Faith. Religion. Church.
Touchdown. Home run. Slam dunk.
There are a number of people that don’t want sports and religion to intersect. They prefer each to remain in separate lanes with no merging in sight. But you don’t have to be the holiest of rollers to appreciate somebody else’s journey, or the lessons they’ve learned along the way through their faith.
Jade McCarthy is known by many for her work at ESPN. She starred on SportsCenter and NFL Live while showcasing her strong sports knowledge and charm. Jade is now involved with a new project at Sports Spectrum called Transformed. The podcast allows Jade to showcase her excellent story-telling ability and talent for uncovering powerful stories.
There is such a thing as fake nice in the broadcasting business. That isn’t the case with Jade; she is genuinely friendly whether the on-air sign is flashing or not. She talks about where her positivity and kindness come from. Jade also mentions what she learned most from ESPN, what’s driving her to share inspiring stories at Sports Spectrum, and what she has in common with Metallica. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: Where are you originally from?
Jade McCarthy: I grew up in the Boston area. Big sports town obviously and it was just always part of the fabric of my childhood. My great-aunt was a huge Boston Braves fan, going way back in the day. I was with her every Saturday growing up and baseball was kind of my first love because of her influence. She would sort of say, with a twinkle in her eye, that she begrudgingly became a Red Sox fan because she always liked the National League. [Laughs] Yeah, I guess it just kind of grew from there.
I always remember watching football with my dad and we’d watch hoops and hockey, all of it. It was just always a huge part of my childhood and Boston is obviously one of the best sports cities in the country. Having that as a backdrop kind of helped ingrain it in me I suppose.
BN: It’s one thing to be a sports fan, but when did you figure out that you wanted a career in sports?
JM: I always knew I wanted to do something that had writing and speaking attached to it. Once I graduated from high school and I didn’t have to take any more math classes I was like, no more math. I don’t want to do math. That just was never my thing. I always loved writing and I loved speaking so I kind of looked in that direction. If I go way back I thought I would be a magazine writer and it would be sports-related. Originally I started in news. I did an internship when I was in college at the Fox News channel in New York. I just had people there encourage me to look for jobs in and around my college.
There were two stations in Springfield, Massachusetts. I met with both of them. One of them offered me an internship; one of them offered me a job. I took the job. It’s nice to be paid for the work that you’re doing and the time that you’re spending. By January of my senior year I was on the air reporting, which was awesome. I was always the one who hung out in the sports department because way back when people read newspapers, I always read the sports page first. It was just kind of always there.
When I was working in Huntsville, Alabama, I had an opportunity to meet with a station in Philadelphia. I remember they were looking for someone to be the third person in their sports department but they didn’t want a stats geek. They wanted someone who could tell stories. I’ll never forget meeting with the news director and the assistant news director. One of them looked at me and said, ‘Do you think you can ask the hard questions in the locker room.’
I looked at them and went, ‘Well, what’s the difference between asking hard questions in the mayor’s office or asking hard questions in the locker room? It strikes me as the same thing.’ So my first real sports opportunity came in Philly. I just took it and ran with it because I loved it and I was thrilled to have that chance in a city like Philadelphia especially.
BN: How did the ESPN gig come about for you?
JM: I was at NBC Philadelphia. Then from there I went to the New England Sports Network. When I was at NESN I met a couple of people at ESPN. ESPN just reached out to my agent. I came up and met with them. Once I had the opportunity, my husband and I were like all right, I guess we’re moving to Connecticut. We laughed because he grew up in Philly and I grew up in Boston and we used to drive through Connecticut to get to my mom’s or his mom’s and we’d go, who lives in Hartford? [Laughs] Then lo and behold we were like all right, that’s where we’re moving. It’s kind of an ongoing joke in our family.
BN: What did you learn from doing SportsCenter and other work at ESPN?
JM: I think I’ve been really fortunate, Brian, all along the way in my career in that when you have good people around you it goes such a long way. I’ve been able to find great people whether it be teammates or mentors all along the way. One of the things that I love most about television and that world is that it really takes teamwork. People see me hosting or whoever’s in front of the camera, but there’s so much behind the scenes, as I’m sure you know, that goes into that broadcast really being a success.
