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The NSMA Awards Were All About Who Wasn’t On Stage

“The sacrifices of immediate family was a theme of speeches throughout the evening. Burke got choked up when she mentioned her kids. Woj had to pause to gather himself as he thanked his wife. Bob Ley did the same.”

Demetri Ravanos

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The Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum isn’t usually the center of the sports media universe. It has been a while since the Wake Forest Demon Deacons played a game there that had writers and broadcasters coming from all corners of the country to cover.

That certainly wasn’t the case Monday night. The National Sports Media Association handed out its annual awards at the Joel, and the star power in the building was intense. Winners from 50 states were honored with the title of Sportswriter or Sportscaster of the Year.

On a national level, the Sportswriter of the Year Award went to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. “I came here 25 years ago with my wife. I was 24 years old and won the Connecticut state award. It was like going to see all your idols,” Woj told me. “It’s still the same. I come here and see Bob Ryan and the Hall of Fame inductees and the state members. You know, we used to be in Salisbury. Now it’s in Winston-Salem. This is just something that elevates the profession.”

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On stage, he talked about what an honor it was to win the award for his work at ESPN. The Bristol, CT native talked about one of the highlights of his childhood being his father stopping the family station wagon at an intersection to watch Bob Ley fill up his car at a local gas station.

Wojnarowski also took a moment to call out the NSMA voters. He joked that as he looked at the list of past winners of the National Sportswriter of the Year award he noticed it was “so old and white that it looked like the VIP list at a Springsteen concert.”

“I’m honored to be among you tonight, but soon, and next year would be fine with me, let’s give this award to someone that doesn’t look anything like I do,” he said in support of women and minority writers.

ESPN’s big night continued with Doris Burke being named National Sportscaster of the Year. Before she even took the stage, Woj commented that Burke’s work ethic alone was worthy of recognition. “Before the ball tips off,” he said “before the camera even turns on, Doris Burke has kicked your ass.”

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“It is especially significant to me that I am here,” Burke said acknowledging her role in making history as the first female winner of the national award. It was a moment that clearly meant something to the other women in the room too. As I looked around I saw tears and smiles on so many faces.

Burke’s speech hit on something nearly every single one on Monday night did. “There are so many people here with us tonight that you never see,” she said. “They are the backbone and heartbeat of television.”

She thanked her bosses and production crew, saying that this was just as much their honor as hers. She also thanked her children, saying that they “did not ask to make the sacrifices they made” and “did not have the luxury of a mom who was home every night.”

The sacrifices of immediate family was a theme of speeches throughout the evening. Burke got choked up when she mentioned her kids. Woj had to pause to gather himself as he thanked his wife. Bob Ley did the same.

The National Sports Media Association inducted four new members into its Hall of Fame on Monday night. They were ESPN cornerstone Bob Ley, NHL play-by-play man Doc Emrick, sportswriter and NBC NFL analyst Peter King, and one of the most innovative voices in sports media, Tony Kornheiser. Ley described his fellow inductees as “three gentlemen who are excellence personified.”

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“You look at the people that have been enshrined and entered into this hall of fame, it is so humbling it will bring you to your knees,” Ley told me before the induction ceremony began.

When asked about his nearly 40 years at ESPN, Ley said that while he was happy to have a single home for the majority of his career, it was not his intention when he first arrived in Bristol. “I don’t think anybody when they are 24, that’s how old I was when I took the job, considers that this will be the critical for in the road personally or professionally for life, but that’s what it turned out to be.”

Kornheiser, who stole the night before it even began by leading off his induction speech with “I’m gonna try and be quick, because I’m old and I have to pee. I have a tan suit on, and I don’t want to do that here,” talked about his life’s goal, which was always to be a newspaper sports reporter. He shared stories of legendary sportswriters like Red Smith, who made it Tony’s job to finish his cigarettes whenever Smith was chastised for smoking indoors.

With his love and reverence for the newspaper industry on full display, I asked Kornheiser if it ever dawned on him what an influence his radio show had on that business or the influence his television show Pardon the Interruption had on that business.

“Mike (Wilbon) and I understand that the show’s been on for a long time, and Mike and I understand that a lot of people watch it,” he told me. “When we sit there to do it, we’re just do it for the three cameramen in the room. And people come up to us all the time, and it is always flattering, but it’s not like we’re important.”

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Empty seats were hard to come by at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Monday night. Young broadcasters mingled with industry legends. Broadcasting icons like Marty Brenneman were seated at tables with digital content producers like SB Nation’s Caroline Darney. It was a surreal night that spoke to the power and appeal of the sports media, and it didn’t happen in New York or Boston or LA. It happened in Winston-Salem, NC.

“We’re here because Pete DiMizio, a guy that ran an Italian restaurant in Salisbury, North Carolina, thought it was a good idea for guys to stop on their way home from spring training and they honored him,” the night’s host and North Carolina native Wes Durham told me. “Here we are 60 years later and we’re still crafting Pete DiMizio’s concept.”

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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