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The Grass Isn’t Always Greener

“If my sports radio career ended today, the first regret I’d have is that I didn’t enjoy myself as much as I should have.”

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I was a host and program director in Fresno, California from 2006-’09. I’ll never forget something a fellow PD and friend, Greg Hoffman, said to me — “There will always be some type of BS wherever you go.”

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I was frustrated about something so minor that I don’t even remember what it was when he made that comment to me. Greg’s point was that it’s a waste of time to envision things being magically perfect at another job. There will always be some type of challenge or problem. You might as well make the most of where you currently are while you happen to be there.

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown is a lot like many people — he believes his next opportunity will be dramatically better than his previous gig. Often times in life, you’ll find that the grass isn’t nearly as green on the other side as you believed it would be. Even worse, there are many instances where the next situation is actually worse than the previous setup you thought was so bad.

I love what Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had to say about Brown last week. While Brown was in the process of forcing his way out from the Pittsburgh Steelers, Fitzgerald said, “I love AB. Mr. Big Chest is a good friend of mine, but I don’t think he’s going about it the right way, personally. To be able to play with an all-time quarterback like he’s able to play with, I don’t think he understands how good he has it. It can get tough out there.”

Fitzgerald nailed it. Life as a Pittsburgh Steeler was pretty good for Brown. The funny thing is that Brown didn’t see it that way leading up to the trade. He focused on the problems he was facing. Brown told ESPN’s Jeff Darlington that the owner and others in the organization didn’t know the names of his girlfriend, dad, or kids. He talked about Ben Roethlisberger not throwing him the ball in the first quarter last season against the Broncos. Brown even mentioned that he and Big Ben had only been to each other’s houses one time apiece. Gosh, such inhumane treatment in the Steel City.

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The funny thing is that a lot of people can relate to this type of thought process. It’s very easy to focus on all of the bad things about your current situation. The strange twist is that it’s also very easy to look back and reminisce much more positively later on. What sense does that make? We often obsess about the things we dislike in the moment, yet reflect back much more fondly about the same exact situation. This basically makes us crazy people.

I’ve fallen into this trap many times before. I’ve dwelled on challenges. At work — “How come that guy got the fill-in shift?” In a band — “Why is it like pulling teeth to find a good bassist?” At football practice — “It’d be nice if it wasn’t so hot out here and the left guard could block.”

The funny thing about no longer playing football or in a band is that I don’t ever think about those challenges anymore. I look back and remember all of the good times. It’s a much better approach to overlook the minor challenges in life and enjoy the good aspects while they’re happening — not just after the fact.

Antonio Brown didn’t enjoy himself fully while in Pittsburgh. The Steelers traded Brown for a measly return of 3rd– and 5th-round picks. They were also forced to swallow $21 million in dead money against their salary cap. $21 million! The Steelers could have just kept Brown, but they decided to deal him because he was such a pain in the rectum. There is absolutely no way that Brown, who was that big of a headache, enjoyed himself to the fullest extent in Pittsburgh.

Brown focused on the problems he was experiencing instead of the advantages he enjoyed. He had an all-time quarterback in Big Ben. He was putting up monster numbers while winning many games. The chemistry that Ben and AB developed over nine seasons can’t be replicated in one year with his new quarterback, Derek Carr.

Sure, Brown got a nice new contract that includes $30.125 million in guaranteed money. It’s not like he was going to make $5 bucks in Pittsburgh this year though. There was also a good chance he would’ve earned big money eventually after a reworked contract just like Big Ben is soon to get.

Look, my message isn’t to accept things you dislike, or to avoid fighting to make your life better. The thought is to make the most of your current situation without living in a make-believe world that things will automatically be much better elsewhere.

Brown’s numbers could drop in Oakland while the team loses more games than he’s used to. Maybe Raiders owner Mark Davis won’t know the name of Brown’s girlfriend either. Let’s not act like everything will be perfect now. A big part of this transition is simply exchanging old problems for new problems. Our lives work the same way, so avoid being consumed by your current challenges as if new obstacles won’t exist somewhere else.

Former Raiders tight end Todd Christensen said something on NFL Network’s America’s Game that always stuck with me. “My father had instructed me many years ago that there was only one sin and that was the sin of ingratitude,” Christensen said. “I didn’t want to be one of those people that was ungrateful.”

I hear people say, “You’ve got the greatest job ever. You get to sit around and talk sports all day.” It isn’t quite that simplistic. We don’t kick our feet up and sip lemonade all day. We put a lot of work into this occupation, but those people are right — this job is awesome. We get to cover sports, be creative, and have tons of fun along the way. Fixating on problems to the point where you lose sight of the upside is being ungrateful. That should never happen.

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If my sports radio career ended today, the first regret I’d have is that I didn’t enjoy myself as much as I should have. I focused more on obstacles and challenges instead of enjoying the great advantages. I refuse to make that mistake going forward. I would miss the sports radio business like crazy, so it doesn’t make sense to dwell on problems while overlooking the great benefits.

Find the balance of being grateful for what you have while fighting for things to be better. Antonio Brown didn’t find that balance. He dwelled on the imperfections in Pittsburgh much more than the positives. Don’t overlook the good aspects of your current situation while fantasizing about how much better things could be. Often times you’ll find that the grass is greener in your head than it is in reality.

BSM Writers

Asking The Right Questions Helps Create Interesting Content

Asking questions that can get a subject to talk about their feelings is a much better way to get an interesting answer.

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USA Today

When ESPN’s Mike Greenberg interviewed Paolo Banchero in the lead-up to the NBA lottery on Tuesday, he asked what I’ve concluded is the single most maddening question that can be asked of any athlete preparing for any draft.

