Jalen Rose’s playing career was a success story in itself. A cultural icon in college as a member of Michigan’s Fab Five who went on to earn more than 100 million dollars in the NBA, his accomplishments on the court should be commended. Still, for Jalen, his second career has been just as important as his first.
As a featured personality on ESPN’s NBA Countdown, Get Up and Jalen and Jacoby, Rose is just as recognizable for his media career as he is for his playing days. Opinionated and vocal, Rose has been destined for a career behind the mic with or without basketball.
Jalen comes across as a renaissance man. If basketball was never an option, Rose would’ve found somewhere else to make his mark. He “retired” at the age of 34, but Rose had no plans to be removed from the spotlight, creating his own opportunities as one of the hardest working members of the media, while quietly shaping young minds through his charter school.
I had the opportunity to talk with Rose about his media beginnings, current gigs and how his basketball talents would fit in today’s NBA.
Brandon Contes: When did Jalen and Jacoby start? You had already been with ESPN for a bit right?
Jalen Rose: I want to say eight years ago, from 2002 – 2007 I worked for various networks while I was still in the league. I appeared on ESPN with Walton and Snapper, I went on Cold Pizza, but I was mostly working with The Best Damn Sports Show during those years. I even did some things with the NFL Network. In 2007, I started working full-time with ESPN, primarily on NBA Tonight. When I saw Bill Simmons got the green light for Grantland as a subsidiary of ESPN, I was interested.
That year at the ESPYs, I knew where all the suits would be hanging out and I went to the after party and introduced myself to Bill and told him I had an idea for a podcast. Bill said to come by the office and we’ll talk about it. A month or two goes by, I go to pitch the idea and Jacoby is there because he was overseeing the podcasts with Bill. We talked about what I wanted to do and they ask, ‘so who do you wanna do it with?’ I said, well I want to do it with you – and Jacoby said ‘Me?! I’m a producer, I don’t talk on the mic, do television or anything.’
A friend of mine did a lot of research on Jacoby’s background and who he was and then we got to hangout a couple of times and it felt like it would work really well. He went from being a producer who was here 10 years longer than me, to being a personality.
BC: So you went to them before they came to you.
JR: Yea, this was a passion project, it wasn’t in either of our contracts. We did it a few years once or twice a week, depending on studio availability. We didn’t have a spot to do it consistently, it wasn’t being promoted and that’s why I came up with the term ‘pop the trunk.’ The equivalent of an artist that’s not on a major label, so they have to sell their records to the people hand to hand.
BC: I’m thinking back to 2011. Eight years ago, I didn’t listen to podcasts, I can’t remember if I even knew what they were, so for you to be on ESPN and established in the media and still have the foresight to look at this as an opportunity into something that could grow is pretty cool. Now, looking back and seeing what Jalen and Jacoby has become, is this what you envisioned?
JR: Definitely what I envisioned and prior to that, a lot of people don’t realize my major at Michigan was Mass Communications; radio, TV, film. And most of the world doesn’t end up working in the field that they received their major. I was fortunate to do that, so I understand how the landscape works.
As a member of the Pacers, I’m playing in the 2000 finals, scoring 20 plus points a game and then in 2002, I get traded to the Bulls in February and they have nine wins. We’re not going to the playoffs! So I reached out to a contact I had at BET Madd Sports and pitched them the idea to let me cover The Finals for them. It was the Lakers and New JERSEY Nets, to show you how long ago that was.
I got my own footage, clipped and edited it, they liked it and played it. Once they used it, I turned around and pitched it to The Best Damn Sports Show and they hired me while I was still in the league.
BC: You’re on Countdown, Get Up, Jalen and Jacoby – do you have one platform you like more than others?
JR: The best thing about how it worked out is that they’re all different. I get to not only look different, but feel different. The approach is different, the content is different. The things I’m talking about on Jalen and Jacoby is more TMZ type news. When I’m on Countdown, it’s more suited and booted. It’s the biggest stage in basketball. It’s Christmas Day and noon on the West Coast, so there are 4 year olds watching and there are 90 year olds watching, which means the content and jokes are different. Get Up is more like a SportsCenter type show. Being able to express myself in three different ways keeps it from ever becoming mundane.
BC: Jalen and Jacoby feels like a more personal platform – the audience gets to know you more on that show than anywhere else. They’ve seen you, and I’m sure people recognize you from everything, but you probably have a hardcore fan-base that comes from Jalen and Jacoby.
