Baseball’s best were on display Tuesday night in Cleveland, at the 90th MLB All-Star Game. With the sport returning to regularly scheduled programming Friday, I think that display really helped Major League Baseball and the coverage on Fox had a lot to do with that.
Now that the All-Star game is back to what it’s supposed to be, an exhibition, Fox put one on themselves with the telecast. Using in-game interviews, to allow viewers to actually get to know some of these players was one of the biggest hits to me. Most of the guys they chose to talk to showcased not only great play, but great personalities that allowed fans to see them in a different light during this game.
In a day and age where baseball is trying to appeal to a broader and younger audience, it was nice to see guys enjoying themselves. After all, they are playing a kids game.
To me Francisco Lindor stole the show. He was on air for an entire half inning of play. Early in the interview, he kept getting interrupted by everyone, from his third baseman Matt Chapman to umpire Phil Cuzzi. All were genuinely happy to see Lindor and exchange pleasantries with the Indians All-Star shortstop. He even made a restaurant reservation for someone on the field and gave a very nice free commercial for the local establishment. With the Cubs’ Kris Bryant at the plate, Joe Buck started to mention the “last time Bryant played in a big game in Cleveland….” Lindor interrupted and said “don’t want to hear about that…” referring to Bryant starting the final play that made the Cubs World Series Champs in 2016, ending the 108 year drought.
Lindor was a perfect ambassador for the game during his time on the air. When A’s pitcher Liam Hendriks caught his spikes and threw a strange pitch, Lindor cackled “I like that, I like that brother, that’s an All-Star trick, hey that’s a good way of making a highlight!”. Lindor even wanted to know where Buck and John Smoltz were sitting in the booth and gave them a little wave. I thought it was a pretty riveting time on the telecast. Lindor made it very difficult for even non-Indians fans to not like him. Great stuff.
It was pretty interesting to hear the three members of the Astros giving each other grief during an inning. Alex Bregman who had scored the first run the previous half inning, saying “I’m still out of breath”. He took it from Michael Brantley for “hustling and puffing out there, glad he made it, way to go Breg”. Great behind the curtain stuff.
Another moment I found very interesting, was the interview of both All-Star managers at the same time. Alex Cora and Dave Roberts are two of the nicest people in the game and they showed that even during play, they could be personable. Cora told the story about how in this is first ever All-Star game and how he was overwhelmed when Sandy Alomar Jr came into the clubhouse. It didn’t seem real for the man who took the Boston Red Sox to the World Series title in his first season in 2018. He and Roberts interacted during the interview as well.
Roberts talked about how much fun it is to manage a team with all these stars on it, but did admit to it being a challenge to get everyone into the game at some point. Later in the conversation, with the National League on the field, Roberts was asking Cora about what pitch was coming next. Cora said “fastball up” and Roberts went with “change up”, the pitch? Fastball. Made for some good “letting down of the guard” by these two very successful managers.
Freddie Freeman was a brave soul, for wearing a microphone and interacting with the booth as well as Gary Sanchez and the pitcher Justin Verlander. Freeman saying “I know what you’re going to throw me…no (to a slider) a heater”. Except Verlander threw that slider to his back foot. Verlander can be heard saying “swing the bat”, prompting Freeman to tell the Astros pitcher, “throw me a strike!” Pretty cool.
There were a couple of other Cleveland moments that are worth mentioning because they tugged at heart strings. MLB’s initiative to promote cancer awareness in association with Stand Up 2 Cancer was front and center late in the game. All fans were standing with placards to say who they are standing up for when on the field surrounded by teammates, Carlos Carrasco, The Indians pitcher was recently diagnosed with Leukemia, appeared. He’s being treated now, but to see him out there holding up “I stand” was pretty poignant.
The other moment, appropriately happened near the end of the game. Aroldis Chapman was cruising, with only one out to get before the AL won its 7th straight All-Star game. He looked toward the third base dugout and walking toward him was CC Sabathia. The current Yankee and former Indian is retiring at the end of this year. He wanted to make sure Chapman was “good” and then walked back to the dugout to a standing ovation.
Sabathia won the 2007 AL Cy Young Award with Cleveland. Whoever thought of this way of getting the lefty a well deserved final bow in the city he started in, take a bow yourself.
It wasn’t all home runs for the Fox telecast though. I still think the broadcast features too much Buck and not enough Smoltz. The Hall of Fame closer is so in tune with the game and has become one of the best analysts in the game. He has an easy going demeanor and isn’t afraid to poke a little fun at himself. The self deprecation is an endearing trait, considering that his baseball career was an incredible one. There are times in my opinion he gets a little pushed aside by Buck. During many of the on field interviews, we barely heard from the guy who was an All-Star, which isn’t how I would have drawn it up.
Is it just me, or has Fox’s audio always been an issue? They have so many microphones all over the field (the players, the bases, the walls and dugouts) that they sometimes drown each other out. It sounds like a great vacuum sometimes with a whooshing quality that isn’t all that pleasant on the ears. Some sounds are way too loud, like when a player slides into a base, the commentary gets completely washed out. I’m all for the “sounds of the game” (as I mentioned earlier) but I want to be able to hear all of the sounds of the game.
I’m sure there were some that thought all the “bells and whistles” got in the way of the game. Many people watching don’t have a dog in the fight and want to be entertained. I think they were and maybe a few that weren’t before became baseball fans or fans of a few of these players after checking out the game.
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.