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Sports Media to be Thankful For in 2018



There are less than 50 days left in 2018. Can you believe that? The midterm elections, which couldn’t have come fast enough for some after 2016, are now in the rearview mirror and the deadline to get wishlists to the North Pole is fast approaching.

I know next week is Thanksgiving, but I wanted to get this piece out this week because next week BSM is rolling out a very involved series of college football-themed articles. Plus, this will give you more time before the holiday to seek out the projects I am highlighting so that you can mention them in your Thanksgiving prayer. So, with no further ado, here are five sports media projects (listed in no particular order) that I am thankful for this year.


So, I know I said that this list is in no particular order, but I have to be honest. Nothing in the sports media blew me away in 2018 like the project Steven Godfrey spearheaded for SB Nation. It will almost certainly be the most extensive documentation of the NCAA’s investigation into Ole Miss ever created. It might be the best encapsulation of the Ole Miss/Mississippi State rivalry you could ever consume.

Foul Play: Paid in Mississippi is a four-part documentary that was originally made for the now-defunct go90 and has since been repurposed to YouTube. “Crooked Letters” is the 13,000 word article that tells the story of how Laremy Tunsill was sabotaged on the first night of the 2016 NFL Draft, the downfall of Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze, the illicit recruitment of high school linebacker Leo Lewis, and how the NCAA manages to get so much wrong in the punishment phase. Both the article and the documentary are well worth your time.

2. Bikram

Image result for bikram 30 for 30

ESPN struck gold years ago with its 30 for 30 documentary series. As production on new films slowed down, it made sense that the network would look for new ways to utilize the brand. Enter 30 for 30 Podcasts.

For season 3, released in May, Julia Lowrie Henderson spearheaded a five-part series on the rise and fall of Bikram Choudhury and the style of yoga that bears his name. Henderson, a former Bikram yoga devotee, makes the perfect reporter and narrator. The stories told by her interview subjects are compelling, heartbreaking, and unbelievable. ESPN dropped all five episodes at once on May 22. I had finished the entire series by May 23.


I have written a lot about High Noon, starring Bomani Jones and Pablo Torre. I spent a day in New York as the pair and their crew were in rehearsals for their move to afternoons on ESPN. When the show debuted, I wrote that it was something everyone that does any kind of show can take a lesson from.

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Despite cutting the show’s format from an hour to a half hour in September, Jones and Torre actually got something of a promotion by moving from noon to 4pm on the East Coast. On top of that, the move made total sense. With High Noon leading the way, ESPN’s afternoon block features four very different shows and seems set for stability and longterm success.


Kurt Warner isn’t an improvement over Boomer Esiason necessarily. It is just rare that a good analyst is replaced by someone that makes it possible for the broadcast to not miss a beat. Anyone that ever watched Warner on NFL Gameday Morning knows that he has the knowledge and presence to do the job. What stands out on the Westwood One broadcast is the way Warner’s style so perfectly compliments Kevin Harlan’s.

Image result for kurt warner kevin harlan

The majority of us are not consuming Monday Night Football via radio. If we were, surely the national conversation on Tuesdays would be more about what a solid product it is and less about what a mountain ESPN’s new TV crew has to climb just.


If you’ve ever wondered what goes on behind closed doors at the NFL league office, Jerry Jones’ personal bus, or at Tom Brady’s mansion, then you need to read this book. Mark Leibovitch, who usually writes about politics for The New York Times, got access to all of it because…well, he asked. And these guys love when people ask them to talk about themselves.

Image result for big game book cover

I spoke with Mark earlier this year to get a better handle on the way the league’s power brokers view their relationship with the media and their plans for a future where broadcast TV isn’t the center of the media universe. Please read that interview, but also read the book because you need to learn why Roger Goodell doesn’t like cheese. I promise it will be the only thing you think about the next time you see him.

The sports media gave us a lot of great new stuff and great new editions and episodes of some of our all-time favorites. Maybe great content doesn’t garner a mention in your Thanksgiving blessing, but it is the lifeblood of our business, so when a child at your holiday gathering asks what you are thankful for this year sit them down, grab a laptop, and expand their minds.

BSM Writers

Asking The Right Questions Helps Create Interesting Content

Asking questions that can get a subject to talk about their feelings is a much better way to get an interesting answer.



USA Today

When ESPN’s Mike Greenberg interviewed Paolo Banchero in the lead-up to the NBA lottery on Tuesday, he asked what I’ve concluded is the single most maddening question that can be asked of any athlete preparing for any draft.

“Why do you believe you should be No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft?” Greenberg said.

Before I point out exactly why I have such a visceral reaction to such a harmless question, I want to point out the positives because Greenberg’s question avoids some of the most common pitfalls:

1) It is an actual question. That’s not as automatic as you think given the number of poor souls who are handed a microphone and say to their subject, “Talk about (whatever issue they want a quote or a sound bite on).” This is the mark of an amateur, creating the opening for an uncooperative subject to slam the door by saying, “What do you want me to say?”

