I can’t tell you how many times I hear it: “baseball is so boring”. It makes me crazy because I know how much strategy goes into every pitch, every play and every moment. It’s just that these moments aren’t always flashy or entertaining. The attention span of the average fan is getting smaller and smaller, thanks in part to the smart phone. As a fan trying to watch a baseball game these days, I find I want more. I want the broadcast to be interesting enough for me not to be surfing Twitter or checking emails during the game.
Keep my attention. Give me some personality, not just from the announcers, but from the players during the broadcast.
Baseball telecasts try to make things more interesting with graphics and interviews, but something is missing. In order to make fans more aware of the personalities of some of their favorite players, why not hear from them ‘in game’? Microphones on key players would solve this issue and allow fans that peek behind the curtain that many crave. Major League Baseball needs to do a much better job of showcasing its superstars and this would be one easy way to do this. Show off the players’ personalities. Athletes are entertainers as well. They get paid a ton to play a game we’ve all played for free so why not get them more involved? In this day and age of social media and instant reaction, fans would eat up this extra layer of access. I realize there’s a lot that would have to go into this, but let’s examine the facts and what has been done before.
Fox has done a brilliant job in televising the All-Star Game in recent years. It’s great because the network and the players understand what the game is intended to be, an exhibition featuring the best of the best in each league. Once the ridiculousness of the game counting was cast aside like a dirty shirt, the personalities came out and that’s what it’s all about. Fox’s booth conducts interviews with players on field as the actual game is going on. With the proper camera shots for perspective, it’s a real look into what the player is seeing from his vantage point. Plus, we get to hear some of the banter between teammates too. I’m fascinated by the inside look into what it takes to play the field.
There has to be a way to do the same thing during a regular season game and into the playoffs. Mic’d-up players would make more people interested in a game that could use an injection of some fun for a change. The two, fun and baseball, have been mutually exclusive over the years. This would help the cause immensely. The biggest sales job would probably be on the managers and front offices. Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts wasn’t too thrilled that Justin Turner was mic’d up during the playoffs last year against Milwaukee. It didn’t negatively affect Turner’s performance so it wasn’t a big deal.
To avoid those types of pitfalls, interviews could be recorded in between innings near the dugout and played back over the current action. Use a box in the lower right or left to keep viewers in tuned with what is happening on the field. How cool would it be to hear from the left fielder that just made a sliding catch to save two runs and end the inning? Very, is the answer.
To appease those nervous about this idea, you could figure out a way to capture sounds of the game without the player even wearing a mic individually. Mets’ first baseman Pete Alonso gave the league permission to place a mic near first base at Mets games last season to pick up conversations between himself and the baserunner.
“I think it’s fun to actually share kind of like live, almost like first stream of conscious type deal going on,” he told reporters in 2020. “It’s interesting for sure.” Yes, as interesting as an inadvertent F-bomb he uttered during one broadcast. Ok, so there’s another point for not airing these conversations live. There’s the matter of conversations between coaches and teammates that could be intercepted by live mics.
As a baseball fan, I’ve always wondered what those conversations are like at first base. But why stop there? Take me inside the conversation when a manager comes out to pull a pitcher from the game. If the pitcher just walked the bases loaded what does the manager say? If the hurler wants to stay in, how does he lobby to do that? Interesting, behind the scenes stuff.
Ok, how about taking me to the bullpen, what is the bullpen coach telling the reliever about the upcoming hitters and who to get ready for? What are the catcher and home plate umpire talking about during a game? What happens during and after a bench clearing incident? How do those conversations go? Imagine during a replay review, hearing the players on the field looking at the video board and reacting to the call? I want to know how that sounds. I think you want to know as well.
Come on, you know you do!
I really don’t think we’re asking too much as fans, are we? NFL Players are mic’d up every week in regular season games. These guys are playing a much more physically demanding game and still wear the wire. Reading lips is fine, but actually hearing those words would be riveting. What better reason to stick around and watch a long, boring game, to see what Player X is going to say next. I don’t think I’d be alone in that thought process. The same can be true in an exciting, tension filled game, how are players reacting to situations? Coming through, not coming through, cheering on a teammate or celebrating a win. I would love to get that nearly instant reaction straight from the player. What better way to fill the lulls? As you know, there are many in a typical game.
Ok, so say the players aren’t game to do this. I’ve got other ideas that could be pretty interesting, at least to me. Let’s from time to time hear the TV control room in action. I want to hear (and see) the director talking to his/her camera operators, the producer talking to the booth setting up the next element. Or, how about putting a mic on the bat boy? Maybe the folks running the scoreboard? How about the organist? Give me something, please.
Baseball could use the boost for its product. Regional Sports Networks could use the “hook” to lure in new viewers and keep some of its dedicated viewers engaged. Even if this doesn’t happen every game, I’m good for Mic’d up Monday, aren’t you?
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.