I was able to unveil my most accurate impression of Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy last weekend — “I’m a man! I’m 40!” That’s right, I officially turned the big 4-0 last Saturday. My girlfriend, the lovely Christina, took me to sunny Miami so that we could celebrate while catching my beloved Dolphins play the Raiders on Sunday Night Football.
Aside from hearing the familiar “Raaaaiderrrrrs” chants from Silver & Black fans and noticing that the Dolphins o-line would struggle to block me without drawing a holding penalty, something else stood out. Make sure you’re sitting down for this — two opposing fans got into a shouting match. I know. I was shocked too.
It turns out that a Raiders guy rocking a Marshawn Lynch jersey, and a Dolphins girl wearing a shirt that said, “B*tch, I’m a Dolphin,” didn’t exactly mesh well together. There were f-bombs galore. Middle fingers were flying around as if there was a rewards program for each one used. The girl’s mom also had to cover her daughter’s mouth while pulling her hair so she didn’t run after the guy as he left. Yikes.
It made me think about something my mom mentioned to me recently. She thought it would be cool if I got a “Noe Show” license plate. On the positive side, it’d be a good way to promote my sports talk radio show. People who already know me would see me driving to work or putting gas in my car just like them. People who didn’t know me might do a Google search and check out the show at some point.
My mom’s suggestion really changed how I view myself though. I’m a good guy overall, but I’m not a candidate to be included on the list of recognized saints one day. Occasionally, I’ve suggested that a fellow driver could jump into a river. Those suggestions might’ve included sign language that either provided directions to the nearest river, or an easy-to-translate message indicating how unhappy I was.
That should never be the way I behave. Plus, on the heels of my mom’s license plate suggestion, what if that other driver was a listener?
Sports radio hosts are constantly given pointers on how to be more successful. Make sure you pay off your teases. Maintain clock integrity. Don’t waste time getting to your point. Yada yada. All of that stuff is great advice, but it’s absolutely meaningless if you act like a lunatic in everyday life when there isn’t a microphone in front of your face.
Everything you do matters. The tweets you send matter. How you treat the cashier at the grocery store, the server at the restaurant, the driver that tailgates you — it all matters. We had a work party in Albany, NY years ago. I told the bartender to have a good night and shook his hand before I left. It wasn’t anything special, but the same guy sent me a message saying that he really appreciated the gesture.
Ratings are impacted by much more than just the hours during a show.
If you’ve had a bad day, you can’t allow it to impact the radio show. Why should it be any different off the air? If a listener bumps into a host who’s in the middle of a bad day, the listener either doesn’t care or fails to consider that possibility. The host is simply considered a jerk. It’s the same concept when fans have negative autograph stories about athletes that blew them off. Regardless of the circumstances, people never forget how you make them feel.
Whether you have a license plate that displays your show’s name or not, operate as if you do. Instead of that “kick me” sign on your back in grade school, act like it’s the title of your show. Carry yourself as if everybody is aware of what you do and who you are.
Another story comes to mind from my time in Albany, NY. We used to host events at a local sports bar during NFL Sundays. I wasn’t hosting on this particular Sunday, but I stopped by to watch ball and support my friend and co-worker, Bruce Jacobs. The first thing he said to me was, “Did you just roll out of bed, Noe?”
The answer was very close to yes. I mean, at least I put a shirt on, right? My clothes weren’t even business casual though. I was wearing some baggy Nike training pants. Man, those things were comfortable. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t a good look. At the time I felt like, “Hey, it’s Sunday. This is my day off. I want to be comfortable while I watch games.”
My thinking was somewhat understandable, but the first part is what really stands out to me now. “It’s Sunday. This is my day off.” For public figures, there really isn’t a time when you’re offstage or off the clock. I didn’t need to wear a tuxedo, but I failed to realize that I was still onstage.
One more story from Uncle B. I’ll never forget about a time when my nephews were much younger — Mini Matt was probably five and Ty was about three years old. My sister pointed out that they didn’t understand sarcasm. If I said, “Man, it’s a heat wave today,” but it was only 15 degrees, my nephews thought that I was literally saying it was really hot outside.
I can’t remember exactly what my playful and sarcastic comment was at the time, but my sister said to me, “Little eyes are watching you.” Just then I looked at my nephews as they were staring at me with these big eyes while soaking in every word I said.
The same lesson still applies — eyes are watching us. It could be the fan sitting two rows back at the game. It could be the father who’s grabbing food at the local sports bar. It might be the slow semi-truck driver that takes two hours to pass another slow semi-truck driver. They all witness and evaluate our behavior. If you happen to be a radio host they actually recognize, the stakes are raised significantly.
Remember to treat people respectfully and avoid giving them the opportunity to misevaluate you. There is no such thing as being offstage. It doesn’t exist. Sports radio hosts don’t go offstage when the mic is off and the show ends. They just trade one stage for another.