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Travis Demers Isn’t Used To Everything Being So Quiet

“This is an international pandemic and not only is the distraction gone for a week or two or three, we have no idea when we’re going to get that distraction back and we’re going to get that entertainment back.”

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Travis Demers became the full-time radio play-by-play voice of the Portland Trail Blazers at the beginning of the 2019-20 NBA season. The mother of all unforeseen circumstances caused the NBA to suspend its season on March 11 – a global pandemic. The impact of the coronavirus has been felt by the NBA as a whole — including broadcasters like Travis.

It’s a unique time for Travis to navigate through the hiatus as he has a two-year-old boy named Lincoln and another son due on July 3. While increased family time is enjoyable, Travis describes his helpless feeling in the work world. I’ve seen firsthand how Travis prepares and puts in the work. Any worker is going to feel strange while not being allowed to contribute like normal.

Travis Demers, Trail Blazers' New Radio Announcer, Has Paid His ...

In addition to his play-by-play duties, Travis also hosts a weekday radio show from 3-6pm on 620 Rip City Radio. COVID-19 has affected Travis’ broadcasting schedule, which in turn impacts his current talk show responsibilities with co-host Chad Doing. One of the most interesting parts of this piece is when Travis details a feeling of guilt he experiences occasionally. It’s a strange time in the world at large. The same can be said about the sports world. Enjoy.

Brian Noe: How would you describe the impact that the pandemic has had on you professionally?

Travis Demers: I’ve never really had a situation where I wasn’t working. Even when I got laid off from another radio station — I was out of work officially for about 10 months — I was still working. I still found plenty of other things to do. Yeah, I’m still working and doing the radio show at home but this is really unusual. I’ve never had a situation before where I felt helpless and I felt like there’s not a whole lot I can do.

I know a lot of other people are in this boat right now but for me it’s an unusual, quiet feeling of and almost helplessness in the work world. In terms of my home life it’s an opportunity to spend time with my wife and my son that I normally otherwise wouldn’t have, especially traveling and being on the road working as much as I do. I don’t know if and when I’m ever going to get this opportunity again to spend the time with my family so I’m making the most of it.

BN: That feeling of being helpless — has that caused you to approach your show differently at all?

TD: I don’t think it’s changed how I approach the show that much. The big difference is with not a lot of sports to talk about right now, we’re forced to come up with other things so it leads to more creativity. It leads to more reflection whether it be on past things in sports, favorite moments, trying to find a way to help the community and just having more fun. I’ve always been a little bit more uptight just in general than I’d like to be. I think in a lot of ways this has helped loosen me up because there’s no reason to be uptight right now.

BN: Outside of the obvious — not calling Blazers games — how does your schedule differ now due to the pandemic?

TD: The big difference obviously is just being at home. I’m much more involved in the family life now. Usually if it was a show day I would go in around 11 for a three o’clock show. Now I’m getting up and helping with my son. We have breakfast. We’ll watch a movie. We’ll go outside. I’ll put him down for a nap and then I’ll call Chad. We’ll get things set up for the show instead of doing that in studio and going in a couple of hours earlier.

On a game day I’m not doing prep at home. Usually I spend probably about a total of four hours of prep time per game, maybe a little bit more than that depending on the game. But I’m not doing that from home. Before when I was home I was still doing quite a bit of work in addition to when I was gone. Now there’s really not much work to do at home. When I’m home and when I’m with my family that time is focused on them.

Travis Demers (@travisdemers) | Twitter


BN: NBA players might have a tough time ramping up to play games after months off at home. On a broadcasting scale, is there some ramp-up time needed for you to get back into peak form?

TD: I’m sure there is. I’m sure there’s always going to be a little bit of rust. The first preseason game you feel like there’s a little bit of rust you want to shake off. In some ways the preseason is time for the broadcaster as much as it is for the players to get back into a rhythm. For guys who have been doing it for 10-20 years, I’m sure that turnaround time is a little bit less. But for me in my first full season after doing about half the year last year, yeah there’s a little bit of a warm-up time. Hopefully not more than just a couple of minutes or a quarter but I would imagine yeah it might take a little while.

BN: Are you doing the Joe Buck thing where you’re commentating about random things around the house?

