NBC Sports Chicago’s White Sox postgame show candid, critical … and crazy

What other postgame show in the country would begin with the host crawling onto the set, crestfallen after an unfathomable loss?

That’s what NBC Sports Chicago studio host Chuck Garfien did last week after the White Sox blew a four-run, eighth-inning lead and lost to the Mariners 8-4 on a walk-off grand slam. It was a gut punch of a loss in a season filled with them, and Garfien was on all fours as if Cal Raleigh’s blast hit him in the stomach.

“This White Sox season is doing this to me,” Garfien said before collapsing on the floor.

Not to be outdone, analyst Ozzie Guillen, holding a potted cactus, said, “I’m going to sit on it. That might hurt a little less than today’s game.”

That right there is the show’s hook, because that is how Sox fans feel.

Garfien, a longtime Sox fan, can relate to viewers, and Guillen, a longtime Sox player and manager, can comment without fear of reprisal. To Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf’s credit (how many times has that been said?), the NBCSCH cast has been candid and critical about what might be a historically bad season.

“There’s an understanding that while we certainly don’t want to make anything personal, when you see what’s going on, you can’t sugarcoat it,” said Jason Schwartz, the pregame and postgame show producer. “Ozzie has said it many times on the show; that’s something that fans will see right through. When they’re telling it like it is, I do not want to get in their way.”

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That extends to Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, Scott Podsednik and Gordon Beckham, all former Sox who also appear on the show. But Garfien and Guillen set the tone, and viewers know they’re in good hands when the duo is on.

“The kind of comments Chuck gets [are] thanks for being honest, thanks for talking with us, not at us,” said John Schippman, NBCSCH vice president of content. “That’s a thing viewers now look at. They want to be part of the conversation. They want to see if we put up a tweet. They want to see their name on the screen.”

The connection with viewers starts with the set, particularly when the cast is lounging on the couch and chairs. When the set debuted in 2020, NBCSCH maintained a traditional broadcast, seating the cast behind the anchor desk. But over time, the network incorporated the furniture, which allowed for more options on the set.

“Those guys are more relaxed sitting in the couch and the chair, and it turns into more of a conversation,” Schippman said. “In the olden days, it was like, we gotta run B roll and analyst takes right away. But now it’s like, let’s sit back, relax. We’re talking about the game, and the audience is sitting across from us on the couch. I think it’s worked out well on all the shows.”

But the Sox show has differed from Bulls and Blackhawks shows because of its creativity. Case in point: its parody of late-night TV.

After a West Coast game in 2022, Garfien welcomed viewers to “White Sox Postgame Live” and said he had a new name for the show, “Late Night with Chuck & Ozzie.”

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“I’ve been told we can say what we want after 11:45,” Garfien joked.

“It was nothing more than an off-the-cuff, throwaway comment,” Schwartz said. “Except from there we got the ball rolling. Our next ‘Late Night’ game was two nights later, and so we started the planning.”

Led by Schwartz and directors Matt Ellis and Lou Melgarejo, the crew of more than a dozen created a look and feel for the show. Graphic and creative services developed a logo. Videographer Glynn Morgan served as the announcer, a veritable Ed McMahon.

They took the concept to a new level last year when they recruited Max Weinberg to appear. The longtime drummer for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and former band leader for Conan O’Brien’s late-night shows, Weinberg feigned auditioning to be the band leader for Garfien and Guillen.

“What we got out of that was a marvelous bit,” Schwarz said. “We turned it around to air on that night’s postgame show in less than two hours.”

Comedian and Chicago native Pat McGann also has appeared on the show. This year, he was on the same night Garfien crawled in. Talk about comedic timing.

The show might be a happier place when the Sox win, but it’s a more entertaining place when they lose.

“I think we all want to see this franchise be successful,” Schwartz said. “Oftentimes, and Chuck has even admitted this on the show, shows after losses are really good. That goes back to what we discussed about fans saying, thanks for thinking what we’re thinking.”

Remote patrol

The Score will honor Cubs Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg with a one-hour special at 6 p.m. Friday in advance of his statue unveiling Sunday at Wrigley Field. Produced by Chris Tannehill, The Score’s special projects executive producer, “A Salute to Sandberg” is hosted by Mark Grote and includes appearances by Sandberg, Andre Dawson and others. It will re-air at 4 p.m. Sunday.

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ESPN will carry a Chicago sports doubleheader Sunday. At 3 p.m., the Sky host the Fever, and at 6, the Cubs host the Mets on “Sunday Night Baseball.” Cubs TV voice Jon Sciambi, the regular radio voice of “SNB,” will fill in for Karl Ravech alongside David Cone and Eduardo Perez. Ravech will be calling the College World Series.

FS1 will air the Mets-Cubs game Saturday, with Kenny Albert and Tom Verducci on the call. The broadcast will co-exist with Marquee Sports Network’s.

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