One of the easiest things in life is to detect whether somebody has passion for what they do or not. The passion that Grant Napear has for sports broadcasting and sports in general is more than obvious. One of the greatest compliments I can pay Grant is that he has the unique ability to get the audience to care more. I truly believe that the passion he always displays has a direct effect on the audience being more passionate about sports themselves.
Grant has enjoyed a great deal of success throughout his career. He became the TV announcer for Sacramento Kings basketball games back in 1988. The story he shares about breaking the good news to his dad is second to none. The greatest moment in Grant’s life is a special tale that reveals how his love for sports is intertwined with the deep love he still has for his late father.
As the host of The Grant Napear Show on KHTK Sports 1140 in Sacramento, it might come as a surprise that Grant’s favorite moment in sports radio doesn’t actually involve anything that has to do with sports. Grant also unveils whether he would give up sports radio or play-by-play if necessary, and he details his unique approach to delicate topics that is definitely worth your time reading below. Enjoy.
Brian Noe: Start from the beginning. What was your first break in sports broadcasting?
Grant Napier: My first break was my dad — we grew up on Long Island about 30 miles from New York City right on the Nassau/Suffolk community border. I was very fortunate to have a radio station in my high school. I had a little bit of broadcast work before I even went to college, but my first real, true break was my dad’s mixed doubles tennis partner — her husband owned what back then was the Mizlou Sports Network. The Mizlou Sports Network was basically ESPN before ESPN.
They did a lot of bowl games. The guy that owned that network — his name is Vic Piano. He had always told my dad, “Hey, if there’s anything we can ever do for Grant, let me know.” I went to college at Bowling Green and was doing Bowling Green football. After I graduated, I was working at a radio station in Bowling Green and Bowling Green made it to the California Bowl. They were playing Fresno State. Mizlou Sports Network was doing the game.
I called Vic Piano. He gave me the name and the number of the executive producer — his name was Bill Schwing. I went out on a Friday night before the game to their production meeting. I’m sitting in this room with the staff that’s doing the game and the producer and the director. At the end of the meeting, Bill Schwing goes, “Now, I’m sorry. What are you here for again?” I said, “Well, I’m Grant Napear.” He goes, “Oh yeah, that’s right. Okay, now what is it that you want to do?” I said, “Well, I don’t know. I’m just here to see if there is anything at all that is available.” He said, “Well, you know, this is national TV. I can’t let you just go on TV. We do need someone to do the halftime show. I can’t just let you on.”
He said, “I’ll tell you what, show up at the stadium tomorrow three hours before the game and I’ll give you an audition.” They had a lot of technical problems that late afternoon and they never gave me an audition. So, I’m sitting in the broadcast booth. It is about seven minutes before the half. I asked the stage manager, “Can you please find out if I’m doing the halftime or not?” I really need to prepare something.
With four minutes left to go in the first half, she gets back to me and she goes, “Yes, you’re going to be doing the halftime. You’re going to interview the commissioner of the conference and then you’re just going to do some stats and some highlights.” Now, I had never been on television before. Okay? I have never been on TV, but I had been practicing my whole life to be on TV. Even beginning at age 10 and 11, practicing and making believe I was on TV.
I did the halftime segment. At the end of the game, I’m walking out of the stadium and Bill Schwing comes out of the TV truck and he sees me. He goes, “Grant! Oh my God, you have no idea how nervous we were all in the truck when you came on. But you did a great job and good luck in your career.” I got back to Bowling Green, which is 20 minutes south of Toledo. The ABC station up there is Channel 24 in Toledo. The sports director’s name is Jim Tichy.
I had known Jim because I had done Bowling Green hockey, Bowling Green basketball, and I used to see Jim around. We knew each other. Not well, but we knew each other. He comes up to me and he says, “Grant, I didn’t know you did TV.” I said, “I didn’t know I did TV either.” He said, “Listen, I have six weeks vacation this summer and a weekend sports anchor is filling in for me. We need someone to fill in on weekends. Would you be interested in coming up and doing an audition?”
I went up on June 18th of 1982. The reason why I remember the date is it was my birthday. I did an audition. They hired me to fill in on the weekends at $5 an hour. During that time my radio station in Bowling Green had been sold and it was turning in to a Spanish format, so I moved back home to New York.
