Listen more and speak less.
Those aren’t exactly words that sports radio hosts tend to live by, but now more than ever, for those of us in the industry who are white, listening more than we speak is the best way to be an ally to the Black community.
As a white male, I want to listen more, speak less and learn as much as possible. As a sports radio host I want to use my mic as a tool to spread the message that needs to be heard. But it’s an interesting dynamic to be a white sports radio host and speak about the issues we may truly never understand. Granted, as John Michaels wrote last week, “If you have a mic, you have a responsibility,” and that’s completely true, but how can white hosts truly discuss such important issues when we’ve never walked a mile in those shoes? What’s the balance of using your platform for good, but also sitting back and listening to what needs to be heard?
Peter Rosenberg of Hot 97 and The Michael Kay Show in New York City is one of the many hosts I’ve seen on social media that have vowed to listen more and speak less. These issues are important to him and he’s made an unbelievable effort to be an ally to the Black community.
“I’ve been talking about a lot of these issues for a long time on Hot 97,” said Rosenberg. “Our show has always been heavily social and political and I’ve always tried to take some of the things I’ve learned on that show and bring it with me to ESPN. Obviously we talk about things in a different way, being that The Michael Kay show is a sport show, but on The Kay show, it’s an interesting opportunity to have conversations about the learning that we’re doing and the way that we’re trying to be allies.”
I love Rosenberg’s approach. Yes, he’s is in a unique situation, seeing as he’s on two different radio shows on two different stations with two sets of co-hosts of different races all in the same market, but he’s doing his part by listening first in the morning and then talking about what he’s learned in the afternoon. He’s doing his best to educate himself but also using his big platform to spread that message.
It’s a helluva start, if you ask me.
“The audience is so mixed on The Kay Show,” continued Rosenberg. “You have a major portion of our audience that are black and Hispanic and then you also have an older white audience. I think playing a role as an ally is so important on that show, because for the black audience it allows them to feel heard.
“When they hear us echoing the sentiment that they’ve been trying to express for so long, and then on the flip side, it’s so important to have that older white audience hear it, some of which may agree and some of which may be uncomfortable, which is probably the most important thing. We try to do the best job listening and talking about the things we hear but also bringing on other voices to help us guide our way through it and learn more.”
The sad reality is that if you voice support for the Black Lives Matter movement, you’re likely to be met with some sort of resistance from listeners. Therein lies the hurdle our country desperately needs to overcome.
No matter the market, a big chunk of your listenership is going to come from an older white audience. Rosenberg is right, some of those people may adamantly disagree with the support you’re showing but it should never deter you from speaking about what you feel is right. If you’re ok with getting pushback from the audience on a strong opinion you have about the local QB being overpaid, then why would having a strong opinion on social issues be any different?
The more I think about it, the more I think white sports radio hosts have a duty to not only educate themselves, but the listeners, too. Obviously, that isn’t to say a black host can’t do the same, but if we’re all going to post on social media on how things need to change, then why don’t we start with our own platform? If that means bringing someone on with a better perspective of the situation, then so be it. Change starts with taking action. If sports radio really cares about that change, then its white hosts need to not only show support, but take action to ensure the public is properly educated on the subject.
So I’ll start by practicing what I’m preaching, just like Rosenberg is already doing. An afternoon show in the heart of Oklahoma won’t have quite the reach as one of the highest rated shows in New York City, but I think every little bit helps at a time like this.
Again, it won’t be the easiest thing you’ve ever done. In fact, go ahead and expect to get a nasty email or two and something negative on the text line. But sports radio’s powerful platform can be used for so much good. If done properly, the industry’s finest hour could be how so many banded together to fight against social injustice.
How freaking cool would that be?
Yes, continue to talk sports. Yes, continue to entertain. Just keep listening and then sharing the messages we’ve heard on the air. That’s how the white radio host can be the best ally.
“You may say, hey, here’s what’s going on with baseball right now, or hey this is what’s going on with the NBA, but ultimately when you get through the minutia of what those situations look like, what’s weighing on people’s minds?” said Rosenberg. “Both on our minds and the listener’s mind? I think even though we’re a sports show you always have to be in touch with the pulse of the people. People are really thinking about what’s going on in our country.”
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.