Nashville hates you right now.
That was the sentiment Jason Martin heard from some listeners on what was supposed to be the most exciting week of his radio career. For eight, long years he worked tirelessly for the opportunity to host a daily show. Finally, Martin was given one of the most sought after shows in all of Nashville – mornings at 104.5 The Zone.
Sports radio listeners seldom like change, especially if a show has been around for a long period of time. That was certainly the case in Nashville, after The Zone let Kevin Ingram and Mark Howard go after 16 years in morning drive. The duo had been a staple of the city’s morning commute for several years and the move was met, as it always is, with some resistance from the locals. Instead of being instantly accepted, Martin became the embodiment of change that nobody ever wants.
“We’re replacing a show that was on the air for 16 years,” said Martin. “Very few shows get that kind of run and they were very beloved guys. They just became a part of people’s routine and both of them were great to me. It was bittersweet for me when I found out exactly what was happening. I knew they were going to be doing more with me but I didn’t know specifically what that was going to look like until the last second. It was kind of tough to deal with, because, those guys had become a routine for people… nobody likes change at the time and I was the embodiment of that change.”
Martin found the transition to be incredibly difficult in the infancy of the new show. He saw what people were saying, including a couple of fan articles that he didn’t read, but he was told expressed disappointment or anger. There was never a second to celebrate the moment he had worked so hard for. Instead, the position he had waited so long for, was sucking the life out of him.
“Criticism always lasts in our minds. Affirmation doesn’t. Even if it’s a small amount of the former and a ton of the latter. It’s how humans are built unfortunately,” said Martin. “Sure, there’s always someone who’s not going to like your opinion, but not like this. It was just kind of like Nashville hates you. I’ve never thought that stuff bothered me until the last four weeks. It’s been a tough transition, especially, considering the first few weeks were just me doing solo radio for three hours. I’ve done solo radio for Fox and others, have my own show now for them… but it’s not where I think I’m best. I’ve always wanted a partner in crime. I was in a role where people already didn’t want to like me, and even if I was good, which I’m not saying I was, it really wasn’t going to matter.”
The old saying is ‘tough times don’t last, but tough people do.’ Granted, hosting a morning radio show isn’t exactly suffering, but the negative attention was really starting to get to Martin, even to the point where he thought the industry might not be for him anymore. He was second guessing himself. But everything turned around once he started searching for his new co-host.
Martin knew he wouldn’t have the final say on who his partner was going to be, but he confided in people he trusted in the market, hoping to at least point management in the direction of people he thought he’d work really well with. That’s when someone he trusted told him the name Ramon Foster.
“Ramon’s name is the first one that came out from, probably, the guy I trust the most,” Martin said. “So I looked online and watched the 20 questions video (A Pittsburgh Steelers production) on him with my wife and as soon as it was over, she just looked at me and was like, you got to get him. It was so patently obvious so I went to our new program director the day after and said, hey, have you heard this guy? He had, because another person (the same one that had put him on Jason’s radar as a matter of fact) had mentioned it to him a few months before, but once I mentioned it, it really kind of made him say, ‘we really need to make this happen.’ He talked to him like a day later and revealed that he fell in love with him 30 seconds after they first started talking. That’s apparently the effect this guy has.”
Normally, it takes two hosts weeks or even months to find their groove with one another, But with Martin and Foster, it was found almost instantaneously. So much so, that Martin and his producer, Jonathan Shaffer, looked at each other after one of the first shows with Foster and said, wow, that’s one of the easiest shows we’ve ever done.
“There’s just something about our flow,” Martin said. “Something about us in that room, where, today we sounded like we’ve been doing the show for months, not like we just started. I know when he’s going to stop talking, I know what his gesturing is and it’s just all about letting him be him and creating space to allow him to become a star. Him coming now, I mean, good Lord. Just in the last two days, yesterday, he was able to talk about his memories of playing against Von Miller and what Mike Tomlin said about him in the locker room. Then, Ryan Shazier retires. He played with him, so to open the third hour, I was like, hey, I don’t want to go into an emotional spot you don’t want to get into, but what do you wanna say about your teammate? He just let it all out over the microphone and I just sat back for about five minutes because I knew nobody was turning that off.”
To say Martin has a totally different feeling about the new show since Foster joined, is probably the understatement of the century. In fact, the talk now is more about the realization the show can turn into something truly special.
“I just look at this and say, we have an opportunity,” Martin said. “Maybe the only opportunity that we may ever have, my producer said it this way, he goes, ‘this might be the only shot you and I ever have to do something special.’ During his 20+ years he said we have a chance to do something special. Ramon is a superstar in every way when it comes to preparation, caring about this job, being active and committed. He’s just awesome. I don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone more instantly likable. Guys and gals sometimes never find that magic partner. I think I hit a home run on our first swing. He’s a blessing.
