I have a soft spot for Louisiana. I love the food. I love the music. It is where I was born.
So, when JB suggested I talk to Gordy Rush from Guaranty Broadcasting for our Meet the Market Managers series, I didn’t need convincing. Not only do I get the chance to bring you lessons from the Sportsman’s Paradise, but I get to put a spotlight on the guy that runs one of the most underrated brands in all of sports radio, 104.5 ESPN.
That station does everything its own way. The studio is set up for television. The morning show features two ex-jocks and no broadcast nerd. It is just a really cool, really local brand that is worth studying.
In our conversation, Gordy and I discussed how owning a digital ad agency has helped Guaranty’s traditional broadcast business, how he let one of his biggest stars deal with bad news on the air, what he brings to the workplace that he learned on the football field, and so much more.
Demetri Ravanos: Baton Rouge is a big college town, so I would guess you have access to those kids coming out of LSU looking for sales jobs. But I wonder how much interest you see from young people in selling not just radio, but media in general?
Gordy Rush: Well, we get a lot of interest from LSU and from New Orleans – Tulane, UNO and Loyola. People that are interested not only in sales but on air. And of course, LSU had a good run in recent years here with Ryan Clark, Marcus Spears and Booger McFarland all landing with ESPN. They’ve done very well. That means there is a lot of talent that comes out and a lot of people that are interested in the profession.
DR: So what do you see as Baton Rouge’s potential in terms of market growth?
GR: Well, I think Baton Rouge is in the 70 to 80 range market-wise. It had a big boom post 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, where a lot of people from New Orleans kind of relocated to the surrounding parishes down here. But it kind of is what it is.
I think the uniqueness of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, for that matter, is that you have LSU and then you have the New Orleans Saints. And for a state that size, you really just have those two sports. And the Pelicans, I think, are certainly getting more interest, but it’s a considerable drop. Whereas, if you go four hours over to Houston, Texas A&M sometimes struggles to crack the top 10 in interest in a city of that size. So it’s really a two trick state when you talk about LSU and the Saints.
DR: LSU is a rare college sports culture. I really think it is only in Louisiana and Mississippi where there is this gigantic college baseball culture. That lets you monetize that rights partnership year-round in a way that a lot of SEC markets can’t. Do you get how rare that is or does it just feel normal to you at this point?
GR: Well, let’s start with the fact LSU has led the nation for umpteen years in attendance. It’s like a triple-A stadium – ten thousand plus per year. Of course, the big exception this year was the Covid year. So it is like a triple-A town. I will tell you that we carry all the games on a 100,000 watt classic rock radio station.
When we were a subscriber to Nielsen and I would go up to to Columbia, Maryland, and look at the books, you’d get thirteen quarter hours Friday, Saturday and Sunday. You know, I’ve seen numbers back before ESPN+ was the thing, when it was ESPN3, and LSU would be playing a non-conference opponent on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and the streaming rights for television – there was one point that it outdrew North Carolina vs Duke streaming-wise. It gives you an idea of the popularity of baseball here. And of course, they’ve won five national championships.
DR: So how does that affect bringing local sponsors on board? Are most people advertising on LSU sports year-round, or because you have three distinct seasons, do you have advertisers that lock into just football or just baseball or just basketball?
GR: I think 75% of our sports are sold the complete athletic year, starting with football, basketball with Will Wade, he’s done a phenomenal job, I think the best three year run of SEC win percentage in the history of the school, if I’m not mistaken. And, of course, baseball. And so we sell 75% of it all through. Certainly there’s some people that are baseball purists. They’re people that started with Skip Bertman twenty or twenty five years ago that have stayed with them.
The unique thing about baseball is it’s a three and a half hour game, right? You think about a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and you have a lot of people listening on the radio, cutting the lawn. There’s a lot of waterways here in Louisiana and people will have the Tigers on their radio, out on their boats partying or they’re doing what they do on Saturday and Sunday. So it is a big deal.
DR: So you have one station in the cluster that carries the Saints. Just this year, it was 104.5 that put the Kansas City Chiefs on.
