As the losses continued to mount this season, so did the phone calls on the Houston Texans postgame show. Furious phone calls after a loss is nothing new to sports radio, but it was still somewhat of a relief for Sean Pendergast to see Texans fans still engaged and angry late into the season. No, he’s never questioned the popularity of the NFL in Houston, but after another bad season for the Texans, he was glad to see the passion of the fans hasn’t wavered.
Pendergast is both a pre and postgame host for the Houston Texans, as well as the co-host of Payne and Pendergast on SportsRadio 610, which serves as the flagship for the team. The Texans are a combined 11-38-1 in the past three seasons. Needless to say, it hasn’t been glamorous covering the local NFL team.
So how has Pendergast handled his coverage of the team? Especially since he has so many relationships within the Texans brass.
“First of all, you don’t not criticize them, you are honest with your audience,” said Pendergast. “That’s the biggest thing. I think the biggest thing, aside from being honest, is to do it in a way that’s opinionated but respectful. My rule has always been, don’t say anything on the air about somebody on the team, coaching the team, running the team, that you wouldn’t say to their face if you saw them at a press conference, in a game or out in public. I’ve never said anything on the air, regarding the Texans, where they called me afterwards to tell me I was out of line.
“The team has been very good about keeping me and others at the station informed on things. As bad as they’ve been on the football field, they’re actually very great to work with, from a media standpoint as the flagship station. We’ve got a great relationship with their media relations department. Nick Caserio the GM comes on my morning show at least once a month, which never used to happen with any previous GM’s of the Texans.”
Pendergast is honest and he knows that’s what the audience deserves. It also sounds like the Texans understand a lot of that, too. Again, Pendergast doesn’t get personal and make sure his criticism is fair, but he says it’s not awkward when he has to be critical of the people he sees within the organization.
“Not for me,” said Pendergast. “The Texans are a team that’s hard to find grace for right now and hard to find praise for over the last three years other than some very specific things. We’ve spent the better part of three years criticizing them, but I see the people I criticize face to face a fair amount.
“I saw two of them yesterday at the press conference the Texans had for Lovie Smith’s firing. It’s not awkward for me and I don’t think it’s awkward for them either. I say this in a way where I’m praising them, I don’t think they’re desensitized to the criticism, because they’ve been doing a lot of things the last couple years that have tried to re-engage the fanbase. But I don’t think they take the criticism personally. I think they believe I treat them fairly.”
BSM posted an article on Tuesday that showed the fall ratings book for several major markets. Houston sports radio was included and Pendergast’s morning drive show with Seth Payne had the highest ratings in the city.
“I told my boss Parker Hillis I was getting ready to do this interview and he said, oh, it’s funny you mention Barrett Sports Media and he pulled that article up,” laughed Pendergast. “It never gets old. We had a great fourth quarter. Seth and I in October and November had the best two months of morning sports radio in Houston probably in like the last eight or nine years.
“We were up in the 4’s and in the Top 10 in the market, which, for Houston, is crazy. There will be people who heard what I just said in Boston or Philly and say ‘Wow, a four. I would get fired’. It’s different in different markets. Houston is a very transient city with fans all over the place.”
There’s some interesting things to take away from the numbers for Payne and Pendergast. First it shows another bad season for the Texans didn’t have a negative impact. In fact, the numbers were very good for a show that likes to focus heavily on the Texans and the NFL.
Second, the numbers were still really good despite competition having the flagship rights to the Astros on their way to another World Series title. Pendergast thinks that’s an interesting note, especially for a morning show, because as people were getting in their car the morning after an Astros game, they still flipped their dial from the competition to Payne and Pendergast.
“I’m happy that we’re in a place where Seth and I have certain numbers, where regardless of where the competition is, we’re not happy if we’re above that,” said Pendergast. “The higher we go, the more disappointing it is to be below that the next month. That’s just the nature of the business, you can’t go higher every month. Those two months are interesting, because the Texans were the worst team in the NFL, certainly they were in October and November, and that was while the Astros were in the World Series, where our competition is the flagship.
We were proud of the fact we won by such a wide margin, where on paper, some people would say we’re supposed to be losing during that time. I think we did a really good job of covering the Astros. There were shows that were pure Astros right in the middle of football season.”
Pendergast is hoping better days are ahead for the Texans. Simply, it’s just way more fun to cover a winning team. But he can’t deny how crazy and unpredictable it is to do a postgame show for a team that’s not winning. It’s been a wild ride over the past three seasons for Pendergast after Texans games.
