Red Sox Broadcaster Flips The Script: Jon Rish Leaving WEEI For Computer Career







In a surprise move, Red Sox radio broadcaster Jon Rish is leaving the broadcasting field. The ESPN alum is planning to become a software developer, and will begin taking a course this summer.

In a surprise move, Red Sox radio broadcaster Jon Rish is leaving the broadcasting field. The ESPN alum is planning to become a software developer, and will begin taking a course this summer.

Jon Rish is leaving WEEI for CGI.

He’s giving up the booth for a reboot.

He’s trading the Red Sox for Red Hat.

There are many more ways I could go with this.

But in the end, could you really blame him?

Rish has been a part of the Red Sox Radio Network, based at flagship WEEI in Boston, for the last eight years, serving as pregame and postgame host, as well as substitute play-by-play voice on the days where Dave O’Brien is taking care of business for ESPN, where Rish had worked for a half-dozen years – specifically, ESPN Radio – before joining WEEI.

However, it was at some point during the last season – Bobby Valentine’s lone one as Sox skipper – that Rish had an epiphany: He could continue working radio broadcasts for the Red Sox, which some may consider a dream job – and with them holding the most lucrative radio deal for a baseball team, higher even than the archrival New York Yankees, it should be a fine class to be associated with. And you would think that with the highest paying radio deal in MLB, would come a big fat paycheck.

But then he looked at the bigger picture: his family, including four children, ages 2 through 12.

And then, he probably noticed WEEI’s parent company, Entercom, making drastic moves, including the ouster of longtime Boston sports radio voice Glenn Ordway.

“It became clear towards the end of the 2012 season that there was a very real possibility that my future was not with Entercom.”

Why else would Rish officially decide that he would be announcing his plans to leave WEEI and the Red Sox Radio Network – albeit, a mere three hours before the first pitch was thrown on Opening Day at Fenway Park on Monday. Though the fact that Rish has been good friends with WEEI program director Jason Wolfe for the last two decades played a large role in the abrupt fashion of his impending departure.

“I didn’t want to tell Jason by phone,” Rish affirmed. “I wanted to tell him in person. He was speechless.”

I bet Rish was equally speechless when Entercom asked him to take a pay cut of 30% – one that he turned down.

“It wasn’t fair to me and it wasn’t workable for my family,” Rish said. “I will say I could no longer justify working for Entercom.

“But it was not as difficult a decision for me as you might think,” he continued. “It was not a difficult decision to explain to my wife.”

Five years ago, Rish disclosed to a Massachusetts newspaper his hopes for a full-time play-by-play job. “But when you wait for the opportunity for so long, you’re not picky.”

Now with a son entering high school soon, and three daughters that will eventually follow suit, working Red Sox games on an understudy basis just won’t cut it, and he doesn’t hear any other pro sports teams fighting for his talents, so Rish is going to leave sports broadcasting entirely.

He’s saying goodbye to sports media – and hello to software media.

That’s right. Through his alma mater, Boston College – whose athletics are another notch on his play-by-play resume – he consulted with a career coach, who encouraged him to pursue an opportunity in the technology field.

And starting next month, Rish will take a ten-week class on how to become a Ruby software developer.

If successful, two major perks come with the gig: First of all, software programmers are in high demand (you don’t see many sports teams hiring announcers mid-season); and more importantly, they could actually make more money than most sports broadcasters not named Joe Buck or Jim Nantz. But it’s not completely due to programmers’ vast knowledge and skills.

“The state of the radio industry isn’t what it used to be,” Rish admits.

Rish will continue working Red Sox games for just a couple more weeks, and then after a week to recharge the batteries, he’ll start reporting to Launch Academy for Ruby On Rails classes.

Jon Rish. Transitioning from sports programming to computer programming.

This month, RBI’s; next month, RGB.

Out: stats. In: stacks.

I think I’ve made my point.

