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Be Smart With Tough Subjects

“You don’t have to be an activist for every cause or offer a lesson on every way the privileged can abuse their power, but you can’t be scared to call out bad actors just because of their multiple championship rings or low career ERA.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Forgive what may seem like the lateness of this article. I was on vacation last week when most hosts and reporters were discussing the details of Robert Kraft’s arrest.

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Being on vacation doesn’t mean I didn’t consume some sports media. I read about the arrest and fallout on ESPN.com and The New York Post. I watched reactions from Bomani Jones and Pablo Torre on High Noon and from Adam Schein on Time to Schein. I listened to what Sarah Spain, Doug Gottlieb, and Collin Cowherd all had to say about it on their respective radio shows. For the most part, I thought every story I read, watched, or heard gave an intelligent opinion that took the larger implications into account.

It was an instance where the sports media did a good job of reacting to the big picture and not just the sports-related details. Yes, Robert Kraft is the owner of the NFL’s most successful franchise since the turn of the century, but in this case he’s just a dude that gave his business to human traffickers. He deserves to be called out and judged harshly for that.

The real world comes crashing into the sports world a lot. Even though we all got into this line of work to talk about what happens on the field, sometimes we are forced to delve into the details of the lives these guys live away from the stadium.

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Does that mean every new Colin Kaepernick story warrants a ten-minute segment? No, but when video of Kareem Hunt kicking a woman surfaces and the Kansas City Chiefs decide to release their superstar running back because of it, you need to be able to do more than just talk about how the Chiefs’ offense will have to adapt.

The morning after that video hit TMZ I heard a station do something that is gross and completely indefensible. The host ranked high profile instances of domestic violence involving NFL players. If this was done as insanely dark satire shining a light on the way fans react to serious issues like it is just another number on the stat line that bit would have still been in bad taste, but I might have at least admired the balls the host showed by taking the risk.

That’s not what he was doing. He was asking listeners to call in and discuss how Hunt’s assault of a woman compared to Ray Rice’s assault of a woman.

I don’t have to tell you how misguided and gross that is, right?

I saw some of the same kind of discussion of Robert Kraft popping up online last week. Why is a guy worth that much money going to a strip mall looking for a $59 happy ending?

Kraft is in his 70s and dates women in their 20s and 30s. He is best buddies with Donald Trump. He stomps his feet and vows revenge when Roger Goodell doesn’t give him what he wants. He gives his players kisses, some more passionate than others. Robert Kraft is a ridiculous human being and a powerful guy. That is a combination ripe for mockery.

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I have no problem with that being part of your discussion, but this isn’t just a man giving a woman money to get his rocks off. This is a story that involves human trafficking and the mega-rich utilizing sex slaves. You’re doing your audience a disservice if all you have to offer on this story is “Robert Kraft got caught with a hooker. LOL!”.

Sports radio has moved beyond the days of Sportzilla and the Jabber Jocks. We all understand the importance of being authentic with our audience and we fold real world consequences and stories into our daily rundown all the time. You don’t have to be an activist for every cause or offer a lesson on every way the privileged can abuse their power, but you can’t be scared to call out bad actors just because of their multiple championship rings or low career ERA.

Our audience may not be comprised exclusively of Rhodes Scholars, but for the most part they are smart as you are. Asking them to call in and rank NFL players’ instances of domestic violence is playing to the lowest common denominator…maybe lower.

Racial injustice, assault of any kind, and human trafficking are all serious issues. It sucks that we have to interrupt the fun of talking about sports to deal with them but history shows that sometimes we do.

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There’s no need to go hunting for these stories or keep harping on the details apropos of nothing years after they occur, but when a story about a player being arrested or released by his team for doing something horrible leads SportsCenter or happens inside your own market, there is no win in hiding your head in the sand or approaching the story without any thought deeper than “what are the implications for fantasy football players?”.

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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