You might’ve gotten nauseous while watching Monday Night Football. The 7-point underdog Washington Redskins were in prime position to cover the spread. They trailed the Kansas City Chiefs 23-20 with :04 tiny seconds remaining. Of course they dialed up a razzle-dazzle play that severely lacked in both razzle and dazzle. The Redskins fumbled. Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston recovered and scored. Skins bettors collectively lost their lunch. Chiefs 29, Redskins 20. Ouch.
Whatever is the next stage of “backdoor cover,” we witnessed it on Monday night. The 2×4-to-the-face cover. The college-fund-disappearance cover. The what-the-bleep-just-bleepin-happened cover. No, I didn’t have cash on the Redskins. Let’s just say I can understand the gut punch of having a few bucks already spent, only to have the rug pulled out from underneath you.
All of this, however, is just small potatoes compared to something far more serious that occurred before the game. The Chiefs held a moment of silence for the victims in Las Vegas after one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history. At least 59 people were killed and over 500 hundred were injured on Sunday, as a gunman opened fire on a music festival crowd from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
The moment of silence was a classy move to pay respect to everyone impacted — the victims and their grieving families. It was a great display to see an entire stadium silently show support. By the way, it’s interesting how no one says “stick to sports” when they actually agree with the words or actions. Funny how that works.
The tribute at Arrowhead Stadium was also a reflection of how numerous sports talk radio shows handled this horrific story appropriately. Shows offered their thoughts and sympathy, then transitioned back to sports as an “escape.” It wasn’t choppy or awkward. The transitions, although difficult considering the circumstances, sounded smooth and respectful.
The bigger picture from a sports talk standpoint, is to speak into a microphone, exactly how you’d speak without a mic in sight (minus the cuss words). For example, I talk to my mom and dad each week, and my girlfriend every day. When we talk about a serious subject like the Las Vegas shootings, we exchange our views, and then we eventually transition to other subjects. It isn’t rocket science.
Many hosts worry about things they shouldn’t worry about. “What if I talk about this topic too long? What if I don’t talk about it long enough? What if my transition isn’t smooth?” These are all concerns that don’t pop up in life. They shouldn’t pop up in a studio either. I’ve never once had a phone conversation and thought, “What if my transition from this topic to the next one isn’t smooth?” You just naturally switch to something else. Why should a show be any different?
What’s interesting is why these concerns arise on the air. I’d be lying to you if I said a worry or two didn’t pop up for me occasionally. Why is this so? Well, if you’re on the phone with someone, there aren’t hundreds of people listening to your every word while critiquing the things you say. They aren’t emailing or tweeting negative things. It’s just you and the person you’re talking to.
Whether you realize it or not, the on-air concerns that emerge for hosts are the byproduct of negative feedback. Don’t let those punk listeners turn yourself into a basket case who overanalyzes each word you toss out. If you’re using good judgment with your comments and someone still has a problem, just internally tell them to jump in a river.
There are some related lines to this idea in the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, “I Hate Christian Laettner.” At the end of the doc, Laettner says, “The opinion of my siblings, my parents, my coaches — those are the opinions that I will listen to and I will be concerned about, but the opinions from a distance? I mean, you can’t do that. You can’t waste your life worried about those things. I’m not gonna spend a millisecond considering ‘why do you hate me?’ Because not everyone in the world likes ya.”
This should be a sports talk radio commandment — “Thou shall adhere to Christian Laettner’s 30 for 30 outro.”
Being worried about disapproval or possible negativity is a waste of time. Don’t let it phase you. There’s a fine line between anticipating your audience’s reaction, and being handicapped while foreseeing their complaints. Use good judgment on the air, and then just leave it at that.
Imagine if Christian Laettner took every negative comment or chant during his playing days to heart. What if he allowed it to negatively impact him? You would’ve seen a much different player. One that was timid and passive while unconfident. It can work the same way on the air. Don’t allow disapproval to impact your approach with any topic, especially a serious one. Proceed as if resistance didn’t exist.
If you’re old enough, you might’ve hated Christian Laettner during his Duke days, but you should absolutely emulate the approach that made him great — don’t waste your life being concerned about negative opinions. Succeeding in this business requires thick skin. When it comes to overpowering negativity, be like Laettner.
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.