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Mike Dempsey’s Providing a Jaguars Oasis Year Round on 1010XL

“There’s always topics to help pass the time. It’s something that’s been known for a while, yes, but it’s the most exciting thing that’s potentially happened to the Jacksonville Jaguars.”

Tyler McComas

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It’s been a dream offseason for sports radio in Jacksonville. Sure, the Jaguars had a lousy 1-15 record last year, which gave the franchise its 11th losing season in 12 years, but a new quarterback and head coach has created a content bonanza for on-air hosts unlike anytime the city has experienced before.

The big sell for hosts such as Mike Dempsey, host of Jaguars Today on 1010 XL, is hope. The hope that the combo of Trevor Lawrence and Urban Meyer can turn the team from worst to first. 

“There hasn’t been a whole lot of hope the past 12 years. There’s just been one winning season,” said Dempsey. “Having an accomplished collegiate coach helps, but Trevor Lawrence is the big prize, even more so than Urban Meyer. Jags fans have been laser focused on Trevor Lawrence coming to Jacksonville. So yeah it’s obviously been our #1  talking point. In terms of sports radio, it’s the best one you could’ve hoped for. Trevor Lawrence alone would’ve been great, but having Urban Meyer along with him has created the perfect storm.”

Urban Meyer doesn't care about Trevor Lawrence doubters' opinions

In every NFL market across the country, the biggest talking point leading up to next week’s draft is ‘what will each team do with their first round selection?’. Well, that’s the conversation everywhere except Jacksonville, where it’s a forgone conclusion that the team will select Lawrence 1st overall. With the suspense gone, you might think that could impact local interest since Jags fans already know the name that’s going to be on the card next Thursday. But so far, that hasn’t been the case. 

“Well, that’s just about Trevor Lawrence, the Jags still have the 25th, 33rd, 45th and 65th picks in the draft,” said Dempsey. “For instance, Houston doesn’t pick until No. 67. The Jags have five picks ahead of them. There’s a lot of intrigue about what they’ll do with the 25th pick. I think it’s a unique circumstance, this is just one of those times where you know Trevor Lawrence is good. There really aren’t any articles out there suggesting they take someone else with the top pick. Nobody is playing around in the mock drafts.”

“The excitement level that he brings makes it easy. We can talk about Trevor Lawrence every day and we do. It never seems to get old. You had the Sports Illustrated story come out last week, so everyone’s trying to dig into psychological motivation, for how much he loves football and all this kind of stuff. There’s always topics to help pass the time. It’s something that’s been known for a while, yes, but it’s the most exciting thing that’s potentially happened to the Jacksonville Jaguars.”

What’s fascinating is that interest with the Jags hasn’t seen a major dip after 11 losing seasons in the past 12 years. It’s arguably helped content and ratings. Fans always have strong ideas on how to better run the organization. Whether the team is winning or losing, the local sports station’s airwaves are a perfect place to express that passion. If you lose that emotion, that’s when you run into trouble. But amidst the misfortunes, passion remains high in Jacksonville with the lone pro team in town. Creating content off of a losing team has not been difficult. 

“I don’t think it’s that hard,” said Dempsey about creating content around a losing team. “I can always look at ways to improve the team or what they could have done differently. I think sports radio is easier when a team is bad, rather than when they’re good. It’s more fun when they’re good, don’t get me wrong, because the whole city is on fire, but people react more when they are unhappy. When things are going great, the phone lines don’t ring as much. Their reaction is to sit back and listen. People want to get on the phone and complain and tell you how they would fix things and I love that. As a sports radio host, you love that passion.”

Jaguars Today is a two-hour show every weekday from 10 a.m to noon EST that focuses exclusively on the Jags and the rest of the NFL. Dempsey, along with Tony Smith, provide a daily escape for the Jaguars fan that’s looking for smart, honest, and informed discussion on their team. But even though the NFL is a content giant, there are times when the biggest story in sports is outside of the shield. That can create a tricky situation. Does a show dedicated to football switch gears and address things that are happening in another league or sport, or continue serving what the audience expects?

