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Radio Is Petros Papadakis’s Never Never Land

” started doing daily radio in my early 20s and there’s still a lot of me that acts like I’m in my early 20s on the air now. I don’t act like that in my real life, but there’s a certain lack of maturity that people expect from me on the air.”

Brian Noe

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Former Los Angeles Raiders defensive end Howie Long once gave a memorable description of his distinctively uncommon teammate Todd Christensen. Long said on NFL Network’s America’s Game, “Well, Noah takes them all on the boat. We’ll take two of them, two of them, but we only got one of him.” Christensen’s personality stood out. A similar description would fittingly apply to the uniquely talented Petros Papadakis — a broadcaster that is easily identifiable and truly one of a kind. 

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As a successful football commentator and sports radio host, Petros brings a different flavor to the table. His style is outgoing and energetic, but it’s much more distinctive than that. It’s a signature concoction of random and unpredictable, immature yet intelligent. Petros is similar to a band that doesn’t quite fit into one specific musical category. He’s his own genre.

Petros and Matt “Money” Smith showcase their unconventional form each weekday starting at 3pm PT on AM 570 LA Sports. For as loud as “stick-to-sports” guy is, the successful run of The Petros and Money Show is proof that there are many sports talk listeners that prefer more than just hardcore sports talk. Petros details the moment he realized there are people that respond to radio that isn’t conventional. He also uses an intriguing word to describe the relationship he has with his radio show. Enjoy.

Brian Noe: What do you enjoy most about being behind a microphone — either as a sports radio host or as a football commentator?

Petros Papadakis: I guess I enjoy certain things about both. Calling a game is really different from doing the show in a lot of regards. A lot of the show is about me being me — my interpretation of things and stupid stuff about my life.

That’s not what a game is for, at least in my estimation. Some broadcasts might treat it differently, but when we have a game on the air it’s a good time to celebrate the young guys that are playing, the area, the schools, and the whole spectacle that goes into putting on a college football game.

You’ve got the announcers — we have these self-important guys that we send cars for. They send cars for us; you should send a car for the camera guy. (Laughs) It’s funny to me. You always hear all these stories about these diva announcers and how this guy needs his pillow fluffed and this guy needs his private jet gassed up and ready. It’s like my God. I watch the game on mute. I can’t stand most of these guys. (Laughs) I can’t stand hearing myself.

I enjoy being more economical doing the games because the radio is obviously not that way. We’ve got to pedal that bike and if you stop pedaling it just falls over. I guess that’s the difference. I enjoy both. I enjoy getting it all out on the radio. When you’ve done it as long as we have it becomes part of what your life is. I know maybe that sounds really entitled, but you feel like that afternoon is your time to be that guy. It gets very hard to live without the radio show. It’s really hard for me to let go of it, which is why I take very little vacation because it’s like an obsession I guess.

BN: If you had to pick one and not do the other, which do you think you would miss more: sports radio or commentating?

PP: Oh, radio because it’s a daily thing. When you do college games, you do 14 events a year. That’s it. It really is 14 weeks because you live the week. You do conference calls. You’re in touch with people. You’re in touch with production. You travel and you meet and do all that stuff. Nobody sees that. The radio, it just plays out every day. It’s a really personal relationship. It’s always amazed me in a way — and I don’t consider myself to be a celebrity or famous even locally — but people that recognize you from the radio, especially, they just feel connected to you, like you’re part of their lives. They know you. The truth is they do and you are a part of their life. Even though you don’t know them, they know you. That’s a really kind of cool, personal relationship that I’ve always been amazed by.

The intimate level of relationship with somebody that you don’t know, I almost liken it to — and this is another thing that amazed me — it’s been a long time since I played football. I kind of impersonate an ex-football player when I call football games. If I see a guy that I played against at some point when we were in college, there’s this weird camaraderie where you hug each other. I don’t even know the guy, but you come across each other after having played football and trying to kill each other back in the late ‘90s, and you have this weird kind of strange connection. The only other time I’ve experienced that in my life is with radio listeners. It’s interesting having all these weird, unknown friends around the city.

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BN: I love that word you used where you said doing radio is like an obsession. When do you think it became that way for you?

