Hiring Clay Travis to be part of the team to fill Rush Limbaugh’s old time slot could not have been easier. Travis is a part of FOX Sports Radio, which is owned by Premier Networks. Limbaugh’s old show was distributed by Premier. It was a way to get some name recognition to fill the slot without having to do an exhaustive search.
For the sports side of talk radio, it brings more questions than answers. As of this writing, FOX Sports Radio has not announced what the status of their morning show is.
If Clay was up for double duty, then being owned by the same company would make it very easy for him to talk sports in the morning and the war on Christmas in the afternoon. Both networks could say they have a well-known name brand filling their respective opening, and Clay Travis could use each show to promote the other. But Travis made it clear earlier that hosting two daily radio shows will not be part of his or the network’s future plans.
That wouldn’t be the ideal path forward for FOX Sports Radio though. Remember, Limbaugh’s show generated more revenue than just about anything else in the history of radio. While Travis and his new partner Buck Sexton won’t have those expectations put on them from day one, it is a safe bet that Premier will want Travis to make the new show his top priority and FOX Sports Radio isn’t going to want to use a prime day part to play second fiddle to anyone.
With that in mind, let’s look at what FSR’s options may be.
1. MOVE AN ESTABLISHED SHOW ALREADY IN THE LINEUP
FOX Sports Radio is built on talent already known by sports fans. With that in mind, it seems like the two most likely in-house options would be moving either afternoon host Doug Gottlieb to mornings or making the same move for The Odd Couple, which airs in evenings on the East Coast.
The problem is that both shows are based on the West Coast. Travis is based in Nashville, so while a 6 am Eastern start time meant 5 am for him, it was certainly a more reasonable ask than what would be a 3 am start time in California. That doesn’t mean this option is out of the question necessarily. It’s just something to note.
Could Up on Game be another option? The show launched in late 2020 and features three former NFL players. It certainly would be very different, and FOX Sports Radio VP Scott Shapiro recently spoke very highly of the show in a conversation with BSM’s Rob Taylor.
The question Scott and Don Martin would have to answer is are these three guys capable of taking what they do once a week and translating it to three hours a day, five days a week.
2. BRING IN ANOTHER LOCAL FLAME THROWER
People that follow college football knew Clay Travis before he joined FOX Sports Radio. He already had a profile in sports radio from his time at The Zone in Nashville, but the reality is that his national profile was pushed largely by FOX Sports Radio. Can the network recreate that formula?
Some logical candidates might be Dan Dakich in Indianapolis, Mark Schlereth in Denver, or Sean Salisbury in Houston. All of them have strong names in the sports radio world. All of them deliver strong opinions on every topic.
There are plenty more options. Those are just the first three that spring to mind, because they could be utilized by both FOX Sports Radio and FS1 or FOX Sports and offset some of the cost.
3. BRING IN A BIG NAME FREE AGENT
Let’s see…who is someone that knows how to entertain on the radio, doesn’t currently have a gig, and has years of experience talking to sports fans across the country on their drive to work and/or school?
That’s right, Mike Golic, come on down!
I’m not sure this is the direction FOX Sports Radio would go, but man would it be a coup. It also would put ESPN Radio on its heels as suddenly, there might be an option for the affiliates unhappy with Golic’s exit last year.
Another, albeit less likely, possibility is Nick Wright. Granted, he isn’t truly a free agent, but after exiting SiriusXM last year, he is currently without a radio home.
Wright is based in New York City and a featured part of First Things First on FOX Sports 1. The partnership between FOX Sports Radio and FOX Sports is strong, so it’s unlikely a situation would be created where Wright leaves FS1 for FOX Sports Radio, but Nick did build his career on the radio including hosting mornings in Houston. It’s a medium he’s got familiarity with. I also know that if Colin Cowherd is asked to weigh in, there’s been no more high profile champion of Wright than him.
4. CREATE YOUR OWN STARS
A few months back I wrote that with Will Cain leaving ESPN Radio, the Bristol based network had the opportunity to do what it did with Colin Cowherd and find a local host that is ready for a national stage. What if FOX did that instead? My list is still available in the event that the Don and Scott want ideas.
This may be the best way for FOX Sports Radio to do a pivot away from the formula Clay Travis followed. I don’t mean politically. This may be the best way for FOX to build a morning team and have a show that sounds like a big party instead of being centered on one dude.
So it is clear that FOX Sports Radio has options. This job will be very attractive. They also have time to make their hire, which means they have a good shot at getting this right.
Whether you loved or hated Travis, it was clear that in the sports talk world, he carved out a pretty specific niche. I don’t know if he is a “no one can do what that guy does” kind of talent, but he is certainly a talent with a very distinct presence. That means the audience will have a standard it will use to judge whatever comes next. The people making the decisions at FOX Sports Radio already know this.
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.