On the first Sunday night of the 2022 Major League Baseball season, ESPN likely hoped that its new alternate Sunday Night Baseball telecast, the Kay-Rod Cast, might produce a viral moment that fans would share across social media into Monday and beyond.
Yet it was the traditional Sunday Night Baseball telecast — featuring the new team of Karl Ravech, David Cone, and Eduardo Perez — that produced the “Hey, you gotta see this!” highlight from the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees match-up.
In the fourth inning with the Red Sox leading 3-1, the Yankees had runners on second and third base with only one out. A base hit by New York’s Anthony Rizzo would likely tie the score unless a spectacular defensive play was made. Boston’s Enrique Hernandez was anticipating such an opportunity if the ball was hit to him in center field and said so while he was wearing a microphone for the SNB broadcast.
“I’m gonna try… Well, depending on how hard it’s hit, if it’s hit hard, he’s probably not gonna go home. But I don’t want Rizzo to advance to second base on a hit, so I gotta keep the ball down, I guess.”
Rizzo then smacked the ball into left-center field, forcing Hernandez to make the play he anticipated.
“Here it is,” he said as he ran toward the ball. Hernandez fielded it, then made the throw to home, his momentum carrying him into the air as he put his strength into the relay. But Rizzo didn’t hit the ball hard enough for Hernandez to have a realistic chance of making a play at home, and both Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Jose Trevino scored for the Yankees to tie the score at 3-3.
Hernandez essentially provided play-by-play before the play, then made the actual play. For all the acclaim Tony Romo gets for predicting play calls while broadcasting the NFL for CBS, we’ve never seen the quarterback do that as he was executing the play on the field.
We’ll probably never see that during a live football telecast. NFL Films mics up plenty of players for game footage, but it doesn’t air until being thoroughly edited. Not just to catch not-suitable-for-TV language, but to make sure the audio makes for compelling television. The same applies to the NBA and NHL. The action moves too fast and the players are in each other’s faces far too often to create coherent audio safe for all-ages viewing.
Most of the attention MLB has gotten for its new streaming broadcast deals with Apple TV+ and Peacock has been negative to this point. The outlets are new to the viewers, the broadcasting talent is largely new to a national platform. The productions will surely improve as everyone involved, including the audience, settles in and doesn’t carry the expectation of something that’s never been done before.
At the very least, the Friday Night Baseball streaming broadcasts on Apple TV+ had to look familiar. Sure, there would’ve been criticism if nothing new had been provided. But show viewers that they’d be watching a baseball game just as if it was on SNY or MASN, and presumably there would have been some relief.
Rather than present something new, perhaps the Apple TV+ telecasts (produced by MLB Network) should have focused on improving something that’s already been done. For instance, mic’ing up players in the field. We’ve seen this on ESPN and Fox baseball broadcasts before to varying degrees of success.
But thanks to Enrique Hernandez on Sunday and Joey Votto last Thursday, ESPN appeared to come up with something fresh and exciting by putting microphones on players in the field for its first two national MLB telecasts of the season.
Votto, in particular, was a revelation. Baseball fans already knew he might be the most interesting man in the game. He’s shared his struggles with anxiety, depression, and mental health publicly. Right now, Votto appears to be very comfortable with who he is and he’s experiencing a resurgence at an age (38) when most players are in decline or nearing the end of their careers.
ESPN couldn’t have chosen a better person to mic up during its debut telecast for the 2022 MLB season. Votto was funny and engaging, joking with Atlanta’s Ozzie Albies when he reached first base, explaining his new approach to hitting, and even calling a little bit of play-by-play. And for those who didn’t know or may have forgotten, he provided a reminder of how much movement and fast-twitch action is involved in playing first base, which often appears to be the most stationary of the infield positions.
Votto’s commentary during the fourth inning was easily the highlight of an eventual 6-3 Reds win over the defending World Series champions on Opening Day. At the very least, it provided viewers with the rare in-game interview — and on the field — that was truly enjoyable, insightful, and informative.
How often do fans actually enjoy these intrusions into a game broadcast? For that matter, how often do the players and managers being interviewed enjoy being asked to say something while involved in a game? These diversions are almost always seen as an unnecessary gimmick for TV and add virtually nothing to a broadcast. No one would miss them if they were eliminated.
Well, maybe until now. The bar has been raised.
To be fair, ESPN chose just the right guy in Votto for its season-opening telecast. And Votto shined with the opportunity. If he wants a future in broadcasting, he almost certainly has it. If he’s more comfortable being mic’ed up at first base, put a table right near the first-base coach’s box. MLB and the teams involved wouldn’t mind, right? It’s Joey Votto!
And with Hernandez, ESPN had the right guy in the right place at the right time. That’s obviously not always going to happen. The next player who gets mic’d up might not get a ball hit to him through that entire inning.
(While we’re being fair, asking relatively new broadcasters — especially on a national stage — like Melanie Newman and Stephen Nelson to also juggle a mic’d up player with play-by-play duties would have been asking a lot. So Apple TV+ was right not to do so, if producers were ever considering such a move for these debut telecasts.)
But for the first two broadcasts of ESPN’s new Sunday Night Baseball team, mic’ing up a player on the field worked wonderfully and legitimately added something insightful and fun to the telecast. It also created the viral moments that baseball needs so badly as it competes for younger viewers on social media and demonstrates that game broadcasts are still worth watching. That could attract new audiences and keep old viewers far more than MLB putting its product on streaming outlets for additional revenue.
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.