Speaking for himself, Marcellus Wiley says there are weird moments talking the talk at Fox Sports’ Century City studios after walking away from a broadcasting career in ESPN’s L.A. Live facility near Staples Center.
“Kind of like having the ex-girlfriend living next door, isn’t it?” Wiley said with a laugh while driving from his Manhattan Beach home to do the Monday episode of the revised “Speak For Yourself” on FS1 with Jason Whitlock, a TV partnership officially formed Sept. 10.
“When I was at the Chargers-Rams game Sunday, I even went over to the ESPN radio guys and sat with a lot of my former bosses. I’m not about burning any bridges. Nothing but love and respect.”
So no evil backstory as to why the light-up-the-room 43-year-old switched allegiances. He said it’s just “pretty standard operations with an expired contract,” something he dealt with regularly over a 10-year NFL career as an All-Pro defensive end that included three seasons with the San Diego Chargers.
While doing both the recently canceled “SportsNation” for ESPN in the mornings and moving over to radio for a few more hours of afternoon drive on KSPN-AM (710) since 2012, Wiley said the big ask from Fox was to replace Colin Cowherd on this expanded 90-minute studio show (noon to 1:30 p.m.). No live games. No radio.
“Kind of the pierced arrow approach,” Wiley said. “They’ve kept me laser-focused so I can be high energy, no extra jumping jacks before I go on the air. And I’m more than happy with the compensation for not doing anything else. I won’t disagree with that.”
It’s nice timing for Wiley as he releases an autobiography next month called “Never Shut Up: The Life, Opinions, and Unexpected Adventures of an NFL Outlier” (Dutton Publishing, 288 pages). It details his journey from growing up amid Compton gangs, navigating his way to St. Monica High in Santa Monica and as a student-athlete Ivy League career at Columbia. In his post-NFL life, he also became part of a 2014 lawsuit against the NFL for illegal dispensing of powerful non-prescription painkillers that led to further health issues.
“I finally came to a place where I can tell this story — not some glorified memoir based on riding off on a horse after some Super Bowl win cliche,” he said. “I was just a fork-in-the-road kid who planned and plotted to do my best with my athletic talents and academic success, and it gave me and my family a way to leave South Central. I’m using the same game plan with broadcasting.”
Kings app forward
The Kings’ recent decision to move past a traditional radio platform and explore what’s available on audio streaming this season all comes down to a frequency issue.
Frequent changes and working around occasionally erratic radio frequencies during their first 50 years has been an uneven complement to their expanded TV coverage. KABC-AM (790) was the 11th radio partner in their history the last four years, but when its Cumulus ownership group filed for bankruptcy last year, their contracts were effectively terminated.
So in becoming a free agent on a technicality, the Kings decided to go high tech. The agreement with iHeartRadio for the free L.A. Kings Audio Network focuses on the possibilities of a team-based 24/7 service that not only carries the game call of Nick Nickson and Darryl Evans, but expands pregame and postgame capabilities and opens up podcasting, vintage game replays and hours of archived interviews and features Nickson has done over his 38-year career.
Other NHL teams have apps to go with their radio platform, but the Kings appear to be the first to use streaming as their sole audio delivery. This comes at a time when the MLS’ LAFC went a bit rogue to use YouTube TV as its exclusive home TV game partner, but also with the add-on ability for more and easily dispersible content.
With change initially comes the frequency of questions from fans — especially those who wonder why, during the first Kings two exhibition broadcasts, a time-gap exists of more than a minute between live action and audio access on the app.
That may be unavoidable with the physics of signals bouncing off satellites and then compressed into a digital medium. Those who access the Chargers’ KFI-AM (640) feed on the iHeartRadio app during live games experience a similar lag time.
Mike Altieri, the Kings’ senior vice president of marketing, communications and content, said this shouldn’t sidetrack the upside to what this platform can exclusively provide ramping up to the regular-season opener Oct. 5.
“We think it’s definitely a forward-thinking approach to audio, a chance to do something different as the market keeps changing and a way to be more consistent,” Altieri said. “If there is any resistance initially, I think we can educate fans how to use it over time.”
The team could keep an in-house default audio signal for those who bring portable radios into Staples Center. Games also remain on Sirius XM satellite radio, LAKings.com online and the NHL app.
Nickson said he spoke recently with Steve Thrap, a radio engineer in the 1970s at KLAC who became the vice president of broadcast operations at Staples Center before retiring last year and moving to Tennessee.
“Steve said he listened to our exhibition games [last Tuesday and Thursday] on the app and was amazed how much it sounded like we were sitting right next to each other,” said Nickson, a Hockey Hall of Fame broadcaster. “What’s intriguing for me, with all we can do on this app, is that a Kings fan anywhere in the world can tap the phone and listen, and they could drive forever and never lose the signal.”