Greg Papa Is Still Trying To Impress His Big Brother
“I think the hard part is not knowing exactly when this will all wrap up. The idea of worrying about sports seems a little silly right now. For now, we just have to look out for each other.”
Greg Papa understands the value of a role model. Someone tangible in front of you who has risen to heights to which you plan to ascend yourself. A person who blazed a path forward while graciously leaving breadcrumbs behind.
No one needs a role model when things are going well – when everything’s working out. When times are good, success feels effortless, almost inevitable.
It’s the tough times when you need that spark – when you think you don’t belong or you’re not quite good enough. During those times it’s all too easy to make excuses. To settle. To throw your hands in the air and figure it was never meant to be. During times of doubt – it’s vital to understand yours is a battle that has been fought and won time and time again.
As the only broadcaster to ever work for the Warriors, A’s, Giants, Raiders and 49ers – you don’t have to work hard to paint Papa as a role model himself. It’s an exercise, however, in which he has no interest.
“I’m always very humbled when people come up to me and say they grew up listening to me and watching me,” he pauses, clearly uncomfortable at the idea of discussing his Bay Area celebrity. “More times than not I’m thinking ‘aren’t you my age?’”
Papa didn’t have to look far for his role model, in fact he was right down the hall in his childhood Buffalo, NY home. Gary Papa, eight years Greg’s senior, was everything a younger brother could ask for. Even over the phone in 2020, Greg speaks of Gary with such a reverence – you’re forced to hang on every word.
Like any younger brother – Greg is quick to measure himself up to Gary.
“He went to Cornell – then he went on to law school,” explains Greg, as if annoyed at his brother’s success.
“I was never going to be an Ivy League guy.”
When he wasn’t attending University at Buffalo Law School classes, Gary was anchoring sports for WGR-TV down the street. By 1981, with a law degree in hand, the elder Papa began a career at WPVI in Philadelphia that lasted nearly 3 decades.
“I still don’t know how he was able to pull all that off,” admits Greg, his voice somewhere between awe and admiration.
Greg may not have inherited his brother’s academic fortitude, but he certainly has the work ethic. He would also never admit it, but Greg’s post collegiate career might be more impressive than that of his brother’s.
With the Ivy League out of the question, Papa settled on Syracuse University – a reasonable safety school by any metric. By his junior year, he was the Sports Director for the student led WAER and cutting his play by play teeth on just about every sport the Athletic Department had to offer.
As it turns out, he was a promising young talent in a school known for it’s talent at just the right time.
“My senior year, Sports Illustrated had contacted us to do a story on what had become ‘the incubator of sportscasters’ at Syracuse,” he grins. “I got a little cocky.”
Papa’s self-diagnosed “cockiness” was not unfounded.
Right out of school, the fresh faced 22-year-old was offered the Sports Director position for KGO in San Francisco. Where Greg differed a bit from his older brother was his gravitation towards the play by play booth. He preferred the games over the studio and wanted to land somewhere he could call some action.
That opportunity came in the form of Indianapolis with the Pacers. The team needed a bench broadcaster to fill in and the recent Syracuse grad was their man.
Generally speaking, broadcasters straight out of their caps and gowns don’t get jobs in the NBA. While grateful for the opportunity – Papa was not about to rest on his laurels.
In 1986 the Golden State Warriors had an ownership change and Greg’s boss in Indiana, Roger Blaemire, had himself a new position in Oakland as a VP and brought Papa out west. Just a few years removed from Upstate New York – Greg was now the TV and radio voice of the Bay Area’s only NBA team.
“For the first month I was out here – I stayed at the Oakland Airport Hilton. It took me about two weeks to realize how much I loved the Bay Area. It’s like a small country out here, in a 3 hour drive you can do anything you want,” the transplant takes a beat, careful to be completely honest about the tough times involved with the move.
“I will say I was a little intimidated for a while. For one, the people out here were so smart, so worldly. I also wasn’t sure I could ever afford a house!”
