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Rob Parker Used To Not Be This Much Fun

“I give the bosses at FOX Sports Radio, Don Martin and Scott Shapiro, a lot of credit from this standpoint; this is not your traditional way of doing things. Normally Chris and I, and this is the way we started, would have been paired up with guys who are radio guys.”

Brian Noe

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Coach ‘em hard and hug ‘em later. This was the philosophy of legendary Alabama head football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. It’s a style that is imitated by Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians and also executed by San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. They have the ability to aggressively demand the best of their players, while at the same time showing them great respect and care.

Switching gears and having a healthy mixture of both is challenging. The same holds true in sports radio. It can be difficult for hosts to convey strong stances while still remaining likable. It’s challenging to be intense and also amusing. Not every host can do both. It’s an approach that Rob Parker of FOX Sports Radio and FS1 has mastered. He has a unique blend of delivering strong opinions while keeping things fun with his lighthearted humor.

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Rob is truly one of the great dudes in the industry. He’s also is a busy man. Rob hosts The Odd Couple with Chris Broussard on FOX Sports Radio weeknights from 4-7pm PT. He also teaches at USC, hosts the Inside the Parker podcast, and appears regularly on FS1’s Undisputed and The Herd. Rob made time to touch on many key points in this interview including the importance of incorporating old school and new school and a willingness to be the lone wolf. Rob also talks about the most rewarding experience he’s ever had, the worst brand of radio anybody can do, and faxes.

Yes, faxes. Enjoy.

Brian Noe: What year was it when you hosted your first sports radio show?

Rob Parker: I always had an interest in sports radio when I was a kid. I can remember growing up in New York — John Sterling, who’s now the Yankees radio voice, he had a show on WMCA. I used to be glued to it and listen to him like crazy. The other guy was Art Rush Jr. who had a sports show at WABC in New York. I remember those two guys very vividly. I’m talking about I was a young guy at 8, 9, 10 listening to sports talk radio, which normally that’s not what kids that age are doing. But I used to be mad when the show went off because I couldn’t get enough.

I always had an interest in radio from that standpoint. I never thought about doing or having my own show. But I go to Detroit and I’m a columnist at the Free Press. In 1994 they’re starting Detroit’s first all sports station WDFN AM 1130. I hear about it. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know who’s the boss. I don’t know anything. I just heard they’re going to start this all sports station in Detroit.

I’m up in Fenway Park for Opening Day. This is pre cell phones and all that. There’s a phone call in the press box and they say hey, is Rob Parker in the press box? I’m like who’s calling me at Fenway Park on Opening Day? I’m like did something bad happen? Who would be calling me?

It’s Lorna Gladstone who was the PD for this new station that she was starting up. She calls me and she says hey, I talked to a lot of people around town. Your name came up often. They think you’re very opinionated and would be good to do a talk show. So I’m like oh, okay. Wow, okay. She said I know you’re obviously at Opening Day. When you come back from Boston would you meet with me? I’m like great.

Literally, I get back and we have this meeting. Five minutes in — I had never hosted a show, I had been on a couple of shows but I had never hosted a show — she says I know this isn’t good for negotiations but I want to hire you. I was just like what? Literally. She said yep. Not only that, this was the other part that just blew me away, so I’m thinking I’m going to get a weekend show or midday. She said you’re going to do afternoon drive and you’re going to pick your partner. I was the first person ever hired at WDFN the all sports station. Then I got to pick my partner, which was incredible.

Noe: How did you go about picking your partner?

Rob: I did the show called The Odd Couple. It was me and a guy named Mike Stone, who at the time was a producer at the local News Channel 4 in Detroit. I had known Stoney a little bit just from covering stuff, but I didn’t know him, know him. When we did talk, we used to always disagree on everything. He’d come with his side. I had my side. I remembered that.

Lorna brought in a couple of other guys for me to go out to lunch with and to meet. They were from all over the country. In those days they did a search for people. None of them really clicked with me. At that point she was going to hire Stoney to do evenings on a show called Mike and Ike. I said well, what about Stoney? I think we would be a good pair. She said really? I said yeah, we kind of clash a lot when we talk about sports. The show was billed, “Can this sports writer and this sports fan share a radio show without driving each other crazy?” That was my first show.

