Colin Cowherd makes it crystal clear, “I’m in the drama business, I root for headlines.”
Why not? Gripping headlines produce riveting topics that correlate to higher rated shows. Yes, it’s more of a challenge to galvanize an audience on a slow sports day. Yet, Colin Cowherd’s uncanny talent to articulate his thoughts clearly allows him to bring to life even the most mundane sports story.
Still, hot topic, hot emotions. More for Cowherd to address. More for him to pontificate.
Cowherd’s daily network show strikes listeners as one long thoughtful, carefully crafted, richly expressed monologue. Unlike many others, he doesn’t take phone calls, a backbone for most in sports talk radio. It allows him to stay on topic instead of being sidetracked by random subjects raised by callers.
For his audience, the experience is unique. It’s not sitting in an auditorium listening to the preacher at the pulpit. Cowherd is more of a trusted and reliable figure who presents the facts. He addresses his audience like a father passing down wise advice at the family dinner table. What Cowherd suggests resonates with the intellectual and the blue collar.
Hailing from the cloudy Pacific Northwest, Colin expresses himself clearly. His speech flow is as smooth as silk and his sentences fall into place like a Tetris Master. Cowherd never stumbles for his next line and transforms effortlessly from point to point.
Early on, Cowherd tried his hand in play-by-play of Minor League Baseball. But he found that the barrier of entry to the Big Leagues was not having a legendary name like (Jack) Buck or (Marty) Brennaman. So Colin focused on the things that made him unique, his voice, his opinions and his innate ability to identify topics that resonate with listeners. Still, he hopped around from market to market, like many young broadcasters do.
He finally got his chance in the limelight when he was hired by ESPN in 2004. In Bristol, he learned to take the ‘pulse of the nation’ and focus his show on the water cooler topic of the day. Doing so, he developed a faithful and dedicated audience coast-to-coast.
By 2015, Cowherd was in demand. He wanted more proprietary control and more freedom. At ESPN, he felt that he was a bit handcuffed. So he packed his microphone, his wares and took his talents to Fox. “ESPN is Starbucks and I’m a coffee bean.” -Colin Cowherd
He’s no boisterous or bombastic Stephen A. Smith who transitioned into more of a personality than a sports analyst. New York Post media critic Phil Mushnick called him a ‘$10 million blowhard.’
Cowherd’s skill set goes beyond a talent for connecting words. Peel back a layer. His preparation and due diligence are equally as impressive. Colin cuts through headlines with the verve of a field general, fleshing out a story’s true origins, motivations and aspirations.
His words illustrate a deeper meaning. Like the best on Broadway, Cowherd sounds natural, like he was born for the role. His confidence and flow suggest that his takes are off the top of his head. Yet you’d never know that most of the content was likely scripted in the hours before the show. His vocal cadence and verbal command are that natural that it sounds like he’s extemporizing nonchalantly. Agree or disagree, Cowherd’s arguments are always stamped so clearly.
What listeners might not know is that Cowherd has a staff of writers and contributors who help him prepare his show every day.
“Everyone understands David Letterman didn’t write the jokes, Jay Leno and Johnny Carson had a staff. So, my job, I come in with ideas and everyone polishes…it’s Robin Williams (scripted/unscripted). Robin went into a set knowing what he was going to do.” -Colin Cowherd
Cowherd boils down his positions in clear bitesize pieces. He doesn’t bombard listeners with stats, anecdotes or traditional sports vernacular. The information is refined. Segments are dubbed; Colin right, Colin wrong, Blazing 5, Three-word game, Herd Hierarchy and more. The goal is to simplify and articulate broader points.
He’s on the air to have hot takes, to play the perpetual contrarian and stir the pot. But through “Colin Right and Colin Wrong” for instance, he’s created a sense of accountability.
Perhaps one of his few flaws as a broadcaster is his propensity to beat a dead horse or pick fights on Twitter. It doesn’t do him any favors. Referencing Baker Mayfield and Aaron Rodgers as repeated whipping boys gets old.
Most other national talk show hosts don’t indulge listeners in their own personal experiences, good or bad. Colin though often does, drawing sports parallels, whether about athletes or related subjects. He feels it’s better to be forthcoming with his audience than hide behind the felt curtain of his microphone. As many of us lean on past personal experiences or tribulations to better shape our own future, so too does Cowherd.
His regular listeners know quite a bit about the turbulent times of his own life; Cowherd’s a child of multiple divorces, he himself was divorced, his somewhat rocky departure from ESPN, the advice he’s given his daughter or other young broadcasters. Colin draws sports equivalents through his own narratives and empirics. Doing so has helped him build a tangible bond with his listeners who can relate.
“They have done studies in America, and it’s sad but it’s true, taller more attractive people make more money…Dallas is tall and good looking, and they have some money and have had previous success and that glosses over their other issues. Cleveland: The Browns are short, they don’t have a lot of money, kind of disheveled…so we call them losers. You do realize they’re mostly the same franchise, ones just good looking with a little cash.” -Colin Cowherd. Easy to digest, we all intuitively get the analogy.
Using tangible examples and making references to history, politics, geography, business, pop-culture and other universal subjects, he engages even the idlest of casual listeners. Worldly examples and lessons from his personal life are somehow interestingly embedded into the sports topic of the day. It gives his audience a greater sense of understanding of the overarching points; providing listeners with their own ‘oh I get where he’s coming from’ moment of deeper connection.
“Life isn’t perfect, it’s not a purity test. Be nice, treat people like you would like to be treated, the rest of the bible is commentary.” -Colin Cowherd
In somewhat of a more intimate fashion, Cowherd speaks as though he’s speaking directly to his audience in a tone as if he were giving valuable advice to a friend or colleague. Concise, yet sincere. His messages transcend sports and often take on more of a philosophic orientation. Messages like; living in the moment, discipline, work ethic, process over outcome, follow good management and not money, go out on a limb because that’s where the fruit is, and remove emotion and emphasis, logic when making decisions, among other nuggets. “…those are basic things that an optometrist or a farmer can relate to.” -Colin Cowherd
It’s Cowherd’s ability to speak from a position of absolute authority, as the philosophic onlooker from 30,000 feet, while simultaneously coming from a grounded angle of backstreet understanding that allows him to elevate the relative understanding of so many. His personality inspires us for something more substantive and deeper than scrolling through highlights on our phone.