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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.”

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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.

Greg Papa - Wikipedia

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.

Greg Papa's excitement calling 49ers games is contagious - Niners ...

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.

Raiders' firing of Greg Papa latest indignity for Oakland sports ...

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.”

49ers radio voice Greg Papa reflects on 'dream-like' season

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.”

5 questions with Greg Papa: How the 49ers TD call is a tribute to ...

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.  

BSM Writers

Sam Mayes Got A Raw Deal But Tyler Media Made The Right Call

“You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.”

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I do not envy whoever at Tyler Media had to make a decision about Sam Mayes’s future with the company after audio of a private conversation in 2016 was leaked to the media. Mayes and now-former co-worker Cara Rice made a few racist jokes at the expense of Native Americans.

The recording, according to Mayes, was made without his knowledge and leaked illegally. He says in a recorded statement that he should have been given the opportunity to address the recording on air and make amends.

OKC Radio Host Sam Mayes Fired After Racist Audio is Leaked

Maybe that is true, maybe it isn’t. I hate for Sam to lose his job as the result of an illegal recording of a private conversation, but the fact is, that conversation isn’t private anymore. Tyler Media didn’t really have an option here. Sam Mayes had to go.

Someone had an illegal recording of the conversation and created an anonymous email account to send it to people in the Oklahoma City media. I was shown a copy of the email. The author states clearly that their goal is to see Mayes and Rice out of a job. There is nothing fair or just about that person getting exactly what they want. It feels slimy. I can’t say that it feels like it wasn’t the right call though.

We have debated whether or not someone should lose their job over comments made in a private conversation many times before. It happens in every field. It wasn’t long ago at all that we were having this same debate about Jon Gruden. His emails to Bruce Allen and others were sent in private. Is it fair he had to go when they were made public? No matter what horrible things were in there, they were said with the understanding that it would stay between friends.

I am going to say the same thing about Sam Mayes that I did about Gruden when that story first broke. You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.

You read that right. The circumstances of how the conversations in these examples came to light are absolutely unfair, but the conversations came to light. How it happened is irrelevant. Any sponsor or boss that stands behind Sam Mayes or Jon Gruden would be endorsing the language they used, either inadvertently or very much on purpose. Try explaining that to a sponsor.

People at Tyler Media may know Sam Mayes’s heart. He doesn’t seem like a bad guy. The fact of the matter is, once the audio became public, their hands were tied. There is no mistaking what was said or who said it.

How can any seller or manager take Mayes to advertisers now? How can they put him in front of the Lucky Star Casino, one of the station’s biggest advertisers? They can ask for an audience to let Sam explain himself and try to make amends. The Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribes, who own the casino, are under no obligation to forgive or even listen.

All About the Lucky Star Casino in El Reno, Concho
Courtesy: TripAdvisor/Adam Knapp

Maybe the day will come where Sam Mayes bounces back. I hope it does. I hope he gets the chance to address his comments with members of Oklahoma’s Native American community and listen to what they have to say in response. I do think it sucks that this is how his time at The Franchise comes to an end, but I get it.

If I have to explain to you why not to say dumb, racist shit, then I don’t think we have much to talk about. But, it is worth noting that the recording of Mayes and Rice’s conversation is proof that privacy is always an assumption, not always a fact.

In his audio statement, Mayes admits it is his voice on the recording. He also says that he was uncomfortable with Rice’s comments and he tried to end their conversation. I’ll take him at his word, but I will also point out that before he tried to end the conversation, he joined in on the jokes. Maybe when someone says that Native Americans are “too drunk to organize” it isn’t a great idea to respond. All it leads to is proof of you saying something dumb and racist.

Again, I’ll reiterate that how these comments came to light is unfair, but they did come to light. That is Sam Mayes’s voice on the recording. He is joining in on the jokes about Native Americans being drunks and addicts. At the end of the day, the only thing that was done to him was the audio being released. He fully and willingly committed the firable offense.

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What is the response to a client or potential client when they bring that up? All Tyler Media can do is try to recover and move forward. The company cannot do that with Mayes on the payroll.

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BSM Writers

Stop Prospecting, Start Strategizing!

“You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days.”

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Struggling to get new business appointments? Dreading making prospecting calls? Having trouble writing creative emails that seemingly never get a response?

Generating responses to new business outreach is easier than you think. Just make sure you do your homework first and keep it “Simple Stupid”.

To do that, start with asking yourself these (3) simple questions:

#1: Did I do my home work on the business itself, their competition and those I plan on reaching out to?

#2: If I were on the other end of the phone and/or email with myself would I want to engage in conversation and/or reply to that email?

#3: Am I prepared to make a one call close given the opportunity to?

If the answer to any of these is “No”… do NOT pick up the phone and by all means do NOT hit the send button on that initial outreach email! Doing so will all but ensure you fall flat on your face. On the off chance you do happen to get the decision maker on the phone you won’t make that great first impression that sometimes can be so crucial. First impressions are always important… ALWAYS!

Skipping over these critical steps is a sure-fire way to ensure your email is completely ignored and will not generate the engagement from the prospect you’d hope for. Successful prospecting is all about the front end digging and research. Do your homework first then strategize a plan of attack for your call and/or email. Taking these extra measures on the front end is absolutely “Mission Critical” and will set you up for much more success with your prospecting endeavors.