JR: It’s also the longest thing I’ve done. Get Up just started a year ago and I started doing Countdown in 2012. It is a different audience and I’ve been able to distinguish the difference. The 40 and older crowd comes up to me and talks about Get Up and Countdown; 40 and younger wants to talk about J and J.
BC: Was Mass Communications a degree you fell into, or is it something you always had an interest in when you were younger?
JR: I definitely didn’t fall into it. I’ve been very vocal and outspoken for a really long time and I felt like I needed to channel that and be part of the sport I love. I was a McDonald’s All-American and then part of the Fab Five, but you should always be thinking about what you’re going to do next.
To be able to produce a documentary for ESPN, The Fab Five, to be able to have a radio show, a podcast, contributing to Countdown, Get Up, After the Buzzer and Jalen and Jacoby – it’s a juggling act that I was hoping to have and I’m really appreciative of the opportunities.
BC: What did you do with NFL Network?
JR: I was doing breakdowns of the NFL and current events. At the time, I was on with Warren Sapp and Deion Sanders. I know and love football just as much as basketball.
BC: People know you as a basketball player, they look at you as basketball focused and your media career has been mostly focused on the NBA. Do you like that? Or do you prefer talking about a variety of sports and topics?
JR: That’s why I like having multiple opportunities. In high school, I always prided myself academically and not falling into the stereotype of being a dumb jock. It’s the same thing in the media. Closed-minded people will look at a woman and say ‘what is she doing talking about football?’ But that’s their insecurities and that’s them not being open-minded. It’s the same exact thing with me. I knew I wanted to break barriers for basketball players.
If you look at the landscape of Monday through Friday shows, the perception is that football is king, so you see a lot more football players on those shows, Golic, Marcellus Wiley, Michael Strahan, Cris Carter, Shannon Sharpe – I’m the only basketball player and it’s been like that for a really long time.
I knew this when I joined Numbers Never Lie a few years ago, because I wanted to be the person to break the barrier for former NBA players to show we can talk about the sport we played, but still have the knowledge to talk about other sports. Again, it’s not for everyone. Just because you played basketball in the league, doesn’t mean you’re a good basketball analyst. Same with the NFL – there are people who didn’t play either sport that are still great at covering it, so I don’t have a lot of those preconceived stereotypes that a lot of people have when they initially see somebody talk about something that they’re not initially famous for.
BC: Right and sometimes we see former players that go and be an analyst for one year, it might not work out, and they go away.
JR: Ohh I like what you did there. [Laughs]
BC: [Laughs] But it is crazy how fans of the NBA will look at a basketball player and if you’re talking about the NFL, they have the thought, ‘what does he know about the NFL?’ Meanwhile, they’re just a fan that assumes they know more than you about the NFL, so why can’t you also be a fan?
JR: Right! You get to talk about every sport, but I only get to talk about the NBA!
BC: It’s crazy that becoming a professional athlete takes away the ability to talk about or analyze whatever sport you want, but I can talk about any sport because I never played. It’s an odd stereotype to have to overcome.
JR: [Laughs] It’s hypocritical, but I’m here to break those barriers. I worked for Top Rank boxing for years, I was doing things with the NFL – you just have to earn the respect of the public and I’ve been able to do that. But that’s why I like having different shows. Because on Countdown the focus is NBA, on Get Up it’s current events and on Jalen and Jacoby it’s whatever we want to talk about, so I have that freedom to talk about more than basketball.
BC: Being a Mass Communications major, if you didn’t make it in the NBA, do you think you would be as successful in media as you are? Was it the NBA that gave you that opportunity? I mean you’re opinionated, you look good and sound good on camera – would media opportunities still have been there without the NBA?
JR: I hope so. It wasn’t because people felt like I was such a superstar that I got an opportunity. I had to work for it. A lot of people that now work in the industry that I see on national platforms, I covered them when they played. As I see them wanting to work in the media, they treat me as someone they want to come to for advice because they see the opportunities I’ve been able to garner. So I’d like to think I would have made opportunities even without basketball.
BC: Was it disappointing the way Get Up transformed so quickly? At first it was going to be Greeny, you and Michelle and it quickly changed. You’re still featured on it, but it’s not what the show was promoted as in the beginning.
