Sports Talk With Jacob Guinn, or ‘Why Did It Have To Be Sports?”

Sports Radio: a radio format devoted entirely to discussion and broadcasting of sporting events.  Characterized by often-boisterous on-air style and extensive debate and analysis by both hosts and callers.

On November 7, i got to cross a name off my list when i talked with Jacob Guinn, 29, of Willoughby, Ohio about his new Internet radio show C-Town & Down.  Jacob is a guy i know from work.  Around there he’s known for his hot temper, and this extends to the sports talk radio program he recently launched through Cleveland Sports Fan Radio.  Their mission is to give Cleveland sports fans a voice in the condition and management of their teams.  The  studio is open to anyone, with any level of experience.  Participants can arrange to do live scheduled shows from their studio for a fee (in Guinn’s case $25 a month), and receive support from their producers and equipment.  CSF Radio will also broadcast Cleveland sports podcasts in their rotation for free as along as it is current and focused on Cleveland sports.
Guinn spent the summer months setting up the schedule for his show and preparing for his first broadcast.  On Nov. 1 he was live on-air.  Every Thursday night from 9 p.m. until 11 p.m. Jacob and his co-host Dave Jack share their thoughts on the status of Cleveland sports.  As a caveat, i should mention that of all the myriad things i know at least a smidgen about, sports is not one of them.  Sports is my trivia kryptonite, so even though i’ve made a point to tune in to all of Guinn’s broadcasts, they could have been speaking another language for all that i knew.  i suppose, in a sense, they were.
Despite my lack of understanding, i nevertheless detected the same boiling commentary on sports that i’ve so often been privy to on the job together with Guinn.  But that’s exactly why, even if i don’t know what the heck he’s talking about on his show, i know he’s being honest.
That honesty extends to critiquing his own work.  When we spoke, his first show was already in the can and he’d been diligently preparing for the next one.  Looking back at his debut, he thinks it went okay but was quick to point out there’s things he would like to do differently.  He was disappointed that he didn’t get to all the material he’d planned.  Since the first broadcast, he’s been doing research and taking copious notes in preparation for the second show.  Although he was satisfied with the initial offering, he wants to improve every time.
“After re-listening to the show, there were a lot of things I could have done differently,” Guinn said.  “But for being the first show, I’m just nit-picking.  But if I’m going to do it, I want to do it right.”
Broadcasting is something Guinn only became seriously interested in over the last few years.  Although he doesn’t have any formal training or experience in broadcasting, he decided to take a chance when  the opportunity was presented to him.  It was only a couple of months after that initial conversation that found Guinn on-air for the first time, helming the Internet talk show.
“I’m the main host,” Guinn said with pride.  “It’s my show, and I have a buddy that I play softball with who comes on to help.”
As the show’s host, Guinn is responsible for making the final decision on the format of the show and planning the time blocks, which he does in 15 minute intervals that are broken up by commercial spots.  The station is a start-up endeavor, and Guinn takes his duty to provide quality content seriously.

“They want to make the station legit and move it into something bigger than what it is now,” Guinn said.  “My main goal is to have fun with it.  If it leads to something bigger down the line, that’d be great.  But it’s just one of those things to have fun with, to talk sports.  That’s pretty much the main goal — have fun.  You can’t be too serious about something like that.”

“If it leads to something else down the line, so be it.  If it doesn’t I’m not going to be too upset about it,” Guinn added.

Part of the format’s appeal, and by extension the opportunity itself, is the growing accessibility for mass communication.  Content creators have ever-increasing in-roads to media outlets that make shows like C-Town and Down possible.

“It may not be as big as an FM station, but people still listen to it,” Guinn said of the Internet radio format.  “You’re not going to have the numbers that you’d have on an FM or even AM station, but you’ll still have people who listen and give you input and feedback.  So it’s better than a podcast in that way.”

“If you look at newspapers and stuff like that, they’re kind of going down,” Guinn said of the trends in mass communication.  “The Internet and social media are way more out there all the time.  We have a website for the show, and a Twitter account (@CTownNDownShow).  There’s a chat room on the show’s website that opens up when the show starts.  I always have my cell phone and laptop up while we’re on the air.  So there’s a lot of ways because can get in contact with us and interact.”

That interaction takes place in the studio itself as well, with Guinn’s co-host, which he believes in an essential part of sports talk radio.

“If you’re going to do it, you have to have someone else that can argue their point with you but at the same time help you make the points,” Guinn said.  “Sometimes it’s one of those ‘agree-to-disagree’ kind of things.”