I really appreciated the layers of the team that ESPN creates. It’s been discussed before, but certainly the research department there and how much they invest and having people like that. I still have friends to this day who work in research there. They really help change the broadcasts because there’s just more layers and depth of information provided by that group especially when they’re working in tandem with talent and producers and directors and all of it. The team atmosphere is really special.
BN: Do you ever feel like — I’d relate it to music where say Metallica for instance, they might feel like, you know we’ve done more than just Enter Sandman, right?
BN: Do you ever feel like that where it’s like, I’ve worked at many other places, it’s not just ESPN and SportsCenter?
JM: I think even Metallica probably gets that, right? They get on stage and I’m sure they have other songs that they really want to play, but the reality is that’s the song everybody wants to hear. I think you kind of take it in stride. It becomes part of a layer of your background. If that’s the one that people are curious about and want to ask questions about, it still opens the door for you to have conversations and play different music or whatever the case may be.
BN: Why did the podcast with Sports Spectrum appeal to you?
JM: I think for me, Jason Romano and I were colleagues at ESPN. He certainly had insights on the social media stuff. I remember him sharing them in NFL meetings when I was doing a lot of NFL shows. He and I have certainly gotten to know each other on a larger level in the past year or so. We obviously share our faith. I love the opportunity to be able to have the conversations that I’ve had with athletes along the way, to be able to talk ball or whatever their domain may be.
But to also be able to dive into how their faith has impacted their transformation throughout the course of their life and their growth, and to be able to get into that conversation is exciting to me. Because I think there are so many conversations out there to be had and I just love the growth and the transformative process that we all go through in life and to really be able to hone in on that is super exciting to me.
BN: It makes me think about what your reaction to this stick-to-sports crowd would be. Whether it’s mixing sports with politics or sports with faith, there is some people that just don’t want their food to touch. What’s your reaction to the people who have that stance considering your involvement with Sports Spectrum?
JM: [Laughs] Well, first I would think about my six year old who is definitely among the crowd of like, ‘why is that touching that on my plate? It shouldn’t be mixed together.’ I have the visual to go along with what you’re saying. My thought on that, Brian, is that if you look at all of us as people, our lives are not compartmentalized. If you look at athletes, what makes somebody great on the field or in business, like getting a deal done or preaching in front of a church or whatever that may be, what makes somebody great isn’t just tied to that particular thing. It’s tied to who they are as a person and what encapsulates them.
Within my career, I think about stories that I’ve told of different athletes along the way and we pull on the different parts of their life that have motivated them, or that have created a setback for them, or that have created something that they’ve been able to overcome. I think that happened in the sports landscape all the time, it just may not necessarily be faith that is being tapped into. I think that the mashed potatoes and the peas are already touching. They’re already there for people to see, it’s just that this calls it out maybe in a more direct way.
BN: What’s a story that you learned of through these interviews that you were surprised to learn about?
JM: Danny Kanell was on one of our first shows of Transformed. Danny and I worked together during our time at ESPN. We always had fun working together, always enjoyed it. It was always a great day when I was doing a show and he was on for a segment and we could chat it up and have a good time. I really found that in the conversation I shared with him for Transformed, I felt like I just got to peel back other layers of all of who Danny is, and not just the sports side of who Danny is.
I just feel like when you pull back those layers and you have a greater sense of what’s behind someone, whether it be where they find their identity, their motivation, their drive, I just find there’s so much to be learned there. My hope is that those are the stories that resonate with people. And those are the stories when someone else is going through a time of transformation, or a time of struggle, or a time of growth and opportunity that they’re going to go oh, remember that story, and it will resonate with them.
BN: What’s driving you as far as what you would like to see come from this new project with Sports Spectrum?
JM: Yeah, I really think it’s those stories that capture people and stay with people. One of my favorite things that I’ve done throughout the course of my career, Brian, is tell feature stories. I’ve done it every stop along the way certainly. I kind of laughed when Jason and I were talking through the process of Transformed. When I was in Philadelphia I did a series that we wound up winning an Emmy for; it was called Game Changers. It was about anybody that changed the way you looked at sports.
