The Trouble With Seattle’s Sports Radio

This is what it comes to in February.  With no news to discuss, with Spring Training still in its infancy, with football season increasingly becoming a distant memory, with Husky basketball struggling to keep my interest, I turn to the state of sports radio in Seattle.

I should start by saying that, in general, I’m a fan of sports radio.  I think it more or less serves as a positive function in our little sports society.  I’ve been a regular listener since the mid-90s, in my teenage years, usually revolving around Sonics games, when KJR was the only thing in town.  Mitch and Softy and Groz and Gas and Locke.  That was the lineup, titans in their own special ways.

Sports radio is important because it’s news, but it’s not The News.  It’s remaining connected to the world around you, but it’s not the oppressive, crushing despair of the world at large.  It’s AM radio for those of us who tire instantly of partisan politics.  I can’t stand most conservatives, but at the same time I don’t need a bunch of liberals telling me things I already believe in.  When I listen to the radio, I’m not there to be an active participant.  I listen to the radio in my car, mostly.  Sometimes I’ll listen at home, but that’s almost exclusively to kill time between going to work, or doing something more interesting with my life.  I never call in.  I’ve very rarely felt the urge to, and when I have, that urge has gone away just as quickly, before I ever put finger to telephone dial.

I’m not a slave to sports radio, either.  I probably listen to it 60-70% of the time I have my radio on, but I’m always flipping around through commercials.  If I can’t find anything worth listening to on sports radio, I move to the music stations and resume flipping.

So, that’s me.  That’s my sports radio background.  It’s not particularly interesting, but I’ve put it there as a frame of reference.  Essentially, I’m Every-Listener.  I’m Joe Nobody in Seattle, Washington.  I’m between the ages of 18-34, I’m male, and I have nothing but disposable income (mostly because I’m single and my expenses are pretty much nil aside from my apartment rent).  I am, in short, the Sports Radio Target Demographic.  Pretty much, what I say matters, even though it really doesn’t, because I’m just one guy, but that’s neither here nor there.  Because I’ve got a lot of problems with you people!  And now you’re going to hear about it!

There are three sports radio stations in Seattle.  I want to let that statement sink in for a moment (but not too long, because Jesus Christ!  We could lose at least one of them by the time I get around to posting this!).  Do you realize how absurd that sounds?  Seattle is, what, the 12th-largest media market?  Something like that.  12th or 13th, depending on who you ask.  Which, I guess is pretty big, but does it really deserve THREE sports radio stations?  I don’t want to hear about whether it can support it or not.  That’s not my area of expertise (if you could say I really have one).  I’m sure Seattle can handle it.  A third place sports radio station probably brings in better ratings than the #1 liberal talk radio station, but who cares?

At some point, you’re diluting the talent pool.  You know how one of the bogus reasons the NBA says it doesn’t want to expand is because it’s worried about how you’d have a worse product, because you’re spreading your basketball talent to too many places?  Yeah, I don’t buy that argument for one second, but in the arena of sports radio, I think we’re on to something.

If you combined the best all three radio stations have to offer, I think you could have one really good sports radio station.  But, the way things stand right now, I find it difficult to really listen to ANY of it.  For too long, anyway.

What does it say about the state of Sports Radio in Seattle when the best show in the entire market is hosted by John Clayton on Saturday mornings?  I’d say most everybody else has done a piss-poor job, that’s what!  Ostensibly, all Clayton does is take phone calls, with a few interviews sprinkled in throughout his 3-hour show from 9am-noon.  It’s that simple!  Then again, it’s also not.

For the most part, I can’t stand it when sports radio hosts take calls.  Mostly because the callers are idiots.  I know those producers behind the scenes are working their asses off to screen the calls and make sure only the best ones make it to air, but the fact of the matter is:  the callers are only as good as the shows they call into.  And the shows they call into are only as good as their hosts, which is really what this all boils down to.

John Clayton is an intelligent, no-nonsense kind of guy.  I’m not going to sit here and say every single person who calls into his show is worth listening to, but I would take the majority of his callers over the majority of every other show’s callers on every other station.

Here’s what I don’t need:  I don’t need loudmouth blowhards and I don’t need comedy.

