Your reaction to the Jacksonville Jaguars hiring Urban Meyer as their new head coach largely depends on if your prefer college football or the NFL. NFL fans reacted mostly positively. They saw the team hiring a winner, a guy that had won three national titles at the college level who would now be getting his hands on one of the best quarterback prospects of all time.
College football fans mostly rolled their eyes. It’s not that we don’t think Urban Meyer isn’t good. He is undeniably one of the best football coaches alive. It’s just that we’ve seen this movie before. We know how it ends.
We also know how it begins. It begins with a sappy, maudlin profile of the coach and his family done by Tom Rinaldi. And hey, how perfect is it that Rinaldi just joined FOX to be part of the network’s NFL coverage?
This has been pretty well reported the last few days, but in case you aren’t aware, Urban Meyer has a cyst on his brain. It is inoperable, but with medication and rest, it is manageable. He also has Gastroesophical reflux disease, which has caused at least heart attack false alarm. His health has forced him to step away from each of his last two jobs.
In short, this is a dude that has to be a pro at stress management, because when things are bad, they are bad. Like literally painful to watch bad.
There was a game against Maryland in 2018 where Meyer collapsed on the sideline. The Ohio State coach had his head in his hands as he got to his knees. He should have left the game, but stayed on the sideline in obvious pain.
Clearly, at least in my opinion, the guy has some serious health problems. More cynical college football fans will point out that Meyer’s issues seem to rear their head just as things look like they are starting to go south.
Now, I tell you all of this to explain the Rinaldi connection. Tom Rinaldi, in his role as College GameDay’s resident tear-inducing reporter, was made into something of a mouthpiece for the Meyer family. Whenever Urban did something that made most of us scratch our heads, there was Tom Rinaldi, his soft focus lens, and a string and woodwind heavy music bed ready to file a story.
Rinaldi was there to lob softballs at Meyer when questions arose about just how much the head coach knew about the abuse Courtney Smith suffered at the hands of her ex-husband, Meyer’s wide receivers coach Zach Smith.
But there is one story that is a favorite of the sports media when it comes to Urban Meyer. And because Rinaldi had the role he did at ESPN and because ESPN covers SO MUCH college football, it is one Rinaldi has done a lot.
Urban Meyer, like so many football coaches at so many levels, is addicted to all that comes along with being a coach – the competition, the control, the routine. That’s why he walks away from jobs saying that he intends to take a significant break to get healthy and then gets right back to work a year or two later.
In the past this resulted in his daughter making him sign a contract before he returned to the sidelines. Meyer had to agree, in writing, that he would prioritize his health and his family, and he would walk away if the stress of the job created a scene like the one on the sidelines on that October day in Maryland.
I know this because I have seen the tear-jerker Tom Rinaldi story. A lot.
I am skeptical of just how long the “long haul” is for Urban Meyer and the Jaguars. I wish the guy well, because he clearly wrestles with what he loves vs. how he feels and now he is entering a world with no practice or time restrictions. This really doesn’t feel like a smart move for Urban Meyer, but at the same time, I get why he made it. And I would bet there are smart people in Jacksonville viewing this as “we have a five year window to make the most of Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence”.
You don’t need me to tell you that Tom Rinaldi is a well-respected reporter and that he is very good at his job. His track record speaks for itself and the new contract he just landed at FOX is proof that he has the respect of his bosses, peers, and viewers.
The NFL is a new challenge and a new chapter for Urban Meyer. It would be so tempting to tell an old story to a new audience. It’s not something FOX, Tom Rinaldi, or anyone else has to do.
Please, do not tell us the same story when the 2021 NFL season kicks off. Don’t tell us about his family’s concerns for Urban Meyer’s health, because we’ve heard it. It’s only half of a complicated story.
Asking The Right Questions Helps Create Interesting Content
Asking questions that can get a subject to talk about their feelings is a much better way to get an interesting answer.
When ESPN’s Mike Greenberg interviewed Paolo Banchero in the lead-up to the NBA lottery on Tuesday, he asked what I’ve concluded is the single most maddening question that can be asked of any athlete preparing for any draft.
“Why do you believe you should be No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft?” Greenberg said.
Before I point out exactly why I have such a visceral reaction to such a harmless question, I want to point out the positives because Greenberg’s question avoids some of the most common pitfalls:
1) It is an actual question. That’s not as automatic as you think given the number of poor souls who are handed a microphone and say to their subject, “Talk about (whatever issue they want a quote or a sound bite on).” This is the mark of an amateur, creating the opening for an uncooperative subject to slam the door by saying, “What do you want me to say?”
2) Greenberg’s question can not be answered with a yes or a no. Questions that start with the word “Can you …” or “Did you …” may sound like they’re tough questions for the subject, but they’re actually fairly easy if the subject wants to offer an answer. Now, most interview subjects won’t take that one-word exit, but some will in a touchy situation.
