The BSM Top 20s are generators. They generate clicks, comments, and conversation in our industry. Every year, JB reaches out to dozens of PDs and executives to generate those lists.
I thought it might be fun this year to add a new twist and let talent get in on the conversation. Everyday a new Top 20 is released, I will turn to a few talents in those same categories with a simple question: If you had a vote, who would be #1 on your ballot?
This is day 2. BSM has unveiled the top 20 morning shows in the country with WFAN’s Boomer & Gio topping the major market list and the top spot in the mid markets going to Ken Carmen and Anthony Lima at The Fan in Cleveland.
That is the perspective of the executives though. What about the talent? I asked four hosts from mid-size and major markets to weigh in. Here are the morning shows they say deserve to be recognized as the best in America.
BOB FESCOE – 610 SPORTS (KANSAS CITY)
The best Mid Market Morning show is CLEARLY Fescoe in the Morning with myself, Josh Klingler and Ryan Witkowski! How can I not nominate our show?
However, if I am picking from all other shows other than ours, I go with my guys in Pittsburgh on The Fan Morning Show. Love me some Chris Mack. He is passionate, brings great takes and often makes you think. I think Colin Dunlap and Chris Mack have great chemistry, they entertain, and they are clearly knowledgeable about the Pittsburgh sports scene. Even though I am not in Pittsburgh, I still tune in…especially when the Chiefs and Steelers are getting ready to play!
SEAN SALISBURY – SPORTSTALK 790 (HOUSTON)
This category is loaded with great shows and fantastic hosts across the country. Choosing one is brutal considering there are quite a few I like for some different reasons. I first have to give love to the competition in my Houston market, two good shows with friends and good people. I also can’t vote for the shows I’m a guest of because well, that seems wrong but much respect to The Morning Roast at 95.7 The Game. I know I miss some really good shows due to the fact that my show is morning drive as well. Dallas has two shows I like! Shan and RJ at 105.3 The Fan do top shelf work and The Musers at The Ticket make me laugh and keep you interested with good sports talk daily too. Boomer and Gio is a hell of a listen and they are a must in New York or for anyone who wants hard core opinion with no let up.
All that being said, I’m going to put Schlereth and Evans 104.3 The Fan in Denver as my favorite. I think they have the right mix of humor and sports talk. They don’t kiss the ass of the home team just to pander and they have a very good on air relationship. They are passionate but don’t take themselves too seriously, and always seem to find ways to do new things and get the listener involved. My boy Schlereth will battle the listener too. If a show makes me sit in my car and risk being late to a meeting then it’s good radio!
It’s the wow factor mixed with self deprecation and listener involvement and that equals a winner! There are more that are worthy of serious consideration who I really respect but I don’t get to hear enough. Keep doing your thing in the mornings. Great competition!
TERRY FORD – 105.7 THE FAN (BALTIMORE)
Back in my early radio life I took a gig in Biloxi, Mississippi. While I was driving down to Biloxi, I was speeding illegally through Alabama and I was scanning the dial on my car stereo. I landed on WJOX in Birmingham. I loved it! I listened for as long as WJOX could survive between all of the static and crossover stations that were interfering with it. I not only enjoyed the content but the callers as well. It’s hard to find a more passionate sports fan than an SEC football sports fan.
To this day, I will still from time to time listen to WJOX on the digital platform during college football season. I always punch up the morning show, The Roundtable. When it comes to listening to a sports talk show, it has to give me opinions that make me think, entertain me and inform me. The Roundtable does all of those things.
One of the most important components that make a multi-person show listenable is the chemistry between the hosts. Lance, Ryan, Jim and Rockstar have excellent chemistry. There is a smooth chamaradie to the show. When listening, you can believe these guys would actually hang out together away from the show.
The crew of The Roundtable are knowledgeable on sports outside of the SEC, they give solid takes about the sports world outside of Birmingham as well. Plus, the Trash on the Table segment always has something in it that makes me laugh. And of course, THOSE CALLERS ARE RADIO GOLD!
To this day, WJOX is still a great sports radio station and The Roundtable one of my favorite morning sports talk shows. It’s a very compelling listen.
JOHN MICHAELS – 680 THE FAN (ATLANTA)
People always ask what do I listen for when picking out different sports radio to listen to when I’m not on the air. Fun, relatability, quick wit, funny, entertaining, informative and the ability to create a show that makes the listener feel a part of it. Many people across the country do a great job of this with story telling, unbelievable interviews and the ability to breakdown games like no other. Mornings have what I like to call a captive audience. We have people stuck on their morning commute in the car for sometimes an hour or more. We have the ability to make them forget about bumper to bumper traffic and just sit back and enjoy the conversation.
Some of my favorites are The Joe Rose Show in Miami. Joe is a great story teller and his side kick Zach Krantz does a great job playing off of Joe. Rose played for the Dolphins and has so many entertaining stories that you get stuck sitting in your car even after you’ve reached your destination. Their show is fun and more than anything makes you feel like you are part of the family.
Another easy listen is The Mac Attack on WFNZ in Charlotte. These guys are the epitome of morning radio with preshow Panthers dance videos. Crazy arguments about which QB is better and just a general entertainment value that can’t be understated. I had a chance to fill in after them a few times and listening to them made it easy to have the audience right there for the taking. Mornings on WFNZ are a lot of fun and these guys should be proud.
My #1 morning show though is Shan and RJ at 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. We were lucky enough to sit next to them on radio row in Houston and let’s just say the laughs between the 2 shows lasted the entire week. From them making their producer Roy draw fake abs on his stomach and walk around radio row shirtless because he overslept to them pulling many stunts, everyone knew them by week’s end. We have had either of them on our show to talk Dallas sports, so their knowledge is second to none in their own market. The value of their show is complete entertainment. They hold no punches and even when interviewing guests like Jerry Jones they ask the questions that people want to hear.
My biggest compliment to any out of market host is to seek them out just to hear a sample of what they are doing daily. Shan and RJ are those guys and would be my number 1 morning show (outside of my own of course).
As the week rolls on, we will dive into every single list that JB puts out. That means next up is mid day shows. Stay tuned!
By the way, just because I didn’t reach out to you to contribute doesn’t mean you can’t have a say. Who do you think the best nationally syndicated host on sports talk radio is? Feel free to add your comment below.
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.