If someone would have told Jason Anderson how hard the first two years were going to be for him in Louisville, he probably would have just stayed put in Kansas City. If he would have been told about the constant stress, the continuous feeling of being overwhelmed or even the tower problems that led him to being a part-time engineer, there’s no way he would have agreed to take the job to get ESPN Louisville off the ground.
But as fate goes, Anderson left Sports Radio 810 WHB in Kansas City, his dream station, because the company was approached by ESPN to start an affiliate outside the market in Louisville. The start-up station needed a utility man. Someone who could serve as a show host, PD, sales staff, engineer, or anything else a station needs to get started off the ground. So, in 2010, Anderson left Kansas City to head to Louisville for a situation he had no idea he was getting himself in to.
“The challenge was both overwhelming and energizing at the same time,” said Anderson. “I had grown up to listening to WHB my whole life and it was like, if I get hired there, now you’re sort of playing center field for the Yankees. The franchise had already been established. But here, it’s something that can grow and you’re a big part in growing that. There’s a lot of skin in the game.”
Fast forward to present day and Anderson is still serving as both an afternoon show host and PD at ESPN Louisville. Nearly nine years have passed since he took a leap of faith, but he’s forever thankful he did. Even amidst all the stress he endured, he can now smile and say it was all worth it. His work day may not be a strenuous as it was during the first year, but solo hosting a three-hour show and programming an extremely successful signal definitely comes with its daily challenges. Most notably, how are you supposed to show prep an afternoon drive show from 3-6 p.m. when you’re consumed with other tasks all day?
“When I get to the office, the first thing I do is go through the entire list of things that need to get done that day,” said Anderson. “So on one side of my planner will be all the things as a PD that I have to get done. While I’m doing those things, just like others in radio, my mind is always thinking about the show. If I’m looking or reading something, I’m always trying to think how I can relate that back to a local topic. On the right side of my planner with be show topics, show ideas, or even things I hear on the air at our station that I think are interesting points, but one that I might disagree with.
“As the day goes on, the list keeps growing and growing. As most PD’s know you can write 10 things you have to get done during the day, but by the time noon rolls around you probably have four other things you weren’t planning on. It’s trying to do two things at once. I’m doing all my PD stuff while always thinking about the show. Around 12:30-1:00 is when I really start to hone in on the show.”
There’s a lot of people in the business that, just like Anderson, have the duties of both a show host and a PD. Not only is it challenging, but you really have to understand how to balance your time throughout the day. That includes finding ways to sharpen your craft. As show hosts, we probably take for granted the opportunities we have with our PD’s for regular air checks as well as tips to improve ourselves. If you’re like Anderson, or the many other people that serve both the host and PD role, improving may have to come through a more unconventional way.
“We do a thing from 6-7 p.m. every weekday called The Bonus Hour,” said Anderson. “We take some of the best content of the day and throw it into one hour. While I’m done at 6:00, others might work a little bit later but can still hear our best stuff from the day while they’re driving home. Sometimes that might mean there’s something in there from my first hour. That gives me an opportunity to listen, therefore I don’t have go and listen that night to something else. A couple of times a week I’ll even just go back and listen to a certain hour.
“I’ll just listen back to things to see what I’m sounding like. I want to see if it’s something I would want to listen to if I’m driving around in my car. Is it entertaining? Did I stretch out a topic too far? Have I tried to make a topic out of something that was just a note or a nugget? For me, it’s just all about listening back. I’ll even listen to interviews to see if I talked too much or even interrupted the guest. Or maybe even if I missed a follow up that should have been asked. Those are the things I really try to pay attention to and critique myself with.”
Though he’s paid to make adjustments and decisions based on what he’s hearing on the air, Anderson still realizes his own opinion of his show can’t be enough. That is, not if he wants to continue to grow as a 39 year-old show host. So there have to be people in the business he trusts to lend an ear to his work.
“You know, I don’t do that enough, I’ll be honest with you,” said Anderson. “I need to do that a lot more. Scott Masteller is a guy that’s been in town a couple of times and certainly somebody that’s always available. I know there’s people at the station that had a relationship with Scott.
“Soren Petro, the mid-day host at our parent company, Sports Radio 810 in Kansas City, I’ll reach out to him and talk radio, life, the company, just general conversation. I try to reach out to him as much as I can. Not nearly enough of ‘hey man, let me send this your way and tell me what you think.’ I’m always cognizant of that because he’s busy and has a family. But I do need to do that more, rather than just say, here’s what I hear and this is what I would think if I was a radio listener, therefore, this is what I can improve on, as supposed to someone else who does it for a living.”
Just like everyone else who’s pulling the show host/PD responsibility, Anderson has his daily routine that works. But it’s interesting to debate which time slot would be easiest for someone filling both roles. Each have their own draws and setbacks, but which would work best?
“I’ve actually thought about that and gone back-and-forth,” said Anderson. “Right now I’m able to get a lot of stuff done in the mornings and be at meetings. I think for me, being a show host, I like the fact it’s in the afternoon because it requires me to continue to pay attention to things that are going on while doing the PD side of it. I feel like if I did the morning show, I’d get off the air and focus on the PD side while not really being engaged with show topics throughout the day. I could do all that at night, but by the time I get home, it’s time to eat, then it’s bedtime for the kids, all that stuff, then I’m going to bed for the morning show. So when would I find time to show prep? I would worry I’d be winging it too much if I did a morning show compared to an afternoon show.”
Though we’ve mainly laid out the challenges that come with being both a host and PD, believe it or not, but there’s actually advantages that come with the territory. For one, you get to be in a management position while still realizing your dream of being on the air. Plus, let’s not kid ourselves, it probably helps out the wallet, too. In terms of daily activity at the station, it can really make things easier for the sales staff. Instead of having to diffuse a situation between a host and a member of the sales staff, odds are more likely things are going to happen without conflict.
“I think it makes it a little easier on both sides,” said Anderson. “If the on-air staff comes to me with a complaint, I’m in the sales meetings, I’m interacting with them and I know what’s going on with the issue. Then, I can try to solve whatever the issue is. I’m at the front of station a lot so I think it makes it easier for the sales staff to come to me if they have an issue with something that’s not getting done.”
Anderson has been in this role for nearly nine years. He’s seen just about everything that can be thrown his way as a host/PD. So naturally, he has some pretty good advice on how to deal with the tense situations that often rise. And that’s exactly his message to the person that has just become both a host and a PD at a station.
“I got discouraged early on and it felt like I was running at times,” said Anderson. “If it’s at the beginning and you’re feeling overwhelmed, what I try to do is just focus on what I have to get done today. Just stay the course and trust in your abilities. I just had to keep telling myself there was a reason they had me come down here. They’re not going to send me down here just to let things fail. I keep reminding myself of that. Just be confident, trust your abilities and know you’re the right person for the job.
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.