GR: So it’s interesting. 98.1 has been the flagship for LSU. It’s a classic rock station that carries football, basketball and baseball. I don’t think you’ll see a top hundred market that has a 100,000 watt rock station with that much sports on it. I think back in 2010, we started with ESPN Radio, just two class A radio stations, 104.5 and 104.9, as a simulcast.
So what we wanted to do this year with the question mark of whether or not LSU was going to play, we knew the NFL was going to go. We have a Westwood One contract. Of course, we also have the Saints on on our classic rock station. They’re an affiliate. We wanted to get aggressive with the NFL. We already have the Westwood One package with the Thursday night, Sunday night and Monday night games, and decided to reach out and talk to Cincinnati because they had Joe Burrow. Then we talked to Kansas City because of Tyrann Matthieu, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Daryl Williams, a number of former LSU players with Kansas City, and we really struck a good relationship with the local affiliate there. So we carried all the Kansas City Chiefs games on 104.5 ESPN. You know, what a season to do that too! So, yeah, it was a good ride. It was the first time that we did that, so we were airing five NFL games every weekend on our properties.
DR: Airing the Chiefs, like you said, comes with a number of LSU connections. With your market being such a Saints-heavy sports culture, do you just go to advertisers and say “we have a package that includes 5 NFL games every weekend,” or do those LSU connections make it possible to sell the Chiefs as their own package?
GR: Well, they got the Saints and then we presented the whole NFL package. We have different levels, right? There are people that buy LSU and the Saints, and then I think that you have entry level opportunities for people that just get the NFL. I think for some some smaller businesses, it’s a really good play where they get the five NFL games and maybe some more or less that will air on the radio station.
But we really handpicked those games. I will tell you, there were games that were with Westwood One, we did some stuff with Compass, we had ESPN Radio and of course we had the Chiefs. Anytime we could get Joe Burrow before he got hurt, we put Joe Burrow on the radio. So, it was an NFL schedule that really lent itself to our market and our market interest.
DR: So with the insane success of that 2019 LSU team, not just winning a title, but all the guys they put in the NFL, is there anyone encroaching on the hardcore Saints fans? Could you see a future of carrying the Chiefs or Bengals regularly?
GR: Baton Rouge is a Saints town first and foremost and always will be. But, you know, the Saints are only going to fill one of those five spots Thursday night, Sunday night, Monday night or the 12 o’clock and the three thirty Central Time kickoff. So it’s an opportunity for four other ones. And I think with the success that LSU’s had and you look around and so many teams like Cincinnati with Burrow and what Kansas City has done, Devin White is down with Tampa Bay, Patrick Peterson with Arizona. So, it’s one of the things we will promote locally to our market here. If Patrick Peterson and the Arizona Cardinals take on Devin White and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it’s Sunday 3:30 pm on 104.5 ESPN.
DR: I want to turn the attention next to your on-air shows. Earlier this year, you had a high profile departure from the morning show. Jordy Culotta exited. The next day, T-Bob Hebert told the audience he didn’t like the decision and didn’t agree with it. Can you take me inside the conversation that happened before that? As a market manager, how do you ride the line of giving T-Bob the space to express his frustrations and also making sure he is on board with the plan moving forward?
GR: Yeah. You know, I get paid to make those decisions. Sometimes they are hard decisions. I had to sit down with T-Bob and give that explanation. And he told me, “I need to be me.” Which I certainly respect.
I think that’s a big part of it. We tell our people, “I need you to be real. You have the room to critique. Just don’t be an ass.” There’s lines to keep things between, and our guys do a good job of that. I respect his opinion. He’s been paid to do a morning show and I’m getting paid to run a business. I think we both understand that and I respect what he has to say.
DR: T-Bob is a guy that I think the world of. He is uniquely talented and just hard not to like.
GR: So, I know his dad, right? I’m in between them age-wise. His dad is a New Orleans legend, Bobby Hebert, the quarterback for the Saints. Now he’s down with WWL and the New Orleans Saints’ broadcast team.
I think both of them are tremendous talents. What I’ll say about T-Bob is that I don’t know where you get an offensive lineman that is intellectual, and loves Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars, and all the things that he does. I tell people it’s kind of like an acquired taste. But what I love about T-Bob is he is passionate. He really does the show prep and puts a lot of thought into his segments and where he’s going with the show.