It was — right out of the box — wildly successful. So much so, Brian, this is the crazy part, I was only on the show for less than a year because I wound up leaving to go to New York to be a columnist. Five or six months into the show, we go to a Red Wings game. What I used to say to Stoney all the time when he’d say something crazy, I used to always say, “Come on, Stoney. What are you talking about?” It became a thing. We’re at a Red Wings game and no lie, somebody holds up a sign in the crowd that said, “Come on, Stoney.” I just could not believe it.

Noe: Do you think you would get bored if you were doing radio with a partner that viewed things very similarly as yourself?

Rob: I think so. I think it would be boring. To me it’s not personal. It’s just a sports opinion. That’s all it is. I say the only thing you can’t argue about is math. Two and two is four no matter who’s doing the math. Everything else is debatable.

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I don’t look at it as a bad thing if we disagree. I don’t think you can force it or try to pretend, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think it’s a good thing. I’m always trying to get my partner to change his mind or at least take a look at what I’m saying and where I’m coming from.

Noe: When you go back to the early days, what was an important lesson you needed to learn about sports radio that you didn’t know initially?

Rob: I think early on maybe I wasn’t as much fun as I am now. Where you laugh at yourself. Remember I was coming from a newspaper columnist job. There wasn’t a lot of comedy in that. I think I just learned that everything is not that serious. People are driving in their cars, going to wherever they are. They’re looking for something to kill the time and make it enjoyable. Everything is not life and death. Everything is not the end of the world. I can laugh at myself. I can laugh at other people. Once I understood that, I got even better at it.

Noe: What was it that made you realize that?

Rob: A couple of things. People would respond. I could just see the response. Back then, I know I’m dating myself, but there were no emails or anything. People used to fax in because they couldn’t call from work. (Laughs.) What a novel idea. Isn’t that great? They used to fax in. We would get faxes if we did something funny or silly and people would just go crazy about it. They would love it.

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Noe: How many years had you been covering sports as a writer before you got into sports radio?

Rob: I started in 1986 and got my first show in ‘94. So what is that eight years? Yeah, and it was good from the standpoint that I came in with a little something extra than maybe most guys on the radio who hadn’t covered teams and haven’t been around. I always felt like I spoke from authority. I think that really helped, ‘cause I’m at the games. We’re talking about a player, I talked to him one-on-one earlier today, or yesterday, or last week. I always felt like my voice was more authoritative from the access and the people that I knew.

Noe: What’s something about writing that sports radio doesn’t provide, or something about sports radio that writing never provided you?

Rob: The immediacy of sports radio and actually connecting with the fan. I think that’s neat. I love to talk to callers. I love to see what the average Joe is thinking. Most people are calling in listening to hear my opinion, which I get, but sometimes I think you’ve got to have a little voice of the fan as well because they see things a little differently than we do.

Noe: What’s the most nervous you’ve been in your entire career?

Rob: It might have been — and only for a brief moment — but I think the first time me and my partner got to fill in on Sporting News Radio nationally. At first I was just thinking wow, this is going to be on all over the country. Maybe for a minute I thought about it and it was like daunting. Then we started the show and we just did what we normally did. Leading up to it, I was just like this is a big break. Maybe they might like us. So I was a little nervous.

Noe: What would you say is your proudest achievement so far? 

Rob: I think the show that I’m on now with Chris — The Odd Couple. From this standpoint, I don’t know and I’m not positive, but I think it’s the first nationally syndicated show with two African-American hosts. For a long time, most national shows didn’t have any African Americans hosting. I think it’s a fun, informative show. I really think people like it. I really think it struck a nerve from being mad at me or Chris, or laughing with me and Chris, and just feeling like it’s a part of your day. I really believe that for some people it’s a part of their day.

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We’ve been on for 10 months and we still get calls every day when people say they’re so compelled to tell us how much they like the show. I thought that would wear off after two or three months, you know when something’s new. They all say the same thing; man, you make my commute so much better for my 30- 40-minute drive home from work. I listen every day. You can’t ask for anything better than for people to say that.

Noe: Some people that agree with you will preface their call by stating how rarely it happens. It’s like, “Rob, man, I hardly ever agree with you, but I agree with you on this.” Does that make you laugh?

Rob: It makes me laugh all the time. It’s like am I from Mars? You never agree with me ever? Wow, I don’t think I’m that radical. You know what I mean?

