I was 16 when I first started listening to sports talk radio.
Ed Kaplan was the host I listened to the most. I used to listen late at night while doing homework. I would even call him from time to time and fax him (yes , you read that correctly) fun stuff that he’d mention on the show.
To this day, I still think he’s one of the smartest hosts I’ve ever listened to.
He was pretty egoless which was and still is an anomaly in this business. Ed was a former attorney, so he had an innate ability to explain his point of view. He also was never afraid to say he didn’t know something, which I felt was honorable in a business of know-it-alls.
Now, I’m a gasbag and I fully admit it. But, no one likes a know-it-all. Thankfully, because of Ed, I learned to not be afraid to say, “I don’t know!”
Thanks Eddie K.
The Godfather Almost Got Me Canned
Here’s an on air story only a few people know. It’s about how Pat Riley almost cost me my career before it started.
Thanks to a man named Manny Muñoz (My Guardian Angel), I started my media career in Miami as a producer for Jim Berry back in August of 1999 at a sports radio station known as 1700 The Fan (I was lucky enough to have worked with John Renshaw at that station).
Before I ever made it on air, I sat behind a board (like most people). So, one day I’m producing the Jim Berry Show and Pat Riley was his guest. The guys who hosted the next show had to come into the control room making all kinds of noise. I turned around and told them to keep it down because I couldn’t hear what was going on over the air.
The next thing I know, Jim is cracking up on the air. Why is Jim falling over himself laughing? No one heard because of all the noise. Then, the bat line rings. It’s a direct line from the bosses to the studio.
My boss Manny asks me if Pat Riley just cursed on the air. I responded that I didn’t hear him say anything. So I start to hear the owner of the station screaming in the background. Manny then says, “I’ll have to call you back.”
The segment ends and I asked Jim if Pat cursed.
“Yes.” Jim said. “He said Jamal (Mashburn) can shoot the shit out of the ball.”
“Why? You didn’t dump it?”
Me: “Ummm… The answer would be no, Jim.”
I had that sinking feeling where I wanted the world to swallow me up. I thought everything I had ever dreamed about was all over. Luckily, the guys from the next show went to management and told them it was their fault and there was no way I could hear what was going on the air.
I lived another day and, as they say, the rest is history. Pretty funny, now. Not so funny, then.
Right Place, Right Time?
That was me in 2004. Back then, there was nothing bigger than going to Radio Row at the Super Bowl. I mean, all the big boys were there. Francesa, Russo, Rome, Bruno, and all of the networks.
After a ton of begging to my boss (at WINZ/WIOD in Miami) Peter Bolger (who treated me like a son), I got a chance to go to Radio Row.
Technically, he told me no. Then, I told him I’d pay my own way. I booked everything myself and was ready to engineer my own broadcast. I wasn’t taking no for an answer and I looked at it as an investment in my career. I’d go there, schmooze and create relationships.
Before I left, he told me to bring him back receipts and I’ll get reimbursed. He also told me he’d set me up with Andrew Ashwood, the VP of Fox Sports Radio, and program director Tom Lee. Tom was a longtime colleague of Peter’s and Andrews was an old childhood friend of his. If I needed anything, they’d take care of me (I told you… Fatherly Figure).
As I set up my broadcast, the aforementioned gentleman came over and introduced themselves. They seemed nice enough. Then, a loud Cuban kid cracked the mic. Twenty minutes later, they came over with business cards, asked to have a drink at the hotel and I was offered my first chance to do national radio.
At Fox, I worked with some of the most influential and talented guys in the business. Tony Bruno, Andrew Siciliano, Steve Czaban, JT The Brick, Tomm Looney and Scott Ferrall. All were positive influences in my career.
JT and Tomm Looney are still great friends to this day.
I had a blast there. My crew of Karen Kay, Marcell Hall, Josh Guers, Brian Baker and Greg Bergman were like my family. They still are.
Meanwhile, as I was working at Fox, I was also anchoring Miami Heat Radio in studio. I was there in Dallas for the first title in 2006. It was a wonderful time in my career.
In 2007, Miami called. WAXY was on the rise and they needed a midday host. Dan Le Batard, Boog Sciambi and Sid Rosenberg were there. It was a no-brainer.
