Author Archives: Kent Sterling

Key to getting and keeping a job in sports media is being your most truthful and real selves

Being the first you, rather than the next Stephen A or Skip Bayless, is the best road to real success – especially at the local media level.

Sports media is a tough business.  Talk to anyone who’s trying to make a career out of talking or writing about sports, and they will tell you.

Few media companies are in growth mode – most are continually shaving payroll and staff.  Having a job is a win.  Keeping it is another win.  Having a job that pays enough money to sustain yourself or a family is a virtual miracle.

Despite the long odds against earning a living wage, thousands of college graduates enter the race to snag a gig analyzing games, players, coaches, and management.  The toughest part for them is a lack of background to critique any of them – at least not in a unique or useful way.

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A professional life needs to be lived prior to sitting in judgment of others.  A lack of experience and wisdom is not the biggest hurdle to clear in getting to the promised land.  It’s those who serve as role models who cause the biggest problem.

Many who lack that wisdom try to ape the wisdom of others who are successful, and that doesn’t work either.

People like Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith, and Colin Cowherd blather, rip, and opine without taking a breath all day long, and they do it with only audience response in mind.  They want clicks, listens, and ratings.  Nothing else matters to them, so each says whatever he believes will get the greatest tonnage of eyes and ears.

These three, and others like them, instruct the next generation that authenticity is an unnecessary contrivance and that the ends justify the means.  Truth is an indulgence in which they will not abide, and what a shame that is.

Authenticity is everything – not just in media, but in life.  Living life as the best version of yourself should be the goal, not a hinderance to success.

Instead of trying to become their best selves on-air or online, young broadcasters are trying to be the next Cowherd, Stephen A, or Bayless, and that is not going to bring long-term success.  The best path is to be as purely original as possible.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, every improvisor in Chicago wanted to be the next Bill Murray.  None were.  Even if they had been reasonable facsimiles, the original was still being the actual Bill Murray.

In the 1990s, there were dozens of radio hosts doing reasonable impressions of Rush Limbaugh.  Some got hired by stations who carried Rush as a lead-in.  Few lasted more than 18 months as listeners discovered they were frauds – empty shells behaving as someone they were not.  They could not compete with the real thing, especially when their shows were adjacent to Rush’s.

Being exactly who they are, and speaking or writing the best version of their truth does not guarantee success in media, but trying to be the next whomever virtually guarantees failure.

Here are a few quick ideas of how to get a job, keep it, and make a run at being a success in media:

  • Be yourself – always.
  • Say yes to any position offered.
  • Listen to your boss, and do what he or she says as well as you can without debate.
  • Sending a resume’ or completing an online application is useless – call the boss and introduce yourself.
  • Understand you are very likely at some point to be fired, and embrace it as a change from which you can benefit.
  • Always be available for additional shifts and assignments.

Working in sports media is tough.  It can be done, but only as a very diligent and responsible version of the true you.

 

Breakfast with Kent – IU has 3 starting QBs? Pacers Gaming season online tonight; Pacers sign Brimah

SNBS – Tom Allen says IU has 3 starting QBs; Sports media is a tough business

Indiana fans are excused from attending or caring about Big 10 Football Media Days

Tom Allen will talk about his program’s progress, and hopefully his optimism is justified. If not, they have been there, done that many times.

Indiana University Football has been an oxymoron since the beginning.  Minus a few glorious years under Bo McMillan and Bill Mallory, and that glorious run to the Rose Bowl in 1967 that virtually no one alive can remember, IU and football have never gone together.

Big 10 Football Media Days begin at Noon today, and for fans of Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, and hell, even Purdue, it is a big deal to hear from their coaches about the upcoming season.  For IU fans, we know the drill – the coach talks about incremental improvement, and how last year’s disappointment was a product of injuries and a couple of losses that could have been wins if not for a bad bounce.

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This isn’t coach Tom Allen’s fault, or even athletic director Fred Glass’s.  Extricating a program from this extreme level of entrenched mediocrity is exceptionally tough, and no program in the history of college football has authored mediocrity at the level of Indiana University.  Tom and Fred do their best to close the gap between IU and their rivals in the Big 10 East, but trying to reach Ohio State’s level of play after over a century of barely competitive football involves a lot of heavy lifting over a long period of time.