Noe: Yeah, it’s funny like that. What are some of the emotions you feel about being successful in this business, and you happen to be black, in an industry that lacks diversity?

Rob: I think it’s positive not only for me but for guys that come after. That’s what I’m always looking at. I give the bosses at FOX Sports Radio, Don Martin and Scott Shapiro, a lot of credit from this standpoint; this is not your traditional way of doing things. Normally Chris and I, and this is the way we started, would have been paired up with guys who are radio guys. We come from the writing side.

They just decided that they didn’t have to do that. They thought our opinions and our approach were strong enough that we could just do it with two writers without having to have a quote unquote radio guy. Granted, I’ve had a radio show for a long time, but you know what I mean, people who are trained to be radio guys. I give them credit for that. Years from now when other guys get their chances, that’s what I’m most proud of.

Noe: Is there pressure? Do you feel like you better come correct or you could be costing somebody else an opportunity down the road?

Rob: I don’t look at it that way, but I could see where some people would. I approach it as my job, which I take very seriously and work hard at. But I always feel like I’m going to be successful no matter what. I do believe in that. If Chris and I are really successful and have a show that people like and there’s a buzz about it and we’re doing well, that’s going to open the door. Other stations and PDs are going to look and say, that FOX Sports Radio, they had these two brothas on and it did really well. I think it opens up the idea.

I sit here right now and tell you the most disappointed I am in sports talk radio is in the city of Detroit, which you know Detroit is 85 percent black. They have no full-time black hosts on talk radio in Detroit, which is mind-boggling. Especially since in 1994, when they started The Fan in Detroit I was doing afternoon drive. The guy after me from 6 to 10, Ike Griffin, is black and he did the nighttime show. Our sports update anchor on the morning show was black. This is 1994. They start a station. Two of the hosts are black and the main update guy in the morning is black. Now here we are in 2019 and there are no black guys on the radio. I don’t know how they live with themselves as a city that’s mostly black. I find it to be disheartening and disappointing.

Noe: When your strong opinions fire up some of the moron listeners that respond with racist comments, does it bother you?

Rob: What bothers me is that do they really believe that I’m talking about Tom Brady because he’s white? I just find that to be comical because I rip on LeBron James. Is he white? LeBron is one of the greatest players who ever played. So it obviously has nothing to do with race. That’s the thing that I just can’t get over. Or my comparison — I’m saying Joe Montana is the greatest quarterback I ever saw. Joe Montana is white. How in the world can it be a race thing? I’m not saying Doug Williams is the greatest quarterback who ever played. If I said Doug Williams is the greatest quarterback who ever played, then you have a case.

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Noe: You like to crack jokes and have fun. When you get crazy stuff like that thrown at you, does it ever impact your mood or approach to the show?

Rob: Nah, I brush it to the side. I’ve been in the business way too long. I’ve seen a lot. Along with the negative stuff, I get so much positive stuff. It rejuvenates me from the standpoint of — I get, “Man, you keep it 100 all the time. Man, I love what you do. Don’t let anybody change you. Don’t follow suit with all the other guys.” They know I’m willing to stand out there and be the lone wolf. People appreciate it.

When I hear that stuff, I know I’m on the right track. I’m touching people out there every day and they appreciate the work I’m doing. I always say I work for the fans. That’s who I work for.

Noe: What’s something you’ve learned about Chris that you didn’t know before you were doing the show with him?

Rob: That’s a good question because Chris and I have known each other for 25 years, but obviously not in this capacity, as writers in the night covering games and stuff like that. He’s smart, he’s well prepared, and he has a great sense of humor, which I did know he had. He can laugh at himself. But his preparation is impressive to me. You expect him to know the NBA, but football and even when we talk baseball, he’s prepared and he’s ready to go. I like that.

Noe: Do you think some of that preparation comes from wanting to prove people wrong? He covered the NBA for so many years, it’s similar to a basketball player breaking into the industry who’s looked at as, “Well, you’re just a basketball guy. What you know about football?” Do you think that drives Chris?

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Rob: I do. I do. I think he knows that he has to shake a tag. The tag is not negative that you’re an expert in one sport, but to get people to listen to you about other things, it’s not easy. Like a Shannon Sharpe who had to convince people that he knew more. Okay we’ll give you the NFL. You played in it. You’re a Hall of Famer. But to be able to have me listen to you for 20 minutes on an NBA topic and know that you know what you’re talking about. That’s not easy to do.