CBS, NBC Sports Radio Sound A Lot Like ESPN







Many of the on-air talent on NBC Sports Radio, including weekender Amy Lawrence, have previously worked at ESPN, or a station affiliated with ESPN. The network recently announced former ESPN anchor Brian Kenny would be their first late midday host.

Many of the on-air talent on NBC Sports Radio, including weekender Amy Lawrence, have previously worked at ESPN, or a station affiliated with ESPN. The network recently announced former ESPN anchor Brian Kenny would be their first late midday host.

The final piece of NBC Sports Radio’s daily puzzle was revealed this week, as the 9 AM-12 Noon time slot goes to Brian Kenny, who had spent over a dozen years at ESPN until a couple of years ago.

Of course, my mindset was that that time slot would go to Dan Patrick – another ESPN refugee.

In fact, if you take a good look at the on-air talent on the roster for not only NBC Sports Radio, but its like neophyte rival, CBS Sports Radio, you will find that there are many personnel that have had ties to ESPN at some point. First, let’s start with NBC Sports Radio:

Erik Kuselias, 6-9 AM ET: Spent most of his time at the Worldwide Leader between 2003 and 2010 on its radio unit, at one point even hosting a radio show with his brother, Chris (“Sports Bash”). He also hosted a NASCAR show on ESPN television as well as a fantasy sports program on the network’s website.

Brian Kenny, 9 AM-12 Noon: In addition to anchoring “SportsCenter,” other duties during his thirteen year tenure (1998-2011) there included hosting boxing and baseball programming on ESPN; he also hosted a local radio show on ESPN’s New York outlet with fellow boxing aficionado Max Kellerman.

Mark Malone, Donovan McNabb, 3-7 PM: Both former NFL quarterbacks who will be hosting NBCSR’s “Under Center” program have previously huddled with the Worldwide Leader. While it’s not clear when Malone joined ESPN, where he became the face of football programming such as “NFL Live,” he was let out of his contract in 2004 to take a sports director position at the CBS O&O in Chicago. While McNabb officially calls NFL Network his TV home, he had been a guest analyst on ESPN’s air during the NFL playoffs last year.

Jon Stashower, 7-10 PM: For a year and a month short of two decades (September 1993-August 2012), he was literally ESPN’s everyman: a host and “SportsCenter” anchor for television and radio; plus a reporter during the biggest championship games of the year. I’m surprised Jon hasn’t cloned himself so he can do sports updates during his own show.

Eytan Shander, 10 PM-1 AM: His rise up the sports radio ladder started at three stations affiliated with ESPN Radio, in Atlantic City and Trenton, NJ, as well as Nashville; he also briefly hosted a program on Philadelphia’s “97.5 The Fanatic” (another ESPN Radio affiliate) in 2012 before agreeing to join NBCSR.

Dan Schwartzman, 1-6 AM: At one time hosted a show on ESPN’s radio outlet in New York City, as well as the same ESPN Radio affiliates in Philly, Trenton and Atlantic City that the aforementioned Shander once worked at.

Anita Marks, 12 Noon-3 PM Saturday and Sunday: Once hosted a show on the ESPN Radio affiliate in Baltimore, which even included a Sileo-esque low point. (By the way, that Baltimore station, AM 1300, was and still is owned by CBS Radio, and is currently a 24/7 repeater for their new sports radio network.)

Brian Webber, 3-6 PM Saturday and Sunday: The current host of NFL Network’s “NFL AM” wakeup program, while getting much face time across Fox Sports properties, at one point had called tennis matches for ESPN, and even women’s basketball on ESPNU.

Jason Page, 9 PM-1 AM Saturday and Sunday: Spent less than half a year in 2012 as a host on New York’s ESPN Radio before agreeing to join NBC; he is still an NFL analyst for ESPN corporate sibling ABC, specifically, their overnight “World News Now” broadcast… no conflict there, right? Page also toiled at the ESPN Radio affiliate in Hartford for three years (2008-2011), in which he held down afternoon drive, and also called Hartford Colonials UFL games for a season.

