Are You Pushing or Pulling?
A question for the managers out there – are you a pusher or a puller?
You’ve most likely heard the saying, “managers push from behind, while leaders pull from the front.” As it relates to media sales management in today’s world, all of us should be pulling from the front.
If being in management has taught me anything, it’s that the team takes all its cues from you. The atmosphere and vibe of your direct reports is generally a strong reflection of your management style and tone. If you sit back and push the others from behind, without setting the example of being out front and willing to do whatever it takes, it shouldn’t surprise you when you eventually get resentment and low work ethic.
Pulling from the front also means remaining positive. You’re the leader, a position which is challenging enough, being “Negative Nancy” around co-workers can rub off quickly. We all know there’s plenty of people out there who are always looking for an opportunity to be negative. Our responsibility is to minimize those opportunities and we should never be the ones to feed that beast.
Prioritization comes in to play for the leader who is going to be active and pull from the front. The to-do lists can be long, and some days we start with a lot of items on that list and by the end of the day it has only grown. But, our priority is to help develop business and relationships and to help develop people. Those items have to always come first. The manager who pushes from behind has plenty of time to handle the bottom third of the list, but the out front, in-the-trenches leader must really keep a handle on time management to both make the time to do the leading as well as handle other responsibilities that may not directly impact revenue, but still have to get done.
As a young manager, I was taught a valuable lesson of always taking a little time at the end of the day to ask myself questions. Did I lead out front today? What did I do to develop business or to develop people today? Did I take care of the most important items today – the ones that directly reflect revenue?
Another characteristic of a true leader is a willingness to be flexible. New managers can sometimes struggle with the concept that people can’t all be managed the same way. There has to be some flexibility in the way different people are treated or managed based on several factors. One of those, is obviously based on performance. I heard a great story once about an NFL coach who threw an undrafted rookie off the team, on the spot, for falling asleep in a meeting. Later, the same coach saw a star player sleeping in a meeting and he went up and put a pillow under his head. This is a results oriented business and those that consistently get the results deserve special treatment.
A lot of us struggle sometimes with the idea that there are people out there who have good ideas, besides ourselves. Leaders take input from the team and every now and then, they get to be the smartest person in the room. Part of what we do as managers is getting “buy-in” and if those around us feel they were a part of how something came together, they are much more likely to go the extra mile to help execute.
Being in management is hard work. It’s even harder to be successful if you are trying to push the group forward from all the way in the back.
Dave Greene is a former sales columnist for BSM. He works as a General Sales Manager for Audacy St. Louis. He can be reached by email at DGreene@Audacy.com or find him on Twitter @DaveGreene34.
John Kincade Feels Bulletproof in the Face of Cancer
“My daughter is going to be a junior at Temple this year. I gotta be around for her. I have to be around for my wife. I’ve got so many things I want to do.”
John Kincade battled Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 1995 and 1996.
He won that battle.
In 1997, Kincade went up against Testicular Cancer.
Another win for the veteran sports radio host.
And now, Kincade is in another battle. This time with colon cancer.
The plan, as he would want with for any player on his beloved Philadelphia Flyers, is to complete the hat trick. He wants to beat cancer’s ass once again.
“My slogan is there is only one acceptable outcome,” said the host of The John Kincade Show on 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia. “I can’t accept anything else than survival. My daughter is going to be a junior at Temple this year. I gotta be around for her. I have to be around for my wife. I’ve got so many things I want to do.”
In a social media post after his show on May 12th, Kincade announced that following a brief period of illness, he went to the doctor and underwent an endoscopy and colonoscopy. As it turned out, Kincade had internal bleeding and was diagnosed with colon cancer. In that video, Kincade said he expected a “fantastic outcome, because that’s the attitude I have.”
Kincade underwent surgery on May 15th and took some time off from work as he recovered. He returned to work last Tuesday, 16 days after the surgery and he couldn’t be happier to be back on the air.
