It figures Andy Reid didn’t have the barber tested in time. This is a coach who thinks a fourth-and-one conversion is as easy and breezy as his Tommy Bahama garb, a man who’s riding a wave of fearlessness and the sum of his quarterbacking creation to a unique place in NFL history. COVID-19? Isn’t that the name of a Tampa Bay defensive package?
But even Patrick Mahomes can’t escape the rush if coronavirus is blitzing. So why in the name of Anthony Fauci would Reid and Chiefs management allow 20 players and staffers, including Mahomes, to wait in line for haircuts Sunday in Kansas City — as the barber awaited results from his virus test? Rather than delay the trims, center Daniel Kilgore took a seat in the chair. Next thing he knew, the barber was being yanked out of the room after his test turned up positive. Hours later, Kilgore and receiver Demarcus Robinson were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list as close contacts, able to play in the game only if they test negative each day through Saturday.
We’ve seen crazy happenings at Super Bowls — Barret Robbins skipping off to Mexico, Eugene Robinson soliciting a prostitute after receiving an award for “outstanding character,” Stanley Wilson’s drug relapse on the eve of a game, Hollywood Henderson high on cocaine during a game, Max McGee catching passes while hungover, Thurman Thomas losing his helmet, a blackout in the Superdome. So why would we be surprised by a COVID-19 violation during a pandemic, even if the parties are shut down, celebrities are staying home and Tampa’s notorious strip clubs are quiet despite mask-wearing lap dancers?
Should we be alarmed about an impending, team-wide outbreak? Is it not suspicious that only two players were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list — one a backup center, another a secondary pass-catcher — when several others were in line? I am not an epidemiologist, but it’s pretty damned stupid to take such a risk — particularly with Mahomes — when you’re trying to become the first NFL champion to repeat in 16 years. Couldn’t Reid have sent Mahomes to the barber in the State Farm ads, in isolation, at the Patrick Price?
Aiming to calm any mass alarm, the league insisted the Chiefs cleaned up their mess. “The club took very prompt and direct action,” said Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer. “Our contact-tracing team was on site and able to get a very clear understanding of the exposures. And so, at this point, we feel like we’re in a good position with that and we’ll just continue to monitor.”
As America eyes the 55th title game as an escape, now we have yet another COVID Watch. Not that the Chiefs seem too concerned, with Kilgore posting a new social-media profile photo with a half-shaved head. This after NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told ESPN that he sees “no scenario where we would agree with the league to move the Super Bowl,” even if Mahomes or Tom Brady tested positive in coming days. All of which will be forgotten, especially by the ill-informed millions who still think the virus is a hoax, if the Chiefs go on to win Sunday night with no infections. After all, this is Reid’s time. Would he really allow haircuts to screw this up?
The NFL must love the coaching optics here. This Super Bowl is enriched by two lifers, cartoonish characters in their ‘60s, one who devours cheeseburgers and the other known for whiskey shots and a protective shield too large for his ruddy face. After two decades of tolerating Bill Belichick as a grumpy genius, America now chooses between two likable OGs who could double as goofy granddads. Reid has graduated from his previous narrative — the innovator who won every game but the big ones, the tragic figure who lost a son to an accidental heroin overdose — to become the father-figure mastermind of the Chiefs, who will hear dynasty talk if they win. And Bruce Arians is the survivor whose career seemed dead a decade ago, only to rebound with two NFL Coach of the Year awards — the first when he replaced cancer-plagued Chuck Pagano as an Indianapolis interim — and his now-historic role as the quirky sage who rescued Brady from The Grump and helped him to a championship game in their own stadium.
In a pandemic Super Bowl defined by Brady’s freaky reverse-aging miracle,
the rival coaches also are ignoring their birth certificates. Reid is 62 going on 32, on a belated revolutionary run as Mahomes’ muse and the brains behind possibly the most unstoppable and entertaining offense the sport has seen. He’s fearless, as if not giving a damn if he wins or loses as long as he’s daring fate. Fourth-and-one at midfield, 1:17 left? Of course, Big Red went for it, even with 35-year-old backup quarterback Chad Henne, even if Cleveland probably would have won if it didn’t work. Point is, it always works these days, which is why Reid is the reigning face of coaching.
“If the coaches are flinching, if the players — your leaders — are flinching, it’s not going to happen. And our locker room is not going to flinch,” he said.
Which is one reason his players love him, yet another marked difference between the Reid Way and the Belichick Way. Not only does he turn loose his weapons, the Chiefs culture is fun and loose, right down to the names he has for plays: Ferrari Right, Smoked Sausage and Black Pearl among them. He actually has a Ferrari package, aptly named with Mahomes in the driver’s seat and Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill riding shotgun. “In this league, you’ve got to stay aggressive all the time. I mean, teams are just too good,” Reid said. “There’s so much parity in this league and such a small margin between winning and losing, that you’re not going to be using too many four-corner stalls. That’s just not how you’re going to roll.”
All week, we’ve heard his players speak fondly of him. This isn’t common in a league where players are lauded one minute and unloaded the next — hello, Jared Goff. The Reid Way is built on trust, which might explain why he let them get haircuts together, misguided as it was. “He’s got almost like a father figure kind of role in the building, and it’s because everyone loves him so much,” said Kelce, whose all-time production as a tight end is a spinoff of Reid’s strategic artistry. “He’s got an unbelievable way of getting the best out of everybody that is relating to all different aspects and all different forms of life. … This game is not won with one guy. That’s the beauty about the game is that that it takes everyone. Coach Reid does an unbelievable job of relating to everybody and getting the best out of everybody. And he’s the ultimate leader.”
