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This is Just Who Emmett Golden Is

“Getting behind a mic and talking just came naturally to me. I like to talk to people and have fun.”

Tyler McComas

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Doing a self-evaluation is never fun, but Emmett Golden knew he had to do it for the betterment of his family. He’d already had several jobs: working at American Greetings in the shipping and receiving department, making plumbing supplies at a factory, even selling treadmills at Dicks Sporting Goods. He needed an actual career. 

So at 29 years old with a wife and a family, Golden sat down and asked himself what he was good at. 

“I couldn’t think of anything,” laughed Golden. “I thought to myself, well, I think I’m funny, so does that mean I’m going to be a comedian? No.”

The other thing that came to his mind was his ability to easily make friends. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a job title that existed where you just make friends. But then something clicked as he was listening to the Dan Patrick Show. If Golden considered himself funny and outgoing, then that’s exactly what Seton O’Connor, one of his favorite guys on the show, was. 

“He’d jump in and crack a joke here and there,” said Golden. “I always thought that was cool. I don’t want to disrespect him, but I was thinking, maybe I could do that.”

Golden listened to ESPN Cleveland his entire life, mainly because of his father’s love for the station. The funny thing is he admits he hated the station when he was young and would often ask his dad to change the station to music. Golden’s dad never complied with the requests. But as the years went by, Golden started to acquire a taste for sports talk radio. When it came time to re-evaluate his options and look for a career, his father had been gone for close to five years. That’s when Golden heard the ad on ESPN Cleveland for a local broadcasting school. He was instantly intrigued. 

“I just decided to do it,” Golden said. “I called and I enrolled. I was working and going to school and then I applied for several internships. I didn’t get any calls back.”

Golden followed up via email with ESPN Cleveland and the station invited him for an interview. When he walked in, he instantly noticed there was a vast difference between him and the interns in the building. Golden was a 29-year-old with a family, but everyone else was 20 and 21-year-old kids. 

“I was convinced there was no way they were giving me an internship because I was too old,” laughed Golden. “Finally I got an email that offered me an internship.”

He walked into the building thinking he had made it, but what he soon realized is they had already hired their interns for the year, but a couple of people quit and they needed more. That’s why Golden was getting his shot. He didn’t take it personally, instead, he was grateful for the opportunity. He was ready to work harder than anyone else in the building. 

For a guy that was trying to find a better financial situation for this family, interning at a sports radio station was probably the most questionable decision he could have made. Thinking about that now makes Golden laugh, but he made every sacrifice to make it work, including riding the bus to work every day. 

“Everybody was like, man, he rode the bus to work every day,” Golden said. “To me, it wasn’t a big deal. We only had one car and there was no way in hell I was going to let my wife or kids ride the bus. Those rides were adventurous, to say the least, but it wasn’t a huge deal to me.”

The attitude early on was the same every day. He’d bus to work and ask to do anything and everything he could. It didn’t matter, because he had to make this work. Finally, he got the call he’ll never forget. 

Golden went to an empty studio inside ESPN Cleveland and called his wife. When she answered, he had the best news he’d had in a long time. He was just offered a full-time position with the station as a producer for the afternoon show. Golden’s wife couldn’t contain the excitement. 

“She was so happy,” Golden said. “I was like, OK, I have to run and get back to work. But my phone kept blowing up and I thought it was hilarious because she was so happy she went and told everyone about it. That was a big moment for us.”

Emmett Golden on Twitter: "Ugly Christmas Sweater party with my wife.… "

Golden had made it as a full-time employee but he wasn’t satisfied. Just like everyone else, he wanted to be in the host’s chair. Finding your way as a producer to the opposite side of the glass can be one of the biggest challenges in the business, but Golden jokes he had a secret nobody else did. 

“It’s a secret and I don’t want many people to know this, but I was just a terrible producer,” laughed Golden.” That’s how I did it. I’m good at coming up with ideas and having a feel for the audience, but I’m not an organized person at all. To be a producer, you have to be organized and I used to forget we were having guests on the show and all kinds of other things.”

Though Golden will joke it was because he was a terrible producer, it was really because Evan Cohen, Content VP at Good Karma Brands, instantly recognized his talent. 

