Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray won the 2018 Heisman Trophy on Saturday. Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was a strong favorite to win the award throughout the entire season right up until the last game occurred. That’s when Murray sped past Tagovailoa like the Road Runner in a Looney Tunes cartoon. Murray ended up with 517 first-place Heisman votes compared to Tagovailoa’s 299.
By the way, it’s pronounced “tounge-oh-vie-loa.” Back to your regularly-scheduled column.
How did the Heisman race change so dramatically? It was all about the final impression. Murray threw for 379 yards and three touchdowns in Oklahoma’s win over Texas in the Big 12 Championship. It was a much different story for Tagovailoa who completed only 10-of-25 passes for 164 yards and two interceptions in the SEC Championship. The Hawaiian product was also forced to leave in the fourth quarter of Alabama’s win over Georgia due to a high ankle sprain.
Sure, Kyler Murray was a dynamic player this year. He compensated for Oklahoma’s abysmal, ragtag defense. The arguments were valid that the Sooners would be in a much worse place without Murray than Alabama would be without Tagovailoa. But you know as well as I do that if Tagovailoa played well in the SEC Championship while leading his team to a win, he would also be a Heisman winner right now. Final impressions matter.
It got me thinking about sports radio. If Tagovailoa can go from a strong favorite to win the Heisman, only to finish runner-up after the final game, can the same dynamic exist in radio? You better believe it. Instead of a last impression, this business is about the latest impression. One insensitive comment can change a strong reputation. One tasteless joke can undo a lot of hard work. With so many choices out there, one bad show can result in listeners going in a different direction.
It’s also how “latest” impressions work in life. If you have a big disagreement with your significant other, it’s easy to lose sight of that person’s great qualities. It can put you in a box of limited thinking. You don’t see the overall picture due to focusing on certain portions from a negative viewpoint. If the latest impression can affect the way you view someone you love, think about how strongly it can impact the way you view a sports radio host that you simply like.
We live in a world that constantly asks, “What have you done for me lately?” Tom Brady was criticized for not leading the Patriots to a Super Bowl for a decade-long stretch. Never mind the fact that he won 10 or more games in every full season he played during that span while also leading New England to the Super Bowl twice. The guy has five Super Bowl rings now and there are some talking heads that still bring up the so-called drought. If Tom Brady’s resume gets questioned, you’d be a fool to think that your sports radio resume is bulletproof.
Living off of past success is a cassette-tape approach — it doesn’t fit in today’s world. In a society that always wants to know what you’ve accomplished lately, you better bring it every day.
I was at the Chargers game on Sunday. After a huge comeback win against the Steelers the previous week, the Chargers slopped their way to a 26-21 victory over the lowly Bengals.
The Bengals are ranked 29th in rush defense and dead last in pass defense, but the Chargers only gained a mere 288 yards of total offense. Why?
Because they weren’t locked in. The Bengals actually outgained the Chargers. I repeat — the Bengals actually outgained the Chargers.
Maybe the Bolts were looking ahead to a monster showdown on Thursday night against the Chiefs or just took the Bengals lightly. Either approach will get you beat in sports radio. Looking forward to your next gig or taking a random Wednesday lightly will cost you in the long run.
Sometimes I forget the lessons I’ve learned through the faulty thinking of others. There are athletes, like Bears Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher, that fall into a trap of thinking that past accomplishments matter more to the present than they actually do. Urlacher walked away from the Bears offer of $2 million for the 2013 season. He told SiriusXM NFL Radio in March of that year, “For me to go through the season and put my body through what it goes through during the season at my age, I’m not going to play for that — not for the Bears at least.”
Where’s the faulty thinking? Urlacher believed that all of the amazing things he did for the Bears over the years should’ve earned him a better offer in 2013. Sports don’t work like that. Sports radio doesn’t work like that. Life doesn’t work like that. What we did in the past doesn’t matter to the here and now as much as we think it should.
If you took your wife out to dinner last night or wrote a nice note a few days ago, that’s great, but it doesn’t matter if you neglect her today. It’s fantastic that Urlacher was a Pro Bowl linebacker in 2011, but that didn’t mean much to the 2013 season when his play and health had regressed.
A sports radio host might’ve had a great month or even years of solid shows. That doesn’t matter if today’s show is a dud though. The metal band Pantera has a song, “Yesterday Don’t Mean Sh*t.” That might as well be the slogan for the upcoming year. “2019 — yesterday don’t mean bleep.”
Penn State head coach James Franklin made an interesting comment about his program this year. “Right now, we’re comfortable being great. And I’m going to make sure that everybody in our program — including myself — is very uncomfortable because you only grow in life when you’re uncomfortable.”
A lot of us can relate to that. We get comfortable to a fault in a job or relationship and don’t put forth the same effort. Take Pantera’s thought and tweak it a little bit — pretend that yesterday didn’t even happen.
Would you behave much differently if this were day one of a new job or relationship? If so, that’s a problem. The same effort should always be there regardless if it’s day one or year 10.
It’s a world full of knee-jerk reactions and prisoner-of-the-moment logic now. Before the Big 12 Championship, Kyler Murray was a solid quarterback that was getting fat against pathetic defenses. Afterward, he was a difference maker with dynamic passing and running ability that Oklahoma couldn’t live without. Before the SEC Championship, Tua Tagovailoa was an absolute dual-threat stud that was taking Alabama to heights it had never seen before. Afterward, he was a player that wasn’t essential to a stacked team that would be winning without him. Viewpoints change quickly.
Forget week to week, or show to show in sports talk — viewpoints can change minute to minute. If a host is dry or dogging it during a particular segment, the audience is gone. Listeners don’t think, “Man, this guy sucks today, but hey, he was great last year so I’ll stick around.” They are adios, amigos. And they might be gone for good. Make sure your performances are solid so you don’t get the Tua treatment.
Following the SEC Championship Game, Alabama head coach Nick Saban suggested, “Everybody should look at the whole body of work when they’re deciding who the best player is.” We absolutely should. But we don’t.
It’s a world that overvalues the last thing seen or heard. With this in mind, it’s important to prepare each show like it’s your last. It will definitely be the latest impression you leave.
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.