We hear about the value of versatility each year during the NFL draft. Former Clemson defensive stud Isaiah Simmons has the athleticism to play safety, linebacker, and slot corner. Versatility isn’t confined to skill set alone. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is versatile with his game plans. One week he might run the ball down your throat. The following week’s approach might be completely different. It’s all about adapting and finding a formula that leads to winning.
The same concept applies to sports radio. Rodney Peete is a former quarterback that is now a sports radio host at AM 570 in Los Angeles. During his standout years at USC and 16 years in the NFL, Peete was most comfortable being overprepared for games. He has found that a different approach works better for him in sports radio. Peete still prepares hard, but ad-libbing and being less scripted is his preferred approach.
Versatility, my friends.
It’s interesting to see how successful people find ways of remaining successful. Peete has had success on the football field, in marriage, as a father of four kids, and even with a reality show Meet The Peetes on the Hallmark Channel for crying out loud. He is now successful in sports radio from noon-3pm each weekday.
Peete details how co-host Fred Roggin and SVP of Sports Don Martin have helped contribute to his on-air success. Make no mistake, Peete isn’t perfect as we find out about his pandemic-induced Oreo sweet tooth, but perfection isn’t necessary when you possess charisma and versatility. Enjoy.
Brian Noe: I have to start off with an apology, Rodney, because I am literally from South Bend, Indiana. I feel like I just need to apologize for that up front.
Rodney Peete: [Laughs] Oh yeah, yeah, you should apologize.
BN: [Laughs] Going back to your playing days — biggest rival seems too simplistic — who was the team that you wanted to beat the most?
RP: Oh, it was Notre Dame. We didn’t during my time there. We lost to them. It was during that 10-year run that Notre Dame had on us. I was a part of that. UCLA was a big rivalry because you had to live and hear about it if you lost all year long. You interacted with those guys and you interacted with people from UCLA. It was big, but I think just from more of a national standpoint and just more of a nasty type of rivalry was with Notre Dame. UCLA felt more like a competitive, brotherly rivalry, whereas Notre Dame was an enemy rivalry.
BN: Based on the pandemic whether it’s professionally or personally what has been the toughest part of it for you?
RP: The toughest part about it for me to be honest with you is staying out of the kitchen. [Laughs] That’s been the toughest part. Every break, every time you look up I’m running to the kitchen thinking about things to put in my mouth to eat or drink when normally I’m out, I’m busy, I’m active. I’m not thinking about it when I’m on a regular schedule. Now it’s just like you’re walking around the house and you can only watch so much TV or read so many articles. It’s 25, 30 times a day walking in the kitchen and grabbing something. That has been the toughest thing to stay away from that.
BN: That’s funny, man. What’s the unhealthiest thing you’ve grabbed the most?
RP: Oh man, the Oreo cookies are killing me. They really are. I wasn’t really a big Oreo cookie guy before but for whatever reason I just gravitated toward those. My youngest son loves Oreo cookies so I started kind of chilling with him and eating some. Then it just got to be a thing.
I’m the guy in the household making all of the runs. All of my four kids are here, my wife’s here, and we’ve got two dogs. I make all the runs to the grocery store or to the drug store to get dog food or whatever. I’m the guy going out so I’ll always get stuff for the kids but I sneak my Oreos for me.
BN: What have you enjoyed the most about doing sports radio?
RP: I didn’t know I would enjoy it. I really didn’t. I had a couple of stints doing some TV gigs. I did some work for FOX and then landed a gig on Best Damn Sports Show. I was with them for four years. I did some other local stuff for FOX, so I was more in tuned to the TV thing.
I always thought of radio as a long gig because you’ve got to continuously find things to talk about. My first few months into it, it was a struggle just to keep the conversation going. Thank God I had Fred Roggin to work with me because he’s such a pro. He started in radio. Radio is where he has the most fun even though he’s been on TV for 30 years. He enjoys radio more.
What I found is that the more I did it, you’re able to have more of a voice. You’re able to have your opinions and really dive into a topic more so than you are on TV. TV has so many sound bites. You’ve got to get in and out in 30 seconds and things like that whereas radio if you have a point that you want to make, you can elaborate on it. People get to know you more on radio. Even though they may not see your face they get to know who you are more on radio. That part I started to really enjoy. I enjoy that I’m connecting with the audience and being able to hear what they have to say.
