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Radio’s X Factor is Likability And Mike Golic Has It

Rob Guerrera

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Mike Golic

According to the latest rumors, ESPN Radio may be looking at Keyshawn Johnson and Max Kellerman to be their new national morning show. While there have been stories that Trey Wingo was looking to leave the show, where would a possible Kellerman/Keyshawn morning show leave morning show stalwart Mike Golic?

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Having worked with Golic on Mike & Mike for around five years, I admit I was saddened by the thought that his 20 year run in the mornings could be coming to an end. When I started to look at his history, I realized that Mike Golic can lay claim to a career in national radio that few who have ever sat behind a microphone can match. Despite not employing many of the common tactics we see in players-turned-media members today, how did Mike carve out such an incredible career?  To paraphrase the great Dr. Seuss:

He came without rings

He came without brags.

He came without stats, hot takes, or gags.

Maybe Golic, I thought, goes beyond the lore.

Maybe Golic, perhaps, brings a little bit more.

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The reason that Golic has had such incredible longevity is because he possesses more of one trait than I have ever seen someone in the media possess: Likeability.

People just like Mike Golic, and they have since he started on ESPN Radio with Tony Bruno two decades ago. It’s how someone can live a life that .01% of the population has ever had – captain of the Notre Dame football team, drafted into the NFL, ESPN broadcaster – and still be seen as the everyman. 

People often talk about the “it” factor when they’re discussing quarterbacks or movie stars. Likeability is that x factor in radio because it creates a bond with the listener that can compensate for weaknesses in any other area of a host’s repertoire. Conversely, if you don’t have likeability, it doesn’t matter how strong your opinions are, how intriguing your teases are, or how well you can handle the traffic on your show – people won’t want to hear from you.

Erik Kuselias is one example of someone who suffers from a lack of likeability. I produced for EK for years at ESPN and NBC Sports Radio, and he is without a doubt one of the most talented radio hosts I’ve ever worked with. He brought everything you could possibly want your host to have, except for that one thing, and because of that people just never embraced him the way Golic has been embraced.

If the rumors about Mike Golic being replaced are true, ESPN should look to fill that spot with someone that the audience can relate to – a person they’d want to spend part of their morning with every single day. Chances are, that isn’t the person with the best argument or the hottest take. Look to the Golic, and let that be your North Star.

Improving the Quality of Life for Humanity

There aren’t many people today whose personality can generate such a strong bond with the audience, but I put together a quick list (in no particular order):

Mike Golic Jr.: I was initially skeptical of Mike Jr. on overnights, but after listening to him I quickly realized how wrong I was in that assumption. With his impressive versatility, it’s no surprise how fast his star has risen. A father-son podcast with his dad would offer a unique perspective few other programs could match.

Barstool Big Cat:  Audiences see themselves in Big Cat more than any other host in the sports talk business. He carries the Barstool Sports brand and the ultra-popular Pardon My Take podcast. Also, his conversational interview style relaxes guests and helps them open up more than they usually do on other shows.

Chris Simms: Simms’ combination of frank analysis with endearing malapropisms have earned him a spot on Football Night in America on NBC, his own podcast, and the co-host chair on Pro Football Talk Live on NBCSN.

Mina Kimes: Kimes’ intelligence and affability on the air, as well as an accomplished journalism career, has led to multiple podcasts, regular TV appearances and almost half a million followers on Twitter. People love her adorable dog Lenny, as well as her savage takedowns of goobers on social media.

Dave Rothenberg: Dave is the hardcore fanatic that some sports snobs criticize but fandom would be absolutely boring without. His passion is perfect for the New York market and the constant criticism he takes from his co-hosts only makes him more likeable to listeners.

BSM Writers

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.

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WRONG BAD

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.

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BSM Writers

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.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

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.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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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.

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