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Every Host Deserves A Chance To Say Goodbye

“Unless there is a breech of contract, or conduct detrimental to the organization, don’t stations owe some type of explanation as to what happened?”

John Michaels

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How do you want to go out? 

How would you like to be remembered? 

For many athletes, the chance to go out on their own terms is a very tough decision that few truly get to make. Dwyane Wade, Peyton Manning, and Kobe Bryant come to mind as guys who went out on their time and on their terms.

Manning ended his stellar NFL career with a Super Bowl victory, but even at the end of that game, physically Manning was a shell of the great QB that we all knew and loved. Bryant went for 61 in his final game, a true testament to his greatness, but during his last years in LA there was a sentiment that the Lakers were ready to move on. Wade was given a year long goodbye tour, which was great, but people forget Pat Riley didn’t give him the contract he wanted just a few years earlier. The best thing for all of them is they got to say goodbye on their terms. 

In the sports radio business, many of us are not given that same opportunity to go out on our terms. Management is usually too afraid to allow talent to say goodbye, afraid that personalities will suddenly become unprofessional and say dumb things on the air. Why is that? Shouldn’t we be given chances to thank our audiences the same way? 

Mike Golic is an ESPN Radio staple and one of the best people to ever grace the microphone. Mike & Mike in the Morning is one of the all-time best shows. When ESPN announced that they were going to move on from Golic, everyone around ESPN was allowed to send their heartfelt messages to him. 

Mike Greenberg, Golic’s former partner, said “For all the success Mike and I had together, the most important thing I got from our relationship had nothing to do with the show. In the earliest days of our partnership, I saw what it looks like when you really put your family first. Every parent I know says their kids are their first priority, but not all of them live that way. Mike does. He lives that way every single day. As a result, when my kids were born I fully understood the sacrifices that go along with that. I believe I have become a better father because of Mike Golic.”

Golic is moving on to other assignments at ESPN, but he got a luxury that very few of us do. He got to hear his colleagues tell the world what he meant to them and to our business.

Mike Francesca is a different case, as he did his last show at WFAN just one Friday ago. The news obviously made waves because Francesca has been at WFAN for over 30 years. He’s one of the pioneers of the business and should be celebrated as such, but after a brief retirement and relaunch in 2018, Francesca’s departure last week didn’t have as much fanfare. Is it a wrestling retirement, you know the one where Ric Flair has an emotional Wrestlemania moment, only to return to action 6 months later? Is this a permanent move where Mike enjoys the fruits of his labor and time at home? This could explain why there wasn’t more hoopla surrounding Mike and WFAN parting ways.

For the rest of us it’s never that easy, and we never usually get to call our shot. Sure, if you are lucky enough to transfer from one property to another, while under the same parent company, your program director may allow you to leave with a going away bash. Others though are fired, usually after a shift, and left to explain what happened over social media.

Unfortunately I’ve had personal experiences with losing employment and neither of them were desirable situations. 790 the Zone went out of business in May of 2014, and after starting a career and spending 10 years as the same place, it would’ve been nice to get a warning before losing a job that I loved. JP Peterson, Alge Crumpler and I hosted mornings, I would take 3 hours off and then come back to do middays. We all knew the station wasn’t doing great, but had no clue that on a fateful Tuesday morning when we signed off at 10am that doors were closing for good.

A meeting ensued and all staff was told to go see HR and pick up a severance check. Why wasn’t the last show given a chance to offer any kind of final words? The local newspaper had a press release and The Zone flipped to syndication before being sold off a few years later. After 10 years, they owed us more.

My situation at 92.9 the Game in Atlanta left an even more sour taste. Three years of having a successful midday show alongside Rick Kamla and five total years of employment, another faithful Tuesday hit, and The Midday Show with Rick and John was no more. Kamla is and will always be a good friend, as are our producers Paul Bible and Mark Owens, and when the show was terminated part of my life was lost.

