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It’s Spring Training For Broadcasters Too

“Don’t sweat it, you might be rusty, but there are ways to get ready well before that first call of the year.”

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It’s that time of year again. Yes, it’s baseball season. Time for you to get back to work calling games.

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Let’s face it though, its’ been a while since you cracked a mic to do a baseball broadcast. All winter you’ve been calling basketball, football, hockey or something else to keep you sharp. The problem, none of those sports replicate the pace and cadence of a game on the diamond. It’s good that you’re keeping yourself in a game calling frame of mind. That’s important. Don’t sweat it, you might be rusty, but there are ways to get ready well before that first call of the year. 

One of the best ways to stay prepared and ready to go before the season even starts is to pay attention to what is going on with your team. Stay on top of the moves, trades, signings and storylines. This is essential to your “storytelling” and makes you sound like the expert on your club. Make some calls in the off-season, get to understand the why’s and how’s that went into the transactions. Some of the information won’t be used on air, but it’s great to have that background knowledge. Get to know some of the new players or staff so you have a head start going to Arizona or Florida. You’ll be ahead of the game for sure. Keeping on top of this information will make it easier to get back in the booth. 

I mentioned this a few columns ago, but podcasting is also a great way to stay on top of things. You get to talk the game and build a following and brand as an added bonus. It’s also a great way to keep your interviewing skills fresh and a podcast will keep you in a flow of being “on air” and producing content during your off-season. A podcast can be done on your time and continues to keep you top of mind and will attract new listeners to your actual broadcasts as well. 

Baseball is so unique in its delivery style, there really isn’t a sport that mimics it exactly. Again, calling hoops, football and other sports will serve you well by staying in the frame of mind. Prep, routine and command are all things that can stay sharp by just being on the air. After some time off you need to get back in the swing of putting your scorebook together. Meaning the notes you like to use, stats, format and color coding of the book. 

With that in mind, I suggest to watch a game or two to remind you of the descriptions and pacing of a broadcast. I would encourage this even if you are a radio broadcaster just so you can get immersed in the game again. Just seeing the field and hearing the sounds get you right back into that mindset and gets those creative juices flowing. You probably won’t need more than a couple of innings before you are calling it right alongside the broadcasters of the game, but it’s a good refresher course for the brain and your ears. 

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I would even think about listening back to a game you broadcast last season. Just like watching a game, listening to one you’ve done will serve as a great refresher of your own pacing and cadence. I like to do this after the season, maybe a few months after the last game just to hear what I did on a certain night. Enough time has elapsed to critique myself, make some notes and to find other ways of describing plays. I want to hear how I handled certain things and calls. This helps me to try and evolve as a broadcaster, to take mental notes about how I’d like to handle certain plays and calls going forward.

We can all learn and get better, but this is a good reminder, not only of what the game sounds like, but what you sound like. You’ll be amazed at what you pick up just listening to a tiny segment of previous work you’ve done. Keeping on top of your work can help you improve and polish your style heading into a new baseball season. 

Spring Training isn’t just for players, use it to your advantage as well.  Whether you’re a minor league broadcaster or major leaguer, the Cactus League or Grapefruit League can be a great time to get back in rhythm. Usually these broadcasts are less stressful than a regular season game. You can be loose and re-establish the working relationship and chemistry with your partner. Most stations aren’t broadcasting a ton of games in the exhibition season, so relish the ones you get to do! 

In Spring games, the regulars very rarely play the full game. Why is this relevant? Well remember what I said about staying on top of and mastering the storylines for your team? Prospects will likely see a lot of time. Your listeners are, depending on the team, probably pretty familiar with the top guys in the farm system. Give them something other than the obvious. It’s good practice for the regular season too when may have to refer to one of these guys if they are having a good game or year. 

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Rust is inevitable in the first few games back from a long break. Don’t let it get to you. Don’t get frustrated. Just like anything, the more times you do it, the less time it takes you to reacclimate yourself to the booth.

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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