Similar praise is directed toward Arians, who had a more difficult chore leading the Buccaneers to the first home-team Super Bowl. Unlike the Chiefs, the Bucs have struggled for relevance since their only championship in 2003. The first gamble was hiring Arians, who had overcome his sudden dismissal by the Steelers — the front office somehow was threatened by his relationship with superstar quarterback Ben Roethlisberger — by winning under difficult circumstances with the Colts, then enjoying head-coaching success in Arizona. When he left the Cardinals, his career appeared over. Instead, he stumbled into the greatest jackpot imaginable when Brady, tired of Belichick, liked what he saw in Tampa, including the free-wheeling Arians.
They had their tense moments this season, such as when Arians called him out for mistakes in defeats. But after a late November setback to the Chiefs, when Mahomes and Hill went haywire in the first half, the Bucs haven’t lost since. Sixty-eight going on 40, Arians refuses to acknowledge this as the oldest matchup of head coaches — combined age: 131 years and 86 days — in Super Bowl history. Whereas Reid says he’s “still part of the Geritol crew,” Arians continues to style in his Kangol newsboy caps and speak a youthful language. Sometimes, the words come with a harder edge.
“He’s going to coach you hard, but he’s also going to love you hard,” Bucs center Ryan Jensen said. “The good butt-rip is sometimes needed, but he’s going to love you up and make sure you go into the game confident.”
Given the potential for high drama — can you believe Brady, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, Ndamukong Suh and Leonard Fournette have shared the same locker room? — Arians was wise enough to use Brady to help guide the pirate ship. At one point, Arians took a jab at Belichick, saying he was letting Brady “coach” when New England did not. He was spot-on in his self-credit.
Who of right mind resists Brady’s gift for changing a culture?
“He’s a great man. He’s a great leader. He’s a great person. He’s a great friend,” said Brady, stringing together praise rarely directed toward Belichick. “He’s very loyal. He’s just got a great way of communicating effectively with everybody around here. Everybody has a great affection for him for the person that he is. There’s nobody that would ever say a bad thing about B.A. He’s just so endearing to everybody and I think everyone wants to win for him.”
Maybe it’s coincidence that Kansas City is the team hit by COVID. Maybe it isn’t coincidence. Maybe it’s a sign Tampa Bay is more focused, riding the savvy of Brady’s 10th Super Bowl appearance and the focus of the head coach. “I don’t think anything ever prepared us for the pandemic. This whole season has been different,” Arians said. “The team-building things that you do in the offseason didn’t happen. I have to give all the credit in the world to our players for their commitment to each other, the accountability they’ve shown to each other in staying healthy and beating the virus before we could beat any other team. And then the closeness they’ve got and the accountability to make all their decisions to affect the cause.
“And the cause is to put rings on our fingers.”
Another reason the NFL embraces Reid and Arians is that it temporarily deflects attention from a continuing coaching crisis. The Rooney Rule is a sham, as seen again last month, when only two of seven head-coaching openings were filled with minority hires. Months after commissioner Roger Goodell finally broke down amid pressure from Mahomes and other stars and said, “We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of Black People,” and “We, the National Football League, believe Black Lives Matter,” the optics aren’t good when only one Black coach was hired. And that didn’t happen until six jobs were filled and Houston, in what seemed a league mandate, hired 65-year-old career assistant David Culley.
The Rooney Rule, as envisioned by the late Pittsburgh owner Dan Rooney, requires each NFL team to interview minority candidates and expand their chances of landing head positions. But when you see the Eagles hire neophyte Nick Sirianni, who stumbled through his introductory Zoom conference like a kid interviewing for an internship, it’s painful knowing that Black candidates who’ve been head coaches in the league — Marvin Lewis, Jim Caldwell, Todd Bowles among them — weren’t seriously considered. Nor was Duce Staley, Philadelphia’s assistant head coach, who promptly split for a similar role in Detroit after Sirianni’s hiring. Don’t tell me Sirianni was hired solely as a QB whisperer for struggling Carson Wentz. There’s more to it. Couldn’t the Eagles have hired Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who merely has helped Reid develop Mahomes into a transcendent machine?
“There’s still work to be done in this area, no question about it,” said Steelers president Art Rooney II, son of Dan Rooney. “There are a lot of pieces to it that we’re going to have to sit down when it’s all said and done and really analyze what happened — and are there things we can do to strengthen the opportunities for minority coaches? I think last year we did take a number of steps that I think over time are going to pay dividends, but that’s not to say we can’t do more, and we’ll take another strong look at it this offseason.”
At least the league added two minorities in the general manager ranks: Brad Holmes in Detroit and Terry Fontenot in Atlanta, raising the number of black GMs to four. But racial progress is stalled throughout a hypocritical sports world. None of college football’s seven Power Five programs with vacancies hired a Black head coach, opting for a White sweep. And for all the celebration over Kim Ng’s hiring in Miami as Major League’s Baseball’s first female general manager, guess who filled the other seven openings atop baseball operations within franchises? White males.
So, for now, we revel in the late-career success of the Super Bowl OGs. At least Andy Reid and Bruce Arians aren’t questioned about their competence, though, until the ball is kicked off, Reid’s common sense is facing a fourth-and-one situation deep in COVID territory.
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.