How many times have you heard someonecall the NFL “a copycat league”? Like too many to count, right? We’ve all probably been guilty of using the tired phrase on the air a time or two.
We hear that a lot because it is true. Tony Sparano lined Ronnie Brown up under center and was consistently gaining big yards, so all of the sudden everyone had a version of the wildcat formation in their playbook. Sean McVay comes along and turns Jared Goff into a stud and the Rams into a Super Bowl team, and suddenly anyone that has ever made eye contact with him is a candidate for every NFL coaching vacancy.
Someone will try to do that again this offseason. We have seen Lamar Jackson go from gifted athlete who showed promise to undeniable MVP frontrunner. The Ravens are leading the AFC as the regular season winds down, and that means that every scout and GM is about to overvalue any college quarterback that Bill Polian would prefer to see lineup at wide receiver.
I was listening to my buddy Nate Kreckman on Altitude Sports Radio in Denver last week. He made an excellent point about how this could wind up going. He called Lamar Jackson’s 2019 success “a perfect situation of the guy with the right ceiling also being the guy with the right work ethic and put with the right organization.” You can try to copy the formula, but maybe whether or not it is successful depends on having the absolutely perfect ingredient.
Radio can be something of a copycat league too. Surely at some point either you or someone you work with have taken a look at a segment or a host that is having great success elsewhere. It could be across the country or across the street. Either way, the question “how do we replicate that?” has most certainly been asked.
Consider what Nate said about Lamar Jackson though. NFL teams can’t really count on copying the formula that worked out so well for him and the Baltimore Ravens. Jackson was the guy perfectly suited to succeed in the way he did.
Maybe that could be the case with some of the elements and talent you want to import or at least have your station emulate. Sure, it is great for the other station, but maybe your station or your talent doesn’t have the right ingredients to duplicate its success.
I used to have this consultant when I worked in the rock radio world. He had a big binder of every idea that his stations had executed over the years. That binder had everything in it from imaging scripts to major promotions. If you asked him for help with a bit idea, he didn’t give you something new or original that he had considered just for you. He would open his binder and rattle off a list of things his morning show in Detroit did in 1999.
It didn’t matter that we were a Southern market. It didn’t matter that ten years had passed. It worked once, so surely it would work again.
Romeo Crennel flopped as a head coach in Cleveland. He really flopped as a head coach in Kansas City. Eric Mangini was only the Man-Genius for three years in New York before he was run out of town. He wasn’t even the Man-Genius in Cleveland, and got run out of there in two. Josh McDaniels flamed out after two forgettable years in Denver. Matt Patricia seems to be well on his way to doing the same in Detroit.
All of those teams wanted that Bill Bellichick magic for themselves. They never once considered the possibility that the coach isn’t the only ingredient to attain that kind of success. You also need a once-in-a-lifetime quarterback…and apparently a blatant disregard for the rules.
So before you try to pry one half of the show from across the street that is kicking your ass in morning drive or demand your mid day host start doing this great bit you heard while driving the family down to Disney last summer, look at what you have at your disposal. Is your mid day guy the right guy to be doing a bit like that? Do you have the right talent in your building to pair with the co-host from across the street to form a killer new show?
Sports is far from the only place this happens. Think about the trailer for the new Ghostbusters movie. Do you think that gets made if Hollywood wasn’t going through a “let’s just make Stranger Things a dozen times” phase?
There’s nothing wrong with copying success. Just remember that a copy is always a little bit worse than the original. And remember that no matter where your ideas are coming from, they are only as good as your ability to successfully execute them.
Some NFL team is going to go into Draft night in April thinking that Jalen Hurts or Jordan Love can do for their team what Lamar Jackson did for the Ravens, and maybe they are right. I can guarantee that there will be more teams thinking that way than are actually capable of turning that vision into reality. If you’re looking to borrow someone else’s plan for success, make sure their plan can be executed by your people.
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.