If you’re waiting for a swift NFL decision about Deshaun Watson’s future, here’s a word of guidance: Don’t. What’s disconcerting about Roger Goodell’s latest player conduct crisis is that the league, never more powerful or flush with prosperity, has no incentive to do anything but stand by.
One hundred and thirteen billion dollars are pouring into 345 Park Avenue via new broadcasting agreements, meaning the league isn’t impacted by what advertisers are thinking. America is paralyzed by more racial tension, awaiting a verdict in Minneapolis that could trigger nationwide violence. And hey, way more important than anything else — as ESPN and the NFL Network scream every commercial break — the draft is arriving soon, with Goodell in Watson deflection mode while talk-show hosts chatter about the Justin Fields smear campaign, the legitimacy of Trey Lance, whether the 49ers are bluffing and how uptight Bill Belichick must be after Tom Brady one-upped him.
The league is not on the timetable of Watson’s accusers, MeToo advocates or the Houston Texans, who will need a quarterback when camp starts in 14 weeks. Nor is the league on the timetable of Nike, Reliant Energy and Beats by Dre, which have suspended or dropped endorsement contracts with Watson as he defends himself against accusations of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior. “We are deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations … We will continue to closely monitor the situation,” Nike said in a statement.
No, the NFL is on the NFL’s timetable.
I’m not hearing much outcry about it, either.
The country is in a different mindset about sports in 2021. People are trying to survive the pandemic and the evils of modern life, leaving them with little time or energy to debate sports-related topics — even one as alarming as the number of Watson accusers, now 21 and counting (one case was dropped) and all disclosing their identities publicly through attack-dog lawyer Tony Buzbee. Unlike the Ezekiel Elliott case, the Ray Rice case, the Adrian Peterson case, the Ben Roethlisberger case and, going way back, the Michael Vick and Ray Lewis cases, Watson isn’t hearing the pounding daily calls for justice. Just as the NFL is on pause, so are Americans, content to wait regardless of Watson’s celebrated standing as a dazzling playmaker and marketing force.
The sheer volume of allegations suggests Watson is either a gross sexual predator or the most naive man on Earth, thinking massage therapy sessions were sex favors. But while Watson faces those 21 civil lawsuits, the difference between his situation and others is that criminal charges have yet to be filed. Concerns also remain about Buzbee, described in Houston legal circles as a self-promoter and circus act, and how throughly he vetted the plaintiffs. The NFL has launched its own investigation, but with so many alleged victims and questions to ask, the process could take months.
So anyone anticipating a hammer from the commissioner should expect silence, hardly the most sensitive way to handle a barrage of sexual assault claims. Armed with unprecedented leverage — the NFL product has proved to be Teflon, surviving existential threats ranging from concussions to the Colin Kaepernick crusade — Goodell can act as he prefers when he rules. Assuming Watson isn’t convicted in a criminal proceeding, he easily could be placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt list, which allows him to be paid while sitting out games, if not the entire 2021 season. That isn’t what the Texans want, already having removed Watson’s images from the introduction of the team’s online TV show. They would like to trade him ASAP, and, shocking as it seems, there are teams privately longing to acquire the uber-quarterback for possible use no matter how his case turns out. If the Texans cut Watson, they would receive zero compensation from the team that snaps him up.
Or, if he wants to deal with some public heat, Goodell can take no action against Watson because he hasn’t been charged criminally. The MeToo groups would howl, but disturbingly, the fantasy players would celebrate, as would fans of the team that acquires Watson. Without the legal case, he would have been front and center on draft night after demanding a trade in January. The Jets and 49ers would be among those making offers, allowing the Texans to select Zach Wilson, Fields or Lance in a franchise rebuild. Now, any Watson interest around the league must be kept on the down-low.
For certain, the NFL has noticed the absence of public indignation about this case. Perhaps sports fans are struck by legal fatigue on top of pandemic burnout. When one of football’s most dynamic players, Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams, was accused Wednesday of assaulting a 26-year-old man at an after-hours club in Pittsburgh, did anyone blink? There is an assumption now, after so many years of arrests and suspensions, that athletes will find trouble. At long last, as Charles Barkley said long ago, they should not be viewed as role models because too many are irresponsible.
The league seems more concerned now about vaccinations than Deshaun Watson. Goodell would prefer all players, coaches, personnel and spectators are inoculated so normalcy can return. “All of us in the NFL want to see every one of our fans back,” he said. “Football is simply not the same without the fans, and we expect to have full stadiums in the 2021 season.” Yet players continue to be divided about vaccines, some out of medical and religious concerns, which prompted the league to recruit star quarterback Russell Wilson to raise awareness. He’s hosting a TV special Sunday night with his wife, the singer Ciara, called “Roll Up Your Sleeves.”
If, say, only half the league’s players are vaccinated by summer, that could create divisions in locker rooms — and send a sweeping message that prompts fans to avoid stadiums. In Erie County, N.Y., spectators will require proof of vaccination to attend Buffalo Bills home games. The announcement prompted outrage from Rachel Bush, wife of Bills safety Jordan Poyer, who tweeted that she’s “alarmed (by) the amount of Americans that think it’s perfectly okay for the government to force an experimental vaccine on citizens.”
Continued Bush: “We have pregnant wives. Wives who are breast-feeding. Wives who have already had Covid (so it’s dangerous to get vaccinated now) etc etc. NONE of us are comfortable with getting the vaccine. NONE of us should be forced to do so in order to watch our own husbands play live.”
She is part of a choir that will continue preaching to the NFL and all sports leagues that make vaccine demands. Goodell could reach out to them, sure, and try to calm the storm.
But why would he? He’s the king of an empire that is too big to care about much of anything, beyond those whopping bank deposits from the networks.
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.