Marc Ryan’s sports media career has taken him all over the country and introduced him to some very interesting people. He was Booger McFarland’s on-air partner at 98.7 the Fan in Tampa. He has also hosted shows on CBS Sports Radio.
Now Marc calls Houston home. He is a weekend host working part-time for Entercom’s Sports Radio 610. The decision to go part-time was fueled by a desire to bring a new challenge into his life. He found a new sense of purpose when a friend told him about an opening for a media teaching position at a Houston area public high school. Since landing the job, Marc has found a renewed sense of purpose and a level of satisfaction he didn’t know he was missing until he discovered it.
A lot of us in this industry hear that we “don’t have a real job” or that we “get to play for a living.” That might be true, but Marc Ryan found a way to use playing for a living to make a difference in the lives of teenagers looking for their place in the world. Is he training the next great sports broadcaster? We’ll let him answer that question in this guest column he wrote for BSM.
You’ve had a great week at your station. Your shows have been well received by your Program Director and your listening audience. Your sponsors are happy, new clients are coming on board, and your ratings are rocking. Yet for some reason, there’s an emptiness within you that’s hard to pinpoint.
Perhaps you’re wondering if you’re truly maximizing your ability to make a positive difference. Does the work you’re doing truly matter for the greater good, for the good of your community? For me, fulfillment has always been one of the prerequisites to happiness.
By nature, I’ve always been a guy with a healthy discontent for the status quo. I want to grow, I want to improve, I want to spread my wings. “When we cease getting better, we cease being good” hangs on my bedroom mirror. Nauseating, right? I’m a cheeseball, but those clichés work on me so I repeat them over and over and over and…you get it.
About a year ago, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing for me, only it was difficult to identify exactly what that something was. A fellow cohost at Sports Radio 610 and a full time teacher informed me of a High School media teaching opening. I was assured I would still be able to work at Sports Radio 610 if I took the interview, albeit in a part time hosting capacity down from a full time, jack of all trades role. Within two days, I interviewed for the job with no degree in education and no teaching experience. The principal asked me questions such as “What’s your vision for our media program?” Fortunately, sports radio prepped me well for extemporaneous speech and thinking on the fly. I was told a hiring decision would be made the following week, and I assumed I’d never hear from the principal again.
Two days later, he called to offer me the position. This was my response, said in complete shock: “Those other interviews must have gone REALLY badly.” The principal laughed, extended me a contract, and so began the most challenging and rewarding year of my life.
I learned in the 2017-2018 school year precisely what had been missing for me; the need to know what I was doing was making a difference and truly mattered. To simply crack the mic and entertain (or torture, depending on your experience with my show) my radio audience was no longer enough for me. I needed more.
In this position last school year, as the media head for a 6A Houston area high school, I experienced a level of pride, a feeling of involvement, teamwork, and leadership that I will take with me wherever my ongoing sports media career takes me. I was able to uplift students of a lower socioeconomic background and work with them to truly make them part of a team.
My task was challenging, yet straight forward: revamp a student tv show that the 2,800 students at my school were no longer watching. I was told by students that our efforts didn’t matter because no one would watch. I urged them to be patient.
Come March of this year, those same students approached me and said they were having a hard time pulling off our segments because “Everyone knows who we are now.” What a moment of accomplishment for all of us!
At the beginning of the year, I was specifically warned about two students and behavioral issues that came with them. By the end of the school year, those two students had become two of my best and had truly blossomed and come out of their respective shells. Additionally, by year’s end, we set records for most views of our program (an average of over 100 classrooms per episode in a school that only has 120 classrooms), the most involvement, and most student participation. The administration was proud of our work, and I was extended a new contract.
An additional challenge involves a recent study showing minorities and young women don’t pursue jobs in sports media at the level of other groups. My high school is 95% Latino and Mexican American, and I have found that to be the case. For starters, 90% of my students are male. Our tv show is viewed as a performance, and there is a reticence to draw attention to oneself among students. This is especially true among female students.
I don’t remember this being the case at the high school I attended. To combat the issue, I go above and beyond to encourage and support anyone willing to step out of their shell. I’m over the top in acting out how energetic I want them to be. Think borderline cartoonish. This works well because if they’re willing to laugh at me, perhaps in time I can create an environment where they can also laugh at themselves. The process of seeing students grow into an increased comfort level in their own skin, unafraid of embarrassing themselves or ridicule is so very rewarding.
I’ve come to realize I can experience this same fulfillment while working full time in sports media. I just need to seek out more opportunities to give back. I’m fortunate to work for a station at Sports Radio 610, where under the leadership of Sarah Frazier, we are involved in so many philanthropic efforts. From spending a day at the Houston Food Bank, to book drives, to rebuilding homes of those who lost everything in Hurricane Harvey, my station is very involved with deep ties and an emotional bond with the Houston community.
I now know that for me personally, hosting a good show is merely half the battle. The other 50% and true fulfillment can be yours if you brainstorm how to use your platform for the greater good. What are you specifically doing to give back, both inside your building and in your community? Is there a new part-time colleague at your station you can take under your wing? Is there a listener facing life challenges you can help or encourage? Is there a cause you’re passionate about that you can spearhead station involvement in?
When all is said and done, no one benefits more from this additional effort than you.
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.