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The Invisible Seatbelt

March 8, 2023

Stuart Scott, Bill Plaschke, and Woody Page, as well as Micheal Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser, dominated my television during my teenage years. I remember my teenage years of watching them all across my television screen, as ESPN was really the only channel I watched. Still do if I had to be honest.
Mike and Mike was one of my favorites. I’m almost certain most males my age remember and enjoyed this show.
It was a unique show centered on the hosts’ “Odd Couple” relationship and how it related to their sporting views. Mike and Mike would go down as one of ESPN’s all-time most popular shows.
However, beginning in the mid-2010s, the show’s ratings and popularity began to decline. Anyone who watched it would tell you that, if nothing else, the show’s presentation was fairly constant, so why such a drastic drop?

They did not alter their behavior. It was the user base that did.
As the internet would become a dominant force in content consumption, it also became a force in content creation. We were now able to see the sheer genius in everyday normal folks who just happened to have a cell phone and a wifi connection.
There is a lesson in this.

Mike and Mike wasn’t a horrible program; it was just that the internet had created an environment where viewers wanted to see more relatable characters. Audiences wanted people with whom they could identify to carry the narrative forward.
The fact that people can see themselves in the people they are watching is one of the reasons influencers have become so successful nowadays.
Mike and Mike’s replacement on Espn’s national weekday am slot would struggle for nearly 5 years. Until the introduction of KJM, in 2020. But KJM was distinct from Mike and Mike in one key respect: the driving force behind it was two former athletes.

I recall when Jay-Will was a dreadful talker and Keshawn Johnson had little stage presence anytime he did NFL Countdown as an ESPN guest. They weren’t journalists or experts in the media by far. Nowadays they are industry leaders.
These and other names, on the other hand, are among the most well-known characters in sports journalism today. Here are a few brief facts: the most popular discussion show host right now is not Stephen A Smith, but Shannon Sharpe, dubbed “Uncle Shay” on the internet. Right now, who is the best sports broadcaster in Football? Al Michaels? Nope. Joe Buck, eh? Nope. Chris Berman, perhaps? Nope, give it another shot.

It’s Tony Romo, former QB of, Dallas Cowboys

You’re probably not sure where I’m heading with this and what does this have to do with Transit? I’m glad you asked. Transit has had a major internal talent development challenge for a long time.
The bus operators, who know and understand the product better than anyone, have been barred from most external positions that do not include supervision or direct management.
In short, gatekeepers have made it nearly impossible for operators to utilize expertise in helping any transit agency. It’s the shut up and drive stigma. To date, being a Transit Operator is the only job, where they want you to arrive, shut up, do one thing for 35 years, and retire. Not to mention because the industry can’t hire, they’ll call you back to come back and do the same thing once you leave

Bus drivers do not have a legitimate path to advancement. Sure, they have tuition reimbursement programs, but let’s be honest here. For the first 3-4 years of our tenure, we as operators have little influence over our schedule. Then there’s the issue of experience once we acquire our degree.
MDOT and WMATA, two of my home state’s agencies, have excellent intern-based programs for new college students. New talent to assist the transportation business advance, but none for those who literally “drive” the industry ahead.


Do you realize how condescending it is to have our on-the-job operators be denied positions they are more than qualified for just because they lack “traditional education or experience”?

ESPN, social media, and even start-ups have turned gatekeeper Esq-narratives on their heads and we’re seeing it in real-time. There is a Michael Strahan for every Michael Wilbon. Same destination, different routes, and neither is any less intellectual or intriguing as a result. Wilbon may be able to read a teleprompter more effectively, but he may not be able to read an offensive lineman as well as Strahan and vice versa, and that’s ok!

So, what precisely am I trying to say? They complement each other effectively, and the consumer benefits the most as a result!

Espn saw where the ball was headed and realized that, while the athletes may not have mastered the principles of television broadcasting journalism, they had mastered the one skill that no institution could teach. A different point of view.

I remember not knowing how to use Trapeze or Blockbuster when I first started working for MDOT’s service development department. I was messing with my computer at my desk when my trainer, Amber, showed me how to use the software and told me, “I could teach you how to use this software faster than you could teach me how to maintain a bus on time.” I had never before felt so appreciated in my field. MDOT hired me as a scheduler not because I was a spreadsheet whiz, but because of my opinion on public transportation.

An opinion formed over the course of a decade of driving around Baltimore City. I could have not learned that in any classroom.

I’ve never understood title 6 or why moving a bus stop across the street costs $200,000. That was something Tom Hewitt excelled at. What I was good at was spotting trends, knowing drivers, and anticipating how something could be CBA legal but produce major bus service chain reactions. Am I implying that Tom should work as a bus driver in order to be a part of the conversation? No. Is it necessary for me to be the director of service development to sit at the table? Hardly.

Here’s my point: for decades, transit has been held back by vanity requirements and glass ceilings, and it’s now suffering the price. The solutions to these problems will expand and become more complex as transit grows and gets more complex, and the answer to these problems are concealed behind a steering wheel.

My competitive edge when I founded Go Supir(sue-peer) wasn’t a lot of college or previous startup experience; it was the fact that no one understood transit’s difficulties better than I did from the perspective of the drivers. I can confidently state that the majority of my recruiting skills are unrelated to human resources. It’s simply a knowledge of how bus drivers communicate and where they hang out on the internet.



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