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Extra Innings From 9/11 Reminds Us How Much We Needed Baseball

“There are so many documentaries recently released about that horrific day. This one will resonate with sports fans, whether baseball is your game or not.”

Seth Everett

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On Saturday, before over 80 college football games, and on the weekend that the NFL regular season returns in full force, the sports world and the entire world will stop and remember the 20th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in United States history.

I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you': George W. Bush's bullhorn  speech still echoes
Courtesy: FOX News

The key to the country’s recovery back then was and still is sports. While all sports provided a lift, baseball played a pivotal role. There were dramatic games and an outpouring of patriotism that was seen on all ballfields.

In 2005, HBO produced and aired a documentary chronicling the role baseball played with Nine Innings from Ground Zero. Now, in 2021, co-directors Ross Greenburg and Joe Lavine revisited that doc with a brand-new feature for HBO Max entitled, Extra Innings from 9/11: 20 Years Later.

“It was difficult. I’m not going to kid you, all of us shed a lot of tears,” Greenberg said exclusively on my Sports with Friends podcast. “We had been through this once before, but it was a very difficult moment.”

The film does a lot more than retell the story of how the Mets and Yankees responded to the tragedy. The best part of the film is the beginning when members of the 2001 Mets and 2001 Yankees explained where they were when the planes struck the World Trade Center.

“New York is a Testament to survive,” former Yankee manager Joe Torre says in the film. “No matter how hard the city gets hit, it always finds a way to get back up on its feet.”

Al Leiter was trying to get on a plane to pitch in Pittsburgh that night.  The Yankees were home, after being rained out the night before.  That immediately reminded me that I was supposed to go to Yankee Stadium for that rained-out game.

I hadn’t gone out to the ballpark by invoking the “Seth Everett Rain Delay Policy (One drop I’m out – inspired by the late great Phil Rizzuto and an 11-hour Marlins-Rockies split double-header I covered in Denver in 1997.)

The next morning I went on a radio show hosted by Holden Kushner in Des Moines, Iowa.  During the segment, my call-waiting went off, multiple times. Still, radio people know you don’t ask a host to hold on.

After the segment, the phone rang again. (This is a hard-line phone – it was 2001.)  It was my father.  He was across the street from the World Trade Center. He just called to tell me he was alright.

My younger sister lived in Greenwich Village in New York City in 2001.  She was walking downtown and saw the second plane hit with her own two eyes, not on TV like the rest of us.  My father and sister ran back to her apartment and turned on the television.

The bridges and tunnels were immediately closed. Living in Brooklyn, I could not get to Manhattan if I wanted to, and could not get to New Jersey where my mother was.  Instead, I climbed to the rooftop of my apartment building to see the smoke from ground zero.

“All of us had personal stories,” Greenburg said. “Mine was deeply personal. I lost my mother on September 9th and a month and a half later found myself going to game three (of the World Series), even though my wife, Michelle, did not want me to go because she felt like a bomb was going to drop on Yankee Stadium. When I went, I realized I was living a documentary.”

Extra Innings from 9/11: 20 Years Later to Premiere on HBO Max, Saturday,  Sept. 11 | Pressroom

“September’s a great time of year,” Torre said. “The weather cools down, pennant races heat up. Everyone was talking baseball.”

The Mets manager back then was Bobby Valentine. In the film, Valentine followed Torre by saying, “And there was no reason to think that 2001 would be any different.”

The film tells the story of a camp in Massachusetts that was set up for kids who lost family members on 9/11. Two of the campers that met back then are married adults today.

Greenburg said it was key to not only show how the families are still impacted, but how they also have positive things in their respective lives.

“That was the one thing that Joe (co-director Levine) and I were very adamant about,” Greenburg added. “We wanted to send the message loud and clear that if you’ve been through a horrific event and you’ve had to overcome very startlingly, tough times that you can get through it and you can live your life.

“That doesn’t mean that you’ll ever forget those days of 9/11 and everything that happened after. But it does mean that we’re human beings and we can live our lives. And in these difficult times, I think that’s a message.”

The “Piazza Game” was 10 days after 9/11.  It was a Friday night, and I had never attended a sporting event on the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur.  Still, I felt compelled to be at Shea Stadium that day. 

The crowd was so tense that night. Everyone was talking, but not cheering.  Until Piazza’s 8th inning home run.  And the cheers were of “USA! USA!” more than anything for the Mets or against the Braves.

“That was very important for people,” Greenburg added. “That’s why this resonates so much for me as a story that needed to be told.”

The playoffs and World Series with the Yankees were much more intense moments. People forget that the Jeter “flip-play” against Oakland happened that year.

The ALCS between the Yankees and Seattle Mariners was tightly contested. Then, President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch before Game 3 of the World Series and I never felt so patriotic in my whole life.

I remember asking Mark Feinsand of MLB.COM if we could stash our MLB Radio equipment in his office because clearing security was such a long and arduous process.

The old Yankee Stadium physically shook when Tino Martinez hit a home run to tie it, and recently-inducted Hall of Famer Derek Jeter became Mr. November.  The new Stadium simply cannot shake like that.

60 Moments: No. 11, Derek Jeter becomes Mr. November and makes New York  sing – The Athletic
Courtesy: Bill Kostroun/AP

Extra Innings from 9/11: 20 Years Later will be released on HBO Max on September 11th, 2021. There are so many documentaries recently released about that horrific day. This one will resonate with sports fans, whether baseball is your game or not.

On Saturday, before the kickoffs, pitches, and Women’s US Open Final, remember the victims, and remember the patriotism. Hard to believe, it has already been twenty years.

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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