What do Marshawn Lynch, sports talk radio, and crossing the street all have in common? It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it’s something that actually provides the path to becoming a better worker.
Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sat during the national anthem prior to a preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday night. Lynch remained seated on a cooler while holding a banana. Following the game, there was no sign of Marshawn. He went Beast Mode through a University of Phoenix Stadium exit before reporters could ask him dozens of questions.
Why exactly did Marshawn sit during the anthem? Well, we don’t know for sure. Is it because of the nauseating and despicable display that began in Charlottesville the evening prior? Is it because he’s continuing Colin Kaepernick’s protest against racial injustice? Is it because he has a bunion and desperately needed some potassium?
Some argue that Marshawn’s refusal to say anything about his act is the beauty of his act. We’re left to guess. Yeah, but if we come up with the wrong theory or guess something that’s completely inaccurate, how beautiful is that? It’s about as beautiful as that ’02 mugshot of Nick Nolte.
It sure seemed and felt like a protest by Marshawn, but just when you might’ve been convinced that it was, Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio provided this gem following the game. “[Lynch] said, ‘This is something I’ve done for 11 years, it’s not a form of anything other than me being myself.’”
Oooooo kay? I feel like that old-school clip of Vince Lombardi walking the sidelines saying, “What the hell’s goin’ on out here?!”
We’re left to wonder without clear answers. This shows the importance of stating why you’re doing something. It’s a concept that also applies to sports talk radio.
I’ve noticed many times in the sports talk radio business, a request that seems to be ignored, actually isn’t fully understood. The other person doesn’t understand the reason for the request, or the importance of the request, because it simply wasn’t communicated.
For instance, if a manager wants a host to tease more often, it can make a huge difference when the manager provides the reasons why it’s important to do so. Don’t tell your host to “tease upcoming segments more” without stating why. Instead say, “Tease your upcoming segments more often. I’ve looked at a lot of data and see that your audience sticks around longer when you consistently tease. The ratings for your show should spike if you execute this more often.”
It didn’t take an entire day to deliver that message. It didn’t even take a whole minute. A simple two extra sentences provide so much clarity. Now, your host fully understands the reason and the purpose for your instruction, and you have a much better formula for success.
Managers can develop the attitude of, “I’m the boss, just do it. I don’t need to explain myself every time.” See how far that approach gets you. You’re much better off painting a clearer picture for your staff.
By the way, this concept goes for everybody in the building. Hosts, producers, tech producers, whatever. Anyone with a pulse and a paycheck.
It’s not good enough for a host to tell his crew, “Guys, lets lock in during the show.” Provide the reasons why. “Guys, lets lock in during the show. If I’m in the middle of a thought, and see that you’re not paying attention, it throws me off. I think, ‘man, this must suck. This must not be entertaining at all.’ I’m thinking that while trying to talk about whatever I’m talking about. So, please lock in because I need you guys. This show won’t work unless all of us are focused.” The crew understands better when you break it down.
A producer could ask a host to “take a commercial break at 39 after.” The host will probably think, “Yeah, okay.” If the producer instead provides the reasons for the request by saying, “Bro, can you break at 39? It keeps the show tighter. It sounds so much better, and management won’t yell at me like possessed lunatics.” The request now has much more significance.
Also, board ops (my bad — technical producers). Apparently, “board op” is outdated like Division I-A, while “tech producer” is the newer, hipper FBS. I digress. If a tech producer tells a host to “give me a heads up before going to sound,” the host might channel his inner Bill Belichick and think/say, “Do. Your. Job.” If the tech producer asks a host, “Hey, can you give me a heads up in the break before going to sound? I’ve got a ton of cuts here. I don’t want to miss anything and make the show sound bad, or throw you off. If you tell me before a segment, ‘have the Michael Bennett, Goodell, and NFL Films bed ready,’ it helps me out.” Which approach do you think a host is more likely to listen to?
The more precise you are, the better chance you have at being understood. If you tell little Johnny to look both ways before crossing the street, that’s good advice. However, little Johnny doesn’t know why you’re saying that to him. He’ll be much more aware of traffic if you say, “Look both ways before you cross the street so you don’t get hit by a bus.” Whoa, whole different ball game! State it however you’d like, but the thought is to clearly explain yourself. You’ll find that your requests will be accepted much more often when they’re understood better.
You might disagree with the method of kneeling that Colin Kaepernick chose, but at least we know why he did it. Think how maddening it would be if we didn’t even know that (which is the case with Marshawn Lynch sitting). Don’t make the same mistake in your role within a sports talk radio building. Always provide the why. If you leave things up for interpretation, don’t be shocked when they’re misinterpreted.
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.