Before I launch into this week’s column, I feel it is important for me to tell you that I am writing this at 3:54pm Eastern time on Saturday, November 16. That matters, because the situation that inspired this column may completely change before the column is published on Monday morning.
This weekend was supposed to be a major step in the standoff between the NFL and former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The league was set to provide a venue for teams that may be able to use Kaepernick services to evaluate how he looks after three years away from the game. Whether or not Kaep had been blackballed in the past, this workout would be proof that if a team wanted to sign him, the league would welcome him back.
Kaepernick’s team brought five receivers along to join the three that the NFL provided. The NFL picked former Browns coach and long time Kaepernick supporter, Hue Jackson, to run the event. The Atlanta Falcons offered the team’s practice facility to host the event. It seemed like this thing was going to happen on Saturday afternoon.
That is until the NFL came in with two rules to mitigate the risk of bad press. No reporters would be allowed into the Falcons’ facility, and Kaepernick and his team would not be allowed to film the workout and distribute it themselves. We would later find out that things were already on shaky ground because of an unorthodox waiver the NFL wanted Kaepernick to sign saying he wouldn’t sue if he went unsigned by any teams in attendance.
The NFL did what the NFL does best – overthink the situation and make the dumbest decision possible. In short, the NFL didn’t care if it looked good. The league’s only goal was not to look bad. Guess what happened? The NFL ended up looking really bad and frankly, inept.
Kaepernick’s representatives took the event out of the NFL’s hands. They moved the workout to a local high school, invited the media, and filmed the whole thing themselves.
What would happen if Colin Kaepernick showed up in Atlanta and put up measurable stats comparable to any of the best dual threat quarterbacks in the league right now? What if he threw passes that were so perfectly on target that he could hit the head of a needle from 40 yards away?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing would have happened.
Those that have spent the last three years thinking there is no reasonable way that Colin Kaepernick was suddenly not as good as Kyle Allen or Sean Mannion would have remained steadfast in their belief that he has been blackballed for the last three years. Those that think Kaepernick’s talent isn’t great enough to deal with whatever bad press may come from his national anthem protests would point out that he wasn’t facing a game situation and anyone can look good in a controlled workout. In short, a lot of minds have been made up and no new evidence is changing them.
We see this kind of thing play out all the time in the radio business. Big ideas go unexecuted because there’s no guarantee the financial payoff will be big enough. Interesting and unique voices aren’t hired because “what if they say something that offends someone?”. Part-time staff is used to fill positions that require full-time effort because the market might take a down turn.
This is an industry that has a bad habit of playing to not lose instead of playing to win. You’ve got to invest to make money. You have to take chances and be different to make an impression. Success later requires you take some risks today.
JB once wrote on this site that “in order to grab the brass ring, you gotta have brass balls.” As long as I have known him, there isn’t much I have seen make him prouder than finding out that Good Karma Brands has that quote on the wall of a meeting room in their Cleveland offices.
We don’t advocate brands invest in their people and their technology just to see them spend money. When we listen to clients, we don’t suggest adding new benchmark bits just to create more work for hosts and producers. We do those things because we recognize room for improvement in the on air product. To improve, you have to be willing to do something different than you’re doing right now.
Sitting still because you might fail ensures eventual failure. Even if you are on top right now, the brands below you and the world around you change. They adapt to the conditions of the market in order to create their own future success. How can you justify doing nothing when there is a target on your back?
Look, I’m not an idiot. I know investing money and taking risks is easier said than done, but it isn’t always hard to spot where room for improvement exists and what can be done about it. There aren’t many problems that can be solved by playing it safe.
When the smoke cleared and Colin Kaepernick’s workout was done on Saturday he walked off the field to greet his supporters. There were protesters there too.
In all, the scene at Charles R. Drew High School probably didn’t look much different than it would have outside of the Falcons’ practice facility. The only difference now was that the NFL had drawn attention to just how hard they tried to control the situation and gave the impression that they may have tried to manipulate the results. The league lost by not playing not to lose.
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.