10 Questions with ... Thom Abraham
March 12, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I got into radio after I retired from coaching football at a small college in Upstate New York at the age of 37. I had 5 children and a wife, and I was missing out on an awful lot. 1040 WYSL asked me about doing some high school games in Livingston County, and I took to it in a hurry. I ended up doing some TV for the Empire Sports Network as well as being a football analyst, and in January of 1998 became Sports Director for WYSL, while doing a midday show. In 2001 I moved to Ft. Myers, Florida and assisted in flipping SportsRadio 770 to an ESPN Affiliate, and hosted mornings, and sold as well. The show did very well, and I won some sales awards from the Beasleys, and in 2004 I had the chance to go to Huntsville, Alabama with Cumulus and do afternoon drive, and host a 2 hour pre-game show covering the Alabama Crimson Tide. Throughout all this time, I was also doing play-by-play for Arena Football, which was a blast. After some more sales awards, Cumulus gave me the chance to go to Nashville to do afternoon drive on 106.7 the Fan. At my request, I also continued selling. The show was simulcast into Alabama on WUMP as well. While there, we won a couple of Curb Records AIR Awards for Best Afternoon Talk Show and Best Talk Host before Cumulus flipped the station to a music format.
We made a deal with WNSR to take the show there, and I was only off the air for a week. Since joining NSR, we won a couple of more AIR Awards, and my involvement in the station grew to my current role in management, while still hosting afternoon drive. Thankfully, I've got a great crew that does most of the heavy lifting for the show!
1. How did you get into radio, and why? What drew you to doing radio?
Two major influences brought me to radio. Rochester was one of the first Jim Rome affiliates, and I was a big fan. Rome talked like guys from my neighborhood, and I felt I could do that. The other was a legendary show in Rochester called the Brother Wease Morning Circus on WCMF. Wease was a sports fan, but his was not a sports show. It was Seinfeld on Radio. He started as a sales guy, and was pure personality radio. As an avid listener in the 80's, it shaped the kind of radio I wanted to do.
2. You're in a very active sports radio market (in your home market of Nashville), with a lot of local competition. How do you compete -- how do you make your show stand out amidst the many options on the dial for sports talk?
We bring a different type of attitude to the airwaves here. My large family and my wife are regular topics as well. My coaching past gives us credibility with players and coaches, plus I am certainly the only host in this town who ever played competitive hockey! We are a bit more edgy than the rest, and that's probably due to my northeastern roots. Listeners know I am passionate about the South, and the SEC, but I sound like I am from a stoop in Brooklyn!
3. You're out there selling as well as hosting; how does your sales interaction with clients and the business community affect how you do your show? Do you get a different perspective from hearing from business owners and clients?
Well, we have no problem making the on air staff understand that everything is for sale! We are a sales organization at the end of the day. My job is to intertwine the sales into the content of the show as seamlessly as possible, so the sponsor gets his message in, while the listener is still entertained. Others have poked fun at the "NASCAR" like mentality of my show...but I know who's paying the bills. God bless the guys that can make six figures for just bumping their gums, but in reality, there's not a ton of those jobs out there!
4. How are you using social media like Twitter and Facebook in conjunction with your show? Is it primarily for show prep, for interaction with listeners, both, neither, or something else?
Facebook and Twitter are integral in communication with our listeners now! The Twitter feed is always on during the show, but we have a guy, Joe Anthony, who is constantly monitoring that for breaking stories. He is also posting upcoming guests, poll questions and sound from the show constantly. Personally, I find it distracting to watch during the show, but we do read a lot of comments on hot topics. More people now post comments in some fashion, than call... and that may not be a bad thing....
