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It’s a Golden Era For Bob Fescoe And Kansas City

“Since 2014 we’ve been on a fairy tail run. We had the Royals make back-to-back World Series and then we’ve been to three-straight AFC Championship games and two Super Bowls.”

Tyler McComas

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The golden era of sports radio in Kansas City is happening right now. The Chiefs have the most exciting player, as well as the most exciting team in the NFL and could be on the verge of the next dynasty in football. The Royals are nearly six years removed from a World Series title, but the excitement level in the city is still high, despite the team being at or below a .500 record every year since.

Ratings are good. Sales are good. It’s a great time to be a host in Kansas City. 

Kansas City, MO
Courtesy: Forbes

Bob Fescoe is right in the middle of the action at 610 Sports as the host of Fescoe in the Morning. He’s one of the most established and beloved hosts Kansas City has ever had and now he’s enjoying the success of the two hometown teams. He’s truly living his best life. 

But it’s not exactly where the eight-year-old version of himself thought he would be. A huge New York Giants fan in the 80’s, Fescoe was more drawn to the play-by-play side of the business, because of Pat Summerall and John Madden 

“John Madden was so entertaining to me,” said Fescoe. I always loved him and I realized at that time I was never going to play professional sports. I could already tell that at 8 years old. So what was the next best thing? Being behind the mic. I always thought I wanted to do play-by-play and thought I could be good at it.”

Fast forward a few years and the kid from New Jersey is in south Texas for his first radio job out of college. He still had aspirations in play-by-play and was doing it heavily at KWED in Seguin, Texas, a town right outside of San Antonio. Fescoe was the voice of Texas Lutheran University, a Division 3 college football program and was traveling in busses all across south Texas, north Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. 

“I was also doing play-by-play for four or five different high schools and dealing with their coaches, which was a lot of fun,” Fescoe said. “I learned so much as to why certain coaches are really good at what they do. I also got to cover the San Antonio Spurs. That was 1999 and they had just won their first championship that year. I really wish I could go back to those years and understand who I was around and who I was covering. At 22 or 23 years old, Greg Popovich wasn’t the same guy as he is today. He was a totally different guy. David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Avery Johnson, Sean Elliott, it was an unbelievable group of people I got to be around, but I didn’t pay much attention to it because it was the Spurs and it was just the beginning of their dynasty. I really wish I could go back and appreciate being around those guys a little more.”

After nearly two years at KWED, Fescoe made the move to Kansas City to work at KMBZ where he truly discovered his love for sports talk radio. The station was the flagship for both KU basketball and the Royals and he was immediately drawn to the format and the ability to talk about what was happening in the community. There was something about the ability to make a difference in people’s lives that instantly stuck. He realized his new passion. It wasn’t play-by-play, it was being a host on a sports talk radio station.

He was hired to be the producer of the afternoon show. After just a couple of months, he had his own show. 

“People say you never remember where you were on September 10th, 2001, but I do,” Fescoe said. “That was the first day I got my own talk show. It was a night time talk show and another guy did that while I was producing the afternoon show. There were a lot of KU and Royals games at night, so there weren’t a lot of night-time shows until the winter time. But that first day we were on the air on September 10th talking about sports and the next day, everything changed. For the next two weeks, we were doing news radio and talk radio and dealing with the after effects of 9/11.”

Fescoe would produce the afternoon show and do his night-time show for a couple of more years, before moving across the street to the competition at WHB Sports Radio 810. After three years on the job, he moved outside of the market to St. Louis. 

From the outside, one would think Kansas City and St. Louis are very similar markets. They’re both in the midwest, they’re both full of baseball fans and they’re even located in the same state. But though there are some similarities, the differences of the two markets are pretty extreme. 

“It’s definitely a completely different market,” Fescoe said. “That may even apply more today than it ever has before, because of the provincial nature of the city. The people in St. Louis had no interest in having me there, and never gave me an opportunity, because I wasn’t from there. St. Louis is all about what high school you went to and they would make their determination on you based on that. I grew up in New Jersey. I didn’t go to high school there. I think it was a little bit of a shock to them that a guy that wasn’t raised there was talking about their teams.”