BN: What part of your athletic background — the preparation aspect, the way you competed — do you apply the most to sports radio?
RP: It’s funny because when I was playing I did love to prepare. I wanted to make sure I could tell how the game was going to go because I felt really comfortable about my preparation. If I was a little off or I didn’t watch certain aspects of the film and the defense enough, then I was always a little uncomfortable. The thing for me going into a game was to be overprepared.
It’s weird because now I’m prepared, but what I bring to the table in our show is more like a two-minute drill. It’s on the fly, ad-libbing during a situation. Fred keeps us on schedule, but there are things that — and we’ve found a really good groove to this — that Fred will throw out there that I’m able to react to and bring it into a realm and identify it from my sports background and relate it to what we’re talking about. That has worked well for us.
I have the outline, but I don’t like to overthink something because during the conversation on radio your thought process might change in a second. Just by the way Fred answers a question or poses a question, my answer might change in that moment. If I have this ready-made answer for some of these topics that we want to do, then I don’t feel like I have the freedom to ad-lib it. I treat it like a two-minute drill when we’re doing the show.
BN: Were listeners ever standoffish because, ‘Hey man, you went to SC. You’re the rival.’ Did you have to win some people over who rooted against you back in the day?
RP: Oh yeah! I think the good part, whether it’s me, my family, whomever, I do call it like I see it. I think the people from UCLA or even Notre Dame respect that. If UCLA is doing well and they’re playing well and they’ve got good players, I give them credit. Also, we’re not the USC station; we’re the UCLA station. I’ve gotten called a homer, accused of having a USC bias, and all that kind of thing, but I go in on USC too.
I think that gives me a level of respect when I criticize USC and not just sugarcoat it when they’re struggling. I’ve been hard on Clay Helton during the last couple of years and what they’ve been doing and where USC stands right now in the football realm. I’ve been very difficult on them. I think the UCLA fans have kind of come over and understand that I’m not that biased even though I did go to USC; I call it as I see them.
BN: How did you get into sports radio at 570?
RP: That’s a good question. I had been doing a little bit of TV work off an on. Me and my wife did a reality show, so I’ve been on TV. Then the Dodgers got heavily involved and had a big part of AM 570. The noon slot for the station hadn’t been doing well. They had run like 15 different hosts in and out of that timeslot from noon to 3. They were really building it up as they were building up the partnership with the Dodgers. My name got thrown out there by a friend of mine who said think about Rodney Peete. He turned to Don Martin.
Don and I developed a relationship. He called me in and said would you be interested in doing it. At first I was a little lukewarm. Then he told me Fred was going to come on board and do it as well. I went in and did a few trials. I actually was a little bit nervous, but again Fred made me feel comfortable. The more I did it, it was pretty cool to be able to sit there for three hours. Then I realized that the three hours went fast. But yeah, Don Martin and I had a mutual friend that suggested me. He brought me in. I went and did a little testing and audition process and it worked out. Here we are four years later.
BN: Don is well known in the business, as you’re aware of. How would you describe him?
RP: Don is a guy that knows — I mean you talk about someone who knows the business from every aspect — he knows the business. He’s someone that you can rely on.
I’m sure we’ve all been in places where the guy that you work for, you know more than the guy you work for. It’s not always a good situation. Don has been in every aspect of the business. He’s been on the mic. He’s worked as a disc jockey. He’s worked in sports. He’s done the sales part. Now he’s an executive, so he can speak to all different levels.
The thing about Don that we love is that he doesn’t micromanage. He lets us be us. He doesn’t try to interfere with the show. If there’s an issue or we start to cross the line he’ll chime in, but for the most part he lets us do our show. We poke fun at him all the time and he doesn’t take it seriously and allows us to do that. He gives us the freedom to show our personalities and express ourselves. That’s the best part about it.
BN: What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from Don so far?
RP: The biggest thing I think, and I had to learn this early on is, I don’t like to toot my own horn or pound my chest and talk about it. He had to really force me to let that out because that’s what listeners really want to hear. They want to hear from inside the locker room. They want to hear those stories that the average fan can’t normally get.
