Paul George could see himself in purple and gold. “PG-13” told the Indiana Pacers last year that he intended to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent in 2018. George instead agreed to a 4-year, $137 million deal on Sunday to remain with the Oklahoma City Thunder without even granting his hometown Lakers a meeting. That’s like saying you intended to go for a jog but wound up parasailing instead. It was such a major turn of events for George. What changed?
Emotion played the biggest role in George’s decision. He reflected last week on the feeling of having unfinished business after being eliminated in the playoffs by the Jazz. “I felt I didn’t finish as strong as I could have. Just knowing you left something on the table, even to this point now, it weighs on me,” George said in a three-part documentary.
The organization also helped George feel the love. They provided five-star treatment leading up to his decision to remain in OKC. The front office rolled out the red carpet for George after trading for him last summer. They flew the small forward and his family to Oklahoma City in a private jet where hundreds of adoring fans greeted his arrival. Russell Westbrook threw a party in Oklahoma City on the eve of free agency after reportedly boarding an eight-hour flight from Hawaii. George announced his decision to re-sign while at the party, which was attended by members of the team’s front office.
It simply felt right for Paul George to stay for all of these reasons. Feelings can be very powerful and persuasive emotions. George’s emotions were so strong that they helped influence him not to even take a meeting with the Lakers organization he’s dreamed of playing for. It got me thinking about sports radio and how emotions can have a major impact on the level of success hosts experience.
I’ve heard the statement many times, “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” It’s such a great concept for sports radio. It could easily be the golden rule for the entire format. We’re often so laser-focused on being right while hosting shows that we can completely forget about how we’re making the audience feel. Being right is great, but it can’t come at the expense of making people feel like dirt.
Sports radio will test your patience as a host. There are plenty of fanboys that call in and say ridiculous things. It isn’t rare to hear a caller say, “Even though the Warriors just picked up Boogie Cousins, the Sixers are still gonna sweep ‘em.” I don’t expect hosts to say, “Well, John, you might be completely right and we’ll just have to see how it all plays out.” That’s lame. I do, however, believe that it’s harmful when hosts totally obliterate callers who don’t make any sense.
Instead of being disgusted while telling crazy fans that they are indeed crazy, try to have some fun. Keep it light by challenging a caller to a funny off-the-wall bet if their prediction is wrong. Playfully ask a caller what his favorite beer is and then if he’s had 27 of them today. Find ways to disagree while keeping the vibe loose so you don’t end up making enemies out of listeners you need to be your friends.
Remember what Rosie Perez said in White Men Can’t Jump, “Sometimes when you win, you really lose.” A host can make a winning argument, but if the opinions are made in a demeaning and condescending manner, the host will come out on the losing end. Winning an argument in a way that causes the audience to resent you is actually a loss. On a side note, I swear I’ll quote a movie one of these days that was made in the 2000s.
I was at a Wendy’s drive-thru Sunday night with the lovely Christina. The car in front of us had a huge sticker on the back window saying, “I am a person.” It looked worse than the Cavs roster without LeBron, but it carried an important message. The guy who calls in to say the 49ers are going to win the Super Bowl is a crazy person. But guess what? The key word isn’t crazy, it’s person. That person has family and friends who will object if you lambast him for his wacky opinion. It doesn’t do any good to turn multiple people against you just because you strongly disagree with a single opinion.
The late comedian Ralphie May once said, “As a man in a relationship, you have a simple choice; you can either be right, or you can be happy. You can’t be both.” This is hilarious, but I don’t completely agree. Being right is definitely in the better-tread-lightly-dude category in a relationship and sports talk. It can be done while keeping the peace if you’re savvy though. The sole focus can’t be on being right. It should be on making others feel good, or at the very least not making them feel terrible.
Before speaking, think, “How will my comments make them feel?” If your statements will make them feel horrid, think of something quickly that won’t. I know this sounds like I’m about to hug a tree in my new tie dye shirt, but it’s true. How would you feel toward a host if you were called a moron or an idiot because your point was disagreed with? I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be singing the praises of that host while also wondering if you should be a part-time hitman.
Hosts can correct callers or disagree with opinions, but it’s all about how that’s being done. There’s an art to disagreeing with a caller while still keeping them on your side. Just be constantly aware of how you’re making people feel. Your goal is to make listeners feel sweet emotion. If you trigger sour emotions instead, your ratings will become sour as well.