Careers in sports are fleeting. One minute you’re on top of the world, and the next minute it’s all over. Athletes never know if the next step they take on the field, diamond, court or ice will be their last. Injuries are as much a part of sports as the games themselves. Some cost players only a brief amount of time, others can end careers or put them on hold.
I bring this up because the case of Tua Tagovailoa is fresh in my mind. The great story of the left-handed quarterback for Alabama was slightly altered with an ankle injury. Then came this past weekend when the chapter of his college career quickly came to an end with a dislocated hip.
Discussion on the ESPN broadcast foreshadowed the debate about Tagovailoa playing in the game as long “as it was a close game.” The nightmare scenario with the Tide up 35-7 in the 2nd quarter when the QB was sacked and the hip injury took place. The broadcast crew jumped the gun, saying after Tagovailoa lay on the ground that it might be “just a bloody nose.” Nope. They had to backtrack when the cart came out to take him off the field. You as a broadcaster have to be careful on both radio and television about playing “doctor.” Without intimate knowledge of the severity of the injury, you can get burned, like the ESPN guys.
Sometimes the injury looks worse than it is, and in other cases it is as bad as it looked. Let it play out. Stay focused and alert. Notice if a cart is coming out, notice who comes onto the field to look at the player. Is it a uniformed trainer or a team doctor? Just be extremely careful about guessing.
Over the years I can count a few injuries that I would consider gruesome and tough to watch. Kevin Ware, then of Louisville, suffered an open fracture of his tibia during an Elite Eight game against Duke in 2013. Excruciating to view. For those old enough to remember 1985, there was the Joe Theismann, who suffered a broken leg when he was sacked by Lawrence Taylor during a Monday Night Football game. Awful viewing as well. Both injuries were devastating both to the player and to the eyes, but the broadcasts went on and the broadcasters had the tough job of trying to explain what happened without losing it themselves.
Going back to watch the video (actually I didn’t watch, just listened) of the Ware injury I was reminded of how Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg handled the injury. Kellogg was the first to notice, saying “Kevin Ware just took a shot, oh my goodness.” A few seconds later he added, “He’s dislocated some portion of his leg there Jim.” Nantz countered with the other factor that was affected by the injury, “look at his teammates reaction, they’re just visibly as a team completely shaken up.” “Oh lord.” Finally, Kellogg after the CBS crew decided to show the replay again, “if you can bear to watch it take a look, but it’s a terrible looking injury.” Nantz who is a master of letting the picture just describe the situation, laid out while the shots of his teammates, fans and coaches speak for themselves. It’s a tough thing to have to handle, especially when you are there to describe the action, not the potential of an injury.
TV announcers have the luxury of the pictures and replays. They just needed to add to the narrative with just a few words, not much else really needing to be said. No such luxury on the radio side where you are in fact the eyes and ears of your audience. Your job in plain words is to keep it together for the sake of your audience. The tone you present and the seriousness of the sound will truly let everyone know how serious the injury may be.
When significant injuries take place in a game, you’ll have to include it in any of your mid game or in game recaps. It’s important. It tells the story of why a listener or viewer hasn’t heard this players name in a while or why he/she isn’t in the game. Mention what happened for those that may have missed it as well. You as a broadcaster may get an update as to how the player is doing, what the actual diagnosis is and what the prognosis for a return to action may be. All of this is important information to the context of the action and especially to your audience.
Injuries also tend to start discussions about the player. Of course, you still have to respect the player and his abilities. After Tagovailoa was injured speculation began about how his injury will affect the Crimson Tide going forward. Some contemplated what this will do to his draft status. Legitimate points, but be careful about speculating, especially if you don’t have all the facts about the injury situation.
While we can expect injuries to take place on the field, the hardest things to watch and describe are when non-uniformed personnel are hurt, stadium workers, photographers and fans. While they may not be highly tuned professional athletes, they are human beings too.
Just this past weekend a photographer named Chamberlain Smith was knocked unconscious at the Georgia/Auburn game when a player going out of bounds, inadvertently made contact with her. He couldn’t stop and she couldn’t get out of the way. Not a good combination. The CBS broadcast crew handled it about as well as they could. Initially you couldn’t tell if was a player that went down, but they later learned it was a female photographer and the tone of their words really changed.
Using an obviously concerned style, you could instantly realize that this was not a good situation. Even going to the sideline reporter to sort out who she was. After all was said and done, the camera crew and producer did a stellar job showing reaction from the players, fans and medical personnel on scene. It ended well, which is all you can hope for.
Nobody wants to be the cause of an injury to a fan or non-uniformed person. Emotions take over, which can be a discussion point as well. In June of this year the Astros hosted the Cubs at Minute Maid Park. The Cubs’ Albert Almora was at bat when he roped a foul ball into the seats along third base.
Instantly he reacted as a little girl was struck by the ball. Almora was overcome with emotion but still had to bat. After the half inning ended, he sought out a security guard in the vicinity of the girl and broke down in tears when notified the girl seemed to be ok. Cameras caught all that raw emotion and both the Cubs and Astros broadcasts highlighted the human aspect of the situation from both sides, the fans all in shock and a Major League Baseball player who showed that he wasn’t just that, but a human being as well.
No broadcaster can come to a game prepared to describe an injury, obviously. When an injury does occur, you have to train yourself not to overreact or in some cases underreact. Don’t assume anything in this type of situation until it all plays out. Use your descriptive ability to make sure your audience knows what is going on. That’s your only job when it comes to these scenarios.
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.