Rob Simmelkjaer, 8-9 AM Sunday: Not only was he an anchor at ESPNews and worked lacrosse broadcasts during his decade at ESPN, he was also George Bodenheimer’s right hand man.

Now, let’s look at CBS Sports Radio’s talent – or the former ESPN employees therein:

“TBD In The AM,” 6-9 AM: Just two-thirds of this group used to work for the Worldwide Leader. Dana Jacobson, of course, spent ten years at ESPN on many platforms, including co-host of what is now known as “First Take” (it debuted in 2005 as “Cold Pizza”); while Brandon Tierney also spent a decade with the entity, specifically ESPN Radio’s New York station, virtually since its inception in 2001.

John Feinstein, 9 AM-12 Noon: A former frequent guest on ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters.” A good friend of “Pardon The Interruption” personality Tony Kornheiser, Feinstein also used to appear on Kornheiser’s radio show on the Washington, D.C. ESPN Radio affiliate owned by Daniel Snyder, who also owns the Redskins.

Jim Rome, 12 Noon-3 PM: Former host of “Rome Is Burning” (later renamed “Jim Rome Is Burning”) on ESPN (and later ESPN2) until he decided to take his TV business to CBS (and later, his radio business). Rome’s radio show itself also was cleared by ESPN-run radio stations in markets such as New York and Chicago in the early 2000’s. Of course, Rome was one of the very first hosts on ESPN2, as one Jim Everett would tell you.

Doug Gottlieb, 3-6 PM: Duh…

Chris Moore, Brian Jones, 6-10 PM: Moore worked at ESPN Radio from 1997 to 2005, while Jones wrote for ESPN The Magazine in the summer of 2008.

Damon Amendolara, 2-6 AM: His very first sports radio job was with the ESPN Radio affiliate in Fort Myers, Florida, WWCN.

Amy Lawrence, 2-6 AM Saturday and Sunday and 10 PM-2 AM Sunday: Transitioned to CBS Sports Radio from ESPN Radio, where she’d been working for six years.

Brandon Tierney, 10 AM-2 PM Saturday: See “TBD In The AM.”

Jody McDonald, 6-10 PM Saturday and 2-6 PM Sunday: Longtime local host on ESPN Radio’s New York station as well as the ESPN Radio affiliate in Philadelphia. His Sunday co-host, Kris Jenkins, once moonlighted as an analyst on ESPN’s “NFL Live.”

John Kincade, 6-10 AM Sunday: The Atlanta-based sports radio host had also led a Sunday morning broadcast on ESPN Radio for several years. (Until last year, of course.)

Vinny Cerrato, 10 AM-2 PM Sunday: The former Redskins higher-up was a one-time college athletics analyst for ESPN.

The fact that so many former ESPN talent is being employed by CBSSR and NBCSR may be a testament to ESPN, but it might have more to do with them hiring recognizable names, or people that have a heavy sports broadcasting background. (Obviously, McNabb falls in the former category.)

It’s a huge coincidence that many of the hosts on the air in the initial year of operation for CBSSR and NBCSR had previously passed through ESPN, in one form and/or another.

Then again, ESPN Radio didn’t become the leading sports radio network by accident.

And now, it’s got company.

So if you’re sampling the two new sports radio networks, and wonder if what you hear sounds an awful lot like ESPN… let not your ears be fooled.

Female Sports Radio Hosts Should Not Be An Endangered Species







Atlanta is one of the few markets where there are multiple females on the air on local sports radio, including Rachel Baribeau, co-host of the afternoon program on "92.9 The Game," which has had a female voice on both its "drive time" shows since its inception last fall.

Atlanta is one of the few markets where there are multiple females on the air on local sports radio, including Rachel Baribeau, co-host of the afternoon program on “92.9 The Game,” which has had a female voice on both its “drive time” shows since its inception last fall.

