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Monday, January 19, 2015

Here's How We'd Fix Cleveland Sports Talk Radio

Posted By on Mon, Jan 19, 2015 at 2:13 PM

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If you have two quarterbacks, you don't have one.

The same age-old sentiment applies in some ways to the terrestrial sports talk radio environment in Cleveland. We don't want to spend too much time on this one — it's sports talk radio, after all — but a brief rundown of our qualms is in order.

WKNR 850 AM had the run of the town for years and the station's generally static lineup was part of what made the arrival of 92.3 FM The Fan in late August 2011 so welcome. There was a competitor, which was nice, along with fresh voices like import Adam the Bull, OSU alum Dustin Fox, and longtime favorites like Kiley and Booms, propped up in morning drive-time after separate and joint stints around the country, including in Washington D.C. and on Fox Sports Radio. There were also castoffs, manning the boards and doing 20/20 updates after getting bounced from WKNR over to 92.3 or catching on with the new FM station after toiling away in the very, very small circle of Cleveland sports media for years.

The upside, three and a half years later, is that the lineup hasn't changed. Kiley and Booms still fill the morning airwaves, Baskin and Phelps talk in your ear during lunch, the Bull and Fox are there when you're getting sleepy in the afternoon, and Ken Carmen is around when you're too tired to change the station at night.

WKNR, meanwhile, operated in those three and a half years like so: Every once in awhile, all on-air talent put their name in a hat and some Top Man drew names and randomly created new shows. Or at least that's how it feels. Remember when Hooley had a show with Brinda? Oh, this guy's not working out in the afternoon? Let's just pair him with this other guy we've had forever and we'll make that a new show. Weeeeeee, in the parlance of Senor Rizzo.

While 850 pulled in some new talent in unconventional ways — grabbing Grossi for Browns coverage and Windhorst for Cavs coverage — the AM signal's modus operandi was usually to promote from within, if at all, meaning a guy who did a decent job on the board or had some good chemistry could land a second or third tier spot on a show. What WKNR hasn't done, and this obviously goes for 92.3 in its steadfast consistency as well, is hire someone new, someone with talent, and let them grow an audience. In most ways, it seems like both stations feel safer letting the predictable ratings come in with the predictable names than change anything up.

That's the long-winded version of saying that neither station is a good listen from morning to night, and that we could point to any number of folks either getting too much play or not getting enough play (in the latter case: Why the hell doesn't Anthony Lima have a regular show by now?).

Anyway. this was the subject of a lengthy email thread amongst some pals last week and it got us thinking of what the ideal one station lineup might look like. Naturally, you'll probably disagree. Go ahead and kill us in the comment section. And keep in mind: Including certain people isn't a defense of their personal lives, nor condoning how certain stations reacted to certain situations in the past. It's simply what makes the most sense, and in the case of one Mr. Tony Rizzo — as advertisers and ratings would suggest — it's what people are actually listening to.

9 a.m. - 1 p.m. Rizzo and Goldhammer and maybe Je'Rod
The two had chemistry the current Really Big Show lineup can't match and Goldhammer (full disclosure: a friend of the program) felt like Rizzo's equal and not a co-host. Rizzo is Rizzo, and love him or hate him, the guy brings listeners. And as far as schtick goes, he has it nailed in a fashion that seems effortless. We'd consider bringing Je'Rod on board too, but only if we never hear how many Super Bowls he won again.

1 - 3 p.m. Zac Jackson and Andre Knott
Anyone who's heard Zac on the 92.3 Browns' pregame show and anyone who's found the A to Z podcast hosted by the duo knows they have chemistry, know how to make really boring sports conversations not so boring, and have enough sarcasm and background knowledge of just about everyone in town to drop not-so-thinly veiled details into stories. And it's time somebody rescued Knott from 1100.

3 - 6 p.m. Dustin Fox and Anthony Lima
Lima (full disclosure again: a friend of the program) is stuck doing fill-ins and 20/20s and pregame coverage when he should really be manning a show. No one in Cleveland knows the NCAA or basketball in general better, and few are better students of the game. And the Fox, as people call him, is a natural.

6 - 9 p.m. Hooley and Carman
Hooley has grown on us over the years. He thinks more like a journalist than most of the other radio folks in town, and his old-man, been-there-covered-that act is actually charming and brings out some nuances on stories that go overlooked throughout the course of the day when everyone else gets the chance to talk before him. Also, we like Ken. And someone has to know baseball on our hypothetical all-star sports station.

Late Nights and Weekends
We've given less thought to this, but we like Joe Lull, Will Burge (another friend of the program), and think somebody should give WFNY and Scene podcast host Craig Lyndall a shot, and that's not just because he works with us. And throw Scott Raab in the mix too.

OK. Go ahead and disagree now.

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