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Moving From Sports Radio to Sports Television

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Mike Maniscalco was a staple of sports radio in Raleigh, NC for nearly a decade. He was one of the voices that launched 99.9 the Fan, which has become a ratings powerhouse. He also worked at Buzz Sports Radio first with Mark Thomas and Chris Morris, and then with Lauren Brownlow and Demetri Ravanos.

So many of us enter the world of sports media with hopes that someday we will be on SportsCenter or Baseball Tonight or one of dozens of other ESPN shows. For some, that dream becomes a reality. For others, their paths diverge, sometimes to other aspects of sports media, sometimes to other fields entirely.

In this piece Mike writes about an opportunity he thought would never come. He had been let go from Buzz Sports Radio and had settled in nicely to a new show at IMG College. It required a long commute, but as Mike writes, he was happy. Then he got a call and was offered a chance to move from behind a mic to in front of the camera.

Moving From Sports Radio to Sports Television

The call came on a Saturday morning in September, it was a call that I had reconciled years ago would never happen.

“Would you be interested in the Carolina Hurricanes television host job?”

I was living in Raleigh, NC and had just started a job with IMG College. It was a great place to work and a job that I could see myself staying at for a while because of the people and the vision for the show I was hosting. I wasn’t looking for a job in television when the call popped up on my cell that morning. I had been a full-time radio host since 2000 and involved with radio in some capacity since 1994 – that was what I did.

As appearances go, I’m not going to be confused with George Clooney, so a transition to television was definitely not on my radar.

This doesn’t mean I didn’t think about or want to be on television. Back in my college days of the mid 1990’s, I had the dream that pretty much all of us in the industry had – I was going to host SportsCenter and have a long TV career. I interned and even worked in TV for a brief stint as the weekend sports producer for the ABC affiliate in Buffalo, NY with Matt Yalloff anchoring the shows. He was outstanding to work with, as I learned more from Matt than I can write here, and Sports Director John Murphy was the kind of boss any of us would hope to work for. I figured that would be my path until there was a full-time opportunity in radio that I couldn’t turn down.

So fast forward to that September Saturday morning, and the door that was closed almost 20 years ago was now back in front of me. Without too much hesitation, I told then Hurricanes director of broadcasting Kyle Hanlin I was interested. He said to be ready, as this would come together fast.

Could I make the jump to TV where people could see me saying these things I had been saying on radio for years?

So in the few days that passed I did my due diligence, talking to those I know in the industry and friends that have changed careers to something totally different. The input and insight varied from source to source.

The one question that took any doubt out of making the move came in a conversation I had with ESPN hoops analyst Chris Spatola. Chris had guest hosted on radio with me in Raleigh as he did TV work. He pointed out the benefits of stepping in front of the camera. But it was one simple question that he asked that really stuck – “Why wouldn’t you take it?”

I didn’t have a good reason to say no.

I was upfront with the people at IMG on the TV offer and they could not have handled the situation any better. That was one of my biggest fears, leaving a place that had world class management and good people to work with, the people that wanted to put together great radio shows. That was making my decision tough. Working there, with people looking for their break in the industry made it easier to see that this was my break and this opportunity might never come again.

Were there fears?  Of course, but it was no different than any fear I had for any radio job I had taken in the past.  Was I worried about how I would look on camera?  Yes, seeing I had a body built for/by radio and my suits are at the bigger end of the rack. I quickly reconciled it to insecurity, no different than “do people like my voice?”.

So when the offer came to take the job, I said yes.

As for making the transition, I did have an advantage when it came to the source material. I had hosted the pre- and post-game coverage and covered the Hurricanes in a reporter capacity for nine seasons on the radio station that carried the games. I knew the organization, the people, the league and had an idea of what the job would entail. The players and coaches knew me. The equipment staff had seen me around for years. I wasn’t going to be a stranger in a new town learning everything all at once.

On air, I would be working with play-by-play voice John Forslund and analyst Tripp Tracy. John would join the post-game show for all the years I hosted it, and I had gotten to know Tripp over the years as well. They are as good of on-air partners one can ask for.

The behind the scenes crew was a huge help. Having great people in TV that don’t get in front of the mic make a huge difference, like producer Jim Mallia, who said I just had to know my stuff and the we’ll handle the rest. It put me right at ease.

Prepping is still the same as a radio show. Relying on and trusting your producers is just as vital. That experience helped with putting together shows with pre-game producer Adam Holzman. Just like mapping out a three hour show, understanding what he is looking for and being able to provide input that makes it less nerve-wracking.

Yes, the video element is different, but it’s no different than turning on a mic and putting out a show.

When I got over the “people can see me doing this” it boiled down to the basic tenants of any broadcast:

  1. Do your prep work.
  2. Trust your coworkers.
  3. Use your voice.

But if there were any doubts about me making the switch it was John Forslund that ended them with a simple piece of advice. He told me to be myself, the guy I’ve been on the radio.

That’s what I did and three seasons later, that’s still what I do, just in front of a camera.

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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