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Be The Mandalorian

“If you’ve worked in radio for longer than ten minutes, surely you’ve heard the phrase “everyone steals.” It’s the blanket excuse for taking something you found interesting or entertaining on another show and doing it on your show.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Man, how long does it feel like it has been since we first started seeing ads for Disney+? The OTT streaming service finally launches on Tuesday. If you watched any college football on Saturday on ESPN or ABC or NFL Countdown on ESPN on Sunday, you likely saw a crawl reminding you that Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel and National Geographic content will all be available on the service when it makes its debut.

I, for one, am super excited. I signed up for my account last month and since then it has been a countdown to midnight this coming Tuesday. Like any other guy my age, I have incredibly high hopes for The Mandalorian, the new Jon Favreau series set in the outskirts of the Star Wars universe.

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My loves in life go (in order): my wife, Star Wars, my kids, college football, the Muppets. Sorry, kids. Star Wars was here first.

Next month, the original saga comes to an end with The Rise of Skywalker, and I’m excited, but not nearly as excited as I am for The Mandalorian. I started thinking about why this was last week. The answer I settled on is something any content creator on any platform should take to heart.

I love the original Star Wars movies I grew up with. I always stop for a bit if I run across them on TV. I will always sit down with my kids if that is what they are watching. My enthusiasm for those movies has never wavered, but if I want to watch those movies, I will watch those movies.

Since taking over as the creative force behind the Star Wars franchise, JJ Abrams has proved that he is a huge fan, but he has also been eager to follow the familiar formula rather than take risks and create something new and exciting. So do I want to see how he closes out the Skywalker Saga? Of course, but I also have come to believe there are limits to his creativity and expect Ewoks to play a major role, because they did in Return of the Jedi.

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If you’ve worked in radio for longer than ten minutes, surely you’ve heard the phrase “everyone steals.” It’s the blanket excuse for taking something you found interesting or entertaining on another show and doing it on your show.

This plays out in a lot of ways and there is a lot of truth in the idea that all of the best ideas come from somewhere else, so there is nothing wrong with using them per se. I mean, it isn’t illegal and if someone calls you out for it, there is no harm in acknowledging that a good idea came from somewhere else. Listeners mostly won’t care so long as you keep them entertained.

Where it becomes harmful is when hosts, producers, or program directors insist on keeping elements, segments, or even staff members that worked for a previous show. Think back to the early 2000s. Imagine if ESPN had demanded that Colin Cowherd keep Tony Kornheiser’s “Old Guy Radio” bits because they worked so well for Tony. It would have sounded insane and it would have stunted Colin’s growth.

Sure, our listeners just want to be entertained. Maybe they don’t care how long a bit or guest has been around so long as they still deliver the goods. Think about this though, particularly with bits: if you heard a new voice doing a bit that made an old host famous, is your first inclination to just be entertained or is it to listen for all the ways the old host did it better?

It’s a lesson I wish JJ Abrams would take to heart with Star Wars. Sure, Maz Kanata’s cantina in The Force Awakens was cool, but you know what was cooler? The first time we saw the wretched hive of scum and villainy that was the Mos Eisley cantina in the original Star Wars.

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There will always be a temptation to do the things you see working, but is that setting you up for long term success? This is a business that values originality. Yes, we want you to be able to keep an audience entertained and engaged, but what is going to give you that chance in the first place is doing things that are easy to identify as what makes you unique.

What is so interesting about The Mandalorian is Jon Favreau took something that clicks with Star Wars fans and then throws out all the rules. Supposedly there will be no Skywalkers, Jedi, or storm troopers showing up in The Mandalorian.

How can you do that with sports radio? What interesting spin can you put on picking games? If you’re joining an already-established show, what can you do to take it to the next level? How do you keep the other host(s) on their toes and motivated to not get complacent and keep that brand innovative and relevant?

What are ratings? Take away the numbers and success in the radio business is based purely on how memorable you are. Success is creating a loyal fan base.

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You aren’t Star Wars. You don’t have more than 40 years of history and nostalgia behind everything you do. That is why it is imperative you approach the format like The Mandalorian and carve your own path in familiar terrain instead of being the guy that plays it safe by following the same path in the same way as the people that carved it years before.

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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