Inside The Box: A chat with Bengals 'Countdown To Kickoff' host Wayne Box Miller
Now in his 60s, Cincinnati radio and promotions veteran Wayne Box Miller is excited to be heading to his first Super Bowl as a broadcaster with the Bengals radio team.
"It's so surreal. I don't think I'll fully wrap my head around it until I'm in the stadium and I get the cue that I’m on the air," says Miller, who hosts Countdown To Kickoff 90 minutes before the game, and a 90-minute postgame show, on WLW-AM, WCKY-AM and the Bengals Radio Network.
"I went to the 1989 Super Bowl in Miami because at that time I was doing some sports marketing for some of the players. This will be my second Super Bowl – but my first one in a broadcasting capacity," he says.
Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles also will be the first time he'll do Countdown To Kickoff from the visiting stadium radio booth during the postseason. Normally he does his road game wrap-around shows from iHeartMedia's Kenwood studios because the 90-minute postgame show ends long after the team would leave the stadium to fly home. The entire Bengals radio team will be going to L.A.: announcers Dan Hoard and Dave Lapham,producer Dave "Yiddy" Armbruster, engineer Dave Abbott; statistician Brad Ellis; and spotter Dave Kelly.
Miller, a lifelong Bengals fan since his father switched allegiance from the Cleveland Browns when the Cincinnati franchise was announced in the 1960s, says his optimism for the Bengals has never wavered.
"I've been around sports a long time. So you always hold out hope because sometimes it's not the best team that goes (to the Super Bowl), it's the team that's playing the best at that time," says Miller, who got the nickname Box as a kid growing up in Avondale.
"I remember the Reds in 1990, people pretty much put the trophy in the Oakland A's locker room before the World Series started," he recalls. (The Reds swept Oakland in four games.)
"Over the course of time the Bengals have fielded some good teams, some of the Marvin Lewis teams (which went to the playoffs five consecutive years), and even before Marvin Lewis came here. I was eternally optimistic this would happen, like many Bengal fans, and man, how can you not feel good about what the Cincinnati Bengals are doing? Or about how special they are? And really, how can you not feel good for Mike Brown?"
The 1973 Woodward High School graduate is especially grateful for the Brown family, which owns the team. They chose him for the pregame/postgame shows in 2018 over other candidates likely half his age or younger.
"There's no question about it, that decision that could have gone 100 different ways. I guess they had enough confidence in the work that I had done up to that that I would do a good job," Miller says.
Leading up to the Bengals gig in 2018, Miller had done a little bit of everything. He's a true survivor on the ever-changing media landscape since earning a communications degree from Morehead State University in 1979. His first media job was selling advertising for Family Circle, Tennis Magazine and Golf Digest magazines and the Cincinnati Enquirer.
He switched to radio in the mid-1980s, as promotion manager for the new WIZF-FM (The WIZ). That's where he hooked up with Bengals players David Fulcher, Eric Thomas, Solomon Wilcots, Lewis Billips and other Super Bowl-bound Bengals. He left the WIZ to run Miller Communications Sports Marketing from 1988 to 2001, where he also represented Bengals quarterback Jeff Blake, Reds stars Eric Davis and Deion Sanders, and local attorney and minister Leslie Isaiah Gaines. He was involved in Gaines' "Shake 'n' Blake" rap song.
It was Miller time again on radio in 2000 when WDBZ-AM (1230 The Buzz) launched. He was sports director and afternoon host with Eric Thomas until 2008. During that time he also co-hosted WLWT-TV's Sunday night Sports Rock show and wrote a column called "The Box Seat" for the Cincinnati Herald.
After that, he did sales for the Crowne Plaza Cincinnati North; did communications and diversity management for Hospice of Cincinnati; opened Wayne Box Miller Media; wrote and published three books; and wrote for GoBearcats.com.
"From working with the athletes, and doing media – it's a blessing, if you really want my honest opinion. I've just been blessed to be able to be in positions to bring some ideas to people along the way, like the Cincinnati Herald. I always felt I had a unique offering for the sports landscape in Cincinnati."
For the past three years, he's been St. Xavier High School's director of diversity, equity and inclusion while working Sundays for the Bengals, which buy the time from iHeartMedia for the pregame/postgame shows.
Miller and Lapham will broadcast the Bengals Game Plan show 6-8 p.m. today (Wednesday) from Pirate's Den Bar and Grill,3670 Werk Road, with guest Eric Thomas. For Sunday's pregame show, Miller plans to interview a former Bengals player, as he's done this season with John Thornton, Gary Burley, Stanford Jennings, Barney Bussey, Solomon Wilcots, Jim Breech, Doug Pelfrey, Ross Browner and Thomas.
"It's just a joy to listen to them tell their tales and stories of days gone by, and what it means to be a Cincinnati Bengal, and their appreciation for Mike Brown and the Bengals franchise," says Miller, who speaks regularly with Thomas and Eric Davis. "Eric Thomas and I talk literally every day. We still have our sports talk show; we just do it over the phone!"
Miller encourages Bengals fans to savor the team's success, as he is.
"It's just a magical moment," he says, "You see the Super Bowl logo, and you see the Cincinnati Bengals logo there next to it, and you just go, 'Wow!' "