PERRY GRADUATE KEN CARMAN HOSTS MORNING SPORTS TALK SHOW ON CLEVELAND AIRWAVES
Regular listeners to Cleveland’s 92.3 The Fan know that the station has a variety of hosts and perspectives on everything in the world of sports. What you may not know, however, is that one of those hosts has a local connection. Ken Carman, a 2004 Perry High School graduate, pilots the stations 6-10 a.m. slot (also known as morning drive) along with co- host Anthony Lima.
“There are people out there who certainly know more stats and things about sports than I do,” said Carman, who freely admits he’d like to talk less and listen more. “Coaches talk to me because they listen to the shows, and the one who ‘get it’ are a lot of fun. There are some coaches in the past who haven’t gotten it and don’t like sports talk. We’re just loud men on the radio trying to state our opinions. If you agree you agree if you don’t you don’t, and that’s fine. I’ve never wanted anybody to take it that seriously.Obviously I want to be right, but I never going to be always right.”
Carman doesn’t mind voicing his opinion on various topics throughout the world of sports. That includes baseball, where MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has discussed changes aimed at drawing millennials to ballparks. Those changes could alter the structure of America’s pastime, which doesn’t sit well with traditional baseball fans.
“Baseball is trying to cater to a segment of fans that isn’t their base, and that frightens me,” Carman said. “There are people who just don’t like baseball, and for whatever reason they’re just not going to watch it. I just don’t like trying to placate people who are supposed to be fans who will never be fans. Why am I taking out everything that makes baseball special to bring those people in when it won’t bring them in, and at the same time upset my core fan base.”
Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kapernick spark plenty of raging controversy when he chose to kneel during the national anthem before a game last Fall. Nearly a dozen Browns players did the same before their preseason game against the Giants on August 21, and Cleveland police announced earlier this week their staff will not hold the flag in a pregame ceremony prior to the season opener against Pittsburgh on Sunday.
“If (the players) want to (kneel) they have that right. To me the anthem stands for the soldiers. You stand for the soldiers, that’s what we did and that’s what my sons will do. The players have the right to do that, but people who are upset about it also have the right to be upset. We can’t be one sided about it if we’re going to have any sort of progress. I can’t live in a bubble, and I’m going to have to listen to some uncomfortable conversation. The country isn’t perfect. I know there’s been some injustice and I understand that. Would I like everybody to stand, yes.I know they’re not all going to stand. That’s fine because they’re expressing their opinionss in their own way. and I respect that. But if I’m going to respect your opinion, you’d better respect mine.”
Sports talk show host receive more than their fair share of criticism, and Carman is no exception. He took that criticism to heart more often before realizing that even broadcasting legends aren’t showered with universal love. That includes Vin Scully, who retired last Fall after calling Los Angeles Dodgers games on radio for 66 seasons.
“When I first started I searched Vin Scully sucks, Carman said.” “He’s one of the Godfathers of play by play and he’s beloved throughout baseball and throughout sports. I found all these people talking about how Vin Scully sucks, how much they hate him and how he should have retired a long time ago. I’ll never be anywhere near the legend he is and there are people who hate him, so I don’t have a shot in hell to get to my own level without anybody hating me. I’m either going to drive myself nuts or I’m just going to have to deal with it.”
Carman, a University of Akron graduate, began his career by calling high school football games in the Akron area before adding the Akron Aeros (now the Rubber Ducks) and Ashland University football and basketball to his play by play slate. Scrambling to make a living broadcasting sports isn’t paradise, however, so like many before him, Carman was just about ready to hang up his microphone before WKRK program director Andy Roth offered him a job at Cleveland’s newest sports talk station. He did the 7-11 p. m. shift before assuming his current role in 2015. Because the station is a CBS radio affiliate, Carman also hosts a national show on Sundays from 10 p. m. to 2 a. m.
“It was three weeks before I was getting married,” Carman recalled. “They were downsizing at Clear Channel, and I was one of the people who got let go. My wife saw it as a blessing because she thought I was going to stop this foolishness and go out and get a full- time job and that would be the end of it.
I did a road trip (with the Aeros) in Portland (Maine). When I got back Andy called me. I did the interview and I thought that was going to be the end of it. The night shift was open, he offered me the job, and I’ve been here ever since.”
In addition to talking sports over breakfast with his listeners each weekday, Carman also hosts Browns preview and coaches shows for the station, which happens to anchor the team’s radio network. Growing up in Stark County didn’t hurt his affinity for the game, and he doesn’t believe that recent harsh criticism of the sport is necessarily warranted.
“High school football is really important,” Carman said. There have been politicians and some folks who’ve gone after football the last couple years. I’ll always admit I was never a really good player, but I’m still a big fan and I still think it’s good. If you play it builds great memories, and it’s part of the fun of being from here.”
Carman was a lineman at Perry from 2001-2003, and he credits Panthers coach Keith Wakefield for instilling many of the values that shape his life today.
“My personality probably couldn’t be more different than his,” Carman said of Wakefield. “He was very intense and very by the book, and the book was his. He always did things his way, and you were just going to do it his way or you weren’t going to do it.
I wasn’t coach’s son, but I think I picked up a lot of discipline and a lot of things I still use to this day from him. Relying on yourself, not blaming others when things don’t go right, being accountable to other people and having a work ethic. What I think coach Wakefield really instilled in me was to not be lazy. There was a lot of stuff that he could give me that my father couldn’t because my father was too close to me. I’ll never truly be able to thank him for that, because he really did change my life.”