For the first time in a while, ESPN will feature the same Monday Night Football booth in consecutive years. The crew of Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Louis Riddick will be back to call the action on Monday Nights. The trio debuted last season and got mainly good reviews, but the bar was set pretty low after the Tessitore/McFarland era.
I didn’t have a major problem with the booth as constructed. I thought the addition of Riddick was a great move. Levy is a pretty solid play-by-play guy and Griese has been around for a while, so I’m used to him as an analyst. Probably not a glowing review on my part, because I grew up in an era of Monday Night Football being a spectacle, and an event. Howard Cosell was the star, “Dandy” Don Meredith was the jokester, and Frank Gifford was a former player turned pretty darn good play-by-play man. I’m spoiled, what can I say?
Over the years as things evolved on the broadcast, television executives tried to fix what wasn’t broken. Wanting to do things differently. Like the failed experiment of Dennis Miller. I’m not sure what the attraction was. I mean Miller was hilarious on Saturday Night Live, but come on, why was he in the football booth? Tony Kornheiser had a crack at it to, but it wasn’t the right fit. My point being, if you’re going to change it up, change it for the better while keeping the integrity of the game and booth in mind.
I bring this up because of Dan Le Batard. Last week he tweeted about having only 17 percent battery life on his phone and he’d been drinking tequila. He opened up his Twitter account to anyone that wanted to ask him anything. One of the first questions he received was from Mina Kimes, the ESPN NFL analyst.
She asked: Do you think Rico Dawdle cemented his position as RB3 on the Cowboys depth chart with his explosive performance tonight?
Le Batard responded: Yes. And I think they need to be smart and put you in the Monday Night Football booth because your analysis is better than anyone’s and no one cares more about football or is better on football than you are.
Le Batard later tweeted he doesn’t want to see Kimes as a sideline reporter on an alternate simulcast. He wants her in the booth each week. To which Kimes tweeted back, “Please drop me off a block away from school; you’re embarrassing me in front of the other kids.”
The former ESPN’er said he didn’t want to see Kimes in a sideline reporting role or on an “alternate broadcast”. He says she belongs in the booth.
Could this be a legitimate option for ESPN, say if Riddick gets a front office position in the league? What if Griese decides he wants to coach? I’m not sure that’s even an option, but you get my point, what if there is an opening as an analyst in the MNF booth? Would Kimes be considered?
First off, if Kimes gets offered a role to host on the MNF Alternative broadcast, she should take it. That would be a great way to get some broadcasting “reps” and better prepare her for a possible role in the main booth.
After watching a recent Los Angeles Rams preseason broadcast, I think Kimes would be a hit on the regular broadcast. She worked the Rams/Chargers game for a local LA television station, which was also carried on the NFL Network. Kimes was seated alongside Aqib Talib as the analysts, working with play-by-play man Andrew Siciliano. He is the perfect broadcaster for Kimes to learn from. First off, he does a great job calling the action, but an even better job of setting up his analysts.
As I watched on my iPad, while getting my car serviced in suburban Chicago, one thing struck me immediately. Kimes knows her stuff. It was clear to me that she spent time preparing for this game. Her information was excellent. Kimes had in-depth knowledge of the camp battles for both teams and was very informed on what the teams did last season and needed to improve upon. She spoke confidently.
What also struck me, was that Kimes was not afraid of the moment that’s for sure. Although I would say early in the game, she did defer a lot to Talib. He wasn’t seizing the opportunity to “analyze” right after a play. Kimes though showed respect for a guy that played the game, allowing him to gather his thoughts. But you could tell that Talib respected her. He deferred to her a few times. In kind, Kimes would bring Talib back into the conversation, with on point questions, especially about the DB’s. His area of expertise. It was fun to hear the two work together. I did feel that most of the time, her information was better.
For example, in the second quarter Kimes began talking about the Rams running game. With Cam Akers out for the season, she said fans should keep an eye on who will be running the ball. She asked the question out loud about whether the Akers’ injury would cause a philosophy change in the Rams run game. She wondered if the style would be drastically different without Akers.
Kimes showed an ability to have a lot of fun in the booth. She joked in the 2nd quarter, after a replay showing a DB grabbing some of the receiver’s jersey. Talib and Kimes laughed about it, with Kimes stating, “I work with a lot of DB’s and I know better than to call that pass interference or holding.”
She told a few great stories too. One was about Chargers quarterback Chase Daniel and his bank account. Kimes mentioned that Daniel, after this season would have made 38.9-million dollars in his career. She added that he’s only started 5 games in the NFL. She capped it by saying, “Wow, his average (dollars) per throw is more than I make in a year.”
I enjoyed her information and the way she relayed it. Kimes certainly has a working knowledge of the schemes on defense and on offense, but the information was presented in a very digestible way. The info was very relatable and she wasn’t trying to overdo it. Meaning, she wasn’t saying, “look at me, I know my stuff and I am proving it to you by saying this.” Kudos to her for realizing that and sticking to her style and understanding of the situation.
If I had a criticism, it would be her ‘feel’ for the booth. It’s probably unfair because nobody ‘gets’ that dynamic right away. Plus, she’s only recently made the transition from writing to hosting and now to analyzing during a game. My biggest gripe is a small one in the grand scheme of things. Every once in a while, she would talk over referee Tony Corrente’s penalty calls, which shouldn’t happen. There were a few awkward moments and a few times where maybe things sounded a little forced. But that was early in the game and it got better as time went by.
The most awkward moment though was handled beautifully by Siciliano and Kimes. She went viral when she was trying to get into position for a booth shot. Kimes wasn’t completely seated when the director took the shot. When Siciliano said, “Hey look, we’re on camera.”, Kimes responded with “So are my pants.” The ability to laugh at herself is something to respect as well.
Kimes is a good story teller. I want to hear more stories, especially during a preseason game. Why? Because the casual fan probably doesn’t care that the Rams are in “Cover Zero” with a blitzing strong side linebacker. But I’ll bet they’d love to hear the “SAM” linebacker was an undrafted rookie free agent from a small school in the Midwest. Those are the stories that the NFL is built on.
I’ve said it before, you don’t have to be a former player to analyze a sport. It’s a bit tougher because you don’t have playing experiences to draw on. But remember, just because you played at a high level doesn’t mean you’ll be a good analyst. If you study the game, if you immerse yourself in it, if you continue to learn from coaches and players, you can analyze the NFL or any sport for that matter. Gaining respect from teams means you’ll get information that others may not.
Kimes was named to the NFL 40 Under 40: by the Athletic. According to the site, “she’s a skilled interviewer and a masterful writer who in the past year crossed over into a full-time analyst role on “NFL Live.” It’s still exceptionally rare for a woman to sit in the analyst chair, yet Kimes already has become one of the most respected voices in football.”
The site interviewed her co-analyst on NFL Live, Dan Orlovsky, the former NFL QB. He added, “Mina is so great because she never wants to live on the surface of a conversation about football. It’s always going down into the weeds, understanding it and then making it surface-level understandable,” said Orlovsky. “Being her teammate is fantastic because you know she’s locked in and forces you to be on top of your game.”
Should Kimes be a candidate if/when a spot opens up in a broadcast booth? Yup. She’s good, oh and she’s qualified too. Her enthusiasm, passion, and knowledge of the game have earned her respect from colleagues and the adoration of many fans. Le Batard is on to something here, hopefully the bosses at his former network are listening.
She’s already ten times better than Dennis Miller.
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.