Bad seasons are tough on everyone. Management, coaches, fans and yes, broadcasters. It’s why I never understood a player’s rational when saying “you are rooting against us”. Um, no, I’m not. It’s just hard to sugarcoat what isn’t happening on the field. But as the old saying in baseball goes, “you can’t fire 26 players, so you fire the manager.” That’s usually what happens. With the money being paid to some coaches/managers, the front office will let it play out. In other words, not a quick hook, more of a delaying of the inevitable. Social media adds fuel to the fire and whips a fanbase into a frenzy. Pundits will place that coach/manager on the “hot seat” and that typically puts everyone on guard and unsure how to deal with that person.
How should you prepare for an interview or a production meeting with a coach/manger on the hot seat? Go in with the understanding that, yes, this individual knows what’s going on already. Even if he/she says, “I don’t read the papers or listen to the radio,” they have someone who does. So, don’t beat around the bush, just get right to it. They are pretty well in tune with the fact that seat he/she is sitting on is indeed hot. Don’t make it the “elephant” in the room, but don’t add fuel to the fire. Allow this person to explain where they are coming from, you may get a better understanding with what that coach/manager is going through. He or she may have a good explanation for some of the moves made, plays called and roster moves made. Give them that opportunity. Now you’ll have their side, right from the mouth of that ‘hot seat sitter’ to allow you to have another angle to the situation.
It’s a different story if you are a local team broadcaster. You have to walk that fine line, since you and the coach are probably employed by the same people. You will likely see this person every day. The fine line is between acknowledging what is going on without erring on the side of “team shill.”
Most fans will be quick to tell you that you’re the latter, but don’t let that affect how you do your job. It’s hard to cover up the truth and you probably shouldn’t do that. Also, as a broadcaster you are likely privy to some things that are going on behind the scenes. Like a player that refuses to play a certain position, or an injury to a key member of the team that he/she is playing through. All of these things limit what a coach/manager can do, but it’s not information you can divulge. It’s sucks, because you’d like nothing better than to identify the problems, but that would open up a whole new can of worms for you. So how can it be explained? How can it be handled? Facts tell the story. Your listeners will appreciate it and you at the same time won’t be betraying any trusts.
For an example in today’s world, living in Chicago, we’re going through the pains of watching the Bears play. Head Coach Matt Nagy is probably on the hottest seat in the NFL right now. He’s a nice guy, very pleasant to deal with. He’s likeable. But he’s not getting it done. I can see it. You can see it.
It’s easy to go for the low hanging fruit, especially when a team is struggling. It feeds a rabid fan base, but if you’re calling games, you can’t do it. Rather than saying his play calling is “inept” or “he needs to give up the play sheet”, let the obvious numbers tell the story. You’ll need to prepare for these things. Figure out a softer way to express things, or just go to the numbers. Something like, “the Chicago Bears are ranked 32nd in total offense, have allowed the most sacks in the NFL and have averaged only, ‘this many points’, so far.” You are protected. These are stats readily available to everyone. Let the fans draw their own conclusions.
Working in Chicago for as long as I have, I can speak from experience in what it’s like to deal with someone on the hot seat. I got to know two managers pretty well along the way here in town, both were let go as the team was under performing. There was no denying what was likely inevitable. That doesn’t mean you have to treat the situation or the person any differently than you did before. Getting labeled as a ‘front runner’ or somebody that’s with you ‘win or tie’ isn’t a good thing. Especially in our line of work as broadcasters. Covering losses are not a lot of fun for anyone, trust me. Losses put extra pressure on everyone and affect people’s livelihoods. Respect for the human being is of utmost importance. Just because that person is losing games, doesn’t mean that individual is a loser. They are the same person they were during winning times, so why should you change your tune as well?
What the fanbase doesn’t understand is this sponge of ire is a person. We as broadcasters get to know the leader as a person as well as a coach. You’ve met these people’s families, friends and mentors. So, you are seeing this person for what they really are, a human being with feelings. They don’t like losing. They don’t like the negative things being said about them. Fans see nothing of the sort. They see someone not capable of leading their team to glory. I get it.
Now, just because you know someone on a personal level, doesn’t give the situation a free pass. They just deserve to be treated fairly. One of the greatest compliments I got working in baseball, was by a manager who knew he wouldn’t be back the following year. He’d suffered through a couple of tough seasons. One day late in his final year, he called me into his office. I had no idea why he wanted to see me. I walked in and he shook my hand and invited me to sit down. He wanted to tell me how much he appreciated how I handled our relationship. He understood that I had to tell the truth on the air because it was my job. The thing that surprised me though was his expression of gratitude for the way I approached things. He said, ‘you were the same guy to me, whether we were winning or losing, and that goes a long way with me. I’ll never forget it.’ I was blown away, but proud at the same time.
Stay true to yourself not just as a broadcaster, but as a person in these situations. Just because everybody else is taking shots, doesn’t mean you have too as well. It goes back to treating someone like you’d like to be treated. Fans are sometimes irrationally passionate and turn some professional moments into personal ones. Being critical of someone’s work is one thing, it comes with the territory. Coaches that get into the profession understand that they will be questioned about play calls, lineups and general decisions. Keep that in mind as you’re discussing a coach’s future on the air during a game. Don’t let it get personal. Things can get heated at times, but stay above the fray. Remember, ultimately, it’s not your decision to make whether or not the coach is fired. Stick to the facts and let the other noise come from somewhere else.
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.