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The Last Dance & UFC Spark Creative, New Approaches

“You should live on Idea Street during this wacky time. Throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks.”

Brian Noe

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Two things happened over the weekend that caused my brain to produce a tasty idea. First, there were no fans in attendance at UFC 249 on Saturday due to the coronavirus pandemic. Without any crowd noise the distinct sounds of punches, kicks, and gasps for air as a fighter struggled out of a chokehold grabbed my attention. Then the Sunday airing of ESPN’s docuseries The Last Dance included a clip of Michael Jordan crying on the locker room floor after the Bulls beat the Sonics in the 1996 NBA Finals. The footage has aired plenty of times, but it was the first time I’ve actually heard Jordan sobbing. It provided a much different feel.

Behind the iconic moments when Michael Jordan wore the Bred Air ...

Here is my idea — drum roll please — if the NBA is able to resume its season, the league should offer the NBA playoffs on Pay-Per-View complete with sounds from the court. Commissioner Adam Silver said on Friday that fans are not expected if the season resumes. Instead of viewers feeling like something is missing without thousands of screaming fans in attendance, the audience would be gaining access that has never been granted before. And talk about memorable audio?

Oh baby, this is it.

Yeah, the NBA would need to smooth things over with current TV partners TNT and ABC/ESPN. I doubt they’d be giddy about a separate PPV broadcast cutting into their audience. Sure, the NBA would also need to urge players not to drop anti-gay slurs during games or anything outlandish that would be damaging to the league. But think of the upside.

Oh, the glorious upside.

We would hear top-shelf trash talking. We would hear players yelling at officials, coaches yelling at players, and players yelling at their opponents and own teammates. Can you imagine hearing audio of the time Draymond Green and Kevin Durant yelled at each other on the bench? Think of having the audio of Scottie Pippen telling Phil Jackson that he wasn’t reentering the game because Jackson drew up a final play for Toni Kukoč. You wouldn’t want to hear LeBron James talk smack to Kawhi Leonard, or Russell Westbrook jaw with — well with everybody? I sure would.

It. Would. Be. Beautiful.

Also consider that the NBA is leaking money worse than a 1989 Chrysler LeBaron convertible top. 40 percent of league revenue comes from fans — you know, the people that won’t be at these games. CCTV in China still has no intention of airing NBA games after Daryl Morey let his Twitter thumbs cost the league hundreds of millions. My idea would provide a sorely needed revenue stream for the NBA.

Did I just become Adam Silver’s best friend?

You might love or hate my playoff PPV idea (you should love it) but there is no doubt that now is the time to be in the ideas business. Doing a sports radio show during a global pandemic is all about being creative, which requires straying from that sports comfort zone at times.

WHAM sports talk host Bob Matthews did his final show last week in Rochester, New York. He told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle that, “The coronavirus got the best of me. It’s been tough talking sports for two hours when there’s no sports.” I’m not questioning the creativity of Matthews at all. I’m saying that a sports radio show shouldn’t sound the same when the world is currently much different.

Think of how unusual the sports landscape is right now. The NFL held a fully virtual draft for the first time in league history. Giannis Antetokounmpo, the NBA’s reigning MVP, hasn’t shot a basketball in nearly two months because he doesn’t have access to a hoop. Only a select number of NBA teams have opened their practice facilities with such lengthy guidelines that it makes War and Peace look like light reading. The sports world has changed so much. Why would a sports radio show remain the same?

If you were about to bake a cake and realized you didn’t have any flour, would you proceed along while blindly hoping things magically work out, or would you alter your approach? We currently don’t have the key ingredient of live sports. Your sports radio cake isn’t going to come out the same way without it. You have to adjust.

Sports radio managers and hosts shouldn’t scrap their normal formulas altogether. It isn’t like LeBron is doing ballet dances to stay in shape while waiting for the Lakers practice facility to open. He’s training in similar, yet altered, ways. It’s about taking a quarter turn from the norm, not doing a complete 180. Look for ways to push the boundaries and experiment without abandoning everything that’s familiar.

If I’m a manager, I’m not constantly trotting out the same lineup as if these are normal days in a normal live-sports month of May. I’d throw a random listener on the air for a full segment with my host(s) and promote the bejesus out of it. I’d actually do it a handful of times, call it May Madness, and have listeners vote on the bracket-style contest for a prize. As a host I’m looking to create buzz while doing things that are memorable. Mr. P90X Tony Horton dropped by on my Portland show last week as I maxed out on overhand pull-ups. I got to a reasonable 20. Was it blow-your-mind stuff that reinvented radio? No. But it was something memorable that I could also share online.

Tony Horton, creator of P90X, wants to pump up the happiness - Los ...

You should live on Idea Street during this wacky time. Throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks. Just like the NBA playoff Pay-Per-View idea I laid out, weigh the pros and cons. Figure out how an idea benefits you and what the potential drawbacks are. (Btw, can you imagine hearing the audio of Jordan yelling at Knicks bully Xavier McDaniel from back in the day? How could you not love my idea? Sorry, back to business.) If your idea will likely lead to a win without risking the farm, let it rip!

What I love most about sports radio is the obligation to be creative. You also never know exactly how any day will play out on the air. Well, we’re talking days and months here due to COVID-19. The world is different right now. Your day-to-day life is different. The sports world is different. If your show sounds the same way it always has, I have one simple question for you — why? I don’t think these are desperate times for sports radio. Let’s just say that these different times for the industry call for different measures.

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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