Working in radio is a gift, one that never should be taken for granted, but those 3 years never felt like work. It felt like a conversation at a bar amongst friends. The most successful shows have that same feeling, and it’s one that can’t be manufactured. 

The hardest pill to swallow is once we were let go, it’s as if we never existed at all. Scrubbed from social media, scrubbed from the website, and everything that we did was completely wiped away. My goodbye was done on Twitter, and yes I had hard feelings since I never felt like we should’ve been replaced. The audience was left to wonder what happened? There were message board rumors that we were fired for talking bad about Atlanta United, which couldn’t have been further from the truth.

The audience deserves better, and employees deserve better. Unless there is a breech of contract, or conduct detrimental to the organization, don’t stations owe some type of explanation as to what happened? Shouldn’t guys be able to tell their side of the story in a professional way? 

Mike Golic will always be part of the story of ESPN Radio and Mike Francesca will always be a huge part of WFAN. The same can be said about many other who didn’t get to go out on their own terms. 

On Air Talent deserves better. 

BSM Writers

3 Tips For Working With A Difficult Co-Host

Everyone is way too sensitive to what
are totally understandable and even innocuous barbs from an irreverent personality.

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Robert Sutton wrote one of the more important business books I’ve ever read: “The No Asshole Rule”.

Yes. That’s the title, and while I’m probably pushing the bounds of good taste here, Sutton
successfully lobbied the Wall Street Journal to use that very term so I’m hoping that will serve
as satisfactory precedent for my editors here at Barrett Sports Media.

Sutton went so far as to define the term as “a person who leaves another person feeling
oppressed, humiliated, de-energized, or belittled”. He then set about proving these individuals
were toxic to an organization, sapping productivity and driving out competent co-workers. His
underlying message was two-fold:

1) You should avoid working for orifices;

2) Any company employing an orifice should seek to expel him or her from the
organization.

It’s a really good book, but it’s of limited use if you don’t control who you’re working with.

What do you do when you’re partnered with an orifice?

Now, I happen to have given this matter quite a bit of thought over the five years I was part of a three-man show that included one of the funniest, most offbeat, and occasionally frustrating
people I’ve ever encountered. He was a crucial component to the success of our afternoon
drive show and every so often would do something that would understandably enrage
someone he was working with. I’m not going to specify who this was because I do like Jim Moore and don’t want to hurt his feelings, but he was the ultimate wild card who made tons of people laugh and more than a few snarls.

He liked to reveal the inner workings of the show whether it was a planning meeting or
something that occurred off-air. He referred to this as “pulling back the curtain.”

After I stumbled over my words, he looked at me and said, “You’re absolutely brutal.” It was
hilarious, and we played it for years as a drop.

Amid a segment in which we were discussing something about Richard Sherman, he
declared that I was sounding like a typical talk radio host trying to make something out of
nothing. I laughed at that, too.

A few weeks later, as we discussed the weekend series in which Seattle became overrun with
Blue Jays fans coming down from Canada, he criticized something I’d written for lacking
objectivity and declared the whole segment dumb. I was furious, and while I did my
best to hide my anger during the rest of the segment, we shouted profanities at each other
during the break and I didn’t speak to him outside of our time on the air for the rest of the
week.

Meetings ensued. Apologies were made by both of us. My point here is not to re-litigate what
happened or try to justify the anger I felt at the time. I was overly sensitive to a pretty harmless critique. I was also fed up with someone who consistently did things that made me feel belittled and de-energized. He was acting more like a heckler than a co-host, and this posed a specific challenge for me because I was leading the show.

I was not alone in that regard. He’d anger other co-workers, too, and many of the players and
even teams that we talked about whether it was Richard Sherman threatening to have his press
credential pulled, Michael Bennett, saying he should be “fired and suspended” among many
other profane observations after a particular column. Hell, Gary Payton stood up ready to fight
him before a playoff game in 1996 after an interview that started with a question about Payton
getting IV fluids after the previous game in the series.

