Fri. Mar 22nd, 2019

Next Man Up

The Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Boston Celtics 111-102 in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals on Monday night. After the game a reporter said to Celtics guard Terry Rozier, “You’re asked to do a lot on those switches with LeBron. What do you have to do on those defensively?” Rozier responded, “Hope he miss. [That’s] about it.”

Hoping LeBron James misses is a position that many defenders end up in. LeBron was a perfect 4-4 from the field when defended by Rozier, which accounted for nine of his 44 points. Let’s not forget that LeBron just passed some guy named Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Monday for the most made field goals in postseason history (in five fewer games). LeBron had already passed some other guy named Michael Jordan in 2017 for first place on the all-time postseason scoring list. No wonder King James is featured in Sprite commercials instead of Joakim Noah.

Rozier didn’t have success guarding LeBron on Monday, but who has? Rozier is one of many players to get torched by the best player in the game today. I’m not jumping off the Scary Terry bandwagon after one shaky outcome. Rozier has done an admirable job filling in for Kyrie Irving. Rozier has 92 assists and only 20 turnovers during the 2018 playoffs. It’s not like Kyrie is a lockdown defender who would be shutting down LeBron either. Plus, the Scary Terry logo is really cool. It’ll take more to sway me.

No, Rozier can’t create offense or be a 40-point threat like Kyrie, but filling in impressively for a star point guard is nothing to roll your eyes at. He has made the most of his increased playoff minutes (25.9 regular season, 36.6 postseason). Rozier became the next man up when Irving went down with a left knee injury. It got me thinking about how the same philosophy applies to sports radio.

The summertime is the next-man-up season for sports talk radio. Many full-time hosts choose to take weeklong vacations instead of breaking down NFL training camp or the NL Central. It’s when part-time hosts see their minutes increase. Of course it’s important to be ready for these opportunities, but no host should require an opportunity to be well-prepared in the first place.

We always hear athletes that are backups talk about being ready for their number to be called. It’s the exact same concept for a sports radio host. A part-time host shouldn’t only gear up for summertime fill-in work. Each host should constantly be working to improve and stay ready in case a big moment arrives outside of summer.

A part-time host that isn’t working each day to improve is like a basketball player that doesn’t practice shooting unless he’s a starter. What sense would that make? I can’t see a basketball player or host getting anywhere with that approach. You have to put in the work. Basketball players have to get in the gym and get their shots up. Sports talk hosts have to do the equivalent.

How do hosts get their shots up if they only work limited hours? Many ways. Of course you could put together a podcast. It’s also easy to simply record your opinions. Record a few three-minute takes on your computer. Heck, download an app on your phone and record yourself while at home or driving around. You can listen back and figure out what sounds good and what’s hot garbage.

There are a million excuses not to do these things. “It isn’t the same pressure as being on the air. I don’t feel like it. I just need more airtime instead.” Imagine if Lakers guard Lonzo Ball made all of the same excuses to avoid practicing his shooting. If he waited until actual games to work on his game, that jumper would continue to be broke next season.

One thing that backup quarterbacks always complain about is a lack of reps. It’s hard to improve without getting enough repetitions in practice. The beauty about radio is that we control the amount of reps we get. We get to choose how much time we put in, not the employers. If you’re sitting around waiting for an opportunity without working to improve in the meantime, you are mismanaging your time. Chiefs coach Andy Reid is better at clock management than you are if that’s the case.

A standard question in job interviews is, “If you were doing a show (in such and such city) today, what topics would you bring up?” I can remember thinking before those interviews that I should probably have an answer ready just in case. You really should have an answer ready every day. I think generating ideas is like working out. You have to be consistent at both to see results. If you sit around for three months, you won’t have a six-pack after going to the gym once. Just like abs, you have to put in the time to have washboard ideas too. The more you work at it, the stronger your ideas become.

Writer and speaker Malcolm Gladwell believes that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice are needed to truly excel in any field. There are studies that dispute Gladwell’s theory, but it’s not like you can practice sports radio for two hours instead and be a raging sensation. If the goal is to be successful, you have to work at it. Do you think 76ers guard Ben Simmons will have a great jump shot if he doesn’t practice this offseason? Your sports takes will be the equivalent if you don’t work at them consistently.

It would be a shame if a huge opportunity came your way and you weren’t prepared at all for it. The great next-man-up stories in sports don’t fall magically from the heavens. Championship-winning quarterbacks Cardale Jones and Nick Foles didn’t just sit around eating Cheetos before they got major opportunities. Terry Rozier didn’t binge-watch 20 shows without working on his craft. They prepared and were ready without knowing when or even if their opportunities would arrive. We should all do the same.

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