The first time I got fired from a radio gig I was 29 years old. My partner Salt MacMillan and I had been hosting mornings on 96 Rock in Raleigh for about 5 years. Ratings were never awful but the times they were great were few and far between. In hindsight, I can understand why the company might want to shake things up.
I sure as hell didn’t feel that way at the time though. Like I said, I was 29 (read “immature and very stupid”). My wife and I had a one year old daughter. We had just moved to a new home that was considerably more expensive than our first home, and we had another kid on the way. You might say it was not an ideal time for me to lose a steady paycheck.
In the days and weeks after, I got super depressed. My emotions would swing from anger to grief to outright hopelessness at the drop of a hat. It was not pretty.
I blocked my former bosses on social media. If I saw former co-workers out socially, I would talk their ear off about how I was done wrong and demand to know how terribly the new morning show was doing.
I found steady work as a writer almost immediately. I found a new hosting gig in less than a year. It didn’t matter. When Salt left for Boston to join the staff of Mix 104.1, it felt like my world was crumbling in on itself. It’s not that I saw our partnership lasting forever. It was just now the person I was going through this with was moving on and I was truly alone.
I had been wronged! I was pissed! Everyone I came into contact with had to know about it!
Looking back, I can’t tell you exactly when it was that I let go of all my bitterness and anger at my former employers. I just kinda did one day and it has made being in the very unsteady and uncertain business of radio a little more bearable and frankly, a lot more rewarding.
In the last month, I have watched three friends lose their gig. One of them lost his job over one of the most backhanded, dirty moves I’ve ever heard of another host pulling. He has every right to be angry. I’m angry for him. Hell, all these guys have the right to be angry. So do any of you that have lost a gig and never met me. This business sucks more often than it is great.
There is nothing anyone can say or write that will instantly flip a light switch for you when you’re fired or laid off. There’s no secret to remember that will prevent you from any feelings of anger or depression. Feel your feelings in that moment. It is more than okay.
Just don’t live in those feelings forever.
When I got fired from 96 Rock, I got an email from Duke football coach David Cutcliffe. He told me to remember that I was more than a job. Hosting a radio show wasn’t who I am. It was just what I did.
In the moment, that email was just a supportive message from a friend. But I held on to it. Occasionally I would go back and read all of the supportive messages I had received on email and social media on the day I was fired. Honestly, as I read that back, it sounds insane.
Anyway, one day it just kind of clicked. I mean, it was years later, but it just kind of clicked. If I never got another radio gig, that would suck. I have been doing this since I was 15. There is always going to be a part of me that feels like I HAVE to do this. It would suck, but I would still be me.
Get mad. Feel hurt. Stay bitter for as long as you need to after your told that your services are no longer required. It’s more than okay to even cry if you want to. God knows I did. A lot!
Take it from me though, a guy that has been laid off not once, not twice, but three times, you can’t truly be ready for another opportunity until you come to terms with your emotions over losing the last gig. You don’t have to all the sudden be at peace. You just have to get to the point where you aren’t telling waiters at Applebee’s about “the asshole market manager that wouldn’t know good content if it jumped up and bit him on the nose!”.
Understand what factors in the decision were beyond your control. 96 Rock was on the road to flipping formats when we got let go. Take ownership of what you may have done that you can do better in your next job. I was standoffish towards the sales staff and so resistant to working with them on branded content, that I didn’t even try to mold their ideas and pitches to fit the show better. I just did what they asked of me as half-assed as possible. Realize that both are true. There were factors beyond my control and there were things I did that probably diminished the decision makers’ trust in me.
I can’t change what happened. I can’t change why it happened. The best you can do is accept that it did happen. Who knows? It could happen again. All you can do is control the controllable.
Radio is what we do. It’s not who we are. For my friends that have just lost their jobs, I know that is a hard thing to remember right now.
So take as long as you need to be mad or upset. Just remember that at a certain point the anger is no longer doing anything for you. At some point it is no longer part of your healing process. The people who made the decision to let you go get to move on. So do you.
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.
Jason Barrett Podcast: Rich Eisen, NFL Network
Rich Eisen reveals how he ended up partnering with Stuart Scott, the moment he knew he made the right move joining the NFL Network, and the influence standup comedy had on his broadcast career.
