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Turning Triple A Obligations Into Major League Content

“If we had to have the manager of a Triple-A baseball team on every week, the way we were going to make listeners care about the segment was by making the segment about us.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Summer is very much here. My article this week isn’t going to cast a wide net, but I hope that the people in the very specific situation I am going to write about will appreciate that someone is taking the time to discuss this issue and take it seriously.

There are a lot of sports talk hosts that work in a market with a minor league baseball or hockey team or maybe a G-League basketball team. If you’re lucky, the extent of your on-air relationship with that team is they advertise on your station and you give some tickets away for games. Maybe you show up at the park or the arena once a month to host a station sponsored night at the game.

Sometimes though, those teams want a little more out of your station, particularly if you are the team’s broadcast partner. That can result in the awkward situation of having to have a player or manager from the team on with some regularity.

I had to deal with this when I was a part of the morning show at Buzz Sports Radio in Raleigh, NC. The station was owned by Capitol Broadcasting, the same company that owned the Durham Bulls. Part of being a good corporate citizen was having the team’s manager on once a week.

Image result for durham bulls

Look, the Triangle is very loyal to the Bulls. Going to the games is a summer tradition for a lot of families in the 919. On top of that, thanks to a certain romantic comedy from the 1980s, it is probably the most famous minor league team in the country. For all of the popularity though, it was tough to find people that could name more than one player on the roster, let alone find someone that cared what the Bulls’ magic number was to clinch a spot in the International League Playoffs.

Jared Sandberg was the Bulls’ manager at the time. Now he’s an assistant on Scott Servais’s Seattle Mariners staff. Jared is a nice enough guy and we didn’t want to do him a disservice, but my partners and I knew that his weekly call was an invitation for listeners to tune out if all he was going to do was talk Triple-A X’s and O’s.

It was early in the 2016 baseball season, and I don’t remember what happened, but we called Jared to record our interview for the next day. That was a necessity when dealing with a league that stretches from the Atlanta suburbs up to Rhode Island and every team is traveling by bus. I don’t remember what happened the night before, but Mike Maniscalco brought it up before we even started recording. We were just making small talk and Jared was fired up and cussing about a blown call.

A little light bulb went off. If we have to do this, this is how we should be doing it. A couple of weeks went by and we would have Jared comment on what was happening in Major League Baseball and then let him hit a few talking points about the Bulls to close out the interview. It was fine, but Raleigh and Durham aren’t Major League Baseball markets. The interest in a segment built on Major League Baseball talk is minimal.

Then we got a gift from Heaven above. It was the week of the Bulls’ annual Star Wars night. Now, if you read my columns a lot, you probably know that I LOVE Star Wars!

I casually asked Jared who his favorite Star Wars character was. He said he didn’t know. I pressed him. “Come on man. Is it Luke? It’s not lame to say Luke.”

His response was something I was not ready for. Jared Sandberg had never seen any of the Star Wars movies. Not a single frame of a single film. I spent the next four minutes yelling at him about the Jedi and the Rebel Alliance and the forces of good and evil pulling at Anakin Skywalker.

When we hung up the phone Mike and I looked at each other like we had just solved the math equation from Good Will Hunting. This was the segment! If we had to have the manager of a Triple-A baseball team on every week, the way we were going to make listeners care about the segment was by making the segment about us.

Image result for good will hunting math equation

So that is a long story about my experience to tell you this. If you are one of the broadcasters that are stuck having to interview a minor league jock or coach every week, figure out what you need to do to make it entertaining to the largest number of people. It isn’t just in the best interest of your show. It is in the best interest of the team too. Listeners will want to support someone that they know as a fun part of the show.

You will have to figure out the best way to utilize the interviewee, of course. We got lucky in that there wasn’t much we could do that Jared Sandberg was not okay with.

These situations are not limited to interactions with folks from the local minor league teams. I hate hearing stations that bring clients into the studio. I didn’t tune into sports talk radio to hear a 10 minute segment on energy efficient windows!

