Joc Pederson and Tommy Pham provided sports media and fandom with an unexpected surprise last Friday night (May 27), adding some sizzle to a holiday weekend that included the Indianapolis 500 and a Game 7 between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals.
But the most entertaining and absurd sports story involved two Major League Baseball players that had nothing to do with anything on the field. Well, “on the field” meaning “during a game.” The incident in question did actually occur on the Great American Ballpark field in Cincinnati during batting practice.
If you unplugged from sports over Memorial Day weekend or still aren’t following the MLB season closely, the Reds’ Pham slapped Pederson across the face before Friday’s game versus the Giants.
Reports quickly circulated that the incident stemmed from a fantasy football league in which Pham and Pederson were both involved last season. Really. In reporting the story, The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosecrans and Andrew Baggarly wrote sentences and compiled quotes they likely never would’ve imagined typing out during their sportswriting careers.
“The beef, Pederson said, stems from a fantasy football argument,” Rosecrans and Baggarly wrote. “According to Pederson, Pham accused Pederson of cheating because he was ‘stashing players on my bench.’ Pederson said he looked up the rules the league used and he was in the right. Disagreements ensued on a group text for the league, which sources said, includes MLB players from several teams.”
This wasn’t from The Onion. It wasn’t a fictitious story created for April Fool’s Day.
One major-league player slapping another was a serious enough matter for the Giants to request that Pham be taken out of Friday’s lineup, which the Reds agreed to after a two-hour rain delay. Eventually, MLB announced that Pham was being suspended for three games.
It’s sometimes said that sports echo everyday life. Skills need to be developed to succeed. Dues must be paid to earn higher positions. Struggles can’t always be overcome. Yet working through such obstacles and learning from mistakes can lead to triumph.
Here, we have a much less lofty, less resonant example of sports resembling real-life occurrences. This was a clash of personalities. A lack of decorum. An act of violence. Earlier this year, another slap dominated news and pop culture when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on stage at the Academy Awards. What many initially thought was a gag because it seemed so preposterous turned out to be shockingly real.
A baseball player slapping an opponent because of a dispute in a fantasy football league seemed nonsensical. Yet as Pederson revealed to reporters as they pursued the story further, the sequence of events that led to the slap turned out to be ludicrously real. He still had a record of the group text exchange which upset Pham on his phone.
Part of the group chat included a GIF making fun of the San Diego Padres, with whom Pham played last season. Projected to be a top contender in the National League and possible challenger to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West, the Padres performed far below expectations. The team eventually finished with a 79-83 record and 28 games behind the Giants.
Naturally, there were two sides to this story. So what was Pham’s view of the situation? He didn’t dispute Pederson’s account of their dispute. But according to the Mercury News‘s Evan Webeck, Pham’s issue was with the money he believed Pederson cost him. The dig at the Padres’ performance inflamed the situation.
However, in attempting to show how serious he was about betting money in fantasy sports and gambling, Pham provided an unintentionally hilarious quote.
“I’m a big dog in Vegas,” Pham said. “I’m a high roller at many casinos.”
With that “high roller” line, Pham sounded like the character Will Ferrell played in a 1998 Saturday Night Live skit, boasting that he deserves respect from his family because he’s a division manager in charge of 29 people who drives a Dodge Stratus.
Yet as funny as the quote is, it also reveals an insight into Pham’s personality. He takes himself so seriously that a teasing joke was viewed as a personal affront. And just like Will Smith did at the Oscars, he resorted to violence as a defense. Both showed themselves to be irrational bordering on unhinged, and both were suspended for their conduct.
That’s the grim undertone to what is still a crazy story. Pham slapping Pederson likely would have received more attention had it not occurred on a Friday night going into a holiday weekend. This could be quickly forgotten as the sports news cycle keeps churning with the NBA Finals coming up and baseball season moving on.
But as sports radio and TV catch up on what hosts and fans may have missed over the past three days, this incident could gain more life. “What’s the craziest thing that happened in your fantasy league?” or “What’s the angriest you’ve ever gotten over fantasy sports and why?” are two topics that could pop up for discussion this week.
And if that happens, Tommy Pham and Joc Pederson will have done sports media a favor. Nothing helps create better content than the absurd.
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.