“I’m stronger every day,” said Kincade. “(Being back on the air) honestly has been as good a medicine as anything I could ever receive. It has been great therapy to be able to get back behind a microphone and feel like I’m living somewhat semblance of a normal life.”
However, Kincade’s life will soon include a rigorous schedule of chemotherapy as a result of what was found during his May 15th surgery.
The entire tumor was removed but doctors found that the cancer had invaded the lymphatic system in what they hope is an obscure fashion but the discovery made Kincade a stage three colon cancer patient.
Kincade will have a port installed next week and then he’ll begin a very aggressive protocol when his chemotherapy begins on June 14th. It will be a twelve-treatment regiment that will take place every other Wednesday. A booster pack attached to the port will keep him going through his treatment into midday on Friday. Following his show, Kincade will go to the cancer center to have the booster pack unhooked and will have the weekend to recover from the chemo.
The thought of not working through the treatment schedule never entered Kincade’s mind.
“I strategically put it where I would have weekends to recover from my chemotherapy so I can work,” said Kincade. “I know that working part-time or not working at all was not an option. A leave of absence was not an option. That doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be days where I just have to wave the white flag and say I can’t work today and I expect that that will come about.”
Since the announcement of his diagnosis, Kincaid has been overwhelmed with an outpouring of support from the Philadelphia sports community including his listeners, the Philadelphia 76ers and Philadelphia Flyers.
He’s also received a tremendous amount of support from his co-workers as well as his employer Beasley Media Group.
“Beasley has been absolutely amazing working with me to do whatever I want to do,” said Kincaid. “They were like you ‘tell us what you want to do’ and I’ve really appreciated that because that’s not common. I marvel at the way that they have handled this with me in being so supportive but also so flexible.”
Kincade, a Philadelphia native and graduate of Temple University, spent a good portion of his career working for 680 The Fan in Atlanta and also had a couple of national radio gigs with ESPN Radio and CBS Sports Radio.
Those listeners, as well as some of the teams he used to talk about in Atlanta, have reached out as well.
“It’s been absolutely fantastic,” said Kincaid. “I’ve been off national radio for a few years now. I’ve had executives from sports teams in Atlanta reach out. Almost all of my radio peers who I know in my market here in Philadelphia, have reached out. It has been incredible.”
And that includes almost the entire crew from WIP, the rival sports radio station in Philadelphia.
There is competition in sports radio, but it’s also a very tight-knit fraternity so Kincade appreciates the support from the very people he’s competing with for ratings.
“It means the world to me because I don’t play any old school radio games,” said Kincade. “I don’t play like ‘They’re bad guys. Let’s bad mouth them.’ I respect the hell out of them just as I respect the hell out of my teammates here.”
Being back on the air was not only important to Kincaid for his recovery, but let’s be honest – there’s a lot going on in Philadelphia sports and it’s therapeutic for him to talk about it.
The Eagles are getting ready for training camp after a run to the Super Bowl. Once again, there’s plenty of drama surrounding the 76ers, there’s a new regime in charge of the Flyers, and the Phillies trying to get back to the World Series. There’s even a lot of interest in Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union.
“There’s been no shortage of storylines, which is so much fun. That just makes it fun to come to work,” said Kincade. “I think it’s going to be a big part of my recovery. I want to inspire myself because if I’m able to work and I’m able to push through this and I’m able to battle, that’s going to give me all the confidence in the world that I’m going to survive.”
Kincade is not alone in his optimism for recovery. That’s because his team of doctors have painted a positive outlook as well.
“They are optimistic for a full recovery based on this protocol that they’re going to put me through,” said Kincade. “They believe that it has the chance to eradicate everything and give me a clean bill of health.”
Kincaid acknowledged that his optimism in battling cancer again could be construed as “cocky”, but that’s just how he lives his life. He does things his way and it’s worked for him throughout his professional career both at the local and national levels. He waited a long time to return home to Philadelphia and that dream was realized when he arrived at The Fanatic in 2021 and he’s not about to let cancer take this away from him.
