While I think the NCAA is a corrupt, inept, unnecessary organization, there are times I actually have some sympathy for President Mark Emmert. Saturday morning wasn’t exactly one of those times. The NCAA chose to announce that it had decided North Carolina State was eliminated from the College World Series at 2:10 AM on the East Coast, when most of the team’s fans and school’s administrators were asleep. It is the absolute peak of cowardice and ineptitude on the part of an organization largely built on those two pillars.
Had they been able to participate as scheduled, the Wolfpack would be forced to play a winner-take-all semifinal against Vanderbilt with just 12 players. Covid protocols and diagnoses had made the rest of the roster unavailable. NC State was willing to play under those conditions. The NCAA was not. The organization ruled the event a no-contest and Vanderbilt punched the first ticket to the championship round.
Back in Raleigh, where I live, Wolfpack fans howled at the injustice. “The NCAA was out for us the whole time!” “The NCAA exists to prop up the SEC!” “ESPN did this!”. This is what instant reaction from the only fan base in the world that I am starting to believe is indeed cursed sounds like.
Did the NCAA screw NC State? Yeah, there is no debate that the advantages of having a fully vaccinated roster were never clearly presented to NC State or anyone else in the tournament. But let’s not absolve NC State’s administration and roster of all responsibility here. They screwed themselves. We’re 16 months into this pandemic. There is no way they can say they didn’t know that unvaccinated players could put their team at a disadvantage.
Fans react in black and white. I have lived in North Carolina and amongst NC State fans long enough to know that despite not having a team that was actually good at anything in most of my lifetime, they believe with all of their heart and soul that the NCAA has put a target on their backs. It is funny, but at the same time, I feel for their fans. If you grew up hearing this and then watched what has happened to teams with “NC State” emblazoned across their chests over and over again, it would be impossible to convince you otherwise.
But you’re not a fan. You’re the media or an entertainer,. You can call yourself whatever feels appropriate. You have the ability to think logically about this situation before you react. Do that and you will come to two obvious conclusions: No one is innocent and there are no good guys here.
Ranting and raving on your show on Monday does two things. Neither of them really help. First, it gives you nowhere to take the conversation. Second, it turns the story solely into a college baseball story.
Does that feel like a good content choice?
When you introduce nuance into the conversation, you get more avenues to walk down and this becomes bigger than a single incident in a single sport.
NC State being ousted from the College World Series is another example of something I wrote weeks ago. The vaccine conversation IS A SPORTS CONVERSATION NOW! Jon Rahm, NFL protocols, attendance at EURO 2020, there are so many sports stories where we see someone’s decision regarding the vaccine has consequences in the stadium and on the field.
Go back to before the vaccine was widely available. VCU was eliminated from the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Notre Dame was eliminated from the NCAA Ice Hockey Tournament. Rice was eliminated from the NCAA Volleyball Tournament. Countless bowl games were cancelled. All of it was due to Covid-related issues. How was NC State baseball coach Elliott Avent not hammering home the idea that it is important for everyone on the roster to be vaccinated, because this could cost us?
I get that in the aftermath of the decision Avent didn’t want to have a vaccine debate. I get that him saying that he was in no mood to have that conversation right now is no indication of how he feels about the vaccine or his personal vaccination status. But his statements that “I don’t try to indoctrinate my kids with my values or my opinions” and “these are young men that can make their own decisions” are weak.
You’re a coach. This is your team. You can’t rule with an iron fist, but you have to steer the ship and make it clear to your unvaccinated players that they just cost their team the chance to play for a national championship. Saying that is not akin to saying that Avent is a bad guy or that the NC State school seal is now the official logo of the anti-vaccination movement.
Look, for all I know, maybe that happened in private. Elliott has been in that role for a long time. I have interacted with him several times. He is a good guy and a smart guy. I can’t imagine that it hasn’t dawned on him that this was totally preventable.
Now, on the other side of the fence, let’s put the NCAA under the microscope. Do you want to talk about a bad PR month? This is an organization that just had a US Supreme Court Justice say its entire business model is essentially illegal. It was not at all prepared for states making their own laws regarding players being compensated for the use of their name, image, and likeness, despite the fact that many of these bills were passed months ago. Now, in the middle of the night, it decided to give the boot to the best underdog story in the College World Series.
To make matters worse for the NCAA, it was absolutely embarrassed by the Douglas County Health Department. The NCAA tried to throw the health department under the bus. The official story is that Douglas County said NC State had to go and there was nothing the NCAA could do about it. The health department was quick to say that was not true.
How anyone can argue that this organization shouldn’t be burned to the ground is beyond me. Everyday the NCAA does something new that is indefensible. If, by now, you haven’t realized that players in all NCAA sports are exploited at the whim of university presidents across the country, who clearly know their decisions are indefensible, then you are a moron and a bad person.
Look at that! We just did a little topic tree action and now have turned a story where all you can really do is go to the phones into multiple conversations. Bruce Gilbert must be beaming!
Present this topic with some rage if you want. That is a totally valid way to talk about this story if it is relevant to your audience, but rage only offers one conversation. Thinking a little deeper has now gotten us to a place where we can discuss the role of a coach and the morality of the very existence of the NCAA.
Nuance doesn’t always play well on sports radio, but that is largely because presenting nuance alone isn’t all that interesting. Nuance’s value to sports radio is in the prep process. Stop, breathe, and think a little deeper. That is how new, more interesting topics reveal themselves.
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.