The Media Column: Introducing Jeff Rickard, the new boss at WEEI


There is a new radio boss in town. Jeff Rickard begins next week as WEEI’s Brand Manager, and his first official act with the station was partaking in a nighttime chat with me.

I couldn’t think of a better welcome.

Rickard comes to WEEI with decades of radio experience. He anchored ESPN Radio’s “Gamenight” for years and hosted shows on numerous Sirius XM channels — including Mad Dog Sports Radio. Most recently, he served as the program director and morning show host of all-sports WFNI in Indianapolis.

A radio lifer, Rickard is one of the lucky few who can say they’ve always worked their dream job. And he appreciates it now more than ever. Two years ago, Rickard survived a nearly fatal cardiac emergency, in which he didn’t have a heartbeat for 27 minutes.

He was unconscious for three whole days.

Now, Rickard is back to doing what he loves, and ready to take on his next challenge. I spoke with Rickard about radio, his career and what it’s like regaining consciousness after losing your heartbeat (we got deep). Some exchanges have been edited for brevity:

Alex Reimer: I was reading your resume, and the one thing that stands out to me is, you have a long history as an on-air person. What about being a (brand manager) is attractive to you?

JR: I started in radio pretty young. I've only had three jobs in my life -- I've waited tables, worked on the railroad in the summertime during college, and I've always been on the radio. That's just always what I've done. I think when I started out in smaller places, you had to do everything, and you learned to do everything. There was a camaraderie and teamwork aspect of that that I always just really enjoyed. I played small college football, I've played sports my whole life. I was used to being on teams. Our team, even though it was a small college, we played in two national championship games. It's just that feeling that you accomplish things as a team. That's always been really attractive to me.

Being a program director, I get to combine something that I love, which is radio -- I've always gone back to radio. No matter how much television I've done, I always go back to radio. I love it. I love hearing good radio, and I like making good radio, and I like the team aspect of it. So that's what attracts me to it. All of those things combined.

AR: From my perspective, program director, it seems like you deal with a lot of s—. It doesn't always seem like the most fun job.

JR: You do, but it's a lot like coaching. I like people, and I want people to succeed. If I can have a small part in helping them succeed, or being a resource for them. I think that's something that's always been rewarding.

AR: You said you've done TV, you've done radio. What is it about radio that keeps pulling you back?

JR: You get to hear people be themselves, and you get to be yourself while you're still engaged in sports, which is what I love. That's why we all want to do this, because we love sports, right? In TV, everything is very regimented. You have to be very precise, you have to be on time. The control room has to know when you're talking about 'this,' so they can get their graphics right. There's just an aspect of control on that. Radio is free.

AR: I agree. And with radio, you're on for three or four hours. If you don't know your stuff, you can easily get exposed.

JR: Absolutely. I talk to people, and they're like, 'My kid knows all of this about sports,' and that's great, but you've got to be able to bring it as a personality. You've got to be entertaining, and be inquisitive and informative and have some authority. It's a mix of a lot of different things.

AR: Before we spoke, I was reading a story about your cardiac emergency last year. I mean, wow. There are a couple things I want to ask, but I guess the first thing would be: After going through such a health scare like that, how has it changed your perspective on life?

JR: It sounds cliche, but it's true: you appreciate everything. I was unconscious for a lot of it, so I'm not going to lie. I didn't see the light or anything. I just woke up three days later, and had to put pieces together. In a weird way, I slept through a lot of it, because I was kept unconscious. But I just appreciate things more. I don't know how else to say it.

AR: I can't even imagine. You were unconscious for three days! Do you remember what it was like when you woke up?

JR: I do. What was weird, was I knew I was in a different place than when I started. I don't know how I knew that, because a hospital is a hospital. So somewhere, I must have known something had happened. The first thing I did before I could talk, I wrote (my wife) a note, just 'ride,' -- R-I-D-E -- because that's what I love to do. That's when she said she knew it was going to be OK.

