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Amber Wilson Gets To Marry All Her Skills

“Even when I had briefly gotten out of the business and I was practicing law full-time, which I was probably out of the business for about a year, I was still listening to sports radio all the time.”

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Sports host by day. Lawyer by night. I’m not sure if this is written on Amber Wilson’s business cards, but I’m kind of thinking it should be. Being able to see every side of an issue is just one of the valuable skills Amber brings from the courtroom to her radio show. There aren’t many attorneys that also host a sports talk show in a major market. It’s one thing to practice law and do a little hosting in Sheboygan. It’s another thing to be a lawyer while also hosting a weekday show in Miami. 

INSIDER | Page 3 | AM 790 The Ticket

When Joy Taylor joined FS1 in 2016, Amber took over at 790 The Ticket. Amber now hosts middays with Jonathan Zaslow from 10am-2pm. In our conversation below Amber discusses a recent hot take from Jason Whitlock, her biggest sports radio influence, and what it was like to battle cancer.

Yeah, that happened too. I’m starting to wonder if Amber is partially an alien due to her excellent resume. This girl is flat-out impressive. 

Although it was tempting to only ask Amber questions about my beloved Miami Dolphins, I behaved. Enjoy.

Brian Noe: What is your sports radio resume that led to your current position at 790?

Amber Wilson: I started in television years ago. I majored in telecommunication journalism in college. My goal was always to be a sports broadcaster. That was my dream growing up. I was doing on-camera work for years. My first real full-time job was with CBSSports.com. It was CBS Sports Interactive at the time. I was their first web host so to speak at Florida. It was all on-camera work and we did a bunch of online streaming shows. That’s what brought me to South Florida. I was doing a show with Sid Rosenberg who used to host on 790 The Ticket. I used to go on his show once a week with him. That’s where I got my first taste of sports radio and I just loved it.

I always wanted to do radio but I always got pushed earlier in my career towards on-camera stuff. I think that there’s a bit of a bias with women, particularly with young women.

I was in my twenties at the time. I think everyone assumes you want to be on camera. Those were the jobs that came calling. I had a really hard time breaking into radio. I’m not sure people took me seriously that I really wanted to do radio even though it’s not as glamorous as TV. I just always felt like it would be really fitting for my personality. You can be super opinionated. The roles that I was getting on camera in my television career were very hosty. I just knew over the years that I didn’t enjoy that role quite as much. I started finding it a little intellectually understimulating, a little boring.

In my late twenties I decided to go to law school. I got my law degree. I became a lawyer. I was hosting a television show on our local CBS station in Miami that whole time alongside Stugotz from the Le Batard show. Just over the years there were multiple times I had done things on 790. Stugotz briefly hosted mornings on 790 with Marc Hochman. I had done a couple of shows there and I did a few shows in middays with Danny Kanell. Just over about a decade span I made appearances on 790 and I knew a lot of people at 790 from all those years of just being around media and working with so many people that had connections to 790.

When Joy Taylor decided to leave the morning show at 790 The Ticket, they asked me if I’d be interested in trying out. At the time my television show with Stugotz had ended because he had gone national with ESPN and they wouldn’t let him do it anymore. I was only practicing law full-time. My plan was to totally get out of the sports broadcasting business because of these hosty roles that I was getting. I had fun in my career but I just knew for me it left something to be desired. I was enjoying practicing law and I was enjoying the challenge.

I got the call that Joy Taylor left 790 to go to FS1 and I thought all right, you know what, I’ll try out. It’s the morning show. I can still practice law after the show. I loved it. They offered me the job and the rest is history. I started out on the morning show and now I’m in middays. They shuffled everything around about a year ago. I’ve been there overall for about five years.

BN: Does being a lawyer help you be a better sports radio host?

AW: 100 percent. When I was 12 years old I was watching the Jill Arringtons and the Melissa Starks of the world on the sidelines and that’s where I wanted to be when I grew up. Then I grew up and I realized that’s not at all the job that’s right for me personality wise. I knew I didn’t want to do sidelines. I knew I didn’t want to host. I’m really opinionated. I wanted to be the one giving the opinions. I wanted to be the one giving the analysis. I didn’t want to be asking other people for it.

Amber Wilson, Esq. on Twitter: "Radioing. Tune in.… "

Sports radio comes along and what’s amazing is I think if I had that sports radio opportunity on a full-time basis before I went and got my law degree, I don’t think I would have been as good at it. Since it came after I was a lawyer and after I got my law degree, it was the perfect timing because I like to think that I have a unique talent. I can argue any side of anything. I can see every side of every issue. I think that I have a unique ability to play devil’s advocate and move the conversation along and challenge people at times.

I still get to be me and I can still have fun. I can still joke around. It’s definitely not all serious. It doesn’t need to all be argument radio either. I get to kind of marry all of my skills. I think I’ve really refined those skills becoming a lawyer even more so. I think it’s a huge benefit.

