In 2017 Terry Boers retired after 25 years on 670 The Score in Chicago. From 1992 until 1999 he partnered with Dan McNeil to make up “The Heavy Fuel Crew” during afternoon drive and from 1999 until his retirement in 2017 he partnered with Dan Bernstein for “Boers and Bernstein”. The show first aired in a weird morning/midday slot of 8am-Noon and later moved to afternoons. Prior to joining the Score, Terry was a sportswriter and columnist for the Chicago Sun Times, The Detroit News and had dabbled in radio just for fun on “The Sportswriters” on WGN Radio and with McNeil at AM 1000 in Chicago. I had the pleasure of working with Terry at The Score for 9 years including producing both “The Heavy Fuel Crew” and “Boers and Bernstein.” This year he released a book detailing his 25 years at the Score called “The Score of a Lifetime.” We started the conversation talking about how Terry first got involved in The Score:
Matt: In 1991 you were approached to become part of this new All-Sports Station in Chicago (The Score). What were your initial thoughts when they approached you?
Terry: It was kinda strange, because there were only two All-Sports stations in the country-The Fan in New York and WIP in Philly had just started I think. I didn’t really know anything about it. It was all new to me. I was doing a little weekend radio on WGN—“The Sportswriters” on Sundays. You know Fish, I really didn’t think it was leading anywhere. I really didn’t. No one was listening to (Chet) Coppock so it wasn’t like ‘Oh my god we we’re sitting on a goldmine.’ When they came to me they didn’t offer me anything, they told me the one guy they had hired was Mike North and they were gonna hire Danny (McNeil) and were talking to Tom Shaer—he’s been around forever so he knows what he’s doing. But it really wasn’t convincing to me. The thing that was most convincing to me was the other end of it–that I thought that newspapers were in trouble. The idea now is to entertain people. That papers needed to do more than just print the news. That message fell on deaf ears. As we’ve since seen, the newspaper business has struggled. I was so decisive I didn’t make up my mind. I told them ‘I’ll go on (The Score) but I’ll keep writing for the Sun-Times.’
Matt: So what happened when the station and the show went on the air in 1992?
Terry: The initial reaction was that NO ONE was listening. The numbers showed that we had zero listeners. We didn’t even have computers. The producers would write a lone callers name on a piece of paper and hold it up to the window. Danny and I were looking at each other like ‘what are we doing here-nobody’s listening.’ After three months it was all zeros. No listening. Nothing happening. I asked Seth Mason (VP at the time) if he cared that nobody is listening. He said “No..no, no no we don’t care. We’re not looking at that. We’re looking at the bigger picture.” So I waited a few months and they came back to me in August and said “We like the show so why don’t you just do it full-time. We know you’re not happy at the Sun-Times.” So I felt, I had had it with the Sun-Times and it was enough and rolled dice. They (Management) said it worked in New York and it worked in Philly and it will work here in Chicago. Now remember we had a daytime only signal at the time and were off the air at 4 o’clock in the winter. That’s a tough afternoon show.
Matt: When did you know you had something with the show? That you and Danny had something that was sustainable?
Terry: I think it was the appearances. We would go out and do Monday Night Football Games and Super Bowls. I think the reaction that we got at an appearance or a remote you could tell Fish that there was definitely more interest than you would have thought. I think the more I heard it, the more I believed it. People said they loved the show and the station. I just started to get the sense that it was building. It doesn’t happen overnight and they (management) were very patient with us.
Matt: Mike Ditka did a weekly show on the Score during the first year of the station—his last as Coach of the Bears. What was your relationship with him and what was his impact on the Score?
Terry: –I never had any relationship with him. He never really wanted to know what the truth was. His wife actually called me a cocksucker. We would never speak. There was never a real relationship there. He really is a bully more than anything else. Like the rest of the sports bullies like Bobby Knight and John Thompson. But the fact is Ditka put The Score on the map. He wouldn’t talk to any other media at the time so all the media had to listen to or come to his weekly show on The Score. It would be fair to say that Ditka did more for the Score in its first year than anyone. I will never ever underestimate his impact on the first year of the Score. Nobody could have done more for the Score at that time than he did.
Matt: Fast forward to 1999 and there’s a major lineup change. In reading your book, it seems like the changes were very driven by (then Score Midday host) Mike North. You tell a story about a party at your house where North is talking to you about the potential of different time slots and different partners.
Terry: Yeah-he sat down and talked to me and said ‘What do you think about working 8-to-Noon.’ It was bizarre. Nobody works 8-to-Noon. When we changed everything around and went completely off the radio map. Sure enough, he (North) had enough power or sway at the time. There’s no question that he initiated it. It started out maybe harmless on his part but it was definitely him. He yielded a lot of power. They clearly weren’t listening to the right guy. If you want to do a show-fine, but if you want to program the whole station—no! They were letting him do it. Which I don’t think is all that uncommon in any business. I didn’t quite grasp it at the time. He sure as hell did have that much power.
Matt: Given all that, and the shock of the time and partner change, how did you take the news?
Terry: I had failed. For the first time in my life I had been told ‘You failed!’ After putting 7 1/2 years into something that you thought was pretty good, I was humbled. You can’t get kicked to the curb and not feel that you are truly that bad! But I kept thinking, was it them (management) or was it (Mike) North who made this change happen. He had that kind of power back then. I was sort of amazed by that.
In Part 2 of my Q&A with Terry Boers, you’ll learn about his partnership with Dan Bernstein as well as his thoughts on the recent lineup changes at the Score.
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.