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How Muhammad Ali’s Quotes Relate In Sports Media

Jason Barrett

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On Friday night at 11:10pm, the world lost an icon. The greatest boxer to grace the squared circle, Muhammad Ali, was called home. His ascension to heaven has left many across the nation sad, but his departure from earth now gives the man upstairs access to the greatest fighter of all-time. I’m sure negotiations for a fourth fight with “Smokin” Joe Frazier will start soon.

Ali’s accomplishments in the ring spoke for themselves. To many, he was more than a champion and colorful personality. He was an influencer, an activist, a husband, a father, a man of faith, and someone who was charitable, kind, cocky, and humble. He lived the better part of the past three decades with Parkinson’s disease, but refused the world’s pity. Others might have asked “why me”, but not Ali. He lived life without regret, and was at peace.

I was fortunate to grow up with a father who loved boxing. I was introduced to the greatness of Muhammad Ali early on, and over the years I’ve watched many of his fights and listened to countless interviews to get a deeper understanding of why he was unique and one of the most important personalities in the history of sports. I never had the pleasure of meeting him, but was impressed with what he stood for inside and outside of the ring just like many others.

Today, the media business uses hype to sell events and content. There’s a steady diet of coverage given to athletes who produce a great soundbite. Games that involve compelling storylines and drama, get pushed into prime time and air on the biggest days of the sports calendar. On and off the field actions that draw a reaction become front page headlines. If an athlete discusses subjects that are viewed as controversial or outside the sports realm, it quickly becomes national news. It’s the type of material that networks salivate over.

We crave personalities on camera and in front of microphones who speak more like Charles Barkley, and less like Derek Jeter or Steph Curry. We all appreciate greatness but when personality is added to the mix, it’s an unbeatable combination. A big reason why athletes have been given a forum to showcase their personalities, and speak their minds, is because Ali paved the way.

When Ali ruled the world, he made sure everyone knew it. He had a flair for the dramatic, and a style that demanded your attention. He was funny, articulate, unfiltered, charming, witty, brash, creative, and sometimes, arrogant. Those attributes made his interviews and fights must-see events. He understood the power of the media, how to use it to his advantage, and how it could help him professionally, and personally. Without Ali, Charles Barkley, T.O., Reggie Jackson, Allen Iverson, and countless other athletes might never have become as popular as they did. They may also not have had an opportunity to address social issues or use their celebrity to make a difference.

Consider this, when Ali fought, there was no pay per view business. Today, many companies (WWE, UFC, Boxing) rely heavily on income generated from direct to consumer purchases to sustain their operations. But even without pay per view, Ali had the entire world’s interest. His predictions made headlines in every newspaper. His personality was a magnet for television. He combined his verbal skills and in-ring style and execution, and became the baddest man on the planet. He was a fighting champion who took on the best the boxing world had to offer. In doing so, he’d slug it out with everyone, even to his own physical detriment. When his career ended, few questioned his place as the greatest to wear a pair of boxing gloves.

During the past weekend, you’ve probably read an article or two on Ali, or watched some of the coverage about him on television. If not, maybe you listened to radio hosts discuss his impact, or dug into the archives on YouTube to be reminded of his brilliance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FLjFI8VVag

One thing which Ali was masterful of was the quote. When he said something, it stuck. His words often wound up on living room walls or hanging inside of corporate offices. Although most of his commentaries were directed towards his profession, they were transferrable to every other form of business.

