It was nearly 15 years ago that I accidentally made my sister feel bad. At this particular time, she was quite pregnant. That’s my way of saying she was very close to giving birth to her first child. Like any-day-now close. Not only was she quite pregnant, she was feeling as big as a house and needed a pick-me-up.
A girlfriend of hers recommended that they color my sister’s hair. Not a bad idea, right?
Well, my sister was fla broke at the time. That’s right. She couldn’t afford the “t” in flat. She was just fla broke. They got some cheap hair color and went to work. It turned her hair bright orange.
The first thing I said to Christie when I saw her ‘new do’ was, “Did you mean for it to look like that?” Looking back on it now, it’s funny to us. But at the time? Not so much. My sister was quite pregnant, felt unsightly, had bright orange hair, and faced a poorly-timed question from her brother about her bright orange hair.
I certainly didn’t mean to make my sister feel bad. Not at all. But that’s exactly what happened.
It’s a common theme in the sports world right now — unintended disrespect. Quarterback Baker Mayfield apologized on Monday for planting an Oklahoma flag on Ohio State’s field over the weekend. He said that he “didn’t mean it to be disrespectful at all.” Although described as unintended, some looked at Mayfield’s act as disrespectful and an example of poor sportsmanship.
Sticking with the theme of unintended disrespect, you might have heard a thing or two about national anthem protests during NFL games. Not one player has said that he intends to be disrespectful by sitting or kneeling. It’s the opposite. The players mention that they don’t intend any disrespect whatsoever toward the flag or military. Although disrespect isn’t intended, that doesn’t mean offense will never be taken.
It’s the same concept in sports talk radio. You might be the type of person/host that doesn’t get offended easily. That doesn’t mean every member of your audience is built the same exact way. It’s important to consider things from multiple vantage points, not just your own perspective. An issue that’s small potatoes to you can be a big deal to someone else.
There have been many radio bits gone wild. The skit in Atlanta about former New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason fighting ALS would definitely qualify. More accidental disrespect happened when ESPN fired an editor for the famous “(crack) in the armor” headline about NBA guard Jeremy Lin. ESPN recently drew criticism from viewers and Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for conducting a fantasy football auction draft.
I personally believe disrespect wasn’t intended in every example. Again, it goes beyond just yourself. What isn’t meant to be disrespectful, can still be viewed as such.
I heard a co-worker this week talk about a radio bit he pulled years ago. He said they did the weather with a host acting as the voice of a hurricane. Can you imagine a deep voice known as Harvey or Irma describing how powerful and angry they are as they rip through the country? The co-worker mentioned his crew thought it was funny at the time while failing to see the big picture. They didn’t consider the thousands of people that lost everything. Not a good look.
Having foresight in this business is incredibly important. You should have a strong sense of how your audience will react based on the things you say. It’s even more important to anticipate reactions when planning a risky bit or making comments that have some edge. The goal is to always be interesting while actually keeping your job. Your boss should never look at you while saying, “Really, dude? I literally have no choice but to let you go.”
When I was a young kid, my dad took me to a Notre Dame football game. I’m from South Bend, IN and bleed Irish football. Side note, terms like strip sack, Mike McGlinchey, and Georgia Bulldogs are strictly forbidden from my Twitter feed this week.
Anyway, I doubt I had even reached my tenth birthday while watching ND stink up the joint that afternoon. Many fans started to boo throughout the stadium. I didn’t know what booing was or what it even meant, but it seemed like a good idea. I joined in subtly under my breath. If we were at the Vet watching the Eagles, my dad might’ve said, “Put your back into it, son! You call that booing?” Instead, my dad said something that made a lot more sense to me. He leaned down and said, “How would you like it if they were doing that to you?” That changed my entire perspective. I wouldn’t have liked it at all.
I’ve never forgotten that.
Would you like it if you were fighting ALS and radio hosts were making fun of you? Would you like it if a radio show jokingly matched a voice to the same hurricane that destroyed your home and everything else? Nope. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes instead of just walking through life in your own.
Look, some people take offense to everything. The sports talk industry often caters to the thin-skinned crowd too much. Just simply avoid being unreasonable. Find ways to push the envelope without pushing yourself out of a gig.
In a court of law, guilt has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In radio, guilt needs to be proven beyond a reasonable beef. If you can avoid reasonable complaints in bulk, you won’t have to worry about getting clipped by your employer.
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.