In a game against the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football, the Dallas Cowboys came up with a way to show unity and respect. Before their 28-17 victory, the Cowboys decided to kneel as a team before the national anthem. They also chose to lock arms while standing as the anthem was sung by Jordin Sparks.
One specific quote about this demonstration really stood out to me. “How do we achieve these two objectives? How do we somehow someway convey unity? Somehow someway convey the importance of equality in our country? And do so without, in any way, involving the American flag and the national anthem? And that’s what we came up with.”
Those are the words of Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. The same words apply to addressing this polarizing topic on the sports talk radio airwaves.
How can a host emphasize the importance of equality without disrespecting the anthem? It’s a tricky puzzle to solve. I’d argue that it’s unsolvable because someone somewhere is going to take issue with every host’s opinion. That doesn’t mean you simply stop trying to solve the riddle. It’d be like a quarterback saying, “I’ll never have a perfect passer rating, so screw it. Why try?” You try because perfection isn’t necessary to have great success.
Donald Trump’s words last Friday were far from perfect or positive. During a rally speech in Alabama, the president delivered a ridiculous message. Speaking about NFL players that protest during the national anthem, Trump said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. He is fired. He’s fired!’”
He sounded less like the president of the United States and more like a WWE wrestler challenging an opponent to a steel cage match at SummerSlam. The only thing missing was a Stone Cold Steve Austin double beer chug after adding, “Gimme a hell yeah!”
When discussing any topic (especially this one), don’t be like Trump for starters. Instead, be mindful of something I call the four f-words.
Fresh — It isn’t easy to come up with fresh angles and thoughts about anthem protests because it’s been discussed so much. It isn’t impossible though. Challenge yourself to find ways to produce unique and fresh content. Stand out.
Fair — It’s impossible to get a 100% approval rating when throwing out opinion after opinion about protests, racial injustice, and honoring the flag. However, you can at least be fair. Adding “s-o-b” blasts is just plain silly. Sharing viewpoints that listeners disagree with is fine. Sharing hateful opinions that are totally disrespectful won’t get you anywhere.
Firm — If Trump was a mattress, he’d be a boulder. That’s way too firm. Being Charmin soft with your views isn’t the way to go either. Stuff like “well, I mean we have the right to peacefully protest” is a waste of time. News flash — we live in America. We’re free. Don’t waste my time pointing out the obvious. Find the middle ground of being firm without sounding soft or rigid.
Foresight — If Trump actually wants the protesting to stop, he chose the worst possible path to achieve this goal. Anybody with reasonable foresight could see a tidal wave of anthem protests following his words. Foresight is the most important f-word for hosts to be mindful of. Anticipating the audience’s reaction before saying anything is crucial.
If you’re a host reading this, you might think, “Good Lord, Brian. How about I just avoid this altogether? I gotta remember f-words. Don’t be too this. Don’t be too that.” Look, this applies to anything you talk about — especially the controversial stuff. You can’t just curl into a ball, cower in fear, and resist talking about a subject that might rile up a listener or two. Just let the f-words lead the way.
Don’t dwell on reasons to avoid talking about this anthem subject. Sure, there are many landmines – it can be divisive. It creates a serious vibe that transitioning to upbeat stories feels strange. There’s the “stick to sports” crowd to deal with. The topic has been talked about so much that coming up with a fresh angle is difficult. No one said it’d be easy. I love a challenge, and this topic definitely qualifies.
Keep in mind that this topic is so huge that the president of the United States of America has weighed in. Some of the biggest names in sports have also. Roger Goodell, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Steph Curry, LeBron James, Gregg Popovich, and Jerry Jones are among many others that have expressed their views. Everyone has an opinion about this subject. How can your show afford not to?
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.