Nearly 16 years to the day since parting ways with ESPN, Dan Patrick can reflect on the move and be proud of his decision to break free of the Worldwide Leader.
Last month, Patrick casually and surprisingly announced his four-year retirement tour. The announcement stemmed from the fact that he signed a four-year contract extension with iHeart and Fox Sports Radio, which Patrick has already decided will be the final radio deal of his career.
Patrick was recently profiled by Derek Futterman of Barrett Sports Media. During the interview, the Fox Sports Radio host reflected on his career and time at ESPN. According to Patrick, it wasn’t until he left ESPN that he was able to hone his skills as a radio host.
“I don’t think I knew how to be a radio host at ESPN because I was still representing ESPN,” Patrick said. “I wanted to make sure that I was being professional, and therefore not taking chances, [and] I kind of was going through the motions of radio making sure I didn’t upset anybody.”
“I was the ultimate ESPN employee,” Patrick added. “I was what corporate wanted, and I didn’t want to color outside the lines. I just wanted to do the right thing, and then I realized I wasn’t having fun after about 14 years. I kind of hit a glass ceiling and I thought, ‘Well, this isn’t my personality.’ But I was almost playing somebody on radio or playing somebody on TV.”
Patrick spent 18 years with ESPN, making a name for himself as a SportsCenter anchor and national radio host. In recent years, both of those ESPN brands have taken a hit. SportsCenter is no longer must-see TV, partially because the immediacy of social media has made highlight shows obsolete. ESPN Radio, meanwhile, is on life support after rounds of layoffs and a lack of star power morphed the once respected brand into a revolving door of hosts and shows.
But maybe Patrick’s claim that he was masking his own personality in favor of what corporate wanted is part of the current problem at ESPN Radio. While the brand was highly successful when Patrick was in their lineup along with Colin Cowherd, Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, ESPN Radio has since struggled to develop or invest in talent that can let their personalities shine.
Patrick also told BSM that he views Howard Stern as the blueprint for a successful radio show. And if you listen to his Fox Sports Radio show, that assessment rings true in the way Patrick veers from his show sheet and gives an open mic to the Danettes.
But the Stern blueprint is hard to pull off when you’re afraid of taking chances or coloring outside the lines. Instead, it leads to talent being what corporate wants, attempting to please the masses by force-feeding sports to its affiliates rather than trying to build a community of listeners.