I’m no stranger to snow having grown up in South Bend, Indiana. Not just a few flurries here and there, we’re talking full-blown, lake-effect, mom-it’s-hard-to-even-walk-in-this-snow kinda snow. A few feet following a blizzard was typical. Did it earn us a day off from school? Not normally. Just when you thought, “Alright, we’ve definitely got the day off today,” is when the school district distributors of pain laughed out our assumptions and told us school was open while laughing like Dr. Evil.
My Uncle Doug and Aunt Carol moved to Gallatin, Tennessee (just outside of Nashville) when I was a kid. My mom often told us that our cousins, Brenda and Char, got the day off from school although there was just one itty bitty inch of snow on the ground. My sister and I would look at each other in stunned disbelief. It would’ve been nice to have a day off instead of unintentionally training for the Winter Olympics on the way to school.
I didn’t see the big picture then, but I see it now.
Another story comes to mind. There was a really smart kid in high school who was actually upset when we didn’t get a homework assignment one day. I sarcastically thought, “Man, this guy would be an absolute blast to hang out with at parties.” Looking back, his stance actually makes sense. He wasn’t being challenged that day. He wasn’t growing and getting better. He was looking at the big picture while I was only focusing on the day itself.
I don’t expect kids to say, “Extra homework? Awesome!” I don’t think grade-schoolers need to say, “No snow day? Thank goodness, I was worried we’d be stuck building a snowman and sledding!” There’s nothing wrong with embracing things that are fun. The problem is when we want to avoid things that help us improve.
Ask yourself this — what’s something you dislike doing although it’s actually helpful? The #1 thing I dislike doing in sports radio, although it helps me improve, is listening to my shows. There’s a tendency for me to think, “Okay that show is done, on to the next one.” I also feel like an egomaniac if someone walks by while I’m listening to my own show. The only thing missing is me hugging and kissing myself while yelling like Terrell Owens, “I love me some me!”
It isn’t about ego though. It’s about improvement. Yeah, the show just ended, but that doesn’t mean my job is done. Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn was a master at watching film and critiquing his hitting mechanics. I remember seeing ancient footage of former Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs camped out by an old-school film projector while studying every player’s movement. Imagine if each player and coach said, “The game just ended. Why would we go back and watch it?”
I wanted to learn how to play guitar back when I was younger. It’s tough getting started because nobody is good immediately. It wasn’t any fun to play because I was horrid. It takes time, patience, and lots of reps. One year I decided that I was going to play for at least 30 minutes every single day. Establishing that routine made it much easier to get better. Plus, I didn’t have to practice from sunrise to sunset to make strides.
The same thing applies to air checking shows. You don’t need to listen to every second to improve. Get in the habit of listening to bits and pieces regularly. Start by picking out 10 minutes — just one little segment. Choose something that was really good and pinpoint what worked. Select something that was awful and figure out why. Listen to a segment from last month that you halfway remember and pay attention to the entire layout. Something will stand out. It always does.
Listening to yourself while also talking during a show, is completely different than listening without talking. Many things stand out more when you’re only listening — how fast you speak, how long, how loud, your crutches, your strengths and weaknesses — it’s all there. In sports they say that the “eye in the sky don’t lie.” It basically means the video tape reveals everything about the quality of play or lack thereof. It’s the same exact idea with a radio show recording. The tape is the ultimate truth teller. If it’s the ultimate truth teller, what sense does it make to avoid it?
NFL players often dread film study because coaches can make it painful. “Jones, you miserable excuse for a blankety blank, your effort is bleepety bleep and [censored, NSFW, parental advisory explicit content].” If your PD makes the process that brutal, he’ll be in HR jail soon. However, you shouldn’t need a good manager to take initiative for you. Listening to your shows is helpful. Resisting something that’s beneficial is like guarding against getting sleep and drinking water. Don’t oppose things that help.
Just make sure you understand the difference between what’s making you better, and what’s keeping you the same. You aren’t lazy without any potential if you cheer an occasional day off. You’re just more likely to embrace undesirable work if you understand that it’s helping you grow. Your perspective will change and what was once unwanted will be much more tolerable.
Former New York Giants head coach Bill Parcells once said, “This is what you work all offseason for. This is why you lift all them weights. This is why you do all that (bleep).” He was focusing his players on the Super Bowl payoff of their hard work. We often focus on the process instead of the payoff — what we have to do instead of why we are doing it. It should be the opposite. If we’re always aware of the reward our hard work should lead to, it makes the process of putting in the time much less difficult.
Stay focused on the payoff more than the process.
Air checking my show is something I had to talk myself into. Once I dwelled on the payoff of improving, the process of listening was easier to embrace. What about you? What do you dislike that is actually helpful? What tasks will be much more pleasant if you change your perspective? It’s crazy, sometimes the things that help us improve are the same things we fight against the most. That’s when a mindset makeover is needed. It’s amazing how the tasks we dread magically change when the payoff is the primary focus.
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.