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Bill Walton’s 30 For 30 Should Be The First Of Many Broadcaster Films

“There have been so many talented men and women broadcasters that it’s probably too difficult to narrow down the field and then produce the episodes.”

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ESPN’s 30 for 30 series has been a huge hit for the network over the years. I remember traveling for baseball and having multiple episodes loaded for viewing in flight. Depending on how long the trip was, I would have several episodes ready for viewing to pass the time and be entertained. 

I remember watching the first one that came out in 2009, King’s Ransom, the story of Wayne Gretzky’s trade from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings. I was hooked. From there I’d download many of them. Some of my other favorites were, June 17, 1994, Jordan Rides the Bus, and Four Days in October. 

It has been reported that ESPN is working on a 30 for 30 on Bill Walton currently titled The Luckiest Guy in the World. It will focus on Walton’s life in basketball, from UCLA to the Portland Trail Blazers, and then on to the world of announcing. By my calculations, Walton would be the third (or fourth depending on how you count) broadcasting type to be featured. Jimmy ‘The Greek’ Snyder was the focus of Episode 6, which showed his life as a Vegas bookmaker to his time on The NFL Today on CBS. Years later, WFAN’s iconic duo Mike and the Mad Dog got their own 30 for 30 as well.

There should be more announcers featured. There have been so many talented men and women broadcasters that it’s probably too difficult to narrow down the field and then produce the episodes. So, I have compiled a list of announcers/analysts that I’d like to see featured on an upcoming 30 for 30’s. Here we go! (In no ranking order)

Vin Scully, MLB.  ‘It’s Time for Dodgers Baseball’

Scully is well known as the best play-by-play announcer in Major League Baseball history. His storytelling ability was second to none. Many have tried to imitate, but nobody will ever duplicate Vin.  

FOCUS: The move from NY to LA and his early days working with Red Barber. Also, on his partnership with the late Don Drysdale and why Scully decided to work on his own rather than bring in a new partner. 

Pat Summerall and John Madden, NFL.‘Montana…Rice…Touchdown…Whap!…Boom…Doink’

These guys HAVE to be featured together. There’s no other way around it. The two were paired together in 1981 and their partnership lasted 22 seasons between CBS and Fox. They were the perfect duo. Summerall was a minimalist, and Madden, had a lot to say, ALWAYS. 

FOCUS: How this unlikely pairing became the most recognized and well-liked duos in the history of the NFL. What did it take to get this pairing off the ground and maintain that tremendous working relationship? 

Chick Hearn, NBA. ‘It’s A Slam Dunk’

Ask anyone living in Southern California and they’ll probably tell you that Hearn is the greatest to ever call an NBA game. He called almost 34-hundred consecutive Lakers games starting in 1965. That’s nearly 38 straight seasons. 

FOCUS: Hearn was as much a part of ‘Showtime’ as Magic and Kareem were. I’d love to know where he came up with ‘Slam Dunk’, ‘Air Ball’ and ‘No harm, no foul’. The phrases live on today in basketball lingo.

Keith Jackson, ABC, Football, Baseball. ‘Whoa Nellie’

The voice, the unmistakable voice of Keith Jackson will always be remembered. Mainly as a college football announcer for ABC, he became the gold standard. With his ‘Whoa Nellie’ and ‘Fum-BLE!’ He’s also credited with naming Michigan Stadium, ‘The Big House’. 

FOCUS: The early days of college football on television, this one could even show the evolving nature of the game through Jackson’s eyes. He saw some of the greatest college football players ever and some of the greatest teams ever. 

Brent Musburger, CBS, ABC, studio, play-by-play. ‘You Are Looking Live’

From hosting ‘The NFL Today’, to becoming a broadcast play-by-play voice of football and basketball on CBS/ABC/ESPN, Musburger has been a fixture in the industry for many years. 

FOCUS: Where did ‘you are looking live’ come from? It could also focus on the evolution of the NFL studio show. The CBS show had a gambling angle way back when. The early indications that viewers wanted to know this aspect of the game. 

Doc Emrick, NBC, NHL play-by-play. ‘Waffle boarded, pitchforked, ladled, SCORRRREE!’

The wordsmith of hockey and voice of many a hockey memory. Emrick is a member of the US Hockey Hall of Fame and the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. His style is unmatched, with the vocabulary of an English professor, with no descriptions commonly the same. 

FOCUS: That vocabulary, how, where, why? This would also be a good time to find out about Emrick the man. He has always had a love for animals and frequently would rather discuss this passion rather than hockey. 

Howard Cosell, ABC Commentator, Monday Night Football. ‘I’m Just Telling It Like It Is’

How do you describe Cosell? In his own words in a New York Times piece, ‘I’ve been called arrogant, pompous, obnoxious, vain, cruel, verbose, a showoff. And, of course, I am.’ He had a style all of his own. He was famous for his interactions with Muhammad Ali, watching them interact was incredible. 

FOCUS: How would the style of Howard Cosell work in today’s world of sports? Could he have been, ‘himself’ in the current culture? If that wouldn’t work, I’d love to have an account of how Cosell broke the news of the death of John Lennon on Monday Night Football. 