Do The Right Thing
Here was the toughest part. Ashwood (my boss at Fox) and I had become very close. He had a way of making you feel like you were the most important person in his life at that moment. It was always genuine. That’s just who he was. His best attribute? He was “The Great Connector.”
If you were ever at an event with Andrew, he’d make sure everyone in the room knew who you were. Man, could he work a room. I met hundreds of people because of him.
Unfortunately, Andrew had just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It certainly created some personal anxiety. Here’s a guy who helped take my young career to a different stratosphere. He was everything I could have asked for in a boss and as a friend. Somehow, I had to find the balls to tell him I wanted to quit.
Andrew was treating his cancer quite aggressively and was rarely in the office. I wasn’t doing this over the phone. I was flying to Los Angeles and talking to him face-to-face. I was there for five days and he hadn’t stopped into the office yet. I rearranged my travel plans to stay for a few more days and I would’ve waited a month if that’s what it took.
On day seven, he stopped in. I went into the office, he saw me and opened his arms wide (Andrew was a BIG man. He was the size of a freakin’ bear), a big hug ensued and he whispered to me, “tell me about this 790 thing.”
We went into his office, he shut the door and we talked. I told him about the opportunity. He showed me a new three-year deal to stay at Fox. But, he didn’t try to sell me on staying. He said that this will always be my home and to do what I thought was best. I told him that I thought it was best that I leave.
We talked shop for a while. We talked about who should be my replacement. It was no different than any conversation I had ever had with him. Just two friends talking. I thanked him for everything he had done for me. He told me to call him with whatever I needed. I walked out and flew home.
After I left, we spoke a handful of times. He was always so positive about his situation. It was inspiring to listen to. We talked about hooking up at a game somewhere. It never happened. That August day in Los Angeles was the last time I’d see him. Fifteen months after that day, he lost his battle with cancer.
I flew to L.A. for the funeral and paid my respects.
One thing I remember from my last face-to-face conversation with Andrew in 2007 was how much he loved the idea of me going to WAXY. He said, “I think that lineup has the potential to be the best lineup in the country. It’s network quality.”
Radio, like most things, is completely subjective. But, looking back that was one hell of a lineup. Andrew (God rest his soul) didn’t get to be the VP of a national network for being a dummy.
We were four completely different styles and yet somehow it all felt like one show all day long. It didn’t end with Dan, Stugotz and Hoch either. The party kept going with a young K-Rog/Guzio and the Dos Amigos. Steve White was the program director.
We had a real buzz to what we were doing on that station. It was palpable. Everyone got along. I mean, EVERYONE. Yes, even Sid played nice (for the most part).
It was a great run at WAXY. I made friends that I expect to have for a lifetime.
Childhood Dream Comes True
If you grew up in South Florida like I did and loved sports radio, you only knew WQAM. You wanted to “Bobbitt” someone like The Hammer or drink a few “Green Lizards” like The Mad Dog.
Once you got into the business, you hoped you were relevant enough to have Neil Rogers make fun of you. When my time at WAXY came to an end, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with Joe Bell at WQAM.
Joe is a man I admired from afar for a long time. I’ve worked for a ton of great people in this business and Joe Bell may be the best of the bunch. He’s the last of the breed that looks you in the eye when they talk to you and cares about you as a person, not just as an employee.
I was honored that he’d let me take over the slot I dreamed of having when I was a kid. Plus, the ability to shape the station and hopefully create opportunities for the next generation of sports radio stars in South Florida was appealing.
When I arrived at Q, the place had lost its identity a bit. In a year, I think we did a nice job giving it a new identity and some direction. The landscape has changed over the years and I feel like the station is steered in the right direction. There is more young and diverse talent in that building than at any other station in the market. A new generation of sports talkers are going to find their place at the heritage sports station in South Florida.
Again, it was another opportunity where I’ve found friends that should last a lifetime. A special thanks to my daily crew of Mike Marchant, Victor Bermudez, Brandon Guzio and Andy King. They always made me look and sound better than I really was.
I think the coolest thing about the change in the sports talk landscape in South Florida is the audience.
When I started my career in 1999, it was an audience that was not very progressive. They mostly believed in intangibles and existential mumbo jumbo.
