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Sometimes College Football Fields Aren’t Green

Demetri Ravanos

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Thanksgiving week is a big one in the world of college football. It’s rivalry week! The Iron Bowl, The Apple Cup, The Game. These are all names that mean something to college football fans, and they are all the names of games being played this week.

We’re celebrating here at BSM with a series of three articles written by Demetri Ravanos, the company’s resident college football fanatic. These articles highlight some of the interesting, “insider-y” aspects of following the sport.

In the our final article, Demetri Ravanos talks to two broadcasters that have the unique challenge of calling games on fields that aren’t green, a phenomenon that is more common than you might think if you don’t follow college football.

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Eastern Michigan plays on a gray field. If you didn’t know that and just looked at a picture of Rynearson Stadium in Ypsilant you might think you were seeing some kind of photoshop effect where only certain parts of a black and white picture have been colorized.

Image result for eastern michigan football field

That is actually pretty tame by college football standards. Remember, this is a sport where Eastern Washington has a red field and Coastal Carolina plays on a teal field.

The most famous not-green field of all is in Boise, Idaho. The Boise State Broncos’ blue field has been dubbed “The Smurf Turf” and is the subject of one of my favorite urban legends.

Like a lot of fans, I have always heard that to Canadian Geese flying south, the field looks like a lake. More than once, the legend goes, geese assume it is water and crash as they hit it, not prepared for it to be actual land.

“The story about the geese thinking that the field is a lake is totally false. The geese are way smarter than that. They can tell blue turf from water,” Bob Behler, the radio voice of the Broncos tells me in an email.

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I asked Bob if Boise State fans are proud of the Smurf Turf’s place in the pantheon of the sport. He says locally, fans consider it to be more than just the most famous field in college football.

“First of all Boise State’s iconic blue field is the most recognizeable feature in the state of Idaho. We recently celebrated 30 years on the Blue back in 2016 and in that time if you see highlights on a blue field, you know who is playing. Having good teams over the years has helped the reputation of Blue take on magical qualities. Kind of like Howard’s rock at Clemson, the hedges at Georgia and touchdown Jesus at Notre Dame.”

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Considerably further south you’ll find Conway, Arkansas. It is the home of the Estes Stadium, where the Central Arkansas Bears play on a purple and gray turf, truly one of the strangest sites in the sport.

My friend Justin Acri is the radio play-by-play voice of the Bears. He told me that the unorthodox field actually represents the school falling in line with their peers…kinda. “I was there for the transition. They had natural grass before and Central Arkansas was the last team in the Southland Conference to go to turf when they did in 2011.”

The field alternates between purple and gray every five yards and then features black end zones. I asked Justin if there was ever a strange play that was the direct result of playing on such a non-traditional surface.

“I can’t think of anything that was a result of the playing surface directly,” he said, but then pointed out that the Bears have won a lot of games at home since the field went from green to something out of a Colorado Rockies fever dream. “They have won a lot of games on it and started out 13-0 and by my count 37-7 (84%) since installing the turf including three wins this year.”

So what is it like to actually call a game on surface that isn’t green?

“Honestly I don’t really consciously notice it all during a game,” Acri says. He also acknowledges that in a way, the field might make his job easier. “With the five yard increments, it probably makes it a little easier to know how long a gain was.”

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“Doesn’t make any difference to me following it.  Just like basketball floors that have a lot of paint in the key or inside the arc….it is what is,” Behler says.

But what if a green field is all you know? Do visiting broadcasters ever complain about the turf?

“The blue seems to get in a lot of peoples heads as far as opponents go. Maybe it does to the other broadcasters too, but I’ve never heard any say it has,” Behler says.

Acri says that he has heard complaints, but not very many. “I know of one guy in the league who complains about it, but he’s a complainer…Most guys I believe [either] think it is pretty cool or realize it has no bearing on the game at all.”

Multi-colored fields and playing surfaces that are a color other than green is a very college football-centric tradition. The NFL is all about conformity and making sure everything is uniform. I’ll never argue that the level of play in college is better, but it’s the weird eccentricities of the sport’s culture that make college football a more appealing overall product.

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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