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Why Did The Sports Media Fall In Love With Ted Lasso?

“A quick Twitter search turns up familiar names like Mina Kimes, Adam Schein, Mike Golic Jr and so many others singing the Apple TV+ show’s praises.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Apple

It is hard to find someone that doesn’t like Ted Lasso. Look at Twitter, and you might find people that wear never having seen the show as a badge of honor, but it is rare you find someone that says they watched the entire first season and hated it.

It is a nearly perfect show, balancing smart comedy with beautifully played emotional moments, both uplifting and devastating. This isn’t at all what you expect when you read that Apple made a TV show out of a series of commercials starring Jason Sudeikis.

Ted Lasso Season 1 Review, How to Watch
Courtesy: Apple

While most people that watched the show gave it high marks, one group that seemed to be particularly in love with Ted Lasso was the sports media. A quick Twitter search turns up familiar names like Mina Kimes, Adam Schein, Mike Golic Jr and so many others singing the Apple TV+ show’s praises.

What is it about this show that connected with us? Sure, it is set in the sports world. But it can’t be that simple, right?

For the uninitiated, Ted is a division II college football coach that is hired to coach a Premier League soccer team, by the team’s new owner, the jilted ex-wife of the team’s former owner. Her goal is to run the franchise into the ground, but Ted, full of relentless positivity, is determined to find his definition of success. It features diva superstar players, personnel fights with management, a coach trying to change a culture, and plenty of interaction with the media.

Could it be that simple? Is it about being able to see ourselves as part of this character’s universe?

Mike DeCourcy, who covers college basketball for Sporting News and Big Ten Network, says that Ted Lasso, the character, is not like any coach most of us has covered. Part of the idea of the show is that the guy barely knows the rules of soccer. His plan is to succeed by building a team culture. Maybe those guys exist in the American sports landscape, but they would never be as honest about it as Ted is.

“I think those of us who’ve covered sports appreciate it because there is truth in Ted’s philosophy, and there is good in the sports we write and talk about and essentially allow to consume our lives,” DeCourcy told me. “We all know there are some involved who are not good people, or are up to no good, but there still is something essentially wonderful about the pursuit of excellence. At his core, that’s what Ted is communicating.”

Lauren Brooks covers the Jaguars for 1010XL in Jacksonville. She too is a Ted Lasso fan. I asked her if she could picture herself interacting with Lasso and other media members.

“Ted Lasso’s first press conference was as cringe-worthy as a Michael Scott meeting in the Office, but over time, I came to appreciate Ted’s unwavering honesty and vulnerability,” she said.” Often in sports, pressers contain cliches and we don’t glean much insight from them, but Ted had a way of disarming the media, even crusty Trent Crimm, and providing worthwhile information.”

The personal connection might help for some. For me personally, it was about just how good the writing was. When the show went for comedy, it delivered with moments like Ted answering his boss’s question about whether or not he believed in ghosts with “Yes, but I think it’s more important they believe in themselves.” When the show went for the heartstrings, it tugged as hard as it could.

Evan Cohen, of SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio says the kindness and positivity of Ted Lasso was almost aspirational.

“We all can hope for kindness in ourselves, our teams and our fellow citizens but Ted Lasso gave us an ability to see, hear and copy it. It is tangible evidence that the belief in good can be strived for and realized…even if it is a scripted made for TV series.”

That relentless positivity is obvious central to who Ted Lasso is as a character and what the show is as a narrative. Would we have accepted it free of any cynicism if Ted Lasso had debuted in any year other than 2020? How much did the political climate and the dark cloud that was Covid hanging over our heads for so long contribute to the fanbase’s passion?

“I think the timing of it was huge. It came when we all needed joy and positivity,” says Matt Jones, of Kentucky Sports Radio and ESPN Radio, before noting that he doesn’t think that means there is no way the upcoming second season won’t elicit similar emotions and responses. “Finding the balance between uplifting and not cheesy is hard and since this walked the line so well, if it does it again, I for one will be very excited.”

Jason Martin of 104.5 the Zone in Nashville thinks that 2020 may have played a role, but the signs were there for a long time that a show like this would find a dedicated audience.

“We all needed to escape into something and for many, the idea of a truly likable lead, a decent person, on a show with zero politics, no time to preach any message other than decency and grace, that was going to resonate. But if you’ll look, WandaVision, The Mandalorian, Loki, and certainly Ted Lasso are ALL examples of shows with characters to root for and universes that weren’t designed to wreck your day.”