After four months on the air, there is already a talent change at Atlanta’s FM sports talker, WZGC-FM/”92.9 The Game.”

No, the station isn’t in as bad a shape as their sister station down Route 41. In fact, the move was completely on the host’s volition. C.J. Simpson, one-third of The Game’s “Opening Drive” morning show with Rick Kamla and Randy Cross, is leaving Atlanta to become a studio host for Los Angeles Sparks (WNBA) broadcasts on Time Warner Cable SportsNet.

Simpson’s replacement? Another woman: Kristen Ledlow, who has been the Atlanta-based field reporter for Fox Sports’ NEXT website, formerly known as

This means the number of female on-air hosts at “The Game” remains at two, with Rachel Baribeau continuing to co-host the station’s “Game Time” afternoon drive show with Carl Dukes and Kordell Stewart.

It’s certainly rare for a sports radio station in any city, let alone a major market such as Atlanta, employ two female hosts full-time.

But believe it or not, these “Game” birds are not alone: before “The Game” signed on last fall to become Atlanta’s third all-sports station, Sandra Golden had been heard on the others: first on the WQXI/”790 The Zone” morning show for five years starting in 2004, and later joining WCNN/”680 The Fan” in the same daypart in 2011; she’s since transitioned to a new midday show, “The Front Row,” which kicked off just this month.

Which means there is at least one female voice on Atlanta sports radio for all but a couple of hours during the day.

And in a medium dominated by males – if you need any proof, Golden was the lone female that made the first-ever Talkers Magazine “Sports Radio Heavy Hundred” list last year – why not welcome more personalities of the female persuasion into the field?

On national sports radio networks, you can hear Amy Van Dyken co-hosting Fox Sports Radio’s weeknight program. The current lineup on ESPN Radio is virtually exclusively male, but in the past, Amy Lawrence was heard on their air; she now does weekends on the new CBS Sports Radio network, which actually has three female hosts on their roster: in addition to Lawrence, Dana Jacobson is one-third of their “TBD In The A.M.” morning show. Also, not long after WFAN/New York personality Marc Malusis started his Saturday morning program for CBSSR, they quietly added Sports Illustrated’s Maggie Gray as a co-host; the program is now known as “The Moose And Maggie Show.” Cute. In addition, NBC Sports Radio has given veteran Baltimore sports radio figure Anita Marks a show on weekends.

I must say it’s a good sign to have four female talents among two brand new national sports radio networks right out of the gate – of course, with CBS giving shows to three females, including one in the major daypart of morning drive, that to me is pretty damn impressive.

But as far as sports radio on a local scale is concerned, it really needs to get in touch with its feminine side.

On the Internet radio station that’s affiliated with this website, SportsRantz Radio, there are at least four or five female hosts at any given time, including Katy Mitchel from “The Rantin’ And Ravin’ Show,” Kristina Chambers from “Slicks And Sticks,” Amy Gist from “The Siren1363 Radio Show,” and Robyn Vandenberg from “The Sports Breakdown.”

Now, the point I’m about to make is not intended in any way to diss the aforementioned, or the radio station, or this website, or the man who makes this all possible, Anthony DiMoro.

But… It’s sad how no sports talk stations on terrestrial radio have hired four female on-air talents. Of course, we have one market, plus a new national network, that have three of them, so it’s progress. But shouldn’t we be at a point where there’s at least one female on-air host in several of the top major markets – and not just Internet radio?

And I’m not saying they should put them on the air, just to fulfill a quota, or we hear a female’s voice “for a change.” Of course, they should be qualified to do so – and I have no doubt there is no shortage of females that wouldn’t hesitate to seize that opportunity – why, just look at SportsRantz Radio.

Just last week, ESPN columnist Sarah Spain – who can also be heard daily on WMVP/”ESPN 1000″ in Chicago – published an article expressing her confoundment on the belief by many that women are just “incapable” of fulfilling many positions in sports media. In it, she featured a few tweets from Stephen “Steak” Shapiro, a radio host who thinks that “men simply do not want women as full-time sports radio hosts.”