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Does FOX Need West Coast College Football Success?
“I think we are all looking forward to the twelve team playoff and I don’t know if it matters as much as it did in the last eight years.”
Don’t believe them. Don’t believe those people that try to sell you on the idea that a given sport is better if a given team in said sport is good. You know, college football is better when Notre Dame is good. Maybe they tell you college basketball is better when UCLA is good. Might they say the NFL is better when the Dallas Cowboys are good? Let me tell you, whoever the they is saying those things, they are wrong. FOX isn’t living or dying on it?
I am not here to tell you college football is better when USC is good. The Trojans are ninth all-time in FBS wins with 866 victories, they claim 11 National Championships and 39 conference championships. There is zero doubt they are among the elite, blue blooded programs of the college football world. With all of that said, USC hasn’t contributed to college football’s national championship discussion in more than 15 years. But, now Southern California is back and in College Football Playoff contention.
With only Notre Dame and a PAC 12 Conference Championship left to play, 10-1 USC is in excellent position to earn the first College Football Playoff bid in school history. The Trojans would be the third west coast team in the playoffs, 2014 Oregon played in the inaugural edition and 2016 Washington was the only other PAC 12 participant. It has now been five playoffs since a PAC 12 team has been in the top four.
That brings up the obvious question, how important is it for the health of the College Football Playoff to have west coast teams involved, especially one based in Los Angeles? L.A is, of course, the second largest media market in the nation. College football is well down the list of priorities in the City of Angels but having a team in the mix might help the overall national rating.
College Football has long been criticized for becoming too regional of a sport. The results thus far do lend themselves to that belief, the only team from outside the South to win a national championship was 2014 Ohio State. The SEC has twice had two teams among the four playoff teams and two of eight championship games matched Alabama and Georgia from the SEC.
So, does the College Football Playoff need West Coast teams for long term health? FOX is one of the rights holders for PAC 12 football and the main FOX college analyst, Joel Klatt, doesn’t think it is necessary. “I don’t know if it matters this year. This is like the last two years in an eight year term for a president,” Klatt told me on my show, The Next Round, “I think we are all looking forward to the twelve team playoff and I don’t know if it matters as much as it did in the last eight years.”
To Klatt’s point, the College Football Playoff seems to be screeching towards that twelve team format and a bigger media rights deal. That deal will almost certainly include multiple networks, not just ESPN/ABC, and will be worth significantly more money than the current deal. So, it is not as if the lack of a presence west of the Rockies has hurt the attractiveness of the College Football Playoff to the networks.
On the other hand, the playoffs have never reached the lofty ratings they had year one. Was the 2014 edition just ratings lightning in a bottle or has the regional nature of the product hurt those ratings? The 2014 semi finals did fall on New Year’s Day which meant the games were played in the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl which has proven to be the most successful schedule in terms of ratings success.
The college football lover in me couldn’t get enough of FOX’s Saturday night USC-UCLA telecast. There’s something about both teams wearing those classic home colors and playing in that historic stadium under the lights. They put on a great show, the show also would go on without them.
I want as many people as possible exposed to college football; it only makes the sport healthier. If that means more West Coast teams need to be in the playoffs, I hope they earn their way in. An expanded playoff will only make it easier. Until then, just keep telling people college football is better when your team is good
Ryan Brown is a columnist for Barrett Sports Media, and a co-host of the popular sports audio/video show ‘The Next Round’ formerly known as JOX Roundtable, which previously aired on WJOX in Birmingham. You can find him on Twitter @RyanBrownLive and follow his show @NextRoundLive.
HBO’s ‘Shaq’ Docuseries Tells Shaquille O’Neal’s Story With Style, Personality
What ‘Shaq’ wants the audience to know is that success wasn’t easy for the man, despite his physical gifts.
From the very beginning of HBO’s Shaq docuseries, Shaquille O’Neal tells us how important storytelling is to him. Just recapping a sequence of events isn’t enough for the Hall of Famer. As the man puts it himself, “sometimes when you tell a story, you wanna add a little barbecue sauce.”