PP: There was a producer at 1540 The Ticket when I had my first show. I had no idea how to fill the time. It was hard for me. I’m not naturally a guy that wants to sit down and talk about sports — the kind of sports that people talked about on sports talk radio back then. Like so-and-so is injured and somebody would call and ask you about the Kansas City Royals lineup and you’d be like uhhh. (Laughs) What everybody was doing in sports talk radio, I did not know how to do sincerely.

I was struggling, or at least it felt like I was struggling. One day I came to work — this guy’s name was Craig Larson — and he said we’re going to sing a song. We produced a parody song. We obviously aren’t the first people ever to do that in radio, but we did a parody song about Lamar Odom to “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers. Instead of you got to know when to hold them, it was you got to know Lamar Odom, he rolls blunts and smokes ‘em. In third grade he was 11.

People called in and reacted to the song. Once we started doing that I realized that I could make it whenever I wanted. People responded to stuff that just wasn’t super conventional. That station was a little too small to stop me. (Laughs) I felt like I had something going creatively. Then Don Martin just let me do it. Don has always been hands off and let us do the show.

The only weird part about it is — I started doing daily radio in my early 20s and there’s still a lot of me that acts like I’m in my early 20s on the air now. I don’t act like that in my real life, but there’s a certain lack of maturity that people expect from me on the air. It’s like a place where I’ve never really grown up in some senses. It’s like my never-never land. I feel like it’s that way for Matt too. I mean my God, Matt’s 46, I’m 42, and we’re still there doing rap lyrics and jumping around like idiots, throwing stuff at each other, and taking shots.

BN: You guys have such a good mix where it can be off the rails, or you can have regular sports conversations at times. What’s your general approach to mapping out a show when you bring those two very different elements to the table? 

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PP: Well, we’ve done it for so long that it’s kind of an unspoken thing I’d have to say. We make space for each other to do what the other guy wants to do in a certain spot every day. The rest of it we fill in the blanks. A lot of those blanks I fill in just acting stupid. I think both of us know when to steer it back to whatever the middle is. The one thing I think I really try to avoid is that I don’t ever want to be seen as taking myself too seriously doing this work. 

I guess the older I get, the more disillusioned I kind of am with what passes off as entertainment on the radio. (Laughs) I’m not much of a fan of the genre I guess is a good way to put it. There are a lot of people I respect that do the job, it’s just not for me the way they do it. I don’t ever like detaching myself from how hard it is to play sports at a high level. The way people talk about it like, “That guy sucks.” It’s like, dude, most of the time that guy’s pretty f***ing good. Trust me, that guy can f***ing play.

I did 10 years in the booth with Barry Tompkins. Barry was 50 years older than me and still is. Actually we’re going to reunite and do the state championships on Spectrum in a couple of weeks.

BN: Oh, that’s cool.

PP: Yeah, it’ll be fun. God, Barry’s got to be 80 now. We worked together a long time, but he was older and he’d been through the wars. He wasn’t as attached to the game in some ways. After 10 years they put me on the sideline. I got back down on the field and saw the players and smelled all the smells and listened to the sport. I did sidelines for Joel Klatt and Craig Bolerjack, championship games, and Gus Johnson’s crew. I did that for a few years and it really pulled me back into how hard it is to play the sport. I try not to detach myself from that as a commentator. It helps me be a little bit more balanced doing the job.

BN: What area do you think that you and Money have grown the most in over the years?

PP: That’s a good question. I feel like such an immature idiot on the radio. I think we just understand each other better. It’s a little easier to have perspective day-to-day. I used to be bothered about things that happened, or didn’t happen, or what we should have done, or this or that. It’d keep me up at night. I think both of us, probably him a lot earlier than me — because he’s got a daughter in college now while I’m still fighting with two-year-olds here — I think just letting the show be whatever it is and moving on to the next day. I think we’ve gotten a lot better at that. And just more polished too.

Our producer is really special. It enables us to do a lot of different things and a lot of in-the-moment things that we probably wouldn’t normally be able to do. It requires a great deal of attention in the moment because there’s a lot of the show that’s just improvisational. You really do have to be able to move and shake and be creative in your own way; take some chances. Tim Cates does a great job of that.

BN: If you go back to the beginning, how did you break into sports radio?

