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 was released, I turned to a few talents in those same categories with a simple question: If you had a vote, who would be #1 on your ballot?
The 2020 lists are over after today. The final BSM Top 20 this year is the original sports podcasts. This is probably a situation where we say “shame on you for being surprised” if you were taken aback by the top of the BSM Top 20 looking like the top of the iTunes sports podcast chart. Pardon My Take took home the top spot when we asked PDs and executives to weigh in. Now, let’s see what other podcasters have to say.
RIC BUCHER – BUCHER & FRIENDS
This an easy choice: No. 1 pick for a sports podcast is JJ Redick’s Old Man and the Three. That calling it merely a “sports” podcast doesn’t quite do it justice is one reason. Admittedly, landing on a show name that effortlessly synthesizes the title of a Hemingway novel with who Redick is — an NBA vet best known for his long-range shooting — also appeals to my writerly sensibilities, but I started listening long before this latest independent and newly named iteration because of what I get when I hit the play button.
What is that, you ask?
Expert production. A voice with an inviting resonance and a dry wit. An assortment of intriguing high-profile guests from both inside the NBA (from Dr. J to Zion Williamson) and out (Malcolm Gladwell to Stacey Abrams).
My ideal podcast is what I call “a conversational interview,” where the host finds a way to draw unique insights and funny reminiscences from his or her guests by sharing snippets of his personal experiences; it requires throwing simple yet effective dimes while nailing a few big shots along the way. As a player, Redick’s game is far more versatile than his shooting rep would suggest. The same subtle versatility is what puts his podcast at the top of my list.
JASON ROMANO – SPORTS SPECTRUM
I think the best sports podcast is The Bill Simmons Podcast. The reason why I think it’s the best is because of Bill’s ability as an interviewer to facilitate a conversation on a variety of topics. He’s engaging, funny and his guests are the kind of people you’d want to hang out with at a party and talk sports with.
I’ve been most impressed with Bill’s ability as an interviewer to not do the typical cookie-cutter type of interviews you see in many of the mainstream media. His conversation with Tony Romo a few months ago was the perfect example of how great of an interviewer Bill has become. I’ve been a fan of his for many years because of the content he creates, but his show is still the best sports podcast out there right now.
SARAH SPAIN – THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID WITH Sarah Spain, ESPNW
While there’s certainly a temptation to shout out the kingdom over which I reign as The Commish, The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, which continues to be brilliant and groundbreaking and hilarious…I’m going to say the show that’s currently blowing my mind on a regular basis is ESPN Daily, with Pablo Torre at the helm.
It’s consistently interesting and informative, whether it’s stat-heavy episodes like Mondays with Bill Barnwell, where he breaks down the weekend’s NFL games better than anyone with a clarity, insight, sense of humor and depth of knowledge that consistently impresses, or one issue episodes like Pablo’s fantastic conversation with Ramona Shelburne about Kelly Loeffler and the Atlanta Dream. The show is built on incredible reporting, concise and carefully edited information, strong point of view, occasional quirky and comedic angles, and a lot of heart. It’s a go-to for me every day.
ADNAN VIRK – THE GM SHUFFLE
It’s The GM Shuffle with me and Michael Lombardi. Mike is the smartest football mind I’ve ever been around. Plus we have a shared affinity for the greatest show of all time – The Sopranos!
ANDY STAPLES – THE ANDY STAPLES SHOW
If you pitched Big Cat and PFT Commenter to a traditional sports talk program director, you’d get a hard no. Fortunately, they didn’t need approval from such a person. Instead, they came to us as a podcast at a time when most sports podcasts were either compressed versions of radio shows or something that felt like homework to impress the NPR listeners (who, to be fair, were among the earliest podcast adopters).
The entire gist of the show is that sports are ridiculous and fun, and while the show’s universe has expanded, the prime directive hasn’t changed. A lot of us forget the whole fun part. These guys never do, which is why they regularly kick our asses.
And there you have it! I cannot thank the talent that were willing to put their names on their opinions enough for participating in this exercise this year. It certainly added a whole new twist to the BSM Top 20.
Podcasting is a field that is so full of content that it is impossible to make sure every great show got its due. For instance, my favorite podcast, The Shutdown Fullcast, didn’t even crack the BSM Top 20. If you want to sound off on who we may have missed, feel free to do so in the comments 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.