You know what has really hammered home just how strange 2020 is compared to typical summers? Covid-19’s resurgence halted all blockbuster movie releases.
The first true summer blockbuster was 1975’s Jaws. Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece hit theaters on June 20 of that year, and raked in cash. That kicked the door down for Tim Burton’s Batman to dominate the summer of 1989, Steven Spielberg to do it all again in 1993 with Jurassic Park, and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace to become an absolute phenomenon in the summer of 1999.
This summer we were supposed to get new Wonder Woman, a new Fast & Furious, and the movie adaptation of Disneyland’s The Jungle Cruise. That ain’t happening though. So, it is up to me to help.
It doesn’t matter how many times I ask him, JB will not finance a film studio, so we’re going to have to do this on the cheap using some of sports radio’s biggest names.
Over the last decade, if you hear the word “blockbuster,” there is only one film franchise you are thinking of. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has absolutely blotted out the sun in Hollywood. It used to be that you won an Oscar and used that to secure the role that would win you your next Oscar. Now, when an actor wins an Oscar, his agent is on the phone with Disney pitching him as the next savior of mankind.
What if the same was true in sports radio? What if you topped a ratings book or a BSM Top 20 list and the next logical step was getting fitted for a spandex suit and interviewing potential stunt doubles?
Look, if I said that I was going to find someone in sports radio to represent every single Avenger, we would be here all day. Instead, let’s focus on the six from the original movie. If we’re looking for the models of the characters at the center of some of the biggest movies of the 2010s (or any decade really), here are their sports radio counterparts.
SCOTT KAPLAN IS CAPTAIN AMERICA
Steve Rogers is the epitome of what America is supposed to mean. When he sees injustice, he doesn’t sit idly by. Even if it means opposing the wishes of the government and flag he serves, Captain America is going to do what he knows is right.
When The Mighty 1090 shut down, Scott Kaplan didn’t sit back and wait for someone to save him and his co-workers. Sure, others moved on and did what was best for them, but Kaplan knew he was the one to save the station, hell maybe the whole damn format!
Scott Kaplan took the bull by the horns, worked the phones, and is now a big part of the reason the station is set to be resurrected in San Diego next month as The Mightier 1090. He saw the chance to do what he thought was right and got it done without compromising his vision.
CARL DUKES IS IRON MAN
Tony Stark is really smart and he knows it. Tony Stark is really good at saving the world and he knows it. Every time the Avengers or S.H.I.E.L.D. make a plan that needs changing, Tony is the one they turn to for some guidance. In short, Tony knows his value and he isn’t afraid to tell you.
Carl Dukes is a smart dude that knows how to balance knowledge with laughter. He is the guy that CBS (and then Entercom) knew it had to hold on to even as everything else about 92.9 the Game in Atlanta was built, scrapped, thrown out, and rebuilt over and over again. The one thing Carl isn’t that Tony is is cocky. However, when I wrote a piece last month about the five local hosts that ESPN should give a national platform to, only one guy shot me a text asking why he wasn’t on the list, and then emailed me audio to show me he deserved a spot.
Look, I don’t take that as cockiness. Carl Dukes has the kind of confidence you need to survive uncertainty, whether in Atlanta radio or in a fight with Thanos. Plus, he has his face on a beer can and aluminum is the closest a radio personality can get to iron.
JIM TRABER IS THE HULK
Look, there is only one thing the Hulk knows how to do. You wouldn’t like Hulk when he is angry. Why? Because when Hulk is angry, Hulk smash!
Jim Traber is a bulldog. Anyone that listens to The Sports Animal in Oklahoma City knows the guy communicates in absolutes. And he sure as hell isn’t going to back down from a fight. All you have to do is ask Nick Collison or Steven Parker’s dad or Mike Stoops.
They all made Jim Traber angry. None of them liked Jim Traber when he was angry.
FRED TOUCHER IS THOR
We have seen Thor be so much in the MCU. He is a force from another world. He is a judge of who is and isn’t worthy to wield his weapon. He’s also uproariously funny. How do you find that guy in sports radio?
It’s simple. You look to Fred Toucher at the Sports Hub in Boston. He and his partner Rich Shertenlieb were a breath of fresh air on Boston sports radio. Rock radio was their Asgaard to most hosts’ typical background of the Boston Globe or the Boston Herald. The talent was apparent right away and right away Toucher & Rich gave every New England sports fan a new way of looking at sports radio.
MICHELLE SMALLMON IS HAWKEYE
Hawkeye isn’t the first name you think of when you think of the Avengers. He doesn’t have any out of this world powers. He is just a guy that is really good at what he does, so good in fact that super humans feel safer with him around.
Michelle Smallmon just got a show with her name on it last month, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t been a force in this industry for a long time. She made 101 ESPN’s the Fast Lane better as the show’s producer. She was a part of the Bernie Miklasz Show during the three straight years it spent atop the BSM list of Top 20 Mid Market Morning Shows. During her time at ESPN, she made both Jorge Sedano and Ryan Russillo better as their producer.
Maybe Michelle Smallmon doesn’t have super powers, but she has been really good at what she does for a while and she has a history of people that are better than 99% of everyone else in this business feeling better when she is around. It’s no wonder 101 ESPN turned to her when launching St. Louis’s newest morning show Karraker & Smallmon.
MAGGIE GRAY IS BLACK WIDOW
Natasha Romanoff didn’t begin her ass-kicking career with plans to be a super hero. In addition to being tough as nails, her training as a gymnast and an assassin gave her the ability to go places and get people other Avengers couldn’t.
Maggie Gray didn’t come to New York with her eyes on WFAN. First it was Sports Illustrated’s digital operation, then it was CBS Sports Radio. She has covered so many sports, she can pretty much go wherever she wants in conversation.
Even her time at WFAN has been a bit of a roller coaster ride, but she continues to step up and get whatever job that is asked of her done. And in terms of going where others can’t, just think back to her legendary rant about JD & the Straight Shot frontman and alleged New York Knicks fan James Dolan’s song about Harvey Weinstein. The disgust and anger was so personal and had clearly been percolating in a way that made it clear that only Gray could pull that off.
Let’s wrap this up like I’m a sales rep and you’re my biggest client. I am gonna do a bonus one for you as a thank you for sticking with me!
MIKE FRANCESA IS NICK FURY
Mike Francesa deserves so much credit for keeping sports radio going and turning it into the industry it is today. Also, I bet he’d look bad ass with an eyepatch.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Stop Prospecting, Start Strategizing!
“You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days.”
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!
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.”
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?
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?
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.
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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