Mike Reghi, who ended up doing the Cleveland Cavaliers for many, many years — he’s done a lot of work for ESPN — he was the weekend sports director. I’m not kidding you, Brian, he would call me on a Thursday night and go, “Grant, I’m not working this weekend. Can you work?” I’d go, “Absolutely.” I would get in my car and I would drive 10 hours, over 500 miles, and I would do a five-minute sportscast on Saturday. I would do a five-minute sportscast on Sunday. And I would drive back home. I did that for about eight or nine months until I could get a good tape. Then, I just sent it out everywhere and that’s how I really got the TV portion of my career started.
Noe: What’s something that you remember most while doing that fill-in work early on?
GN: You know what was interesting? I had never been in a TV studio before. I’ll never forget this. The news director comes up to me and he goes, “Just write a couple of scripts out.” I wrote a couple of scripts and I go into the studio and the teleprompter was run by the anchors at this particular ABC station. It was like a sewing machine. There was a foot pedal under the desk and you had to tap your foot to move the teleprompter.
I did the sportscast and the news director goes, “Okay, do you want to do it again, or are you okay with that?” My response was, “Well, you only get a chance to do it once when you’re doing it for real, right?” He says, “That’s correct.” I said, “No, I’m good with it.” They ended up, right after that, hiring me to fill in at the ABC affiliate in Toledo. That’s how I really got my start.
I learned how to shoot a camera. I would go out and shoot highlights of the Toledo Mud Hens. I would go up to the Tiger games. There were all kinds of things in that area. I would edit my own stuff and I would put together my sportscast. I did that until I could get a resume tape. That’s how I really ended up getting my first full-time job was by getting the experience on the air to get a resume tape together.
Noe: I just thought of Howie Long, who won a Super Bowl right away with the Raiders, and some other players who had immediate success at the beginning of their careers. It’s not as if you took early success for granted, but did you appreciate it more down the road when you got a few breaks early on when it just doesn’t work out the same way for some other people?
GN: Yeah, you know, it’s interesting you say that. Was that a break? Yes, but I was very fortunate. I knew what I wanted to do when I was in third and fourth grade. I started doing play-by-play when I was in grade school. I was blessed to grow up listening to Marv Albert doing the Rangers and the Knicks games. In junior high school, whenever we had a class assembly that would run short, they would start chanting my name out. I would have to go on the stage and do a mock play-by-play of a Knicks or a Rangers game. I put commercials in and everything. I was doing play-by-play for many, many years before I even had a chance to do it on the air.
That evolved in to doing Bowling Green hockey and some basketball and football on the campus station before I got an internship where I was doing everything. I was driving literally 10 hours for $5 an hour. Then when I finally got a job in Decatur, Illinois as a “full-time” job, I made $12,300. I was the weekend sports anchor and during the week I was a news photographer because they didn’t have the budget to go full sports.
I worked my way up to being a sports reporter. I really, truly feel like I paid my dues. Did I get a break? Yes, but here’s the other part of that. I always tell students this; did I get a break? Yeah, I did get a break, but I was ready for it. I took advantage of it.
I always tell students when I speak at high schools and colleges — I really believe that people in this industry, if you look hard enough, you will get that one opportunity. But when you get that opportunity, you have to make sure that you are ready for it and that you hit a home run. Because if you don’t, you may never get that opportunity again.
In one sense, I got a break. But in another sense, I had been working my whole life for it. I worked for very little wages. I really feel like I paid my dues so that when I really got into the position that I’m in now at a relatively early age — I started doing the Kings when I was 28 — I felt at that point like wow, I really earned my way to that spot. I didn’t feel like I was ever given anything. I don’t feel like I was ever handed anything. I felt like I was ready for it, prepared, and I feel like I’ve paid my dues.
Noe: Absolutely. Oh, I don’t want to make it sound like you were born with a silver sports broadcasting spoon or anything like that. (laughs)
GN: I wanted to paint a picture for you because I know you talk to people in this industry all the time. If you talk to 50 different people, you’ll get 50 different stories of how people got into this business. With the exception of maybe a Jim Lampley and a Bob Costas — and even Bob started doing minor league hockey — but very, very, very, very few people go from college into the “big time” in this business.
