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Seller To Seller: Alec Drake, Drake Media Group

Jeff Caves

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On the first episode of Seller to Seller, Jeff Caves welcomes yield management specialist Alec Drake to talk about rate fluctuation and how we get more out of clients by meeting their needs.

BSM Writers

First Take Wasn’t Built To Discuss Ime Udoka’s Suspension

“It was the biggest sports story on Friday morning. It warranted the amount of coverage that it got but giving it the “embrace debate” treatment was foolish.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Stephen A. Smith is the franchise at ESPN. First Take has probably eclipsed SportsCenter as the network’s signature show. Those are opinions made without any judgment. They are neither good things nor are they bad things. They are merely ESPN’s business model in 2022.

On Friday, social media exploded like an elementary school class breaking out in a simultaneous “uh-woo-woo” when the teacher calls out a single student. It didn’t matter who you thought was in the wrong, everyone was talking about the verbal sparring match Smith got into with Malika Andrews while discussing the Boston Celtics’ suspension of head coach Ime Udoka.

I don’t want to dwell on who is right and who is wrong between Smith and Andrews. I don’t think that matters. The answer to that question is less important than the fact that we are asking it at all.

First Take was not built to handle the nuances and delicacy of a situation like Udoka’s suspension. Clearly, the coach was involved in something that is not as cut and dry as two adults choosing to have sex with each other. We don’t have all the facts and there is no version of a responsible discussion of the situation that involves speculation.

It was the biggest sports story on Friday morning. It warranted the amount of coverage that it got but giving it the “embrace debate” treatment was foolish. I don’t know who that is on. 

Stephen A. Smith did not come out looking great in the exchange, but it seems too simplistic to point the finger at him. Malika Andrews came in ready for a confrontation, but again, to say just one person is responsible for making this feel icky is not addressing the issue at hand.

Matt Barnes of ESPN and All the Smoke posted an interesting message as an Instagram Reel on Friday. He said that his initial reaction to the news of Udoka’s suspension was to post a message on social media defending the coach. After someone that knew the details of the suspension spoke with him, he pulled the message down because he could not defend the things he was told happened.

We all speak with emotion on social media. That whole industry is fueled by users confusing their opinions and feelings as some sort of unimpeachable moral authority. It is a pretend space. It does not matter.

ESPN is very real. What is said on the network has consequences for the people talking and the people being talked about.

First Take is the centerpiece of a billion-dollar network. It is built to be a very specific thing. In a perfect world for ESPN, the show is the spark that starts the fire of every debate in sports. 

We have been having way too many conversations in sports lately that aren’t appropriate for that kind of platform. 

First Take isn’t, and frankly shouldn’t be, a show that deals in nuance. It is loud, passionate and fun. It’s supposed to sound like a bar or a barbershop. Surely Ime Udoka and what he did or didn’t do with female employees of the Boston Celtics will be discussed in those venues, just like sexual misconduct accusations against DeShaun Watson and evidence that Brett Favre helped orchestrate a welfare fraud scheme in Mississippi likely were. But barbershop discussions don’t play out on the biggest brand on cable TV. They have no consequences.

The Boston Celtics are coming off of a season that saw their young core finally start to look like the championship team we have been told they were for the last five years. They made their first Finals appearance since 2010. As a lifelong fan of this team, trust me when I tell you that if a suspension weren’t absolutely warranted, the front office would not be trying to scapegoat the head coach responsible for all of that.

Stephen A. Smith has to take a side. He has to have an adversary to every opinion he offers. It is his brand and it is what he does well. Like the rest of us, he is welcome to have an opinion on Udoke and the suspension. 

First Take does what it is supposed to very well, but it is never going to be the right forum for conversation that has to be more fact and almost no opinion.

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BSM Writers

The Difference Between Sports Media Nepotism and Following In Your Father’s Footsteps

Just because you’re hired simply because of your last name and obvious connections built within the business, it doesn’t mean you can’t be fantastic.

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Growing up, I often felt envious of friends who had a family business. It sounded perfect. You didn’t have to decide what you were going to do in life, what your interests were, or how you were going to make a living. Your destiny was decided. I didn’t know nepotism was really a thing.

Later in life, I changed my tune. I can only imagine the stress of having to follow in someone’s footsteps, or be questioned “that’s not the way your old man did it”. It would bother me greatly.

As a new generation of sports media talents ascend to higher profiles, I can’t help but notice familiar names rising the ranks. Collinsworth. Eagle. Golic. Just to name a few. And while there are charges of nepotism, it isn’t anything new. But to me, there’s a difference between sports media nepotism and following in your father’s footsteps.

For instance, I was fairly critical of NBC after they named Jac Collinsworth their lead play-by-play voice for Notre Dame football coverage. I still feel justified in my criticism, mostly because network television isn’t the place for on-the-job training. Collinsworth has been roundly criticized for his work during NBC’s first two broadcasts of Notre Dame football. He lacks the command and pacing of a polished play-by-play announcer, and it’s apparent throughout the broadcast.

I’m certain had I been a sports media pundit in 1994, I would have roundly criticized Joe Buck for being hired as a play-by-play announcer for FOX’s NFL coverage at the ripe age of 25. Because, like Collinsworth, Buck’s hiring reeked of nepotism.

However, just because you’re hired simply because of your last name and obvious connections built within the business, it doesn’t mean you can’t be fantastic. While a divisive presence on broadcasts, I would venture to guess the majority of viewers believe Buck to be one of the best announcers in sports. Being great takes time. That’s a fact for basket weaving just as much as it is for sports announcers.

