Not being able to talk about live sports is one thing, but throw in the inability to talk about gambling and it’s a whole other element. As casinos across the country remain closed, that means sports gambling has essentially come to a complete halt after gaining a ton of traction over the past year.
In Atlantic City, casinos have been closed since March 16th. Over the course of a month, that equals to around 500 million dollars in lost revenue. Factor that in with the entire Jersey Shore being shut down and it’s easy to see how the local economy in South Jersey has been hit hard.
Mike Gill, program director and host at 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City, is seeing the effects that closed casinos is having on the area. Most notably, with the absence of sports gambling for content.
“Yeah, that’s been an interesting challenge,” said Gill. “We really started to add sports gambling content during the football season and that’s been almost completely stripped away. I mean we still try to throw out these segments, where, we’re looking at futures and tying it into the Eagles, which is the local team here, but it has essentially become a non-entity for us for the time being.
“But we’re trying to get creative with different future bets and some fun things. Look, at this point we’re trying to have as much fun as possible while the format sheet is out the window. If you can find something to entertain, we’re all about it. They have betting odds on, and I haven’t seen the Tiger King, but they have future odds on that show as well as others. We are utilizing it as much as we can but it’s certainly not where it was when it got legalized at first.”
When you’ve tried to establish gambling content on your local programming and it’s suddenly taken away, that can be a big adjustment. So, as both a PD and a host, you have to trust your instincts during a time like this on what’s still going to hit. Granted, with the NFL being the main show in town, things have been easier for Atlantic City than for non-football markets, but finding the perfect balance over the past month has been a day-to-day grind for most hosts.
“I’m trying to find a balance of not going so far off the reservation, in terms of talking about sports, but we’ve just been trying to have fun,” said Gill. “Last week we did a segment where my producer had all the NBA Jam rosters from like 1994. I had to try and guess the two players that were on the NBA Jam rosters for each team. So we had fun with that and had the NBA Jam music playing in the background.
“We had the 76ers Process quiz where I had all the players that played for the Sixers during The Process years and I will give you clues and listeners had to text in who I was talking about before my producer got it right. We’re just trying to be creative and have fun but we find people like the nostalgia of hearing the names of guys that played in the 90s. Again, we want to have fun but we don’t want to get into crazy political stuff in this time.”
Two weeks ago, Jay Recher shared how 95.3 WDAE in Tampa Bay is openly trying to promote business in the area that are open. It’s a good deed for the community and has grown in popularity. It’s cool to see so many stations use their platform to help other local businesses during this time of need. And don’t be surprised to see good deeds being paid back to the stations that helped after the economy picks back up.
97.3 ESPN is doing their own variation of showing their support to the public by recognizing those who are on the front lines of the pandemic. It’s a small gesture but still goes a long way in the community.
“I’m doing something, where I ask, once an hour, for listeners to text the name and a photo of somebody who’s a first responder, grocery store worker, on the police force or firefighters and we put their name and picture up on the website. Once an hour we read off all the names and recognize the people who are still working during this time.”
Normally during this time, the Jersey Shore is prepping for another busy summer. It’s how many local businesses in the area stay afloat for the entire year and make their living. But with everything except non-essential businesses being shut down across the country, billions of dollars could be lost if things in South Jersey are still closed during the summer. This, obviously, would kill local businesses and would have a direct effect on Gill’s station.
“It hasn’t hit us yet, because the peak season has gotten a little later here than it used to be,” Gill said. “It’s usually around the Fourth of July where our tourism season really kind of kicks off now. That’s when the schools are out in Philadelphia when everybody comes down here. If that happens, and I just had Sal Paolantonio on Friday, he’s from the area and said if they don’t open the Jersey Shore for the summer it would be like the impact of having like five hurricanes rip through here.”
Now it just got really serious. Is that an overreaction? I’d actually tend to trust Paolantonio’s opinion on this, seeing as it’s a multi-billion dollar industry. But that paints a picture to just how bad the economic impact of Covid-19 can be on Atlantic City. And by now you know, the more local businesses are hurt, the more sports radio stations are hurt, too.
God willing, football is going to happen and everything will be just fine. Let’s start believing that. But every station owner and PD is at least trying to project what things would look like for their respective station if football doesn’t happen. When you’re the South Jersey affiliate for the Eagles, everything seemingly rides on a successful fall season.
“It’s probably our station’s biggest sellable time,” Gill said of football season. “At this point, I’m kind of in the camp where, if it gets off the ground on time, I don’t see how they have people in the building. Are you going to have some sort of configuration of people sitting in every third seat from each other? I don’t think people are going to feel safe going right back to 60,000 and 70,000 seat stadiums. I don’t see that happening on time. The other problem is I don’t see the training camps getting started on time. I don’t know if that matters to them, they had a lockout in 2011, and they seemed to not need all that stuff but I would be pretty shocked if opening weekend had full stadiums.”
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.