Noe: What are the classes that you teach at USC and how has that been going for you?

Rob: It is the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had. I just cannot get over how much I enjoy it. How great the kids are. How into it they are. They get my juices flowing because I see they’re ambitious and want to achieve or want to do big things in journalism. I just love it. I taught Sports Commentary. This coming semester in September I’m teaching Introduction Into Sports Media. So it’ll be about radio, digital and print, and television. It’ll be awesome.

Noe: There’s so much to tell someone about being in sports radio. What are two of the top things that you think are the most important to tell someone that is new to the industry?

Rob: I would say A) Don’t guess. Be prepared. If you’re talking about a topic, you should be prepared on it. You shouldn’t ask questions or say well, I’m not sure. I don’t know. You should prep for it. But number one, you’ve got to have an opinion. You just have to. This whole we’ll wait and see and all that, that’s the worst radio you can do. Obviously we could do that, but as I tell people on the radio all the time, we have three hours to kill today. I can’t wait ‘till his career is over to evaluate him. You know? It doesn’t work like that.

Noe: How much have you learned from the kids based on what they’ll say to you, what they’ll ask, what they’re interested in? How much has helped you?

Rob: Oh, it has helped me a lot. The millennials and these young kids — where their head is. What it is that they like. What they want to hear. I do take some from them and try to incorporate it. I never want to get too bogged down on numbers and analytics and all that. It’s important to include some, but it’s not the end-all be-all. I think you kind of have to incorporate old school and new school.

The one thing that I found interesting when talking about stuff that I’ve done or whatever, they love the old stories. They love when I talk about being there, or being at Michael Jordan’s game when he hit that shot against Craig Ehlo, or being at the 1986 World Series when the ball goes through Bill Buckner’s legs. They love those old stories, which you wouldn’t think, but it kind of puts context to everything. It also tells them who they’re listening to. Their professor is somebody who’s been there and done that and been around.

I think that’s what gets them going. It’s like man, this guy covered that. This guy was at that. It’s one thing to have a professor — and I’m not knocking any teachers or anything — but it’s another thing to have a guy who you just watched in the morning before you came to school. You watched me on Undisputed on FS1. Then you came to school and I’m teaching you. I think that’s powerful.

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Noe: At USC you get to reach some younger kids. You do your thing on The Odd Couple and reach a big audience. You also have your baseball podcast and reach another audience. Is that the coolest thing right now that you have a wide reach of different ages and backgrounds?

Rob: Absolutely. It’s incredible. Here’s the other thing; being in New York this week on vacation and just kind of bopping around, because I’ve been on TV for a long time, I expect people every once in awhile to say hey, it’s Rob. Or, Rob, what’s up? But what’s changed is when people say oh, I love the show.

I say oh, that’s cool. Undisputed? You know what they say? No, The Odd Couple. I listen all the time. It’s just a change. It used to only be the TV and now the radio has kicked in to where people always bring up the radio show.

Noe: As far as the [Inside the Parker] podcast, how much have you been enjoying that?

Rob: Absolutely love it. Oh my God. Love it so much that this is my vacation week and I refused to not do it. I did it on my vacation. That’s the only thing I did this week was my podcast. I cannot believe when I look at the downloads how many people are downloading it. It’s incredible.

Noe: I know you’re such a baseball fan, but you know the deal. You’re not going to be doing three hours of baseball on a national radio show. What’s it like for you to be really interested in a sport that’s lower in the pecking order?

Rob: I get it. I don’t always agree with it. I think in sports talk radio there’s a lot of lazy radio going on. That’s what I call it. We talked about the same four or five people and subjects in the NBA, the same four or five in the NFL. That’s what we do, which means we don’t have to watch as much stuff or care about everything going on. I think that’s the one thing I wish we wouldn’t do.

I get it. Play the hits. I’m not a fool. But there are some other stories and as long as you can make stuff compelling, that’s all you have to do. I don’t expect to break down a Twins game on a Tuesday night for three hours. Do you know what I mean? If something compelling happens in baseball, we should talk about it. It should be no doubt about it. Just talk about it.

Noe: When you’re listening to other hosts — just stylistically — what’s a style that makes you roll your eyes like, “Is this guy serious right now?”

