The perfect question is sometimes the simplest one you can ask in an interview. That’s what I was reminded of last week as I listened to a show replay of McNeil and Parkins on 670 The Score in Chicago.
In this particular interview, the duo had the privilege of speaking to Dan Patrick, who was front and center on ESPN during the Bulls’ runs in the 90’s with Michael Jordan. Seeing as The Last Dance has resurrected a lot of emotions amongst listeners in Chicago, having a big name on like Patrick, who was on the scene for all those memorable runs, was easily one of the most relevant interviews the show could have had.
From the beginning, you could tell there was a good report with McNeil and Patrick. Credit that to the history the two have while covering the Bulls in the 90’s, but it definitely made for a more genuine feel.
McNeil and Parkins started the interview by mostly asking questions that allowed Patrick to take Bulls fans down memory lane, while also weaving in his own personal stories. But at the 7:15 mark of the interview, something jumped out at me.
The interview was really starting to roll and I was locked in. Then, Parkins asked the simplest question he could’ve asked.
“Are you enjoying the documentary?”
I was kind of taken back by the question. But in a good way. We, as hosts, sometimes like to phrase our questions by trying to sound like the smartest person in the room. Other times, we make the question much longer than need be, while interjecting our opinion in the middle of it. Having Patrick on your show would be awesome, and in the middle of an interview, it would be hard not to phrase a question in a way that tried to impress him. But your listener doesn’t care about that. They care about what’s being said by the guest.
Parkins asked the perfect question by keeping it as simple as possible. He’s smart enough to realize Patrick is the star of the segment and can check his ego by feeding him questions without being long-winded. To use a Last Dance analogy, in a way, he realized his role was to be Steve Kerr. Just get the ball to Jordan and get the hell out of the way.
That really turned out to be a theme with McNeil and Parkins during the segment. Sure, they knew a ton about the 90’s Bulls and had stories of their own, but they also knew Patrick had experiences they didn’t, such as telling Jordan he wish he wasn’t retiring so he could get a piece of him on the court, followed by MJ’s reaction. You can’t get a story like that anywhere else and it’s the stuff you hope to get out of a guest that has those experiences. It’s freaking gold over the air and is a credit to good, simple questioning.
Keeping your questions simple and to the point is a good rule of thumb in any interview, but it does work better in some than others. For instance, both McNeil and Parkins probably knew going in they could serve up any question and Patrick would knock it out of the park. He’s just that talented and experienced. But Parkins’ question is the perfect example of having trust with the guest. It’s simple, it’s easy and it’s to the point. And as you would guess, Patrick ran with it and gave a great response.
This really was one of the better interviews I’ve listened to in 2020. A few things factored into that, such as Patrick’s story-telling ability, the line of questioning from the hosts and my current infatuation with anything associated with The Last Dance. The two former reasons, much more than the latter. But also credit the fact that McNeil and Parkins did an unbelievable job of making Patrick relatable to the audience. Now, maybe after all these years doing radio and TV, he’s already done that with most people, but getting him to reveal that he had to sell off his old vinyl collection of 1,500 albums for 300 dollars to make more space in his home, made him a pretty relatable dude in my eyes. He even dropped a ‘dammit’ on the air when referring to his kids asking about his vinyl’s. It made for a great ending to a special segment.
I’ve listened and watched Patrick countless times throughout my life, but that was the first time I’ve thought to myself, wow, he sounds like a pretty damn cool guy. Again, credit the hosts for bringing that out.
McNeil referred to Patrick at the beginning of the interview as “one of the most successful sports broadcasters in North America for the last quarter century.” That’s 100 percent true. Getting him on the air is a huge win, but it’s not the total objective. It’s one thing to land the big guest, it’s another to bring the best out of them.
McNeil and Parkins hit the mark in this instance.
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.