When I caught up with Mark a week ago he had just returned from the Red River Showdown between Oklahoma and Texas. For those who aren’t aware, the game is just part of the weekend. The game takes place at the old Cotton Bowl stadium and is also part of the Texas State Fair. Food, Fun, and Football? Sounds like a perfect Mark Packer weekend.
Matt: You just got back from your first trip to the Red River Showdown. Sounds like a perfect Mark Packer weekend. Can you give me some of the highlights from your trip?
Pack: Number one—it was a perfect Mark Packer weekend. It involved everything being deep fried and it was a great football atmosphere. I’ve been to Georgia-Florida which is great– “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party!” This is Georgia-Florida on steroids because you throw it into the state fair of Texas which has been going on since 1886. When I say they deep fry anything…if it moves they deep fry it. The fair has 277 acres and I saw every square inch of it.
Then you throw in Texas and Oklahoma—a pair of teams ranked in the top 20 for the first time since 2012—stadium is split right down the middle, 50/50. Fans were great. People were great. The bands were great! The food was great! The weather was great and oh by the way Texas won 48-45 on basically a walk-off field goal. If you have the chance to go—you must go!
Another thing that made it cool is that it’s still played in the Cotton Bowl. In this day and age where everyone builds the brand, spanking new multi-billion dollar stadium—and Texas certainly has that in “Jerry’s World.” There’s still something cool that it’s still at the old Cotton Bowl that’s been hosting this game since 1929.
Is it a beautiful place? No, but if you’re a college football junkie and historian like I am you remember all the incredible games that have been played in that stadium. To have 92,000 split between the Crimson and the Burnt Orange it was the first time I’ve ever seen it and IT WAS AWESOME!!
Matt: One of my favorite parts of your shows is when a caller calls in and tells you they’re going to a college campus for the first time and invariably you have great advice on where to eat, tailgating, where to go after the game, you name it. How did that start and how do you have such a vast knowledge of all these college campuses?
Pack: I’m Old!! (laugh) Seriously though, it probably started when I was a kid. My old man is Billy Packer and he would take me on college trips with him when I was a young knucklehead. I started seeing things that just became normal and commonplace in our world. When I went to college at Clemson I loved going on road trips as a student for a road football game. I have always loved the aspect of tailgating as part of the fabric of college football, even the fabric of college basketball for that matter.
When I finally got into doing radio I thought all that would be a neat thing to incorporate into the show. That’s when I started a thing called “The Southern Fried Football Tour.” I did that back in 1998 and I incorporated the name and started the company. Trademarked the name and turned it into a radio program, TV program, website, merchandise and I still have it to this day. That basically encompasses everything we’re talking about. From the games to the tailgating to the food to what you eat, what you bring, where you need to drink, where you need to eat. You name it. It started when I was a kid growing up with Billy and I thought it was a neat lifestyle thing to add to the radio show. I’ve been doing it now for twenty some odd years on radio and some on television.
That’s all part of the coolness of what sports can do. There’s nothing better than a great game to bring people together but there’s nothing better than food and drink to do the same thing. To me they’re the perfect match, the perfect marriage–why not do that on-air?
Matt: It seems to me that it has been such a great way to make such a close connection to your listeners?
Pack: Here’s the other thing, I keep ridiculous notes and I still have notes from every show I’ve ever hosted back to my days at WFNZ. My wife always gets on my case, “What are you doing with all those boxes and boxes of note pads?” Everything is hand written. I told her that one of these days when I get done doing radio I’m going to write a book. I have met so many unbelievable people and have such crazy stories. I will eventually have the time to write a book.
I have every note from interviews to crazy stats to food to restaurants. It looks like a Leonardo Da Vinci scribble of my show notes. I always keep a running tablet of suggestions I get from fans. It’s a great ice breaker. It’s cool when you go on the road and try certain things. When I went to the Texas State Fair I couldn’t wait to have a deep fried Snickers. How good is that gonna taste?
Matt: It seems like you are the busiest man in radio—you’re doing two shows a day and travelling almost every weekend to a college campus or big game site. How do you do it all and to the level of quality you have set for yourself?
Pack: Number one—I love to work. To me, this is not work. I love sports. I love people. To me mowing the yard, cleaning the gutters, washing windows-that’s work. I read constantly so you’re constantly acquiring content and information and coming up with creative ideas of how to present stuff on the air. I love that part of it. To me that is the most fun part of what we do—having the ability to create.
