Fri. Mar 22nd, 2019

Beyond The Obvious

It generally feels good to be surrounded with positivity. A positive boss makes a big difference. Positive family members and friends make life much more enjoyable. A positive partner can fill your life with joy and make problems go away. Does the same hold true in sports radio? Do topics that are positive in nature lead to interesting discussions?

The short answer is yes, but the conversation has to include thoughts that are unique. Consider the story about UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin getting drafted in the fifth round last Saturday. His left hand was amputated when he was four years old following a disorder called amniotic band syndrome while he was still in the womb. Shaquem is the first player with one hand to be drafted in the NFL’s modern era. He will also join his twin brother Shaquill on the same team after being selected by the Seattle Seahawks.

This is all-time storybook stuff. Disney couldn’t have dreamed up this plot.

It isn’t good enough to crack the mic and say, “What a wonderful story.” Yeah, it’s incredible, but that view is not. It’s too simplistic. The facts of the story are interesting — Shaquill turned down multiple offers from major college football schools that were unwilling to offer his one-handed brother a scholarship, which is how they ended up at Central Florida — but what are the interesting angles?

A few ideas come to mind. The late Jim Valvano mentioned something compelling in a speech after his 1983 NC State team won a National Championship in college hoops. “The gift my father gave me — and I think it’s the strongest and the most powerful gift I’ve ever received, and it’s the gift I find we don’t like to give to each other both in our business and our personal life — the gift my father gave me every day of my life was he believed in me. My father believed in me. He believed in me when I failed. He believed in me when I wasn’t as fine a son, friend, husband, father as I could be — and I’ve done all that. But he’s the one person who when I didn’t measure up to my standard or someone else’s standard, he’d look me in the eye and he’d say, ‘You’re going to make it. I know you are.’”

Shaquem Griffin has been counted out by many people in his life. His twin brother Shaquill is not one of them. He believed in his brother. We need people in our lives who make it known that they believe in us. Self-confidence often develops as a result of someone else showing confidence in us first. Jim Valvano was right. The gift of belief and reassurance is incredibly powerful.

This leads to another thought. Remember how intense former NFL wide receiver Steve Smith was? He was a fiery 5’9” playmaker for the Panthers and Ravens known for having a giant chip on his shoulder. He said that safety Mike Mitchell was on his lifetime hit list and famously told cornerback Aqib Talib to, “Ice up, son.” However, for his final game, Smith wrote the names of family members, friends, former teammates, and Panthers GM Marty Hurney on his cleats — all people who believed in him.

I find it fascinating that we often focus on proving people wrong instead of proving people right. I’m the exact same way. It’s common to be hyperfocused on silencing the doubters instead of trying to validate the beliefs of those who actually support us. It’s strange how that works. The belief of others is what we need most, but it’s often what we focus on least.

Another angle would be to compare Shaquem and Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen. Shaquem didn’t seem to use the criticism of having a disability for fuel as much as he opted to simply brush it off. Conversely, Rosen said there were nine mistakes made in front of him when he was drafted tenth overall. Rosen is absolutely using his draft day slide as motivation. There isn’t a right or wrong approach by either. The psychology and the reaction of each player is very interesting though.

If having a serious discussion isn’t your cup of tea, you could do something fun and creative. An adorable video on Twitter features a little girl named Julianna Linton. She’s wearing a UCF cheerleading outfit and says, “Hi, Shaquem! It’s Julianna. I loved watching you play football in college, and I can’t wait to cheer you on in the NFL. Good luck!” She then executed a one-armed cartwheel.

If done correctly, this could be a great backdrop for a social media video of your own. It could start by saying, “The beautiful Julianna made it look easy doing a one-armed cartwheel. Today we’re going to find out if the members of our show are even halfway as graceful.” I do a show each Saturday with former NFL offensive lineman Ephraim Salaam. The vision of the 6’7” big man attempting to do a one-armed cartwheel is hilarious to me. It would be vital to stress that you aren’t making fun of Julianna, and that you just want to prove how easy she made it look. It could be a lot of fun if done right.

It’s all about finding a unique angle. What’s a different point of view that hasn’t been covered already? “Man, you gotta feel good for Shaquem” doesn’t cut it. “What a cool story” is lame. It’s impossible to stand out if your comments are the same as everybody else. Step far away from Obvious-ville and No Kidding Township.

Pay attention to the tone of your takes as well. A host that is constantly pointing out the negative is a buzzkill. If you think the 76ers had an overrated 16-game winning streak against mostly losing teams (which they did), or that the Browns drafting Baker Mayfield is a horrible idea (which it is), be prepared to point out a draft pick that you think will work out great and have an interesting angle to support it. Talk about the Shaquem Griffin story, just be original while doing so. In our business, a positive story isn’t good enough by itself — the host also has to provide something compelling and outside the obvious.

I realize that sports radio won’t be Kumbaya the whole time, nor should it be. Sometimes a player stinks it up or says something silly that can’t be sugarcoated. Just be aware that your words cause listeners to feel a certain way. Too much negativity wears them out. Too much stating the obvious and they’ll tune you out. Strive to be unique while causing a few smiles along the way. Positivity can be interesting. It just depends on how interesting the host makes it.

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