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Sports Radio Should Be Home to Tough Conversations

Brandon Kravitz is a firm believer in the necessity of sports radio in times of healing after tragedy and being a part of tough but necessary conversations in society.

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Ivan Pierre Aguirre for The New York Times

I don’t think any of us envisioned discussing horrific mass shootings when we decided sports radio was the avenue we’d take for our careers, yet here we are. Just days removed from yet another senseless tragedy in which we lost 19 children and 2 adult teachers. Uvalde, Texas was the latest site of what has become the worst-growing trend and the biggest black eye on our country, mass shootings.

This is such a large-scale issue, you’d only have to look back a week to find the previous mass shooting, that one coming via the Buffalo supermarket tragedy. These stories are dark, depressing, and happen far too often. They often get politicized by those who sit on the far left and far right. Too rarely does anything actually change. Even the conversation surrounding these shootings tend to parrot the conversations we heard the last time, the time before that, and the time before that.

And here we sit in the toy aisle of radio/media, the sports section, and we’re in a position where having these discussions has become completely unavoidable. Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr took to the podium hours after we learned of the Uvalde tragedy and spoke to the nation, his frustrations on full display. Kerr had a father who was a victim of gun violence when Kerr was just 18 years old.

“When are we going to do something?” Kerr added as he pounded on the table in front of him. “I’m tired, I’m so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families that are out there.”

Kerr continued, “we are being held hostage by 50 senators in Washington who refuse to even put it to a vote, despite what we, the American people, want. They won’t vote on it because they want to hold onto their own power. It’s pathetic. I’ve had enough.”

Kerr’s comments were then discussed on the post-game show on TNT between Shaq, Charles Barkley, and Kenny Smith, and then on countless sports talk shows over the next 24 hours. This is where the intersection of sports and tragedy are unavoidable. Sports figures and media-folk alike are impacted by these national tragedies just as everyone else is impacted. During weeks like this, the old “stick to sports” model simply doesn’t apply.

The sports world has always had a hand in the response to national tragedy. Whether that’s finding out about John Lennon’s passing via Monday Night Football, or the way we rallied around sports post 9/11. You can even look back at 2020 and how integral sports was in keeping us sane during the pandemic, or just look at the response to the George Floyd murder inside the NBA Bubble. We want these worlds to be separated, but they’re not. Gabe Kapler, the San Francisco Giants manager, recently stated that he will not come out of the clubhouse for the National Anthem because of his displeasure with where we are as a country.

“Every time I place my hand over my heart and remove my hat, I’m participating in a self-congratulatory glorification of the only country where these mass shootings take place,” Kapler wrote on his blog.

This has of course reactivated many of the same arguments caused by the Colin Kaepernick protests of 2016, but the point is the same; when the sports figures we cover take stands on public issues, should we not address them and open a dialogue around those issues? Of course, the answer is yes. Gone are the days of burying our heads in a box score and pretending like none of this exists. The discussion surrounding gun violence has become unavoidable. In fact, I don’t think it should be avoided.

There is so much political narrowmindedness out there, one of the only places where Democrats and Republican adults meet is inside the sports sphere. So often we get locked into whichever cable news channel coincides with our beliefs that we’ve lost the ability to have true, open, and honest dialogue. Between that and the healing that can be done from hearing those in your community dealing with the same concerns you have can truly be a powerful tool.

I spoke to Tom Krasniqi (Host of the Ronnie & T-Kras show on 95.3 WDAE in Tampa) and asked him why he thought this was an important conversation for us to have, specifically on this format: “It’s important to bring up hot-button issues like the Texas mass school shooting. Why? Because a good portion of our listeners are not only sports fans, they’re also parents. Some are teachers. They’re driving their kids to school each day listening to our show. I realize sports is a diversion from the everyday craziness of this world. But I believe it’s our responsibility as broadcasters to best serve our community and have these conversations on how we can improve our society by confronting these huge issues. And mass shootings at schools affect everyone.”

When I took to the airwaves the day after the shooting in Texas, I spent the first segment of my show ranting on all of things that disgust me about the latest string of mass shootings in this country. I used Steve Kerr’s comments as a way of making it seem as though my opening topic had anything to do with sports, but it didn’t. I used the platform I have as a sense of healing, for myself. Like many of you, I felt the pain from many miles away, thinking about what that town and those families are going through. Its unspeakable. As a parent, it enrages me to think that I have to worry about sending my two-year-old son to elementary school one day. That terrifies me to my core. So selfishly, I used my air time to share these thoughts. Talk radio has long been part of the healing process and will continue to be, both for hosts and listeners alike.

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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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