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All-Star Game Move Is Baseball’s Latest PR Problem

“One week into the 2021 season, the only things that move the needle have little to do with the play on the field. Politics and pandemics are the only way for this sport to register.”

Seth Everett

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Major League Baseball moving the All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver last week shouldn’t be an issue for a sports media column. While I publicly praised the sport for taking a stand against an unjust voting law, I am growing increasingly skeptical that MLB made the move to move the media needle.

Let me just come out and say it.  MLB went ahead and moved the game so, on April 2, they could be a lead story on the Today Show, Good Morning America, and all the other news outlets. They were ripped on some, praised on others, but it was the first big baseball story of the 2021 season.

MLB Moves All-Star Game To Colorado Amid Uproar Over Georgia Voting Law |  NPR

Consider the other stories that barely moved the radar.  The Texas Rangers had no social distance restrictions on their home opener.  Hypocritically, they enforced social distance for game two, since the crowd was not as large.

Texas Rangers, go ahead and pick one.  Either safety or money. And if you choose money I’d have more respect for that than a half-acknowledgment of Covid. Or, put your greed aside, and have a crowd like the rest of the sport.

Then, there’s the play on the field. Since its season opened on April 1, more members of the media are noticing what I had been complaining about for about four years. 

After the Seattle Mariners lost to the Chicago White Sox 10-4, acclaimed Seattle Times Larry Stone columnist tweeted some scary numbers. “83 total plate appearances, which included 25 Ks, 9 BBs, 1 HBP & 3 HRs,” he wrote. “So 46 % of plate appearances resulted in no balls put in play. And it took 3 hours, 45 minutes. Unsustainable.”

Thursday during the Baltimore Orioles 4-3 11-inning victory over the New York Yankees, MLB.COM Yankees reporter Bryan Hoch tweeted something smaller but no less ominous.  It was during extra innings, and those innings start with a man on second base.

One week into the 2021 season, the only things that move the needle have little to do with the play on the field.  Politics and pandemics are the only way for this sport to register.

The All-Star Game being in Denver is not a good thing in the long-term for Colorado anyway.  They were a finalist in bidding for another game in the near future.  Had the game not moved from Atlanta, Denver would have a game in the next five years with a multiple-year lead-up.  Instead, it’s a hodgepodge jerry-rigged game the city of Denver and the Rockies will try to pull off.  Denver lost their opportunity to thrive.  Maybe they took one for the team, but my home from 1996-1998 could have done much better.

The last time Denver had the All-Star Game was my first of a dozen that I’ve covered over the years.  In 1998, I had taken the job to move to Seattle, leaving KKFN Radio for KJR Radio.  Then, without a contract, I had given my two weeks notice.  The All-Star Game was the 12th day in my 14 days notice.

I joked to friends that the game was my “going-away” party.  It was then when I ran into a mascot incident that I will never forget.

One of my assignments that day was to do a five-minute interview with an umpire. Have been to over 100 games at Coors, I knew my way around.  Still, I had no idea where the umpires’ room was, and that was where I was supposed to meet the umpiring crew.

I asked an usher who made an inadvertent but critical error.  He told me the umpires’ room was the 2nd door on the right.  He was wrong.  It was the 3rd door on the right.  

The 2nd door on the right was the mascot changing room.  Since it was the All-Star Game, all of the MLB mascots shared the room.  When I walked in, ALL of the mascots were sitting there in costume with their heads…on the floor!!! Mariner Moose. Mr. Met. Philly Fanatic. Dinger. All of them with giant bodies, tiny little human heads, and all the decapitated mascot heads rolling around the floor.  I never got over it.

My issues with Major League Baseball have been growing over the past few years. About a month ago, I wrote a column about how much the game has changed.  Since then, I felt compelled to write about sports streaming for cord-cutters, and then it came back to baseball and their idiotic blackout rules.

While I cover the sport still, this has been the pattern of these columns lately.  What that shows to me, is that I do still have a passion for this sport.  My quest is to learn if a) the sport is salvageable, or B) the older generation can be put out of its misery.

A labor stoppage could make choice B the reality. The collective bargaining agreement is set to expire on December 1. Last summer, when the NHL was conceptualizing their “playoff bubble” they extended their CBA by four years.  The labor chief of the NHL? None other than old MLB nemesis Don Fehr.

Last summer, on over a dozen local and national radio shows, I proposed MLB bag the 2020 season.  Blame it on Covid-19. I suggested MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA head-man Tony Clark lock themselves in a hotel.  Quarantine for 14 days (or whatever the rules were at the time) and not leave without a CBA extension!

Coronavirus news: MLB, MLBPA announce $1 million donation to help fight  hunger after school closures

Instead, owners and players squabbled through the media. During the World Series, Manfred talked about all the money that was lost in 2020.

Imagine, the pandemic behind us.  The vaccines are working, schools are open, and stadiums are at full capacity. That’s when there will be a labor stoppage?  If you thought there was vitriol last summer, you have not seen anything yet.

BSM Writers

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.

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WRONG BAD

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.

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BSM Writers

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.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

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.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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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.

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