Last weekend, I heard Jay Z’s song Izzo (H to the Izz-o, V to the Izz-A). Immediately, a flood of memories came rushing to mind. When I was the host of ESPN Radio’s weekend overnights, Izzo was one of several songs my producer would play for me in the final 15 minutes before air.
Just as it is for athletes, music was part of our show’s pregame routine. (Jason McBride was our producer; Brian Fitzgerald our board-op. LOVED working with those guys). The songs simultaneously relaxed me and fired me up. Jason wouldn’t start playing them until all of our show prep was complete. Read More
Someone I know recently hosted a sports talk show solo for the first time. He had co-hosted for years but this was his first time working alone. He said he realized the difference with about two minutes left in his opening monologue. He had run out of stuff to say.
They were the longest two minutes of his life. Read More
A sports talk host recently contacted me feeling somewhat frustrated. He had chosen a segment from his show that he wanted to use on his demo, but it included a predication that turned out to be wrong. I asked him if the segment was entertaining. He said yes. I said, “go with it.”
A great sports talk host doesn’t have to be right. They just have to be entertaining. Read More
Two Los Angeles radio stations that I enjoy listening to debuted new team shows this week. The Beast 980 introduced Plaschke and Zelasko, and news talk KFI AM 640 unveiled Gary and Shannon.
Whenever I hear new team shows, I always remind myself not to make snap judgments. You don’t give birth to an adult. It takes at least a year for a new show to hit its stride.
People mature only with time. So do new shows. Hosts must:
Get to know each other
Learn each other’s way of thinking
Learn each other’s habits
Learn each other’s personalities
Learn how each other reacts in certain situations
Learn the topics and issues about which each other are passionate
Learn what pleases, excites and frustrates each other
Develop bits through trial and error
Recognize visual cues for when their partner wants to speak
If you start a new team show, know that it isn’t going to be what you want right out of the chute. However, you can speed up the maturation process by spending time with your co-host off the air. The friendship you develop off-air will carry over on-air.
Be patient. Remember, good things come to those who wait.
When I was on-air, I took great pride in my interviewing skills. I wanted to be different and better than everyone else. At one point, I decided I could do that by making my interviews sound less like Q&A and more like conversations.
Interviews are NOT conversations. By definition, interviews are Q&A. They are input/output. You input questions and your guest outputs answers.
If you hold conversations, it gives your guest too much leeway to go whatever direction they want. Usually, it won’t be the direction YOU want. Your guest will often steer clear of subjects that make them uncomfortable.
Another reason that conversations don’t work is because they often involve you making comments instead of asking questions. Guests often won’t reply to comments, which brings the entire interview/conversation to an awkward, grinding halt.
If you want to distinguish yourself as an interviewer, do these four things:
Have a plan — know what you want from the interview
Ask open-ended questions
Be a good listener and ask follow-ups
It’s funny – I wanted to have conversations because I wanted to distinguish myself. However, it was only after I realized the error in that that I was able to set myself apart.
When I was covering San Diego Chargers and San Diego State Aztecs football in the early 90s, I would escort a female reporter friend of mine into the locker rooms. She would hold my elbow, keep her head down, and ask me to lead her to the players she wanted to talk to. Whether it was for religious or personal beliefs, this was part of her locker room etiquette.
For the most part, the etiquette inside the locker room is the same as on the outside.
Don’t go into the trainer’s room. That is totally off-limits to the media.
Don’t follow guys to the shower.
When guys return from the shower to their locker, either (a) wait for them to acknowledge when it is okay to start asking questions or (b) wait until they have put their pants on.
Don’t be “that guy” who never asks questions but instead only takes audio back to the station that came from the questions of others. You’ll gain respect from your peers if you actively participate.
Always thank people for their time.
Sports talk hosts – here is another point about the locker room that is particularly relevant to you:
You will gain the respect of the players you cover if, after you have been critical of a guy, you make yourself available in the locker room.
Being critical then hiding inside the press box or radio or TV station is a fast way to lose respect.