Saturday, January 14, 2006

The sad state of sports talk radio in the D

It's late on a Saturday night. I'm killing time till SNL begins, as my life is pretty damn boring at the moment. So I'm watching the Pats - Broncos game and posting/lurking in the Swamp. Good time to write, you think? So what should I pontificate about? Detroit sports talk radio, WDFN and WXYT in paticular. I'll restrict my thoughts to local shows only rather than national. For example, what can you say about Jim Rome that hasn't already been said? You either love Rome or you hate Rome, no in between. Rack him, clones.

Let's start with the morining shows. Both are unlistenable. I'll give you that WXYT's "S & L in the Morning" (Now Lund and Gator) has improved since S was dumped. That's not saying much, but it's something. Marc Spindler was the poster boy for NCAA lunkheads that got into college because they could play ball. I'd love to see those SAT scores... As for L? John Lund doesn't know Detroit sports, won't ever know Detroit sports, and has a tad of the Gary Danielson "I'm better than you, I'm a legend in my own mind" vibe. As for Spindler's replacement, Scotty "Gator" Anderson, there was a reason he was their long time fill in/weekend/late night guy. He's OK, but you'd think they could do better. I mean they have a legend like Lund, right?

On the other hand is "Jamie and Brady" on the Fan. This is where I start with the Fan resting on their laurels. They're boring beyond words. Nothing but old bits. Five questions. The Squares. Defending the Indefensable. Hot Potato. I'd say que up the old bit siren, but that's a past it's prime old bit as well. The only saving grace is that they have decent national and local insiders, such as Fatty McButterpants Peter King, Danny Knobler, Tom Kolwalski, Kevin Allen, and Chris McCosky, to name a few. They all aren't all great shakes, but do bring something to the show that the hosts are unable. That being an actual legitimate opinion from someone in the know. That's a little better than Greg Brady saying he watched "24," rather than the game, the night before. Jamie Samuelsen? He's a straight man who needs a strong personality (Gregg Henson, anyone?) as a partner. That sure isn't Brady, who'd rather talk about pop culture 24/7.

On to middays. The best sports talk in the area goes on in this slot. Both "The Sports Inferno" with Terry Foster and Mike Valenti and "It is What it is" with Sean Baligian are damn good. Better than both morning and afternoon drive. Baligian is a personable everyman, knows his sports (Especially hockey and football), and keeps the old bit off topic stuff to a bare minimum. He will talk outside the sports realm, but doesn't go overboard with it.

Same goes for Foster and Valenti. There was a time when I felt they flipped a coin every day to see who would give the contarian veiwpoint on a topic, and it was usually Valenti. I'll also admit Valenti's tough guy schtick can be grating at times. But he's grown on me over the past year. The same goes for Valenti that I said about Baligian. That's high praise for someone who's not orginally from the D. As for Foster, he's been underappreciated in this market for years, going back to the late, lamented "Sports Doctors" with Art Regner on WDFN. TFos knows his shit, has inside connections, keeps Valenti on a short leash, and not afraid to say what's what. For what it's worth, they post articles to their web site everyday, which gives Foster a opinion forum that the Detroit News no longer gives him.

Both these shows should be in the morning drive time slots.

Which brings us to afternoon drive. I'll start by saying I've been a loyal Stoney and Wojo listener for as long as I can remember. But things change. I'm no longer loyal. Something needs to change here, as I feel as I'm listening to the same recycled guy talk every day. In other words, que the old bit siren. Bob Wojonowski's dumb guy schtick, once funny, is now just wearing. "Do I know this song, Stoney?" "Panic in whatever-happened-last-night town!" "Mmmm, sandwiches/Nutter Butters/Any food in general." "HmmmHmmmHmmm...Shooters!" "Happy New Year!" Stop the bullshit (Especially Happy New Year), PLEASE! Thing is, when Wojo talks straight up about sports, he one of the most lucid, smart hosts in the city. His Detroit News columns confirm that, no question. But for some reason, he feels the need to dumb himself down and clown it up on air. It's this forced slappiness that has really turned me off.

As for Stoney, Mike Stone is still Mike Stone, which is a good thing. He's the same guy I enjoyed when the Fan first came on the air over a decade ago. The dude is deservedly called "The Franchise." I honestly enjoy him more when he doesn't have to play straight man to Wojo. He won't slap it up, thank God. Can he have more forceful opinions? Tougher interview questions? Sure, but he can only do so much when overwhelmed with all the Wojo silliness.

One other thing that adversely affects S & W are their callers. They only encourage the slapstick with their own asinine, regurgitated bits. Clearing your throat? Bad impressions? Stupid nicknames? The same old tired cliches? (The Lions will never win till Ford sells the team!) It's not cute, it's not funny, it's just old...

Art Regner and Doug Karsch on WXYT's "The Big Show," I can take or leave, it really depends on the subject. When it comes to the Red Wings (Regner) and the Wolverines (Karsch), they have no peers. But you can't talk Red Wings and Michigan football 5 days a week, as much as they try. Other sports, they just don't bring it. Regner's rants on the Lions and Tigers rate up there with Wojo's dumb guy schtick. They once were entertaining. Now? I've heard it before and nothing has changed since the last time he whipped the pissed off fan who deserves better bit out. Karsch is the go to guy in Detroit when it comes to U of M. Otherwise, he's thowing unimformed opinions at the wall and hoping something sticks. Or he just gets out of Regner's way when he starts screaming about how he'll never watch the Lions/Tigers again. They aren't horrible, and I find myself listening to them whenever S & W start with the lame games, people are stupid stories, Bruce Springsteen talk, Wojo mispronouncing names, or have another 10 minute long commercial break. All of which happen much too often.

I'd say something about "Parker and the Man" on 97.1 weeknights, but I can't bear to listen to Wobb Rob Parker. I just can't do it... You can only take so much, "Coooome uuoooon..." I avoid his columns at all cost in the News, why on earth would I want to hear his opinions over the air?

From what I read on some of the local sports media sites, there may be changes in the station lineups. WXYT has finally overtaken WDFN in the Arbitron ratings. That just might be the kick in the ass WDFN has long needed. If there is a station that needs a jump start to get out of a longtime rut, the Fan is it. As of right now, WXYT is the lesser of two extremely boring ass evils.

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