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If You Have a Mic, You Have a Responsibility

“The main point speaking right now is to control your own narrative of how you feel or what your thoughts are on the subject really are.”

John Michaels

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RE·SPON·SI·BIL·I·TY

/rəˌspänsəˈbilədē/

noun

  1. the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone.

What happened a little over a week ago to George Floyd on the streets of Minneapolis, Minnesota was appalling, shocking and downright disgusting. It has sparked an uprising nationwide, and quite frankly has taken over most conversations around the country, but is it fair to ask sports media members to engage in these conversations? 

Atlanta protests: Live updates from 6th day of demonstrations

Sports media is meant to be an escape from real world problems, but there are circumstances that make even the staunchest sports media consumers want to talk about something other than sports. This is where the dilemma lies. How much responsibility is there to spend show time talking about real world problems? How prepared are hosts, PDs, producers and others for pushback from fans and sponsors alike? Is it even worth bringing up some of these topics, or is silence the best ally in these troubled times?

Hosting at 790 the Zone in Atlanta many years ago, I was on the air during the Boston Marathon bombings, and the show went from normal afternoon sports talk, to 95% Boston Marathon bombing updates. It was one of the most surreal times to be on air, but that’s when I realized our jobs were a heck of a lot more important than two guys talking about the Braves’ upcoming season. We were there to inform our listeners of what was happening as well as give them our opinions of the tragic events of the day.

The difference of the Marathon bombing is that we discussed it for 2 or 3 day’s tops. Then we moved back into our normal lane. The death of George Floyd, and the subsequent protests, have given us a 12 day fluid situation that has been on-going, with no end in sight.

In my opinion, it is the responsibility of the host or writer to address these issues in some form or fashion. No matter what side of the debate you happen to fall on, silence is not your friend. Silence gives your audience a chance to interpret your thoughts. Unfortunately when broaching a delicate subject like race or politics in sports media, you are leaving yourself open for public criticism, and the possibility of losing sponsors, followers, or fans. The main point speaking right now is to control your own narrative of how you feel or what your thoughts are on the subject really are.

What is the best way to navigate the conversation? Jason Goff, who I respect and have had a chance to work with a few times, shared his thoughts via social media about bringing on “your favorite black person, and not explain to them how you’re going to activate to make things better.”

His point is very well thought out, and should be a topic of conversation before interviewing someone about the trials and tribulations going on in the country today. How can you be part of the solution, instead of just asking questions to someone like Jason? Should part of the conversation also be about donating, speaking up, or having open forums? All of these approaches will give some authenticity to how you feel about the current state of affairs, so don’t be afraid to step outside the box and use them. 

The next part of the equation is the backlash that is inevitable no matter what side of the fence you stand. There will always be people who are going to disagree with you, regardless of what you say or what the topic is. Sports, politics and especially race relations elicit some of the most heated and passionate discussions you will ever hear. There will inevitably be some blowback from people having an opinion different from yours. To keep things civil, there is a need to keep away from insults that could drive advertisers away from spending money, which in a time like now is a big no no.

Also, being educated from both points of view is a must. While we may not necessarily agree, having a line of respectful communication can keep the blow ups to a minimum. Your producer must do a tremendous job of screening and keeping radical callers from being allowed to voice their opinion. The last thing you want in a very heightened time like now is for the wrong message to be attached to a show with your name on it. 

What is the role of the Program Director in all of this? They have to play the role of coach, and help their team work together. The station cannot be a rudderless ship, so daily pre show meetings are a must. The coach needs to lay out what is acceptable and what is not and work with his guys to get a solid message across the airwaves or in print. 

Different people putting hands in stack | Maria Shriver

It is a really difficult day and age that we are navigating right now. Covid-19 has cost a lot of us our jobs, and now the protests have brought on a completely different set of circumstances that most of us weren’t ready for. What this has done is allow for some honest conversations that sports media brands are usually too afraid to touch. Listen to your co-workers, listen to your consumers, and try to have dialogue with them which may give a different perspective. 

Responsibility is taken every time that microphone is on, or that article is printed. Have courage right now and tackle the biggest story of 2020. Don’t stay silent, and use your platform for something other than sports, because I promise people at home and in our industry are keeping score of who is in the game, and who is standing on the sideline.

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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