Good hosts and shows aren’t struggling for content right now, but who knows how long it will be before we get live sports again? Hell, we’ll have been without sports for nearly a month and a half at that point.
We’re all in this together, right? That’s why Barrett Sports Media has created a content grab bag and we’re asking everyone to pitch in.
Got an idea that can help someone else? Do you have a perfect bit in mind, but maybe your situation has changed and now you have nowhere to pull it off? Don’t let it go to waste! If you want to contribute, reach out to Demetri Ravanos on Twitter.
Nick Wilson is the host of Wilson & Parcell, the mid-day show on Charlotte’s heritage sports talker WFNZ. Today Wilson writes that while the show has always put a focus on personality-driven content, the hosts are really leaning into those topics during this pandemic. He says it all started with recognizing the comedic potential in someone that was never intended to be a character on the show.
Classic Rom-Com shenanigans: That’s how we found each other.
I was a fish out of water, visiting Charlotte to audition for a spot on the famed WFNZ. He was a lowly paid part-time board operator who walked like a WWE legend.
There’s been a lot of discussion about the day-to-day fight for content for sports talk show hosts, producers and board operators. How can you thrive without sports when it’s literally in the name of your occupation?
The questions and challenges from this pandemic are certainly numerous and I understand if this time has seemed overwhelming. Our survival on Wilson & Parcell has its roots on that fateful June day when I witnessed Stephen Helbig lumber past the studio window like Hacksaw Jim Duggan.
WFNZ’s Hacksaw was born that day.
An important theme for our show since its inception has been character development. I’m not referring to hackneyed, one-dimensional, disposable Wack Pack characters but adding dimension and definition to the very real personalities on our show. Finding simple ways to work in personal stories, bits, benchmarks or ideas into your show was important during our old normal. In this pandemic? It might be the difference between success and failure.
Hacksaw can’t spell. Well, Hacksaw can’t spell when you add the pressures of live radio. It’s as if the fears of failure and humiliation completely remove his ability to properly spell even the most basic of words.
One day in our pre-show meeting, we discovered his spelling blind spot. I tried a few fairly simple words and laughed at how flustered he got.
“This is going on the show!”
I uttered those words like I had just discovered electricity. Everyone agreed. Yes, even Hacksaw.
That’s how Hack’d On Phonics began.
It started as a simple weekly spelling contest. We even brought in elementary school teachers to quiz him on 1st, 3rd & 5th grade words. They were all quite attractive which caused a flustered Hacksaw to redefine the idea of failure on live radio.
Hack’d On Phonics then begat Hack’d On History which begat Hack’d On Science which begat Hack’d On Sports.
We’ve had him challenge another member of the station’s staff to a history trivia battle. Audience participation with spelling or science question suggestions has surged. It’s a moment in the show every week where listeners can set a reminder to have a good laugh.
The residual benefits of this silly benchmark have paid dividends in this pandemic. This one bit has grown his confidence where he’s able to act as a true 3rd mic on the show. The audience now knows and likes Hacksaw.
Anyone can read a box score on air. Anyone can quote the times they were right as if they were referencing Shakespeare’s finest sonnets. Anyone can pontificate in a way that makes them seem intelligent or holier than thou and call it a radio show.
But can you show the audience something real? Are you willing to poke fun at yourself? Tell the truth about yourself? The ones who can will be painting on the greatest canvas they’ll likely ever be afforded.
No live sports can be daunting if you think of yourself as only a sports talk show host. My suggestion? Consider yourself an entertainer too. The possibilities become endless and topics/bits/ideas do too.
As a show, we never stopped after Hack’d On *Insert subject here*.
My co-host has thrived with a segment called Web Junk. He’s growing his “character” while talking about the latest adventures of Florida man and the Korean Baseball team putting sex dolls in the stands in place of fans. (Gives new meaning to the “Hit It Here” signs)
I’ve enjoyed expanding my roots as a story teller, sharing topics or ideas on homeschooling horrors as a dad, tales of misadventure in my haughty neighborhood and even riffing on a gooch spasm. (Dear God, don’t look that up.)
Its daunting to face the uncertain world of sports when you are a sports talk show host. It also might be one of the best things to happen to your career.
Building up yourself and your supporting cast with bits, benchmarks and ideas is the best way to take your show to the next level during this pandemic. Not only is it great content but it gives your show an added dimension that helps you look even better as a host.
You know, the only thing that we sports talk hosts care about…ourselves.
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.