Boiled down to his or her very essence, what is a sports talk radio host if not a person that knows how to entertain? Sure, sports knowledge is important, but without a personality, how is a sports talk radio show any different than a lecture from your most boring college professor?
Recently, I was talking with a friend about podcasts and what makes a good podcast host different from a good radio hosts. That lead to a discussion about whether or not there were people outside of the sports world that I could see as great sports radio hosts.
Yeah, there are plenty. Maybe most of these folks would need a co-host to take care of the nuts ad bolts of getting in and out of segments, but here are six celebrities I think could thrive in the sports talk space.
5. MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY
Alright, alright, alright, I’ll admit that this would be a love or hate situation for most people, because Matthew McConaughey is a weirdo. It isn’t hard to imagine a show filled with literary and existential references used to describe home runs and shooting percentages. Frankly, if I were programmer and hired him, I am only thinking about him for nights.
McConaughey is an open book in terms of his thoughts and feelings. I don’t think he is the kind of guy that would struggle to give you an honest opinion about any player or coach. He’s a lifelong fan of the Texas Longhorns and the Washington
Redskins Football Team, so he knows how to make even mediocrity matter.
If you’ve seen any of the online content McConaughey has created during the Pandemic, you have seen what a relentlessly positive person he is. That might mean he shies away from being too hard on a team, but I think it also says he is willing to embrace challenges and learn and grow when given the chance.
4. EVA LONGORIA
Longoria has been around sports her whole life. Sure, she is the former Mrs. Tony Parker, but her athletic interests go beyond who her partner is or was. She is an avid golfer, she helped produce the doc-series Versus for ESPN, and she is a diehard fan of the Dallas Cowboys.
More important than that, since the end of her Desperate Housewives days, Longoria has shown a diverse set of interests from sports to cooking to politics. It was always clear when Craig Sager would talk to her in the stands at Spurs games that she wasn’t there just to be seen or just because her husband was playing. She followed the action and offered ideas of what she wanted to see the team do the following quarter.
Eva Longoria is interesting to listen to even when she isn’t reciting lines from a script. That is something you can’t say about most actors. More important than being interesting is that she is interested. If she were part of a two or three person dynamic, I would trust her to bring the most out of guests and co-hosts by letting them expand on their thoughts.
3. ICE CUBE
I don’t know why Cube doesn’t get the same sort of respect for his deep knowledge of sports history that someone like Billy Crystal does. He’s a Lakers diehard, a Dodgers diehard, and a Raiders diehard. If that’s not enough, he also owns his own basketball league, and that might be his greatest asset.
Ice Cube would be a unique talent in the sports radio world: a guy that could talk about the business side of sports intelligently and with all of the same passion he would have for action on the court or field.
The guy also has a diverse rolodex. Imagine a show that can go from talking about the challenges of attracting advertisers to an uncertain college football season with ESPN’s top brass to breaking down the future of the 76ers with Charles Barkley to cracking jokes with Kevin Hart. Ice Cube’s hybrid career has given him the chance to build relationships with all of them.
2. JIMMY KIMMEL
Jimmy Kimmel is the only person on this list with radio experience. Most of America first learned his name when he showed up as the host of Win Ben Stein’s Money on Comedy Central in the late 90s, but if you were in LA earlier in the decade, you knew him as Jimmy the Sports Guy on KROQ’s Kevin & Bean.
Kimmel is a really interesting guy. In addition to loving sports in the traditional sense, he also knows enough about gambling to make that part of his show. Like Cube, the guy has a uniquely fun list of contacts to bring to sports radio.
Finally, I think the fact that Kimmel rides the line of woke and shameless is a real asset. He gets the magnitude of things like NBA players boycotting the playoffs and isn’t afraid to have that discussion, but he also makes mistakes and occasionally still does things that result in the looming threat of social media cancellation. In short, he can be conscious of the world outside of him without being self-righteous.
1. DESUS & MERO
There is no one outside of the sports world that I am more eager to see take on sports radio than Showtime’s late night hosts, Desus Nice and The Kid Mero. They get the power of social media, they built a following and became stars by being unapologetically authentic, and most importantly, they are the funniest things on TV right now. Just ask David Letterman.
They are cocky about their Yankees. They ooze dispair when talking about the Knicks. Mero has an over the top Mike Francesa impression. Imagine the burst of energy the two Bronx natives could inject into the WFAN lineup!
It seems like the sports media has taken notice of Desus and Mero’s talents too. Bill Simmons, Dan Le Batard, Pablo Torre, Nick Wright, CC Sabathia, Taylor Rooks and Bomani Jones all count themselves as members of Bodega Hive, as the duo calls their fans.
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.