Duke forward Zion Williamson has sparked plenty of debates. The freshman suffered a mild knee sprain in a game against North Carolina on February 20. The ridiculous strength that Zion possesses caused his left shoe to disintegrate.
Many people, including more than a handful of former NBA players, said that Zion should no longer play college basketball. It was too risky. He stood to make millions of dollars in the NBA, and it made no sense to risk any portion of his future earnings by continuing to play at Duke.
Zion didn’t listen to those people. After missing six games due to his knee injury, Zion averaged 27 points and 10 rebounds in the ACC tournament. He made 33 of 43 shots in a dominating three-game performance helping Duke win the ACC championship. Zion also took home MVP honors. Not too shabby. He added this gem during the trophy presentation, “For the people who said I shouldn’t return, I couldn’t abandon my brothers and coaches like that.” All that was missing was a Gronk spike mic drop.
Have you ever watched a movie and desired to be like the main character? It’s common for humans to want to be smooth, successful, and powerful like actors in films.
Athletes can be admired the same way. When LeBron James surpassed Michael Jordan on the all-time NBA scoring list, he revealed how much he desired to be like Jordan. “Wanted to be like MJ,” James said. “Shoot fadeaways like MJ. Wanted to stick my tongue out on a dunk like MJ. Wear my sneakers like MJ. I wanted kids to look up to me at some point like MJ.”
Well, Zion is the latest great athlete to possess many desirable qualities.
Listed at 6’7”, 285 pounds, the big man from Spartanburg, South Carolina is known for his power. The finesse part of his game exists, but it doesn’t stand out the most. It would be like Mike Tyson being known for his jab more than his fierce uppercut or Nolan Ryan being admired for his curveball instead of his lethal fastball. Power typically stands out the most. While Zion’s power is most evident, he has another characteristic that would benefit others to emulate.
Zion didn’t forget why he plays basketball. It’s simply because he loves the game.
My first job in sports radio was back in 2004. I landed a role as an on-air morning co-host and producer at ESPN Radio 1580 in my hometown of South Bend, Indiana. For a minute I thought that I might be rich. I remember thinking, “Man, this is ESPN. This is the big time. I might’ve just landed a huge payday.” My first check showed that I made $5.15 an hour. Like Bob Uecker said in Major League, “Juuust a bit outside,” I was juuust a bit short of being rich. I stuck it out though because it’s what I loved to do.
I hired a guy named Chris Haynes as a producer when I ran FOX Sports Radio 1340 in Fresno, California. It was obvious to me that Chris was very hungry and talented. He also ended up debating my co-host constantly in commercial breaks, which I loved, so I gave him the nickname “Straw” because he loved to stir things up.
I’m not going to put his W-2 information out there for the world to see, but let’s just say he’s making a whole lot more now as a big shot at Yahoo! Sports. Chris stuck out the early years because he loves sports. I’m very happy to see him achieve so much as a result of grinding it out.
Cleveland Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey shared a powerful thought while addressing his team on HBO’s Hard Knocks last year. “I want everybody to take out a piece of paper and write what’s your why — why you play football,” Kirksey said. “You can tape it on your ceiling in the hotel room. You can put it on your nightstand. Every morning you wake up, that’s going to be the first thing you see. Before you go to sleep, that’s the last thing you’ll see is your why. When it’s tough, you’re always going to remember there’s a reason why you do this [bleep].”
Why do you do what you do? It’s easy, especially for people in the sports radio business, to lose sight of their why. It’s common to focus on what — what can be gained. Trying to make a lot of money or gain attention aren’t necessarily bad things at all, but that’s what the industry can provide, not why hosts initially get in the business. If the people in sports radio were only about money and fame, they’d never stick out the lean years when they weren’t making anything and no one knew who they were.
I can remember playing pick-up games of football with friends as a kid. We always pretended to be NFL players. There would be disagreements at times because someone “already called Jerry Rice.” We didn’t know what being rich even meant back then. We just thought Rice was awesome and wanted to be like him.
It was the same thing for LeBron. “My high school best friends, we remember walking up and down those Akron streets with a basketball, just singing, ‘I wanna be, I wanna be, I wanna be like Mike.’”
Zion is the person I want to be like now. Not for his skill and power, but for his mindset. He made a decision to come back and suit up for Duke because of why he plays the game, not for what he can get out of it.
Appearing in a March Madness video before the ACC tournament, Zion said, “For the people that think I should stop playing in college and just focus on the NBA: thanks, but no thanks. I love playing basketball. I want to go out there and do my best and try to work the hardest.”
That mentality should be valued and applauded. Far too many people have their priorities out of whack and focus only on money instead of Zion simply wanting to be there for his teammates while playing the game he loves. That’s conviction. That’s purpose. That’s inspiring. It’s funny that many people who are solely focused on Zion getting rich are missing a valuable lesson that can enrich their own lives — don’t forget your why.
Why do you work so hard? Why do you grind each day? The answers to those questions are the reasons that truly matter.
If you remember the main reason you battle each day at work, it makes the random day-to-day headaches dwindle. It lessens hard times and adds more joy to the good experiences. Why does Zion work so hard and continue to play college basketball? “I’m just trying to be Zion and just play the game I love.”
What’s your why?
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.