I started thinking about the quotes he offered and the way they relate today in the sports media industry. I selected thirteen of my favorite’s and added a few thoughts to describe how they translate to what we do. He may not have meant to influence the sports media business with the words he uttered, but this is just another example of the greatness of Muhammad Ali. Thank you for the memories champ! You truly were one of a kind.

ali101. “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses—behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”

*** When the lights go on, it’s showtime….but the product you present won’t be great if you haven’t put in the preparation time necessary to stand out. From collaborating with your teammates, to engaging your audience, analyzing the data to understand how you can better help your show be successful, everything done before and after the show is just as important as what you do during it. Allen Iverson may not have been a fan of practice, but great practice habits lead to great execution when it counts most….that’s why Ali was a champion and Iverson never was.

ali52. “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”

*** From the people you hire, to the content you create, to the way you interact with the audience or each other, being willing to adapt and try new things will not only keep you mentally engaged and excited, but it will keep your audience feeling that way too. Nobody remembers people who operate comfortably and refuse to risk their position to do something great. It’s those who take chances and have passion, vision, and the confidence necessary to make them work that connect in the biggest way.

ali93. “A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”

*** Life changes quickly. The way we broadcast now is different than 10-20 years ago. People now text more than call. They use social media instead of newspapers. Audiences watch or listen to content on-demand not always live as it happens. Music is bought through apps less than in stores. There are many great skills we’ve learned in our careers and many of them are transferrable, but changing with the times, and opening our minds to the future, is important to succeeding. Embrace the unknown, rather than running from it.

ali4. “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”

*** In broadcasting, the goal is to take the audience on an emotional journey. They need to feel your enthusiasm. Cheer you on or wish to choke you when you deliver scorching opinions that demand their attention. Sob with you when your sadness can’t be hidden. Laugh with you and at you, when you display your vulnerabilities. There are multiple layers to your personality, and that’s the one thing that sets you apart from everyone else. Let them in, and they’ll learn to appreciate every part of what makes you who you are.

ali85. “I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was. I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest.”

*** If you don’t have confidence in yourself, who will? Sometimes you have to build your own ego before others can do it for you. If you want others to recognize what you bring to the table, you have to command their attention, and deliver when they’re watching. Talent eventually wins out, but earning respect, appreciation, and support is the result of letting people know you have something to offer and aren’t afraid to prove it. 

ali76. “If they can make penicillin out of moldy bread, they can sure make something out of you.”

*** Everyone starts somewhere. Before you reach the peak of your career, you’ll go through adversity. It’s part of the process. Be receptive to criticism. Seek out people who will provide an honest opinion of your work and give you suggestions to improve. Say yes to jobs that might not be your ultimate goal but put you one step closer to being ready for it. The more you develop trust with a boss, and improve your skills, while getting a stronger understanding of what they need, the closer you’ll be to becoming somebody.

ali147. “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them—a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”

*** You can have a great voice, look, resume, or connections, but your potential will never be maximized if you don’t have the inner drive to push yourself to the limit. Are you willing to sacrifice to get to where you want to be? What if that means relocating? Missing holidays with your family? Earning less than you believe you’re worth? Do you want it that bad? Talent is one part of the equation. When it’s combined with a burning desire to be the best at any cost, that’s when you’ll reach your full potential.

ali158. “It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.”

*** You might have big ratings, get recognized in restaurants, have powerful people part of your inner circle, and a paycheck that confirms you’re important. Those are the perks of being a success on radio or television. But to steal a line from Lou Holtz, everyone puts their pants on the same way. Don’t become so caught up in your own ego that you forget who you were before you reached a level that only you thought was possible in your dreams.

ali139. “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

*** Those who think they are beaten, are. No battle is won without confidence. Be willing to embrace a challenge. Whether you’re taking on a radio or television brand that’s enjoyed decades of success. Working with a high profile personality who’s so good that you’re unsure of how to make them better. Or something simpler like growing your social media following or caller activity inside your talk show. If you approach the situation with doubt in your mind, it’s only a matter of time until it takes control of you.

ali1110. “Silence is golden when you can’t think of a good answer.”

