A Conversation With: Shane Riordan

Baseball’s Opening Day this year was a bummer, to say the least. Mostly because, well, there was no baseball. I’m like a lot of us who find great comfort in the game of baseball, and everything else it represents. Changing of the seasons, the weather getting warmer, and the smell of grilled onions on the concourse at Guaranteed Rate Field, are just a few of those comforts I had taken for granted. Well, I mean it’s still been getting warmer outside, and the seasons will change, and I still made bratwurst and grilled onions in my apartment on Opening Day, but nothing is really the same these days, is it?

I mention all of this because a week later, sports postponements, like the MLB season being delayed, just don’t seem nearly as troubling as they did a week ago. That’s not to say I’m not bummed out about it, but so much more has risen to the surface regarding our world’s new (hopefully) temporary reality. Millions of people are losing their jobs, the numbers of COVID-19 related illnesses and deaths are rising, and the deeper you dive into the daily news, the more sadness you’ll find. Even as I write this piece, just today, longtime White Sox radio play-by-play man Ed Farmer passed away. 

All of that said, and I know it’s a lot, the last few weeks have shown me lots of beautiful things, too. I’ve seen more than ever people finding the importance in communicating with one another. I’ve had virtual happy hours and hangouts with friends, including some great conversations that we may not have had otherwise. My birthday was a couple days ago, and my lovely girlfriend even set up a Zoom call with my entire family, which was touching as hell. In the absence of normality, I’ve learned to appreciate what I had always taken for granted. 

We are all human, and I know it sounds cliché, but in these extremely unprecedented, times, we have to be there for each other to get to the light at the end of the tunnel. That means responsibly social distancing for one, but also reaching out to our loved ones, and really anyone who you think might need it. I’ve needed it, and fortunately I’ve had a beautiful group of people to talk to. Please try to take a few minutes out of each day to reach out to those you care about. I promise you it will help us through all of this madness. 

Circling back to where we started, on Opening Day, I had the absolute joy of speaking with Shane Riordan from 670 The Score. It was his birthday, and he took some time out of his day to chat. Shane is truly one of the coolest people I’ve ever spoken to. He’s one of a kind, and to say he works at 670 The Score in the operations department is really only scratching the surface. He’s a masterful chef, specializing in meats, and if you don’t follow him on Instagram, go do that now @shanesmeat. You will not regret it.

A few weeks ago, he even started raising money on Venmo and sending it to people who need some financial help during this crisis, which is just fantastic.

He’s hilarious, and has so many passions outside of the sports world. I had a great time talking to him, and I think you’ll enjoy our chat as well. After you read the edited transcript below, listen to the full conversation included at the top of the page. 

Stay safe, keep in touch with your loved ones, and please enjoy my chat with the tremendous Shane Riordan. 

Sam Sherman: What have you been up to since the start of the quarantine?

Shane Riordan: I’ve been trying to not watch The Circle on Netflix for the longest time, because I watched one episode, and it was insufferable, and cringy, and everything just seemed so planned, but when my roommates go to bed at night, I turn it on in the living room. I got outed the other day. I put a video of my dog on my Instagram story, and you can hear it in the background, and I got called out from everybody for talking shit about the show, and then watching it when they go to sleep.

I’ve also been reading a little bit. I was always a big reader in high school, just novels and stuff. I don’t really read sports books and I’m not a big sports guy outside of work and baseball, but I’ve been reading some novels. I’ve been into a collection of essays by David Sedaris called Calypso.

Doesn’t The Circle have a Brazilian spin-off, too?

I don’t know about Brazil, but I think it started in the U.K., and then they just brought Americans to the same place they were shooting it. The funny thing is when they zoom out and do wide and geographical shots, they’re showing Chicago, but it’s in a building in the U.K. The other night they were showing a cityscape and it was Pittsburgh; you’re not pulling a fast one on anybody, we know where it’s at.

It’s like on those Chicago PD or Chicago Fire shows where they’ll drive from one side of the city to another in like five minutes when it would really take a half-hour.

Yeah, exactly, the hospital is supposed to be on the far west side, but they’re having lunch in the Signature Room.

Speaking of reality TV, I forgot, are you a Bachelor fan?

