Thank God for Tiger King. Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin, and yes, even you, Jeff Lowe. Without your efforts and sacrifices, who knows what sports radio would have been like without you last week.
I bet nobody felt bad for talking about the Neftlix show for a full week, and they shouldn’t. But it does bear the question: How much play would it have gotten if we had a normal sports schedule that was happening?
That question leads to an even bigger one: How much have you thrown your regular content rules out the window during the Coronavirus?
Let’s answer the first one.
“I think initially it still would have still been pretty big,” said Jay Recher of 95.3 WDAE in Tampa. “But instead of a shelf life of where it’s currently 4 to 7 days, it would’ve been 2 to 3 days. There would’ve been so many other stories. There’d be Rays baseball and the Lightning getting ready for the NHL Playoffs. Outside of that, we would’ve had the first two weeks of March Madness here, WrestleMania was supposed to be this Sunday right here in Tampa, then there was the Valspar Championship and the St. Pete Grand Prix.”
Recher could probably get away with talking about Tiger King more than most, seeing as there was a local connection in the documentary to Tampa. But does that mean he’s thrown his regular content rules out the window? Not necessarily, especially with guests.
“We’ll run through our weekly guests for all the seasons,” Recher said. “Even though it’s out of season, we’ll check in with our football guests, hockey guests and even our baseball guests. We’ll make it once every couple of weeks with those guys.”
Trey Elling of 104.9 The Horn says, for the most part, it’s business as usual. When it comes to guests, he’d be willing to have on a local mayor or the governor to talk about the current situation in Austin, but his show hasn’t explored that route just yet.
What’s unique about Elling’s situation is that he was given a new co-host almost exactly a month ago. That may sound incredibly challenging, but it could be the best way to establish chemistry with your new partner.
“In a way, it’s beneficial to us as a new show, because there’s always a certain time period of trial and error, experimentation and risk-taking,” Elling said. “This has allowed us to maybe do even more of that to see what works and what gets a decent audience response. I actually look at that as a positive.”
If there’s no major sports news out there, coming up with material for top of hours becomes rather interesting and even difficult. Granted, it doesn’t mean you have to go about them any differently, but your big show of the day has likely had a much more national feel to it compared to the local topics you’re used to having.
Elling is a fan of having guests on at the top of the hour, as long as it’s not the opening segment of the show. He won’t have a guest on to open every single hour, but he’s not afraid, especially during this time, to bring someone on when he thinks his audience is at its peak for the day.
Recher, on the other hand, has tried a couple of new segment ideas to kick up the back part of the show.
“At 6 o’clock we do This Day in Sports History,” Recher said. “Basically it’s a look back on all the dates and historical moments, each guy picks two, they do some research and then tie it into Tampa or something that’s happening today. After that, we’re kicking back-and-forth the answers that people are texting and tweeting. Those you can do anytime of the day and anytime of the year, but I feel that addition really pushes our show from the third hour to the fourth.”
It’s tough to gauge what the majority of listeners want, given that these are unprecedented times. Do you they want to be informed about the current happenings of Coronavirus? Do they want a sports show to be an escape from the reality around them? Maybe they want both. Regardless, you better be mindful of how you address this ongoing situation.
“Like anything, it has to be a happy medium,” said Recher. “I think you just have to be real. You don’t want to just sit there and read off statistics that are printed out on a piece of paper or something that you saw on TV. If people want that information they know where to get it. They are coming to us for an escape, but if there’s breaking news stories or if it impact sports in some way, yes, we’ll delve into it.
“We’re not going to hit you over the head with numbers and the logistics of everything. When you do, you go down that rabbit hole and 16 minutes later the listener says, ‘wait, that’s not why am here.’ I don’t want to try over-educate someone, you know what I mean? That’s not why they’re coming to us.”
It’s been said multiple times over the past three weeks that a host should revel in this opportunity, because it allows you to showcase your creativity. Elling has welcomed it with open arms, because he’s always believed that off-topic conversations are super critical to a show’s success.
“What we’re going through is beneficial to someone like me, that doesn’t oversaturate themselves with sports, because now, you really get to show just how capable you are with the radio part of the sports radio equation.”
That’s such a good line.
You can tell who the best in this business are when the normal gameplan is thrown out the window and you’re tasked with being entertaining despite the world not being normal. Yeah, knowing sports is important, but understanding the ‘true radio’ side of things is even more critical. This is where that shows.
I love to see the ideas of how different stations are helping out local restaurants. Creatively, there’s more you can do besides having a burger joint owner come on for eight minutes and tell everyone about their curbside service. Recher has toyed with his own version of how to help out and it’s already gained a ton of traction in the local Tampa area.
“We started on Friday at 5:45 what’s called our local look out,” Recher said. “What we do, is we have local businesses that are still in business for either delivery or take out, they call, text and tweet us with the hashtag #LocalLookOutDAE and they tell us what’s open. We talk about it on the airwaves and we podcast it. We just keep the word out those business are open.”
The decision of how much or how little to alter your show with no sports going on is entirely your own. There’s not necessarily a right or wrong way to go about things, but it is important to make sure you’re as genuine and informative as possible.
In fact, Elling said it best when he closed with, “a part of all of this is the human element that’s involved. If you try to ignore it you’re going to come across as insincere and something that people choose to turn away from.”
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.