How many times have we all heard a host say, “I don’t root for teams, I root for stories?” While it’s true that all shows are made better by big news events, what matters far more is what a show does when something big goes down. After big news, all shows will be talking about what happened, but the ones that distinguish themselves are the ones that find the most interesting angles about the story of the day. How do you do that, exactly?
The key to unearthing interesting angles to any story is by asking basic questions that you can apply to just about anything that happens. One question you should always be able to answer right out of the gates is fairly obvious: Why does this matter?
From there, gradually branch out beyond the news itself. What are people inside and outside the sport saying about the story? Who can we talk to that can offer more insight into the situation? Is there an aspect to the story that should be getting more attention? From there, spin the story forward to the future. What happens next? How does this news affect other people/teams/leagues? How does this story compare to similar situations we’ve seen? Could we see a similar story happen again soon? The possibilities are infinite.
Doing a story justice isn’t just a matter of checking off a list of questions to answer and calling it a day, however. The worst way to measure success would be to simply count up the number of angles you address. There’s no high score for hot takes. Above all, your job is to be interesting. If you only have a polarizing opinion on a couple of angles, hit those angles hard. Don’t let your host off the hook if they try to avoid a story by saying they don’t care about it or aren’t interested in it.
Make no mistake – this is a service job. We give the audience what they want, or they’re gone. Even if your talent don’t think a particular story is a big deal, that in itself can be a worthwhile take on something everyone is talking about. There’s no excuse not to serve the listeners.
After you’ve found the things you want to dive into, you can start to work on your presentation. What’s the brand of your talent? Do they do analogies, make movie references, or use drops? What anecdotes from the past apply to the current situation? Did someone make a prediction on a past show that has come to pass? Or maybe one that didn’t age well? Does the story align with a core philosophy of the show in any way?
Presentation is a huge piece of the puzzle, and it is often what separates the best shows from the pack.
Let’s apply this formula to something currently happening in the NFL. As of the writing of this story, the biggest news of the week is Cam Newton signing a one year deal to follow Tom Brady as the starting quarterback of the New England Patriots.
Why does this matter?
The team and dynasty that most NFL fans hoped was dead after the departure of Tom Brady may have risen from the grave with the signing of former MVP Cam Newton. The entire balance of power in the AFC may have just shifted.
Look at the Patriots’ schedule with fresh eyes and you’ll see elite quarterback matchups across the board: Cam Newton vs. Russell Wilson in Week 2, Cam vs. Patrick Mahomes in Week 4, Cam vs. Jimmy Garoppolo in his return to Foxborough in Week 7, Cam vs. Lamar Jackson in Week 10, Cam vs. Deshaun Watson the week after that, and Kyler Murray in Week 12.
What are people saying about it?
Bill Belichick hasn’t said anything publicly yet, but he did have glowing comments about Newton in 2017.
Richard Sherman recently called it, “disgusting” that a former MVP had to sign for so little money.
New York Jets (for now) safety Jamal Adams praised the division-rival Patriots for the signing.
Who can we talk to about this situation?
Check your contacts for former Cam Newton coaches or teammates. Would any members of the Panthers broadcast team join to talk about what he brings to New England? Because of the Patriots’ media lockdown it’s unlikely anyone from the team will do an interview, but check anyway. What about Patriots’ radio analyst and former quarterback Scott Zolak?
Is there an aspect of the story that should get more attention?
When is the last time we saw a head coach this good teamed with a mobile quarterback as good as Cam?
Is Bill Belichick the Phil Jackson of the NFL? No matter what, he always has elite stars on his team. He goes from 20 years of Tom Brady straight to another MVP, just like Phil Jackson went from Micahel Jordan and Scottie Pippen in Chicago to Kobe and Shaq in L.A.
What happens next?
One easy way to get into this is to check what Las Vegas is saying about the situation. Are there updated odds on the Patriots’ playoff chances? Super Bowl chances? What about Cam Newton’s odds to win the MVP? Are there Cam Newton prop bets? If not, make some up yourself.
Squeezing multiple angles out of one story is the lifeblood of any sports talk radio show – especially when news is slow. If you find yourself at a loss for how to attack something, answering some simple questions about the topic can often spark creativity and lead you towards an interesting destination.
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.