later, he is stepping away from the microphone moving towards a new chapter of his life and grateful for what the industry has bestowed upon him: a chance to be heard and express his nascent infatuation with sports.

Clough remembers being in his bedroom late at night when he was younger – the moon shining brightly outside as the nighttime hours ran their course. By the looks of his room, everything would appear to be normal – but appearances sometimes misrepresent reality. Akin to how a child hides a recently-lost baby tooth under their pillow with the hopes of finding money the next morning, Clough had a transistor radio concealed with the faint yet energetic sounds of sporting events. Whether it was the Mets, Yankees, Knicks. or Rangers, he would absorb the atmosphere and the game itself while the broadcasters painted a picture of the setting through their linguistic command and technical cognizance.

Beyond that, he was captivated by radio as a medium and its ability to transmit the mellifluous sounds of competition, debate and news to listeners by means of an AM or FM signal. He wanted to be a part of it by moving to the other side of the speaker, serving as a source of intrigue and imagination for listeners; their investment in sports notwithstanding.

“I was always attracted to sports,” Clough said. “….I just was captivated by it and really as much by radio as by sports. I’m one of the luckiest people around in that I got to pursue, as a career, something that melded the two.”

As a native New Yorker, Clough had primarily been exposed to the sound of local radio in the 1970s – a time before the launch of WFAN, the first-ever radio station to solely adopt the sports talk format. That is not to say the landscape was bereft of programming discussing sports before that; however, they were not on stations with that focus for the entirety of the day. Even outside of the realm of sports talk though, there was a certain sound indicative of New York City that resonated with Clough and served as the early foundation of his distinctive style.

“I’m an introvert in my personal life, but on the air I really like to perform,” Clough said. “I’ve always tried to be honest and fair but I had some incredible models growing up – both play-by-play broadcasters and talk show hosts.”

In 1979, Clough accepted a full-time radio job in Denver, with KOA 850 AM, a news radio outlet serving as the flagship station of the National Football League’s Denver Broncos. While there, he was the producer of what he refers to as “the best talk show” he has ever heard called Sports from A-to-Z, featuring play-by-play announcer Al Albert and sports anchor Ron Zappolo. Both Albert and Zappolo served as integral mentors for Clough as he sought to make a name for himself in the industry and offered him different perspectives regarding hosting.

“It gave me a chance to find out right away what the business was about and about the nitty-gritty details,” Clough said. “….Their passion rubbed off on me; their preparation rubbed off on me; their personalities rubbed off on me…. They were great people; I loved producing for them and I could have done that forever.”

The staff at KOA 850 AM was largely made up of play-by-play announcers, meaning that many of them were often on the road simultaneously. At 22 years old, he was placed on the air on various different talk shows for the purposes of lack of availability or interest and was willing to do anything it took to cement himself as a part of the industry. Clough was the regular host of Bronco Talk, an hour-and-a-half show following Denver Broncos games in which he would deliver a monologue about the action and then take calls from fans.

This came at the cusp of the debut of Broncos quarterback John Elway and the development of the team into a perennial contender, giving fans a voice with which they could celebrate wins or lament about losses – on a few conditions.

“Many people who [listened] to me didn’t think I was celebrating or consoling much of anyone,” Clough said. “It was a lot of fun to go back and forth with callers, and all I asked was that they not misrepresent what I had said and [that] they have their facts right… and if they were wrong to acknowledge, ‘I was wrong on the facts,’ or ‘I’m sorry I misrepresented what you said.’”

Across town, Carl Scheer had crafted the nearby Denver Nuggets franchise, then-part of the American Basketball Association, into a 65-win team in the 1974-75 season. Once Clough began taking the air and talking about Denver’s sports teams, Scheer took a liking to his hosting style as it was something not previously heard.

Additionally, Clough made it a point to attend sporting events around the city of Denver to interact with players, coaches and other team personnel, along with the fans to give him a better understanding of his audience. Even when he was working as the color commentator during home games for the National Hockey League’s Colorado Rockies in the year prior to the team’s move and subsequent rebrand as the New Jersey Devils, Clough still found a way to attend at least 30 of the team’s 41 regular season home games.

Another reason he traveled beyond the studio walls was to truly gain an understanding of why teams won and lost games, as it better informed his preparation and parlance while working. Additionally, it allowed people he had discussed or critiqued on the air to have a chance to respond to him face-to-face, just as Albert and Zappolo had taught him. In this, his credibility in the marketplace was built and a sense of respect was garnered towards him among his peers.

