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Who Should Have a Standing Invitation This Season?

“The best guests are the ones that don’t feel like they have to play it safe and are willing to be honest about what they are seeing in the field and the locker room.”

Demetri Ravanos

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We’re down to crunch time when it comes to strategizing for the football season. Promotions calendars, advertising partnerships, and new clocks are virtually locked down at this point. Now it is just a matter of finding the perfect recurring content.

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A lot of stations are going to have recurring segments. They’ll react to sound from the weekend, their hosts will pick games against the spread (read what I wrote about that), and there will certainly be a number of regular guests that show up on the air week after week.

Today I want to talk about those regular guests. I’m all for using people as benchmarks. It breaks up the monotony by adding a new voice to the festivities, and the more the listeners hear those new voices, the more they are thought of as new friends.

Some stations are in a position to grab headliners for these regular spots. It happens by building relationships. Plenty of flagship stations include weekly appearances from a team star or head coach as part of their deal with the team. KFAN in Minneapolis will get a weekly show from Vikings QB Kirk Cousins this year. ESPN 710 welcomes Seahawks coach Pete Carroll every week on its morning show Brock & Salk.

Stations that don’t have a flagship relationship with the local team can still put these regular big name guests. WEEI has had Tom Brady on their morning show for years, despite the fact that Patriots games aired on competitor 98.5 the Sports Hub.

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Those kinds of deals are born out of relationships too. Not only does a programmer have to build a strong relationship with the team, but the sales department has to establish and develop its relationship with clients to find the right advertiser willing to pay top dollar to be the presenting sponsor for these regular interviews. When you aren’t the flagship station, a relationship will help get you through the door, but money is what keeps you in the room.

So who should these regular guests be? Well, there is certainly nothing wrong with big names. They’ll definitely increase cume, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a TSL payoff will be coming too.

I always encourage hosts and EPs to prioritize entertainment over name recognition. That doesn’t mean you have to abandon information for laughs. The football media (both NFL and college) entertaining storytellers whose content is based on information and statistics. If you want to go the comedy route, there are plenty of great storytellers on that side of the line too. Whichever route you choose, the point is that you have to give the listeners a reason to stay.

The best guests are the ones that don’t feel like they have to play it safe and are willing to be honest about what they are seeing in the field and the locker room. Those people can be hard to find if you are only looking at the top names. They tend to be a little risk averse. Sure, 93.7 the Fan struck gold with Ben Roethlisberger. He genuinely doesn’t care what anyone thinks and seemingly doesn’t even like his teammates. More often than not though, you get someone that says nothing for fear of anything possibly being the wrong thing.

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That can even be true in the media too. You can usually spot those people right away and be smart enough to avoid booking them. They’re the former coaches and players that get into broadcasting and then constantly play it safe as they campaign to get back on the sidelines.

Those kinds of guests don’t give your listeners a reason to stay. They don’t add anything to the show. You would be better off just having an interesting conversation with your partners or listeners.

I think about this every Saturday. I am someone that watches A LOT of college football each week, so I see interviews with a lot of coaches. Finding a Dabo Swinney or a Les Miles is a rarity. Even Nick Saban (who says something interesting once in every four interviews he gives) is in the minority. More often than not an interviewer gets someone like NC State’s Dave Doeren, who appears to be physically uncomfortable talking to any other human being.

The difference between your show and the B or C broadcast teams on ESPN is you don’t have to talk to these people. Even if a sponsor is financially backing a weekly interview, do your homework and find the right guest before locking that weekly slot down.

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If a coach or player doesn’t know how to talk to the media like a normal human being, don’t waste your time with them. Between TV, radio, and digital outlets, there are so many well-informed, talented people that you can talk to about football.

You want any regular guest to fit the vibe of your show. In order to fit in, the guest has to value being invited to the party. That doesn’t mean you don’t take the opportunity to have the big name headliner on when it presents itself. It means that if you are going to put a guest on your airwaves every week, make sure it is someone that appreciates being a part of the show and the station and not someone that views their participation as just time to fill or something to get through.

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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