*** We all make mistakes in this business. There are times when we don’t meet expectations. Our words and/or actions may even offend or create issues with people we’re close to or in business with. When you’re in the wrong or not in a position of strength, understand that you’re not going to win every war. Sometimes you have to just listen, nod, and let people express themselves. Be willing to hear and understand their concerns, and work towards improving the situation. We all have opinions, and love to talk, but the wisest ones recognize that biting their tongue is necessary sometimes to continue enjoying a great position, and positive working relationship.

ali1611. “I never thought of losing, but now that it’s happened, the only thing is to do it right. That’s my obligation to all the people who believe in me. We all have to take defeats in life.”

*** Winning is in our DNA. We want to be the highest rated talk show in the market. The best paid personality on a radio or TV station. The host featured on billboards who the city takes notice of. But when we come up short (and you will at some point), it’s important to learn from it, and handle losing with class. Being arrogant and offering excuses only makes you easier to root against. Tipping your cap to the competitor and giving credit where it’s due, shows people that you have respect. It may twist your insides apart but more people will flock to your corner, and help you enjoy future success if you treat others respectfully when the odds don’t turn in your favor.

ali412. “Don’t count the days; make the days count.”

*** Every second, minute, segment, hour, and day is an opportunity to create something memorable. How you approach it determines whether or not it matters. Don’t “fill” your air time, own it. Don’t take the safest path because it’s solid and simple, pursue a new road that leads you to greater heights. You’re blessed to do a job that millions wish they could. Never lose sight of that. Take advantage of it every chance you get, because if you don’t, there will be plenty of others who are willing to make that commitment.

ali613. “People don’t realize what they had till it’s gone. Like President Kennedy, there was no one like him, The Beatles, and my man Elvis Presley. I was the Elvis of boxing.”

*** Do you think about your legacy? Do you live day to day or think about the long-term impact you hope to leave on the industry? When you’ve spoken your final sentence on the air one day, will your departure matter to those you broadcasted to? Will they remember the body of work you produced five to ten years after you’re gone? It’s impossible to know what the future entails, but there’s a big difference between being a successful host and a game changer. Work towards developing a deeper connection with your listeners or viewers. Establish a niche in the market that makes you unique. Challenge yourself to do work that moves, influences, and satisfies the audience. The longer you do it, the more likely you are to look back one day and appreciate the contributions you made. It could very well make you a legendary figure.

Barrett Blogs

BSM’s Black Friday SALE on BSM Summit Tickets is Underway!

Jason Barrett

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Each year I’m asked if there are ways to save money on tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit. I always answer yes but not everyone takes advantage of it. For those interested in doing so, here’s your shot.

For TODAY ONLY, individual tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit are reduced by $50.00. Two ticket and four ticket packages are also lowered at $50 per ticket. To secure your seat at a discounted price, just log on to BSMSummit.com. This sale ends tonight at 11:59pm ET.

If you’re flying to Los Angeles for the event, be sure to reserve your hotel room. Our hotel partner this year is the USC Hotel. It’s walking distance of our venue. Full details on hotel rooms can also be found via the conference website.

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Barrett Blogs

Mina Kimes, Bruce Gilbert, Mitch Rosen, and Stacey Kauffman Join the 2023 BSM Summit

“By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference.”

Jason Barrett

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The 2023 BSM Summit is returning to Los Angeles on March 21-22, 2023, live from the Founders Club at the Galen Center at the campus of the University of Southern California. Information on tickets and hotel rooms can be found at BSMSummit.com.

We’ve previously announced sixteen participants for our upcoming show, and I’m excited today to confirm the additions of four more more smart, successful professionals to be part of the event. Before I do that, I’d like to thank The Volume for signing on as our Badge sponsor, the Motor Racing Network for securing the gift bag sponsorship, and Bonneville International for coming on board as a Session sponsor. We do have some opportunities available but things are moving fast this year, so if you’re interested in being involved, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

Now let’s talk about a few of the speaker additions for the show.

