10 Questions with ... Zach McCrite
April 7, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- High school play-by-play for historic Indiana high school basketball at Age 15
- Sports talk radio host since 2005
- 2010-11 - Co-host of Kentucky Sports Radio, now heard on over 25 affiliates
- 2011-14 - Host on 101 ESPN - St. Louis // Postgame Show Host - St. Louis Rams Radio Network
- 2014-15 - Host on 107.7 The Franchise - Oklahoma City
1. First, what led you to start "The Podcast About Sports Radio"? What are your goals for the show?
It had been a long time coming. I had been spending more and more time listening to podcasts as a sort of â€œescapeâ€ from sports radio. And about a year ago, it dawned on me that I was listening to podcasts in a ton of different niches, but I had found nothing about the sports radio industry other than the regular sports talk podcasts. Nothing about the industry itself. If there was one, I hadnâ€™t found it. So I finally launched at the beginning of March with seven episodes already in the can and ready to be published on a weekly basis.
Plus, I love the art of interviewing. I love the challenge of being able to get the listeners to learn something new or different about a person I have the privilege of interviewing. I think, sometimes, we donâ€™t want to get to know something personal about our interview subjects. I try to tailor my interviewing styleâ€”both on radio and on the podcastâ€”to get something a little more personal than what weâ€™re accustomed. Sometimes I fail, but sometimes I succeed. Either way, itâ€™s different.
The goal for the podcast is for all of us to be able to learn from others that are better than us. But, selfishly, I want to make myself better as well. There are a lot of people I know in this business who are better at this than me. And for the ones I donâ€™t know, this was my way of getting in front of them. Introducing myself. Learning from them. Itâ€™s a lot less creepy hearing from someone you donâ€™t know when theyâ€™re asking them to come on a podcast. Ha!
2. So far, what's the most interesting thing you've learned from the guests you've had on the podcast?
That they all have one thing in common: a â€œright place, right timeâ€ story. Sometimes more than one. Obviously, theyâ€™ve all got a ton of talent, or there would never have been a â€œright place, right timeâ€ story in the first place. But, timing is a big part of this business. Thatâ€™s one thing that I had probably already learned, but itâ€™s certainly been reinforced through the guests Iâ€™ve had on so far.
3. Regarding your career, you've worked in Louisville, St. Louis, and now in Oklahoma City; what have the differences and similarities been between the cities? Does having a pro team in town make a difference in the approach you take to hosting, or the kind of fans who call in?
This is a question I get a lot.
Itâ€™s really a wild connection between the three for me. In Louisville, itâ€™s all college sportsâ€”huge rivalry between Louisville and Kentucky, obviously. Indiana is also a prong on the fork there, since it borders right up against Louisville. Louisville is right across the Ohio River from my hometown in Indiana, so Iâ€™m a bit bias, but I would put the Louisville/Southern Indiana market's knowledge of the game of basketball up there with any other market of fans in the countryâ€”including NBA markets.
In St. Louis, itâ€™s far more pro sports obviously. Rams, Cardinals, Blues. But, no real rivals in the backyard like in Louisville. The passion for their teams is absolutely off the charts in St. Louis. I would put it up against any other city in America in that department.
Oklahoma City, to me, is a mix of the two. Youâ€™ve got the college rivalry aspect with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Bedlam is awesome. The fans are absolutely nuts and it makes the sports radio that much more fun. But then youâ€™ve got the one thing that brings them all together -- a pro team -- Thunder basketball. A lot of them live and breathe with the Thunder. I had someone tell me when I first got here that if Bob Stoops ran for mayor of Oklahoma City, no one could beat him -- except Kevin Durant. I believe it. Itâ€™s an awesome mix of pro and college sports passion.
4. You've done some play-by-play as well as pre- and post-game hosting. If you could call play-by-play for any team, which would it be? (And to enforce the fantasy aspects of this question, let's eliminate your present market and say it can't be the University of Oklahoma, or the Thunder.)
Well, Iâ€™m a big Indianapolis Colts and Indiana Hoosiers fan. Itâ€™d be very hard for me to choose between those two, but those would be the twoâ€”Colts football or Hoosiers basketball.
5. Let's go back to the beginning -- what made you want to be a sportscaster in the first place?
Itâ€™s the only job Iâ€™ve ever really wanted. I wanted to be a play-by-play man. I can distinctly remember the early days of Nintendo and Super Nintendo and playing basketball and football video games on it and turning down the sound so I could mimic Bob Costas or Marv Albert or Don Fischer (Indiana Hoosiers PxP) or Pat Summerall.
