Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray won the 2018 Heisman Trophy on Saturday. Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was a strong favorite to win the award throughout the entire season right up until the last game occurred. That’s when Murray sped past Tagovailoa like the Road Runner in a Looney Tunes cartoon. Murray ended up with 517 first-place Heisman votes compared to Tagovailoa’s 299.
By the way, it’s pronounced “tounge-oh-vie-loa.” Back to your regularly-scheduled column.
How did the Heisman race change so dramatically? It was all about the final impression. Murray threw for 379 yards and three touchdowns in Oklahoma’s win over Texas in the Big 12 Championship. It was a much different story for Tagovailoa who completed only 10-of-25 passes for 164 yards and two interceptions in the SEC Championship. The Hawaiian product was also forced to leave in the fourth quarter of Alabama’s win over Georgia due to a high ankle sprain.
Sure, Kyler Murray was a dynamic player this year. He compensated for Oklahoma’s abysmal, ragtag defense. The arguments were valid that the Sooners would be in a much worse place without Murray than Alabama would be without Tagovailoa. But you know as well as I do that if Tagovailoa played well in the SEC Championship while leading his team to a win, he would also be a Heisman winner right now. Final impressions matter.
It got me thinking about sports radio. If Tagovailoa can go from a strong favorite to win the Heisman, only to finish runner-up after the final game, can the same dynamic exist in radio? You better believe it. Instead of a last impression, this business is about the latest impression. One insensitive comment can change a strong reputation. One tasteless joke can undo a lot of hard work. With so many choices out there, one bad show can result in listeners going in a different direction.
It’s also how “latest” impressions work in life. If you have a big disagreement with your significant other, it’s easy to lose sight of that person’s great qualities. It can put you in a box of limited thinking. You don’t see the overall picture due to focusing on certain portions from a negative viewpoint. If the latest impression can affect the way you view someone you love, think about how strongly it can impact the way you view a sports radio host that you simply like.
We live in a world that constantly asks, “What have you done for me lately?” Tom Brady was criticized for not leading the Patriots to a Super Bowl for a decade-long stretch. Never mind the fact that he won 10 or more games in every full season he played during that span while also leading New England to the Super Bowl twice. The guy has five Super Bowl rings now and there are some talking heads that still bring up the so-called drought. If Tom Brady’s resume gets questioned, you’d be a fool to think that your sports radio resume is bulletproof.
Living off of past success is a cassette-tape approach — it doesn’t fit in today’s world. In a society that always wants to know what you’ve accomplished lately, you better bring it every day.
I was at the Chargers game on Sunday. After a huge comeback win against the Steelers the previous week, the Chargers slopped their way to a 26-21 victory over the lowly Bengals.
The Bengals are ranked 29th in rush defense and dead last in pass defense, but the Chargers only gained a mere 288 yards of total offense. Why?
Because they weren’t locked in. The Bengals actually outgained the Chargers. I repeat — the Bengals actually outgained the Chargers.
Maybe the Bolts were looking ahead to a monster showdown on Thursday night against the Chiefs or just took the Bengals lightly. Either approach will get you beat in sports radio. Looking forward to your next gig or taking a random Wednesday lightly will cost you in the long run.
Sometimes I forget the lessons I’ve learned through the faulty thinking of others. There are athletes, like Bears Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher, that fall into a trap of thinking that past accomplishments matter more to the present than they actually do. Urlacher walked away from the Bears offer of $2 million for the 2013 season. He told SiriusXM NFL Radio in March of that year, “For me to go through the season and put my body through what it goes through during the season at my age, I’m not going to play for that — not for the Bears at least.”
Where’s the faulty thinking? Urlacher believed that all of the amazing things he did for the Bears over the years should’ve earned him a better offer in 2013. Sports don’t work like that. Sports radio doesn’t work like that. Life doesn’t work like that. What we did in the past doesn’t matter to the here and now as much as we think it should.
If you took your wife out to dinner last night or wrote a nice note a few days ago, that’s great, but it doesn’t matter if you neglect her today. It’s fantastic that Urlacher was a Pro Bowl linebacker in 2011, but that didn’t mean much to the 2013 season when his play and health had regressed.
A sports radio host might’ve had a great month or even years of solid shows. That doesn’t matter if today’s show is a dud though. The metal band Pantera has a song, “Yesterday Don’t Mean Sh*t.” That might as well be the slogan for the upcoming year. “2019 — yesterday don’t mean bleep.”
Penn State head coach James Franklin made an interesting comment about his program this year. “Right now, we’re comfortable being great. And I’m going to make sure that everybody in our program — including myself — is very uncomfortable because you only grow in life when you’re uncomfortable.”
A lot of us can relate to that. We get comfortable to a fault in a job or relationship and don’t put forth the same effort. Take Pantera’s thought and tweak it a little bit — pretend that yesterday didn’t even happen.
Would you behave much differently if this were day one of a new job or relationship? If so, that’s a problem. The same effort should always be there regardless if it’s day one or year 10.
It’s a world full of knee-jerk reactions and prisoner-of-the-moment logic now. Before the Big 12 Championship, Kyler Murray was a solid quarterback that was getting fat against pathetic defenses. Afterward, he was a difference maker with dynamic passing and running ability that Oklahoma couldn’t live without. Before the SEC Championship, Tua Tagovailoa was an absolute dual-threat stud that was taking Alabama to heights it had never seen before. Afterward, he was a player that wasn’t essential to a stacked team that would be winning without him. Viewpoints change quickly.
Forget week to week, or show to show in sports talk — viewpoints can change minute to minute. If a host is dry or dogging it during a particular segment, the audience is gone. Listeners don’t think, “Man, this guy sucks today, but hey, he was great last year so I’ll stick around.” They are adios, amigos. And they might be gone for good. Make sure your performances are solid so you don’t get the Tua treatment.
Following the SEC Championship Game, Alabama head coach Nick Saban suggested, “Everybody should look at the whole body of work when they’re deciding who the best player is.” We absolutely should. But we don’t.
It’s a world that overvalues the last thing seen or heard. With this in mind, it’s important to prepare each show like it’s your last. It will definitely be the latest impression you leave.