This week after four shows on Phoenix’s Fox Sports 910, afternoon host Dan Sileo was canned. A short tenure indeed, but it’s the nature of what happened that is especially troubling. According to The Athletic, the Arizona Coyotes (it’s an NHL Hockey team, btw) vehemently objected to the hiring of Sileo by their new flagship station. The team even took the very unusual move of commenting publicly on what it thought and what it did:
“When we became aware that Fox Sports 910 had hired Dan Sileo, we immediately reached out to the station’s management to express our deep concern regarding Mr. Sileo’s abhorrent comments,” the team told The Athletic. “Our promotion of inclusivity is deeply rooted into the fabric of who we are as an organization and we have no tolerance for racism, sexism, anti-Semitism or any other discriminatory behavior.”The Athletic
Boom. Show was gone. Sileo scrubbed from the station website. It’s like the show had never existed. Nothing from PD Aaron Trimmer who said, “Sileo’s unparalleled passion and enthusiasm for Sports Talk make him the perfect host for afternoon drive on FOX Sports 910. We’re thrilled to have one of the country’s best hosts join our market-leading program lineup,” when Sileo was originally hired in late August.
Obviously Trimmer wasn’t THAT thrilled with Sileo as he caved to the pressure of the lowly Coyotes. For those who are not big hockey fans, the team is a complete non-factor in the NHL. The last time they made the playoffs was 2012 and the team has been riddled with ownership and stadium instability.
So all of this may be an extreme example, but it made me think of the influence that sports teams have with their flagships. I have heard stories through the years about teams exerting influence behind the scenes either in support of or against certain talent. In looking at this issue I spoke to two influential sports radio programmers. Mike Thomas, Brand Manager of the Boston sports radio juggernaut 98.5 The Sports Hub (and National Spoken Word and Podcast Brand Manager for Beasley Media Group) and John Mamola, PD of 95.3 WDAE in Tampa. The Sports Hub is the flagship for The Patriots, Bruins and Celtics while WDAE is the flagship station for the Tampa Bay Rays and USF.
Matt Fishman: What is the station’s obligation to the team when it comes to hiring talent?
John Mamola: I wouldn’t say there’s any obligations necessarily to a franchise, or at least there shouldn’t be. I’m a believer that stations and franchises should always have great working relationships where the station realizes the organization has a job to do, as does the franchise realizing the station has a job to do as performers/entertainers.
I would say the best approach for any station should be hiring the best talent to entertain and build a great working relationship with every franchise in their home market whether or not the franchise is officially tied to the station or not.
Mike Thomas: We keep them in the loop if we are going to make changes to the prime lineup. Otherwise, we have control of who is on the station in a talk show capacity. We have never been in a situation where we thought, “we should get the team(s) to approve this person”. The only exception is with our play-by-play teams. When we hired a new play-by-play person, we conducted the search, narrowed it down and went to the team with our finalists. Our play-by-play guys are employees of the station, but the team was involved in our final pick. I will add this, if you are about to hire someone that you feel could send your PBP partners over the edge…maybe you shouldn’t hire that person?
Matt: How much control of your overall product do you turnover to a major play-by-play partner?
John: The team controls what the team has the rights to control as stated in the contracts with the station. There is always going to be give and take on certain things, but as long as each party works together and builds an understanding of each other and what their goals are….you find a happy medium and harmony with your partnership.
Mike: ZERO! The only time they get sensitive is when we make it personal. Being critical of the play or the players is never a problem with our partners.
Matt: Does a team have more control if that team is a station’s only play-by-play property?
John: There is a luxury to being the lone team on a sports station as you’ll be the lone play by play property on the sports station. However, I think the word “control” should only be used with stations where they own a piece of the radio station from an owner standpoint.
In our building in Tampa Bay, we are blessed to have each of the three professional sports franchises in house as well as our local division one school. Our number one goal is to ensure that every franchise is well taken care of in season and out.
Mike: I don’t think so. I think the same partnership rules apply if you have one team or four teams.
Each market, team and scenario is different–I get that. Live, local sports play-by-play is, in many cases, the most important programming on many sports radio stations across the country. With the growth of podcasts and other audio choices, live play-by-play is even more important to a station’s ratings and revenue. With that in mind, while I believe the Phoenix situation to be an outlier, it is a cautionary tale for station programmers to keep an eye on going forward.
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.