Dan Sileo: What Drives Morning Sports Talk Radio's "Mouth of the South"

James Williams@WordmandcAnalyst IIIFebruary 9, 2012

There are plenty of morning drive sports talk shows in the country, but hands down one of the the best is The Dan Sileo Show that airs Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Tampa's all sports powerhouse WDAE 620AM "The Sports Animal."

Dan Sileo always wanted to be a broadcaster. He was a star defensive lineman at the University of Miami and had a brief career in the NFL, but his passion was always to be on radio and television.

After honing his skills at stations around the country including stops at San Francisco sports powerhouse KNBR and nationally on Fox Sports Radio, it was clear his home was Tampa.  

His show is one the highest-rated sports radio programs, not only in the southeast, but nationally. Legendary radio programming executive Randy Michaels called Sileo "the best sports talk radio host in America."    

So what makes Sileo a success?

He speaks his mind, while understanding the importance of keeping things moving, hitting on all the key issues of the day and loading his show with interesting guests from all areas of the sports world.

Sileo also has a strong staff, lead by producer Darek Sharp, who is often heard on air voicing his views on sports and pop culture.

Recently, I spoke to Sileo about his show and broadcasting.

JW: What drives you?  

Sileo: "October 1st will be my 20th year in the radio business, and all but six months have been in morning drive, and it is funny I get asked this question a lot.

What drives me is that people my whole life have questioned my ability to be a success. I guess that is something that many successful people will tell you. The drive to want to prove anyone who doubts you wrong is a powerful thing and it has served me well over the years, as I am racking up 10 shares, and that has helped me be successful in this business while proving my doubters wrong." 

JW: How do you view the success of your show?

Sileo: "I really believed for years that I have the best morning sports radio show in America and it's not close. But then I realized I was looking at it wrong.

I don't want to be known as being the best morning sports talk show. I want to be known as someone who is creative and breaking new ground each time I go on the air. I am not like other people and my show is 1,000 percent different than what's on the air now.

There are fine hosts in sports talk today but they do nothing like what I am doing. I could be fired after almost every shift I do, just for the simple fact I have no fear of what I say on the air because it is always honest, real and what I believe. That's why people listen to me because we are different than other sports talk show in the country."

JW: Who inspired you as a broadcaster?

Sileo: "Howard Cosell inspired me, and I am everything he hated about sports broadcasting when it comes to ex-jocks being on the air. I love mavericks in broadcasting. Cosell, Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh; great broadcasters who invented their own on-air styles. There is no program director manual on broadcasting success. It's about finding your own style and inventing your delivery."

JW: You seem to have fun with your show.

Sileo:"I love the radio business. The selling of it, producing of it and the executing of it. For the first time in my career, I have a great team around me from Steve Versnick my program director to Derek Sharp to John Mammola helping me with guests. I love taking 3 hours of dead air each morning and making success each day."

JW: What don't you like about radio?

Sileo: "What drives me crazy in radio is that my business is now being controlled by bookkeepers and not radio programmers.There are so few people with vision in my business anymore, which means nobody is thinking outside the box.

Too many programmers love the word "safe" instead of having a vision, and I believe that's why people are afraid of me and my show. I have always lived by this line I made up years ago: "I would rather die going over the edge than die on the bench," and that's how I do my show each morning." 

*I am a guest on the Dan Sileo Show for the record. I also am a regular guest on five other radio shows plus I do both morning and afternoon drive-time sports reports for V-1370AM All - News for Baltimore and Washington.