Football season is like sports radio’s version of Shark Week. Sure, we have great shows on other times of the year, but this is when we shine and when even casual listeners will spend a little extra time with us. Add to that the importance of the fall book in diary markets, and a lot rides on football season.
Every station is starting to think about the very best content they can do to take advantage of all the new ears. That is why I thought I would talk to producers for today’s story.
Rarely are interviews a bad thing in sports radio. When it comes to football though, there is an extra emphasis placed on getting the people that have the information on your airwaves. It is true no matter your market’s obsession – college football or the NFL.
So many stations are trying to fill their shows with content based on the same stories. It isn’t a surprise that a lot of the same guests pop up all over the place. ESPN stations try to get a few minutes with Adam Schefter and Field Yates for NFL content or Paul Finebaum and Kirk Herbstreit to talk college football, CBS Sports Radio stations reach out to Tiki Barber, and everyone calls Greg Cosell.
There is nothing wrong with these guests. They are all incredibly good at what they do. That is why so many people want their time.
What we do here at BSM though is ask stations to look at their habits and problems differently. With that in mind, I thought I would try to diversify your contact list a bit. I asked producers from around the country to give me the name of a great guest for football season that isn’t as well-known as some of the go-tos, but is guaranteed great radio.
“I have two criteria,” says Dan Matthews, who produces The Chuck Oliver Show, which is syndicated across the Southeast. “Is their information good? Are they good on-air? Seems simple enough, but I think people get so caught up in ‘I’ve got to have the name.’ If your show is good enough, you can make them into a name. The greatest compliment we can get from other show producers/hosts is ‘wow, that guest was really good. Do you have their number?'”.
Sam Freas produces Mike Taylor on Ticket 760 in San Antonio. He wants people across the country to know one of Texas’s great football writers. He says there is no one he learns more about football from than Rick “Goose” Gosselin.
“If you grew up in North Texas, you already know how much more Rick Gosselin knows about football than you,” he says. “It starts with his uncanny ability to identify talent and skillsets that fit the ever-shifting landscape of the league. Bill Belichick credits him for suggesting Julian Edelman would make a good slot receiver! But what really translates over the airwaves during an interview is his authentic, masters level understanding of the league’s history, as well as its boardroom politics and inner-workings.”
Gosselin is far from an unknown. He is in the writer’s wing of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I think most people don’t realize how valuable he is when talking about the pro game in its entirety. If the rest of the nation views him as only “a Cowboys guy,” they are missing out.
Brandon Flowers (the defensive back, not the lead singer of The Killers) was a fan favorite during his time in Kansas City. Ryan Witkoski, who produces Fescoe in the Morning on the city’s 610 Sports, said getting Flowers on was a no-brainer. What he wasn’t prepared for was how seriously Flowers took the opportunity.
“From the jump we were blown away by how polished he was very early as he made the transition to broadcasting,” Witkowski told me. “He always offered great stories and insight about the current week’s opponent and was up to speed on everything happening in the NFL. Brandon was never shy about giving his opinion either, and would occasionally pick against the Chiefs. He is also young enough to have played with some of the guys in the league, so he would offer firsthand knowledge most of the time as well. We went into the season thinking nostalgia would rope some listeners in & walked away believing Brandon has a legit future analyzing the NFL.”
The Chiefs’ divisional rivals in Denver dominate much of the football conversation on Altitude Sports Radio. When I asked Dan Tanner, producer of Harris, Hastings, and Dover, who was a guest that he wanted more stations to know about, he highlighted the voice of a different team.
“We have Vikings play by play voice Paul Allen on a few times a year during the NFL season,” he told me via text message. “Paul provides great insight to the team and brings great information to our listeners. Paul also has a great connection with one of our hosts Ryan Harris, both being from Minnesota. Paul is great for NFL discussions and occasionally a little hockey talk as well.”
There are plenty of college football and NFL options there. In addition to names, you also got some new ideas for how to approach and where to look for new guests.
I would be remised if I didn’t mention some of my favorites. Michael Felder of Stadium knows more about college football than any human on Earth and is genuinely fun to talk to. Richard Johnson of the SEC Network has an infectious energy and deep understanding of both the Xs and Os of the game and of how people consume his content.
For the NFL, I remain forever a fan of Jonathan Jones, now with CBS Sports. When I was on air here in North Carolina, he covered the Panthers for the Charlotte Observer and always had the best stories from players to go along with his insight.
Remember that the old standbys earned their place on so many shows. There is no reason to steer totally clear of them. Now you have some new ideas, though. Use them and go out there and create great, unique radio this football season.
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.