Talking fame: Veteran NFL writers use Hall of Fame as platform for new radio show

Together, Ron Borges, Clark Judge and Rick Gosselin have more than 110 years combined reporting on the NFL. That covers many classic games and a lot of bad food in the press box.

Yet despite that vast experience, it is incumbent on them (and everyone else) to find ways to “reinvent” themselves in the new media age.

The veteran NFL writers did it by creating a new radio platform, Talk of Fame Sports Network. The weekly two-hour show focuses on the NFL Hall of Fame, using it as a launching point to discuss the past, present and future of the game.

It can be heard via podcasts and on 50 radio stations throughout the U.S. New shows are posted on the site on Friday nights and air on Saturday and Sunday mornings on the radio outlets.

Only two weeks in, and Talk of Fame already is in 10 of the nation’s top 20 markets. Here is a station guide from their site.

I’ve heard some segment of the early shows. Great guests and an interesting approach to talk about issues in football.

All in all, not a bad start for a bunch of print guys.

Here is an interview I did with Borges via email:

What is the concept for the show?

We felt the only areas of pro football that are under covered and under reported on accurately while being overly discussed are the inner workings of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the past, present and future players who make it up.

For example, when Brian Urlacher retired he was widely called a “first ballot Hall of Famer.” If one understands history that is unlikely. First, he will be in the same class with Ray Lewis. The last time two ILB/MLB went in together was decades ago. There are a number of reasons why its difficult to put two or more players in from the same position the same year but few people understand that and so get upset when it doesn’t happen.

Our idea is to open up the process, debate candidates and issues, point out past players who are overdue for debate and a vote (for example there are 73 All-Decade players not in the Hall and most of them have NEVER reached the finals to have their credentials debated).

In addition we address contemporary issues from a historical perspective. Case in point, Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin story was addressed by several HOFers speaking from their perspective both on why it would not have happened on their teams and why they disagreed with today’s players who tried to claim in certain contexts it’s a “term of endearment.” Not to Art Shell and Rod Woodson it wasn’t.

We also talk about significant dates and moments in history with the people who were a part of them. The three of us – myself, Clark Judge and Rick Gosselin – just felt there was a place there for something different.

How does the Hall of Fame feel about the show? Will you discuss who receives your votes and who doesn’t? I have heard voters aren’t supposed to disclose their votes.

They have been quite supportive and seem to believe if the show succeeds it will also help them. Hell, it’s a free, 2-hour radio ad 52 weekends a year. Can’t beat that.

As far as the voting we haven’t discussed our votes yet but probably will when the time comes. Others have also spoken or written about how they voted individually. What we don’t discuss, and what all voters are asked not to discuss publicly by the Hall, is what various people say in the room during the debate. To me that is fair and makes perfect sense because to do so would limit the free flow of ideas and opinions, at least for some of the voters.

Looks like we’ll have Eddie DeBartolo this weekend talking about the closing of Candlestick (McCartney’s concert was the last official event there) as well as his time with the 49ers and his own candidacy (he’s a 2-time finalist) as well as HOF LB Willie Lanier talking about how training camp used to be when they actually bumped into each other in practice. Big difference compared to today and he feels it has adversely affected the quality of tackling. I agree, for what that’s worth!

Who will be your interview subjects down the line?

Hall of Famers, potential Hall of Famers, coaches past and present, owners, union officials, anyone we feel can shed a different point of view, or just an interesting one, on an issue, a candidate for the Hall or the news of the day. Before the AFC Championship Game last year we had Ty Law on talking about Brady vs. Manning from the perspective of a cornerback who played against them both (and with Brady). His insights were very enlightening.

That’s what we hope to provide every weekend, 52 weeks a year. On our first national show we had Roger Goodell talking about the significance of the Hall on the game as well as the fear parents are discouraging their kids from playing and how the league intends to combat those fears, as well as Robert Kraft talking about the difficulty of building and maintaining a dynasty.

Last week we had Charles Haley discussing his 10-year wait to get into the Hall as Michael Strahan went in ahead of him and his memories of the day he was traded to Dallas and what it led to.

Looks like we’ll have Eddie DeBartolo this weekend talking about the closing of Candlestick (McCartney’s concert was the last official event there) as well as his time with the 49ers and his own candidacy (he’s a 2-time finalist) as well as HOF LB Willie Lanier talking about how training camp used to be when they actually bumped into each other in practice. Big difference compared to today and he feels it has adversely affected the quality of tackling. I agree, for what that’s worth.

Hope to do that each weekend.

How did the come about and how difficult has it been to get distribution?

The three of us were having a beer in a cocktail lounge in Canton a year ago this summer and came up with the concept on a cocktail napkin. In exactly 12 months we went from a napkin to a network, which we still find astounding.

We then did some trial shows the last two months of the season on a local station in Boston where I did some other shows and without who’s help this would never have gotten off the ground.

We approached Steve Cohen at Sirius Radio and he was quite interested. We had an encouraging meeting in NY during Super Bowl week and continued to negotiate with Sirius for some time but ultimately went with SkyView Network, a distribution company based in Scottsdale. We would still love to develop a relationship with Sirius and appreciate all the encouragement Steve gave us at a critical time but in the end SkyView’s plan seemed to fit us best.

Before we did our first national show on Hall of Fame weekend, SkyView had partnered with Yahoo Sports radio on around 50 radio stations, had the show available on the Tune In app and also made it available on our website: talkoffamenetwork.com. We also have our first national advertiser: Motel 6. We’ll keep the light on for you, Ed.

There have been some predictable ups and downs getting things in motion but overall easier to get up and running than we expected because all along the way people felt it was a unique concept and were willing to help.

You mentioned everyone is trying to reinvent themselves these days. What has the recent journey been like for you?

Nerve wracking at times but overall quite exhilarating. We all know the tough times print media has fallen upon and frankly the internet has not yet become the boon many hoped for.

It seems there is seldom positive news about print expansion so to go off in a different direction, though challenging, has been almost universally positive and uplifting. Even when we were unsure what direction we wanted to go the three of us kept saying the idea is good so if we fail it’s on us not some editor we can rail at for taking out a paragraph we felt should have been etched in stone!

The three of us have been friends for over 25 years as well so the chance to work with your friends on a project like this has really been enjoyable and exciting.

How different and difficult is it for primarily print guys to be doing a radio show?

Doing the show itself hasn’t been because we’d all done a lot of radio and TV before in our various markets and nationally. The difficult part has been learning the business end, the way to use social media to help get out the word about the show and the production end of things.

We’re fortunate to all have started in pro football when you could actually sit down and get to know players and coaches. Between us we have 110 years of NFL experience and 40 years on the Hall of Fame Committee and Rick and I also serve on the Veteran’s Selection Committee. That all comes in handy now as we set up our own interviews rather than have a producer do it. That’s been challenging at times but so far no dead air time!

In your eyes, what would constitute this show being called a success?

If it builds up a significant and consistent audience and becomes the leading authority on Hall of Fame matters. Down the road we’d like to think when people want to discuss a candidates credentials or explain why Player A got in and Player B did not they’d turn to us. As we already think they should, frankly.

 

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