And to think, amid all the commotion about Gonzaga, we had missed what profoundly qualifies as history on this earth. Basketball? Try the cleansing of murder and how a Baptist university in freaky-deaky Waco, Texas — one-time home of David Karesh, Art Briles and heaven knows who else — overcame its sordid past through a preacher man named Scott Drew.
What we witnessed Monday night, a disembowelment of perfection, was the end result of something so much larger. In dominating the so-called Greatest Team Ever from the first offensive rebound to the final three-point gouge of Jared Butler, Baylor completed a story that started on June 12, 2003. That is when Carlton Dotson shot and killed a teammate, Patrick Dennehy, during an argument, which led to an unspeakable act of corruption: Coach Dave Bliss asking team members to participate in a lie that Dennehy was a drug dealer, a ruse intended to distract investigators from Bliss’ illegal payments to players.
Even for the sleazy sport of college basketball, this was sick stuff. It wasn’t a matter of who would win the reclamation assignment, but who’d be foolish enough to want it. That soul was Drew, who was secure for life at Valparaiso, the small Indiana school that manufactured March dreams. His father, Homer, has been a coaching icon there. His brother, Bryce, was an NCAA tournament legend. Why would a man of deep religious faith want to descend into ashes and sabotage his coaching career?
“I prayed about it,” Drew said. “I felt led to come here.”
He’d never played college ball, serving as a student assistant at Valpo and playing on the tennis team without earning a letter. His original aim was the legal profession, until he sensed a larger life mission. Sensing the chance to perform God’s work where he was needed most, Drew met with scandal-dazed Baylor officials, dazzling them in a meeting with imaginary replicas of news stories about the program’s rise to prominence. All they wanted from him was a scrubbing of the toxic spill and a chance to compete again, knowing years of NCAA probation awaited. He told them he could win a national championship.
Today, Drew ranks among the all-time saviors in sports. Not only did he fulfill his prophecy, he and the Bears never trailed in quashing Gonzaga’s pursuit of the first unbeaten season in 45 years. It’s convenient to conclude that the Zags were drained after their stunning overtime victory over UCLA, authored by Jalen Suggs’ buzzer-beater for the memory banks. In truth, Baylor erected a force field inside Lucas Oil Stadium and never let the opponents on the court. Butler and Davion Mitchell attacked and hit threes like future NBA stars while Suggs, swept in social-media adulation across the sports world, drew two early fouls and ended the night in tears. Mark Vital and Flo Thamba ruled the paint, shrinking Drew Timme into a droopy mustache. A voracious defense forced 14 turnovers.
This wasn’t just a clinic. It was a bully pulpit.
“It was just electrifying, especially in that type of environment in the biggest game,” said Butler, named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. “Everybody was clicking on all cylinders. … We made a statement.”
The losers were to left agree, again falling short in the defining moment of their upstarts-to-bluebloods odyssey. “It’s a really, really tough one to end a storybook season on, but listen, Baylor just beat us,” coach Mark Few said. “They beat us in every facet of the game and deserve all the credit. Quite frankly, they were terrific. They just literally busted us out of anything we could possibly do on offense. We were kind of playing sideways.”
The sport’s custodians won’t be asking if Baylor is the best team ever. But they really should consider the Bears’ place in history. Certainly, the 86-70 thrashing belongs in any conversation about commanding championship-night performances, which only is magnified by the program’s journey from hell. As the coach and players celebrated on the court amid green and gold confetti, Drew made a demand of famed Baylor alumnus John Lee Hancock, director of sports movies such as “The Blind Side” and “The Rookie.”
“He promised us when we won a national championship, we would get a movie! Yeahhhhhh!” said Drew, finally busting loose with smack talk. “If you’re going to war and I’m coaching, I’m taking these guys.”
Butler and the players were delighted, whooping it up with their coach. Somewhere, Dave Bliss must wonder how so much love could emerge from depravity. “The culture of joy,” is how Drew describes his creation, repeatedly, and he doesn’t speak more than a few sentences before reminding listeners of the real savior. “I feel God has blessed us,” he said. “People have come to our program for 18 years, putting in work. Our fans have been there for us through the lean years. The fans deserve it, the city of Waco deserves it, the state of Texas deserves it.”