As Colts coach Frank Reich always says, “Get one-percent better everyday.”  That sounds great, but everyone else is working to improve too.

The point is, Indiana is Indiana, and Big 10 Media Days is not a magical moment for those of us who care about the program.  We’ve taken annual trips down Hope Road, and have grown tired of those journeys ending in fiery crashes.

There is good news for IU fans that has nothing to do with who the starting QB might be – the parking lot between Memorial Stadium and Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall has been renovated, the I-69 extension is complete as far as Martinsville, and beer and wine will be on sale during games.  Oh yeah, the bathrooms at the stadium have also been rebuilt.  That means we can take 67 south from Indy to Martinsville to Bloomington and never see an orange cone or deal with lane closures.  It also means no need to sneak maintenance beers in our sleeves as we leave the tailgate to enter the stadium.

The point isn’t to crap on IU Football, but to manage expectations as we prepare for another Autumn with six trips to beautiful Bloomington, Indiana.  Football will be part of the fun, but there will also be opportunities to reconnect with fellow alums, enjoy a beer or two, indulge in a little nostalgia, and wander over to Nick’s for buckets and laughs.  Win or lose, Indiana fans have found reasons to smile on those Saturdays.

Football season is nearly upon us, but Hoosiers fans are excused from full participation in the Fall Frenzy until games start August 31st at Lucas Oil Stadium against Ball State.

In 49 states, college football season starts with conference media days.  But this is Indiana!

Breakfast with Kent – Rory with quad at home Open; Darvish leads Cubs; Colts Camp in week; Pabst leads NW

SNBS – Top Five Indianapolis Sports Stories since opening of Emmis Worldwide HQ (1998)

IU Basketball – Winning is EASIER with Indiana kids and without cheating

It isn’t just about banners for Indiana Basketball.

This is Indiana!

IU Basketball fans say “This is Indiana” a lot – as though evoking the name of the university and state that takes such pride in its basketball heritage can shake off the rubble and cobwebs of a program that has receded into national irrelevance over the past quarter century.

During that 25-year period, there has been one trip to an Elite Eight or beyond (which ended in a 2002 National Championship game loss) and three Big 10 titles.  Nine of the last 16 seasons have ended without an NCAA Tournament bid.

That is Indiana!

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The argument about how current coach Archie Miller should rebuild the program rages like a debate over immigration among the petulant children serving in congress.

Some want Indiana to do what it did when the Hoosiers were feared – recruit the hell out of Indiana, be tougher and smarter than everyone else, and win the Big 10 like it’s their birthright.  Others say the quaint notion of winning by building a culture with a foundation of players native to the Hoosier State is dated – a denial of the advancements of college basketball.  Talent wins championships.

I am firmly on the side of those who want IU to return to its roots of being tough, smart, and filled with the best players from Indiana.  It seems Archie Miller subscribes to that romantic vision of Hoosiers playing for the Hoosiers.  We haven’t seen a lot of tough and smart yet, but Miller has just welcomed his second recruiting class to Bloomington, and they have been filled with Indiana All-Stars.

The goal of Indiana Basketball cannot be simply to win – any program can win if it is willing to do anything it takes to accumulate talent.  IU must win without cheating, with students who earn meaningful degrees, by playing a team-first style of basketball, and with a roster of Indiana’s best.  Many argue those restrictions make winning more difficult.  I believe they will allow the program to win consistently.

So why do I keep coming back to IU recruiting Indiana prep kids as a key to success?  Is it a romantic hope for a return to a “Hoosiers” style of play, and a similar ending to the greatest of all sports movies?  Not at all.  It’s about quality of play.

Indiana kids work at the game year-round, they are coached and trained at a higher level, and they succeed at basketball disproportionately to players in other states.  Over the last 15 years, Eric Gordon, Jeff Teague, E’Twaun Moore, Mike Conley, Greg Oden, Josh McRoberts, three Zellers, three Plumlees, Gary Harris, Trey Lyles, Gordon Hayward, Glenn Robinson III, JaJuan Johnson, Robbie Hummel, Yogi Ferrell, Caleb Swanigan, Courtney Lee, George Hill, and Romeo Langford have graduated from Indiana high schools to the NBA.

