Just thinking about doing a five-hour show everyday is exhausting.
It requires exceptional prepping skills, the ability to dissect the main topic of the day in multiple ways and a stamina to be entertaining from start to finish. It’s not easy, but that’s the new task given to Josh Parcell and Nick Wilson at Sports Radio WFNZ in Charlotte, from 2-7 p.m. every weekday.
Don’t expect the duo of Wilson and Parcell to blink at the new assignment. In fact, this isn’t even necessarily uncharted waters for two.
“To be honest with you, if they asked me to do 10 hours of radio, I think I could do it,” said Parcell. “I’ve been doing five hours for a while, because before we went into the five hour show, we did four hours in the midday and then I was doing a solo hour every night from 6:00 to 7:00. It’s definitely a little bit of of a different cadence in rhythm, when you go straight from hour four right into the final hour, but I do think I have a lot to say and I do my best to try to stay as energized as possible, because the people listening at 6:30, they don’t care that you were on the radio four and a half hours ago. They are just getting into the car and you have to give them the best product possible. But it can definitely drain you some days.”
Prep work for a five-hour show seems pretty daunting, You could probably argue it’s much tougher than the show, itself. In this situation, trust and understanding between each host is invaluable. A great understanding of your strengths, as well as the strengths of your co-host, is key when trying to prepare for an afternoon show that spans multiple hours.
For Wilson and Parcell, both get in the station around noon and already have a strong feeling of where they want to take the show for the day. Guests are booked, the topics are mapped out over the course of the next 30-45 minutes and the anticipation builds until 2:00.
“I think our goal, when we’re prepping, is how we can take either the most important local story and have our own unique perspective or angle on the topic, or how can we take national stories and make them relevant to a local audience,” ParcelI said. “think both of us are on the same page, in terms of what we’re looking for. But I’m always prepping, really. I’m always thinking about different angles and topics that can involve our listeners. But by the time we meet at noon, we meet for about half an hour, put together our topics and then, from there, I’m kind of locked in for the last hour and a half before the show. I kind of go in my own world and I feel like I’m almost cramming for a final exam every single day like I’m back in college. I just wanna make sure I’ve poured through every last detail that I can to make sure I’m fully prepared.”
Like any show, you always need something light to break things up. This is especially true with a five hour show. You can talk extensively about Cam Newton’s legacy with the Panthers, but at some point, you need to take a lighter approach to a topic. One of the reasons why Wilson and Parcell has been so successful is because it has a secret weapon that no other sports radio show has.
That secret weapon is a Hacksaw.
Hacksaw, who’s real name is Stephen Helbig, is the third voice on the show and has become a lovable character with the audience. His personality, mixed with both Wilson and Parcell’s ability to rile him up, has been an unbelievable addition to the show since it began two years ago. In that time, Hacksaw has developed into an integral part of the show and one that it’ll need on a more regular basis, now that Wilson and Parcell has been extended to five hours.
When Hacksaw pops in, the mood of the show immediately changes. That’s his superpower. Wilson and Parcell could be in the heaviest of debate, but you just can’t help but smile when Hacksaw starts talking.
“Nick came up with the name Hacksaw right out of the gate,” Parcell said. “But the persona that has become Hacksaw really didn’t evolve until six months to a year into the show. You just saw his confidence start to grow. I told him a long time ago that his destiny in this business, if he wants it to be, can be as that outrageous character that everybody loves.”
In terms of handling topics at the top of the hour, it gets boring and repetitive at times to hit the same story multiple times. But as boring or repetitive as it sounds to the host, a new audience is coming and going at all times of the day.
“I’ve had someone tell me in the past it doesn’t matter how long your show is,” Parcell said. “For example, our show is five hours and we’re almost doing five, one hour shows. I think one of the biggest mistakes people make it’s feeling like, hey, I have 14 different stories today and I really want to talk about all of them, so, let’s make sure we hit on everything. In reality, the audience wants to hear about the three or four most relevant topics that day. Because the audience is constantly changing, we try to lead with the biggest story of the day and hopefully it’s relevant to the local audience.
“Occasionally, there’s just absolutely nothing happening in Charlotte and we’ll go a little bit more bigger picture. We try to recycle those topics between the ones we lead with at 2:00, we try to recycle those around 3:40 and 4:00 and then again at 6:00. We kind of break it into 90 minutes chunks. Then we sprinkle in our secondary topics around that, but I think one of the skills that Nick and I are both learning, and something I feel really strongly about, is you’ve got to be able to hit your A-list topic multiple times throughout the show. Even if it gets repetitive to you, you always have to remember the audience is changing every 15 minutes. It’s not about you, it’s about the listener.”
Ever since I first heard Nick Wilson hosting at night in Cleveland, I’ve been a fan. His radio voice and ability to drive are both supreme, but his ability to laugh at himself and see the lighter side of topics is something I think makes him extremely relatable. There’s no doubt Wilson’s personality is different from Parcell’s, and you can even make an argument they bring different skills to the table, but that, in itself, is what makes the two work.
“We are very different in a lot of ways,” Parcell said. “Just in terms of our interests, our sensibilities, our sense of humor, we just come from very different backgrounds. Nick is a little bit more, I’m not trying to put words in his mouth, but he’s more of the common man, laid-back, relaxed guy. I’d say I’m probably the more opinionated voice on the show and Nick is a little more of the personality and comedic relief that the show needs. It balances each other out. I think one of the things we’ve learned in two years, that I think makes us better, is understanding what the other’s strength is and helping the other bring them out. Letting the other person shine has been really, really important to us. It’s led to some of the success that we’ve had of late.”
Wilson and Parcell have the real opportunity to be a staple of Charlotte sports radio for years to come. WFNZ obviously feels the same way, seeing as they gave the show such a lucrative time slot, but the fundamental understanding the two have of how a radio show should sound and operate, tells me all the ingredients are there to be a mainstay at the top of the local ratings.
“People are going to hear what I’m about to say and they’ll take it the wrong way, but I think there’s a lot of days where I walk out of there and I don’t know if the show is very good,” Parcell said. “But that’s my mentality. I’m always looking to make it better. Maybe that’s a flaw of mine, but I constantly compare myself to the best in the business and I’m always striving for that. I never want us to have the mindset, even though we’ve gotten this great promotion, I never want us to feel like we’re satisfied with the job that we’re doing.”
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.