You aren’t allowed to be surprised that this week’s episode of Saturday Night Live was bad. You can be surprised by just how bad it was, but if you were surprised that Elon Musk, a billionaire, who has never done anything funny and has never shown a sense of humor about who he is and or his cult of personality, isn’t a great comedian, then I can’t help you. You’re a buffoon.
And look, you’re not alone. Clearly NBC executives, SNL writers, and even Lorne Michaels himself were dumb enough to think this would work despite mountains of evidence going in that this was going to be one of the worst weeks in the show’s history.
Every station in America has, at some point, kicked around the idea of taking a well-known name and trying to turn them into a broadcaster. A lot has to go right to be successful. Before you even get to the breaks, you have to make sure you have put your money on the right horse.
SNL is a show with a long history. This may be easy to forget, but the show has made the same mistakes it did with Elon Musk over and over again. There is a lesson in that for sports radio. I guess since we now cover the whole talk radio spectrum, there is a lesson for it in news/talk too.
Remember April of 1996? Another billionaire was making headlines for doing something stupid and SNL wanted to capitalize on it. So they invited Steve Forbes to host the show and it was TERRIBLE! Forbes looked at the cue cards the entire time, at multiple points, turning his head completely away from the person he was supposed to be talking to in his scene. During his monologue, he stared right down the barrel of the camera with a look of absolute horror on his face.
People in the sports world have fond memories of the time Michael Jordan hosted the show. Y’all, I’m here to remind you that it was BAD. The Daily Affirmation sketch in that episode is an all-timer, but overall, Jordan was awful. The guy has charisma, but he doesn’t have “can carry a comedy show for 90 minutes” charisma.
The biggest name isn’t always the right person to build a show around. How many times have we seen former players on ESPN or former politicians on CNN and/or FOX News and instantly recognized that offering an opinion is not their strong suit? Some people are just better working from a pre-written speech or working in an environment manicured and controlled to make sure they are never challenged. There is no amount of work you can do with them to prepare them for a career in talk radio if they cannot just have a normal conversation where they may be challenged a bit.
I’ll circle back to something else I said about Elon Musk at the top of this column, because it is another huge red flag. Musk doesn’t think there is anything funny about himself. He doesn’t see the idea of him hosting a comedy show as absurd, because he has bought into his own bullshit. Remember the diver that he called a pedophile because the guy said Elon Musk’s idea for rescuing kids trapped in an underwater tunnel wouldn’t work?
Plenty of people in the public eye are like that. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you hire someone like that to host a show and they turn out to be Michael Irvin, a force of nature when it comes to stage presence and charm. Most times though, you get Eric Mangini or Ray Lewis or Paul Pierce or Trent Dilfer or Lou Holtz, guys that take themselves so seriously and do not understand why anyone is allowed to question them that they would rather shut down disagreement than roll with it and create something interesting.
Why did Peyton Manning and The Rock work as SNL hosts? Because they recognized and played along with the absurdity of them telling jokes on a show that spawned comedic geniuses like Eddie Murphy, Phil Hartman and Chris Rock. Why is Pat McAfee great on TV and on radio? Because he recognizes the absurdity of anyone looking at him as an expert on football just because he was a punter.
If you’re betting on a guy that doesn’t like looking dumb or refuses to ever believe he is wrong, you may as well start updating your resume. Personalities like that can work as the focal point of a show, but it is rare that they do and even rarer that those shows last. What a co-host, a producer, and a programmer need in a partner is someone that will take the advice of the great Kendrick Lamar – “Bitch, sit down. Be humble.”
I have written before about things like improv classes and talking to people in other formats about learning how to be a better broadcaster. If you were to ask your ex-jock or ex-coach or whoever to do those things, would they? You don’t have to immediately cast them to the side if the answer is no. If that is the answer though, is that where the conversation stops? If it is, you are probably about to invest in someone that doesn’t have any intention of growing or getting better than they are right now with no experience.
SNL can afford to do that with hosts. Those people are in town for a week and then, if it didn’t work out, they can be out of the show’s life forever. Programmers and radio stations can’t afford that kind of risk though. We aren’t building for a week to grab a few headlines and get a couple of clips to go viral.
If you are building for longterm success, you have to build around someone that wants to be as successful in the media as they were on the court or in politics. Hosting a show is fun, but it is a job. It is a reality you have to understand and look for candidates that recognize that. Saddling your employees with whatever talk radio’s answer to Elon Musk hosting Saturday Night Live is and saying “figure it out” is not just evidence of your ineptitude, it is disrespectful to the people that are going to have to pick up that person’s slack.
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.