“Pregame is very cookie cutter, formulaic, scripted segments, a lot of sponsor reads, no callers and it’s all stuff we’ve been talking about for five days,” said Pendergast. “Postgame is the opposite. You’re getting a reaction to it, you’re getting emotion from fans, emotion from me and Clint Stoerner I like the fact that’s it’s live, there’s no scripted aspect to it at all and the rundown is basically, we play Lovie’s press conference, give our thoughts on the game and then it’s time to let ‘er rip with people leaving the game or just got done watching the game. I like that aspect of it.”
“I would prefer to cover a winning team but the postgame show on a team that people are angry about is a really fascinating ride. I want them to get good again, but the Texans won three games this year and we had full phone boards for every game afterwards.”
The good news about the wild ride is Pendergast saw first hand that Texans fans are still engaged. Granted, there were moments where half of NRG Stadium in Houston was filled with Chiefs fans, but the hunger for Texans content is still there, especially with the NFL Draft coming soon.
As far as the ratings, Payne and Pendergast seem to have taken on the ‘inner scoreboard’ mentality. It doesn’t matter what the competition necessarily does, they want to be consistently rising. There’s no immediate plans for an FM signal to help boost those numbers even further, but an AM signal seemingly hasn’t affected Pendergast’s numbers in the morning.
The podcast numbers for Payne and Pendergast are phenomenal and have the highest downloads in the cluster. That’s very encouraging to Pendergast when he looks at the future of sports radio and how the AM dial fits in with digital content.
“I think the demise of terrestrial radio is probably very exaggerated,” said Pendergast. “I’m not too worried about still being on the AM dial but I do understand the importance of where the digital space is moving towards.”
Tyler McComas is a columnist for BSM and a sports radio talk show host in Norman, OK where he hosts afternoon drive for SportsTalk 1400. You can find him on Twitter @Tyler_McComas or you can email him at TylerMcComas08@yahoo.com.
Mike Felger: Radio Row Allows Us to Do Something Different
“We don’t do a lot of guests…I don’t like having guests on. Let’s face it. Most guests don’t say anything anyway.”
When you are doing something you love as a job or when it gets very busy at your place of employment, the day can tend to go quicker than usual. While a four-hour show may seem like a long time to talk about sports, it can be the quickest part of the day for others. Mike Felger, the co-host of Felger and Mazz on 98.5 The Sports Hub, was a guest on The Press Box Podcast with Bryan Curtis this week and he said that the show is the quickest four hours of his day and it’s because of the prep that the guys put into the show.
“Quickest 4 hours of my day. It flies. We try to keep it moving, We put a lot into it. I think one of the reasons it goes quickly for me because we are pretty much working the whole time. We sort of map out the whole show before. All 16 segments, they are not scripted, but we will talk about this here, that there. We put something into all 16 segments.
“Mostly, if there is a game the night before, we will either have watched the game or portions of the game, we will have either watched or read the postgame press conferences, we will have read some of the coverage, and the trick there is to find something there that bugs you even if they won. What did you see in the game that you didn’t like? What did someone write that you thought was stupid or off the mark? Did someone say something that bothered you in the postgame? We put effort into the sports part of it and then we grind it out the next day. It goes quickly because we put a lot into it.”
The show is at the Super Bowl this week in Arizona as a part of Radio Row and Felger mentioned it allows the show to do something different since they don’t usually have guests on.
“For us, it’s a chance to get out of the studio, do something different, and talk to a few people. We are kind of a rare sports talk show where we don’t do a lot of guests. I don’t like having guests on. I don’t like phoners, I think it interrupts the momentum of a show, the flow of the show. Let’s face it. Most guests don’t say anything anyway.
“We don’t really do guests. We will go weeks at a time without a single phone guest or someone from outside the show. This sort of forces us to sit down and talk to some other people. It’s also just a change of scenery. We are also simulcast so it’s also a different backdrop, we are out of the studio. It’s just a little something different for us.”
While the show doesn’t have a lot of guests on, they will take a good amount of callers. With that being said, in Felger’s mind, the calls have to be quick and a good point has to be made for the show to have a good tempo.
“I like the way we do them. It’s 30 seconds. You get 30 seconds. At most, if it’s good, we will let you go to 45. It’s rare that a caller is on for a minute. If you suck, we will drop it at 12 seconds. It’s about tempo and pace of the show. I think calls are good if you go from one to the next to the next and they have to be good. If listeners can’t hear you, can’t do it. We have to hear you and you have to have a point. If you don’t have any of those things, I’m sorry, I love you, but you are gone.
“I think calls are valuable for how they pace the show. They bring tempo to the show if you do it quickly and pointedly.”