You have to start off in a small town. Warner Wolf, who was a long-time sports anchor in Washington D.C. and New York City for CBS — he also did Monday Night Baseball for a while. He was a phenomenally popular figure in New York. He wrote a book. I’ll never forget this part of the book because I always used to read this when I used to talk to schools. In this book he said, “You know how some people say start at the top? I say don’t even think about starting at the top. You need to get a job in a small town on the radio at six in the morning when nobody’s listening.” He went on and on.
You know what? I did that. My first full-time job right out of college, I was working at a commercial station in Bowling Green, Ohio. I was the morning DJ. I was the account executive. I was also the sports director. During the morning — this is no exaggeration — three times a week I used to have to read the funeral report brought to you by Klotz Flowers on East Wooster Street. Like I still remember the name of the flower company and the street it was on. That was part of my job in the mornings.
Warner Wolf was so right about that. You have to learn this business by doing it. You have to be able to work in a market where if you make a mistake, nobody’s going to kill you for it. It takes a while to hone your skill and get experience. If you work in a small market they understand that you’re going to make mistakes. They understand that you’re up and coming. You can’t go from college to let’s say a network or a big time and make a mistake and hold on to your job. It doesn’t work like that. I’ve always believed that you start small in this business. Learn the business. Learn the craft. Get as much experience as you can and work your way up the ladder.
Noe: It’s been well chronicled how Patrick Mahomes attributes some of his play-making ability to playing baseball. When you’ve done hockey play-by-play and other things in sports broadcasting, how much has that helped your NBA play-by-play?
GN: It’s helped it out a lot. I played lacrosse all my life. I played lacrosse in college. I had to mix in working at the campus radio station with playing a Division I sport. I had to learn how to budget my time and everything, but I’ve always felt this — if you can do hockey, you can do anything.
The only sport I’ve never tried is baseball. I honestly don’t think it fits in with my personality. Do I think I could do baseball? Yeah, I think I probably could, but baseball is more about telling stories. It’s more about what happens in between pitches. That would be more challenging for me because I’m more of a New York Type A persoality with rapid-fire. Hockey is perfect for me.
My dream was always to announce in the NHL and I got my dream in 1995. I filled in doing some Sharks games on TV. I’ve crossed that off my bucket list, but I’ve always felt that if you can do hockey you can do anything. That type of experience of doing a fast-paced game and having to be on top of it has helped me out immensely throughout my career.
Noe: What was that moment like for you when you initially got the nod to call Sacramento Kings games on TV?
GN: Well, the greatest moment ever in my life, and I’m 59, was calling my father and telling him that, “Dad, I am the new TV announcer for the Sacramento Kings.” My dad started taking me to New York Giant football games when I was three years old. We went to games every Sunday. We had season tickets for the Giants and the Jets. I was at an NFL game every single Sunday of my entire childhood.
I loved the Giants and I hated the Jets. The season ticket holders at Shea Stadium didn’t like me because one week I’d be rooting for the Bills, two weeks later I’d be rooting for the Patriots, then I’d be rooting for the Colts. They couldn’t stand me because I hated the Jets.
My sports background is 100 percent from my father. We’d be at college games. We’d be at Ranger games. It was just part of my upbringing. The moment that I found out I was going to be doing the Kings on television in 1988, the thing that I will always remember until I’m no longer breathing was the phone call that I had with my dad. That was probably the most special moment I’ve ever had in my life.
Noe: Do you remember what he said to you?
GN: He broke down on the phone. We both did. It was like a dream. For us to share that moment and to experience that together with all of the games that we had been at and our love for sports and everything else — I lost my dad 10 years ago at age 82. He had a full life.
I’ll tell you a quick story. My dad passed away three hours before I did a Kings-Spurs game on November 2nd in 2007. My brother called me at 4 o’clock and the game was at 7 o’clock. He says, “Dad died.” My dad was in good health. He was still driving. He was still active in his church. But anyway, to make a long story short, they found my father on the couch with ESPN on. We were playing the Spurs that night and my dad had always told me, “Hey listen, if anything ever happens to me, don’t worry about it. Go do the games. Don’t worry about missing a game.”
I did the game as hard as that was. We only scored 29 points in the first half. At my dad’s memorial service a month later I told the story. I said I’m just really happy that they found my dad before the game because if they had found my dad after that game, I would have always had the guilt over the fact that the Sacramento Kings killed my father.
