Kenny Mayne only has a handful of shows left at ESPN. By now you probably know his time at The Worldwide Leader is coming to an end after 27 years. Richard Deitsch of The Athletic wrote on Wednesday that ESPN asked Mayne to take a 61 percent pay cut, which he declined.
But Mayne doesn’t seem to be concerned at all about what’s next. In fact, it’s just the opposite.
“I’ll probably sign up for that deal where you extend your insurance benefits,” he joked. “That’s my No. 1 priority.”
The truth is Mayne is already taking calls on what could be on the horizon. Those ideas and requests have come quickly, which he says has been a pleasant surprise.
“I’ll do something but it will be a little more unconventional even than what I was doing,” Mayne said. “I won’t necessarily be going to a building to do a certain show, I won’t be tied to one thing that way, but I don’t know what it is yet. But I’m flattered to know that other people think i’m alright.”
It’s kind of amazing to get a glimpse into Mayne’s entire outlook on the situation. There doesn’t seem to be an ounce of resentment toward the place he’s been employed for close to three decades. There also seems to be no concern about what his life after ESPN looks like. And his legacy? Yeah, he literally hasn’t even thought about that once.
“I hope they spell my name right,” said Mayne. “I haven’t thought about that, honestly. I get why you’re asking, but I don’t know, I just hope I’m well liked.”
The reality is Mayne will be remembered for far more than just being well-liked. Take me, a 31-year-old lifelong sports fan. It’s crazy to say, but I represent a large group of people where Mayne played a part in my childhood. During ESPN’s heyday in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, anyone who cared about sports was watching SportsCenter on a daily basis. It was an essential routine in our lives and from the catchphrases, Mayne Street, Wider World of Sports, the hilarious commercials with mascots and athletes and everything else in between, Mayne was there at every step.
“It’s silly,” said Mayne. “We got to do the stupid thing of watching games and making up the most absurd thing to say, or the correct thing to say, we took our job seriously on the serious matters.”
The funny thing is Mayne never originally sought out to be in sports. He was more interested in doing long-form documentaries for PBS, while going to school and playing football at UNLV. But after getting a TV job in Seattle as a backup production assistant, he found himself doing local news. He was still trying to find a way to get into documentaries, when the news director informed him his new role was doing sports.
“He told me I was doing sports because I played football,” said Mayne. “No other reason. That’s literally how it happened.”
If not for that, who knows if Mayne ever gets into sports?
“I’d be doing Frontline or something by now,” he said. “Maybe I will now.”
The year was 1987 and Mayne was covering all the local sports teams in Seattle. He was having a blast. It turned out the way he was prepping for his sportscasts and calling highlights, was the same way they were doing it at ESPN.
“I didn’t write out the words,” Mayne said. “I just wrote notes. That’s how they do it at ESPN.”
To make enough money to eat, Kenny Mayne was also selling prepaid legal insurance, and MCI long distance plans amongst other things. His new goal was ESPN. Finally in 1994 it happened.
After three years of proving himself, he was given the task of replacing Keith Olbermann on the SportsCenter set next to Dan Patrick. Talk about pressure.
“I was pretty new, right?” said Mayne. “I had only been there since 1994 and hadn’t done SportsCenter very much. There was pressure to not screw it up but Dan was good to me and made it comfortable and the producers were great.”
Mayne was hosting SportsCenter during a time when people literally sprinted to their televisions to see the results of games. It was a different era, but arguably the most successful for not only the show, but the entire network.
Being able to anchor that show was a special time in his ESPN tenure, but it’s not his most proud memory. That’s understandable when you find out just how many he has.
“I’d say my highest achievement in all of 27 years was during a Stevie Wonder concert,” Mayne said. “I got to go backstage and his band members knew who I was.”
Name an event or athlete. Mayne has been to it and has probably had multiple conversations with that particular player.
“I loved doing Mayne Street and all the actors from that went on to Parks and Rec,” Mayne said. “They’re all famous. They left me behind. Wider World of Sports was really fun. We did amazing trips around the world and made incredible stories and all the crew and friends that I got to do that stuff with. Getting to be at Dale Earnhardts Daytona 500 the time he won. Getting to be there and work with him the next year was pretty amazing. Going back to Stevie Wonder I got him in Philadelphia to say ‘I can’t be at the (baseball) All Star Game, I have a high ankle sprain.’ That was a pretty good line to pull off.”
So maybe that’s why Mayne isn’t as bitter as others would be about this decision. He’s seen the best things sports has to offer. What else could you want? What meant a lot to him has been the outpouring of support on social media. He’s not sitting on his phone and continually checking his messages, but he knows what’s being said.
“I was disappointed more people didn’t care about me. We’re stuck in the hundreds of thousands, not in the millions,” he jokes. “Honest answer? I was flattered, I continue to be flattered and I’m blown away by it all. The sincerity of the comments is very touching. It’s been an insane 48 hours.”