I always felt a little uncomfortable talking about personal relationships, my time playing and all that kind of stuff, but I had to step out of myself and think about it as a regular fan. Don really helped me do that by saying that’s what is unique about you and Fred, in LA sports talk radio no one else has the perspective of a quarterback in the NFL that played at SC like I do. You’ve got to use that as much as you can because that is what the listeners really want to hear.
Keyshawn’s on in the morning so he’s similar but he’s a receiver. I’m the quarterback so that is a different thing. But he said don’t be afraid to go back and take people into the locker room. Take them behind the scenes. That’s what they want to hear. That was a big thing for me. I had to get out of my comfort zone and be able to really share those types of stories.
BN: What’s it like to have a famous wife, a reality show, and to be in the public eye?
RP: I would say there are tiers. If I had my choice I’m glad I’m in this tier because if I’m in the LeBron James or Magic Johnson tier, it’s hard to go anywhere. It’s hard to go out to a restaurant and just chill and eat with the family. We can do that. There may be two or five people recognize you and come say hello, but the restaurant doesn’t stop as we walk in like it would for those guys.
We’re able to live a pretty casual, normal life and you get to take advantage of the perks — getting reservations, getting invited to certain things, and exposing your kids to certain things that are pretty cool. I don’t shy away from that. I enjoy it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. I’m glad that I’m not too recognizable that I couldn’t just live my life because that would drive me crazy.
BN: What did you think about the virtual draft and how the NFL was able to pull it off?
RP: I thought it was fantastic. I really did. I thought they did a great job. It made the big 800-pound gorilla NFL seem more human to me. The way they set up the kids and the families and the homes and had multiple shots of that.
I think it made Rodger Goodell more personable. Seeing the coaches and the GM’s and their families at home with their kids and wives and the different setups they had, I thought that it went off great. I think they did a fantastic job and interesting enough I think some of those aspects they might keep going in the future because I think it went off very well.
BN: If the NFL has a shortened offseason due to the pandemic, what will that do to the development of rookie and second-year quarterbacks?
RP: It puts it to an immediate halt. You almost wish you could redshirt. Of all of the positions in sports, quarterback is the toughest position to play. It’s the most preparation that you need. The jump from college to pro is so dramatic at quarterback than it is in any other profession or any other position. The speed of the game is different. What you see — the infamous “I see ghosts” from Sam Darnold last year is true. It’s true. It’s more sophisticated.
Guys that you think are open are not open. The guys that are running wide open in college; you’ve got a small window to hit him in the NFL because everybody can play. I don’t care if you’re on the best team in the league or the worst team in the league they all have players that can play. For a quarterback it’s about accuracy and anticipation. You don’t get that unless you have the repetitions. These guys are not getting it.
You can almost go make a bet that if we do have football on time without minicamps and OTAs and the shortened training camp, guys like Joe Burrow are going to struggle, especially in Cincinnati. The teams that have veteran quarterbacks are the ones that have the advantage right now. If you’re relying on a young quarterback without that time to develop it’s going to be very, very difficult.
I know for me even playing in what was the Pac-10 back then, it was very good competition. Playing against UCLAs and Notre Dames and Oklahomas, many of the guys went to the NFL and were stars. The competition was good, but it’s nothing like making that jump from college to the NFL. It’s going to be difficult on the young quarterbacks especially the young rookies in general.
BN: When you think about your future whether it’s sports broadcasting or beyond, is there anything that you want to experience or accomplish before you retire?
RP: When I retire I’m going to go travel the world. I’m going to walk the earth like Caine in Kung Fu.
BN: [Laughs] You decided to be a bum, Rodney.
RP: [Laughs] Yes, I am. No, I have serious aspirations of being involved with a sports franchise. That is something I would like to do. A couple of years ago Ronnie Lott and I made a run to try to keep the Raiders in Oakland. We had a group that was going to help finance the stadium. We were in it. We were in the fight, but Las Vegas won out. It was an exciting time.
I have a good relationship with the NFL and Goodell and everybody over there in the executive staff. At some point I would love to be a part of a franchise. I don’t want to coach though. I spent enough time playing 16 years being away from family.
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.