It was the TV show “The A-Team” that probably put it best when Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith said often, “I love it when a plan comes together.” Another famous quote says “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” No truer words can be uttered when it comes to your broadcast as well.
Always have an idea of what you are going to do when you get to the ballpark. This goes for broadcasters, pregame hosts and reporters alike.
Generally when I’m hosting the pregame show, I already have a pretty good idea of what the storylines are going to be when I arrive. Of course there are the days when that plan can change drastically, which I’ll get into in a bit. I know who is pitching the night before the current game, so I can do my research before getting to work. That information may provide a good story I’ve dug up that I can use in pregame or when I’m doing play-by-play. I’m aware of any connections between players and the opponent, or players and the stadium they’ll be playing in and if someone was hurt the night before.
For example, while doing play-by-play for the White Sox/Cubs series at Wrigley Field I remembered that when I was with Yonder Alonso in San Diego, he told me the story of his first major league home run. It came at, well you guessed it Wrigley Field against the Cubs’ Carlos Zambrano when Alonso was a young player with the Reds. My White Sox audience would probably find that story interesting, since Zambrano was a not exactly a name held in high regard with Sox fans. So I approached Alonso and had him tell the story again and it played well with the broadcast.
Now again, I had the benefit of knowing the story before, but I didn’t the first time I met Yonder. I just assumed that since he was with the Reds, he’d played a few games on the North Side and just innocently asked him if he had any stories about the Ivy Covered ballpark. Sure enough he shared the information. Common sense led me to the info, but research into the players past set the wheels in motion and gave me a story I’m now sharing with a second audience.
It is so important for you to get to know the players and coaches on your team, because with that knowledge comes power, the power to capitalize and create a nugget or chunk of info that will not only fill your show, but be interesting to your audience. Use the fact that you know your first baseman is from Pittsburgh and your team is playing the Pirates. Was he a fan growing up? Memories about trips to the ballpark with family? Favorite players growing up? All excellent ways to get to know the player and provide great stories for your listeners.
If you know that Player A looked a bit gimpy the night before, that’s an obvious follow up. You find out that he’s not in the lineup after seeing it on Twitter either before you got to the park or when you arrived. Well, get on that!
You have to be paying attention. You must try to notice the little things that most won’t think to look at. Again this goes back to knowing your team. Player A didn’t hustle to first like he normally does, so that’s an immediate red flag to me, at least to keep in my back pocket for the following day when more info is usually available about him.
Now there are going to be times you will need to be flexible. Sometimes the best laid plans need to be put aside because news breaks. Don’t let it freak you out, although it may the first time you go through this. I can recall a day last year at Guaranteed Rate Field. It was a day or two after a Michael Kopech start. One that was marred by a rain delay and his velocity didn’t look all that great. Nobody thought much of it since he’s a young pitcher and maybe he was pitching into his velo that game. We were told that the GM would be meeting with the media in the dugout. Was it a trade? Did a player get released? Nope. He informed us that Kopech was going to undergo Tommy John surgery and would be lost for the rest of the season.
Every other story was deemed backseat material when news like this breaks. Kopech was a face of the rebuild and a fan favorite and the information needed to be presented. I immediately texted the radio station to inform them of the situation and tweeted while I listened into the details. My pregame show and broadcast basically wrote themselves that day, but again, flexibility plays a key role in being able to pull this off under a deadline.
Now again, when I say have a plan, you should likely have more than just that one. Plan B’s are sometimes needed. If the subject of Plan A isn’t available, you can’t cancel your pregame show because the first option was a dead end. This is where you have to dig deep and be able to carry on with a back up plan. It’s rare that a game that gets played nearly everyday will only net you one storyline worth following.
Listen, read, pay attention and be aware of what is going on around you at all times. Trust me, the stories are there, you just have to find them. Sometimes they are in the most obvious places, but without that pre-show prep, you may just walk past and miss a great opportunity to tell tale. Be more like Colonel Smith of the “A-Team”, make sure that plan comes together.
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.