So I started when I was 14 with an internship. Got paid by a commercial station to do play-by-playâ€”right place, right timeâ€”at 15.
By 2005, I was 24 and had a bit of a play-by-play footprint in the Louisville market that I was asked to host a sports talk show at night. And thus, everyoneâ€™s worst nightmare beganâ€”me doing sports talk.
6. And in a similar vein, who have been your primary influences as a sports host?
Even though my first love was play-by-play, I can remember growing up in Indiana when Louisville got itâ€™s first sports talk station. It was around â€™94 or so. One-On-One Sports Network. Arnie Spanier, Papa Joe Chevalier. They influenced my young mind, for sure.
But when I got older, my first real mentor was Jason Barrett. He found me through Rick Scott, who found my stuff on STAAâ€™s website. Although I was holding down a fine job in Louisville and having a blast, I was getting no coaching. Luckily, those guys heard something in me. Jason hired me to host mornings in St. Louis at 101 ESPN, and molded me along the way. He also connected me a lot of people in the industry as well. He still helps me out all the time today, even though weâ€™ve both departed St. Louis.
Jason's belief in me may have came before the belief I had in myself. Iâ€™m forever grateful to him.
7. Of what are you most proud?
In radio, a couple of things tie for firstâ€¦
First, itâ€™s that people I have worked with have gone on to bigger and better things after we parted, which basically means I didnâ€™t ruin their careers! I know that sounds self-deprecating. I guess it is. But, it makes me feel good to know that most producers and co-hosts that Iâ€™ve worked so closely with are still in the business. They were able to overcome my shortcomings and do great work, while making me sound way better than I couldâ€™ve ever sounded on my own.
Second is my ability to evolve. Iâ€™d like to think Iâ€™ve been put in a lot of different situations in radio and succeeded in most of them. Solo shows, two-man shows, three different markets, pregame host, postgame hostâ€”learning to find my lane in each one and have some level of success. Iâ€™m not everyoneâ€™s cup of tea, but who is? Iâ€™ve been on the air since I was 14 and Iâ€™m 34 and someone actually still thinks Iâ€™m employable in sports radio. Thatâ€™s something Iâ€™m proud of. Iâ€™ve found ways to evolve along the wayâ€¦ at least Iâ€™d like to think that.
8. How, if at all, are you using social media in conjunction with your show? Do you see it as show prep, engagement with the listeners, a news source, all of the above, none of the above? And who are the most valuable follows for sports in social media?
I use social media constantlyâ€¦ and for everything. Show prepâ€”twitter is my newspaper. Engagement with listenersâ€”I feel like I know a ton of them through social media alone, even though Iâ€™ve never seen some of them in the flesh. Also, itâ€™s also a where I can get my thoughts quickly down somewhere and see if a topic gets reaction and is â€œshow-worthy.â€ My current producer makes fun of how much I tweet. Heâ€™s probably right, but I donâ€™t care. I think the interaction I have with my listeners is a one-up I have over my competitors.
And of course, itâ€™s the first place to find breaking news now. I donâ€™t know why any on-air host/producer wouldnâ€™t at least keep an eye on twitter as the show is going on. If you do, youâ€™ve got the breaking news reaction before your competitor does. More ears will come your way, especially as listeners migrate from just looking at twitter for breaking news to looking for a â€œreactionâ€ to that news.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ___________.
...my iPhone. Itâ€™s frightening how much I am on it. Itâ€™s fairly shameful.
10. You ask your podcast guests about the advice they'd give aspiring sportscasters, so... what advice would YOU give aspiring sportscasters?
First: If you havenâ€™t already interned, itâ€™s time to go now. Unless youâ€™re a former athlete, this is how 95% of people get into the on-air side of sports radio: interning.
After that, I would call a PD and see if he or she would just critique a tape of yours. Iâ€™ve done this. I didnâ€™t ask for a job, and so it kept the pressure off of them and made it easier for them to respond to me. I just introduced myself, gave them a 5-minute bit and hope they replied. They usually did. If I didnâ€™t strike a nerve with them, maybe they know someone else who was hiring and forwarded it on. Worst case scenario: they had my name and I usually got a critique back from a PD at a station that I admired. Thatâ€™s a win.
Second: Stop taking yourself so damn seriously. Have you ever hung around with someone who thought they were the smartest guy in the room? I bet it wasnâ€™t that enjoyable. Why do you think everyone else enjoys it when you think that about yourself?
Third: Make sure you have (or marry) an understanding spouse. Without that, youâ€™re toast!