Sometime early in the London afternoon Thursday, British golfer Lee Westwood tapped-in for par, the first recorded score in LIV Golf Tour history. At the same time, more than 4,000 miles across the Atlantic, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan was telling the rest of the world that Westwood, and 16 other players on that London course, were now indefinitely suspended from the world’s preeminent golf tour.
How we got to that point is a road that travels well beyond the boundaries of sports and into the darkest corners of politics, money, human-rights violations and, a word new to many, sportswashing. In short, the Saudi Arabian royal family launched a professional golf tour in an effort to provide positive public relations to a ruling family much in need of a facelift.
The money the LIV Golf Tour had to guarantee to PGA Tour golfers to convince them to bail on the U.S. tour can only be described as insane. The guarantees, reportedly over $100 million in several cases, will relegate this tour to the red numbers financially. But that isn’t the point here. This is about an image overhaul.
The other image in the crosshairs is that of the PGA Tour. Big names like Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau have already jumped ship and many more are rumored to be following. Granted, the PGA Tour isn’t suddenly bereft of big names. Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy have dug-in and become the public face of the PGA Tour’s opposition party. There is, however, an issue for the Tour.
The issue comes in three letters that likely mean nothing to you: P-I-P. The Player Impact Program is the PGA Tour’s clout index that measures things like Google searches and social media presence to determine the Tour players that move the needle the most. The players are then handsomely compensated for the needle movement, an incentive to expand their reach.
You may want to sit down for me to tell you Tiger Woods finished first in the inaugural PIP and took home $8 million. Yes, the PGA Tour devised yet another way to hand Tiger Woods a seven figure check.
You also might have noticed Woods rarely plays now and, when he does, the events are majors, not under the control of the PGA Tour. That’s where the problem for the Tour begins but certainly not where it ends. The LIV Golf Tour and the PGA Tour’s PIP index have an alarming intersection for the PGA Tour. One only needs to scan the list of the golfers behind Tiger to see the issue:
2. Phil Mickelson
3. Rory McIlroy
4. Jordan Spieth
5. Bryson DeChambeau
6. Justin Thomas
7. Dustin Johnson
8. Brooks Koepka
9. Jon Rahm
10. Bubba Watson
Four of the nine golfers behind Tiger have either officially left for the LIV Golf Tour or have appeared in a promotional video for the new tour. There has been heavy speculation about one other name on that list leaving, as well. That could result in five of the top ten biggest needle-movers on the PGA Tour being indefinitely suspended by the PGA Tour plus the man that IS the needle basically playing only the majors. This is a five alarm PGA Tour fire.
That isn’t the only issue for the PGA Tour moving forward. The other issue comes from the fact that the PGA Tour and The LIV Tour aren’t even fighting the same fight. The PGA Tour is dependent on those needle-moving players drawing in TV viewers to the level that CBS, NBC and ESPN are still willing to fork over cash for media rights. The LIV Tour is simply spending a small sliver of their war chest for good PR.
Put simply: if TV ratings fall, media deals shrink and corporate sponsors flee. The only possible result would be smaller PGA Tour payouts in a world where the rich uncle has passed out and left the bar tab open. The net result will be more of the big names being tempted to take the guaranteed money, especially now that some big names have taken the early heat for the move.
The players that have jumped for the money have been shredded by the world sports media, none more than Phil Mickelson, the player face of this move. It seems Mickelson is ok with that. It was impossible to escape the irony that the six time major champion played the first ever LIV Tour round dressed in black with some freshly grown scruff on his face. It looked as if he was showing up for a read-through for the villain in an Austin Powers movie.
By winning the LIV Tour’s first event Saturday, Charl Schwartzel made $4,750,000. That’s more than he made in his previous 74 PGA Tour events combined dating back to 2018. Assuming he was paid the standard 10% for a non-major win, Schwartzel’s caddie made more this week than Justin Rose and Sam Burns, who finished tied for fourth in the PGA Tour’s Canadian Open. Not even the PGA Tour would pretend they can compete with that.
The news is not all dire for the PGA Tour, though. Their product is infinitely better than what the LIV Tour will be for the foreseeable future. The PGA Tour is an established brand and still has tournaments fans recognize at courses they have enjoyed watching for years. Also, the TV production is one that is comfortable and time-tested. I don’t pretend CBS and NBC do everything correctly but they have decades of trial and error to know what the fans like.
Most everything about the LIV Tour production felt contrived and gimmicky. The shotgun start, the team completion, the team logos and the leaderboard graphic, my word, the leaderboard graphic. It would’ve been less confusing had it all been in Aztec hieroglyphics. The current presentation of the PGA Tour and, certainly, the depth of PGA Tour fields will eclipse anything the LIV Tour can initially offer.
Sunday highlighted this perfectly. On the weekend of the LIV Tour launch, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas – two of the biggest stars the PGA Tour has left – put on a birdie exhibition at the Canadian Open with McIlroy holding on for the win. How often can the PGA Tour depend on that happening? Who knows? One thing is certain, in their current forms, it is far more likely the PGA Tour can give you that type of finish.
The PGA Tour is almost two years into a $7 billion media rights deal with CBS, NBC, and ESPN that runs through 2029. That gives Monahan seven more years to find a way to keep those partners happy while finding a way to promote new stars. The other option is swallowing his pride and letting the LIV Tour players come back, perhaps before the courts do it for him.
The real winner here can be the fan of professional golf. Some, understandably, have an icky feeling about supporting the LIV Tour but even those fans could benefit from the PGA Tour having to redouble efforts to remain the king. For others who will watch both, options aren’t necessarily a bad thing. It is my belief a rising tide lifts all ships. In this case, one is the massive dependable aircraft carrier. The other is the shiny new massive yacht. Both are trying to avoid being the Titanic.
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.