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.

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Mike Francesa To Deliver Sports Radio Keynote Speech At Talkers Magazine 2013 Convention

 

 

 

 

 

 

WFAN sports god Mike Francesa will be a keynote speaker at the Talkers Magazine seminar this year - but unless you're connected to the radio industry, you'll be getting the handwave treatment.

WFAN sports god Mike Francesa will be a keynote speaker at the Talkers Magazine seminar this year – but unless you’re connected to the radio industry, you’ll be getting the handwave treatment.

It only makes sense that the host that topped Talkers Magazine’s first-ever “heavy hundred” list devoted exclusively to sports, appears at the publication’s popular annual convention.

Talkers has confirmed that Mike Francesa, afternoon drive host on WFAN/New York (whose show is also simulcast on YES Network), is scheduled to give a keynote speech titled, “The Sports Talk Radio Phenomenon,” at their event this summer. Note that I wrote “a keynote speech”; there will likely be a popular personality from the general talk radio genre that will be giving an address at the same event.

But because sports talk radio has become a phenomenon – two new sports radio networks launching last fall, need I say more? – it’s apropos that Talkers reaches out to a sports talk radio phenomenon himself in Mike Francesa.

“The addition of Mike Francesa as the sports talk radio keynote speaker at this year’s conference puts it over the moon,” says Talkers publisher Michael Harrison. “One of the big buzzes of the business is the relentless growth of this exciting branch of the talk radio universe… We are delighted.”

In past years, WFAN talent like morning co-host Boomer Esiason, who just last year received an award presented by Talkers for outstanding community service, as well as Craig Carton and Richard Neer have made appearances at the magazine’s event, which in recent years had been dubbed the “New Media Seminar.”

But it’s true that in its sixteenth year of existence – a year in which the event will simply be called “Talkers New York 2013” – they’ve booked the current most sophisticated sports radio host to date. Why, in just the last few months, he single-handedly canceled the running of the New York City marathon in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, while on the other side of the coin, wasn’t all that concerned about the recent winter storm known as Nemo that rolled through the Northeast. (Of course, that wouldn’t be the first time he would be asleep at the wheel.)

If you wish to attend this year’s festivities, which will take place Thursday, June 6 at the Concierge Conference Center, it costs just $199 per registration per person.

And if the cost, which to some is quite reasonable, isn’t appealing, consider this: Talkers is only allowing “members of the working media” to attend the convention, which was originally a two-day weekend affair in New York open to everyone; as of last year, the event has branched out into both coasts, with an annual convention based in Los Angeles in the fall. Harrison himself told me that the event has “grown consistently over the years,” and the implementation of two annual events in the top two radio markets is proof.

Anyone with interest in the sports radio genre that has broadcasting connections should take advantage and make their reservations for this event. Speaking as someone who experienced the 2008 seminar, it’s a lot of fun if you’re into radio – talk radio, especially.

And if you don’t? Maybe you can win your way in by playing some Super Bowl trivia.

Horseplay Lands Tampa Bay Sports Radio Host In Jail

Former Buccaneers player and current WDAE/Tampa sports radio host Ian Beckles was arrested late Thursday night for disorderly intoxication, after walking into traffic and making contact with cops’ horses. Beckles has not been fired by the station; in fact, he did his radio show hours after his arrest.

A horse is a horse. Of course. Of course.

And you might be able to touch a horse.

That is, of course, unless the horse’s saddle is occupied by a police officer, and a fellow cop is ordering you not to make contact with the horse.

Oh, and you’re drunk.

Such was the case for Ian Beckles, the former NFL guard who spent most of his career in the ’90s playing for the Buccaneers. He has since moved on to Bay area sports radio, as he has been co-hosting the midday program on WDAE/”620 The Sports Animal” alongside Ron Diaz for years. While Beckles was racking up tackles, Diaz was one half of the successful “Ron & Ron Show” with Ron Bennington, who later partnered with Fez Whatley for the “Ron & Fez Show,” originially heard on New York radio and is currently available on satellite radio.

Anyway, Beckles was quite ossified on Thursday night. Maybe he decided to put in a full day at Winghouse Pinellas Park after a live broadcast from the establishment earlier that day.

Or perhaps he got hammered at Jannus Live, where Beckles was spotted amongst a crowd leaving a concert. A police officer noticed Beckles walking into traffic and instructed him to return to the sidewalk. According to a police report, Beckles was “highly intoxicated” and “slurring his speech.

