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Shannon Sharpe, Mike Florio & First Take Add Value To Deshaun Watson Discussion

“I immediately began to scour the national airwaves to gauge reaction, in preparation for our local afternoon drive show.”

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Although I did write weeks ago that sports media, out of necessity, would likely cling to the Quarterback Carousel up until the NFL Draft; no one could’ve anticipated the bombshell that has dropped regarding one of the league’s superstars. Three-time Pro Bowl signal caller, Deshaun Watson, is being sued by at least three different masseuses for alleged sexual assault. Yeah, all of this developing in the midst of a demand by Deshaun to be traded from the Houston Texans. I’ve never seen anything quite like this! The hard part? How are we “supposed” to address this publicly, without providing a disservice to our audience, nor the parties involved in this lawsuit, given its troubling nature?

Upon researching the limited amount of material originally made available on the matter; I immediately began to scour the national airwaves to gauge reaction, in preparation for our local afternoon drive show. After all, I do live and work in Charlotte, which happens to host a franchise that is hell-bent on getting D-Wat back to Carolinas. No tiptoeing around this one was going to be permitted by our listenership.

Deshaun Watson Trade Rumors: Panthers Intrigue Texans QB | Bleacher Report  | Latest News, Videos and Highlights

My first stop was to Undisputed to hear what Skip & Shannon had to say. I ultimately found the greatest value in Shannon speaking from his experience as a former pro athlete regarding regular interaction with masseuses. As is usually the case, I thought Unc did a masterful job highlighting best practices when engaging in activities of this nature as to protect the athlete, and the therapist, from any potential issues or misunderstandings. Shannon possess a rare talent to be authentic and insightful, while also being respectful, especially when it pertains to delicate circumstances such as this. You got skills Brotha Sharpe!

Next, I flipped over to peep the First Take crew. I needed to hear Stephen A. specifically articulate the gravity of the situation Deshaun has now found himself in. Different from Shannon’s perspective, I correctly anticipated Stephen A. would approach this from a seasoned journalistic point of view. That said, I definitely appreciated the sensitivity in tone and delivery he utilized in evaluating the information that had been presented involving the plaintiffs and Watson thus far. Real talk, I marvel at the man’s impeccable timing and ability to add just the right amount of entertainment value or humor to contrast the seriousness of certain topics. 

I also noted the fair and objective positions all three people at the desk maintained throughout the segment. Obviously, and rightfully so, topics involving the wellbeing or disrespect of women can impassion Molly. I genuinely value her input, especially on these kinds of topics, as to make sure I am considering all of the necessary vantage points for objective discussion. I love their show! It’s can’t miss for me.

Lastly, given the legal component of these sexual assault allegations surrounding D-Wat, I desired a unique insight from someone with legal experience, but also an understanding of NFL culture. Pro Football Talk’s, Mike Florio, did not disappoint! I appreciate the simplicity in which Mike navigated the intricacies of the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy, the precedent for civil law suits involving players, the uniqueness of this particular case, and ultimately what he’d do were he in Mr. Watson’s shoes. I doubt there is anywhere better to rival this caliber of content. Florio is the real deal!

Now that I had heard various qualified takes on the alarming matter, from people I respect in the industry, it was time for me to make a determination as to how I would address this with our audience. What would be my public stance here? I can’t be Shannon, Stephen A., nor Florio. It was necessary I offer up my own observations, though admittedly, moderately influenced by their expertise. How would my commentary land for our fan base? For a variety of reasons, I anticipated it would be received with mixed emotions, and thus needed to prepare accordingly. 

In the end, I came to the conclusion that in America, we all are afforded the presumption of innocence until proven guilty under the law. Knowing full-well that the NFL Personal Conduct Policy is not bound explicitly to that law. Although I too find the allegations against Deshaun Watson disturbing, now is not the time, and I am not the arbiter, to convict or exonerate him within the court of afternoon drive. As I routinely remind our listenership, my responsibility is not to tell them what to think. I simply share with them what I think, while providing an inviting climate for concurring or differing thought. I’ll leave that propaganda radio for somebody else. 

BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 44

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This week’s episode is all about the NFL. Demetri explains why the league embracing kids is long overdue, Andy Masur stops by to breakdown the first Manningcast, and Ryan Maguire explains why some sports radio stations are missing a golden opportunity to shine on Sundays.

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BSM Writers

Interviews Thrive On Podcasts In A Way They Can’t On Radio

“Opportunities that a podcast creates open doors to audio that is simply superior to live radio.”

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Live radio vs. podcasts seems to be a heavyweight fight that isn’t ending anytime soon.  Podcasts are growing so much that companies that do radio are also now offering podcasts. This column is hardly about that fight. 

Instead, this is about how a podcast interview is a better way to get the best out of the guest than anything live on a radio station. This is not about downloads or clicks or sponsors. Solely about the content that is being produced.

A podcast makes the guest more comfortable and is more intimate than a live radio show.  Especially in sports.

Since 2015, I have hosted and produced 656 podcasts (yes it was fun to count them) and hosted many radio shows. My current shows are called Sports with Friends, Hall of Justice, and Techstream. That last one I host with tech expert Shelly Palmer.

On radio, there is a myriad of things the host has to do besides focus on the guest.

First, there are the IDs. Program directors have always told me ID the guest every chance I get. “We are talking with Eli Manning on WFAN,” is heard 7 times during an eight-minute segment.

On a podcast, the name of the guest is on the player or app that is playing the podcast. “Episode 1. Eli Manning, New York Giants” scrolls across smartphones, car radios, or other devices constantly.  Never interrupt the guest with an ID.

Then, there’s the fact that it is recorded and not live. I have a standard preamble that I say to any guest before any record light turns on.

“I will push,” I explain. “I will see where the conversation takes us, but I do tend to push. However, I’m on your side. This isn’t some expose’. If something comes up that you don’t like your answer, tell me. I’ll take it out. If there’s something that I say that is bad or wrong, tell me, I’ll take it out. This is a conversation, not an interview.”

In 656 podcasts, only one player, Bryce Harper (then of the Washington Nationals) asked me to take something out of a podcast.

We were doing Episode 54 of Sports with Friends when the subject of Dusty Baker came up.  He had just been hired to manage the Nationals. I mentioned in passing that Dusty had given the eulogy at my best friend Darryl Hamilton’s funeral.

Bryce was so intrigued that he recalled the comments I had made and asked if we could pause. We then spoke for a good 10 minutes about the kind of person Dusty was. Why Darryl held him in such regard.  It was a really inciteful chat.  Never was on the podcast.

Still, guests do relax when told that the editing option exists. They let their guard down. The host of a podcast can ask deeper questions.

“Who was the first person you called when you found out you were traded?”

“Have you seen a life for you after football?”

“How much do you hate a certain player?”

All questions, that if asked live, could seriously backfire. So not only does the guest have a guard up, but the interviewer also has to play it relatively safe, when they are not IDing the guest for the umpteenth time.

Time constraints also don’t exist in a podcast where they are beholden on live radio. The guest is just about to tell you they did cocaine during the World Series, and you are up against the clock.

ShinStation - Game Over - #017 - Wrap it Up - YouTube
Courtesy: Comedy Central

I have hosted shows over the years where the guest was phenomenal, but I screwed up the PPM clock. That was the takeaway.  The clock is important on a live medium that needs to get that quarter-hour.

I try to keep my podcasts short. You wouldn’t see it from looking at the lengths of my episodes. Still, I feel that if someone wants to talk and dive into a topic and it goes a little long, I will never cut the guy off.

Ken Griffey Jr. spoke for 45 minutes with a cigar and his feet up on the phone by his pool. He was telling jokes and stories. I wouldn’t have stopped that if a train was coming. When I hosted Mariner content at KJR in Seattle, our interviews usually last 5 minutes.

Jon Morosi broke down the future of clubhouse access and how he traveled during Covid. Then he told an amazing story of his wife working in the medical field and how that impacted all of his family. Shannon Drayer of 710 KIRO got so in-depth in her arduous journey from being a coffee barista to the Mariners on-field reporter. It was split into two episodes.

Former porn star Lisa Ann talked about her decision to quit the business. Even Jason Barrett himself was Episode 173 of Sports with Friends.