The rookie west coaster combined his excitement with his fear and allowed it to fuel his work. Alongside Jim Barnett, Papa called the Warriors’ first playoff season in a decade. He was a new name in the market but his voice was now synonymous with winning.
Of course – there wasn’t a bigger winner in the late 80s in the Bay Area than the Oakland A’s, a neighbor of Papa’s Warriors. During the 1990 season, just months after 1989’s Bay Bridge Series, Greg joined Oakland’s broadcast team and followed the A’s all the way to their 3rd consecutive World Series appearance.
By 1997, with a decade of experience calling Warriors games and a handful of summers spent in the Coliseum – Papa had already established himself as a major player in the Bay Area sports media market. That fall, he would start the job that would cement his place as an icon in town.
“I have to say,” begins the ever-modest Papa. “My first Raiders game, first preseason game, I was terrible! The worst broadcast in my career. I had never done the NFL, I was passive. By my second game I understood I had to attack the game. Formations, substitutions – I had to be aggressive in my calls. I got better.”
For 20 years, Greg Papa’s emphatic “Touchdown RRRRRRaiders” calls were as much a part of the Silver and Black game day experience as Blake Hole cutaway shots and “The Autumn Wind” blasting from car radios as tailgaters began their march to the Coliseum.
While he would never describe himself as such, Papa was something of a hero for the East Bay sports scene at the turn of the 21st Century. In a market that celebrated mediocre Giants and 49ers teams over championship seeking A’s and Raiders squads – Papa was a proud representation of the often-slighted Oakland sports fan.
Industry politics, as they so often do, stood between Papa and the ability to be the voice of all three East Bay teams at once.
“It was close, but it never did exactly line up. I was a few months off.”
In the summer of ‘97, the Warriors opted to make a change in the broadcast booth. Undeterred, Papa found a way to keep his NBA fix – nearly 2,000 miles away in San Antonio.
From 1997 to 2000, the same man who marveled at how his brother Gary could work as a fulltime sportscaster while attending law school, was calling games on TV for the A’s and Spurs while manning the radio broadcasts for the Raiders.
3 teams, 3 sports, 2 markets, no offseason.
You won’t hear Greg complain about that schedule. Rather, he counts himself lucky to have had a front row seat to the dawn of Gregg Popovich’s head coaching career and the first 3 years of the remarkable Tim Duncan era – not to mention a 1999 championship season.
It was late in 2003 – as Greg was nearing his 20-year mark in the Bay Area – that Papa received what he calls one of the toughest phone calls of his career. He was reached out to by the then VP of Programming for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and CSN California, Ted Griggs.
“Ted got on the phone, and I’ll never forget it. He told me the A’s wanted to go in another direction – but that if I wait 5 minutes, I would be getting a call from Larry Baer.”
Papa understood a call from the owner of the San Francisco Giants meant an offer to join the broadcast crew for the team across the Bay. He was honored to be considered, but immediately faced with a new set of challenges.
“There was already a great team of broadcasters over there. Duane and Mike (Kuiper and Krukow) are two of the best in the business on the TV side, and on the radio you had the unbelievable team of Jon Miller and Dave Flemming! Needless to say, I was the low man on the totem pole.”
Maybe the most impressive thing about Greg Papa, outside of his undying respect for his colleagues and predecessors, is his brutal honesty when assessing his own performance. As it happens, the switch to the National League after nearly 15 years in the AL was tougher than the veteran broadcaster had anticipated.
“That was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my career! I was so familiar with the AL, I didn’t realize how out of touch I was with the NL. I was pretty hard on myself for a stretch when I was filling in.”
On top of navigating the waters of a foreign league, Papa had to deal with the backlash of switching fan bases.
“There was definitely some: ‘This is an A’s guy! What’s he doing here!?’ There’s not much I can do about that, fans are passionate.”
While his divorce with the A’s and courtship with the Giants was difficult, Greg points out it made his next dismissal slightly easier to stomach.
