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Gisser: Promoting the sport over the air
I got really excited last week when I read that Rob Key of Converseon would be discussing the USTA’s Social Media Initiative on Mike and Mike. Getting coverage of our sport on ESPN would be huge. Greenberg and Golic are both racing fans and this would be great. Then I read on.
Unfortunately, the discussion was not to be on ESPN. It was on a podcast called Post Time with Mike and Mike, featuring Michael Bozich and Mike Carter, a pair of talented track announcers who have branched out into Internet Radio. And that’s a shame, because it was a really good discussion. But Post Time with Mike and Mike does not quite have the panache or following of ESPN’s morning show.
Post Time currently airs live on Thursdays at 1 PM on Blogtalk Radio, an Internet service, and it is well worth listening to. The harness racing Mikes keep the program moving with a large number of guests and solid topics. But it bothers me just a bit every time I see it referred to as Mike and Mike (or Mike & Mike). And I am not just saying that because Mike Golic beat the snot out of me twice on the wrestling mat back when we were in high school, or because Bozich is really good at what he does.
Another very good podcast is Ryan Macedonio’s Fantasy Trotcast. He tends to do a longer format with one guest, and while he is not the most polished interviewer, he is solid and he really allows his guests to shine. It may be the most entertaining harness racing broadcast around. You can catch his show at FantasyTrot.com, among other websites.
These programs can reach and inform a segment of the harness racing audience with a great deal of insight. Since they are generally also available on demand, you can listen at your convenience, even if you can’t catch the live broadcast.
I know a bit about doing harness racing radio, back when it was an over-the-air medium. Not Internet. Not satellite. Not cell phones. Our show, Keeping Pace, managed to do live remotes from dozens of tracks, often using pay phones. We won some National and International awards and even peaked on the Arbitron ratings with 2.1, which was unheard of for a brokered show (a brokered shows means you paid the station for the time and then hoped you could get enough sponsors to pay for it).
While we were paying between $300-400 an hour (with some perks and free time added in), you can get started with an Internet show for as little as $39. With Northfield Park as a presenting sponsor, I had half of my bill paid each week and they provided a great co-host in a (then) very young Dave Bianconi. Some weeks we made a bit of money, some weeks we broke even and (when I had restaurants and cigar shops as sponsors) sometimes the money did not matter.
The show was entertaining, but it also informed. We did the only broadcast interview with Bill Fahy after he set a World Record with Jenna’s Beach Boy. We interviewed Hans Enggren when Peace Corps had her first foal. We also had fun with celebrity call-ins (including the late Macho Man Randy Savage, who Dave had never heard of) and gave away prizes, all while talking harness racing in an age where technology was not the greatest. There were many, many great moments, and some not as great.
Our show normally aired live on Saturdays from 6-7 PM, just before Northfield post time, and it aired throughout Northfield’s plant. Bianconi, who worked full-time at the track, would often call in his segment, although sometimes he would go flying out of the studio at 6:58 to get to the track in order to do on-camera picks by 7:25, just prior to first post. In later years, I filled some of those spots, picking up several speeding tickets en route.
The station we started on, WHK 1420, featured a sports talk format. They were the new kids on the block, and as a result, had a lot more flexibility than other stations. I reported live during Little Brown Jug week on the afternoon drive show, where host Les Levine always ended every segment with “We’ll speak with Keith again tomorrow, but nor furlong.” Bad puns, but good times.
We also got a bonus (aka free) weekday spot now and then, if there was not a Cleveland State basketball game or a minor league hockey matchup. We broadcast Northfield races live, with me in studio and Dave at the track. One night I picked a $132 win horse on the air. Dave was speechless. I was speechless. The engineer thought the transmitter went down.
And I traveled . . . to Monticello, Vernon, The Meadows, the West Virginia State Fair, and to Woodbine for the North America Cup, where I interviewed Doug Brown in the massive Woodbine Press Box. He was sitting next to me, two feet away, but due to issues at the station we had to talk to each other (and to Dave) via telephone. Ah, the technology of the nineties.
Earlier that day I had checked into the Comfort Inn and saw a pickup truck with Ohio plates and a race bike in the bed. It could only have been trainer Max Shaw, who had Buckeye superstar Cinder Lane Sam racing in the Cup. I had never met him, but I called the front desk and asked for his room. How is that for great investigative reporting? I introduced myself and he said he would be happy to do an interview. Two hours later, I headed back to my room with barely enough time to edit the tape.
Eventually WHK changed format to a religious station and even though we paid our bills, gambling did not mix with fire and brimstone. We moved for awhile to a smaller non-sports station, but their facilities were poor and their production staff non-existent, so Keeping Pace left the airwaves for good.
Internet radio, or podcasts, or blogcasts, can help our sport, making its personalities accessible and making discussions of the key issues we face commonplace, just like broadcast radio in did in a previous era. I wish Post Time with Mike and Mike, FantasyTrot and others all the best in finding listenership and I hope they can promote effectively and accurately who they are and what they do.
That’s it for this month. Now go cash.
I am not knocking Mike and Mike....very talented individuals...but lets be honest....There was a total of 6 people listening last week. Nobody knows that the show exists and this is in no way shape or form "Main Stream Media". The sport is DEAD!!....Does anybody REALLY care about the "race call of the year"...Please...waste of time...would rather watch my beagle take a hearty dump on the corner of 5th and crenshaw.....
thanks Keith. The podcasts (trotcast) and The Mikes (i'll refrain from referring to it as Mike & Mike, are also all available at www.harnessracingfanzone.com and the associated mobile apps (free at itunes or google play for android). Thankfully, in an era when most media is uninterested in covering racing, these are platforms that allow the sport to become the media. And that's essential to the future. Cheers.