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Don’t Just Talk, Say Something

Demetri Ravanos

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Dan Patrick

Since I got my promotion here at BSM, I have been overwhelmed by the number of emails I have received from people just starting in the industry or kids in school that think they might want a career in sports talk radio. Most of them ask how I got started or what I would suggest for them to get started. Some ask how much money they can expect to make. The oddest emails are the ones from people that say they know there isn’t a career in this world that could make them as happy as being on the radio talking about sports and then end with “so what do you do exactly?”.

Recently a friend from high school emailed me about his nephew who is a junior in high school. He is just starting to think seriously about college and what he would like to study. This is a kid that plays soccer, basketball, and baseball in high school. He loves sports but realizes he doesn’t have the skill set to play any of those sports at the next level, so he has been thinking a lot about going into the sports media.

I told my friend to have the kid call me, and the other day we chatted on the phone. The kid is brimming with confidence and clearly studies his favorite sports. We disagree about a lot, but he’s 16. Surely he’ll get smarter.

He did say one thing though that made me stop him in his tracks and explain to him why he is wrong. I am not sure if it is necessary to give the speech to all of you in the industry, but we’re all here. Let’s do this.

The kid told me that he didn’t like hosts that give opinions. He wants to be presented with information and decide for himself what is right and wrong. I mean, I guess that is fine if you are broadcasting to an audience of one, but for the masses, this type of broadcast sounds boring as hell, right?

I told the kid about Colin Cowherd’s philosophy that he and others in sports radio aren’t in the broadcasting business. We’re in the interesting business. Colin is one of our best for a reason. I disagree with a lot of his opinions, but I still sample his show. Why? Because he’s always interesting.

We’ve all met hosts that think of themselves more as presenters than opinion-makers. It’s just rare that you come across those hosts on radio. TV is for anchors. Radio is more intimate medium. We attract listeners by eliciting emotions.

When I was in talk radio, I had a PD that thought not giving an opinion would separate me from the competition locally. He gave me a few names of hosts in both the news talk and sports talk formats to listen to. He said they were good examples of guys that don’t take a side, but instead specialized in facilitating conversation. I listened to every name he gave me. They all had one thing in common.

They were boring as hell.

My friend’s nephew told me that he liked old school sports radio hosts. He thought it was young guys trying to make a name for themselves that were eager to give opinions. I asked him to name some examples and he said Paul Finebaum.

Look, he’s not wrong. Finebaum does a good show and about only 20% of it is his opinions. The rest is him curating others’ opinions. But that isn’t how Finebaum built his show. When I was a college kid in Tuscaloosa listening to Finebaum every afternoon, he was a guy known for just being merciless with Bama after losses.

Let’s circle back on that idea of “old school broadcasters not giving opinions.” Who are the patron saints of the format? Mike and the Mad Dog was a show built on two guys shouting that the other was an idiot. Jim Rome’s slogan in his early days of syndication was “have a take and don’t suck.”

The guy that made me want to be in sports radio was Dan Patrick and it was precisely because of the way he delivers an opinion. He may be measured, but he is unapologetic. I remember when the Yankees traded for Jeff Weaver in 2002 Dan saying “They’re going to regret that. It’s easy to look great when you’re above average and playing on a bad team. I don’t think Weaver’s going to work in Yankee Stadium the way he does in Pittsburgh.” 

He wasn’t mean about it. He didn’t say “Jeff Weaver sucks” or “George Steinbrenner is an idiot.” Dan Patrick laid out his argument calmly and effectively. The Pirates were a hopelessly bad team at the time. The Yankees’ standard was World Series or bust. Weaver had never experienced that kind of pressure.

Jeff Weaver sucked in the Bronx. He couldn’t hold down a spot in the starting rotation. He gave up a walk-off homer in Game 4 of the 2003 World Series. Everything Patrick said concerned him came to pass, but that’s not what made his opinion stick with me.

Image result for jeff weaver yankees

It was the fact that while everyone else was shouting from the rooftops that this was the type of young ace that the Yankees needed to add to kickstart a new dynasty, Dan Patrick without hesitating said “here’s what I see in this kid and here’s why it’s a problem.”