For a long time fan of the sports talk format, Guinn draws inspiration for his show from established broadcasters and looks to their example for ways to improve.  One broadcaster in particular serves as a role model for the kind of quality Guinn strives to achieve.

“I have to say my favorite sportscaster is Austin Carr, the Cavaliers’ announcer,” Guinn said.  “The things he comes up with during in-game are just crazy.  The words he uses you would never think a person his age would use.  He’s an older guy and you wouldn’t think he’d use the words he does.  He’s in touch.”

There’s a good chance that his role model in sports broadcasting influences Guinn’s favorite sport to watch.

“I have to say basketball,” Guinn said.  “Basketball is the #1 sport to watch.  It’s so action packed and it’s always non-stop.  In football and baseball there are these breaks and stoppages during plays.  Basketball is more fun to watch for the pure entertainment value.”

“I’m starting to get into soccer too,” Guinn said.  “I used to think it was boring or dreadful to watch after only a little while.  But I’ve gotten into it more now.”

While basketball may be Guinn’s favorite sport to watch, he did not hesitate on what is his favorite to play.

“Oh, baseball by far,” Guinn responded quickly.  “I played baseball in high school.  I play softball in the summer now.”

In speaking with Guinn, it is easy to see the kind of appreciation he has for all aspects of sports. When he gets heated on-air, it’s because of his passion for the games, players, coaches, and environment of sports of all kinds.  So it’s easy to understand why he jumped at the chance to start his own sports talk radio show.  It’s his way of participating in a more meaningful way, and he’s happy of the opportunity that CSF Radio gives him that he might not otherwise have.

“I just started doing this, and the benefit is that I can learn along the way while I’m actually doing it,” Guinn said of CSF Radio.  “Instead of going into a company like CBS or Clear Channel, I can learn from my mistakes and not get crucified for it.  It’s something I’m trying to learn on my own.  It’s a learning thing.”

“I didn’t have to go to OCB (Ohio Center for Broadcasting), or go to college and major in communications.  I’m getting that experience right now as I’m doing it.”  Guinn added.

The experience of broadcasting has already taught Guinn some important lessons.

“There’s two things: research, and just be yourself,” Guinn said.  “Make it fun.  Don’t make it so serious or boring that no one wants to listen.  I have to connect with people. You have to make it interactive.  You’ve got to make it so that everyone else feels involved, like they’re in it with you.”

That honest connection with the audience is something Guinn feels is directly related to his success or failure in the business.  Maintaining your honesty is his best advice for anyone else interested in broadcasting.

“No matter what you’re doing, just be yourself,” Guinn said.  “Don’t come across as fake, or jaded.  People will love you, and people will hate you.  As long as you’re being yourself, you know you’re doing it the way you want to.  People can tell when you’re faking, or trying to hard.  People see right through that, even on the radio.”

“That’s my #1 thing — be yourself,” Guinn said emphatically.

Before we concluded talking, i asked Guinn if he thought being himself would ever bring him into conflict with his audience.  With his penchant for hot-headedness, i wanted to know how he would handle it if someone in his audience strongly disagreed with him.  His response showed me that he’s got a good mind for promotion.

“Listen this Thursday,” Guinn said with a smile.

*          *          *          *          *
So there you have it.  That was my first interview in what will be a continuing series of interviews with people who are taking their own long shots in the media.  When i was making my list of potential interviewees, i was really surprised at how many people i already know who are engaged in their own projects.  Part of the reason, i believe, is because of all the technology we have available to bring our messages to wide audiences.
My interview with Jacob Guinn was really informative to me.  i know that Internet radio is certainly a growing trend, but it was interesting to discover how easily accessible it is.  For just a small fee, you can have access to a broadcast studio and the personnel to help get your show out there.  And if you have a podcast, you can broadcast for free through the station and still receive support.
i’d like to thank Jacob for taking the time to talk with me about his project.  Even though i only know him through our mutual employment, i can tell he’s got a lot of great ideas and such a passion for sports, and it’s really cool to see him taking on the experience of having his own show.  i think he’ll do great.
My next interview is already complete.  i talked with one of my good friends, and a guy who is a personal inspiration to me — Anthony Snitzer.  There’s a link to his website under “Stuff You Should Check Out” here on The Long Shot, right above the link to C-Town and Down’s website.  Anthony is a great guy with a great story, so i hope you’ll come back to check it out later this week.
Thank you!

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