By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) We asked for your submissions and you obliged. Many were predictably obtuse and pointless. Most, actually.
But there were a handful worthy of thoughtful response. Thanks for those we selected.
Q: “I have always wondered how you balance your home and work life. You seem to have a pretty active life, yet part of your job is watching sports. Do you often watch sports with your family? Do you watch recaps of games? Are there specific games you prefer to watch or give precedence to? How do you keep up on everything so well? Thank you very much. — Will
A: Games are on often, of course, but I try not to make myself crazy (crazier?) by feeling that I have to see every minute of everything, or do so much real-time channel changing that I fail to get a meaningful connection to a given game.
DVR is immensely useful, as you can imagine, as are the various phone apps that let me see important plays and keep up with games as needed while running around, especially on weekends dominated by youth baseball and hockey. Those I follow on Twitter are always feeding me material video, and producers will text me to make sure I can be conversant about something they may be preparing to play on the air. By the time the show starts, I should have seen and heard everything I need to do an informed (enough) job.
Even if not – and I’m caught off-guard – I’ll say so, and the listener can hear my initial reaction to seeing something for the first time.
Special accommodations are made pursuant to importance, obviously. Bears games are events, as are any playoffs and others that matter more either locally or nationally. Those following me on Twitter have a pretty good idea of what I’m watching.
Something else that really helps is that I hardly ever watch sports TV that is not game action. I try to avoid pregame, halftime and postgame programming entirely unless there is specific reason not to, and I do not watch any highlight shows unless one happens to be on in the cardio room at the gym.
It is also vitally important to remember to turn the TV and computer off to enjoy just talking as a family, playing board games or cards, or just doing anything else together. Sometimes I forget how nice it can be in the living room undistracted by “work.”
Q: “At what age did you become a Cubs fan?” — Brian
A: I grew up a White Sox fan.
Neither of my parents had an MLB rooting interest (Mom from Buffalo, Dad from Omaha), so there was no influence on my allegiances as a kid. Like most of my friends, I followed both teams equally, until 1977, when I was drawn to the bizarre counterculture.
Anytime I asked if we could go to a Sox game, I was rebuffed by claims that Comiskey was “too dangerous,” which any parent knows is a siren song. I liked that the games were at night, that Harry Caray was honest to a fault and Jimmy Piersall could be really mean. I liked the fireworks, the horrible uniforms, the DH, and “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.” I loved staking out territory among my friends for baseball arguments on the bus to and from day camp.
It sounds pathological; I know, for someone in Deerfield with no parental persuasion whatsoever to gravitate to the White Sox. So be it.
Q: “As an avid Score listener I am always amazed at the sound effects that are played throughout the show. Particularly of note are the effects that seem to be totally spontaneous, but from the way-back machine. Is this the producers thinking incredibly fast on their feet? Is it pre-planned? Or does the delay from what you say until it crosses the airwaves assist in the ability to be so spot-on all the time?” –John
A: That’s entirely the skill of the producer running the board. The art of the associate producer “talking” via sound drops – often like a Greek-chorus meta-commentary — began on our show with Jonathan Hood, was refined by Scott Schayer (who preferred to rarely speak into the mic), continued with Jason Goff and his expanded on-air presence, and now has been taken to a new level by the prodigiously talented Chris Tannehill.
Chris is an experienced hip-hop DJ, with great hands and a keen ear. His brain seems interfaced with our sound vault, apparently loading and firing sound faster than one could think buttons can be pushed. He also has his own, 50-button effects board at hand, beyond the thousands he plays via the computer.
The delay is unrelated. You can listen un-delayed on-line, and the only time you’ll notice a difference is when we dump something FCC-verboten. Online listeners will hear the offending word before we delete it.
Q: If you were required to consolidate the entire fast food universe into six items (3 mains, 2 sides, 1 dessert), what would those items be? All fast food restaurants would convert to the six item Bernstein menu and these would be the only fast food items you could ever eat again. You could still make your Frankenstein sandwich creations with the limited menu items. — Justin
A: This was the hardest question of the bunch, and it made me realize I could probably be fine with just McDonalds. My first thought was McDouble, McChicken and Egg McMuffin, but I could be talked into subbing the Hardees bacon/egg/cheese biscuit as the breakfast item.
Sky-point, too, for the Hardees Frisco Grilled Chicken, which I believe has been discontinued by some horrible forces of evil. That was the best non-burger fast food sandwich in my memory.
For sides, I’ll go with McDonalds fries and Brown’s fried mushrooms, for variety. The dessert is a DQ vanilla cone, chocolate dipped.
Q: “How tall are you really?” — Mike
A: 5-8. Probably a fraction over that, if age and gravity have not taken a toll. But we’ll go with what’s on the driver’s license.
Q: “Being on the air usually five hours, what is your typical work day like? Do you put in 8 hours, and if so what do you do with the other 3? — Rocco
A: We are only responsible for the success of the show itself, so those five hours are all that matter. I rarely arrive at the station more than 20 minutes before airtime.
I typically wake up around 6:30 AM, read the papers, sort through my email and Twitter timeline, give the kids breakfast, make their lunches and walk them to school. Then it’s more reading, sometimes column-writing, and working the phones for info as needed. Then to the gym for weights and cardio, and directly from there to work.
We have no real show-prep, no meetings, and no run-throughs. When the light goes on you hear everything just as freshly as we do.
At 6 it’s a stop for groceries, then I make dinner for the kids and then later the wife if she wants (Kids eat meat, wife doesn’t). I watch whatever games are on and usually eat late, after the rest of the family is asleep.
Q: After reading the history of the Score by Dan Dorfman, it sounds like the Score is in the middle of something of a golden age as ever since 2008 everyone is getting high ratings and there doesn’t seem to be a hint of infighting as there used to be. Do you agree with that sentiment that this is the “golden era” of the Score? — Tommy
A: It’s really not about agreeing or disagreeing, since there are measurables involved. Radio stations are judged by how much money they make, and those publicly-available figures are inarguable. The station – along with the entire CBS Chicago group – has been doing extremely well, and is always expected by CBS to show year-to-year growth. Ratings are one aspect of revenue generation, with the others being the burgeoning digital presence you are enjoying at this moment, and what the industry calls “NTR,” or non-traditional revenue.
The reason for any success, however, is good programming driving creative, motivated sales. If you graph WSCR’s recent run, you’ll notice that it really began when the current lineup of shows locked in. There is no host lacking a college education, now, and the pandering to a lower common denominator of fan has been minimized.
That is also the reason for the lack of infighting you mention. The Score made bold programming moves to make the station smarter, stronger and smoother both on the air and off.
Dan Bernstein joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995, and has been the co-host of Boers and Bernstein since 1999. Read more of Bernstein’s columns, or follow him on Twitter: @dan_bernstein.