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(SPORTS TALK) Dealing With Death


This week in San Diego I learned so much about radio, my career, and how to present a tragic situation to listeners as a new host in a market.

Last Monday, the great Padre Tony Gwynn passed away. I was in the middle of my regular show when the news broke around 8 a.m. My great assistant program director Joe Tutiono was given the news of Gwynns passing. Joe has been in the market his entire life and was given the news by Gwynns agent. He was very affected by it.

All I knew of Tony Gwynn was from the many baseball cards I had collected over the years -- some 14 of Gwynns cards. Its funny: There are two sides to a card, the statistics and the face. Thats all I had ever known of Gwynn.

Ive had Gwynn on my show in the past and knew of his greatness, with eight batting titles and 3,000 hits. But as Monday unfolded, I learned more. After my horrible 8 o'clock hour, my PD Mike Shephard asked me to pre-empt Jim Rome and do a three-hour show taking calls listening from Padre players and fans so they could talk about a man they so loved. Stories of meeting him at a burrito shop or seeing him in a hospital. There was a 9-year-old kid named Noah who called Gwynn his hero.

I decided this past week not to do what every radio host would do and try to be part of the story. Instead I chose to listen to former teammates and people like Pete Rose talk about what a great person and player Gwynn was. I learned so much as a host this past week. My first notion was to somehow take all my experiences and apply them to the story. But I realized that is wrong: Its better to let the fans and people who live in the market tell me their thoughts and help me grow in the market. Let the market come to me. They want to tell you how they feel.

I must say it was probably my best week of radio in my 22 years in the business. Many folks told me how much they appreciated me just letting people talk. Talk. Funny, thats what i do for a living, but I realized the listeners here wanted to help me become part of their love affair with a man who meant so much to people.

Radio host. The biggest mistake most hosts make is they want to be part of the story. I say go old school. Let the local people pull you into the community. I have been doing so well in San Diego and Southern California, having tripled ratings over what they were a year ago. But after today I actually felt part of San Diego and Southern California.

In the end, let the market come to you. Most listeners want Talk radio folks to be part of their community. I say, sit back and listen instead of talk.

Dan Sileo is a former professional football player with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Reach out to Dan at

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