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Ron Santo Prepared Cory Provus For Bob Uecker

“They show me some numbers once in a while to show me how many people are listening and its incredible I’m just amazed at the outreach and I’m so honored by the amount of people that listen.”

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With the Minnesota Twins on the verge of clinching a playoff spot a lot of the eyes of baseball are on this team. It has hit the most home runs in the league (as of September 18, 2019) and features a Major League record 5 players with 30 or more homers. Calling it all is Cory Provus on Twins Radio. Provus is with his third big league club and now in his 7th season of play-by-play in Minneapolis. I’ve known Cory for a long time and caught up with him this week at Target Field. 

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Andy Masur: I know this is something that you’ve wanted to do all your life, tell us about the path you took to get started. 

Cory Provus: My path started when I was about 7 or 8, and my cousin is Brad Sham he’s been the voice of the Dallas Cowboys forever. My mom is the youngest of 4, so my mom was already Brad’s aunt when she was about 7. So, when i was old enough to realize what he did for a living that you can make a career even if you’re not good enough to play a sport that you could still make a career talking about it, I thought that sounded pretty cool. So that was the first path just following him. 

I was like every kid that wanted to get into this field. Growing up in Chicago you turn the TV down on Sunday’s and put the Bears game on, clip the rosters from the Tribune or Sun-Times, you’d start broadcasting into the tv. I really knew what I wanted to do when i was a kid and I set a goal for myself to do it.

I got a break in High School working on a tv show, then on Sports Channel Chicago called School Yard Jam, which was a monthly news magazine on high school athletes I was a reporter on that show and that gave me a tape. It got me a gig at WAER at Syracuse radio my freshman year in college. From there I was lucky enough to catch a break here and there and I went small. Out of school I lived in Virginia, then North Carolina and then Alabama. I was really taking any gig I could get when I was younger. 

AM: Then a big break getting a job with the Cubs (full disclosure Cory followed me in the job at WGN Radio), had to be a dream come true for a Chicago kid.

CP: So, going back to when I graduated from college, I graduated in 2000 and I had this job in Blacksburg, Virginia. I didn’t know anybody at WGN Radio (then the flagship home of the Cubs) but I had a cassette tape, literally a cassette tape of my work. I contacted Dave Kaplan and Dave Eanet and said here, I’m a Chicagoland kid, not looking for a job I just recently graduated from college and I just want you to hear my work. They were kind enough to meet with me and show me around the studios. Then my path began professionally in Virginia, but twice a year I would send Dave Eanet an email, saying here’s what I’m doing, if anything comes open please keep me in mind. 

Then a little birdie told me in 2006 that you were in the running for a job with the San Diego Padres. But I knew you were finishing up your work with the Bears, I believe that year coincided with the Bears Super Bowl, so that extended the dialogue because it wasn’t exactly a definite, but meanwhile I was in the mid to end of my season with the UAB basketball team in Birmingham. Then I found out that you got the job in San Diego, and I had the tape out the next day. Like everything in my mind was ready to go. I just needed you to get the job in San Diego to start the process. The fact that Dave Eanet knew where I was and what I was doing, to this day I’m so grateful that I maintained that relationship when I graduated from college. 

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AM: From the Cubs you went on to Milwaukee and then to the Twins…along the way you were around some pretty good teams. What was that like to be on the mic when these games meant so much?

CP: In 2007 my first year with the Cubs, that was a playoff team. I was 28 years old when I got that job and turned 29 during the season and here I was celebrating a playoff berth in Cincinnati. Being in that clubhouse in my first year covering a Major League team, I thought it was Disneyland. I’m there with Ron (Santo) going back and forth on the air, but them I’m talking to Will Ohman, a reliever at the time, and he asked me “can I pour a beer on you?”  I just won the lottery.

I remember the next day I was talking with a host on WGN kind of reflecting back on the night before and I’ll never forget this, that night in Cincinnati after they clinched, I just sat in my hotel room, just sat at the desk chair, no music, no TV, minimal light and I just looked out the window and tried to reflect in my mind what just happened. It was such a career thrill that I got to experience that with my favorite team growing up to be a part of that, to cover that was incredible.

Now in 2008 they were even better, they won 97 games they thought they were going to have a lengthy playoff run but were swept in 3 by the Dodgers.  Then 2011 with Uecker was special because in 2010 he had a rough year physically, he had two open heart procedures in 2010 and he missed a chunk of the season, but to see him back healthy in 2011 and really get behind a really good team that was two wins away from the pennant, that was amazing.

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Then with the Twins, they had a bad run. Starting in 2012, my first year they were losing 90 some odd games a year. They had that one brief run in 2017 where they won the Wildcard and went to the wildcard game, they got bounced by the Yankees but they had that one moment of summer where it was ok, they captivated the fan base somewhat. That came late too, because they didn’t get hot until August, where in 2019 this team has been a force from the opening weeks of the season. So this is my first time being here living in Minneapolis in the Twin Cities where the fans are really behind the Twins even more so than the Vikings who have a pretty big footprint in the city. I had no idea how much they swallowed up attention in this town until I moved here but this is the first time that the Twins have been good and good enough from the opening weeks until now into September where they have the attention of the market. 

AM: Do you feel a big sense of responsibility being the voice of this team and having fans hang on your every word as the Twins march to the Playoffs?

CP: I don’t, if I did I’d probably panic, I don’t. They show me some numbers once in a while to show me how many people are listening and its incredible I’m just amazed at the outreach and I’m so honored by the amount of people that listen. I was so lucky that I learned from guys that were just like “don’t take yourself too seriously”, have a good sense of humor about it. If I didn’t learn from (Pat) Hughes, if I didn’t learn from (Len) Kasper or Uecker or Brian Anderson and all these guys that I was so fortunate enough to learn from, it would probably feel differently, I’d probably be stiff about it, take myself so seriously that I’d be like a character out of the Simpsons, and just that stoic, can’t have a sense of humor, you have to put on a fake voice, its not me. I just want to have fun.

The guy I work with everyday is a big part of that too. Danny (Gladden) is a perfect blend for how I was raised in this game, because he’s all about self-deprecating humor and some levity with all this and that’s how I operate too. 

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AM: You’ve had a chance to work with some legends, Ron Santo, Bob Uecker have those experiences helped you along the way to this job with the Twins? 

CP: Well the Uecker part of it, working with Bob I was kind of prepared for it because of Santo, he was such an icon. He was so special and meant the world to you and meant the world to me and so many and we miss him dearly. We miss him every day. I’m sure it’s like you, when I come to the ballpark I think of a memory every second about something that he would find interesting about a game or a city or something about a conversation and so I think about him often. Because I had that experience being around Ronnie where you’re pulling up to a hotel and there’s Derrick Lee and Carlos Zambrano, Kerry Wood and Alfonso Soriano, Santo is the star.

I mean Santo is the star and then comparably in Milwaukee, there’s Braun and Fielder and Weeks and Hart, nah Uecker. We want Uecker. So to be around Bob, it was incredible but I had experience being around that kind of iconic figure in the two years that I got to travel and learn and laugh and be around Ron.

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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