Our biggest strength can also be our biggest weakness. One of the qualities that made former NFL quarterback Brett Favre so great is that he was a risk-taker. Favre’s aggressiveness is a huge reason why he’s a three-time league MVP, has a Super Bowl ring, and is one of only four quarterbacks to throw 500+ career touchdown passes. Of course you know the rest of the story. Due to Favre’s gambling ways, he also leads the league in career interceptions with 336. That’s a whopping 59 more interceptions than the next guy in line, George Blanda.
Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul provides another example of a strength also being a weakness. Paul is one of the best point guards of all time. He unexpectedly led his team to the doorstep of an NBA title this year. CP3’s intensity and great competitiveness have directly fueled his solid career. However, that intensity and competitive fire are the same qualities that have alienated some of his ex-teammates like James Harden and Blake Griffin.
We know that what works for us can also work against us. But it’s not good enough to shrug our shoulders like, “Hey, you win some and lose some.” If we can identify and minimize our biggest flaw, we’ll be in a much better position to succeed.
I recently conducted Q&A interviews with sports radio heavyweight Mike Golic and Seattle rising star Stacy Rost. This sounds like a shameless promotion for Barrett Sports Media, or at the very least a humble brag, but it’s really not. I don’t think. Golic and Rost made comments that caused me to look at ego a little differently.
First off, saying that ego is involved in sports radio is like saying that water is wet and concerts are loud. It’s obviously a big part of the industry. Ego can be your best friend or your worst enemy as a sports radio host. The comments from Golic and Rost highlight the areas where ego is helpful and hurtful.
Mike Golic has been a sports radio free agent since his reign at ESPN ended just over a year ago. I wondered if Golic finds it baffling that another company hasn’t carved out a prime position for him yet. He told me, “Does everybody have an ego and would love the networks to give you their top spot? Well sure, but that’s unrealistic.”
Keeping your ego in check is step one of ego maintenance. Golic is telling his ego that it’s not allowed to do the thinking for him. That’s very important. If he allowed his ego to take over and say, “You’re a beast, Golic. How are these companies going to disrespect you like that? You should be back in morning drive by now.” What would those thoughts lead to? Anger, frustration, and impatience. None of those things will cause an employer to open a door either. It’s useful to tell your ego to shut up when it’s leading you down the wrong path.
Ego isn’t all bad though. Stacy Rost said something that caused me to look closer at the benefits of having an ego. “The most important thing you can do as a radio host is be confident and think your opinion matters and people should hear it,” Rost said. “It’s this weird kind of thing that might not always play in real life if you were with your friends, and it makes for a fantastic radio host. Someone who’s confident, thinks he or she has something to say, and everyone needs to hear it right away. But that’s the stuff that draws people to you. It’s like a magnet.”
She’s right. Her thought also ties to the very definition of ego — a person’s sense of self-importance. Ego is the only way you can think everyone needs to hear your opinion. This is where it helps. There is a peacock quality — a look at me element — that benefits radio hosts. We can’t tippy toe around and command attention. Pro wrestlers typically don’t have meek personalities. Think of Stone Cold Steve Austin cracking open cold ones, having convulsions on the top rope, giving double-bird salutes, and driving a beer truck inside Pepsi Arena in Albany, New York. That’s not exactly a meek approach.
A pro wrestler doesn’t crack the mic and timidly say, “I’ve got some things on my mind. Maybe you’d like to hear them. I don’t know, maybe not.” That wrestler oozes confidence. Radio hosts need to exude the same. There is a showmanship quality in sports radio. It’s the entertainment world; you’re literally putting on a show. It doesn’t mean hosts have to be bouncing off the walls like Ric Flair or Macho Man Randy Savage as if they drank nine pots of coffee, but coming across like people need to hear your opinion is a winning approach.
Ego is like those warning labels that say handle with care. Caution and good judgment are needed to use it properly. Ego can be off-putting. It can also cause you to get lazy. Mike Tyson was once the baddest man on the planet. He didn’t think he had to do the dirty work leading up to a fight in 1990 against Buster Douglas. Turns out he was wrong. Like really wrong. Tyson was knocked down for the first time in his career, then knocked out, and lost his heavyweight crown in the process. Do you think there are one or two (or 200) sports radio hosts that have gotten lazy due to ego? Refer back to Tyson. It doesn’t end well.
For every horror story involving ego, there is an opposite example of an immensely successful rapper that brags about being around the prettiest women and driving the nicest cars. Ego isn’t automatically a bad thing; it all depends how it’s utilized. Ego can fuel success and also destroy potential. It’s about identifying where ego helps and where it hinders.
Imagine if Brett Favre and Chris Paul were able to minimize their biggest weakness while maintaining their biggest strength. Success city. They would’ve been unstoppable. Believe it or not there are fiery leaders that don’t royally tick off their teammates, and risk-taking quarterbacks that don’t turn the ball over as much as Favre. It could’ve happened. That’s the challenge for all of us; identifying what helps and hurts us most, then weeding out the bad stuff while maintaining the good.
For sports radio hosts, ego can be a major asset. It also has the potential to be your biggest weakness. Don’t extinguish ego; point it in the right direction.
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.