Too much exposure in the sports media industry is something that doesn’t exist. Whether it’s being a guest for the local sportscaster on a Sunday night TV show, being featured on a national sports radio show or even appearing on a popular Facebook Live show, you should always be looking for other avenues to help promote your brand.
Wes McElroy of 910 the Fan in Richmond, VA has figured this out. Outside of his weekday show from 3-6 p.m. McElroy also serves as the pregame host for Virginia Tech football as well as the pregame, halftime and postgame studio host for VCU basketball. Then, there’s his writing gig with the Richmond Times Dispatch, in which he writes a column for every Sunday paper. Needless to say, the guy has a lot on his plate.
“I really think it gives you credibility and a connection with the fan bases,” said McElroy. “In Virginia we always have this running joke, I moved from Pennsylvania and my first two years in Virginia were in Charlottesville. So when I got the Richmond job, the town is known for having one of the biggest Virginia Tech affiliates, and there was always this back-and-forth from UVA fans saying I was turning into a hokie. Then the Virginia Tech fans didn’t like the hire because they said I was just a UVA guy coming to town. None of that is true, I call it how I see it and that’s always been my motto for 12, 13 years living in Virginia. But it does give me credibility with the fan bases and that certainly helps.”
“Sunday’s with Wes” is the name of McElroy’s weekly column in the Richmond Times Dispatch. He writes mostly about sports, but also writes about life, such as his Father’s Day column two years ago that was a big hit. He even published a letter to his unborn daughter, the most sentimental piece he’s ever written.
The big payoff for McElroy’s writing gig, outside of the fact he loves to do it, is that it enables him to connect with the reader in a unique way. One week they may read his thoughts on Virginia Tech football, whereas the next week could be all about an important life lesson he recently learned. Regardless, it casts a wide net over several people in the area, which can only help with the growth of his radio show.
“There are some people in this market that don’t know I do a radio show,” said McElroy. “And there’s some people that listen to my radio show, even though I might say it three times on a Friday, that don’t know I write a column. It’s just a different avenue for people to find you. It’s nice the paper posts under my column what time and where I do my radio show.”
By putting himself on more than one platform, McElroy’s chances for continued growth in the industry are exponentially better. He can host a radio show, write and even do a studio show. Talk about being versatile. In every market McElroy’s ever been in, he’s had a writing job. But when he first arrived in Richmond, that wasn’t the case. That is, until a moment on the biggest day of his life happened.
“I wrote a column to my wife on our wedding day instead of writing vows,” said McElroy. “I actually got a standing ovation. My buddies actually joked and said, who the hell gets an ovation on their column? One of my buddies then told me I should start writing again so I contacted the Richmond Times Dispatch and they said they could pay me as a freelance or a stringer. I told them it wasn’t about the money it’s just I wanted to do it.
Lucky at the time, the publisher was a listener of my show and he loved the idea of crossover. I do a column and then I take one of my radio show interviews from the week and transcribe it for the paper. I get an entire paper that’s titled ‘Sunday’s with Wes.’ My column is there, along with the Q&A of my favorite interview from that week. It’s great exposure for the show and the station.”
I don’t have to tell you married men about how his idea of writing a column could have went one of two ways with his wife, Luckily for McElroy, not only did his wife Katie approve, she’s also his most loyal reader.
“She actually loved it and she was happy I was back writing again,” said McElroy. “I started out in newspapers and she knows it’s a passion of mine. I love writing and even have a newspaper delivered every day. We joke that she’s my first editor, because I still let her read my column every Saturday before I send it in.”
Being the history nerd I am, I randomly read a book last year titled City Under Siege. Basically, it’s an entire book on what happened during Richmond in the Civil War. Seeing as I have no affiliations or connections to the city, I still have no idea why I decided to spend an entire week reading it, even though I came away pleasantly surprised.
Anyway, while reading it I was always surprised that the Confederate capitol in Richmond was just 108 miles away from Washington D.C. Obviously, there were strategic decisions for this, but in a sports radio sense, it would be an interesting balance of giving time to local stories, while also acknowledging what’s going on in a major market just 90 minutes up the road.
“You know, doing a show in Richmond I learned rather quickly it’s really a mixed bag of sports fans,” said McElroy. “You have a very heavy DC sports contingent but there’s a lot of new corporations and business in Richmond, which, over the years, means you can do a Redskins topic, but there’s also a lot of Dallas fans, Giants fans and a lot of Philly fans. So, you don’t have to just focus on the Redskins, you can focus on the entire NFC East.
“Richmond is also a really big college market. You have Virginia Tech and UVA for football and basketball, as well as VCU and Richmond who both have passionate fans. When you do a show in Richmond, it’s almost in a lot of ways both a regional and statewide talk show.”
If you think about it, Richmond might be a hidden gem of a market, in the sense that every major sport warrants its own time. The show can almost write itself in football season with the two in-state schools and the huge Redskins fan base in the area. And while a lot of hosts in the South struggle for summer topics, there’s Nationals talk or the developing story lines in the NFC East.
“I’ve always loved the diversity I can do with my show,” said McElroy. “I love college football and it’s the reason I left the Philadelphia area. I love watching Penn State, Notre Dame, Florida State, Brent Musberger and Keith Jackson or whoever else was on. At WIP in Philadelphia, you’re not going to talk Penn State or Temple football. It’s just not going to fly.
“Richmond gives the balance to talk college football, NFL, Washington Nationals or even the biggest national sports story of the day. You go further north into DC, you’re going to talk Redskins, Nationals, Capitals and Wizards. You go further south into SEC territory, you’re only talking Alabama and Georgia football. I love having so many things to go to on a daily basis. That’s what I’ve always loved about Richmond and it’s really why I’ve stayed here.”
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.