It has been a long time since I watched a professional wrestling match. It has been even longer since I was emotionally invested in wrestling. The last time I paid for a pay-per-view, I was in college and I believe Billy Gunn was the Intercontinental Champion.
I tell you all of this to say, it is 100 percent okay to take my opinion on the events of the past weekend with a grain of salt. But trust me, there is a larger point here that is related to media and competition more than it is to the squared circle.
Friday night, my Twitter timeline probably looked a lot like yours. There were dozens, maybe even hundreds of tweets about CM Punk making his debut for AEW on the company’s new Friday show.
No one was surprised. This was the worst kept secret in all of sports media. Again, I remind you, it has been 20 years since I have watched wrestling and I knew this was coming.
The overall tenor of the tweets was that shock and awe be damned. Fans were just happy to see an icon that walked away from the industry at or near the very top of his influence back in the ring. It was undeniably a win for AEW. The promotion may still be playing second fiddle to the WWE, but this was just another reminder – probably the best one yet – that it is the most formidable foe Vince McMahon has faced in the 21st century.
The WWE boss never likes to be out of the spotlight. If you know anything at all about wrestling, it’s that Vince wants you talking about the WWE every second of every day. If you think about the sport at all, he wants only images of his talent and events dancing in your head. There was no way he was going to let a rival promotion and wrestler that bashed him repeatedly over his philosophy on the business end the weekend with a win.
This is where we can bring this discussion back into the mainstream.
As I saw tweets coming out of WWE’s Summerslam, I couldn’t help but wonder if it is always necessary to counter a rival’s big moment. Sometimes, isn’t it smarter for a brand to just tip its cap to the competition and live to fight another day?
The Summerslam pay-per-view is one of WWE’s “Big Four” events. Knowing how important it is to McMahon, you can bet he had plans going into the show. The fact that he had a chance to steal some thunder from AEW and CM Punk was just an added bonus.
WWE surprised fans during the show with the return of Becky Lynch, who had been out of action for about 15 months to give birth and spend time with her child. Becky, one of the WWE’s most popular female characters ever, came in and quickly won the women’s title. The WWE did it again later in the night too, surprising fans with the return of Brock Lesnar, who hadn’t seen action since April 2020.
I say this while fully acknowledging that both Lynch and Lesnar could murder me if given the chance: who cares?
Becky was expected to come back to the WWE. The only question was when. Lesnar on the other hand had been gone from the promotion for a while and nobody knew if he’d return, even though he had come and gone multiple times before. On another note, doesn’t Brock have a reputation for being so boring that someone else has to talk for him?
To put those reveals up against the return of CM Punk is just flushing them down the toilet. There was just no way the WWE was going to be able to compete with AEW’s heat in that moment.
There are absolutely times where a competing station or competing show makes a move and the best thing you can do is counter it with something to steal a little TSL. Then there are times where what you are up against is so big, that the right play is to hold your best cards to play another day.
There’s just no sense in playing a Pikachu and Zekrom tag team if your opponent has already put down a Reshiram and Charizard tag team. (My kids are trying to teach me to play Pokémon.)
That is kind of what happened to Vince McMahon and WWE. He was already beat and still decided to throw down his best hand. Imagine the headlines the WWE could have won if they had waited a week or a month to make the same move.
It sucks to sometimes have to step back and let the competition take a win. In reality though, what can you do in the moment if the other sports station in town is about to announce a new deal with the local NFL team or bring in a superstar talent? Any bit of news you throw out will land on either deaf ears or no ears at all.
Of course, you still work on a counter to the competition’s big move, but be smart and think big. If the other brand has done something that turns your competition on its ear temporarily and you don’t have a surefire counterpunch, lay back. Don’t waste big news when the competition is owning the news cycle. That big news you’re holding on to can be a bigger winner if you just wait a little bit. You may think you’ll get credit for moving swiftly, but if it isn’t enough credit to win the day, why move before you have to?
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.