It’s been really interesting to see him grow. He was an intern with us, and then went to WWL to do nights. We recruited him to come back to Baton Rouge. He was just getting married, and wanted to have a family. I said “Look, it’s a better quality of life. You can come do morning drive here in Baton Rouge. At that point, we did not have a New Orleans affiliate. We do now with ESPN Radio New Orleans. And with this recent transition, he’s now partners with Jacob Hester. That show is on state-wide, really Gulf South-wide on Cox Sports Television, which is the equivalent of like the Yes Network. It’s a big deal. I’m really happy and thrilled with the way that he’s grown.
DR: Let’s talk about that new morning show. T-Bob and Jacob are both former athletes. There is no lifelong broadcaster in the room. Do you think we put too much value on the idea that an ex-jock needs a radio nerd on air with him? Do you see that as something that can get in the way of letting former players grow beyond their stereotypical roles?
GR: I think the interesting part about it is, let’s talk about T-Bob. He has been more in the analyst role, the second seat. He did a little little lead with WWL, but primarily with us he has been in the second seat. And then you’ve got Jacob Hester that came from Shreveport, I think four years ago. He was really in the second seat and we put him in the first seat and went back and forth. In fact, I think I sat in on Mondays for a year with him, just to kind of get him with some different people so he could get comfortable. He ran lead. We wind up flipping him after Covid to middays and into the second seat with a veteran host in Charles Hanagriff. While he was doing that, he was also doing a lot of SiriusXM’s SEC Network with Chris Doering and Peter Burns. You have a lot of rotation with that.
I think the great thing about being with Guaranty Broadcasting is that I tell people we have the ability to be a dry erase board. If there was anyone that’s going to buck standards, it’s going to be us.
Who says that you have to have a lead and a second guy? You don’t. They take turns going back and forth and do it. To me, what’s more important is you’ve got two guys who really, really want to work with each other. When we made the transition, both of them raised their hand and they wanted to work with each other. Hester was in the midday, and when I sat down and had the discussion with T-Bob I said, “I’m open to whoever you want to work with. We posted the job. You tell me what you want to do.” Hester’s name came up and his eyes lit up like it was Christmas. And I think the same for Hester. Then we took a month to figure out what we wanted to do and the television element came into play and we made sure that we had a good vision of where we wanted to go. I think sometimes people in radio just panic.
We took our time. I think they planned it out well, and I will tell you, I’m absolutely thrilled with the success. We’ve had one affiliate pick up a third hour already. We’re working with another. Even the television syndicator, you know they looked at it from 7am to 9am, and we have discussions. Hopefully they’re going to pick it up for a third as well. So it’s been a home run for us so far.
DR: With Hester moving to mornings, are you still looking for someone to fill the midday vacancy?
GR: Yeah. So we have again, Charles Hanagriff, who was paired with Hester. Like everyone else, we’re just coming out of Covid and we had to do some layoffs, especially the part timers. We’re rebuilding our staff and we posted the job. Now of course, we shifted our focus from morning to somebody that would be in mid day.
The question is, at one point we had four shows on the radio station. We had two in the midday, and right now we have one. I think it’s all about finding the right fit. We’ve just started that process, and we’re not sure yet what that is. We’re a locally owned company. We don’t make a whole lot of changes, so we will take our time to make sure we get the right person.
DR: Speaking of culture, I’m from the Gulf Coast. I know that even though the whole culture is built on hospitality, Louisiana specifically is very parochial. How important is it that whoever you hire be from Louisiana or at least the Gulf Coast?
GR: I don’t think that you go in saying that you need a local person. I’ll tell you, I was on the search committee for the new play-by-play guy for LSU probably six years ago or so. And Chris Blair got the job and he was a play-by-play guy from Georgia Southern.
Some local knowledge may be a part of it. I don’t think you could come in 100 percent foreign to everything LSU and Saints. I’d think they’d struggle with that. But does it have to be somebody locally? I don’t think so.
DR: So for you, the local knowledge that matters is sports culture, not do you know we have parishes, not counties and can you pronounce all of their French names correctly?
