How Did I Get HERE?
You may not believe this, but I never really wanted to be a talk show host. This wasn’t part of my grand plan. Looking back now, I couldn’t have dreamed up this journey if I tried. If I could have seen the road ahead of me, I would have been too overwhelmed to handle it anyway. Twenty years ago, I had zero designs on being a talk show host. Ten years ago, I wasn’t very good at it and only saw it as a means to an end. Five years ago, it felt like the walls were closing in and my options were drying up. So how in the world did I get HERE??
On January 1st, After Hours is moving! My CBS Sports Radio show will expand to five episodes a week, Sunday through Thursday nights (or Monday through Friday mornings on the East coast). Therein lies a huge part of the challenge. In this time slot, it’s primarily a West coast audience to start; toward the end of the show, it morphs into mostly morning commuters on the East coast. I LOVE that! I also love going into work at night–sifting through the various storylines in the immediate aftermath of all the action. Sunday nights during NFL season are my absolute favorite, and I won’t be giving that up. On a personal note, I’m looking forward to Saturdays off from work since I’ll get to see my family and friends a little more often and since my church meets on Saturday evenings. But the most exciting part? Since my hours won’t be all over the map, I can actually settle into a regular sleep pattern! Wooooo! So many reasons to be thrilled for this new challenge. It’s the first time at the network level that I’ll be responsible for my own talk show five times a week. That comes with a growing audience, expanded platform, increased scrutiny, higher stakes, and loftier expectations. I can’t wait to dive right in! I also can’t help but smile every time the thought pops into my head: how did I get here??
Twenty years ago, I was telling everyone who would listen that I would be the female Johnny Most someday. The first woman to ever do radio play-by-play for the Boston Celtics. That was my dream. It’s STILL my dream. But two decades ago, I didn’t have the first clue about how to make it happen. After graduating from Syracuse with my master’s degree, I just wanted a job. My professional journey started in Rochester, New York, where I read the news headlines at the top of every hour overnights on the weekends. I convinced my boss to let me do the sports updates on Saturday mornings after my shift for free. I worked mostly as a news anchor and reporter the first six years of my career. I picked up play-by-play when I could, but news paid the bills. In 2002, a small start-up outfit in Norman, Oklahoma, hired me to host a sports talk show. I was terrible at it. No training, not much support, a newbie and an outsider trying to build an audience among men who didn’t want a woman telling them about their favorite teams. I got fired a year later. Next stop was co-host of a morning drive talk show at a Providence radio station. Got fired after a year there, too. A variety of factors went into those pink slips (one of the stations went dark soon after), but I wasn’t very good at the talk show thing back then.
Ten years ago, I still looked at talk shows as a way to earn a paycheck and support my play-by-play habit. But then ESPN Radio started offering me fill-in work, and I began to realize how much fun hosting could be at the highest level, expressing my opinions and debating them with others. I got bit by the bug and found a new passion, but I still wasn’t very good at it, ha! I barely recognize the girl who first showed up in Bristol, Connecticut, in 2004. It was my first real training and guidance toward developing into a host who is equal parts knowledge, preparation, personality, and versatility. But the national stage also included a type of pressure and competition I never faced before. I had to learn on the fly and improve rapidly or I wouldn’t last. Even when I DID find a foothold, I could never get comfortable. Industry changes, management changes, philosophy changes–they’re all cyclical, and they didn’t always work in my favor. Five years ago, the opportunities were drying up and I was stuck in a role that didn’t suit me. But by then, I was confident in my abilities and driven by a passion that never waned. I knew all I needed was a chance to prove what I could do on the air. CBS came calling two-and-a-half-years ago and gave me that chance, and I’ve spent every day since then grateful for bosses who believe in me and give me these wings to fly.
I never wanted to be a talk show host. This was never part of the plan. Looking back, there were dozens of moments when I could’ve packed it in and chosen an easier path. I’ve been fired, taken out of rotation, passed over for jobs time and time again, rammed my head into the glass ceiling over and over, and heard the gloating when I stumbled. I’ll never forget the manager who told me, “We believe you’ve reached your full potential so we’re going to invest our resources in developing other talent.” To answer the question of how I got here, I have to acknowledge the failures and the people who gave up on me. They are fuel for the fire and motivation that never leave me. But they’re only part of the equation. I also got here on the strength of unwavering support, encouragement, and prayers from those family members, friends, colleagues, managers, and listeners who refused to give up on me. So 2015 is for you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I wouldn’t be here without you. XO