By the way, “Steak” Shapiro has been doing radio for over fifteen years in the city of Atlanta – yes, that market with the rare existence (medium rare?) of three full-time female on-air sports radio hosts.

“Does [“Steak”] believe the chromosomal makeup of a person decides his or her ability to talk about people who make a living kicking, throwing, shooting or catching a ball?,” Spain wonders. “Your neighbor, Bill, who has never watched a football or baseball game in his life is not, in fact, more qualified to host a sports radio show than a sports-crazed woman with years of experience in the industry.

“There is nothing in the DNA of a woman that prevents her from understanding the Cover 2 or knowing which guy on the hometown squad should be batting cleanup.”

It’s encouraging to see that, when CBS Radio could have easily handed over C.J. Simpson’s vacant position to another guy – while keeping in mind that they’re equal opportunity employers – the end result is another woman in Kristen Ledlow waiting in the on-deck circle.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Ledlow told me, regarding the opportunity to work in a market where sports radio has shattered the glass ceiling. “Rachel [Baribeau] and I want to set the precedent for major markets hiring smart, funny, hard-working women in sports.”

Indeed, there is already a long list of women who meet all of those criteriae – many of them on television.

It shouldn’t be long before sports radio, locally and nationally, hires more females, thereby eradicating a stereotype that women in the business are “eye candy.”

In other words: if you’re not in front of a camera, your opinion and your talent should be just as valued as anyone else’s.

Hopefully, Atlanta will buck the trend – but at least for now, it’s a good sign that females are a force to be reckoned with in the medium.

Or, as Sarah Spain exclaimed to me: “I think that’s great… Good to see women are being given the same chances to excel there… Didn’t realize Atlanta was so evolved.”

The evolution continues.

(Sandra Golden did not respond to my request for comment; incidentally, at the time this post was published, she is scheduled to begin jury duty.)

Sweet Deal: Howard Hoffman Becomes Baseball Announcer On ESPN Radio/Walla Walla







Howard Hoffman, whose voice has been heard on many commercials, programs and radio stations, is now bringing his pipes to the ballpark, as he will be calling baseball games for the Walla Walla Sweets on the local ESPN Radio affiliate starting this summer.

Howard Hoffman, whose voice has been heard on many commercials, programs and radio stations, is now bringing his pipes to the ballpark, as he will be calling baseball games for the Walla Walla Sweets on the local ESPN Radio affiliate starting this summer.

Whether you’ve watched TV commercials or animated programs, or listened to big-market radio, chances are you’ve likely heard the handiwork of Howard Hoffman.

He’s lent his voice to several cartoons, and has been heard in advertisements from Hostess to Hyundai, and from Post to Publix.

But he also has an impressive track record on radio, having been heard in the top four markets over the last five decades, including three in New York City. Though his most recent radio gig with KABC-AM in Los Angeles was quite steady, enjoying a 17-year run that included being the station’s production director, as well as contributing to the Los Angeles Dodgers radio network, which was based at KABC.

In October 2011, Hoffman was a victim of budget cuts by KABC’s parent company, Cumulus. Not coincidentally, the Dodgers would be moving their radio flagship to KLAC the following year.

While largely a free agent since then, Hoffman remained busy through his voiceover production company, and would remain so even after he relocated to the town of Walla Walla, Washington last year.

You might think this is the point of Hoffman’s career where he officially starts dabbling into retirement – on the contrary. Because he has found a new calling: baseball announcer.

Yes, you can now add Howard’s name to the likes of Jack Buck, Harry Caray, Harry Kalas, and current Dodgers announcer Vin Scully, whom Howard himself has dubbed “a national treasure.”

Okay, so he’s going to be calling games for the Walla Walla Sweets, so it won’t be in the same league as the others. But given his background, Hoffman will be in a class by himself.

