Today is about pixie dust. We’re going to embrace a miracle. Let’s say dreams do come true, somehow, and that the NBA’s Trouble Bubble does become the Most Magical Place on Earth, a medical and social revelation, with no COVID-19 outbreaks, a minimum of calls to the snitch hotline and just enough stirring basketball to produce a champion and nominate Adam Silver to replace Anthony Fauci as America’s infectious disease guru.
You know what that means.
LeBron James might take a Fast Pass up Legacy Mountain, leaving an unprecedented historical footprint in what otherwise has been a year of comeuppance for sports.
Of all the audacious attempts to defy a pandemic and resume seasons, the NBA has the most realistic chance of avoiding a disaster on its Disney World bio-campus. I say that knowing the Bubble could burst at any time, knowing young men in their 20s might violate protocol and risk catching and spreading the coronavirus, knowing the possibility of serious injuries is higher than usual, knowing the attrition rate could leave the postseason in such tatters that the entire exercise will seem forced and bogus. Already, two players have tested positive DURING Florida quarantine, joining the 19 who’ve tested positive since July 1 and haven’t traveled to Orlando. Russell Westbrook is among the infected, cautioning legions of COVID-iots: “Please take this virus seriously. Mask up! #whynot.’’ And I’m still waiting for J.R. Smith to sabotage the grand experiment in ways only he could invent.
But maybe the Bubble is a small world, after all. Maybe the league’s deliberate and thoroughly underpublicized decision to not test players for marijuana and other recreational drugs — know how much pixie dust is being smoked in those hotel rooms? — will counteract the boredom. Maybe Kyle Lowry, defending a league title with the Raptors, is dead-on when he says, “This thing will work perfectly. The league, the players, the players association, have done a phenomenal job of making sure we’re doing everything we can possibly do to make sure that we’re healthy, we’re safe and we’re in an environment where we can be successful and do our job at a high level.’’ And maybe, just maybe, a scientific wonder in central Florida will contain the virus and produce an event that truly would distract us from a hellish 2020, its economic ravages and an apocalyptic presidential election:
LeBron vs. Giannis.
Not sure about you, but I’d prefer seven games of Lakers-Bucks in early October over any vomit regurgitation involving Trump vs. Biden. And with all due reverence to Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose league takeover can wait a bit, the world’s collective eyeballs would shift to James. Not far from his 36th birthday, in his 17th NBA season, he might be viewing his final chance for a championship. While one might think — “Hey, what more does he have to prove?’’ — look, a fourth title under the most daunting circumstances, in spectator-less gyms while trying to ward off the damned virus for months, would provide unique closure to a magnificent, fascinating career.
He won’t be remembered as the Greatest Of All Time, with any lingering doubts rejected when a 10-part documentary series reminded holdouts of Michael Jordan’s preeminence. James still might think G.O.A.T. status is possible, letting this slip when talking about quarantine time spent with his family: “It gave me an opportunity to be home and make up a lot of time that I’ve lost over the years, because I’ve been playing in this league and striving to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest, to ever play this game.’’ But a place does remain on the sport’s proverbial Mount Rushmore, three rocks alongside Jordan. And if James hoists a trophy in the Bubble to conclude the Pandemic Season, amid a turbulent American moment when his ongoing social justice mission never has been more important, yes, it would be a triumph like no other in sports history.
Not once did he consider opting out of the season. As an observer of the world beyond sports, he grasps exactly what’s in front of him, and if he must remain sequestered from the outside world until Oct. 13, so be it.
“It never crossed my mind that we did not need to play this beautiful game of basketball that brings so many people together, that brings happiness, that brings joy to households, to so many families,’’ James waxed in a Zoom conference call, his first media interview since March. “I’m happy to have a platform where not only people will gain joy by the way I play the game and by the way our team plays the game, but also for what I’m able to do off the court as well.