You need to have good content for the sales department to generate revenue. So it’s weird then that sometimes the sales department will saddle you with something that no one in their right mind would think is good content. When that is the case, you need to figure out how to use that sponsored guest in a way that has the least negative effect on the show. Maybe that’s bringing in a minor league hockey player to talk about what is happening in the NHL, maybe it’s talking to an advertiser about what kind of car he would sell a local player that just signed a huge new contract, or maybe it is getting a minor league baseball player on the phone to settle petty arguments amongst the personalities on the show or receive a barrage of insults from a producer because the manager doesn’t know what a tauntaun is.

BSM Writers

Mike Tirico Has ‘Never Pretended to Be Friends’ With Athletes

“I like having a healthy relationship where if I need something, I can ask whether it’s for on-air or for background and build trust.”

Ricky Keeler

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Mike Tirico has been covering sports on network television for 32 years. Over those 3+ decades, he has made it a point to not be so close with the athletes he covers in whichever sport he is broadcasting.

Tirico was a guest on the most recent episode of the GOLF’s Subpar podcast with Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz. While Tirico knows he is not doing extensive journalism work, he wants to make sure that he can be able to ask the hard questions if he has to any athlete.

“I never pretend to be friends with the athletes I cover. I like having a healthy relationship where if I need something, I can ask whether it’s for on-air or for background and build trust. I’m not in a position where I’m working for Outside the Lines at my old place, ESPN. It’s not a knock. It’s just you’re not in a position where you have to do these journalistic-type interviews all the time, but there are times you have to ask hard questions. I always try to keep a little bit of a buffer or a distance.”

The context of that question came when Tirico was asked about how good of a relationship he has with Tiger Woods.

“It’s good….If I reach out, he will usually get back to me. He’s been really good and really nice along the way.”

As for broadcasting sports in this day and age of social media, Tirico believes that it can make a broadcaster better whether or not the complaint from someone on Twitter is real or not.

“It makes us better because you know that people are going to catch you. If something is artificial or not, real or not, embraced or not, it forces you to be better at what you do.”

For that same reason, Tirico thinks that LIV Golf is going to make the PGA Tour have to be better going forward because now they have another tour to go up against.

“I think LIV Golf, and we all have our own opinions on it, is going to force the PGA Tour to be better. Competition is good. Checks and balances are really good.”

Even though Tirico doesn’t feel nervous about many broadcasts anymore, there was one event in the last decade where the nerves kicked in when he was hosting his first Olympics at NBC.

“The only time in the last 10 years that I’ve been nervous was coming on for the first time hosting the Olympics because Bob Costas has done that since most of us have been alive and most people had never seen anyone but Bob Costas host the Olympics in primetime…2 minutes before, I’m like ‘should I be this? Should I have fun?’ and then the minute before, I cracked a joke in the studio.”

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BSM Writers

Kyle Brandt’s Rant a Reminder to Consider the Messenger

This doesn’t mean Brandt is wrong or even that he is being told to echo the NFL’s position, it’s to note that he took a very powerful stance on a very powerful platform and they both matter.

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Kyle Brandt

This week, a massive announcement was made in the National Football League regarding the immediate future of Deshaun Watson. Judge Sue L. Robinson recommended a six -game suspension with no additional monetary fine for the quarterback. While the NFL mulls what it will say further, most others didn’t, including a really prominent personality: Kyle Brandt.

Brandt, a co-host on Good Morning Football, reacted like a lot of people did upon hearing the decision: forcefully. On Monday, Brandt denounced the decision to limit Watson’s suspension to six games, saying in part, “…I look at six and I find it very light. I hope it doesn’t stay that way personally. I think that Deshaun Watson leveraged his status as an NFL player against women. In my opinion. And I think it happened more than one time and I think it was was in closed doors in small rooms against women who were probably intimidated. And it pisses me off to even talk about it. And frankly it pisses me off to see the number six. And I don’t think it’s going to stay that way and I hope it doesn’t.”