BN: As a cancer survivor, what was that fight like for you?

AW: I was diagnosed with cancer eight months after I started at The Ticket in 2016. I was cancer free seven months later after a double mastectomy and numerous other surgeries to clear my margins. It came out of nowhere. I was 32 and I didn’t have any history of breast cancer I knew of in my family. I just happened to catch a lump one day and bam I have cancer.

I got diagnosed in November and I got told that I needed to have a double mastectomy and start the surgical treatment process in February. I had a few months where they were doing all of this testing. It takes a little while sometimes to come up with a treatment plan. I didn’t tell the public during that time that I had it.

I was the morning show co-host on The Ticket. At the time we were a three-person show. I did tell my co-hosts so that they were aware of what I was going through. I was obviously missing a lot of time. I shared it publicly about a week before I went to have my first surgery, which was the double mastectomy because I knew that was going to put me out for a month and a half. I wasn’t going to be able to do radio after that and so I had to explain. I was able to sit with it myself and adjust to my new reality for a few months privately. Then I was able to share my story. In doing so I hope that I helped some people and raised some awareness.

I tried to be really transparent about my journey once I was at a place where I was willing to share it with everybody just because I was so young and it was so unexpected and I was so healthy. I wanted people to know that it can happen to anybody and that you have to be aware and try to catch it early and do what you need to do to save your life. 790 was wonderful to me throughout that whole journey and just very understanding. I was very appreciative to everybody I worked with.

BN: I’m not challenging you, but what was behind you initially not wanting to reveal that you had cancer?

AW: Sometimes cancer is so aggressive or it’s so advanced that you start treatment the day you get diagnosed. But for most people if you catch it earlier then there’s a process of a bunch of testing and them figuring out what the best path is for you and what steps you’re going to need to take in terms of surgeries, chemo, radiation. You’re meeting with all of these different doctors. I was young so I was also doing fertility preservation. I hadn’t had kids yet at the time.

I didn’t really know what direction things were really going to go and how long I was going to be out of the show or if I was going to have to quit the show. I was getting treatment in Tampa that’s the best cancer hospital in this state even though obviously I was living in South Florida for the show. There was a lot of traveling and all of that. I just wanted to wait until I knew the game plan before I shared that journey publicly. I wanted to have answers because I knew there might be a lot of questions.

I had a conversation with my co-hosts and they didn’t want the show to become about that. None of us did. Through cancer I learned the importance of sports being an escape for people. I know it’s a cliché thing to say and that’s not to say that we never deal with serious issues in sports because of course those permeate into sports as well. But I do understand how people use sports as an escape because I certainly did during that time.

My life was all cancer outside of the show but I would go to work every day and I’d talk some sports. It wasn’t life or death and that was wonderful. I honestly just wanted to talk about the Heat or the Dolphins or some stuff that doesn’t matter at all in the grand scheme of life. That was important to me.

Íomhá

When I did share the news I shared it the week before I was gone for a while. The show then doesn’t take a very dark turn. It’s not like we have to sit on it for months and everyone’s always wondering what’s happening with me because I shared the news and then I started treatment. I was very open about what was happening with me on social media and allowed people to follow along that way. If they turned on the radio, we weren’t talking cancer all the time. That’s what I wanted to make sure we weren’t doing.

BN: Jason Whitlock recently shared an opinion that Maria Taylor and Katie Nolan are privileged because they’re good looking. When you hear someone express a point of view like that, what’s your response to it?

AW: There are a million — especially out here in South Florida — there are millions of beautiful women in the world and they can’t all do what Katie Nolan does and they can’t all do what Maria Taylor does. If they could, they’d be there. There’s one Katie Nolan. There’s one Maria Taylor. Every single person wants to be as successful as them.

There are quite literally hundreds of thousands of us who have spent our lives hoping to be as successful as they are and very few of us ever make it there. If all it took was looks then there’d be a whole lot of people there. Clearly it takes much, much more than that.

We never do this to men. We never look at a Kirk Herbstreit or any of these handsome men who are also on television and also incredibly successful. We never look at those men and say they’re just there because of their looks. You never hear that spoken about a man no matter how attractive the man is. We only do it to women. If the woman is attractive then she must not have anything else to offer. Generally, attractive people do better on television. That’s not exclusive to women. That is absolutely true with men as well. It’s only women that we minimize to their looks. That we assume there’s nothing else there.

Earlier in my career that used to bother me much more when I also struggled to get people to realize I had much more to offer. I do think becoming a lawyer changed that dramatically for me, but I shouldn’t have had to become a lawyer to be able to show that in sports broadcasting, which shouldn’t have anything to do with whether I have a law degree, or how many states I’m barred in, or what kind of fancy education I even have. That shouldn’t be necessary to show people that in sports broadcasting, I have intelligence, I have a lot to offer, and I know sports. 

BN: Do you think that Miami has been able to enjoy its great sports year during the pandemic?