In July of 2018, just a month before preseason games were set to kick off, the Raiders notified Papa he would not return for a 22nd campaign with the team. At that point, Papa had worked for 3 other Bay Area franchises and was back doing pre and postgame shows for the Warriors – but above all else Greg’s voice was associated with the Raiders. The decision of the Raiders to move on from Papa was major news in Northern California, but rather than cast blame or stew over those who wronged him – Greg chooses to walk on the sunny side of the street.
“Look at it this way – I’ve been fired from 3 different teams in the Bay Area and I’ve never had to move. How many people can say that?”
Last summer, Gary’s little brother received an offer that would escalate his already stellar career to an unprecedented level. He was asked to become the radio voice of the San Francisco 49ers – the 5th Bay Area team to seek his services.
“I honestly did think about it for a second. My wife thought the transition would be tough because I was so closely associated with the Raiders,” remembers Papa.
Fortunately for 49ers fans, that second didn’t last long.
In 2019, Greg Papa became the first broadcaster to work for all 5 major sports franchises on either end of the Bay Bridge. As humble as the day he left Buffalo, he’s not one to boast about his unparalleled career accomplishments, but the significance certainly isn’t lost on him.
“One of my most prized possessions is hanging right now above me in my office. It’s a Niners jersey with the number 5 on it – signed by Kyle Shanahan and a number of people from the organization. It was a great gesture by the team.”
Greg Papa has done things in his career so many could only dream of. He’s called two Super Bowls, one for each team. He was along for the thrill ride of the A’s historic 20 game winning streak and was immortalized in 2012’s Moneyball for his efforts. He lent his voice to Barry Bonds’ all-time home run chase of Willie Mays, Babe Ruth and ultimately Hank Aaron. He was there for Sleepy Floyd’s 51 point playoff game against the Lakers in the late 80s, and the agonizing pain of the “Tuck Rule,” and the birth of Tom Brady’s legacy at the cost of Silver and Black hearts.
2020, however, marks the most bizarre and challenging time of Papa’s life and career.
“It’s hard to comprehend all of this,” he admits. “My career has lasted through two Iraq wars and 9/11, but this is different. This is on a completely different level. I’m consumed by it, day and night. I think the hard part is not knowing exactly when this will all wrap up. The idea of worrying about sports seems a little silly right now. For now, we just have to look out for each other.”
Greg makes light of the fact that he’s been fired by three different teams, he almost embraces it. You might think he does so to deflect, but in reality, it’s clear that when the chips are down – even a man defined by sports understands that sports are trivial compared to what really matters
In 2009, Gary Papa lost a long bout with cancer. The Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Hall of Fame Inductee was survived by his wife Kathleen and two boys.
So many times these days we’re asking ourselves questions to which we have no answer. When will it end? What will be the same? What will be different? The unknowns can be scary.
“I don’t know when, but sports will return. Our way of life will return and when it does we’ll be better and stronger than ever.”
We may not see the finish line at the end of this particular race, and we may not yet have definitive answers to questions that keep us up at night.
One thing we do know is that the Bay Area is fortunate to have a role model like Greg Papa – and his role model is and will always be proud of his little brother.
Ian Rapoport Is Competing Against Everyone
“When I’m working, when I’m not working – my brain is still going on overdrive.”
The 2023 NFL Draft was a weekend filled with speculation, intrigue and musing among football fans and experts alike. After two quarterbacks were selected with the first two picks – C.J. Stroud by the Jacksonville Jaguars; and Bryce Young by the Houston Texans – Ian Rapoport had the inclination that something was about to break at the event in Kansas City.
The third pick of the night was held by the Arizona Cardinals, but through previous intel, Rapoport knew there was a chance the team would trade it. His phone then lit up with a text message from a source that simply read, “Texans trading.” Receiving a message of this magnitude takes years of networking, credibility and immense trust from the people you cover. Rapoport has worked hard to attain all of them.
He replied by asking, “Did the Texans trade up to three?,” as the team was not set to pick again until No. 12 overall. Once he got confirmation of the scenario, he began to visibly shake in excitement and captured the attention of the NFL Network team.