That’s a lot of talent for a state the size of Indiana.

Indiana Basketball is not about banners – it’s about knowing that each banner represents winning through doing it the right way.

If that’s too tall an order for a coach, they don’t need to apply for the IU job – because THAT is the IU job.

If Bo Ryan could figure out how to win consistently at Wisconsin, how the hell hard could it be at Indiana?

I believe IU is headed in the right direction.  Trayce Jackson-Davis and Armaan Franklin – both from Indiana – represent a very talented and smart recruiting class.  Returning players will be healthier and better developed.  Miller has had another year to acclimate to Bloomington.

Experts are predicting Indiana to finish in the bottom half of the Big 10.  That’s nonsense.  IU should and will finish in the top six of the Big 10 if the roster stays healthy.

That will be Indiana!

Breakfast with Kent – Is “Indiana Basketball Culture” dead? Pacers ranked 14; Colts #1; Cubs walkout

Focusing entirely on basketball has costs, but is necessary – and the rewards are great

Ryan Sterling wears this uniform to work today because of the lessons he learned while wearing a basketball jersey.

ESPN.com posted an interesting two-part series last week focusing on the harm caused by young athletes focusing entirely on basketball.  It was well-researched, interesting, and probably scared the hell out of a lot of parents whose kids dream of playing college basketball and maybe even the NBA.

One thing it failed to mention is that hyper focus on basketball is the only way to become good enough at the game to succeed against other players who are equally committed.

People argue life would be much better for kids if they played every sport – football, basketball, baseball, tennis, soccer, golf, hockey, and more.  They would grow up learning a variety of lessons available from competing in each game, and their bodies would not be subjected to the kind of overuse that causes injuries described in the ESPN piece.

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But they will also fall far behind those who work relentlessly at basketball as their sole vocation.  There is no replacement for relentless diligence, and unless every basketball player simultaneously agreed to follow a sane protocol of diversity in activities, those who continued to embrace daily drill work would dominate the game.  The athletes who didn’t find their way to the gym as often would wind up on the bench and eventually out of the game entirely.

There is also the little problem of scheduling.  If a young basketball player wants to play a spring sport like baseball, it would be very difficult to compete at basketball on the EYBL or Gauntlet series.  Without playing in those events, being recruited by college programs becomes very challenging.  If a kid plays in the summer, he has a few days between those exhausting events and the first football practice.

A couple of years ago, basketball ended on July 31, and football practice began of August 1.  Kids had roughly 15 hours to rest between sports.

It’s easy to look at youth basketball as a flawed system that wears down bodies and robs kids of an opportunity to enjoy many sports, but excellence has a price.  And it also has rewards.

When my son was trying to work himself toward excellence in basketball, he got to school early to get up some shots, lifted during gym class, competed in daily open gyms, and then went to a basketball trainer at least three times per week.  It never ended, and he loved it – or at least he never complained.

He became a very good player, developed knee tendonitis, suffered from a serious back strain, and still has ankle issues that will have to be surgically repaired at some point down the road.  He never missed a practice, and only missed one game (because of stomach flu) and one tournament (with a severe ankle sprain).

The work ethic he developed because of his devotion to basketball served him well.  He played college basketball at Loyola of Chicago, where he graduated with academic honors, and then succeeded at law school.  He’s an attorney today because of the many lessons he learned striving to become a great basketball player.

In fact, he was recommended for the position he currently holds because of the way he played basketball in a local lawyer league.

This past weekend, Ryan was a groomsman in the wedding of a Loyola teammate, and later this year he will be the best man at the wedding of a friend he made playing basketball.

Yes, there is a cost for working like hell to pursue potential in basketball, but there are numerous counter balances that make focusing on basketball worth every rep, gasser, and shot in an empty and dark gym.

Some – like those who wrote the ESPN piece – will focus on the cost, especially for those who never cashed a check for playing professional basketball, but someone needs to point to the life-changing gains that can come from sacrifice.

Basketball is a great game that engrains innumerable life lessons and provides great benefits, and if the cost of playing are aches, pains, and surgeries, those who dedicate themselves to it still come out way ahead.