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Mitch Rosen Wants People To Be Happy

“When people can better themselves and if they can be happy, that’s really what matters to me.”

Brian Noe

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The Score is celebrating its 30-year anniversary this month. The iconic Chicago sports radio brand was launched on January 2, 1992. Initially, it was a daytime signal, meaning the power actually had to be shut off when the sun went down. I absolutely love this detail. Imagine if that were the case today. Think of hearing a station in Atlanta saying, “Georgia fans, what a win for the Dawgs. The 41-year championship drought is over. Well, it’s 5:28 so we’ll talk more about it at sunrise tomorrow.”

The Score has grown tremendously from those early years. It’s similar to the NFL; it’s hard to imagine when the Green Bay Packers were thumping the Kansas City Chiefs in what would eventually be called Super Bowl I, that the game would advance so much and become the spectacle it is today. There is also no way the person in charge of shutting off the power at sundown in ’92 could foresee the internet and apps and Twitch and streaming. The Score is in a much different place today.

Mitch Rosen is the operations director at 670 The Score and has been with the station for nearly 17 years. His vision and leadership have played a huge role in the overall success of the station. In addition to his duties at The Score, Mitch also oversees 1250 The Fan in Milwaukee, and Audacy’s BetQL network. We chat about all of the programming hats he wears, the it-factor when making a hire, and the evolution of the sports radio industry over the past 30 years. Enjoy!

Brian Noe: Now that we’ve arrived at the 30-year anniversary of The Score, from where it was to where it is right now, how would you describe the evolution of the station?

Mitch Rosen: It’s really incredible. I’ll be here 17 years in February. This is truly, I believe, an iconic Chicago sports brand. When The Score signed on in January of 1992, it was a day-timer. Literally, the station would sign on each day at sunrise and sign off at sundown. Could you imagine a Bears-Packers Sunday, great game, you’re on the air all day Monday, then the sun goes down at 4:50 on a fall afternoon and you have to stop talking? At that time the internet wasn’t really happening and no way to interact with your audience.

The evolution of this brand — and it’s been on three frequencies. It started off at 820 AM, 1160 AM, and now for many years we’ve been on 670 AM, a 50,000-watt blowtorch. The evolution of this brand has just been incredible. All the producers and on-air personalities and sales and marketing people, just to be part of it and to see it develop over all of these years is just incredible.

Add to that the sports franchises that we’ve been partners with. We were partners with the Blackhawks, partners with the White Sox. Then one of the most iconic franchises in all of sports, the Chicago Cubs had not won a World Series since 1908. Our first year of partnering with the Cubs was 2016, and for the Cubs to win a World Series their first year on The Score, a lot of people say we’d rather be lucky than good. How about that? It was just an incredible year. To hear Pat Hughes, the voice of the Cubs, literally say on The Score, the Cubs have won the World Series, you can’t describe the feeling.

BN: When you think about some of the names throughout the years that have helped build the station to what it is today, what comes to mind?

MR: One of the most valuable people that I can think of, Russ Mitera, has literally been here minus three months of existence at the station. Russ is our creative production director. He images the station I think better than anybody else in the country. Obviously, he and I have worked together every day that I’ve been here for 17 years. He makes this station sound great from an imaging standpoint. The sound, the music beds, the imaging voice, his voice. Besides being a great human being, he’s so talented at what he does.

The founding fathers of this radio station, Mike North, Dan Jiggetts, Terry Boers, Dan McNeil, Brian Hanley, and so many others. Doug Buffone, who passed away a number of years ago. The station hiring Mike Ditka when he was still coach of the Bears. Those are things that people still remember to this day. Modern-day Score, Leila Rahimi, a great asset who co-hosts our midday show with Dan Bernstein. Danny Parkins who joined us about five years ago from outside the market and has done a fantastic job in afternoon drive. Staples like Les Grobstein who hosts our overnight show. We’re fortunate to have a live overnight show. So many great things.

BN: What’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced over the years?