“The Covid era means you’re getting 35-40% of the audience that you’re used to. People are just now starting to get back in their cars and the numbers might be starting to rise. We’re starting a show where the engagement level was down. That’s just how it’s been in a lot of local radio markets. We were able to get reps in without a full house. By the time people are really engaged and starting to come back, which, I’m starting to imagine is very near, we should be more polished. In our first two days together I felt more chemistry that I even thought possible, and we don’t even know each other yet.”
Tyler McComas – You worked for Clay Travis at Outkick the Coverage for a while. What’s one thing you learned from him and implemented in your career?
Jason Martin: One thing Clay does really well is there’s a lot of shows, especially on a national level, that feel they need 20 topics throughout the show. They’re going to run them down like it’s television and not going to let anything breathe. The beauty of radio is that you can let something breathe until it dies its own natural death. You can sense when it’s time to move on, but if people are reacting, whether it’s on social media, phone call or you just know that story matters, then you don’t get off of it.
What Clay will do is he would call me in the morning before each show and say, what’s important today? He would go over those two or three things and that would be our show. We would throw out a couple little things here and there, but instead of going 20 topics, we went three topics. One thing Clay does great, and always has, is he has a sense for what people want to hear. He knows what his audience wants and he feeds it to them and he’s articulate and unique in the way he presents it. He has a fearless nature to it, as well. That’s happened to me, in some regards, to just, I can’t try to please everybody, because if I start to do that, I’ll lose the people that do like me.
TM: You’ve done a lot of pop culture content in the past. Do you think you’ll do more of that on the radio show?
JM: In terms of giving up on the movies, television and all of that pro wrestling, which I worked in for 10 years, not going to happen. The reason I got the job It’s because I offered something unique. It’s like putting out a podcast, I’ve had people close to me say, how can I make my podcast work? I tell them that you just have to keep doing it. You have to outlast the other guys, because even if yours is the greatest television podcast anyone’s ever heard, there’s 7,000 other ones. How are they going to know who you are and how are they going to find you? It ends up being attrition. If I get away from pop-culture entirely, if I go away from something that gave me a different sounding voice, then why do they hire me? It’s like they drafted a running quarterback and told him not to run. But there has to be some balance.
TM: Was there a lightbulb that went off when you realized what the identity of the show was going to be?
JM: Jason Romano came on the show a couple of weeks ago with me, he’s got a new book, and one of the chapters talked about Pete Carroll coming in for the Bristol car wash. That day George Steinbrenner died. Everyone is having to change everything on the fly, there’s breaking news, and Romano is having to apologize to Carroll over and over again for getting bumped. Carroll just said, ‘Hey, hey, don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about it at all. I understand This is more important and if I don’t end up on the air today, it’s fine.’
The lesson Romano took away from that is the way to be a leader, and the way to be successful, is to realize you don’t have to be a thermometer, you can be the thermostat. Meaning you can set the temperature in the room. When we heard him say that on there, my producer comes in my ear, and I have the exact same thought, he said I think we just found the vision for the show.
TM: I’ve heard you talk about your producer a lot on this call. He sounds like he really knows what he’s doing.
JM: It’s interesting, because I didn’t know him particularly well, his name is Jonathan Shaffer. He’s been a program director, I think four times and been in radio for over two decades. Throughout my radio career I’ve mostly worked with people, who have become, or been at the time, a close friend of mine. Two groomsman in my wedding were guys I worked in radio with. One of the things that presented was too much agreement on the radio. We got along and everything. We rarely disagreed and never really had any arguments, things like that.
One of the things Shaffer told me very early was my job always is going to be to make you as comfortable as possible doing your job. Whatever that means, having audio ready, booking guests, keeping me aware of time, just taking as much off of my plate so I can focus on hosting the show. From there and I think the challenges of last month, dealing with audience, that either bailed and is coming back or had something to say that was mean behind their five Twitter followers, whatever it was that was bothersome, I’d go to him and say, hey man, I really hate Twitter. He’d say, don’t let them bother you.
During the process of all this, as imperfect as it was, we discovered we can rely on each other. I realized I can trust this guy to know that he’s going to know exactly what I need and what the show needs to have success. Now we’re in a situation where, here comes the third piece, but the other two of us are already working in the right kind of tandem. He can play a piece of audio without telling me about it and I’ll know why he played it. Or why he’s coming back with this bumper music, or why he makes a certain suggestion, or why he puts out a certain poll on Twitter, and he’s like that. He’s just a guy that understands what radio is supposed to sound like, as well as how it supposed to be put together. I certainly feel incredibly blessed that he’s the guy that ends up producing the show, because Ramon will tell you the same thing, you can just tell this dude knows what he’s doing and he’s 1000% committed to making the show successful
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.