Want to know why I don’t listen to national shows like Jim Rome or Colin Cowherd (when he briefly hosted a show in this market)?  Want to know why I don’t listen to ANY of the national Fox guys they play on overnights or on the weekends?  Because they’re loudmouth blowhards who think they know everything and they come across as douchebags.

Want to know why I don’t listen to Mike & Mike?  Because I don’t need comedy.  I ESPECIALLY don’t need comedy first thing in the fucking morning.

There is nothing funny about sports.  If you don’t take it seriously, then fine, laugh away.  But, if you’re like me, or the majority of sports fans, you DO take sports seriously.  Specifically, you take your favorite teams seriously.  It’s why you devour news articles about them.  It’s why you spend hours listening to sports radio when a big event takes place.  It might even be why you spend hours upon hours writing about them.  If you’re a hardcore fan, then there’s nothing funny about sports, especially when your teams suck dick and your local sports radio hosts are sitting there trying to bring a little levity to a situation that demands shit-talking.

Of course, if some well-timed misfortune happens to a hated rival, then it’s just shits and giggles til the cows come home.  But, you know, pick your spots.

But, I don’t NEED to laugh when I’m listening to sports radio.  All I want is to get the latest news, and to hear the opinions of the hosts on what’s going on.  That’s it.  I don’t need your little skits or your funny audio clips or any of that bullshit.  Entertain me by keeping things INTERESTING.  That’s the bottom line.  If you keep things interesting, then I don’t care WHAT topics you choose to talk about.  But, don’t try to entertain me by trying to tickle my funny bone.  I have PLENTY of other sources in my life that can make me laugh on a daily basis.

What really gets my goat more than anything else, though, is sports radio in the morning.  It is just BRUTAL right now.

I wake up at 6am every day to get ready to go to work.  At this point in my career, I could choose to come in later if I so desired, but I’ve gotten used to this particular schedule (that sees me leave work at 3:30pm) and so I’m sticking with it.  However, at one point in my life, I CHOSE to wake up at 6am, because I liked listening to Mitch in the Morning’s first hour.

I’ve been listening to Mitch’s show since the tail end of the Jeff Aaron days, through the entirety of the Steve Sandmeyer days, and now on into the Dick Fain days.  The Jeff Aaron days were fine, though to be honest it’s tough to remember a whole helluva lot since it was so long ago.  The Steve Sandmeyer days were ideal, because I think they played off of one another perfectly.  These days, though?  Let’s just say I’m seriously looking to unload a clock and shower radio.  $0 or best offer.

The worst mistake KJR ever made was shit-canning Steve Sandmeyer.  Now, I’m not here to ride the guy’s jock, because as a solo-host I don’t think he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread either.  But, with Sandy and Mitch, you had a couple of guys who you could listen to without wanting to tear your hair out.  I don’t want to come on here and start throwing individuals under the bus (even though that’s essentially what I’m doing), especially because this is out there for anyone to read, but there is one very annoying and ill-informed reason why I can no longer bring myself to listen to the KJR morning show.  I’m sure he’s the nicest guy in the world and I wouldn’t say a thing about him as a person, but as a radio personality, I just can’t bring myself to tolerate listening to Dick Fain.  You know what the worst part is?  I’m not a morning person.  I think a lot of us are like that.  When you wake up first thing in the morning, you don’t want to hear the most chipper, gregarious guy in the world shouting the news to you over the radio!  THAT’S why it was great having Sandmeyer on at 6am with Mitch.  Because you could tell, without a shadow of a doubt, that he couldn’t stand waking up so early in the morning.  In that sense, I’m right there with you brother.  Listening to Captain Boy Scout bouncing around his bubbly way is not the best part of waking up, that’s for damn sure.

Which sucks, because in that first hour of my day, all I really want to listen to is sports radio.  That’s it.  I want to wake up slowly, I want to hear about any news I might’ve missed overnight, and I want something to keep my mind occupied while I’m in the shower and getting ready for work.  So I’m not stuck at home just thinking about (and dreading) what’s about to happen to me at work that day.

And now I can’t.  Because, as I said before, Mike & Mike are the God damned devil of inanity.  And whatever 1090 The Fan has going on is pure, teeth-pulling stupidity.

I’m still working on finding a positive solution.  FM radio isn’t all peaches & cream either.  I haven’t listened to KISW since just after Howard Stern left; who knows, maybe his replacements aren’t quite as annoying as I remember.  I suppose I could give Bob Rivers another go.  Or, I guess I can just go fuck myself; that’s always an option.