MR: There have been a lot of challenges and good challenges along the way. For me, it’s continuing to follow new technology, new ways to interact with our audience, and finding a new audience for our station. Being a standalone AM frequency where sometimes new cars that are manufactured don’t even offer an AM band, so it’s the power of our audio stream, our video stream on Twitch. Our company does a great job from a technological aspect of finding new ways to communicate with our audience on all different platforms. It’s just great. Being a standalone AM, people find great content and they find it throughout all different platforms.

The Best Media Discussion Of Jon Gruden Happened In A Virtual Classroom |  Barrett Media


BN: Over the last 30 years of sports radio in general, what do you think has been the biggest positive evolution in the industry?

MR: I think the audience has become smarter. I think when sports radio in Chicago first started, it was caller after caller. Now people interact and communicate whether it’s via text or social platforms. I think the audience and the hosts have become smarter over the years, more intelligent. I think data shows that. I think it’s a more educated audience and we reach out to an audience that interacts in different ways. I think that’s how it’s changed.

I think people want to be educated. There’s an X’s and O’s factor to it, but they also want to be entertained. I think that’s what our brand does. On a Bears Monday, we’re going to talk some X’s and O’s, but I also think we’re going to entertain our audience. I think we provide great experts to analyze games, but our hosts are entertaining, they’re informative. Whether the audience loves or doesn’t always love our hosts, they respect them and they respect our brand. At the end of the day, The Score brand is a powerful brand that our audience continues to come back to.

BN: When you’re operating three different brands, in what ways does your message differ to each of your staffs?

MR: I think you react to different markets. Chicago is different than Milwaukee, but at the end of the day, I really think we’re in the opinion business. Hosts have to be opinionated and you have to interact. People here in Chicago, they have fun with it. I like to say we play the hits. What are people talking about today? If we were at a bar today in Chicago, it’d be about the Bears. The changes they are making with the head coach and the general manager. Those are the hits today. And the Bulls. The Bulls are in first place in the East.

We play the hits, have energy, have opinions, that’s the business we’re in. I think that’s vital. That’s really in any market. Whether it’s Milwaukee or BetQL, which I’m involved with in operations, it’s wager-tainment. We entertain people and we give them data to make them better bettors. Same type of thing; we’re talking NFL, we’re talking NBA. Those are the hits in that format too.

BN: Why was Ryan Porth the right candidate for the APD position at The Score?

MR: In my 17 years it was the most dedicated time I put into that hire. It was the most important hire I’ve made. I took my time. It’s the most people I interviewed for that position ever. I wanted to find the right person. The right person that had experience, that understood the medium, that quite frankly I could learn from and that I could teach some things to. This person will help me bring our brand forward to the future. Ryan really checked all those boxes.

I had great candidates both internally and externally. After really doing a lot of research on Ryan and the success that he’s had in Nashville, I felt that he’s the right person. Like anybody, time will tell. We’ll see how things go. He is a terrific person. I love having great people that I work with, and he’s a smart person in radio and in the audio business. I think he’ll fit right into our clubhouse.

BN: When you have so many good candidates for the APD position and on-air positions, what is that it-factor where you say I think this is the person for the gig?

MR: It’s hard to describe. Sometimes you pick the right person and sometimes I’ve made mistakes along the way. You point a thumb and not a finger. It’s someone that lives and breathes, someone that’s organized, someone that’s a great communicator, and someone that works well with people.

We have a lot of people that are fairly fresh in the business, some people that have been around the business for a while. But looking for someone with fresh ideas that can help bring our brand to the next generation. Thirty years is a long time. We look to gain and bring new listeners into our brand. How do we do that? What are some ideas from a digital perspective, from a station sound perspective, from a branding perspective? Those are all things that we’re striving to take The Score to the next level.

BN: With the industry always evolving, is there a particular area where you strive to be ahead of the curve?

MR: I think every day my goal is how do we sound better? How can our shows improve? It’s not always can we get the better guests. Is there a better topic? Is everybody prepared? Are the producers, who are a vital part of our success, are they prepping our hosts in the right way? Producers are really some of the most valuable people at the station. We have tremendous producers. All do a great job.