GR: (laughing) Well, you know for all the years ESPN and CBS butchered Metairie, Louisiana as Mah-tari, that’s probably not a good look. But, I think this interview evolved to it. It’s not just hiring a talk show host anymore. You’re an influencer, right? I mean, you’re almost on 24/7.
One of the big things that we’ve been successful with is we sell live endorsements. I think that’s why we’ve outperformed the market during Covid. Our clients look at it as “There’s no way I’m canceling because so-and-so moves product for me. It’s got to be a part of my marketing plan.”
So it’s just not the on air role. The right fit will understand what we’re doing, our culture, and that we’re truly looking for an influencer.
DR : So let’s circle back on those affiliations. You have two shows heard on stations across Louisiana. How did that happen? Was it you going to stations and selling the access to LSU or did the stations have holes to fill and came to you?
GR: A little bit of both. We have great relationships. The owner in New Orleans sat down with myself and my friend Jeff Martindale with ESPN Radio when he made the effort to become an ESPN affiliate. Now he’s the flagship for the Pelicans and he’s got both our morning and afternoon shows on. Then you go to Cenla Broadcasting, tremendous broadcasters up there in Alexandria. We helped them with ESPN Radio to get that partnership going. So then up in Shreveport, Hester’s from there, so they broadcast his show. He was on the air there, and we found a way to kick it back.
So it’s being a Louisiana broadcaster. Our owner, Flynn Foster, was the chair of the LAB. So we have great relationships within the state. Then there was just an incredible relationship with Cox Sports Television. So the morning show’s on from seven to nine, hopefully seven to ten soon. Then Matt Moscona is on from three to six in the afternoon. So right now, six hours of their daily programing. We do a prep scoreboard from ten to twelve that goes statewide every night after their game, which has been a real win win. Then Hester and I do, I guess you’d say it is the equivalent of an ESPN GameDay that’s called LSU Game Day Live from 11 to 12 from wherever LSU plays.
CST’s a tremendous platform. It is the main cable provider in the state of Louisiana. You can see it in the whole state of Arkansas and on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, parts of Florida, San Diego, California. It’s tremendous visibility for us.
DR: Your studio has been set up to do something like that for a long time. Was it always about the Cox partnership or was the set and the camera setup put in thinking about creating multi-platform content?
GR: It was before we had the CST deal. Our studio is a hybrid of what Van Pelt and Rusillo had. I remember watching that studio in person and I was blown away how small it was. There are aspects of it that we took from that. We have a great relationship with Bonneville. One of my best friends in the business is Bonneville Phoenix, and they weren’t doing much in Phoenix, but they were doing this in Seattle. I made a trip because I’m a Portland Timbers fan, so one of my Oregon boys and I made the trip and flew out to Seattle to see the Bonneville studio, and we took pictures. Then of course, I went to watch Clint Dempsey play and then jumped on a overnight flight back to New Orleans.
So it’s a hybrid of ESPN Seattle and Scott Van Pelt and Rusillo. It’s really progressive and has been awesome for us. Our guys love it, and every piece of real estate in that thing was sold. It’s been a win for not only our sales, but our talent as well.
DR: In addition to radio, Guaranty Media owns a digital firm called Gatorworks. How involved are they every time you set out to pitch a new client?
GR: Any time that you sit down with a new client, you want to introduce additional questions. “What do you do on your website?” “What do you do in digital tactics?”
I want to say it was the 2014 NAB show in Indianapolis. Flynn Foster and I made the trip there. One of the great things about Flynn is he gives us the opportunity to see people face to face. I told him that when I started as GM in 2010 that I’m going to go somewhere and sit in the front row and learn. I think body language and tone and everything else is just as important than what’s coming out of people’s mouths.
We realized what was going on with digital. You know, a lot of people just went and got a third party firm. I think that our strategy was it’s not who we are. We are local. A higher percentage of our business is local. We needed a local digital company that did business the same way that we did, especially where clients can go in and sit at a table and look at analytics and do all the things that we do.
The reality of it is that if you take the third party out of it, one or two things can happen – the advertiser can get more bang for their buck or they can get a lower cost per thousand. It’s a great competitive advantage that we have. It’s a real simple pitch that we can make to advertisers.
Gatorworks has so much inbound and referral traffic. It’s been a great marriage. Ryan Rodriguez does an incredible job with data works.