I can’t listen to sports radio while I’m working, so I don’t have a whole lot to comment on during those hours (except from what I’ve heard while bed-ridden).  The Bob & Groz show on 710 ESPN has been entertaining the few times I’ve had it on.  I’ve always liked what Elise has had to say.  I thought Brock and Salk were always solid (but now Salk is gone, so who knows what that’s going to turn into).  Ian’s KJR show is surprisingly well done, considering it’s the headquarters for all things Washington State Cougars.  The Kevin Calabro Show was easily my favorite thing on the radio, but now it looks like he’s dropped out to do more basketball play-by-play.  What’s left is Go2Guy and a smorgasboard of extras, and I guess it’s good enough.  Go2 is probably the most entertaining and easy-to-listen-to weekday personality (so you know his segments with John Clayton have become daily appointment listening).  KJR has since moved Softy to the afternoon drivetime slot since Gas retired, which is ultimately a positive move for them.  I mean, how can you not like Softy (don’t answer that)?  And, of course, there’s Sandmeyer anchoring the local coverage on 1090 The Fan.  I have high hopes that he’ll succeed, but in all honesty I’m kind of losing my will to give a crap.  With any of this.

In the end, these stations should all just take a page from the John Clayton playbook:  hire a beat writer or a sports journalist, give them their own call-in shows, and let them answer questions for a couple hours every day.  Then again, if John clayton’s show was every single day, would it be as good?  I suppose this is why they’re not giving me the big bucks.

Again, though, this is just one man’s opinion.  So, if you work for these companies and you happen upon this post, just relax.  If I know how you think – and I think that I do – you’re probably picturing some 400 pound slob in his mother’s basement (because, isn’t that what every blogger is?).  Just keep picturing that and I’m sure you’ll recover from my devastating diatribe just fine.

6 thoughts on “The Trouble With Seattle’s Sports Radio

  1. Agreed about Fain…barf…but come on with Clayton. If you actually wrote down his sentences and re-read it, you would think it was Simple Jack from Tropic Thunder speaking.

  2. Pingback: 2014: State Of Seattle Sports Radio | Seattle Sports Hell

  3. The biggest fault I have with Seattle sports radio is a lack of professionalism. And by that I mean the hosts. They’ll do their show unprepared. They’ll yackity yack about their personal lives, either to fill time or because they’re bored, I’m never sure which one. They’ll talk about one sports team to the exclusion of all the other sports teams. Many of them come from the newspapers business and are writers not radio hosts and it’s painfully obvious. And so forth. I don’t listen much anymore it’s just to irritating.

  4. i thought i was the only one that is being driven absolutely mad “tolerating” Dick Fain in the morning. I say just give the show to Slick Hawk (who Fain jokingly and consistently jabs “doesn’t know a thing”) because he actually has some very interesting and perceptive points.

    Fain thinks he’s the most brilliant and funniest guy ever. And all he does is push his unintelligent “fanboy” opinions. And if anybody disagrees with him – he keeps pushing them (i’d stop listening for 2-3 days then tune in- there is Fain on queue.. still griping and whining about his main opinion for the week 3 days later!).

    His interviews are, “this is what I think.. don’t you agree?” And if they don’t.. he’ll talk over them and push his opinion even further … it’s horrible!

    The saving grace and what i tune in for now is.. to listen to all his cohorts on the show who are HIGHLY intelligent and have actually been hired by these leagues they talk about.

    The last step fro me? Fain saying one day “i don’t even pay attention to the NL because i don’t care or have to until the world series”… Umm.. NO dilrod. You sorta have to know the NL too if you want to do any discussion on what the Mariners maybe should do, or how our AL West foes and their moves may affect the M’s in the upcoming year. (Dee Gordon… NL player… Fain.. can’t contribute anything to the discussion)…


  5. i love your idea.. just hire a beat writer who KNOWS what they’re talking about.. and can interact with the audience well (Clayton is gold!) I moved to the Bay Area and they do that with a fella named Marty Lury. It’s pure gold! And he may be on the air like the entire weekend and it never gets old and its absolutely insightful.

    So i love your idea. GET RID OF FAIN! 🙂

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