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The Media Industry Pays Tribute To Kenny Mayne

Everyone has their guy on SportsCenter, and Kenny Mayne has been mine since I was 16 years old.

Demetri Ravanos

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Photo credit: Alamy

I was writing for a local entertainment blog around the time Tom Petty died. At that time, I wrote that no piece of clothing ever looked as cool on anyone as apathy looked on Tom Petty. The blog has since been taken down and my writing lost to the whims of internet history, so you’ll just have to trust me. The line really was that cool.

I was thinking about that column and that line when I heard that Kenny Mayne would be leaving SportsCenter. His final show aired on Monday and while there was plenty of emotion on air and support poured out on the internet, I couldn’t help but remember the apathy.

Kenny Mayne got moved to the 11 pm SportsCenter when I was in high school. The replay of that show is what I watched every morning as I put on my prep school uniform and literally dreaded the day in front of me. I wasn’t dumb. I just couldn’t muster up the energy to pretend to care about academics or understand how they were useful to me. I recognized a kindred spirit in Kenny.

When I say I remember the apathy, that is not to say that I don’t think Kenny Mayne cared if he did a good job or didn’t work hard. I just mean that the persona he presented on air was one of “I don’t care if you’re having fun. I am. You can come along for the ride or not. It doesn’t matter to me.”

It was charming in just how effortless it was. It was so funny because it was just so dumb. How had no one ever thought to shout YAHTZEE! during a home run highlight before?

Everyone has their guy on SportsCenter, and Kenny Mayne has been mine since I was 16 years old.

With that era finally at a close, I asked people from all around the sports media to share their favorite memories of Kenny Mayne. I asked former colleagues to share stories about how he made their time at ESPN better. I asked acolytes to tell me how he influenced them and what he meant to them. Here is some of what they had to say.

ADAM SCHEFTER – ESPN

Kenny Mayne might have influenced generations of aspiring broadcasters. Problem is, no matter how much they wanted to be like him, no one ever could. Kenny was too talented, too funny, too unique. There is no other Kenny Mayne, and never will be another one.

Kenny had a style all his own, all the way to his last SportsCenter appearance Monday night. He was the star of ESPN’s SportsCenter commercials, the face of the network at ad sales upfronts, and the man who entertained us for 26 years. Others will try to replace him, but no one ever will mimic him nor his success. He was, and always be, the wilder world of sports.

MIKE GOLIC – THE FAN EXAM

The thing about Kenny I loved the most, was not his great ability to tell us what was going on in the sports world, but the way he did it. He made it fun, you laughed, you were entertained.

I will also say I had him on my shows as a guest many times, and that is an experience, because you never know where he is going to go, but you eventually get there, and you were smiling all the way.

JOHN CLAYTON – Washington Post

I go back to the very beginning with Kenny. He worked at the TV station that was right next to my newspaper, the Tacoma News Tribune. I covered the Seahawks. I remember standing next to him watching Seahawks practice. He showed the letter he sent to ESPN about getting a job. The letter was funny, creative and caught everyone at the network by surprise. ESPN hired him for the start of ESPN 2.

He’s a star. His career was amazing. We’ll all miss him on the air but I will still see him because he lives eight miles away me in the Seattle area. 

MARK SCHLERETH – FOX SPORTS, 104.3 THE FAN

The first show every day with Kenny Mayne what is a SportsCenter…

I was new to the television broadcasting world as I had just retired several months previous to that show. It was the day Minnesota Vikings tackle Kory Stringer passed away and I had the task of talking about it on Air. Kenny could tell that I was nervous and he told me that everything will be OK just to speak from my heart.

I always appreciated his approach his sense of humor and it’s passion to help others. Kenny is a dear friend and a great mentor and one of the funniest/quirkiest humans on the planet.

Photo Credit: ESPN Images

JASON SMITHFOX SPORTS RADIO

I worked with Kenny for a long time on ESPN2’s Sports Night and then he was a frequent guest on my radio show. (Note – Kenny, I’m sorry I kept butchering the name of the web-site you had up and running to keep people updated on the book you were writing. Was it ‘kennymayneiswritingabook.com? Was it kennymaynehasabookcomingout.com? Something like that. I didn’t drive much traffic there. My bad. But that URL, I mean COME ON MAN.)