DR: I saw Flynn talking about Gaterworks at the NAB in Dallas. He didn’t bring this up, but I did wonder in this time when there are people out there spinning the narrative that radio is old fashioned or dying, this is probably a really good way of kicking down that door if it’s a barrier you’re facing with a potential client.
GR: You do get some of that, but I think it goes back to the top of the funnel. You still need to do some sort of branding. You need to bring people to the top of the funnel. People need to know who you are. You spend all that money on the bottom part of the funnel and you tell people to click, and if they don’t know who you are, they’re less likely to click. So I think it’s a holistic marketing plan that we’re able to bring with top of the funnel and bottom of the funnel options.
DR: So you played football at both LSU and Purdue, correct?
GR: Purdue as a true freshman. We went 3-8. It was really cold. I had to play right away. I was only 17 years old and they fired the coach, Leo Burnett, and brought in Fred Akers.
I played in the All-Star Game in Tiger Stadium at the end of high school. It was LSU people running the thing and LSU did not recruit me. They did not offer me. I had a really good All-Star Game. They got back to me and said, “hey, look, we might have made a mistake. If things don’t work out, let us know.” And so that time came, 3-8 and a coaching change. I’d never seen snow, Demetri, in my life.
Anyway, long story short, I looked at options. I had good grades and I was considering going to Cornell. My old man and I had a long discussion. I flew back and I drove up and had a talk with Coach Archer. He decided to go ahead and give me the opportunity to walk on. I sat out that year and then played special teams right away as a sophomore and played all three years and eventually earned a scholarship. And so it was a great experience. I’m really blessed that it opened so many doors for me, life and work wise. I’m grateful that that was the path that I took.
DR: How much of what you learned as a player and saw from your coaches has translated into your management style?
GR: Well, you know, a little bit of everybody. I’ve done the sidelines for LSU games the last ten years and the beautiful thing is all the access to different voices and styles. Nick Saban, the process and his attention to detail, you pick a little bit of what he does. I love some of the stuff that Coach O does and what he brings to the table.
Not only that, but even to look across the field. I enjoy watching Dan Mullen going back to his days at Mississippi State. You could see why he’s successful in the way he approaches games and his game management. I’ll tell you, recently, one of the guys who I really enjoy is P.J. Fleck at Minnesota, I mean, wow, a breath of fresh air.
So, yeah, there’s no doubt that I think, the crossover to football for leadership and management exists. It’s an enjoyable way to learn and there is plenty to pick up from some of the best in sports.
Sports Are Learning To Meet Gen Z Where They Are
“The crux of the issue is that Gen Z is the first generation of kids who are truly free to find their “thing” in a way previous generations never could thanks to modern connectivity.”
Should sports radio be concerned about where audiences will come from in the future? It is an interesting question that we talk about here a lot. It is also something that the New York Times tackled indirectly last week.
A column from Joe Drape and Ken Belson declared this generation of kids “The eSports Generation” and went on to explain just how disconnected from traditional sports they really are.
An alarmist might ask if this is the beginning of the end of traditional sports leagues. Someone a little more level-headed, like Joe Ovies, may want to dive a little deeper to see what leagues are learning and how they are adapting.
Joe hosts The OG in afternoon drive at 99.9 The Fan in Raleigh. He is always interested in how changes in technology and consumption patterns effect sports and his audience. I saw him tweeting about the New York Times piece last week and asked if he would want to write a little something for us.
“Meet your audience where they are.”
How many times have you heard that phrase in the last 5 years from a consultant, manager, or any number of Barrett Media posts as content consumption trends continue to spread out over a variety of platforms? Turns out the same applies for pro sports leagues, who are fearful that an entire generation of fans will be lost and their traditional business model will crater as a result.
The New York Times recently highlighted what sports marketers are doing to win over Generation Z, which typically applies to kids born from 1997 to 2012. The Times hits the usual beats.
There’s a reference to Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, an esports star who is also a traditional sports fan, who the NFL hoped would be a Pied Piper for youth fandom. There are examples of MLB, famously stingy when it came to fans using their content on social media, now working with TikTok influencers. And of course, highlighting the NBA’s wide ranging approach to online engagement and their franchise run NBA 2K esports league. Most of the article was based on a recent SSRS/Luker on Trends report, which conducts regular surveys about sports and society.