AW: Oh yeah. We are living through a really difficult time. If you’re a sports fan and you happen to be in a city like Miami or Los Angeles, if you’re in a city where your teams are making a great postseason run, it gives you that little boost.

Sports are not life or death by any means — I discussed it earlier of course when we were talking about cancer — but sports can help people. They’re not life or death, but they give you something to root for. They give you happiness and they give you hope. We have been fortunate enough to benefit from that down here during a difficult time.

I really think that has helped people. You forget when you’re watching these Heat games that we’re living in a pandemic. Even if you’re watching it without fans and even if it’s happening in Orlando and even if none of us can be there during the NBA finals. All of that’s odd but at the end of the day once the ball is tipped it’s basketball and we’re all fans no matter what virus is spreading around. I think that’s been really great for people. It doesn’t look the same as it would in a regular year, but frankly it doesn’t feel that different.

Íomhá

BN: Who did you learn the most from in sports radio?

AW: I am a sports radio nut. That’s also very much helped me with my job. I was a sports radio nut before I ever myself went into it. I would consume sports radio every chance I got. I’m not a person who’s listening to music often in her car. Even when I had briefly gotten out of the business and I was practicing law full-time, which I was probably out of the business for about a year, I was still listening to sports radio all the time.

All that consumption certainly helped me. The people I most listened to were local. I would say that being down here and consuming so much sports radio that I have been most influenced in my style by the Le Batard show. That to me is the best show on sports radio.

I didn’t grow up listening to WFAN. I discovered sports radio when I moved to South Florida. Really for me I discovered sports radio at 790 even though I wasn’t yet working at 790. I would say overall probably that show in terms of style has been a big influence on me. That being said I’m not sure that there’s any particular person in the industry that I would say I modeled my style after.

I hear from guys in my business like my co-host grew up listening to Chris Russo, so you’ll hear that influence sometimes when he talks. I know there are a lot of people in the industry like that that grew up listening to those guys or Mike Francesa. They have a little bit of that style in them. I don’t know that there’s anybody who’s influenced me to that depth who I ever hear in the industry where I necessarily think is like me. But I think as a show, probably the Le Batard show overall.

BN: Your partner Zaslow loves Pearl Jam. Has that made you hate Pearl Jam?

AW: Yes. [Laughs] No, he loves Pearl Jam to an unreasonable degree and I don’t find it reasonable for anybody to like any music as much as he likes Pearl Jam as an adult. I’m very judgmental of his affinity for Pearl Jam.

I liked Pearl Jam like everybody did in the ‘90s when I was in middle school listening to the album with “Black”. That was about it because I’m pretty sure that was the last time Pearl Jam was really good.

Pearl Jam Share Holiday Songs To Streaming Services For First Time [Listen]

I always make fun of Zaslow. I always tell him on air he found all the music he likes around 1995 and then that was it. No more music forever. There are no artists after the mid-‘90s that Zaslow likes, knows about, cares about, cares for. He’s like ‘you know I like what I like’. It’s like he found all the music and he was like “Alright, I’m good. I’ve got my bands. For the rest of my life I’m good. I never need to adopt any more music into my world.”

BN: Is there anything in particular that you would like to accomplish going forward?  

AW: I think just for me I’m a person who likes to add to my repertoire so to speak. I like to diversify. Obviously I have the lawyer thing and the sports radio thing. I recently started doing things for a site called Sports Card Investor because sports cards are really, really hot right now. I’m getting into that medium a little bit just because I think it’s an interesting industry that’s on the rise. That hobby is having a resurgence.

I have re-signed with ESPN Radio for another year. I had a regular show here on the weekends with ESPN Radio, but with the pandemic, the landscape there changed. But I’m hoping that at some point we’re able to resume the regular weekend show there as well.

For me I think in the future it’s just about being multi-faceted and seeing what opportunities come my way that interest me. It’s probably staying in radio because ultimately I really, really do love the medium. If I was ever on television again, the dream would be to be on television in a radio type of capacity, like these shows that are simulcasted. I would hope not to have to give up that format. I really enjoy having to speak unscripted for four hours. It’s a challenge and I enjoy challenges.

BSM Writers

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.”

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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.

OKC Radio Host Sam Mayes Fired After Racist Audio is Leaked

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.

All About the Lucky Star Casino in El Reno, Concho
Courtesy: TripAdvisor/Adam Knapp

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.

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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.

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BSM Writers

Stop Prospecting, Start Strategizing!

“You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days.”

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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!

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BSM Writers

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.”

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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?

Chevy Chase, aka Clark Griswold, to light up stage in Berks | Berks  Regional News | wfmz.com
Courtesy: Warner Bros./National Lampoon

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?

25 Best Christmas Inflatables - Top Inflatable Christmas Decorations

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.

Kevin Anderson on Twitter: "Just noticed that I've been blocked by the  international civil aviation authority @icao Have others working on  aviation emissions also been blocked? Appears to be that their commitment

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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