If we must have Georgia on our minds, amid a torrent of anti-Asian hate in that state and across America, is it not poetic that Hideki Matsuyama became the first Asian-born man to win the Masters? A week after Tsubasa Kajitani, a 17-year-old from Japan, won the Augusta National Women’s Amateur? Last month, six women of Asian descent were murdered in a shooting rampage at Atlanta-area spas.
The hallowed club in the hills of east Georgia remained open for its sacred tournament. Even as Major League Baseball played a contrived public-relations card, protesting the state’s new voting laws by moving its All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver, the lords in their green jackets never considered pausing to let the state breathe. There were TV fortunes to make, azaleas to show off and golf memories to create — hopefully by an American, they quietly harbored, to quell the unspoken dread that Tiger Woods may have been impaired (again) in a February SUV crash he doesn’t remember. Maybe Dustin Johnson would be the first back-to-back winner since Woods. Maybe Jordan Spieth finally would stop talking to himself and his caddie and figure out his troubles. Hell, let Bryson DeChambeau obliterate Amen Corner.
Just make sure the winner was American, y’all, if you know what they mean down there on Waffle House Highway.
Instead, the champion was Matsuyama, who instantly became likable when he revealed how he spent Saturday’s rain delay. He walked out to his car — imagine, a Masters contender walking through a storm to the parking lot — and decided he needed a diversion from the awful tee shot he’d just sent into the trees before play was suspended. “Played a lot of games on the cellphone,” he said. “Maybe it relieved some pressure. I just figured, I can’t hit it anything worse than that.” When he returned and played the final eight holes in 6-under par, for a memorable 65, they might as well have pointed him straight to Butler Cabin. The green jacket was his, the first major golf championship won by a Japanese-born male.
“Hopefully, I’ll be a pioneer and there will be many young Japanese to follow,” he said through an interpreter. “I’m happy to open up the floodgates and hope many more will follow me. … The youngsters who are playing golf or thinking about playing golf, I hope they will see this victory and think it’s cool and try to follow in my footsteps. Until now, we haven’t had a major champion in Japan, and maybe a lot of golfers or younger golfers thought, well, maybe that’s an impossibility. But with me doing it, hopefully that will set an example that it is possible and that, if they set their mind to it, they can do it, too.”
He was asked which Japanese athletes inspired him. He mentioned no golfers or sumo wrestlers, just baseball players we know in the U.S. “Darvish, Ohtani, Maeda,” he said. All are in his Matsuyama’s shadows today.
A tweet from Jupiter, Fla., soon followed. “Making Japan proud Hideki,” wrote Woods. “Congratulations on such a huge accomplishment for you and your country. This historical @TheMasters win will impact the entire golf world.” Not that it will take our minds off Woods and whether he continues to have opioid issues after another round of surgeries, his most intense yet.
This is not what the haters wanted. But it’s what they deserved, a winner who didn’t look like them but outlasted all the popular and marquee names by finishing 10 under par. This was no fluke — Matsuyama, 29, has been ranked as high as No. 2 with eight top-10s in majors and 14 victories worldwide. Blessed by Jack Nicklaus as a global star in the making and once the low amateur at Augusta, he only had to learn to control his putter through recent travails. The sum of his talents finally converged in the perfect setting.
Set aside America, where Asians have been killed, harassed, threatened and spat at by those who want blood and blame China for the coronavirus. He had enough of a burden in his native land, where the pressure to make history was unbearable. “He’s a bit like a Tiger Woods (is) to the rest of the world, Hideki in Japan,” former Masters champ Adam Scott said. When Matsuyama had his one uncomfortable moment Sunday, finding the water on No. 15 and letting a four-stroke lead shrivel to two, CBS aired the reaction of broadcasters on the Japanese feed — frantically raised voices and sighs. Was he blowing it again, as he did in 2017 at the PGA Championship, when he missed a late par putt and left Quail Hollow in tears?
“My nerves didn’t start on the second nine. It was right from the start, right to the last putt,” he admitted.
He was helped, indirectly, by the pandemic. COVID-19 kept the usual mob of Japanese media members to a minimum at Augusta. “I’m not sure how to answer this in a good way. Being in front of the media is still difficult for me,” Matsuyama said. “It’s not my favorite thing to stand and answer questions, so with fewer media it’s been a lot less stressful. I’ve enjoyed this week.” He guards his privacy, to the point his December 2016 marriage wasn’t disclosed by his management company until after his wife, Mei, gave birth to their first child that July.
“As far as the family and privacy, no one really asked me if I was married, so I didn’t have to answer that question,” Matsuyama said.
Actually, it was an American, Xander Schauffele, who cracked Sunday. On the heels of the leader, he found the water on No. 16, then hit into the gallery behind the hole. His triple-bogey removed all but one golfer — the American Will Zalatoris, whose poise belied his Owen Wilson looks, rail-thin frame and 24 years — from the finish line. Matsuyama survived a final challenge, hitting an approach shot into the greenside bunker, before completing the journey to warm, respectful but hardly thundering applause.
“I remember the feeling of a four-shot lead, and he’s got Japan on his back and maybe Asia on his back,” Spieth said. “I can’t imagine kind of how that was trying to sleep on that, even with somebody who’s had so much success. I think the way he’s been able to withstand it, if he’s able to finish this one off, I think it’s really good for the game of golf globally. He’s a great young player who inevitably was going to win major championships.”
We’ve waited forever for someone to assume dominance in this sport and move a needle. Now that Woods is finished with regular competitive golf, we’re still asking the questions: Who? And when, if ever? Johnson follows up glory with clunkers. Spieth is as infuriating as he is charismatic. Rory McIlroy isn’t that man. Brooks Koepka is dealing with knee issues. Justin Thomas crashed in the third round and isn’t all that. DeChambeau? All the eating binges and caloric intake can’t help if Augusta is encamped in his head. We knew there wouldn’t be another Tiger Woods. At this point, we’re just looking for someone to be interesting. Is it you, Will Zalatoris?
“I know I can play with the best players in the world,” he said after a stunning second-place finish. “I felt I played well, but I left a lot of shots out there. The first one’s coming. I’ve just got to keep working.”
Who, by the way, forecasted his emergence? None other than Tony Romo, whose football seer ability works on golf courses, too. When Zalatoris, a star at Wake Forest, moved to the Dallas area and started playing at Romo’s club, it was clear a player who ranked 483rd last April — and 2,006th at the start of 2019 — was bound for impact. Who knew it would happen so soon?
But this day at Augusta belonged to a man from the other side of the world, a nation that insists it will host the Summer Olympics as COVID continues to rage. Matsuyama will be front and center in the festivities and a favorite in the golf competition. Perhaps, as Nick Faldo mentioned on the CBS broadcast, he might be chosen to light the cauldron at opening ceremonies. “I’m really looking forward to the Olympic Games in Tokyo,” he said. “If I am on the team, and maybe it looks like I will be, I’ll do my best to represent my country.”
Yeah, I think he made the team.
His victory is a salvation for a country bracing for the months ahead. Ten years after an earthquake and tsunami killed more than 15,000 in Japan, is another catastrophe coming to the Games? A more contagious variant is spreading there, as only one percent of the population has received the first of two vaccine doses. That will lead to more propaganda among anti-Asian factions in the U.S., claiming our athletes are on death watches if they compete starting in late July.
Let them seethe. On a warm and sunny Sunday at Augusta, an American portrait like no other, Hideki Matsuyama reminded us that the world is filled with people. Asians and Americans, Blacks and Whites — we’re all just people.
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.