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Speaking Up Isn’t Always Comfortable, But It Is Necessary

“If someone uses an anti-Semitic slur, you don’t have to be Jewish to say it’s repulsive. If someone uses the N-word, you don’t have to be Black to tell them it’s despicable. It’s what needs to be done.”

Brian Noe

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Have you ever watched a movie with the commentary on? I find it fascinating. Actors and directors share stories that add depth to a film. The movie Training Day is one of my favorites. The director of that film, Antoine Fuqua, said something that always stuck with me. Fuqua described the concept of the movie while paraphrasing a quote from Albert Einstein. “The world is a dangerous place to live,” Fuqua referenced. “Not just because of the evil people in it, but because of the people who do nothing about it. That’s what the heart of the movie is all about, that you gotta do something about it.”

Training Day (2001) - Rotten Tomatoes

Something had to be done about Matt Rowan, a high school basketball announcer in Oklahoma who was caught on an open mic using a racial slur. When a girls basketball team from Norman High School chose to kneel during the national anthem last Thursday, Rowan called them all the N-word. He also added, “F— them, I hope they lose.” The next day Rowan apologized (if you can call it that) while mentioning that he suffers from Type 1 Diabetes and was dealing with spiking sugar levels during the game.

First off, wow. Spiking sugar levels?

Move over “the dog ate my homework,” we have a new leader for all-time worst excuse. Anybody with sense knows that Rowan is a top-shelf jackass for his choice of words and has no business being on the airwaves. My question is what would you do in a similar situation if the mic wasn’t live and racist comments were made off the air? If you heard a broadcaster say something that the public didn’t hear, how would you handle it?

The short answer is that it’s essential to do something. The long answer is more detailed. I believe that it matters what is said exactly. Is this a Class A felony like the N-word, or is it more like a misdemeanor? If the comment is like an old school, five-yard facemask penalty in football for incidental contact, I’m at the very least telling that person, “Bro, you can’t say that.” If the person understands, is sorry, and corrects the mistake, that’s as far as I would take it.

Some might disagree with me. There are people who believe in alerting management immediately when an inappropriate comment is made. That isn’t how life works though. If a friend, family member, or stranger in public says something off-color, you can’t report them to HR. You have to confront them and make sure they understand that their comments are wrong. New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman did a masterful job of this last week. Edelman, who is Jewish, was responding to an anti-Semitic slur used by Miami Heat center Meyers Leonard while livestreaming a video game. Edelman penned an open letter to Leonard that was brilliantly worded.

“I get the sense that you didn’t use that word out of hate, more out of ignorance,” Edelman wrote. “Most likely, you weren’t trying to hurt anyone or even profile Jews in your comment. That’s what makes it so destructive. When someone intends to be hateful, it’s usually met with great resistance. Casual ignorance is harder to combat and has greater reach, especially when you command great influence. Hate is like a virus. Even accidentally, it can rapidly spread. I’m down in Miami fairly often. Let’s do a Shabbat dinner with some friends. I’ll show you a fun time.”

Edelman’s approach is much more likely to lead to growth. He didn’t condemn or cancel Leonard for his repulsive word choice; instead Edelman coached him up and offered support. The funny thing about cancel culture is that although a person may no longer exist in your world, that person still exists in the world. They don’t turn into fairy dust the second they are canceled. It makes more sense to offer insight and assistance to inspire change. Shunning a person for the rest of time is unlikely to do the trick.

Look, not every situation is the same. Obviously not every person is the same. Some people are lost causes while others who falter are capable of changing their ways. I’m just saying don’t confuse the two. It doesn’t make sense to cancel someone that can see the error of their ways and make improvements. By the same token, it doesn’t make sense to be lenient with someone who is a lost cause. Just understand the difference.

Something else that keeps swirling in my head is that I can’t imagine it was the very first time Leonard and Rowan used slurs. I highly doubt it was Leonard’s maiden voyage using an anti-Semitic slur while Rowan was an N-word virgin until last week rolled around. Anybody that heard Leonard and Rowan use those words in the past, and said nothing about it, is partially responsible for the awful behavior continuing. Whether it was a friend, family member, fellow video gamer, or whoever, allowing slurs to be said without objecting to them makes you an accessory to the crime. You may not be holding the bloody knife, but you drove the getaway car.

O.J. Simpson Ford Bronco car chase was 25 years ago; helicopter cameraman  Jeff Mailes recalls chase, Nicole Brown Simpson murder case - CBS News

If we’re being honest here, the easy way out can be tempting. It doesn’t take much to imagine many scenarios where saying nothing could be appealing. Maybe you just landed your first gig in sports radio. You run the board during games when a local broadcaster says something crazy off the air. You have dreams of making it big one day. Maybe you start to think, “What should I do? Could saying something jeopardize my career? I don’t want to make things awkward. And there aren’t any flattering sayings about snitches. I’ve never heard ‘snitches get promotions.’ Maybe I should just let it go.”

It might be possible to trick your mind into believing what you desire. But the truth is; that isn’t good enough. Allowing racism and discrimination to continue, when you know it’s wrong, is a horrendous mistake. That’s what keeps hatred alive. Plus, it matters most when speaking up is uncomfortable. It’s one thing to write BLM on your online bio — hey, that’s great — but the true test is when you have something to lose. Pointing out inappropriate words might strain friendships. A family member might be greatly angered if you call them out. A coworker might turn against you. So be it. If someone uses an anti-Semitic slur, you don’t have to be Jewish to say it’s repulsive. If someone uses the N-word, you don’t have to be Black to tell them it’s despicable. It’s what needs to be done.

Fuqua made another comment about one of the final scenes in Training Day that applies to this column. “This is an important moment here on the bus because this guy makes a decision to go after Alonzo,” Fuqua said. “Jake [played by Ethan Hawke] could go home to his baby and to his wife, but if he does that, and he doesn’t do anything about Alonzo [a dirty detective played by Denzel Washington], his little girl is gonna have to grow up in this world. She’s going to run into Alonzo and other people like him. So he has to get on the bus and he has to go down into the belly of the beast here. He’s got to face the dragon; he’s got to face Alonzo.”

Training Day: Could Ethan Hawke Reprise Jake Hoyt Role In TV Series? |  Irish Cinephile

There are Alonzo’s all around us. What are you going to do when you encounter one? Will you simply go home, or will you do something about it?

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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