“I’m a selfish bastard,” said Kincade. “I am out for one thing, and it’s my success and my survival, because I don’t want to have anything else potentially derail this. I’ve had a great career and I’ve always wanted to be in Philly and it’s so great to be home. I’m surrounded by my family and my extended family. Having that support system in place honestly makes me feel bulletproof. It makes me feel like (the treatment) is going to be crappy but I got this. I can do my part. I can do whatever it’s going to take to make sure I succeed.”
John Kincaid, as great of a person as there is in the sports radio industry, is out to prove that cancer sent the wrong batter to the plate with the game on the line. Cancer is already behind in the count 0-2 and now Kincaid is ready to put a K in box score of life.
Peter Schwartz has been involved in New York sports media for over three decades. Along the way he has worked for notable brands such as WFAN, CBS Sports Radio, WCBS 880, ESPN New York, and FOX News Radio. He has also worked as a play by play announcer for the New Yok Riptide, New York Dragons, New York Hitmen, Varsity Media and the Long Island Sports Network. You can find him on Twitter @SchwartzSports or email him at DragonsRadio@aol.com.
Is First Take in Shannon Sharpe’s Future?
“First Take feels a little lost. There is an answer to this problem. The question is, does everyone involved want it.”
First Take may be trouncing Undisputed in the ratings, but even the most vocal critics of Skip Bayless would have to admit that the FS1 show did have one key an advantage between the two.
Every single day, we knew who was going to be on the show. We knew that there was star power. We knew that there would be fireworks. Like any of the 488 episodes of Law & Order, even if it wasn’t good, we knew the beats and it was comfortable.
Right now, First Take has a problem. Everyone not named Stephen A. Smith on that show is boring. It is time to rethink this Stephen A versus the world routine, because while Smith knows how to entertain, most of his “opponents” do not.
Michael Irvin, the one reliable bright spot, hasn’t been back since the Super Bowl. JJ Redick is genuinely unlikable. Jay Williams doesn’t seem to be doing the same show as the other people on the panel. And frankly, I just don’t get Chris Russo.
First Take feels a little lost. There is an answer to this problem. The question is, does everyone involved want it.
Would Shannon Sharpe go from Skip to Stephen A? Stephen A. Smith doesn’t have a problem working with a guy that has seething disdain for his “brother from another mother”. Does ESPN want to take on another superstar-level salary?
With free agency in his not-at-all distant future, there will be plenty of interest in Shannon Sharpe. Between Smith, the heritage brand of SportsCenter, and the cult following of therecently acquired Pat McAfee, ESPN is the one network I wouldn’t blame for staying out of the sweepstakes. Sharpe wouldn’t add star power or prestige that the network does not already have.
But First Take is ESPN’s cultural touchstone. It is now what SportsCenter was in the 90s and early 2000s – the show that sets the tone and the topics for the rest of the day.
What Sharpe offers ESPN is a chance to make that product better. If that product gets better, ESPN gets healthier. You do not have to like Smith or First Take to know that is true.
However, things only improve if Smith and ESPN embrace real change for the show. Over the weekend, Michael McCarthy dismissed Smith’s endorsement of Sharpe on First Take. He called it a “self-serving attempt to manipulate the Sharpe vs. Bayless soap opera in his favor.” That is only true if Smith is so egomaniacal that is willing to derail a chance for First Take to get better.
This harkens back to something we have written about a lot lately. Disney is going through layoffs right now. That means people at ESPN are going to lose jobs. That doesn’t mean that Jimmy Pitaro stops doing his job or no longer has a business to run. If the goal of layoffs at any company is to spend smarter, then using the money saved to invest in returning First Take to must-see status amongst sports fans is a wise investment.
Until Shannon Sharpe speaks publicly, this is all just fantasy roster moves. It is very possible that being burned out on Skip Bayless and Undisputed 100% about the off-air tension between the two men. We can’t dismiss the possibility that it means that he is also burned out on embracing debate. Who could blame Shannon Sharpe for wanting a little less shouting in his life, even if it would be with someone he likes a little bit more?