“I sit there with a camera in front of me that’s not always on air – this is during the Draft – and the producer gets in my ear and he goes, ‘Can you go on air with whatever you have?,’ and I just say, ‘Yes.’” Rapoport recalled. “And then I hear Rich Eisen go, ‘Ian, you have news,’ and I was able to break that the Texans have traded up to three to go get Will Anderson.”
This is the craft through which Rapoport has cultivated a successful journalism career, ultimately distinguishing him as NFL Network’s goto insider. He hardly ever separates himself from the job, equipped with an unparalleled work ethic to ensure he can communicate messages accurately and in a timely manner. While some people may argue that he is in direct competition with others in his position, such as Adam Schefter of ESPN, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports and Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk and NBC Sports, the reality of the situation is that it is Rapoport vs. the world.
“It’s such a small world now and everyone is interconnected – and with Twitter, literally anyone could break a story and have it go viral,” Rapoport said. “Obviously, you want everything first, but really you’re competing against everyone that exists because anyone could get the story at any moment.”
Work-life balance in such a role is usually quite insurmountable in today’s dynamic, interminable breaking news environment. Rapoport strives to find some level of normalcy in his life by playing golf and attending his sons’ sporting events. In the end though, he knows the world of football never sleeps, and it is up to him to remain in the know at all hours of the day, essentially always on standby to break the next big story.
“I do not turn my phone off because that’s actually way more stressful,” Rapoport said. “At least now when my phone’s on and near me, if something crazy happens, I can react rather than having a fake relaxation moment and then being caught off guard with something.”
Rapoport recognized that journalism was the field for him almost immediately after stepping onto the Columbia University campus. He worked his way up at The Dial to ultimately become its associate sports editor. In the summer preceding his senior year, he landed a coveted internship with ESPN where he gained invaluable experience in the world of television production.
By the time he graduated, Rapoport envisioned himself becoming a nationally acclaimed sportswriter, but he knew it was going to require he start small. Three hundred eleven job applications and two interviews later, he landed a part-time role with The Journal News in Westchester, N.Y. covering high school sports. It gave him a start in the highly-competitive business – and kept him close to home while trying many new things.
Two years later, he found himself moving from the bright lights of New York City to the quaint town of Starkville, Mississippi for a notable opportunity. He had landed a job covering the Mississippi State Bulldogs for The Clarion-Ledger in the nearby capital city of Jackson and was under the direction of sports editor Rusty Hampton.
“I knew how to write, but I really didn’t know how to report,” Rapoport said. “He was probably the best [at] showing me, ‘This is all about reporting. It’s all about telling people something they don’t know rather than how well you can pen a sentence.’ To be really valuable to society or your newspaper, you really need to inform rather than entertain. I think he was probably the first and best person to teach me that.”
After spending two years in Mississippi, Rapoport became a beat reporter for The Birmingham News tasked with following the Alabama Crimson Tide. Just months into his new role, the program made a coaching change and hired Nick Saban, who has since led the program to six national titles.
Rapoport learned the thoroughness necessary to cover the Southeastern Conference as he rapidly watched the program become a perennial contender. In turn, he became an eminent college football reporter and his work began to be consumed nationally.
Simultaneously, Bill Belichick, another accomplished football head coach in his own right, was in the process of trying to lead the New England Patriots back to championship glory. Known to be stoic and restrained in his press conferences, reporters asking him questions knew extrapolating answers was not the easiest of tasks.
When Rapoport saw a job opening to cover the team with the Boston Herald that required NFL experience, he knew that he was not qualified verbatim per se. Yet he figured the experience he had in covering Saban and Alabama would serve him well in the role, and articulated such in a protracted email to the newspaper’s editors. His strategy worked, proving why Rapoport is considered one of the industry’s best communicators at the micro and macro levels.
“You don’t see a lot of sources within the Patriots or sources within Alabama – there’s not a lot of that,” Rapoport said. “So I learned to report despite that and kind of work the edges and get the information I needed, despite head coaches who weren’t always the most forthcoming with information.”
NFL Network oftentimes has local beat reporters on the air to interact with studio talent and give their perspectives about teams, and it was something Rapoport did while at the Boston Herald. He had no television experience outside of other appearances he made on Comcast New England and certainly no intention to pursue the medium as a career.
