Greg Cote

Dan Le Batard Show deals with upheaval as coronavirus threat shuts down studio

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The coronavirus pandemic that has meant upheaval in all of our lives has not spared ESPN’s popular Miami-based Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz.

Everything has changed starting this week as sequestering and edicts against large crowds to limit the spread of the virus closed ESPN’s South Beach studios inside the Clevelander hotel, where the show was recorded.

As Le Batard himself says of the new normal, with typical self-deprecation: “It may not be a good show. But it’s a show.”

The show continues to air on ESPN Radio weekdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. but is now done remotely, with Le Batard and producer Mike Ryan situated in Dan’s apartment on South Beach, Stugotz from his own house 45 miles northwest of there, and the show’s four other producers (the “Shipping Container”) from each of their own homes.

The show continues to simulcast on television on ESPNews, but as audio only for now.

Le Batard says he has “no idea” when the Clevelander may reopen, just as parents have no idea about schools restarting or fans about sports resuming.

“The show suffers greatly without our 20-year library of sounds, jokes and bits,” Le Batard admitted before Wednesday’s show. “We miss our studio and library more than we miss sports.”

It’s more than that.

“We rely a lot on eye contact, chemistry and things you can’t have all working remotely,” Le Batard said. “I’m not as comfortable. We’ve become more of a common sport show.”

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Ryan said, “We’re so dependent on our archives and non-verbal communication and timing. It’s been challenging. And we’re more of a character-driven show We borrow from our life experiences. It’s one thing if we’re all out and about acquiring experiences. But we’re all sequestered in our houses. This challenge is unprecedented, but hopefully we’ll find a way through.”

All of broadcasting, all of ESPN, is being affected. The Golic and Wingo show is now coming from one of their basements. There is still plenty of sports to talk about thanks to ongoing NFL free agency and the upcoming draft, but ESPN is bracing for a long spell with no live games. The network said this week its schedule moving forward would be a mix of live studio shows, archival content and what it called “stunt event programming.”

Le Batard’s Highly Questionable television show is no longer airing for the time being. Tuesday, the show put out on social media a 5-minute video rebranding the show as “Highly Quarantined,” with a split screen depicting Le Batard and guests Mina Kimes and Katie Nolan, each from their own homes.

The radio show’s fan have been quite understanding based on the texts that flood in during the show. And, by day, the show seems to be adjusting by degrees to its indefinite new normal and gradually becoming more of itself.

“Fans are very critical but offering us a bit of leeway,” Ryan said. “I’m encouraged to hear people genuinely thankful. We’re a small part of people’s normal routines. ‘It may not be a good show. But its a show’.”

Off the air, the show’s cast, like all of us, deal with the limitations and stress of a time such as none of us has ever experienced.

“I’m quarantined, too,” said Le Batard. “I’m worried about my parents.”

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