I’m all over the place with music. Hitting shuffle on my Spotify playlist is quite the experience. We might start off driving on Slayer Avenue, and weave our way to Johnny Cash Lane and DMX Boulevard. Heavy metal is my favorite genre, but classical guitar was actually my minor in college. Spanish-style classical always hits my ear like an old friend I haven’t seen in awhile.
Some of the classes I took at Ball State were really enjoyable. I absolutely loved music theory. Ear training was cool too. Other classes, not so much.
Something called “sight singing” should be a punishment if you get caught shoplifting. The teacher would hand out a brand new sheet of music. You had to identify the key, be in rhythm, and sing everything in solfége. That’s the do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti stuff. Nightmare. Absolute nightmare. I’m the furthest thing from a singer. I’d just sit in front of a piano and practice matching pitch while thinking, “How ‘bout I just play this on my guitar? ‘Cause I’m, you know, a guitar player.”
I didn’t see it then, but I see it now. Each class — guitar reading, performance, sight singing, you name it — was designed with a purpose. It wasn’t intended to make you so crazy that it shaved five years off of your life (although it might’ve). It was intended to make each person a better musician. It was all connected. I hate to admit it because some classes drove me crazy, but it actually worked.
I was able recently to visit 102.9 The Game in Portland, OR. In between seeing the beautiful scenery and getting a feel for the town, I got to meet many people in the building from various departments. It wasn’t just the programming people. It was salespeople, the VP’s, the market manager and owner.
A sports radio building is just like my guitar classes — it’s all connected. At least it should be.
Some sports talk buildings are splintered off. Departments are random mixtures of disjointed sections. Sales does sales stuff. Programming does programming stuff. Engineers do engineering things. While I know that a worker in one department won’t have an intimate knowledge of what it’s like to work in every department, having a general understanding of what your co-workers are faced with goes a long way.
I can remember a sales person calling me two minutes before my show to ask a question. That told me the person had zero concept of what it’s like to host a show. Little things like that can turn into bigger issues. Animosity can grow between departments when a co-worker has no idea or even cares about the challenges you deal with.
This is how cliques develop. A radio station can turn into high school where the jocks only hang out with jocks and the outcasts only hang out with outcasts. Pretty soon the promotions department turns into a gang that’ll shank you if you’re wearing the wrong color. The sales team only interacts with themselves while walking around like Big Sean saying, “Ain’t nobody fresher than my [censored] clique.”
All of this can be avoided if you genuinely show that you want to understand what your co-workers go through. Ask questions. Show that you value them and what they do. It isn’t hard to treat people like they’re actually people.
Do me a favor — the next time you go out for a bite to eat, pay attention to who others are hanging out with. It typically involves people that share the same race, gender, and similar age. It might not be all three categories, but in many places it’s rarely less than two of them. I’m not saying that friends who share the same race, gender, and similar age are bad friends who always see things exactly the same. I’m saying that people with different life experiences are likely to have different viewpoints. You won’t grow your thoughts as much if you fail to expand your reach of those influences.
It’s the same concept with a radio station. A person with different work experiences is likely to have different viewpoints. It’s impossible to grow your mind as much if you only spend time around people from the same department. You won’t be able to speak the same language and know the challenges of the sales team if you only surround yourself with on-air people. Diversify your radio portfolio.
Many people from programming think, “Can’t you just sell it?” Many people from sales think, “Can’t you just get higher ratings?” Sure, but it’s not as easy as snapping your fingers. Ask to sit in a meeting with a different department. Understanding the hurdles and difficulties can change your outlook on why things aren’t exactly how you’d like them to be. More importantly, it can change how you approach other departments, which can make it more likely that those goals will actually be accomplished.
It boils down to this — understanding goes a long way. When you show that you understand the obstacles your co-workers are faced with, it changes the dynamic greatly. It’s disarming. Instead of tearing down a co-worker and making them defensive by basically asking why they suck at their job, they’ll push even harder if you show that you understand their challenges and still believe in them.
You always hear in football that the offensive line is a “cohesive unit.” That’s the way a radio station needs to be. Each department needs to blend and mesh with each other. If your sales team is Dallas Cowboys tackle Chaz Green who can’t block Atlanta Falcons defenders, you need to be the running back chipping and helping out instead of pointing a finger. Blaming doesn’t help. Helping helps.
There’s a big difference between being valuable to your department and being valuable to the entire building. Always be a positive asset who interacts with your co-workers and understands the problems they experience. Don’t just hit shuffle on your playlist. Hit shuffle with the people you interact with.
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.