Radio Daze Ahead For Warren Sapp?

Warren Sapp could be named as one of the hosts on the new "98.7 The Fan" sports radio station scheduled to sign on in August, which is also when his current NFL Network contract expires. Meanwhile, Sapp claims NFLN has retained his services beyond that point. (Photo credit: "Opie".)

For those of you that are about as intrigued as I am about Warren Sapp’s flabbergasting financial situation, there may be a silver lining – or, possibly two.

On both TV and radio.

This week, CBS Radio announced that they will be launching “98.7 The Fan” in Tampa this summer. It will be the eighth “Fan”-branded CBS sports talker, and the ninth sports talk station in the company’s portfolio to either launch on or migrate to the FM band. Mind you, this announcement was made exactly one day before the unveilment of the new CBS Sports Radio network, of which programming elements will be heard on the new “98.7 The Fan.”

While no exact launch date for the new station, which is currently an adult contemporary music station using the name “Play 98.7” (insert “stop” joke here), was not given, CBS Radio did say that “98.7 The Fan” would debut in August.

Coincidentally, August is when Sapp’s current deal with NFL Network expires – and after his controversial “reporting” that Jeremy Shockey was the snitch in the New Orleans Saints’ Bountygate scandal, it was reported that Sapp would no longer be an NFLN employee once his current contract expires.

But when Sapp appeared on the “Toucher & Rich” show in Boston on Thursday, the first thing the hosts brought up, en route to discussing his infamous Bountygate accusation, after noting his recent dismissal from Showtime, they pointed out, “You were retained by the NFL Network, so you will be working for the NFL Network this year.”

Sapp replied with a disciplined, “Yes.”

This is a stark contrast to what was published under Schedule I of his bankruptcy filing: “Debtor’s employment contract with NFL Network ends on August 31, 2012 and unknown if contract will be renewed.”

There’s no official announcement from NFLN, but good for Sapp if what he’s saying here is true (much to the chagrin of Jeremy Shockey). Sapp has been delivering unique perspectives on NFLN since he joined the network in 2008, and it would be a shame if “Snitchgate” contributed to the end of his tenure there – especially with his current bankruptcy, coupled with the prospect of eviction from his Miami condo looming. I guess we’ll find out for sure come September if new NFL Network hire Nicole Zaloumis is feeding Sapp and another NFLN analyst a debate question on whether Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III had a better NFL debut.

His future at NFL Network aside, though, let’s go back to the initial news in this post – the impending launch of an FM sports radio station in Tampa Bay – where Sapp had played with the Buccaneers for nine years and won a Super Bowl in his penultimate season with the team.

When assembling talent for a new sports radio station, particularly on FM, CBS Radio usually has a penchant for teaming a former athlete with a local media personality for a daily program. Lavar Arrington, drafted by the Washington Redskins in 2000, and who would play his entire career in D.C. with the exception of his final season, co-hosts the afternoon show on “106.7 The Fan”. When CBS Radio launched “92.3 The Fan” in Cleveland last year, they tapped Ohio native and Ohio State alum Dustin Fox to co-host their afternoon show. Even in Boston, on CBS Radio’s “98.5 The Sports Hub,” former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak co-hosts the midday show that follows the “Toucher & Rich” program that Sapp had appeared on a few days ago.

It’s pretty much a given that CBS Radio is going to pursue at least one former athlete with ties to Tampa Bay, if not Florida, to co-host a show on the new “98.7 The Fan.” Why not Warren Sapp? Not only has he spent nearly a decade playing football in Tampa, he’s a University of Miami alum, and legally resides in the state of Florida. And while he has sharpened his analyst skills over the years on NFL Network, you can tell that he’s got the chops for radio.

In yet another eerie coincidence, this past week, Sapp was conducting radio interviews to promote that “Judge Sapp” project that we scooped the Internet with back in late April. (The first two episodes of that series were uploaded to YouTube via NOC and can both be viewed here.) In the aforementioned interview on the “Toucher & Rich” show in Boston, Sapp confirmed that he had recently ran into Shockey at a Heat game (how he could afford basketball tickets given his financial predicament, I have no idea) and personally apologized to him – not necessarily for making the “snitch” accusation per se (“I stand by my source”), but “for putting it on the street level and making it derogatory towards [Shockey]… That wasn’t the way it should be.” He later tipped T&R that he personally never had any issues with Shockey, but if need be, “we can go out in the grass and get it over with… I don’t have a problem with getting my knuckles a little scarred up.” Sapp’s appearance on that program has been generating a lot of buzz on the Internet over the last few days.

Sapp also appeared on the SiriusXM-based “Opie & Anthony Show” on Thursday, and was asked by co-host and die-hard Jets fan Gregg “Opie” Hughes about Gang Green’s notable offseason acquisition, Tim Tebow. “I understand the heroics,” Sapp opined. “If I can just get the heroics without the 55 minutes of bad football…” He also questioned the Jets’ offseason moves in light of a key team stat last season. “You gotta question a team that was 65% in the red zone with Plaxico [Burress] and no Tebow, you get rid of Plax and bring Tebow in.”

Just how convenient is it for CBS Radio, which just laid the groundwork for a new sports radio station in Tampa Bay, that Sapp happened to be making the rounds on the radio. CBS has to be liking the publicity his appearance on their own radio station in Boston is receiving, as well as how he fared in interviews on other outlets – yes, even including “Opie & Anthony,” whom CBS kicked to the curb ten years ago after a ribald promotion involving a famed New York church (don’t let the timestamp on that link fool you).

It is highly conceivable for Sapp to join the new “98.7 The Fan,” regardless of whether he is retained by NFL Network or not. He can simply do the show via ISDN from California during the weeks that he’s scheduled for duty to be an analyst on “NFL Total Access” and analyze stuff. Sapp can handle working two gigs at NFLN and CBS Radio. And besides: he needs the money, so I’m sure he’ll be grateful for any opportunities he can get (as judged by that “Judge Sapp” thing).

Certainly, his retainment by NFL Network, if true, would be a huge blessing for Sapp.

But Sapp would shine as a sports radio host. And how is this for a potential co-host: Whitney Johnson, the first voice heard on “The Sports Animal,” 620 WDAE, when it launched in 1998. Johnson was let go by WDAE’s parent company Clear Channel last year, and has since been hosting a midday program on “Sports Talk Florida” (AM 1040) in Tampa. If CBS is successful in luring Johnson, a longtime beloved fixture in Tampa Bay sports radio, away from that station, and paired him with Sapp, that would already be a great show on paper. Picture it: “Whitney and Warren.” “W&W.” And if Johnson is unable to join CBS Radio, I’m sure they’ll find another suitable person to co-host a show on “98.7 The Fan” alongside Sapp. But Johnson would be my personal choice.

Bottom line: there is a genuine opportunity for Warren Sapp to be part of a sports radio landscape in Tampa Bay long dominated by WDAE.

All CBS Radio has to do is approach him.

I’m sure he wouldn’t mind getting his vocal cords a little scarred up.

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