Jim Nantz, CBS, Studio, Play-by-play, PGA, NFL, NCAA. ‘Hello Friends’ 

What else could the title be? His face/voice have become the signature of CBS Sports. Nantz is the lead voice of PGA, NFL and College Basketball coverage on the network. In 2007, he called Super Bowl XLI and joined a group, with Dick Enberg, Curt Gowdy and Kevin Harlan as the only play-by-play announcers to call both a Super Bowl and NCAA Championship game. 

FOCUS: I’d like to know more about Nantz and his association with the PGA Tour and more specifically ‘The Masters’. It would be cool to relive some of the greatest finishes and tournaments in his time. The Tiger Woods’ wins in 1997 (#1), and 2019 (#5) could fill 30 minutes easily. 

Al Michaels, ABC, NBC, play-by-play, NFL, MLB. ‘It’s No Miracle’

Michaels is such a pro he can do any sport. He proved that during the 1980 Winter Olympics when Michaels called one of the greatest upsets in the history of sports. The Miracle on Ice team will always be tied to him. But Michaels has done so much more, like baseball, basketball and of course now football, including last week’s Super Bowl. 

FOCUS: He’s already been featured in ‘The Day the Series Stopped’ the story of the 1989 World Series being interrupted by an earthquake. I’d like to see more of his work with the Cincinnati Reds from 1971-74; and then his early days with UCLA starting in 1974. 

Kevin Harlan, CBS, Westwood One, play-by-play, NFL, NCAA. ‘With No Regard For Human Life’

Harlan is the rare breed that knows the ins and outs of calling a game and have the ability to insert some humor into the broadcast. The thing that is great about Harlan is one never gets in the way of the other. His enthusiastic calls resonate and don’t go over the top.

FOCUS: I could watch an entire night of his epic calls of people running on the field, a cat looking to score a touchdown, or Harlan calling two games at once. He’s so good and I still love one of his catchphrases ‘With No Regard for Human Life’, hence the title of his story. 

Dick Vitale, ESPN,College Basketball. ‘Awesome With A Capital A’

There probably isn’t anyone who has done more to spread the joy of college basketball than Vitale. It’s hard to imagine telling the story of NCAA basketball without him in it. At present Dickie V is in a battle with cancer. I know he’s been going through some rough times of late but he continues to inspire many, Tweeting about his experiences. All the best to you! 

FOCUS: I would love to watch the story of Dick Vitale the coach. Mainly his work at the University of Detroit Mercy, where he went 79-29 and took a Titans team to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1977. 

Marv Albert NBC, Turner Sports, NFL, NHL, NCAA, NBA. ‘Yes! And It Counts’

There really isn’t much that Albert hasn’t done. He’s been a party to some of the greatest moments in sports, locally in New York and nationally for NBC. Versatile, enthusiastic and sarcastic, Albert was truly one of a kind. 

FOCUS: I’d like to know more about what it was like calling New York Rangers games starting in 1965. He was on the radio call for the Rangers Stanley Cup-clinching victory in 1994. I’m sure there are some stories to tell in there. “Kick save and a beauty”

Jack Buck CBS, ABC, St. Louis Cardinals, MLB, NFL. ‘He’s A Winner!’

The unmistakable voice of Buck assured you that it was going to be a big game no matter the consequence. The longtime voice of the St. Louis Cardinals also lent his talents on the national baseball scene. From his ‘Go crazy folks, go crazy!’ to ‘I don’t believe what I just saw’ he captured the moment as only he could. 

FOCUS: One of my first jobs in radio was to ‘run the board’ for Monday Night Football games. The announcing team of Buck and Hank Stram were so good and so smooth together. I’d like to hear more about that tandem as they ‘matriculated’ down the road of CBS Radio’s coverage of MNF. 

Gus Johnson, Fox, BTN, CBS, College Football, Basketball, NFL. ‘Hurt My Feelings!’

Johnson’s high-energy style has resulted in a polarized response from sports fans. Catchphrases are his thing along with the upbeat style. ‘Rise and fire…count it’, ‘Cold-blooded’ and ‘Here comes the pain’ are among many he uses. He rose to prominence in the mid 2000’s after getting a shot to call NCAA March Madness games on CBS.

FOCUS: He’s been everywhere. Would be interesting to follow Johnson’s career on its many stops, then focus in on his NCAA Basketball work. Maybe also follow him through a session of doing the voicework for the Madden NFL video games. 

Leslie Visser, CBS, ABC, NFL, MLB, NCAA, Tennis, Olympics ‘There’s Nothing She Couldn’t Do’

Lesley Visser was a trailblazer. Visser spent a decade as a reporter with The Boston Globe before making the jump to television work, where she’s the only broadcaster, male or female, to work the Final Four, NBA Finals, World Series, Triple Crown, Monday Night Football, Olympics, Super Bowl, U.S. Open and World Figure Skating Championships. 

FOCUS: You could go any number of ways here, just spanning her career achievements would be riveting enough. The struggles she went through to pave the way for future generations of female broadcasters would also be interesting to see. 

Others in the mix: Joe Buck, Mike Tirico, Bob Costas, Harry Caray, Dick Enberg, Curt Gowdy, Jim McKay, Jack Brickhouse, Bill Raftery, Beth Mowins, Doris Burke, Hannah Storm, Frank Gifford, and Don Meredith.

There you go ESPN, I’ve done the hard part, now it’s time to get moving on these!

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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