2) Greenberg’s question can not be answered with a yes or a no. Questions that start with the word “Can you …” or “Did you …” may sound like they’re tough questions for the subject, but they’re actually fairly easy if the subject wants to offer an answer. Now, most interview subjects won’t take that one-word exit, but some will in a touchy situation.

The problem with Greenberg’s question has to do with the result. Why do we ask questions of the athletes we cover? Seriously. That’s not rhetorical. What’s the goal? It’s to get interesting answers. At least that’s the hope whether it’s for a quote that will be included in a story, a sound bite to be replayed later or — like in this situation — during an interview that is airing live. The question should be engineered to elicit interesting content, and there was very little chance that the question Greenberg asked Banchero was going to produce anything close to that.

I know that because I have heard some version of this question asked hundreds of times. That’s not an exaggeration. I attended the NFL scouting combine annually for a number of years, and if a player wasn’t asked why he should be the first overall pick, he’d get asked why he should be a first-round pick or why he should be one of the first players chosen at his position. Never — in all that time — have I ever heard what would be considered an interesting or informative answer. In my experience, players tend to talk in incredibly general terms about their own abilities and then seek to compliment their peers in an effort to avoid coming off as cocky.

Here’s how Banchero answered Greenberg’s question: “Yeah, thank you all for having me, first off., I feel like I’m the number one pick in the draft because I’m the best overall player. I feel like I check all the boxes whether it’s being a great teammate, being the star player or doing whatever the coach needs. I’ve been a winner my whole life. Won everywhere I’ve went, and when I get to the NBA, that’s going to be the same goal for me. So just combining all those things, and knowing what I have to work on to be better is a formula for me.”

There’s nothing wrong with answer just as there was nothing wrong with the question. It’s just that both are really, really forgettable. ESPN did put a clip on YouTube with the headline “Paolo Banchero: I’m the best overall player in the NBA Draft | NBA Countdown” but I think I’m the only who will remember it and that’s only because I’m flapping my arms and squawking not because there was anything bad per se, but because there was nothing really good, either.

First of all, I’m not sure why it matters if Banchero thinks he should be the number one overall pick. He’s not going to be making that decision. The team that holds the top draft pick — in this case Orlando — is. Here’s a much better question: “How important is it for you to be the number one overall pick?” This would actually give an idea of the stakes for Banchero. What does this actually mean to him? Asking him why he should go number one is asking Banchero to tell us how others should see him. Asking Banchero how important it would be go number one is asking him to tell us about his feelings, something that’s much more likely to produce an interesting answer.

The point here isn’t to question Greenberg’s overall competence because I don’t. He’s as versatile a host as there is in the game, and anyone else in the industry has something to learn from the way he teases ahead to content. What I want to point out not just how we fail to maximize opportunities to generate interesting content, but why. Interviews are a staple of the sports-media industry. We rely on these interviews as both primary content that will be consumed directly, and as the genesis for our own opinions and reaction yet for all that importance we spend very little time thinking about the kind of answer this question is likely to produce.

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BSM Writers

The Client Just Said YES, Now What?

We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.



One of the most significant moments in radio sales is when the client agrees to your proposal and says YES. But, when they do say YES, do you know what’s next? We better have an answer!

We spend a lot of time getting ready for clients with research, spec spots (thank you, radio sales trainer Chris Lytle-go to 22:30), proposals, and meetings. All of our focus is on getting the client to say YES. We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES. For example, getting newer sales reps to sell annual advertising contracts would be ideal for building a list. They would have less pressure, more job security, and could spend more time making the advertising work for their clients. But, since most newer reps don’t know the business yet, they don’t bite off more than they can chew and sell a package of the month.

When a client says yes to the weight loss promotion, it’s pretty clear how to write the ads, what the promos will say, etc. BUT, if a newer sales rep starts selling annual contracts to a direct local client who needs a resource, how will that work? Let’s make sure we paint the picture right upfront. More experienced reps know that they need to assume the client will say YES to the weight loss promo and have a plan accordingly.

They have the next steps to building copy and promos, a credit app or credit card payment form, and any other detail the client must provide. But, when we ask a direct local client for an annual advertising contract, watch out! You have just made a partnership. Why not lay out, upfront, what that will look like. And I understand not every local client needs the same level of service.

A car dealer has the factories pushing quarterly promotions, agencies producing ads, and in-house marketing directors pulling it all together sometimes. Other clients need your help in promotions, copywriting, or idea generation. Make a plan upfront with your client about when you will meet to discuss the next quarter’s ad program. Include your station’s promotions or inventory for football and basketball season, a summer NTR event, digital testimonials with on-air talent, etc., in your annual proposal. Go out as far as you can and show what you have to offer to the client and how you can execute it. This exercise is good for you and, once mastered, guides the client on how you will take care of them after the sale. It also opens your eyes to what it takes to have a successful client partnership inside and outside the station.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 74



This week, Demetri is joined by Ian Casselberry and Ryan Brown. Demetri talks about the NBA Draft getting an ABC simulcast, Ian talks about Patrick Beverley’s breakout week on TV, and Ryan reminds us that Tom Brady may be the star, but Kevin Burkhardt is the story we shouldn’t forget.

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