“There were a number of… people along the way – coaches; players; front office people; owners even – who gave me the benefit of their wisdom,” Clough said. “It didn’t mean I didn’t ever criticize them because I did, but I never criticized anyone or praised anyone based on whether I liked them personally or not.”

In 1990, Clough moved to KYBG-AM, a small sports radio station owned by Century Broadcasting at which he continued to cover sports in the Denver area. Upon the federal adoption of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 — most notably the clause removing limits on the number of national AM/FM stations an entity could own — smaller stations were bought out. Because of this, employees were often put out of a job especially if the station switched formats. The cross-ownership of media and ability for anyone to have a stake in communications was now encouraged, harming the existence of independent stations akin to KYBG-AM.

After a short time out of work and cultivation of fanbases for two new teams – Major League Baseball’s Colorado Rockies and the National Hockey League’s Colorado Avalanche – Clough joined KFFN. The station was widely known as 950 AM The Fan until the station’s change to the 104.3 FM frequency about a decade later.

Over his 25-and-a-half years with the station, Clough has been adroit in his ability to connect with an audience – regardless of whether he was hosting the show solo or with partner(s). Some of those partners have included Scott Hastings, Brandon Stokley, Orlando Franklin and, most recently, Shawn Drotar on their weekday nighttime show Sandy and Shawn.

“The best thing for me in radio and in talk radio was working with a person I connected to,” Clough said. “[When] there was a chemistry from the beginning, that was the best. The worst is working with someone, not necessarily someone you personally dislike, but someone with whom you have no chemistry and nothing really clicks.”

Clough’s preparation for each show, whether or not he was hosting solo, was to expect no callers and to have three hours to fill by himself. By preparing in this way, Clough was always ready to talk about storylines that extended far beyond the superficial nature of a sporting event and made sure to come across as more erudite than sciolistic to his audience. While the situation never unfolded, there were many times on the air where the preparation benefited him and allowed him to be an engaging and informative source of entertainment regardless of which daypart he was hosting in, all of which he has vast experience in much like his broadcast idol Allen Berg.

“Allen did shows early in the day [and] late in the day,” Clough explained. “He could do straight, hard interviews as well as anybody. When he was on at night, he was more free-wheeling [and] that made sense to me [because] at night, you’re dealing with more of the hard-core sports fans. Early in the day and really maybe up until drive time in the afternoon, you’re dealing with fans that are a little more casual.”

The nature of audience interaction in talk radio has changed as consumption habits and technology have evolved. As a result, there has been an alteration in the fundamental structure of a radio program in which fewer listeners call in to offer their opinions but still engaging with the show.

“As time has gone on in talk radio, we’re less and less reliant on phone calls and more on texts, for example, in communicating directly with the audience,” Clough stated. “The shows are much more guest-oriented now.”

One thing Clough never became invested in over his career though was the use of social media platforms. He has no social media accounts of his own and, during his career, relied on connecting with the audience in more traditional ways while being open to progressions elsewhere.

“I saw too many friends get into trouble and lose their jobs – even lose their careers – because of what had happened on social media,” Clough explained. “….I just thought the risk far outweighed the benefits. I didn’t like the vibe I got from social media; not all of the time but much of the time. If I can’t communicate over the course of three hours clearly and effectively, then I shouldn’t be in radio. I don’t need to be on social media telling people what I had for breakfast. Nobody cares about me that much.”

Maintaining a strong sense of objectivity is an essential aspect of journalists’ ability to provide unbiased coverage towards the teams they cover. Being able to identify professional obligations over personal rooting interests meant that rather than rooting for any specific team, it is better to root for good stories and topics that would stimulate conversation that would appeal to the audience.

“I admired and respected individuals but I never rooted for or against teams,” Clough said. “I know this sounds pollyannaish but I rooted for good stories. The two greatest stories in sports are ‘Big guy wins’ and ‘Big guy loses.’ The only thing I didn’t enjoy as much was mediocrity; just being average. Either be very good or very bad.”

Nonetheless, there were times throughout his career where Clough believes he moved beyond simply having a professional relationship, threatening his ability to legitimately maintain his objectivity.