First, I am thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Mina Kimes to the Summit for her first appearance. Mina and I had the pleasure recently of connecting on a podcast (go listen to it) and I’ve been a fan of her work for years. Her intellect, wit, football acumen, and likeability have served her well on television, podcasts, and in print. She’s excelled as an analyst on NFL Live and Rams preseason football games, as a former host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and her appearances on Around The Horn and previously on Highly Questionable and the Dan Le Batard Show were always entertaining. I’m looking forward to having Mina join FS1’s Joy Taylor and ESPN LA 710 PD Amanda Brown for an insightful conversation about the industry.

Next is another newcomer. I’m looking forward to having Audacy San Francisco and Sacramento Regional Vice President Stacey Kauffman in the building for our 2023 show. In addition to overseeing a number of music brands, Stacey also oversees a dominant news/talk outlet, and two sports radio brands. Among them are my former station 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, and ESPN 1320 in Sacramento. I’m looking forward to having her participate in our GM panel with Good Karma’s Sam Pines, iHeart’s Don Martin, and led by Bonneville’s Executive Vice President Scott Sutherland.

From there, it’s time to welcome back two of the sharpest sports radio minds in the business. Bruce Gilbert is the SVP of Sports for Westwood One and Cumulus Media. He’s seen and done it all on the local and national level and anytime he’s in the room to share his programming knowledge with attendees, everyone leaves the room smarter. I’m anticipating another great conversation on the state of sports radio, which FOX Sports Radio VP of programming Scott Shapiro will be a part of.

Another student of the game and one of the top programmers in the format today is 670 The Score in Chicago PD, Mitch Rosen. The former Mark Chernoff Award recipient and recently appointed VP of the BetQL Network juggles managing a top 3 market sports brand while being charged with moving an emerging sports betting network forward. Count on Mr. Rosen to offer his insights and opinions during another of our branding and programming discussions.

By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference. My focus now is on finalizing our business and digital sessions, research, tech and sports betting panels, securing our locations and sponsorships for the After Party and Kickoff Party, plus working out the details for a few high-profile executive appearances and a couple of surprises.

For those looking to attend and save a few dollars on tickets, we’ll be holding a special Black Friday Sale this Friday November 25th. Just log on to BSMSummit.com that day to save $50 on individual tickets. In addition, thanks to the generosity of voice talent extraordinaire Steve Kamer, we’ll be giving away 10 tickets leading up to the conference. Stay tuned for details on the giveaway in the months ahead.

Still to come is an announcement about our special ticket rate for college students looking to attend the show and learn. We also do an annual contest for college kids to attend the event for free which I’m hoping to have ready in the next few weeks. It’s also likely we’ll give away a few tickets to industry professionals leading up to Christmas, so keep an eye out.

If you work in the sports media industry and value making connections, celebrating those who create an impact, and learning about the business from folks who have experienced success, failure, and everything in between, the Summit is worth your time. I’m excited to have Mina, Bruce, Mitch and Stacey join us for the show, and look forward to spending a few days with the industry’s best and brightest this March! Hope to see you there.

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Barrett Blogs

Barrett Media is Making Changes To Better Serve Our Sports and News Media Readers

“We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future.”

Jason Barrett

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When I launched this website all I wanted to do was share news, insight and stories about broadcasters and brands. My love, passion and respect for this business is strong, and I know many of you reading this feel similar. I spent two great decades in radio watching how little attention was paid to those who played a big part in their audiences lives. The occasional clickbait story and contract drama would find their way into the newspapers but rarely did you learn about the twists and turns of a broadcaster’s career, their approach to content or the tactics and strategies needed to succeed in the industry. When personal reasons led me home to NY in 2015, I decided I was going to try my best to change that.

Since launching this brand, we’ve done a good job informing and entertaining media industry professionals, while also helping consulting clients and advertising partners improve their businesses. We’ve earned respect from the industry’s top stars, programming minds and mainstream media outlets, growing traffic from 50K per month to 500K and monthly social impressions from a few thousand to a few million. Along the way we’ve added conferences, rankings, podcasts, a member directory, and as I’ve said before, this is the best and most important work I’ve ever done, and I’m not interested in doing anything else.

