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Show Them That They Matter

Brian Noe

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I never realized how much the Detroit Lions, or any NFL team for that matter, had in common with a sports talk radio building. It turns out there are a whole slew of similarities.

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford just saw his bank account grow significantly. He agreed to a 5-year, $135M extension. Holy Jim Bob Cooter! The largest deal in NFL history includes an average annual value of $27M, a 3-year guarantee of $92M, and a $50M signing bonus. Straight cash, homey!

Incidentally, while “da bomb” and “talk to the hand” fizzled out, I swear “straight cash, homey” never will.

Contracts in sports always create an interesting dynamic. Some players are happy for their teammates when they get paid. Others look at management sideways, but all players want to know when they’ll be taken care of — when they will get theirs. Remind you of a sports talk building at all?

The Lions might like to shower more of their players with cash, but there’s this pesky thing in the way called a salary cap. Franchises can’t pay everybody on the roster the same amount of money, just like sports talk stations can’t give everybody in the building the same salary. Ah, budgets.

The similarities go well beyond the money though. Players also want to know when they will become more of a focal point. “Why am I not getting the ball more? Why am I only on the field when it’s 3rd down? Why am I only on special teams?”

The same dynamic plays out within a sports talk radio building. “Why don’t I have more airtime. Why does that guy have a better time slot?” It’s happened approximately 845,900 times — since Monday.

But not everybody can have a starring role. There are a lot of Lions players in supporting roles, making cameo appearances, or like the Matt Millen era, serving as background talent. Stations can’t give everybody top billing either. The entire staff can’t have the same drive-time shift with maximum listenership. Cue Mick and the Stones, “You can’t always get what you want.”

So, what can be done to keep your team happy when their desires haven’t been fulfilled?

Show them that they matter.

I work a part-time shift hosting national shows for Fox Sports Radio. Trust me, I’m aware of who gets fill-in shifts. I’m aware of who gets promoted. I’m aware of the times when I get opportunities or get passed up. Sports talk radio is made up of very driven and competitive people, and I’m no different.

When my bosses reach out and show that they value me, I’m not as focused on what I don’t have. I basically exhale and appreciate what I do have.

If Don Martin writes that I should smile and it’s going to be a great day, I can hear his slight southern drawl as if he just roped a calf and fed Billy the goat before lunchtime. It makes me feel valued and refocused. If Scott Shapiro says that he caught my show and gives me props for a correct prediction, I feel like I matter. I also feel like the Vikings will let him down again this year, but that’s completely secondary.

Making someone feel like they matter is crucial.

There are a lot of ambitious people in sports talk. Ambition can be a great thing when you work with others that are striving to achieve bigger and better things. That can be infectious in a positive way. Ambition can also be a bad thing because co-workers often get dejected and frustrated when things aren’t moving in the manner they desire.

Find ways to spark that ambition in the right direction.

If you’re a host who has a talented update guy or board op that can contribute on the air — let ‘em. Make them feel like they’re an asset to the show. If you’re a PD who has a hungry staff, don’t let them starve. You don’t have to feed them seven course meals, but at least give them some Toaster Strudels. Have them do a podcast for the website. Have them do a podcast just for you and coach them up. Be a walking compliment giver. There isn’t anybody who dislikes hearing that they did a good job.

Yeah, you’re creating more work for yourself, but that’s sort of the gig isn’t it? A board op that gets some airtime can turn into that weird character, Gollum, from Lord of the Rings gurgling, “Precious. Precious airtime.” You can either deal with that while inspiring your staff through projects, or you can let them be disgruntled by neglecting them and risk damaging the vibe of the entire building. Which makes more sense to you?

There are tons of ways to show the people around you that they’re valued. Find them. It won’t cure everything, but it’ll go a loooong way. The Lions can’t give Golden Tate or Darius Slay 5-year extensions worth $135 million like Stafford, but they can highlight their talents. They can put them in positions to succeed. They can give praise and show appreciation. It’s the same concept in sports talk.

It isn’t hard to show co-workers that they matter. It’s actually very easy. Sadly, what should be obvious, is sometimes the easiest step to forget: remembering to do so.

Brian Noe is a sports radio host, currently heard nationally on FOX Sports Radio. He’s also worked in California and New York as a host and program director and resides in Nashville, Tennessee. Follow him on Twitter @TheNoeShow.

BSM Writers

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.

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WRONG BAD

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.

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BSM Writers

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.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

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.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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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.

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