In 2017 Terry Boers retired after 25 years on 670 The Score in Chicago. From 1992 until 1999 he partnered with Dan McNeil to make up “The Heavy Fuel Crew” during afternoon drive and from 1999 until his retirement in 2017 he partnered with Dan Bernstein for “Boers and Bernstein”. The show first aired in a weird morning/midday slot of 8am-Noon and later moved to afternoons. Prior to joining the Score, Terry was a sportswriter and columnist for the Chicago Sun Times, The Detroit News and had dabbled in radio just for fun on “The Sportswriters” on WGN Radio and with McNeil at AM 1000 in Chicago. I had the pleasure of working with Terry at The Score for 9 years including producing both “The Heavy Fuel Crew” and “Boers and Bernstein.” This year he released a book detailing his 25 years at the Score called “The Score of a Lifetime.” We started the conversation talking about how Terry first got involved in The Score:
Matt: In 1991 you were approached to become part of this new All-Sports Station in Chicago (The Score). What were your initial thoughts when they approached you?
Terry: It was kinda strange, because there were only two All-Sports stations in the country-The Fan in New York and WIP in Philly had just started I think. I didn’t really know anything about it. It was all new to me. I was doing a little weekend radio on WGN—“The Sportswriters” on Sundays. You know Fish, I really didn’t think it was leading anywhere. I really didn’t. No one was listening to (Chet) Coppock so it wasn’t like ‘Oh my god we we’re sitting on a goldmine.’ When they came to me they didn’t offer me anything, they told me the one guy they had hired was Mike North and they were gonna hire Danny (McNeil) and were talking to Tom Shaer—he’s been around forever so he knows what he’s doing. But it really wasn’t convincing to me. The thing that was most convincing to me was the other end of it–that I thought that newspapers were in trouble. The idea now is to entertain people. That papers needed to do more than just print the news. That message fell on deaf ears. As we’ve since seen, the newspaper business has struggled. I was so decisive I didn’t make up my mind. I told them ‘I’ll go on (The Score) but I’ll keep writing for the Sun-Times.’
Matt: So what happened when the station and the show went on the air in 1992?
Terry: The initial reaction was that NO ONE was listening. The numbers showed that we had zero listeners. We didn’t even have computers. The producers would write a lone callers name on a piece of paper and hold it up to the window. Danny and I were looking at each other like ‘what are we doing here-nobody’s listening.’ After three months it was all zeros. No listening. Nothing happening. I asked Seth Mason (VP at the time) if he cared that nobody is listening. He said “No..no, no no we don’t care. We’re not looking at that. We’re looking at the bigger picture.” So I waited a few months and they came back to me in August and said “We like the show so why don’t you just do it full-time. We know you’re not happy at the Sun-Times.” So I felt, I had had it with the Sun-Times and it was enough and rolled dice. They (Management) said it worked in New York and it worked in Philly and it will work here in Chicago. Now remember we had a daytime only signal at the time and were off the air at 4 o’clock in the winter. That’s a tough afternoon show.
Matt: When did you know you had something with the show? That you and Danny had something that was sustainable?
Terry: I think it was the appearances. We would go out and do Monday Night Football Games and Super Bowls. I think the reaction that we got at an appearance or a remote you could tell Fish that there was definitely more interest than you would have thought. I think the more I heard it, the more I believed it. People said they loved the show and the station. I just started to get the sense that it was building. It doesn’t happen overnight and they (management) were very patient with us.
Matt: Mike Ditka did a weekly show on the Score during the first year of the station—his last as Coach of the Bears. What was your relationship with him and what was his impact on the Score?
Terry: –I never had any relationship with him. He never really wanted to know what the truth was. His wife actually called me a cocksucker. We would never speak. There was never a real relationship there. He really is a bully more than anything else. Like the rest of the sports bullies like Bobby Knight and John Thompson. But the fact is Ditka put The Score on the map. He wouldn’t talk to any other media at the time so all the media had to listen to or come to his weekly show on The Score. It would be fair to say that Ditka did more for the Score in its first year than anyone. I will never ever underestimate his impact on the first year of the Score. Nobody could have done more for the Score at that time than he did.
Matt: Fast forward to 1999 and there’s a major lineup change. In reading your book, it seems like the changes were very driven by (then Score Midday host) Mike North. You tell a story about a party at your house where North is talking to you about the potential of different time slots and different partners.
Terry: Yeah-he sat down and talked to me and said ‘What do you think about working 8-to-Noon.’ It was bizarre. Nobody works 8-to-Noon. When we changed everything around and went completely off the radio map. Sure enough, he (North) had enough power or sway at the time. There’s no question that he initiated it. It started out maybe harmless on his part but it was definitely him. He yielded a lot of power. They clearly weren’t listening to the right guy. If you want to do a show-fine, but if you want to program the whole station—no! They were letting him do it. Which I don’t think is all that uncommon in any business. I didn’t quite grasp it at the time. He sure as hell did have that much power.
Matt: Given all that, and the shock of the time and partner change, how did you take the news?
Terry: I had failed. For the first time in my life I had been told ‘You failed!’ After putting 7 1/2 years into something that you thought was pretty good, I was humbled. You can’t get kicked to the curb and not feel that you are truly that bad! But I kept thinking, was it them (management) or was it (Mike) North who made this change happen. He had that kind of power back then. I was sort of amazed by that.
In Part 2 of my Q&A with Terry Boers, you’ll learn about his partnership with Dan Bernstein as well as his thoughts on the recent lineup changes at the Score.