I was involved in a major car accident on Saturday night. The driver of a semi truck intentionally plowed into my rear bumper. I’m not sure if he missed a few hugs as a kid or what. Whatever the reason, the driver walloped my car causing me to collide head-on with a concrete median on I-65 in Nashville. If we catch the guy, his trucking company will be renamed “Noe Inc.” In the meantime, I’m just happy to be breathing and able to make my weekly contribution to BSM.
The EMT people looked at my car and urged me to stop by the ER and get checked out. My chest felt like Snuffleupagus was standing on it, so I thought that was probably a good idea. When I arrived, this magical utopia of an ER had the NFL Playoffs on TV. While I was waiting to get an x-ray and CT scan, which thankfully checked out fine, one thing in particular stood out to me that relates to sports radio.
The Patriots are the masters at switching gears. They don’t just line up and say, “This is our gameplan every week regardless of the opponent.” They craft a detailed attacked based on their strengths and the opponent’s weaknesses. Tom Brady threw a season-high 53 passes against the Titans on Saturday. Running back Dion Lewis had a career-high nine catches. Maybe just maybe it had something to do with the Titans 25th ranked pass defense that struggles to cover running backs in space.
Sure, other teams have a similar approach, but it isn’t as in depth. The Patriots take it to the extreme. They’ll have a back rush for 200 yards one game and barely give him the ball the following week. It’s all about adapting to matchups and putting their team in the best possible position to win.
In sports talk, it’s important for hosts to be more than just one thing. A great host excels in one area, but isn’t deficient in others. It’s like ink cartridges for a printer. If you want a colored printout but only have black ink, you’re screwed. Being multifaceted gives a sports talk host the best chance at being successful.
Colin Cowherd is best known for being thought-provoking. He has generated some laugh-out-loud moments though. I remember a conversation years ago that touched on treating people with respect. Colin agreed and then jokingly said, “Vince, go get me a donut.” It was a funny moment that broke up all of the serious points he was making.
It’s similar to music. Regardless of the genre, songs often switch gears. There are tons of heavy metal songs with slow parts that make the heavy portions sound heavier. Take a commonly known song like Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” It starts off very slow with some clean guitar. When the chorus kicks in with fully-distorted guitars, it sounds even heavier than it actually is. Same thing with the song “One.” Same thing with “Battery.” Same thing with (you get the idea). This is very common.
For a sports talk host, switching gears involves their style and delivery. The humorous things a host says will be even funnier if thought-provoking comments are also made. Same thing in reverse — serious comments will have a greater impact if funny comments are also shared. It’s like playing Texas Hold ‘Em — they say that aggression wins. No, switching gears is the best approach. If you’re aggressive with every hand, you’ll eventually get busted. If you’re conservative with every hand, you’ll lose that way too. You have to alter your approach by being a blend of both.
Switching gears also involves subjects. Hosts have go-to sports that they can talk about with ease, and others that they don’t have as much to say about. Pinpoint those problem areas and work on them. Lakers guard Lonzo Ball stinks at shooting 3-pointers right now. Do you think he’s going to say, “Oh, well. Guess I’ll just be bad at shooting”? No, he’s going to get in the gym and shoot thousands of shots to improve his game. Hosts have to work on their game too so they can switch up their content.
Although switching gears is incredibly important, the irony is that it’s often overlooked. Charles Barkley is best known for his jokes and sense of humor, not his basketball knowledge. If you pay close attention to Barkley’s analysis, he makes smart observations way more often than he’s given credit for. He wouldn’t be on TV in the first place if he only made dumb comments.
I’ll relate this back to music again. The chorus is typically the most well-known portion of a song. That doesn’t mean the other parts are unimportant. If the intro is awful and the verses are bad, the chorus won’t stand out as much. You might not even listen to the chorus if the other parts are horrible. It’s the same concept in sports talk. A host might be best known for one particular thing. However, it will actually be overlooked if the other facets around that skill are lacking.
Something else stood out as I was getting more familiar with concrete medians and EMT’s associated with my wreck on Saturday. As I was driving to work, I noticed that I had a huge crack in my front windshield due to the weather being so cold. As I passed by each light pole on the highway, the light would reflect off of the crack. I thought, “Great, I’ll have to get that fixed.” Five minutes later, my car was headed straight for the automobile heavens after being totaled.
It made me think about the good and bad aspects of sports radio. I’m definitely not the only one who spends too much time thinking about what isn’t perfect. My big thing is having more airtime. Guess what? If I get fired this week or leave sports talk because the lotto fairy visited me, I’m going to miss the shifts I do have like crazy.
At the risk of sounding like Kumbaya is playing in the background while doves are flying around, we work in an industry that many people desire to be in. It doesn’t make any sense to only look at the annoying portions of the gig while failing to enjoy the cool stuff. When a football player retires, he often tells stories about what he misses. Have you noticed that it’s typically positive? It’s the comradery and the “10 sets of eyes looking back at me in the huddle.” We will dwell on the positive aspects of sports talk once our gig is gone, so it makes a lot of sense to dwell on it while we still have that same gig.
This isn’t a PSA to be complacent and accepting of your current situation. Strive to make things better — just don’t get so laser-focused that you simply forget to enjoy yourself along the way. The right attitude makes an enormous difference. Find the middle ground of fighting to make things better while not getting deflating about your job being less than ideal.
This concludes my latest piece thanks to Semis Gone Wild. I don’t think my mind was too scrambled. I didn’t do anything crazy like compare Blake Bortles to a spectacular food like bacon. He’s more like dry toast — serves a purpose but still leaves a lot to be desired. Remember to be good at switching gears. Although you might hate the Patriots, you’ll be very successful if you can switch gears like they do. Also, remember those Andre Agassi commercials where he said “image is everything”? I think attitude is everything. You can have a much happier life if you focus on the positive.
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.