Baseball broadcasts are still being held hostage in several cities. There has been no ransom demanded or locations given for a money drop. It’s a shame too, because the hostage holders are the very networks and teams these broadcasts are seen/heard on.
While the country is trying to get back to normal, some broadcasts are still not traveling to games. Yes, I’m serious. The number of networks behaving this way is dropping, but the fact that there is still a list is absolutely maddening.
I’ll say it as bluntly as I can. There is no excuse for broadcasters not to be traveling. None. Yes, in 2020 it was the only way. Today it’s more NO WAY. The fact that networks, radio stations, and teams are fighting this is ridiculous. For those claiming to want the best broadcasts they can possibly get to serve a fan base, not allowing travel is hypocritical.
MASN issued a statement as to why it wasn’t allowing broadcast teams to travel. It read “The global pandemic required all of us to learn new lessons in innovation, resourcefulness, and resilience. MASN is carrying forward some of those lessons.”
These teams are taking heat from the media and from the fans. Rightfully so. I felt for Bob Carpenter on the Nationals’ television broadcast, when the picture was lost during Washington’s game at Pittsburgh. What do you do? How are you supposed to do your job? You can’t. There was also confusion over a player entering the game.
This is so unfair to the broadcasters and worse, to the fans.
The Orioles had several issues too. Fans complained about delayed commentary, like when a key error was called several seconds after it was already seen by fans. During one spring training game, an on-site MASNsports.com reporter handled the broadcast because of technical difficulties. It’s not the broadcasters’ fault at all. Blame those that deserve it – RSNs that are trying to save a buck.
Finally, the folks at MASN caved to the ongoing pressures. The Nationals broadcasters were in San Francisco for the series on April 29th and the Orioles were back on the road for a series with the Yankees April 26th. Victory!
It took embarrassing glitches, numerous mistakes, and finally social media critiques by the team’s fan bases. There was no reason for this to even be an issue.
The folks making the decisions seemingly don’t understand how difficult it is to broadcast a game while you’re at the park, let alone trying to follow the action from miles away. If the decision-makers actually did “get it,” it would not have taken all that it did to get this situation corrected.
Broadcasters are ultimately judged on how they perform. Putting the added stress of not being able to actually see the game doesn’t help their cause. Some fans are quick to criticize without knowing the circumstances and the degree of difficulty these professionals are performing under.
The situation in Anaheim is a little different, but the results have been the same. The Angels’ play-by-play man on television is Matt Vasgersian. He is calling games from Secaucus, New Jersey with the rest of the crew in California. Vasgersian also works for MLB Network, so remote broadcasts are needed in his case. He plans to do up to 100 games for the Angels this season. But the telecasts have been riddled with issues. In mid-April, the Angels were in Texas to face the Rangers. Vasgersian calling the game from hundreds of miles away had the call of a Mike Trout homer that was way behind the picture on TV. Then Vasgersian initially called a home run by Jared Walsh a foul ball.
“My frustration is high,” Vasgersian told The Athletic recently. “I don’t take myself very seriously…But I take the work seriously. So, if your work is being criticized and clowned on, that stinks. And yeah, I don’t like the idea of that.”
Again, don’t blame the broadcaster.
At this moment, the Angels aren’t planning to travel their radio crew this year. The Orioles seemingly have no plans to let the radio broadcasters follow the television team on the road. The Blue Jays won’t let the radio broadcaster travel either. This is unacceptable as well. It’s much more difficult to call a remote game on radio.
I know, because I did it during the 2020 season with the White Sox. We didn’t complain about it then, because the pandemic was raging and we were working. Less than ideal, but the games were going on.
The biggest issue as I recall, you couldn’t just trust your eyes. There were multiple monitors in front of me. One had the program feed, there was a tiled screen with the scoreboard, bullpens and an all-9 wide shot of the field. That picture was tiny. To try and pick up a ball in the gap on that monitor was hard to do. I was basically flying blind.
You had to do the best you could and go against everything you knew in play-by-play. I mean, I wanted to be fast to the call like normal, but I had to wait. It seemed like an agonizing amount of time to make sure things happened the way I thought they might. I made plenty of mistakes, I will admit, but I was doing the best I could.
Brian Anderson backed my thought on the situation. The Milwaukee Brewers broadcaster said in an interview reprinted by the Washington Post, that calling a game off a monitor requires an announcer to rethink years of muscle memory.
“In the stadium, you see contact and you can immediately react. But on the monitor, you would have to wait two beats,” he said. “You fight every instinct to say something because you have to sit there in silence and wait for the next frame because you can’t be wrong. And two seconds can feel like an eternity.”
Like I said, you can’t just trust your eyes and normal thoughts.
“My eyes can travel 300 feet in a split second,” Anderson said. “But on the monitor, batted balls can look like a foul ball. You can also use your ears at the park, how the ball sounds off the bat. That’s one thing I really lost — how it sounded and how the player reacts when he hits.” he said. I’ll add too, that baseball is probably the hardest to call off of just a monitor. The ball can go in multiple directions and you are at the mercy of a good director and camera operators.”
There is another problem with the broadcasters not traveling with the team. Now that things are becoming more normal again, announcers and reporters have access to the clubhouse again. Those that are on site are getting to develop relationships and are finding out things that the team broadcasters aren’t. I can only imagine how unprepared even the most prepared broadcaster is feeling when he/she doesn’t get word of something that everybody else knows.
Every announcer will tell you that there is value in being there. Going all-in on the team you’re covering is important. Now, even Zoom press conferences are being phased out creating an additional challenge to get information when you aren’t there. I’m getting frustrated for these folks just writing this.
2020 forced everyone into pivot mode. We all had to be creative on how the product was delivered. The layout and monitor setup we started with in Chicago changed as the season went on based on our needs. It was great to see the cooperation level back then. It was a “whatever you need” mentality. What we all need in 2022 is for teams/networks/radio stations to stop making excuses and get our broadcasters back on the road.
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.