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Off The Bench Rode 2019 Success On To The BSM Top 20

“It was cool for listeners to get ahold of it. People even came up during the LSU basketball game last weekend and offered their congratulations.”

Tyler McComas

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T Bob and Culotta

There’s a validating feeling that comes along with being named to the BSM Top 20 for the first time. Just ask Jordy Culotta and T-Bob Hebert of Off the Bench at 104.5 ESPN in Baton Rouge, who came in as the No. 13 Mid-Market morning show in the country. For both hosts, it was a reward for all the hard work they’ve put into their show. To have their efforts recognized by industry executives made last week extra special.

But why now? Why this year? Off the Bench has been a popular show in the Baton Rouge market for some time. What changed for it to finally get the notoriety it deserves? 

“Quite honestly, what made the show take a huge leap, was the Google Doc sheet that put the producers and hosts on the same page, communication wise,” said Hebert. “We have a blank template and in the morning everyone fills in their own ideas. By the time the shows starts, we’re good to go. What that did was it cut out all the BS communication about explaining to each other kind of where our heads were at and what we wanted to talk about. It allowed us to get to that next level of communication.”

Culotta contributes some of it to relevant guests that got large play via social media.

“I think we had some pretty big guests,” said Culotta. “We had a big interview with Dick Vitale that kind of went main stream and went viral. Then we had Zion Williamson’s dad on and he announced his son was going to the NBA draft and wouldn’t sit out a year and was going to go to New Orleans. All of that news kind of broke on our show, which is big. I really think the bigger element was the video component. Our video producer Nathan Velasquez did a good job of turning around the audio and video and putting it out on social media and giving people a visual element that brought the show to another level. It reached more people and brought us more credibility.”

It certainly helps when every team you talk about is involved in relevant storylines. The LSU Tigers football team won the national championship, the Saints won 13 games during the regular season, Zion debuted with the Pelicans, attracting eyeballs all across the country, heck, even LSU’s basketball and baseball teams have their own intriguing topics. Taking advantage of the success of their local teams was important for Off the Bench and they did just that. 

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“What’s always been fascinating to me, in local radio, is how much your fate can be tied to the teams you’re covering,” said Hebert. “Right now things are really good. It feels like the sporting arrangement in south Louisiana is on a heater right now.”

Being ranked in the BSM Top 20 has been humbling for the duo, but it’s also created more fun on the show. Both Culotta and Hebert shared with their audience the news about the ranking last week, which, spread quickly through Baton Rouge. The honor has almost become a bit on the show. 

“We’ve been talking a lot about it and joking around with it,” said Hebert. “We’ll drop like, you don’t get to be the 13th best mid-market local morning show if you don’t do stuff like this (laughs). Just things like that. We’ve had a lot of fun with it.”

“We try to stay humble with it, but we had a film producer from the afternoon this morning and kind of joked back-and-forth about how it feels to be on an award-winning show,” said Culotta. “It was cool for listeners to get a hold of it. People even came up during the LSU basketball game last weekend offering their congratulations.”

As much as the two have been humble about the whole experience, there’s still a very gratifying feeling that both of them share. Considering how far, chemistry wise, both Hebert and Culotta have come in the past couple of years, there should be a gratifying feeling to see all their efforts turn in to great radio. 

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The only thing that was missing was for Hebert to joke with his dad, Bobby Hebert of WWL Radio in New Orleans, that he was the only member of the family to make the BSM Top 20. 

“I didn’t do that, but he did call and congratulate me (laughs), said Hebert. “I definitely had a lot of people call and congratulate me. For me personally, and I’ve been on radio since I got out of college, so about seven years, I found it very validating and rewarding to be named to the list. It meant a lot to me personally, because I feel like we put a lot in the show. It really means a lot and it’s awesome.”

“Well it’s great to be recognized, obviously,” said Culotta. “We work hard at it and are prideful in it. There’s an audio producer, a video producer and then there’s T-Bob and I. We all have input to it which helps make it be what we strive for it to be. We hope it’s very listenable, that people talk about it on the streets and share it on social media. That’s been a lot of feedback, so for us it’s very gratifying to see our vision out in play and paying off.”

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So what now? Being ranked for the first time, getting all the way up to No. 13 is pretty impressive. However, Off the Bench sees bigger rankings ahead, and that’s what they’re striving for in 2020. 

“The very first thing that I replied back, is how do we get to No. 1?” said Culotta. “We’re still driven and we want that top spot. Now that we’ve made the list we want to know how we can climb it. It’s an honor to be there and we’re humbled by it and we look forward to making more good radio down the line.”

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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