One time Kenny and I were on the same flight out of Hartford for Los Angeles. We sat a row from each other and talked for a bit but I fell asleep really fast and woke up when the flight attendant walked by us briskly and said ‘Put your trays up we’re landing in a few minutes.’ I was excited because I thought “Wow, I just slept all the way to L.A.!” Nope. The pilot announced our plane lost an engine, and we were diverting to Albany. It was white knuckle time for like 20 minutes, and Kenny kept his sense of humor all the way through it. I was wondering ‘Do I need to call my wife right now?’ And Kenny said to me ’These planes are all made to fly with one engine. It’s like getting a kidney taken out – you can do just fine with one. I wouldn’t recommend it but it’s live-able.’ 

We eventually land and Kenny (“Look, the rescue vehicles were a good hundred yards away in case we blew up!”) calls ESPN to say he wants to rent a car to drive BACK to Hartford to then fly out of there again for Los Angeles. Suffice it to say I don’t think the travel department was happy with that idea. When I asked him “Why don’t you just fly out of here on the next flight?” Kenny said “What’s the fun in that? I can get in a car and we’re RACING (His NASCAR catch-phrase) back to Hartford to see if I could make it in time!”

I should’ve taken that drive with Kenny. I’m going to miss him.

(*Checks internet, sees Kenny isn’t dying, only leaving ESPN.*)

Oh, I may see him soon here in L.A.! Nobu’s on you.

SEAN SALISBURY – SPORTSTALK 790

Most underrated talent I’ve ever been around. Much more clever than most anyone in the business and we all know it! Kenny, should be in our living rooms every night!  What a great friend and human! Top shelf! Networks should stand in line for his skills! Love him and wouldn’t miss this show! He’s been a great watch/listen! 

ADAM SCHEIN – SIRIUSXM, CBS SPORTS NETWORK

I love Kenny Mayne. I love his humor. I love his savvy. I love the way he delivers a highlight. You can tell how much he loves sports and loves being an anchor on SportsCenter.

The DP and Kenny Mayne team was incredible. His catch phrases were always the best. Mayne’s interviews were always great. The Marshawn one was my favorite. And I loved his love for his Seattle teams. One of my all time favorites! 

Photo Credit: Getty Images

TODD FRITZ – THE DAN PATRICK SHOW

I’ve always enjoyed watching Kenny Mayne co-host SportsCenter and his unique, creative style of delivering the day’s sports news. He had a great run at ESPN and I’m disappointed to see him go. I’m sure he will take it to the place of residence in his next endeavors. So bring him your finest meats and cheeses. After all, he’s good at sports broadcasting. Now I must go back to what I had been doing….whatever that was. 

DANNY PARKINS670 THE SCORE

Kenny Mayne changed the game. Anyone who ever felt a bit like an outsider but loved sports saw him as their guy. He did it his own way and had multiple generations of sports fans laughing and quoting his ridiculous wit. 

ZACH BYE – 104.3 THE FAN

Kenny Mayne always reminded me that sports are supposed to be fun. Sometimes we get caught up and make the toy isle of life way more serious and important than it actually is. Kenny Mayne never lost sight of that. His lightheartedness was both grounding and refreshing and will certainly be missed on ESPN. 

KYLE BAILEYWFNZ

Kenny Mayne showed me you could be different and work in this business. Specifically, Kenny showed us you didn’t have to be a classically trained, cookie cutter broadcaster to succeed in this industry (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but we all know the prototype).

He still commanded the studio and had a firm grasp on how to lead a broadcast, but he was quirky. He marched to a different beat. He was monotone but hilarious; dry but brilliant in his timing and delivery. Kenny disarmed his interviewees with an approach none of us were used to, and the athletes/coaches he interviewed seemed more at ease talking to Kenny.

ESPN is letting go of a legend, and I hope his career continues prominently elsewhere because my sports watching experience is better with Kenny Mayne apart of it. Thanks for the ride, Mayne.

News: Kenny Mayne, Berman, NHL hires and more - Sports Media Watch
Photo Credit: Kelly Backus/ESPN Images

NICK CATTLES – ESPN RADIO 94.1

At times I’ve had an issue with taking myself too seriously even though I’m working in sports talk radio. Kenny Mayne has been a constant reminder for almost three decades that this is fun. Enjoy it, laugh at yourself and remember things could be much worse. He’s entertained me for a long time and I look forward to seeing where he’s headed next. 

BRANDON KRAVITZFM 96.9 THE GAME

Kenny Mayne was a staple of my childhood. He was one of the first anchors I ever saw who so naturally infused humor into his updates. Kenny, in a way, made sports fun again. I think he changed the industry in TV/radio more than people realize, including myself. 

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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