TD: In my house, yeah. I’m not taking user submissions. I think Joe Buck proved why that’s probably not the best idea for everybody. But for me yeah I’m just doing it around the house especially with my son playing basketball, playing with his toys, and mostly that kind of stuff. I’ll do it for my wife a little bit when she’s making dinner and give her a good call when she makes a good meal. There’s definitely a little bit of that going on in the house.

BN: How do you think that first game back will feel for you when it eventually does happen?

TD: It’s tough to say because I don’t know what the situation is going to be. Is it going to be a playoff situation? Is it going to be a regular season situation? Will there be fans in the stands? Will it be the beginning of next year? Will it be sometime we pick it up this season? I think all of that plays into it.

If it is this year, do you have to pick up where you left off? If it’s next year how do you put into perspective that last year was cut short and now you’re starting new. Everybody’s going to have a different, unusual feel to a season that ended so abruptly. It’ll be different. There’s no question it’ll be different. I just don’t know exactly how different and I’m not going to know until I sit in that chair.

BN: There are some radio stations that are doing virtual games on PlayStation. It’s been mostly a baseball thing, but do you think something could work along those lines for basketball?

TD: Well we’re seeing it on TV. The NBA has this tournament with 16 players and they’re playing NBA 2K. It’s airing on ESPN. I think it’s a really cool idea because now you’re getting competition. It gives fans something to watch. It gives fans somebody to cheer for. Here in Portland, Blazers fans were cheering for Hassan Whiteside in his first-round matchup with Patrick Beverley. Unfortunately he lost, but even for a little while, it gave fans an opportunity to cheer for one of their own guys.

I think in the same context of fans looking for something to cheer for we’re watching all of these old games — the Blazers have been running a lot of them, MLB Network, NFL Network, the other night I was flipping between Super Bowl XLVII and Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. It was awesome. But watching in the ninth inning when the Twins had runners on first and second and nobody out, I knew the game went 10 innings so the drama wasn’t quite there. I think fans and people are looking for some kind of drama whether that’s on the radio or TV. I think something like that absolutely could work.

BN: Maybe that’s why marble races are popular. [Laughs]

In this time of no live sports, marble racing has become all the ...

TD: It’s something, man. People who have a serious gambling problem that look for really obscure things to bet on because they need their fix — it’s very similar.

BN: Would you enjoy a classic game if you were listening to yourself on the call?

TD: Yes and no. I would enjoy the moment. A lot of things would come back. I’ve watched some of the classic games that I’ve had a chance to call. I wasn’t on the TV call so I watched the national TV call of the four-overtime game between the Blazers and Nuggets. All of these memories keep rushing back. I’m my own biggest critic. I think if I were to watch myself in that moment call that game, I’d be picking apart everything that I had said. I could have done that better. I could have done this better. I guess I would use it more as a learning experience than just be able to sit back and enjoy it.

BN: Have you enjoyed being more present on your talk show or is there a void without play-by-play?

TD: I’m definitely enjoying it because it’s not like the games are still going on and I’m not getting to call them. Being able to be present — Chad and I have worked really hard on our show together. Being gone so often over the course of the season I feel out of touch. I feel like I’m out of the loop. Chad’s done a great job in my absence and there’s a reason why he’s in that spot. But it’s nice to be back in the mix and in the groove again every day. It can feel like it’s our show and I’m not just a guest on the program that Chad’s been working hard for. It has been good and I have enjoyed it.

BN: When you’re on the road doing Blazers games instead of your talk show, is it a feeling of guilt that you have?

TD: There is guilt. Yeah, because I feel like I’m not being there to help out my partner. Chad has been great and has done everything he can to not make me feel guilty about it, but at the same time it’s like hey, I’m on a 10-day road trip and I’m not doing my job so you’re left to pick up 100 percent of the slack. There is some guilt there.

Before Chad showed up I was doing that show by myself, so I’ve had to give up complete control. That was difficult to do at first. Now I’m just kind of going along with his program. It took me a while to accept that, but given how often I’ve been gone, sometimes I don’t feel like it’s right for me to challenge him on something or to say this or that because he’s the one that’s putting in the work every single day and I’m not.

