KNBR

Cumulus wants Ralph Barbieri to take a pay cut

Can you imagine KNBR without Ralph Barbieri, the station’s first sports talk host? Well hold onto your Amici’s box, because there’s a chance the Razor might not be around much longer.

I have to admit I check out Rich Lieberman’s website every now and again, and I was surprised by what he wrote on Monday about the happenings in Cumulus land, since I hadn’t heard anything about the following being a possibility:

So I asked one of the sources about Barbieri’s future at KNBR. “If they don’t renew his deal, it’ll be ‘ugly.” Barbieri’s current contract, said to be around the $350-400K salary range, is up at the end of the year. Barbieri has been at the station since 1984, KNBR’s senior air personality.

While he’s still a big name in the local broadcast market and his ratings with co-host Tom Tolbert are the tops in the 3-7, afternoon time slot, Barbieri’s exorbitant salary, (by Cumulus standards) may not be worth it all. Reasons? Numerous off days. Too much coziness with certain local sports franchise heads. The natives, (corporate, may be tired, and the high compensation is a factor.)

“One thing is for sure–Tolbert will stay,” said one source close to the station. “And Tolbert can handle a solo job.”

Unlike some, I’m not opposed to giving credit where it’s due. When Lieberman reported that Barbieri might be on the outs, I checked around to see if there was anything to it — and indeed there is. From what I’m told Cumulus isn’t exactly against renewing Barbieri’s contract, but they definitely want him to take a significant pay cut.

While Barbieri’s attendance record and frequent tardiness might annoy Bill Bungeroth and other Cumulus execs, that’s probably not the major sticking point. Even though “The Razor and Mr. T” performs well in the ratings, Cumulus knows that Barbieri doesn’t have a ton of options. He’s firmly rooted in the area, and his act wouldn’t play nationally anyway (or in any other local market, for that matter). In years past perhaps he would have jumped to KGO or at least threatened to, but they’re owned by Cumulus now, as well. And it’s hard to imagine 95.7 FM “The Game” would offer Barbieri anywhere near what he’s making now, seeing as they already have a full lineup and presumably know Barbieri’s bargaining position — which right now doesn’t seem all that strong.

CSN Bay Area doesn’t really seem like a fit either. They don’t have a radio station, and while it’s possible a PTI-style show featuring Barbieri and Tolbert could perform relatively well — actually, Tolbert already kind of does this with Ray Ratto and others on “Chronicle Live Blitz” — would Comcast want to pay Barbieri $400K or whatever he’s currently pulling as a host at KNBR?

Chances are we’ll never find out. For as many people complain about Barbieri’s insanely long questions and his, err, distinctive voice, KNBR without Barbieri doesn’t seem possible. He’s been there since 1984 and he gets people worked up on a regular basis. Radio stations aren’t looking for people whose voices drift into the background, they want people like Barbieri who provoke some sort of response — positive or negative.

My guess: they’ll get Barbieri to take some sort of pay cut (not that we’d ever find out for sure, since Cumulus wouldn’t announce it and neither would Barbieri) and the suits will keep a closer eye on him. Bungeroth already made it clear to Lee Hammer that the days of wearing Giants gear to work are over — if Barbieri’s contract was renewed Cumulus would probably make it clear that he needs to work at least four days out of every five, and that strolling in at 3:48 pm is unacceptable.

And who knows, maybe Barbieri will even be forced to do ads for companies other than Amici’s, too. Naaahhhhh…

56 Comments

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56 Comments on "Cumulus wants Ralph Barbieri to take a pay cut"

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green room dreaming
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green room dreaming

id be fine with tolbert on his own or someone else, maybe D-Bruce in there with him. the razor has been dull for a while now, to the point i get excited and actually listen to the show when he is out

rsn
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rsn

The thing that kills me about Ralph more than his long questions is his inability to let his guests actually finish their answer to his previous question before he launches into his next unrelated question. It’s like a random thought enters his head and he feels he has to ask it right away, independent of what the guest is saying. His lack of preparation kills me as well. I for one would have no issue if KNBR dropped both Ralph and Gary.

