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Find The Fun

Brian Noe

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Our sports conversations are getting pretty heated these days. The tone doesn’t resemble an awesome spring break trip. It’s typically more like those serious videos explaining how drugs are bad for you. Serious. No nonsense. Expect a bill if you crack a smile.

If serious topics are what you desire, there is a smorgasbord to choose from. The racist gesture made by Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel during the World Series got our attention. The infamous “inmates running the prison” idiom used by Houston Texans owner Bob McNair caused quite the reaction. On the heels of anthem protests and Colin Kaepernick talk, it’s enough to make you climb under a desk as if you’re a kid in school practicing a tornado drill.

I’m not suggesting that these stories shouldn’t be discussed. They absolutely should. I’m suggesting that there needs to be a balance between serious and non-serious topics. Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said something that stood out after the school parted ways with head football coach Jim McElwain. Stricklin said that he wants to see Florida’s offense become “fun again.” The same concept applies to sports talk radio.

There are plenty of serious topics that are incredibly important and have social significance. They need to be discussed, but there can be a tendency to discuss them too much. If entire shows are devoted to nothing but serious topics, listeners often feel bogged down. If I meet up with friends, we’re not going to talk about serious stuff all night. Eventually, we’re going to joke that Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill is the Browns quarterback of the future after throwing an awful interception on Monday night.

I was able to grab lunch with ESPN Radio’s Vince Kates a few years ago. Vince is a longtime producer who has been promoted to a supervisor role. He shared a saying of his with me. Vince said that it’s important for hosts, especially during the lean summer months, to “find football.” The NFL is very popular and the ratings reflect it when football is discussed. I’d add to Vince’s thought with my own expression — “find the fun.”

It’s very rare that we turn away from fun. When’s the last time you were about to take a vacation and said, “Aww, we’re gonna have so much serious”? We don’t turn our backs on fun, we run toward it. If a show is discussing something light-hearted that the audience appreciates, listeners aren’t going to flip to another show while enjoying the amusing content.

Don’t get me wrong, I love thought-provoking topics that happen to be serious in nature. I just don’t want it to be the only item on the menu. Eating chicken is one of my favorite pastimes, but if that was the only meal I ever ate, I’d be like Chris Rock from I Think I Love My Wife saying, “I’m losin’ my finger-lickin’ mind over here!” The same holds true for sports talk — I want more than just serious topics.

It’s all about balance. If a football team can throw the ball effectively, but has no running game, that’s going to be an issue late in the season when it’s raining sideways or snowing. Balance is necessary in sports and in sports talk.

I understand that on certain days, the tone of a sports talk show will be more serious than others based on the top stories. That’s fine, but a host should display balance over the long haul. The Patriots might run the ball like crazy and ignore the pass because of a specific matchup, but they don’t do that all of the time. They’re balanced over the course of an entire season. They aren’t 90 percent run and 10 percent pass. It’s the same thing with a radio show — it needs to be more than just one thing.

Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell pulled off a funny touchdown celebration last Sunday night. After scoring against the Lions, Bell acted like he was bench pressing while offensive lineman spotted him. It was one of many humorous celebrations we’ve seen this year. Teams have played duck, duck, goose, home run derby, hide-and-seek, you name it.

It points to something important though — for as many serious topics the players have examined, they’ve still found time for fun. It hasn’t all been serious. It hasn’t only been about anthem protests, racial injustice, police brutality, and disagreeing with statements from team owners. It’s also about finding time to laugh and not overdosing on seriousness.

If I hear a sports talk show that’s nothing but a constant barrage of serious talk, I feel like I’ve spent way too much time in the sauna. My head feels like Gennady Golovkin just used it as a speed bag. I don’t expect hosts to act like it’s improv night at the local comedy club if that isn’t their strong suit, but I do expect them to be able to shift gears by blending serious talk with things that are light and funny.

We initially got into this business because of the things that we love about sports — because it’s fun. We can’t trade our eagerness and excitement by somehow morphing into a judge who’s banging a gavel while constantly looking constipated. We don’t watch games so that we can only be serious about them. We watch games because it’s fun. Why should a sports talk show be entirely different?

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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