January 4, 2010

Look who's talking

Happy New Year! To start off the 2010 Blogging season (is there such a thing?); I thought I’d take a look at the local sports-talk radio scene.

Here in the greater Orange County/Los Angeles area we are very lucky to have a variety of choices for sports talk radio. There are basically three stations in KLAC 570, KSPN (ESPN) Los Angeles 710 and KLAA AM 830. You can usually also catch XX Sports 1090 in San Diego.

No matter what your sport (USC football, Angels baseball, Lakers basketball, etc.), you can find a place to get your fix. We’ve always had choices, but I’d say the current batch is better what we’ve had in recent history.

I once considered the sports talk radio scene in this area a vast wasteland. Not so much any more and if you’re an Angels’ fan, you have no doubt found your way to AM 830 in the morning and afternoon drive times for either the Sports Lodge (with Roger Lodge) and/or The Drive (with Jeff Biggs). It’s really nice to have a place where baseball (and more importantly Angels’ baseball) is a part of the programming year round.

I used to be so desperate for baseball talk that I would to tune in to 1090 in the off-season because they’d include some baseball (even though it was about the Padres) in their discussions. Sandy Alderson, Kevin Towers and Paul DePodesda were regulars on the station and they provided fans with great insight and information. I used to envy the Padre fans and their relationship with the XX Sports Radio.

The 1090 station and their crew do a great job of connecting with the Padre community. They conduct broadcasts from Spring Training and have hours of coverage leading up to and after each Padre home game.

Having the Angels on AM 830, is a big step; providing Angel fans with an outlet and place we can call our own. This was a huge step forward in the continued branding of Angels baseball, in my opinion. That’s not to say 830 is perfect because there are some constructive suggestions I would make for improvements and I’ll get into that in a bit.

First of all, let’s sing the praises of the station. They’ve given Angels fans a forum to connect with one another and members of the team via live pre-game broadcasts from various establishments in and around the stadium. They’ve even given a couple of great fan web sites like AngelsWin and Halos Heaven a place on their broadcasts, inviting key individuals from those fan sites (who also happen to have blogs) on to the show to talk Angels baseball.

The result is expanded coverage of our team and a destination for the latest news and happenings surrounding our favorite team. It appears to me that it’s all been a huge hit.

That being said, there are some things I’d like to suggest some things.

This is directed at the on-air personalities (not just at AM 830) and the people who put these shows on each day. First of all, we don’t want to hear about your fantasy baseball teams. There is nothing more boring and uninteresting than hearing about someone else’s fantasy baseball or football team. We really don’t care about the details that lead you to a fifth place finish in your league.

Next… while having fans call in to the shows is great, some of your fans need some restrictions. Take a cue from Terry Smith who only allows callers to participate once a week. Seriously, it appears to me that some guys call in every day just to hear themselves talk. These individuals take themselves a little too seriously and I usually change the station when they come on the air.

How bad are they? Well, I’m not certain, but I honestly believe Jeff Biggs of AM 830’s “The Drive,” has fallen asleep a time or two when one his regulars calls in. Either that or he’s making snarky comments off the air to his colleagues at the station. No need to name names, because if you listen enough, you know who I’m talking about. If you really have that much to say, start blogging! I’m just saying…

I’d also like to request you to please give us more interviews. We love it when players, coaches, front office personnel and baseball insiders in general come on the air. All we ask is that you ask interesting questions and get these people to reveal a little bit of their personalities and/or give us information we didn’t previously know.

Dan Patrick is the best sports interviewer in the business (in my opinion). He makes me want to listen to interviews of people involved in sports I don’t even watch or care about. He has a knack for making the interviews interesting and compelling.

Next, let’s stop with the attempts to be the radio version of “Saturday Night Live.” Having a sense of humor is great and welcomed, but when you start trying to do comedy routines on the radio, you’ve lost me. There was a time when John Ireland and Steve Mason did this way too much. Joe McDonnell (who I like) went down this road a time or two and it just wasn’t good radio.

Speaking of McDonnell, when he’s focused on just talking sports, doing interviews and getting the inside scoop on the latest sports news, he’s as good as it gets. When he was teamed with Doug Kirkorian he was hard to listen to. Kirkorian brought out the worst in McDonnell (in my opinion). I know the two are great friends, but I don’t think they mixed well on the radio. I always wanted more McDonnell and less Kirkorian.

Now, along the same lines as “bits” and “comedy routines,” please don’t over do it with the contests. It’s great when you give fans an opportunity to win tickets, but keep it simple and don’t try to turn it into a comedy show.

I remember calling into the Mason and Ireland show when Jered Weaver first got called up. I was excited and wanted to make sure they got the breaking news and discussed it. What I got was a producer who was angry with me for interrupting his preparation for a contest/bit he was setting up. When your contests become more important than the sports you’re supposed to cover, you’re clearly clueless about your audience.

Most people don’t listen for the contests; in fact, I’m guessing the participants represent a very small part of your audience.

Remember the main reason we tune in is because we want to discuss or hear about Angels baseball (depending on the station). That means your take on the economy, politics or whatever isn’t really of importance to us. We have other places to go for that. Know your audience and stay focused on delivering what we want.

And what we want is knowledgeable people doing their jobs well. One of my biggest pet peeves is professional broadcasters who aren’t prepared. If you’re on the air to talk Angels baseball or any sport or team; know your subject.

I expect you to know more than me or at least have a solid understanding of the team and sport you’re involved in. I can’t tell you how many times certain personalities give out the wrong information or simply don’t know some of the basic things about their team and the sport they’re discussing. It’s embarrassing.

Angel fans are savvy and we expect you to know your stuff when you hit the air or mingle with us. This includes knowing a bit about the history of the organization. Your level of knowledge is an indication of just how much you care about the topic/team you’re covering. If you don’t care, we don’t give a rip about what you have to say.

Last, but not least; take off the rose colored glasses. Be objective; really objective. I imagine the more you’re around a team, the deeper your relationships with that team becomes. That doesn’t mean you should lose objectivity and just spout the company line all the time. We can see right through you when you’re not sincere. Don’t just go through the motions because we expect better.

Let’s face it, there is a wealth of information available today through the internet with blogs, twitter, fan sites, etc. There was a time when Lee “Hacksaw” Hamilton was the source to get the latest news and rumors in sports, but that’s all changed. Hamilton’s headlines are basically yesterday’s news now. I know about everything he “puts on the table” long before he hits the air.

I’m basically a fan of just a couple of sports-talk types. Dan Patrick and Joe McDonnell are two of the best, in my opinion. I can’t stand guys who spend most of their time yelling on the radio. I don’t want to name names, but you can find him on 570.

I’m not a huge Jim Rome fan because I never wanted to bother having to learn a whole new lingo to keep up with his show nor have I been interested in listening to guys who want to be his “clone.” Rome does a good job on interviews, but sometimes goes a little overboard with what appears to me to be “brown-nosing.” I also can’t get the image of him trembling when former pro football quarterback, Jim Everett dumped a table on him after Rome kept calling him “Chrissie.”

I should also add that I’m a huge fan of Terry Smith and the job he does on the Angels’ post-game call in show on AM 830. I like the way he handles callers and for the way he doesn’t back down from anyone. He’s knowledgeable, passionate about the game, honest and provides great insight.

So there you have it. The first post of 2010 is in the books… err, on the web. I hope to write about some Angel minor leaguers in the coming weeks including Trevor Reckling. I will also be doing some reports from Spring Training and I will even write a primer for those of you looking to enhance your Spring Training experience and/or provide tips for those of you going for the first time.

Stay tuned.

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