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Who Wins The Sports Radio Heisman?

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The Heisman Trophy will be handed out on Saturday night. Three quarterbacks will be on stage at the Downtown Athletic Club. Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa or Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray could walk away with the hardware. Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins…well, at least he gets a free trip to New York.

As the college football season winds down and award after award is handed out, we thought it might be fun to hand out some college football accolades of our own. Who has made the greatest impact going from the college football field to a radio studio? Each of Barrett Sports Media’s contributors have an opinion and are ready to hand out their Sports Radio Heisman Trophy.

JASON BARRETT – Boomer Esiason (Maryland Terrapins QB, WFAN morning host)

When you think of former football players who’ve transitioned into sports radio and made a permanent impact there’s no better example than Boomer Esiason. He’s performed like a hall of fame talent for two decades, and is my choice for the Sports Radio Heisman.

I could begin by highlighting his TV work on CBS, ABC, and Showtime but since this is a radio piece, I’ll start by pointing out that Boomer spent 19 years on Westwood One calling Monday Night Football games, a broadcasting record.

Next, it’s well documented that without Don Imus, WFAN doesn’t become a dominant force in New York. When Imus was let go by The Fan after his Rutgers remarks in 2007, the hole in mornings on the radio station was enormous. Esiason wanted the challenge of replacing Imus, teamed up with Craig Carton, and proceeded to own morning drive in the nation’s #1 market for the next decade.

Then, just as everything was going perfectly, Carton was arrested in September 2017 for his involvement in a ponzi scheme. The Fan could’ve easily lost its way in mornings, but Boomer wouldn’t let that happen. The morning show finished 1st for the 2017 fall book, the first following Carton’s exit. Fast forward to 2018 where Gregg Giannotti has since replaced Carton as Boomer’s partner, and The Fan’s morning show is once again high atop the ratings.

Keep in mind, Boomer was a football star. He earned a good living on the gridiron. Most athletes in his position wouldn’t wake up and host a radio show at 6am for 11 years, work Sunday’s each football season on CBS, and spend 19 years with Westwood One working Monday Night football games. Nor would they want the pressure of replacing a New York radio legend like Imus or take on the challenge a second time when losing a partner who they just spent a decade having incredible success with.

From a hosting standpoint, what impresses me most about Boomer is that he does his homework on all sports, speaks with authority, and doesn’t take himself too seriously. He also uses his profile to lift up his teammates. Those qualities have helped him become just as elite of a host as he was a football player, and that’s saying something because he won an MVP award, led the NFL in passing 2x and played in 4 pro bowls during a 14-year career.

DEMETRI RAVANOS – Petros Papadakis (USC Trojans RB, KLAC Afternoons)

There are plenty of guys that go from the gridiron to the broadcast booth. A good portion of them come into their new job willing to have fun and make fun of themselves. No one does it with more enthusiasm than Petros Papadakis.

The former USC fullback and his partner, Matt “Money” Smith, were a revelation for so many of us that lived outside of LA when the duo began filling the night time slot on Fox Sports Radio. Those guys know sports. Petros himself is the national radio personality that I trusted the most to talk college football. It was clear his opinions were backed up by observation and facts.

But it wasn’t his knowledge that made me a Petros loyalist to the point that I continued listening to the show on the iHeartRadio app even after it went back to being an LA-only entity. No one on radio has more fun than Petros Papadakis. His Lance Romance bit, the nonsensical show themes like “walk your bike Wednesday,” hell even his voice all point to the fact that this is a guy that isn’t concerned whether or not you think he’s a genius. He just wants to make sure you think he is worth coming back to listen to over and over again.

TYLER MCCOMAS – Mark Schlereth (Idaho Vandals G, 104.3 the Fan Mornings)

“Cleats on the grass!”

When I hear that, I instantly think of Mark Schlereth and his famous tagline heard on 104.3 The Fan in Denver. To me, “Stink” is the most polished show host out of any former football player on the airwaves. That carries over in the booth, where he excels at in-game analysis as a color commentator.

Along with co-host Mike Evans, ‘Schlereth and Evans’ has been at the top of Denver sports radio for a very long time, which doesn’t seem like it will change anytime soon. Schlereth can Talk Rockies or Nuggets, but he sticks with what’s he knows best – the Broncos and the NFL. Having Stink on the airwaves gives 104.3 The Fan a perspective from both the former player and the national expert with a voice that several people across of the country recognize.

