The best and worst of L.A. sports media 2019: Sports talk hosts need originality, creativity and staying power

Is this mike on? Is the audience listening?
Check, check …

jaxA brief history lesson about the L.A. sports-talk radio medium for those who may wonder what predated podcasting: Sports yammering shows existed here more than 40 years ago.
When radio was a bigger deal and a more prevalent place to be heard.
What if we told you Keith Jackson was the sports director of KABC/790, before he became a big deal with ABC Sports, and had his own show? He hired Bill Russell, the just-retired Boston Celtics center, to have his own show — not just about sports, but social issues, features.
Dang.
Sports was part of the entire talk spectrum. Ed “Superfan” Bieler was another novelty that was supposed to shake things up in the early ’70s.
Skip ahead. We could document the many more hit-and-miss attempts that came and went over the last decades. The wave of Joe McDonnell, Fred Wallin. Bud Tucker and Bud Furillo. Steve Edwards brought game.
So no surprise the first 24/7 attempt didn’t arrive until the mid-1990s — Gene Autry became convinced he could take his Angels flagship station of KMPC-AM (710) and lasso the momentum that WFAN started in New York. There was already a SoCal competitor in “The Mighty 690” blasting up from a San Diego studio and a Tijuana antenna.
Lessons were learned over the short course of the KMPC impatient test run.
Just a couple years ago, four all-sports formats existed here at the same time.
It is with some sadness that we still don’t know where to plant a tombstone for KFWB’s conversion of all-news to “The Beast.”
beastRest in Peace, you filthy Beast (2014-2016).
Nationally syndicated shows have their place on the L.A. sports radio dashboard. But mixed in with some LeBatard, Rome and The DP Show, we need a live and local presence, to filter national stories for local angles, and prop up local stories with more historical (and logical) contest.
Yelling and screaming for attention here has never quite worked. We tune out those of things. We need intelligent, entertaining and often creative approaches. We need diversity to reflect the region. We need the medium to stay relevant at a time when it could easily evaporate.
Who still does it best? Who needs a lot of work? Who can get by without ever taking phone calls, unless they can turn that into some impromptu comedic fodder?
We hear it this way:

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black 1PETROS PAPADAKIS/KLAC-AM (570)
1211theloudmouthOn or off the air, in a bar at UnHappy Hour or outside in the parking lot after closing time, on the field or in the press box booth, there’s few more well-rounded, salt-of-the-earth conversationalists, with or without a sports-talk affiliation, who have an athletic perspective, real-life experience and even top-notch relationship advice. His own father, John, refers to him simply as a “force of nature.” Naturally, it’s not limited to sports with the former USC tailback/Fox Sports game analyst/former host of “Pros vs. Joes.” If at times he comes off as too loud and pushing back on something, ride it out.
Our friend David Davis once penned a bio on him that ran in L.A. Magazine entitled “The Loud Mouth.” In a good way. We did a piece on him in ’06, when he was at another station in another version of himself, again the headline: “Loud And proud.” Just follow the passion wave.
“I know people say I’m too loud, or exuberant, out of control, too much style over substance – that’s OK.,” he said. “But to me, the style is the substance. There are too many people who can tell you who won or lost a game. I’m far too passionate to let it end there. If I’m excited about something, I scream. I mean, when you’ve got a bad lisp like mine, it’s just easier to yell when I work myself into a frenzy. I get like a rat with his piece of cheese.”
Also, if he has the time to sit down and talk about real things in his life, as he did with us once, on video, appreciate the experience.
Now, someone hand him the ball and get out of the way.

black 2BRIAN AND/OR ANDY KAMENETZKY/KSPN-AM (710)
kamOnce upon a time, the Brothers Kamenetzky had a regular beachhead at the station, and we were pleased. Lately, they’ve been a black 3mix-and-match fill-in, interchangeable (at least to us, not their wives and kids). But noticeably irreplaceable. At least they have a working podcast, and often pop up with A Martinez on a KPCC-FM morning show discussion – which should be send up a flag to show they can do this, still, on a regular basis. Their word economy is also to be appreciated, not just the depth for which they opine. It’s baffling why someone doesn’t build a station for sports talk around them instead of insisting on using them as a stop-gap when someone else isn’t available. Read them on Twitter at @KamBrothers, at the LandOLakers.com website for more audio, and check Andy’s work at TheAthletic.com

black 4STEVE MASON/KSPN-AM (710)
His ego-centric ways aside – at least he admits to being all about himself – Mase’s longevity and adaptation, plus his outside interests, brings fair, insightful and relevant on-topic opinions. Oh, the gay thing? Not that he needs any extra labels. But the world’s oldest millennial, as he calls himself, has aged well and we often withhold judgement on things in L.A. sports until we’ve got his take.