5. Who have been your mentors and inspirations in your career?
Bob Savage at WYSL in Rochester, Eli Gold, Pete Weber... Brother Wease in Rochester. Plus guys like Michael DelGiorno and Phil Valentine in Nashville, when I worked in the building with them. From a sales standpoint, Robert Hallman with the Beasleys in Florida taught me a ton, Dave Elliott with Cumulus, and Bill West, who was my Market Manager with Cumulus in Huntsville; I still lean on that guy a ton, especially since I moved into management. Maybe the most decent guy I've ever met in the business. Ted Johnson, my current MM, is an incredible wealth of knowledge as well... from being on-air, to putting up a tower, he's done it all. He surprises me about once a week with stuff I had no idea he knew about!
6. Of the major sports, which would you say is your strongest in terms of knowledge and ability to comment, and which is your weak spot? What's your favorite sport to watch, purely as a fan?
I'm a college football guy first, in both respects. I love the NFL as well, Hockey and Baseball would be right behind that. I'm also a gearhead, so the NASCAR stuff is good with me. Weaknesses are soccer... and, well, soccer. Third World sport. And yes, I get it, but we've evolved. We picked up the ball and organized the game. Soccer purists hate me, but I drive a truck, not a horse and buggy... and have electricity. It's evolution... soccer hasn't evolved. But that's just me....
7. How do you prep your show? What's the process?
I prepare a show the way I did a practice schedule when I was a coach. Joe Anthony books the show, but he has a weekly outline. I sketch out the plan first thing in the morning after meeting with Matt Segal and Joe for about 15 minutes. That all takes about an hour. Then I'll do a couple of hours of management stuff, and get a few sales calls in. Around 11, I'll spend about two hours gathering stories and basically writing a monologue for the show open and top of hour resets. Around 20 minutes before the show, we all meet in studio, with the board op, and go over the cuts and sound we want for the show. We go over the outline quickly, and hit the air at 2. 15 minutes later, it all goes to hell, but at least we had a plan! We always have prepared material to fall back on... but we do let the show go where it will. In general, I read a ton, and have a TV on in my office to make sure I'm not missing anything that breaks. We work very hard to make it sound like we didn't work very hard on the show.
8. Of what are you most proud?
Damon Amendolara, CBS Sports Radio Network. Dan Schwartzman, NBC Sports Radio Network. Eyton Shander. NBC Sports Radio Network. All guys who worked with me as young pups, picked my brain, and are doing great things in the business. I started at age 37, with a family, so I took a different path. These guys all started young, and are building great careers. That I could mentor them, in my short 15 years on the air, is what I am most proud of. As for my show... the respect from coaches and players is huge. That cred is important to me. They know, I know. And that's key to my show....
9. What do you do for fun?
I am an avid bass fisherman that doesn't fish enough anymore, and my guilty pleasure is hosting "Southern Bass Radio"... I love to play golf when I can as well. My wife and I were high school sweethearts and got married in college. Now at 32 years, we have 9 children and 5 granddaughters. Grandson #1 is coming in July. We have been blessed with incredible kids who are all high achievers. We still have 4 kids in the house, 2 high schoolers and 2 middle schoolers. My youngest daughter is an aspiring actress about to graduate, and my three youngest sons are all pretty decent athletes, so that's a blast. My oldest son is Joe Anthony, who works on the show, and that's a dream come true. So I have lots of fun!
10. What's the best advice you've ever gotten? The worst?
The best advice was to be myself on the air. I didn't go to the Newhouse School of Broadcasting, or Columbia... I'm just one of the guys, so I act like one of the guys. Be a fan, and don't talk down to the listener. The best sales advice I ever got was to cherish and cultivate the "No's". That was Robert Hallman. He was also saying it was great when he got a "No" because we were no that much closer to the next "yes"! He was, like, "You need 15 no's to get 5 yeses, so go out there and get those no's"! I thought he was nuts... now I use that line all the time on my staff. The moral is activity. It's all a numbers game.
Bad advice? Never got any bad advice in my career! Made a few bad decisions, but that's on me. All advice is good, as long as you can sort through it! I want all the advice I can get!