BN: I hear you. Now that you’re back you can’t hit him with, “I don’t want to do that topic.” You’d feel bad for saying something like that, right?

TD: Yeah, exactly. It’s weird because your name is on the show and it just doesn’t feel like it’s my show sometimes. And that’s okay. That’s what it is, but Chad deserves a lot of credit because he has gone out of his way to make sure that I don’t feel that way.

BN: What does no Blazers basketball at this time mean to Portland as a community?

TD: The Blazers are Portland’s team. The Blazers are Oregon’s team. College sports are different. The MLS is different. The Blazers have been around for 50 years. That’s the team that people around here relate to and identify with. This time of year we should be in the stretch run getting ready for the playoffs. To have no sports and to not have your team that you’re used to either watching on TV, or going to the games, or making sure you plan your schedule around, for a lot of people there’s a sense of absence. There’s a sense of something missing. There’s a hole. I’ve talked to fans and I’ve read some things on social media from fans that there’s just a void right now. There’s no distraction.

Over the course of history there have been a lot of tragic things. There’s been a lot of terrible things for individual people that have things going on in their lives that are tough whether it be the loss of a family member or something like that, sports has always been a distraction. It’s always been there. This is really the only time in modern history that there is no distraction. There are no sports.

I think people now a few weeks into it have kind of gotten used to it but that void is still there. I remember living in New York on 9/11 and the NFL games were canceled that weekend. Major League Baseball was on hiatus for a little while, but it came back relatively quickly within a week or so.

That was a national tragedy. This is an international pandemic and not only is the distraction gone for a week or two or three, we have no idea when we’re going to get that distraction back and we’re going to get that entertainment back. There’s just a big void in that context.  

BN: They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. If you apply that to the sports world, what do you think the reaction is going to be like once sports are back?

Pamplin Media Group - What now for the Trail Blazers?

TD: I think in some ways it’ll make us appreciate things more. I would imagine the first game back for every team across America is going to be sold out regardless of the sport; especially if you have the NBA and NHL canceled the way that college sports have been. The next time the season rolls around, or if they do play later on in the summer, I’d imagine every single arena across the NBA is going to be packed.

I don’t know how long it’s going to last though because those warm feelings don’t last for a long time, but they’re there and they’re special and it makes people come together. That first couple of games, that first week, that first month, it’s going to be — in whatever arena — an incredible atmosphere. I can’t wait to see that. I can’t wait to experience that. Portland is a great atmosphere as it is, so just imagine that being notched up a few levels when people really appreciate what they didn’t have when it comes back.

BSM Writers

Sam Mayes Got A Raw Deal But Tyler Media Made The Right Call

“You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.”

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I do not envy whoever at Tyler Media had to make a decision about Sam Mayes’s future with the company after audio of a private conversation in 2016 was leaked to the media. Mayes and now-former co-worker Cara Rice made a few racist jokes at the expense of Native Americans.

The recording, according to Mayes, was made without his knowledge and leaked illegally. He says in a recorded statement that he should have been given the opportunity to address the recording on air and make amends.

OKC Radio Host Sam Mayes Fired After Racist Audio is Leaked

Maybe that is true, maybe it isn’t. I hate for Sam to lose his job as the result of an illegal recording of a private conversation, but the fact is, that conversation isn’t private anymore. Tyler Media didn’t really have an option here. Sam Mayes had to go.

Someone had an illegal recording of the conversation and created an anonymous email account to send it to people in the Oklahoma City media. I was shown a copy of the email. The author states clearly that their goal is to see Mayes and Rice out of a job. There is nothing fair or just about that person getting exactly what they want. It feels slimy. I can’t say that it feels like it wasn’t the right call though.

We have debated whether or not someone should lose their job over comments made in a private conversation many times before. It happens in every field. It wasn’t long ago at all that we were having this same debate about Jon Gruden. His emails to Bruce Allen and others were sent in private. Is it fair he had to go when they were made public? No matter what horrible things were in there, they were said with the understanding that it would stay between friends.

I am going to say the same thing about Sam Mayes that I did about Gruden when that story first broke. You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.