“Being able to use my platform, use the NBA’s platform, to continue to talk about what’s going on — I will not stop until I see real change for us as Black America, for African Americans, for people of color. And I also believe I can do both. I can bring happiness to a lot of homes with the way I play the game and the way the Lakers are going to play the game, and I will continue to push the envelope and continue to keep my foot on the gas in creating real change for us as people of color in America.”
Besides, who ever said LeBron has to be Jordan? The world in 2020 is radically different than the world His Airness ruled in the 1990s. Jordan is unquestionably the best player ever, but as he acknowledges, he shrunk as a sneaker capitalist when asked to take significant social stances back then. James is a leading activist for the times, and if you understand his place in the ethos — not as demonstrative as Colin Kaepernick but forceful when necessary — you grasp why he isn’t wearing one of the league’s social justice messages on the back of his Lakers jersey. Why replace JAMES with “Black Lives Matter’’ or “I Can’t Breathe’’ when he has been preaching and wearing related t-shirts for years? I’m guessing he isn’t thrilled with the concept, and Silver should be whistled for a personal foul for not soliciting his advice.
“I commend anyone that decides to put something on the back of their jersey. It’s just something that didn’t really seriously resonate with my mission, with my goal,’’ James said. “I would have loved to have the say-so on what would have went on the back of my jersey. I had a couple things in mind, but I wasn’t part of that process, which is OK. I’m absolutely OK with that. Everything that I do has a purpose. It has a meaning. So I don’t need to have something on the back of my jersey for people to understand my mission or know what I’m about and what I’m here to do.
“This is the mission I’ve been on for a long time now. And it’s great that a lot of people’s ears are opening, a lot of people are understanding, a lot of people are recognizing. A lot of people still don’t get it and are still afraid to talk about it, but the racism that goes on in America, especially for my people, people of color, it’s still here. But we have ears. We have some ears. And we will continue to push the envelope and let people know that we are human as well — no matter our skin color, no matter how we look, no matter how we sound. We don’t want to just be used for our God-given abilities as far as our talent on the floor, our talents in the music industry, our talents in the industry as far as clothing and things of that nature. We also want to be recognized for our talent and our brains because that’s what we are, just like everybody else. And we should be treated that way.’’
His social mission will carry on, of course, championship or otherwise. And winning it all might not happen. The Lakers are without Avery Bradley, who opted out because of coronavirus concerns, and won’t have Rajon Rondo and his broken right thumb for eight weeks. Why Smith is anywhere near this undertaking, I cannot explain, and it could be the Clippers — deeper and better defensively, with a rested Kawhi Leonard and Paul George — win the Western Conference. As they’ve always said in Los Angeles, it would take a cold day in hell or the throes of a pandemic for the Clippers to one-up the Lakers.
But James is rested, too, with the spectacular Anthony Davis by his side. And his teammates, who received his texts during the break — “Can’t wait to get back on the floor with you guys, finish what we started’’ — realize what’s at stake for the old man. Why do you think he left his personal chef at home? He wants to eat what his teammates are eating, hang out where they’re hanging out, smoke whatever … uh, not going there.
“LeBron knows it, being Year 17 for him at 35 years old,’’ Danny Green said. “Guys are getting older. Some guys might not be 100 percent healthy or be able to perform at the level they (want). Some guys may leave, free agency, things change, things happen. So we all know our team, with our experience, within the business, of what’s at risk. If you have a special group, you better take advantage of it this year.’’
It’s clear the contender with the fewest setbacks and injuries — to be blunt, the fewest positive tests — likely will win the title. Think any Lakers player, including Smith, would dare incur the wrath of LeBron? “I believe the NBA and Adam Silver took all precautionary measures to make sure that we as a league are as safe as we can be,’’ James said. “(Silver) has given me no reason to never not believe him since he took over. Obviously, there can be things that happen, but we’ll cross that line if it happens.’’
None of us is bigger than COVID-19. But some of us still can rise above the wretched, invisible foe and achieve the unthinkable. If we’re daring to wish upon a star anytime soon, wish upon LeBron James in a Bubble that doesn’t pop.
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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