BRIAN NOE – Mike Golic (Notre Dame Fighting Irish DT, ESPN Radio Mornings)

When it comes to a debate of who should win the Sports Radio Heisman of former college football players turned talk show hosts, it’s a no-contest. The only part to figure out is who will finish in second place behind Mike Golic.

One of the most popular shows in sports radio history was ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike. It was a 17-year run for Mike Golic on the show. Since that time, he is still in the national spotlight while hosting Golic and Wingo. The show is celebrating its one-year anniversary this week.

What other former college football player has those credentials? That would be no one from the University of Non-Existent. Better yet, not only has Golic been highly successful in sports radio for nearly two decades, he’s routinely repping his alma mater, the University of Notre Dame, which further heightens his association with college football.

Put it all together and it’s a no-brainer. Mike Golic wins this contest by a mile.

DAVE GREENE  – Cole Cubelic (Auburn Tigers C, Jox 94.5 Middays)

Since Archie Griffin is the only two-time winner, when you’re talking about a Heisman candidate it should be someone making a big impact that’s fairly new on the scene.  This is a good description for Cole Cubelic.  A former Auburn offensive lineman (1997-2000) and team captain, Cubelic has risen quickly over the last few years and is becoming one of the top college football analysts in the country. 

On radio, Cole teams with Aaron Suttles and Landrum Roberts in middays on JOX 94.5, a powerhouse station in his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama.  On television he teams with Tom Hart and Jordan Rodgers during SEC Saturday Night on SEC Network.  

An 18-game starter at center during his days with the Tigers, Cubelic has a knack for making X’s and O’s football discussion incredibly compelling. Cubelic’s passion for college football comes bursting out of the microphone whether he’s in the studio at JOX, on camera while down on the sidelines for television or during one of his many guest appearances on shows across the country including The Paul Finebaum Show.  Whether you’re listening, watching or reading Cole’s takes on the SEC and college football, you can expect to be highly entertained while being well informed, an award winning combination in my book.

MATT FISHMAN – Rick Neuheisel (UCLA Bruins QB, SiriusXM ESPNU Radio Middays)

For those not young enough to remember Rick Neuheisel as a player, he was a quarterback at UCLA and won the Rose Bowl MVP in 1984 as UCLA upset #4 Illinois. Following his playing days, primarily in the USFL, he went on to be the head coach at Colorado, Washington, and UCLA. 

Since 2012, Rick has been a host on SiriusXM. He currently co-hosts “Full Ride” with Chris Childers weekdays from 10am to 1pm Eastern on ESPNU Radio, SiriusXM Channel 84. Steve Cohen, SiriusXM’s SVP of Sports Programming says of Neuheisel, “The knowledge and passion he possesses for college sports is infectious. He’s never boring and fans love the entertaining way he presents his brand of college sports talk. “

I really like that Neuheisel has fully embraced the medium. He doesn’t take himself too seriously and he has written and performed numerous college sports related parody songs including “Born in the SEC,” “We Love This Game” and “Johnny Football.” 

I chose Rick for the sports radio Heisman for his knowledge, personality and preparation. Additionally, Rick was a quarterback and since 2000, only two non-quarterbacks have won the Heisman. 

BRANDON CONTES – Brian Jones (Texas Longhorns LB, currently off air)

I can listen to anyone talk about the NFL, NBA or baseball, but as a native Long Islander and St. John’s alum, my college football fandom was never strong which is exactly how I know Brian Jones is great.

The first time I heard the college football analyst and former NFL linebacker was on CBS Sports Radio.  Jones was hosting weeknights with Chris Moore and I followed him through his years as a morning host with Gregg Giannotti.

I didn’t find Jones entertaining because of his college or NFL affiliations, but because of his infectious personality.  Sure the insight is intelligent and the analysis is well-thought, but its Jones’s genuine energy that makes whatever topic he’s talking about a must listen.

Networks are filled with talented college football talkers, but in a sport where it’s difficult to keep my full-attention, I seek commentary from Jones.  Through his ability to entertain, when you hear Jones on the radio you forget he’s a “football guy” and understand his talent as a “radio guy.”

Jones hasn’t had a regular radio show since CBS Sports shuffled their lineup after Giannotti joined Boomer Esiason on WFAN.  He keeps busy with multiple TV shows along with contributing as a radio guest, but I hold out hope that at least a podcast is in Brian’s future.

 

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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