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No One Is Happier It’s A New Season Than John Forslund

“Now we have a new season, with different circumstances, same virus, but now we’re kind of attacking it differently and we’ll see where it goes.”

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John Forslund

2020 was a challenging year for many. No sport was unaffected by cancellations, postponements and weird seasons. No individual in the business seemed to be able to avoid the craziness, no matter your actual job.

There are many that were very happy to see the calendar turn, including many broadcasters. One of them is John Forslund. The veteran NHL play-by-play man found himself quarantined, then in a couple of bubbles and now getting ready to start a hockey season without a team.

Forslund was the long-time announcer for the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes. He joined the organization in 1991 and was its television voice from 1995 until his contract expired at the end of the 2020 regular season. Contract negotiations broke off and Forslund will not return. However, he’s still calling games this season, for NBC and NBCSN. 

I was able to spend a little time with Forslund via phone as he and his analyst Eddie Olczyk were preparing for their first game of the season. They called the Blackhawks and Lightning game in Tampa Bay on Wednesday. 

Andy Masur: So, John, remind everybody just how crazy your 2020 was…

John Forslund: Well, you know it (the craziness) started in March when we (Carolina Hurricanes) were in Detroit. Me having the unfortunate occurrence of having the same room Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz occupied when they came through to play the Pistons. The Hurricanes came through there the last weekend before the pause. We departed Detroit and went to New Jersey; we were supposed to play there on March 12 or there about.

I was told that I was exposed to (COVID-19) and I had to come home. I thought I might get a test but at the time there wasn’t testing unless you had symptoms, and luckily, I had no symptoms. I did a 14-day quarantine, then went to the Toronto bubble had a 5-day quarantine in my hotel room there, which was a lot worse than my basement, obviously. Then I did 70 straight days in the two bubbles which was fantastic professionally, historic just to be a part of it.

I think what we’re all learning here is that you change on the fly and you adapt. Now we have a new season, with different circumstances, same virus, but now we’re kind of attacking it differently and we’ll see where it goes.  

AM: What is the set up this season on NBC and NBCSN? Will you be at the games in person or off-site in a studio?

JF: It’s going to be a mix, we’re going to be on site for the first two games, then I’m going to Stamford, CT next week to do four games from the studio. It’s going to be a mix and match type thing for at least two months. We’re only scheduled thru the end of February, then a new schedule will come out and we’ll see what march and April have for us. Again, you just kind of adapt and do the best you can with it. Hopefully we’ll get some better days.  

AM: I’m sure it wasn’t easy to call the games in the bubbles, in Toronto and Edmonton. Prep had to be crazy without any ability to really talk to anyone involved face to face. I’m sure you felt kind of felt separated…right?

JF: Socially you feel separate. That’s one thing and it’s kind of emotional too because it doesn’t feel the same. You add in professionally, I say that because we never got to see a practice, we never got to see a morning skate. Doesn’t sound like you’re missing much, but I’m not talking about just accessing the players or tidbits or information from coaches and so on, because we were all Zoomed in on all those things, but from my perspective just seeing line combinations and power plays in the mornings for identification purposes.

Basically, what ended up happening is we’d get to the rink for the game and watch the warm up and you would adapt then. We would watch the warm up and do it that way. It’s not the best way to do it but it is the only way to do it and we did. 

AM: Considering how long you were with the Whalers/Hurricanes organization, how strange is it to not to be getting ready for a team’s opener this season? 

JF: This is going to be way different for me, because I’ve never been in my career, I’ve never been not with a team, starting with the American league in Springfield back in ‘84, joining the Whalers in 91, coming to Carolina in 97 and doing all that. I’m in a better spot than I was in June and July when it first happened.

Looking back a lot and looking ahead, that’s good. I still haven’t reconciled as to the why, but the why wasn’t my doing. It’s somebody else. They have to figure out why they did it. It is the way it is; we’ll just make the best of it moving forward and I’ll just keep my options open. 

AM: I know you’re grateful for the NBC job, but can you explain why it’s more desirable to work for a team in the NHL, than to do National Games? Or are they not mutually exclusive?

JF: If you can do both, you’re in a great position. I’m very lucky I’ve been able to do both. Look at all the years Doc Emrick did with New Jersey and the national package. Over the last ten years or so he cut back his travel and NBC afforded him the opportunity to be the lead voice and that’s just tremendous.  

I think for all of us, if you can tell the story of a team from day one to the end that’s something. You have a direct connection with a fan base, that’s a real privilege. If you get to mark moments of time like I did in Carolina you know every moment of that franchise until now, that’s pretty special. 

The other hand is your national work, now the national games again, it’s a privilege to be asked, you’re serving two fan bases in the country and you’re doing a totally different presentation in a way, which is equally challenging and also its rewarding just in a different way. 

I’ve been lucky, I’d like to keep it that way moving forward. We’ll see what happens; right now I’m in a real good spot with this package with this year and we’ll see where it goes. 

AM: What role will you have this year for NBC and NBCSN with Doc Emrick retiring and Kenny Albert in the mix as well?

JF: I think we’re a team, that’s the way it’s been explained to me. I think we’re all going to be involved. That’s a good thing.

Doc is really hard to replace. I don’t know that anyone can at this point. It’s great. Kenny has earned his spot; I hope that I have too. I’ll just go ahead with my schedule and get through the season and hopefully get lots of playoff work.  

AM: How much has the game of hockey evolved from a television standpoint? They used to use the Fox “glow puck” in the early days. I’m sure HD-TV has helped, right? 

JF: I’ll tell you Andy where it’s changed the most is that every telecast is consumable. There were days, depending on what market you worked in or what team you worked for you could be in a black hole, or you could get unbelievable exposure if you worked in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles, right?  Today with the NHL package and the way the games are consumed, if you’re a hockey fan and you want to watch a game, you can. That’s basically up to the fans. 

I’ve always looked at it now as we’ve never had more exposure, never had more of a challenge to do a good job at the local and national level than we do today. We’re lucky in a way that pro sports are maybe overconsumed in terms of television, but I don’t think fans can get enough of this stuff. If they want to lock in on a Vegas/Arizona game they can. If they want to watch the Hawks and Detroit they can. That’s the way I look at it. I just think that’s where it’s changed. 

Technology and the presentation of the games have changed too. The way games look with high definition that’s way better, so hockey’s in a good spot. I think it translates well on television, hopefully we’re not going to need that glowing puck, interesting as that was, and maybe a reach at something. I thought it was kind of cool for its time but today you can see it, you can see it as if you’re in the arena, which is a really good thing and I think that was the beauty of the bubble right?

The two bubbles were laid out perfectly for television, the league did an unbelievable job with the setting, how they draped the arenas with video boards and the draping and so on. We’re not going to have the same type of thing here, because we’re going from building to building. It’ll be close, but it’s not going to be like those theaters they had in Toronto and Edmonton. That was really cool the way they did that. 

Forslund is a pros pro, not only in the way he calls and preps for a game, but for his mindset. Leaving a place that’s been home for the better part of 3 decades is a jolt to the system for anyone. I could tell from talking with him that its certainly a sore spot and rightfully so. What impresses me about him is the “all systems go” approach for what is in front of him, not what’s behind him.

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BSM Writers

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.

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WRONG BAD

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.

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BSM Writers

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.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

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.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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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.

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