I had a podcast with a guy who was on a season of either Bachelor in Paradise, or the Bachelorette, I can’t remember. I watched a couple seasons, but I like Bachelor in Paradise.

OK, so I had never really given it a shot, but I got into in with the last season of Bachelor in Paradise, and I ended up watching this last season of The Bachelor with my girlfriend and roommate, and it seemed like, from what I had heard from longtime Bachelor fans, that this was a terrible season.

Oh, it was horrible.

Yeah,, I mean for the first few episodes it was fun, but by the last couple, it just became dreadful. I enjoyed some of the drama and whatnot, but I feel like that had to have been bad even for longtime fans.

Yeah, I think I watched the first four or five episodes, and then I just had to stop. Victoria is smoking hot, I liked her, and I definitely follow her on Instagram still. Usually with The Bachelor, the first few episodes are great with the introductions and then the final with the tell-all. It’s cool drama to follow, but it’s just so mind-numbing. I have other mindless television shows that I prefer to watch over that, It’s just so goddamn long. They were doing like two episodes a week at two hours each. Who has time for that? I mean, now I guess we all do.

I’m a former Score marketing intern, so I was handing out the flyers, walking in the parades, doing all of that. What was your path to ultimately working in operations at The Score?

It takes a little while to get to me working at The Score. I started college at Holy Cross in South Bend, Ind. I thought I was going to be the next Rudy, I didn’t have the grades to get into Notre Dame out of high school, but I thought I’d be that. Then I realized that South Bend sucks, and nobody should be in South Bend for any extended period of time.

I transferred to Columbia College in Chicago after three semesters in South Bend, got into the radio program, and tried to find an internship on my own. I emailed Mitch Rosen (Operations Director, The Score) without going through Columbia’s internship coordinators or anything like that. Mitch interviewed me, and gave me an internship, and I went back to Columbia and said, “Hey I’ve got this internship” and they just flat-out turned it down. They said we have requirements for you to start an internship, you’ve got to have X amount of credits and X amount of classes. Fuck that, that’s part of the problem with our current upper education system, the fact that a radio station deems somebody ready, but then because of educational requirements … whatever, that’s just rehashing stuff for me. So, I go back to Mitch and say, never mind you’ve got to start interviewing more people, Columbia’s not letting me do it.

I went back to Columbia and ended up starting an internship at Total Traffic Network, reporting at Cubs and White Sox games. I’m still 20 years old and I’m in these clubhouses getting audio and streaming it to stations in southern Illinois and Indiana that still cover the teams but can’t afford to send a reporter. I worked one season as an intern, and then I worked for them for a full year.

From there, you have to start supplementing your income a little bit like everybody does in the early stages of this industry. I worked a job at Starbucks, I worked at Best Buy, I worked as a bar bouncer just to support what I wanted my career to be. You have to pay those dues, but the problem is, you have to tell those retail jobs you have to call off sometimes like a day or two before because the job that I want to be my career needs me for something, and that’s priority. At first, they say that’s OK, but after it happens so many times, they tell you you’re kind of out of here now, aren’t you? I was working at Best Buy, and Kristin Decker who was an executive producer at WGN Radio came in because she needed to get her computer fixed or something like that. I recognized her voice because I was a P1 for WGN, and I said I’m in radio at Columbia, what are the chances you guys are hiring over there? She said not really, but she could bring me in and get me an interview with somebody.

I went and I interviewed with Kristin, Stephanie Menendez and Todd Manley, and they gave me a gig working for The Game when that had launched, and then about a month later, The Game went away. But then I said, well, I don’t want to leave, I want to stay at WGN. I interviewed for other jobs there, and ended up getting a Blackhawks producer job, and from there I got moved up to executive producer of the Dean Richards Show and then the Amy Guth Show on the weekends. Even though I was getting kind of tired of working weekends and Sunday mornings and Saturday nights, I did that for a year-and-a-half.

Then I got a call from Mitch Rosen one day and he said we’re hiring part-timers, do you want to come over here? I did that two years, executive producing Cubs and Bulls games, basically just doing every single thing I can to become irreplaceable for Mitch Rosen and Brendan McCaffrey (former Score sports director). When Brendan left for Sirius XM NFL in New York, I stepped up into his job. It was formerly called sports director, and now it’s just called operations, just a broader term.

