For as many New Year’s Days as I can remember I have attended or watched the NHL’s Winter Classic. This year was no different as the Chicago Blackhawks faced off against the Boston Bruins. Two of the NHL’s Original Six teams, played an outdoor hockey game at Notre Dame’s Football Stadium. The scenery was beautiful in this made for TV event.
Aerial shots of a packed football stadium (over 75,000 fans) showed the hockey rink literally at mid-field of the football field. The players walked in from outside the stadium in two lines with “Touchdown Jesus” in the background and entered the ice to the Fighting Irish fight song. Notre Dame’s famous “Play like a Champion today” was everywhere on oversized hockey pucks and placards. From an on-site and on-air standpoint it was nearly a perfect event.
This was the 11th NHL Winter Classic and it has become one of the league’s marquis events. I have to think when NBC Sports’ Jon Miller approached the NHL with the idea, everyone thought he was nuts. Maybe the outside hockey game was an ok idea, but competing head to head with College Football on New Year’s Day? Someone must have a screw loose. College Football is arguably the nation’s 2nd most popular sport behind the NFL and it has owned New Year’s Day forever with a collection of bowl games.
It got me thinking about sports radio. There must be times where your station just doesn’t compete. You may not even try to compete at some times. If another station in town is the NFL flagship or the flagship of a major MLB or college football team the challenge can seem daunting. But that may be just the time to try something big or something completely out of the box for your station. Here are some ideas worth investigating:
- Fantasy Sunday – So your station isn’t the flagship? That’s ok. Up against the game you can do complete fantasy football coverage. This would include scoring updates as they happen and continually updating player stats for the day. If you want to make it bigger, do it at a sports bar each week.
- 2nd “Screen” Experience – What about doing a talk show with analysis during the game. It’s a talk show about the game as it is happening? A guy at the Score (Mike Murphy) used to do it during the Bulls playoff run and called it “Instant Analysis”. With the right host, analyst, and producer you can make it a really great, fast-moving show. A show you can promote as “Watch the game with the sound down and listen to us!”
- Hot Stove Baseball Show-While the NFL is the biggest thing going in sports (by far!), your local team may not be any good, but the interest in baseball remains all season long. It’s a great time to create some appointment listening for the baseball fans. Certainly helps if you’re the baseball flagship, but if you’re not, the right host and former manager or player can do the trick. Can be re-packaged as a Hot Stove Podcast after the fact as well.
- Live from the Sportsbook –It’s the 21st Century sports bar complete with live betting and big screens where, at least to someone in there, every game matters. Have a host and your station’s gambling expert. If your state hasn’t come around on sports betting yet, time to partner with VSIN (Or Matt Perrault) for more sports gambling related programming.
As a reflection back to the NHL’s Winter Classic, this year’s game between the Blackhawks and Bruins at Notre Dame’s Football Stadium had a respectable 2.98 Million viewers. While that number pales in comparison to the big New Year’s Day games (Fiesta, Rose, Sugar), it is the highest rated NHL Winter Classic in four years. Plus, the football stadium was at capacity—76,126 fans to see a hockey game outside on New Year’s Day. More fans attended the Winter Classic than the Sugar Bowl (71,000) and Fiesta Bowl (51,000).
What I respect is that despite the lock College Football has had on New Year’s Day, the NHL put its biggest event (outside of the Stanley Cup finals) right up against it. And it works. The sight lines and views at Notre Dame were amazing and the tie-ins with ND football and hockey were spectacular.
The overall point for sports radio stations is this—compete everywhere!! Don’t assume another station has a daypart or time slot locked up. Maybe they only have it locked up because you have chosen not to compete on that day or in that time slot. Happy 2019—now go get ‘em!
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.