To hot take, or not to hot take. That is the question. If it ever seems like you’re drowning in a sea of hot takes when you flip on the radio, it’s probably because you are. Hot takes, opinions whose primary purpose is to attract attention, have become the norm. It’s easy to say something outlandish or completely against the grain to stand out. But what about the flip side? Can hosts get noticed in today’s climate by saying things that are measured and reasonable?
There are two examples of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady that come to mind. Now make sure you’re sitting down for this; Brady won another Super Bowl. I know. Shocking. But if we take the hot tub time machine back to early October, it shows us something interesting. Brady mistakenly forgot what down it was in a Week 5 loss against the Chicago Bears. He held up four fingers with a bewildered look on his face as Tampa failed to convert and lost the game 20-19.
It was overreaction city the next day on sports radio. Many hosts said that Tampa lacked the discipline and attention to detail that Bill Belichick and the Patriots are known for. Some said that Brady’s mistake would’ve never happened in New England; as if mental errors — like Brian Hoyer taking a sack before halftime against the Chiefs the week prior — never occurred there. Many comments were a mixture of knee-jerk and prisoner of the moment with a side of hot take.
Would a measured approach have worked? Of course, but it has to be done right. It never would have stood out to say, “Look, let’s settle down. Brady and Tampa will be fine.”
Yawn. That’s like a dry steak with no seasoning; just another boring take without any stank on it.
The reasonable stance still needs to include some flare. It would’ve been interesting to say, “Tampa losing to the Bears isn’t different than New England, it’s the spitting image of New England. Remember when the Patriots got blown out by the Chiefs 41-14 years ago? After the game Trent Dilfer said, ‘The New England Patriots — let’s face it — they’re not good anymore.’ They won the Super Bowl that same season. This is just another example of people thinking that Brady’s team doesn’t have what it takes when it actually does.”
Another hot take occurred just before the Super Bowl. FS1 host Nick Wright gave the edge in Super Bowl experience to Patrick Mahomes over Brady. Wright made a valiant effort by arguing that Mahomes had the more relevant experience because he played in the Super Bowl the previous season with the same head coach, coordinator, and teammates. However, that argument is more about continuity than experience.
Does the flip side stand out? Is there buzz on social media or a conversation generated by saying Brady has more Super Bowl experience than Mahomes? Of course not. Not unless you push the boundaries by saying something like, “This is Brady’s tenth Super Bowl appearance. Who in their right mind would say Mahomes has more experience? Look, critics just talk themselves into believing things about Brady because they dislike the guy. There isn’t an athlete in sports history that critics have been more wrong about for on-field performance than Tom Brady.”
Now we’ve got a conversation. It’s all about finding the tension by making reasonable statements that other people will argue against. There is no value in sounding like a Magic Johnson tweet.
If a host is Captain Obvious, there is nowhere for a conversation to go. You’ve heard the saying a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I’m talking about the exact opposite. Flip that around. Present opinions like a sheep in wolf’s clothing, meaning an exterior with some edge that grabs your attention, but an interior that’s reasonable and calculated. You want the tame sheep comment — Tom Brady is disliked — to have some wolf fangs and claws; he’s the most disliked athlete for on-field performance.
Our opinions will vary on what qualifies as a hot take or not. What I might think is outlandish, you might think is a legitimate argument. It’s really about estimating what the masses will think. You’ve got yourself a hot take if most people say, “Whaaaat? Wow, dude, that’s really out there.” You’re avoiding a hot take if the typical reaction is, “Hmm, interesting. I don’t know if I completely buy it, but that isn’t absurd.”
We’re wise enough to understand which comments are bold and which are utterly ridiculous. It’s like the girl who wears revealing clothes; she knows what she’s doing. She didn’t just blindly stumble into that skimpy outfit. It can be tempting to fire off a hot take for dramatic effect, but why resort to that if it showcases more talent to push the boundaries of a reasonable opinion? You’ll still get noticed while also being more respected. Any Joe Blow can resort to a hot take. A true talent finds other ways to stand out.
A lot of sports talk these days is what I call headline radio. Hosts act as if they’re writing a headline for an online column and will resort to anything in a last-ditch effort for clicks. There is something unappealing about a desperate person. If someone runs up to you and desperately asks you out on a date, it’s a turn off. It works the same way with a host that’s desperately trying to gain attention. Hot take artists lose in the long run because deep down their approach isn’t respected. They also lose because their approach has now become commonplace. In a world of hot takes, the new hot take is not having one.
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.