It’s still college football season, right?
I ask, because like so many others in the business, it feels like an eternity waiting for the bowl game to arrive for the local team. If the main focus of your show is covering a college football team that’s playing in a bowl, it means the last time they stepped on the field was either late November or early December. That feels like a lifetime when the team isn’t playing again until late December or early January.
During this time, it’s hard to replicate the flow and success you had with the college football season in September, October and November. The news cycle coming from each program becomes increasingly slow and you find yourself begging for any quotes or injury information leading up to the bowl game.
The real challenge is choosing how to spend the entire month of December. Do you give a hardcore breakdown of the matchup each day? Kind of hard to do that when information is sparse leading up to the bowl week. Plus, things can become really stale if you spend four whole weeks constantly using the same points to talk about the same game. Do you ignore the game entirely until the week of? Well, that doesn’t make sense either, especially if you’re in a college football market that craves it every day.
So what do you do?
The new early National Signing Day on December 19th helps out with football coverage, but recruiting on the radio is also not for everyone. Trent Condon has seen this problem before. Covering both Iowa and Iowa State in Des Moines, there’s no local pro teams that can be used as a buffer while you wait for the bowl game. The Hawkeyes and Cyclones are always topic No. 1. Especially when both football teams are in postseason play.
When I contacted Condon, I had no idea he was in the middle of a transition we see so many times with hosts in the month of December. He hasn’t done a show in a few weeks, because he accepted an on-air position with 1460 KXNO and is waiting for his first day back behind the mic. It’s the station he’s always strived to be at in the state of Iowa and I couldn’t be happier for him. So, that means the point of this article stayed with how you keep your listeners engaged throughout the long game-less drought of December in a college football market, but also how you can stay fresh while in a job transition.
Starting January 2nd, will be Miller and Condon on 1460 KXNO, every weekday from 10:00 a.m. to noon. Luckily, the duo won’t have to worry about filling hours during the lull of no football games, but being in the market for 15 years, Condon still has an idea on how to handle such things.
TM: Since there’s such a long stretch since both Iowa and Iowa State have played their last game, how do you keep the momentum of college football season going during the month of December when neither team is playing games?
TC: Really, the best news for both programs is that the basketball teams look to have taken a big step forward. What Iowa did in New York City, beating UConn and a ranked Oregon team to win their tournament, as well as Iowa State winning a couple of games in Maui despite having injuries and suspensions. Both teams missed the NCAA Tournament last year and it looks like both will be back there. Because of that, it has helped build a bridge and has brought us the opportunity to really cover the basketball teams before we get to the bowl games.
TM: How much did you initially start talking about Iowa State vs. Washington State and Iowa vs. Mississippi State after the games were announced? Did you hit on them big, take a break and plan to come back to it? Or has it been full-coverage for the last three weeks?
TC: It’s funny, because you have your initial thoughts. For Washington State, it’s Mike Leach and they throw the football around. There wasn’t a deep dive into things, but more of an overview with things. Same thing with Mississippi State, really good defense with couple of guys that are first-round talent. You just give the overview without going with a real deep dive in.
I think here in the next week is when you really start to get into the matchups and go even deeper into things with the X’s and O’s. I think that’s how you try do it because you don’t want to do everything right away, but you do want to keep filtering things in throughout. Another good component has been the excitement from the Iowa State perspective. The Alamo Bowl is not a New Year’s Six game but this is the biggest bowl Iowa State has played in since the Peach Bowl in the 1970’s. The excitement that has gone along with that, including the way that fan base travels, how many people that are making the long trip, that’s also been a huge talking point, the excitement of this fan base and how pumped up they are.
TM: Building on that, have you found that the conversations over the air have also been about the bowl destinations themselves? Like talking about San Antonio and Tampa Bay and what’s to do in those cities during bowl week?