I love stories like that, especially hearing from people in the sports media world, and the paths they had to take. It’s easy to look at lots of those jobs and say how great they look, but not everyone realizes the path it takes to get there. What is your day-to-day look like working in operations?

I’m basically there to support the on-air staff, and support Mitch, and anything the air staff needs. It’s a lot of scheduling, and mini-projects like with the Cubs Radio Network, trying to plan out content and events. I work in marketing and promotions, while still editing lots of audio, and booking guests for the shows. I’m there to support all of the shows, producers, staff and talent.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, pretty much all sports have been postponed. What is sports radio, or specifically The Score, when you take away sports?

The Score has always been personality-driven radio. We’ve always had talent here, and all you’ve got to do is turn on the microphone and let them go. That’s what we have now, top to bottom. From Les Grobstein at midnight on the overnight, to Mully and Haugh, to Dan and Connor, to Laurence, to Mac and Parkins to Joe Ostrowski to Spiegel, to Julie to Maggie, to all these people make up a dynamic on-air team. [This interview took place before the layoffs that eliminated postions like Connor McKnight’s and Julie DiCaro’s.

These are people who are willing to pull their weight, and others’ weight when they can’t handle it. It’s been very challenging to plan out this content. We still have to worry about the demographic. It’s a sports demographic, and how far over the non-sports line can you go and still retain a listener? Just like in the Great Depression when people went to go see movies as an escape, we’re an escape. It doesn’t matter what we’re talking about, people just want to know in this age of fluctuation and worry that we’re a constant for them. They can still turn on the radio and get exactly what they would have if they weren’t in quarantine.

You mentioned earlier that you have a lot of hobbies outside of sports, probably most notably, Shane’s Meat. What is the story behind Shane’s Meat?

I was cooking a lot of meat, and Julia Lepidi (who hosts the night show at B96) came into my office one day and was like, why isn’t your Instagram handle just Shane’s Meat? I said I don’t know why it’s not, but we should probably change that right now. Everybody’s got to have a brand, right?

I find myself pretty insufferable most of the time, a lot of people attest to that and say the same thing, but if you’re not known for something in this age of social media, and you don’t have some kind of association to your name, then you’re invisible and you’re nothing. I’ve got to prepare myself for new media, and this ever-changing industry. I’m not always going to be working in the operations department at The Score. There’s a next step, another move for me, I don’t know what it is, and I don’t know when that is, but you just have to always be ready for something. If I find something I’m passionate about, it’s like the old saying, if you love your job you never work a day in your life, and that’s where I’m at right now.

If I can couple sports media with cooking content and music, it makes waking up every day fun. Also, there’s a crossover with our demographic. Our demo is men, ages 25-54. Men 25-54 love grilling, learning new things, barbecuing, listening to music and making dinner when they’re done working so they don’t have to think about work anymore. It’s the same thing for me. I monitor sports news on social media, but when I get home, I put my stuff down, turn on some music and make dinner, and that’s how I unwind. It’s stupid not to try and monetize that and turn it into content for other people to enjoy.

Well, you’re definitely good at it and the brand is strong.

Thank you, I appreciate that.

I love seeing people on Twitter sending you photos of different foods that they’ve cooked, as if to get your approval or feedback. It’s been fun to see your following grow more and more over time.

Thank you. It’s hard not to blow those people up, by the way. I get so many tweets that I don’t respond to because it’s just trash, they do such a bad job, but you don’t want to ruin somebody’s spirit.

My girlfriend and I will scroll through Instagram and see people post pictures of the food they’ve made, and while it’s fine for people like you to post their food, there’s so many people who post pictures of bacon and eggs that don’t even look very good, and we wonder what the point of even posting that is.

Exactly, as you’re saying that I’m thinking of like four people in my head that do the same thing daily. Why are you posting your trash-ass food?

I also want to talk about your presentation. It’s one thing for food to taste good, but the way you make it look is beautiful as well. When did you start taking that part seriously?

