Does a week pass without another media company deciding to play God, flouting hypocrisy in making major decisions about broadcast careers? The latest victim in the double-standard game is Jeremy Roenick, fired by NBC Sports in February for podcast comments describing his fantasy: a sexual threesome with his wife and his co-panelist on the network’s hockey studio show, host Kathryn Tappen.
Talking to Barstool Sports — never a good idea — about his vacation to Portugal with his wife and Tappen, who is a close family friend, Roenick went gonzo. “I’m swimming with my wife and Kathryn, and they’ve got their bikinis on, and they look f—in’ smokin’. Ass and boobs everywhere. It’s great,’’ he said on the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast last December. He then spoke about a prank he played with a guest at the resort who inquired if the three were having sex.
“I play it off like we’re going to bed together every night, the three of us,” Roenick said. “If it really came to fruition, that would really be good, but it’s never going to happen.”
Should Roenick have made the comments publicly? No. Should he have been dismissed? I could make a case for a firing, I suppose, if not for one substantial problem — NBC did not fire or, as far as I know, even reprimand its star figure-skating commentators, Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski, for a recent video spoof loaded with similar sexual innuendos. In another ill-advised idea, Weir and Lipinski — like Roenick, known for irreverence — taped a funny bit for NBC’s streaming service with accompanying footage of Olympic skater Bradie Tennell. In the promo, they referred to a camel toe and an affair, camel toe being a crude description of a female body part.
The skit quickly was scrubbed from all platforms, including Lipinski’s Instagram feed. But oddly, it was defended by NBC Sports spokesman Dan Masonson, who said the promo was intended as a comedic sketch while telling the New York Post, “In retrospect, this sketch could have been completed with generic footage.’’ So, Weir and Lipinski were permitted to be risque … and Roenick wasn’t? NBC hired all three analysts to be off the wall, of course, knowing Roenick has made a career of outlaw behavior, such as the night during the 1998 Winter Olympics when I ventured into a karaoke bar in sleepy Nagano and saw him singing “Crazy Little Thing Called Love’’ as giddy Japanese locals cheered him on.
But because Roenick commented about a female network colleague, whereas Weir and Lipinski referred to a competitive skater, NBC evidently sees one offense as fireable and the other as forgivable. Also, the network just loves Tara and Johnny, as everyone knows. And, as Roenick is claiming, he is a straight man while it’s possible Weir was protected by the network as a gay man.
Is the entirety of NBC’s rationale really going to hold up in court? It will be a fascinating case to follow after Roenick, in a lawsuit filed in New York Supreme Court, accused the network of wrongful termination, claiming discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation — and even linking the network’s agenda to Roenick’s support of President Trump. In today’s media culture, one would be foolish to downplay politics and/or sexual orientation as a corporate boardroom’s motivation for a firing.
“Mr. Roenick is the victim of double standards wrongfully asserted against him,” Roenick’s attorney, Scott William Clark, told the Post. “A person’s career should not be thrown away by a company as Mr. Roenick’s career was with NBC. We are confident that the evidence that will be brought to light from this lawsuit will reveal the rampant disregard of Mr. Roenick’s rights.”
One piece of evidence, says the Roenick camp, is an alleged comment made by NBC Sports executive Sam Flood. In the suit, Roenick says he asked Flood during the 2018 Winter Olympics about “colorful commentary regarding the body parts of ice skaters from Weir.’’ Responded Flood, according to court documents: “(Weir) is gay and can say whatever.’’
Roenick also says Flood discouraged him from speaking four years ago at the Republican National Convention. “You know who you work for,’’ said Flood, according to the lawsuit. “You work for NBC. That would not look good on your NBC record.’’ Roenick also claims Flood made flip comments about Trump, such as, “Your boy is messing up this country.’’
Yes, it’s very dirty, with recklessness from all involved. But this is what happens when media networks sloppily allow amnesia to enter personnel decision-making and don’t consider the intellectual shallowness of a double standard. As I write this piece, I see in my daily media browsing a glaring conflict of interest involving The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, who wrote a glowing piece about Alex Rodriguez’s “audacious bid to buy the Mets’’ — um, isn’t Rosenthal a baseball colleague of Rodriguez at Fox Sports? Why would The Athletic publish such a self-serving piece for A-Rod? Or is that organization in bed with Fox, an ethical minefield that raises eyebrows about Rosenthal, Fox and The Athletic?
My conclusion on the Roenick case: NBC better be prepared to pay Mr. Fantasy millions AND oust Flood. We all should strive for equality in today’s evolving world, and the double standards in this case are egregious. Either fire Roenick and the figure skating commentators, or fire none of them.
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.