TC: I know right away on our drive-time show, the director for the Alamo Bowl was on. I’ve heard various people on the show that are from San Antonio and cover the Big 12. That’s something that’s being done to help the fans. But that talk really has been bigger for San Antonio than Tampa Bay, because it’s the first time Iowa State has ever been to the Alamo Bowl and Iowa has been to the Outback Bowl like four times in the past 11 years. If you’re an Iowa fan and go to bowl games, you’ve probably been to Tampa before. It’s really been more about San Antonio from that aspect.
TM: What about travel-wise for the station? How do you decide what bowl game to cover and be on-site at?
TC: Well, our drive time show is kind of split between Cyclone and Hawkeye coverage. Chris Williams, who runs Cyclone Fanatic, he obviously is with the Iowa State side of things and will be with them in San Antonio. Ross Peterson, who hosts a show that’s been on for decades after Iowa football games, he has the Hawkeye perspective on the show. Those guys kind of split things that way, and because of that, one guy can go to one place, the other can go to the other.
Another thing, is that if you really wanted to and had the budget to do it, you could go from Des Moines to San Antonio to Tampa Bay and back home to make it work. There’s enough days in between to make that work. If you have the budget, of course.
TM: Give us a preview on your new show and what’s going to happen
TC: I’m making the transition over to 1460 KXNO, the longest standing all-sports station here in Des Moines and really, the most well-known sports station in Iowa. I’ll be hosting a daily program from 10 a.m. to noon with Ken Miller. Ken was the one that helped bring sports talk radio to Des Moines. Over 25 years ago, many people in this market laughed at him. You’re going to talk about sports? You’re going to do it at a local level? Those were things he heard.
It has ballooned since then. When he came in here and started this, people didn’t think it would last. Here we are 25 years later and not only has it lasted, but it’s thrived in this market. When I started in this market 15 years ago, KXNO was the ultimate destination. This was the place you wanted to go and be in this state. They have the most listeners, but more importantly, they understand sports and what it takes to succeed.
Ken and I have worked together before and I love it. We’re very simple guys that just want to talk about sports. We’re never going to talk politics or break down the latest craft beer. That’s just not us. We’re hardcore sports and that’s what we bring. I know that’s not for everyone but that’s ok. We’re going to put sports at the forefront of everything we do.
TM: Has it been very long since you did your last show?
TC: It was the last Friday in November. It’s been tough being off that long. We had the Iowa-Iowa State basketball game and at the end there was pushing and shoving going on. I wanted to talk about it! I was sitting there at home one night last week watching an NFL game and someone went for 2 points. I ended up going on a 10-minute tirade while sitting on the couch with my wife and she told me, “You have to stop. You just have to stop. You need to go do a podcast or something.”
Well, I’ve been doing that and Ken (Miller) and I got together last week and did one. I do some Hawkeye podcast with a few of my friends, so there’s a few things that I do to keep myself in the flow of things but I miss flipping on a microphone every day and getting to talk. At my old station, I was on five hours a day. You go from being on five hours a day to none, and you find out how much you miss it. I’m just happy to talk to you right now!
TM: I’m sure you’re not the only host going through this transition of being on the sideline while waiting to join your new station after the new year. Is podcasting the best way to stay fresh during a time like this?
TC: Yeah, I think that’s a perfect way to do it. Especially if you have the ability to do it at the station that you’re about to be a part of, like I have going right now. Because of that, people are still listening to you, even though it’s not going out over the radio.
People think it’s easy to just pop on a microphone and talk about sports. There’s a lot more that goes into it than just that. I didn’t do anything for 10 days when it pertains to talking about sports. When I got back to doing the podcast, it took a couple of times to get revved back up and into it again.
Absolutely, keep yourself involved and engaged to stay fresh. I found myself, a couple of nights, flipping off a college basketball game involving a Big 12 team because it was boring. It wasn’t that big of a deal, but I know I can’t do that for a whole month. You can’t shut yourself out from sports completely, because you’ll come back and be lost. You can’t do that.
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.