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Debate is the Best Bait For Drawing an Audience

Your homework and show prep are about finding a point of conflict that you think will create passion and interest on both sides.



Betting lines are a useful tool for understanding what makes a good on-air debate. The reason: Both involve getting an equal amount of interest on both sides.

For the sportsbook, it’s an equal amount of money. The fact that the Los Angeles Rams are favored by 4.5 points over the Cincinnati Bengals in Sunday’s Super Bowl does not, in fact, mean that the sportsbooks believe that will be the margin of victory. It means that is the number the sportsbook expects to generate equal bets on both sides, which is what the sportsbook wants so it is not exposed. It simply makes money off the commission it charges for the bets.

For an on-air debate, the goal is to get an equal amount of passion — or interest — on either side of a question. A debate in which both sides agree is not actually a debate. It’s a discussion. And while discussions are fine, they’re not as effective as attracting and retaining an audience as a good debate, which may not produce a commission but will generate interest.

This isn’t going to be a discussion about either the need to embrace debate or the dangers of doing so. I think we’re past all that. I’m going to provide you with a starter kit on how to find the right line for your next debate:

1. Search For Conflict

In planning a show, we naturally gravitate toward the subjects others are talking about, whether it’s locally or from a national perspective. What is trending? What is generating interest? I think of this as fish-finding. I want to know what topics the audience is congregating around.

Getting those fish to bite, though? That’s going to depend on the bait you use, and I believe that debate is the best bait. A debate requires two sides, though, which means you must find disagreement. What is something being said on this subject by a specific person that you disagree with?

Now, if you work with a co-host, you want to find something the two of you don’t agree on. If you’re hosting a solo show, find a specific statement from someone else either from an audio clip or even online.

The best disagreements have equal stakes. You feel as strongly about your point as the person you disagree with feels about theirs.

2. Don’t Debate the Degree of Appropriate Reaction

A good argument or debate has two opposing sides. A bad debate has two people who agree on the general point, but are arguing over how much — or how little — they agree. It’s bad in that it’s not actually a debate. It may sound like a debate, it may even feel like a debate, but it’s not actually a debate. You’re arguing about the difference between being mad and being really mad. Or being excited and overjoyed.

Here’s an example: “I don’t think people should be as upset as they seem to be about Aaron Rodgers and his stance on the vaccines.”

This is an opinion. It may even be a provocative opinion, but it is not an opinion conducive to a good debate because the opposing side is a person who is really upset about the way Rodgers has handled that. What dialogue comes from that? It’s not that one side is wrong, per se. It’s debating the degree of feeling on a subject. At that point, you’re calibrating emotions instead of arguing over a point.

Find the actual point of disagreement. In this example, what are people upset at Rodgers for that they shouldn’t be? What, specifically, has someone gotten wrong? THAT is actual debate. And if you’re wondering whether your opinion is conducive to actual debate, define the opposing side to the point you’re making and ask yourself what the disagreement is over to make sure you’re not arguing about degrees of emotion.

3. Start the Debate by Stating the Opinion You Want to Debate

This sounds like something self-evident, but there’s a natural tendency to begin a conversation by explaining the steps that led to a certain conclusion instead of simply stating that conclusion. The reason for this tendency is simple. We’re describing how we reached the conclusion we’re providing. We’re showing how — logically — we arrived at this point. The problem with this is that you’re not giving your audience — or your co-host, if you have one — a chance to react.

When you start with the opinion, the listener (or your co-host) will have a natural reaction: either agreement or disagreement. The information or facts that led to your conclusion then become the basis for further conversation or argument as opposed to steps you’re outlining in your journey to this conclusion.

Again, it’s helpful to think of a betting line. A sportsbook doesn’t explain to the bettors how it arrived at the line before posting it. It doesn’t enumerate all of the logic that went into the decision. It posts the line and then waits to see the reaction among the bettors, and if needed, the line gets adjusted.

Think of your debate in the same way. Your homework and show prep are about finding a point of conflict that you think will create passion and interest on both sides. Write it down before the show if you need to, and then — like a sportsbook unveiling its line — state this opinion as if it were the headline and see where the reaction goes.

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.




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.


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



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



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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