After three and a half years with Barrett Sports Media, contributing thousands of articles, hundreds of feature columns, interviews and podcasts, my biggest takeaway was a sense of purpose.
I was struggling to find a job in sports media, but knew I loved the industry and wanted to contribute in some way. Stumbling into a group so passionate about sports radio, a medium that represents just a small niche of the entertainment world was a perfect fit. Getting the opportunity to write for BSM immediately did two things. It gave me a voice and credibility.
I met and interviewed people who I’ve always admired, and I was repeatedly impressed with the respect they showed me in return. Hosts I grew up listening to like Mike Francesa and Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo. Two great conversations with Craig Carton. Nick Wright, Rick DiPietro, Stugotz and Jalen Rose. I was welcomed into the Mets radio booth to watch Howie Rose and Wayne Randazzo work. Traveled on-site to Bristol, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Sports radio stations all around the country are connected by this website, and I was in the middle of it. I went from constantly knocking on radio station doors hoping for an acknowledgement, to now having them interested in what I have to say about the industry. That’s the benefit of connecting yourself with Jason Barrett.
As I learned on the job, JB quickly gained enough trust to give me a platform with the freedom to write what I want. And over the years, I learned I’m more passionate and interested in the radio side of sports radio than the sports aspect. As much as I remain a die-hard fan, I find the conversation surrounding sports more interesting than the score of a game.
The Mets pulled Jacob deGrom too early? I’ll get over it.
The Jets signed a nondescript wide receiver? Boring.
Colin Cowherd with another hot take about backwards hats?! Oh, Hell No!
I enjoy writing. It’s not as exciting as being on-air and certainly doesn’t offer the same rush of live radio, but I enjoy the control. It’s calculated, well-thought, opinionated and still offers excitement when big news breaks, knowing people within the industry will turn to BSM for info.
But with everyone I’ve met and everything I’ve learned, the most exciting aspect about being part of BSM is that we were building something. There are months and years where the build is slow, and others where the progress is substantial. But knowing the vision for BSM is always bigger than its current state kept me wanting to contribute as much as I could.
And that’s part of why I’m so excited to be joining Mediaite. They’ve built a great platform and audience, but covering sports media is a new venture. I never mind putting countless hours into a project that has big aspirations and an upwards trajectory. Even when the financial compensation was small or nonexistent, my passion for sports media remained more than a hobby. The time I spent contributing to BSM kept me on track.
Let me be clear, I am not patting myself on the back. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but staying on track has energized me to get there. Staying on track, learning about the industry and from the people who are in it, has shown me how many different and unique paths there are to success.
My tenure with BSM began because JB responded to an email from someone he never heard of, who held very little credibility within the industry. For anyone in management who might be reading this, I understand the number of unsolicited emails you receive can be a nuisance at times. But responses go a long way, even if it’s “I don’t have time for this right now.”
I’ve sent hundreds of emails to program directors around the country in the last 10 years. Many of them went ignored. That’s one of the great respects I have for Mark Chernoff. Leading WFAN, he surely receives tons of unsolicited emails, but he always responds. His replies are quick and equally cold whether he has something positive or negative to say. ‘I’ll get to this later…I can’t listen right now…this is terrible…this is not bad.’ But I always appreciate that he takes the time to respond.
I’m very grateful JB responded to my email when I reached out back in September 2017, even though I had little to offer other than a clear passion for the industry. He noticed that, and it turned into a three and a half year mutually beneficial partnership. His reply to that email gave me a sense of purpose, a credible voice, and a career doing something I love.
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.