Cohen was sitting with Jerod Cherry during an aircheck and heard Golden’s voice because he was the producer of the show. Cohen asked Cherry who this Golden guy was. Cherry told him exactly who he was and what he did at the station. Cohen then asked a question that sounded more like a statement.

“Why isn’t this guy a host?”

Soon after, Cohen was grooming and preparing Golden to be a host at ESPN Cleveland. Co-hosting opportunities became more and more frequent and he found himself on the opposite side of the glass he was used to. 

“Getting behind a mic and talking just came naturally to me. I like to talk to people and have fun. People started telling me to do exactly that, be yourself and have fun. I just try to walk in every day and have a good time.”

Golden is now the co-host of The Next Level with Emmett and Jerod on ESPN Cleveland. There may not be a better example in sports radio of how determination and hard work can create success and opportunities. It’s humbling for Golden to look back on his journey from a 29-year-old intern to a current-day show host, especially since he’s doing it all at his father’s favorite station. 

The Next Level Show - PodCenter - ESPN Radio

“He’d be blown away,” Golden said. “I just know he would. We’d talk about sports anyway, but I can see him calling me with his sports takes. I can see him calling me before a show and asking what we were going to talk about that day.”

As crazy as it may sound, Golden still feels like an intern at ESPN Cleveland. It shows by the way he treats and builds relationships with the interns in the building. Golden is never too important to talk to anyone and it’s a huge reason why he’s such a valuable commodity to the station. He’s an expert at building relationships with people in the building and it’s why he’s one of the most well-liked media members in Cleveland. 

But as genuine and nice as he is, he also shoots it straight with the young interns. He tells them it’s going to be hard. He tells them there’s going to be adversity and he tells them it’s going to be a grind. 

“When they walk in I know exactly how they feel,” Golden said. “I know they’re both excited and nervous, especially when they don’t know anyone. I do everything I can to build relationships with them and give them advice.”

One of the most popular compliments Golden gets is how he’s the same guy off the air, as he is on the air. It’s a rare trait in sports media, but no matter the situation, Golden is the exact same guy. 

“Why isn’t everybody like that?” laughed Golden. “I’m a guy that likes positivity, to have fun and laugh.”

It’s the reason why he’s been such a success at ESPN Cleveland. Golden is an extremely likable personality on the air that people gravitate towards. He’s authentic and honest, even when he doesn’t necessarily know the answer. 

“One of the things I’ve always done is that I have a question about the business, I asked multiple people in the business the same question,” Golden said. “I feel like if I get different answers, there are no real rules on the way to do it, but if everyone tells me the same thing, then maybe that’s the way. I remember a few guys telling me, Emmett, it’s right or left. It’s black or white, you can’t straddle the fence and say I don’t know when you’re hosting a sports radio show. As much respect as I have for those men, that was the first time I really disagreed with something, because I felt like if I don’t know something, then I don’t know.”

Matt Fishman, Director of Content at ESPN Cleveland. has developed a great relationship with Golden. That’s important, seeing as the two need to get along and see eye-to-eye for the betterment of the station. 

“I love Fish,” Golden said. “The first time we met it was over lunch and we instantly hit it off. I love that I can be frank and honest with him. He’ll shoot it straight to me and that’s all you want. If we disagree or he tells me no on something I know it’s from a good place. I love working for him.”

It’s hard to take this opportunity for granted when you’ve come from working odd jobs. Golden was able to elevate himself from a factory job creating plumbing supplies into a job where he’s been sprayed with champagne in the Cavs locker room and in the stadium for a World Series.  You’ll never hear him be ungrateful or complain about his situation. Golden knows his situation is a great one, especially with the hype of this upcoming NFL season. 

ESPN Cleveland Host Going 24 Hours - Radio Ink

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Golden said. “Cleveland is a Browns town. I did a 24-hour show before the playoff game against Pittsburgh and it was sold out. At 3 o’clock in the morning, normally, you’re listening to nothing but promos, but we had every spot sold out for 24 hours and I know it wasn’t because of me. It was because of the Browns. Not only is it a great time for fans, it’s a great time for advertising partners because everyone is listening to sports talk radio. Business is great right now.”

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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