That’s something that I’ve always not really been that good at until I started learning about color contrast and garnishes, and how to light something. I’m looking at my Instagram feed now as we’re talking, and there’s just a bad white plate with a pile of steak on it, not arranged in any certain way. Then I started throwing some asparagus on there, and it contrasted with the brown and the green and maybe there’s a little sauce on the side. Then it’s photographed from above instead of an angle, and there’s focus and a drizzle of hot sauce or something like that. Anybody can cook decent food and put in on a plate, but if you can make it look like something you’d want, even if it doesn’t taste good, that’s the goal. The presentation is what makes a difference and might draw an eye where the eye doesn’t always go.

I feel like I’ve always either just prepared or eaten dinner right when I see your food posts, and I’m like, shit I’d rather eat that.

Yeah, I know what you mean.

You were invited to the Score House this year. (670 The Score hosts and producers rented a house in Arizona for a week during spring training) While I know there has to be stories you can’t share; did anything happen this year that you can tell us that we may not have seen on social media?

We were pretty open about the things that can be shared. I don’t think people understand that we legitimately had a very good time with each other. This is 12 grown men in one house for six days. Nobody got tired of anyone there, and Bernstein was drunk every night, and we still weren’t tired of him, and he’ll be the first to admit that he was. It may not come off on the air all the time, but we all get along very well, and that’s rare. You put sports media, or media people in general together, and everyone’s trying to one-up the next guy, and that doesn’t happen at The Score, and it’s unlike anything I’ve seen. We all got along so well, and it’s a trip I’m going to remember for the rest of my life. It was a great learning experience and we all got along, and I hope that came across to the listener.

All right now, a few White Sox-specific questions. What’s the best thing about White Sox fans?

The dedication of White Sox fans lately has really restored my faith in this fan base. It’s a resilient fan base, it’s a fan base right now that doesn’t give a flying fuck about what the national baseball audience thinks of us. This is a team that’s going to surprise a hell of a lot of people, and I’m glad to be a fan from day one and not a bandwagoner. What I have noticed is this fan base is welcoming of bandwagoners: Bring on anyone who wants to support this team, if we ever get to play again, bring them in and support this fun, young baseball team. I think about the resilience and the restored faith, even after having eaten shit as a fan for the last 12 to 13 years. Even though it might be smaller than others, it packs a punch.

How about the worst thing about Sox fans?

Stop caring about the Cubs. It’s annoying. I don’t care about the Cubs, I don’t care what my Cub fan friends think about the White Sox. I’m worried about the Twins, Indians, Royals and Tigers. I don’t care about the Cubs, and I don’t care about their stupid fans.

I agree, and hopefully when baseball returns, the White Sox will have a better product on the field for fans to support.  

Yeah, that’s what happens. When you’re a fan of a good baseball team, you can stop caring about the Cubs.

Although Cub fans still seem to care a lot about low attendance at Sox games …

Oh, of course they do.

OK, so you’re a country music fan. It took me a long time to get into country, but like any other genre of music, there’s good stuff and there’s bad stuff. Have you always been a country fan, or was it an acquired taste?

Yeah, day one. My first concert was Garth Brooks’ 1992 tour. I wasn’t a year old and my parents took me to see him. I’ve always been an outlaw, old-school country fan. One of my better friends is the marketing and promotions director for US99, so we go to all the shows that the station puts on. I can tolerate Top 40 country, like the Florida Georgia Line country, but I don’t really like it because the country I associate myself with is storytelling country music. Like Jason Isbell songs, every one of those three or four-minute songs can be turned into a movie. That’s what I love about Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson and Tyler Childers, and guys like Cody Jinks and Chris Stapleton. These are stories and they put real effort into writing them, not just singing about jumping up and down on a pickup truck bed by the lake with a beer in your hand. I understand there’s a market for that, obviously it’s huge and those are the songs of the summer everywhere you go, but it’s just not my market. You can get behind it when you’re drunk, and everyone is signing along to a Luke Bryan song or a Florida Georgia Line song when you’re tanked, but I like the storytelling of my brand of country music.

What’s one album that you don’t think I’ve ever heard, but you think I should check out?

There’s a band called Houndmouth, and the record is Little Neon Limelight from 2015. That’s like the combo between folk and kind of country, but also XRT-ish, Mt. Joy-ish music, but still kind of twangy. They’re huge in Austin. I think they’re all from Austin, so kind of fits in that hipster music. I would check that out.


