Most people in sports radio feel pressure to do a good job. But there are added layers of pressure that many hosts don’t have to face. The pressure of knowing that your performance could greatly impact future opportunities for other people. The pressure from others that are expecting you to falter because of your gender. The stress of wanting to prove that the people who took an unconventional chance on you made the right decision. Not everybody faces those obstacles. It’s something that Kate Scott has successfully dealt with throughout her career.
Kate doesn’t back down from a challenge. Be the first woman to call an NFL game on radio? No problem. Be the first woman to call a football game on Pac-12 Network? All good. How about calling an NHL game for a nationwide audience? Roger that. Can you host The Morning Roast in a top 5 market? On it. Kate clears barriers like an Olympic hurdler. She’s basically the Lolo Jones of sports radio.
Joe Shasky and Bonta Hill are Kate’s radio partners at 95.7 The Game in San Francisco. Together they host a three-person morning show that began just a few months ago on October 12. In our conversation below, Kate talks about the new gig and what it was like coming over from crosstown rival KNBR, a place she worked at for six years. She also talks about helping people see things differently, a double standard for women, being competitive as hell, kicking ass, a pit bull, and naps. Enjoy.
BN: How’s the new show going?
KS: Well I’m having a blast. But I think as far as how it’s going it really depends on the day. Launching a three-person radio show, not in the midst of a global pandemic, where you actually are in studio together and able to more easily build chemistry and figure out timing and mannerisms, that’s hard enough in person. We knew each other a bit beforehand, but we’re still definitely figuring each other out in that sense. So you add on a layer of we’re doing it from three different locations over video call. I can’t tell you how many power outages we had in the first couple of weeks because that was when the fires were really intense here in the Bay Area. One of us was cutting out. The next day another person would lose power.
I had to go into San Francisco a few days because we did not have power whatsoever over in Oakland where I live and had to broadcast from a studio by myself in the city. It has been a lot. I’ll say that. But I’m still having a great time getting to slowly but surely know my partners in Joe and Bonta and be back on the radio getting to talk about the teams that I grew up cheering for and have loved since I was a little girl. I love working with Bonta and Joe and am stoked about what we’re building. It’s really exciting, but I would be lying if I said it’s been easy and smooth sailing so far.
BN: How would you describe joining The Game after working for the competition at KNBR?
KS: I think it’s been a good break since I’ve been on KNBR here in the Bay Area. We left everything on really good terms. I know that I wouldn’t be here being able to host a show in one of the top markets in the country if it wasn’t for the support and opportunities that I got because of my six years at KNBR.
The first couple of days were a little weird. I remember having a giant note right on top of my computer with The Game closeout because you just get so used to saying we’ll be right back on KNBR The Sports Leader. I just told myself the number one thing you cannot do is say that even though it’s second nature because I was there for so long.
The main reason I left KNBR was because I had been at the Pac-12 Network for about a year and a half doing play-by-play and it just became really difficult to function while trying to wake up at four in the morning, work a morning show, and then call games at night while I was supposed to be watching other games that I then needed to talk about the next morning at six. Just the stress of trying to do those two things at once caught up to me. I also told management there, who had always been so supportive, “You know guys I’m ready for more. I want more. I feel like I’m much more than an update anchor on the show that I’m on right now. I’ve called a couple of 49ers preseason games for you. I just called football on the Pac-12 Network. I want more”. They said “We know that you do and we think you’re ready for it; we just don’t have a spot for you right now”. I completely understood that.
That’s how we left it. I said “I love you guys. I know that I wouldn’t be where I am right now with the Pac-12 and everything without you, so thank you for everything”. Who knows what the future holds, but best of luck. That’s how we kind of left it. Now at The Game I just feel like because of what they gave me, I want to do my best and prove to them I am worthy of this hosting position and this slot. A lot of it is in large part because of you. Now we hope to kick your ass in a couple years [laughs] because I’m competitive as hell and I don’t think you last in sports radio if you don’t have really thick skin and if you also don’t really want to win.
There’s the added layer of going up against the show that I was on for the six full years I was at KNBR. I love those guys to death. I sent them Christmas cards a couple of weeks ago. All of my old KNBR co-workers — on-air, producers, executives — reached out after The Game announced I was joining their squad to say congrats and wish me luck. But at the same time, just like I’m sure they want to kick my ass, I want to kick their ass. That’s one of the layers of fun for me being at The Game now.
