It’s a big week at Barrett Sports Media with rankings for top sports radio stations and shows, but I didn’t want the week to go by without shining a light on some top sports radio producers who really make their shows and stations sound great. Here’s a look at eight sports radio producers making an impact for their shows and their radio stations. (They are presented in alphabetical order by last name –Sorry Danny Zederman!)
Cody Elias, 95.7 The Game/San Francisco
Show: Joe, Lo, and Dibs 6-10am
Cody has helped to elevate Joe, Lo, and Dibs to the top sports morning show in the Bay Area. Develop strong content and compelling angles focusing on Bay Area sports. He excels at on-site broadcast including the Golden State Warriors Championship Parade, San Francisco Giants World Series Post Game Shows and Raiders Training Camp from Napa.
“Cody is doing a great job. It’s interesting, he is just really good at topics, booking guests and knowing how to deal with each of his hosts who are so different.” – Matt Nahigian, Program Director, 95.7 The Game
Travis “T-Bone” Hancock, WFNZ/Charlotte
Show(s): The Mac Attack with Chris McClain and T-Bone 6-10 am
Travis has been at WFNZ for 13 years and is currently the producer and co-host of The Mac Attack with Chris McClain and T-Bone.
“For 13 years, Travis’ uncanny knack to maneuver the show on a fly, while keeping our ‘human alarm clock’ Chris McClain in control on the air is second to none. You’d never know by listening to the show through the speakers if T-Bone is putting out a fire or running the show as smooth as ice. He books big name guests on a daily basis, while his creativity with on-air bits, vocal impersonations and humor is as good as any executive producer in the country.” –WFNZ PD Tony DiGiacomo
Tyrone Johnson, 97.5 The Fanatic/Philadelphia
Show: Mike Missanelli Show, 2-6pm
Despite being a self-proclaimed “boring pescatarian”, Tyrone has brought his great personality and unique story angles to The Mike Missanelli Show. Since joining the show a year ago, the show has grown by almost two points with Men 25-54.
“Tyrone’s greatest contribution is chiming in on the air with a relatable quick wit spiked by smart dry humor. Tyrone brings a GenX view, while Natalie, (anchor Natalie Egenolf) brings the hip millennial city wise angle. They both have brought out the best in Mike-since joining the show a year ago!” –Eric Johnson, Program Director, 97.5 The Fanatic
David Reed, 104.5 The Zone/Nashville
Show: Midday180, 10am-2pm
David produces The Midday180 in addition to serving as Satellite Uplink Producer for the Titans Radio Network on game days. David’s a pro’s pro. He’s upbeat, focused, and creative, making The Midday180 a show that I would put up against any in the country.
“When a Zone listener tunes in for The Midday180 our hope is they hear original content not heard anywhere else in Nashville. We accomplish that because of our ‘Chairman of the Board’. From audio clips to highlight packages, from special segment intros to a sound bite at just the right time, from timing up a perfect guest or (more importantly) not allowing every caller through just to fill time, the man who ties our show together is David Reed. His wife recently battled breast cancer and David was right by her side. But that challenging time didn’t hinder his quality work, which is amazing. He’s a pro, and he’s a friend. We’re not a show of three hosts. It’s all four of us. His addition to the show a few years ago allowed us to reach another level in our daily product.” – Jonathan Hutton, Co-host The Midday180, 104.5 The Zone
Dustin Rhoades, 670 The Score/Chicago
Show: Mully and Haugh, 5-9am
This choice was the most difficult as I worked nine years at The Score (1994-2003) and hired a number of the current producers. Dustin wins it by a nose due to the challenging time-slot and his handling of the recent talent change with David Haugh replacing 26 year Score veteran Brian Hanley. In the most recent fall book Mully and Haugh finished first with an impressive 8.5.
“With the hours of a morning show an EP like Dustin has to be able to adjust to sports news at all hours of the day and help hosts react appropriately. At the same time he needs to book guests that could add and advance a topic or story–who are available during those early hours. Dustin has that ability.” –Mitch Rosen, Operations Manager, 670 The Score
James Stewart, 98.5 The Sports Hub/Boston
Show:Felger and Massarotti, 2-6pm
James Stewart is the Executive Producer of Felger & Massarotti. Felger and Mazz has been #1 in afternoon drive in Boston with Men 25-54 since 2013. Oh and he’s a huge pro wrestling nut with a terrific podcast for wrestling fans called “Inside the Ropes.”
“James works with two very successful air talents and helps keep the communication flowing before, during and after the show. He’s great at getting all the audio and coming up with angles for the topics of the day. Plus, he keeps the show executing the PPM basics.” –Mike Thomas, Brand Manager, 98.5 The Sports Hub
Jeffrey Wright, 92.9 ESPN/Memphis
Show(s): Geoff Calkins Show 9-11am (also fills in on Eric Hasseltine Show)
In just 2 years he managed to help move Geoff Calkins Show to a Top 1-2 show every month with 10 shares. Jeffrey often is producing AND hosting shows because his host, Geoff Calkins, is on the road as the lead columnist for The Daily Memphian.
“It’s impressive considering Jeffrey was coming from the Oxford Exxon Podcast Show at Ole Miss directly to the radio station two years ago. He adapted, added producer and hosting roles, and is a tireless worker with a “can do” attitude for our staff as Exec Producer.” –Brad Carson, Director of Branding/Sports Programming Entercom-Memphis
Danny Zederman, ESPN 1000/Chicago
Shows: Kap & Company 9a-Noon CT and Carmen & Jurko Noon-2pm CT
In mid February, Danny will have been at ESPN 1000 in Chicago for 13 years. That’s five hours, two shows and three different hosts on a daily basis.
“Sometimes things get heated in show meetings, or commercial breaks or even on air – but Danny’’s extremely passionate about what he does and it comes across in his producing. Danny is also a producer, real old school, doesn’t want what more than 75% of producers want – on air!” –ESPN 1000 PD Adam Delevitt
As you can see from this terrific group, there are so many different ways for a strong producer to contribute. Some are great on-air, some strong guest-bookers, some are geniuses with audio. The one thing that I can say about the eight producers on this list is that each and every one of them is great at working with talent. You don’t produce shows with these ratings without having a great understanding of dealing with talent. Congrats!
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.