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Has The National Media Given Up On Major League Baseball?

“With the MLB postseason now underway, it sticks out like a sore thumb. Where is the baseball talk?”

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October is inarguably the best time of the year to be a sports fan. NFL in full swing, college football rivalries heat up, the NBA and NHL start up again, and the MLB hits its most exciting portion of the season. Not bad for a sports talk radio host either. Depending on the city you broadcast from and the passions of your listening audience, the options are plentiful. Even more so if you are lucky enough to be part of a nationally syndicated show. In that case, radio or TV, your options are limitless and your content is plentiful. With that being the case, I have a very simple question.

Why does the national media seemingly ignore Major League Baseball? 

2021 NL Wild Card Game Recap: Dodgers Beat Cardinals On Chris Taylor's Walk- Off Home Run
Courtesy: Robert Honoshiro/USA Today Sports

I’ll admit, I’m sure I’m the type of sports fan that’s part of the problem. My baseball passion was at its peak when I was about 10 years old in the mid-’90s. Stars like Griffey, Ripken, Jeter, Thomas, Johnson, and others were littered across the MLB landscape. It was heaven for a baseball-loving kid. Since then, I’ve drifted further and further away from that passion, seemingly getting less and less excited about baseball (even though I still love it) and more and more excited about NFL, CFB, and NBA. National sports shows have followed suit. 

With the MLB postseason now underway, it sticks out like a sore thumb. Where is the baseball talk? I know it’s not the popular sport it used to be, but it is still popular. According to Statista.com, baseball is still the 2nd most popular sport in the United States behind only football. Look at overall viewership for big events, the NFL/CFB dominated the 50 most-watched telecasts of last year, but if you exclude the NFL, MLB’s 2020 World Series between the Rays and Dodgers trailed only the College Football Playoff in garnering the largest audience (6.8 million tuned in for Game 6 of the World Series). 

That means baseball, at its height, is more popular with a TV viewing audience than the NBA, PGA Tour, and NASCAR. Except, you wouldn’t know it if all you did was watch debate shows and listen to national sports talk radio hosts like Colin Cowherd. 

I don’t mean to pick on Colin. He’s terrific at what he does and I look up to him as a host, but I watched/listened to his full show on Friday (10/8/21) and baseball was briefly mentioned in the “Herdline News” segment and that’s it. With 3 hours to fill, 2 games from the day before to talk about, and four more scheduled that day, all that was mentioned was a footnote on the Yankees. What’s even more puzzling is the fact that he’s on FS1, and they show a good portion of these games!

Now look, if you’re not an expert on the topic that’s fine, but if you are a national host that means you have some serious connections and have the ability to book a high-quality guest to cover the subject. Is John Smoltz not available? 

It’s not just Colin, of course. Go to the First Take, Undisputed, or Get Up YouTube channels where producers archive some of the best segments of the day from those three shows. You’ll notice that there’s zero baseball talk. I couldn’t find one baseball segment posted on any of those channels over the last month plus. It is amazing to me. 

Some of this is on Major League Baseball, they aren’t without fault here. MLB has done a poor job over the years marketing their sport to the masses. MLB has largely become regionalized, popular in the cities that possess it and forgotten about everywhere else. The blame rests squarely on their shoulders for that. You can even look at one of their social media posts promoting the start of the postseason as another head-shaking, “what are you idiots doing?!?” kind of thing.

Rather than posting about the stars in the Red-Sox/Rays Divisional Series, MLB posted a picture of Tom Brady wearing a split Tampa/Boston jersey with the headline: “The TB12 Series begins tonight”. Seriously? Would the NFL use an MLB star to promote their big playoff game? You already know the answer to that. 

There are hosts and shows around the country that still talk baseball. Dan Patrick and PTI come to mind, but its becoming fewer and farther between. I get avoiding the MLB regular season grind, but come playoff time, you would think this would be low-hanging fruit for these shows. Baseball provides a lot of content we look for as hosts/producers: new games daily, questionable decision making, big-time stars, major TV markets, and high pressure, high stakes moments. I’m not quite sure what the answer is, but it sure does seem like the national media is less and less interested in any conversation if it pertains to what’s going on in Major League Baseball. 

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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