If you’re not a college football fan, you may not be aware just how good the Wisconsin Badgers are this year. They’ve beaten up on everyone they have played. On Saturday, that continued with a 38-0 drubbing of Michigan State.
After the game, Spartans coach Mark Dantonio was asked if he regretted not taking the opportunity to overhaul his offensive staff in the offseason. His response was standoffish to say the least.
That isn’t an ideal response and if you’re a Michigan State fan, it should tell you that this isn’t a guy that is interested in making hard decisions to change his fortunes.
The Spartans are 0-3 against ranked opponents. In those games, the team has been outscored 72-17, and when asked if he is willing to make changes or offer solutions to this problem, Dantonio calls the reporter asking him the question a dumbass.
How does this relate to sports radio? Imagine Dantonio is the program director of a station that was once the market’s dominant sports voice. Back when there was little to no competition and all it took to win was follow the playbook he learned from, things were good. Dantonio wrote a few jingles, decided where to place billboards, and sat back and watched the bonuses roll in.
Now, the landscape has changed. There is more legitimate competition, and it isn’t just other radio stations. It’s podcasts. It’s social media. It’s SiriusXM.
If Dantonio’s radio station is going to stay on top, he is going to be honest about what is no longer working for him and be willing to make changes. That might mean having to confront the fact that strategies that served him well a long time are no longer working. It might mean hosts that used to be his stars no longer resonate with the market.
In real life, Mark Dantonio has a staff that has been with him for a long time. His offensive coordinator Brad Salem has been at Michigan State for ten years. His quarterbacks coach (and previous play caller) Dan Warner has been on his staff since 2007. Loyalty is admirable. It isn’t always the smartest move professionally.
Listeners don’t chose stations based on call letters or heritage. That heritage might shape the way listeners think about a brand, but whether or not the listeners stick with your station depends on how you’re meeting their needs. It doesn’t matter how long a host has been on the air in a certain day part or the way a show has always sounded. If the host or show is no longer performing in a more competitive landscape, a PD has two choices. He/She can either shake things up or do nothing and risk being replaced.
Mark Dantonio hired three new assistant coaches before the 2018 season began. After those three, the next shortest tenure on his Michigan State staff is seven years. He has equity with these guys and on a human level, it makes sense that Dantonio would want to give them every chance to get this right.
In reality though, it is clear this isn’t working anymore. The 2015 Big Ten Championship and trip to that year’s College Football Playoff is well in the rearview. Mark Dantonio can either swallow hard and take a long, hard look at who is and who isn’t helping him or he can keep swearing that people pointing out that something needs to change are dumbasses. Neither approach is guaranteed to save his job, but the former at least gives him a chance.
Maybe the halcyon days of your station are in the rearview. It can certainly be a frustrating position, but that past success isn’t coming back if your game plan is to stay the course. Look at Michigan State. It’s 2019. Offenses have evolved and are moving faster and scoring more points. Some of the programs that were struggling five years ago are back on track now. Doing “what we’ve always done” isn’t good enough for Mark Dantonio anymore.
Don’t take for granted that an audience cherishes your history and traditions as much as you do. Certainly your audience might, but your audience is shrinking. If that’s the case, you need to figure out which of your traditions are no longer yielding the desired results and ask yourself if they are worth keeping, or if there is something better you can be doing.
Loyalty is a good quality. I am not telling you to start handing out pink slips or shuffling your lineup after one or two bad books. Really examine where you are versus where you want to be. If you determine that the same old, same old isn’t working the way it used to, you aren’t showing loyalty by not making a change. You’re being stupid.
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.