The Philadelphia Eagles almost pulled off another stunner on Sunday. They trailed the New Orleans Saints 20-14 with 2:01 remaining. Quarterback Nick Foles threw a nice pass to wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. It hit him in a bad place — the hands. The ball went right through Jeffery’s fingers and into the arms of Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore. New Orleans ran out the clock to earn a spot in the NFC Championship Game while the Eagles Super Bowl hopes died.
When Jeffery reached the sideline, he was greeted with a hug from his head coach Doug Pederson. Foles also consoled him. There wasn’t any finger-pointing. Jeffery wasn’t called out, criticized, or exposed by his teammates. It was the opposite. The team helped cover up his gigantic miscue with positive words and actions.
It got me thinking about sports radio and how this dynamic is lacking far too often. Instead of covering for a co-host and making that person look good, there is a tendency for the other host to shine a spotlight on mistakes and flaws. The thought becomes, “Let me expose you to make myself look better.” That isn’t how it works though. It actually makes the show as a whole look worse.
Sports radio hosts are very competitive by nature. We want to excel and shine the brightest, but wanting the limelight can often cloud your judgment. There is a popular quote — “Blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make yours shine any brighter.” Man, that is so true. Sports radio hosts should recite this wise saying over and over again like a scene from the movie Fight Club. “His name is Robert Paulson. His name is Robert Paulson.”
Foles shared an interesting thought after the Eagles beat the Bears two Sundays ago. “Everyone wants to know the secret of a great team and everyone wants to make it about rah rah and x’s and o’s and all that stuff,” Foles said. “From my experience, it’s the team that has the best relationships. The team that trusts each other the most are the teams that are usually successful. There are some anomalies out there, but the team’s I’ve been a part of, you go into that locker room — it’s a cohesive group that genuinely cares about one another. My philosophy always is in the 4th quarter when the game’s on the line, when you trust the men next to you, you’re going to get it done more times than not.”
Why should sports radio be any different? The foundation of strong teams in sports — trust, respect, selflessness — is the same dynamic that exists within strong sports radio shows. We see how selfish teams crack. Think about all of the problems the dysfunctional Pittsburgh Steelers had this season. Many teammates publicly called out Le’Veon Bell for sitting out over a contract dispute. Ben Roethlisberger criticized two wide receivers following a loss to the Broncos. Antonio Brown left the team in the final week of the season because he felt under-appreciated. Insert eye-roll emoji here.
Goodness, it’s no wonder the uber-talented yet extremely selfish Steelers missed the playoffs. If the people on a radio show care more about themselves than their team as a whole like the Steelers, the results will eventually reflect it. Make no mistake — whichever show you work on is a team. They don’t split the ratings between two hosts on a two-person show. Mike Greenberg never got a 5.7 while Mike Golic got a 5.1 during the Mike & Mike years. It’s one show with one rating, so treat it as such.
Back when I played grade school football, there was a high school football team that practiced on a nearby field. They all wore t-shirts during conditioning drills. On top it said, “Team.” Underneath it said, “I.” At the time I thought, “What in the world does Team I mean? That doesn’t sound like a team that would win many games.” Somebody explained it to me that the team matters more than you — team over I.
Think of the two NFL teams in the state of Pennsylvania. The Eagles have displayed their team-first mentality on many occasions. They exude the team-over-I philosophy. The Steelers? Not so much. If the Steelers wore t-shirts for conditioning drills the “I” would be a huge letter that was bold, underlined, highlighted, and practically bedazzled. Below would be “Team” in itty-bitty microscopic writing like the letters at the bottom of an eye test chart. The disparity of results between these teams is no coincidence.
The Ravens lost a heartbreaker in the 2011 AFC Championship Game to the Patriots. Wide receiver Lee Evans had a near touchdown catch batted away. Kicker Billy Cundiff then missed a 32-yard field goal that would’ve tied the game with 11 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter. After the loss, Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis didn’t call out his teammates. He gathered everybody together and lifted them up.
“We fought as a team,” Lewis said. “The fact is we got to come back and go to work to make sure we finish it next time. That’s all we got to do. We done came too far to drop our head. Joe [Flacco], you played your ass off. You hear me, man? I’m telling you, man. Don’t ever drop your head when it comes to a loss, dogg. This right here makes us stronger. Let’s be stronger as a team, man.”
The very next year the Ravens faced the same team on the same field and beat the Patriots in the 2012 AFC Championship Game. Joe Flacco was named Super Bowl MVP after a win over the 49ers the next game. If Lewis trashed his teammates following that painful loss the previous season, the odds of the Ravens rebounding to win a Super Bowl the next year would’ve been significantly longer. It pays to think beyond yourself.
That’s really the heart of this message — think of your show as a team and think beyond yourself. It’s okay to tease a co-worker about a prediction they got wrong or challenge one of their points as long as everybody is having fun. The minute it becomes about exposing your teammate in an effort to make yourself look better is the minute you’ve lost. We aren’t on opposite sidelines. We’re on the same team.
Be like the Eagles — look for ways to pick up your teammates instead of casting them in a poor light. It would’ve been a horrible approach for Foles to roast Jeffery by saying, “Hey, I can’t catch the ball for him. We had the Saints right where we wanted them and that bum completely blew it.” If you agree that roasting a teammate like that would be bad, then why would you think that doing the same thing on your sports radio show would be good?
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.