It was Charlie Manuel the year the Phillies won the World Series in 2008. It was a dad who had a severely special needs son who wound up competing in triathlons because he was so driven by the smile he could see on his son’s face. It brought him so much joy seeing his son that way. Those stories have always stayed with me. The same thing at ESPN; telling stories about Bruce Arians’ journey that eventually made him a head coach in the NFL, undrafted free agents trying to find their way into the league.
Just all of these different stories along the way, and those have been the ones that have stayed with me. My hope for Transformed is that I can share stories like that in the podcast space that will continue to stay with people in their own moments of growth and of challenge and the aspects of life that we all go through. I think when we see that other people have dealt with the same challenges, maybe just dressed a different way, it impacts all of us and it’s good for all of us to know that.
BN: For a person that doesn’t include church or faith as big part of their life, what would you say to them if they are dismissive or apprehensive about hearing the stories you have to share?
JM: I think I would just say give it a chance. My hope is just to meet people where they’re at. My faith is part of my life. It’s certainly part of Transformed. There’s also going to be just some great conversations to share. I think it’s great to try new things and maybe you learn something.
BN: How have you used social media to spread positive messages and what type of feedback do you get from that approach?
JM: I would say I always get positive feedback on it when I’m sharing positive messages on social. I went through a season of trying to post positive quotes every day for people. I got a lot of feedback pretty much every day. Whether it be like I love this one, or thanks I needed this one. All of that kind of stuff because I just think that we all need that positivity in our life day in and day out.
I’ve been fortunate to have conversations with different coaches along the way and players and all that. It’s like having that positive mindset, it is game-changing. It really is. I really try to be a voice like that in the social media world because I definitely think that there’s this mentality where people will say anything on social.
For me, anything that I’m going to say is going to be something that is uplifting and helping to build one another up. It’s like I say to my kids all the time, I’m like we build each other up. We build each other up. As much as I say it in my house, it’s also what I try to live out on social platforms.
BN: You’re a positive person and you’ve just got it figured out. Where does that come from?
JM: It’s probably a combination of everything. I would tell you that some of it just comes from my faith. I think that that has been something that I really leaned into after I lost my job at ESPN. It has become a much larger part of my life. I’m grateful for it, very grateful for it. Then I also think it’s maybe partially the way I was raised, partially just the people around me and who I surround myself with. Obviously my husband is a big part of that as well.
I think a lot of it is what do we choose to put in. What we take in and put in every day has an impact on what we project out. If you eat hamburgers and ice cream every single day, that’s going to end up having an impact on your physical being. I think it’s the same thing with what is the media that you’re putting into your mind? Who are the friendships and what are the conversations that are filling your mind? How are you making sure that those are positive and that there are people who are going to surround you and want to build you up and want to see you grow? And how are you serving others that way? I think that’s a huge part of it. How are you reaching out and saying how can I help you? How are you being a good friend or a good parent or wife or husband? I think it’s all those things.
I would also say I’m very close with my Godfather and he lives very intentionally. He’s very faithful. I think he has planted seeds for a really long time. He does it because that’s what he feels called to do and doesn’t necessarily know or expect when they will take root. I think I’m blessed that I’ve had him in my life since I was born. To me it feels like this is in a way living out something that I’ve seen him live out for decades.
BN: In terms of goals over the next 10 years, and not just professionally but personally, what are the things that you would like to see take place?
JM: Certainly my family comes to mind. I have four young children, so for them to grow up in a great church and a faithful environment is super important to me and my husband. I would say that’s the biggest thing. My prayer is that they live a faith-filled life and it’s part of who they are and that they embrace it. I would put that at the top of the list.
Then, 10-year goals; I feel like where I sit right now it’s hard for me to completely imagine just because of the age of my kids. My oldest is 10, my youngest is two, so fast-forwarding 10 years and I’ve got one who’s out of the house and the other one is 12. I can’t even wrap my head around that.
I would certainly say from a professional level it’s to continue to find a way to share stories whether it be through a podcast, whether it be through speaking, whether it be in a broadcast capacity, I just want to continue to share stories in the sports world and beyond. And really just to share some of the stories that I’ve learned along the way, Brian, and to continue to impact people in a positive way and to create good.
BN: Well, that’s awesome. The world needs…that. For sure.
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.