If I’ve learned anything over seven years of operating a digital content company it’s that you need skill, strategy, passion, differentiating content, and good people to create impact. You also need luck, support, curiosity and an understanding of when to double down, cut bait or pivot. It’s why I added Stephanie Eads as our Director of Sales and hired additional editors, columnists and features reporters earlier this year. To run a brand like ours properly, time and investment are needed. We’ve consistently grown and continue to invest in our future, and it’s my hope that more groups will recognize the value we provide, and give greater consideration to marketing with us in the future.

But with growth comes challenges. Sometimes you can have the right idea but bad timing. I learned that when we launched Barrett News Media.

We introduced BNM in September 2020, two months before the election when emotions were high and COVID was a daily discussion. I wasn’t comfortable then of blending BNM and BSM content because I knew we’d built a trusted sports media resource, and I didn’t want to shrink one audience while trying to grow another. Given how personal the election and COVID became for folks, I knew the content mix would look and feel awkward on our site.

So we made the decision to start BNM with its own website. We ran the two brands independently and had the right plan of attack, but discovered that our timing wasn’t great.

The first nine months readership was light, which I expected since we were new and trying to build an audience from scratch. I believed in the long-term mission, which was why I stuck with it through all of the growing pains, but I also felt a responsibility to make sure our BNM writing team and the advertising partners we forged relationships with were being seen by as many people as possible. We continued with the original plan until May 2021 when after a number of back and forth debates, I finally agreed to merge the two sites. I figured if WFAN could thrive with Imus in the Morning and Mike and the Mad Dog in the afternoon, and the NY Times, LA Times, KOA, KMOX and numerous other newspaper and radio brands could find a way to blend sports and news/talk, then so could we.

And it worked.

We dove in and started to showcase both formats, building social channels and groups for each, growing newsletter databases, and with the addition of a few top notch writers, BNM began making bigger strides. Now featured under the BSM roof, the site looked bigger, the supply of daily content became massive, and our people were enjoying the increased attention.

Except now we had other issues. Too many stories meant many weren’t being read and more mistakes were slipping through the cracks. None of our crew strive to misspell a word or write a sloppy headline but when the staff and workload doubles and you’re trying to focus on two different formats, things can get missed. Hey, we’re all human.

Then a few other things happened that forced a larger discussion with my editors.

First, I thought about how much original material we were creating for BSM from our podcast network, Summit, Countdown to Coverage series, Meet the Market Managers, BSM Top 20, and began to ask myself ‘if we’re doing all of this for sports readers, what does that tell folks who read us for news?’ We then ran a survey to learn what people valued about our brand and though most of the feedback was excellent, I saw how strong the response was to our sports content, and how news had grown but felt second fiddle to those offering feedback.

Then, Andy Bloom wrote an interesting column explaining why radio hosts would be wise to stop talking about Donald Trump. It was the type of piece that should’ve been front and center on a news site all day but with 3 featured slots on the site and 7 original columns coming in that day, they couldn’t all be highlighted the way they sometimes should be. We’re actually going through that again today. That said, Andy’s column cut through. A few sports media folks didn’t like seeing it on the site, which wasn’t a surprise since Trump is a polarizing personality, but the content resonated well with the news/talk crowd.

National talk radio host Mike Gallagher was among the folks to see Andy’s piece, and he spent time on his show talking about the column. Mike’s segment was excellent, and when he referenced the article, he did the professional thing and credited our website – Barrett SPORTS Media. I was appreciative of Mike spending time on his program discussing our content but it was a reminder that we had news living under a sports roof and it deserved better than that.

I then read some of Pete Mundo, Doug Pucci and Rick Schultz’s columns and Jim Cryns’ features on Chris Ruddy, Phil Boyce, and David Santrella, and knew we were doing a lot of quality work but each time we produced stories, folks were reminded that it lived on a SPORTS site. I met a few folks who valued the site, recognized the increased focus we put on our news/talk coverage, and hoped we had plans to do more. Jim also received feedback along the lines of “good to see you guys finally in the news space, hope there’s more to come.”