My personal favorite broadcaster is Ian Eagle. He’s the cream of the crop, in my eyes, and he and his son, Noah, are in the same boat that Jack and Joe Buck and Marv and Kenny Albert were in the 1990s. Noah Eagle has risen to prominence as the radio announcer for the Los Angeles Clippers, but I’ve recently heard more of his work as a college football announcer for FOX Sports. Truth be told, I find Noah Eagle’s work fantastic. First of all, he sounds just like his father. Not in his vernacular, which is close, but his actual voice is incredibly similar to Ian’s.

But the handle that Noah Eagle has on broadcasts at such a young age is incredibly impressive. His talent is obvious, and I think it’s probably why you didn’t hear many charges of nepotism when he became the Clippers radio voice at age 22.

Doing quality work is the easiest way to quell nepotism accusations. To be completely transparent, as a sports radio program director, the station I ran switched from CBS Sports Radio to ESPN Radio in 2018. The first voice heard on my station when we flipped on Labor Day? Mike Golic Jr. and I immediately hated him. In my close-minded view, the only reason he was on the show, or had any presence on ESPN Radio in the first plac,e was because of his last name.

But Golic Jr., maybe better than anyone I’ve ever heard, didn’t defend himself from claims of nepotism. He embraced them. And in retrospect, it’s such a fantastic way to deal with those accusations. Because anyone who doesn’t like you is going to immediately tell you “the only reason you have that job is because of your dad”. And, in all likelihood, those critics would be right! So why run from it? Why hide from it? Why defend your talent when you’re not going to win those people over immediately in the first place?

It was a brilliant maneuver by GoJo. One that started to win me over. But like his father, Mike Golic Jr. is a fantastic radio, now podcast, host. His ability to relate to both younger and older audiences is one of his best qualities. He quickly became one of if not the best ESPN Radio hosts to deal with serious subject matters. I couldn’t have been more wrong about him during my early days working with ESPN Radio.

I think that’s the difference between nepotism and following in your father’s footsteps. You’re going to be faced with the accusations. You might as well embrace them, and if you’re talented enough — like Buck, Albert, Eagle, and Golic have shown — they’ll fade away in due time.

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BSM Writers

Jordan Schultz Keeps The Score on Breaking News

“You always want to be first and you always want to have the next story but there’s also always going to be another story.  You can’t get held up in why you didn’t get this or what happened here.”

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The moment when Jordan Schultz breaks a story, it’s a feeling that takes him back to his days playing college basketball.

For Schultz, getting a scoop is just like draining threes.

“When it’s a sizeable story and you know you’re first and everyone sees it, I would equate that to hitting your fourth three-pointer in a game,” said Schultz. 

“The competitive aspect of playing basketball in college is pretty parallel to the competitive aspect of trying to break stories. The foundation of playing sports and being on a team goes into that and makes it really exciting for me on a day-to-day basis. You can always find something.  If there’s not a story to break, there’s still an angle to take.”

And Schultz has taken his story-breaking talents from ESPN and Yahoo Sports to theScore as an NFL insider and NBA analyst. 

For Schultz, it was an opportunity too good to pass up.

“It was huge because I hadn’t had the level of support and infrastructure around me that The Score was able to offer,” said Schultz. “I was really excited to be a part of something that I could build my brand and they could build their brand around me.” 

While Schultz has been able to build relationships within the NBA, his primary focus at theScore will be the NFL. He’s built up quite the collection of contacts and relationships, which has led to regularly breaking stories. Sports fans have certainly caught on to what Schultz has been doing as he has more than 145,000 followers on Twitter.

Schultz breaks a lot of stories but he doesn’t break all of them and he’s okay with that because he just moves on to the next story.

“You can only do so much,” said Schultz. “As my parents told me when I was a kid, you can’t dance at everyone’s wedding. You always want to be first and you always want to have the next story but there’s also always going to be another story.  You can’t get held up in why you didn’t get this or what happened here. These relationships that are not transactional and are genuine whether it’s with an agent, a player, a coach, GM, scout…that’s where the success ultimately comes from.” 

Schultz, who now lives in New York City, grew up in Seattle and enjoyed an outstanding high school basketball career. He was a four-year starter and earned all-conference and all-district honors before moving on to Seattle University which was just eight minutes from his home.  He didn’t play very much so he transferred to Division III Occidental College right outside of Los Angeles.

He was known for being a terrific shooter, from anywhere on the court.

“That’s all I could do,” said Schultz. “I was not big.  I was really a phenomenal shooter with unlimited range. They used to call me ‘Satellite’ in the parking lot.” 

When Schultz was first getting started in the business of sports media, his agent at the time asked him if he was interested in meeting ESPN’s Adam Schefter, one of the premier NFL insiders in the business. Schultz, of course, said yes and a meeting was arranged at the Core Club in New York City.

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“I just talked to him for a good thirty minutes and I asked him how did he get into the position he was in because that’s what I wanted to do.” Schultz. “I didn’t know if it was going to be an insider but I knew I wanted to be on TV and I knew I wanted to be considered one of the best.”

Schefter stressed to him that it’s a relationship business and he had to be genuine. The other lesson that Schultz learned from Schefter was that if you wanted information from someone, you may have to offer some information in return.  For instance, if a General Manager was going to give you a story, you would have to reciprocate with some helpful information. As an example, a General Manager may want to know what another team is thinking about paying a player and how that may impact his team.

“And that’s something that really stuck with me,” said Schultz.  “I’m not going to be able to do it at that level that Adam has given his experience in years but I’m trying to get to that point. I was at ESPN for three years and Adam has always been good to me and that was something that really stuck out.”

Jordan Schultz was known for shooting the lights out playing college basketball and was able to transfer his competitive juices to the media world. He’s still hitting treys all over the court today, the only difference is that he’s breaking stories and is on a new team with theScore.

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