Game 1 of the NBA Finals reminds me of a scene from the movie Old School. Will Ferrell shouted at his fraternity brothers, “We can’t have anyone freak out out there, okay? We’ve got to keep our composure. We’ve come too far. There’s too much to lose. We’ve got to keep our composure.” He yelled this message while slamming a folding chair into gym lockers.
LeBron James pulled a Will Ferrell by preaching one thing and doing another — stressing the importance of a cerebral approach to basketball after punching a whiteboard with his shooting hand.
Will Ferrell’s act in Old School was hilariously hypocritical. It was a joke in a movie. LeBron’s act was just hypocritical. You can’t sit there and emphasize the significance of having a high basketball IQ in order to beat the Warriors, while going Bruce Lee in the locker room and damaging your hand. LeBron had the nerve to make this comment about the Warriors leading up to Game 4 after hurting his hand, “In order to win, you’ve got to have talent, but you’ve got to be very cerebral, too.”
What exactly is cerebral about punching an object that leaves your hand twice its normal size? The result of the Hulk-like hissy fit included two MRIs and a significant bone contusion. Not quite the stuff of cerebral legend.
Look, I’m not one of these people who hunts for the tiniest reason to criticize LeBron. It’s a shame that conversations about an all-time great typically center on what LeBron hasn’t accomplished instead of what he has. Just because he isn’t on Michael Jordan’s level doesn’t make him Nicolas Batum. He’s an amazing talent. However, LeBron has made mistakes that legitimately deserve to be questioned. Bashing his hand while punching a whiteboard in a fit of rage ranks pretty high on the list.
Similar mistakes are made in many other occupations as well. Sports radio is a hotbed for these types of miscues. Has a boss or co-worker ever told you to do something while they actually did the exact opposite themselves? I can envision a high percentage of sports talk employees resembling bobbleheads as they emphatically nod yes. It happens far too often.
An easy way to lose the respect of a co-worker is to do the opposite of what you’re asking or demanding of them. If you tell your producer or co-host to get to the point quickly, you better not be rambling either. If you tell your co-workers to pay attention to detail, make sure you aren’t making careless mistakes yourself. And whatever you do, if you preach the importance of being cerebral, don’t injure your hand by punching a whiteboard!
Okay, that last example might not apply to sports radio, but you get the idea — don’t just talk about it, be about it.
Your own message is devalued when you fail to execute the same tasks. The people around you won’t take your expectations seriously if you fail to get the same things accomplished. They’ll also lose respect for you. It’s like the cop that pulls you over for running a red light and then turns around and does the exact same thing. Do you respect that person? Your reaction probably isn’t, “Hey, that’s cool.” It’s more likely a mixture of Andrew Dice Clay and the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket.
I dislike the thought that the Warriors would have won a championship anyway in spite of LeBron’s karate-chopped hand. It’s true, but it’s letting LeBron off the hook way too easily. Nobody made excuses and said the New York Giants wouldn’t have won a Super Bowl when Odell Beckham Jr. punched a wall after losing to the Packers in the playoffs. We just said that it was a stupid thing to do, which it was. The same applies to Jean-Claude LeBron.
It’s also far less likely that you’ll be given the benefit of the doubt in a sports radio setting. Let’s say a rival radio station is performing much better and won’t be beaten. Can you really envision a co-worker saying, “Man, Brian sure is a hypocrite, but it’s okay because we aren’t going to beat the guys across the street anyway”? That simply won’t be the case. In most situations, being a hypocrite will cost you more than it did LeBron.
Yes, LeBron still found a way to be very productive in spite of his injury, but maybe he could’ve done more without a bashed paw. Maybe a fully healthy LeBron would’ve helped the Cavs win Game 3. Maybe LeBron would’ve taken more than three shots in the second half of a closeout game. And don’t think for a second that there aren’t some of his teammates who are looking at LeBron sideways when his cerebral comments don’t align with his silly Kung Fu action.
It’s very risky to fall short of the standard you hold others to. Whether it’s at work or in a relationship, people will turn against you if you gloss over your own mistakes while dissecting their shortcomings. It can lead to a lot of resentment. There can also be a loss of trust, admiration, and respect. That’s a triple whammy of yuck.
Think of the requests you have for others as automatically being your mission too. I realize that every expectation you have for another person won’t be applicable to yourself, but many things are. Focus on leading by example and following through on the same things you want from others. There is a much better chance that your demands will be met if you practice what you preach.
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.