BN: When you talked about not saying the wrong station, the first thing I thought of was what the negativity and criticism is like being a female sports radio host. Knowing how some listeners will lash out if you make a mistake, does that cause you to go about your business any differently?
KS: I think so, yes. I think that for everything I do whether it’s prepping for my show or calling a game, I over prep because I know that there is a double standard when it comes to being a woman and being a man in this industry. It is assumed if you are a man that you know sports. Period. It is assumed if you are a woman, there’s a chance you might, but I’m going to listen really closely for you to prove to me that you actually don’t. So I over prep for everything.
A large part of that is because I feel a massive responsibility to my gender because I know how rare it is to hear a woman on a football game, or a hockey game, or on a morning show like I’m hosting in San Francisco. One of the most important things for me is that I am successful so that other women who want to do this can get the opportunity. That’s the big thing for me. And not just women, other non-white men, just people who aren’t the usual person who you’ve either heard call a game or heard on a radio show. I think that whatever I can do to help those who are doing the hiring start to think a little bit outside the box and say “Wow, I was terrified to give Kate this opportunity, but she’s doing okay and the feedback seems to be great. Maybe I need to continue to think outside the box when it comes to hiring other roles”. If I can help push that idea forward just a little bit then I’ll consider my career a success.
BN: When you have broken barriers as the first woman to call an NFL game on radio or the first to call a football game on the Pac-12 Network, what does that mean to you, and what do you think it means to other females?
KS: It means that I’m doing something right; that the prep and all the hard work that I have been doing behind the scenes for years is paying off. It means that I’m very fortunate to have crossed paths with a number of men and leaders who have been willing to take a risk and put themselves on the line to try something new. Whether that was Lee Hammer and Jenn Violet at KNBR. Whether that was Bob Sargent and the 49ers, the leadership of the Pac-12; I wouldn’t have gotten those opportunities without them being willing to take a risk. That means something to me as well and I have taken that responsibility very seriously and wanted to — similar to what I said about KNBR and Murph & Mac — prove to them that I was worthy of this opportunity and let them know just how much it means to be given the opportunity by doing really well on those games.
I’ve heard from a number of women after the football and hockey that it gives them hope and it motivates them and inspires them to maybe think that they could do something that they didn’t think they were capable of before. That means everything to me. I don’t do this for the notoriety. You know that I didn’t want to talk to you about myself today. I was hoping that you were calling to maybe have me opine about one of the great people I’ve worked with over the years. But that’s been one of the cool things for me; women who have done sidelines for years who have reached out and said, “Man Kate, play-by-play just sounds terrifying to me, but hearing you on that hockey game, you got me thinking maybe I should start looking at giving play-by-play a try in the sport that I’ve covered for so long”.
I’ve gotten messages from other women who were watching the game with their kids and said “My son thought you were awesome and now you have given my son this idea that hey, it’s not just men who call a sport, women can do it too, and now he might look at his sister in a different way”.
I’m sure that there are some women out there who hated it [laughs] and think I sound awful, but I try to focus on the positive. It seems like it’s been pretty well received by other women in this industry and even women who aren’t in this industry but who are just looking for something that’s outside the box, somebody taking a risk. Hopefully that has motivated and inspired them in whatever they do too.
BN: Some athletes say the losses hurt more than the wins feel good. But when you have people saying, “Hey my daughter is inspired by you and now thinks something is possible that she didn’t before”, I would imagine that means way more than Twitter trolls writing something crazy.
KS: Well I mean Brian, you know, the one negative comment you get about a show is always the one that sticks in your side and keeps you up at night. But over the years I have learned what you just said, focus on the good because that is truly what matters. If you can inspire one little girl or open up the eyes and minds of one young boy or one grown man, then it’s worth it to me.
It is a lot of work and I do put a lot of pressure on myself. I do take on a lot of responsibility when maybe I don’t have to but I just feel like it’s so important to help people see things just a little bit differently while doing what I love.
I’ve never taken any of these opportunities because I wanted to be the first or wanted to be considered a trailblazer. I’ve just done it because I’m always looking for that next challenge and how to get better and how to continually just be relentlessly self-critical and help get myself through that next challenge. If in the process that can inspire a couple of people along the way, yeah, just like you said, I have held onto those tweets and emails and when I’m having a bad day, you know for sure I look back and use those to remind myself that even though a lot of people on the text line today said that “you suck” and “you shouldn’t be on the radio”, there are a number of people that disagree. So remember that and keep going.