FL
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FL
RSN, that point you made about Ralph voicing whatever thought/question pops into his head while the guest is still answering the previous question is spot on. I find that one of the most annoying things about Ralph. Show some courtesy to your guests Ralph, and let them finish what they were saying before you so rudely interrupt them. That and his oft-repeated favorite phrases or words: “vis-a-vis”, “parenthetically” are two of the things that make Ralph so irritating to listen to. I’ve listened to the show with just Tolbert on it and found that I enjoyed it more with him… Read more »
LR
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LR

Spot on. Gary and Ralph are the station’s resident 60s burnouts. Too political and lacking any commitment to their craft. Let them go.

Sam
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Sam

Tolbert could handle that slot by himself without blinking and be twice as good as he is now. That’s not as much a knock on Ralph as saying TT is that good at mixing humor, analysis, and interviews.

D Bruce is the only host in the KNBR family who comes close. I’m not talking about liking his opinions per se, just appreciating the way he keeps a show focused and moving.

Beaver
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Beaver

Dumping Damon Bruce on Tom Tolbert would make for horrible and awkward radio. Tom “gets it” whereas Damon just rants about the obvious and never has anything original or clever to say. The two would have nothing to talk about. It’s the same reason why Gary & Damon were so awful.

Mike
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Mike

Tolbert is an idiot. I can’t believe people think he is knowledgeable. Other than basketball he’s stupid.

MoragaJohn
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MoragaJohn
I am amazed and fascinated over the recent goings on in Bay Area sports talk radio and radio in general. Admittedly, KNBR’s avowed demographic imperative has taken it’s toll on me. My perspective is clearly more than a bit biased. Even so, can it be that Cumulus might be changing things for the worse? Perhaps in a knee jerk reaction to FM 95.7? they are groping for a strategy to retain their, till now, strangle hold on the sports talk market. Hey, I don’t mind saying, maybe some hosting changes at KNBR would be positive…. for sure. Also maybe a… Read more »
T
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T

KNBR still has a stranglehold on the market. 95.7 has done nothing to show that they can be a true rival. KNBR is overracting. Look at the Damon & Gary pairing for two weeks.

MoragaJohn
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MoragaJohn
You may be right. I wonder? KNBR overreaction seems kinda plausible. Gary/Larry show is starting to feel allot like Lund/Papa or Tieerney/Davis…. you think that’s by design??? Hmmm? The only fact at this point is that now KNBR has a competitor who will or is likely taking some of their market share. I guess the question will be can they stave off the competitor and what tactics will they employ to try and do so? I personally love the drama but at the same time, I hope Cumulus makes the right moves… otherwise, we listeners will be stuck with the… Read more »
SPORTS FAN
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SPORTS FAN

There will be no loss if Ralph is gone.

Tom Tolbert can handle the show by himself just fine. Besides some radio programs demand a soloist. This is one of them.

TheDude
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TheDude

Forget about Ralph I want to know when Gary’s contract is up. That guy adds nothing same old stories we’ve heard over and over.

LR
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LR
He needs to go in the worst possible way. He’s ill-tempered, chronically unprepared and much too political for this format. It’s obvious that Ralph thinks he’s an institution and, therefore, untouchable. He can troll in whenever he wants, offer ignorant, rambling opinions and spout his west coast lefty drivel on a whim. At $350K a year, that’s zero return on investment. If the reports are true, I’m hoping KNBR recognizes Ralph’s limited draw and no-content offerings with an offer of about $90K/pa. Let him mull that one over as he’s scripting his next political screed.
OLO
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OLO

Yes! Let Tolbert do the show solo, I’m Tired of Ralph talking over his guests.