I came out of it on a Tuesday, which is funny, because it was during the impeachment hearings. So that's all I watched. It was crazy. But Thursday night came in, and the Colts and the Texans were playing, and my wife said she knew I was OK when I started getting pissy about the Colts defense.

AR: You regained consciousness and the first thing you see on the TV is the impeachment trial? Were you like, 'Can I go back to being knocked out?’

JR: I was not feeling any pain. Whatever they had me on, it was good.

AR: I would be remiss if I didn't ask: What is it about WEEI that made you say, 'Yeah, I'm coming?’

JR: WEEI. It's one of the great radio stations in the history of sports radio. It's going to have a tremendous amount of backing with Audacy, and it has a complete list of teammates in front of the microphone and behind the microphone who are going to be really committed to it -- like, really committed to it. That's what attracted me. I was happy where I was, but EEI is a different level.

AR: You are an Indianapolis guy, so come on, Deflategate. Where do you fall on that? Are there old tapes we can dig up?

JR: I'm on record. Anybody can ask me: I think it was the dumbest thing in the history of sports. I believe Tom Brady knows how he likes the football to feel. Does anybody really think Tom Brady was measuring the air in the football? I think somebody took the football, he said, 'I don't like this, take a little bit of air out of it,' and the guy took some air out of it, and that's how Tom likes his footballs. In any normal circumstance, altering the football is a $25,000 fine, and you move on. But it became a players' association vs. NFL battle that nearly went all the way to the Supreme Court. It was the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of in my life.

AR: But the greatest radio topic ever.

JR: Oh, one of the greatest radio topics of all-time.

AR: So you officially start next week. How do you plan to get acclimated to Boston and WEEI?

JR: This is one thing I want people to know: I'm a sports fan. I've always been a sports fan. I grew up in Colorado, so my dad and I watched the Broncos together, and I worked for the Colorado Avalanche. That was a lot of fun. I'm really looking forward to seeing the Bruins every night. But I am, at heart, a professional radio person. There are no greater passionate fans of their teams than people in New England. What I will tell you is, as I've gotten older, I don't know if I'm the biggest sports fan in the world -- I still love sports -- but as a radio guy, I'm a fan of the Boston sports fan. It's unmatched.

I love the fact that every Red Sox game -- didn't Grady Little once say they don't play 162 games every year, they play 162 seasons every year? I love that. I love that people melt down during a three-game losing streak. I love that they think they have the greatest team in the world after a four-game winning streak. I love it. It doesn't get any better than that.


Tom Brady the radio star: Tom Brady is launching a new show on Sirius XM this fall with Larry Fitzgerald and Jim Gray.

And I don’t think it will suck.

We’ve seen an unfiltered Brady over the last year, from drunkenly tossing the Lombardi Trophy to calling out an unnamed team for choosing “that motherf—“ over him in free agency.

Obviously, Brady won’t be asked to broach any subjects that make him uncomfortable. But if it’s on the agenda, maybe Brady will let it rip. Why else participate in a weekly radio show? He certainly doesn’t need the money.

Patriots interest down?: Training camp attendees have reported sparser crowds at Gillette Stadium this summer. While it would be ridiculous to draw conclusions from those anecdotes, I will do it anyway: the Patriots brand might have taken a post-Brady hit.

Don’t get me wrong: the Patriots aren’t in danger of losing their status. The NFL is king everywhere in the country. Boston isn’t different.

But in an increasingly fractured world, the Patriots can’t count on commanding everyone’s social calendars each Sunday — outside of the six rings avatar crowd. Another season of bounce passes from Cam Newton could cause those Gillette Stadium crowds to remain thin throughout the fall.

Perkins was right on Smart: Kendrick Perkins frequently criticized Marcus Smart last season, even calling for the feisty point guard to be traded.

Sure enough, on Monday we read that Brad Stevens is frustrated with Smart’s play, and could deal him this offseason.

Perkins’ Celtics sources seem to be right on. Now, we just have to get him to stay out of the cultural commentary.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Provided