Sometimes when life throws you a curveball, you just have to sit back, wait and knock it out of the park. White Sox broadcaster and former Major Leaguer Darrin Jackson is living proof.
Now entering his 11th year alongside Ed Farmer in the White Sox radio booth, Jackson finds himself in a place he never thought would be a destination. Others who followed his career thought it would be a perfect fit.
While Jackson was playing professionally in San Diego in 1992, the beat writers for the Padres would often ask him what he’d want to do after baseball. They asked about managing or coaching, and one asked about the possibility of becoming a baseball broadcaster. That left Darrin wondering if the writers knew something that he didn’t. Was he being released? Sent to the minors? Jackson was at a loss for words, which of course isn’t good for an announcer, “Um, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m just talking to you right now.”
The writers didn’t have any inside knowledge because Jackson, or DJ as he’s affectionately known, continued his major league career which all in all spanned 12 years. Jackson even spent two seasons in Japan. He was originally drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 1981, making his major league debut with the team in 1985. He really didn’t get much playing time on the North Side and actually asked the team to deal him, which they did in 1989 to the Padres.
He saw a few cities in the course of his time in the ‘bigs’. From San Diego he was dealt to Toronto in 1993. From Toronto it was on to the Mets and eventually the White Sox in 1994.
He then would leave the states and sign with the Seibu Lions of the Japanese Pacific League in 1995 staying there through the ’96 season, returning to the majors in 1997 with the Twins, then to the Brewers in ’98 before returning to Chicago with the Sox in 1999, which turned out to be his final season.
Jackson knew it was destiny returning to the South Side, because as he asked himself, “What would be a place for me to finish my career that would be great? That I’d want to work for that organization, when I got done playing and of all the places I had played instantly I thought about Jerry Reinsdorf and the White Sox. As an organization there was no other place I’d rather be.”
After the season ended, he was not planning to retire, but an offer came his way and he took it.
“As it went being here (Chicago) in 1999, when I came back in my final year of playing, it was just right place, right time, because I was thinking about another year of playing actually, but an opportunity opened up in the broadcast booth and I was offered the opportunity to come up and do that” Jackson said. “I said you know you’re 36 years old, how much more are you going to play? I’m in good shape that’s not the issue, it’s just I’m really not playing anymore at all. I was just sitting around watching baseball, so why not go up there in the booth and watch baseball and talk about it.”, recalls Jackson.
He started on White Sox television with the recently retired Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, then transitioned into the radio booth with Farmer beginning with the 2009 season.
As a former player Jackson spoke about how he handles a broadcast, especially when it comes to being critical of those now playing the game he did for so long. DJ likes to have fun but in the end the goal is a simple one.
“Tell the truth, of course you want to be honest, our fans aren’t stupid, they know what they’re hearing out of my mouth whether its factual or fiction. I try to do it in a way where it’s never offensive. I remember as a player when broadcasters would say something and then put their own personal spin on it and I never ever liked when somebody would go ‘I don’t even know why is this guy here, what’s he even…’ look that’s not being a professional, if you’re playing bad say this guy is playing terribly, he’s not doing his job he can play better.” Jackson continued, “Will I get on a guy that’s not hustling or making mental mistakes? Absolutely, and I have no problem walking right up to him after a game and if they want to say something, I’m right here, we can talk about it and I’ll tell you my side.”
The no nonsense approach is what helped make Jackson a major leaguer for so many years and it’s what’s making him so good at his current job on White Sox radio. But DJ is not without a sense of humor, especially when I reminded him of the old saying in the broadcasting business: it’s a lot easier up here [in the booth] than it is down there [on the field], but as a former player and not a trained broadcaster Jackson laughed that off.
“Hilarious! That’s definitely not true. I’ve got a whole bunch of names I can write down right now, of guys that would tell you, I’ve tried that and I failed, so it’s not that easy.”
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.