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Football Is The Drug And We Are The Dealers

“We are one week into the preseason now. That means fans have seen games and have something they can overreact to, which is something you know they are dying to do.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Pascal Le Segretain | Getty Images

The life of a sports radio host is easier with football. That is one of those things that any idiot knows is true, but if you say it with enough conviction, sounds like you are making a bold declaration. Just look at what BSM’s own Ryan Maguire wrote earlier this month about just how much training camp alone can mean to a station.

We are one week into the preseason now. That means fans have seen games and have something they can overreact to, which is something you know they are dying to do.

I asked three hosts just how much easier their jobs are this week.

Nate Kreckman hosts Kreckman & Lindahl on Altitude Sports Radio in Denver. He says that thanks to a sustained run of mediocrity, his head is full of ideas for the next show after every Broncos’ game.

Radio Row: 104.3 the Fan has a new program director and I have some advice  for him - South Stands Denver

“There are a slew of them, both micro and macro,” he told me in a text. And the thing about the Broncos being as bad as they’ve ever been for a sustained period of time, every detail can be repurposed into a broader context.”

At the heart of the Broncos discussion on most days is what the team can, should, and will do under center. Kreckman told me that hosts in the city have been able to build entire shows around the quarterback situation for over half a decade.

“The Peyton Manning decline was huge, Broncos fans spent all of 2015 complaining about the offense right up until the second the clock hit 0:00 in Super Bowl 50, the Elway-Brock Osweiler divorce, the Paxton Lynch whiff, the weird signings of Case Keenum and Joe Flacco, and the mostly down roller coaster that has been the Drew Lock tenure. Pepper in a fair amount of criticism for the most popular sports figure in the state’s history (Elway) and the ownership debacle, and the Broncos have been one of the NFL’s biggest soap operas for going on 6 years now.”

Things are a little different in Charlotte, where Nick Wilson hosts WFNZ’s mid day show Nick & Stan. Things are still pretty easy for him the morning after a game. He says pre-season or regular season, a host should come in with the same mindset.

“You have a wealth of topics and sound,” Nick says. “Your job is to not screw it up.”

Nick Wilson becomes twerking sensation on Mix 107.9 | WFNZ Radio

Charlotte doesn’t have the appetite for the Panthers that Denver does for the Broncos though. In fact, Nick says that he is noticing a real shift in the Queen City’s sports hierarchy.

“This is the least Panthers interest I’ve seen yet,” says Wilson, who has been in the market since 2019. “They haven’t been to the playoffs for 3 years, moved on from Cam Newton & Ron Rivera last year (and virtually all other veterans) and their quarterback selections have been less than desirable or not-at-all exciting. This is the first time I’ve seen Hornets excitement surpass Panthers excitement.”

Look 180 degrees from where Kreckman and Wilson stand on doing a show after the first preseason game and you will find Philadelphia’s John Kincade.

“I don’t find it that easy,” the morning host on 97.5 The Fanatic says.

Kincade doesn’t like talking about individual games. He prefers looking at storylines and the storylines that excite himself and his listeners involve players that they are going to see with regularity during the season. He says the sample size of content featuring those players is too small in the preseason.

“When we started the show on Friday, because the Eagles played Thursday night, I asked did anything you saw change what you think this team is going to be.”

He, rightfully, didn’t put much stock in seeing the team take the field for the first time. Jalen Hurts took a total of ten snaps. Rookie running back Kenneth Gainwell touched the ball four times. Fletcher Cox made a single tackle. It is fair to say no one outside of the Eagles’ building knows anything about this team yet.

“I said if your opinion moved one way or the other by any more than a single game, you are overthinking it,” Kincade says.

This is Philadelphia though and we are talking about the Eagles. John Kincade may not take as many phone calls as other hosts in the market, but you can bet there were things he paid attention to and wanted to tell listeners. He shared thoughts on Nick Sirianni’s personnel groupings and how the first time head coach divvied out playing time.

No matter how you view the preseason, football absolutely makes our lives easier in this business. It is America’s great unifier at the water cooler. Maybe not everyone has the same opinion, but everyone wants their opinion heard because they know everyone else has an opinion too. It’s a virtually guaranteed point of connection!

Nate Kreckman knows his audience wants to find reason for hope. Nick Wilson knows he has the tools to make a burned out fan base react. John Kincade is going to talk you off a ledge until he can’t find a reason to. Football makes Americans nuts, and when Americans are nuts, they need someone or something they can shout at, to, and with. That’s when we shine!

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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