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Sheltered Animals

Being successful in talk radio requires the ability to adapt on the fly. You have to be ready for anything, from breaking news and weather calamities to equipment malfunctions and abrupt schedule changes.

When COVID-19 reared its ugly head and made social distancing the new reality, the ESPN Honolulu team – like everyone else in Hawaii and around the world – rolled up its collective sleeve and went to work. New safety measures were put in place, including having staff members work from home.

Chris Hart and Gary Dickman, hosts of the station’s popular afternoon drive program, “The Sports Animals,” embraced the challenge of doing their show from their homes. Here’s a short Q&A with the sports-loving duo on what the process and adjustment was like. Even during a global pandemic, they say, the show must go on.

Q: How much logistical work was involved in getting your remote equipment set up at home? Was it fast and easy, or tedious and difficult?

CHRIS: I had to actually order a phone line at my house, something we have not had in years! After the phone line was installed, I literally plug in the line to the broadcast equipment (about the size of a board game). Plug in the mic, plug in the headphones and I am broadcasting! Today’s technology is amazing! It’s why many of the radio shows you listen to here on Oahu are hosted by ex-pats in Los Angeles, Oregon and other places…but you would never know by listening! I could have been doing our show from Seattle and no one would have ever known. (Maybe I am!)

GARY: It took about 1-1/2 hours to hook up my equipment properly. It wasn’t hard for me. I just sat there and watched. Then I checked the voice levels, which wasn’t too difficult for me.

Chris Hart at his home work station.

Q: Where exactly is your setup?

CHRIS: I started in my garage, but summer came and it got too hot. So now I am on my patio (usually a nice breeze) in our townhouse so more neighbors can get irritated for three hours a day.

GARY: My setup is in my small bedroom. I share a house with three others. I sit on my bed when doing the show.

Q: What do you like about doing your show from home?

GARY: I do like doing the show here now. It wasn’t comfortable at all in the beginning. It felt awkward. But now it’s my new normal, and I feel very comfortable. I like being at home. I have my dog nearby, but not in the room, because he barked a little at the beginning. I don’t have to worry when I leave for work now. I can never be late way.

CHRIS: Tank tops, basketball pants, rubbah slippah! The refrigerator is a few steps away. Snacks are healthier than you would probably find downtown, and I have reserved parking! (In my garage!)

Q: What don’t you like about it?

CHRIS: I miss going next door at our studio and doing quality voiceovers. The production quality is not the same as doing it from home. I also miss seeing our staff in person. Plus, WiFi SUCKS AT HOME! The Internet at work is so much faster!

GARY: The only thing I don’t like is that my room is VERY HOT, I have two fans, I turn on the AC sometimes. Also, sitting in bed, my back isn’t resting on anything, so it gets sore at times. I guess that’s two things I don’t like.


Gary Dickman and Gizmo at home.

Q: Overall, what does this experience tell you about your ability (and the company’s ability) to adapt to difficult situations?

CHRIS: We are lucky. Broadcasters have been doing this for a while. We are able to just plug in and go for it.  Personally, I LOVE change. Always have. So I embrace it. I do feel bad because before the virus hit, we just finished constructing our brand new studios downtown. So, though I love broadcasting from home, our studios are so nice that I’m also looking forward to going back soon and seeing our team in person!

GARY: This experience has been kind of amazing. I thought in April that maybe we wouldn’t be doing the show for a while, and I didn’t think that doing it at home would work at all. I don’t think people realize how hard this is. I’ve been in a studio, with a routine, for over 25 years. So to not be in the same room with Chris – and, oh yeah, not having actual games to talk about, it’s been the most depressing year EVER. And we’re supposed to be upbeat and entertain. I feel we’ve done a really good job, all things considered. Credit goes to [board operator] Keegan Ohta in our studio as well. I feel proud of what we’ve done.
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