In Super Bowl XLVI, the New York Giants overcame the New England Patriots, who were undefeated for the year entering the game. Rapoport was on hand for the proceedings, and shortly afterwards was called into a meeting with NFL Network executives.
He didn’t know he was interviewing for a job until he asked just why he had been summoned. He expressed his lack of television experience to the executives, who said the network would teach him everything he needed to know.
Once the meeting concluded, Rapoport called his wife, who he had met while living in Starkville, Mississippi, and told her what had just happened. She tempered his expectations, warning him not to get his hopes up as he remained optimistic. One month later, Rapoport received a job offer and found himself moving once again – this time to the Lone Star State.
“I hired an agent and moved to Dallas and basically spent the next year reporting on the Cowboys and some other things being very, very bad at TV, but learning and eventually figuring it out,” Rapoport said. “At the time, this guy, Eric Weinberger, who was our boss, kind of mentioned to me the possibility of transitioning [me] from reporter to insider.”
Rapoport acknowledged that he did not have the contacts necessary to effectively work as a league insider for a national outlet, but through his years of experience, he knew how to network and he was ready and willing to take the challenge.
Once he began the new position, Rapoport, along with reporter Michael Silver, was on the road for Thursday Night Football and contributed to its pregame and halftime coverage. While his television skills improved, Rapoport was hard at work bolstering his contacts and took somewhat of a geographical approach.
Every time he arrived in a new city, he would contact anyone and everyone he could conjure up, including general managers, scouts and head coaches. If he could not schedule a meeting time with them, he would introduce himself by roaming the sidelines at practices and before games. He engaged in a similar practice before the NFL Draft Combine, training camps and the Super Bowl along with other premier events, always staying focused on the task at hand.
“It probably took me five or six years to get a baseline of sources where if something happened, I had someone to call,” Rapoport said. “And then it took me a couple more years to get to the point where I would know before a lot of people when something was about to happen. It’s all a multi-step process, and just [the] layering and layering and layering of sources is really the sort of engine that drives this thing.”
Ian Rapoport always attempts to triangulate his sources to verify information before he releases it publicly. There is no guarantee sources are always truthful or acting in a professional manner. Therefore, it is incumbent on a journalist to ensure the validity of content before publishing it themselves.
“If you’re only right some of the time, then none of it is really worth it,” Rapoport expressed, “because then you say something and they’re like, ‘Well, wow, that’s a big story if this is true.’ The whole point of doing this is when I pop up on TV or when people see my Twitter alerts or whatever, they have to know that it’s true – they have to know.”
One day, Rapoport was having a conversation with a source and discovered through their conversation that Rob Gronkowski had informed the New England Patriots that he would return to the game of football under the stipulation he be traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to reunite with quarterback Tom Brady. There had been much speculation pertaining to Gronkowski’s future after he had worked as an NFL analyst with FOX Sports, and now Rapoport realized he had a monumental scoop – that is, if it was true. Within six minutes, Rapoport verified the story with three sources, contacted his editor and reported to the world Gronkowski’s intentions. The story was picked up virtually everywhere.
“I just think about the job all the time, and I make little lists for myself of things that I need to track down, and I just make a lot of phone calls for it,” Rapoport said. “When I’m working, when I’m not working – my brain is still going on overdrive. It ends up just a brain full of football thoughts, and then I spend the rest of the time trying to figure out what I can learn from it.”
Working for a league-owned entity can sometimes epitomize an inherent conflict of interest. For Rapoport however, he has found working at NFL Network to be hassle-free. He knows, however, the nature of his job means he will not be universally liked.
“Whatever you do, you’re going to report and the people you report on are going to be happy or upset or neutral – or whatever it is,” Rapoport said. “I’m never going to criticize a referee, for instance, because that’s a nuanced thing and people might say, ‘NFL criticizes referees.’ I’m never going to do that, but I wouldn’t do that anyway.”
