Sat. Aug 18th, 2018

Switching Gears

I was involved in a major car accident on Saturday night. The driver of a semi truck intentionally plowed into my rear bumper. I’m not sure if he missed a few hugs as a kid or what. Whatever the reason, the driver walloped my car causing me to collide head-on with a concrete median on I-65 in Nashville. If we catch the guy, his trucking company will be renamed “Noe Inc.” In the meantime, I’m just happy to be breathing and able to make my weekly contribution to BSM.

The EMT people looked at my car and urged me to stop by the ER and get checked out. My chest felt like Snuffleupagus was standing on it, so I thought that was probably a good idea. When I arrived, this magical utopia of an ER had the NFL Playoffs on TV. While I was waiting to get an x-ray and CT scan, which thankfully checked out fine, one thing in particular stood out to me that relates to sports radio.

The Patriots are the masters at switching gears. They don’t just line up and say, “This is our gameplan every week regardless of the opponent.” They craft a detailed attacked based on their strengths and the opponent’s weaknesses. Tom Brady threw a season-high 53 passes against the Titans on Saturday. Running back Dion Lewis had a career-high nine catches. Maybe just maybe it had something to do with the Titans 25th ranked pass defense that struggles to cover running backs in space.

Sure, other teams have a similar approach, but it isn’t as in depth. The Patriots take it to the extreme. They’ll have a back rush for 200 yards one game and barely give him the ball the following week. It’s all about adapting to matchups and putting their team in the best possible position to win.

In sports talk, it’s important for hosts to be more than just one thing. A great host excels in one area, but isn’t deficient in others. It’s like ink cartridges for a printer. If you want a colored printout but only have black ink, you’re screwed. Being multifaceted gives a sports talk host the best chance at being successful.

Colin Cowherd is best known for being thought-provoking. He has generated some laugh-out-loud moments though. I remember a conversation years ago that touched on treating people with respect. Colin agreed and then jokingly said, “Vince, go get me a donut.” It was a funny moment that broke up all of the serious points he was making.

It’s similar to music. Regardless of the genre, songs often switch gears. There are tons of heavy metal songs with slow parts that make the heavy portions sound heavier. Take a commonly known song like Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” It starts off very slow with some clean guitar. When the chorus kicks in with fully-distorted guitars, it sounds even heavier than it actually is. Same thing with the song “One.” Same thing with “Battery.” Same thing with (you get the idea). This is very common.

For a sports talk host, switching gears involves their style and delivery. The humorous things a host says will be even funnier if thought-provoking comments are also made. Same thing in reverse — serious comments will have a greater impact if funny comments are also shared. It’s like playing Texas Hold ‘Em — they say that aggression wins. No, switching gears is the best approach. If you’re aggressive with every hand, you’ll eventually get busted. If you’re conservative with every hand, you’ll lose that way too. You have to alter your approach by being a blend of both.

Switching gears also involves subjects. Hosts have go-to sports that they can talk about with ease, and others that they don’t have as much to say about. Pinpoint those problem areas and work on them. Lakers guard Lonzo Ball stinks at shooting 3-pointers right now. Do you think he’s going to say, “Oh, well. Guess I’ll just be bad at shooting”? No, he’s going to get in the gym and shoot thousands of shots to improve his game. Hosts have to work on their game too so they can switch up their content.

Although switching gears is incredibly important, the irony is that it’s often overlooked. Charles Barkley is best known for his jokes and sense of humor, not his basketball knowledge. If you pay close attention to Barkley’s analysis, he makes smart observations way more often than he’s given credit for. He wouldn’t be on TV in the first place if he only made dumb comments.

I’ll relate this back to music again. The chorus is typically the most well-known portion of a song. That doesn’t mean the other parts are unimportant. If the intro is awful and the verses are bad, the chorus won’t stand out as much. You might not even listen to the chorus if the other parts are horrible. It’s the same concept in sports talk. A host might be best known for one particular thing. However, it will actually be overlooked if the other facets around that skill are lacking.

Something else stood out as I was getting more familiar with concrete medians and EMT’s associated with my wreck on Saturday. As I was driving to work, I noticed that I had a huge crack in my front windshield due to the weather being so cold. As I passed by each light pole on the highway, the light would reflect off of the crack. I thought, “Great, I’ll have to get that fixed.” Five minutes later, my car was headed straight for the automobile heavens after being totaled.

It made me think about the good and bad aspects of sports radio. I’m definitely not the only one who spends too much time thinking about what isn’t perfect. My big thing is having more airtime. Guess what? If I get fired this week or leave sports talk because the lotto fairy visited me, I’m going to miss the shifts I do have like crazy.

At the risk of sounding like Kumbaya is playing in the background while doves are flying around, we work in an industry that many people desire to be in. It doesn’t make any sense to only look at the annoying portions of the gig while failing to enjoy the cool stuff. When a football player retires, he often tells stories about what he misses. Have you noticed that it’s typically positive? It’s the comradery and the “10 sets of eyes looking back at me in the huddle.” We will dwell on the positive aspects of sports talk once our gig is gone, so it makes a lot of sense to dwell on it while we still have that same gig.

This isn’t a PSA to be complacent and accepting of your current situation. Strive to make things better — just don’t get so laser-focused that you simply forget to enjoy yourself along the way. The right attitude makes an enormous difference. Find the middle ground of fighting to make things better while not getting deflating about your job being less than ideal.

This concludes my latest piece thanks to Semis Gone Wild. I don’t think my mind was too scrambled. I didn’t do anything crazy like compare Blake Bortles to a spectacular food like bacon. He’s more like dry toast — serves a purpose but still leaves a lot to be desired. Remember to be good at switching gears. Although you might hate the Patriots, you’ll be very successful if you can switch gears like they do. Also, remember those Andre Agassi commercials where he said “image is everything”? I think attitude is everything. You can have a much happier life if you focus on the positive.

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