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If You Want People to Like You Don’t be a Jerk

Brian Noe

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Alabama crushed Louisville 51-14 on Saturday night. Head coach Nick Saban didn’t crush the postgame interview though. He went all Nick Saban on ESPN reporter Maria Taylor who asked a completely reasonable and necessary question. Taylor wanted to know if Saban got any answers after his two quarterbacks — Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts — split time during the game.

Shorts-in-a-bunch Saban responded in aggressive fashion. “I think both guys can help our team, all right? So why do you continually try to get me to say something that doesn’t respect one of them? I’m not going to. So quit asking.” The drill sergeant response was only missing a final mic drop demand — “Now drop and give me 50, Taylor!”

The unnecessary outburst got me thinking about sports radio, which has been known to have an over-the-top explosion or two along the way. The end result can also be much more damaging in our business as opposed to college football.

I made a few critical comments on the air a few weeks ago about some Philadelphia Eagles fans. One person made a billboard near Gillette Stadium that was gloating about the Eagles win over the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Another fan flew a plane over Gillette Stadium that said, “41-33 Philly Philly Super Bowl LII,” just before a preseason game between the Eagles and Patriots.

The actions were petty. Yeah, Philly won it all. Great. Have fun, but don’t be classless. Instead, a handful of fans were clearly acting as if they were so brand new to this whole winning-a-championship thing that they didn’t know how to behave. Act like you’ve been there before. You wouldn’t see Patriots fans pulling the same silly stunts because they’ve actually won Super Bowls in the past and don’t resort to flying planes with messages attached.

Mike in Portland called in. He’s an Eagles fan. Mike in Portland didn’t like my comments because Mike in Portland wasn’t listening to my comments very well. He thought I was saying that all Eagles fans were behaving badly. I started out patiently re-explaining my stance. The longer he failed to listen and had his mind made up that I was saying every Eagles fan was a classless lowlife, the more frustrated I got. I didn’t reach Saban-esque levels, but it’s difficult to remain completely calm when a conversation basically plays out like this:

Mike – “It sounds like you’re saying 2 + 2 = 5.”
Brian – “I’m not. No. I’m saying it equals four.”
Mike – “Nope. You’re clearly saying it equals five.”

Nothing drives me crazier in sports radio than listeners who misinterpret my comments because they aren’t listening. It’s the worst. That’s not a good enough reason to get bent out of shape though. Although Mike clearly would be designated for assignment when it comes to paying attention, it bugs me that I wasn’t calmer and more patient with him.

Another situation occurred just the other day that I actually handled well. I’m making strides, BSM community. The lovely Christina had a family reunion every Labor Day weekend in Kentucky. We hopped on a red-eye flight on Friday and had a connection in Dallas. When I exited the bathroom, my wife was talking to a delightful guy named Calvin who worked for the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. 

We struck up a conversation about football after he asked what I did for a living. Calvin told me that he believes the Seahawks won’t trade safety Earl Thomas to Dallas because of something that happened way back in 1977. This, of course, is a terrible opinion. A three-week-old burrito is better, but I didn’t focus on how the regimes of both teams are totally different now compared to over 40 years ago. Neither franchise would let potential bad blood get in the way of a great deal either. I just glossed over it.

It’s interesting why Calvin’s theory didn’t throw me off — it’s because I didn’t lose sight of what I wanted to accomplish. I wanted Calvin to enjoy our conversation. If I picked apart his bad theory, it could have easily been the part that he remembered most. In discussions and debates, the #1 rule is to not forget what you’re trying to accomplish.

If you want your audience to enjoy listening to you, don’t call them idiots or bozos. Don’t aggressively pick apart their weak theories or inaccurate comments. Ask yourself if your words get you closer to achieving your goal or further away? If the comments you make get you further away from the goal, you’re simply venting. You’ve lost the initiative while working against yourself. Don’t let that happen.

Calvin and I were also were speaking to each other in person. It’s very easy to speak to a caller as if they’re just a thing. As sad and ridiculous as it sounds, it’s simple to forget that the person you disagree with on the phone actually has friends and loved ones. He has interests and emotions. It’s much easier to be aware of these facts in person than during a phone call.

During the next debate with a caller, pretend that same person is standing in front of you. Better yet, pretend it’s a friend, family member, or your boss that’s sharing a crazy theory in person. You’d be far less likely to speak aggressively. Your words and tone would also change. Don’t treat strangers on the phone like they’re actual strangers. Talk to them like the other people you value most in life.

I bumped into another person named Adam before a flight out of Portland. Adam said that he and his 10-year-old daughter, Lily, enjoy listening to me. I thought it was awesome. Later I thought that if I ever had a phone conversation with Adam the same way I had with Mike in Portland, Adam would’ve have come up to introduce himself to me. He wouldn’t have felt very positive about the show. He might not have even listened to the show anymore.

It isn’t just the host and the listener having a private conversation. That same conversation plays out in front of hundreds and thousands of people, including the caller’s family and friends. Embarrassing a caller and then expecting that same listener to still support the show is illogical. Listeners are the bread and butter of the industry. Without them, we don’t have jobs. It sort of makes sense to treat those people with respect.

Nick Saban actually called Maria Taylor to apologize for his pointed response. It’s very unlikely that a host will have the same luxury after blasting an anonymous caller. Think about that — our margin for error is actually smaller than a head coach that has won six championships in college football. In sports radio, we really need to get it right the first time because we might not get a second chance.

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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