InquisitaB
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InquisitaB
All this Razor bashing is killing me. I love the Razor! The show is great with the Razor and Tom together. The fun they have together makes the show a great drive time companion. For those who talk about Ralph’s lack of preparation I can only say that you don’t get his approach I guess. I like the “stream of consciousness” approach Ralph takes with the show. It’s that approach that leads to the guys going off on those great tangents that they do. This is one reason why the Steve Young Show is now one of the best half… Read more »
LR
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LR
Stream of consciousness/free form is fine. But the baseline requirement is that the host have a good grasp of the subject matter. Tolbert satisfies this requirement, and Gary and Ralph don’t. For this reason, Gary and Ralph often make totally off-base comments and ask irrelevanr questions of their guests, particularly when the subject is pro football or college football/basketball. They just don’t get it, b/c they can’t be bothered to prepare. This is what happens when one becomes too comfortable in their work enviornment. They feel they can’t be touched, so why bother investing the time and energy to know… Read more »
TommyJ
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TommyJ
Ralph is almost like Howard Cossell in the MNF days; the guy that’s loved or hated. I don’t dislike him, I think the show is dull and I seem to be tuning in to “The Drive” on 95.7 because its different. Cumulus is cost-cutting now and they see a guy who shows up late, takes days off, is polarizing and goes on extensive roadtrips during playoff runs (Steinmetz broke Razors balls on this on one of his last KNBR visits). They probably feel not enough effort for the salary paid and I imagine Ralph is back at a lower rate… Read more »
Otis Byrd III
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Otis Byrd III
No offense to Ralph, but he might need to retire. I said this on here before in another post, but he should retire. Yeah, KNBR probably would be different without Ralph, but Ralph always sounds tired, and his show doesn’t start until 3 PM. LOL. It’s like Ralph, wake up? LOL. Sometimes he makes me feel tired when I hear his voice. LOL. I agree with the rest of the complaints about Ralph, such as him being showing up late, and that he might not be prepared as much. Plus, when he lobbies guys like Sabean and Baer to get… Read more »
Otis Byrd III
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Otis Byrd III

LOL. Oops, I meant to put “breaking the bank”, and I meant to put, “like I said, it would be kind of different not hearing Ralph on KNBR”. Sorry about that

Ronnie
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Ronnie

Barbieri is unbelievable. He takes a holier than thou/high moral stance on all subjects yet refuses to acknowledge that he has had 3, yes 3 DWI’s and I know that for an absolute fact.

What other sports personality would continue to have a job after 3 separate cases of being arrested driving under the influence. I wonder if Cumulus even knows…

Otis Byrd III
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Otis Byrd III

Oh dang, Ralph had 3 DWI’s? Wow, I’m stunned. Listening to him, you would think he would be one of the last people you would expect to have a DWI.

LR
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LR
That’s not the half of it. Ralph’s extra-curricular issues go well beyond the norm even for someone who would be considered to have a substance “problem”. He’s a very sad and pathetic person and, quite unexpectedly, his response is denial and a gargantuan superiority complex rather than retreat and humility. It may be a coping mechanism or he may simply be so delusional that he sees his failings as strengths. To some extent, it’s generational — a celebration of the “sex, drugs and rock n’roll” lifestyle that’s perceived as a distinction rather than a detraction for men in their 50s,… Read more »
dryden
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dryden

What a horrible character assassination. How do you know what he is like outside of his talk show? You’re merely making uneducated, and probably very inaccurate guesses. You are misinterpreting thoughtfulness and sympathy for the human condition as pathology. From listening to Ralph for 15+ years, he comes across as a person with a lot of passion for life, a wide variety of interests, and with more than the usual depth of soul. Maybe that bothers people like you, who want your radio hosts superficial and breezy.

simon
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simon

Well I’ve been listening to him for years too and find him to be a shallow, self-important, wind bag! Good riddance!

SPORTS FAN
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SPORTS FAN

Good point above from Ronnie.
Few people know or are aware of Barbieri’s checkered driving record.

Rich
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Rich

For all his faults (and they’ve been well delineated here) I’m with BASG on this. He’ll end up there. And frankly, he’s by no means the worst one there (ahem… Fitz…).

Tom
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Tom

Not sure but I think Dave Newhouse was there 1st sports talk show host.

wacker
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wacker

I have no problem with Ralph “cozying” up to the Giants. He’s been a fan his whole life and last year was a dream for him and all of us. Besides, doesn’t KNBR hold a stake in the team? Wouldn’t that make Cumulus a part owner of the team? So what do they care whether Ralph wears Giants gear in the studio?

Slam
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Slam

I respect Ralph for wearing his heart on his sleeve and being outrageously opinionated. He’s the guy we love to hate, and he has no problem being that polorizing.

Having said that, the things he believes in that I don’t ( the Michael Vick Dog thing, Vegetarianism, hating Al Davis and the Raiders, being an alcoholic in denial ) makes me crazy.