He watched every game that I did. He watched every single game. I was like, okay gosh, that would have been the worst thing in the world to have my brother call me and say, “They found dad sitting with the Kings game on and the Kings poor performance in the first half killed him.” (laughs) But that relationship, I’m sure everyone has their own stories, but that was something that was [special] – and with League Pass it was great because my dad could watch every game that I did.
Noe: I appreciate that story. If you look at sports TV, sports radio, and play-by-play — what are the similarities that aren’t obvious, and the differences that don’t stand out either?
GN: The similarities, to me, are knowledge. I would think this is true in any walk of life. When I’m doing my radio show, I have to know everything. I’m blessed to fill in for Jim Rome a lot. That’s a whole different animal because you get calls from all over North America and you have to really know everything.
My love may not be let’s say college basketball. I like college basketball, but I don’t really get a chance to follow it as closely as I want for obvious reasons. If I’m going to do a national radio show, you have to have the knowledge. When I’m doing an NBA game at night, I’ve got to know not only my team, which I know because I’m watching them every night, but you really have to know everything about the other team.
To me knowledge, homework, and preparation — that’s the one constant between everything. I don’t know if people understand. A Joe Buck who was doing the World Series and doing an NFL game on a Thursday, or a Jim Nantz who goes from doing the Final Four to the Masters to whatever — you just always have to be reading. You can’t take any days off in this business. You don’t want to go on vacation. I’m still monitoring everything that’s going on in the sports world. You don’t really get away from it.
They are completely separate jobs and I don’t know if there are a lot of fans that understand that. What I do on the radio every day is 100 percent different than what I do when I’m doing a Kings game two hours later. I’m opinionated on the radio. I have to present that medium completely different than when I’m doing a basketball game. When I’m doing a basketball game, my job is not to be opinionated. My job is to describe the action and to guide my analyst in and out of certain areas that I think are important.
People think it’s kind of the same job. It’s not the same job and there is a very, very fine line that I do have to walk and I’m sure the other broadcasters in the country like a Michael Kay — who I have the unbelievably utmost respect for — as the TV voice of the Yankees and having a high profile radio job in New York. He can’t duck questions. He can’t, on his radio show, not be opinionated even if it’s critical of the Yankees. But there is a fine line that you have to walk. That is probably the most difficult part of doing a radio talk show in a market and being the professional team’s play-by-play announcer.
Noe: The NBA game moves fast. Hockey especially moves so fast as a play-by-play guy. Does it ever feel like sports radio moves slower for you because of your play-by-play background?
GN: Yeah, sports radio to me is like molasses compared to doing play-by-play. I’ve done NBA play-by-play on radio and I’ve done it on TV. Play-by-play on TV is not really that quick. Marv Albert told me this a long, long time ago — a good TV announcer is judged more by what he doesn’t say than by what he does say. You have to be really in tune, particularly when you’re doing games at home, with what the crowd is doing. On big moments you really need to lay out, but when you’re on the road and your team has a big moment you don’t lay out because the crowd is bad. Then you can talk over it.
There is a fine art. It’s very, very challenging at times. In radio play-by-play you are the eyes and ears of the listener. Everything has to be super descriptive. I love play-by-play because it’s all spontaneous. You really don’t know what’s going to happen from second to second. Whereas on the radio show it’s a little bit more formatted.
For instance, if I’m on the radio and we’re talking about the Chiefs and the Chargers, well there’s really not a lot of spontaneity there because I already know. I watched the game and there’s nothing I’m going to be asked that I don’t know the answer to. Not to sound egotistical, but people that watched the game know. They watched the game. But when I do the Kings and Warriors game, I have no idea what’s going to happen.
I did the Kings-Warriors game a couple of years ago when Klay Thompson scored 37 points in the third quarter. That was probably in my 31 years of doing basketball the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. I didn’t walk into the building that night thinking I was going to see the greatest individual accomplishment in the history of the game. That’s what I love about play-by-play — the spontaneity of it. It’s totally different. It’s completely separate than doing the radio show.
Noe: I think the Warriors dominance is a mixture of good and bad for the NBA and sports broadcasting in general. Do you think the Warriors are more on the good side or more on the bad side for what you do as the Kings TV announcer and also as a sports radio host?
