The Good Place on NBC isn’t just my favorite show on TV right now. I think it is one of the best television comedies ever made. Aside from live sports, it is the one thing I make a point to always catch live so that nothing is spoiled for me on Twitter. If you’ve never seen the show, you should. Every episode is on the NBC app and will be on Netflix by the end of the summer.
I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but William Jackson Harper’s character, Chidi is a moral philosophy professor. He takes it upon himself to teach our protagonist, Eleanor (Kristin Bell) what it means to be a good person.
In the first season, Chidi gives Eleanor a book called What We Owe To Each Other. I won’t tell you why it is important in the context of the show for fear of revealing any one of the half dozen major twists fans of the show have already seen, but for the purposes of this column I will tell you that What We Owe To Each Other is a real book by TM Scanlon about contractualism, the idea that what is right and wrong is based on what has the most benefit.
So, recently I did a fill-in gig with a producer that went out of his way to tell me how little he could help me. It was infuriating. Even more infuriating was that at one point he dosed off and missed a hard break we were up against.
Maybe I wasn’t doing the best material, but given how many times during the breaks this guy told me he didn’t like sports, I am going to guess he was daydreaming and that turned into actually falling asleep. I had to call him out on air, and that was embarrassing for both of us.
On the drive home, I started thinking about this episode of The Good Place and the idea of contractualism. There is a perfect parallel to sports radio if we look at it on a micro level. Let’s walk through the phrase “what we owe to each other” as if it were a discussion about a producer and a host.
WHAT DOES A PRODUCER OWE A HOST?
Above all else, a producer owes it to the host to care about the show. I have written before about the need for a producer to take ownership of a show even if his/her is not the name on it. That means that even if the producer has hire aspirations, even if he/she is working on becoming a host or a programmer in the future, right now his/her top priority is the show in front of him/her.
The producer’s job is to get the best out of the host. That means as a producer you will at times be supporting a hosts vision. Other times you will be guiding and shaping the sound of the show. You have to be aware of what the situation requires of you. You’re going to have to have a passion for the product to help it reach its potential.
Next, when a producer is behind the board, he/she owes it to the host to be engaged. Even if he/she could give a damn about golf, a producer has to know what he/she can do to get the most out of a segment if the host wants to talk about the British Open on Monday.
Producers have to be vigilant and they have to be creative. If a producer wants to make his/her impact felt, he/she has to be ready for those opportunities. Where does a good drop fit? Where is there an opportunity for him/her to jump in with an opinion? If all a producer is doing is watching a clock and moving faders up or down, he/she will miss all of the signs that they are needed.
Finally, a producer owes a host communication, and that is more than just keeping the host aware of time till a break or who is on the phone. It is more than just when the two are in the studio. A producer owes a host an open line throughout the day. A good producer is adding to the rundown, throwing out guest ideas, you name it.
You don’t have to be working 24/7, but this is talk radio. Part of your prep is living your life and consuming events and opinions. If you’re a producer, you owe it to your host to check in throughout the day to let him/her know what you’ve seen and what you are thinking.
WHAT DOES A HOST OWE A PRODUCER?
Too often I have seen this relationship treated like the producer is a host’s assistant. A producer may assist the host, but he/she isn’t an assistant.
A host owes it to a producer to accept that he/she isn’t the producer’s boss. The best producers are the ones that aren’t treated like their job is to ask “how high?” when the host says “jump!”. If the host wants a boss/employee dynamic with the producer, they are never going to have a producer that feels empowered to improve the show.
Hosts owe their producers clear, fair expectations. What do you need to happen to make the show better that you aren’t capable of providing? How important is it that a producer be versed in pop culture? Do you have a bit idea? How exactly does it sound in your head? These are all things that a host has to tell the producer. It’s not fair for a host to complain to colleagues or bosses about the producer not giving him/her what he/she needs if the two have never had that conversation.
Finally, a host owes the producer trust. Specifically, a host has to trust the producer’s ear. The producer is every show’s ultimate P1. If he/she is telling the host that a topic or an interview has gone on too long, the listeners are feeling it too.
When a producer offers honest feedback about what he/she is hearing, a host has to be open to that critique. Dismissing a producer’s observations just because your paycheck is bigger turns you into the tracker from the original Jurassic Park. You can keep doing the same job the same way, but you leave yourself vulnerable to all sorts of competition as the entertainment landscape changes around you.
A host and producer don’t have a superior/underling relationship. They have to be teammates. Just because Alvin Kamara is the one holding the ball in the end zone doesn’t mean Ryan Ramczyk and Andrus Peat didn’t make the touchdown happen.
Be aware of what you owe your teammates. Be vocal about what you need from them. The producer/host relationship is one that only works if both sides know how to answer the question “What do we owe to each other?”.
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.