Tolbert can drive that show 500% better for half the cost. The suits can chop his salary WAY down, and Ralph and Tate will go to fewer Sharks and Giants road games

Slam
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Slam
The greatest moment in Ralph KNBR history : He interviewed NHL great ( and sober alcoholic ) Dave Schultz, who basically told his AA story, which had me nearly in tears it was so honest and heartfelt. Then Ralph says something like “Yeah, I was wild in my younger days, but now I only drink when I’m on vacation ( ! ) “. After what can only be described as an painful silence, Schultz goes : “Hey Ralph, that’s GREAT ! ” Shortly thereafter, Ralph got another DUI, and instead of displaying anything resembling humilty, he attacked CW Nevius for… Read more »
dryden
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dryden

Who cares if Ralph had a DWI or not? Do you care that Miles Davis and John Coltrane were heroin addicts? It’s what he did behind the microphone that counted, and he was one of the best at that.

VOR
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VOR
Sure, let’s get rid of Ralph and Gary. Then all you’ll have left is mildly entertaining VANILLA Murph and Mac. The Larry Krueger Show 9-12. Maybe the Damon Bruce show 12-3 (although his over-the-top opinions are more suited for the less high profile 1050). And then your left with Tom 3-7 followed by the revolving door of whoever does Sportsphone. Maybe you guys are forgetting Tom misses the show as much as Ralph, so your left with someone like Ray Ratto or some other unentertaining bore for the drive home. Sure, drive Gary and Ralph away, but for better or… Read more »
MoragaJohn
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MoragaJohn
Doesn’t it seem like the industry, as a whole, is headed toward a format of two (work for cheap) co-hosts bantering back and forth and opining over all the sports minutia of the day, week, month, season, year… blah blah blah???? Ugh! Could anything be less compelling than that? Please say it isn’t so!!! BTW, I’ve heard it said that the media gurus are as equally aroused by negative commentary as positive…. since even negative commentary means you’re tuning in. If that’s the case, Ralph and Gary must be doing something right in order to raise so much ardor and/or… Read more »
simon
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simon

I don’t care about these alleged personal problems either.

What I care about is that he was a loud mouth with an annoying voice, who interrupted his guests incessantly, pretended that he was some sort of intellectual genius, and ultimately was increasingly out of touch with the sports world.

He became old, tired, and impossible to listen to!

Simon
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Simon
It’s time to put Ralphie out to pasture. He’s a self-important windbag who is increasingly out of touch with what’s going on in the world, sports and otherwise. Observations about his long, pointless questions and habit of interrupting his guests are right on point. So much of what he says it to demonstrate he knows something and build himself up rather than advance the conversation. Also his pretensions about being this great liberal intellectual are laughable. He’s an idiot. He tells the same stupid stories over and over again and his kissing up to certain personalities would be embarrassing if… Read more »
Slam
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Slam

His “questions” where he pontificates and lectures the guest, are like fingernails on the chalk board

SportsGuy
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SportsGuy

I first tuned into KNBR in the late 80s and it didn’t take long for me to find the Razor annoying. I cannot listen to him; I immediately tune out. I am amazed KNBR has kept him this long. He can’t even do the pizza commercials well. I heard him do one in a voice that sounded as thought he was mocking the sponsor. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

The Razor Rocks
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The Razor Rocks

I don’t understand all the hating on the Razor! He practically invented Sports talk, he’s a radio legend! He made KNBR what it is. He knows more about sports than anyone on bay area radio! When the Razor talks, people listen! If he’s rude or short to callers or guests it is because they are idiots. They should give the Razor mo’ money. If he left KNBR it would collapse, and someone else would just scoop him up, pay him way more, and become #1!!!!!

Sports Guru99
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Sports Guru99

Razor Rocks, are you Ralph? Because who else would post something like you did? He is an egotistical idiot!

Simon
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Simon

If Ralph is a radio legend, why would KNBR be so eager to dump him? He knows very little about today’s sports world and just blathers on incessantly about irrelevant old events that he can’t seem to remember correctly.

He’s old, boring, and out of touch. He’s not going to get mo’ money. He’ll get less or no’ money and KNBR will not collapse. It will be better off without him.

Your comment about someone else scooping him up is a joke, right?

Huge Sportsfan
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Huge Sportsfan

To the Management of KNBR: Every day more that you have the Razor on your staff is one too many. You’re paying him $400k? For maybe three hours work 5 days a week (he doesn’t seem to do any show prep)!!! Bring Pete Franklin back!

The Dude
Guest
Member
The Dude

Yesterday on the “Razor and Mr T Show” the Razor wasn’t there. And you know what? I could listen to the entire show for the first time in months.

