Racial unrest. Pandemic. Basketball.
Racial unrest. Pandemic. Baseball.
Racial unrest. Pandemic. Why, again?
The dangerous haste to resume sports, as bullish as a National Guard truck rumbling down a boarded-up city street, makes even less sense as America struggles just to get up each day and survive. With life becoming a pick-your-poison proposition — COVID-19, a rubber bullet or a homeless tent — it’s absurd to think too many people would be excited about an NBA game without spectators in a Disney World biodome, or a Major League Baseball game where the enemy isn’t the opposing team but the owners who want players to assume the health risks AND less pay. None of this sounds particularly appetizing in the clutches of hatred, disease and despair, and in that vein, sports is delusional about its importance.
The billionaires and millionaires are still in the first world, out of touch when most Americans worry they’ll never recover from the triple whammy of 2020. If sports was starting to symbolize hope as the country began to reopen last month, the George Floyd horror shifted emotions to abject anger. The protests, the lootings, the shootings, the curfews, the new coronavirus outbreaks, the ongoing Trump freak show, the 40 million jobless who can’t return to work if riots and transmissions are possible … all of it has overwhelmed us, to the point even the most gripping sports event wouldn’t begin to penetrate our numbness.
When no one trusts leadership, or each other, we’re really going to rally around live games as soon as next month? When the nation’s first priority is to protect human lives when they’ve never been more vulnerable to death — thanks to infectious diseases and racist murderers — we’re really going to jeopardize the wellness of athletes and their families in a hot, turbulent summer when racism and an infectious disease converge?
Besides, hasn’t the new American sporting event become the divide over Drew Brees, who angered black teammates and fellow sports stars such as LeBron James by not supporting the protest movement of Colin Kaepernick? Amid a heated climate conducive to an eventual upsurge of the demonstrative kneeling seen in recent NFL seasons, Brees said he will “never agree with anybody disrepecting the flag of the United States of America,’’ adding that while he respects the fight for racial equality and justice, “I also stand with my grandfathers who risked their lives for this country and countless other military men and women who do it on a daily basis.’’
This is the flashpoint the NFL doesn’t want and sports doesn’t need: A prominent white athlete daring to wrap himself in the flag and lighting a racial firestorm. With one blunt sound bite, Brees divided his team, his league, the sports world and America itself. His favorite receiver, Michael Thomas, criticized him. Another teammate, activist Malcolm Jenkins, grew emotional in saying he was “hurt’’ by Brees’ “extremely self-centered comments,’’ concluding, “it’s unfortunate because I considered you a friend. I looked up to you. You’re somebody who I had a great deal of respect for. But sometimes you should shut the f— up.” James tweeted that kneeling during the national anthem has “nothing to do with the disrespect of (the U.S. flag) and our soldiers.’’ Seems no amount of shared beignets will soothe tensions in the New Orleans Saints’ locker room.
That quickly, sports had another reason to think twice about resuming. Might coming back have worse ramifications than staying away?
I would ask again — is it too late to reconsider, gents? — except it IS too late. Wealth officially has KO’d health as the driving agenda. Never mind that the most likely outcomes for any season are bleak: A rash of positive tests that explodes into medical havoc, or a second virus wave that shuts down the league. Never mind how such upheaval could leave lasting credibility scars on those leagues and commissioners. Never mind that these seasons already are asterisked and might take bizarre and diluted turns if, say, a number of superstars duck out or several players on a team are quarantined at once. The NBA is pushing forward anyway with a 22-team return including eight regular-season games and a postseason, while Major League Baseball either settles on an 82-game compromise that satisfies neither party or the sport commits suicide and puts the warring idiots out of their misery.
And through all the giddy news leaks about NBA play-in games and three MLB geographic divisions — wheeeeee! — we’re still waiting for the leagues to answer the only real question: How in the hell do you intend to keep everyone alive as you try to recoup your lost billions?
For all its acclaim as a progressive operation, the NBA has yet to announce testing protocols and quarantine procedures for its 220-acre Wide World of Sports “campus.’’ This as Florida and its freewheeling governor announced 1,317 new COVID-19 cases, the state’s highest daily total in six weeks. The NBA, remember, arrogantly kept playing games in March against the pointed advice of Dr. Anthony Fauci and local health officials, which contributed to at least 10 infections among players and probably more. Basketball, remember, is an indoor sport with contact on every play, heavy breathing, relentless spittle and no chance for social distancing. Yet, like MLB, the NBA has no plans to quarantine an entire team after one positive test. The infectious player will be treated, but his teammates will be tested and play on. And did league partner ESPN, which wins back $500 million in ad revenue if the season is completed, actually report that athletes and coaches will be allowed to leave the bubble to golf and eat outdoors at restaurants? And that families, including kids, will be allowed at some point into the bubble?
Do the math. Even if only 35 players, coaches and personnel deemed essential are allowed in what has been described as the “inner bubble,’’ that’s still 770 people. Then add family members, support staff, referees, doctors, ambulance drivers, cooks. I don’t care if DIsney World can offer as many as 18 hotels, including luxury properties such as the Four Seasons and Grand Floridian. You’re asking for an outbreak, Adam Silver, just as another journalistic victory for HBO’s “Real Sports’’ series cast suspicions over the league. On the most recent episode, Michele Roberts, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, expressed only cautious optimism about the season resuming. Why?
“I’ve gotten some recent concerns expressed by players that babies, children, have been infected,’’ Roberts said. “So heightened concerns have entered the conversation.’’
Yeah, I’m real comfortable about the NBA protocol.
Nor am I confident about the level of play and potential for injuries, neither promising after what what would be a 4 1/2-month layoff for the NBA and about a four-month layoff for MLB. And don’t get me started on the absence of spectators, which will make the NBA look like the Vegas Summer League and MLB look like the catatonic Korean games. At least football has the advantage of time, yet major college programs are fully intending to let naive players — not protected by a union and not paid a salary — to start preparing for a season in the coming days.
Money is the core reason for the push to resume. But don’t forget the egos of alpha males — owners and coaches and players — who believe they can rise above society’s ills and heroically finish seasons that never have been more inconsequential. The commissioners, Silver and Rob Manfred, are thinking about legacies. The athletes want to be symbols of indomitable strength in a weakening American system.
The first priority in a gut-bombed America is to protect lives. The second priority is to treat one another with respect. Sports is failing miserably in both pursuits.
Let the games never begin.
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.