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It Was A Week We Couldn’t Stick To Sports

“As unpleasant as it may be, ignoring it is worse.”

Seth Everett

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This week the very idea of “sticking to sports” was impossible. Everywhere you looked, in all markets all over the country, news-type issues were front and center. To be in the sports media meant you had to address it head-on. Avoiding harassment, racism, and politics meant ignorance, and none of it was pleasant.

Remember, this week was after the Jon Gruden email saga, so if that soured you on NFL talk this month, it was not even part of this week’s awful dialogue.

NHL

The hockey world was stunned when it was revealed that a former Chicago Blackhawks player filed a lawsuit against the team for mishandling his sexual assault allegations. The player who was unknown until he was interviewed by TSN in Canada but was revealed to be former Chicago Blackhawk Kyle Beach. He alleged that former video coach Brad Aldrich sexually assaulted and harassed him ​during the team’s 2010 Stanley Cup run.

Joel Quenneville was the coach of that 2010 Chicago team and is currently the head coach of the Florida Panthers. The Panthers are off to a nice start and their season is completely disrupted.  Try avoiding the topic then.

The tweet of the week was from ESPN’s Greg Wyshinski

Oh, and New Jersey Devils goalie Mackenzie Blackwood got his 1st vaccination shot.  That was the lead story for my hometown team.  Still, sticking to sports?

NFL

The week started with trade rumors regarding Houston Texans embattled quarterback Deshaun Watson. There are many injuries in the NFL, and a rumor involving the Miami Dolphins surfaced. Watson is still on the Texans’ roster but is not close to seeing the field.

Try breaking down the football ramifications of a Watson trade without mentioning the 22 civil lawsuits of sexual misconduct that the quarterback is facing and that 10 women have filed police complaints.

Throw in Thursday night’s marquee matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the unbeaten Arizona Cardinals. 

And in case you could avoid sexual harassment and Covid in your football talk, the NFL announced Thursday changes in the Rooney Rule, requiring teams to interview at least two external minority candidates for general manager/executive of football operations positions and all coordinator roles.

NBA

The week STARTED with a protest outside Barclays Center in Brooklyn from anti-vaxxers supporting Kyrie Irving’s decision to not get vaccinated. Protesters were chanting “no vaccine mandate” and “let Kyrie play” as they pushed past an arena entrance before Sunday’s Brooklyn Nets game against the Charlotte Hornets. Security was forced to lock down the arena for some time.

One was armed with a pair of baseball bats. Another sported a swastika. Most were vocally anti-vaccination. No one was hurt, thankfully.

Kevin Durant did not comment about the lockdown, saying only that the team has missed Irving while getting off to a slow start. Durant is silent, but can sports media be? Hardly.

This scene, by the way, completely overshadowed another player stepping into a political minefield when Celtics reserve big man Enis Kanter called out Nike for not doing more to put pressure on the Chinese government.

World Series

As soon as reporters gathered at Minute Maid Park for the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred was cornered on the Braves’ team name and tomahawk chop cheer being insensitive to Native Americans.

“The Native American community in that region is wholly supportive of the Braves program, including ‘The Chop,’” Manfred told reporters. “For me, that’s kind of the end of the story. In that market, we’re taking into account the Native American community.”

It hardly ends there. This summer, MLB announced they were pulling the 2021 All-Star Game out of Truist Park in Georgia because of recent voting laws that make it harder for minorities. The decision cost Georgia millions, and the idea that Manfred would hand the World Series trophy to the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park is… complicated to say the least.

That’s ok, if sports radio and television hosts would rather stay away from issues of race, they can focus on the Houston Astros, a team marred in the afterglow of their 2017 cheating scandal.  

Fans in Houston consider Manfred the villain of the scandal, so that trophy presentation will look similarly awkward.

College Football

In college football-crazed Alabama, my lead story on the Alabama Radio Network was Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin refusing to discuss his vaccination status. Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach is also keeping his status private.

The schools are requiring employees to provide proof of vaccination by Dec. 8, except in limited circumstances that legally entitle an employee to a medical or religious exemption.  Former Washington State head coach Nick Rolovich and members of his staff were let go by the school for refusing to comply with vaccine mandates. 

I have mentioned on radio shows, podcasts, and in previous columns how sick I am of talking about Covid-19. I do not want to talk about Chris Sale or Kirk Cousins anymore. Still, the coaches of these programs are the center of attention. They sure are good role models, right?

I worry about sports media when stations are laying off people or controversies surround announcers. Still, try doing a sports show on either television or radio this week without tackling some heavy “news” topics.

As unpleasant as it may be, ignoring it is worse. Sports are a microcosm of society, and purposely avoiding the various elephants in the room 

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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