Now once you’ve answered “Yes” to all of the above, you’re ready to attack with the knowledge and confidence that should set you a part from your competition. It’s all about the Game Plan, and if you don’t have one, you’re destined for failure time and time again. Incorporate these (5) things into your prospecting Game Plan for your next call/email and watch your results dramatically improve:

#1: MAKE IT PERSONAL & CASUAL – Be informal, find out something interesting about them.

#2: MAKE IT SHORT & CONCISE – Be straight forward and to the point, people are busy.

#3: MAKE IT TIMELY & RELEVANT TO THEM AND/OR THEIR BUSINESS – Give them a good Valid Business Reason.

#4: MAKE IT INTERESTING, COMPELLING & INFORMATIVE – Be the expert they’re missing.

#5: MAKE IT FUN – Fun people are easy to do business with and make it less like “work”.

Lastly, and most importantly, Be Yourself! You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days. When clients do find it trust me, they value it and appreciate it way more than you’ll ever know!

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BSM Writers

Good Producers Can Teach The World A Lot About Christmas

“A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition.”

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Who is Carl Christmas in your house? Who is the one that makes sure everyone that needs to get a card does? Who comes up with the plan for the lights? Who takes the reins on the shopping?

Chevy Chase, aka Clark Griswold, to light up stage in Berks | Berks  Regional News | wfmz.com
Courtesy: Warner Bros./National Lampoon

Every home needs one and in my house, that’s me. December (including the last week of November) is my time to shine, baby!

One thing I have tried to impress upon my mom and wife this year is that shipping and supply chain delays are real. So, if you are planning on procrastinating on your online shopping this year (you know, like usual) someone (me) is going to have no presents under the tree.

Veteran producers are used to operate this way. Young producers, listen up. Your job involves the most delicate balance of any in sports radio. You have to help bring your host’s and PD’s visions to life. That means you have to be able to take their direction. But you also have to keep the host on target. That means you cannot be afraid to be forceful and lead when the moment demands it.

There’s no value to being an unrepentant asshole to people, but you do have to hold them accountable. Look at that Christmas shopping example again. If you want to get what you want, you need to keep on task the people you know aren’t paying attention to the potential roadblocks. It isn’t selfish. It is making sure everyone gets the holiday W they are expecting. Sure, you would be disappointed if your gift doesn’t arrive on time, but so will the gift giver.

Being a stickler for the clock or moving a host off of a topic that has no value is the same thing. Of course there is something in it for you, but you are also helping the host do his or her job better. They may get annoyed with you now, but if you save them from an ass-chewing from the bosses or slipping ratings, then they have reaped the benefits.

I guess the unfortunate difference here is that there may be no acknowledgment of what you did or helped them to avoid. Oh well. Every producer has to expect a certain level of thanklessness.

Producers have to take on that Carl Christmas role in dealing with sales too. Remember, just because the producer’s name isn’t on the show doesn’t mean that isn’t every bit his or her show that it is the hosts’.

It’s like decorating your house for the holidays. You may have a certain design in mind. Maybe you have a traditional look you stick to every year. If your spouse or your kid comes home with a giant, inflatable Santa Claus in a military helicopter that they want on the lawn, you have a decision to make. Are you going to say no and suggest an alternative that aligns more with your goal or are you going to let your plan get run over?

25 Best Christmas Inflatables - Top Inflatable Christmas Decorations

Sales has a job to do. It is to make sure their clients’ messages are heard and to make money for the station. Both can be accomplished without sacrificing your show’s quality.

If a seller comes to you and says he wants his client to come in for five minutes and talk about now being the time to book an appointment to have your garage floors redone, you have to speak up. You have an obligation to make sure that the seller knows that even five minutes of that will hurt the show and have listeners diving for the preset buttons on their car stereo. That isn’t good for the station or his client.

Instead, offer to work with the seller and the client to come up with a piece of content that the client can put his name on and a 20-second ad read behind. Will the audience stick around to listen to some dude named Jerry talk about garage floors or will more people listen to you talk about the NFL playoff picture in a creative way and then still be there to hear Jerry’s message about garage floors? The answer seems obvious.

A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition. If the background work wasn’t done though, the problems would be right out on the front lawn for everyone to see.

“Gatekeeper” is a term I really hate. It implies that someone is telling others what they are and are not allowed to enjoy. It is a necessary term though to properly describe what it is that a great producer and a great Carl Christmas do.

We don’t shut people out from being able to enjoy or be a part of what it is we are creating. We set or are handed down expectations and we block anything that can get in the way of achieving them. Sometimes, that is more thankless work than it should be. It is necessary though.

Kevin Anderson on Twitter: "Just noticed that I've been blocked by the  international civil aviation authority @icao Have others working on  aviation emissions also been blocked? Appears to be that their commitment

As my home’s self-appointed Carl Christmas and a former producer, let me give my countrymen the thanks others forget. We are the ones that make it possible for everyone else to be mindless. Wear it as a badge of honor. We may not get the kind of recognition we deserve everyday, but when plans go off without a hitch, we are usually the first to be recognized for making it happen.

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