KNBR: Save $400k/yr. DUMP the razor!

JB
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JB

Guess you were right about this one, eh?

Jillian
Guest
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Jillian

Ralph has always been a pompous, over-bearing, hypocritical, windbag. Tolbert has been carrying him for ten years at least. The station finally woke up to that reality and made a good business decision…$400K/year?…that was money wasted. The most amusing part of this story was Ralph crying about how he was let go “in 7 minutes” and how his email system was shut down. Welcome to the real world.

Revived Listener
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Member
Revived Listener

In this day and age, I hate to hear of or see anybody lose their job. However, I must agree with most of the posts here. I now feel that I can tune back into KNBR on my way home and actually listen to “sports” radio again. I honestly couldn’t listen to ralph any longer and switched to the drive 95.7 I think Mr. “T” will be much better without Ralph trampling all over him (not to mention the guests!)
Go Tolbert!!

And godd luck ralph!

Jimmy Joe Meeker
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Member
Jimmy Joe Meeker

While he was annoying and seriously overpaid, showing him the door in 7 minutes really was a bit extreme. The relationship he had with management really must have been bad for them to do that. I understand that they couldn’t let him on the air to bad mouth management, but a couple of hours wouldn’t have hurt.

He was only fun to see how much of an idiot he could make of himself.

Johnny S
Guest
Member

Wasn’t Ken Dito the first sports talk guy?

Johnny S
Guest
Member

Wasn’t Ken Dito the first sports talk guy at KNBR?

b72bronco
Guest
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b72bronco

Poor Ralph. I too can finally lisen to KNBR after work now. I still remember him laughing at what a joke 49er quarterback Jeff Garcia was and that he would never make it in the NFL. I was on the coaching staff when Jeff played High School ball and would watch him long after practice ended working on his drops, working on his release over and over for hours. What does Barbieri no about athletes or sports in general. I guess being a tennis player at San Mateo High makes him knowlegable. It figures he did go to USF.

Sage
Guest
Member

With all due respect, Ralph made the afternoon drive time show with his innate intelligence, critical thought processes, knowledge of sports, etc. Too, he asked the right question at the right time. While I like Tom…like many I tune in to listen to Ralph. Too, I would tune out when said things that angered me…until I realized Ralph was correct. I never tuned in to listen to Tom. Tom will need a Ray Ratto type sidekick in order to survive. Otherwise, rating will plummet. Good to Tom as he has large shoes to fill.

simon
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simon

“With all due respect, Ralph made the afternoon drive time show” INTOLERABLE!

Bobby Clyde
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Bobby Clyde

Ralph is/was irritating. Tired of him swearing on the air, anti American Ryder Cup Team, anti American Olympic Hockey Team, seemingly anti American and too liberal. I haven’t listened to KNBR since Ralph said he would hope Canada beat the USA in the last Winter Olympics. Good ridance. Go Tom! I’m back!

RUSTY
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Member
RUSTY

KNBR MADE THE RIGHT MOVE IN GETTING RID OF BARBIERI, BUT THEY STILL EMPLOY THE WORST PERSONALITY IN THE HISTORY OF RADIO. RADNICH HAS TO GO. ITS AMAZING TO ME SOMEONE IN THAT INDUSTRY CAN MAKE A LIVING AT IT AND NEVER ,EVER SAY ANYTHING THOUGHTFUL OR INTERESTING,EVEN BY ACCIDENT

james
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james

Glad to know there are other people. Whenever I come to SF and turn on sports radio, I always wonder how this guy(radnich) stays on the air. He talks about nothing for 3 hours.

Russ
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Russ
Since Ralph started broadcasting with KNBR in 1984, my friends and I stopped listening. Its all about Ralph and no one else. I want to know about sports and not what Ralph thinks his opinionated view on sports are. Tolbert will do fine by himself. He is a real guy who knows what it is to compete. Ralph is an all about me “want a be sports guy” that thinks he played the game. Not so for a Cheer leader at USF. You had a good ride. Accept your fate. Businesses have the right to move on, and they have… Read more »
Del
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Member
Del

Barbieri out..best media news I’ve heard yet. He’s been right up there with the Australian Lizzard for my hit-the-off-button reflex. I’m sick to death of hearing RBs touchy-feely explorations of athletes’ feelings about their feeling of how they feel. Tolbert – gimme some sports news – PLEASE!

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