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High Stakes

Brian Noe

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Grease those light poles! For the second time in two months the city of Philadelphia has a championship to celebrate and utility poles to grease up to discourage fans from climbing them. It started with the Eagles winning Super Bowl LII in early February. Up next were the Villanova Wildcats who smacked around Michigan 79-62 to win a national title on Monday night. Maybe the Philadelphia 76ers can convince Crisco to sponsor those 2.5-inch jersey ads to bring them championship luck too.

Donte DiVincenzo was magnificent against Michigan. “The Michael Jordan of Delaware” became the new-school version of Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson. His 31 points marked the highest total scored by a bench player in National Championship Game history. DiVincenzo was also named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.

Charles Barkley made an interesting point after the game that Villanova’s defense is often undersold because they’re such an offensive juggernaut. It really is true. There is a Warriors quality to Villanova — they both play excellent defense, but that isn’t the primary strength either team is known for. They’re known for their offensive dominance before anything else. It got me thinking about sports radio hosts — what they’re primarily known for, and what control they have over those perceptions.

I believe that a strength often makes a weakness appear even weaker. Take Carmelo Anthony for instance. Melo was a great offensive player in his prime. He was never close to a great defender, but his great scoring ability made his defensive skills appear even worse than they actually were. It works the same way with radio hosts. A host that is a deep thinker might appear to be stiff. A host that is hilarious might appear to lack the ability of saying anything thought-provoking.

It’s a shame that a host’s secondary strength might appear weaker than it actually is. That’s the way the sports talk cookie crumbles though. There is only so much that can be done about certain perceptions lining up with reality. However, hosts are far from powerless. A host has absolute control over a much more important category — avoiding a bad reputation.

San Diego host Kevin Klein was set to launch a new show on “97.3 The Machine.” Klein tweeted a picture of the Coronado Bridge that included the words, “JUMP to a new morning show.” Sadly that’s the same bridge where hundreds of people have “jumped” to their death while committing suicide. The tweet ticked off the San Diego Padres while several San Diegans voiced their displeasure as well.

Kevin Klein’s show was supposed to debut last Thursday (3/29). His status remains uncertain as the new show still hasn’t hit the airwaves. Look, I don’t know this guy. I would hate for his career to go sideways because of one tweet, but it shows how easily a reputation can be impacted. It’s scary to think that one mistake can undo all of the hard work that goes into building a solid reputation. A host can battle everyday — put in the hard work and generate great content only to wipe it all away with one dumb move.

Klein isn’t the first host to fail at thinking things through and he won’t be the last. The question in my mind becomes — what’s an easy way to think things through so mistakes are avoided before they even happen? Where is the line between coming up with edgy content that’s permissible and risky content that’ll either get you fired or completely jack up your reputation?

Anything related to death and disease are very sensitive subjects. Thin ice, baby. You should hear alarms in your head and see danger signs while thinking about making fun of either. Of course that hasn’t stopped everybody from doing so. There’s the infamous Atlanta bit gone horribly wrong when local hosts made fun of the battle former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason has with ALS.

Think of it this way — imagine if someone you love dearly was in the same position as the person you’re about to make light of. If your parents, wife, siblings, kids, nieces or nephews had a disease or died in a tragic way, would you make fun of it? If the answer is no, or an even more forceful hell no, then it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever to make light of somebody else’s horrible situation. It’s much easier to talk trash or make light of someone you don’t really know. The game changes if you substitute your loved ones and imagine them being in the same terrible position.

I bought a new car yesterday. After my previous car got totaled following a bad wreck, I finally have some new wheels — a Nissan Altima Midnight Edition. I don’t know what my deal is with black cars and clothing, but that’s how I roll. I told my wife that it sure is easier to spend money quickly than it is to earn money fast. She laughed as if to playfully say, “In other news, water is wet.” Although this isn’t a great discovery either, it definitely is worth emphasizing — it’s way easier to ruin a reputation quicker than it is to build one quickly.

The movie Rounders is one of my favorites. Matt Damon’s character Mike McDermott faces off against Teddy KGB in high-stakes games of poker. The stakes for a sports talk host are actually even higher. It isn’t just thousands of dollars that are on the line — it’s also a career. Make the wrong move and you’ll “end up humping crappy jobs on graveyard shifts, trying to figure out how [you] came up short.”

I’m not trying to make a host shake like the principle on Beavis & Butthead in fear of saying or doing something wrong. Just use a little common sense relating to the misfortune of others and things should be perfectly fine. My dad used to tell me when I was younger, “Just keep your wits about you.” That meant to be aware of everything that’s going on. Sometimes the thing you need to be looking out for the most, is actually yourself.

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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