GN: I’ll tell you what I think is bad about it. I think it’s bad when a league begins their season, it’s game one of 82, and just about every single person in the country knows who’s going to win the championship barring injury. I don’t think that’s good for the NBA and yet their TV ratings are through the roof. Their money is through the roof. The attendance keeps on going up, but I don’t think that’s good.
Whereas in the NFL in Week 1, look at Philadelphia last year. Nobody had them winning the Super Bowl and they won the Super Bowl. That doesn’t happen in the NBA. Look at baseball. Who had the Oakland A’s winning 97 games and going to the playoffs? It happens in baseball. In hockey, who had the Vegas Golden Knights going and playing in the Stanley Cup Final as an expansion team? That could never ever, ever, ever happen in the NBA. That part of it I think is bad.
I don’t think it’s good for a league when you have legitimately two, maybe three teams that can win a championship out of 30. What do you say to the other markets like Sacramento? Well, we’re different because it’s the only show in town and the team has been so bad for so long and now they look good. The fans here aren’t expecting a championship this year. The excitement is as good as it’s been in over a decade. In this particular market it’s not a big deal.
To me, it’s different when you work in a Portland or a Sacramento where it’s the only show in town. Let me take you to a market that has three other sports.
If you’re in Denver, the Nuggets are relevant this year. When the Nuggets in the past few years weren’t relevant and you have the Avs, people talk about the Denver Broncos 365 days a year — what’s it like for them when they know that their team has no chance of competing because they already know who’s going to win the championship? I think a lot depends on which market you work in.
Noe: What would you say is your very favorite moment broadcasting the Kings and your very favorite moment broadcasting a sports radio show?
GN: My favorite moment broadcasting the Kings was Game 3 of the ‘95-‘96 season when the Kings had their first playoff game at Arco Arena. I’ve been blessed to go to the Super Bowl, the World Series, and the Stanley Cup Final. I’ve been everywhere and I’ve never, ever experienced a crowd response when the Kings ran out onto the court for their warm-ups against the Sonics in Game 3 with the series tied 1-1. That was truly a moment — not moment, moments — that I’ll never forget. I’ve never experienced a crowd response like that ever.
I’ve had a lot of other tremendous moments — some good, some not bad. I was doing the radio call on Robert Horry’s Game 4 shot, which tied the series at 2-2. That was probably the most difficult, hardest thing to digest because the Kings would have gone up three games to one and in all likelihood would have won the series.
As far as my favorite sports moment on the radio — you may find this to be kind of an odd answer, but it doesn’t have anything to do with sports. We were broadcasting on remote after 9/11. I’ll never forget being on the air after 9/11 where you didn’t even think about talking about sports, nor did you even contemplate talking about sports. I’ll never forget every day being out in a parking lot of a shopping center with fireman and literally having people just stop and put money in boots.
Just kind of getting together with people and strangers that you didn’t even know. Just getting through the horrific scene of Washington and New York and Pennsylvania — the bond that our country showed during that time. That week to two weeks on the radio was — when I say it’s my favorite time — I say it’s my most memorable time because our country came together and we were going to do anything that we could for our fellow neighbor, and our neighbors in New York and Washington.
We just went through it here with the Camp Fire and the tragedy in Paradise. This is our neck of the woods. Again, we didn’t even talk about sports for a couple of days. We were talking with victims that had nothing. They had lost their houses. They had lost their jobs. They lost everything and we were all trying to help. What do you need? Can we get up there and give you a blanket? Do you need a tent? Do you need boots?
I had someone call my show who wore a size 17 and they were walking around with nothing. I called the Kings to see if anyone wore a size 17. Kosta Koufos did and so I got some sneakers and I gave them to this individual because they didn’t have anything. Those are the moments. I always say the power of radio. When there’s tragedy and you have a microphone in front of your face, you don’t really realize how many people that you can help. Those are my favorite most memorable moments in all my years of doing radio. It has nothing to do with sports. It has to do with helping out your neighbor and making someone feel good. Giving someone hope. Those are my favorite moments on the radio.
Noe: Building off of that, the times when sports radio gets pretty contentious — if there is a topic about anthem protests or something like that — that’s the other side of the spectrum based on what you were just talking about. Do you think that more times than not sports radio unifies people or divides them?