For many, the appeal of Ted Lasso is, well, Ted Lasso. Steve Woods of 97.3 the Fan in San Diego points out his favorite scene is in the coach’s first meeting with his new boss and his unflinching honesty about how bad the drink he is offered is.

“We all would’ve choked the tea down,” Woods says. “All of us. He didn’t.”

Woods insists that in a profession where we cover so many people putting on an act for the cameras, Ted Lasso appeals to the sports media because the lead character is incapable of being anything other than himself at all times.

“Wouldn’t all of us like to cover  Ted Lasso? Someone who is genuine and takes the time to get to know you?  Someone who understands the absurdity of it all, while also remaining kind.”

This isn’t the first show that has created a strong sense of community. Think about the crazy live Twitter conversations that go on during episodes of The Bachelor or the immediate reaction to the disappointing finale of Game of Thrones. What is interesting though is that we all found Ted Lasso on our own time.

Apple TV+ has less than a third of the subscribers as Disney+. There was no overwhelming promotional push for Ted Lasso. Jason Sudekis is well-known to Saturday Night Live fans, but he isn’t the A-list star some other Apple TV+ shows had. Why did this break through? How did this show create a community with all of us discovering it at a different time?

Martin says it is about trusting friends’ opinion. Ted Lasso found its community through being good and earning word of mouth advertising.

“It’s such an easy recommendation from me to anyone, with the language and content caveat of course, because I haven’t ever left a Ted Lasso episode and not felt a little bit of joy that wasn’t as easy to spot prior to watching it,” he says. “It’s an infectious show, because hope and grace and kindness are so needed and we all quietly crave them in others toward us and crave others to feel about us the way we do about Ted. It’s an inspirational show about flawed people, but not evil people, all trying to live… who collectively grow as human beings. Not to mention Sudeikis seems like a pretty great guy. His rise is starting to remind me of Keanu Reeves… of which we could use more of both.”

I wondered if it is an echo chamber kind of thing. Certainly my Twitter bubble loves Ted Lasso. How does that translate in the real world though?

Woods told me that he and his partner Ben Higgins have brought the show up several times on their morning show and know that it isn’t just a small echo chamber of people that love the show.

“We get great response when we talk about it every time. Jason Sudekis remains at the top of our bucket list interview sheet. I have seen plenty of edgelords tweeting how they didn’t like it. I’m the most cynical human I know and I hate almost everything and I’ve watched it 4 times. I’ll probably start my 5th go around tonight.”

It’s a good time to follow the exploits of AFC Richmond. The show scored an unfathomable 20 Emmy nominations earlier this month. That is more than any comedy in its first season in history. Every actor with significant screen time was nominated for one of the major acting awards, including Sudekis, who is a shew-in to win Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.

Season 2 is on the horizon as well. It drops this week. Fans are excited, but nervous.

Like I said earlier, Ted Lasso’s is a dedicated fanbase. It would be devastating if season 2 isn’t on par with the first.

DeCourcy has his predictions and hopes for what we see next. He told me that all he can do is trust that Ted Lasso’s cast and crew are aware of the standard they set with the first season.

“I honestly can’t be sure where the story goes next, but I trust the creators because they delivered so perfectly the first time around. One thing I feel pretty strongly about: Jamie Tartt (a pretty boy, superstar-in-the-making character) registered so powerfully with viewers that there has to be another chapter for him. When England lost the European Championship to Italy on penalties, you’d be amazed how many Tweets I got that said, ‘Jamie Tartt should have taken one.'”

Martin has seen season 2 already and reviewed it for 104.5 The Zone’s website. As he puts it, “there’s a lot of story to pay off” this season and those payoffs are there. His thoughts on season 2 are overwhelmingly positive, but I asked him to avoid any specifics.

“In the first few episodes of the new season, a lot of things are addressed, one new character arrives with an important role, and the cold open is guaranteed to put a smile on your face, because you’ll be laughing.

“Ted Lasso doesn’t LOSE what made it special, even if there’s a new degree of depth to some of the characters and their own realities.”

That is good news. So many of us have very high hopes and will not be happy if they aren’t met. What will be really interesting is the debate that comes next: Is a Ted Lasso recap good content on a Friday?

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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