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Live From Inside The NBA Bubble, It’s Chris Haynes!

“Those Disney workers can’t come on this side. They’re not getting tested over there, so they can’t come over here. Even though we’re in Disney World, we are miles apart and a whole bunch of security checkpoints in between each other.”

Brian Noe

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If you follow hoops, especially the NBA, you’re most likely familiar with Chris Haynes. He has worked for ESPN in the past and currently holds high profile roles as Senior NBA Insider for Yahoo Sports and a sideline reporter for TNT. He breaks some of the biggest stories and interviews the NBA’s brightest stars on a regular basis. His attention to detail and ability to connect with people is apparent in the words he speaks and writes.

Chris Haynes shares the inside scoop about the NBA Campus | TNTdrama.com

What makes Chris’ journey so interesting is that he didn’t experience good fortune initially after graduating from Fresno State. He worked as an NBA writer for SLAMonline without getting paid for a year. To make ends meet, he also worked as a security guard at a high school and an apartment complex during the day. Chris didn’t have an easy path. He grinded. That’s what makes his success so rewarding; not just for himself, but also for the people who love and support him like his wife and four daughters.

As a guy who makes his living finding stories and pointing out things that are interesting, the interview below is no exception. Chris mentions many compelling details about the NBA bubble in Orlando. One of Chris’ best observations is how success has a price.

We didn’t have time to trade stories about our radio days in Fresno — like the time we made an on-air bet while calling a high school football game together — but there is enough space for Chris to describe how he wants to be unique.

Mission accomplished, bud.

Brian Noe: How’s bubble life treating you?

Chris Haynes: Obviously this is a unique experience, something unprecedented. When you’ve got 22 teams all housed in one area, three different locations — the place that I’m staying at is the Coronado Springs Resorts. I’m staying at the same resort that the Lakers, Clippers, Nuggets, Raptors, Jazz, Miami Heat, I’m missing a few other teams, there are eight teams here, so I’m staying at the resort that houses them. It’s a pretty cool experience, man. It’s tough for us, the media. We won’t be allowed to bring family members at all, so you have to endure that. But aside from that, man, it’s okay. It seems like things are getting a little better here. I’ve been here since June 29th. I was one of the first ones that got here before the players and before the rest of the media contingent and I’ll be here till the end.

BN: Are you missing your family?

CH: Aww yeah, I miss them like crazy. FaceTime helps a lot. It doesn’t seem like I haven’t seen them in that long, but obviously just the physical presence of them you miss. FaceTime has helped a ton, man. I’ve been able to have dinner with them via FaceTime. I’ve actually gone to sleep with them. My daughters, they want to fall asleep with me on FaceTime. That’s kind of hard because it’s a three-hour gap. They’re in the Bay Area. They’re going to sleep around 9, so it’s 12 o’clock over here. But it’s been cool, man. But I miss them like hell.

BN: Do you expect the feel of the bubble to be a lot different once guests are allowed to be there after the first round?

CH: I think players will be a lot more relaxed. [Laughs] You know what I mean, Noe? There’s going to be a little less tension.

BN: [Laughs] How much tension would you say there is right now?

CH: Hey man, look, it’s been a long time. It’s been a long time for a lot of people. They want their families. They want their wives. They want their girlfriends. That’s human nature. I don’t think I’m saying anything inappropriate. I think that’ll help just to have some sense of norm around the facility and have a familiar face. That’s going to help the situation for sure.

BN: I don’t know if you caught the story; there was a Seahawks rookie who was trying to sneak in a girl.

CH: Yeah, he got cut.

BN: Yeah, has there been anything along those lines in the bubble?

CH: Nah, man. I think that would have gotten out by now. Didn’t she try to dress up like a player or something like that?

BN: Yeah, I guess she was wearing shoulder pads and a helmet.

CH: [Laughs!] See the difference is it would be hard for someone to infiltrate this bubble. They’ve got security right up front. There’s a wristband that you have to scan in order to get to certain spots. She was trying to get into the team hotel. That place is not as secure as it is over here. She didn’t have to get by a search screen like somebody would here. I wouldn’t say it’s impossible to get in, but you have to go through so many hurdles just to move around here. I would be shocked if somebody was able to do it and be successful.

Woj: Disney World 'Gaining Momentum' as Site for NBA to Finish Season |  Bleacher Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights


BN: Are Disney employees restricted too?

CH: Yeah, even Disney employees, they don’t have access. There are certain wristbands that we have where they can’t come over here. Those Disney workers can’t come on this side. They’re not getting tested over there, so they can’t come over here. Even though we’re in Disney World, we are miles apart and a whole bunch of security checkpoints in between each other.

BN: What’s the testing like now? Is it non-invasive?

