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Show Your Value With Sean Pendergast

Tyler McComas

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The temperature read minus 11 degrees as Sean Pendergast turned into the driveway of his Chicago home. Only a couple of hours before, he had been informed his job as VP of Sales would no longer be available to him. The company he had been with for over 10 years no longer needed his services. He was unemployed while trying to raise three children. Along with that tough news, he was also going through a divorce that had turned his personal life upside down. It was a cold, dark night on February 23rd, 2007 and Pendergast felt he had hit rock bottom. 

But one simple email may have changed his life forever, and it just so happened to have come earlier that day. A co-worker in Houston, who also lost his job that day, asked that Pendergast reach out to his contacts at Sports Radio 610 in hopes of landing a gig on the sales staff. After being crowned as a 5-time Smack-Off winner on the Jim Rome Show, Sean “The Cablinasian” had gained notoriety over the radio, as well as contacts at the biggest sports station in Houston. As he sent the email to someone in production that would get the resume in the right hands, Pendergast, as a joke ended with: 

“PS. Carve out a couple of hours on the weekend for me. I may be coming, too.”

What was intended as a harmless joke, ended up as a twist of fate, as Pendergast soon received a call regarding the message at the bottom of the email. Chance McClain, the recipient, called Pendergast with the news that he and a group of others from Sports Radio 610 were starting a new sports radio station in Houston named 1560 The Game. Not only did McClain want Pendergast to be a part of it, he wanted to capitalize off his notoriety from the Jim Rome Show and host the afternoon drive. 

That was Pendergast’s first conversation over the phone regarding a career in sports radio. The next, he was told, would come in the next few days. It would actually come five minutes later, as John Granato, the man in charge of putting the daily lineup together, called for the interview that would ultimately decide if Pendergast would get his first job in radio. Much to his surprise, the interview wasn’t much of an interview at all. Instead, the phone call consisted of Granato asking, “So, are you coming?”

Pendergast was the kid who grew up in the northeast, calling into radio stations as a 12-year-old, disguising his voice as someone who was over 18, so he wouldn’t get kicked off the air. He was the college student with the radio show that loved the craft and dreamed of becoming a host. He was the adult that just got let go from a job he hated while going through the most challenging tribulation of his life. And now, in his late 30’s he was a first-time sports radio host in Houston. 

John Harris, now the sideline reporter for the Houston Texans, would serve as Pendergast’s first co-host at 1560 The Game. The two shared a lot of similarities, as Harris was also doing a show for the first time after leaving a regular job that he hated. For the next four years, Pendergast and Harris would cut their radio chops on the afternoon show of the fourth-highest  rated sports station in Houston. 

After showing early talent and experiencing success in his new sports radio role, Pendergast came to the conclusion around year three at The Game that he needed to find a way to Sports Radio 610. Sure, he was thankful for the opportunity given, but now it was time to make his way to the biggest and best station in town. The one he always listened to while living in Houston and calling the Jim Rome Show. The one that was the home of the Houston Texans. Pendergast started by networking in any and every way he could. 

That started with Pendergast making it a point to introduce himself and talk to the Sports Radio 610 PD at every Texans game in the press box. He also became friendly with the other radio hosts at 610, just in case they’d have something nice to say if his name was floated around for a position at the station. 

Eventually, in 2012, he would get an interview with 610 for a host position on the morning show. However, he would come up short as the station decided to hire current Fox Sports host Nick Wright. Though he didn’t get the gig he was striving for, he left with pieces of advice that would help him down the road with 610. Through the interview process, PD Gavin Spittle taught Pendergast how to structure his contract, as well as other things he could do to help improve his craft and become more hirable. 

After taking those suggestions to heart, a host position on the afternoon show at 610 would open a year later. On January 1st, 2014, Pendergast conquered his goal of making it to the best station in Houston. Though he took an abnormal journey to the host seat, Pendergast’s story is one of how well networking can work. Whether it’s an email or simply engaging with important decision makers, the slightest things can alter someone’s career path in the sports radio industry. Luck is always needed, but working hard and making the right connections will never go out of style. 

Today, you can hear Pendergast on The Triple Threat weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on Sports Radio 610 in Houston. 

TM: I think a lot of people may be in this situation. You lived it, so you’re perfect to ask. If you’re a host at the smaller station in town and want to get to the bigger one, would you do so by sacrificing pay and title? Such as becoming a producer or reporter? 

SP: I don’t think I would have taken a backward step professionally, because the guy you want to be is the host. I had three kids at the time I was making that career decision, they were all around their high school years, so I had a line that I had to draw that said, okay, you can’t go below this. Now I did take a pay cut to go over to 610. I was making decent money at 1560, I had been there a while, I had some good sponsors and even though our ratings and signal weren’t great, our sponsors and listeners were very loyal. But I did take a pay cut to move stations. It was almost a ‘prove it to me’ kind of thing and so I busted my ass the first three years there and we had really good ratings. 

I always made it a point to be very involved with sponsors and the sales, which I don’t know that everyone in this business does, but the one thing I’ve benefited from is my background for 15 years in the business world. It’s really helped me in terms of being a radio businessman. After the pay cut to move to 610, I crunched the numbers and knew where I had to be in order to make ends meet and provide for my kids, child support, things like that. But it was worth it. I always feel like if you work hard at it, if you’re good at it, you may take a couple of steps backwards but be five steps forward. That’s how it’s worked out for me and it’s really gratifying. 