The issue for pro sports leagues isn’t that Gen Z kids aren’t “passionate” enough about sports. It’s that Gen Z is more likely to admit they simply don’t like sports.
“Only 23 percent of Generation Z said they were passionate sports fans, compared with the 42 percent of millennials (defined as 26 to 41), 33 percent of Generation X (42 to 57) and 31 percent of baby boomers (57 to 76) who identified themselves as passionate. More striking was that 27 percent of Gen Zers said they disliked sports altogether, compared with just 7 percent of millennials, 5 percent of Gen Xers and 6 percent of boomers.”The new york times, Jan. 12, 2022
Also factoring into the waning interest in sports from Gen Z is the dramatic decline of youth sports participation. There is a larger discussion to be had about the role of parents and specialization in this decline, but we can address that topic another day. As it relates to pro sports leagues today, the drop in youth participation absolutely impacts the level of interest in kids who might want to watch the best in the world of sports do their thing.
“Participation in youth sports was declining even before Covid-19: In 2018, only 38 percent of children ages 6 to 12 played team sports on a regular basis, down from 45 percent in 2008, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.
In June 2020, the pandemic’s early days, 19 percent of parents with kids in youth sports said their child was not interested in playing sports, according to a survey conducted by The Aspen Institute’s Sports and Society Program. By September 2021, that figure was 28 percent.
On average, children play less than three years in a sport and quit by age 11, according to the survey. Why? Mostly, because it is not fun anymore.”the New york times, Dec. 19th 2021
The crux of the issue is that Gen Z is the first generation of kids who are truly free to find their “thing” in a way previous generations never could thanks to modern connectivity. Meeting up on the playground or at a friend’s backyard for a pickup game has been replaced with meeting your friends on a Discord server and deciding if you’re going to play Halo or Call or Duty after school.
If you have kids in the age range that I do, none of this should be a surprise. You see it every day and don’t even think twice about it. But if you do stop and think about how frictionless it has become to be online all day with your friends, you start to realize the impact of never being bored or getting dragged to things by your parent because there were no other options.
Watching sports and going to sporting events isn’t frictionless. It’s a pain in the ass. Older generations deal with it because we don’t know any better, it’s just what we do. But Gen Z isn’t about to stop what they’re doing just to watch a game. Why would they? They can get the highlights later.
Gen Z is about dropping in and out of entertainment options whenever they feel like it. In other words, why would they sit around waiting for their favorite song to be played on the radio when they can easily pull it up on YouTube or Spotify.
Pro sports leagues can create all the social content and tout billions of views. They can tout engagement with Gen Z because a bunch of kids bought NFL related skins in Fortnite.
Awareness of their leagues isn’t the problem. It’s getting Gen Z to care enough to watch the game. Take my kids, who are fully aware of what’s going on in the world of sports, but getting them to sit down and actually watch the game is torture. Throw in the increasing cost to attend sporting events, I’ve started leaving them at home because it’s a waste of money given my 13-year-old is just gonna play Clash Royale in that $75 seat.
To be clear — I’m OK with my kids just not being into sports. It’s not like I didn’t try. It’s simply understanding we’ve transitioned to a world of niche communities. You can still thrive within those niche communities. Just look at sports talk radio as an example, where you’re not winning with cume, but with passion around sports. That’s what great sports talk radio stations sell. Pro sports leagues will be fine doing the same.
How Soon Is Too Soon To Lean Into The NFL Draft?
“I think there will be even more hype and content leading up to Draft than last year.”
For sports talk hosts, nothing generates content quite like the NFL Playoffs. The country’s most popular sport inches closer each week to crowning a champion. Each game produces an unlikely hero, a questionable call or some other storyline that can generate an entire show’s worth of conversation. Around the country, most stations talking about football are talking about the playoffs.
There is a select group of markets though where it makes sense for the football conversation to be driven by something else. Sure, the playoffs are on the radar, but if you are in a market with a top five draft pick, it makes sense that prospects and potential trades will draw significant interest.
