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Q&A with Oratory Alum Chris Carlin By cole weintraub

Image courtesy of Newsday

Don’t laugh… When I was seven years old, one of my favorite television shows was called Beer Money!. It was a sports trivia show on the SNY network, and it was hosted by Chris Carlin. Oratory’s own Chris Carlin. Throughout every episode, I would try to compete against the show’s contestants.

That is how I became aware of Chris Carlin. Here is a bit about the Oratory grad:

Chris Carlin was born on September 16th, 1972 in Morristown, New Jersey. He grew up in Chatham Township and attended Oratory Prep. While attending Hobart College, Carlin did Minor League Baseball play by play. Soon after graduating in 1995, Carlin earned an internship at WFAN, the flagship sports radio station in the country at the time. A couple of years later, he became the producer for the premier sports radio show in the history of medium, The Mike and The Mad Dog Show. Carlin’s years of success as a producer helped him transition to an on air sports anchor on both the Imus in the Morning and Boomer & Carton programs. His versatility and personality was what catapulted his career. The rest of Carlin’s resume sounds like a “job wish list” for an aspiring sports journalist. Since 2004, Chris has been the play by play announcer for Rutgers University football and from 2008 to 2016, he called RU’s men’s basketball games. Carlin spent eight years at SNY, the television home of the New York Mets, in a variety of roles. During his time at the network, Carlin hosted the nightly recap program SportsNite, co-hosted pre and post-game shows for the New York Mets, was the co-host for the sports debate show Loud Mouths, and let’s not forget he was a host of Beer Money!. Once on a SportsNite episode, Carlin hosted a special called “Scandal in Sayreville” which focused on a bullying scandal in Sayreville, New Jersey. This story received national attention and Chris earned a New York Emmy for his work. Carlin worked on both radio and TV broadcasts for New York Giants preseason games as studio host and play-by-play announcer. In December of 2017, Carlin along with Maggie Gray and Bart Scott replaced the retiring Mike Francesa on WFAN’s afternoon drive slot. The highly rated CMB program was ultimately disbanded in late 2019. Shortly there after, Carlin would join New York’s 98.7 FM ESPN Radio. Who knows what the future holds for one of OP’s most famous graduates, but if the past is any indication, big things are still ahead for Chris Carlin.

If you ever need a laugh and want to hear Carlin’s unique take on major sports, he is on air weeknights 7:00 to 10:00 PM on New York’s 98.7 FM ESPN Radio.

I recently caught up with the Emmy Award winner:

Q: How did your Oratory Prep experience prepare you for college/adulthood and what is your favorite school memory?

A: Oratory was a good place for me. It was tough adapting to Catholic school after attending public schools my whole life, but by the time I got to sophomore year, I really liked it. Late that year, I lost my father to a massive heart attack. The support the Oratory community gave me was absolutely remarkable. It taught me a lot about empathy. I don’t have one favorite memory. I remember having a lot of good times with friends at Oratory, guys who are still my friends today.

Q: What extracurricular activities were you involved in here at Oratory? Did you write for the newspaper and or cover sports?

A: The only extracurricular activity I was consistently involved with was baseball. I played all 4 years, and loved it. Some of my best memories were with my teammates. My freshman year, I worked as a “manager” of sorts for the varsity basketball team and really enjoyed it, but just did it the one year. I vaguely remember writing maybe one article for the Omega, but I didn’t work on the paper or cover sports. At that point, I still thought I wanted to be a lawyer, despite my deep love for sports. I wish I had written for the Omega. It would’ve prepared me even better.

Q: How did you land the internship at WFAN and did you bring a particular skill or skill set that helped you convert your internship into a job?

A: I attended Hobart College in Geneva, NY. I got involved at the student radio station by pure happenstance, and fell in love with sports broadcasting. I was very fortunate that I was able to broadcast a lot of games early, and taught myself how to do it. Hobart didn’t have any kind of communications program, so there wasn’t a line of people waiting to work at the radio station. I got to do it as a freshman.

