The FCC has a ban on seven “dirty” words that cannot be used on TV or radio from 6am-10pm. This past week on Sports Center Scott Van Pelt casually dropped the “s” word while speaking to Jason Sudeikis and the internet had fun with the memes.
In 2020 is it time to revisit the use of these words when it comes to network TV and radio?
Let’s be honest, it is no longer taboo to hear this type of language on TV or radio for that matter. Cable TV is much more liberal with “r” rated language as they abide by different rules than broadcast networks. Our sports broadcasters and broadcasts still do not have the ability to use “filthy” language, but I do not think such stringent rules need to apply in the sports world.
Go to your local sports bar on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon during football season, and what do you see? Typically, it is a bunch of middle-aged men having some adult beverages and expressing their passion for the game, normally with some very colorful language.
The average patron in one of these establishments is typically a huge sports fan who is just speaking like they normally would around friends. The language is not shocking or appalling, but just a regular part of a sports fan’s vocabulary. Does it make this ok? Probably not, but again we are in 2020 where most video games and music are covered in realistic gore and the language is colorful.
In an article published by sixwise.com a few years ago a quote stood out to me about the use of foul language.
“You probably swear because it is easy, fun, candid, emphatic, expressive, breaks rules, and somehow partially reduces anger and pain,” says the Cuss Control Academy. “But the negatives outweigh the positives. You really don’t win an argument by swearing. You don’t prove that you are smart or articulate. You don’t earn respect or admiration. You don’t motivate, you intimidate. Swearing doesn’t get you hired, promoted, or romantically connected.”
When I look at this quote the part that fits a sports narrative is the 1st line. We swear during games because it is easy, fun, candid, emphatic, expressive, breaks rules, and somehow partially reduces anger and pain. Think about the range of emotions during a sporting event, it truly is the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. The roller coaster of emotions can cause random outbursts, whether your team gives up a score, or goes on a 10-0 run to take the lead in a playoff basketball game.
I’m not condoning our favorite broadcaster or sports talk host turning into Frank the Tank from the movie Old School, but a well placed swear word would absolutely give more emphasis on a call. Can you imagine someone as smooth as Brad Nessler occasionally dropping a “banned” word during a broadcast? I, for one, would probably get a chuckle out of it.
The argument against this is obviously kids watching or listening. I would venture to guess that most kids have heard these words either at home, with their peers, or via technology whether video game, music or YouTube.
My children are 15, 13 and 11 and they know what words there are allowed to say and which ones they aren’t. I’m not naïve. They’ve heard these words. They have been taught right from wrong, so I highly doubt SVP would’ve caused the slightest glance in our household.
We have also become über sensitive in the US and everyone wants everyone else fired for any slippage. I laugh when this happens on the air, because my first solo show almost a decade ago, as I was signing off the air, I was so excited one of the seven deadly words slipped out of my mouth.
I was terrified not realizing the board-op dumped it and it never made the air. Afterwards we shared a laugh. Multiple times in my career during an emotional rant, I have slipped because these words are a regular part of my vernacular. Is there really a big deal if something like that would’ve gone out? Well the FCC still believes that it is, and until they change laws, we are governed by them.
One of the funniest skits we ever did was one called “bleepage” where the producer would place a bleep to make it sound like there was a naughty word being said, even though there wasn’t. We would do bleepage over Steve Holman’s Hawks highlights from the night before. Steve wasn’t happy about this and the bit was cancelled, but man we cried laughing with a Dennis bleeeeep Schroeder, or a Bleeep Al Horford. Stuff like this is entertaining to the audience because it infers something bad happened even though it never did.
SVP was simply speaking like most of us do on a daily basis. The rules to me are outdated, and an occasional bad word is not hurting anyone. Stop overreacting to the smallest things, especially a curse word on live TV. If you think that is bad, come down on the field during an NFL game and listen to the trash talk between players, that’s where you need lots of bleepage.
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.