Houston is not completely ignoring the playoffs. Landry Locker, co-host of In The Loop on Sports Radio 610 says that just like everywhere else in the country, NFL football is the headliner.
“We cover the NFL Playoffs top-to-bottom whether the Texans are in or not,” he told me. “However, just like all of our content we try to localize it as much as possible and try to respect the fact that we are a local show. Why do Houstonians care about what happened in each Wild Card game? What are the local ties?”
And what about the NFL Draft? The Texans have the third pick. That means there are plenty of discussions worth having on air, especially with the local team being so quarterback-needy.
I asked Landry if the lack of a Trevor Lawrence or Joe Burrow has dulled interest in the draft for Texans fans compared to what it could have been.
“I think there will be even more hype and content leading up to Draft than last year. While this QB class isn’t as good as last year’s the speculation about Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson make up for that void because if any of those three are traded it will likely be before the Draft. The NFL offseason has become the most active in sports and this year’s will be as wild as ever, especially here in Houston with the Watson drama.”
Ryan Green, better known to Jacksonville sports fans as Hacker on 1010XL, is in a familiar position. Just last year, he and his colleagues on XL Primetime were talking about the Jaguars welcoming a new coach to town and holding the first pick in the draft. By the time the NFL Draft gets here in April, the Jaguars will be holding the first pick as they welcome a new coach to town. So how does Hacker ensure that this year’s conversations don’t sound like 2021’s conversations on air?
“We will discuss what went wrong last year and how not to duplicate that this time around,” he said. “Why did last year fail? What could have been done differently and what needs to be different this time around. Also the history of back-to-back No. 1 picks for teams isn’t good, how can the Jaguars succeed when so many others have failed.”
Having the first pick of draft is great when you have the chance to grab the quarterback that can change your franchise’s fortunes. But the Jaguars experienced that last year and they have the top pick again.
Hacker said it perfectly. Last year was a failure for the Jaguars. Does that make his listeners a little less enthusiastic this time around?
Yes, he says. Last year was such a let down that there is a whole series of conversations fans want to have before they are ready to start breaking down prospects.
“Jaguar fans want the coaching and gm hires to be correct or the picks won’t matter anyway. Coaching matters and the Jaguar fans have had to endure a lot of bad coaching over the past decade. They want the right coach, then they will focus on the top pick”
Draft talk is fun. As Brandon Kravitz pointed out in his column earlier this week, it is a chance for fans of bad teams to feel real hope. Hope is the word right now in Houston too.
Locker says that there are so many factors that make this offseason one that Texans fans have been waiting three years for. His plan is to devote as much time to draft talk as possible.
“Obviously that’s fluid depending on what happens with the Stros and Rockets,” he says, “but this is going to be the wildest offseason in Texans franchise history. This will be the first time the Texans have had a first round selection in three drafts and with the possibility of getting even more compensation for Watson and a new coach it’s going to be nuts around here.”
It seems weird to type this, but Jacksonvillians know it is true. Hope can get old sometimes. When it is all you have ever been served, hope just doesn’t hit the same.
Hacker jokes that he and his co-workers know their way around a show rundown this time of year because this time of year never seems to end for the Jags.
“Draft talk for Jacksonville always starts around Thanksgiving, so we are already a month into draft talk before the playoffs even get here.”
Your Only Focus Should Be On What You Can Control
“We can’t press a Staples easy button and automatically make the audience more active, the sales team more diligent, or the editors gather every piece of sound.”
The crybaby Cowboys are at it again. After Dallas lost its Wild Card playoff game to the San Francisco 49ers 23-17 on Sunday, there was plenty of blame and finger pointing. Big D’s fingers weren’t pointed at themselves and their ugly run defense, shaky quarterback play, and inability to avoid committing stupid penalties, right?
No no, it’s far easier to just blame the officials. Let’s shine a light on those guys instead!
The controversy occurred at the very end of the game. As the Cowboys trailed by six points with 14 seconds remaining, quarterback Dak Prescott rushed up the middle of the field for 17 yards. As Chris Berman would say, “Tick, tick tick tick tick.” Precious seconds were ticking away as umpire Ramon George rushed over to spot the football. Once Prescott spiked the ball to stop the clock, the final seconds had ticked away and the Cowboys lost the game.
