Self confidence can be taken two different ways. On the positive side, self assuredness drives successful people who know their own worth and skills to achieve what they want. Jason Bailey has that in spades. As a new morning host at sports talk station 92.9/The Game, he brings 18 years of radio experience in different formats with a clear understanding what will entertain his audience.
On the other hand, that same characteristic can be seen as arrogant and egocentric. Bailey, early in his radio career, was bestowed the nickname "Buckethead" because, as he said, "I was seen as having a big head. I was a little conceited, a little cocky."
On air, he will tell a caller he's an idiot. He'll say what he feels, even if he knows it will upset folks. He doesn't care if some folks dislike him.
Plenty of jocks in Atlanta have thrived over the years with that type of persona. (I'm certain you readers can name a few.)
Bailey joined the station less than four months ago so it's too early to say if he will be able to help the year-old Game close the gap it has with Atlanta's sports talk leader 680/The Fan. (Currently, the Fan draws about double the ratings of the Game.) Teamed with Kristen Ledlow and Randy Cross, Bailey sees early progress. "People are starting to get what we're trying to accomplish," he said. "I believe we offer something different."
And he doesn't worry about the weekly or even monthly ratings. "I don't sweat what I can't control," he said. "I knew going in that this is an upstart station. I knew how I do radio would be different. And I have no desire to be the No. 1 sports morning show. I want to us to be the No. 1 morning show."
His boss Terry Foxx said he hired Bailey because he's not just a sports guy - he's an entertainer first and foremost. "He's not a traditional host," he said. "He kind of lives on the edge."
Bailey does not fashion himself a sports expert. He has worked in top 40 radio, rock radio and most recently, a broader "hot talk" format in Orlando. So he's a fan who happens to like to talk sports.
"I'm not going to pretend I'm something I'm not," Bailey said. "A lot of guys deflect questions they don't know the answer to. If I don't know something, I'll say so."
He doesn't like know it alls on sports talk "yelling at you about what you should believe. I'd rather let people voice their opinions. It's not about talking at people. It's about talking to people."
In many ways, he's like Christopher Rude, who worked for many years as a rock jock at 96rock before finding a home as the morning host at the Fan in 2003 and thriving
Bailey relies on Cross for his NFL football background and expertise and Ledlow for her college football and basketball knowledge, as well as her youthful verve. On air, the trio seems to click well so far.
He spent several years in Florida hosting a male-friendly show dubbed the BS on Real Radio 104.1 in Orlando, which is chronicled extensively on Wikipedia. (You can also read fan comments about him here when news came out that he had parted ways with the station in June.) Bryan Sklover. a former colleague on Bailey's show in Orlando, declined to comment about Bailey beyond saying, "I think that's water under the bridge."(On his Facebook page last June, Sklover called Bailey a "narcissistic cancer.")
Jake Cook, Bailey's current producer at the Game who throws in his two cents on air as well, calls Bailey a "talented guy, relentless worker. I like his brand of talk show radio on a sports station. Jason and I have both made transition from the rock to sports talk- so I've particularly enjoyed getting to work with him."
He added, "Jason demands a lot from the people around him, but he's the first one there every morning and always has a plan."
During Thursday morning's show, the show screener put through a 13 year old to win a prize, which annoyed Bailey because 13 year olds aren't allowed to win prizes. "Go to school!" he barked at the kid.
"This shows is like cigarettes," he added. "You have to be 18 years and older to buy it!"
Bailey, 38, grew up in Maryland, then Florida. In high school in Sarasota, he was a class clown, the dude who got in trouble mouthing off to the teacher. (He came in second in yearbook superlatives for "class clown" and said the dude who won is now a cop in Cumming.)
He played defensive end at Wingate College in North Carolina, then transferred to the University of Central Florida. There, he had a friend who worked at an Orlando rock station and helped Bailey get an internship in 1995. He fell in love with radio so much, he stopped partying. "Got bit by the bug," he said.
Bailey's early aggressiveness enabled him to nab celebrities to speak on the morning show. He said he tracked down Atlanta boxer Evander Holyfield at a local hotel and convinced him to be on the show. The bosses were so impressed, they gave him a full-time producing job.
"He has so much passion for the industry," said Johnny Magic, a popular Orlando morning host who hired Bailey as an intern and gave him his Buckethead nickname he has shed in Atlanta. "He wants to succeed so badly. Some people don't understand that. His method is to win. Sometimes in the heat of the battle, he forgets to say please. He needs things to happen now."
Bailey moved to a top 40 on-air job in 1996 as the format was getting hot, then a rock station in 2001 just as the neo-metal sound heated up. ("I helped launch Shinedown," he said.) But he wanted to do talk radio. "I want to live and die by my personality," he said, "not by someone programming music."
After hosting mornings at a Tampa rock station in 2006, he got his chance to do a full talk show at Real Radio in 2008. He learned that he needed a ton of show prep (I"m an overplanner") but relished the spontaneous moments that inevitably happen on a daily radio show. "My mindset is to say something that people will talk about afterwards," he said.
His general philosophy: "I like telling stories. No matter how technology changes, telling a great story will never get old."
He came to CBS Radio's the Game because he likes how the company supports building personalities more than many of CBS's rivals. And he really wanted to come to Atlanta, a city he's been drawn to ever since he was a kid. Even better, his fiance Rachel and her two kids were able to come with him from Orlando.
And while Bailey said he is a workaholic, he has learned after a failed first marriage that he needs a better work-life balance. He said he treasures his time with Rachel and her kids.