“[He] had difficulty speaking in complete sentences,” the report continued, “and had the strong smell of alcohol on his breath.”

And for good measure, he was also “swaying” – but the fact that he was doing so well after the concert had ended, that’s a sign there could be a problem.

Beckles was certainly asking for trouble when, after being taught to observe pedestrian traffic signals, he was quoted as saying to a cop, “Okay, tough guy.”

It was at that point that Beckles gravitated toward as many as two officers on horseback, and despite the command from a police officer – “Don’t touch the horse! Don’t touch the horse!” – he disobeyed that warning, and as a result, he was arrested and charged with disorderly intoxication.

He would be sprung by dawn on $100 bail – with just enough time to sleep off his buzz and prepare for his Friday morning show on the Buccaneers flagship radio station.

There must be something in the water in Florida. So far this year, Beckles’ WDAE colleague Dan Sileo became Beckles’ former colleague, after referring to three African-American free agent NFL players – one of which eventually signed with the Bucs – as “monkeys”. Weeks later, Sid Rosenberg was cuffed in South Florida following a drunken stupor far more bizarre than Beckles’ ordeal; his employer at the time, WQAM in Miami, fired Rosenberg after the arrest – and just days later settled on the aforementioned Sileo as his replacement. (Rosenberg has since resurfaced on Miami radio at 640 WMEN.)

Unlike these cases, it does not appear that there will be plans for Clear Channel-owned WDAE to dismiss Beckles in light of his arrest. In fact, on Friday – just hours after his arrest – a new promotion involving Beckles was posted to his show’s section on the WDAE website: a benefit for a children’s charity on which Beckles is on the executive board. The event will be complete with “celebrity bartenders” in former Bucs placekicker Martin Gramatica and Tampa-area native and Olympics gold-medal swimmer Brooke Bennett.

The name of the event? “Stars with Spirits.”

Yes, come for the stars, and Ian Beckles will stay for the spirits – if you know what I mean.

Quarter Flash: WFAN – And Sports Radio – At 25

New York's WFAN, the first 24-hour sports radio station in the country, celebrates its 25th anniversary on July 1. Shown is a billboard from the early '90's, featuring caricatures of the station's iconic morning host, Don Imus, and afternoon duo, Mike Francesa and Chris Russo.

July 1, 1987. 2:55 PM. Disc jockey Dan Taylor was wrapping up not only the country format that had been on AM 1050 for fourteen years, but the WHN callsign that had graced the frequency for 51 of the previous 65 years. In doing so, Taylor wished new station owner Emmis Broadcasting luck with the new format that would be heard on the frequency at the top of the hour: sports talk radio, with the new call letters WFAN. He called the new project “very ambitious” – twice in a six-second period, in fact.

It was in February of 1986 that Emmis Broadcasting – known since 1998 as Emmis Communications – purchased WHN, along with two other stations in New York and Washington, D.C., from Doubleday Broadcasting, who had only purchased WHN two years prior from Mutual Broadcasting. 1986 would prove to be a very hectic year for Doubleday Enterprises, which purchased the New York Mets earlier in the decade: not only would their book publishing practice be sold to Bertelsmann, but the Mets would go on to win the World Series. Coincidentally, the flagship station of the Mets at the time was WHN, which under Emmis’ watch, had added sports talk programming in the evenings. Not necessarily as an accomplice to Mets broadcasts, or to offset nights when the Mets were not playing.

Emmis founder Jeff Smulyan had believed in the concept of a 24-hour sports radio station, going back to his childhood days. “This one,” he says of the format idea, “was my baby.”

And he thought AM 1050, which, according to New York Daily News media columnist David Hinckley, Emmis “had to take as part of the deal” with Doubleday to acquire two FM stations, WAPP (now WKTU) in New York and WAVA in Washington, would be the perfect breeding ground for that “baby” of his.

So in early 1987, Smulyan, along with three future presidents, if you will – two top company executives, Doyle Rose, who would become president of Emmis’ radio division the very next year, and hold that title for over two decades, and Steven Crane, a good friend of Smulyan’s (I’d use the term “BFF” but it didn’t exist back in 1987) who would later become president of Emmis International; as well as company sales manager Joel Hollander, who, after a future stint as VP/GM of WFAN, would become the president of future WFAN owner CBS Radio for what would turn out to be five tumultuous years in the ’00’s – convened in a coffee shop in Manhattan to discuss the future of the 1050 frequency.

“We felt there was no future in country music on AM,” said Smulyan in a conference call telephone interview with radio trade publication Radio Ink.