Are our hosts prepping for their shows? I think it’s everybody working together, that’s vital to what we do. Are we giving everybody the right tools from a digital perspective? From an equipment standpoint? Is everybody working together taking our brand to the next level from a competition standpoint and from our own brand standpoint?

BN: It’s interesting, man, because it’s a lot like coaching. I think of Matt Rhule with the Carolina Panthers. Right now there are a lot of people saying he’s a micromanager. For you, if something with your staff isn’t quite as good as it could or should be, what’s your approach to handle it where you’re tightening the screws but you’re not micromanaging every little thing?

MR: I tend to pride myself to be a good communicator. A lot of my staff likes to poke fun that I over-communicate with emails and talking. But if there’s an issue, we address it, we talk about it, we fix it together and we move on. We sit down and talk. If we feel that we could do something better whether it’s ratings improvement or working the clock better, we sit down and discuss and we work together on it. That’s my way of managing.

I want people to be happy. I think when people are happy they work harder and that’s what I strive to do.

I’ve been doing this for a long time. You want people to strive to come in and enjoy their work. It’s not every day people are going to be skipping down the hallway whistling and being extremely happy, but if you give them everything they need to succeed, that’s my goal every day. I love making people happy and when you’re happy you work harder. That’s been my philosophy and I love the team that we have here. I really do.

BN: The BSM Summit is in New York City in March. Why do you think it’s important to get out and be a part of events like that?

MR: I think for our industry it continues to change and evolve. Five, 10 years ago, sports radio was callers over the air. It continues to change. You see with podcasts and different forms of media, it’s not just over the air, there are so many different forms. We see what sports wagering has done and it’s part of that DNA of our over-the-air stations. We see what it’s done from a streaming perspective. I think it’s vitally important. I think what Jason and the team has done is just incredible. I think if you can afford it, if your company supports it, I think it’s vitally important.

BN: What’s something valuable that you’ve picked up at the conference from other radio people, or from monitoring other radio stations?

MR: It’s interesting. It’s good talking to people. It’s funny, the last conference that was in person in New York, Mike Thomas was just hired as a direct competitor across the street at WMVP. We were just talking and we were competitors. Prior to that we were friendly business associates. He was running the Sports Hub in Boston and I was here at the Score, and prior to the conference he was just named station manager at WMVP. It wasn’t awkward, it was just kind of weird that all of a sudden we were competing. Most recently he came to work for Audacy and we’re on the same team now.

Just talking shop with people like him and Bruce Gilbert who’s a terrific programming genius. That’s just terrific and seeing people like that is incredible. Then monitoring when I have time, I love to listen to stations from out of town or podcasts. It’s a great way to scout talent and listen to other people. Years ago when Danny Parkins was in Kansas City and people were telling me about this guy in Kansas City, someone from Chicago, and listening to what he did, it helped get him here to Chicago.

BN: Do you have any radio pet peeves?

MR: Not really. I’m trying to think, Brian. I like honesty on the air. I love truthfulness. Once in a while tension is good in sports radio. I love for teammates to get along. That’s important to me. I love people to have fun.

We’re in radio. Sometimes it’s going to be serious. We’re going to talk about serious topics and content, but content is king. Great content wins and that’s very important.

BN: How do you manage your time between three brands to make sure everything is taken care of and operates the way that it should?

MR: I love what I do. I’m passionate. I’ve been doing this a long time. By choice, I get up crazy early in the morning. I go through emails. I live my life by lists. I cross things off as the day goes. I get a lot of satisfaction out of that. I’m pretty regimented. I’m at Starbucks at the same time every day. I work out at the same time every day. I’m just very regimented. I try to do what I can every day. Bringing in someone like Ryan will really help me obviously grow our brand at The Score.

