10 Questions with Quake and Cowboy Joe

SportTalk Radio

Meet the personalities behind SportTalk, the afternoon destination for Chattanooga sports fanatics, casual followers, and everyone in between. Scott McMahen (Quake) and Joe Varner (Cowboy Joe) have been at the helm of this popular radio show for two decades, and their endearing wit and unmatched football expertise keep listeners coming back for more. 

But while listeners can always count on Quake and Cowboy Joe for the play-by-play, it’s rare that things get personal. Here, CityScope® magazine is diving deep with 10 questions – some silly, all related to football – for the dynamic duo. Their answers may surprise you!


If you were a football team, what would be your mascot?

Cowboy Joe: A cowboy, of course!

Quake: The Fighting Cheetahs. We’re fast, we’re strong, and we already have our face paint on.

What team colors look best on you? Why?

Quake: Black and gold, baby! When moving from Pennsylvania as a young Quake, I was extremely pumped that my new high school, Hixson, had the same colors as the Steelers that I grew up watching. It’s classic for a reason.

Cowboy Joe: Gotta agree with black. My favorite color is black, I look awesome in black, and it’s very slimming – which is great for a former lineman. Add a little red for a pop of color, and you’ve got the perfect look. 


What is your favorite football fight song?

Quake: I’ve always liked the Georgia Tech fight song for some reason. It’s got a good bounce to it. Air Force for patriotism, and, of course, “Rocky Top” worked well in the ‘70s for Mocs basketball, paving the way for the Vols to adopt it in the ‘80s. You have to know the history.

Cowboy Joe: I really want to pick my favorite team’s fight song (Florida State), but USC has the best. The Trojans’ fight song has swag and the feeling of marching into battle. It’s just a very cool fight song.

illustration of man eating hot dogs with mustard all over him


Ketchup or mustard?

Quake: Oh, I know I’m going to catch heat for this one. I was absolutely a ketchup guy for the first 30 years of my life. Now, mustard has got to be on the bun, regardless of what I’m eating. And if it’s a burger or a hot dog, I’ll usually have both.

Cowboy Joe: No, you’re completely right! I have become more of a mustard guy over the years, too. I still enjoy ketchup with some fries or tater tots, but I gotta have mustard for my burgers and hot dogs. Just make sure it’s in packets – the pump mustard can be dangerous (I speak from experience).



It’s third down and five. Do you run or pass?

Quake: Who is on my team? We’re running it if we have Derrick Henry and a solid O-line. We’re throwing it if we have Tom Brady. But a nice play action with a quick six-yard slant to our slot receiver would be my favorite play.

Cowboy Joe: I believe in a power running game. However, I would call a passing play for third and five. With my rocket arm, I think a quick pass to the tight end or running back would be a higher-percentage play. The answer would also be determined by the defensive scheme. 

What’s your ideal touchdown victory dance?

Cowboy Joe: I would “ride the bull.” Without the bull, of course. Envision a cowboy mounting a spirited rodeo bull, and you’ve got the idea.

Quake: For me, it would just be a hard spike, straight down. They called me the Dancing Bear in college. I promise, you don’t want to see me dance!

Illustration of Braveheart

If you had to describe your athletic career, would you say that you were most like Rocky, Rudy, the Karate Kid, or Braveheart?

Cowboy Joe: Great question. I see a little of me in all of those choices. Ultimately, I would pick Braveheart. I had some shining moments. I won my share of trench battles on the football field. Despite those victories, the end of my athletic career was as sudden as William Wallace’s ending. I’ll let you do the research.

Quake: That’s tough, because all of those options actually won something. I’m probably most like Rudy – not much talent, but I tried really hard. 

Your favorite team just fumbled on the one-yard line (either end). What’s your reaction?

Cowboy Joe: In my younger days, it would have been a lot of bleeps. These days, it’s the much tamer “Are you serious?” 

Quake: We witnessed this when Vols’ Guarantano went rouge on the Bama one-yard line to cut the lead to one score. He fumbled, everyone screamed, and I may or may not have called him a jack wagon.

illustration of guy eating a burger stuck in an elevator


Would you rather be stuck in an elevator with a quarterback, running back, or a defensive tackle?

Cowboy Joe: This is easy. I would choose the defensive tackle. The quarterback would be too busy texting his girlfriend, and the running back would be too worried about his Instagram likes. The defensive tackle would most likely have food with him – or have a way to get some!

Quake: Yep, the defensive tackle would know the best places to eat! The quarterback is only going to speak to you in “coach speak,” and the running back will probably ignore you because he has his buds in his ears. 



Last question. What would you be doing on Friday nights if you weren’t covering games?

Cowboy Joe: It’s been a long time since I had a free Friday night during football season, so it would be an odd feeling. I’d spend a lot of my time watching an actual game. Most likely, I’d be in Rhea County reliving my football past. I would also travel to some of the stadiums I’ve yet to visit. 

Quake: Honestly, I think I would be totally lost. The atmospheres at the schools we cover are off-the-charts cool. That’s what I missed most about last year. A socially distanced band and student section is not high school football.