When I was a sophomore in high school, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. It was the spring of 1987 and I knew that I wanted to work in sports radio. I had just been cut from the baseball team, but as luck would have it my high school had a little 1,000 watt FM radio station. So before I could drive, I was broadcasting the High School baseball “Game of the Week” into a Radio Shack tape recorder. It would air Friday nights.
On the weekends, my mother and I would listen to Cubs games on WGN Radio. On Sundays the games were followed by a show called “The Sportswriters.” I couldn’t get enough of it. What I remember most was the fun, energy, and passion of that show hosted by venerable Chicago sports writers Ben Bentley and Bill Jauss. I also remember laughing as the various sports writers ribbed each other or made fun of bad teams and players.
I had the sports radio bug. Yet in the spring of 1987, WFAN had yet to hit the airwaves and Chicago’s The Score wouldn’t debut until five years later.
Fast forward to 2018. My son is a sophomore in High School in Maryland and has decided that he wants to be a doctor. A great sense of relief and happiness washed over me. It’s not that I don’t like sports radio or sports media in general. I write about it every week—I can’t get enough of it. The stability of a career as a doctor felt better to the father in me rather than the ups and downs of radio and starting somewhere at a low, low salary (My first FT sports radio job paid $19,500 and I was thrilled to get it!) and working his way up by moving all over the country.
On the flip side, the opportunities in sports radio and in sports media in general are endless. Today there are five national sports radio networks (ESPN, Fox, CBS, NBC, and SB Nation). There are more than 15 channels of live sports talk on SiriusXM. Plus, TuneIn, conference and league specific channels, and an endless number of podcasts. Oh yeah—don’t forget the more than 500 sports radio stations in the United States. All told, the opportunity for on air and behind the scenes jobs has never been greater.
That’s just what exists in the present. The Cubs are talking about starting their own network, following in the footsteps of the Yankees(YES) and University of Texas (Longhorn Network). What is the constant in all of this growth of niche programming? These new networks will all need producers, reporters, anchors, writers, and multi-media journalists. What does that mean? Why, jobs, jobs, and more jobs!
So maybe I was wrong to be relieved when my son told me he wanted to be a doctor. In spite of the recent bankruptcies of Cumulus and iHeartMedia, the future of sports media has never been brighter. So I pose this question to you. Would you want your children to follow in your footsteps and work in sports radio?