Nine 2 Noon with Kuhn is a nuts and bolts sports radio show where listeners know what they’re going to get on a daily basis. While some of the country’s most successful shows try to modernize, there’s certainly still room in the industry for a sports radio show that keeps its focus on sports.
I was surprised and concerned during my first day of listening to the late morning show on Milwaukee’s 97.3 The Game. With former Packers fullback John Kuhn being featured in the title, I expected his voice to dominate the show. But after being greeted by the voice of station program director Tim Scott, followed by former University of Wisconsin basketball player Brian Butch, listeners quickly realize this show is a collaboration and not a game plan designed on only handing the ball to Kuhn.
The concern came early on in my month of eavesdropping when Scott lauded Kuhn for coming up with the idea of creating a weekly fantasy sports segment during the previous commercial break. It might have been an innovative idea 15 years ago, but fantasy is not a new revelation for sports fans. If a fantasy sports segment is as creative as the show gets, then I’d be in for a long month of listening as a dude from New York lacking affection for the intricacies of the Milwaukee sports scene.
But the show provides plenty of entertainment value, finding the right amount of fluidity, organization and listener interaction. Scott brings the traditional radio voice and inflection while playing the role of moderator, with John Kuhn and Brian Butch delivering heavy opinions and debate. The lesser organized segments feature the most interaction, breaking away from the feel of a roundtable discussion to include opinions from each host. All three voices sound very different, making it easy for a new listener to distinguish who’s talking.
The show itself might not feature diversity among its three hosts, but the content still includes diversity of thought. Personally, I’m a sucker for sports debates between one person focused on stats or analytics, and the other who prefers to let their eye be the judge. Butch and Kuhn regularly offered that dynamic in the last month, especially when it comes to judging Aaron Rodgers.
The crosstalk segments were solid, I enjoy the depiction of camaraderie between a station and its various shows. But if I had my own show, there would be days I’d prefer skipping the segment, not to risk having it take away from my opening monologue. An audience tunes into a show to hear opinion, with the best radio hosts containing appointment listening qualities. If Kuhn has a particularly hot sports take to share from last night’s Packers game, does he want to risk softening his opening monologue by first broaching the topic with Steve Czaban?
In general, crosstalk can be entertaining on an average sports day. Czaban usually picked unique questions to ask and didn’t demand the Nine 2 Noon hosts offer their thoughts on the day’s biggest story. But as a listener, if a host is passionate about a particularly polarizing topic, I want it to fester and build into a great open, not be lessened by crosstalk banter.
There are a fair number of interviews on Nine 2 Noon. The concept of bringing an additional voice to the show wasn’t overused, but the content of the interviews felt outdated, which is common in sports radio. Few fans learn anything from sports radio interviews in the age of instant information. 15 years ago they provided a service, but now every piece of information and even opinion from a sports journalist is shared on Twitter immediately. Going on the radio to rehash their previous 24 hours of tweets is mostly unnecessary, especially for a show that already has three hosts.
An interview with someone of a unique perspective or story-telling ability can still be of benefit to the listener. Personally, I prefer conversations, not interviews intending to be informative because it’s rare that each host taking a turn to ask a journalist a question actually teaches anything, but good conversation and narration will always entertain.
While Nine 2 Noon is sports heavy, they still dive into outside topics and those never felt forced, a great sign for a less than six-month old show working to build chemistry. Whether it’s discussing Butch’s bad haircut (which I didn’t think looked that bad in the pictures), apartment stories, or the Fullback Dive Bar Review, Nine 2 Noon sounded genuine whenever they pushed the sports crutch aside for a segment.
The Fullback Dive Bar Review began as a monthly segment, but Nine 2 Noon has since bumped it to a weekly spot based on listener popularity. A play off Guy Fieri’s immensely successful Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, the segment on Nine 2 Noon is great promotion for local bars, but it also helps the hosts to connect with the listeners. As the audience chimes in with their opinions of the dive bar being reviewed, or suggestions of other places to try, it’s a small way of increasing the communal aspect to a new show.
Most listener interaction comes from the text half of their “talk and text line,” but I know Milwaukee has plenty of radio callers, because I’ve heard them on rival station The Fan. Usually I advocate for callers, but I didn’t find myself missing them on Nine 2 Noon. With three hosts, a producer, Armen Saryan who regularly chimes in, crosstalk and interviews – finding additional voices and contributors didn’t seem necessary.
Using the iHeartRadio app for the Nine 2 Noon podcast and staring at a show labeled with a one-liner, followed by “127 min,” the duration and commitment can seem daunting. But they do mix in at least one short podcast each day as downloadable content to highlight a particularly good conversation or segment. Credit to the producer for posting some of those shorts while Nine 2 Noon is still on-air which acted as a draw, because if the 15 minute podcast caught my eye and ear, I’d tune in to the live show.
My own preconceived notion of Milwaukee radio is that it’s all Packers all the time. Add the show title featuring the name of a near 10-year Packers veteran and my expectation for this being a football dominant show only grew. And while the Packers are certainly topic 1 and 1A in September, the Milwaukee sports fan’s appetite for the Bucks, Brewers and other local points of interest still gets served. With Kuhn’s football knowledge, Butch having a great eye for basketball, and all three hosts featuring extensive radio experience, listeners receive a very balanced attack from Nine 2 Noon.
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.