Now, the audience is more informed, smarter and understands the entertainment aspect of the industry more so than ever before. It’s a real testament to how much the market has grown and how the next generation of hosts and listeners have grown. It makes me very proud to be from South Florida.
Nothing in life is more important than the legacy you leave behind. At the end of the day, my on air legacy at Q as a host or PD will be a footnote in the history of South Florida’s heritage sports station.
The one thing I can always call my own is this website. Page Q is the premier sports blog in South Florida. The best part? It’s still in its infancy. There is so much room to grow this property, it’s pretty insane.
I could not leave it in better hands than Editor-in-chief Josh Baumgard. I specifically hired him to oversee, write and lead this great team of young writers, contributors and podcasters.
Remember these names, because they’re the voices of tomorrow.
The aforementioned Baumgard, Vishnu Parasuraman, Alfredo Brown, Rob Smith, Jay Ramos, Jonathan Magolnick, Eric Lauzin, Patrick Sicher, Cole Press, Jennifer Dela Cruz, Chris Joseph, Ryan Yousefi (Rizz) and Brian Papa or is it Adam Smoot? After all these months, I still don’t know what your damn name is! Just kidding…
Lastly, I always get a lot of questions about how to make it in this industry. Now, I don’t have all the answers, hell, I’m still trying to figure it out myself. But, I’ll leave you with some rules that have served me well.
Rules To Live By
1. Be ready to work.
Sounds simple enough, right? Though, you’d be surprised how many times I’ve heard someone who’s climbing the proverbial ladder say, “sorry that’s not my job.”
Immediately, I felt like that person wasn’t cut out for this business.
2. Find your lane.
Not everyone is set out to be on air. Conversely, not everyone is cut out to be a producer or manager. Figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are as quickly as possible and go forward.
3. Evolve and adapt or get left behind.
This is arguably the most important, as media is forever changing. Therefore the landscape evolves all the time. There are more ways to interact and communicate than ever before. There is more information available. That also means audiences have become smarter. You can’t be one of these dinosaurs who gets stuck in their own way. If you’re not willing to evolve, you’re going to become irrelevant.
4. Be open minded.
This is more about dealing with your co-workers. There were plenty of times when one of my coworkers gave me an idea that I thought was silly. Plenty of times, down the road, I realized it was a great idea. Don’t be a know-it-all. No one knows it all. You can always learn something. Whether it’s a producer, intern, secretary…whomever. Anyone can have a great idea.
5. Stay out of the gossip
This applies to co-workers too. Worry about yourself and don’t get involved in it. It’s never worth the trouble. Also, stay away from the person in your office who plays both sides of the fence. Every office I’ve ever worked in has one. They’re usually the person everyone “seems” to like. But, they’re easy to spot. They act like they care about everyone’s needs, but really they are the most selfish people in the office.
6. Figure out who your friends are
This one plays into the previous rule. Trust your gut. Most businesses have cliques. Media is no different. Find people with your same sensibilities and stick with them.
7. Pay it forward
Teach people. Be helpful. Pull someone aside if you see them struggling. Help them. Don’t be insecure about your abilities and try to pave the way for others. Let them get their shine too. Even in a competitive business like this, there is room for everyone.
8. Don’t burn bridges.
This one can be hard. This is an ego-driven business and people let those get in their way. Everyone is probably guilty of it at one time or another. You have to stay above the fray. It will just make it easier. More importantly, you never know who your next boss will be. In this business, those you see on the way up, you’re likely to see on the way down.
9. Stay grounded
It’s easy to read your press clippings or fall victim to praise. With that said, it’s easy to get down because someone is riding you. Keeping perspective is the most important part of this business. Also, take the job seriously, but don’t take yourself so seriously. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself once in awhile. We all do stupid things from time to time. It makes us human.
10. Find some time to enjoy life…
I can never stress enough that you need to have a little fun while you work in this industry. We get so caught up sometimes that we rarely take a breathe and realize what we do for a living. Also, make sure you take time away to enjoy friends and family. Try to create some time in your day where you don’t worry about work.
Hopefully in some way, shape or form I was able to help you get through your day. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a part of it.
Photo: Mark Sebastian