Dan Patrick didn’t care if he was right. He had an opinion and he put it out there. That’s what makes Dan, Colin, Rome, Mike and the Mad Dog, and a thousand other interesting sports talk hosts interesting.

Let your local news or sports anchor present facts and get out of the way. They serve a function as part of a larger broadcast. My wife watches the CBS Evening News every night because that is her routine, not because she feels a connection with…actually, who the hell hosts the CBS Evening News now? I genuinely have no idea.

People don’t become loyal to sports talk hosts because they are on a certain station at a certain time. That might be how they first discover a new show, but what you say is what dictates whether or not they stay or if they go looking for something different.

So, if I can give any advice to future, brand new or even well-established broadcasters it is this: These jobs are precious, so don’t waste a second of airtime. It is fun to do what we do, and if your listeners think it is easy it is because you are doing something right that keeps bringing them back to your show. That doesn’t have to mean everyone agrees with your opinion all of the time. Your job is to elicit a reaction, so give them something to react to.

BSM Writers

Mike Tirico Has ‘Never Pretended to Be Friends’ With Athletes

“I like having a healthy relationship where if I need something, I can ask whether it’s for on-air or for background and build trust.”

Ricky Keeler

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Mike Tirico has been covering sports on network television for 32 years. Over those 3+ decades, he has made it a point to not be so close with the athletes he covers in whichever sport he is broadcasting.

Tirico was a guest on the most recent episode of the GOLF’s Subpar podcast with Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz. While Tirico knows he is not doing extensive journalism work, he wants to make sure that he can be able to ask the hard questions if he has to any athlete.

“I never pretend to be friends with the athletes I cover. I like having a healthy relationship where if I need something, I can ask whether it’s for on-air or for background and build trust. I’m not in a position where I’m working for Outside the Lines at my old place, ESPN. It’s not a knock. It’s just you’re not in a position where you have to do these journalistic-type interviews all the time, but there are times you have to ask hard questions. I always try to keep a little bit of a buffer or a distance.”

The context of that question came when Tirico was asked about how good of a relationship he has with Tiger Woods.

“It’s good….If I reach out, he will usually get back to me. He’s been really good and really nice along the way.”

As for broadcasting sports in this day and age of social media, Tirico believes that it can make a broadcaster better whether or not the complaint from someone on Twitter is real or not.

“It makes us better because you know that people are going to catch you. If something is artificial or not, real or not, embraced or not, it forces you to be better at what you do.”

For that same reason, Tirico thinks that LIV Golf is going to make the PGA Tour have to be better going forward because now they have another tour to go up against.

“I think LIV Golf, and we all have our own opinions on it, is going to force the PGA Tour to be better. Competition is good. Checks and balances are really good.”

Even though Tirico doesn’t feel nervous about many broadcasts anymore, there was one event in the last decade where the nerves kicked in when he was hosting his first Olympics at NBC.

“The only time in the last 10 years that I’ve been nervous was coming on for the first time hosting the Olympics because Bob Costas has done that since most of us have been alive and most people had never seen anyone but Bob Costas host the Olympics in primetime…2 minutes before, I’m like ‘should I be this? Should I have fun?’ and then the minute before, I cracked a joke in the studio.”

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BSM Writers

Kyle Brandt’s Rant a Reminder to Consider the Messenger

This doesn’t mean Brandt is wrong or even that he is being told to echo the NFL’s position, it’s to note that he took a very powerful stance on a very powerful platform and they both matter.

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Kyle Brandt

This week, a massive announcement was made in the National Football League regarding the immediate future of Deshaun Watson. Judge Sue L. Robinson recommended a six -game suspension with no additional monetary fine for the quarterback. While the NFL mulls what it will say further, most others didn’t, including a really prominent personality: Kyle Brandt.

