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Free Agents Need To Stay Off The Low Road

“I’m not saying don’t ever be frustrated; that’s part of being human. I’m saying handle it like a grown up.”

Brian Noe

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Bleacher Report

One of my all-time favorite radio bits featured Erik Kuselias. I don’t know the official name of the bit, but it was referred to as high road, low road. Once the voice guy said, “The high road,” Kuselias would state a number of positive things about a subject. “This team is improving. They’re really showing signs of life.” Then the voice guy would say, “The low road,” and the sports radio host would say the exact opposite. “This team stinks! They’re awful! What an embarrassment!”

Erik Kuselias is the new host of NBC Sports Talk
Courtesy: Golf Channel

Using the low road for that radio bit was hilarious. Taking the low road in the business world isn’t nearly as funny. It’s foolish to negotiate against yourself.

Free agent running back Le’Veon Bell recently made this mistake. The three-time Pro Bowler posted on Instagram, “I’ll never play for Andy Reid again. I’d retire first.” Oh boy.

Bell signed a one-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs last season. He only had 76 touches in nine regular-season games. Bell’s playoff resume? Six yards on two carries against the Cleveland Browns. That’s it. That’s the list. He didn’t play in the AFC Championship Game against Buffalo or the Super Bowl against Tampa Bay.

Bell was obviously upset about how the season played out for him in KC. To be fair, maybe Reid was like the guy at the club spitting game. “Oh yeah, girl, I’m gonna take you on a trip around the world,” which actually meant going to McDonald’s in Bakersfield. I understand how a lack of follow-through can royally tick you off. It’s possible something like that happened in this case.

But publicly voicing frustration gets you nowhere. It’s hustling backwards.

The last year has been very challenging for many people in sports radio. Maybe you got let go because of stupid COVID or didn’t get your contract renewed for other financial reasons. It’s easy to lash out when things are going badly — yelling “screw that place” might seem like a great idea — but it doesn’t get you anywhere. You’re just setting up extra hurdles on the track that you’ll have to jump over.

Criticizing a former business partner doesn’t land well. It’s like a girl that badmouths her ex-boyfriend. That was always a giant red flag to me. Where’s the accountability? It’s doubtful the other person was the only one screwing up while you were a modern-day saint.

It’s the same thing with Bell. He’s pointing the finger at Reid instead of himself. It doesn’t work. Even Bell’s former teammate, Tyrann Mathieu, wasn’t buying it.

Don’t forget that Reid is one of the most well-respected coaches in the entire NFL. It doesn’t mean that Reid is incapable of making mistakes, but it means that many coaches and front office members will side with him. Reid’s coaching tree is vast. And we tend to lean toward our friends. What if one of your good friends — who helped advance your career — was just called out? Would you be eager to hire the person that criticized your buddy? That would be a big, fat no.

Mike McDermott said to Worm in the movie Rounders, “It’s stupid. It’s just bad business.” That’s exactly what lashing out is – bad business.

I’m not saying don’t ever be frustrated; that’s part of being human. I’m saying handle it like a grown up.

I can fully understand Bell’s frustration. He went from a premier running back with the Steelers, to a healthy scratch with the Chiefs. That’s tough.

I can also appreciate the frustration that many people in sports radio feel. If you show up for work one day and don’t have a gig the next, that isn’t a barrel of laughs. If you’ve ever gotten your hopes up for an opening after a program director got done waxing poetic about you, only to ghost you forever, oh yeah, frustration city. Maybe you also have a family, mortgage, and mouths to feed on top of getting yanked around during the job search. You might be seeing red at that point.

The minute you lash out at a former employer, co-worker, boss, or in Bell’s case a former coach, is the minute you lose ground.

You’ve heard of Tom Brady’s TB12 Method. I’d like to introduce something that might benefit you even more in life: The Keep It To Your Freakin’ Self Method. Not vocalizing your critical thoughts is essential in life. If you voiced every negative thought about your boss, partner, kids, neighbors, and 78 other things in this world, you’d find yourself in a very bad spot.

Bell knows he’s better than a lot of running backs that are currently employed. There are sports radio hosts currently out of work that know they’re better than certain full-time hosts. That causes anger to rise, which is right around the time the devil shows up on your shoulder and starts whispering, “Hey, you should call somebody out. Yeah, fire up Twitter and go on a rampage.”

After firing up IG, Bell later apologized because he knows he screwed up by publicizing his beef with Reid.

You don’t ever have to say sorry for doing the right thing. Bell realizes he stepped in it. (Or his agent let him know.) Either way, Bell is doing damage control. That isn’t the position you want to be in, especially as a free agent who’s looking for work.

Success isn’t just about talent; it’s also about trust. And trust matters even more when your talent starts to decline. By calling out Reid, all Bell did was plant seeds of doubt with other teams. Is this declining running back worth the trouble? Or will he call me out too if things aren’t to his liking? That’s what the low road gets you; temporary satisfaction followed by a bunch of headaches. It’s wiser to keep things positive. Take the high road.

BSM Writers

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.

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WRONG BAD

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.

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BSM Writers

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.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

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.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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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.

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