Sharpe will have to answer that question for himself. Then, he will have to answer it for his agent. Only after he has done that, will we know if there is a chance he is part of ESPN’s plans.
Every brand has its flagship product and it is the duty of every company to make sure the product that it has built its reputation on is in the best shape it can be.
It’s why Nintendo keeps putting out Mario and Zelda games every year. They are the products most associated with the brand. If the Zelda franchise stays fresh and Mario is always up to something new, Nintendo doesn’t get stale in the minds of the public.
Shannon Sharpe would instantly improve First Take. If the Hall-of-Famer is still in a debating mood, First Take would instantly give him a bigger platform and louder voice. The match is easy for both sides to justify if they both want it to happen.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.
Ian Rapoport Is Competing Against Everyone
“When I’m working, when I’m not working – my brain is still going on overdrive.”
The 2023 NFL Draft was a weekend filled with speculation, intrigue and musing among football fans and experts alike. After two quarterbacks were selected with the first two picks – Bryce Young by the Carolina Panthers; and C.J. Stroud by the Houston Texans – Ian Rapoport had the inclination that something was about to break at the event in Kansas City.
The third pick of the night was held by the Arizona Cardinals, but through previous intel, Rapoport knew there was a chance the team would trade it. His phone then lit up with a text message from a source that simply read, “Texans trading.” Receiving a message of this magnitude takes years of networking, credibility and immense trust from the people you cover. Rapoport has worked hard to attain all of them.
He replied by asking, “Did the Texans trade up to three?,” as the team was not set to pick again until No. 12 overall. Once he got confirmation of the scenario, he began to visibly shake in excitement and captured the attention of the NFL Network team.
“I sit there with a camera in front of me that’s not always on air – this is during the Draft – and the producer gets in my ear and he goes, ‘Can you go on air with whatever you have?,’ and I just say, ‘Yes.’” Rapoport recalled. “And then I hear Rich Eisen go, ‘Ian, you have news,’ and I was able to break that the Texans have traded up to three to go get Will Anderson.”
This is the craft through which Rapoport has cultivated a successful journalism career, ultimately distinguishing him as NFL Network’s goto insider. He hardly ever separates himself from the job, equipped with an unparalleled work ethic to ensure he can communicate messages accurately and in a timely manner. While some people may argue that he is in direct competition with others in his position, such as Adam Schefter of ESPN, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports and Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk and NBC Sports, the reality of the situation is that it is Rapoport vs. the world.
“It’s such a small world now and everyone is interconnected – and with Twitter, literally anyone could break a story and have it go viral,” Rapoport said. “Obviously, you want everything first, but really you’re competing against everyone that exists because anyone could get the story at any moment.”
Work-life balance in such a role is usually quite insurmountable in today’s dynamic, interminable breaking news environment. Rapoport strives to find some level of normalcy in his life by playing golf and attending his sons’ sporting events. In the end though, he knows the world of football never sleeps, and it is up to him to remain in the know at all hours of the day, essentially always on standby to break the next big story.
“I do not turn my phone off because that’s actually way more stressful,” Rapoport said. “At least now when my phone’s on and near me, if something crazy happens, I can react rather than having a fake relaxation moment and then being caught off guard with something.”
Rapoport recognized that journalism was the field for him almost immediately after stepping onto the Columbia University campus. He worked his way up at The Dial to ultimately become its associate sports editor. In the summer preceding his senior year, he landed a coveted internship with ESPN where he gained invaluable experience in the world of television production.
By the time he graduated, Rapoport envisioned himself becoming a nationally acclaimed sportswriter, but he knew it was going to require he start small. Three hundred eleven job applications and two interviews later, he landed a part-time role with The Journal News in Westchester, N.Y. covering high school sports. It gave him a start in the highly-competitive business – and kept him close to home while trying many new things.