black 5MATT “MONEY” SMITH/KLAC-AM (570)
He’s got the five spot in this market, and would be likely higher in any other venue if not for the competition/companionship. Smith becomes the balancing act with Papadakis, and create teamwork that’s as intellectually stimulating, pop culturally deep and family orientated with situational comedy. They’re easily the best in the L.A. marketplace because of their understanding of how each other works.

black 6JOHN IRELAND/KSPN-AM (710)
Again, with Mason and a longstanding relationship, his tireless media presence would likely kill all others. We find his high energy effective best when in the Fast Track segments as well as insights into how the Lakers work. It would almost serve the station better to have them either in drive-time or the early-morning ride, but Ireland’s Laker schedule of play-by-play would knock that down.

black 7ROGER LODGE/KLAA-AM (830)
lodgeNo complaints lodged here for the “Halo Honk” who also goes by Roger Chavez. What’s wrong with using Roger Chavez on the air, by the way?
There remains a place for a nice, respectable family guy trying to get you home on a drive-time commute. His interviews with baseball-related writers are a pleasure, and his enthusiasm for even doing a live ad read gives us a feeling that the company gets its money’s worth (714-TICKETS anyone?) We appreciate the self-deprecating humor (such as the time’s he’ll say: “But then again what do I know? I’m just a  guy who used to host a dating show.”) We save the date, and time, to check in on him frequently.

black 8JASON SMITH/KLAC-AM (570)
No fair? Yes fair. His national nightly show with Mike Harman withstanding, the treat is when he gets some local reps, often in the mornings, and can focus on things of our specific interests. We’ll even considering drinking a Fresca while reading his Twitter feed at @howaboutafresca.

black 9JORGE SEDANO/KSPN-AM (710)
It’s the key position we’re apparently recognizing here rather than who is the latest to try to actually fill it. And up against the “PMS” on one end and “The Lodge” on the other, God speed to you. Sedano seems to be the next one up in the transition from morning zookeeper to afternoon host, since the departure of Max Kellerman and then Marcellus Wiley (and Kelvin Washington, and Eric Davis). It doesn’t help that he’s kind of not there every episode for real consistency.

black 10DR. ROBERT KLAPPER/KSPN-AM (710):
Untitled-5If you’re one of the lucky ones up from 7-to-9 a.m. on a Saturday morning, exercise your right to be informed by the “Weekend Warrior” show that does more than just take calls from people who don’t know if they need to finally get their rotator cuff checked out by a professional. This resonating Renascence man of the arts, as well as an avid surfer, has a great story to tell about how he even got into this business. In a business of egos that easily bruise of self esteem that can be as fragile as an ACL, a round of applause for Dr. K.

Honorable mention: Travis Rodgers/KSPN mornings; Trent Rush, Angels pre- and post game/KLAA; Dave Denholm’s  “Soccer Weekly,” KSPN; Freddie Prinze Jr., Mike Trudell and Ben Lyons,  KSPN fill ins; David Vassegh and Tim Cates, Dodgers talk, KLAC; Cates on UCLA talk, KLAC.
And by the way: We have lost track a bit of Nick Nickson and Daryl Evans on Kings’ post-game talk on the new IHeartRadio app. It’s an adjustment on our side, as well as the team’s performance, that finds us lacking sometimes in incentive to listen unless we’re driving home from the game and have power left in our phone.

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DtbavZuUUAAc30oWE INTERRUPT THIS LIST FOR AN IMPORTANT INTERMISSION

VIC “THE BRICK” JACOBS/KLAC-AM (570):
He’s more than just the clubhouse mascot, the city of L.A.’s sports mirror, and the Kobe Bryant apologist.
He’s more than just popping in for some news updates, a couple stanzas of haiku and a “Feeling You!” shout.
We’re thankful for the story written about his cancer recovery and appreciate every moment we’ve spent with him over the years.
He genuinely reflects L.A.’s multi-cultural mess. In the best way possible.

Timcates600.jpgOne more important thing to note: Multi-skilled utility men like Tim Cates at KLAC-AM (570), able to produce shows such as the top-of-the-heap “PMS” as well as go on-air when needed, are what’s needed more these days as staff cutbacks occur. Also seen on SNLA and MLB Network. One former colleague called him the “Swiss Army Knife of sports talk radio who excels at all facets of the medium.” Duly noted.