BN: What has been your favorite broadcasting experience over the years and what was your most frightening experience?
KS: Can they be one in the same?
KS: [Laughs] I think it was calling the NHL game for NBC back in March. It was utterly terrifying. I had never called a hockey game before. I grew up watching the sport, attending minor league hockey where I grew up, falling in love with the San Jose Sharks when they were the expansion franchise that launched and followed them. I knew the sport but there’s a massive difference between knowing a sport as a fan and sounding intelligent enough about a sport to call it for a worldwide audience of really well-versed hockey fans.
I only had two months to prep for it and it was in the midst of me also calling four different basketball leagues last year. I got the call in January while I’m calling Pac-12 men’s and women’s basketball, WCC men’s basketball, A-10 women’s basketball on the East Coast, and “Hey by the way in the middle of all of that, we’re going to need you to prep to call Blues-Blackhawks in two and a half months on national television. Are you interested?”.
Because of the previous experiences I had, I remember having a lot of fear when I called the 49ers’ games, having a lot of fear when I called football in the Pac-12, and all that experience had helped me realize you’re ready for this. You can do this. You know this sport. Have confidence today and just let go. Just really lean in and enjoy this. You have two analysts who are Olympic gold medalist who know the sport like the back of their hand. You have an incredible crew in the truck. Just be yourself and have fun.
I think it was the first time that I really just relaxed on a broadcast as crazy as it sounds and because of that just had a really great time. NBC was incredibly happy. Surprisingly to all of us the feedback on social media was incredibly positive. It was a heck of a way to start my hockey play-by-play career but I’m really hoping it’s not the last time I get to call it because it was a ton of fun and I love that sport.
BN: What do you do to just relax?
KS: [Laughs] What do you do, Brian? Do you have any recommendations?
BN: [Laughs] There’s a lot going on. There’s a lot of pressure. What do you do to just unwind and, for lack of a better word, escape that type of pressure?
KS: I really struggle to do that if I’m being honest. I suck at relaxing. I try to be really good at everything I can, but my friends tell me I suck at relaxing. I did purposefully adopt a dog a year and a half ago — Piper the pit bull — because I needed something that would force me to put the phone down, force me to stop looking at the computer, and force me to get outside because that really is the one thing that relaxes me.
I love being outside whether it’s just a mile walk around my block, whether it’s going down to the park and playing fetch, whether it’s going for a long hike or going camping for a few days. There’s just something about being outside because I think most of our profession is being in little closet-sized studios, being in arenas, being inside that there’s something about being outside and just being in fresh air that really helps bring a little calmness and relaxation to my soul. The dog has really helped with that and if you have any other suggestions I’m all ears because I’m still working on perfecting that skill.
BN: Well I think you’re on the right track with naps.
KS: Yes, okay naps, scotch, and cigars. I do like to sit out on my back deck from time to time and have a little nip of scotch and a good cigar and just take some deep breaths and remind myself that I’m only 37 years old and to be where I am in my career, I’m doing okay. So it’s okay to take a deep breath and sit in that for a little while.
BN: Are there any goals you would like to cross off the list in the years to come?
KS: There are two for me. I’m aware that this could change because my goal coming out of college was to get to ESPN. I’m 37 and I still haven’t done anything for them. As I said a moment ago I’m starting to realize things have gone all right so far without reaching that goal. But I would love to call something at the Olympics. Being a kid born in the ‘80s — I know for some youngsters these days the Olympics don’t have the same cache — but every couple of years I just want to watch every sport that I can even if I have no idea what the rules are. There is just something about rooting for your country, getting to know the stories of people from other countries. Calling the Olympics in any event, I will teach myself the rules and I will learn how to call it. That’s what I told NBC after doing hockey for them in March. That’s something I would really love to do.
The sport I played more than anything growing up was soccer. I was a competitive soccer player and was planning to actually go and do that in college until I tore my meniscus my junior year of high school, which set my broadcasting career in motion.
Men’s or women’s World Cup would be an absolute dream. Getting to call matches, host a show, be a sideline reporter, or getting to be involved in any aspect of a World Cup would be a dream come true for me.
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.