JR: Right and that’s the industry. We work in sports. Teams and coaching staffs change all the time. Just because you draw it up one way, that doesn’t mean that’s how it will end up.
The premise of Get Up still got accomplished. The show initially started in April and the NBA Finals were a sweep in June. We all know when it’s the dog days of baseball and there’s no basketball or football in July and August, that’s your chance to rail against a show and everybody took their shots.
There are tiers to it as well. You’re ESPN. You’re the bully on the block. People question it because “you have the nerve to box us out and take more real estate?”.
A lot of the chatter on blogs and social media can also come from competitors and enemies, so it might not be unbiased. The other thing is just the competitive spirit of the industry. People will question, “they’re starting a new show and I’m not on it?” People that are talent for this network and other networks were calling their agents to say they want to be on this show.
Beadle decided with the company to make a change. She felt more comfortable being in LA and they found a way to make that happen. But now all of a sudden in September you go from three hours to two hours, the rating is going to be better. Having a show during football and NBA season, the ratings, again, will be better. Now all of a sudden the show has staying power. For me, it’s just been about learning to ignore the noise.
BC: How about with NBA Countdown and the amount of times it’s transformed since starting in 2002 compared to TNT where they’ve had mostly the same crew for decades. Should Countdown have more stability with personnel on the show?
JR: I think people need to put more respect on Countdown’s name. As the longest tenured person on that show, I’ve seen the dynamics of searching for respect and an identity with the public, to now this year, where whether it’s ratings or social clips, it’s looking eye to eye with Inside the NBA on TNT. That’s an absolute fact. It’s different media. We’re a pregame show that sometimes comes on at noon. They’re late night television. So yeah, they can have their feet up on the desk.
First off, I love them; Ernie, Kenny and Chuck. I actually worked there. I did sideline and studio for them earlier in my career. They are the best. I do love them tremendously and I’m entertained by their show as much as anybody.
They have their lane, they own it and they’re great, but we have our lane too. We have to continue to own it. When you continue to make certain changes, whether it’s on or off the camera, it just gives people the opportunity to say, ‘if they don’t believe in it than why should we?!’ This year’s team was great. I love working with Beadle, Paul and Chauncey. We’ve done just as well, if not better, than any time the show has been on ESPN. That’s not an opinion, it’s a fact.
BC: As busy as you are in media with all of the different shows on ESPN, you also have the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. I’m sure you’ve heard this a lot in the last year, but I only heard about your charter school after LeBron James started the “I Promise” school.
JR: Interesting. Thank you, LeBron, for making this mainstream. So we’re tuition-free, public charter, open enrollment. I’m the founder of the school, president of the board and we were founded in 2011. We decided to stagger the enrollment to create a culture of learning and at the time, 90% of the students we were getting couldn’t do math or read at a 9th grade level. We have special needs students as well. We’re grades nine through 12 for high school and have 13 through 16 support for all of our scholars, whether it’s college, military or trade school. I’m really proud to have a successful 9 through 16 model where this year, not only did we see another class graduate high school, but also have some scholars graduate college, which really saw the model play out the way we hoped.
BC: What made you start JRLA?
JR: We deal with kids in the inner city of Detroit that obviously have their family challenges, as well as a fiscal dynamic to overcome. We call it bridging the education gap because we have students that get $7,800 from the state, no scholarship money for college, zero state funding for our facilities.
We’re taking that young person and having them compete for the same spot in college and life opportunities as the kids going to suburban public and private schools are afforded. Unfortunately, in our country the quality of your education is not necessarily determined by your skill and will, it’s determined by your zip code.
BC: Were you motivated to start it on your own, or did someone else have the idea and ask you for help?
JR: As a student athlete, I took pride in my academics. I took pride in being a really good student and making the honor roll in high school. In college, as part of the Fab Five, I was proud to make the Dean’s List. I’m proud to be a college graduate and I’m fortunate to be a former player that left school early and went back to get my degree. Education was always important to me.
BC: I’m curious if you have any interest in creating a sports media program for kids to teach them about TV, radio and media. You mentioned wanting to pave the way and break barriers for NBA players, how about doing the same to create more diversity in media? You look around the industry and it’s still white male dominated.
JR: Well the beautiful thing about our school is that’s actually happening. We basically operate as an 11-month school. In July, we created something called “Summer Session.” For students that fail a class, they go to summer school. For every other student, they get a college experience, and/or set up with an internship of their choice.