A Conversation With: Chuck Garfien

I am just about to turn 27, and I feel like there have been a few people I’ve always been aware of throughout my existence. This could technically apply to family or friends, but I’m not really talking about them. I’m thinking more about people like Mr. Whitchurch, one of my neighbors growing up, who used to walk his dog, a golden retriever he called the Mayor, every single day.

I recently found out two things on a visit to my parent’s house. The first was that Mr. Whitchurch is still alive, which, to be honest, I was surprised about, but that’s only because he’s one of those people that when I was young, he was very old, and I guess now he’s just older? But good for him, he’s still kicking, and walking the Mayor around the block. Oh, and the second thing is I learned that there have been at least three Mayors in my lifetime, I always thought it was the same dog, but I was wrong. There has never been a time in my life that I wasn’t aware of Mr. Whitchurch’s existence.

So, what does any of that have to do with Chuck Garfien? Well, Chuck Garfien is another one of those people.

I’ve never not known about him. I remember years ago watching one of the White Sox post game shows and telling my dad that I liked “that guy” not knowing who Garfien was by name, but always seeing his face associated with White Sox baseball.

Garfien has been covering the White Sox for NBC Sports Chicago since 2004. I was 11 in 2004, and can’t say I remember a whole lot from before then, so for all intents and purposes, Chuck Garfien has been around for as long as I can remember. I always liked him because he was and is a prominent Chicago media figure who actually talked about the White Sox, and while there are a few more now, when I was growing up that just wasn’t very common. On paper, the newly rejuvenated White Sox should be getting more local and national media attention over the next few years, but one man has been covering and talking about this team through the good, the bad and the very ugly. Here’s my conversation with that man: The Bruce Springsteen-loving, USC-graduating, White Sox-hyping, and all-around great guy, Chuck Garfien.

SS: Where were you when you heard that the start of the baseball season was going to be delayed?

CHUCK GARFIEN: The White Sox were off that day at spring training, so I was sitting on the couch at the place I was renting in Arizona basically bracing for the news to come out that they were going to halt spring training and delay the regular season. They simply had to. The NBA had just announced that their season was suspended. I felt like it was only a matter of time before MLB would do the same thing. Then came the news. And here we are.

What has been the overall vibe you’ve felt from the players you’ve spoken to regarding the news of the last couple weeks?

I had Lucas Giolito on the White Sox Talk Podcast a few days after the news broke. Not knowing when baseball will return, he said he had dialed everything back as if it was January and spring training hadn’t even started yet. Players seem to have put their baseball preparations in reverse, and are hoping to maintain some form of status quo so that when they get word that baseball is coming back they can ramp up from there.

It’s definitely an unsettling time for everyone. Nobody knows where this is going or when we’ll have a baseball season. Some are still doing work at Camelback Ranch, while many players have left Arizona to return to their homes. Not being able to work out at local gyms is a challenge, but it sounds like they’re all doing whatever it takes to get their work in.

What have the last couple weeks been like for you, as someone whose day-to-day life is so involved with sports? 

It’s definitely different. Something I’ve never experienced before. The same with everyone who’s reading this. Very unique times. Without games to cover and almost zero baseball news to report, I’ve had to take a sharp left turn in how I cover the White Sox. I’ve continued to put a lot of my energy into the podcast. With all the changes we’ve had to make in our daily lives, I look at the podcast as a safe place for White Sox fans to go when they want to be distracted or to just feel normal again. I’ve had Jason Benetti on several of the podcasts. We’ve talked about everything from what we’re doing to pass the time to a weird dream I had about Hawk Harrelson. This week we spoke with Bob Comstock, our broadcasting teacher at Homewood-Flossmoor High School, who had a tremendous impact on our careers at a very young age. He also tells the story about taking a student to Disco Demolition. Mr. Comstock was a really cool dude.

I’ve also been doing interviews and shows on Zoom, which has done wonders for all of us, keeping people connected during this time. Because we can’t use our studio in Chicago, we’re actually starting to do shows on Zoom from our homes.

And without games to broadcast, NBC Sports Chicago is filling a huge void for all of us, re-airing 70 games from the 2005 championship season every single day, starting on Opening Day. Not only will this be fun for those of us who experienced that special season, but a whole other generation of White Sox fans who are younger than 20 will get to see and feel for the first time what all the hoopla was all about.

