There is a big difference between being a good player and being a good teammate. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown both excel as players. They’ve received a lot of attention for their production and impressive talent. They both lack a very important skill though; the ability to make the people around them shine brighter.
Rodgers was featured in a detailed article written by Bleacher Report’s Tyler Dunne last week. It didn’t exactly make Rodgers look like the greatest ally. He was described by some former teammates as a self-entitled quarterback, a bad leader, and an ultrasensitive source of toxicity. One ex-Packers scout called Rodgers an arrogant quarterback quick to blame everyone but himself.
The two-time MVP defended himself on ESPN Milwaukee radio on Monday. “This was a smear attack by a writer looking to advance his career talking with mostly irrelevant, bitter players who all have an agenda whether they’re advancing their own careers or just trying to stir old stuff up,” Rodgers said.
He never said the descriptions were wrong. Rodgers just tried to discredit the people making those harsh statements. This is straight from the Misdirection 101 handbook.
Many teammates immediately came to the defense of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz when a critical piece was written about him on PhillyVoice in January. Where are the Packers players and staff members rushing to the defense of Rodgers? There is just simply too much smoke for there not to be fire — cutting off his family in 2014, freezing out teammates, passive-aggressive behavior. It’s all made up and a bunch of lies?
No. The truth is that Rodgers is an awesome player, but a rotten leader.
Antonio Brown knows a thing or two about being a terrible leader himself. The seven-time Pro Bowler threw his former teammate, JuJu Smith-Schuster, under the bus in a major way. Brown posted a tweet on Sunday saying that Smith-Schuster fumbled away the Steelers playoff chances in a Week 16 loss to the Saints last year.
He took it a step further on Monday when Brown shared a 2015 direct message from Smith-Schuster who was simply asking Brown for advice on how to improve. That’s low.
This is incredibly petty behavior. Brown is on a new team with a fancy new contract and he’s still resorting to tactics like this? Things are actually great for Brown right now, yet he’s lambasting another ex-teammate. It makes me wonder how Brown will handle things when he hits a few rough patches in Oakland. Good luck with that, Raider Nation.
I bring up these examples because there are so many parallels with sports radio. Every sports talk show is in constant competition. Sometimes the competition isn’t with other radio stations; it’s with the people that work on the same show.
Let’s face it; we’re all fighting for attention. Some hosts will stoop to low levels in an effort to get more of the limelight, even at the expense of the people on their own show.
Trust is mandatory when it comes to relationships. A sports radio show is a different type of connection, but make no mistake — it’s also a relationship. Everybody on the show needs to know that you have their back, and they have yours. If trust isn’t established — or even worse, if co-workers are undercutting each other in an effort to get more attention — that show is doomed.
The Seattle Seahawks used to have a pregame chant in the peak Legion of Boom years. Richard Sherman would ask, “Who’s got my back?” The rest of the defensive backs standing in a circle would reply, “I’ve got your back.” They didn’t say, “Well, I’ve mostly got your back, except when I’m not getting noticed enough, then I might undercut you, but you’re still my guy, kinda.” You either have your teammates’ back, or you don’t. There’s no in-between.
There is a great scene toward the end of Black Hawk Down. The movie depicts a 1993 US military mission in Somalia. Eric Bana plays the character Hoot. Hoot describes why he fights so hard as a soldier by simply saying, “It’s about the men next to you.”
Sports radio is a far cry from war, but that doesn’t mean similar concepts don’t apply to both. You need to fight for the people next to you — whether it’s in a foxhole or on a radio show — not against them.
Oregon Ducks guard Sabrina Ionescu might’ve been the #1 overall pick in Wednesday’s WNBA Draft. However, she announced on Saturday night that she would be returning to Oregon for her senior season. Ionescu wrote on The Players’ Tribune, “I won’t predict exactly how far we’re going to go, but I’ll just say this. We have unfinished business. We’re building something here in Eugene. We’re building something — together — that’s going to last for a long time after we’ve all graduated.”
Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard is in no rush to leave Portland either while only thinking of himself. “When my career is over … I’m going to know the people who knew I was solid with them — regardless if it was at the top or if I controlled all this stuff — that I did it the right way,” Lillard told Yahoo! Sports in February. “That I took people’s situations and their families and what could be into consideration before I just made a decision based off, ‘Alright, this is what would be best for me.’
The thinking of Lillard and Ionescu is very considerate. No, a player declaring early for the draft or joining a new franchise isn’t automatically selfish, but the ability to think beyond yourself will pay off somehow. I guarantee that you will be rewarded. Maybe it isn’t a national championship, an NBA title, or the best ratings in town.
Maybe it is.
Maybe it’s lifelong friendships, respect, and a good amount of success along the way. Whatever the case, doing the right thing will lead to good things.
Another portion of the Packers story on Bleacher Report mentions ex-Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy. A personnel man said, “McCarthy wanted to be The Guy. He wanted to be The Reason [for the success].”
This just screams sports radio. Many people in the industry want the same attention; they want to be the focal point. This also isn’t automatically a bad thing, but it definitely can be depending on the methods used to get that notoriety.
It takes talent to shine. It takes maturity and a selfless attitude to find ways of helping other people shine. The funny thing is that the more you highlight others, the more it actually highlights yourself as well.
Ask yourself this; do I spend more time trying to make myself stand out, or trying to highlight the people around me? If the truthful answer is, “Me 99%, them 1%,” you’ve got a lot of work to do.
Brown looks like a joke for trying to embarrass Smith-Schuster on social media the last two days. That’s exactly how you’ll look if you belittle others in an effort to prop yourself up. You will end up looking petty and childish.
Look for ways to uplift the people around you. It’s one thing to be a good player. It’s quite another to be a good teammate.
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.
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.
The Client Just Said YES, Now What?
We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.
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.
Media Noise – Episode 74
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.