Sports hosts surviving without sports
By Maddy Warren
Shortly after the NCAA announced the cancellation of its men’s and women’s March Madness basketball tournaments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rest of the sports world followed.
Lansing State Journal sports columnist Graham Couch and long-time print and broadcast journalist Jack Ebling have experienced the loss of sports first hand.
Couch has been at the LSJ since September 2012 and was even on The Lookout staff at LCC in 1999. Due to the recent retirement of the LSJ news columnist, Couch has assumed that position for the time being.
“I’m probably half news, half sports right now,” Couch said. “That could evolve over the next few months as news happens.”
Couch, who covers primarily Michigan State basketball and football, said the cancellations came at the start of one of the busiest times of the year for him.
“I would’ve been on the road four straight weeks if (MSU) had made the final four and in different cities and just writing constantly,” he said. “You sort of ramp yourself up psychologically for that and your body clock is ready for that, and then instantly it’s gone.”
Both Couch and Ebling have daily podcasts on the Spotlight Radio Network, with the studio located in downtown Lansing. Both shows are currently broadcast live from their homes.
Along with writing for the LSJ, Couch is a co-host for the sports talk show “Couch and The Rube,” weekdays from 1 to 3 p.m. For the time being, it is broadcast Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Depending on the amount of content available, it may last one hour instead of two on some days.
Ebling, an English teacher/track coach turned journalist, got his start covering Michigan State University athletics and the Detroit Lions for the LSJ, before eventually moving to broadcast about 18 years ago.
He is the host of “The Drive with Jack,” recorded live weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m., and the TV show “Press Pass” on Fox 47 Sundays at 11 p.m.
“We have chosen to be on every day (with ‘The Drive’), but we’ve taken one of our three hours and run the best of the previous day’s show,” Ebling said. “And then we go live from 4 to 6.”
Although finding content to fill the airtime is more challenging now with sports paused, Couch and Ebling are managing.
“We get into everything,” Couch said. “We try to keep it somewhat sports-centered here and there. Like, come back to that as sort of the root of the show … we try to make it in the wake of where people’s minds are that day and that time.”
Said Ebling: “Normally we talked about three things, the past, the present and the future. Now we talk about the past and the future … we do take some time every show and try to make it relevant to what people are going through … it’s something non-sports.”
Even though they are coping without them for now, there is no doubt that these two miss sports.
“Where I probably miss it most is in my work and in our show,” Couch said, “in the ability to talk about relevant happenings and things that are interesting to our listenership and my readership.”
Added Ebling: “I miss … the personal interaction, the observation we get to do … you can talk to somebody on the phone but you don’t get the full story. You see how people interact with the psychology of it, so I miss that part of it.”
“Couch and The Rube” and “The Drive with Jack” can be streamed anywhere podcasts are found.