We’re going on 6 weeks without live sporting events in the United States, not that I’m counting, but…well, I am counting. We all seem to understand that it’s for the best right now, considering the spread of COVID-19 and the danger of gathering too many people together in one spot. That doesn’t make it any easier for the sports fanatics, broadcasters, players and stadium workers, though.
Yes, I miss the thrill of not knowing how a game will turn out when I turn it on. I miss the competition. I miss the strategy and nuances that each sport brings to the table. I miss it all terribly.
Right now, we’d be enjoying the stretch run in the NBA and a possible first title for Giannis and the Bucks. Some of us would be getting into baseball’s first month to see what teams surprised and disappointed early in the season. Others, like myself, would be into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, even with my team on the outside looking in.
I love the NHL playoffs. One thing in particular that I miss about the NHL post season is the stylings and excitement that Mike “Doc” Emrick brings to a hockey game. You know how there are certain guys you hear and immediately you say “yep, this is a big game”? Doc is one of those gifted play-by-play guys that make you drop what you’re doing to watch. We could all use a “Doc” these days.
Doc Emrick is masterful in the way he calls an NHL game. He provides levity, energy, knowledge and accuracy. By the way he is a doctor, receiving a Ph.D. in Communications (radio/television/film) from Bowling Green State University in 1976.
The enjoyment of the game itself is heard in every syllable he utters. That is what makes him so great. He seems to always be having the time of his life behind the mic which is an important quality to have when doing any sport. Emrick most importantly is a student of his game, with what some call an “encyclopedic” knowledge of NHL history and players.
His use of the English language is enviable. The way words flow out his mouth and onto the airwaves is incredible and eloquent all at the same time.
All of them are amazing. With no dictionary or thesaurus nearby, the man has adjectives galore, or should I say a plethora of descriptive terminology for what is going on in a hockey game. It’s actually quite amazing how Emrick never seems to describe the same play the same way. Not ever!
I had a chance to interview Doc a few years ago, before the Winter Classic in South Bend to find out the origins of the illustrious words and verbiage he uses in a game.
“Well, it wasn’t really a creation. I don’t conspire to use those words, it’s just how I talk.”, said Emrick. “Years ago, when I was hoping to get into this line of work, I would talk to people like yourself who were sportscasters already and ask them for tips. One of the men I asked was the announcer in Dayton who had broadcast the Dayton Gems of the International League for a number of years.
“I asked him if he had any suggestions and he said ‘there are a lot of things in hockey that are repetitive during the course of a game. If you can, come up with different ways of saying the same thing, otherwise if every time the puck is dumped in from center ice you automatically say the word dumped, you’re going to drive people nuts.’”
Those simple words of wisdom led to the words he uses in a game. Emrick doesn’t plot anything out. “I don’t write them out, don’t put them on a 3×5 card, but I tried to widen my vocabulary for these repetitive things that happen.”, he explains. “So over a period of 46 years of doing this, you are going to wind up using different things. I don’t come in with one word I’m going to use that day regardless it just doesn’t happen that way. I see something and it goes through my brain and comes out as a word. That’s just how it is.”, Emerick stated. I say thank goodness for that man in Dayton.
Doc Emrick is a highly decorated hockey announcer. He’s called 18 Stanley Cup Finals for ESPN, Fox and since 2006, NBC Sports. He’s won six Sports Emmy Awards and is the only hockey play-by-play man to ever win one. Emrick is a member of the US Hockey Hall of Fame. In 2011 he became the first broadcaster ever to be inducted. As if that weren’t enough, Emrick was A 2008 recipient of the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for outstanding contributions to hockey broadcasting.
I would give anything right now to hear/see Emrick and analyst Eddie Olczyk doing an NHL Playoff game.
“Oh what a save by Holtby!” I can picture it in my head. “Threw one in front to Toews, he SCOOORRRREESSSS!”
Ah, like a melody in my brain! Like a well-orchestrated symphony!
It feels like Emrick is itching to get back into a booth sooner rather than later. During the pandemic, like most play-by-play announcers, you want to do what you do. With no sports, he can’t. It’s gotten to the point of Ermick even doing play-by-play of a visit he made to an auto repair shop to get a new windshield wiper. At one point in his description in Emrick style, he proclaims as the man is replacing the wiper, “This is like having Gordon Ramsay come to your house and having him make microwave popcorn,” Emrick said of the technician he said had 34 years of experience replacing windshield wipers.
I feel your pain, Doc. I wish the view was a little clearer too, on when we can get back to doing what we love.
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.