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An Open Letter to JJ Redick

Danny O’Neil is rooting for JJ Redick in his new media role and has some advice to help him “flush” out some old media takes.

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JJ Redick

Dear JJ Redick:

Big fan here. Huge. Not of your playing career necessarily. I mean, I liked you as an NBA player. You were an incredible shooter and a meaningful component to some very good teams, but I have never rooted for Duke in my life. Not once, which is probably why it took me time to appreciate your pro career.

I’m a huge fan of the lane you’re driving in the media world, though. Have been from the jump, actually. I thoroughly enjoyed you fitting Chris Russo for a clown suit when it came to his opinion that America did not like Draymond Green. I also thoroughly enjoyed your boxing out of Stephen A. Smith earlier this week after he expressed the opinion that he was not a fan of Russell Westbrook attending the introduction of Darvin Ham.

“So you said a random, random take,” you said. “And then you explained a bunch of things about Russell Westbrook that had nothing to do with that take so I want clarification. What is your issue with Russell Westbrook being at that news conference?”

Awesome. You put him in a corner and forced him to talk his way out of that one.

You’re part of a players revolution in sports media. A revolution that will, in fact, be televised. Actually, that’s kind of the point with former players such as yourself and even current players like Green, C.J. McCollum, perhaps even Patrick Beverly becoming part of the industry whether it’s podcasts, stints on the studio shows that anchor event coverage or (increasingly) the debate shows that fill the morning programming on ESPN.

Let’s talk about that last role for a second. Because ESPN has taken to posting you up against an old man who yells at the clouds (Russo) and the slightly less old man known for his over-the-top bombast (Smith). It’s not as easy as people think to consistently disagree with your co-workers in public. It’s downright tricky when your co-workers have cartoonish or outdated opinions. So at the risk of coming off as a presumptuous dolt, I’d like to offer a few suggestions, and I think these can apply in general to broadcast debates.

1) Don’t use sarcasm.

I know it’s tempting. Feels good, too, doesn’t it? I chuckled earlier this week when you clapped back on Russo’s insinuation that you didn’t know how good the game of pro basketball used to be because of your age: “I did not have the luxury of watching in person the 1986 NBA Finals. OK. I’m at fault there.”

This did point out how silly Russo’s criticism was, but it actually doesn’t land as well in what is a debate, and it makes the next step awkward for everyone. Also, it lets your opponent off the hook because they’re not forced to explain their rationale.

2) The best offense is making them play defense.

Force your opponent to defend specific points. Point out the flaws in their logic or their assumptions, and make them address those. You did that earlier in that conversation with Russo when he argued that players today do not possess the same level of fundamental basketball skill as players from 20 years ago:

Russo: “Fundamentally they’re not as good. Because back in those days, Tim Duncan played four years in college. These guys don’t play four years of college basketball.”

Redick: “Fundamentally?”

Russo: “Fundamentally they’re not nearly as good.”

Redick: “Fundamentally? What game are you watching today, Chris? Honestly, what game are you watching?”

See, this is great. You made it clear that you think his point is ridiculous, but you’ve forced him to answer for his perspective on what he sees today. Watch where the conversation goes.

Russo: “You think anybody is a better fundamental player than Larry Bird? You think anybody is a better fundamental player than Larry Bird?”

Redick: “You’re bringing up a top-10 player of all-time.”

Russo: “You’re talking about the Golden State Warriors.”

Redick: “I’m talking about the average NBA player.”

3) Save your anger for serious stuff

I know it’s frustrating, JJ. Seriously, I get it. You’re being brought on to answer for any of the shortcomings — real and perceived — with today’s game. This week, it was Mike Greenberg and Smith on Get Up! expressing the opinion that today’s players whine too much.

Greenberg: “The softening of the game, a lot of it comes from the constant complaining to the officials, the constant whining, the constant selling of calls.”

Redick: “Michael Jordan didn’t complain to the officials? Larry Bird didn’t? C’mon guys?

“This nostalgia that you have for the ‘80s and the ‘90s, a great era of basketball. But it’s at the expense of our generation and it has been for the last 15 years. And it gets annoying. That’s annoying, Stephen A.”

All of that is really good. It’s great. The problem came later when Redick was visibly frustrated, shaking his head and turning away.

Smith: “Shake your head all you want to. We comprehend what you’re saying.”

Redick: “I’ll see you again in like an hour.”

Smith: “Are you sure? Are you sure? You gonna’ be ready?”

Redick: “Oh I’ll be ready. 10:55.”

Honestly, it’s an incredible tease, but the visible frustration and turning away from Smith were not only unnecessary, but made it uncomfortable.

4) Don’t apologize. At all. Ever.

When that 10:55 segment did roll around on Wednesday, Redick apologized if he went over the top. There was no need for a public apology. At all. Any issues in execution can be handled off the air. On the air, it’s a show. A live show, actually, and emotions are part of it. Play through those.

More than anything, don’t let up, man. Go hard in the paint. There’s a couple of generations of commonly recited talking points that need to be flushed out of sports media entirely, and you’re part of a group of former players who are poised to do it. I’ll be cheering you on!

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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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