For example, we’ve had students intern with a friend of mine at Funny or Die, Mike Farah. We’ve had internships at Quicken Loans with Dan Gilbert, internships with the Pistons, Roc Nation.
If you’ve ever heard the word Detroit or seen Michigan on a map, I’ve probably reached out to you for a donation, to get the word out or an internship because the point you made is exactly what I hope to do. We’re doing things that, respectfully, don’t get done in this space with a public school budget and without a corporation standing behind me with a blank check. We need relationships with businesses like Jeep and Puma, because it’s been reported that public education and many schools can be extinct in 20 years. Those relationships and our donors are the heartbeat that makes us tick.
BC: I think it’s really cool to see how involved you are in the school as someone that played in the NBA, was a star player, but still graduated college and emphasizes education. And you’ve used that education to help with a successful second career in the media. I think it helps to improve diversity in itself because kids can see someone who worked hard at it first-hand.
JR: And in the off-season in particular, when I’m in Detroit and I’m doing Get Up or Jalen and Jacoby, I’m actually doing it from the school, JLRA. So I continue to talk to students and show them what it’s like in front of and behind the camera, and expose them to jobs that they don’t necessarily know exist, which is really important to the point you made.
BC: It’s not only difficult for minorities in the industry, but women as well. What did you think about it taking LaVar Ball going on First Take and being disrespectful to Molly for ESPN to back away from using him? Even though this isn’t new for LaVar, we saw him be disrespectful to Christine Leahy on Fox Sports, but continue to be flaunted in the media.
JR: She appreciated how ESPN came out to support her. The one thing about being married to someone, is you have to applaud their strength and trust their ability to handle things, and the way she handled herself on and off camera, I applaud that. My whole context of what was said and how it was said was to first and foremost ask her what she thought and how she felt, because I was watching it live, but I wanted to ask her how she felt about it when she finished work. Once I realized her feelings mirrored how I felt about it, then I respectfully – because I’ve been one of the most supportive people for the Ball family, I even jokingly asked LaVar to adopt me at one point – but after it went down, I did reach out to him via text and tried to call him.
I didn’t want it to leave a stain. I didn’t want Molly to be upset or feel disrespected at her job and feel like she didn’t get the support she needs or deserves, but I also didn’t want LaVar and I to be trending in the wrong way because that’s counterproductive for everyone. He’s a husband, a father, a CEO of a company, so I understand what comes with that and the way you’re expected to carry yourself. I just applaud how Molly carried herself. She’s a veteran in this industry, she’s a professional, she’s strong and that’s what I love about her.
I’m not here to give him advice, but if I was LaVar and I noticed the comment rubbed her the wrong way and was consumed in a way that was unflattering – I understand he’s always been unapologetic, but I still would’ve taken the opportunity to note in my press release ‘for Molly and anyone that was offended.’ But I’ll get a chance to talk with him and we’ll see where it goes from there.
BC: I grew up watching you so I need to ask you about basketball. How would you have fared in today’s NBA? You’re 6’7”, 6’8”, you can play big at the point, shoot the three – how would your talents have translated to today’s NBA?
JR: I was fortunate enough to be one of the best players on a team that went to the NBA Finals. I won Most Improved Player, Player of the Week and I was fortunate enough to walk into a front office where they paid me maximum dollars to play NBA basketball. If I was able to accomplish that in an era where the rules were different and a lot more physical compared to now, you have more three point shooting, load management is a real thing – I think my averages would’ve jumped a bit.
BC: Would you have focused on the three-pointer more?
JR: Reggie Miller, as one of the greatest shooters we’ve ever seen in the game, I think the most three’s he ever took in one game is what James Harden and Steph Curry are taking EVERY game. We came from an era of efficiency – if you miss a couple of threes, you weren’t going to keep shooting. You wouldn’t get the chance to take 15 or 20 threes in a game. Now, the league has become three-point happy with the feeling that a contested three is a better shot than an open two. But we just saw an NBA Finals where a team that didn’t have a lottery pick on their roster, focused on taking the best shot available and they won the championship. I would say that’s how I would still play.
BC: Do you like the way the NBA has changed and continues to modernize every year?
JR: First off, I think the NBA has the best commissioner in sports with Adam Silver. Even moves like changing the lottery odds for teams that were tanking, then the lottery happens, you look up and it’s LA, New York, Memphis and New Orleans as the Final Four. Every conspiracy theorist at that moment knows it’s going to be LA and New York going one and two! Then when it’s New Orleans and Memphis getting the top two picks, the two smallest markets in the league, it’s a method that no longer rewards tanking, so yea, I love the progression of the NBA with things like that.