Rob: That is the read the internet and regurgitate what you read from other people. Horrible. Like you offer nothing. You’re not giving people anything. You have to offer up something. Own a story. Make a phone call. Talk to somebody. Do a little more research. Be able to deliver something more than just, okay today LeBron couldn’t give his number to Anthony Davis. Oh, ain’t that a shame.

Whereas more might be taking a look at it and just making it like LeBron should have known better. Or he has a pattern of jumping the gun. Or my story that day was Nike nixed the deal because LeBron’s jerseys don’t sell like they used to. That’s a knock on LeBron that they wouldn’t do it. Why are there boxes and boxes of Laker LeBron jerseys laying around that they don’t want to take a hit on? That’s the way I would look at it. To me that’s the story. Nike wasn’t willing to eat the LeBron jerseys, and they don’t think that Anthony Davis is going to sell enough jerseys to offset that.

Noe: It just dawned on me and I don’t know why — when are you going to get those Jordans and when am I going to get my chicken wings from Chris [Broussard] after our winning bets?

Rob: You still haven’t gotten your — I’m gonna get on Chris when we get back together. I’ll get on Chris because you know I pay my bets off.

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Noe: Yes. Every time.

Rob: I’m never getting those Jordans because Chris is a cheapskate.

Noe: (Laughs.) What was the bet for the Jordans?

Rob: I said that the Lakers wouldn’t make the playoffs last season. That’s a pretty big bet, right? His out clause was, well, if LeBron is hurt the bet’s off. I’m like that’s not how it goes. “Oh, but if LeBron’s out there’s no way you can” — I said no, that’s not how you make a bet. So you’re telling me if he pulls a hammy and he’s out for five days that’s going to negate the bet? That’s basically giving himself an out. I don’t believe in that. That’s a big bet for me to say that a LeBron James team isn’t making the playoffs.

Noe: Sure it is. He owes you some Jordans, man. When you look at your career, is there anything you would change if you were able to?

Rob: Yeah, I think I would. If I could have done it all over again, I would have covered a hockey team for a couple of years as a beat guy. I did everything else and I think that would have made me a little more well rounded. That’s the only thing I didn’t do. Even though I covered a lot of hockey. I covered hockey in New York. I covered hockey in Detroit. I obviously covered Stanley Cups, playoffs, all that. 

Actually one of the funniest lines I ever wrote was about a hockey game. You’re too young but there was a goalie named Tim Cheveldae who was with the Red Wings. It’s the playoffs and Tim Cheveldae gave up a couple of soft goals in the game and they lost. I wrote that it was the worst performance by a man in a mask since Adam West played Batman on the old TV sitcom.

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So here’s the bad part about it; you ready? The writer from Sports Illustrated — I can’t remember his name — loved the line so much that he used it in his article. He used that line, but didn’t give me credit. He wrote, “One Detroit columnist wrote,” and I just thought to myself, somebody with that kind of line that you’re going to use and [no credit] — so everybody in the business thought, at that time Mitch Albom was the big columnist in Detroit — everybody had to believe that Mitch wrote that. He didn’t give me credit.

Noe: That’s messed up, man.

Rob: Come on. A black guy writes a line like that about a hockey player? And don’t get credit?

Noe: Is there anything that you’d still like to accomplish that you haven’t been able to yet?

Rob: Yeah, I mean a TV show. A national TV show. I love being on Undisputed. I love being on The Herd. But I would love a shot at doing a show with Chris maybe on television.

Noe: Would you say that’s your main goal going forward?

Rob: Yeah, because once I made my debut on the baseball Whiparound show on FS1, that was a big step. That was a proud moment because I do believe, and I’m not 100 percent positive, but I do believe it’s the first time that a national black baseball analyst was not a former player. I don’t think they’ve ever had a guy, a black guy, who wasn’t a former Major League player talk about baseball.

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Noe: Wow, that’s crazy. How do you view it when you hear that you’re the first? It’s 2019, man.

Rob: I know. I still shake my head at it sometimes because I can’t believe it. I think I told you when I first got hired at the Detroit Free Press as a sports columnist the year was 1993. When they hired me, I was the first black sports columnist in the paper’s history. Brian, the paper was 161 years old. In Detroit. Do you hear me? How about that? Not Iowa City. In Detroit.

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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