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Red 1FRED ROGGIN and RODNEY PEETE/KLAC-AM (570)
5944087cf2d438605688bc0aThis “Lunchtime With …” format has devolved into two slices of bread with no meat, a squeeze bag of mayo, banana pudding, a moldy tangerine and a plastic red 2spork. Not that we’d lose our lunch trying to endure this between noon and 2 p.m. each day – or is it 3 now, we’re not always sure? Aside from tried and trite segments, and Roggin trying to sound authoritative with his chippy robotic assertions about what’s always “fascinating” to him, and Peete left in scrambling mode that leads to throwing the conversation out of bounds to take the loss and try another snap judgement, this sport on the 570 dial has become a placeholder for all the horrible ads you’d ever want to hear about fat-freezing, hair-loss treatment and divorce lawyers. It’s topped off by these two defrauding themselves with testimonial ads for some suspect over-the-counter thing that is supposed to spice up your trousers’ nether region. You’re not aroused, and neither are we.
By the way, things one can still find: Here’s the 1993 episode of “Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show,” so you can guess if Roggin (in the role of Fred Fisher) or his sidekick Fritz Coleman actually killed Regis Philbin. The acting is actually not bad.

red 3KEYSHAWN JOHNSON/KSPN-AM (710)
On behalf of this entire morning crew, and the entire reagion of Southern California, it’s despicable that a sports radio show insists on three guys waking up before sunrise to get into a studio to talk about sports and stuff when, from our experience, the games of importance just ended hours earlier. This is cruel and unusual punishment, not just to the hosts, but the listeners. It’s why an East Coast-based syndicated show that’s three hours ahead works just fine. But .. we have to be unique. Now, to the talent issue: Apparently this is where we are supposed to go to resolve any Aquafina/Awkwafina confusion. Ask the cool kids. The players. The guys with the social media followers. Key is now the apparent front man. As a sports-talker, he was once an All-Pro NFL receiver, and don’t you forget that. Branding isn’t everything. Name recognition isn’t everything. He’s always made for a better visual than a voice-activated rant. We’ll give him the bling thing in a city that works on star power, but the key to Key’s success will never be humility, and only so many people can be Charles Barkley. In total, we can’t wake up to any of this. It’s not them, it’s us.

red 4KIRK MORRISON/KSPN-AM (710)
All we ask is that on any sports-talk show – no commercials that have sirens, the sound of screeching tires, the crashing effect of two cars colliding, or the honking of a horn. None of which directly relates to Morrison. Sorry, this is misplaced frustation. We just really have no strong opinion about the fact he’s often in drive-time when we hear these noises happening for real, and they don’t need to be repeated over the car speakers. It also makes us realize how much we do miss Marcellus Wiley, and even Max Kellerman, in this spot. They’ve moved on, and the hole in the lineup hasn’t been made whole yet.

red 5RYAN HOLLINS/KLAC-AM (530)
Because this is something he said on a show this week, sitting in on “Roggin and Rodney.” Apparently, Hollins, who went to John Muir High and Pasadena and then starred on UCLA’s basketball team, wasn’t thinking about another person who have those two connections — Jackie Robinson:

Also:
Does anyone still left employed at 710-AM realize that in the Urban Dictionary, 710 is slang for smoking hash oil. Since the number, turned upside down, reads like the word “oil.” The definition post also uses a High Times reference that “710 is the new 420.” This is another public service announcement on “Know Your Dope Jargon,” and insert it into a 710-KSPN reference when appropriate.

 

Horrible mention:
This showed up on our Twitter feed recently:

IMG_5103

Thanks for the reminder….

NOT THAT YOU ASKED …

LEE “HACKSAW” HAMILTON, FREE AGENT:
i-245eea8c19d4786003ff207795016f47-hamilton_web-234x300Indulge us for a moment here. First off, this is an entry point to inquire if there’s anything of note on San Diego’s “Mighty 1090” or 97.3-FM The Fan that could give some L.A.-based listeners an excuse to go sampling. Yes. It’s up to you to search it out, whether it’s Darren Smith, Scott Kaplan/Billy Ray Smith or Dan Sileo. And in that recent search, we were highly disappointed. Our Amber Alert for Lee “Hacksaw” Hamilton (from what we hear, still not his real name, which may make it more difficult for authorities to find him) has gone silent. We will take the moment for one man’s opinion – at his official high-speed wire website — to review that he’s put in a quarter century into the business, as the first host hired at XTRA-AM (690) and he does Padres pre- and post-game for the Mighty 1090. Really?
He insists he has “also has built a national reputation as one of America’s top sports-talk show hosts.” The reputation precedes him, and follows him, and will haunt us for the rest of our listening days. If the occasion ever occurs for him to rise up and find a station that will have him, we look forward to it. There’s a better chance at screaming at Alexa for something that can actually be of use for our fruitful existence.

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