Draymond Green makes it sound like we’re co-workers, which is almost generous of him.
“My job don’t work without y’all,” said the Warriors forward this week. “And y’all job don’t work without me. That’s just how it goes.”
How symbiotic. This was an excerpt from what bordered on being a lecture from Green after his first game back from injury. He’d missed two and a half months with a calf injury that involved his lower back. After a win over Washington, he began the media session by saying he wouldn’t be giving reporters much in this session, and while he never clarified the root of his issue, several reports pointed to the way a reporter from The Athletic wrote about Green’s rehab process from the injury. Specifically, an article by Anthony Slater referenced Green shifting into “birthday mode” and being absent from a game on Saturday, “sick” according to coach Steve Kerr. Slater referenced photos on Green’s Instagram as evidence of what Green’s Friday night looked like.
It’s a tale as old as time, really. The athlete, bothered by some public characterization of him, withholds cooperation with the media as a reminder of their place on the food chain. That they are the suckerfish attached to the host. Green has a point, but only a very small one.
He doesn’t have to cooperate with the media. At last not to the degree which he does, and if he decides to stop being interesting it will come at a cost in content for sports media. But what Green may not see is that if his cooperation is contingent on a specific type of coverage, that comes at a cost for the media, too. If a reporter can’t be critical or radio hosts choose to ignore obvious issues to stay in his good graces, they’re catering to their subject at the expense of the audience.
And that’s what Draymond Green is omitting in his analysis of our job: the audience. It’s only the most important measurement for what we do, and while the media may be seeking out the same audience that watches Green play, we’re providing different products. We’re seeking to entertain sports fans with some combination of information, opinion and perspective on the athletes and teams they’re interested in.
A professional athlete’s product is not just their performance, but the experience of watching him or her perform. It’s not just what they do in competition, but how the audience feels while watching them, which is why things like image and perception — which may not have a thing to do with the outcome — are important considerations for professional athletes. It affects how much they make and how long they stay employed. So I can understand why Green doesn’t appreciate a story in The Athletic pointing out that his coach answered “Yes,” when asked if he wanted Green around more in his rehabilitation from an injury.
I can also get why Green isn’t so excited to continue talking to the reporter who wrote those characterizations. Whether he has to continue talking to him is a matter between Green and his employer.
But it’s not the reporter’s job to work with Draymond Green. The media ultimately serves the audience, not the athlete. It sounds rudimentary. Something that’s ingrained from Day One, but you’ll be amazed how quickly people can lose sight of this once they’re hip deep in the business. They start thinking it’s all about building relationships within the industry and developing trust with sources.
These are tools that can be used to develop content, but these relationships can not be a goal in and of themselves, and they’re far from the only approach a media member can take. Having a strong opinion is also a tool you can use. So is being unflinchingly honest.
Green’s right about one thing: integrity is important, but in my view, that is contingent upon telling the truth as I see it whether I’m talking to the athlete I’m covering or speaking to the audience.
The No. 1 rule that I’ve learned while covering professional sports first as a newspaper reporter and later as a radio host is that if you give up the ability to honestly describe what you see and know because it will offend one of the people you’re talking about, you lose far more in that transaction than you will ever gain.
Does this job work better with input from an athlete who is as interesting and insightful as Draymond Green? Absolutely. In fact, I really like Green. He’s my favorite player on my favorite NBA team, and before you roll your eyes understand that I’ve rooted for the Warriors since the 1980s. I remember when the team drafted Tellis Frank. And Todd Fuller. After 20 years of pretty consistent suffering, Steph Curry was an absolute blessing and his pairing with Klay Thompson under Steve Kerr became an aligning of stars for this formerly star-crossed franchise.
Green is the guy who gives the Warriors their edge. A multi-positional defender so stubborn he’ll annoy his teammates and his coach, but so tenacious that he’ll bother his opponents more. I think he’s a great commentator, too, who will make millions talking into a television camera after his playing career if he chooses to. That doesn’t mean he understands the role of sports media, though. Not if he thinks the job is to work with players.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.