I have a great right hand person in Milwaukee, Steve “Sparky” Fifer, who is probably one of the most dedicated people I’ve ever worked with. He does five hours a day on the air. He’s the assistant brand manager. He’s incredibly helpful. Then on BetQL I work with a great team, Matt Volk and Jesse Linhares. It’s just terrific. I still love coming into work every day. I love thinking about work every day and it’s just been an incredible journey for me.

BN: By the way, what’s your favorite and your least favorite part about working out?

MR: It’s more mental for me. During the week, I try to do 30 minutes on the treadmill and then on weekends an hour. It’s a good time to listen to some podcasts or clear my head. It’s my favorite part. I don’t know, I don’t dread it. I don’t wake up and go ahh shit I’ve got to work out today. Nothing really negative.

BN: [Laughs] Got it. What ideally would you want your future to look like when it comes to your role in the sports radio industry?

Mitch Rosen, program director of Cubs flagship WSCR-AM, adds role at a  station in Brewers country - Chicago Tribune
Courtesy: The Tribune Company

MR: I don’t know. I’ve done this a long time. I think eventually an ultimate goal of mine would be to run a market, to be a market manager. I’m not sure if that window has closed for me. That would be an eventual goal of mine. Then if I ever step away from media, I’m on a couple of charity boards. To go run a charity one day would probably be the ultimate goal.

BN: Is there a certain area you’d like your charity work to be in?

MR: I’m involved with Special Olympics Chicago. I’m involved with the American Diabetes Association. I’d be open to that. Either of those, or open to others. I’m also extremely proud of our charitable efforts at The Score. It’s a big initiative for the brand. For example, in 24 hours this past July we raised over $700,000 to build a grocery store in a food desert in a challenging neighborhood in Chicago. Danny Parkins led the way for our “What About Chicago” radiothon. It really demonstrated the power of The Score.

BN: Last thing, what is it that keeps you so motivated? I know that you’re a grinder and love what you do, but is there something that you’re striving toward that gets you out of bed each day?

MR: I like competition. I love winning. I love a breaking news day. I love hearing great imaging on the air. I love seeing other people succeed. I love seeing a young producer get promoted to executive producer roles. Sometimes I love seeing people move on to other opportunities. As tough as it is, if someone has an opportunity outside of our market or into a different role, it makes me feel good. I love making people happy.

Recently we had an executive producer, Jay Zawaski, who was here for 17, 18 years. An opportunity opened up at our news station. It turned into a great opportunity. He oversees their podcast content. It was sad to see him leave The Score, but deep inside I was so happy for him that it was a great opportunity for him. That’s what really motivates me. When people can better themselves and if they can be happy, that’s really what matters to me.

BSM Writers

If Howard Stern Really Doesn’t Know Who Al Dukes Is, He Should 

A big part of Dukes’ success is the fact that he doesn’t take himself too seriously, just like some broadcasting giants like Stern and David Letterman.

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Al Dukes

Al Dukes wasn’t quite sure why WFAN afternoon drive co-host Evan Roberts had sent him an email last week with audio from The Howard Stern Show on Sirius XM, but he was certainly all smiles when he took a listen.

In response to Carton and Roberts talking-up longtime Howard Stern producer Gary Dell’Abate for the Radio Hall of Fame the week before, the “King Of All Media” suggested last Monday that Dukes, the Executive Producer of the Boomer and Gio morning show on WFAN, should be in the Hall of Fame before Dell’Abate.

“It was a big thrill for me just because I loved Howard Stern in the late 80s up through 2010s and a little bit further,” said Dukes. “I’ve kind of lost touch with him lately but he was the reason I got into radio.”  

Dukes also had a chuckle when Stern followed up the nomination by saying…

“I don’t know Mr. Dukes. Who is Al Dukes?”

“I know he has no idea who I am,” said Dukes. “He was listening to Carton and Roberts and was busting Gary’s balls. That was just cool to hear him say my name like that. It was very funny. It was just fun to hear on the radio.”

Even though it may only have been a joke, it certainly meant a lot to Dukes to hear Stern mention his name because of the impact that the broadcasting giant had on his life and career.