Rapoport continues to appear on a variety of external media outlets, perhaps most notably The Pat McAfee Show, which recently concluded its “Up to Something Season.” The grand conclusion of the proceedings was McAfee announcing he would be bringing his show to ESPN’s linear and digital platforms starting in the fall.
While McAfee is retaining creative control and has expressed on multiple occasions that his show will not be changing, many have wondered whether insiders employed by other networks will be able to continue making appearances. It is an answer Rapoport himself does not know, nor has he asked about.
“When the news broke, my phone blew up with all sorts of people saying all sorts of different things,” Rapoport said. “I have no idea. I really don’t.”
Even so, Rapoport is elated for McAfee and his team taking the next step in their show’s journey and is genuinely glad to see them succeed. He does not think McAfee’s goal was to reshape sports media, but rather to cultivate a distinctive sports talk program built for fans and today’s generation of consumers.
“You get to know someone and you think they’re a good person and you respect the way they work. Some people have success and some people have a little success and some people don’t. It’s really rare to see someone who has every bit of success that’s essentially possible and deserves every bit of it, and that’s kind of how I thought about Pat. It’s really cool, honestly. He’s built it himself.”
It was on McAfee’s show where another prominent football insider – Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk and NBC Sports – said it would be a matter of “when,” not “if” the NFL would have games seven days per week. While devoted football fans like Rapoport are open to such a proposition, he is not sure the league would ever go that far.
“I don’t even know that it would affect my schedule that much,” he said. “It sort of doesn’t matter. I’ll report all year round anyway.”
Derek Futterman is a contributing editor and sports media reporter for Barrett Sports Media. Additionally, he has worked in a broad array of roles in multimedia production – including on live game broadcasts and audiovisual platforms – and in digital content development and management. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks, wrote for the Long Island Herald and served as lead sports producer at NY2C. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
Face-to-Face Sales Meetings Have Never Been More Valuable
“With the increase in virtual meetings, new buyer preferences, limited time, and better tech, we have our work cut out to get the F2F.”
When did you last attend a face-to-face (F2F) in-person sales call? Let’s imagine for a second.
In New York, Sarah, a determined sports radio salesperson, got tired of chasing a major client for months. Despite her calls, emails, and text, she couldn’t break through to get a meeting.
Throwing caution to the wind, Sarah decided to go for it. She loaded her deck and took her burning desire via airplane to Florida to make the pitch. She showed up unannounced at the client’s office and startled the decision-maker. She was given the meeting and won over the client, getting a substantial annual contract and a movie deal in Hollywood.
We have all seen that storyline. F2F meetings used to be the obvious choice over a phone call, and most buyers were open to that idea. We even conducted market trips to meet our buyers in person and create better relationships.
With the increase in virtual meetings, new buyer preferences, limited time, and better tech, we have our work cut out to get the F2F. Lots of us work and listen from home.
Gartner Research points out that live, in person selling is superior to virtual selling in financial services or, as I think, in radio sales. Now, prospecting new clients F2F is much more difficult. You have never met them, you don’t know who you are looking for, and gatekeepers and remote decision-makers make walk-ins more challenging.
How about getting out and seeing your current or former clients F2F? 65% of outside account executives attain quota, 10% more often than inside reps. Here are some simple strategies to get outside and F2F:
STAY IN TOUCH
Turn the sales faucet on ‘drip’ and contact your current clients with whatever works: phone calls, emails, or texts. Tell them you are checking in to see if anything has changed, give them a local business lead, or share your latest insight on their favorite team. When doing so, tell them you want to meet F2F and go deep into the next quarter’s ad plan or a new idea to get them back on the air. They may start looking forward to your communication.
Schedule an annual review ahead of their busiest time of year to review the upcoming messaging in ads. Go over what worked or didn’t last year. Share a success story of a similar advertiser in another market or show them a new opportunity that fits.
Be upfront that with F2F, we can get more specific, work with better feedback, and partner on hitting their goals. Be the person who looks ahead and helps keep your client focused.