Those words resonated. Once they were said, the clip was grabbed from the show and then distributed on Brandt’s Twitter account which reaches 333,000+ followers and on his Instagram which speaks to 96,000+ followers. That video has been seen over two million times. Viral, they say. Here it is if you did happen to miss it. Passionate stuff from Brandt.

If you believe in the message, it’s an easy to like, retweet or share idea. It’s not a hot take, frankly, because there is a large section of those that have been following this story that agree. Deshaun Watson is settling cases because people believe he did something bad. Something bad enough that judge did seem fit to point it out and recommend what is generally speaking, a strong suspension. The only problem here is the platform hosting the message.

This is not a Kyle Brandt-bashing piece. He isn’t the platform. If anything, he’s the vessel of this message he wants out. He also, very likely, feels exactly the way he said he did in the above tweeted video. In fact, the next day, Tuesday, Brandt doubled down on his opinion. The newer video was viewed over 400,000 times. You can check it out right below these words.

The distinction needs to be noted that the message Brandt is delivering, is the NFL’s message. It is what Roger Goodell wants to be the prevailing wisdom regarding how we feel about the current state of Watson’s suspension. That message is being amplified by a very popular co-host, on a very popular morning television show that is seen by a lot of people and that is owned by the National Football League.

Again, I am here waving to you wildly to say that I have no reason to believe that Brandt is being told this particular messaging needs to be voiced. But, I do know that the NFL has until Thursday to appeal the decision. Three days is a lot of time to gather data on whether or not the public might support you appealing for more games, something that the league most certainly will look into judging by their statement released shortly after the ruling.

I also know that the NFL was seeking a much longer suspension as well as a hefty fine to be issued to Watson. The NFL has taken a lot of hits for how it has handled players violating league rules and the player conduct policy. No matter which case you look at, comparing it to the one previous or the one right after is an exercise is madness. The one common theme seems to be is that when the NFL feels like it is delving out punishment, it wants to be severe, no matter the consistency. Remember, Tom Brady was a short ‘yes’ answer away from appealing his case to the Supreme Court. The NFL isn’t particularly interested in just letting things go.

It is well within the realm of possibility that the NFL is getting what it rarely gets: an overwhelming opinion that actually sides with it in terms of punishment. For the majority of the modern cases I can remember, more fans than not disagreed with the NFL’s stance on a case. This time, they might have the court of public opinion on their side. I hear far more ‘kick him outs’ in reference to Watson than I do ‘no suspensions’.

We might have the perfect storm for the NFL in terms of support and Kyle Brandt’s message lines up exactly with the leagues desires, no matter how they may have gotten there. Both want more punishment for the Cleveland quarterback. Brandt can hope, the NFL can fight.

This doesn’t mean Brandt is wrong or even that he is being told to echo the NFL’s position, it’s to note that he took a very powerful stance on a very powerful platform and they both matter.

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BSM Writers

Producers Podcast Episode 6: Jackson Safon, The Volume

Brady Farkas

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Jackson Safon has produced for a number of high profile digital networks. Now, as a freelancer, The Volume has put its faith in him to get the most out of Draymond Green, and CC Sabathia and Ryan Ruocco have trusted him to make R2C2 the best it can be.

iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-producers-podcast/id1630978079

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/2XBTp3PnrBvGv2n4Y19tCE?si=c84eee71512e49a5

iHeart: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/269-the-producers-podcast-98564690/

Google: https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9mZWVkcy5ibHVicnJ5LmNvbS9mZWVkcy9wcm9kdWNlcnNwb2QueG1s?sa=X&ved=0CAMQ4aUDahcKEwiQpvak__P4AhUAAAAAHQAAAAAQRw

Amazon: https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/241160ba-ad26-4297-a37a-107dfb10b462/the-producers-podcast 

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