Zach Bye went to dinner to celebrate. Sean Salisbury was almost moved to tears. Both felt incredible validation the first time they saw their name in the BSM Top 20. For Bye, the validation meant his peers were respecting the job he was doing at 104.3 The Fan in Denver. It meant 10 years of working odd jobs and inconvenient hours just to get his big chance in radio was worth it. For Salisbury, the validation meant a redemption from his rock bottom. A moment where it was clear he had defeated all his demons and was still one of the top radio hosts in the country.
That’s what being ranked in the BSM Top 20 can do for a host. When you’re recognized by the biggest decision makers in the industry it tends to give you a validation that few things can provide. Especially when it’s the first time.
“I just remember how elated I was and it almost felt too good to be true,” said Bye. “It felt like an incredible piece of validation. You have to keep in mind that I worked for 10 years to get the job that I have right now. To get that job validated beyond good ratings and be nationally recognized by an outlet that I respect and one I’ve seen and followed for years, that’s crossing into a new threshold of validation.”
“I was ecstatic,” said Salisbury. “I don’t ever pander for that stuff and I didn’t even consider it. I’ve known Jason Barrett for a long time, but you always wonder who’s actually paying attention, are they paying attention and who hears all those things. So yes I consider it not only an honor but a tremendous honor. I’m not downplaying it, I was very, very excited.”
Bye’s debut on the BSM Top 20 came in the 2018 rankings. His celebration dinner that night was with his wife, who has been with him since college. Even during his struggles of trying to find a full-time gig in radio, she was always supportive and never asked when he was going to get a real job. All the dues were paid when Bye found his radio home in Denver, hosting alongside former NFL star Brandon Stokley.
Bye claims it was a “big freaking deal” when his show was honored for the first time. In fact, the possibility wasn’t even on his radar. He felt his show in Denver was too new to receive any kind of honor, outside of good ratings. Sure, he believed in himself, but when proof came out that others did too, an incredible sense of pride overcame him.
Granted, his partner, a two-time Super Bowl champ, is accustomed to being honored and recognized, but for radio guys, that’s not always the case. Can a Super Bowl compare to a BSM Top 20 ranking? Well, probably not, but even the former champ is liking how the duo in Denver is climbing up the list.
“I think it was more of just starting to understand what it was,” said Bye. “Stokely had only been in radio for like a year before I got the job. I was following Jason Barrett before I got to Denver. I was aware of it because, guys like you and me, non-pro athletes, we love the business. I was way more sensitive to it at the time, but Stokely is a fierce competitor at whatever he does. Now that he’s in the radio game, he wants to be the best. To be nationally recognized, on that platform, after understanding more what it is, he was pumped. Then last year our ranking was higher than the year before and he got even more excited.”
The only thing that can compare to the feeling of being in the BSM Top 20 for the first time is being ranked No. 1 in your category. Dan Dakich of 107.5 The Fan in Indianapolis Has been a regular at the top of the BSM Top 20 rankings for mid market midday shows. It was a surprise to nobody he took home the No. 1 slot this year. But it seems no matter how many times you can be acknowledged for something, there’s still a significant pride that overcomes a host when recognized as one of the best in the industry.
“It’s an honor, really, because I know some of the guys and I know how good they are,” said Dakich. “It’s something I’m proud of, frankly. I want to live up to it. I’ve been on Cole Cubelic’s show. I’ve been on with the guys in Nashville (formerly the Midday 180 on 104.5 the Zone) and a couple of others and I know how good they are. Anytime in a profession, it’s nice to be recognized as, I don’t know if I’m the best, but at least in that voting I was. It’s nice to be recognized that way.”
Salisbury is having a nice run of being featured in the Top 20. Currently hosting a morning drive show at Sportstalk 790 in Houston. If there’s a guy to be happy for, Salisbury is it. Any honor or recognition that comes his way, also comes with a moment of gratitude and thanks to the people who helped make it possible.
“I went through a time where I didn’t know if I’d ever get back,” Salisbury said. “I had to rebuild myself with the help of a bunch of people.”
Comments from hosts like Salisbury, Bye and Dakich make you realize just how big of a deal the rankings actually are. If you need further proof, you can easily find opinions from upset people on social media that disagree with the order. If people are upset, that means it matters.
But no matter how accomplished of a host you might be, getting told on a big platform you’re doing a great job is enough for even the most successful host to smile.
“Any compliment,” said Salisbury. “Whether it’s from a fan in Jacksonville to an executive on how they view your show, to rebuild it and get back, it’s almost eye watering, because to be considered and held in that regard, there’s not a day I’ll take it for granted. Maybe at one point I did, but not anymore. I mean that with every ounce of fiber in my being.”
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.