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How Do You Handle Your Station’s Antonio Brown?

“Anyone who hasn’t worked in radio or an entertainment field would not believe the things these “stars” get away with.”

Matt Fishman

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I can’t watch another Antonio Brown saga without thinking about the Antonio Brown types in sports radio.

For those not following, Antonio Brown is a wide receiver with the Oakland Raiders who is currently upset that he can’t use the same helmet he has used in the past. That helmet is no longer certified for safety by the NFL. Additionally, in his final year with the Steelers he got into an argument with QB Ben Roethlisberger and sat out practice leading into the Steelers final game of the season. He was benched and did not play in the Steelers last game. After the season he demanded a trade and was eventually traded to the Raiders for a third and fifth round park.

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If you work or have worked in sports radio, you are thinking about a host or hosts at your station. In a nutshell, I’m talking about a host who is a big performer in ratings, but is a total pain in the ass and nearly impossible to deal with. I had one programming executive tell me that dealing with one host was like “negotiating with a terrorist.” 

Anyone who hasn’t worked in radio or an entertainment field would not believe the things these “stars” get away with. They way they treat other people in the workplace would be shocking to any outsider. I have seen screaming matches in hallways, hosts who won’t even speak to co-workers, and near fist-fights. 

The really dangerous Antonio Brown types undermine other shows, other hosts, management, really anyone who doesn’t fall in line with them. Heck, even people who do fall in line find themselves in the cross hairs. 

I once heard a PD say about one of these types of hosts, “Why should I be s***ing his d**k?? He should be s***ing MY d**k!! This is insane! It’s f***ing insane!”

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(He then threw something against the wall, shattering it.)

Now you know you have this cancer in the clubhouse, but the host gets big ratings and brings in big revenue for your station. The talent also has a multi-year contract and makes a lot of money–usually more than any other host on the staff. So now what? Let’s check out what management expert Luba S. Sydor, founder of Person 2 Person LLC, suggests as ways to handle difficult, but talented employees:

Make them aware: A manager must make sure the employee is aware of the problems they are causing in the workplace. It is easy for an employee to be completely blind to his or her distracting behavior. Management should arrange to meet with the employee to explain how the behavior is affecting his coworkers and the office environment. Awareness is the first and most important step in dealing with an employee who has a difficult personality.

Gain understanding: The employee needs to show a willingness to change his demeanor and personality. If an employee complains all the time, he must admit to excessive complaining and make an effort to complain less in the future. The manager will need to provide additional support in order to motivate the employee to change.

Be thoughtful about assignments. To the extent possible (and naturally this isn’t always controllable), provide some especially substantive, challenging assignments that will fully utilize and stretch their considerable skills. “We give our best people the worst assignments,” was how a former colleague of mine used to jokingly put it. Such assignments can also engage them and bring out their best.

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Be direct and give ample feedback. Don’t dance around problems – articulate the issues as precisely as possible. If there’s difficulty, for example, collaborating with other team members as a member of the XYZ team, state it. Provide feedback often and in both directions – positive reinforcement when things are going well and corrective guidance when they’re not.

No drama. When conflicts arise, as they inevitably do, stay calm. Some challenging employees even enjoy being provocateurs. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into the fray and pull rank and lose your temper, however tempting that might be.

Document clearly. Thorough documentation is always necessary for clear fact-based evaluations, assessing objectively whether goals are achieved or not. Solid documentation is also essential should you need to build a case for termination. 

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You can read the full article at: https://www.ziprecruiter.com/blog/managing-difficult-talented-employees/

While these notes are clearly meant for a more traditional workplace, there are some really good management tips here. Clearly being able to keep your cool under “no drama” is important. Also, I really am a fan of giving the host “substantive, challenging assignments.” I feel like sometimes these hosts have endless energy and are always “on”, so why not tap into that and give them some special projects to work on outside of their daily shows. Not all of these tips work for all situations and hosts, but hopefully this helps with the Antonio Brown at your station.

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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