“Why do you believe you should be No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft?” Greenberg said.

Before I point out exactly why I have such a visceral reaction to such a harmless question, I want to point out the positives because Greenberg’s question avoids some of the most common pitfalls:

1) It is an actual question. That’s not as automatic as you think given the number of poor souls who are handed a microphone and say to their subject, “Talk about (whatever issue they want a quote or a sound bite on).” This is the mark of an amateur, creating the opening for an uncooperative subject to slam the door by saying, “What do you want me to say?”

2) Greenberg’s question can not be answered with a yes or a no. Questions that start with the word “Can you …” or “Did you …” may sound like they’re tough questions for the subject, but they’re actually fairly easy if the subject wants to offer an answer. Now, most interview subjects won’t take that one-word exit, but some will in a touchy situation.

The problem with Greenberg’s question has to do with the result. Why do we ask questions of the athletes we cover? Seriously. That’s not rhetorical. What’s the goal? It’s to get interesting answers. At least that’s the hope whether it’s for a quote that will be included in a story, a sound bite to be replayed later or — like in this situation — during an interview that is airing live. The question should be engineered to elicit interesting content, and there was very little chance that the question Greenberg asked Banchero was going to produce anything close to that.

I know that because I have heard some version of this question asked hundreds of times. That’s not an exaggeration. I attended the NFL scouting combine annually for a number of years, and if a player wasn’t asked why he should be the first overall pick, he’d get asked why he should be a first-round pick or why he should be one of the first players chosen at his position. Never — in all that time — have I ever heard what would be considered an interesting or informative answer. In my experience, players tend to talk in incredibly general terms about their own abilities and then seek to compliment their peers in an effort to avoid coming off as cocky.

Here’s how Banchero answered Greenberg’s question: “Yeah, thank you all for having me, first off., I feel like I’m the number one pick in the draft because I’m the best overall player. I feel like I check all the boxes whether it’s being a great teammate, being the star player or doing whatever the coach needs. I’ve been a winner my whole life. Won everywhere I’ve went, and when I get to the NBA, that’s going to be the same goal for me. So just combining all those things, and knowing what I have to work on to be better is a formula for me.”

There’s nothing wrong with answer just as there was nothing wrong with the question. It’s just that both are really, really forgettable. ESPN did put a clip on YouTube with the headline “Paolo Banchero: I’m the best overall player in the NBA Draft | NBA Countdown” but I think I’m the only who will remember it and that’s only because I’m flapping my arms and squawking not because there was anything bad per se, but because there was nothing really good, either.

First of all, I’m not sure why it matters if Banchero thinks he should be the number one overall pick. He’s not going to be making that decision. The team that holds the top draft pick — in this case Orlando — is. Here’s a much better question: “How important is it for you to be the number one overall pick?” This would actually give an idea of the stakes for Banchero. What does this actually mean to him? Asking him why he should go number one is asking Banchero to tell us how others should see him. Asking Banchero how important it would be go number one is asking him to tell us about his feelings, something that’s much more likely to produce an interesting answer.

The point here isn’t to question Greenberg’s overall competence because I don’t. He’s as versatile a host as there is in the game, and anyone else in the industry has something to learn from the way he teases ahead to content. What I want to point out not just how we fail to maximize opportunities to generate interesting content, but why. Interviews are a staple of the sports-media industry. We rely on these interviews as both primary content that will be consumed directly, and as the genesis for our own opinions and reaction yet for all that importance we spend very little time thinking about the kind of answer this question is likely to produce.

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BSM Writers

The Client Just Said YES, Now What?

We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.

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One of the most significant moments in radio sales is when the client agrees to your proposal and says YES. But, when they do say YES, do you know what’s next? We better have an answer!

We spend a lot of time getting ready for clients with research, spec spots (thank you, radio sales trainer Chris Lytle-go to 22:30), proposals, and meetings. All of our focus is on getting the client to say YES. We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES. For example, getting newer sales reps to sell annual advertising contracts would be ideal for building a list. They would have less pressure, more job security, and could spend more time making the advertising work for their clients. But, since most newer reps don’t know the business yet, they don’t bite off more than they can chew and sell a package of the month.

When a client says yes to the weight loss promotion, it’s pretty clear how to write the ads, what the promos will say, etc. BUT, if a newer sales rep starts selling annual contracts to a direct local client who needs a resource, how will that work? Let’s make sure we paint the picture right upfront. More experienced reps know that they need to assume the client will say YES to the weight loss promo and have a plan accordingly.

They have the next steps to building copy and promos, a credit app or credit card payment form, and any other detail the client must provide. But, when we ask a direct local client for an annual advertising contract, watch out! You have just made a partnership. Why not lay out, upfront, what that will look like. And I understand not every local client needs the same level of service.

A car dealer has the factories pushing quarterly promotions, agencies producing ads, and in-house marketing directors pulling it all together sometimes. Other clients need your help in promotions, copywriting, or idea generation. Make a plan upfront with your client about when you will meet to discuss the next quarter’s ad program. Include your station’s promotions or inventory for football and basketball season, a summer NTR event, digital testimonials with on-air talent, etc., in your annual proposal. Go out as far as you can and show what you have to offer to the client and how you can execute it. This exercise is good for you and, once mastered, guides the client on how you will take care of them after the sale. It also opens your eyes to what it takes to have a successful client partnership inside and outside the station.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 74

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This week, Demetri is joined by Ian Casselberry and Ryan Brown. Demetri talks about the NBA Draft getting an ABC simulcast, Ian talks about Patrick Beverley’s breakout week on TV, and Ryan reminds us that Tom Brady may be the star, but Kevin Burkhardt is the story we shouldn’t forget.

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