Director Robert Alexander (The Shop, A Man Named Scott) adds plenty of barbecue sauce to O’Neal’s life story, especially in the first two parts of the docuseries. (Shaq runs four episodes, with the opener debuting Wednesday, Nov. 23 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max. Each of the following three episodes will premiere on the subsequent Wednesday.)
Nothing less should be expected from a gigantic personality like O’Neal. This isn’t a dry documentary that simply chronicles a series of events. Alexander mixes in stock, news, and archival sports footage to add embellishment and punctuation to many stories and important points. Music, creative set design, and animation also play key roles in keeping the narrative moving and the audience engaged.
Each episode has a visual theme to it. Part 1 emulates a music video. Several comic book elements are incorporated into Part 2. Part 3 is meant to invoke a classic stage drama, a Shakespearean tragedy. Unfortunately, Part 4 is less focused in that regard, though some fun video game graphics are produced. Editors Freddie DeLaVega, Lenny Messina, and Ted Feldman deserve significant credit for making all the pieces fit together into a cohesive visual trip that gives the documentary an energy not seen in many projects like this.
Much like The Last Dance did for Michael Jordan, Shaq helps define a basketball icon for newer generations more familiar with the athletic giant from being part of TNT’s Inside the NBA panel and his many, many commercial endorsements.
The documentary begins with an adolescent O’Neal growing faster than his body and mind could handle. He wasn’t a phenom who was a superstar from the very moment he took the court, despite his obvious size advantages. And his path to major college basketball didn’t take the typical route.
Eventually, however, viewers see what those of us old enough to have watched O’Neal play at LSU remember. He looked like an adult among boys. His dunks were ferocious, raising his knees as he bent the rim to his will. And, as you might recall, young Shaq was much thinner than the diesel he became late in his professional career.
The first two episodes of Shaq chronicle O’Neal’s rise to superstardom, from college sensation at LSU to No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick by the Orlando Magic, developing into a force for whom there was no match on the court on the way to NBA championships. O’Neal was so dominant that the game had to adapt to him. Rival teams stocked their rosters with three to four big men that could each spare six fouls roughing O’Neal up and sending him to the free throw line. The NBA’s defensive rules changed to allow more double-teaming.
Parts 3 and 4 of the docuseries are less fun, as the second pair of episodes follow O’Neal’s fall from the ultimate heights of his career and difficulties in his personal life. His relationship with Kobe Bryant deteriorated and took a championship dynasty down with it. A major factor in those tensions developing was O’Neal’s reluctance to stay in shape during the offseason, continuing to put on weight, and eventually having toe surgery right before the 2002-03 season.
This is where O’Neal’s involvement and cooperation probably hurt Shaq the most. Unlike the first two episodes, when everything was going well for him, the big man doesn’t offer as much insight into his shortcomings. Particularly frustrating is his lack of accountability. At one point, O’Neal flat-out says he’s not talking about what went wrong with the Lakers.
Looking right into the camera and accepting responsibility for his role in the demise of two championship teams (later including the Miami Heat) would have been riveting. Instead, others are left to try and explain O’Neal’s actions, which feels dishonest as teammates like Rick Fox and longtime Lakers trainer Gary Vitti try to cover for him.
What Shaq wants the audience to know is that success wasn’t easy for the man, despite his physical gifts. Basketball did not come easily to him as a youth, nor did championship success in college or the NBA as he grew up. But like so many great athletes do, O’Neal channeled criticism from the media and slights from opponents including Dikembe Mutombo into major aggression on the court. (His words for the 1999-2000 NBA MVP voter who prevented him from the league’s first unanimous win are profanely hilarious.)
O’Neal makes it clear that strong figures in his life provided discipline and guidance — beginning with the military-influenced upbringing of his stepfather, then coaches who could teach him how to be a great player like Phil Jackson and Pat Riley — made him who he is. He has always been a personality and time has been kinder to some of the behavior that was once considered brash. Now he’s a worldwide brand known even to non-sports fans. Those viewers, along with diehard basketball fans, will enjoy getting to know him better in this docuseries.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Part 1 of Shaq premieres Wednesday, Nov. 23 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. Each of the three episodes will premiere on the subsequent Wednesday, through Dec. 14. The docuseries will also stream on HBO Max and be available on-demand, with repeat airings on HBO networks.
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.