Tony Bruno knew it the first time he heard it. He didn’t need to listen to an entire hour or even a complete segment. The first time Bruno heard Pat McAfee behind a mic, he knew a star was born.
What Bruno probably didn’t know, is that in a short span of three years, the former NFL punter turned media star, was going to accept an award named in his honor. But on February 25th, that exact moment will happen when McAfee accepts the Tony Bruno Award to kick off the 2020 Barrett Sports Media Summit.
“I was excited,” said Bruno. “I don’t really know Pat all that well, we go back-and-forth on Twitter, but I’ve admired him since he was a player. He’s one of those guys that everyone went to after the game to get comments from. A lot of players don’t like to talk and I think Pat, as a punter especially, pretty much showed the world the punters are football players too. Pat has emerged, and you kind of knew right away, that his future after football was going to be in broadcasting. Now that we’ve seen him in broadcasting, we’re starting to see just how bright he’s going to be.”
The meteoric rise of McAfee’s career has been nothing short of remarkable. This month marks three years since he retired from the Indianapolis Colts and emersed himself fully in the sports media industry. In that time span, he’s built one of the most successful sports podcasts on the internet and then turned it into a nationally syndicated radio show, become an entertaining contributor on ESPN’s College Gameday and even a sideline reporter for XFL games, amongst other duties. Oh, and don’t forget that #4 ranking in the BSM Top 20 Original Sports Podcasts of 2019 and the #9 ranking on the BSM Top 20 National Sports Talk Shows list.
You don’t make that type of quick rise without an incredible amount of talent. Bruno noticed those skills right away, but also sees the most important reason why McAfee has been so successful. He sees it because he patterned his own career in a similar way.
“You don’t even have to be a football fan to see that Pat enjoys what he does,” Bruno said. “That’s what I’ve done in my career. If you’re not having fun out there and if you don’t love what you’re doing, you can see that. When you see Pat’s energy and the joy he genuinely has for going out and talking about football, people, can tell the guy loves football. He’s not a guy that talks down to people, he’s just really funny and really smart. He’s the future in this industry.”
The Tony Bruno Award isn’t intended to be a lifetime achievement award that’s given out to buddies who worked for or with Bruno several years ago. Its intent is to honor those who are relevant, original, unfiltered and have created excellence in the sports media industry. The inaugural winner of the award, Clay Travis, exemplified that, just as McAfee has done in his short career. With so much already being accomplished in McAfee’s career, it’s hard to classify him as an up-and-comer. He’s already a star.
Though McAfee will be the one being celebrated on February 26th at the Ailey Citigroup Theater, it’ll be difficult for Bruno not to feel pretty proud, too. Granted, nobody gets in this industry to get an award named after them, but when you have a career that’s been successful enough to have that honor bestowed on you, it’s probably pretty damn cool.
Seeing as McAfee will be just the second winner of the award, it’s still a very humbling moment for Bruno.
“I was flabbergasted when I was called and told there was going to be an award named after me,” Bruno said. “It really is an incredible honor. The respect I got last year at the Barrett Sports Media Summit and running into people at the Super Bowl every year, and a lot of people that I’ve worked with at other places, that’s what makes it fun, when your peers recognize you like that.”
Bruno is excited to see someone he respects accept an award in his name, sure, but he’s also pretty excited about the evening fun taking place around the event.
“This is becoming like Super Bowl week, you know that?” Bruno said. “There used to be just one party. Now we have a Tuesday night kickoff party with Pat, and the Wednesday night party with ESPN. It’s always good to wrap up a night, especially in the broadcasting business, by popping a couple of cocktails and hanging out with all the boys and girls.”
So true Tony, so true.
But Bruno isn’t planning on getting to New York City, handing out an award and then putting it on auto-pilot for the next two days. He’s there to learn. The Tony Bruno Show is still going strong, as it came in at No. 9 on the BSM Top 20 Original Sports Podcasts of 2019. Just like everyone else, Bruno wants to leave NYC with things he can implement into his own show, just like he did after last year’s summit.
So as someone who’s been before, what’s the advice for someone attending for the first time?
“If you’re young in the industry, or someone that’s in between jobs, just relax,” said Bruno. “There’s no pressure. This is a fun event and a lot of people get together. You learn a lot. I was sitting in the audience last year listening to every panel, even though I’ve been around for 100 years, really enjoyed hearing all the new technology and ideas that were brought on stage.”
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.