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Sam and Karl Ravech Made History On ESPN Last Weekend

“There was definitely a mutual understanding that what we just did was rare and could likely only happen once, but hopefully many more times.”

Tyler McComas

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Sam Ravech’s debut appearance on ESPN likely came during the 2004 World Series. His dad, Karl Ravech, was hosting Baseball Tonight from the right field bleachers at Fenway Park and nine-year-old Sam pleaded to tag along for the night. His wish was granted but a cold Fall evening in Boston meant young Sam was underneath the set of Baseball Tonight, lying by his father’s feet and hugging a space heater to stay warm. Unbeknownst to both Sam and Karl, his right shoe was sticking out of the bottom of the set while the show was live. 

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“I’m sure the producer or director was losing their mind,” laughed Sam. “Whenever I wanted his attention, I wouldn’t do it when he was live, when he was at commercial, I would tug on the little ISB earpiece that goes into his ear and he would look down.”

Karl is one of the longest tenured broadcasters at ESPN, starting back in 1993, but one of his favorite days with the network came last Saturday when both he and his son were calling college basketball games at the same time on different ESPN channels. Sam was broadcasting the Manhattan vs. Saint Peter’s women’s game on ESPNU, while Karl was calling Alabama vs. Missouri on ESPN. 

It’s unknown if a father-son duo has ever called different games at the same time on different ESPN platforms, but there’s a good chance the Ravechs accomplished something this past weekend that’s never happened during the illustrious history of the Worldwide Leader. 

“I think it’s fascinating and unique,” said Karl. “First, thankfully, ESPN has multiple channels and platforms so the possibility exists. It was my producer from my basketball games, Scott Matthews, another Ithaca guy, that said I think I saw that your son is doing the game opposite you. I said, he usually does games on Sunday, are you sure? I went and looked and said, ‘Oh my gosh, he is!’ The greatest part for Sam and myself is that his grandparents get a chance to watch their son, and more importantly, their grandson. It’ll be a really neat thing for them.”

“When I found out we were doing a game at the same time I thought it was interesting,” said Sam. “The question is who’s going to get more viewers (laughs).”

Regardless of who got more viewers, Saturday was a proud moment for the entire Ravech family. For Sam, there had to be a level of validation, seeing he was broadcasting a game on ESPNU at just 25 years old, opposite of the man he respects the most. For Karl, there had to be an overwhelming sense of joy to see his son follow in his footsteps and make a name for himself in the business so quickly. 

“Saturday was interesting for sure,” said Karl. “Technical challenges prevented me from actually being on for the start of my game but they were quickly rectified.”

“I got a text from Pat Lowry, our Coordinating Producer for basketball, saying my dad’s camera wasn’t working so Jimmy Dykes had to broadcast the first half,” said Sam. “I found it funny but I’m sure pops didn’t.”

“We did speak after the game,” said Sam. “There was definitely a mutual understanding that what we just did was rare and could likely only happen once, but hopefully many more times.”

“It was incredibly gratifying to see him recognized for his abilities and not his last name,” said Karl. “He was asked to call a game with an analyst who was making her debut. He was trusted to make the analyst comfortable and successful. That faith was rewarded with a broadcaster who was confident, clear and conversational. It was a great day to be a Ravech and even better to be a dad.”

Sam is a rapid up-and-coming broadcaster at ESPN with a ton of success in his future. But unfortunately he has to constantly battle doubters that claim he’s only in this position because of his father’s success at the network. It’s not exactly fair, given Sam’s excellent work calling Double A baseball games for the Richmond Flying Squirrels, but he also knew that by getting into the business it meant putting himself into these type of situations. 

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“I deal with that every day, man,” said Sam. “That’s nothing new. It sucks. But I asked for it and it’s something you have to expect and deal with. What I always tell people is that if it was really because of that, I wouldn’t have re-signed and gotten more games with ESPN. If you’re good, you’re good. ESPN is not in the business of making bad deals. But I deal with it. My wife is supportive and she’s right there with me when something really crazy happens. It’s part of Noah Eagle’s life, the son of Ian Eagle, who’s doing the same thing. I’m sure it’s part of Golic’s life, but it’s worth it because we love to do it.”

“The unfairness exists for sure,” said Karl. “But I don’t think that’s just because your last name is Ravech or if it was Levy or Van Pelt or Buccigross, that they’re going to give you a free pass. It doesn’t work that way when you get to this level. The one thing I learned a long time ago when I got to ESPN in 1993, if you don’t know what you’re talking about, and if you don’t have credibility, the great part about the sports audience is, they more than likely know just as much as you. That means you can get exposed. To his credit, he hasn’t had to experience a lot of that in the games I’ve listened to. He’s extremely well prepared.”

Though Saturday was a monumental day, this likely won’t be the last time both Karl and Sam are calling games on different ESPN networks at the same time. Perhaps, they’ll even call a game together. But until then, Sam will continue to use his father as his biggest mentor in the business. That’s smart, considering half of Karl’s life has been spent working at ESPN. 

“There’s nobody better,” said Sam. “He’s the best. Besides talking to my wife after a game, he’s the next person I talk to. When I first started he would say, don’t talk too much, slow down, stop talking so fast, let it breathe, those were all common phrases he would use. Now, it feels like we’re more on the same level, not that I’m there, because he’s one of the best in the game, but it feels like we’re more on the same plane.”

“When I give feedback to one of his games, it’s usually more encouraging,” said Karl. “Such as, here’s an opportunity where you can ask your analyst a question. You’re trying to elicit conversation and you’re trying to have them share their experience and sometimes that’s the role that you have to do as a play-by-play guy, along with describing the action. You have to make them better. I hope when I’m done with my career, people will say that I always made my analyst better.”

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A Ravech has been at ESPN since 1993. With Sam’s potential on full display, a smart man would bet on a Ravech being at ESPN for many more years to come. Karl is proud of his son, not because he chose this particular career path, but because he worked extremely hard and developed his own style the right way. Sure, Sam has taken several things from his dad’s arsenal, such as how to have fun, tell stories and let the analyst shine, but just because they share a last name doesn’t mean they’re mirror images of each other on a broadcast. Sam knows that he’s the youngest broadcaster at ESPN, but he wants to use that to his advantage, rather than view it as a detriment. 

“One difference may be obvious, but he’s old,” laughed Sam. “I try to incorporate some of the younger things, especially in interviews. I might bring up who has the most followers on TikTok, just fun stuff that he may not understand. I’m 25 years old but not much older than these kids so I like to think I can relate a little bit better, but he is still a cool guy.”

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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