More than half of NBA fans in America aren’t watching the games right now, and it has very little to do with the on-court product. The issue is that literally, in about 17 NBA markets across the country, the local team isn’t being aired due to an ongoing dispute between Diamond Sports Group (which owns 21 FOX Regional Sports Networks) and various streaming, cable, and satellite providers.
The magnitude of this ordeal crystalized for me earlier this week as the Dallas Mavericks visited the Charlotte Hornets. Given that we were already drawing the ire on our radio show from Hornets’ fans regarding the carriage issue, it dawned on me that night, that the good folks in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex were simultaneously experiencing the exact same limitations and disappointment.
There it was; an actual live NBA game between two young and promising teams that almost no one in either market could see in-person or otherwise, a circumstance I do not recall ever experiencing before.
For the sake of this piece, I was prepared to get down into the weeds but so far, as it pertains to investigating the detailed specifics as to how we got here, like many other NBA fans, I eventually arrived at the conclusion that I shouldn’t have to! At least not in this 2020-2021 season, given the circumstances we all are facing (i.e. COVID-19, a financial crisis, and near political exhaustion). We should be able to simply pick-up our remote, laptop, and cell phone as a means to “escape” all of this harsh reality for at least 48 minutes nightly with relative convenience, right?
Certainly, I am sensitive to the natural business-to-business dynamic of carriage negotiations within the sports realm. However, I beg the question; why such a hard line in the sand now between Diamond Sports Group and the various providers? Who’s really winning here? Fans…advertisers…the NBA brand…NOPE, NOPE, and NOPE. So why doesn’t someone play the hero and step-in here? Is there not a temporary solution to this nonsense while more long-term negotiations continue? It’s absolutely maddening!
Each day of this impasse is costing all of us precious opportunities to capitalize off the wonderful product of pro basketball. All the more risky, given the uncertainty of the desired conclusion to the season due to the pandemic. You’re wasting precious time and the patience of NBA fans in these local markets. Two things which can’t simply be ignored in the business sector or otherwise.
I also can’t comprehend why NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, hasn’t intervened. How can he sit “idly” by and permit this to happen night after night? I like Adam and I respect the hell out of what he’s done for the league in his tenure thus far. That said, the brand is suffering, sir. In a time where people are cutting-cords and many others remain financially compromised, we’ve got to hold-on to as much of our base as possible. In this climate, how are you allowing fans to be mostly inconvenienced in watching the local team and community heroes which often inspire and comfort the citizens in these 17 markets? You’re an extremely intelligent man Adam, with countless wealthy and powerful allies; end this ongoing “blackout” for us please?!
This business of sports has always been fickle. It will forever be evolving. Nonetheless, the powers that be have an obligation to not only monetize waning fan interest, but to stimulate and develop the next generation of sports fan. Social media aside (it has its limitations too), please explain to me how a young kid in Charlotte can build a deeper connection with the Hornets and LaMelo if they can’t attend games or at the least see him play on television?
I maintain a sincere respect for the origin and acknowledge the current leverage of Diamond Sports Group pertaining to NBA viewership in particular markets via their RSNs. I am also willing to bet, there’s more background hurdles than meets the eye regarding these kind of negotiations, as is typically the case. That said, you and the aforementioned providers maintain the power to bring temporary relief to NBA fans across the country and thus significantly impact these communities.
The little kid in Charlotte cares not about your salary or mission statement, nor my radio monologue analyzing last night’s Hornets’ game. The only thing that little one cares about is the ability to watch one of the future superstars of the NBA, whom happens to live and work in this community, yet seeing LaMelo play nightly remains unfeasible. Tell me Commish…tell me Diamond Sports Group…tell me providers…what exactly am I supposed to tell that youngin’ and the thousands more in our market just like them?
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.