“If it’s a major story that everyone in the sports world is talking about, we can touch on it for a few minutes,” Dempsey said. “It’s not like we’re going to get fired. We try not to stray, because we know the people that are coming to us feel like we are their NFL and Jaguars oasis, year round. You’d be surprised with how infrequently I feel like, man, I really wish I could get that in. You can always spin something that happens in other sports and make the equivalent to the NFL. As popular as the NFL is, it’s not an issue for content.”

Jaguars fans ranked among fanbases who complain the least in the NFL, study  finds

I don’t think there’s a rule in sports radio where you can talk too much football. That’s why a football-centric show like Jaguars Today will continue to have a strong and loyal audience. The fact that Jags fans are underrated in the NFL when it comes to rowdiness only adds to it. It’s like a perfect ratings marriage, made even more special by a soon to be combo of a can’t-miss QB and national title winning head coach. Hope is once again the sell. 

Dempsey loves what he does every day, regardless if Trevor Lawrence is the ultimate bust or the ultimate savior in Jacksonville. He’s patrolled the airwaves during a 1-15 season, as well as when the Jags were minutes away from a trip to the Super Bowl. Dempsey is confident, that, regardless of the outcome, the passion will always be there with the fan base, including outside of football season.

“I don’t know what the perception is around the league, but they’re a rabid bunch and they love talking about their team,” Dempsey said of Jacksonville football fans. “It just goes to show you the power of the NFL. Even a team that’s 1-15 and has had as many losing seasons as they’ve had in the past dozen years, it can dampen the enthusiasm but it can’t put it out. Jaguar fans are a passionate bunch. If nothing else comes across in this interview I hope that does. This is a much aligned fan base in terms of attendance and passion.”

BSM Writers

3 Tips For Working With A Difficult Co-Host

Everyone is way too sensitive to what
are totally understandable and even innocuous barbs from an irreverent personality.

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Robert Sutton wrote one of the more important business books I’ve ever read: “The No Asshole Rule”.

Yes. That’s the title, and while I’m probably pushing the bounds of good taste here, Sutton
successfully lobbied the Wall Street Journal to use that very term so I’m hoping that will serve
as satisfactory precedent for my editors here at Barrett Sports Media.

Sutton went so far as to define the term as “a person who leaves another person feeling
oppressed, humiliated, de-energized, or belittled”. He then set about proving these individuals
were toxic to an organization, sapping productivity and driving out competent co-workers. His
underlying message was two-fold:

1) You should avoid working for orifices;

2) Any company employing an orifice should seek to expel him or her from the
organization.

It’s a really good book, but it’s of limited use if you don’t control who you’re working with.

What do you do when you’re partnered with an orifice?

Now, I happen to have given this matter quite a bit of thought over the five years I was part of a three-man show that included one of the funniest, most offbeat, and occasionally frustrating
people I’ve ever encountered. He was a crucial component to the success of our afternoon
drive show and every so often would do something that would understandably enrage
someone he was working with. I’m not going to specify who this was because I do like Jim Moore and don’t want to hurt his feelings, but he was the ultimate wild card who made tons of people laugh and more than a few snarls.

He liked to reveal the inner workings of the show whether it was a planning meeting or
something that occurred off-air. He referred to this as “pulling back the curtain.”

After I stumbled over my words, he looked at me and said, “You’re absolutely brutal.” It was
hilarious, and we played it for years as a drop.

Amid a segment in which we were discussing something about Richard Sherman, he
declared that I was sounding like a typical talk radio host trying to make something out of
nothing. I laughed at that, too.

A few weeks later, as we discussed the weekend series in which Seattle became overrun with
Blue Jays fans coming down from Canada, he criticized something I’d written for lacking
objectivity and declared the whole segment dumb. I was furious, and while I did my
best to hide my anger during the rest of the segment, we shouted profanities at each other
during the break and I didn’t speak to him outside of our time on the air for the rest of the
week.

Meetings ensued. Apologies were made by both of us. My point here is not to re-litigate what
happened or try to justify the anger I felt at the time. I was overly sensitive to a pretty harmless critique. I was also fed up with someone who consistently did things that made me feel belittled and de-energized. He was acting more like a heckler than a co-host, and this posed a specific challenge for me because I was leading the show.