Of course, we would find out over the course of the next quarter-century that, not only was there no future in any music format on AM in general, but the future of spoken word formats, which once dominated the AM band, would be joining, if not replacing, music formats on the FM band in leaps and bounds.

Including the sports talk radio format that Smulyan believed in – but most of his peers back in 1987 did not.

“We had a managers meeting,” Smulyan recalled. “It was sort of overwhelmingly voted down.”

Rick Cummings, who served under the title of National Program Director for Emmis back in 1987 – and would eventually succeed Rose as the president of Emmis’ radio division in 2002 – was with Smulyan on that conference call and remembered his exact statement on the concept of 24-hour sports talk radio: “It’ll never work.”

Indeed, Cummings was pessimistic that there would be little demand for an all-sports station in two of the most important facets of radio. “From an operational standpoint, it was going to be extremely expensive to do,” said Cummings, who also thought that “from a ratings standpoint,” sports radio would be as equally harrowing to launch as “a music station.” He also recalled how research failed to dictate the need for a sports radio station at the time.

The day after that managers meeting, according to Smulyan, he received some apologies from Cummings and Rose – with a side of approval.

“We feel bad for you. We feel like we owe you one. It’s still a stupid idea. But let’s do it.”

And so, they did.

At 3 PM on July 1, 1987. Right after the final record on WHN played, Ray Price’s “For The Good Times.”

While the good times would eventually roll for WFAN as a sports station, it was not so much in its initial year of existence. “It was a struggle,” Smulyan said, who reminisced about hearing the first several days of the first sports radio station in the country, while vacationing with his family in the Hamptons for the Fourth of July holiday. “For the first year, it was really pretty dead.”

As much as it may have been a struggle to hear WFAN’s first weeks on the air, it was equally a struggle to sell the format to advertisers. Smulyan remembered sampling commercial breaks on WFAN in the fall of 1987 and “hearing a particularly marginal spot for do-it-yourself funerals or wills… We ran it every twelve minutes.” That would lead Smulyan to tell the general manager of WFAN at the time, Stewart Lane, “Gosh, I don’t know how much they’re paying us for that spot, but it’s not enough.” (In other words, it was an episode of “WKRP In Cincinnati” come to life.)

The early talent pool on WFAN was modest. Greg Gumbel was their first morning drive host, while Jim Lampley, who hosted the very first sports talk program on WFAN on the afternoon of July 1, 1987, eventually migrated to middays to make way for Pete Franklin. Smulyan remembers bringing Franklin, whom he labeled “probably the most iconic sports host in America,” in from Cleveland, where he had hosted the popular “Sportsline” program every afternoon for fifteen years on WWWE, nicknamed “3WE” (these days, going by the callsign WTAM). He agreed to a two-year deal to duplicate his success in afternoon drive in Market No. 1.

“Pete laid one of the giant eggs of all time in New York City,” recalled Smulyan. “He was awful.” (Dare I say it, real life radio in New York City imitating yet another episode of the fictitious “WKRP.”)

WFAN’s loss in Franklin, who quit with a few months remaining on his contract, would result in their pivotal gain in “Mike And The Mad Dog,” the quintessential New York sports talk show that would be WFAN’s benchmark for nearly two decades. And while Chris “Mad Dog” Russo left for satellite radio, Mike Francesa still holds down afternoons to this day – though the two cross paths every now and then.

Cummings described the early years of “Mike And The Mad Dog” as “pretty significant failure in the first year to pretty quick success after that.” A turnaround, more or less, mirroring WFAN’s financial status from their first year, in which they lost as much as $4 million, according to Cummings. In fact, he commended Francesa and Russo for “influencing advertising buys” on the station, contributing to the first phases of their financial success with the format.

And while Smulyan credited Francesa and Russo for “clearly” contributing to the station’s identity, “Imus gave that station tremendous, tremendous credibility.”

And it was an equally tremendous transaction in 1988 – Emmis’ purchase of 66 WNBC-AM from NBC, upon General Electric’s acquisition of NBC – that not only gave WFAN a more powerful signal at 660 AM, but would grant them their new morning host in Don Imus, whom Smulyan admitted coveting even before WFAN launched in 1987, as his program, which had been heard on WNBC-AM, shared the same 35-54 male demographic as WFAN’s all-sports format (“he owned that demographic”).

Smulyan called the Don Imus era on WFAN “the perfect marriage, even though Imus didn’t spent most of the time talking about sports.”