Two years later, he found himself moving from the bright lights of New York City to the quaint town of Starkville, Mississippi for a notable opportunity. He had landed a job covering the Mississippi State Bulldogs for The Clarion-Ledger in the nearby capital city of Jackson and was under the direction of sports editor Rusty Hampton.
“I knew how to write, but I really didn’t know how to report,” Rapoport said. “He was probably the best [at] showing me, ‘This is all about reporting. It’s all about telling people something they don’t know rather than how well you can pen a sentence.’ To be really valuable to society or your newspaper, you really need to inform rather than entertain. I think he was probably the first and best person to teach me that.”
After spending two years in Mississippi, Rapoport became a beat reporter for The Birmingham News tasked with following the Alabama Crimson Tide. Just months into his new role, the program made a coaching change and hired Nick Saban, who has since led the program to six national titles.
Rapoport learned the thoroughness necessary to cover the Southeastern Conference as he rapidly watched the program become a perennial contender. In turn, he became an eminent college football reporter and his work began to be consumed nationally.
Simultaneously, Bill Belichick, another accomplished football head coach in his own right, was in the process of trying to lead the New England Patriots back to championship glory. Known to be stoic and restrained in his press conferences, reporters asking him questions knew extrapolating answers was not the easiest of tasks.
When Rapoport saw a job opening to cover the team with the Boston Herald that required NFL experience, he knew that he was not qualified verbatim per se. Yet he figured the experience he had in covering Saban and Alabama would serve him well in the role, and articulated such in a protracted email to the newspaper’s editors. His strategy worked, proving why Rapoport is considered one of the industry’s best communicators at the micro and macro levels.
“You don’t see a lot of sources within the Patriots or sources within Alabama – there’s not a lot of that,” Rapoport said. “So I learned to report despite that and kind of work the edges and get the information I needed, despite head coaches who weren’t always the most forthcoming with information.”
NFL Network oftentimes has local beat reporters on the air to interact with studio talent and give their perspectives about teams, and it was something Rapoport did while at the Boston Herald. He had no television experience outside of other appearances he made on Comcast New England and certainly no intention to pursue the medium as a career.
In Super Bowl XLVI, the New York Giants overcame the New England Patriots, who were undefeated for the year entering the game. Rapoport was on hand for the proceedings, and shortly afterwards was called into a meeting with NFL Network executives.
He didn’t know he was interviewing for a job until he asked just why he had been summoned. He expressed his lack of television experience to the executives, who said the network would teach him everything he needed to know.
Once the meeting concluded, Rapoport called his wife, who he had met while living in Starkville, Mississippi, and told her what had just happened. She tempered his expectations, warning him not to get his hopes up as he remained optimistic. One month later, Rapoport received a job offer and found himself moving once again – this time to the Lone Star State.
“I hired an agent and moved to Dallas and basically spent the next year reporting on the Cowboys and some other things being very, very bad at TV, but learning and eventually figuring it out,” Rapoport said. “At the time, this guy, Eric Weinberger, who was our boss, kind of mentioned to me the possibility of transitioning [me] from reporter to insider.”
Rapoport acknowledged that he did not have the contacts necessary to effectively work as a league insider for a national outlet, but through his years of experience, he knew how to network and he was ready and willing to take the challenge.
Once he began the new position, Rapoport, along with reporter Michael Silver, was on the road for Thursday Night Football and contributed to its pregame and halftime coverage. While his television skills improved, Rapoport was hard at work bolstering his contacts and took somewhat of a geographical approach.
Every time he arrived in a new city, he would contact anyone and everyone he could conjure up, including general managers, scouts and head coaches. If he could not schedule a meeting time with them, he would introduce himself by roaming the sidelines at practices and before games. He engaged in a similar practice before the NFL Draft Combine, training camps and the Super Bowl along with other premier events, always staying focused on the task at hand.
