Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Sports radio isn't what it used to be


If you listen to sports-talk radio, the genre has changed dramatically over the past two-plus decades.

Don't believe me? Believe Bill Daughtry.

"What's happening in sports is that it's no longer about the competition," he said. "It's about the contract. It's about the stupid thing the player says, wears or tweets. The competition is secondary now.

"Everybody is a brand."

Daughtry was in Pittsfield Friday speaking at Barrington Stage Company's St. Germain Stage as part of the "Looking Up" series. He spoke to young people, members of the Playwright Mentoring Project. They were enthralled.

For us sports fans, Daughtry is a long-time voice of New York sports. He worked at WFAN from 1991-96, and has been with ESPN New York since 2006. He used to be on late at night on WFAN, so I got to hear him driving home from work. At ESPN, he works for the Hahn & Humpty show with former Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro and Alan Hahn from noon until 3 p.m., so I don't get much of a chance to listen.

Like Daughtry, radio is all over my resume, a resume which includes a couple of stints as a sports talk show host. When I first started, it was more about conversing with callers. Now, it's about the so-called "hot take."

It's the host and the fan.

"It's a negative in that it requires a very short attention span," Daughtry said. "I call it 'cartoons.' We used to watch the 10-minute shorts when we were growing up. Now, it's what's the sports conversation has morphed into.

"People aren't having conversations about anything. Everyone has an opinion now."

He said people try to sell opinion as fact. Add to it the fact that there is much more conversation now than there used to be.

Every city has at least one sports talk radio station. Even in a community like nearby Albany, there are three sports talk stations. There are two in Boston, two in New York, two in Philadelphia and two in Pittsburgh — just to name a few cities in the Northeast.

"It's on around the clock. More so than the nature of the conversation, I think there's more conversation," he said.

Daughtry worked at WFAN when it was the No. 1 sports radio station in the country. Mike and the Mad Dog anchored it, but guys like Daughtry and Steve Somers were also big factors in the station's success.

"Something bigger and better is always coming along," Daughtry said. "Somebody's top dog for a little while. Everybody has a season. Theirs is past now, but who's to say it won't come again.

"They changed the game and part of what helped them change the game is that they were local."

When you get right down to the nuts and bolts, Bill Daughtry said it's all about platforms, and the more you know, the better off you are.

"It's blogging, it's Internet, it's podcasts. Everybody has an opinion," Daughtry said. "I think one of the things that's hurting the business is when I talk to kids who want to be in the media business, I tell them to master the five W's — who, what, when, where and why. Everybody's got an opinion. Everybody can express their opinion.

"It's learning the facts, discerning the facts, mastering and reporting the facts that's going to set you apart in this world."

Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.


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