GN: I think it divides them. I have a really simple philosophy. It’s a very sad philosophy, but I deal in reality. I’m a straight shooter. I don’t talk about that on my radio show. I don’t talk about sex on my show. I don’t talk about race on my show. And I don’t talk about political / social issues on my show. The reason for that is if I do, no matter what I say, it’s going to be misconstrued. I’m going to be labeled either a racist. I’m going to be labeled a bigot. I’m going to be labeled this. I’m going to be labeled that.
I honestly believe in my heart that there are certain issues that you have a no-win situation. I unfortunately cannot talk about those things. You talk about the anthem protest in the NFL. It’s very simple. This is a sports show. I’m doing a sports show. If you want to talk about Colin Kaepernick and you want to talk about kneeling, there are many other stations on the dial. Turn the dial. I’m not talking about that.
It’s sad that we live in a society where you can’t give an opinion without being labeled a derogatory term. So, I stay away from that. I wish I didn’t have to stay away from that because I’m like anyone else — I have an opinion on it, but if my opinion is not popular or my opinion is deemed to have a certain bias, then all of a sudden I’m Grant Napear that has a label attached to him. I don’t want a label attached to me unfairly.
I do a lot of things in our community for at-need students. I spent a lot of my free time on my foundation. I am very proud of that. I don’t even like to go on the radio and have to back up when someone calls me this or calls me that. I’ll give you an example. I made a comment about a year-and-a-half ago about this issue. Someone was calling up and criticizing me and I said, “Okay, I heard what you had to say. Let me ask you a question. What have you done to help out the situation? You have a very strong opinion about this. What are you doing to make your community better?”
There was a pause. They go, “Well, what are you doing?” I said, “Well, I have a foundation. I’ve sent over 60 at-need high school students to college. I mentor the students and we pay for a five-year state funded education.” I said, “So, what have you done? I told you what I’ve done in the community that I live in. What have you done?”
The thing that bothers me more than anything in the world is when people call up and criticize a talk show host’s opinion about delicate issues that I try to stay away from, and I do stay away from, and I ask a very simple question, “You have a very strong opinion Joe, John, Debbie. What have you done?” And they don’t have an answer. I hate people that call up and complain about the issues that are facing our country today and yet they don’t do anything about it other than just call up and bitch on the phone. I don’t want to have a conversation with a person like that. If you feel that strongly, go out and do something about it.
Noe: I hear you. What about Grant’s Rant when you rant about everyday things that irritate you. When it’s way less serious, do you enjoy ranting about obscure things that get under your skin?
GN: Yeah, you know what, at the end of the day what I do on the radio is entertainment. If you’re a talk show host, you really are there to entertain. You’re there to get people to listen through the commercial break and come back and listen again. I’ve enjoyed doing the rants because I think it’s tongue-in-cheek. A lot of it is me trying to identify with the person listening.
I did a rant about an airplane. I had an obese individual sitting next to me on a red-eye to New York. I went off for about 10 minutes. It got the most amazing response. Of course you’re always going to get the obese person who calls up and says that I’m prejudiced against fat people. Again, you can’t win. No matter what you do. No matter what you say. You’re always going to offend a certain group of people.
Unfortunately, our entire society has changed that way. What I could say five years ago or 10 years ago, I can’t say now. Everyone is so damn sensitive that when you’re on the radio, I really believe this; I have a responsibility to gauge where our society is at. Right now our society is ultra, ultra sensitive. If you’re a Democrat, they are going to have an opinion of you. If you’re a Republican, they’re going to have an opinion of you. I don’t tell people which way I vote. I don’t talk about the president. I don’t talk about that because you know what? People are going to form biases about you and I am not a news talk show host. I’m not Rush Limbaugh. I’m Grant Napear — a sports talk show host
My mantra is really simple. I talk about sports and if you want something else, you have the freedom to turn the dial. I’ll give you another example. The protests in Sacramento, are you familiar with those last year?
Noe: Yes, actually I am. Yeah.
