SportsDayDFW.com is publishing a series of Q+A profiles to introduce you to local sports radio hosts. This is the final in a weekly series.
When he wasn’t drafted by the Cleveland Indians straight out of high school, Dan McDowell knew he had to find another career.¬†
He still wanted to be around sports, but knew he didn’t have the skills to go pro.¬†
So, he decided to go into sports broadcasting.¬†
Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, McDowell found his way to D-FW working his show BaD Radio on 1310-AM The Ticket.¬†
Now¬†he and his co-host¬†Bob Sturm are approaching their 20-year anniversary together in 2019.¬†
We caught up with Sturm’s better half recently to talk about how he got his start, turning down an offer from 105.3 FM The Fan and more. Here are some of the highlights.
Q: How did someone who grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, end up in D-FW?
Dan McDowell: Just trying to get a job anywhere in the entire country was my goal.¬†
But I had grown up going here a lot because my uncle lived in Arlington. Every summer my mom would ship me and my brother out to my uncle’s house and we thought it was because my uncle loved us. Once I became an adult, I realized it was to get rid of the kids. My mom was a single mom and needed to party some in the summer.¬†That was my original thing with here.¬†
Then when The Ticket started, I just had a friend who, once they had an opening, they very rarely as I understand have an opening since I’ve been here 19 years. They’ve only had one since I’ve been here. A buddy of mine said, he also was in radio trying to get jobs in any town. That can be a weird process.
If we send a tape and resume out, if I send 100 out, I literally¬†received two responses. You know, you just don’t hear anything bad. You don’t even know if they listened to your tape or anything. Well, a buddy of mine who had sent 100 out¬†heard back from The Ticket and actually got feedback. The guy was Bruce Gilbert and he still works with Cumulus now. He went on to run the ESPN Radio network for a while and some other things. But he’s¬†the guy who’s the PD who hired me and who hired Bob [Sturm] before me. He actually called this guy back and gave him feedback and said ‘Here, I liked how you did this,’ or ‘Your interviewing skills were a little down or whatever.’¬†So just the thought that I would get a response was very exciting to me.¬†
I mailed a resume and tape and stuff and apparently, the response was a little more positive than it was to my buddy’s. One thing led to another and here we are.¬†
Q: How did you decide to enter the sports broadcasting field?
McDowell: When I realized I was a failed athlete and I wanted to be in sports somehow. That seems like a pretty common theme if I’ve met a lot of people. We all wanted to be pro athletes to start and once that dream is evaporated, then we look for others ways where we can actually not have to do real work for a living.¬†
My goal was to be a baseball play-by-play announcer and I guess that’s how I started to get into it. I was just a little nerd who loved sports, loved baseball.¬†I used to announce games into my tape recorder.
Q: You always bring the comedy on the show. Why is that?¬†
McDowell: Well, if you are paired with Bob [Sturm], you’re probably going to be labeled as the non-sports guy. No matter who you are.¬†If¬†Chuck Cooperstein was sitting next to Bob, he might be the non-sports guy.¬†I don’t know if that’s the reason.
Before I worked here, I actually¬†worked at a¬†station that told me never to talk sports. Their quote was ‘Sports is dead,’ as far as the ratings were concerned. So, I worked for a couple years in Dayton, Ohio. I kind of had a more sports background, but they didn’t want me talking sports. It’s just like a general talk show. I just had to weave in sports if I could convince the guys that it would relate to the general audience. So, I guess that’s what gave me a little experience not doing sports.¬†
When I got here, they never really even quizzed me about sports.¬†I think they were looking for a pairing for Bob. Bob had already been here for eight months or so and they thought it would work out. I didn’t think it would work out, but it did.¬†
Q: When did you and Bob Sturm first meet?
McDowell: We met on the weekend of the Byron Nelson Classic in 1999.¬†
I remember I sent my resume out here soon after April 1. For some reason, I remember that day because they had changed my shift or something like that in Dayton. I was wearing thin on them in Dayton, they didn’t really like me that much. They had changed our time shift from 3-to-7 to 10 or something like that or to 5-to-9, I think it was. Anyway, I knew it was a bad sign and that they didn’t want me. That’s when I kind of started sending out resumes.
When I got the response, they actually flew me out here and I met Bob the weekend of the Byron Nelson Classic in 1999. Then apparently things went well and our first day on the air together was¬†June 14, 1999.¬†
¬†Q: How was the name BaD Radio born?
McDowell: It seems like a pretty easy acronym. I’m not sure if I would credit Expo, his name was Kevin Fox, they called him “Expo.” He was our board op. Or if it was Bob or if it was a collective, I can’t really remember.¬†
I remember we met at a restaurant early on our first weekend before we did the show and I think they had some liners coming out of breaks where the PB Bruce Gilbert who’s generally a genius, but on this particular topic he was calling us “Big Mac and the Sturmanator,” which didn’t really stick. Then we came up with the brilliant BaD Radio.
We had a lot of brilliant things like the 1:30 News, that’s our title for the news that’s at 1:30. We don’t like to get too complicated so the Bob and Dan acronym worked pretty well.