I was not alone in that regard. He’d anger other co-workers, too, and many of the players and
even teams that we talked about whether it was Richard Sherman threatening to have his press
credential pulled, Michael Bennett, saying he should be “fired and suspended” among many
other profane observations after a particular column. Hell, Gary Payton stood up ready to fight
him before a playoff game in 1996 after an interview that started with a question about Payton
getting IV fluids after the previous game in the series.

It strikes me there are two explanations for all of this: 1) Everyone is way too sensitive to what
are totally understandable and even innocuous barbs from an irreverent personality. 2) This
personality has a way of annoying and antagonizing those he’s around, and while this makes
him incredibly entertaining, it can make a sustained working relationship difficult. To put it in
in Sutton’s terms, this particular person had a habit of leaving others feeling oppressed, humiliated, de-energized, or belittled.

With that in mind and based on personal experience, here’s my guide if you find yourself
working with an orifice:

I. Accept them for what they are
I stopped wishing my co-host was anything other than what he was. This was entirely personal
and had nothing to do with my co-host or the people who supervised him. I accepted that he was a remarkably funny and unique character, who was crucial to the show’s success, and every so often he was going to act up in a way that angered the people around him. I just accepted this as the cost of doing business and when he did act up, I’d remind myself that I shouldn’t expect anything different.

II. Set ground rules
Establish very clear boundaries that should not be crossed. In this particular case, it was to
state that the time to declare a segment or idea stupid or unworthy of discussion was before
the show as opposed to during the show. I didn’t care if he understood why this was the
case, he just needed to know it was.

III. Don’t take the shenanigans so seriously
We always say a show requires cooperation and trust, and no one tells you what to do when a
lack of cooperation erodes that trust. One answer is to demand better cooperation, but I found this was futile and led to more frustration. I came to view the lack of cooperation as part of the
show, something that could be commented on and even laughed at. There was a rogue
operator in our midst.

Did these changes make the show better? That’s a question for the supervisors and the
listeners. I know that it made the show more sustainable because it made me less angry. I
stopped seeing my co-host as a malicious saboteur and started viewing him like a pro wrestler
who occasionally stopped following the script. Sometimes, his punches would feel like live
rounds. He was working stiff, his insults sharper. Sometimes he’d no-sell, commenting on the
general pointlessness of the discussion rather than actively participating in it.

Demanding he follow the script was never as effective as deciding that his whole act could be
part of the show.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise Episode 85: Vin Scully Really Was That Good

Demetri Ravanos

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BSM Writers

LIV Golf Bungling of Charles Barkley Deal Questions Competency

Barkley could’ve been a face that is used in more interview appearances across sports networks and cable news to address the controversy and clear the air even more than he already had done so previously.

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Charles Barkley

It’s already been more than a week since Charles Barkley announced he is staying with Turner Sports and I’m still left in shock and bewilderment. Barkley’s decision to stay at a show that has won multiple Emmy Awards, gave him a whole new set of fans and friends, and even has its own documentary doesn’t surprise me. LIV’s disorganization and inability to make these conversations an actual negotiation is what truly shocks me.

In an interview with GolfWeek, Barkley told the publication “no, they haven’t offered me anything.” He declared that working at Turner was his priority and “I’m not gonna keep Turner in limbo. So that’s my priority.” Let’s rewind the first sentence he uttered, though. And I quote, “they haven’t offered me anything.” You had sports fans and personalities across the world nervous, scared, and panicked that we would lose Barkley’s hilarious antics during NBA coverage forever not even to give him an offer? Are you kidding me? (Just want to note that this is one of my favorite Barkley sayings.) What is wrong with LIV and who is running their media strategy?

Barkley told The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand that he sat down for dinner with LIV Tour leader Greg Norman two weeks ago and came away believing that the tour would find itself with a television deal in the U.S. If this is the case, how does LIV not come to dinner with a ballpark estimate of how much they want to pay and an idea of what they want Barkley to do for their brand? You have a once-in-a-lifetime moment to secure a deal with sports media’s most outspoken personality and you don’t even come to dinner with an offer?

