The former NFL QB turned sports broadcaster has been a natural; in the SportsTalk 790 AM host seat flourishing as a natural Texas truth teller.
The unique dynamic that Sean Salisbury embraced comes easy to him, being that it is rooted in 100% transparency and authenticity. You won’t find the uncomfortable silence that accompanies those insincere attempts at providing listeners with a “hot take” and falling flat when listening to The Sean Salisbury Show. Still, there’s no shortage of hot takes, unique or unpopular opinions or candidly organic moments on the show with guests, listeners and his team.
The ‘Unfiltered’ moniker that precedes his name on social media, has been honored by BSM among the Top 20 Shows of 2019. Sean’s style is not solely being recognized by the radio programming elite, but listeners are gravitating to Salsibury’s programming and social media activity to point out the quality content that’s exposed a void within the format. Many listeners of the sports media platform have been struggling to identify the other honest, unapologetic quality content that can represent the opinion shared by many; especially, regarding the return of sports.
Dan Bongino, former secret service agent to Presidents George W. Bush & Barack Obama, and sports talk pundit was among the guests on Sean’s show.
“I think what you’re seeing, Sean, is a newfound respect for individual liberty,” Bongino said to Salisbury about the end of quarantine and shelter in place isolation ordered.
Salisbury and Bongino made a strong case that there’s never been a time in modern American history where we needed sports more. An opinion that may not be popular with everyone but was made respectfully, intelligently and it absolutely stands to reason.
Additionally, in light of the pandemic, Salsibury’s desire to truly engage, appreciate and interact with his listeners through a social-distance approved roundtable with listeners via Zoom.
“I don’t know many people that want to invite their friends and fans to come in and I want to hear your opinion. It’s why I do it. Not only to get to know you better and some things that you know about, whether it’s sports or life that you guys may have a perspective on that I’m like ‘damn, I never thought about that,’” Salisbury explained to the Zoom roundtable.
“It’s good for all of us to hear it. It’s good for banter, it’s good for fun, and it’s good for the soul. We need this since we can’t do the things we’re normally used to doing right now,” Salisbury continued, before posing his first question to the listeners involving him yelling at Jeff Van Gundy that he would attend a professional sports game tomorrow if that were an option.
The format involves Sean kicking things off with a topic or question, his thoughts on the issue and then tagging in the group of between 15-20 listeners.
“The fans are what make this go. Just because I have a mic in front of my face during the day for my job sure as hell doesn’t mean I know more than you guys on a lot of topics. That’s why I do it: for the listeners.”
“I’m grateful. I’ll just say this. I am forever grateful to do what I do and have this gig and I never take this for granted. The whole idea is to bring you closer to what I do and for me to be closer to you guys,” Salisbury shared directly with his listeners in one of the recent roundtables.
He cited his football career in order to spark a lively debate, both provoking conversation and respectful arguments stating, “You don’t have to hold back when it comes to me, I’m thick skinned here. Trust me, I’ve thrown enough interceptions to be booed enough, so I’m good to go with this.”
While it’s easy for some to get lost in ratings, numbers and success in the sports radio industry, this challenge does not register or resonate with Sean and what makes him tick. Sean’s focus remains the listener and providing the best possible programming for the audience. His gratitude, transparency and sincerity are fundamental to his identity.
Chrissy Paradis: What‘s most important to you in determining what content to include in your show?
Sean Salisbury: The important things to me are preparing for the topics everyone is talking about, bringing on topics others aren’t talking about and being in tune with my listeners and their interests because listeners are the most important and they matter. My finger is on the pulse of what moves the needle. Most importantly, fun and entertainment are my priority.
CP: How much content have you been able to utilize as a result of the discussions you’ve had with listeners in the Zoom roundtables?
SS: An enormous amount and they will continue. I get great insight from great listeners.
CP: You have been one of the few sports hosts who’s been known for unapologetically but respectfully, discussing a wide range of topics on the show. You had everyone from Dan Bongino to Jeff Van Gundy to Dan Patrick on the show over the last few weeks, alone. How do you think the Unfiltered philosophy has been received by listeners in light of the pandemic?
SS: You will always have disagreement and I embrace it. But I will NEVER change my core beliefs because of naysayers. Plus, I will always put on guests with varying yet different opinions that are powerful. My unfiltered approach during this Pandemic or any other national situation will never change, but it will adjust. I think most people prefer transparency to pandering bullshit.
CP: What kind of message do you hope listeners are taking away from the program?
SS: The message I hope listeners take away is I want them to feel like this is home regardless of what’s going on around the country. My show is like eating grandma’s breakfast; that you’re going to get it right, fresh and it’s going to taste good. It’s also a place to get away from the daily struggles and enhance your day while also recognizing important issues and to keep you excited about sports.
Respectful, compassionate, grateful, transparent.
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.