Something is next. We don’t know what. Mayne doesn’t know what. But something is coming soon. Whatever that opportunity might be, Mayne will handle it like he has everything else: with a sense of humor.
“At ESPN I got hired like a horse coming 12-wide into the stretch and somehow got into the wire at like 50-1 odds. I was a longshot to get hired and I had to fight my way in.”
Sam Mayes Got A Raw Deal But Tyler Media Made The Right Call
“You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.”
I do not envy whoever at Tyler Media had to make a decision about Sam Mayes’s future with the company after audio of a private conversation in 2016 was leaked to the media. Mayes and now-former co-worker Cara Rice made a few racist jokes at the expense of Native Americans.
The recording, according to Mayes, was made without his knowledge and leaked illegally. He says in a recorded statement that he should have been given the opportunity to address the recording on air and make amends.
Maybe that is true, maybe it isn’t. I hate for Sam to lose his job as the result of an illegal recording of a private conversation, but the fact is, that conversation isn’t private anymore. Tyler Media didn’t really have an option here. Sam Mayes had to go.
Someone had an illegal recording of the conversation and created an anonymous email account to send it to people in the Oklahoma City media. I was shown a copy of the email. The author states clearly that their goal is to see Mayes and Rice out of a job. There is nothing fair or just about that person getting exactly what they want. It feels slimy. I can’t say that it feels like it wasn’t the right call though.
We have debated whether or not someone should lose their job over comments made in a private conversation many times before. It happens in every field. It wasn’t long ago at all that we were having this same debate about Jon Gruden. His emails to Bruce Allen and others were sent in private. Is it fair he had to go when they were made public? No matter what horrible things were in there, they were said with the understanding that it would stay between friends.
I am going to say the same thing about Sam Mayes that I did about Gruden when that story first broke. You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.
You read that right. The circumstances of how the conversations in these examples came to light are absolutely unfair, but the conversations came to light. How it happened is irrelevant. Any sponsor or boss that stands behind Sam Mayes or Jon Gruden would be endorsing the language they used, either inadvertently or very much on purpose. Try explaining that to a sponsor.
People at Tyler Media may know Sam Mayes’s heart. He doesn’t seem like a bad guy. The fact of the matter is, once the audio became public, their hands were tied. There is no mistaking what was said or who said it.
How can any seller or manager take Mayes to advertisers now? How can they put him in front of the Lucky Star Casino, one of the station’s biggest advertisers? They can ask for an audience to let Sam explain himself and try to make amends. The Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribes, who own the casino, are under no obligation to forgive or even listen.
Maybe the day will come where Sam Mayes bounces back. I hope it does. I hope he gets the chance to address his comments with members of Oklahoma’s Native American community and listen to what they have to say in response. I do think it sucks that this is how his time at The Franchise comes to an end, but I get it.
If I have to explain to you why not to say dumb, racist shit, then I don’t think we have much to talk about. But, it is worth noting that the recording of Mayes and Rice’s conversation is proof that privacy is always an assumption, not always a fact.
In his audio statement, Mayes admits it is his voice on the recording. He also says that he was uncomfortable with Rice’s comments and he tried to end their conversation. I’ll take him at his word, but I will also point out that before he tried to end the conversation, he joined in on the jokes. Maybe when someone says that Native Americans are “too drunk to organize” it isn’t a great idea to respond. All it leads to is proof of you saying something dumb and racist.
Again, I’ll reiterate that how these comments came to light is unfair, but they did come to light. That is Sam Mayes’s voice on the recording. He is joining in on the jokes about Native Americans being drunks and addicts. At the end of the day, the only thing that was done to him was the audio being released. He fully and willingly committed the firable offense.
What is the response to a client or potential client when they bring that up? All Tyler Media can do is try to recover and move forward. The company cannot do that with Mayes on the payroll.
Stop Prospecting, Start Strategizing!
“You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days.”
Struggling to get new business appointments? Dreading making prospecting calls? Having trouble writing creative emails that seemingly never get a response?
Generating responses to new business outreach is easier than you think. Just make sure you do your homework first and keep it “Simple Stupid”.
To do that, start with asking yourself these (3) simple questions:
#1: Did I do my home work on the business itself, their competition and those I plan on reaching out to?
#2: If I were on the other end of the phone and/or email with myself would I want to engage in conversation and/or reply to that email?
#3: Am I prepared to make a one call close given the opportunity to?
If the answer to any of these is “No”… do NOT pick up the phone and by all means do NOT hit the send button on that initial outreach email! Doing so will all but ensure you fall flat on your face. On the off chance you do happen to get the decision maker on the phone you won’t make that great first impression that sometimes can be so crucial. First impressions are always important… ALWAYS!
