Beware of sportscasting fools gold

Many years ago, I was the first talent hire for a group that was going to start a national cable TV network devoted totally to football. It was before even the NFL Network, ESPNU or any of the conference networks.

This startup network had huge plans. I hosted a weekly radio segment for them for three years because they convinced me that my big payday was coming. They sold their vision so convincingly that my wife and I bought stock in the company and encouraged our family and friends to do the same.


Three years later, in August 2003, the channel finally went on the air. Four months after that, they ran out of money and were off the air forever. Many of the producers, directors and talent were never paid in full for their services.

Since then, I have seen similar scenarios play out for many other people in the sports broadcasting industry. The moral of the story is this:

Never make career decisions based on hopes and plans. NEVER.

My experience was typical. People you know and trust are able to convince you to share their vision because, well, you know them and trust them. And their intentions are certainly pure. But the gap between intention and reality is huge – too big for you to bet your future upon.

Maybe you’ve been told something like this:

  • We can’t pay you at the start but we hope to eventually be able to
  • We hope to be able to give you a raise after we syndicate the program
  • We plan to launch the show on cable TV soon and you will be the host
  • You’ll be the Afternoon Drive host after we get the station on the air. Right now, though, we need you to sell.
  • This new podcast network is going to be huge. When it launches, you will be our featured show. For now, though, we need you to recruit folks who will pay to be on our network.

Here’s another real life example. Several years ago a company wanted to partner with STAA. They were recruiting folks across the country to record recaps of major college football and basketball games. When the reporter would bring a certain amount of social media traffic to their stories, they would be paid. However, the minimum amount of traffic they required for compensation was totally unrealistic. I said no to the partnership – I told them their setup seemed like a sham. They were insistent that I wasn’t giving them enough credit. I still said no, I don’t want to share an opportunity with our members that I don’t believe is going to pan out.

Nine months later, that company was out of business. It was another example of big hopes and dreams never coming to fruition.

If you already have a good job, don’t be distracted by “better” opportunities elsewhere that are based on hopes and plans.

It doesn’t mean that you can’t root for those plans to become reality. Just don’t commit to them until they do.


  1. Michael Konowitz

    Pretty sure I worked for that second company you mentioned for a few minutes. I was so uninspired by everything about it that I literally can’t remember the name. The traffic wasn’t happening and they said they were gonna pay me anyway if I kept on, but the whole thing was so jerry-rigged and poor quality that it wasn’t worth my time, I wasn’t learning or really getting better at much, and the little money they promised couldn’t even hold my attention.

    • Jon Chelesnik

      Hi Michael. The funny thing is that I can’t remember their name, either. I know I have the guy’s contact info in my Rolodex. I’m generally not “I told you so” guy, but this dude was wildly insistent that his opportunity was fabulous for STAA’s members. He even contacted a few guys individually and got them to drink the Kool Aid. There was a day after they folded that the thought crossed my mind to email him to ask, “how did everything work out.”


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