How familiar does this sound: “We don’t listen to the outside noise, we’re just focused on what’s going on in that locker room.” Or about how about this one: “I don’t hear or read what’s said on the radio or in the newspaper. I don’t pay attention to that stuff.”
Odds are, you’ve heard that before in a press conference setting from a head coach or a player. But spoiler alert: It’s not always true.
To be fair, there’s probably a few coaches out there that have never heard, nor care to hear, what you have to say about them on your radio show. Guys like Nick Saban, Bill Belichick and Greg Popovich are just a few that come to mind, but others like Syracuse basketball head coach Jim Boeheim seem to enjoy on-air banter with hosts.
Such was the case in the summer of 2017 when Boeheim heard ESPN Syracuse host Brent Axe and producer Seth Goldberg talking about the current state of recruiting for Syracuse basketball. After the segment went to break, Boeheim called the station to give his thoughts on the subject at hand. When Goldberg answered he immediately recognized the voice.
“Hey, can I get on the show?” said Boeheim?
“I was 75-80 percent sure it really was him,” said Goldberg. “Honestly, I got really lucky with timing. My host was taking a break and I immediately came into studio and told him he might want to check his call screener. He looked, saw Boeheim and said he didn’t believe it. Then, he picked up the phone and they talked for a couple of minutes during the break and we were good to go. I was really confident that it was actually Boeheim, but getting to have those extra couple of minutes and for my host to verify, that was a real win.”
Much to Goldberg’s surprise, there was no controversy the next segment between Axe and Boeheim. The conversation, in fact, was a civil one that garnered good discussion. Few things, if any, could be more relevant on your show than the head coach of the most popular team in town unexpectedly calling your show and wanting on the air.
If you have any sense as a host, you take the call, regardless what you think the end result might be. It was even more of a no-brainer for Goldberg, seeing as the call came during an empty segment during the dog days of summer. But what if there was a relevant guest already scheduled in that slot? Do you bump the guest for the head coach? Or do you tell the coach he can’t get on because the show has prior obligations? Goldberg gave his take on what might he have done in that spot.
“On that day, I don’t think there would have been a guest, that Brent had planned for that day, that would have kept us from taking Jim Boeheim at that time he called,” said Goldberg. “If it’s another time of the year, I highly doubt there’s going to be a guest that’s going to keep us from getting Boeheim on, but it’s hard to say, seeing as I’ve never been in that situation.“
Clearly, that’s a day in the business Goldberg will never forget and a story he’ll likely be telling several years from now. Today, you can still hear him on ESPN Syracuse, but as a co-host from noon – 2:00 p.m. on Orange Nation. Goldberg also hosts pregame shows for Syracuse football and basketball games, as well as a Yankees baseball show during the summer.
That’s already quite a resume for a guy who’s a 2016 grad of Syracuse and just 24 years old. But instead of building an entire story on how challenging it is to be a young host in the business, I had several random questions for Goldberg that any host, no matter the age, can use for themselves.
TM: You and I are around the same age range, so I’m interested in what you think is the best way to connect with others in the business. Is it still email? Has it moved to social media? What do you think?
SG: I’ve found that email is still a good way to do it. It just works. You can attach a file or a link to an e-mail, which really makes it useful.
Guys that I’ve met in the business, whether it be Syracuse alums or people that I met while I was interning elsewhere, if I want to send them a tape or something from one of my shows or a high school game I called, I email it to them. I just think email is still the easiest way to go.
TM: As it stands, Syracuse is in the Top 15 of the College Football Playoff Rankings and now basketball season is starting. With hoops always being the biggest story in town, who’s going to get the majority of the air time?
SG: We’re still figuring out the balancing act of that. Last Tuesday night was the home opener for basketball, so we came out of the chute the next day and hit all hoops talk in hour one and then hit football in hour two. This is something we haven’t had to worry about in a long time.
I’m a recent SU graduate and my freshman and sophomore years are the last time SU went to a bowl game. I don’t remember the buzz around the football team being this big, and for good reason, with what they have going right now. It’s definitely different and it’s something we’re trying to figure out.
As the big basketball games come, we’re going to be talking basketball. As the big football games come up, we’re going to be talking football. This week is the really interesting week, because SU is at The Garden for a big time basketball tournament, and then there’s the football game against Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium. That balance is going to be really tricky and I think we’re going to listen to the listener a lot. If they call in and want to talk football, that’s what we’ll do. If they call and tweet about basketball, then that’s what we’ll do. I think we’re kind of flexible in that regard.
TM: You may not have the numbers as proof, but were September and October bigger months than normal for the station, seeing as SU football has done so well?
SG: I don’t typically get ratings or numbers like that for our station. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, it certainly doesn’t put the pressure on us, as a show, to reach a certain number. I think that’s a good thing and I tend to like it.
At the same time, it would be nice to see the proof on how much football actually helped us out, seeing as SU is as good as it’s been in a while. The only thing I can really go off of, is engagement, such as callers, text questions and tweets. And with that being said, it feels like the interaction has been up.
TM: Since you’re in upstate New York, are you all-in on Syracuse sports, or do you often peak into what the pro teams in New York City are doing?
SG: We deal mostly with Syracuse, SU football and basketball. We’ll talk about the women’s team, here and there, their coach comes on the station. Lacrosse, we’ll talk about that when the season rolls around, but mostly its SU football and basketball.
Obviously, the NFL is king. That’s the sport that everyone wants to talk about and watch. We talk about the NFL a lot, it’s actually Bills Country up here and you’ll find a pretty even split between Bills and Giants fans. After that, the NFL has created this monster where every team has fans all over the place. It’s probably Bills and Giants as 1 and 1A and then after that, you can really talk about anybody.
As far as baseball goes, we do a baseball show on the Yankees every night during the season. NBA is a little less, we actually do more of updating what Syracuse guys are doing. If Carmelo does something, we’ll talk about it. Stuff like that more so than a specific team.
TM: Clearly, Syracuse is an esteemed broadcasting school. There are so many successful radio and television guys from there. Does your station see more young talent in the building than the normal small market, since there’s so many interested in the business in the same town?
SG: For me, it’s great because we get all these awesome interns. That’s actually how I started, I was in school and started working here my junior year. A couple of opportunities opened up, right place, right time and the next thing you know I’m hosting a show every day.
I know I’ve met a lot of other guys recently who have reached out to me, texted me, through Twitter, whatever, they’re interning here for a couple of months while they’re in school. It’s just been a great resource for us, like you said, SU is awesome and they pop out sports broadcasters every year, who are really well prepared and trained. It’s definitely an asset for us.
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.