PP: A guy named Mark Huska hired me at FOX to do the SoCal Sports Report opposite Matt Stevens. USC was a pretty big story in town. They just fired my coach Paul Hackett. I didn’t really have any plans to do media, but I had done a good deal of interviews when I was the captain at SC. Somehow they got USC to hire me as one of those — like what Max Browne is doing now — pre and post radio.

The first year I did TV two or three times a week in the studio at FOX with Todd Donoho. I did radio from the studio or from the Coliseum on Saturdays. I had no idea what I was doing. USC had a contract with this very small radio station that Mike Garrett negotiated called 1540 The Ticket. It was a third radio station launching in town. They didn’t have a lot of structure or anything.

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Very soon I had my own show. I had a show with Mark Willard. I didn’t get along with him very well. I just did not enjoy being his radio partner and I think it really set me back because it made me very combative early in my career. I got really protective and really closed off to some things. I hate to blame Mark for that, but he was a very difficult personality for me. Some people I get along with very well, you know? (Laughs) Let’s just put it like this, he was the opposite of who I wanted to be on the radio.

I was able to wrestle myself away from him and I just had my own show. It kind of went from there. With the USC stuff, I went from doing pre and post to the next year I became their sideline guy. I did that job till 2003. The Leinart Rose Bowl beating Michigan was my last SC game. Then I started doing the Pac-10 Game of the Week in ‘04, which was FOX’s national package at that time. It was on all their regionals. I was in the booth with Barry by the time I was like 26, 27. Then I did that for 10 years. I had no idea what was happening in any of those jobs. I feel like just now I’m starting to really grasp doing color on TV. I don’t know how I pulled it off since ‘04.

BN: With everything you’ve been able to accomplish, is there anything that stands out the most to you?

PP: I consider it a privilege to be able to do the games and tell those stories on TV. I’m grateful to FOX for allowing me to do it for this long — same with the radio. We have a lot of fun on the radio and whatever the line is that’s drawn in the sand, we still really enjoy doing it. So I’m really just grateful for those things. The one thing that kind of surprises me is just how long I’ve been able to fool everybody. I’ve worked bigger games, but I kind of like doing the level of game that I do. (Laughs)

I’m not one of those guys that was like I’m going to be the number one analyst. I’ve never really been that guy. I guess that’s one of my bigger flaws is I’m not the most ambitious guy out there. The guy that hired me at FOX way back in the day still acts as my kind of manager. I never went with any agency or anything like that. Now he’s an executive producer on the Tennis Channel and he still has to negotiate my contracts and stuff. I guess that’s probably one of the things that’s a little bit more unique about me — sometimes people try to hire me for work and they’re like “I could not get ahold of you.” I’m like “don’t you have the secret textoso line?” (Laughs)

BN: What do you think has been really helpful for you as a sports radio host or a commentator that you figured out on your own?

PP: On my own? Gosh, I’m a slow learner. I guess just a certain level of excitement is one of those things. You have to kind of be your own blocker. You have to act like you care about what you’re talking about almost to a level where you sound absurd, but not in an insincere way, just kind of a fun way. That’s one thing I’ve always figured out.

The other thing — and this applies to a football game or any kind of game on TV, or really any kind of show, and certainly on a radio show — is whether people listen for five minutes or they listen to the whole three hours, it’s got to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It’s got to be like a story. Whether you do that with music, or in the beginning you introduce everybody, in the middle you let it play out, in the end you go more big picture.

People used to say that to me — not that I really figured it out on my own — production people used to say that to me and I didn’t really understand what it meant. Now I sort of do. It’s really just more of a feel. The better feel you have for that as a broadcaster or somebody who’s shaping a show, somebody in production, the more naturally things just come to you.

BN: What other good advice have you gotten that helps you?

PP: Less is more. That’s written on the wall at FOX. (Laugh)

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BN: Do you have that tattooed yet?

PP: No, but I should because it’s hard for me obviously. Less is more; you don’t have to drown everybody with everything all the time. Some of the top broadcasters in the world do it. Just because you researched it and wrote it down doesn’t mean it has to fit into the show. You have to discern when and where to use it. People don’t need to feel like you’re exponentially smarter than them. They just need to feel like you’re a little bit more well-informed than them and they’ll listen to you. They don’t need to feel like you are the guy from A Beautiful Mind.

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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