We are thinking of making a change here in the next year or so because of the 20-year anniversary. To garner more kids listening, we might call it Dan and Bob so it’s DaB Radio because we like to dab on the haters. It’s really one of our favorite things to do.¬†
Q: You and Bob were close to accepting an offer to go to The Fan, but ultimately decided to stay with The Ticket. What was the thought process that went into that decision?¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†
McDowell: There were different people in charge of the company that we worked for. What precipitated that was they were having massive pay cuts across the board in the company, which was heavily in debt.¬†
I suppose in the negotiations they were talking about cutting pay and all this kind of stuff. We were offered something that wasn’t a pay cut.
The thought process to not end up leaving was pretty much because the people that were around here, not the upper management of the whole company, which was located far away. For real, we got to thinking the success that we had, I mean it is pretty awesome, but it is certainly due to the fact that The Ticket was already awesome. We got here the very week of their five-year‚ÄĒit was the first summer bash‚ÄĒthey were celebrating their fifth year on the air.¬†
At that time, I thought it was amazing that a station could be on the air for five years and everybody be real successful. They were already number one when we got here. So, to be plopped in between The Musers and The Hardline, you have this built-in awesome audience and it would be very hard to fail.
If we were plopped onto another station, it’s very likely we would not have succeeded.¬†
So the fact that our great success, if you would term it as that, you know, I would based on what I ever thought we could’ve ever done….
I guess the last minute, it was like a¬†‘We just can’t leave these guys.’ We all had heart-to-heart talks about what we all meant to each other. That’s kind of in the end what it came down to over monetary gain. Short-term monetary gain for just lifestyle and friendships and what they’ve done for our careers. Really, I don’t think we would be anywhere near where we are had we not been between two of the best radio shows, I think, ever.¬†
Q: Growing up in Ohio, how much of a Cleveland sports fan are you and how much did LeBron James’ decision hurt?
McDowell: All LeBron things impact me. I love LeBron. I am a Cleveland fan. I always say I’m more of a 1990s Cleveland fan than I am today’s Cleveland fan, but I’ll conveniently jump on the bandwagon at any point that I choose. When LeBron was drafted by the Cavs, I’m really into the Cavs. I’ve always enjoyed the tag of being a ‘LeBron lover.’ I will support him in whatever decision that he makes. I would’ve loved to see him stay with the Cavs. I have a very good friend who works for the Cavs. But, I can kind of see his point of view in that I’m from Cleveland and I happily left as well. Cleveland is a great place to go visit sometimes it is not a bad place to be born, but I don’t think I want to live in Cleveland forever, and LeBron didn’t either. I support his decision.
Q: Who is your favorite D-FW athlete?
McDowell: I’ve read a lot of the guys’ and it’s hard not to say Dirk [Nowitzki], right? Everybody else says Dirk. He’s really such a good dude. I first talked to him when he was 19. He was on the practice court, they used to practice in South Dallas at the Baylor Medical Center. It’s hard not to say him.
[Mike] Modano has been really, really cool. So it’s easy to say guys who are very good who are also very nice to me and those two guys would be right up there in that.¬†Michael Young was also very good and fairly friendly with our show as well.¬†
On a personal level, as far as our show is concerned, certainly we’ve had Dirk on a lot. I would also go with Bill Guerin, who we did a show with… He was a Dallas Stars free agent signee, he’s now the assistant GM for the Pittsburgh Penguins. We did a show with him for a few years, we really got to know him well and he’s a great guy.¬†
As well as Gabe Kapler, you may know him as the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. He was kind of like our first player show ever, back in the year 2000 or so I think it was. We became friendly with him. I’d probably put Kapler and Guerin as far as my personal favorites as far as interacting with.¬†
Then if you want to throw me on with every other guy you’ve interviewed, I’d go ahead and say Dirk.
Q: You’ve been on the air with The Ticket for about 20 years now, what have been the most impactful memories for you in that time?
McDowell: It’s hard to say. I would say one of our favorite moments that we look back on is the Lee Corso fight… We have a good recap of it on our BobandDan.com¬†in our 15 for 15 series. When we became 15 years old, we stole the ESPN 30 for 30 bit. We made 15 different documentary-type things about the 15 moments that made our show what it is…
Many years ago at the SMU Athletic Forum luncheon, which is a thing we go to three or four times a year. They get a big-name guest in, SMU does, to speak and then we will interview them afterwards, after their speech.¬†
One year, Lee Corso was the guy. Man, this was a long time ago, maybe ’02 or something like that, I don’t know. But we had him on and I don’t know, we got into an argument somehow. It certainly wasn’t my fault. I’m the innocent bystander here.¬†
It was really weird and he got mad at me and then we kind of dismissed him. He was there for a two-minute interview in the long run because it just got real weird.¬†
Then The Ticket listener shift took over and every weekend at College GameDay, no matter what city they were in, there would be Lee Corso/Ticket-related signs in the morning and then that became a big thing…
The Ticket family was following Lee Corso and stalking him around the nation. Then, thanks to The Musers for replaying that audio over a million times over the last 18 years or so. That has been built up as kind of a giant, giant moment, bigger than it actually was at the time. I would have to point to the Lee Corso incident as being a top deal in my life. Perhaps the greatest moment of my life.
That’s number one and then the birth of my second child is number two… The birth of my child didn’t help my career at all, the Lee Corso incident did.