When Dukes was a student at Kean University in New Jersey from 1988 to 1992, he would always listen to Howard Stern during his commute to and from home. But when Dukes moved on to graduate school at Indiana State, there was a problem…Howard Stern was not on in that market. Since that was before being able to listen to radio shows online or before the advent of satellite radio, Dukes was not going to be able to listen.

That was until his mother Carole came up with an idea to send her son cassette tapes of the Howard Stern Show.

“My mother just started recording on a cassette deck when she would get ready to go to work,” said Dukes. “When he went to commercial, she would hit pause. She would do the same thing the next day and when she had a full tape, she would send it off.”

Dukes’ mom did this throughout his time in Indiana and continued to record the tapes when her son took his first radio job in Tampa in 1994.

She had to because Stern wasn’t on in that market either.

“It was a really neat bonding experience for me and my mom because she got to really like Howard Stern and she thought it was great,” said Dukes. “She would do self-editing and when they had strippers or porn stars, she would not record that and say oh that’s so boring.”

Even without the explicit material, those Stern tapes played a vital role as Dukes ascended to have the storied career he has enjoyed. From being a sports radio producer and reporter in Tampa to where he is now at WFAN, Dukes has had a very successful career.

Thanks, of course, in part from those Howard Stern tapes that his mom sent him.

“It definitely shaped who I was and who I am,” said Dukes. “I did all of my (graduate school) projects centered around something to do with talk radio and Howard Stern.”

Not lost on Dukes’ mind is the reason why Stern ultimately mentioned his name last week and that was Craig Carton and Evan Roberts talking about Dell’Abate during their WFAN show. So, the question had to be posed to Dukes…

Is “Bababooey” a hall of famer?    

“Absolutely,” said Dukes. “The guy was with Howard Stern for all of these years, been fired on the air many times…he’s really had his life exposed.  He’s evolved over the years to booking A-level guests and getting people to come in and that is not an easy thing to do. So, absolutely first-ballot hall of famer.”

For as much as Stern served as inspiration for him, Dukes also learned a lot about producing from Dell’Abate. Dukes appreciated to type of radio that Stern was doing and the fact that Dell’Abate had the ability to get on the air a lot. That was certainly something that resonated with Dukes as his career progressed.

“(Dell’Abate) didn’t have the responsibility of being the lead guy but did a lot of things behind the scenes,” said Dukes. “Then he was a great foil for Howard, Robin (Quivers) and Fred (Norris). I always looked at Gary early on and said I’m sure I can’t do what Howard does but I think I can do what Gary does.”

A big part of Dukes’ success is the fact that he doesn’t take himself too seriously, just like some broadcasting giants like Stern and David Letterman. Dukes has always recognized that the hosts are the cool guys, but over time he has certainly let his unique personality come through during those moments when he gets some air time. 

“I’ll be not the cool guy,” said Dukes. “I’ll be that foil because it works. It lets the hosts be this alpha male type guy and then you get to be the everyday guy.”  

And Dukes, that everyday guy, has built up a resume full of hall of fame credentials.

Dukes has produced some iconic radio shows in his career including Ron and Fez at WNEW Radio in New York before taking on the Executive Producer role for Boomer and Carton on WFAN in 2007. He continued in that role when the show became Boomer and Gio and has also co-hosted The Warm Up Show and The Postgame Podcast with Jerry Recco.

Dukes has been blessed to be around some amazing radio talent during his career including Ron Bennington, Fez Whatley, Boomer Esiason, Craig Carton and Gregg Giannotti.

“I’ve been fortunate to be put in those positions,” said Dukes. “Judging a producer’s success is kind of judging a head coach or a manager. If you give them a terrible team all of sudden, they’re a terrible manager but if you give them a good team, they’re a good manager.”    

Now, let’s circle back to Howard Stern’s assertion that Dukes should be in the Radio Hall of Fame…

Wouldn’t “Hall of Famer” Al Dukes would have a nice ring to it? 