CH: Yeah, if it was that one test that everybody was getting done initially where that needle just goes up your nose and goes into your brain, if that was it, I wouldn’t have signed up for this because I’m not getting that done every single day. It’s just a mouth swab and a nasal swab. That’s it. Every day. You get your results within 10 hours. They send you an e-mail. Then before you leave the room you have to take your temperature and an oximeter read. That’s what you have to do every single day. You have to do your temperature and your oximeter read before you leave the room. If you don’t do those and you try to leave and go to another facility, when they scan your wristband, it’ll come up blue. It’ll say you haven’t done your temperature and you have to go back to your room to do that.

BN: As far as your resume goes, if you give your 60-second rundown, how did you get to where you are right now?

CH: You know what, man, you have a big influence on me. I can’t do 60 seconds. I’m sorry, Brian. You probably won’t remember this. When I was working for you as your producer at the Fresno radio station, first of all I didn’t know how to write. I didn’t know anything about writing. I couldn’t write the different there’s, your, you are, you’re, none of that.

Deep into my working tenure, you called me Straw — you said, “Straw, I need you to take over the blog.” I was like “all right.” You told me just update the online blog, the guests we have, and blah blah blah. I’m like all right. How hard can that be?

I did it and the grammar was bad — misspellings, using the wrong word. You know how you are. You let it be known. You were like, “Dude, what are you doing? Are you proofreading this?” [Laughs] I’m getting offended. I’m like “What are you talkin’ about, man? I’m trying my best.” You were like, “Dude, this cannot fly.”

You are one of the biggest inspirations and why I did start to try to take writing more seriously. I felt like if I was going to move up in this field of journalism — even at that time I didn’t plan on being a writer — but I knew in journalism, I have to at least know how to spell correctly. You were one of the big inspirations of having me try to hone in on that.

About a couple of years later, I started taking writing seriously. I ended up writing for free at SLAMonline in Portland. I did some great work for a year. They couldn’t pay me so I was a security guard during the day. I didn’t want to be a security guard, but I couldn’t find a job. I had just graduated at Fresno State and had a degree in kinesiology. I was trying to get a PE teacher job and I couldn’t get a job. The security job was the only thing I could find at that time.

Thankfully I broke a lot of stories in that year and got some significant interviews. Then after that I got offered the beat job for the Portland Trail Blazers at Comcast SportsNet Northwest. I did that for four years. Then I went to cover LeBron when he moved back to Cleveland. I did that for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Then I went to ESPN from there. I’m at Yahoo Sports now and a TNT sideline reporter as well.

BN: What’s your favorite and your least favorite thing about sideline reporting?

CH: My favorite thing is feeling like I’m adding something to the broadcast. I have to be honest with you, when the job was offered, I was a little bit concerned because I didn’t really think much of the role, if that makes any sense. When they offered it to me I was concerned because I’m a real journalist. I’m a real reporter. I didn’t want my work to be diluted. I want to add value. I want to give you behind-the-scenes nuggets. I want to break news on the broadcast. I want to act like I’m actually contributing to this broadcast. I don’t want to say something that everybody has heard the coach say already. I want to be unique. That’s what I like on the broadcast.

Let me say this too, Brian, the job is much harder than what I would have imagined. People will not fully understand, being in an arena packed with fans screaming, and you’re trying to get your report out succinctly with somebody in your ear communicating with you, while fans are just going crazy.

Just trying to keep the flow of the commentary going, while somebody is giving you directions in your ear, while fans are going crazy, as the game is going on in the back, and you have to hurry up and get off the court. There’s a lot that goes on. I have so much respect for the profession and for the role and the value that it brings to a broadcast now. What I said before was just my thoughts initially on what I thought about the sideline role. Looking at it now I see the value in it. I see what people do and I get more fulfillment now knowing a lot more goes into the role.

I can’t say there’s something that I don’t like about it. I’ll say this; a sideline reporter is like Twitter. That’s what it’s like. As a writer, we have a blank canvas. We can make our point with as many words as we want and get it across. On Twitter, you’ve got 140 characters. If you’ve got one tweet and you’re trying to put everything in, well you’ve got to delete some words, and you’ve got to make sure everything is condensed. But at the same time being that it’s condensed, make sure you’re making your point in that tweet. That’s what sideline reporting is like. It’s like Twitter. You’ve got 25-30 seconds to make your point. It seems easy, but it’s a lot easier said than done.

BN: Do you ever — even right now, this would be a great moment — do you reflect back on your start and think, wow man, it’s crazy that this is what’s going on right now?

CH: At times I do, Noe. [What’s up, D? That was Donovan Mitchell.]

BN: [Laughs] See, good example right there.

