I never realized how much the Detroit Lions, or any NFL team for that matter, had in common with a sports talk radio building. It turns out there are a whole slew of similarities.
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford just saw his bank account grow significantly. He agreed to a 5-year, $135M extension. Holy Jim Bob Cooter! The largest deal in NFL history includes an average annual value of $27M, a 3-year guarantee of $92M, and a $50M signing bonus. Straight cash, homey!
Incidentally, while “da bomb” and “talk to the hand” fizzled out, I swear “straight cash, homey” never will.
Contracts in sports always create an interesting dynamic. Some players are happy for their teammates when they get paid. Others look at management sideways, but all players want to know when they’ll be taken care of — when they will get theirs. Remind you of a sports talk building at all?
The Lions might like to shower more of their players with cash, but there’s this pesky thing in the way called a salary cap. Franchises can’t pay everybody on the roster the same amount of money, just like sports talk stations can’t give everybody in the building the same salary. Ah, budgets.
The similarities go well beyond the money though. Players also want to know when they will become more of a focal point. “Why am I not getting the ball more? Why am I only on the field when it’s 3rd down? Why am I only on special teams?”
The same dynamic plays out within a sports talk radio building. “Why don’t I have more airtime. Why does that guy have a better time slot?” It’s happened approximately 845,900 times — since Monday.
But not everybody can have a starring role. There are a lot of Lions players in supporting roles, making cameo appearances, or like the Matt Millen era, serving as background talent. Stations can’t give everybody top billing either. The entire staff can’t have the same drive-time shift with maximum listenership. Cue Mick and the Stones, “You can’t always get what you want.”
So, what can be done to keep your team happy when their desires haven’t been fulfilled?
Show them that they matter.
I work a part-time shift hosting national shows for Fox Sports Radio. Trust me, I’m aware of who gets fill-in shifts. I’m aware of who gets promoted. I’m aware of the times when I get opportunities or get passed up. Sports talk radio is made up of very driven and competitive people, and I’m no different.
When my bosses reach out and show that they value me, I’m not as focused on what I don’t have. I basically exhale and appreciate what I do have.
If Don Martin writes that I should smile and it’s going to be a great day, I can hear his slight southern drawl as if he just roped a calf and fed Billy the goat before lunchtime. It makes me feel valued and refocused. If Scott Shapiro says that he caught my show and gives me props for a correct prediction, I feel like I matter. I also feel like the Vikings will let him down again this year, but that’s completely secondary.
Making someone feel like they matter is crucial.
There are a lot of ambitious people in sports talk. Ambition can be a great thing when you work with others that are striving to achieve bigger and better things. That can be infectious in a positive way. Ambition can also be a bad thing because co-workers often get dejected and frustrated when things aren’t moving in the manner they desire.
Find ways to spark that ambition in the right direction.
If you’re a host who has a talented update guy or board op that can contribute on the air — let ‘em. Make them feel like they’re an asset to the show. If you’re a PD who has a hungry staff, don’t let them starve. You don’t have to feed them seven course meals, but at least give them some Toaster Strudels. Have them do a podcast for the website. Have them do a podcast just for you and coach them up. Be a walking compliment giver. There isn’t anybody who dislikes hearing that they did a good job.
Yeah, you’re creating more work for yourself, but that’s sort of the gig isn’t it? A board op that gets some airtime can turn into that weird character, Gollum, from Lord of the Rings gurgling, “Precious. Precious airtime.” You can either deal with that while inspiring your staff through projects, or you can let them be disgruntled by neglecting them and risk damaging the vibe of the entire building. Which makes more sense to you?
There are tons of ways to show the people around you that they’re valued. Find them. It won’t cure everything, but it’ll go a loooong way. The Lions can’t give Golden Tate or Darius Slay 5-year extensions worth $135 million like Stafford, but they can highlight their talents. They can put them in positions to succeed. They can give praise and show appreciation. It’s the same concept in sports talk.
It isn’t hard to show co-workers that they matter. It’s actually very easy. Sadly, what should be obvious, is sometimes the easiest step to forget: remembering to do so.
Brian Noe is a sports radio host, currently heard nationally on FOX Sports Radio. He’s also worked in California and New York as a host and program director and resides in Nashville, Tennessee. Follow him on Twitter @TheNoeShow.