I like pace and space. I like open floor. Everyone calls it a guard driven league, but the dominant wing ultimately has a say in who wins a championship, and the big man has slowly made a resurgence. You look around the league and you see Giannis, Anthony Davis, Jokic, Embiid – there are some great quality big men in the league right now.
BC: You mention big men making a resurgence, is everything cyclical? Will analytics ever become less important with more emphasis on the eye test? Or do you see the league going even more the way of specialized stats like baseball, even football using it for things like judging where and when you want a running back to attack an o-lineman.
JR: Right now it’s going more down that path of advanced metrics and analytics. Having all of the information is never bad. Knowing how many times a running back can go off tackle or how many times a lineman can absorb a hit, I want that information. I want everything that’s available. But I don’t think the final decision should be based on a metric or number. If I’m buying a car, I wanna touch it, I wanna smell it, I wanna feel it, I wanna get in and out of the car, test drive it, pose by it. I want all of the information that’s under the hood, even though I’m never going to put my head under the hood. But I’m not buying a car online. I’m not making a decision based on only stats or numbers. Numbers can be manipulated. I like when I’m looking at a player and the measurables I see and the comps they remind me of add up with the numbers, not the other way around.
The Houston Rockets have been at the forefront of analytics and I love Daryl Morey. I voted James Harden MVP, I played for Mike D’Antoni. And right now they go into the offseason thinking, ‘how can we make more threes than twos’, but the opposing defense knows that too.
BC: With everything you’ve done and accomplished, you’re a great role model for kids to have goals and work hard, but professional athletes have different views on whether or not they’re role models. Did you always view yourself as that? Because even when I was younger, I didn’t like superheros or Power Rangers, I liked basketball, and they filled that entertainment void.
I rooted for the Knicks, but the Pacers were the antagonist and villains I built in my head. If I saw you, Reggie Miller or Rik Smits walking in the street, I probably would’ve ran as if I saw Shredder from the Ninja Turtles, so you’re naturally going to be viewed as larger than life characters by kids.
JR: [Laughs] Respectfully, I understand it’s just hard enough for us to function as people because we’re consumed by so much information constantly. Some people only want to focus on your backyard, not wanting to accept the responsibility that comes with influencing others in a positive way because you have your own friends and family and kids. It is an extra effort.
But the idea that any person can’t be a role model is naïve. You don’t have to be an athlete or an entertainer. You can be a parent, guardian, teacher, you can just be a leader in your community, and that’s how I was raised. I saw people in my family that always tried to give back and help others, so that was instilled in me and I always felt like if I got in the position to do so, if I was fortunate enough to do so, I would be a role model. And it doesn’t mean you need to be perfect, you just need to care about others and do what you can to influence people in a positive way.
Unusually, one of the things that helped spark it for me, was the realization that so many people were naming their kids Jalen.
BC: Right, you said your mom invented that name?!
JR: Yes, my biological father is James Walker, number 1 pick in the 1967 NBA draft and my uncle Leonard took her to the hospital to give birth. I recall being a young NBA player and people would come up to me that were named Jalen. A couple years ago, I’m watching the NFL draft and you hear Jalen Ramsey, and the NBA draft, Jaylen Brown. It’s taken on a life of its own and people don’t name their kids after people they don’t like or don’t respect, because names are symbols.
BC: What are your future goals? I know Stephen A. Smith has talked about wanting a late night show, we’ve seen Michael Strahan gobble up jobs in the media to where now there are probably some people that watch him every day and don’t even know he used to play football. Where do you see your career going?
JR: I absolutely love what I’m doing right now. NBA Countdown is the biggest stage in basketball. Christmas Day, the whole world is watching, The NBA Finals is on ABC – network television. Jalen and Jacoby and Get Up are both Monday through Friday shows and I’m really fortunate to work on both of them, but I would like to produce more projects.
I produced a Fab Five documentary, I co-produced Jalen vs. Everybody, a project with Nahnatchka Khan. I would like to do more of that, I also love game shows and trivia shows! Family Feud, Jeopardy, Price is Right. I love game shows and would like to host one of those and lastly, to own the Detroit Pistons.
Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click 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.