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Eavesdropping: The Sports Junkies

“The Junkies happen to be four lifelong friends and they also happen to have the ability to captivate a radio audience. That’s the most impressive part of what The Junkies do every morning.”

Brandon Contes

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The looming presidential election sent my sports radio listening to Washington D.C. for the month of October.

Expectedly, The Sports Junkies on D.C.’s 106.7 The Fan stayed in their lane every morning. And while that lane for John “Cakes” Auville, Eric “E.B.” Bickel, Jason “Lurch” Bishop and John-Paul “J.P.” Flaim steered clear of politics, it encompassed life-talk, pop culture, comedy and sports on a macro level.

As an outsider, it’s daunting to jump into a new show featuring four hosts because it can take time to catch on. But I appreciated J.P.’s intro every morning, welcoming each host to the show to say hello and subsequently giving me a chance to learn their voices. There were multiple times early on when I was unsure who was speaking, but I could rewind to the open to match names and voices.

My initial reactions were J.P. quarterbacks the quartet, Cakes sounds like Wolfie from The Stern Show, Lurch’s nickname fits, and if you find yourself needing to turn the volume down a tick, it will likely come during a frequent burst of energy from Bickel. Beyond that, four hosts on one show? I expected it to be tough to grasp, but somehow this foursome is perfectly cohesive.

Program directors across the country tout their ear and ability to build a show pairing. But stations have a hard-enough time finding two hosts with the chemistry to become something great, let alone three or even four.

I wouldn’t categorize The Junkies as a modern sports radio show or even a program pointing in the direction of where the industry is headed. Because they aren’t a show built on creativity or well-constructed segments, their success is attributed to their uniquely natural chemistry.

The best way to find four hosts who can sound entertaining and cohesive by fully incorporating each voice, personality and opinion, is to let it happen organically. That’s what happened with The Junkies, who grew up together, went to school together and are seeing some of their friendships near the half-century mark.

Put four radio hosts in a room, each with the drive and ego to succeed, each fighting to make their voice heard and it’s going to sound sloppy. Contrarily, pick a random group of four friends and they’re unlikely to captivate an outside listener while lacking radio prowess.

The Junkies happen to be four lifelong friends and they also happen to have the ability to captivate a radio audience. That’s the most impressive part of what The Junkies do every morning.

J.P., Cakes, Lurch and E.B. didn’t talk much about the election in October, instead providing their audience with an escape, but they certainly didn’t stick to sports either. They’re entertainers first, not sports pundits, which is why their sports-talk content is best described as being on a macro-level. Conversations are more likely to surround whether the Washington Football Team made the right hire in Ron Rivera than it is breaking down advanced analytics for their secondary. You don’t have to be a diehard sports fan to enjoy The Junkies every morning.

106.7 The Fan and WPGC go to war over chicken

Some of their best conversations spurred from mentions of their show sponsor, a heating and cooling company which also dabbles in pest control. Their chatter about E.B.’s smelly mic problem and Lurch’s tummy trouble exemplified natural chemistry and ability to offer unexpected banter. A quick mention of the sponsor could spark 10 minutes of unplanned show content. Hopefully Lurch is healthy, but breaking down his stomach as if it’s a local sports team to determine whether he has diverticulitis or just needs a daily probiotic, definitely was not on their pre-show sheet.

E.B.’s Entertainment Page, which is similar to Peter Rosenberg’s Evening Nightly News on The Michael Kay Show, spans multiple topics and categories. It can trigger discussion about Cardi B and her comparisons to pizza toppings, or leave us jointly disappointed after learning Matthew McConaughey is a bad kisser.

They take a reasonable amount of well-directed callers to include listener participation. But a show with four hosts doesn’t rely on caller segments for an interjection of unique passion and opinion. The Junkies move fast and don’t have many available voids to fill with other voices. Producers Matt Cahill and Matt Valdez are also on-hand, fitting in well with the hosts to provide additional commentary.

As great as the chemistry is with The Junkies, the quickest way to break harmony between four radio hosts is by adding a fifth voice from the outside. The Junkies have a lot of interviews and this is where a lot of their traditional sports talk comes from, but it’s not necessary. This is not a knock on John Feinstein, Kevin McCarthy, J.P. Finlay, Dave Richard, Chris Russell and the large cast of guests who join The Junkies regularly, but it’s too much. With four different hosts featuring four different ideas and opinions on many topics, there’s no room for filler.

Looking back at the interviews I heard last month, I can’t say for sure if each of The Junkies participated in all of them. That means the segments were mostly forgettable. It’s impossible to have a great, inciteful interview with four hosts taking turns asking questions because the back-and-forth gets lost. Interviews don’t need to be replaced completely, but they were largely a lull in what is a predominantly energy and entertainment filled show.

106.7 The Fan was hit by one of their biggest stories in years during the month of October, when afternoon host and former intern on The Junkies, Chad Dukes was fired by parent company Entercom.

The Junkies were most certainly told to make the announcement that Dukes was no longer with the company and move on. But Entercom probably doesn’t give E.B. the green light to make fun of their current stock price, yet he did it anyway. It’s easy for me to criticize The Junkies near silence on the issue as a listener, but I was left wanting more discussion on Dukes’ departure.

This is not limited to 106.7 The Fan, Entercom or even radio, it happens with many news outlets and platforms. They’re willing to discuss scandals involving other entities, but if it involves them, the blinders go up. Despite it being a national news story and despite your audience wanting information on the topic, it’s ignored.

Entercom fired Dukes for offensive language made on his personal podcast and were certainly within their right to do so. But in their statement announcing his exit, the company used the term “racist” for Dukes. A damning categorization, that if true, needs to be proclaimed, but it’s a condemning label that shouldn’t be thrown around lightly.

After the news broke about Dukes, The Junkies still took calls during their Friday show, but there was no mention of the former afternoon host. Callers remained well-directed and on topic as they did throughout the month.

The Sports Junkies | Richmond Sports Radio 910 The Fan

D.C. and The Fan might be looking for a new afternoon show, but they’re lucky to have The Sports Junkies. It’s a friendship listeners want to be part of, thanks to a chemistry that can’t be taught or artificially unearthed.

BSM Writers

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.

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WRONG BAD

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.

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BSM Writers

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.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

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.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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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.

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