How exactly will JR Smith be greeted in Cleveland when the Cavs host the Warriors in Game 3 of the NBA Finals? I’m picturing the scene in The Hangover when Zach Galifianakis isn’t sure if he should clap as his friends unknowingly volunteer to demonstrate the effects of a stun gun. The Cleveland home crowd might feel similarly confused on Wednesday night for a much different reason.
Smith committed one of the all-time boo boos in NBA Finals history last Thursday. With the score tied at 107 apiece, Smith grabbed a rebound with 4.7 seconds remaining. The only problem was that the score being tied was news to JR. He dribbled out 3.5 seconds of the remaining time before a desperation shot by George Hill was blocked by Draymond Green. The Cavs lost in overtime 124-114. Ouch.
Following the loss, Smith only made his mental error worse by committing — that’s right — another mental error. Instead of telling the truth about the end of regulation in Game 1, he decided to see if the entire world was born a day prior. JR said that he knew the score was tied and that he was just creating enough space between himself and Kevin Durant. Yeah, and I’m actually Oprah Winfrey.
Smith changed his story two days later. “After thinking about it a lot after the last 24 hours and however long it’s been since the game was over, I can’t say I was sure of anything at that point,” he said. This actually translates to, “I guess you guys aren’t dumb enough to believe my ridiculous lie.”
This is a good lesson for sports radio hosts. Make sure you’re sitting down for this, but sometimes we make mistakes too. I know, it’s shocking. It’s a wise approach to simply own those screw ups. Don’t make excuses and come up with crazy lies. Just admit that you made a mistake and move on. Nobody likes to have their intelligence insulted. When that happens, some people believe it provides clearance and incentive to be even more ruthless. You want to cool those engines down, not rev them up.
What works even better than admitting a mistake is finding ways to laugh at yourself. I’ll never forget something a friend and former co-worker, Bruce Jacobs, once said during the Manti Te’o fiasco. When the former Notre Dame linebacker’s girlfriend turned out to be as real as my eight-car garage, Bruce said “Te’o should laugh at himself. Don’t go on Katie Couric and have a serious conversation, show up on David Letterman and do a Top Ten List. Beating the critics to the punch takes most of the fun out of it for them.”
It’s like the rap battle at the end of 8 Mile when Eminem makes fun of himself. The other rapper has no idea what to say next. Imagine instead if Eminem’s verse was filled with lies about the cars he drove, houses he lived in, and women that all loved him. That other rapper would’ve eaten him alive. Then where would the universe be?
I realize that JR Smith is still smack dab in the middle of the NBA Finals and can’t make fun of himself like he’s hosting a roast on Comedy Central. Fans hate when players on a losing team laugh while on the bench in the closing minutes. JR rattling off 20 one-liners about his epic mistake would be received much worse.
A little self-deprecation can go a long way though. Smith could’ve taken a lot of the enjoyment away from the people that are lambasting him. I like the approach of Smith saying something like, “Man, I picked the worst time ever to be inducted into the Shaqtin’ a Fool Hall of Fame. But honestly, I feel sick about it. I have to be better going forward because my team deserves it.”
We get the best of both worlds — some comic relief with Smith laughing at himself, followed by the goal of making up for his colossal mistake. Look, I don’t care how tough you think you are. If you were given the loudest ovation of any player in Game 2 pregame introductions while on the road, and also heard M-V-P chants at the free throw line like JR did, you wouldn’t feel great about it. I’d try to lighten that load as much as possible when appropriate.
Laughing at yourself is a valuable tool to have. Think about Charles Barkley. One of the main reasons he’s a megastar is that he possesses a great ability to make fun of himself. Barkley doesn’t take himself too seriously. He has slid a donut from his forehead to his mouth without using any hands before. He laughs at his horrible golf swing. He doesn’t get defensive if someone cracks on his weight. He isn’t sensitive about his lack of athleticism while doing yoga poses or, well, anything athletic whatsoever.
There is something endearing about a person that has thick skin and can laugh at themselves. It’s disarming and makes us feel good. And when we feel good, we mostly start showing those people support and acceptance instead of tearing them down.
If you’ve ever made a bunch of bad predictions as a radio host — and please don’t act as if you haven’t — don’t go on the air and start talking about your predictions being right if this or that happened. Have some fun with it. Laugh about how awful you did. Jokingly compare those terrible picks to other terrible things in life to see which is worse. If you can’t laugh at yourself in life, someone else will laugh at you much louder.
Whether it’s a bad play in sports or a bad comment on the air, what’s done is done. It’s all about how you handle each mistake going forward. Own it, and when appropriate, make fun of yourself about it. Many hosts fall into the trap of only thinking about what’s good for them. Be constantly aware of what’s good for the show. When you look at it that way, you’ll see that being the occasional butt of a joke is actually the best option.
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.