You read that right. The circumstances of how the conversations in these examples came to light are absolutely unfair, but the conversations came to light. How it happened is irrelevant. Any sponsor or boss that stands behind Sam Mayes or Jon Gruden would be endorsing the language they used, either inadvertently or very much on purpose. Try explaining that to a sponsor.

People at Tyler Media may know Sam Mayes’s heart. He doesn’t seem like a bad guy. The fact of the matter is, once the audio became public, their hands were tied. There is no mistaking what was said or who said it.

How can any seller or manager take Mayes to advertisers now? How can they put him in front of the Lucky Star Casino, one of the station’s biggest advertisers? They can ask for an audience to let Sam explain himself and try to make amends. The Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribes, who own the casino, are under no obligation to forgive or even listen.

All About the Lucky Star Casino in El Reno, Concho
Courtesy: TripAdvisor/Adam Knapp

Maybe the day will come where Sam Mayes bounces back. I hope it does. I hope he gets the chance to address his comments with members of Oklahoma’s Native American community and listen to what they have to say in response. I do think it sucks that this is how his time at The Franchise comes to an end, but I get it.

If I have to explain to you why not to say dumb, racist shit, then I don’t think we have much to talk about. But, it is worth noting that the recording of Mayes and Rice’s conversation is proof that privacy is always an assumption, not always a fact.

In his audio statement, Mayes admits it is his voice on the recording. He also says that he was uncomfortable with Rice’s comments and he tried to end their conversation. I’ll take him at his word, but I will also point out that before he tried to end the conversation, he joined in on the jokes. Maybe when someone says that Native Americans are “too drunk to organize” it isn’t a great idea to respond. All it leads to is proof of you saying something dumb and racist.

Again, I’ll reiterate that how these comments came to light is unfair, but they did come to light. That is Sam Mayes’s voice on the recording. He is joining in on the jokes about Native Americans being drunks and addicts. At the end of the day, the only thing that was done to him was the audio being released. He fully and willingly committed the firable offense.

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What is the response to a client or potential client when they bring that up? All Tyler Media can do is try to recover and move forward. The company cannot do that with Mayes on the payroll.

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BSM Writers

Stop Prospecting, Start Strategizing!

“You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days.”

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Struggling to get new business appointments? Dreading making prospecting calls? Having trouble writing creative emails that seemingly never get a response?

Generating responses to new business outreach is easier than you think. Just make sure you do your homework first and keep it “Simple Stupid”.

To do that, start with asking yourself these (3) simple questions:

#1: Did I do my home work on the business itself, their competition and those I plan on reaching out to?

#2: If I were on the other end of the phone and/or email with myself would I want to engage in conversation and/or reply to that email?

#3: Am I prepared to make a one call close given the opportunity to?

If the answer to any of these is “No”… do NOT pick up the phone and by all means do NOT hit the send button on that initial outreach email! Doing so will all but ensure you fall flat on your face. On the off chance you do happen to get the decision maker on the phone you won’t make that great first impression that sometimes can be so crucial. First impressions are always important… ALWAYS!

Skipping over these critical steps is a sure-fire way to ensure your email is completely ignored and will not generate the engagement from the prospect you’d hope for. Successful prospecting is all about the front end digging and research. Do your homework first then strategize a plan of attack for your call and/or email. Taking these extra measures on the front end is absolutely “Mission Critical” and will set you up for much more success with your prospecting endeavors.

Now once you’ve answered “Yes” to all of the above, you’re ready to attack with the knowledge and confidence that should set you a part from your competition. It’s all about the Game Plan, and if you don’t have one, you’re destined for failure time and time again. Incorporate these (5) things into your prospecting Game Plan for your next call/email and watch your results dramatically improve:

#1: MAKE IT PERSONAL & CASUAL – Be informal, find out something interesting about them.

#2: MAKE IT SHORT & CONCISE – Be straight forward and to the point, people are busy.

#3: MAKE IT TIMELY & RELEVANT TO THEM AND/OR THEIR BUSINESS – Give them a good Valid Business Reason.

#4: MAKE IT INTERESTING, COMPELLING & INFORMATIVE – Be the expert they’re missing.

#5: MAKE IT FUN – Fun people are easy to do business with and make it less like “work”.

Lastly, and most importantly, Be Yourself! You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days. When clients do find it trust me, they value it and appreciate it way more than you’ll ever know!