“It probably took me five or six years to get a baseline of sources where if something happened, I had someone to call,” Rapoport said. “And then it took me a couple more years to get to the point where I would know before a lot of people when something was about to happen. It’s all a multi-step process, and just [the] layering and layering and layering of sources is really the sort of engine that drives this thing.”
Ian Rapoport always attempts to triangulate his sources to verify information before he releases it publicly. There is no guarantee sources are always truthful or acting in a professional manner. Therefore, it is incumbent on a journalist to ensure the validity of content before publishing it themselves.
“If you’re only right some of the time, then none of it is really worth it,” Rapoport expressed, “because then you say something and they’re like, ‘Well, wow, that’s a big story if this is true.’ The whole point of doing this is when I pop up on TV or when people see my Twitter alerts or whatever, they have to know that it’s true – they have to know.”
One day, Rapoport was having a conversation with a source and discovered through their conversation that Rob Gronkowski had informed the New England Patriots that he would return to the game of football under the stipulation he be traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to reunite with quarterback Tom Brady. There had been much speculation pertaining to Gronkowski’s future after he had worked as an NFL analyst with FOX Sports, and now Rapoport realized he had a monumental scoop – that is, if it was true. Within six minutes, Rapoport verified the story with three sources, contacted his editor and reported to the world Gronkowski’s intentions. The story was picked up virtually everywhere.
“I just think about the job all the time, and I make little lists for myself of things that I need to track down, and I just make a lot of phone calls for it,” Rapoport said. “When I’m working, when I’m not working – my brain is still going on overdrive. It ends up just a brain full of football thoughts, and then I spend the rest of the time trying to figure out what I can learn from it.”
Working for a league-owned entity can sometimes epitomize an inherent conflict of interest. For Rapoport however, he has found working at NFL Network to be hassle-free. He knows, however, the nature of his job means he will not be universally liked.
“Whatever you do, you’re going to report and the people you report on are going to be happy or upset or neutral – or whatever it is,” Rapoport said. “I’m never going to criticize a referee, for instance, because that’s a nuanced thing and people might say, ‘NFL criticizes referees.’ I’m never going to do that, but I wouldn’t do that anyway.”
Rapoport continues to appear on a variety of external media outlets, perhaps most notably The Pat McAfee Show, which recently concluded its “Up to Something Season.” The grand conclusion of the proceedings was McAfee announcing he would be bringing his show to ESPN’s linear and digital platforms starting in the fall.
While McAfee is retaining creative control and has expressed on multiple occasions that his show will not be changing, many have wondered whether insiders employed by other networks will be able to continue making appearances. It is an answer Rapoport himself does not know, nor has he asked about.
“When the news broke, my phone blew up with all sorts of people saying all sorts of different things,” Rapoport said. “I have no idea. I really don’t.”
Even so, Rapoport is elated for McAfee and his team taking the next step in their show’s journey and is genuinely glad to see them succeed. He does not think McAfee’s goal was to reshape sports media, but rather to cultivate a distinctive sports talk program built for fans and today’s generation of consumers.
“You get to know someone and you think they’re a good person and you respect the way they work. Some people have success and some people have a little success and some people don’t. It’s really rare to see someone who has every bit of success that’s essentially possible and deserves every bit of it, and that’s kind of how I thought about Pat. It’s really cool, honestly. He’s built it himself.”
It was on McAfee’s show where another prominent football insider – Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk and NBC Sports – said it would be a matter of “when,” not “if” the NFL would have games seven days per week. While devoted football fans like Rapoport are open to such a proposition, he is not sure the league would ever go that far.
“I don’t even know that it would affect my schedule that much,” he said. “It sort of doesn’t matter. I’ll report all year round anyway.”
Derek Futterman is a contributing editor and sports media reporter for Barrett Sports Media. Additionally, he has worked in a broad array of roles in multimedia production – including on live game broadcasts and audiovisual platforms – and in digital content development and management. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks, wrote for the Long Island Herald and served as lead sports producer at NY2C. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.