GN: They didn’t let the fans into the arena and they still played the game. I’m the TV announcer for the Kings now, right? I started off my show the next day and I said, “You know what? I know that everybody wants to hear my opinion on the protest.” I said, “This is what I experienced. I was getting ready to do the game and at 20 ‘till 7, I was told that the game was going to be delayed. So, I sat there and I waited until I was told to go on and do the game. I then found out that they weren’t going to be letting any more fans into the building and there were about 2,000 fans in the building. If you want to hear my opinion on the protest, if you want to hear my opinion on the purpose of the protest, if you want to hear my opinion about the police department with the management of the Kings not letting people in, I’m sorry, you’re listening to the wrong guy. I’m not going to give you my opinion on that.”
I said, “This is a situation that is unfortunate. It is a situation that everyone is going to have an opinion. If you’re calling up expecting me to give you my opinion on the protest and this Stephon Clark shooting, you’re listening to the wrong guy. I’m not going there. Feel free to turn the dial right now, but this is not what this show is about.”
Noe: When you start thinking about some of the greatest athletes in sports that have retired — Brett Favre has talked about trying to replace that high of being an NFL player. When you’ve been broadcasting the Kings since you were 28 years old, what do you think life would be like without that rush of play-by-play or sports radio?
GN: It would be really, really, really hard for me. I hope, knock on wood, health and the fact that I still am wanted by my employer — that I can do this job until I can’t do it anymore. If you told me, “Hey Grant, you know what? I have a crystal ball and you’re going to be doing the Kings when you’re 75,” I’d be jumping up and down right now. You’re asking me to answer a question that I don’t really think about that often.
I don’t take what I do for granted, but it would be really hard for me not to be around the people that I’ve been around for such a long time around the league. Whether I’m talking to Ralph Lawler or Al McCoy two weeks ago. Al’s been doing the Suns for 45 years. I can’t imagine what it would be like to go to Phoenix and not see Al McCoy. It would be very difficult for me not to go to New York and spend time with Mike Breen. Those are the things I cherish the most about my job.
The high of doing a game — I don’t think I need to get into that — it’s incredible to announce a live sporting event. There’s nothing like it in the world, but the relationships that I’ve built up in over 30 years of this league — my conversations that I have with the referees before the game. I can go on and on. I would miss that so much. That would be a really big void in my life because it is my life. I’ve spent more time with my Kings family than I spend with my own family. I really haven’t thought about it that much. I hope that I don’t really have to experience that. I hope I can do this job forever.
Noe: Based on what you said about the negative feedback that is often associated with being a talk show host, I can’t imagine there’s nearly as much as the Kings TV announcer. With that being said, do you think that you would miss the play-by-play more than you would miss sports radio?
GN: There’s no question. If you said, “Grant you absolutely, positively have to make a choice. You can’t do both.” I would do play-by-play because there’s nothing like doing a live sporting event. I love doing radio so don’t get me wrong, but if you absolutely told me I had to make a choice, there’s nothing like announcing a live sporting event. I would always lean towards that if I had to choose one over the other.
Listen, you are 100 percent correct. There are — and I say this because I live in a relatively small town — there are a lot of people that don’t like me because of how I am on the radio. I’m very opinionated. I’m brash. I’m very in your face and that’s not for everybody, but yet I’ve been doing the show for almost 25 years. I’m obviously pleasing somebody because I keep on getting a new contract.
I also don’t know any other way to do it. That’s how I am. I always tell students when I talk to them you have to be yourself. Don’t try to be anybody else. You’ll never make it in this business. You need to be yourself. When I’m on the radio, that’s me being a sports fan. Play-by-play is completely different. It’s really an art form. You have to develop your own style.
People view me differently in this community as a NBA announcer compared to a talk show host. Not that everybody loves me as a play-by-play announcer, but the point is when you are giving opinions on a talk show every day, you’re going to have much more of a reaction than just doing play-by-play. Does that make sense?
Noe: Oh yeah, absolutely. It makes 100 percent sense. Last one for you, is there anything that you haven’t accomplished that you would still like to?
GN: That’s a great question. I have accomplished the three main goals that I dreamed as a kid was to announce the NFL, the NBA, and the NHL. I’ve done all three. I did the Raiders on TV in the preseason for five years when they had Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, and Rich Gannon. I announced a live hockey game with the Sharks and the L.A. Kings that had Wayne Gretzky playing in it on TV. I have done the NBA for 31 years. I think I’ve crossed off all of my dreams. So no, there’s nothing else in this business that I absolutely am dying to do that I haven’t already done. I’m really, really happy with where I’m at and what I’ve done.
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.