Skipping over these critical steps is a sure-fire way to ensure your email is completely ignored and will not generate the engagement from the prospect you’d hope for. Successful prospecting is all about the front end digging and research. Do your homework first then strategize a plan of attack for your call and/or email. Taking these extra measures on the front end is absolutely “Mission Critical” and will set you up for much more success with your prospecting endeavors.
Now once you’ve answered “Yes” to all of the above, you’re ready to attack with the knowledge and confidence that should set you a part from your competition. It’s all about the Game Plan, and if you don’t have one, you’re destined for failure time and time again. Incorporate these (5) things into your prospecting Game Plan for your next call/email and watch your results dramatically improve:
#1: MAKE IT PERSONAL & CASUAL – Be informal, find out something interesting about them.
#2: MAKE IT SHORT & CONCISE – Be straight forward and to the point, people are busy.
#3: MAKE IT TIMELY & RELEVANT TO THEM AND/OR THEIR BUSINESS – Give them a good Valid Business Reason.
#4: MAKE IT INTERESTING, COMPELLING & INFORMATIVE – Be the expert they’re missing.
#5: MAKE IT FUN – Fun people are easy to do business with and make it less like “work”.
Lastly, and most importantly, Be Yourself! You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days. When clients do find it trust me, they value it and appreciate it way more than you’ll ever know!
Good Producers Can Teach The World A Lot About Christmas
“A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition.”
Who is Carl Christmas in your house? Who is the one that makes sure everyone that needs to get a card does? Who comes up with the plan for the lights? Who takes the reins on the shopping?
Every home needs one and in my house, that’s me. December (including the last week of November) is my time to shine, baby!
One thing I have tried to impress upon my mom and wife this year is that shipping and supply chain delays are real. So, if you are planning on procrastinating on your online shopping this year (you know, like usual) someone (me) is going to have no presents under the tree.
Veteran producers are used to operate this way. Young producers, listen up. Your job involves the most delicate balance of any in sports radio. You have to help bring your host’s and PD’s visions to life. That means you have to be able to take their direction. But you also have to keep the host on target. That means you cannot be afraid to be forceful and lead when the moment demands it.
There’s no value to being an unrepentant asshole to people, but you do have to hold them accountable. Look at that Christmas shopping example again. If you want to get what you want, you need to keep on task the people you know aren’t paying attention to the potential roadblocks. It isn’t selfish. It is making sure everyone gets the holiday W they are expecting. Sure, you would be disappointed if your gift doesn’t arrive on time, but so will the gift giver.
Being a stickler for the clock or moving a host off of a topic that has no value is the same thing. Of course there is something in it for you, but you are also helping the host do his or her job better. They may get annoyed with you now, but if you save them from an ass-chewing from the bosses or slipping ratings, then they have reaped the benefits.
I guess the unfortunate difference here is that there may be no acknowledgment of what you did or helped them to avoid. Oh well. Every producer has to expect a certain level of thanklessness.
Producers have to take on that Carl Christmas role in dealing with sales too. Remember, just because the producer’s name isn’t on the show doesn’t mean that isn’t every bit his or her show that it is the hosts’.
It’s like decorating your house for the holidays. You may have a certain design in mind. Maybe you have a traditional look you stick to every year. If your spouse or your kid comes home with a giant, inflatable Santa Claus in a military helicopter that they want on the lawn, you have a decision to make. Are you going to say no and suggest an alternative that aligns more with your goal or are you going to let your plan get run over?
Sales has a job to do. It is to make sure their clients’ messages are heard and to make money for the station. Both can be accomplished without sacrificing your show’s quality.
If a seller comes to you and says he wants his client to come in for five minutes and talk about now being the time to book an appointment to have your garage floors redone, you have to speak up. You have an obligation to make sure that the seller knows that even five minutes of that will hurt the show and have listeners diving for the preset buttons on their car stereo. That isn’t good for the station or his client.
Instead, offer to work with the seller and the client to come up with a piece of content that the client can put his name on and a 20-second ad read behind. Will the audience stick around to listen to some dude named Jerry talk about garage floors or will more people listen to you talk about the NFL playoff picture in a creative way and then still be there to hear Jerry’s message about garage floors? The answer seems obvious.
A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition. If the background work wasn’t done though, the problems would be right out on the front lawn for everyone to see.
“Gatekeeper” is a term I really hate. It implies that someone is telling others what they are and are not allowed to enjoy. It is a necessary term though to properly describe what it is that a great producer and a great Carl Christmas do.
We don’t shut people out from being able to enjoy or be a part of what it is we are creating. We set or are handed down expectations and we block anything that can get in the way of achieving them. Sometimes, that is more thankless work than it should be. It is necessary though.
As my home’s self-appointed Carl Christmas and a former producer, let me give my countrymen the thanks others forget. We are the ones that make it possible for everyone else to be mindless. Wear it as a badge of honor. We may not get the kind of recognition we deserve everyday, but when plans go off without a hitch, we are usually the first to be recognized for making it happen.
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