Ricky Keeler is a reporter for BSM with a primary focus on sports media podcasts and national personalities. He is also an active podcaster with an interest in pursuing a career in sports media. You can find him on Twitter @Rickinator555 or reach him by email at RickJKeeler@gmail.com.
ESPN 660 Orlando Officially Launches
“ESPN Radio offers the access to play-by-play, nationally known talent, and athletes that cannot be replicated.”
ESPN Radio has returned to Orlando with the launch of ESPN 660 Orlando from JVC Broadcasting.
The shift officially took place this morning, with former “Florida Man Radio” — a “guy-talk” and politics format — being moved to an FM translator.
“ESPN Radio offers the access to play-by-play, nationally known talent, and athletes that cannot be replicated,” JVC Director of Programming Stevie Demann said. “ESPN 660 Orlando will air events like the Daytona 500 and the College Football Playoffs, giving radio listeners long-awaited access to these ‘must listen to’ sports, that previously were not available in Central Florida. We will have the largest selection of compelling sports content on ESPN 660 Orlando.”
The ESPN Radio brand was last seen in the market on 580 WDBO until it flipped to a news/talk format in June 2020.
“I’m thrilled with the partnership our Orlando team put together with ESPN Radio. ESPN 660 Orlando brings the biggest sporting events in the world to the Central Florida radio audience,” said JVC President and CEO John Caracciolo. “A market like Orlando is on the go all the time. This is a great chance for our business partners to reach mobile sports fans across the region and giving radio listeners access to their favorite games on one radio station!”
ESPN 660 Orlando becomes the second sports station in the market, competing with iHeartMedia-owned 96.9 The Game, the flagship station for the Orlando Magic Radio Network.
Toucher & Rich Continue Fake Liner Gag With Super Bowl Players
“There’s always a moment when their about three-fourths of the way down where they kind of look up at you like ‘What’s happening?'”
Super Bowl Opening Night is an eclectic mix of hardworking, serious journalists, mixed with interesting characters. It is safe to say 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich fall into the latter category.
As an ongoing gag, the show asks lower-profile players from the teams participating in the Super Bowl to record liners for their show. However, it isn’t for their show, it’s for fake shows that do not exist, with ridiculous taglines. The show’s Rich Shertenlieb said the premise is quite easy to pull off.
“Everyone is available for interview and only 11 people are at those big important podiums and everyone else just kind of wanders,” Shertenlieb — who is at Radio Row in Arizona while Fred Toucher remained in Boston — said. “You can just go up and speak to them and interview them.”
The first victim of the gag was Grant Calcaterra, a backup tight end for the Eagles. After a quick interview, Shertenlieb asked him to read a liner for a show that doesn’t exist.
“Hey this is Grant Calcaterra, and you’re listening to Captain Fiddlesticks and the Banjo Bandit. All aboard the hot take train. Woo Woo.”
“There’s always a moment when their about three-fourths of the way down where they kind of look up at you like ‘What’s happening?’ and then you just grab it and go ‘Thanks!’ and you walk away and find yourself buried in the crowd and hope they don’t see you again,” Shertenlieb said.
Tyrese Robinson, a rookie offensive lineman for the Eagles, was also recorded by the show.
“Hey this is Tyrese Robinson and you’re listening to Wilford Brimley and the Quaker Oats Kid. Want sports for breakfast? Why not? You’re already obese,” the Eagles rookie said.
“He caught on to your game,” Toucher said.
“By the time he got to ‘obese’, he just handed me the paper and walked away,” added Shertenlieb.
Eagles safety Reed Blankenship was interviewed by Shertenlieb, where he was asked to record a liner reading “Hey this is Reed Blankenship and you’re listening to Nard Farnsworth and Bill the Sad Hobo on 98.3 The Goat. It’s hobo-rific.”
“That is a guy that did not think you were kidding,” joked Toucher.
Another Eagles offensive lineman — Andre Dillard — was quickly interviewed by Shertenlieb. The 98.5 The Sports Hub host asked Dillard to read “Hey this is Andre Dillard and you’re listening to The DA Show. Hope you like feet,” to which Dillard responded “Wait, what?!” while reading the line. “Because DA really likes feet. Foot-tastic.”
One of the higher profile players the show recorded was Eagles backup quarterback Gardner Minshew, who incorrectly pronounced one of the words in the read.
“Hey this is Gardner Minshew and you’re listening to The Syracuse Guys, dudes in suites (sic) with nice teeth. We love lukewarm takes, safe hip hop, and The Bachelor.”