Francis Scott Key, a lawyer who dabbled in epic poetry, wasn’t inspired to write what became “The Star-Spangled Banner’’ so Mark Cuban and Ted Cruz could politicize it in a Twitter war. He authored it knowing the U.S. had withstood a British naval attack on Fort McHenry, where, by “the dawn’s early light,’’ a flag of 15 stars and 15 stripes flew triumphantly “through the perilous fight’’ at Baltimore Harbor.
His words were intended to reflect pride, unity, fortitude, hope.
But 206 years later, our national anthem has become the symbol of an ugly confrontation we don’t need in a divided and churning America. The media-moth Cuban, who might be mounting a late run for office beyond his ownership of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and “Shark Tank’’ advice duties, happens to believe — as I do — that athletes should kneel during the pre-game playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner’’ if they so choose. Cruz, the Texas Republican who kneels at the feet of President Trump, doesn’t agree.
Nor does Mark Davis, a Dallas-based talk host who started this battle by tweeting, “I am so ready to be in on this year’s #Mavericks home stretch: so much promise, so much personality. But the minute one player kneels during the anthem, I am OUT. Surely, @mcuban can lead the way for #Mavs, #NBA to do whatever gesture they wish without insulting the nation.’’
Cuban should have left it alone, rejecting Davis as another conservative radio guy with a gasoline can. But it is not humanly possible for Cuban to shift into low gear on any subject. “The National Anthem Police in this country are out of control,’’ he replied to Davis. “If you want to complain, complain to your boss and ask why they don’t play the National Anthem every day before you start work.’’
With that, we were subjected to another nauseating flap that compelled me to ponder the unfathomable: It it time to to stop playing the national anthem at sports events until America shows it deserves it? When an 1814 song isn’t even sacred amid the toxic fumes of rhetoric, what is?
“Really??!?’’ Cruz fired at Cuban, deftly mixing an exclamation point with question marks. “NBA is telling everyone who stands for the flag, who honors our cops and our veterans, to `piss off’? In Texas, no less? Good luck with that.’’
Cuban: “Have some balls for once @tedcruz. Speak to me. It’s my tweet.’’
Cruz: “Yes, Mark, my communication (in) tweeting out my response to the world was meant somehow to keep it a secret. Because you’re very scary. I’m a Rockets fan, but more than happy to cheer on the Mavericks (great team this year). It’s sad to see you telling so many Texans to `piss off.’ ‘’
More Cruz: “Speaking of balls, tell us what you think about China. I’ll wait.’’
More Cruz: “Still no answer from @mcuban. Let’s try simpler. Mark, tough guy, can you say `Free Hong Kong’? Can your players put that on their jerseys? Can you condemn the CCP’s concentration camps w/ 1 million Uyghurs? Can you say ANYTHING other than `Chairman Mao is beautiful & wise?’ ‘’
Cuban, finally: “I can say Black Lives Matter. I can say there is systemic racism in this country. I can say there is a Pandemic that you have done little to end. I can say I care about this country first and last.’’
More Cuban: “Why is it, @tedcruz, that you take such pride in standing up to and speaking truth to the Chinese, but you have no ability to stand up to and speak the truth to @realdonaldtrump ?’’
Cruz: “I agree Black Lives Matter. I agree there is a pandemic & we have taken extraordinary steps to defeat it. Where did that pandemic originate? Why did Communist China COVER UP the Wuhan outbreak & arrest whistle-blowers? And why are you terrified to say ONE WORD about China?’’
OK, enough. I’m sending both children to their rooms and grounding them through Election Night.
I am pleased to report that Cuban’s platform — taking a knee during the anthem — was on full and proud display Monday night in the Bay Area, where Colin Kaepernick launched a national movement four years ago. Responsibly wearing a mask in a pandemic, Gabe Kapler, the first-year manager of the San Francisco Giants, joined two of his coaches and several players in kneeling or standing before an exhibition game in Oakland. News reports described African Americans mixing with Caucasians, but simply, they were human beings on a collective mission.
This is why the national anthem was written. This is why the national anthem is played before sports events. And this is why America is divided, starting in the White House, where Trump took in the Giants’ gesture and, of course, turned to Twitter himself. “Looking forward to live sports, but any time I witness a player kneeling during the National Anthem, a sign of great disrespect for our Country and our Flag, the game is over for me!,” the president posted.
Speaking to his team before the game and in recent days, Kapler said each player could decide whether to join him without fear of repercussion. “I wanted them to know that I wasn’t pleased with the way our country has handled police brutality, and I told them I wanted to amplify their voices and I wanted to amplify the voice of the Black community and marginalized communities as well,’’ he said. “So I told them that I wanted to use my platform to demonstrate my dissatisfaction with clear systemic racism in our country, and I wanted them to know that they got to make their own decisions, and we would respect and support those decisions. I wanted them to feel safe in speaking up.’’
The scene was unusual in Major League Baseball, an industry with an alarming lack of African American presence on all levels. A Los Angeles Angels pitcher, Keynan Middleton, knelt and raised his right fist before a game in San Diego, and a night later, Joey Votto joined several Cincinnati Reds teammates in kneeling. “I’m very proud that (Middleton) stood up for his beliefs. I really am,’’ Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s not easy to do that, a young man like himself, being the only one out here doing that. He’s a wonderful young man, and he’s among a lot of wonderful young people in our country that are gonna demonstrate in that way.’’
In a social media post, Middleton explained why he knelt alone. “Racism is something I’ve dealt with my whole life,’’ he said. “As a Black man in this country, it is my obligation to want to better the future for generations to come. Over the past few months, I’ve been out in the community taking part in peaceful protests and having the difficult conversations that are needed for change. Before, pioneers like Jackie Robinson, a Black man, didn’t have a voice in the game of baseball. The foundation laid down and sacrifices made by Jackie and others is the reason why I have the platform I do. I will not allow that to go to waste.’’
Expect the statements to be commonplace before games inside the NBA Bubble and whenever the NFL resumes play. Hopefully, the scenes will restore honor and glory to the anthem — and the flag. “We’re going to have 60 chances in the regular season to make the same decision that we made today, to either stand or kneel or do something different,’’ Kapler said.
Before 2016, “The Star-Spangled Banner’’ sometimes seemed like a formality in sports. I stood at hundreds of games, habitually looked around at faces — athletes, coaches, spectators — and saw fans who couldn’t wait for the music to end and action to begin. Some players cared enough about their country and faith to close their eyes, but others grew fidgety, swaying back and forth. I saw broadcast networks, such as Fox Sports, exploit the anthem as a blatant attempt to pump patriotism.
Then came Kaepernick. Now, we have a night in baseball no one saw coming. Rather than make a folly of Francis Scott Key, the social-media warriors should stop pounding their devices and applaud Keynan Middleton for his courage. That includes you, Ted Cruz. And you, Donald Trump.
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.