Jim Lampley has been synonymous with big-time boxing for over 30 years as the preeminent play-by-play voice at HBO Sports. After a two-and-a-half-year hiatus, Lampley is back calling prizefights. This time, it is not on cable or even the standard pay-per-view. Like 35% of US households, he’s joined a streaming service.
Enter Triller. Not Thriller. (Yes, I made that mistake a couple of times already this week.)
Triller is a short-form video app used by musicians, celebrities, athletes, and overall culture setters—has more than 300 million users worldwide.
“HBO was the top of the pyramid in terms of the prestige of the fighters and the fights that we were bringing to the public,” Lampley said in an upcoming appearance on my Sports with Friends podcast. “So, it was a privilege to have that particular ringside position. If you were calling fights in the 80s, 90s, 00s, the teens as I was, and you wanted to be in the best possible place to call the fights. That was HBO.”
When Time Warner was sold to AT&T in 2018, HBO Boxing was not a priority anymore. The program was shuttered on December 8, 2018.
Time Warner has since been sold again in a merger with Discovery Media.
“I didn’t have a, a television sports commentary job anymore,” Lampley noted. “And I did not know at that moment, whether I would, at some point in the future ever have a television sports commentary job, it was quite possible to me that that was the end of the road.”
After more than three decades in network television, and nearly 30 of them as host of HBO’s flagship World Championship Boxing franchise, Lampley is one of America’s most renowned and respected broadcasters and journalists.
He called ALL the big fights from March 1988 until December 2018. He called Mike Tyson vs. Buster Douglas in 1990, and the :91 second Tyson victory over Michael Spinks.
It wasn’t just Tyson. Lampley called the bouts between Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe and Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward, the remarkable 45-year-old George Foreman’s victory over Michael Moorer in 1994, to the long-awaited showdown between Lennox Lewis and Tyson in 2002.
After all that success, Lampley was surprised that HBO did not continue with boxing in 2018.
“I was surprised that anybody could arrive at that business position, looking at the history of HBO as a network and what boxing had meant to the development of its identity and its relationship to the audience and decide that that was something that they didn’t want to do,” Lampley explained. “They didn’t, it was kind of shocking to me, but on the other hand, at that moment, I had been lucky enough. It’s all luck.”
“It is an honor and a privilege to welcome the preeminent voice in boxing, Jim Lampley, to Triller Fight Club,” Triller creator Ryan Kavanaugh said. “We will blend all the best elements of music, entertainment, and sports, and there is no one better to help lead our broadcasts for fans of all ages than Jim.”
Before hiring Lampley, Triller has been compared favorably to other short-form apps like Snapchat and TikTok. Having long-form programming vaults Triller into a different stratosphere.
Since Lampley started with HBO in 1988, combat sports have seen a change as boxing now shares the entertainment stage with Mixed Martial Arts and Ultimate Fighting. Lampley stressed that his deal with Triller will be to call traditional boxing matches.
“It doesn’t mean that I have any antagonism for the popularity or the rise of those other sports,” he mentioned. “Most of the people I have encountered who are fans of NMA are also fans of boxing. I do understand that there’s some segregation and there are some people who just like MMA and don’t want to see boxing. So that’s going to go on for quite a while. “
Still, Lampley sees no place for fights with YouTube stars.
As 35% of the US householders have cut the cord and use streaming services over cable and broadcast television, Lampley is quite willing to embrace new technology. He does think the toxicity of social media has gotten out of hand.
“Will social media destroy civilization?” he asked. “I don’t think I have seen a more perverse societal influence in my lifetime than social media. I can’t begin to tell you how abhorrent I find social media and its effects on everything from social relationships to race relations, to gender relations, to politics, etc.
He said Floyd Mayweather’s recent exhibition with YouTube’s Jake Paul crossed a line. “This was yet another example of the degree to which social media can destroy conventional boundaries, cheapened values, and pretty much obliterate the conventional meaning of a lot of things in the society. Everybody with a brain knows that Floyd Mayweather had no chance to prove anything against this YouTube guy with no boxing background. Why did people pay anything to see it?”
The full interview will be released on Sports with Friends on Wednesday, June 16th. Lampley makes his Triller debut Saturday, June 19th at Miami’s loanDepot park, which will feature both men’s and women’s undisputed world title fights for the first time. Headlining the event, ‘The Takeover’ Teófimo López, will defend his Undisputed Lightweight World Titles (IBF, WBC, WBO, WBC, RING) for the first time against ‘Ferocious’ George Kambosos Jr.
We covered a lot of ground in our conversation. Lampley was the first host on the first day for the first 24-hour all-sports radio station, when he hosted WFAN’s first show in 1987. He also called 14 separate Olympic Games for multiple networks. We discussed his thoughts on the upcoming Tokyo games as well.
Lampley is planning to bring his countless stories to his own podcast soon. It was incredibly fun to ask him about his various movie roles, where he played himself. While I marveled at Creed, he says Ocean’s Eleven was his favorite film.
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.