I might be the last person to ever watch it, but I just started The Wire since I’ve been working from home. Is there anything you have done, or are planning to do, with potentially a little extra time on your hands? 

I’ve been catching up on the new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm.  Laughter is good for the soul and Larry David has done it again. This is one of his best seasons ever.

I really enjoy your in-game interaction with the fans. I’d imagine putting yourself right in the heart of the crowd can lead to some strange encounters as well. What is the most bizarre fan interaction you’ve had?

I don’t know if I would call any of my fan interactions bizarre. A better word might be “unexpected.” Every time I go into the crowd, I keep an open mind. I’m not always sure who or what I’m going to find. Every White Sox fan has a story to tell, and you never know what that story is going to be until you start talking with them.

There was the fan who had around 100 autographs on the neon White Sox jersey he always wears to the park and he refused to wash it (why would you, right?). There’s the couple that got engaged at the game while the White Sox were down big to the Tigers. I just wanted to talk to them about their engagement, why he popped the question that night, etc. The White Sox were down 10-4 at the time, but as soon as I went over to interview them, the team suddenly went on this huge rally. Jason and Steve wouldn’t let me leave them until the inning ended. They scored five runs and eventually came back to win on a Tim Anderson walk-off home run.

Going into the stands and interacting with White Sox fans is just as much fun for me as covering the actual White Sox team. I can’t wait to be back doing that again!

What’s the best thing about White Sox fans?

Their passion. You can see it on their faces. It’s in their blood. It runs deep.

What’s the worst thing about White Sox fans?

There’s no worst thing. I’ll just say the worst thing is not having a good team to root for, not having a team of players you believe in and want to invest your time, money and energy in. That’s not the case with this team. They’re talented, fun and want to do something special.

While it looks like brighter days are ahead for the White Sox, you’ve covered this team through some pretty treacherous stretches. How do you balance the need to maintain professional relationships with the players, coaches, and members of the organization that you cover, while also having to at times criticize either poor play or decision-making? 

It’s a fine line you have to walk. You want to find that authentic place, somewhere in the middle between being overly critical and being a homer. Players and coaches know that I have a job to do, but they also want me to be fair. Guys are going to have bad games, bad weeks, bad months, bad years. When that happens, I won’t ignore it. I won’t sugarcoat their struggles, but I’m not going to act like a carnival barker screaming that the White Sox need to run a player out of town. I’m just not like that. These guys are human beings. Baseball is a tough sport. I give the players rope, especially early in the season. Remember how bad Yolmer Sánchez was defensively at the start of last season? He ended up winning a Gold Glove.

When I was a kid, my dad used to play one of four things every night while I was going to sleep: The Clash, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Costello, and of course, Bruce Springsteen. That became the foundation for my musical taste, with Springsteen being at the very top. I know you’re a Springsteen die-hard, so how did you become a fan?

Well, your dad has impeccable taste in music. That’s for sure. When I was a teenager, Springsteen came out with the Born in the USA album, which was immensely popular. You’d turn on the radio, watch MTV and Springsteen would be there. That opened the door for me. But I didn’t really discover him and become a die-hard fan until college, when I started listening to his live bootlegs. That’s where you really hear the essence of Springsteen: the power, energy, fun, excitement, storytelling, and you understand the meaning of what Springsteen is all about. It sticks to your bones. I could go on and on about Bruce. One thing about Bruce that I really connect with is his passion and dedication to his work. He gives all of himself to his music. I do the same for my job, and for White Sox fans.

Top three Springsteen albums? 

This seems to change every few years, depending on where I am in my life. As we sit here right now, here’s my top three:

1. Darkness on the Edge of Town
2. The River
3. Born to Run

Other than Springsteen, what’s one song or album that you’ve been listening to a lot lately? 

I’ve been all over the map lately. Everything from “Texas Sun” by Khruangbin and Leon Bridges to “Take Five” by Dave Brubeck.

What’s an album you don’t think I’ve ever heard, but I should check out ASAP? 

I’ve been telling people for years about Shuggie Otis. Get the album “Inspiration Information.” His music will fill up your room (or your headphones) and take you to a happy place.

Last week I interviewed 670 The Score producer, Herb Lawrence, and he said he thought Scarface is the most overrated movie of all time. Thoughts? 