He never talks specifically about the murder and fallout, only referring to lessons learned from his father at Valparaiso and how they could be applied at Baylor. “You can take blueprints from that,” he said. “Obviously, any time you’re with someone who is successful and you’ve seen how they’ve been successful, you’re going to use that, try to duplicate it. I thought at Baylor University we could do the exact same thing, being a Christian school, an academics school, a family-oriented school.”
That “family” was rocked, again, by sexual assault scandals on the watch of Briles, the football coach who left the school in shame five years ago. It was difficult to see BAYLOR on jerseys Monday night and not think of the wretched times, but, in fairness, this team is the antithesis of that mess. College hoops is rife with administrations that don’t care if programs cheat, such as Kansas, which ignored an ongoing FBI investigation in giving coach Bill Self a lifetime contract — including a clause that he won’t be dismissed for cause “due to any infractions matter that involves conduct that occurred on or prior to the date of full execution of this agreement.” Baylor, far as we know, has played by the rules in building a beast that has won 54 of 60 games since November 2019.
Besides, does a servant performing God’s work want to disappoint him? If Scott Drew isn’t legitimate, college basketball should shut down forever. He started his post-game interview with a tribute to his friend and fishing partner in the other locker room. “I feel for Coach Few and his team because they’re such class acts,” he said. “And coach Few is a Hall of Fame coach and an unbelievable guy. A better person than he is a coach. And you hate when friends aren’t feeling good.”
It’s no act. The reason America doesn’t know much about Drew is that he never talks about himself. “What we did is history here,” guard MaCio Teague said. “Really happy for coach Drew. He has come back from nothing in a basketball program. He spent a lot of time, put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this program.”
Once the domain of Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan State and other S.O.B.s — you know, Same Old Bluebloods — college basketball is in a transition swirl that might not end well. Once the NBA allows high-school players to leap directly to the league, the best teenagers will bypass the one-and-done experience and dilute the college talent pool. In that sense, Baylor and Gonzaga are positioned to stay on top as programs conducive to attracting three- or four-year players, along with transfers eligible immediately thanks to a one-time waiver process. Already, Vegas has installed Gonzaga as the 2022 title favorite, thanks to an incoming recruiting prize in Hunter Sallis and the likely addition of 7-footer Chet Holmgren, the nation’s top prep player and hometown pal of Suggs. And Baylor has the ultimate transfer success story in Mitchell, who arrived from Auburn in 2018.
But until the NCAA starts giving these essential workers a small slice of the $1 billion annual March pie, the best prospects will reject college. And the ratings will suffer. Yes, Baylor was sensational, Suggs’ shot was unforgettable, and UCLA was memorable, but much of the tournament was ragged. It didn’t help that players were isolated in a COVID bubble for days and weeks, allowing the NCAA and its broadcast partners, CBS and Turner, to make their fortunes. “It’s like we’re in jail and can’t get out,” said Syracuse assistant Adrian Autry, speaking the truth in a Syracuse Post-Standard story. Baylor’s season, remember, was paused by a COVID outbreak that derailed what might have been an unbeaten season. Every team in Indianapolis was dealing with the same health risks.
The offseason will be filled with institutional wrangling and calls for the head of the NCAA’s feeble president, Mark Emmert. For now, we should honor a right that once was the worst kind of wrong. It wasn’t all that long ago when Drew had eight rostered players and had to stage open tryouts on campus. How difficult was it? “Well, obviously going into every game being 30- or 40-point underdogs and half your team walk-ons, and you know as a coach, if we can just keep it close, keep it within 20 by the first half or 10,” he said. “`But really credit the guys who won (four) games that year. They laid a foundation. Those guys have stayed with the program and helped support these guys. And that’s what you love. There’s so many people that put in hard work and sweat.”
Deep into the night, in his native state, he kept talking about everyone else — his players, first and foremost. “When the best is needed, the best is usually provided,” Drew went on. “They love being the first — first to win a national championship. That motivates them. When you’ve got a competitive group like that, it really makes it easy to coach. If you’re going to be in a bubble for three or four weeks, you’d better be with people you love. They’re great basketball players, but better people.”
At some point, much as it pains him, Scott Drew will sit down one night, gaze into the heavens and grasp that HE created this miracle. When he does, it should be the famous final scene in John Lee Hancock’s movie.
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.