Patriots wide receiver Antonio Brown has gotten plenty of attention lately. AB hasn’t been in the headlines because he had an outstanding performance in Week 1. He actually wasn’t on the field for any team as the NFL season began, including the Raiders as they beat the Broncos 24-16 on Monday night. AB has been the focal point of debates and discussions because he’s caused more drama than an episode of Bachelor in Paradise.
Brown filed two grievances and skipped two weeks of training camp practices last month as he fought for the right to wear his preferred helmet. AB ultimately wasn’t allowed to wear his outdated helmet due to safety issues. Brown was then fined $53,950 for unexcused absences and missing a mandatory walk-through. The drama went into overdrive when Brown posted a letter on Instagram from Raiders GM Mike Mayock, which explained his fines. Brown responded in part, “When your own team want to hate but there’s no stopping me now.”
Brown reportedly initiated a heated exchange with Mayock last Wednesday at practice. Two days later, AB was back in the building to deliver an emotional apology at a team meeting while surrounded by team captains. The Raiders actually planned to have AB play on Monday night, but later the same day Brown posted a YouTube video of a phone call between himself and Raiders head coach Jon Gruden. A day later on Saturday, September 7, the Raiders fined Brown $215,000 for conducted detrimental to the team and voided his $29.125 million in guaranteed money. Brown asked for his release on Instagram and the Raiders agreed to let him go. AB then agreed to sign with the Patriots. Whew, got all that?
One important lesson here is that we don’t get to choose what people think of us. When AB released the video of his conversation with Gruden, he wrote on his YouTube page, “It’s time for me to control my own narrative.” You don’t get to make that call. None of us do. We can’t tell people how to think of us and expect them to do so. They’ll make those decisions on their own.
This is an important concept when it comes to sports talk radio. Hosts can talk about how open-minded they are, how fair, unbiased, and patient they happened to be. But if they don’t showcase those qualities, the audience won’t believe those things to be true. You can’t Jedi mind trick your way to a positive reputation. You earn it by proving yourself repeatedly.
I was in L.A. two weeks ago doing a show with former NFL offensive lineman Ephraim Salaam. When a promo played during a commercial break, the big man shook his head and said he couldn’t respect a host who says things just to get a reaction. I understood and compared it to how some women dislike when other women wear revealing clothes. It doesn’t take talent or imagination to show off your cheeks (not the ones on your face). Anybody can do it. A shock jock can crack the mic and say something outlandish to create buzz. It doesn’t earn respect to resort to low hanging fruit. If you use those tactics, don’t be surprised if there is a shortage of praise headed your way.
Some people look at AB’s actions and say it worked. “I mean, come on, he’s no longer in Oakland. He’s with Brady and Belichick in New England.” Brown won the battle by getting to New England, but he’s losing the war of public appeal. There’s more to the equation. Consider that back in 2005, Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens had a tremendous performance in a Super Bowl loss against the Patriots. Owens broke his leg and tore a ligament in his right ankle seven weeks prior to the game, but still had nine catches for 122 yards. The guy wasn’t even cleared by his doctor to play against New England. I thought it was an amazing showing. However, Owens didn’t receive the praise he thought he deserved. Why?
Well, because Owens wore people out. He threw a temper tantrum at former offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. He called out quarterbacks like Jeff Garcia and Donovan McNabb. He did a few unpopular end zone celebrations. He later created a spectacle in front of the media by doing sit-ups in his driveway after being suspended by coach Andy Reid. There was an entire backdrop that Owens was oblivious to.
It works the same way with Brown. He threw temper tantrums in Pittsburgh when he wasn’t getting the ball enough. AB has called out his former quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his former coaches Mike Tomlin and Bruce Arians. He has skipped practices and a mandatory walk-through. He confronted a GM in a combative manner. He called out his employer on social media.
There is a reason Julio Jones and Larry Fitzgerald get the benefit of the doubt; they don’t do dumb stuff like this repeatedly. Brown suffers from Draymond Green-itis; he’d rather believe a critic simply has an agenda or has it out for him instead of being accountable for what he does wrong. He plays the victim instead of owning his errors.
In sports talk, hosts need to generate attention. How they do it matters. AB has generated buzz, but he’s headed straight toward TO territory with his sideshow stunts. The drama Brown causes is being focused on more than his great production and brilliant play-making ability.
Where do you want the focus to be on your own work? Do you want it to be on compelling angles and entertaining bits, or on shock jock tactics? If you want to be highly thought of, don’t cause headaches while being difficult to get along with. Don’t resort to cheap ways of gaining attention. Float like a butterfly, sting unlike AB.
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.