I haven’t really given this much thought. But considering I saw “Scarface” in high school and haven’t felt the need to ever watch it again, Herb might be onto something.

When friends from out of town say they are visiting Chicago, and ask for food recommendations, what do you tell them?

Depends on the people and what kind of food they like. Generally, you can’t go wrong with Chicago staples like Manny’s Deli, Portillo’s, Smoke Daddy, Farm Bar and Aurelio’s Pizza (I grew up on it in Homewood).

What’s something that most people get wrong about Chicago?

The wind. People who have never been here think they’re going to get off an airplane and be swept away by a mammoth wind gust. In truth, Chicago is called the Windy City, not because of the wind, but because of the hot air coming from our politicians.

You’re going on a weekend trip to anywhere in the world, where are you going, and who are you taking? Pick five, living or dead/current or former, from these categories:

Place Barcelona, San Diego, Vancouver, Las Vegas, Cape Town (really long weekend)

Member of the E Street Band (not named Bruce) Clarence Clemons, Max Weinberg, Steve Van Zandt, Roy Bittan and Garry Tallent.

White Sox player Frank Thomas, Ozzie Guillén, Mark Buehrle, Chet Lemon, Jim Thome

Actor or Actress Robert Redford, Bill Murray, Leslie Nielsen, Albert Brooks, Gilda Radner

USC athlete Reggie Bush, Keyshawn Johnson, Harold Miner, Cheryl Miller, Fred Lynn

A Conversation With: Herb Lawrence


Way back in 2015, I was a marketing and promotions intern for 670 The Score. That turned into a part-time social media role, where I was tasked to run the infancy of their Instagram account. Now I work in outside sales for a safety clothing manufacturer, so that internship didn’t parlay into a grand career in social media marketing. That being said, having been a pretty avid Score listener through my youth, the internship allowed me to have a few interactions with the hosts and producers I grew up listening to. Just about all the host and producer interactions I had were pleasant, but the majority of people didn’t go out of their way to interact with the interns other than a hallway head nod.

 (One time, Dan Bernstein walked into the room the interns worked out of, and silently admired the moon for about five minutes before walking out, I don’t know why, but I’ll never forget that.)

Herb Lawrence was one of those rare few who interacted with us. I’ve always appreciated anyone who goes out of their way to be friendly and helpful to people who can’t help them with anything. While I didn’t see him all that often, Herb was always engaging and kind with everyone at the station.

He’s also simply one of the best sports personalities we have in this city. While I don’t agree with his every take, the one thing you know you’re getting with Herb is no bullshit. He doesn’t pander, and he speaks the truth even if it goes against the grain. Actually, especially if it goes against the grain.

You know him and love his as the executive producer of the Laurence Holmes Show, and now co-host of the fantastic Locked on White Sox Podcast alongside fellow Score producer Chris Tannehill. Ladies and gentlemen, my conversation with the incomparable Herb Lawrence.

(Note: This interview was conducted prior to COVID-19 sports-related cancellations and postponements.)

SS: How confident are you on a scale of 1-10 about the 2020 season, with Opening Day right around the corner?

HERB LAWRENCE: I’m pretty sure the White Sox will compete all season long and it will be much more thrilling than infuriating. Not picking them for the division, but I don’t think that the Indians or the Twins are that much better.

Something I’ve always respected about your White Sox opinions, and to a larger extent, all of your sports opinions, is that you call it like you see it more than almost anyone I know. You give credit when and where credit is due, but you’ll call out bullshit like no other. With that in mind, how can we fairly judge the job done by a front office that has both made fools of themselves and done a few good things recently? I guess that’s a long way of asking: Can we trust this front office? 

First, Thanks for the compliment. Second, they did a fantastic job this offseason, as I didn’t think they would field a competent team much less a team that’s ready to compete. They’ve learned their lesson from past failures and have grown. I trust them now.

This has seemingly been the fan narrative since the start of, and even before the rebuild, but why do you think it is that “good” moves seem to be attributed to Rick Hahn, while the “bad” ones seem to be pinned on Kenny Williams, and can you ever see this changing?