Wanting to better understand our opportunities and challenges, I reviewed our workflow, looked at which content was hitting and missing the mark, thought about the increased relationships we’d worked hard to develop, and the short-term and long-term goals for BNM. I knew it was time to choose a path. Did I want to think short-term and keep everything under one roof to protect our current traffic and avoid disrupting people or was it smarter to look at the big picture and create a destination where news/talk media content could be prioritized rather than treated as BSM’s step-child?

Though I spent most of my career in sports media and established BSM first, it’s important to me to serve the news/talk media industry our very best. I want every news/talk executive, host, programmer, market manager, agent, producer, seller and advertiser to know this format matters to us. Hopefully you’ve seen that in the content we’ve created over the past two years. My goal is to deliver for news media professionals what we have for sports media folks and though that may be a tall order, we’re going to bust our asses to make it happen. To prove that this isn’t just lip service, here’s what we’re going to do.

Starting next Monday November 28th, we are relaunching BarrettNewsMedia.com. ALL new content produced by the BNM writing team will be available daily under that URL. For the first 70-days we will display news media columns from our BNM writers on both sites and support them with promotion across both of our brands social channels. The goal is to have the two sites running independent of each other by February 6, 2023.

Also starting on Monday November 28th, we will begin distributing the BNM Rundown newsletter 5 days per week. We’ve been sending out the Rundown every M-W-F since October 2021, but the time has come for us to send it out daily. With increased distribution comes two small adjustments. We will reduce our daily story count from 10 to 8 and make it a goal to deliver it to your inbox each day by 3pm ET. If you haven’t signed up to receive the Rundown, please do. You can click here to register. Be sure to scroll down past the 8@8 area.

Additionally, Barrett News Media is going to release its first edition of the BNM Top 20 of 2022. This will come out December 12-16 and 19-20. The category winners will be decided by more than 50 news/talk radio program directors and executives. Among the categories to be featured will be best Major/Mid Market Local morning, midday, and afternoon show, best Local News/Talk PD, best Local News/Talk Station, best National Talk Radio Show, and best Original Digital Show. The voting process with format decision makers begins today and will continue for two weeks. I’ve already got a number of people involved but if you work in an executive or programming role in the news/talk format and wish to be part of it, send an email to me at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

We have one other big thing coming to Barrett News Media in 2023, which I will announce right after the BNM Top 20 on Wednesday December 21st. I’m sure news/talk professionals will like what we have planned but for now, it’ll have to be a month long tease. I promise though to pay it off.

Additionally, I’m always looking for industry folks who know and love the business and enjoy writing about it. If you’ve programmed, hosted, sold or reported in the news/talk world and have something to offer, email me. Also, if you’re a host, producer, programmer, executive, promotions or PR person and think something from your brand warrants coverage on our site, send it along. Most of what we write comes from listening to stations and digging across the web and social media. Receiving your press releases and getting a heads up on things you’re doing always helps.

If you’re a fan of BSM, this won’t affect you much. The only difference you’ll notice in the coming months is a gradual reduction of news media content on the BSM website and our social accounts sharing a little about both formats over the next two months until we’re officially split in February. We are also going to dabble a little more in marketing, research and tech content that serves both formats. If you’re a reader who enjoys both forms of our content, you’ll soon have BarrettSportsMedia.com for sports, and BarrettNewsMedia.com for news.

Our first two years in the news/talk space have been very productive but we’ve only scratched the surface. Starting November 28th, news takes center stage on BarrettNewsMedia.com and sports gets less crowded on BarrettSportsMedia.com. We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future. If we can count on you to remember two URL’s (add them to your bookmarks) and sign up for our newsletters, then you can count on us to continue delivering exceptional coverage of the industry you love. As always, thanks for the continued support. It makes everything we do worthwhile.

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