The problem with Greenberg’s question has to do with the result. Why do we ask questions of the athletes we cover? Seriously. That’s not rhetorical. What’s the goal? It’s to get interesting answers. At least that’s the hope whether it’s for a quote that will be included in a story, a sound bite to be replayed later or — like in this situation — during an interview that is airing live. The question should be engineered to elicit interesting content, and there was very little chance that the question Greenberg asked Banchero was going to produce anything close to that.
I know that because I have heard some version of this question asked hundreds of times. That’s not an exaggeration. I attended the NFL scouting combine annually for a number of years, and if a player wasn’t asked why he should be the first overall pick, he’d get asked why he should be a first-round pick or why he should be one of the first players chosen at his position. Never — in all that time — have I ever heard what would be considered an interesting or informative answer. In my experience, players tend to talk in incredibly general terms about their own abilities and then seek to compliment their peers in an effort to avoid coming off as cocky.
Here’s how Banchero answered Greenberg’s question: “Yeah, thank you all for having me, first off., I feel like I’m the number one pick in the draft because I’m the best overall player. I feel like I check all the boxes whether it’s being a great teammate, being the star player or doing whatever the coach needs. I’ve been a winner my whole life. Won everywhere I’ve went, and when I get to the NBA, that’s going to be the same goal for me. So just combining all those things, and knowing what I have to work on to be better is a formula for me.”
There’s nothing wrong with answer just as there was nothing wrong with the question. It’s just that both are really, really forgettable. ESPN did put a clip on YouTube with the headline “Paolo Banchero: I’m the best overall player in the NBA Draft | NBA Countdown” but I think I’m the only who will remember it and that’s only because I’m flapping my arms and squawking not because there was anything bad per se, but because there was nothing really good, either.
First of all, I’m not sure why it matters if Banchero thinks he should be the number one overall pick. He’s not going to be making that decision. The team that holds the top draft pick — in this case Orlando — is. Here’s a much better question: “How important is it for you to be the number one overall pick?” This would actually give an idea of the stakes for Banchero. What does this actually mean to him? Asking him why he should go number one is asking Banchero to tell us how others should see him. Asking Banchero how important it would be go number one is asking him to tell us about his feelings, something that’s much more likely to produce an interesting answer.
The point here isn’t to question Greenberg’s overall competence because I don’t. He’s as versatile a host as there is in the game, and anyone else in the industry has something to learn from the way he teases ahead to content. What I want to point out not just how we fail to maximize opportunities to generate interesting content, but why. Interviews are a staple of the sports-media industry. We rely on these interviews as both primary content that will be consumed directly, and as the genesis for our own opinions and reaction yet for all that importance we spend very little time thinking about the kind of answer this question is likely to produce.
The Client Just Said YES, Now What?
We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.
One of the most significant moments in radio sales is when the client agrees to your proposal and says YES. But, when they do say YES, do you know what’s next? We better have an answer!
We spend a lot of time getting ready for clients with research, spec spots (thank you, radio sales trainer Chris Lytle-go to 22:30), proposals, and meetings. All of our focus is on getting the client to say YES. We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES. For example, getting newer sales reps to sell annual advertising contracts would be ideal for building a list. They would have less pressure, more job security, and could spend more time making the advertising work for their clients. But, since most newer reps don’t know the business yet, they don’t bite off more than they can chew and sell a package of the month.
When a client says yes to the weight loss promotion, it’s pretty clear how to write the ads, what the promos will say, etc. BUT, if a newer sales rep starts selling annual contracts to a direct local client who needs a resource, how will that work? Let’s make sure we paint the picture right upfront. More experienced reps know that they need to assume the client will say YES to the weight loss promo and have a plan accordingly.
They have the next steps to building copy and promos, a credit app or credit card payment form, and any other detail the client must provide. But, when we ask a direct local client for an annual advertising contract, watch out! You have just made a partnership. Why not lay out, upfront, what that will look like. And I understand not every local client needs the same level of service.
A car dealer has the factories pushing quarterly promotions, agencies producing ads, and in-house marketing directors pulling it all together sometimes. Other clients need your help in promotions, copywriting, or idea generation. Make a plan upfront with your client about when you will meet to discuss the next quarter’s ad program. Include your station’s promotions or inventory for football and basketball season, a summer NTR event, digital testimonials with on-air talent, etc., in your annual proposal. Go out as far as you can and show what you have to offer to the client and how you can execute it. This exercise is good for you and, once mastered, guides the client on how you will take care of them after the sale. It also opens your eyes to what it takes to have a successful client partnership inside and outside the station.
Media Noise – Episode 74
This week, Demetri is joined by Ian Casselberry and Ryan Brown. Demetri talks about the NBA Draft getting an ABC simulcast, Ian talks about Patrick Beverley’s breakout week on TV, and Ryan reminds us that Tom Brady may be the star, but Kevin Burkhardt is the story we shouldn’t forget.