For three summers in college, I called play-by-play for the Geneva (and after, Williamsport) Cubs of the New York-Penn League. It was an incredible experience, but I still had no full-time job lined up. I sent 100 — no exaggeration — 100 resumes out, and didn’t get one interview.

WFAN was always a station I listened to, especially when I was home in Chatham/Madison. I applied for an internship in the Fall of 1995, and got it. I had already graduated, and the one requirement was I had to get school credit. I called 50 schools in the NY/NJ/PA area, just begging them to take my money so I could get one credit. I finally found one, and was able to do the internship. When you want something bad enough, you do what you have to in order to make it happen.

The internship was three months. I kept my head down, learned as much as I could about tape editing and running an audio board. I didn’t try to show how much I knew. At the end of the internship, I went to my boss and asked what I had to do to get a job there. He told me he’d give me a try part-time as a tape editor and board operator, and the rest is history.

Q: You produced the most iconic sports radio program in history, The Mike and The Mad Dog Show. What did that job entail (i.e. your day to day responsibilities) and how did that experience propel your career?

A: What didn’t it entail? It was an incredible learning experience. I got thrown into the fire with that job at 24, with virtually no idea what I was doing. I booked guests, had suggestions for topics on the show (when they weren’t obvious,) and handled all of the minute details involved with the show. That spanned from ordering lunch, getting newspapers, booking flights for travel, to sometimes managing the relationship between Mike and Chris.

It was stressful. I had a full head of hair going in, and it was almost all gone when I left the show in early 2004. I learned how to host a talk show because I had a front row seat to the best one in the world. They supported me in every way they could. That experience, quite simply, made my career.

Q: What are the key differences between a three host show like, CMB, and your current solo program, Carlin at Night? Describe a typical day as you settle into your new show.

A: CMB was the first time I hosted a three person show. It was all about finding enough airtime for everyone, while suggesting topics, feeling out the other hosts as to what they felt passionate about on any given day. A great experience. We really grew as a show after being thrown into the fire, and our ratings reflected that. Unfortunately, there are sometimes extenuating circumstances, like salary cuts, and it didn’t last. It was the first time in my career I was let go, and again, learned a lot from it. Bart Scott and Maggie Gray remain great friends to this day. Fantastic people.

My show now is much different. I have control over where it’s headed every night, but I’m having a conversation with the audience, no one else. My day-to-day, especially now, is much different. With an evening show, you have to find ways to engage with the audience. I try to find new angles to stories that people haven’t considered, all while not taking myself too seriously. I spend hours during the day getting caught up on all the news, while formulating opinions and ideas for the show. Without sports, it’s been a real challenge, but again, I’ll come out of it better for the experience.

Q: What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in sports media?

A: Primarily, I always say three things:

Write. Write as much as you can. Even if you want to work in TV or radio or any other medium, writing makes you formulate your thoughts in an organized fashion. It makes you a better editor of yourself. It is invaluable in any career you’re pursuing.

Crave criticism. Don’t be interested in what you’re doing well — be interested in improving what you are not doing well. People who are willing to give you constructive criticism are the ones who are the most important. They are helping. If you’re interested in hearing how good you are, don’t bother asking. They’re not telling you about the bad stuff to hurt your feelings. They’re telling you to make you better,

Embrace the process of getting better. That should be your primary focus. In keeping your mind open to all opportunities, you’re getting better. Evaluating yourself honestly — gets you better. Practicing — gets you better. Wake up every day just wanting to get a little better. If you focus too much on where you want to be as opposed to getting better today, you will never get there.

ALL CHALK (JUST FAVORITES):

Q: Who was your favorite player growing up?

A: Mookie Wilson, CF for the Mets in the early 80s.

Q: What is your favorite car that you have owned?

A: My first one, a 1985 Chrysler LeBaron, that I bought from my brother when I graduated Oratory in 1990.

Q: What is your favorite restaurant?

A: Marco Polo, right down Morris Ave, in Summit.

Q: What is your favorite movie?

A: The Blues Brothers, and Caddyshack.

Q: What is your favorite vacation spot?

A: Long Beach Island

Q: What is your favorite place to shop?

A: Short Hills Mall!