Family is a very comforting concept. It feels good to have a group of people that you would give up everything for and vice versa. That is a kind of love that you will feel from only a very few people in your life.
Employers have been trying to sell the idea that their organizations are a family for decades, if not hundreds of years. At its most diabolical, the practice is exploitative. It drills into employees the idea that being asked not to log the overtime hours they work is okay and that wanting better is somehow selfish.
Let’s put the social implications to the side for a second though, and think about this from management’s point of view.
Is hammering the idea of family into your employees’ heads the best way to accomplish your goals? It isn’t. Relationships will develop amongst departments and between individuals and that is fine. My wife has worked with largely the same group of people for the last 15 years and she is deeply loyal to that group. There is nothing wrong with employees feeling like a family. For a manager though, you have to sell the organization as a team.
Teams work towards a common goal. Team members are viewed as individuals and are valued based on their contribution towards that goal. We cover sports for a living. We see it all the time. Coaches may absolutely love their players as people, but they still have to keep performance at the forefront of the decision making process. That kind of relationship is much more conducive to business than a family relationship.
Look at the family I grew up with for instance. My dad and I don’t have much of a relationship at all. We talk maybe 3 or 4 times per year and haven’t seen each other since an extended family member’s wedding in 2019. He is still my dad. My sister goes through these phases where she retreats into her cocoon and doesn’t accept my calls or return my texts. I don’t know why she does that, but I love my sister very much. All I can do is keep texting until she texts me back.
Can you even begin to imagine trying to run an office or an air staff that functions that way? Now look, I get that not all families are dysfunctional like that, but plenty are. If family is the dynamic you are striving for with your staff, you need to be prepared to work around dysfunction.
How many coaches can you name that have been asked to speak to corporate groups or have written a book about leadership? The idea is pretty simple. There is a lot that can be learned about leading a team of employees from the way these guys lead a team of players. Do you see any Fortune 500 companies lining up to give your mom a check to come in and explain why you’re the world’s best lil’ puddin’ face? No, because there are so many duties and concerns that a family relationship requires that would get in the way of productivity when it comes to functioning as a business.
Phil Jackson has always been praised for building a team that lets the talents of superstars shine and builds up the role players to be ready when called upon. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, John Paxon and Sasha Vujačić all trust Phil for different reasons. What matters is that they all trust him. That seems more like the ideal work environment than one where you feel obligated to show up to a co-worker’s kid’s piano recital.
Look at the sports radio world. A PD cannot manage every show and each individual employee the same way. Validation doesn’t look the same to a star talent as it does to a part-time producer trying to work his way up the ladder. The time devoted to an established, dominant show will not be the same as the time devoted to one you are trying to get off the ground. PDs manage their staffs as individuals in order to meet an overall goal.
Imagine trying to explain to your daughter, who only ever gets straight As and each week is assigned more chores, that she isn’t allowed to join you and your other daughter, who could get straight As but never turns in her homework and is only expected to take out the trash, at the water park this weekend. The good kid would be filled with resentment and demanding answers from you. As a parent, all you can answer with is “because I said so,” and if you’re a parent, you know that only leads to deeper resentment and more questions.
Establishing a team environment means making sure the players understand that they all have different roles and that means there will sometimes be an imbalance in recognition and reward. If that isn’t something they accept, there are two choices: work your way up to the level that gets the kind of recognition they require or find a new team.
The parent in the first scenario can’t really tell their daughter to find a new family. I mean, they could, but we would all rightfully call that parent an asshole if they did that.
There is one more element of being a team that doesn’t exist in families that is important to hammer home. Sometimes, a teammate can be beloved and just not be a fit for the team. The phrase “it’s nothing personal, it’s just business” isn’t much comfort when you get fired or laid off, but hey man, that’s reality. Radio, at its core is show business, and sometimes you’ve hired Eric Stoltz to play Marty McFly and you realize that isn’t going to work. Eric didn’t do anything wrong. The team just needs a change.
My dad isn’t a great dad. He’s still my dad though. There is no re-casting in a family, so I was just stuck with a dad that had no interest in being a dad when I was a kid.
This might read as heartless. I don’t mean for it to. We sometimes overvalue what our work environment is or is supposed to be and that blinds us to reality. Employees, like players, need to know they are valued and appreciated and that it is your goal to set them up for success. Loyalty and benefit of the doubt are not given. They are things both sides have a duty to the other to earn. That is how a team functions and thrives.
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.