I get the question, you get the question, we’ve all been getting the same question from people outside the radio business: “What are you talking about since there’s no sports going on?”
Has any show host in America been asked that less than 100 times in the past two months? Probably not. Heck, North Carolina basketball head coach Roy Williams even said “you guys are bored stiff, because there’s no games to talk about,” while on an interview Monday with 610 Sports’ Carrington Harrison and Sean Levine in Kansas City.
I’ve found my answer to be somewhat interesting when I reply back to that constant question.
Doing a show in Norman, OK means a whole lot of college football talk. We talk predominately about the sport, no matter the month, so the past two months of my show has been business as usual. That’s the exact response I give when someone is shocked a sports radio show can exist without live sports.
So that had me pondering a question: With the ability to preview a season, constant recruiting news, schedule news, NFL Free Agency, the NFL Draft and more, have the past two months been significantly easier to manage for hosts in football heavy markets?
Darren McKee of 104.3 The Fan in Denver thinks it’s absolutely true. In an NFL hungry market like Denver, Broncos talk is almost always the most relevant topic of the day. So, in a big way, McKee has been structuring his show the same way he always has during this part of the year.
“At the end of the day, yes, I think it’s easier to do this in an NFL market,” McKee said. “In 2010 there was a lockout in the NFL and we didn’t have spring football. This is very similar to that. What you have to get your head around is how you do it. The last thing we want to do is sit there and whine and complain about something that we can’t control. So for us, you know what, it actually hasn’t been that difficult. Everything is difficult, right? The whole world is difficult. But because we we’re focused on doing things a certain way, we’re alright, in terms of topic choice. I can’t tell you the last time we struggled.”
The Kansas City Chiefs are coming off a win in the Super Bowl, which means KC is hot right now for content centered on its championship team. Hosts in the city, such as Harrison of 610 Sports, are certainly giving the Chiefs the attention it deserves, but does that necessarily mean it’s been ‘business as usual’ for Harrison’s afternoon drive show?
“I would say up until the NFL Draft it was that way,” Harrison said. “I didn’t really think the show was that much different. Now it’s different because we also have the Royals and KU was going to be the No. 1 overall seed and would’ve been a big story. Once those things got taken away and we had five weeks until the draft it wasn’t as difficult.
“Now, we probably did more draft stuff because the Chiefs had the No. 32 overall pick. In a normal year we probably would’ve done Royals or some college basketball and some other things. It wasn’t that hard to come up with football content and we did more national stuff than we normally would during free agency. The NFL is a big deal and if that’s the only sports news, the audience isn’t going to say, hey, talk about the Chiefs when the Cowboys just made a big signing.”
The LSU Tigers are coming off a football championship of their own and Matt Moscona of ESPN Baton Rouge has been at the center of it. Like Denver and Kansas City, football talk, be it the Tigers or the Saints, is always going to resonate well with the audience. But again, does that mean it’s been business as usual for sports radio in Baton Rouge?
“The off-season has gone kind of like the normal off-season,” Moscona said. “LSU has gained a few transfers, so we’ve been able to talk about how that impacts the roster. Recruiting has actually been easier for coaches than ever, because kids are at home all day. Those storylines have been there every day. Content has not been hard to come by. I haven’t found, anyway.”
As you can see, the responses to the original question differ from host to host. Some agree it’s business as usual with heavy football talk and much more manageable than a basketball heavy market, and others think that might not be the best representation of how their show has carried on. Though the responses differ, there is one thing all three hosts have in common: None of them are struggling for content.
All of McKee’s creative ideas for content are centered on the Broncos. For instance, Denver hired Pat Shurmur in the offseason as an offensive coordinator, so McKee and his co-host, Tyler Polumbus, have watched every single game from the 2019 New York Giants season to better familiarize both themselves and the audience with the new coach. The duo is now going through the 2017 Minnesota Vikings season, where Shurmur’s offense looked much better, and relating what transpired that year to what could happen with the Broncos.
“It’s kind of funny, we’ve actually figured out some things because of this pandemic to do that we might do in the future if there is no pandemic,” said McKee. “That’s kind of been our trick, we figured out more benchmark topics that we can land on every single day. That’s not by accident.”
Good content can even come from big-name guests.
“Quite honestly, because most people are just sitting at home, it’s never been easier to get guests,” said Moscona. “If you want to get coaches or players, current or former, that’s never been easier, either.”
McKee’s creative ideas don’t stop with deep dives into new coordinators on the staff. For instance, for the next 16 weeks, McKee and Polumbus will spend a week previewing each team on the Broncos schedule
“So last week we had Titans week,” McKee said. “We looked at the Titans, such as what they did in the off-season, who the free agents are and who we can get on as a guest from Nashville. This week is Pittsburgh week so we’re looking at the storylines that we can figure out as if what we would do during the fall.
“We’re not doing four hour shows about it, but we’re doing two or three segments about it. We’re using it as a creative jumping off point, to say, what about this guest or this topic? We’ve used some Ben Roethlisberger and James Conner sound, so for us, we have a heightened awareness of who our team is and what we’re talking about. As far as we can tell it’s worked out OK. “
So, does heavy football talk help get you through a long period with no sports? Absolutely. But is it the best strategy? Well, that all depends on your market, and most importantly, the identity of your show.
“I mean I’m doing my show the same that I always have,” said Moscona. “Our conversations, instead of maybe breaking down games, have been discussing how the COVID-19 shut down is affecting sports. There have been no shortage of storylines there and I think even in some instances, there’s even more interest, because there’s a giant curiosity level of people wondering if there’s going to be a season and if there is, how does it look, it’s all the different topics that come from that.”
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.