Bob Fescoe Predicts Undefeated 2021 For Chiefs | Barrett Media

It just wasn’t a fit for either party. Fescoe would later leave and go back to Kansas City, but he still got a lot out of his radio experience in St. Louis. Mostly, because he was working with Jason Barrett. 

“Working with Jason was great,” Fescoe said. “I went to St. Louis to work for him, because I had talked to him about a potential job in Philadelphia. Jason was the first person I was around that I got real, true radio feedback from. I’ll never forget doing a demo show in Philadelphia and the feedback was like 10-15 pages off a three-hour show. I was like, wow, there’s so much to learn. I had the opportunity to work for him and really pick his brain to find out a lot of stuff that makes radio work. Some of the stuff you still do today, I learned from Jason back in 2007.”

Kansas City is where Fescoe belongs. Not only is he a beloved host but he’s made a real effort to endear himself to everyone in the community. That’s extremely important in a market like Kansas City. He’s on the board of directors for multiple non-profit organizations and people have noticed. If you take the time to embrace the community, they’ll embrace you right back.  

“Kansas City is the most giving and charitable community I’ve ever been a part of,” Fescoe said. “We treat everyone in this town like they’re our own. That was one of the things I learned during the 2014 World Series run is how many people were using baseball in this town to get through tough times in their life. We had people on the air during that time talking about battling cancer, or their kids battling cancer, or they themselves had illnesses and the only thing that made them happy during the day was watching the Royals at night. Being connected to the community is vital in this town. I don’t know how it compares to other cities, but this is the most charitable place I’ve ever lived.”

Being charitable is never questioned about Kansas City, but it’s favorite sport routinely is. Is it a baseball town or a football town? That’s a popular question people from outside the market like to ask. It’s often debated with the answers almost always seemingly split. But Fescoe can accurately answer the question of if the sports fans in Kansas City prefer football or baseball more with just one word.

“Yes.”

“People here are truly passionate about their teams,” Fescoe said. “Since 2014 we’ve been on a fairy tail run. We had the Royals make back-to-back World Series and then we’ve been to three-straight AFC Championship games and two Super Bowls. At its core I think Kansas City is a baseball town, because October of 2014 is the greatest month of my professional career, just to see the way that Kansas City came alive and fell in love with this baseball team and was living and dying with every pitch. It gets me kind of emotional to talk about those teams. People were living it every single day and the joy that ballclub brought everyone. I’ve never seen a team turn around a city from an attitude and a belief standpoint like the Royals did in 2014 in Kansas City.”

That 2014 season is a big reason why Kansas City is in the golden era of sports talk radio. Throw that Mahomes guy in as a big reason, too. The Chiefs and Royals have had success in the past, sure, but never at the same time. The past six years they have, and it’s unveiled a passion that can rival any market in the country. 

Kansas City sports radio hasn’t just benefited from the golden era on the ratings sheet, but on sales sheets, as well. Local businesses have flocked to get their name attached to the local teams and it has greatly benefitted stations such as 610 Sports. 

“When the sports teams are good it’s something everyone wants to be a part of in Kansas City,” Fescoe said. “In any way they possibly can, whether it’s sponsoring a coaches show or being on the air and mentioning the things that are going on in town, they just want to be a part of everyone’s listening habits, because when those teams are good, obviously the ratings are better, because people care more when the teams are winning. I’ve had conversations with people over the years and they’d ask if I’d rather have a losing team or a winning team. It’s not even close. It’s definitely a winning team. When you’re losing, people check out, but when you’re winning, more and more people than you’ve ever imagined are tuning in. Then you’re capturing all kinds of different audiences.”

Bob Fescoe - 610 Sports | Barrett Media

The golden era of sports talk in Kansas City will likely last as long as Mahomes is playing quarterback for the Chiefs. Judging by the contract he signed last year, hosts such as Fescoe have a lot to look forward to. 

“This is the golden era of Kansas City sports,” Fescoe said. “There’s never been a better time in their successes being at the exact same time. That never happened before 2014.”

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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