The Ins and Outs of a Week Spent on Super Bowl Radio Row
Brian Curtis Bell ringerSuper Bowl Radio Broadcasting Bureau Chief. He spent six days there, talking about the eloquent hosts, the all-important Wednesday Guys, and Carrot Top’s Super Bowl prediction. He burned himself shortly after posting this diary.
I love the Super Bowl radio so much that I have to get there early. Turns out I’m one of the few. When I walk into a room on the ground floor of the Phoenix Convention Center today, all I see is a random giver, a lone engineer, a lost program director. The room is a set of empty tables with black garlands, the place where you take the standard test.
A few years ago, I wrote an ode to the radio series, the dark heart of the Super Bowl media. It’s a place where celebrity interviews are traded for promotional pamphlets, a place that turns Columbia J School professors into carnivorous zombies if they get close.
I came back because I like one particularly messy aspect of radio. I have never seen a more ruthless celebrity ranking in my life.
Every year in the week leading up to the Super Bowl, PR agents want to take their clients in line to talk to one radio host after another and turn on sports drinks or fast food franchises. But the PR agent has to find the right one. day weeks to maximize plugging. They have to decide if their client is a Monday guy, a Friday guy, or something in between.
The best interview spots are late in the week, when the Super Bowl hype is on the rise. But let’s say you’re Raheem Mostert. Mostert’s 891 yards for the Dolphins this season is not something to sneeze at. But if Mostert showed up on radio on Thursday, he’d find bolder names like Justin Fields and Rob Gronkowski taking up all the interview slots. So Mostert, quite sensibly, became a Wednesday guy.
Once you realize that each guest has an order, a sort of giant trading value column, the radio row becomes the most interesting place on earth! Here is a sample lineup for this year:
- Monday: Solomon Wilcots
- Tuesday: Chiefs owner Clark Hunt
- Wednesday Guy: CeeDee Lamb
- Thursdays Guy: Steven A. Smith
- Friday Guy: Brock Purdy
Have you noticed a slight but noticeable drop in prestige from Thursday to Friday? “Friday is a big secret,” says John Turnur, the host whose radio name This is JT Brick. “It’s escape day.” By Friday, the megastars had flown home. The Friday guy is bigger than the Wednesday guy, but not as big as the Thursday guy.
When I walk on the radio, I feel like a Sunday guy. And I see that people are looking at me. Maybe it’s because I’m rushing around an empty room and writing down my thoughts in a large cherry red spiral notebook. Maybe people are worried that I’ll poach their boyfriends on Thursdays. “Who are you?” it seems, these inhabitants of the radio series think. — Why are you here?
I’m Brian, I want to answer, and I’m here because radio communications are my Super Bowl.
It’s 6 am now. I wake up at the Best Western in downtown Phoenix and go downstairs for coffee. Before I can put the paper cup under my spout, I hear a voice. Unforgettable raspy voice. It’s the voice of SportsGrid radio host Scott Ferrall walking around me downstairs and ranting just like he does every weekday from 3pm to 6pm. I love the show, Scotty. Thank you for inviting me to the bar.
Monday is the day when the radio crew yawns and stretches out their hands. So this is a good day to learn the geography of the row, as there is something like a Monday-Friday dynamic going on between hosts.
If you work at a local station called The Ticket, The Score, or The Zone, your boss has probably rented you a tiny table in the middle of the room. If you are a major national host, your superiors have erected a massive set – a monument to you and your accomplishments – around the perimeter of the room. These kits turn the radio set into the center of EPCOT, complete with your favorite characters. I see Jim Rom eat take and not suck on the CBS sports scene. I understand ProFootballTalkMike Florio, passing by, presses the buttons on his phone and, no doubt, polishes a piece of the machine with the right edge. I see Fox’s Doug Gottlieb pulling a suitcase on wheels.
There is also a kind of thin geographic hierarchy between national masters. Last year in Los Angeles, Pat McAfee’s installation was placed right at the entrance to the radio range. Each owner had to pass by him. Once Wiz Khalifa committed mini-concert on stage McAfeewhich the other presenters considered to be a serious breach of decorum because they could not hear their own takes.
This year, a local radio station employee whose desk was next to the McAfee stage put up a banner for his show. An employee at another station told him, “You’re blocking the McAfee show.” Sometimes, apparently, you come to the radio series just to look.
