I am a firm believer that every show that is personality driven and either free of music entirely or plays only very little of it needs a good third mic. It goes without saying that a great host is needed to steer the conversation, and of course you need a co-host that is a master at his craft, whether it is adding perspective or fun to the proceedings. But if you can put a third voice on your show, that voice can take the proceedings to a new level.
That third voice can be an on-air producer, like Mike Ryan on the Dan Le Batard Show, or a rotation of regular guests. That is what Sports Radio 610 in Houston has said it will do for its afternoon show, The Triple Threat, after the departure of Ted Johnson. Some stations simply go with a three host show. That is the set up for successful shows like 3HL on 104.5 the Zone in Nashville.
1. IT GIVES THE LISTENERS MORE OF THE SHOW
I’m a big fan of Petros and Money on AM 570 in LA. I like the show because I like the hosts. I like the cast. It’s not that I don’t want to hear them take calls or interview guests. Hell, Lance Romance and Friday Night Film Fight are two of my favorite caller-driven bits in sports radio, but I became a fan of the show because I find its cast super entertaining.
More voices makes a show sound bigger, like a party even. Think about sitting at a bar with a buddy after work. it is just the two of you and you’re arguing about sports. That’s an intimate conversation, right? Well, it’s meant to be, let’s say you’re in that situation and another guy at the bar overhears you debating MJ vs LeBron. If he’s a basketball fan chances are he won’t stay silent. He might chime in with the case for Kobe. His argument is stupid because, I mean…come on. But he’s a part of this now.
More voices in a discussion invites more ears. You and your friend debating can stay one-on-one. It can be a very exclusive thing, but add that third voice and suddenly the bartender needs to tell you that rings are all that matters and Jordan has 6 of them! That invites the old barfly that has been sitting on his stool since at least 2 hours before you came in to shout that if rings mean everything, you can all kiss Bill Russell’s ass! And that leads us to point number two.
2. A THIRD MIC FUNCTIONS AS THE VOICE OF THE LISTENERS
Like in our bar scenario, everyone wants their voice heard. A third mic doesn’t need the same credibility or access that the show’s anchor does. A third mic is free to be divisive with his or her opinions. They’re free to be uninformed and shoot from the hip. It doesn’t damage the station or show’s credibility because it can be positioned as the third mic is an outsider.
One of the best third mics I’ve ever heard, regardless of format, is Jim Norton. Now he hosts his own show with Sam Roberts on SiriusXM, but he started in radio as the third mic on the Opie and Anthony Show.
When he was on that show, I once heard Norton talk about his prep routine as none at all. “I might read a few stories in the paper or on my phone, but I just want to come in and react to what those guys are saying.” It may sound frustrating to hear that a guy on a show that big walked in the door five minutes to air time as part of his strategy, but that’s what made Jim a perfect voice for the listeners.
Your listeners aren’t steeped in the details of every story you talk about. They don’t have the connections that can give them inside information. You give your opinion. They likely are hearing it for the first time and want to react to it. Having someone in the room that is thinking the same way is a great way to connect with your audience without turning your show into three hours of you reacting to phone calls about who the Bills should start at quarterback.
3. THERE’S SOMEONE IN THE ROOM ALWAYS THINKING ABOUT THE NEXT STEP
You could read that headline and think it only applies to shows that do bits and take a very silly approach to sports. Maybe you’re right that having someone always thinking about where to go next with a topic is more valuable to that kind of show, but every show can benefit from having someone in the cast that is the designated long-term thinker.
I once interviewed for a third mic position on a show that was still being assembled. The PD asked me why he would want me in that chair. I told him because I’m funny and I’m always thinking about the third day of a topic.
That’s not to say I am the world’s best third mic. I didn’t end up getting the job, after all, but if I were designing a show, I would want at least one person thinking about what angle we can take on a topic when it’s something every sports media outlet has already been talking about for two days.
Let’s use Jalen Hurts’s recent comments about the Alabama coaching staff not talking much with him about the team’s quarterback situation during training camp as an example. If I’m a PD in Alabama and I have already heard my morning show talk about how Nick Saban will react, what it means for Jalen’s future with the team, does this divide the locker room, and what does the school owe a player like Jalen Hurts, it feels like the topic is pretty exhausted right? But this is still the biggest local story three days later.
If people are still talking about it, I guess you could rehash some of those same conversations. Personally, I would want to have someone on the show that can say “You know what we haven’t talked about yet? This is the same thing Blake Barnett said in 2016 when he left and the same thing Cooper Bateman said last year when he left. Does a third quarterback saying this about Nick Saban send up red flags with high school coaches? Is this the kind of thing they might pay attention to and a reason they might tell their top quarterback prospects to steer clear of Alabama?”.
That is the kind of role that a strong third mic can fill. His or her only roll is to ask the question. It’s up to the producer (who may be the same guy) to find the guest that can answer it. It’s up to the host to provide the knowledge to answer it. It’s up to the co-host to provide the perspective that gives the answer some weight.
I fully subscribe to the idea that when it comes to radio, bigger is better. A show is always more entertaining when there are more voices. Two hosts are usually better than one and some PDs are content to settle there, but adding that third voice cuts down on the need for callers and guests and gives listeners more of what they tuned in for: THE SHOW!
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.