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The BSM Staff Celebrates 20 Years Of PTI

“Say what you will about Stephen A. Smith and First Take, it was Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon that truly kicked off the “embrace debate” era of sports talk.”

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Where does the time go?

That is a sentiment usually reserved for a cousin’s child’s graduation: hollow but wistful. It’s a nice way to acknowledge that you don’t really have the history with someone or something, while at the same time acknowledging that you could have had that history if you made an effort.

Today, “where does the time go?” is a question worth asking, because Friday, October 22, marks the 20th anniversary of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption. Say what you will about Stephen A. Smith and First Take, it was Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon that truly kicked off the “embrace debate” era of sports talk. If you are of a particular age, the fact that this show is turning 20 probably hits you in a very particular way.

Tony Kornheiser Reveals Who He Thinks Should Take Over Pardon The  Interruption
Courtesy: ESPN

Pardon the Interruption simultaneously seems like it has always been on and like it just started last year. ESPN has previously celebrated with a documentary and a podcast series. Now, the BSM columnists have assembled to reflect on Mike, Tony, the show and what it has meant to our industry.


PTI has a nostalgic effect on me. When I think about the show, it immediately brings me back to my childhood and the early stages of my love of sports. From that standpoint, what Tony and Michael have accomplished really means something to me. Shows on ESPN have come and gone but this was has enjoyed longevity. Why? Great chemistry is everything.” – Tyler McComas

“What I love most about PTI is the mixture of silly and serious. From opening jokes about Uranus to adult topics about race, PTI’s formula is the original Inside the NBA; the hosts can be serious and they can also make you laugh. PTI is also a great example that evolving isn’t always necessary. The show is straightforward; a 95 mph fastball down the heart of the plate. It’s two crotchety — yet lovable — dudes bickering about sports like grumpy old men in quick-hitting fashion. It works. And if the wheel works, there’s no reason to reinvent it.” – Brian Noe

“From the masks, to the sound effects, to the two main protagonists making fun of each other, I really enjoyed PTI for a while. I think they may have invented the “rundown” graphic on the side of the screen to show you what was coming next. It was a cool way to follow the show. Mike and Tony played off each other so well in the early days of the show. When they were in the studio together the show was at its best. They both know their sports and each had a different, yet entertaining, way to present it all.” – Andy Masur

Courtesy: ESPN

“Truth be told, I’ve never seen an episode of Pardon the Interruption.  For years, I thought PTI was a crime show on CBS but then realized that esteemed journalists Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon hosted this sports debate show.  I have always respected the careers of both of them, and respect the opinions they either wrote about or said on the radio.

“Still, I never understood who its audience was. I never watched TV as an adult in the late afternoon. While they are too smart to be the drivel that a show like First Take would prattle on about, it still never felt like appointment television to me.

“When I learned they were celebrating their 20th anniversary, it recalled a time when ESPN was the king, when sports radio was a blooming business, and no one ever heard of a podcast or streaming service. Bravo on their longevity, even if I was never their target demo.” – Seth Everett

“I’m not too fond of shallow sports takes, but I do like funny ones. And that’s what has always appealed to me about PTI. Kornheiser especially has over-the-top east coast humor that has occasionally made me laugh out loud. At the same time, generic two-sentence sports takes aren’t great. BUT, I don’t think there is one sports news event that would make me want to tune in those two for a hot take anyway. The format lends itself to mindless background noise with an occasional laugh, that’s it. But that’s why I watch it. And I like funny guys in their 60’s and 70’s. Same with newspaperman Woody Paige, who stunts on Around the Horn. It’s FUNNY, and I get a few headlines of the day. NEXT!” – Jeff Caves

PTI used to be comfort food TV for me as a sports fan, that’s where I went at the end of the day to see if my sports opinions aligned with what the pros thought. In its infancy, it felt like a one-of-a-kind show. But now, to be honest, I forgot it was still running. 

“It amazes me that the show is still on the air with all of the new and somewhat innovative shows that have been spawned from the PTI’s of the world. And on top of it, they haven’t changed anything! From the theme music, to the silly banter at the start/end of the show, to Tony saying “welcome to PTI boys and girls”. In a world that is every evolving, this show is exactly the same. I can’t tell if I admire or detest that to be honest.” – Brandon Kravitz

How many home runs will A-Rod finish with? - ESPN Video
Courtesy: ESPN

“I wish I was clever enough to be the first one to call PTI ‘the show America watches on treadmills and at airplane bars.’ It is the perfect tribute to the ubiquitous nature of the show. You don’t have to go looking for PTI. PTI will find you. When we talk about the individual shows that have defined ESPN since its inception, SportsCenter may be the only one you would mention before it.” – Demetri Ravanos

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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