LIV could’ve used Barkley to finalize a deal with a TV network. John Ourand of Sports Business Journal reported on his sports media podcast this week that LIV’s TV deal, if it ever happens, will most likely be a time buy. If Barkley was added on, I guarantee some sort of rights fee would’ve been included. There is no sports network –scratch that– no TV network on this planet who would miss out on the opportunity to bring Barkley on board as a contributor even if it means airing subpar golf with segments that could go viral, get aggregated by the biggest websites in the universe and fill air time. It’s Charles Barkley!

Because of Barkley’s relationships with sponsors who are closely aligned with Turner, and Turner not wanting to lose the former NBA All-Star, I don’t even think it is out of the question that Turner could’ve been a potential rightsholder if Barkley signed on. Warner Bros. Discovery’s operations involving the PGA Tour are mostly outside of the United States market except Golf Digest. Between TNT, TBS, and HLN – all networks that have aired exhibition golf matches in the past – Turner has plenty of room to air the telecasts. Coincidentally, Turner already has a relationship with Saudi Arabian golf. CNN International aired a monthly series about golf that was sponsored both digitally and on-air by Golf Saudi, an organization that promotes Saudi Arabian golf courses. For those who are against the notion that LIV should even exist, the idea of associating yourself with Golf Saudi might be even worse since LIV plays in different countries for each tournament.

Barkley could’ve been a face that is used in more interview appearances across sports networks and cable news to address the controversy and clear the air even more than he already had done so previously. Having a recognizable face promote the brand could’ve eventually taken some of the pressure off and focused the attention on actual golf action happening. They could’ve even used Barkley for viral pieces that go up online, podcasts, and an alternative broadcast where he brings on his friends as guests – a “Manningcast” copycat. A charitable component helping poor communities which Barkley has a passion for could’ve been implemented as well. The opportunities were endless but LIV couldn’t even manage to bring an offer to the table. A dinner with no offer is such a useless gesture. It’s like being 7’7” with zero NBA talent – too tall for nothing.

Now, more than ever, I just can’t take LIV Golf seriously. It feels like an exhibition that is rightfully challenging an organization that has been glorified in its perch for too long yet doesn’t have the right tactics of taking the PGA away from its throne.

Ironically, the PGA Tour will be offering its athletes more prize money than LIV next year. The tour will always be aligned with the majors – who haven’t toed a line yet but could at some point if each separate organization decides it is too far against their code of ethics to allow in LIV athletes. And interestingly, despite LIV living on YouTube, the PGA Tour is working on a docuseries alongside the majors for Netflix that could help draw a younger, more unique audience to the sport than LIV does despite its attempts to add live music to their tournaments, stream all of their events and add sleek, more modern graphics than what PGA telecasts offer. Most of all, the PGA Tour has all of the major media companies in the bag for themselves for years to come.

The tour has also made mistakes in aligning itself with Fox News. In the past couple of weeks, Greg Norman has granted the network two exclusive interviews and has allowed their golfers to sit down for interviews on Tucker Carlson Tonight. We can’t neglect the fact that Fox News is one of the highest-rated networks on television and that Tucker Carlson Tonight sometimes beats the broadcast networks in primetime ratings which means LIV is getting a huge amount of exposure through these sit-downs. But it is never smart for any sport to politically align itself on one side or the other. Just ask the NBA. If you’re going to sit with Fox, sit with the other news and sports networks who I’m sure have undoubtedly asked you to speak with them as well so that your nonpolitical organization looks fair and balanced. Hell, sit down with us at BSM! I’ll talk to you. Don’t be afraid to take some heat if you want the discussions about the politicization of your league to go away at some point. It just makes more business sense to stay as neutral as possible and the Fox-ification of LIV is bound to turn some more people off who don’t agree with Fox’s way of thinking. (Random sidenote: Something tells me not to be surprised if LIV Golf ends up on Fox News Media properties like Fox Business Network and Fox Nation. Both networks have aired sports programming of some type in the past and present.)

LIV may live for a long time because they have the funds to do so. It is questionable and maybe doubtful if it will ever live with a purpose.

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