The media and fans have set it up as such, and it’s not right. Kenny isn’t as smooth as Rick when it comes to dealing with the media and fans, so he takes the lion’s share of blame because they just don’t like him. Rick is more personable, so he gets a pass despite not producing a winning season at all in his GM tenure. They don’t seem to have a problem with it publicly [so] it won’t change. 

Earliest White Sox memory? 

Robin Ventura hitting the walk-off grand slam [against Texas on July 31, 1991] and Frank Thomas picking him up over his shoulder. Get chills just thinking about it now.

I don’t know why, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more angry about a White Sox game than when Jim Thome hit a walk-off home run against Matt Thornton in 2010. This was a regular season game, that if I recall, had no real implications other than an August loss, but it has always stuck out for me. What is your “Jim Thome walks off the Sox in August irrational anger moment,” if you have one?

Not specifically, but every single time I saw Ricky Renteria bat A.J. Reed fourth in the lineup in 2019. Just looked it up, he did it four times and the last one was on August 1 and he was sent to the minors later that day. Cleanup hitter to off the team makes zero sense. 

Will White Sox fans ever stop caring about the Cubs? Years ago, I tweeted out something like “Sox win, Cubs lose, great day” and you and Tim Baffoe justifiably called me out for it. I’m older and wiser now, but it seems like lots of Sox fans can’t stop thinking about the Cubs. 

It’s part of some fans’ experience and I never really got into it. Doesn’t make me a better fan, but I just think rooting against them and cheering for the Indians in the World Series was some of the weirdest stuff that I saw. I get that we don’t get the love that the Cubs do, but that’s not the team’s fault and certainly not the Cubs fans’, either. Hating on them when we play makes sense, or if they ever wise up and put them in the same division, but until them cheering for the Cubs to lose is a tough look.

Best thing about White Sox fans? 

Die-hard. This franchise has giving us fans plenty of reasons to abandon them, and yet we are still here. The Yankees and Sox have played the exact amount of years and the Yankees have nine times the championships. We have only seen five playoff appearances (1983, 1993, 2000, 2005, 2008) in our lifetimes (if you’ve seen six, god bless) and we are still here believing that times will get better for the team we love. There’s no more loyal fan base in the history of the league.

Worst thing about White Sox fans? 

Our inferiority complex. We need to not feel like we are beneath any fan base just because our favorite team hasn’t performed as well as it should. Being a fan of a bad franchise is a badge of honor, not a scarlet letter.

Do you believe in the idea that this season can still be considered a success through player development and a higher win total even if the Sox miss out on the playoffs? 

Indeed. I don’t expect them to win the Central but know that they’ll be right there at the end. It’s because the development of these young players that I feel confident about the team’s record. 

What album or song have you been listening to the most lately? 

“Waves” by JSMN, it’s just a stone cold jam that Salif Crookboys was dancing to last year I’m on IG and I haven’t stopped listening since.

What’s an album you don’t think I’ve ever heard, but I should check out ASAP? 

The Foreign Exchange, Love in Flying Colors. Great album by them, as they put it all together and is my favorite from them.

Most overrated movie of all time? 

Scarface. I don’t even think that movie is particularly good. Watched it once and didn’t get why everyone was so over the moon about it.

Most underrated T.V. show of all time? 

Sons of Anarchy. It doesn’t get the love that its contemporary shows like Breaking Bad, The Wire or Mad Men get, but it is right up there with them.

You’re going on a weekend trip to anywhere in the world, where are you going, and who are you taking? Pick 5, living or dead/current or former, from these categories:

Place San Diego (of course)

670 the Score employee Chris Tannehill

White Sox player José Valentín

Actor or Actress Nia Long

Musician Jamiroquai

Illini athlete Kevin Turner

What’s your favorite restaurant in Chicago?

Pequods. The food is always on point, and it’s always worth the wait.

What’s something that most people get wrong about Chicago? 

That it is dangerous. Love this city, and yeah, there might be pockets of violence, but we’re not here just shooting at each other. Media’s fear of young black males plays into this, as if you look up the homicide/shootings for big cities it isn’t close to the top. 

How far is Illinois getting in the tournament this year? 

The early-season losses to Miami and Mizzery give me pause to pick them for a long run but also this tourney is wide open so I’m gonna say win the first game and lose a close game to a higher-ranked team in the second round.