Organize workshops for your current clients. Teach that about streaming, OTT, or Google ads. Get your digital person involved. Let them know you are bringing in other local businesspeople they may want to know or network with and meet F2F! A Mortgage broker may want to meet a realtor who wants to meet a wealthy local businessperson interested in meeting the local head coach. Stand out as a leader in the industry and watch clients brag about working with you.
HIT A TRADE SHOW
Attend trade shows where your current clients will be. This will show you are serious about their business and want to stay current so you can learn and earn. Set up a meeting over coffee or a drink. Share what you learned.
Client Appreciation Events held at your town’s most meaningful events or places. Do whatever it takes to get hospitality tents at big games and concert suites to show appreciation and bond with your current clients. Host a luncheon at the hottest new local restaurant. Focus on providing an atmosphere or experience everyone wants, but not many can attend. Be the exclusive person in town.
GET PERSONAL REFERRALS
Leverage your existing client relationships to seek referrals. Do it in person. Tell them you want to see them and ask for help and advice. Ask for introductions to potential new clients they know, and you will be surprised how much they like working with you.
Bring your Digital manager to them and do a free review of their SEO, PPC, whatever. Working off your client’s pc and bringing them an expert at no charge or obligation is much easier. Watch your partnership grow by providing so much expertise at no extra expense.
Don’t forget the value of F2F meetings. It’s a great way to build trust, connect, and unlock new opportunities. We are in a people business doing business with tons of local directs who still make most of their money serving retail customers F2F. Let’s get out and sell!
Jeff Caves is a sales columnist for BSM working in radio, digital, hyper-local magazine, and sports sponsorship sales in DFW. He is credited with helping launch, build, and develop SPORTS RADIO The Ticket in Boise, Idaho, into the market’s top sports radio station. During his 26 year stay at KTIK, Caves hosted drive time, programmed the station, and excelled as a top seller. You can reach him by email at email@example.com or find him on Twitter @jeffcaves.
All Jason Timpf Needed Was A Moment of Clarity
“I didn’t know it until after I was hired, but they said they played my video for Colin and he knew right away that I could do this.”
There was once a time when Jason Timpf always included Colin Cowherd in his commute to work. As he made his morning drive to a sales job at Verizon, The Herd was appointment listening each morning for Timpf. The ex-college basketball player would marvel at Cowherd’s ability to make relatable references and break down all of the same basketball games he would watch the night before.
One of the unique things Timpf can remember from listening to The Herd during that time was Cowherd saying if FOX ever put someone in front of him, he could tell in five seconds if that individual had the skills to be a host. It was far from a hot take on the Lakers, but still a distinct moment that stuck with Timpf for many years. Little did he know at the time but Cowherd would soon give a five-second evaluation of Timpf’s career.
Jason Timpf was a late-bloomer in basketball. He played college hoops at an NAIA school in Utah, but not until his third year, after being a regular student the first two. After graduating, he pursued a basketball career overseas in India. However, after the league folded, he left the game for a normal job in the States.
There was a real desire for Timpf to get into the sports media business, but he was having difficulties finding the right fit. He wanted advice on the best way to start, but the tips he received just didn’t feel like the right initial path.
“I’d hear, hey, go bang on a radio station’s door and ask if you can work the soundboard,” said Timpf. “Or, try to go to a journalism school. Another big one that everyone was doing was the SB Nation blogs and FanSided blogs. I briefly tried to do that a little bit. But none of it was materializing the way that I had hoped.”
But then the lightbulb went off for Timpf and it happened during the middle of a podcast interview. In October of 2020, Jason Maples of Blue Wire reached out to Timpf to talk hoops on his podcast. It was in the middle of that interview when it all made sense. It felt exactly like the camaraderie he enjoyed with his old teammates and friends talking basketball. It was relaxed, fun and what he used to do for enjoyment. The perfect fit had just found Timpf organically.
“It was, ‘this is it,’” said Timpf. “‘This is how I want to do it.’ It was like a moment of clarity. Like, this is the way I want to talk about the game. Fortunately, I was working in real estate at the time, so I was super flexible, so I literally was just trying to fake it until I made it.”