Because in Hoffman, the Sweets, who play in the West Coast League, Eastern Division (no contradictions there) will be getting a living legend – no, I’m not trying to upstage another living legend, Vin Scully, but he has the talent, the knowledge and the “enthusiasm” – a trait that Sweets vice president/general manager Zachary Fraser awaits – to pull this off.

Even if his only work as a play-by-play baseball announcer was in a Bud Light commercial.

“Doing play-by-play on the radio is a totally different animal,” Hoffman told the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin.

Recently, he spent some time with his good friend Ken Levine, who like Hoffman was a disc jockey in the “music radio” era of the 70’s, and is a noted film and television producer, writer and director – but he has a baseball announcing career of his own: for six years during the 1990’s, he worked games on radio and/or TV for the Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres; upon the untimely passing of Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus, Levine agreed to step up to the plate, and is currently in his second go-round with the M’s in the booth. The time was spent watching baseball with the volume down and interpreting the game action – just as Hoffman will be doing for real starting with the season opener on June 5.

“I’ve got three months,” Hoffman said. “It’s going to be a lot of homework.”

The one subject in particular that he’ll be studying: stats. “When you’re watching the game, you really have to immerse yourself,” he explains. “You have to know if the batter’s right-handed, and describe what happens when he faces batters from a certain direction.”

In addition to painting a verbal picture for radio listeners, he’ll encourage Sweets fans at Borleske Stadium to get involved via Twitter and Facebook. “I’ll be keeping the lines of communication open through social media,” he promises. “It’s going to be a truly interactive live experience with every broadcast.”

He also hopes that fan interaction can enable him to learn as he goes. “As a rookie in the broadcast booth, I know I’ll learn more from our fans than from anywhere else.”

And in a flash of wit, the kind displayed behind the microphone at radio stations like WABC and Hot 97 in New York and KMEL in San Francisco, Hoffman made sure to thank the Sweets “as a fan… for this opportunity to see all the games for free.”

The local radio station that will be carrying Sweets play-by-play is “1490 ESPN”, KTEL-AM – not to be confused with the K-Tel record label. And yes, the station streams online, so anyone who has followed Hoffman through his vast radio career can join him in his next chapter of broadcasting.

“This is a dream job for anyone who grew up loving the game,” he admitted. “I’m genuinely excited to be working with a great team that’s become an instant tradition in the Walla Walla Valley.”

As long as players aren’t fixated on any Bud Light vendors in the stands, Howard Hoffman should do a swell job.

No – a Sweet job.

Audio: Stephen A. Smith Doesn't Take Kindly To Media Folks "Attacking" Skip Bayless: "It's Wrong, Man"







On his ESPN Radio/New York show, Stephen A. Smith lashed out at sports media colleagues that took shots at his "First Take" partner, Skip Bayless, which Smith says is "weak," "immoral" and "unprofessional," among other adjectives.

On his ESPN Radio/New York show, Stephen A. Smith lashed out at sports media colleagues that took shots at his “First Take” partner, Skip Bayless, which Smith says is “weak,” “immoral” and “unprofessional,” among other adjectives.

There was a particularly interesting exchange on Thursday’s edition of ESPN’s “First Take” between Skip Bayless and his guest, all-Pro Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.

Particularly the part where Sherman dissed Bayless by insisting he’s “better at life than you” and that Bayless “never accomplished anything.”

Many were simply satisfied with Bayless being dissed, what with him being a lightning rod for criticism.

But according to “First Take” co-panelist Stephen A. Smith, some folks in the media shared in that satisfaction – and he called them out for it.

Yes, on a day where ESPN employees like Bill Simmons and Colin Cowherd are talking about the “First Take” Sherman segment on their own (company) time, why not Smith stick up for his pal on his midday radio show on WEPN/”ESPN New York 98.7.”