Brandt, a co-host on Good Morning Football, reacted like a lot of people did upon hearing the decision: forcefully. On Monday, Brandt denounced the decision to limit Watson’s suspension to six games, saying in part, “…I look at six and I find it very light. I hope it doesn’t stay that way personally. I think that Deshaun Watson leveraged his status as an NFL player against women. In my opinion. And I think it happened more than one time and I think it was was in closed doors in small rooms against women who were probably intimidated. And it pisses me off to even talk about it. And frankly it pisses me off to see the number six. And I don’t think it’s going to stay that way and I hope it doesn’t.”

Those words resonated. Once they were said, the clip was grabbed from the show and then distributed on Brandt’s Twitter account which reaches 333,000+ followers and on his Instagram which speaks to 96,000+ followers. That video has been seen over two million times. Viral, they say. Here it is if you did happen to miss it. Passionate stuff from Brandt.

If you believe in the message, it’s an easy to like, retweet or share idea. It’s not a hot take, frankly, because there is a large section of those that have been following this story that agree. Deshaun Watson is settling cases because people believe he did something bad. Something bad enough that judge did seem fit to point it out and recommend what is generally speaking, a strong suspension. The only problem here is the platform hosting the message.

This is not a Kyle Brandt-bashing piece. He isn’t the platform. If anything, he’s the vessel of this message he wants out. He also, very likely, feels exactly the way he said he did in the above tweeted video. In fact, the next day, Tuesday, Brandt doubled down on his opinion. The newer video was viewed over 400,000 times. You can check it out right below these words.

The distinction needs to be noted that the message Brandt is delivering, is the NFL’s message. It is what Roger Goodell wants to be the prevailing wisdom regarding how we feel about the current state of Watson’s suspension. That message is being amplified by a very popular co-host, on a very popular morning television show that is seen by a lot of people and that is owned by the National Football League.

Again, I am here waving to you wildly to say that I have no reason to believe that Brandt is being told this particular messaging needs to be voiced. But, I do know that the NFL has until Thursday to appeal the decision. Three days is a lot of time to gather data on whether or not the public might support you appealing for more games, something that the league most certainly will look into judging by their statement released shortly after the ruling.

I also know that the NFL was seeking a much longer suspension as well as a hefty fine to be issued to Watson. The NFL has taken a lot of hits for how it has handled players violating league rules and the player conduct policy. No matter which case you look at, comparing it to the one previous or the one right after is an exercise is madness. The one common theme seems to be is that when the NFL feels like it is delving out punishment, it wants to be severe, no matter the consistency. Remember, Tom Brady was a short ‘yes’ answer away from appealing his case to the Supreme Court. The NFL isn’t particularly interested in just letting things go.

It is well within the realm of possibility that the NFL is getting what it rarely gets: an overwhelming opinion that actually sides with it in terms of punishment. For the majority of the modern cases I can remember, more fans than not disagreed with the NFL’s stance on a case. This time, they might have the court of public opinion on their side. I hear far more ‘kick him outs’ in reference to Watson than I do ‘no suspensions’.

We might have the perfect storm for the NFL in terms of support and Kyle Brandt’s message lines up exactly with the leagues desires, no matter how they may have gotten there. Both want more punishment for the Cleveland quarterback. Brandt can hope, the NFL can fight.

This doesn’t mean Brandt is wrong or even that he is being told to echo the NFL’s position, it’s to note that he took a very powerful stance on a very powerful platform and they both matter.

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BSM Writers

Producers Podcast Episode 6: Jackson Safon, The Volume

Brady Farkas

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Jackson Safon has produced for a number of high profile digital networks. Now, as a freelancer, The Volume has put its faith in him to get the most out of Draymond Green, and CC Sabathia and Ryan Ruocco have trusted him to make R2C2 the best it can be.

iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-producers-podcast/id1630978079

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/2XBTp3PnrBvGv2n4Y19tCE?si=c84eee71512e49a5

iHeart: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/269-the-producers-podcast-98564690/

Google: https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9mZWVkcy5ibHVicnJ5LmNvbS9mZWVkcy9wcm9kdWNlcnNwb2QueG1s?sa=X&ved=0CAMQ4aUDahcKEwiQpvak__P4AhUAAAAAHQAAAAAQRw

Amazon: https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/241160ba-ad26-4297-a37a-107dfb10b462/the-producers-podcast 

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