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ESPN Senior Vice President Traug Keller

2-1-2013

In 1994, I was representing The Fabulous Sports Babe whom we had just taken to ESPN Radio. As the first female hosting a show for the testosterone-driven ESPN, the Babe made quite an entrance.

ESPN Radio was in its infancy and the addition of the Babe drew attention to the first national sports radio network. The programming was run out of Bristol, CT, but the sales and executive offices were in New York and thats where the Babe originated her broadcasts. The studios and offices were filled with energy and employed some of our industry's most respected professionals. Among them was a young man who stood tall and had a grin that seemed to span the entire island of Manhattan. Never stressed, always calm, impeccably dressed and never shaken, Traug Keller was a breath of fresh air amongst the chaos that is a staple of New York.

He always looked like he had just stepped off of a yacht in the Hamptons, but was the complete opposite of his looks. He loved the product, knew the product, and sold the product with pride and honor. He was the best of ESPN, and when Bristol looked up from their spreadsheets they could no longer ignore the leadership  demonstrated by Traug. So, when the time came to make the right decision, they put Traug in charge of the radio enterprise along with a few other things. And in doing so, they raised ESPN radio to the iconic status it enjoys today.

And here, now, is the explanation of why Sr. VP ESPN, ESPN Deportes Radio Traug Keller got into radio, in his own words.

My passion for radio runs long and deep. I trace it back to when I was around nine years old living in Ossining, New York, best known as the home of Sing Sing Prison. I was too young for a paper route so my mother had one put in her name to deliver the weekly shopper. She saw it as a way to help out her son who was looking for ways to earn money to feed his comic book obsession. It turned into much more.
It was a very long route but fortunately I had a transistor radio with an earpiece and the route seemed to always go faster as I listened to WCBS 880 AM all along the way. Even then I was a news and sports junkie and it wasnt long before names like Lou Adler, Jim Donnelly, Ed Ingles, and Spencer Ross became familiar and comforting to my ears.

At night I would listen to that same radio, following along as the New York Knicks went on their championship run in 1969-1970. I recorded many of those games on a small cassette recorder and even attempted to make a highlight tape of all the great Marv Albert calls along the way that season (who else remembers the Royals game?). 
We moved from Ossining to Ridgefield, Conn., and I could still get those NYC radio stations. Better yet, on the bus to school each day, the driver would listen to Don Imus!

I remember the catchy song hed play so distinctly: I don't care if it rains or freezes/Long as I got my plastic Jesus/Riding on the dashboard of my car. (Who says radio doesnt stick with you?)

Somehow that long bus ride in the early morning hours always seemed shorter when Imus was our co-pilot. (Later it would become a town controversy that a bus driver was listening to Imus with all those impressionable 13-year-olds in earshot; the town prevailed in silencing that radio but by the time they did, I went right on listening through my Walkman.)

My paper delivery days continued as a student at Boston College and, upon graduating, The New York Times offered me a job in Los Angeles setting up distribution for the new national edition. Along with the job came a company car with an AM radio and I dont know how many miles I logged in those days but that is where my love for radio was cemented: Jack Buck and Hank Stram calling Monday Night Football in the west coast evening drive; Lohman and Barkely on KFI; Bill Keene and his traffic reports on KNX; and some guy named Paul Harvey, who became appointment listening for me.

The Times had a radio station in New York, WQXR FM, and I figured out how to get transferred back home and I began as local retail sales account executive. Ive been in radio ever since.

Through my career, Ive had the good fortune of meeting many of those folks I listened to along the way. But no experience topped sitting in a Chicago studio, one-on-one with Paul Harvey as he did his newscast. It was just Paul and his microphone and a double-spaced-on-yellow-lined-paper news script he had typed out himself and then delivered to the 10 million or so folks listening on the other end. Traug, he would say, its just me and my friends. Thats how radio works, just me to you, no one else.

That, to me, is the rest of the storyabout radios power and its impact.
Reach out to traug about his story Traug.F.Keller@ESPN.com

Lisa Miller is the President of Miller Broadcast Management in Chicago. She's also one of Radio Ink's Most Influential Women in Radio. Miller can be reached at Lisa@millerbroadcast.com or 312-454-1111.
So, how did you get into radio? We'd love to hear the story about why you're passionate about radio.




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