While promising listeners that “you will never see Skip and I hanging together” because they are “polar opposites,” Smith came to his defense against a few potshots that were lobbed in Bayless’ direction after the Sherman showdown – by his sports media brethren.

“Every time I turn around, there is somebody attacking Skip’s authenticity,” he said. “If you mean what you say, and you back it up by your version of facts, the one entity in this country that has absolutely, positively no right to condemn him for it, is us: our industry; it’s what supposedly makes us who we are.

“It’s uncalled for,” he continued, “because when we get into the business of really pushing for personal attacks… You are trying to attack this man at every turn. Why? What’s the justification for it?”

Smith then wondered if the same media types that have routinely “attacked” Bayless would hesitate to accept a position at ESPN in a similar role as Bayless. “What would you do? … Everybody wants to talk junk when they’re someplace else, but behind the scenes [they’re] on the phone with their agent, begging to get to where we are, but gonna talk nonsense about this man. It’s ridiculous… To take it to a level that these folks take it to, is just completely and totally uncalled for.

“Skip Bayless, to me, is a good man. I totally understand people who feel otherwise, if you’re watching him from afar. You don’t have to like him. But to walk around and act like he’s doing something so different than the rest of us… You can’t find one single show where people don’t have those who are critics, and those who are supporters. It’s life, it’s a part of our business.”

So while Smith “don’t have a problem” if fans or players have a bone to pick with Bayless, it’s on the contrary when one of their own is attacking him.

“When you have so-called contemporaries, colleagues, people in this business who… want to vilify somebody you simply don’t like, it’s not only weak, it’s not only unprofessional, it’s unethical, it’s immoral. And it’s completely uncalled for. It’s wrong, man.

“People who do what you and I do,” he continued to his co-host Ryan Ruocco, “who know what it entails, and try to act like they’re oblivious to it, being all weak and phony, hiding behind their newspapers, hiding behind their radio networks, hiding behind their television networks, like they don’t know. That’s what irritates me… They know better. And no one calls them on it.”

Smith does have a point that there aren’t that many in the media that call out other media folks for going after Bayless – but he argues that it shouldn’t have to be that way.

“When somebody messes with a cop, what do the cops do? They rally together. One for all, all for one.”

Listen to the audio of Stephen A. Smith’s rant on Skip Bayless haters in the media here (starts at around the 67-minute point or so).

Cardinal Sin? The New Top Sports Radio Show In St. Louis Is "Mike And Mike"







Is there room for three sports radio stations in St. Louis? KFNS/KXFN general manager Kathryn Pavelonis (pictured here with former KMOX colleague John Carney) says neither of her stations, which only garnered a combined 15% of the overall market share of the format, are going away anytime soon.

Is there room for three sports radio stations in St. Louis? KFNS/KXFN general manager Kathryn Pavelonis (pictured here with former KMOX colleague John Carney) says neither of her stations, which only garnered a combined 15% of the overall market share of the format, are going away anytime soon.

They call Missouri the “Show Me State.”

But when it comes to sports radio in its capital city, listeners have become preoccupied with other things last year – a lot of them.

Data released by Arbitron shows that listenership of sports talk radio among three radio stations has hemorrhaged in 2012, going from a combined 13.5 share of the 25-54 male demographic in January of that year, to 5.6 this January – a drop of nearly 60%. The sports radio leader in the market, KXOS/101.1 FM – the only FM sports station in St. Louis – had squandered over half of its share during that period (10.2 to 4.8), while KFNS/”590 The Fan” went from 3.2 to 0.7 – a loss of over 75%. KFNS’ sister station, KXFN/”1380 The Fan 2,” remained languishing at a 0.1 share.

The alarming thing to keep in mind is that there is mostly local programming between these three stations during main dayparts; on ESPN Radio affiliate KXOS, only the “Mike And Mike” morning show is cleared, while programming on Yahoo! Sports Radio-affiliated KFNS and Fox Sports Radio-affiliated KXFN is entirely local during the day, with KXFN’s content being brokered.

