Everyone has someone they look up to in sports media. Maybe it’s because of their style, the way they prep, or even the way they live their lives. Whatever the case may be, even the most successful hosts have patterned themselves and learned from another great in the industry.
Dawn Davenport is one of the lucky ones, because she has inspirational talent all around her. It surrounds her during the week as a co-host of 3HL on 104.5 The Zone in Nashville. Even amidst recent changes to the show, she has two co-hosts that have turned a situation of uncertainty into one that has remained incredibly strong.
“The one constant has been Brent Dougherty,” said Davenport, “He’s been on 3HL since the beginning. I think that helps because you have that voice and that lead, that has been on that show since the beginning. He knows what works, he knows this city, and he knows what people want to hear.”
There’s also Ron Slay, who is the newest addition but is already becoming one of the most lovable hosts in all of Tennessee sports radio. His passion is contagious, and it leaves not only a positive effect on his audience, but on Davenport, as well.
“He is amazing,” Davenport said. “So full of energy, completely true to himself, so likeable. His energy is contagious and people gravitate towards him, and not Just Tennessee fans. He’s a former SEC Player of the Year, and I can’t tell you how many people come up to me and say, ‘Man, I really hate Tennessee, but I really love Ron Slay’. He’s knowledgeable, he brings a different energy and an authentic voice to our show, which has been really refreshing.”
Finally, there is Beth Mowins on the weekends, one of the few women that do play-by-play for college football in the entire industry. Davenport is a true professional in her craft, but she’s not above trying to learn from Mowins or Kirk Morrison, both partners on her broadcast team.
“I look at her and I’m constantly learning from her on the play-by-play side,” said Davenport. “Because there’s not a whole lot of women in that role to model yourself after. That’s where we’ll kind of get better over the years.”
Everywhere she turns, Davenport is surrounded by great talent. But that tends to happen when you are a great talent, yourself. For Dawn Davenport, that’s backed up by her extensive television career, which spanned several years as a morning news anchor. During that time, she was also working at ESPN on the weekends, as well as doing guest appearances and fill-in work at The Zone. The constant 2 a.m. wake-up calls for morning TV were getting to her and she needed a lifestyle change. Sports radio was that path.
“The ability to give an opinion and get to enjoy what sports radio is all about was really appealing to me,” Davenport said. “I had a taste of it through my entire career; covering the Titans, SEC football and jumping on for guest appearances on radio. The transition happened when I was looking for different hours and a different schedule than the morning show. That 2 a.m. wake-up was getting to me. At the time, 104.5 The Zone 3HL had just shifted some things and I met with the PD at the time, Brad Willis, and it just ended up being a great fit. I was able to step in and join 3HL in the afternoons.”
Davenport now plays an integral role in the success of The Zone. That was important when the station saw Midday 180 move to Outkick.com. The station, however, continues to thrive and Davenport credits the environment for the way The Zone has responded
“I think it’s employees are there making sure they are on the same page. There’s positivity there and almost kind of a renewed passion in what we’re doing and what we’re providing to people. I think some of that, with what we’ve gone through in the global pandemic, we’ve always felt or thought that sports are important, but I think going through the global pandemic really shows how many people out there need an escape. We’re able to provide that. I think that’s really helped reinvigorate the station as a whole.”
Sports has always been Davenport’s passion. She was even an athlete in college at Auburn. Now she’s on the sidelines every weekend living her passion. She’s one of the many that are ecstatic to see fans back in the stands, but she didn’t know how much it really meant until just last week.
“It’s interesting because I actually worked football season last year, mostly in the SEC, where there were a limited number of fans. My football season last year was kind of different than a lot across the country. Then week zero I worked Hawaii and UCLA and the Friday night Northwestern game. I didn’t realize how excited these kids were to have the fans back in the stands. I didn’t realize until I started talking about how important it was to them. It was an amazing feeling.”
Davenport is extremely passionate about women in sports media. The opportunity to work with Mowins every week inspires her, and she’s committed to helping the industry think forward when it comes to giving women more opportunities in sports.
“I’ve been working college football and dabbling in play-by-play for ESPN, for two to three years. And then college football, I think this is my eighth or ninth season with them. I will say they do, especially of late, a great job of giving women an opportunity. I think that’s what’s missing. I talk to your boss, Jason Barrett, all the time about the lack of women in sports talk radio. I think part of it is the ability to get that experience so that you’re ready for that next step. It’s hard to find that and to find the opportunity to step in and get that experience when you’re ready for a big change, and I think that’s really where the shift has been. There are a lot more options nowadays, such as podcasts to get experience and step into that space. I like how it’s moving and the direction it’s going.”
It’s refreshing to hear from Davenport that the industry is doing a better job of hiring women. It’s also naive to think we don’t have any room to grow. So what can we do better?
Obviously, The Zone in Nashville took the hint and made an incredible hire with Davenport in the afternoon, but how can we find more talent like her, like Mowins, and so many others that just need the opportunity to shine?
“Yeah, I mentioned the opportunities. I think that starts with management, internships, and making sure the young women realize that there are opportunities for them in this business. That includes talking about it, and celebrating those that do it well and work their tails off. As well as making sure the young women know that this is something you can do. Never thought about doing sports talk radio back in the day growing up. Never even thought about it because there weren’t a whole lot of female voices to listen to where you thought, ‘Oh, I can do that’. That’s changing, obviously. Beth Mowins, on my football crew, is my play-by-play announcer. I look at her and I’m constantly learning from her on the play-by-play side, Because there aren’t many women in that role to model yourself after. “
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.