Prescott said in his postgame press conference that the official “needs to be closer to the ball” to spot it more quickly, and the result of that not happening was “tough to accept.” When asked about fans throwing beer bottles and trash at the officiating crew, Prescott said, “Credit to them then. Credit to them.”
Wow, dude. Really? Hooray for assault? Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy chimed in by saying, “We shouldn’t have had any problem getting the ball spotted there.”
This might be news to the Cowboys, but not every NFL official is going to have blazing speed mixed with the agility of a ballet dancer. The offense needs to allow enough time just in case the umpire doesn’t resemble a Cirque du Soleil performer. The Cowboys failed to do that.
The Cowboys also made a huge mistake in the final two minutes. Defensive end Randy Gregory drew a defensive holding penalty for bear hugging and tackling a 49ers offensive lineman. That stupid penalty directly impacted the limited time the Cowboys had at the end of the game. Prescott also had an awful 69.3 passer rating. For context, Dak’s 69.3 passer rating against the Niners was actually lower than the abysmal 69.7 passer rating New York Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson produced this season. Yuck.
But it’s someone else’s fault. Right, Cowboys? That’s what losers do; they point the finger at others.
For the Cowboys to make the loss about the officials is flat-out embarrassing. They spent more time whining about things they can’t control (officiating) compared to what they can control (their own performance).
The same thing happens in sports radio. A lot. Many people in the industry are consumed by what they can’t control rather than what they can. Several hosts focus on the time slot they want or the job they think they should have. News flash: that isn’t controllable. It’s also easy to complain about a lack of advertisers or sponsors, why listener engagement isn’t better with more calls and tweets, or why some postgame sound is missing on the cut sheet.
“We don’t have the sound? How do we not have the sound? Everybody else has it. How are we missing the same sound that all of the other shows have?”
MacGyver it, dude. Find another way. Focus on what you can control instead of what you can’t. As Patriots head coach Bill Belichick says, “Do your job.”
The truth is that there are a lot of things in sports radio that workers want to control, might even think they should control, but don’t actually dictate. We can’t press a Staples easy button and automatically make the audience more active, the sales team more diligent, or the editors gather every piece of sound. But we can focus our attention on many things we do have control over.
Former NFL head coach Jon Gruden once gave some great advice. Before he was known for his emailing ways, Gruden hosted the successful QB camp series on ESPN. I’ll never forget an episode with former Miami Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya. The QB told Gruden, “It’s tough when each week you’re thinking, ‘Man, if I don’t play well, if I don’t throw for this many yards, if we don’t win, my coach might not be here the very next week.’ It’s tough on me ‘cause you spend time around these coaches, you meet the families, meet the kids, coach [Al] Golden recruited me. You grow close to him.”
Gruden stopped Kaaya and said, “Make this note here; worry about what you can control. Don’t worry about the things you can’t control. Because if you do start worrying about things that are out of your control, you’re going to become a freakin’ basket case like me.”
I love this advice. It’s so easy to get off track by focusing our energy in the wrong areas. The funny thing is that our thoughts might start in a good place but lead to a bad outcome. Kaaya was worried about his coach’s job status and family. That’s reasonable, but by doing so it added unnecessary pressure to the situation and shifted the QB’s focus to things he can’t control. That isn’t a good result.
I think it’s smart to constantly be aware of whether something is helping or hurting your ability to perform.
A lot of people in the sports radio industry are competitive maniacs. That isn’t automatically a bad thing at all. Being super competitive can fuel a great work ethic and provide a valuable edge. However, it can evolve into a roadblock once you become a bitter, competitive maniac. That’s a different story. The bitter competitive maniac becomes jaded, frustrated, and hung up on what other people have. How is any of that helpful? It’s much better to stay focused on things that help you do a good job, not get in the way of it happening.
The Cowboys couldn’t control whether the official spotted the ball faster or not, but they could’ve allowed more time in case the umpire wasn’t Usain Bolt 2.0. They had plenty of control over surrendering fewer than 169 yards rushing to San Fran and Prescott having a much better day. But the crybaby Cowboys will whine and whine instead of being more accountable.
Don’t be like them. Instead of focusing on what you can’t control, take a closer look at what you actually can control.
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