“I don’t think it affected my commentary [or] made it any less unvarnished [and] I don’t believe I ever pulled any punches, but I got too close to a few people,” he said. “Even subconsciously if that had an effect and at times maybe it did, I have to concede that point. I’m a human being; if I’m treated well, I will treat the other person well in turn. I always tried to keep my relationships respectful and friendly as it relates to having open lines of communication but… I always tried to maintain a certain distance.”

104.3 The Fan, which is now owned and operated by Bonneville International, is currently led by Program Director Raj Sharan who has worked at the station in some capacity since 2016, including as a show producer for Clough. Sharan began his career in public relations and moved into radio in 2010 with the Front Range Sports Network, developing the expertise and technical acumen necessary to lead a major market radio station, ranked No. 13 in Barrett Sports Media’s top 20 major market radio stations of 2021.

“Like so many other Denver sports fans, I spent hours glued to The Fan listening to Sandy Clough entertain and educate,” Sharan said in a statement announcing Clough’s retirement. “It was thrilling to have the opportunity to produce Sandy as there’s never been a more prepared host. Sandy’s passion came through the speakers in captivating fashion, and his legacy will be forever engrained into The Fan, carrying on for generations to come.”

Clough has sought to have professional relationships with his colleagues and managers over the years and has utilized the various program directors he has worked under for feedback and advice on how to best craft his shows to create a solid on-air product. Through being coached and meticulously preparing and understanding his audience, he has cultivated on-air products that finish well in the ratings and, in turn, are able to gain more revenue.

“They critiqued me, but if criticism was necessary they would offer it and I welcomed that,” Clough said of working with program directors over the years. “….With every program director I’ve ever dealt with, I explained [that] I wanted to be coached hard. I was coached hard, especially when I was younger and I would make mistakes.”

Now after 40 years on the air, Clough is retiring from working as a full-time host with 104.3 The Fan, ending a robust broadcast career interacting with listeners and covering Denver’s sports teams. The change was prompted by a culmination of different factors, along with a keen awareness of the future of radio as a communications medium in an era with more media outlets than ever before.

“Increasingly, radio executives [and] radio owners are shifting their emphasis to digital,” Clough explained. “I believe as much as newspapers have evolved to the point where most of all newspaper reading is done online now, that will be true with radio. There will be packages, I think in the not too distant future, offered for every radio station and people can subscribe if they choose and get all the content they want for a certain price. That resulted in the deemphasis and even elimination of nighttime radio.”

At this point, Clough felt it would be best to exit from the business to pursue other opportunities in which he can make an impact; however, that does not mean he may never consider returning to radio in the future. For now though, he plans to take at least six months in retirement to see where his life takes him and will reevaluate a potential return or becoming involved in sports media in some other way down the road.

“I’m a traditionalist; I’m a purist; I’m even a perfectionist,” Clough said. “I’d like to think I was adaptable, but this seemed like a good time to get out of at least full-time work at 104.3 The Fan.”

Clough leaves 104.3 The Fan as the co-host of the highest-ranked talk show in Denver in the 9 p.m. to midnight time period amid strong ratings for the station as a whole. Moreover, he is grateful for the recognition he has received from his friends and colleagues since his retirement became official this past Friday.

For aspiring professionals looking to build a career in sports media though, Clough reminds them that they are not indispensable no matter how good they think they are, meaning it is essential to leave your ego at the door. Aside from that, while being versatile is likely to increase your value to whatever broadcast entity you work for, it remains crucial to prepare as a host and embrace your own personality. It is what helped Sandy Clough work in sports media for the last 40 years, leaving behind a legacy and reputation among Denver sports fans as a trusted, honest commentator ready to demonstrate his intelligence and share his opinions to the masses.

“Chart your own path, be authentic, be yourself and even if you’re different, hold on to that,” Clough said. “We have too many cookie-cutter people in our business now; too many people who listen to something and decide: ‘Well, that’s the way I’ll go. I’ll just go along and get along with everybody’ or ‘I’ll be controversial for the sake of being controversial. I’ll just say outrageous things all the time.’ Those are at the two extreme edges of the spectrum [so] find those gray areas.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

BSM Writers

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.”

Demetri Ravanos

Published

on

blank

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.

Continue Reading

BSM Writers

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.”

Avatar photo

Published

on

blank

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. 

Continue Reading

BSM Writers

The Pat McAfee Alternate Broadcast Presents Unique Challenges

Avatar photo

Published

on

blank

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.

Continue Reading
Advertisement blank
Advertisement blank

Barrett Media Writers

Copyright © 2022 Barrett Media.