Tuesday was an unforgettable day in sports radio. First, you thought you had a gift dropped in your lap with the news Aaron Rodgers was heading back to Green Bay. Then shortly after, the biggest story of the offseason hit the wire.
Raj Sharan, PD at 104.3 The Fan in Denver, had no idea a trade was coming between the Broncos and Seahawks for Russell Wilson. But as soon as the news broke, he started focusing on how to maximize the opportunity for his station.
Sharan is notorious for quickly getting station promos on the air shortly after breaking news hits. Jim Cutler even pointed this out at a previous BSM Summit. I’ll one-up Cutler and put Sharan’s imaging skills against anyone else in the business.
When the news dropped that Denver was acquiring an elite quarterback, I turned to The Fan to hear the live reaction. As I listened, I wondered when I would hear the first station promo with Wilson. It didn’t take long.
It felt like less than 15 minutes and Sharan already had something on the air. The booming voice of Cutler saying “Let Russ Cook! Let Russ Cook!” filled the airwaves for an exciting and timely drop. But he wasn’t done. Far from it. It was the biggest news in Denver sports since the Broncos last hoisted the Super Bowl. Heck, maybe since Peyton Manning signed in 2012. He was out to out-do himself.
“We had no idea the trade was going to happen,” Sharan said. “But once it did, I knew we had to make the most of the moment.”
His idea was a billboard in the city that celebrated the breaking news. There were steps that needed to take place, most notably getting the green light from his bosses. Once that was taken care of, Raj quickly turned around billboard designs like one of the many promos you hear on The Fan.
“I made some calls to get approval and find out the location,” Sharan said.”It was so awesome. I received so much support from our guys.”
As you can imagine it was an instant hit. Broncos fans all across Denver were tweeting out pictures of the new billboard that read, “Let’s Cook, Russ! Welcome to Denver, Russell Wilson.” Then at the bottom of the billboard was the slogan and logo of The Fan. It was a brilliant idea. But even more impressive was the execution by Sharan to make it happen in such a timely manner.
“I thought it was awesome that we could embrace the moment so quickly,” said Darren ‘DMac” Mckee, co-host of The Drive. “Raj had mocked it up. He comes to me and he goes, what do you think? I go, wow, it looks great. I looked at it, thought about it for a second, and went, well, will people understand it’s Russell Wilson?
“We all know it in the sports landscape, but I’m wondering if the person driving around will understand it’s Russell Wilson, because it did say his name, it just didn’t stand out as much on top. Raj goes, hold on a second, let me look at it. Five minutes later he comes back and says, what about this? It had Russell Wilson on the top in a bigger way. I go, wow, it’s crazy you can make it look so different so quickly. I told him both designs looked great. He said, yeah, I’m going to use both of them.”
That’s the advantage of a digital billboard. If one design wasn’t impressive enough, Sharan had two designs up in front of Denver traffic before the evening commute home. But then it got even bigger. As pictures of the new billboard made its rounds on social media, one of the most well-known media members in the country tweeted out a picture of Sharan’s creation.
“The first text I got from my wife was, wow, nice billboard,” Mckee said. “I said, oh, did you drive by it? She said, no, I just saw it on social media.”
ESPN’s Adam Schefter, and a regular contributor to The Fan, shared a photo of the billboard with his 9.2 million followers on Twitter. Instantly it went viral.
“I had no idea Adam was going to do that but it was really cool that he did,” Sharan said.
“Adam isn’t doing it just because he does spots for us,” McKee said. “I’m sure it doesn’t hurt. But there’s an element of look at this. I thought it was pretty amazing.”
What’s funny is Sharan sounds like a humble quarterback when you ask him about his forward thinking idea. He’s quick to give credit to his staff and deflect all of the praise elsewhere. The reality is that it was an incredible idea with exceptional execution. It’s also something his station will benefit greatly from. Sharan will tell you he was just doing his job, but his above and beyond idea should be celebrated.
It should also be a shining example of how teamwork at a radio station can make something special happen. Breaking news hit Denver and everyone at The Fan pulled on the same rope to capture a special day.
“I have such an incredible team around me,” Sharan said. “It almost brings tears to my eyes when I think about it.”
“Give Raj a ton of credit for being a boss that actually thinks like that in the first place and wasn’t so set in his ways that he had to have it his way,” added McKee. “You have to understand, the second mock-up happened in minutes.”
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.