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Jarrett Payton Is Learning To Work From Home

“This whole situation has really put life in perspective for me. You take for granted sometimes how lucky we are to live the lives we do and all of the great things that come with it like sports.”

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Social Distancing, you’re familiar with the phrase by now I’m sure. It’s a necessary evil in the fight against the spread of the Coronavirus. The term means keeping 6 feet of distance between you and another person and it means gatherings of folks are kept very small. 

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Okay, so what’s that got to do with sports or the media? It’s got a lot to do with both. Have you noticed news anchors on your local TV news sitting at opposite ends of the desk or in different rooms all together? You’ve probably heard your local radio host say he/she is doing the show from home. It’s becoming more and more normal as stations are limiting the amount of people in their buildings to only those deemed “essential personnel”. 

My station, WGN in Chicago, is working with a streamlined staff in house. I had to go in last weekend to do a shift and it was like a ghost town. Thankfully there was plenty of Lysol, hand wipes, disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer available. 

To add to the craziness, there’s no sports to really speak of. 

Our sister television station, WGN-TV is also spacing out it’s working crew on the nightly newscasts. The weatherman is across the hall from the main studio in the “Weather Center” and the anchors are sitting far enough apart it’s difficult to show them both on camera together. One news anchor is actually sitting in the sports chair on the set. That means the sports anchors have been asked to do their reports from a remote location, their homes. 

Knowing a lot of the people on the air in Chicago, it has been kind of interesting to see the location they choose. Usually a spot in the house with some memorabilia or a nice bookshelf filled with sports publications. There is a curiosity by viewers to see where your favorite sports anchors live and what their houses look like. 

One such anchor is Jarrett Payton who handles the 4pm sports on WGN-TV and is a co-host of a nightly report on the station called ‘GN Sports which airs at 10:30pm. Except that show has preempted by coronavirus coverage for an indefinite period. I caught up with Payton via email this week (social distancing!!) to get his thoughts on a couple of things during this strange time in the world. 

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First, I wanted to find out the challenges he’s facing, having to do a live sportscast from his basement rather than from the studio. Plus, the fact that he has two young children which provides some extra difficulties.

“The tough part is my wife and I are E-learning with our kids, so trying to do my work and helping them with theirs is whole different ballgame,” he told me. “The show must go on and delivering for the great people of Chicago is something that is very close to my heart.”

I would have imagined from the beginning that the other difficulty would be zero face to face contact with the sports producers in planning out the show. Also, at home there’s no teleprompter, so when JP is on air, it’s ad lib time. It’s also just such a different environment.

“Being at home doing my newscasts has been different but in some ways it feels like I’m out in the field doing a live shot really,” he says. “Technology makes it almost seamless to do what I normally do in the studio, in the comfort of my own home.”

He told me that email and cellphone calls replace the actual contact in the sports office. The fact that he’s done so many sportscasts and live shots make things a little easier to deal with under these circumstances. 

Then comes the question of content with zero live sporting events taking place. How surreal is that experience?

“Since I’ve been in the business, I’ve always had the understanding that sports never stops and news never stops. When you’re dedicated to your craft, you also understand there’s no days off in this line of work. So now, to have everything in the sporting world on pause, is very surreal,” Jarrett admitted. “This whole situation has really put life in perspective for me. You take for granted sometimes how lucky we are to live the lives we do and all of the great things that come with it like sports.”

Payton also mentioned to me that these days have tested the creativity of everyone involved in putting a sportscast together. I completely understand that. In fact, on one of my own casts last weekend, I celebrated the 2-year anniversary of Loyola Chicago’s Sweet 16 win over Nevada. I found some audio and made that a “kicker” story. 

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The natural question to ask anyone involved in the sports media these days is what are you doing to pass the time? There is more downtime than usual now. 

“Being at home means a lot of family time,” Jarrett responds. “This whole situation is bringing us closer as a family. Things happen for a reason and for us it’s giving us more time with each other which we normally don’t have. Being dad is always first for me.”

The work from home mentality has become the way of life in the coronavirus pandemic. It isn’t clear exactly if these changes are being widely accepted by audiences or not. To me, it shouldn’t make a difference what location your sports anchor is delivering the report from. It’s still the news you want and need, it’s just not coming from a familiar location to viewers and listeners. 

I applaud these stations around the country, both radio and television that are focusing on the important things in this time. Providing informative and accurate news on the pandemic and keeping their employees healthy. 

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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