Of course, there was that controversial moment in the spring of 2007 when Imus, in making an effort to talk sports – specifically, the Rutgers women’s basketball team – used a poor choice of wording which resulted in defamation, and eventually, the end of his tenure at WFAN. But much like the successors of Pete Franklin, whose hire in and of itself was a poor choice, CBS seems to be satisfied with the successors to Imus in the morning, Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton.

WFAN would discover many notable names over its first twenty-five years on the air: Mike Breen, Scott Ferrall, Chris Carlin and Linda Cohn, just to name a few. Many of these folks would eventually move on to other opportunities – or, in the case of Gregg Giannotti and Adam Gerstenhaber, a.k.a. “Adam The Bull,” other brand new sports radio stations that CBS Radio would be launching in other markets. And any host, guest host, or “20/20 Sports” update anchor could tell you that they were grateful for the opportunities that they had at WFAN. (Okay – almost everybody.)

As the innovator of the sports radio format, WFAN was never afraid to try new things. The “20/20 Sports” updates, given every twenty minutes at twenty-minute increments of the hour, would be the device that WFAN would use to deliver sports news and information to listeners. It was inspired, according to Smulyan, by the wildly popular success of SportsPhone, which dispensed up-to-the-minute sports scores to callers in less than a minute. With the advent of the Internet, the evolution of how people get sports scores has altered dramatically – and thanks to consolidation and other financial factors, the sports anchor on a TV newscast is slowly becoming a thing of the past. And while ESPN Radio, the leading national sports radio network, has all but phased out full-time sports update anchors (example: Mike and Mike reading sports scores), that position still exists at WFAN.

In its infancy, WFAN would integrate radio calls of “great moments in sports” into their legal ID’s. Prior to the first voice heard on WFAN, Suzyn Waldman – who is currently the color commentator for New York Yankees radio broadcasts alongside John Sterling – cracked that mic and said, “Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to the first broadcast of WFAN, all-sports 1050. You’re sharing a part of radio history with us today. This is the beginning of the first 24-hour-a-day sports station,” WFAN would play a legal ID spotlighting the New York Jets winning Super Bowl III.

“That was a great idea,” Cummings said of playing classic sports calls at the top of the hour, “that worn out in about the first 48 hours.”

“And I still thought it was the best idea of all time,” countered Smulyan.

While that legal ID idea might be tacky in retrospect, the concept of sports radio, while frowned upon 25 years ago, is certainly paying dividends in 2012 – a year that will see the creation of two new national sports radio networks to go along with the three preexisting major national sports radio networks, led by ESPN Radio and its 600+ affiliates.

In fact, over the last decade, the number of sports radio stations across the country has dramatically grown, with a figure of 634 recorded in 2010. When you factor in ESPN’s current tally of over 600 stations, Fox Sports Radio’s 400+, over 150 for Yahoo! Sports Radio, dozens involved with the new CBS Sports Radio, and some who will carry NBC Sports Radio Network programming, even if stations in this mix jump from one sports radio provider to another, you’re looking at over 1,000 radio stations dedicated to the sports radio format.

Quite a far cry from just one twenty-five years ago.

And WFAN’s finances, which bled $4 million in its first year on the air, is nothing to laugh at these days. In fact, they are a billing heavyweight, consistently ranking in the top ten billing radio stations in New York City, if not the entire United States, for years. And per advertising research firm BIA/Kelsey, for the first quarter of this year – perhaps enabled by another Super Bowl season for the New York Giants, whom have called WFAN home since the turn of the millennium – the station ranked number one in billing for all New York radio stations.

Mind you, not one penny of that revenue comes from a “do-it-yourself funeral” chain these days.

The secret to WFAN’s success is anything but a secret, what with hundreds of radio stations (and networks, it seems) aping their approach. But the winning formula, Smulyan says, is “information” – consisting of the aforementioned “20/20 Sports” updates and breaking sports news – and “entertainment” – knowledgeable, friendly hosts discussing sports news with guests and/or listeners. It’s a formula that CBS Radio has adhered to since purchasing WFAN from Emmis in 1992 for $75 million.

Aside from that formula, there are three on-air constants that remain on WFAN since they signed on in 1987: Steve Somers, the Fan’s original overnight host, who now handles the evening daypart; the ’80’s-era imaging on the station; and of course, play-by-play of the baseball team that they inherited from the country days as WHN, the New York Mets.

