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The Underdog Mentality

Brian Noe

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It isn’t common to see a Catholic priest wearing a dog mask while leading mass. At least outside the city of Philadelphia it isn’t common. Underdog masks are in. Covering the spread as a road favorite against the Eagles is out. Many Philly players, fans, and yes — at least one priest, are fully embracing dog masks to symbolize how the Eagles are thriving as underdogs.

The Eagles punched their ticket to Super Bowl LII by shellacking the Vikings 38-7 in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday. Quarterback Nick Foles temporarily forgot that he’s Nick Foles. He looked more like Joe Montana while throwing for 352 yards and 3 touchdowns. His passer rating was 141.4. That’s around 735.8 on the Foles scale.

How is a team winning such huge games after losing key players like Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, and Jordan Hicks for the season? They aren’t just fighting for themselves. They’re fighting for one another.

I know, we’re approaching dangerous territory here. Most of us start to get nauseous after hearing phrases like “nobody thought we could do it.” Our stomachs start to do somersaults when players say “everybody counted us out.” We feel like we ate an expired enchilada when coaches say “it’s us against the world.”

Those comments might make us roll our eyes as we reach for the Pepto-Bismol, but being united is something that every business should strive to duplicate. When employees worry less about themselves and more about one another, that’s when something special can happen. Consider the definition of tight-knit — united or bound together by strong relationships and common interests. That’s what the Eagles have right now. How can your radio station have the same thing?

Radio doesn’t offer as many “win one for the Gipper” opportunities as sports. It’s not like a station manager is going to say, “Alright everybody, John has laryngitis and can’t do the show this week. We need to pull together as a unit and rally around him!” Injuries are virtually non-existent in radio compared to sports. The next-man-up philosophy doesn’t typically translate to the airwaves, but there are a few other areas that are very similar to sports.

I was driving around Nashville on Tuesday and heard an interview with new Titans head coach Mike Vrabel. One of his comments really stood out — he wants to hear less talk about I and me, with more focus on us and we. I love that philosophy. It’s the most beneficial quality to have on a team or staff, but it’s one of the hardest things to establish — no individual matters more than the team.

Radio and sports are twins in this area. There are plenty of athletes and hosts that don’t care about the team. They care about earning a big contract extension and getting the limelight. Just like selfish players can destroy a locker room, a selfish radio employee can destroy a building.

It’s vitally important to actually have a team instead of a collection of individuals that are only concerned about getting theirs. I sometimes hear co-hosts trying to outdo each other on the same show. It’d be like Steph Curry and Kevin Durant battling for supremacy while trying to sabotage one another. Do you think the Warriors would be as successful? Nope. The real competition is with the other radio station across the street, not within the same building. It’s us versus them, not us versus us.

Defensive end Chris Long is donating his entire salary to charity this season. Quarterback Carson Wentz isn’t feeling sorry for himself after tearing his ACL. He’s behaving like an assistant coach on the sideline. The Eagles are far from selfish and the results reflect it.

Another area where sports radio needs to better resemble sports — ranking systems shouldn’t exist. Radio stations have a tendency to use an imaginary totem poll — the person who hosts a show once a week on a Saturday isn’t regarded nearly as highly as the weekday morning host. This is a lousy way of making someone feel like they’re part of the team. Special teams stud Matthew Slater isn’t as important to the Patriots success as Tom Brady, but his contributions are valuable. What sense would it make to throw rose pedals at Brady’s feet while completely disregarding Slater? It wouldn’t.

Sure, star players are paid differently, but they’re often treated the same. There are classic stories about Gregg Popovich scolding Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, or Belichick calling out Brady just like a role player. That’s a winning culture. Pedestals and preferential treatment don’t exist.

It’s incredibly important to make sure your staff feels like they are part of the team. Managers and hosts need to make everybody feel like they’re valuable. A board op should feel as important as the producer. A co-host shouldn’t be spoiled while the update person is treated like spoiled milk. The weekday host shouldn’t be treated like royalty while the weekend warrior is dealt with like hazardous waste.

There’s a reason why so many coaches embrace an underdog mentality — it cuts through a lot of BS and gets the team moving in the right direction. The run the Eagles are on doesn’t just fall from the heavens. Head coach Doug Pederson has played the hand he was dealt masterfully. After beating the Falcons in the Divisional Round, he loudly said that nobody is giving the Eagles a chance. That instantly unified the team by amplifying the doubt from outside. A radio station can function the exact same way.

The underdog masks the Eagles wear are cool in a creepy way. It’s sort of like a workplace training video mixed with elements of a freaky horror film. It’s less about the mask and more about the mentality behind it though. Selfishness only gets in the way. Ranking the importance of players is just a waste of time. Underdogs like the Eagles have to use every resource to win. Regardless of your job title in radio, you need to do the exact same thing.

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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