Locally, 2012 was a busy year in St. Louis sports, with the Cardinals defending their World Series title, and the Rams hiring new head coach Jeff Fisher. It was also active on the media side, as longtime KFNS host Kevin Slaten was ousted amid assault charges against the station’s operations director; while Rams general manager Les Snead, who hosts a weekly spot on KXOS, became engaged to Kara Henderson, who left NFL Network as a result of her nuptials. 2012 was also the year in which Fox broadcaster Joe Buck co-hosted middays on KFNS as a possible precursor to a new podcast venture, which apparently never got off the ground.

Among the individual local hosts, KXOS’ afternoon drive team of Randy Karraker, D’Marco Farr and Chris Duncan, which was then the top-rated sports radio show in the Gateway City, lost over half of its share year-to-year (11.0 to 4.9), with KXOS’ late morning host Zach McCrite seeing the biggest drop among talent on the station, dropping from an 8.0 last January to a paltry 2.5 this January.

In fact, the new highest-rated sports radio program in St. Louis is the aforementioned “Mike And Mike” – a national show. Karraker, Farr and Duncan remain the top local sports radio show.

As far as local fare on the “Fans” during the day, only KFNS’ morning trio of Tim McKernan, Doug Vaughn and Jimmy “The Cat” Hayes was able to retain upwards of a 1 share, while still managing to remain the leading draw on “590 The Fan.” The station’s afternoon duo of Howard Balzer and Andy Strickland has saw their share cut to a mere fragment (0.5) of its previous 3.0 share.

And over on “The Fan 2,” less than half of their shows are able to muster even a 0.1 share. In fact, at one point last year, KXFN’s share was so low, it could not be registered in one of Arbitron’s monthly PPM books.

“The St. Louis market is overpopulated with all-sports stations,” said Frank Absher, historian of St. Louis’ leading spoken word station, KMOX – which just a couple of years ago, retained local broadcast rights to Cardinals baseball, after the team’s ownership deal with KTRS fell flat. “[It’s] too much… the pie isn’t big enough to keep all of them afloat.”

Slaten, who this past Friday began hosting afternoon drive on KQQZ, a suburban classic country station owned by an entity called “Insane Broadcasting Company” – which is ironic, given Slaten’s past – complains about the approach that other sports radio hosts have taken in recent years.

“What you have is more man-talk,” lamented Slaten. “I don’t think you can win anymore unless you do (“man-talk”)… I don’t think the all-sports format works anymore.

“You have lame people on the air who all say the same thing,” he continued, while boasting that “my show will be the only one that has any sports” on the local radio dial.

Meanwhile, Kathryn Pavelonis, in charge of the low-rated “Fan” tandem, remained optimistic, acknowledging that so far this year, “our sales… are way up.” She added: “I don’t know how you can have ‘the best sports city in America’ and not have strong sports radio.”

The fact that out of all the local offerings, the best sports radio show in St. Louis is ESPN Radio’s “Mike And Mike,” speaks volumes.

So will a format flip for one of the market’s three all-sports stations, perhaps one of the “Fans,” both of which had been plagued by malfunctioning computer equipment, be in the works? Don’t count on it. Markets such as Denver and Houston have thrived with at least four sports radio stations coexisting. Even if one of St. Louis’ sports stations had to jettison local talk and switch to satellite programming, the format should remain.

In fact, KFNS/KXFN’s parent company recently undertook a large amount of capital that will be invested into the immediate future of the stations. What’s more, Pavelonis acknowledged that a new “Macdaddy” website will be launched for the “Fan” stations in the coming weeks.

Anything other than “should put the lineup on this page”, a message currently displayed on what should be the schedule page on KFNS’ website, would be an improvement.

As for St. Louis sports talk radio on the whole, it’s in dire need of improvement if two hosts based in Bristol, Connecticut is your highest-rated sports radio show.