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BSM Writers

Good Producers Can Teach The World A Lot About Christmas

“A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition.”

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Who is Carl Christmas in your house? Who is the one that makes sure everyone that needs to get a card does? Who comes up with the plan for the lights? Who takes the reins on the shopping?

Chevy Chase, aka Clark Griswold, to light up stage in Berks | Berks  Regional News | wfmz.com
Courtesy: Warner Bros./National Lampoon

Every home needs one and in my house, that’s me. December (including the last week of November) is my time to shine, baby!

One thing I have tried to impress upon my mom and wife this year is that shipping and supply chain delays are real. So, if you are planning on procrastinating on your online shopping this year (you know, like usual) someone (me) is going to have no presents under the tree.

Veteran producers are used to operate this way. Young producers, listen up. Your job involves the most delicate balance of any in sports radio. You have to help bring your host’s and PD’s visions to life. That means you have to be able to take their direction. But you also have to keep the host on target. That means you cannot be afraid to be forceful and lead when the moment demands it.

There’s no value to being an unrepentant asshole to people, but you do have to hold them accountable. Look at that Christmas shopping example again. If you want to get what you want, you need to keep on task the people you know aren’t paying attention to the potential roadblocks. It isn’t selfish. It is making sure everyone gets the holiday W they are expecting. Sure, you would be disappointed if your gift doesn’t arrive on time, but so will the gift giver.

Being a stickler for the clock or moving a host off of a topic that has no value is the same thing. Of course there is something in it for you, but you are also helping the host do his or her job better. They may get annoyed with you now, but if you save them from an ass-chewing from the bosses or slipping ratings, then they have reaped the benefits.

I guess the unfortunate difference here is that there may be no acknowledgment of what you did or helped them to avoid. Oh well. Every producer has to expect a certain level of thanklessness.

Producers have to take on that Carl Christmas role in dealing with sales too. Remember, just because the producer’s name isn’t on the show doesn’t mean that isn’t every bit his or her show that it is the hosts’.

It’s like decorating your house for the holidays. You may have a certain design in mind. Maybe you have a traditional look you stick to every year. If your spouse or your kid comes home with a giant, inflatable Santa Claus in a military helicopter that they want on the lawn, you have a decision to make. Are you going to say no and suggest an alternative that aligns more with your goal or are you going to let your plan get run over?

25 Best Christmas Inflatables - Top Inflatable Christmas Decorations

Sales has a job to do. It is to make sure their clients’ messages are heard and to make money for the station. Both can be accomplished without sacrificing your show’s quality.

If a seller comes to you and says he wants his client to come in for five minutes and talk about now being the time to book an appointment to have your garage floors redone, you have to speak up. You have an obligation to make sure that the seller knows that even five minutes of that will hurt the show and have listeners diving for the preset buttons on their car stereo. That isn’t good for the station or his client.

Instead, offer to work with the seller and the client to come up with a piece of content that the client can put his name on and a 20-second ad read behind. Will the audience stick around to listen to some dude named Jerry talk about garage floors or will more people listen to you talk about the NFL playoff picture in a creative way and then still be there to hear Jerry’s message about garage floors? The answer seems obvious.

A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition. If the background work wasn’t done though, the problems would be right out on the front lawn for everyone to see.

“Gatekeeper” is a term I really hate. It implies that someone is telling others what they are and are not allowed to enjoy. It is a necessary term though to properly describe what it is that a great producer and a great Carl Christmas do.

We don’t shut people out from being able to enjoy or be a part of what it is we are creating. We set or are handed down expectations and we block anything that can get in the way of achieving them. Sometimes, that is more thankless work than it should be. It is necessary though.

Kevin Anderson on Twitter: "Just noticed that I've been blocked by the  international civil aviation authority @icao Have others working on  aviation emissions also been blocked? Appears to be that their commitment

As my home’s self-appointed Carl Christmas and a former producer, let me give my countrymen the thanks others forget. We are the ones that make it possible for everyone else to be mindless. Wear it as a badge of honor. We may not get the kind of recognition we deserve everyday, but when plans go off without a hitch, we are usually the first to be recognized for making it happen.

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