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Ross Tucker Wasn’t Going To Get A Real Job

“At the time, I promise you, I had no idea what a podcast was.”

Tyler McComas

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The diagnosis wasn’t what Ross Tucker was hoping for. He had just received the news that an injury in a NFL preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens had left him with a herniated disk in his neck that had bruised his spinal cord. He pondered what to do next, even though he had already beaten the odds as a former Ivy League star that enjoyed seven years in the NFL. Tucker looked up at the doctor and calmly asked what he should do next. The answer was sharp and to the point. 

Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) | Twitter

“I think you’re 28 and you went to Princeton,” the doctor said. “You should get a real job.”

Tucker still laughs he was told that in 2007 and never took it to heart. Instead of doing something like finding a real job, Tucker, instead, finds himself at places such as Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo doing radio color commentary for NFL playoff games like he was on Saturday. Playing in the NFL was a dream for him, but sports media has always been his dream job. He’s blessed that not one, but two, dreams have come true in his professional life. 

“Most people don’t have their dream come true,” said Tucker. “Sometimes I feel guilty because I had both of my dream jobs come true.”

But neither of them almost happened. That’s because the Princeton grad initially accepted a job with Lehman Brothers on Wall Street during his senior year of college. He thought, well, If my parents paid for IVY League, I might as well make a lot of money. But then fate intervened with a long NFL career. The once short and chubby kid who thought his ticket into sports was being a broadcaster, was now being paid to play at the highest level. 

“For most guys it’s all about playing and then, all right, I guess I’ll get into the media now,” Tucker said. “I actually think I gave up playing in the NFL in the sixth grade, because I was a chubby kid. I thought, well, that’s not going to happen. I’m going to have to be like my dad and be a broadcaster.”

Even though Tucker was going through the grueling nature of being an NFL offensive lineman, his dream of being in sports media was never totally out of sight. He was still the same guy that grew up dreaming about writing for Sports Illustrated and calling football games in the booth. So, as he saw his career winding down, he decided to take action. During his last year in the NFL in 2007, the league introduced a Broadcast Boot Camp with NFL Films and the Players Association. Tucker pounced at the opportunity. He instantly made contacts with Howie Deneroff, his current boss at Westwood One and Steve Cohen with Sirius XM, who was his boss for over 11 years. 

“I came away from it thinking, man, I love this,” Tucker said. “I have to do this.”

Ross Tucker on Twitter: "This place is electric. Never gets old being at  games like this.… "

But Tucker also realized he wasn’t a future Hall of Famer or even a perennial Pro Bowler that seemingly automatically gets the color commentator gig for a major network as soon as they retire. Instead, he found a different area of sports media that had been previously untapped by former players. 

“My big takeaway was that no former players were writing,” Tucker said. “A lot of guys could do 15-second spurts on TV or even the radio side of things, but nobody wanted to write. I remember thinking I had to write 20-page papers on Machiavelli and a 128-page senior thesis on Title 9. I could easily write a 1,000 words on what it’s like to be at the bottom of a pile when there’s a fumble.”

Princeton may have not prepared him for sports media, but it gave him the writing skills he needed to break through. His idea was sound and made a whole lot of sense, but he didn’t know the right person to help make it happen.

That changed one afternoon at Redskins Park. Well-known NFL writer Peter King was at the team facility that day and Tucker took notice. He knew King was the perfect person to help push his idea through and get him started. But in a strange turn of events, it was the athlete, not the writer, that was nervous about introducing himself. Tucker took three steps towards his car and stopped. 

“I thought, no, I’m going to introduce myself and tell him my idea,” Tucker said. “I walked back into the building and into the media room, which players didn’t do. I told him I read him every Monday and wanted to write. He loved it.”

From there, King was very much a mentor to Tucker. So much so, that he let Tucker write the “Monday Morning Quarterback” column for the September 2007 Sports Illustrated issue all about his career being over. Comcast read the article and soon showed interest in using Tucker’s services, as well as other media outlets. Make no mistake about it, King’s gesture helped fuel Tucker’s sports media career. 

But as things go in sports media, Tucker’s early gigs weren’t paying enough to even cover the gas needed to drive to his new opportunities. He drove from his home in Central Pennsylvania to Philadelphia, two hours each way, for a show on Comcast Sports Philadelphia that paid him 100 bucks. At the same time, he was doing radio color commentary for Princeton football for 150 bucks a game. His mile reimbursement for road games was often higher than his actual game check. 

But after two years of grinding in his dream job, ESPN came calling with a deal he couldn’t turn down. The network wanted to hire him to write and host their daily football podcast. This was what he was working for. This was it. But there was one problem.

“At the time, I promise you, I had no idea what a podcast was,” laughed Tucker. “None whatsoever. This is 2009 and all I knew was that they were going to pay me to talk football.”

Hosting the podcast was one of the best things that’s ever happened in his sports media career. After growing the audience for three years at ESPN,  he eventually went out on his own and started the Ross Tucker Football Podcast. Tucker was able to bring over the large audience to his own podcast network in 2013, where he still does a 30-minute show, five days a week. 

The show has grown into one of the best and most successful football podcasts on the internet, featuring sponsors such as DraftKings, 1-800-Flowers and many more. Most of his clients have been with him since day one because of his willingness and ability to create a relationship with his business partners. 

“I’m proud because it’s not easy to grow like we have the past seven years,” Tucker said. “Most podcasts in the Top 20 are affiliated with a major network. It’s not as easy to grow as an independent. But the biggest key for me has been consistency. I think that’s what’s really helped our growth.”

Along with putting out 200 Ross Tucker Football podcasts a year, Tucker co-hosts weekly shows like Even Money, Fantasy Feast and the College Draft as part of his podcast network. In addition, he’s also a game analyst for the Philadelphia Eagles, CBS Sports and Westwood One, as well as a host on Bet Sweats for Radio.com and Entercom. He’s even still active in writing and one can read him on The Athletic.

Ross Tucker Media | LinkedIn

Tucker has always felt blessed, and judging by his resume, he should be. But this year more than ever, he’s just thankful to be in the position he’s in. Maybe it’s because, with the uncertainty of 2020, he had no idea how many games he would actually get to call, but sitting in the radio booth of Ralph Wilson Stadium last Saturday gave him a bittersweet feeling. He felt incredibly lucky to be able to witness the Bills clinch a spot in the AFC Championship Game and do 26 football games, split evenly between college football and NFL, but there was a sadness to it being his final game of the year in the booth. 

“There’s nothing like being in the booth,” Tucker said. “I have the greatest affinity for the Bills. I played for five teams and had the best experience there. It’s a very special place for me. I got a text message Saturday from a teammate Saturday saying ‘I’m so glad you got to be there for this.’ He was just glad somebody from our era was there. And that was the loudest 6,700 people I have ever heard in my life.”

From laughing in the booth at Daniel Jones tripping, to openly being upset about Jaret Patterson at Buffalo U being snubbed at a chance to break the single-game rushing and touchdown record, Tucker doesn’t hide his emotions on the broadcast. And he shouldn’t, because it’s his single best quality as a broadcaster. 

Ross Tucker Football Podcast October 20, 2020 - YouTube

Thank God for Peter King. 

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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