I got to cross another item off of my list of radio career "firsts" this past week, attending my first Radio Row in Dallas for this year's Super Bowl from Monday through Wednesday.
For someone that grew up on sports talk radio, the feeling I got walking around Radio Row was the same feeling you get as a kid walking around Disney World looking at all of the rides, watching the radio giants setting up shop and weaving their magic at all four corners of the Sheraton Convention Center in downtown Dallas.
Mike Francesa of WFAN in New York, who I grew up listening to as a teenager, was broadcasting his show literally 100 feet from the Sporting News Radio set where I got to do my show for three days. That was a cool feeling -- it's probably how every quarterback who grew up watching Brett Favre and then subsequently backing him up felt as they were playing soft toss next to him during warmups.
Above all else, it was a chance to once again peek behind the curtain of the inner workings of this business that I'm in, this business that I'm still learning. Things I assumed to be true I found out to be quite the opposite.
Here are four things that I assumed to be true about Radio Row that were exposed as myths as the week wore on:
Myth #1: "Wow, check out our great guest list! We're awesome! Here's who we have coming on today..." A couple weeks ago, the producers for the trip started booking the show. About a week out, I wanted to find out who I would be talking to so that I could begin to prepare for the week and for each conversation. I got my list and it looked like this -- Jerome Bettis, Archie Manning, Jerry Rice, Sam Bradford, Adrian Peterson, John Elway and a handful of others. I immediately forwarded it to my buddies, giddy with anticipation, and to rub their noses in the fact that I do this for a living. (With a firm understanding, of course, that they could all send me copies of their W-2's to remind me that there's a reason they have jobs they may not like as much as I enjoy mine.)
Anyway, I saw that list of current and future Hall of Famers and thought, "Wow, I am really going to kill it this week! No one is going to have a guest list like that!" And then I went to the Twitter feeds for all of the shows I compete with...and saw that their guests lists were Jerome Bettis, Archie Manning, Jerry Rice, Sam Bradford, Adrian Peterson, John Elway and a handful of others.
To book guests on Radio Row, you need the following things -- a microphone, a working transmitter and a pulse. If you see any stations ever bragging about their Radio Row guest lists, then know that these people probably also brag about getting a driver's license or procuring running water.
In high school and college, there's always one girl who seemingly "dates" each guy in a certain group of male friends for anywhere from 15 minutes to four weeks. My college buddies and I had a girl like that -- let's hypothetically call her "Julie." Ultimately, by the time we graduated, every guy in our group of friends had "spent time" with "Julie." Basically, Radio Row guests are each "Julie" and the stations are all taking turns "spending time" with them.
(Somewhere in that analogy is a whore; I'm just not sure if it's the players or our stations. Which brings me to the next myth...)
Myth #2: Everyone on Radio Row is pimping something. This is actually pretty much true, and I was expecting this to be the case. You typically know that you're listening to a Super Bowl Radio Row interview because after the player spends ten minutes acting interested in the interviewer's questions (most of which they've heard already from 50 other stations during the week), he will then spend two minutes telling you why Gatorade replenishes electrolytes better than any other energy drink known to man or why Axe shampoo will make your lady want to tear into you like a rabid beast.
So if it played out this way, why is it a myth? Well, because I literally found the one NFL player who showed up at Radio Row because he likes hanging out with people and taking it all in -- Arizona defensive end Calais Campbell. All he wanted to do was give out his Twitter handle (@Campbell93, if you need him), and bullshit with people. It was kind of refreshing.
(Little Known Calais Campbell Fact: His host on his Colorado State recruiting trip was Houston Texan David Anderson. Listen to the podcast -- this is the hard-hitting shit that I get people to talk about.)
Myth #3: The biggest crowds on Radio Row follow the biggest stars. At a venue where the names walking the floor included Joe Montana, John Elway, Jerry Rice, Jerome Bettis, Ndamukong Suh, Adrian Peterson, Jim Kelly and on and on and on, the biggest crowd and the loudest buzz were caused by "The Situation" from Jersey Shore. I'm not sure what the line is that needs to be crossed for a "reality TV star" to be considered mainstream, but NFL players asking to pose with said reality star is decidedly on the "mainstream" side of that line.
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It's very difficult to shake my faith in mankind; I have a huge window for what I see as "acceptable." Radio Row tested this window a couple times.
Myth #4: It's the Super Bowl, the accommodations on Radio Row must be tremendous! Since this was my first Radio Row, I have no basis for comparison so Dallas --- oh sorry, NORTH TEXAS -- may be the exception rather than the rule, but the wi-fi for Internet (an absolute necessity to do a good radio show in 2011) was so bad you would have thought that Egypt had annexed Dallas into its jurisdiction. Also, to get a bottled water, you had to go up to a different floor and then walk the entire length of the convention center -- or as we in the media call it, "traversing the Sahara Desert." And the extent of the "free food" list (which makes up roughly 98 percent of any grading system by the media for an event) consisted of apples, oranges, bananas and bags of potato chips.
One guess as to which of those items lasted all of 38 seconds when they were put out each morning.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays and follow him at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.