Of course, that relationship might come to an end after this year. And how ironic would it be if the first voice on WFAN would be heard every day on the station by way of Yankees broadcasts, 25 years after the fact? Now that would be quite a homecoming.

And it will be a homecoming for some of the people who have called WFAN home over the last twenty-five years, as Dave Sims (who currently calls “Sunday Night Football” radio broadcasts, as well as Seattle Mariners play-by-play on TV), Len Berman (longtime WNBC-TV sports anchor who once co-hosted a show on WFAN in the ’90’s with Daily News columnist, and current afternoon host on rival ESPN 98.7, Mike Lupica) and Spencer Ross (one of the original WFAN hosts), among others, will return to the airwaves of The FAN on July 1, where they will reflect on the station’s past, and perhaps revert to their previous roles and talk present-day sports. In addition, Somers will host a four-hour program on the afternoon of Saturday, June 30, and the day before that, Francesa will host a special six-hour show (not necessarily unprecedented since his regular shift is five-and-a-half hours) commemmorating the station’s 25th anniversary.

WFAN will be able to spend that time, and more, during afternoon hours on WFAN’s anniversary weekend, since the Mets will be in Los Angeles to play the Dodgers. And how’s this for another twist of irony: On the weekend that WFAN turns 25, the baseball team that they currently hold broadcast rights to, the New York Mets, will be playing a franchise that, up until 1957, played in Brooklyn – and whose games were heard for nearly twenty years on AM 1050.

Who knew that, some three decades after the Bums packed up the truck and moved to Beverly, a 24-hour sports radio station, with the Mets, and more – the first of what would be a multiplying breed – would unfold on that frequency.

“When we put ‘FAN on the air, people thought we were nuts.”

Twenty-five years later, everybody – from programmers, to advertisers, and of course, the fans – is crazy about sports radio.

And not just Jeff Smulyan.

Happy 25th birthday to his baby.

(Click here to read a timeline of WFAN’s first 25 years via their website. Note: CBS Radio websites tend to get all Drudge-y and refresh every five minutes.)

Reaction To Jim Rome/David Stern Showdown Doesn't Miss A Beat

Jim Rome took some verbal heat from NBA commissioner David Stern when asked if the NBA lottery was fixed. "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?" was how Stern responded. Meanwhile, many people attempting to tune into his CBS Sports Network program on Wednesday were out of luck.

For years, as an homage to Los Angeles sports radio icon Lee “Hacksaw” Hamilton, Jim Rome would throw out an occasional phrase on his radio show: “React to me!”

And after an awkward appearance by the commissioner of the NBA on his program, are people ever reacting.

On Wednesday afternoon, Rome welcomed NBA commish David Stern into “the jungle.” As a semi-regular guest, Stern’s latest appearance appeared to be hunky dory – until Rome asked him if the NBA lottery was fixed.

“I have two answers for that,” Stern replied, then obliging to give Rome “the easy one: no.” He added that it was “ridiculous” for Rome to pose that question, and added, “Shame on you for asking.”

“I think it’s my job to ask, because I think people wonder,” Rome told Stern.

David Stern then channeled Howard Stern, coming out of left field with this gem: “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?”

Rome: “I don’t know if that’s fair” to ask that question.

Agreed with “Van Smack” on this one. I can see where Stern is coming from, because he admitted to Rome, “That’s not a question that I’ve been asked before by a respectable journalist.” But Stern picked the worst analogy. I mean, how many people are really wondering if there are any domestic disputes in the Rome household on a regular basis?

Also, Rome argued that it was indeed fair to ask if the NBA lottery was fixed because the league owned the New Orleans Hornets, which won this year’s NBA Draft Lottery.

Then, Rome just argued.

“You do things sometimes for cheap thrills,” Stern said to Rome. “You’ve been successful at making a career out of [cheap thrills], and I keep coming on.”

“I got no thrill out of that,” Rome admitted.

Unfazed, Stern rebounded with, “It’s a cheap trick.”

Rome then something that he might consider worthy of “racking”: “No, flopping is a cheap trick.”

