Radio Row might as well be a ghost town. According to John Mamola, PD at 95.3 WDAE in Tampa, only 42 tables are available, 36 have been assigned and only six were in use as of Monday afternoon. No ESPN Radio, no FOX Sports Radio, no NFL Network Radio, just an eerie feeling in what’s supposed to be the biggest week in the industry.
However, just because the madness of Radio Row isn’t happening, that doesn’t mean the pursuit of great content and guests during Super Bowl week has stopped. 105.3 The Fan in Dallas has found a unique way to make sure it’s listeners are still getting the best coverage this week, even though the station isn’t broadcasting from Tampa. Instead, 105.3 The Fan is doing a virtual Radio Row from the confines of their own studio. The station is still having high-profile guests and great Super Bowl content, the only difference is they’ll be at home, rather than on the road.
“When we knew Radio Row wasn’t likely going to happen, we, as a group, sat down and decided we could do it ourselves and provide normalcy to our listeners,” said Gavin Spittle, VP of news, talk and sports for Entercom Dallas-Fort Worth. “We wanted to find a way to still have all the entertainment, fun and guests. We began reaching out to our contacts and they loved the idea. We’re very excited and going to try to replicate it as best we can.”
The guest lineup this week for 105.3 The Fan is just as impressive, if not moreso, than if the station was reaping the benefits of all the guests available during a normal year on Radio Row. NFL Hall of Famers such as Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, Michael Irvin and Mike Ditka are just some of the high-profile guests the station will feature this week, with many more to come.
The only drawback is, unlike Radio Row, all of the interviews will be done virtually and not face-to-face, which does take away a personal element of the interview. But being able to carefully select your own guests could be the major benefit of doing Radio Row virtually rather than on-site.
“I think over the years as you go to Radio Row, you tend to become more picky and selective about the guests you get,” said Spittle. “I think the focus of the conversation is going to be Cowboys, Chiefs and the Bucs. We have some guests, like Wade Boggs, Drew McIntyre WWE Champion and others. We’ll obviously talk sports, but we also like to have fun with the guests and that’s one of our biggest compliments when guests walk away. They tell us off the air how much they enjoy being on with us.”
Credit 105.3 The Fan for making the most out of a unique situation, but give them even more credit for making it profitable. Convincing a company to spend money on advertising during a pandemic isn’t easy, but it proves if you have a creative and unique idea, someone will be willing to buy.
“We have a title sponsor, https://mycomputercareer.edu, that said, ‘wow, great idea,’” said Spittle. “They’re a Dallas and national company that’s jumped on board. It’s exciting to create revenue and make money off a lot of people’s hard work. Tim Collins, my assistant program director, who goes to Radio Row every year, has done a fabulous job, along with some of the others in our building. It’s been a collaborative effort to create revenue.”
It’s likely that several stations from across the country will be listening to 105.3 The Fan this week to see how they pull off this creative venture. If the week goes extremely well and the station turns a big profit, both financially and in the ratings, it could pose an interesting question for radio executives across the country. Will it be smarter to save money and do Radio Row virtually, rather than shell out the money to send an entire station to the Super Bowl?
“That’s a tough question,” Spittle said. “I personally think sending people down there, when it’s applicable, you can go to press conferences, also the synergy between the hosts hanging out and appearing on other shows, I think that’s all necessary.
“We’re pivoting as a radio station. I say that because we have Spring Training coming up. We won’t be going but we’ll still be doing full coverage. We’re working with the Texas Rangers right now on interviews and Zoom calls, so we’re adapting with the times. If we just sit and say, well, we’ll just wait until it’s over, we’re probably behind the times. It’s tough to make that decision, but I know this, I’m really happy with the guest list we have and I know it’s going to be an exciting week, but you do always like to be there on the front lines. You want to show your listeners that when the biggest events are happening in the sports world, you’re a part of it.”
There’s no doubt a ton of collaboration has gone into creating the guest list this week at 105.3 The Fan. But what’s the one name the station really wanted to go after? Obviously, any former great with the Dallas Cowboys is a good place to start, but who’s the unicorn the station is trying to chase?
“That’s a great question, because we still have some great potential names that are coming in,” Spittle said. “I think the Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders combo is special. I think they’re both in our hearts, as far as football. From that standpoint, to me, it’s really cool. I would say those two are probably at the top of the list. I think a guy like Kevin Harlan, who you can just hangout with and talk about the NBA and the NFL. I think that’s awesome. The other thing, because of the years we’ve been down there, we try to be selective and say, OK, that guy is a good talker.”
If this unique and creative idea wasn’t enough, this week for 105.3 The Fan is even bigger with the release of the BSM Top 20 rankings. So far, so good for the station, as Shan and RJ were ranked the No. 6 Major Market morning show on Tuesday. Expect the station to rank high as more lists are released throughout the week.
“I think selfishly, you always want your guys at the top, because you see them grind every day,” Spittle said. “I personally look at it and then go back say, ok, why did this show have such a great year? You can learn from that.”
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.