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Scott Van Pelt Reflects On His SportsCenter Bracket Victory

“None of this is serious. It’s not like there are cash prizes. Are there? Are there any prizes?”

Demetri Ravanos

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To hear Scott Van Pelt tell it, he may be more shocked than anyone that he won Barrett Sports Media’s SportsCenter anchors bracket. It happened though. With just over 58% of the more than 5000 votes coming on Monday, SVP topped Dan Patrick in the finals.

“Dan is an all-time legend. Beating him is nonsense. I tweeted as much,” Van Pelt said. He told me that he is surprised by a lot of his victories on the way to the championship. “Stuart – same kind of thing. He’s a Rushmore type of anchor in ESPN’s history. I don’t think I am. You could make cases for everyone I went against, obviously, which is why people voted for each person I was up against.”

Van Pelt is wrong. He is on the same plane as names like Patrick, Olberman, Scott, and Berman in SportsCenter history. Something we learned along the way in this tournament is that your idea of the GOAT depends on what generation of the show you grew up with. For a guy like Van Pelt, who will turn 50 in July, that generation is the one that included The Big Show, Charley Steiner, Karl Ravech, and their contemporaries.

But none of those guys got their own edition of SportsCenter. For all of his influence on the business, Dan Patrick didn’t have his name in the title of the network’s midnight broadcast and the show built around his personality. For all of the credit he gets for reshaping sports highlights, Stuart Scott never got his own set. Scott Van Pelt did, and that doesn’t happen to just anyone.

“It’s nice to be thought of as someone who has done something memorable with the opportunity. I’ve been here a long time and gotten to do some cool things,” he says trying to downplay his spot in the show’s history. “The show I have, they never got to do, which is too bad. Because certainly any and all would have been capable of doing amazing things. It wasn’t that I was better, or more worthy, it was simply the timing of it all. But it’s all flavors of ice cream, you know? Some people like you and others don’t. I’m thankful we have an audience who appreciates the approach.”

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There may have been upsets along the way, but when it came to the Final Four, BSM’s SportsCenter anchors bracket didn’t offer a ton of surprises. It was three number one seeds…and Matt Barrie.

Remember, “not a ton of surprises” doesn’t mean “no surprises.” To Van Pelt though, Barrie’s run as a 16 seed was something that made the tournament even more fun than just living on nostalgia alone.

“I think it’s really cool how he embraced the fun of this. He made it a social media thing and rallied the troops. None of this is serious. It’s not like there are cash prizes. Are there? Are there any prizes?” he asks hopefully. Sadly, there are none.

Matt Barrie definitely rallied the troops. He played social media like a fiddle during the tournament and Van Pelt notes that even without winning, Barrie gave his followers a perfect payoff.

“His concession presser was really funny and really well done. I like him a lot. But let’s call it what it is – beating Boomer and KO is insanity. Those guys are all time giants. I think Matt would be the first to say so.”

When it comes to “cool things,” SVP hasn’t just done them. He has brought them to us. SportsCenter has had a subversive, tongue-in-cheek streak for a long time. Van Pelt seems to thrive on it.

He started talking about bad beats and acknowledging the sports bettors in his audience long before the Supreme Court opened the door for legalization outside of Nevada. His segment “Where in the World Isn’t SVP?” is a masterpiece of self-deprecation, and as a fellow bald guy that wears glasses, something I’m always delighted by.

Van Pelt’s lasting impact, not just on SportsCenter, but on ESPN in general, is that he is one of the first talents not to pretend that he isn’t also a fan. I remember Dan Patrick on his ESPN Radio show once saying that he grew up a Cincinnati Reds fan, but gave that up when he become a reporter.

That’s not how SVP rolls.

Van Pelt went to the University of Maryland. He is every bit as proud of being a Terp as Jim Henson was before him and Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank was after him. That made it okay down the road for Sarah Spain to acknowledge her die hard love of Chicago teams. It made it okay for Mina Kimes to stress and obsess over every mention of the Seattle Seahawks.

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When I asked Van Pelt if winning the BSM SportsCenter anchors bracket made it easier to stomach his Terps not getting a chance to play for a national championship in 2020, he echoes the sentiment so many in the sports world have for college basketball’s Big Dance.

“Nothing will ever take the sting away from not getting to play this tournament. Nothing.”

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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