Fast forward to Wednesday evening. A mere six hours after the interview, Jim Rome and David Stern are still trending worldwide on Twitter. And since he hosts an early evening show on CBS Sports Network, you would think the Stern interview debacle would buoy his ratings, at least on this day. Yet, for the 6 PM hour, the hour in which “Rome” airs on CBSSN, I could literally count a handful of tweets from folks only saying they were going to watch the show to see if he says anything about Stern. Also, subscribers to Verizon FiOS – like myself – tuning in to CBSSN for the first time since March Madness to watch “Rome” were greeted with a message reading that “you are not subscribed” to CBSSN. There goes a huge opportunity for exposure. The viewers that sampled CBSSN for March Madness programming that returned for some more possible “smack” on Stern now realize that they don’t actually have the network – or they could, if they pony up for it. Meanwhile, FiOS subscribers can receive NBC Sports Network without paying extra. The Eyeball needs to fix this if they have any hopes of strengthening their audience.

As you would expect, Stern’s appearance was the featured headline on JimRome.com. “The conversation gets a little contentious when Jim asks the commissioner about the 2012 NBA Draft Lottery,” the website read after Wednesday’s show.

Elsewhere on the Internets, the popular Rome listener message board Stucknut.com had a thread up about the Stern interview almost immediately after it was done. “Damn, never heard Stern run that kind of smack against Jim before,” wrote “dawickah” in one of the first of many replies. “Rome was trying to bait Stern, and Stern lost his temper and took it. Now it’s news and publicity for Rome,” replied Mike In Toledo. “Only thing better from Rome’s perspective would’ve been Stern dropping an f-bomb.”

And with Rome vs. Stern being such a huge media story, it’s only a matter of time before every sports radio host weighs in on it. One of the first to do so was Mike Taylor, the afternoon drive host on KTKR/Ticket 760 in San Antonio, which just happens to be the headquarters of Clear Channel, which owns not only KTKR, but Premiere Networks, which distributes Rome’s radio program.

“You’re the commissioner of the league, and you’re coming off like a middle-schooler,” Taylor said of Stern’s reaction to Rome throwing him “a fastball.” Taylor also thinks the Commish is “butthurt” because he’s “got a referee [Tim Donaghy] rotting in prison right now who outed your ass.” (Donaghy, who faced up to 25 years in prison, was actually released a few years ago.)

It will be interesting to see if many other sports radio hosts, local and national, and whether they share the same frequencies as Rome or not, share the same opinion.

And if Rome and Stern will still be trending on Twitter by then.

Health Scare For LA, Philly-Based Sports Media Figures

Hall of Fame Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda is recovering from a heart attack he suffered on Monday. Meanwhile, Philadelphia sports radio host Angelo Cataldi (right) is preparing for intestinal surgery, which should sideline him for most of the month of June.

Tuesday presented some sobering medical news involving two popular sports personalities – one prominently known in Philadelphia, and one who hails from the Philadelphia area, but is well-known to baseball followers across the country.

Tommy Lasorda, a native of the Philadelphia suburb of Norristown, suffered a heart attack on Monday in New York City. Appearing in the World Series four times during his 20-year reign as the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, he currently serves as an advisor to the team. He was in town for the 2012 MLB draft when he fell ill and was hospitalized. The team subsequently released a statement saying the Hall of Fame manager, 84, had a stent inserted to fix a blocked artery. He’s reported to be resting comfortably. Ironically, a heart attack led to Lasorda abruptly retiring as Dodgers manager in July 1996; he had gone to the hospital citing abdominal pain which, unbeknownst to him, was actually a heart attack.

Among Lasorda’s sports media credits are roles as a commentator on “This Week In Baseball” in 1997, and as a correspondent for the Los Angeles-based “Jim Rome Is Burning” program in 2009. He also starred in the early-80’s baseball sketch comedy show geared toward children, “The Baseball Bunch.”

Meanwhile, Angelo Cataldi, who has practically been the morning host on WIP for as long as it’s been a sports radio station (we’re talking way before its migration to the FM dial last year), was MIA on Monday, and ended up calling into his own show that day – live from a hospital in South Jersey – to share his own medical predicament with his audience: he’s suffering from diverticulitis, a digestive disease usually affecting the large intestine or the colon. Under doctor’s orders, he is to remain off the air for practically the entire month of June, as he is scheduled to undergo surgery on Thursday. Cataldi’s wife, Gail, told the Philadelphia Daily News that her husband, a known “embellisher,” was “really sick” to the point that he could not make it into work to talk about Eagles training camp, or the Phillies’ two-game slide at that point. (Ironically, the Phillies are currently playing the aforementioned Lasorda’s Dodgers.)

As Cataldi, 61, recuperates from surgery, WIP late-night host and throat cancer survivor Big Daddy Graham will sub for him in morning drive.

A speedy recovery to both the godfather of Philadelphia sports radio and the godfather of late-20th century baseball.