Shannon Penn’s incredibly impressive resume, work ethic, talent, and contribution to the shows he’s worked on are unmistakable.
Penn, was among the all-star panel of guests who joined the Stupodity podcast episode released on June 5, 2020 to discuss the events following George Floyd’s murder, social injustice, systemic racism and more.
There are many who want to remain committed to the #sticktosports vision at a detriment to themselves and their audiences. In the failure to utilize the platform, scope, reach and resources within the sports media industry to have conversations, the blissful ignorance across demographics will continue unchecked.
The content within sports broadcasting devoted to pop culture, news stories, and weekend experiences, ranging from Tiger King to COVID has demonstrated the flexibility that also includes intelligent, challenging and thoughtful dialogue. As the live sports sabbatical winds down, coverage on an issue of this magnitude can’t fall by the wayside. But what is the best way to deliver content tailored for your specific audience?
I was fortunate enough to learn a great lesson from Shannon Penn that I’ve carried with me through my career after I trained alongside him. Despite his various producorial responsibilities, he was not rattled by the hectic surroundings. He thrived in that environment. In my attempt to remain calm under pressure like Shannon, I was able to be a much better producer and I was grateful to have learned that lesson early in my career.
When I spoke with him about the Stupodity podcast, he was able to top himself. I will undoubtedly carry the wisdom he shared with me in this interview, in both my personal and professional lives.
Chrissy Paradis: That episode of Stupodity with you, Terrika, Roy and Cliff was so powerful. What was your favorite part or takeaway?
Shannon Penn: The beauty of that podcast is being able to hear the stories and the perspectives of the people that you don’t normally hear from, I think that was one of the keys, what was the nuisance of the conversation that we had.
CP: I’m a firm believer in guests sharing their opinions and experiences to add to on-air content. I mean, you can always call somebody, you can always call a guest and have them bring you a new perspective. The murder of George Floyd, the social injustice, the protests— this isn’t just a story or a topic and it’s not an isolated incident. It is so important. The conversation needs to be had, I think especially in the sports media world, within the platform that reaches such a huge demographic that it seems ridiculous to not have the conversation, no matter how uncomfortable or difficult somebody might feel that it is or whatever the rationale may be. But I’m not the person that’s going to say ‘Oh, I can totally relate because let me tell you a story about something…’ because that is ignorant. However, as we do for a living, on a daily basis with guest booking, you can always call and reach out to someone.
SP: That’s the thing, it’s the ‘uncomfortable’ part. People don’t want to have the uncomfortable conversations because it’s easier to fill the void. People just naturally don’t want and don’t like to be uncomfortable.
And the thing that I used to hear and didn’t mind, but, as years have gone on has really annoyed me, is when you hear someone say, “Well I just want sports to be an escape,” because I’m sorry, but I don’t have an escape. For me, and for a lot of blacks in this country, just speaking, frankly, we don’t have an escape. And I’ve tried to articulate some of that weight in the podcast.
No. I mean, you might have fun watching this game, but we still have to deal with the stuff we have to deal with 24 hours a day. The things, trials and tribulations that we may have to encounter on our way to go watch that game in that stadium—we don’t have the benefit of the doubt. We’re still expected to deal with what we have to deal with on a day in and day out basis and still expected to not only perform, but perform better. We have to be better than the best.
So, you can miss me with this whole ‘I need sports to be an escape’ because it’s not an escape. We go through the stuff before the game, in some cases we go through it during the game, and we damn sure deal with it after the game. So there is no escape.
CP: We’re taught that sports are a microcosm of life but this is not the case across the board—did the podcast feel like a positive step or a step in the right direction?
SP: For me, the different opportunities I’ve had with Bomani Jones, Freddie and Fitzsimmons and then, I got an opportunity to work as one of the producers on Stephen A Smith’s show. And for me, getting to work with someone as high profile as him, that was cool. Just, being able to diversify, the type of talent that you work with, that was great. And First Take, Your Take. I had so many different experiences and opportunities in my five years here.
To double back on the conversation with Stugotz, and I think for me, being in the position that I am, it was great, because all of the other folks on the call, Roy, Cliff and Terrika are all younger than me. And, for me to be in a position that I am, seeing that, that generation, those folks coming up, and getting that opportunity, that’s awesome. And I told them, and I think I said it there. My responsibility to them, it’s just as, or in some cases, more important, than the content that I produce because I want to be that person that they can lean on. That person that they can go to for advice.. I want to be someone that they can—
CP: Someone to look up to!
SP: Yeah, that’s that’s huge for me, because growing up, there weren’t many others that looked like me, I mean, there were black hosts, but there weren’t a lot of black producers.
That weight and responsibility. That’s why it is so important to me. That’s why I take that stuff seriously. That’s why what we did with Bomani, was so important to me. You don’t know how many people that reached out to me, either on the phone, in person, or through social media saying how much hearing the both of us meant… because it wasn’t just two hosts, it wasn’t just two former athletes. It was a host and his producer—you don’t know how much that meant to those people. And that is something I take very seriously.
CP: It was innovative. Nothing about the show felt like it was ringing false. It just really worked.
SP: It was, and I go back to the uncomfortable. Working with Bomani, our show we’re just being vocal about not having to accept the establishment. And what I mean by establishment is that you don’t have to accept the reasoning that they told you for years that something was the way it was.
CP: “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it” and “that’s how it has always always been” are the worst justifications for anything.
SP: Exactly, there is no “right way to do it.” What I’m saying is the whole mind frame of what they told you was the right way to do it. The right way to do as far as getting into sports, discussing sports and sports coverage. There is no “right way to do it.” If anything, it should be a platform. Let’s get rid of this myth of sports being a distraction.
CP: Because we have been taught that sports is life. I mean, if we’ve learned anything from the pandemic resulting in a world without live sports, it just feels like the NFL Draft fits into the format ideology too.
SP: Exactly. People were so excited about the draft and, then disappointed when the draft was over. Guess what, we had a virtual draft but people still watched, right? Just because it wasn’t the same and it wasn’t the draft that you were used to watching, doesn’t make it mean anything less to those kids who were drafted.
And I love seeing all these players now speaking up for themselves. And especially college kids. The black athlete has always had to apologize for being confident.
CP: And some of the huge fallacies and stereotypes surrounding the many draft picks and other famous athletes that exist with confidence being misconstrued as cockiness—
SP: Exactly. How are you supposed to get to these elite levels without having confidence? We’re tired of telling you or stifling our confidence to make you feel, here it comes, comfortable. I’m sorry. And the thing is Bomani said it years ago: the only way this racism is going to change is when white people start getting comfortable being uncomfortable.
As far as, black folks or the black community. We’re not monolithic ; we don’t seem to say we don’t act the same, we don’t have the same backgrounds, thoughts, opinions; we all offer a different perspective because we all have different life experiences and that’s why representation is so key.
When you look at the people who are out on the field, the number of men and women on the court now and in some cases, out on the ice. I look at the number of black people that are out there, but then you look at the number of people who are telling you stories about these men and these women, and the numbers are disparaging.
CP: In terms of the representation in the sports media industry, especially behind the scenes.
SP: And that’s why representation matters, we’ve got to have these different voices. The more voices and the more opinions or differing opinions that you should have to all go into the pot; it’s going to make you better.
Now, it will never really be the same story, but it’s going to be a different perspective. Or it’s going to be a possible connection, so this person or their story or their past, or their life experience that you might have had yourself. The more you have these conversations, the more you can get inside and talk with your white hosts.
But if you only have one type of person, or one specific demo, discussing these things, you’re leaving a lot of material out there, it’s being lost. And it’s not being utilized.
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.