While Timpf was grinding away on his new platform choice, he was constantly putting out his content on social media. For a handful of years, he had used Twitter as an outlet for basketball talk – not because he was trying to build his brand, but because it was his preferred method of sharing his takes during and after basketball games.
“My wife actually played basketball in college but she, like a lot of people, got out of it and was like, ‘actually I’m so sick of basketball, since it’s all I did growing up, that I’d rather not talk about it,’” laughed Timpf.
As Timpf had built up years of basketball takes on Twitter, he also built up followers. Not a crazy amount, but enough to have regular interactions with several basketball fans. He had no idea at the time, though he remembers occasionally interacting with him, but one of his followers in the beginning was Logan Swaim, who just happens to be Head of Content at The Volume.
Being such a huge fan of Cowherd, Timpf was absolutely familiar with The Volume, a company started by the FOX Sports Radio host. In fact, during his first plunge into podcasts, he quickly took note of how much success The Volume was having with instant reaction and video content. He wanted to emulate what they were doing and would host a Twitter Space after each Lakers game.
Swaim kept up with Timpf’s journey and continued to be impressed with what he saw. He was so impressed, in fact, that a video eventually made it in front of Cowherd’s eyes. It was the moment Timpf had always heard about while driving to his job at Verizon. Cowherd was about to make a declaration on Timpf’s abilities.
“I didn’t know it until after I was hired, but they said they played my video for Colin and he knew right away that I could do this,” Timpf said. “That was a huge boost of confidence for me, because it meant somebody I deeply respected believed I could work in this business.”
Timpf made his dream come true. He was offered a job by The Volume hosting Hoops Tonight. As much of a dream as it was when he was initially hired, the experience since has been nothing but ideal for Timpf. He gets to cover his favorite sport the way he wants to cover it.
“When I first started and Logan and I were structuring out the show, he kinda viewed it as my show would be the slower, more methodical pace, where I work through my thought process of a game. And also that I’d be a guest on other Volume shows for more conversational podcasts. I really wanted to break down pick and roll coverage. It’s just going to take me a while, so trying to do that in a debate show format or conversational format can get hard. It’s a place where I can let more of my crazy depth out. And I can also have a side format where it’s more conversational.”
Timpf has learned prep for podcasts is one of the biggest elements to being successful. As Hoops Tonight continues to draw impressive numbers over audio and YouTube, he’s figured out the best method to prepare for a long-form podcast where he’s hosting solo.
“I digest the game from the simple concept of how the game was won,” said Timpf. “Where was it won? There’s 100-something possessions in this game, there’s seven different storylines and several runs and sequences and sways in momentum, but what’s the one? Usually I’ll target that first in the opening segment of the show.
“While I’m watching the game I’ll take ancillary notes. About five minutes before I record, I sift through everything I’ve written down and limit it down to the things I think are most important. But generally the flow of the show is how the game was won.”
The whole experience has been gratifying and a full-circle moment in many ways for Timpf. Not only has it been vindicating to do things his way and see it become a success, but he’s gotten to do it with someone who he considers an idol.
Sure, Timpf always envisioned growing up he would be talking to Cowherd as a pro athlete, but talking to him as a colleague is certainly the next best thing. So when he got the call to talk with Cowherd during last year’s West Conference Finals, he didn’t hesitate.
“I was so incredibly nervous, as you could imagine,” laughed Timpf. “But I immediately remember him making me feel comfortable and confident. It immediately calmed me down.
“This is probably my favorite part of the entire experience, I think a lot of people think that these networks try to shove people in certain directions and The Volume has given me such freedom to cover the game exactly the way I want to and nobody is telling me to say crazy stuff. Nobody is pushing me in certain directions, it’s like total creative freedom. The way that Logan and Colin have been letting me do me, so to speak, has been so cool. To see my version of what I want it to look like makes me feel vindicated for talking about it the way I want to.”
Tyler McComas is a columnist for BSM and a sports radio talk show host in Norman, OK where he hosts afternoon drive for SportsTalk 1400. You can find him on Twitter @Tyler_McComas or you can email him at TylerMcComas08@yahoo.com.