It strikes me there are two explanations for all of this: 1) Everyone is way too sensitive to what
are totally understandable and even innocuous barbs from an irreverent personality. 2) This
personality has a way of annoying and antagonizing those he’s around, and while this makes
him incredibly entertaining, it can make a sustained working relationship difficult. To put it in
in Sutton’s terms, this particular person had a habit of leaving others feeling oppressed, humiliated, de-energized, or belittled.

With that in mind and based on personal experience, here’s my guide if you find yourself
working with an orifice:

I. Accept them for what they are
I stopped wishing my co-host was anything other than what he was. This was entirely personal
and had nothing to do with my co-host or the people who supervised him. I accepted that he was a remarkably funny and unique character, who was crucial to the show’s success, and every so often he was going to act up in a way that angered the people around him. I just accepted this as the cost of doing business and when he did act up, I’d remind myself that I shouldn’t expect anything different.

II. Set ground rules
Establish very clear boundaries that should not be crossed. In this particular case, it was to
state that the time to declare a segment or idea stupid or unworthy of discussion was before
the show as opposed to during the show. I didn’t care if he understood why this was the
case, he just needed to know it was.

III. Don’t take the shenanigans so seriously
We always say a show requires cooperation and trust, and no one tells you what to do when a
lack of cooperation erodes that trust. One answer is to demand better cooperation, but I found this was futile and led to more frustration. I came to view the lack of cooperation as part of the
show, something that could be commented on and even laughed at. There was a rogue
operator in our midst.

Did these changes make the show better? That’s a question for the supervisors and the
listeners. I know that it made the show more sustainable because it made me less angry. I
stopped seeing my co-host as a malicious saboteur and started viewing him like a pro wrestler
who occasionally stopped following the script. Sometimes, his punches would feel like live
rounds. He was working stiff, his insults sharper. Sometimes he’d no-sell, commenting on the
general pointlessness of the discussion rather than actively participating in it.

Demanding he follow the script was never as effective as deciding that his whole act could be
part of the show.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise Episode 85: Vin Scully Really Was That Good

Demetri Ravanos

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BSM Writers

LIV Golf Bungling of Charles Barkley Deal Questions Competency

Barkley could’ve been a face that is used in more interview appearances across sports networks and cable news to address the controversy and clear the air even more than he already had done so previously.

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Charles Barkley

It’s already been more than a week since Charles Barkley announced he is staying with Turner Sports and I’m still left in shock and bewilderment. Barkley’s decision to stay at a show that has won multiple Emmy Awards, gave him a whole new set of fans and friends, and even has its own documentary doesn’t surprise me. LIV’s disorganization and inability to make these conversations an actual negotiation is what truly shocks me.

In an interview with GolfWeek, Barkley told the publication “no, they haven’t offered me anything.” He declared that working at Turner was his priority and “I’m not gonna keep Turner in limbo. So that’s my priority.” Let’s rewind the first sentence he uttered, though. And I quote, “they haven’t offered me anything.” You had sports fans and personalities across the world nervous, scared, and panicked that we would lose Barkley’s hilarious antics during NBA coverage forever not even to give him an offer? Are you kidding me? (Just want to note that this is one of my favorite Barkley sayings.) What is wrong with LIV and who is running their media strategy?

Barkley told The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand that he sat down for dinner with LIV Tour leader Greg Norman two weeks ago and came away believing that the tour would find itself with a television deal in the U.S. If this is the case, how does LIV not come to dinner with a ballpark estimate of how much they want to pay and an idea of what they want Barkley to do for their brand? You have a once-in-a-lifetime moment to secure a deal with sports media’s most outspoken personality and you don’t even come to dinner with an offer?

