I’ve got a million dollar idea, I just need one answer. Seriously, I could sell this answer to coaches everywhere and pay off my summer home in Santorini, Greece. First, the question: Why do teams play average all season and come alive in the playoffs? Coaches everywhere have tried, in vain, to answer this question for decades.
Take, for instance, Ole Miss baseball. The Rebels started the season in Baseball America’s Top 10 and eventually moved all the way to number one in the nation with 38 regular season games left to play. The Rebs went 19-19 in those games, were one-and-done in the SEC Tournament, got their coach on the hot seat and were the last team in the NCAA Tournament.
This story would normally end with a quick NCAA Tournament exit, the coach getting canned and you not thinking again about Ole Miss baseball. Except, the Rebels decided they would become the 1927 Yankees. Yes, I see the irony in comparing the Rebels and the Yankees. On their tear to Omaha, Ole Miss has outscored their NCAA Tournament opponents 59-16 and now sits in the finals of their half of the bracket.
How can an incredibly average team, who had failed to meet expectations all season, finally become what many thought they should’ve been all season? The only thing that changed was the day on the calendar.
There is something about postseason play that changes a team. There are few better motivators than knowing one more loss can end your season forever and that creates incredible drama. It is why you will fake a bout of dysentery to skip work in order to watch U.C. Santa Barbara play Syracuse on an NCAA Tournament Thursday while you would never think twice about watching that game on a November Tuesday.
Drama sells and there is no better drama than “win or go home for good” sporting events. It is why CBS and Turner gladly shell out an average of $1.1 billion per year for the NCAA Basketball Tournament. It is that same emotion college conference commissioners and TV executives hope they’ll harness in an expanded College Football Playoff.
In my best Lee Croso voice: “Not so fast, my friend.”
Don’t get me wrong, an expanded College Football Playoff would kill in the TV ratings. It is why I believe multiple networks will be involved. Why allow ESPN to keep it all? Why not maximize what you can get for the rights by hard selling ESPN and FOX? It’s just that the drama will be, well, different.
I don’t believe a Cinderella will thrive in college football. For one thing, there will only be eight or twelve teams, not sixty-four. A smaller playoff limits the participants to teams that have had a regular season a little closer to what everyone expected.
The college football comparison to this season’s Ole Miss baseball team would be…well, Ole Miss football. The football Rebels were 10-2 and ranked eighth in the final College Football Playoff Rankings. They weren’t a conference champion and were the third highest ranked SEC team. They would’ve been an at-large team and among the last couple of teams selected. But, this was a 10-2 team that was one of the better teams in school history.
To believe that team could upend the top seeded Alabama Crimson Tide, you’d have to believe they were much better than the Ole Miss team that trailed Alabama 35-0 earlier in the season. Sure, an upset would be possible, it just feels like the gaps are much wider in college football. The previous College Football Playoffs have shown just that, the semi-final games have been largely non-competitive.
If Cinderella is your drama of choice, that would be a “Group of Five” team in college football. It is likely those teams have a seat at an expanded playoffs table. That said, we saw an early preview with Cincinnati in the 2021 Playoffs. That movie ended early. Alabama didn’t blow out the Bearcats but Cincy never challenged the Crimson Tide in that game.
Might we one day find a team from the Sun Belt or American Athletic Conferences of the world that could be the Cinderella of a College Football Playoff? Sure, maybe Louisiana goes on the road one day and beats a four seed. But, could that Ragin’ Cajun team reel off enough wins to reach a championship game? Not likely. Did I choose Louisiana just because I wanted to type Ragin’ Cajuns? 100%.
Drama in college football comes from the fact we are a football crazed nation and each Saturday brings us a whole new set of lovably weird endings. We will watch football in most any form because we are addicted to it. That is why an expanded College Football Playoff will kill at the bargaining table and in the ratings.
Make no mistake, college football will be just fine but, if you are looking for the out of nowhere team to make a championship run, you’ll probably need to look elsewhere. If drama is all you want, college football will deliver a steady dose whether in an eight or twelve team format. After all, drama is college football’s most endearing quality.
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.