(When in the past has Jason Barrett been in the same paragraph as a porn star? Note to Demetri: please leave it in.)

The radio industry is seen to be cutting costs wherever it can. Mid-market stations are not doing night shows anymore, instead offering nationally syndicated programming. 

Weekends are another avenue that perplexes me. Talent that is not deemed good enough to be on during the week is often given weekend shifts. Also, some Monday-Friday hosts add a weekend shift to their duties. Here’s a theory: play podcasts. Format them to hit your PPM time marks. 

They don’t have to be my podcasts, but in the crowded podcast space, surely there are sports talk podcasts that are intimate, deep, and fun. Since we live in a data-driven age, let’s see how a radio station fares playing high-quality podcasts or portions of them, vs. weekend hosts.

Program directors often worry about the outdated nature of a podcast. That sells the podcaster short. As someone who has been in the podcast space since 2003, I know how to make them timeless, and companies make shows often enough, that rarely would they be outdated.  

Quality shines through the speakers.  The spoken-word audio format is continually evolving. Opportunities that a podcast creates open doors to audio that is simply superior to live radio.

How to Start a Podcast: Podcasting for Beginners - RSS.com Podcasting

The podcast industry is continually evolving.  Radio needs to evolve as well.  Then, it can be a fair fight.

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BSM Writers

National Voices Can Work For Local Clients

“Distance, like absence, can make the heart grow fonder.”

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Selling personalities is one of the hottest trends in media today. Sure, most of the buzz is around social media influencers, but radio has long had a relationship with its audience based on personal connections between host and listener. And nobody has a better relationship with their audience than a sports radio host.

I am sure you are leveraging your local hosts by now. Live spots, testimonials, remotes, and promotions are all great tricks of the trade, as well as sponsored social media posts. But does your station carry syndicated shows? I am sure you do either from 7 pm-12 am Monday-Friday or on weekends.

In 2018, The Ticket in Boise, Idaho brought CBS Sports Radio host Damon Amendolara and his co-host, Shaun Morash, to town for a Boise State football game. Damon had just switched to mornings from evenings, and his show aired in Boise from 4 am-8 am Monday – Friday. His ratings were decent, but nothing that stood out considering the daypart. It was thought to be risky to sell him into sandwich shops, pizza places, appearances at local legend hangouts, and so forth.

Boise State head football coach and QB Bryan Harsin and Brett Rypien did a live shot on the show from the on-campus bookstore. At dark thirty. It all worked. DA and Morash were hits! Everywhere they went, lines and crowds awaited them and they hit spots in a two-county area.  The few days of appearances worked so well that DA is back in Boise three years later, this time for a week. Now, DA is doing his show from resort hotels 2.5 hours away, taking riverboat adventure fishing trips in Hell’s Canyon, craft beer tours for his sidekick Andrew Bogusch and hosting college football viewing parties at brewpubs. Every station that carries syndicated shows probably has a DA success story waiting to happen. 

Start by listening to the shows, know the benchmarks and quirks of the national personalities or call the affiliate rep and ask. Does the talent discuss their love of beer, BBQ, pizza, whatever? If they do, then go ahead and sell them to a local client. The national talent can do the spot and endorse your client. If it’s a product, send one to them. Figure out how to get them a pizza. If it’s a service, do a zoom call with the client and let them start a relationship. Include some social media elements with video. The video can be used in social media and can sit on the client’s website. Yours too!

If you want to bring the talent to town, do it for a big game, local event, or 4th of July parade, and the sponsors will follow. Run a promo during the talent’s daypart asking local sponsors to text in to reserve their promotional spot. Have the talent cut liners asking the same thing. Take the NFL Sunday morning host and sell a promo to a sports bar where the host zooms in to a table or room full of listeners, and they watch a portion of a game together. Or sell the same idea to a national chain and do an on-air contest for a listener to have a home watch party with the zoomed-in host complete with food and beverages from your sponsors sent to both locations. How about sending your #1 BBQ joint that handles mail orders and sends some food for the talent? They can videotape themselves reheating the BBQ and make some great Facebook and Instagram videos.  

Distance, like absence, can make the heart grow fonder. Try selling a nationally syndicated host inside your market. I promise you’ll like it. 

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