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Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Demetri Ravanos

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I love the NFL Draft. I know it’s boring to a lot of people. They see it as nothing more than a televised HR meeting. For me though, it is like a graduation ceremony for college football, which is my favorite sport. The Draft is appointment viewing for me every year.

This year I was especially excited, not just for the draft itself, but because ESPN finally realized that intelligent college football commentary was missing from its panel in the first round. The Mothership added Kirk Herbstreit from College Gameday, and for those of us that prefer the college game, it made a world of difference. It separated ESPN not only from the NFL Network, but also from its own draft telecasts of years past.

One thing that especially stood out to me was how much Herbie seemed to understand his role and was able read his partners for the night. That is what inspired today’s column. Herbstreit was willing to defer to Mel Kiper Jr. often. He seemed to listen with genuine interest when Louis Riddick talked about the realities of the war room on Draft Day. For the first time in years, it seemed like the guys at the center of ESPN’s draft coverage genuinely liked each other.

All of us have been in partnerships where we really like the person that sits across from us. We’ve all been in working relationships where we kind of can’t stand that person too. Do you let the listeners know that is the case? You might, even if you don’t do it on purpose.

Think about the NFL Draft on ESPN the last two seasons, when Jon Gruden was in the chair that belonged to Herbstreit last week. Gruden and Kiper clearly didn’t see eye to eye, and although they tried to end every disagreement with laughter, it came across as exactly what it was – over the top, fake, and meant to distract you from the discord that so clearly exists.

We’re all adults in this business, but we all have egos and feelings. Can you put out a great product if 50% of its success depends on someone you simply do not get along with? I think you can. If the best you can hope for is that you two don’t hate each other, but just aren’t really friends, then you and your partner have to exhibit a level of maturity and respect for one another despite your personal differences.

First, remember that if it happened on-air, it probably wasn’t personal. Anyone that thinks they are being funny can go overboard and that is usually when feelings get hurt. Address it quickly and calmly. The less time these moments have to fester, the better.

If you are the offending party, acknowledge that your partner’s feelings are valid. Don’t tell them to get over it or accuse them of being a cry baby. A quick apology and acknowledgement that you were in the wrong can diffuse tension.

Next, if there is an off-air problem, confront it. Be open and honest about why there is tension. Again, it doesn’t make sense to let these things fester. In this case, no one really has to even apologize. Just do each other the courtesy of letting the other know what is wrong. I know this seems like it would be very uncomfortable, but remember that being awkward about these things significantly hurts your show.

This part will sound like a rule in a 3rd grade classroom, but it is really important. Don’t talk about your problems with your partner behind their back. If you need to have a mediator of some sort, fine. Your PD, or even HR if it gets to that point, can fill that role. You don’t need the show’s dirty laundry aired in a way that creates an environment of “you have to choose sides” in the hallways of your office. Who does that help?

Your gut probably tells you that if you are part of a larger cast that tension with one member is no big deal. That is simply not true, especially if you are constantly talking about that tension behind your partner/adversary’s back. Then you are creating that “you have to choose sides” environment within the show itself. Why would you want to do that?

Finally, don’t bring the bullshit on air, especially if all it is is an accumulation of bullshit. It sounds childish. Moreover, it’s genuinely hard to listen to. Most listeners aren’t prone to take sides if tension exists in your show. They are more likely to seek out an alternative.

I hope this column is one that is not necessary for the majority of people reading it. I was just so overwhelmed by how much more pleasant ESPN’s NFL Draft broadcast was this year, especially because the reason that was the case was so obvious.

A show may be made up of several different personalities. Your listeners may even have favorites or favorite aspects of each individual character. Remember though, the show will always be THE SHOW first and foremost in your listener’s mind. You want to be honest and entertaining, but you also want to protect what you have built. Don’t let personal differences derail your professional accomplishments. Show a little maturity and respect each other enough to be honest and you can avoid the pitfalls that come along from simply being two very different people.

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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