Monday Guys: Ross Tucker, Jared Goff, Cardinals linebacker Victor Dimukeye, Arizona State head coach Kenny Dillingham
Carrot Top is here. Perfect Tuesday, right? On Thursday, Carrot Top will be laughed at. Tonight he’s surrounded by a crowd like he’s Tom Brady. Jake Kemp, a daytime host in Dallas, told me that the most embarrassing part of his show was that Carrot Top let it pass by.
Luckily, after Carrot Top finishes his Fox Sports Radio hit, he has time to give me an A. We are sitting at an empty table not far from Anthony Munoz’s Rigging Hall of Fame. Carrot Top’s famous hair is messed up and he looks sleepy. But he is nothing if not a game. At the hotel in Las Vegas where he’s performing his comedy act, a sign hangs backstage that reads, “Be professional. Put on display.”
“Yes, I listen to sports radio,” Carrot Top says, adding, “I watch ESPN or the NFL Network every night and then go to bed.”
Let’s say I put you on a sports radio show right now, I ask him. How would you deal with it?
– I was just on it! Carrot Top protests, pointing at the Fox guys.
No I mean master sports radio show, I say. How would you deal with it?
“I guess I could stand up for myself a little,” he says thoughtfully.
Make a couple of calls?
“First caller…” Yes.
Carrot Top is here – and this stub is for investigative journalism purposes only – on behalf of Las Vegas. The host city of next year’s Super Bowl always sets up a kiosk next to Radio Row. This year, this booth was handing out free coffee and chocolate bars. The whole practice is strange. Who among the hundreds of media people who have come here to cover the Super Bowl is going to think, “Wait, he’s going to be in Vegas next year? Hell, I think I’ll go there too!”
As a good radio host, I ask Carrot Top for his Super Bowl prediction. “I should probably make one,” he says.
You definitely I must, I say. The most common question on the airwaves, the “button” of every interview, asks the guest who will win the big game.
“It’s going to be tough,” Carrot Top says as she practices her double. “Maybe it will come down to the last Super Bowl game. And it could be Mahomes for Kelsey. Good enough. I’m letting go of Carrot Top to continue being a Tuesday guy.
Later that day, I meet Chris “Mad Dog” Russo at the SiriusXM complex. Russo is the unelected mayor of the radio series. He and former WFAN co-host Mike Francesa were on the first proper radio episode at the Super Bowl in 1993.
I’m asking Rousseau a hypothetical question: let’s say the Dallas station’s program director asks you to lead an hour right now. No preparation, no notes. Go ahead and put on your headset. Could you do it?
Mad Dog says he can. He worries that the hockey talk demanded by Canadian sports channels could be difficult. If they send him to talk to Portland, he might be a little insecure with the Trail Blazers. But with those caveats, Russo says he could perform for an hour at any show in America before telling the audience “We’re against it” and hanging up his headphones. Radio hosts share the motto of prop comics: be professional. Put on display.
Tuesday Guys: Dana White, Hosts Business with the boys podcast, Chris Simms, LeGarrett Blount
Quick story from Tuesday. I’m waiting for coffee (at a Las Vegas kiosk). I see a man who stands (I’m just throwing out a figure) 6ft 5in and appears to have weighed (another guess) 215 pounds in his prime. I notice that the man has a very nice haircut and stylish glasses. In a 1990s Cameron Crowe film, he would have played the role of Campbell Scott.
That man It has be a podcaster. I’m trying to figure out which one is when Greg Papa, the 49ers announcer, comes up and tells the man how well his son Christian played against the Eagles. I understand that this is Ed McCaffrey, former NFL wide receiver and three-time Super Bowl champion.
However, I remain at my first impressions. The next time I get my hair cut, I’ll show the stylist a photo of McCaffrey and say, “Get me a guy on Tuesdays.”
It’s only Wednesday, and even a dedicated ethnographer like me needs a break. I feel that I am in danger of becoming part of a permanent class of radio amateurs – swamps, you might say – who make their own shows and then spend the rest of the day doing other people’s. Also, I heard Ferrol’s voice when he passed my hotel room door last night.
I’m waiting to get back in line until there’s a quiet period around 4:00 pm when the afternoon shows die down on the East Coast. I make a circle and hear a light trickle of content. At SiriusXM, Danny Kanell leans back in his chair and talks about football. Walking clockwise…