CH: At times I do, Brian. You knew me when I was on welfare. You’ve seen me at one of the lowest points as a man just trying to come up and raise a family. At that time I was like 24, 25 when I first met you, when I was a producer for you. I still didn’t know my way in life. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. You gave me a start and put me in this field. I remember, that’s funny; you probably don’t remember — I’m just showing you how out of touch I was with the business side of anything — I sent you a résumé. I remember you promoted the producer job on air. I sent you a resume and I believe the background of the resume was like Dwyane Wade.

BN: [Laughs]

CH: It just showed you how out of touch I was. To me it made all the sense in the world. I’m applying for a sports job; let me put this little photo of Dwyane Wade in the background. I didn’t know. I was just trying to find my way. I was in Fresno my whole life and most of the people around me were either in jail, they were dead, or they were selling drugs with gangs.

I didn’t have many — outside of my pops — I didn’t have a lot of male figures that I saw prosper in life. I felt like I made it in life if I had an apartment, a job, and a car. I felt like I made it. That was the extent of survival. I felt like that was the extent for me. I didn’t really have ambition beyond that. There were jobs that I didn’t know about that even existed because I was in Fresno my whole life.

Study Claims that Immigrants Contribute over $1B in Taxes and over $3B  Investments into Fresno's Economy – The Latino Project

Do I reflect? Yeah, at times I reflect, but in this business it’s on to the next. If I break a big story, I get a high off of it, but tomorrow it’s on to the next. Like what’s the next story? I get a big interview. Okay, tomorrow it’s the next thing. And Brian I’ll tell you this, man, this is my 10th year covering the NBA, which is crazy because it doesn’t seem that long at all, but I’ve been working and grinding so hard, and traveling and doing all these things, that my kids have just grown up. I’m like “Damn. What was I doing?” I look at it from that standpoint as well. It’s like f**k, man.

I was so on a mission to prove myself in this industry, to get my family out of poverty, which I did and I’m thankful for that, but I missed a lot too. I’m still missing a lot. Even right now I’m here for three and a half months. I would have missed my oldest daughter going off to college if classes weren’t suspended. That’s kind of the give and take of it.

I can definitely do a lot better spending time with them with the time that I do get. That’s just part of it, man. You would know, Brian, a lot of people in this business — Hold on, B. [What’s up, Rudy? I’m doing all right, man.] Rudy Gobert. I’m just giving you play-by-play, Brian.

BN: [Laughs]

CH: Unfortunately for people in these jobs who are in these positions for a long time whether it’s radio, print, TV or whatever, as you know a lot of them, they’re either single or divorced because it’s hard to hold a relationship down. You’ve got to have somebody that’s just understanding, and that’s just going to let you do what you do, and just be satisfied when you bring a paycheck home, or you must have a good work/life balance. Most people aren’t able to balance that out. I’m not saying I can. It’s a struggle.

BN: How much talk was there about the snitch hotline when that was first a thing?

CH: It was just a funny thing. It was the talk for a little bit. Like who’s going to be snitching? Are guys going to be snitching on LeBron? If they see him jumping the fence trying to leave for a little bit? Are they going to snitch on Bron during the playoffs? It was a little things like that.

It’s really died down. Nobody is really telling on each other for the most part. I did report that some of the guys were calling Adam Silver directly at one point and giving him some incidents and violations that were going on. But for the most part, no, most people aren’t worried about it or concerned about it. It definitely was a funny topic among the players when it first came out.

BN: What would happen to you if players found out you called that number?

CH: [Laughs] It’d be a while before I get my next interview. It would be a while. They have the hotline number placed around the campus. It’s just posted on the wall. They have signs all around. So that number is for anybody. I don’t view it as my place to do that. Even though it’s a safety hazard for everybody that’s on campus if there is a violation, but I just don’t view it as my place.

BN: As far as your future goes, is there any particular goal that you have or anything that you would like to experience or accomplish?

CH: That’s a good question, Brian. I should have an answer to that. I should. My wife gets on me about that; thinking about the next step. I’ve been so blessed to do a lot of things that just came to me; opportunities just came to me. I didn’t dream of being a sideline reporter. That was never my goal or my vision. I’m doing it and I like it. I don’t know — hosting a show. I want to start my own media company.

Chris Haynes thinks the Clippers' style of basketball is a 'wake-up call'  for the Warriors | FOX Sports

That’s what I want to do; I want to work on doing documentaries. I want to work on doing some films, being part of a production crew, a director or whatever. I want to tell stories in that way. Those are some of the projects that I want to get off the ground and get a production company started. But as far as other roles, I don’t know. I get intrigued with different opportunities that come around that I might not have even thought of. I’m just open to new things.

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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