Hutson Mason is used to the pressure of replacing a high-profile name. At the University of Georgia, he replaced four-year starter Aaron Murray at quarterback, who left Athens with all sorts of accolades and records. It’s not an easy situation to be in, because it’s likely you’ll constantly be compared to your predecessor.
Now, Mason in a similar situation, as he replaces John Kincade at 680 The Fan, who was let go due to Covid budget cuts, and has certainly earned the right to be called a radio legend in Atlanta.
“This is like replacing another quarterback,” said Mason. “I’m replacing a legend, a radio legend, in a sense, and you just try to be you. You can’t ever try to be somebody else or be the next John Kincade. I try to focus on being myself and letting my natural personality shine. That was my mindset while playing quarterback, you just let the results take care of itself.”
Mason will be with Buck Belue, another former Georgia quarterback who’s been a long-standing host at 680 The Fan and until recently had a show with Kincade for 20 years. The format of the new show will be a little bit different, as the duo will focus heavily on college football, the Braves and everything else local in Atlanta. But two former UGA quarterbacks on one show?
Granted the Bulldogs have the most loyal following in the state of Georgia, more than the Falcons, Braves and certainly the Hawks, but Georgia Tech still exists in Atlanta. How do two former Georgia quarterbacks convince a Tech fan to listen to their show every day?
“For us it’s just going back to what our show identity is, which is local,” Mason said. “We talked a lot about Georgia Tech last week. Now, there’s obviously a preconceived notion that there’s two Georgia quarterbacks, they’re not going to talk nicely about Georgia Tech. My response is, well, give the show a listen and I think you’ll be proved wrong.
“I don’t have anything against Georgia Tech. I think a lot of fans blow that stuff up that players hate a school. A lot of those guys, I played with growing up and I think there’s a mutual respect. Fans feed off that heat of a rivalry a little bit more and I think it carries over when you get to the media. For me, I just say whether it’s Georgia, Georgia Tech or anybody else, I just try to be as honest as possible. I get more crap from Georgia fans for being true and honest to their situation than anybody else.”
After pursuing a career in coaching, as well as short stints in both the CFL and NFL, Mason pursued sports media. Since then, his career has quickly taken off. Along with being granted a daily show at 680 The Fan, Mason now hosts Gameday with Hutson Mason every Saturday morning from 7:00-8:00 a.m. on SportsMap Radio Network. The hope and the goal, is that if networks and affiliates like the show, they’ll tack on another hour as the season goes along. Essentially the show is a preview and storyline show that features one guest a week. With his contacts and name recognition, Mason’s limits for getting big-name college football guests will be endless.
But how did this happen so quickly? How did a guy, who really never thought about doing sports radio in college, quickly blossom into the star he’s becoming? Natural talent has a lot do with it, but more than anything, it’s probably the same reason as to why his football career extended past his SEC days at Georgia.
“I like to be coached,” Mason said. “Yesterday, when I got done with my show (Saturday), I was immediately texting Craig Larson at Sports Map and I was texting people that have a one-hour show and sending them my audio, asking them what I was doing wrong. It’s very similar to how I was in my playing days. Peyton Manning had this whole quote of, I never want to be told by a quarterback coach or an offensive coordinator of what I’m doing right. Tell me what I’m doing wrong. When you ask somebody to give you feedback and critique, it’s awkward. Nobody wants to say, hey man, you need to do this better. But I don’t mind it. I don’t mind being coached and I want to make sure I’m getting better so I try to take that approach in philosophy to my media career.”
Sticking two former Georgia quarterbacks on a show together in a college football centric city is a pretty good strategy, especially if your station strives to be the voice of college football in the South. But at the same time, if you want do do a sports radio show in Atlanta, you better be able to talk about the Braves. Admittedly, Mason didn’t watch a ton of baseball growing up, but he had to learn to talk Braves if he was going to be a host at 680 The Fan, which is also the flagship of the team.
“That was a weak point of my radio arsenal, early on,” Mason said. “I didn’t watch a lot of baseball growing up and this is a heavy baseball town. The Braves are probably larger than the Falcons in this town. I think it’s just taking time for the past two years to just sit down and watch baseball, talk and ask questions about, hey, how do you view the game? What are you looking for? How do I find storylines as I’m sitting down watching? Football is easy. So is basektball. For instance, James Harden is a great offensive player but he can’t win a championship because he’s too ball dominant.
“For baseball it’s been a little bit harder for me, and it’s taking a little bit more time, but I feel way more comfortable after three years in radio of talking baseball. For me personally I don’t think baseball is an easy thing to talk about on radio. I don’t think it’s very entertaining, to some extent. It’s slow and there’s not usually a whole lot of juicy story lines in it from a national standpoint. But I don’t mind talking Braves right now at all because they’re so good and so young.”
One of the many benefits of bringing on a former athlete is the contacts that come along with them. Mason might be able to get an interview on the air a lost of hosts might be able to being a former SEC quarterback. So who would we choose, if he could pick anyone?
“Someone I’ve already kind of reached out to, but I want to have on my network show on Saturday morning, is Paul Finebaum,” Mason said. “I’ve gone on his show a couple of times so I’ve reached out to his producer and said, hey man, whenever he’s got a slot open for media, let me know. I want to talk to the quarterbacks, but the communication teams for these athletic departments are such sticklers about getting open interviews. For head coaches, I’d love to have Kirby Smart but they’re just so strict on what access they get. But I really think Finebaum would be a great get for me.”
Maybe there’s something in the water in Athens, but UGA has recently turned out some of the best sports media talent that’s out there. David Pollack, Maria Taylor, Ernie Johnson, and now Mason, have put the school’s broadcasting school on the map.
“My offensive coordinator really never let me do a whole lot of media, because he said I had throw up of the mouth (laughs). Now that I’m in the media I look back at that and laugh and think, wow, what a natural segue into a career.
“The mechanics that radio will teach you, if you can do radio, you can do anything. I’m so happy that I did it because I ended up enjoying it way more than I thought I would. But also those people I talk to were so right, when they said, if you can do radio, if you can entertain people for three hours, and the way it teaches you to think off the top of your head, it’s helped me so much in the booth now that I’m calling games with the SEC Network.”
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.