“Yeah,” said Dukes.  “But to quote Mike (Francesa) and Chris (Russo), I’m a compiler at this point. You can’t be a one-man band in this business.  You do have to be surrounded with the right people and right chemistry.”

And that group of “right people” includes his mother for sending him those Howard Stern tapes!

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Radio Can’t Sit Back And Wait On Marijuana Money

“Attitudes on marijuana have changed tremendously in the last 15 years. It went from an illicit substance we had to ask around to score to something we put in candy.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Post & Courrier

I had a great conversation last week with Mark Glynn of iHeartMedia Seattle. He was the focus of the latest column in our Meet the Market Managers partnership with Point-to-Point Marketing.

One of the subjects Mark and I discussed was advertising marijuana in markets like Seattle, where the drug can be purchased legally.

No broadcasting company is ready to take money for advertising legal weed yet. Despite state and local laws decriminalizing it in some places, a federal ban on marijuana still remains in place.

But Glynn knows there is money in it. iHeartMedia isn’t just sitting back and waiting for the green light.

“I know that the company itself is working with legislators to figure out how to make that work,” he told me. “It’s obviously a federal situation right now. The Washington State Broadcasters Association I know is very heavily involved with lobbying for that because it is an opportunity, just like gambling is in other states across the country.”

This got me thinking about a column I wrote late last year about the political force sports radio can be in states where sports gambling is not yet legal. The same can and should be true for marijuana.

Think of all of the categories we are allowed to advertise. Ever heard of passive investment firms? The entire business model is built on convincing customers to bet on people’s homes being foreclosed on. That is ghoulish and yet, there is nothing stopping those firms from buying time on air. 

How about gambling? It is considerably more addictive. That is why so many states require any ads for sportsbooks to include information about a gambling helpline. Also, we have clients, in states where sports gambling is not legal, who take money from offshore books. No one says boo.

So why is weed different and what can we do about it?

Well, as Mark Glynn points out, the Washington State Association of Broadcasters is making sure lawmakers are aware of what is at stake financially for the broadcast industry. That is a very good start.

Second, hosts can be casual when discussing marijuana. Eliminating the stigma our older, more socially conservative listeners have around cannabis is really important. The last thing radio needs is a segment of its most dedicated listeners pushing back on this effort.

There is no reason to force marijuana into your programming, but when it comes up, you should be treating it as casually as you do alcohol. After all, it is well-documented how absurd it is that marijuana use was ever a crime.

Go look at the comment section on any ESPN social media post about Brittney Griner. You will see literally dozens of people insinuating that the WNBA star got what she deserved by bringing marijuana into Russia. That sort of reaction to Griner’s story, and ones like it, are the last things we need if we are trying to turn marijuana into the next hot advertising category.

Finally, I think it is important for individual stations to engage lawmakers. Local business leaders, particularly market managers and CEOs of locally-owned stations and clusters need to be out front on this effort. They are the job creators that politicians are always praising. Their voices are the ones that politicians need to hear saying that it is time to eliminate legal restrictions on advertising marijuana.

Invite them into the building. Give them tours. Talk to them about what is at stake. 

The most important thing we can do is remind them that local broadcasting’s goal is to reflect and serve its community. If the community has no problem with the weed business, why should there be a problem with the broadcasters taking advertising money?

Attitudes toward marijuana have changed tremendously in the last 15 years. It went from an illicit substance we had to ask around to score to something we put in candy. That means who is using marijuana has changed too. 

Listen to any sports talk station over the course of an hour and just count how many ads there are for various Viagra alternatives. The same guys getting those medications through online pharmacies are buying weed gummies for exhaustion and stress relief. Getting high isn’t the exclusive use for marijuana anymore. 

Our industry could benefit so much from dispensaries being allowed to advertise. Many of those businesses have the money too and need to find ways to reinvest it. We have to be vocal and we have to make sure the right people hear us. The best way to create a new revenue stream is a united front telling the people in charge why it has to happen.

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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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