Every day is a blank canvas and I treat it that way. Whether your show is great or it’s a disaster and you hope they’re not disasters—you want people to be entertained. When they get in their car from having a real job, not what we do, you want them to turn on the radio and say ‘that guy right there has the greatest job in the world and it sounds like he is having the most fun of anybody on the planet.” I have that in my head before every show. I may be having a terrible day personally, but I know that from 7-10am ET on the ACC Channel and from 4-7pm ET on “Off Campus” on ESPNU Radio I’m gonna give you the impression that I have the world by the “you know what.” Even if I’m having a lousy day, I’m not gonna have a lousy day on your time.
We get into great content and topics. I want it to be different and entertaining every day. I also think that in this day and age that people are always worried about how a show should be done. There’s a thousand different ways to have a successful show. I always think it’s cool to get feedback from our listeners. I love to listen. It’s probably the biggest trait I’ve acquired over a couple of decades. Not necessarily to talk but to listen. It’s amazing how often I will learn something about a team, a player, a coach by just listening to one of our listeners who calls in.
Going back to your question of how I do it all in a day. I don’t sleep much. I don’t sleep but a couple of hours a day. It may just be the fact that I’m a San Francisco Giants fan living on the east coast. I’m used to staying up late watching them lose. I just get used to two hours a night. I’ve gotten into a routine when I know when I need 30 minutes for myself just to get re-energized between shows. The travelling part, I’ve always loved to travel. I’d much rather be working than not working. I kinda look at it that way. If I feel that I’m slipping or the show is slipping because I’m not focused or dialed-in, then I’ll kick back and decide to go forward or go backwards. Right now, I just love to work. I love what I do.
Matt: There have been so many crazy things that have happened on your shows throughout the years. What is the craziest and most unexpected thing that has happened on one of your shows?
Pack: For folks who listened to our “Primetime with the Packman” show in Charlotte, we had always opened the show with the James Brown song “Living in America” as the theme song for the show. I don’t remember what year this happened. One night, it was the night of a Duke-UNC basketball game which is a big deal in North Carolina. One of the guys on our show was nicknamed “Hayseed.” Hayseed hated North Carolina and he had a bet with a listener about wearing a t-shirt or sweatshirt depending on who won the game.
With about 15 minutes left in the show we get a phone call and it turns out that James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, is listening to our show. The reason he’s listening to our show is because he’s coming to Charlotte to perform the next night. He’s listening to this crazy banter about Duke-North Carolina. He calls our show. So I have two co-hosts at the time and we bring on James Brown and what I hear sounds like gibberish and you know immediately it’s really James Brown.
Now I realize we’re talking to James Brown and I don’t know a word he’s saying. For the next 15 minutes I pretend I know every word he’s saying. I’m focusing so hard to just pick out one word so I can setup the next question with James Brown. You can’t understand a word he says. We go for 15 minutes. My co-hosts are on the floor laughing and I do the entire interview by myself. We get done with the interview and I rip my co-hosts sideways. Here I am trying to conduct an interview with one of the most iconic figures in America and you guys are laughing on the floor. That’s how we end the show.
The next day we start the show at 3pm and North Carolina has beaten Duke—meaning Hayseed has to wear a North Carolina sweatshirt, but he refuses to wear it. Now the North Carolina fans are coming out of the woodwork wanting to kick his rear end. They are really mad at him! All he’s done is talk trash all week and he won’t wear the sweatshirt.
We get to the last hour of the show. My producer, Daniel Norwood, who now is an executive at SiriusXM, comes up and says, “You’ve got to see something.” He grabs me and brings me over to the window; we’re on the third floor. I look out the window and there is a caravan of cars—limos, all kinds of cars. It turns out that James Brown and his entire band have showed up to our studios to hang out with us. The doors open up for the last hour, here’s James Brown, his backup singers—the whole band.
Every Friday on our show we would have Bubba’s BBQ. We had ribs, chicken and mac and cheese. The next hour on the air, James Brown is singing, they’re raising hell; they’re having a good time. It was a gospel, one hour free-for-all. It was unbelievable!
He was dressed head to toe because they are going right from our studio to the concert. He’s got the robe, he’s got the hairdo working, and he’s ready to go. At the end of the hour, on the air, James Brown says “Where’s that Hayseed?” So I point to the window. James Brown says, “Hayseed let me tell you something, brother. You ain’t nothing unless you’re a man of your word. Put on the sweatshirt!” He puts on the sweatshirt and that’s the end of the show.
That’s what makes live radio great!
Mark Packer can be heard weekdays on SiriusXM. From 7-10am Eastern he co-hosts “ACC this Morning” on ACC Channel 371 and from 4-7pm Eastern he hosts “Off Campus” on ESPNU Radio, SiriusXM 84.
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.