LaVar Arrington used to learn about opposing quarterbacks and how to shed blockers.
Now he’s learning everything he can about the second act of his career: sports media.
“My career is media. I am a media person,” Arrington tells BSM. “I’m not a former player that comes on shows. This is my business, and I approach it that way.”
The former No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft and seven-year veteran had a very accomplished playing career. He played collegiately at Penn State and then with the Washington Redskins (Commanders) and New York Giants. Now he’s fully immersed in his next chapter, which sees him as a host on a few projects. He’s on the daily Fox Sports Radio show 2 Pros and a Cup of Joe and the weekend show Up on Game for the network. Arrington also the hosts the podcast, Conversations with a Legend.
His newest venture? He’s helping to open up doors for collegiate athletes by developing NIL opportunities in the digital media space. He does so thru the company Up on Game Presents.
“I absolutely have enjoyed being able to learn, and be a part of the process of how the production of it works, how driving a show works, how being a part of the show works. I’ve also really enjoyed learning the business of it all, what goes into it. When they say content is king, content truly is king,” he says.
Arrington has been delivering that content in many different forms for several years now.
Before this current iteration of his media career, Arrington was all over television. He worked for Comcast SportsNet in the D.C. area, and the NFL Network. He also made appearances on FS1. He also previously hosted a radio show at 106.7 The Fan and had a multimedia blog for the Washington Post.
When the opportunity presented itself early in 2020 to work for Fox Sports Radio, Arrington jumped at it. He described having great conversations with Scott Shapiro (Vice President of Fox Sports Radio & Podcasts) and Don Martin (then Senior Vice President of Programming for FOX Sports Radio) when he met them at that year’s Super Bowl in Miami.
“We just had a great chemistry from the beginning, in terms of our connection,” he said. “And they told me that they were going to give me an opportunity and that’s what they did.”
That first opportunity was with Up on Game in February of 2020. Remember February of 2020? The Chiefs had just won the Super Bowl, Tom Brady was about to be a free agent and the NBA and NHL seasons were humming along. It was just a month later when the sports world come to a halt because of the pandemic. Some in our business struggled without true sports content, Arrington says the time actually helped him.
“It showed my abilities — my capabilities,” Arrington says. “I was always available. I never missed a show. I just felt like I exercised a level of professionalism and work ethic that really resonated with Don and Scott. It led to a bigger opportunity, like much bigger opportunities. I’m doing so many things with Premiere, Fox Sports Radio and iHeartMedia. It’s been an amazing ride and it’s because those two really, really bought into me, really believed in me and gave me a fair opportunity to show my worth.”
As those opportunities have grown for Arrington, so has his skillset. He’s been able to work in a variety of different radio roles that have helped him grow as a personality.
On 2 Pros and a Cup of Joe, which launched in in September of 2021, Arrington describes himself as more of an “older brother” figure. While Jonas Knox leads and directs the show, Arrington gets a chance to share opinions and contrast with former Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn, who he calls an “All-American dude.”
You compare that to Up on Game with former NFL wide receivers TJ Houshmandzadeh and Plaxico Burress, and Arrington is the driver of the show.
“I am the Jonas Knox of that show. So I drive, I direct, I set up, I facilitate and I take a lesser role,” he says. “And even though I will give my opinion, I do take a lesser role and give the floor to them to give their perspectives on things. So, I think it works really great.”
In these columns, I tend to not put in too much personal opinion, but in this one? I find it appropriate, because there were was one distinct message Arrington had that really resonated with me.
See, 2 Pros and a Cup of a Joe airs at 6 AM EST. Arrington lives in Los Angeles, so the show airs at 3 AM his time. I just had to know: “How do you prepare for the show given that it’s so early?”
“Sometimes it’s not even about watching games,” he says. “Anyone who says they watch every game in their entirety is an effing liar. They’re lying to you. And that means that they’re geeking out over trying to make sure that they have the credibility to the world as to what it is that that they’re saying. I’ve been a part of sports since I can remember. You learn how sports work. Whether it’s basketball, football, golf, etc. you start to learn the characteristics of what you’re looking for that’s relevant to speak on.”
While it’s evident that his own personal experiences help shape some of what he says on the air, Arrington also talked about studying box scores, looking at highlights and trying to “capture” the story of a game even without having seen every pitch, play or snap.
I found that sentiment personally refreshing. I have always tried to be the host that watches everything. It’s a painstaking effort to make that a reality. Sometimes, it truly is impossible. It’s certainly impossible without driving yourself mad. It was nice to hear that there are methodologies to show prep that include other ways of gathering information about games and stories.
This column started with how LaVar Arrington enjoys learning about sports media.
It ended with how LaVar Arrington ended up teaching me something.
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.