Going to law school changed Amber Wilson’s sports radio career forever. The funny thing, is if you would have told her the first day that would be the case, she would have responded by saying, what sports radio career?
While she was prepping to be an attorney, she never would have guessed her life would take her to sports radio, where, she was a host at 790 The Ticket in Miami for five years and a weekend host on ESPN Radio.
Law school worked out for Wilson. Today, she has a successful law firm with her husband in south Florida. She’s also still doing sports radio, hosting on the weekends on ESPN Radio. Her story is one of those, where, no matter what she did, the universe wouldn’t let her walk away from the microphone.
Wilson is one of the most interesting hosts in the business, because she doubles as an attorney. That benefits her greatly when topics such as Name, Image and Likeness are at the forefront of the conversation, especially since her firm is planning to represent athletes in this new endeavor. It makes her stand out from other hosts. Not just because of her other job title, but because of how law school taught her how to think.
“I think being an attorney ended up helping me tremendously,” said Wilson. “I was in the sports media business for seven years before I decided to go to law school, so I had years without the lawyer experience. When I made the decision to go to law school I wasn’t really expecting it to help me in broadcasting. That wasn’t my goal. My goal was to practice law. But I do think it ended up helping, particularly when it came to sports radio, because they teach you to think differently.
“If you’re a lawyer, you have an ability to see every side of an issue and to take your own emotions and own viewpoints out of it, and sometimes, it can really help you be a lot more interesting in sports radio, where, maybe you can find an angle where people aren’t talking about. It really just gave me a different way of thinking.”
Wilson left 790 The Ticket in June, citing the need to focus more on her law firm. She was initially tasked with filling the vacancy Joy Taylor left behind after her move to Fox Sports. They were big shoes to fill, but she immediately took the reins and showcased her on-air talent.
Wilson did that while battling some of the toughest challenges of her life. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to fit the show around her treatments. She even got pregnant, but then learned her mom had brain cancer and her grandmother had lung cancer all in the same week. It felt like an avalanche, but through it all, she was professional and gave it her all every day on the air.
Wilson had an incredible five-year run at the station before stepping down. She still has her weekend show on ESPN Radio, but is more involved with her law firm than ever.
“I feel great about it,” said Wilson. “I loved my time there, like you mentioned, it was the hardest five years of my life on the personal front with my battle with cancer, as well as losing my mother and grandmother and some of the personal stuff I went through. But professionally it was a great five years. It was so much fun. It’s my favorite job I’ve had up to this point. I’ve had a lot of jobs in broadcasting, but we talked about how I was a sports radio nerd, and radio is something I always wanted to do.
“There’s just nothing else like sports radio, where you show up and just shoot the shit with your friends about sports for four hours and joke around and have fun. 790 was great to me, management was great to me through all those personal struggles, as well, and I really enjoyed everyone that I worked with. I really did.”
As an attorney, Wilson mostly deals with professional athletes. Her firm doesn’t release the names of their clients, but she says a lot of people would be surprised by the players they represent. On the air, Wilson takes on the identity of the city she loves the most when it comes to sports radio: Miami
“I’ve been in the Miami area and South Florida for the past 15 years,” said Wilson. “I’ve been really, really influenced, I feel like those are my formative years as an adult, post college. I feel like during those adult years I really tuned into a Miami brand of radio. Certainly, Dan Le Batard and his show. They’re the leaders there with that kind of radio. Generally speaking, that is my favorite type of sports radio, because it mixes entertainment with sports. Sometimes it’s not so sports heavy and I can certainly do a sports heavy type of radio. On other days I want to be entertained like everyone else. I like funny, I like entertainment, I obviously like sports there as well, but I want everything in my sports radio that’s typically the brand that I gravitate towards.”
You can make an argument Miami is one of the most unique sports radio markets in the country. On a sports radio show, it almost seems like the less sports you talk and the more pop culture you infunce, the better. But how did Miami adapt and develop that identity of sports radio?
“I think it’s Dan Le Batard,” Wilson said. “I also think it is a consequence of the market. I think most markets are honestly more like Miami than New York. I think most markets are not necessarily as diehard as like New York and Boston. I think most places you have to be entertaining on sports radio. Miami is an event town and they certainly want entertainment. You’re not going to reel them in if you’re too stiff or too bored. Dan Le Batard recognized that and obviously he is Miami. He really led the way and influenced the rest of us.”
It’s been quite a ride the past 15 years for Wilson, both personally and professionally. What the next 15 years holds is uncertain, but she’s ready to handle anything that comes her way.
“It’s been a heck of a ride so far,” Wilson said. “Certainly not the ride I would’ve predicted, when I was 23 years old entering this business. I’m 38 now and I’ve been in it for quite some time and I would say that I’ve never really gone according to some sort of plan. People always ask me that, like, what do you ultimately want to do? I’ve learned to kind of go with the flow a little more than that over the years. I went to law school and I had the thought of getting out, and then I got sucked back in, and I’m so glad I did.”
“At the end of the day I love it and being a sports broadcaster was always my goal from the time I was a little girl. I do see myself staying on the radio. I have my concerns about the direction of radio in the future, such as, will we all be streaming and podcasting or will radio cease to exist one day? Obviously, everyone has those concerns in the business but I love the format so much it would be awesome if I can continue on this path. I just want to do more and get more opportunities. I want to do it.”
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.