TM: Is that a PD and an owners dream? To have a host that’s good, but is also willing and has experience in the sales world? 

SP: It would be for me. Let’s face it, the most important thing is revenue. Ratings are obviously important, but we know how flawed that system is. At the end of the day, it’s all about making money. 

I’ve been in a position of management and leadership in the corporate world, never in radio, but If I were a PD or a manager of a cluster, and I was looking at hosts where all things were equal in terms of on the air talent, but one had a background of being cognizant of the business side and understood what the sales staff had to go through, I would think that would be nirvana. 

TM: With social media being such a big part of our daily lives, could a host contribute by developing and keeping a relationship with a client with Twitter, Facebook, etc.?

SP: No question about it. It’s big for me, and I know the sales staff at the station uses my social media following as a selling point. Not because it’s just a decent size, it’s decent in terms of a local host, it’s not in the hundreds of thousands, but it’s 28 thousand or so of a lot of Houstonians. I engage a lot on there, and I think it’s important that they know I’m very active with it. 

It’s not just me tweeting something out because you ask me to, I feel strongly about the products I endorse and I try to present them in a humorous and creative way. I know the clients I have think social media is important. That’s half the thing. The perception of the client, whether it truly winds up being important or not, I don’t know if we can truly measure that yet. I think it’s still this animal we’re trying to wrap our arms around. But I do think it’s a measure of relevance.

I do think you can use it creatively and I have clients that even pay me just for the social media following. They don’t have the budget for radio, but they know I have a social media following. They pay me for my engagement on social media to talk about their business. There’s not many, just a couple, but I think it’s crucially important and evolving. I think as more things go online it becomes more important. I know that was the reason I got hired at 610, because I had a big social media following.

TM: Changing gears a bit since you’ve been at a low moment where you’ve lost a job. Is it tough working at a station where things are changing and people are getting replaced? 

SP: Emotionally, it’s hard. We just had that happen last week, our HR director, who’s been super helpful for me, I mean if you have kids and you have benefits, your best friend is the HR director. Ours just got let go, because Entercom is consolidating some of those positions. It’s really hard to watch. But from the position I’m in, there’s very little I can do about it. 

You feel for those people, you wish them the best, and offer whatever help you can, but for me, as a host, I just want to make myself as valuable as possible. I think the way you do that, is twofold. One is the revenue side, taking care of sponsors and making sure you’re engaged with them, whether it’s taking them to lunch, inviting them to the studio, or even inviting them to Texans practice. You also need to have conversations with them and understand where their challenges are to see where we’re falling short. Also finding out what we can do to tweak our approach to make radio work for them. You can have the greatest relationship in the world, but eventually you’re going to reach a breaking point where the client looks at it and realizes they can’t spend money on something that’s not working. 

The other way to do it, and something I set out to do, is to show versatility. My personal goal was to host a two-man show as No. 1 chair, host a two-man show as a No.2 chair and host a solo show on a pretty regular basis. Just so I can show versatility and show my station that whatever needed to be done, I could do it. 

TM: You drive a three-man afternoon show, along with Ted Johnson and Rich Lord, with Ted being the ex-athlete and football guy. How do you balance each day, when some days need to be driven more towards certain hosts on the show? 

SP: It’s my job to make sure that I’m self-aware enough to know that I have topics from the rundown that are Ted friendly or Rich friendly, or something that I know we’ll get a real healthy debate on. Not to the point where everyone is going to end up hating each other behind the scenes, but something that’s a healthy debate that we’ll have a difference of opinion on. We’ve been together long enough for me to know what that stuff is. 

The best advice I got when I moved to a three-man show was from Jim “JR” Ross. His advice was to be the point guard. He did a three-man booth back in the day for Monday Night Raw and he told me to be aware of what everyone’s strengths are and that they’re getting their touches. That’s kind of what I’ve abided by, is just accessing as the show goes along that everyone is getting their stuff in. 

TM: Here’s something else that’s a little off topic but I’ve been pondering on it. Why it may not be that big of a leap, I have a theory that I always try to find radio people when I need a guest for a show. Reason being, is that I believe being entertaining with a good flow is just as important as information. Radio hosts understand that and not all newspaper and internet writers do. Do you take that thinking into account with your show? Or just look for solid information that someone on the beat can provide? 

SP: To me, the best interviews are the ones where they leave some nuggets. The ones where you look at the text page after they’re done and people are texting in to react what they said. Reporters aren’t always the best for that, because their strength is supposed to be just reporting the truth and getting the facts. 

I tend to like radio guys or people whose platform is either internet based or podcast based. I think there are TV guys or reporters who like to get on the radio and deliver their opinions, because maybe their medium doesn’t allow them to do so. I just want make sure that someone, at the end of the day, is interesting and that the audience is learning something.

 That’s the biggest thing. I want to feel like they’re coming away with something that’s either a fact they didn’t already know or some point of view they hadn’t previously thought of. I just want to make sure they’re interesting and give interesting answers. 

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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