LIV could’ve used Barkley to finalize a deal with a TV network. John Ourand of Sports Business Journal reported on his sports media podcast this week that LIV’s TV deal, if it ever happens, will most likely be a time buy. If Barkley was added on, I guarantee some sort of rights fee would’ve been included. There is no sports network –scratch that– no TV network on this planet who would miss out on the opportunity to bring Barkley on board as a contributor even if it means airing subpar golf with segments that could go viral, get aggregated by the biggest websites in the universe and fill air time. It’s Charles Barkley!

Because of Barkley’s relationships with sponsors who are closely aligned with Turner, and Turner not wanting to lose the former NBA All-Star, I don’t even think it is out of the question that Turner could’ve been a potential rightsholder if Barkley signed on. Warner Bros. Discovery’s operations involving the PGA Tour are mostly outside of the United States market except Golf Digest. Between TNT, TBS, and HLN – all networks that have aired exhibition golf matches in the past – Turner has plenty of room to air the telecasts. Coincidentally, Turner already has a relationship with Saudi Arabian golf. CNN International aired a monthly series about golf that was sponsored both digitally and on-air by Golf Saudi, an organization that promotes Saudi Arabian golf courses. For those who are against the notion that LIV should even exist, the idea of associating yourself with Golf Saudi might be even worse since LIV plays in different countries for each tournament.

Barkley could’ve been a face that is used in more interview appearances across sports networks and cable news to address the controversy and clear the air even more than he already had done so previously. Having a recognizable face promote the brand could’ve eventually taken some of the pressure off and focused the attention on actual golf action happening. They could’ve even used Barkley for viral pieces that go up online, podcasts, and an alternative broadcast where he brings on his friends as guests – a “Manningcast” copycat. A charitable component helping poor communities which Barkley has a passion for could’ve been implemented as well. The opportunities were endless but LIV couldn’t even manage to bring an offer to the table. A dinner with no offer is such a useless gesture. It’s like being 7’7” with zero NBA talent – too tall for nothing.

Now, more than ever, I just can’t take LIV Golf seriously. It feels like an exhibition that is rightfully challenging an organization that has been glorified in its perch for too long yet doesn’t have the right tactics of taking the PGA away from its throne.

Ironically, the PGA Tour will be offering its athletes more prize money than LIV next year. The tour will always be aligned with the majors – who haven’t toed a line yet but could at some point if each separate organization decides it is too far against their code of ethics to allow in LIV athletes. And interestingly, despite LIV living on YouTube, the PGA Tour is working on a docuseries alongside the majors for Netflix that could help draw a younger, more unique audience to the sport than LIV does despite its attempts to add live music to their tournaments, stream all of their events and add sleek, more modern graphics than what PGA telecasts offer. Most of all, the PGA Tour has all of the major media companies in the bag for themselves for years to come.

The tour has also made mistakes in aligning itself with Fox News. In the past couple of weeks, Greg Norman has granted the network two exclusive interviews and has allowed their golfers to sit down for interviews on Tucker Carlson Tonight. We can’t neglect the fact that Fox News is one of the highest-rated networks on television and that Tucker Carlson Tonight sometimes beats the broadcast networks in primetime ratings which means LIV is getting a huge amount of exposure through these sit-downs. But it is never smart for any sport to politically align itself on one side or the other. Just ask the NBA. If you’re going to sit with Fox, sit with the other news and sports networks who I’m sure have undoubtedly asked you to speak with them as well so that your nonpolitical organization looks fair and balanced. Hell, sit down with us at BSM! I’ll talk to you. Don’t be afraid to take some heat if you want the discussions about the politicization of your league to go away at some point. It just makes more business sense to stay as neutral as possible and the Fox-ification of LIV is bound to turn some more people off who don’t agree with Fox’s way of thinking. (Random sidenote: Something tells me not to be surprised if LIV Golf ends up on Fox News Media properties like Fox Business Network and Fox Nation. Both networks have aired sports programming of some type in the past and present.)

LIV may live for a long time because they have the funds to do so. It is questionable and maybe doubtful if it will ever live with a purpose.

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