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Tell Me A Story

“A lot of sports radio is a topic immediately followed by an opinion. Topic, opinion. Topic, opinion. What’s the rush? Light a candle and put some music on first.”

Brian Noe

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There is something about a story that’s captivating. Some stories are touching and inspire us. Other stories are amusing and make us laugh. Stories spark many different emotions, but they typically accomplish one common thing; a story grabs our attention. Maybe it’s because we simply want to know how it ends. Maybe it piques our interest due to an unpredictable or relatable element. The exact reasons differ from time to time, but one thing is for sure; we’re a sucker for a good story.

Take the story of Cleveland Browns rookie wide receiver Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi for instance. This is one for the archives. Sheehy-Guiseppi last played football in 2016 at a junior college in Phoenix, but he wouldn’t let his NFL dream die. Sheehy-Guiseppi spent every penny he had to attend an NFL tryout in Miami. There was a minor problem though; the guy wasn’t actually invited to the tryout.

Image result for Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi

He convinced the people in charge that he knew Cleveland Browns vice president of player personnel Alonzo Highsmith. Another minor problem; Sheehy-Guiseppi didn’t actually know Highsmith. He smooth talked his way onto the field and ran a 4.38 40-yard dash, which earned him an official tryout with the Browns. All is great now, right? Wrong. There were still more problems.

Because he didn’t have any more money, Sheehy-Guiseppi was homeless and slept outside of a 24 Hour Fitness gym so he could work out and take showers. He then officially earned an invite to training camp. The undrafted free agent returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown last Thursday night against the Washington Redskins. His teammates rushed to the end zone to celebrate with him because they knew how bumpy the road was leading to that moment. What a story. That type of perseverance is inspiring.

Jamie Foxx delivered a great line while playing Ray Charles in the movie Ray; “I’m gonna tell you something, man. That country music. You know why they like it? Stories, man. They got great stories.”

Our love for stories starts at an early age. I asked my mom what my favorite stories were as a kid. (I can remember constantly asking her to read me a story, which she did because she’s the best.) She told me that The Little Red Hen was a favorite. The Mr. books — Mr. Busy, Mr. Happy — were a big hit too.

Let’s do the math here. We are curious beings who enjoy stories from childhood through adulthood. The demand for stories is so high that movies, books, and TV shows focused on storytelling continue to thrive. If the thirst for stories is so great, why would it make sense for sports radio shows to lack that element of storytelling? It wouldn’t, yet that’s what many shows are missing. It’s so easy for hosts to get laser-focused on delivering strong opinions that they forget to share stories. Don’t make that mistake.

Denzel Washington made an interesting demand in the movie Training Day — “Tell me a story, Hoyt. No, not your story. A story. Since you can’t keep your mouth shut long enough for me to read my paper, tell me a story.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxA7gxb8o3M

Denzel’s words underscore the common theme here — stories entertain us. The other part is this; the stories that hosts share on sports radio shows shouldn’t always be about themselves. Sharing personal stories is very important, but there is also an art to telling a story about someone else in a way that keeps the audience wanting more.

Former NBA and Fresno State basketball player Chris Herren is a great example of this. His latest ESPN documentary, The First Day, is a masterpiece. (If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s amazing.) Herren is a motivational speaker who not only talks about his own battles with addiction, he also shares powerful stories of kids facing similar struggles. The stories are compelling, but Herren brings all of the stories to life — not just his own — with extraordinary feel and timing.

When I listen to sports talk hosts, I want to hear more than just strong opinions. I want to have a great sense of who the hosts are based on the stories they share about themselves. It’s also very important that they have the ability to tell a story about someone else. Quentin Tarantino doesn’t direct movies only about his own life. He paints vivid pictures of other people. Hosts need to possess the same ability.

A lot of sports radio is a topic immediately followed by an opinion. Topic, opinion. Topic, opinion. What’s the rush? Light a candle and put some music on first. Set the mood. Maybe there is a great story that helps set up a topic before the opinion is delivered. Don’t dive head first into your opinion every time. Always look for openings to tell stories. The stories don’t overshadow opinions. They typically accentuate them.

I visited home in South Bend, Indiana a month ago. My family invited me out to church. I happened to be operating on very little sleep this particular day. I hate to admit it, but I was nodding off. It wasn’t just a subtle closing of the eyes either; we’re talking violent head nodding here. I was just trying not to accidentally headbutt my nephew next to me or the other people in rows behind and in front of me as I tried to fight off my fatigue.

The preacher might’ve thought I was listening to a heavy metal band in my head because I was practically headbanging. He then told a story about losing his wallet when he was visiting a foreign country. This preacher carried a fair amount of cash on him when he traveled internationally. His sister couldn’t find his wallet. They looked everywhere. He then said to himself that if the wallet turned up he would give all of the money away to the less fortunate. The wallet was found 30 minutes later. He made good and gave the money to other people.

Image result for giving money away

I was virtually crashed out in a pew, but I remember that story. If you’re looking for a great way to connect with people and grab their attention, tell a story.

There’s a reason why ESPN’s 30 for 30 is so successful, why Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel is still around, and why former NBA player Steve Nash will “dive deeper into storytelling” as a member of the NBA on TNT this season — the public loves compelling stories. If storytelling sells — E:60, “My Wish,” etc. — then sell it in your show.

Joaquin Phoenix once said in the movie Gladiator, “Striking story. And now the people want to know how the story ends.” That’s one of the elements that makes storytelling so interesting.

I wanted to know what happened after Sheehy-Guiseppi slept outside of the 24 Hour Fitness. I wanted to know what happened to the preacher’s wallet, or the outcome of Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You Book when I was tiny. Use the audience’s curiosity to your advantage as a host. Don’t just give me your opinion. Tell me a story.

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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